Death In The Journey

Death does in fact change life, for those who are left to mourn.
Death does in fact change life, for those who are left to mourn.

In my last post, I started talking about the life journey I’ve been on. Several times death has punctuated that journey. At least once that death was life-changing. I allude to this in my most recent publication, When Death Changes Life. While those collected stories are officially fiction, they do come from a point of knowledge about how a death in the circumstances described will impact a family.

In my melancholy moments, I often think about another death: that of Chemala Johanan Babu. He worked for me in Kuwait. When I changed companies there and became a Director of Infrastructure Engineering Services at Kuwaiti Engineers Office, I inherited a crew that was working offsite. We were partnered with a British firm to improve one of the interstate-quality highways in Kuwait. The crew we supplied was mostly CAD technicians. They worked under the supervision of the Brits, in their office, although they were employees of our company. I had no need to do anything regarding this team. The Brits processed everything about them, even their timesheets. All I had to do was watch their billable hours get added to our department’s.

I met them all only once. When I learned that I had this crew working offsite, since I hadn’t met any of them, I made a trip across the city to meet them. They were all names to me, who became faces, but faces I wouldn’t ever have to deal with. Babu was one.

Nothing to do with, that is, until the job they were working on came to an end, and these men (about eight of them) would have to be let go. It was a sad day when I had to write them all a memo, telling them their assignment would come to an end in a month, and that we had no other work for them, and thus would have to let them go. Sad, yes, but they knew it was coming. They knew they took an assignment that would end at some point, and that their employment wasn’t needed after that. Kuwait allowed workers in their position to shop around on the open labor market, and hopefully they’d find a job with another engineering company.

The day after that memo was out, Babu was in my office. I recognized him, and realized I had seen him one other time, at the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait. There were two large Indian language congregations (Tamil and Malayalam, if I remember correctly), typically each over 1,000 in attendance, that met very early Friday morning, much earlier than the English Language Congregation, all of us sharing the same facilities. I had seen him there once, not sure why the two of us were there at the same time. Now here he was, the third time I’d seen him. I’d met him once, and then seen him. Now seeing him again, I realized who he was.

He came to plead his case to remain employed. He really needed the job, he said. There was something about his visa that wouldn’t allow him to stay in the country unemployed while looking for a job. He would have to go home. At least, now 27 years after the event, that’s how I remember it. I felt sorry for him, and said I’d see what I could do.

I checked with the other directors, scoured my own department’s workload, and had nothing. I did, however, have the promise of a couple of projects that would start soon. One was another roadway project with a different British firm; the other was improvements at a university campus. Neither project was guaranteed, but both looked good. We would know on both in a couple of months.

I decided I could take a chance, keep Babu on staff for a month while we waited on those projects, and help him out. If those projects both came through I would have to hire someone. I reasoned that keeping him on staff for a month without billable work would be no more expensive than having to go through a hiring process.

I called the off-site office to tell him the good news. He wasn’t there; had been that morning, but not since lunch. He didn’t call me that day. The next day I called again. He hadn’t yet reported to work. Later in the morning I learned the awful news. The previous day he had been to the Indian embassy on some personal business. Taking the bus to near the office, he crossed a six-lane road on foot. Except he didn’t make it. He was hit by an Iraqi driver who was in the country illegally and driving without a license. Babu was killed instantly.

A day or two later I went to pay my respects to the family. He had lived with his sister and brother-in-law in one of the poorer sections of Kuwait City. I went there to find the streets packed with people from southern India, all coming to mourn with the family. One of our senior mechanical engineers was from Babu’s province and language group. He met me and brought me up to the house, through the crowd.

Inside, I met only the brother-in-law, as the sister was wailing in another room and didn’t want to meet anyone. He and I talked about what would be done with the body, if the police were notified, if there were any mourning rituals I could participate in (such as fasting). It was a good ten-minute visit, and I was off again. The mechanical engineer thanked me over and over for coming. I hope it helped them.

So, this was part of my life journey. Not a happy part, obviously. But, as I said earlier, it’s something that always comes to mind in my melancholy moments. As I get older, and am nearer to death myself than to birth, death will become more and more a part of my life. I’ll have many more chances to grieve, and to mourn with others. Yet, the story of Babu will stay with me, forever a memorable part of my journey.

Thinking About The Journey

Yes, I live in the past. While the discoveries are exciting, they also tend to make me melancholy at times. Christmas is almost always one of those times.
Yes, I live in the past. While the discoveries are exciting, they also tend to make me melancholy at times. Christmas is almost always one of those times.

Something about this season of the year, Christmas, always makes me reflective of all things past. Each year I write a post about something from childhood Christmases. I’ll be doing that, probably next week, possibly the week after.

The last few days I’ve been thinking of the journey my life has been. In my better moments for the last decade I’ve said that I would title my autobiography The Journey Was A Joy. I must admit, however, it hasn’t always been a joy. Sometimes it’s been a struggle. Rarely has it been routine, though in fact I love and crave routine. My journey through life has been anything but routine.

Almost everything I write about is about the past. Very little is contemporary, and, so far, nothing about the future.
Almost everything I write about is about the past. Very little is contemporary, and, so far, nothing about the future.

What’s got me thinking about this recently is looking ahead to the unknowns in the journey. One is retirement, which is now only 1 year 23 days away. Sure, I long for the time of not having to go to an office every weekday and tax my brain. But I also fear doing without the income. I have savings, but far less than I intended to have.

Other unknowns are ahead. Lynda’s mom is now 92, and has been living with us for a little over two years. Her care is becoming more difficult. It falls mostly on Lynda, as I’m away all day, and it’s not easy for her. A woman marries and moves out of her mother’s home, and doesn’t expect to move back again. But with her mom moving in with us, that’s essentially what happened. Lots of water under that bridge, lots of history to deal with. It’s not easy.

There’s the unknown of how long I’ll have the physical ability to keep up our property. We’ve lived at our house almost 15 years, the longest we’ve ever been in one place since we were married almost 42 years ago. Someday I will struggle with the upkeep. When will that be? Five years? Ten? Or hopefully twenty or more? Someday we’ll have a decision to make about that.

Remember, these are short stories which, by definition, are fiction.
Remember, these are short stories which, by definition, are fiction.

So those unknowns about the future are very real. There are also thoughts about the journey I’ve been on. From Mom’s death, to being a latch-key teen, with no parent in the home most of the night, to college experiences, to traveling half-way across the country for work and a fresh start, to traveling to the Persian Gulf area for work and career advancement, to adventures in Europe and Asia. To the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait when we lived there and having no home to return to in the USA, to finding work in (of all places) Arkansas. To revelations about family, learning of many relatives in three major discoveries over a twenty year period.

Sometimes, when I dwell on this, it becomes almost overwhelming. I suppose that’s why people who deal with mental health tell us not to dwell on the past. But as a hobby genealogist and historian, I do live in the past an awful lot.

Ah, well, the melancholy will pass, as will desiring the past more than the present. Winter will fully come, with it’s full on, refreshing chill. Some snow would help, would remind me about joyful childhood romps in the snow. While waiting for that, I’ll leave you with one of my poems.

Conflicted

I long to live that day when I will rest
and cease to tax my brain. Then I will die,
and stand before my Maker. Yet, I’m blessed.
I long to live! That day when I will rest
is somewhere out there, far beyond the quest
that now demands I try, and fail, and try.
I long to live that day when I will rest,
and cease to tax my brain, then I will die.

A Day Late

I often write my Monday blog post on Sunday afternoon, and schedule it to post on Monday at 7:30 a.m. This past Sunday, alas, I spent that time working on our annual Christmas letter. Normally I write this, then Lynda edits it—sometimes lightly, sometimes severely. It gets done, as do the cards, and they go out. Seems like fewer and fewer each year.

That took up most of my free time Sunday afternoon, so I didn’t get my blog post written. I wanted to do it Monday morning, in my personal time at the office before I start my work day. Alas, other things got in the way. My devotional reading ran long, and morphed into editing. I read in my Harmony of the Gospels, either the text or the Passage Notes. Right now I’m in the passage notes. I read those notes related to a certain passage, then I go back to the text and read the harmonized passage. It’s a good way to do it, except I tend toward editing rather than just devotional reading. Still, I enjoy this, and don’t mind if it runs long.

But that meant I had less time than normal before work started, and I had to get to my long to-do list before I could tackle writing this post. So, here I am, writing it a day late.

And, I have nothing more to say, really. The days are busy, the evenings full, and sleep is a welcome escape from all I have to do. Retirement is now 1 year and 26 days away. Perhaps that will be a welcome relief as well.

When Busyness Leads To Weariness

Sold one of these this week.
Sold one of these this week.

The good news first: I sold 5 books this week.

Two of them were direct sales to someone who buys all my print books when they come out. The other three were on-line at the Kindle store, most likely to a man from church I met with this week. He has a book idea and wanted to discuss the self-publishing process with me. We met for lunch in my office on Tuesday. He mentioned particular interest in two of my books, and those are two that sold. Maybe he bought those, and a third one as well. That puts me at 70 sales for the year. Not great, but certainly better than last year.

Meanwhile, on the engineering front, I’m now up to four problem projects I’m dealing with for this one client. I wrote about this situation before. My wife asked me how long I would be dealing with these. I told her 1 year, 1 month, and 1 day, my (then) countdown to retirement. These are consuming just about all my work time, forcing training issues into the background.

And then, two different people have asked me to work on specifications for their projects. One is a mostly done spec that needs correcting. The other is a spec for a project that’s part of a nation-wide rollout program for which we have standard specs. That will be about a day’s job. The spec to edit may only take a couple of hours.

Put into this mix a trip to St. Louis next week (maybe) to see the site of one of these troubled projects, and you have a real problem as to time to do anything. I’ve written nothing this week. Christmas is coming, and right now it looks like I won’t have any writing time till after that. Maybe, I suppose, I might be able to carve out an hour here and there, but that’s about all.

It’s making me very weary. I had three nights this week where I slept poorly. Last night was better, but I’m not yet caught up. A heavy day of yard work and other chores awaits tomorrow. I sense a very weary Saturday evening, and falling asleep either on the couch or in my chair.

A Little Progress

We just concluded a good Thanksgiving weekend. Four glorious days of nothing more than sitting around at home, a quiet home. Our family gathering will be for Christmas this year, due to our son’s work schedule. So, it was just me, the wife, and the mother-in-law. I had considered inviting an older couple to join us on Thursday. I should have, for they spent the day alone. No, not quite alone, for they did some neighborhood things in their retirement complex.

Thursday was cooking, a late walk, and cleanup. Plus watching some television. Friday we thought about going to look for a new car. But Lynda couldn’t find what she wanted on-line, so we decided against it. I cleared away leaves, then went to The Dungeon to write. This was probably 3:00 in the afternoon.

But what to write? For the last two months my new composition has been Adam Of Jerusalem, the prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant. I’m only in the second chapter, and have been laboring under it, as ideas and inspiration have been in short supply. Lately I’ve started to think more about the sequel to The Gutter Chronicles. It resides on my computer at work (actually, on our cloud storage, somewhere in the ether). From time to time I open the file and consider working on it. On our trip to Indianapolis and Branson this summer I brought a printout of it with me, and edited the three and a half chapters written so far.

Beyond that, I hadn’t worked on TGC-V2. But people at work have been asking me, “When will there be another Gutter Chronicles?” “Are you working on a sequel to The Gutter Chronicles?” On the other hand, no one is telling me, “Are you going to write a prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant? Knowing I could get 30 to 40 sales of a new volume of TGC, and maybe some sales of the first one, I decided to spend some time on it at home this weekend.

So, on Friday, I decided to work on TGC. Although the computer file was not available to me, I opened new file. With the manuscript in hand to see where I left off in the fourth chapter, I began. I worked only a little more than an hour Friday, and had just shy of 750 words in my new file.

It is now Tuesday morning. I had to interrupt my writing of this post yesterday, and I never got back to it.

On Saturday, after yard work, and after deciding I wouldn’t do my Wal-Mart run till Sunday, and after deciding we wouldn’t go out to look for a car, I went to The Dungeon and wrote. An hour or so later, I had a total of 1500 words. Sunday, after Life Group and church, bringing lunch home, going to Wal-Mart with Lynda for groceries, I sat down to write about 3:00. I stopped at 5:00 to fix something for supper, went back after supper, and wrote till 9:30 p.m. By that time I had 4,463 words as my three-day total.

That felt good. I hadn’t really thought through the two chapters I worked on (well, just a little), as I had Norman spend time with his love interest, and then introduced the CFO character, so I was quite pleased at how the words flowed. Clearly this is the book I should be writing now.

Last night I was unable to spend time writing, as the hours after supper were consumed with checkbook balancing, bill paying, and stock trading. Tonight will be a TV show we like to watch (The Curse of Oak Island), so probably no writing tonight. But tomorrow night may look good. I think I’ll plan on it.

Will This One Be The One?

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was a good day. It was just the three of us this year, as our large, family gathering will be a Christmas, a change from our normal routine. I fixed a turkey dinner, but without all the side dishes. We ate our full and have plenty of leftovers. Yes it was a good day.

"Mom's Letter" was the first in the series. This is the cover my son did for it.
“Mom’s Letter” was the first in the series. This is the cover my son did for it.

But, we couldn’t find much on television that was of interest to us. So Lynda wanted to see the latest episode of The Curse of Oak Island. She couldn’t get it in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. So I fired up the Roku, had to re-set a password (since it had been a while since we’d used it), and found the show. I had seen it, but it was good to watch it again.

We decided “why not watch some back episodes?” I intended to go to last season, which was season 4, and watch some of the later ones. Somehow, though, I went back to Season 1, so I decided to just start with the very first episode. It was almost as if I hadn’t seen it before, it was so long ago.

One thing that struck me was the similarity of the rhetoric. The searchers for treasure were saying the same thing in Season 1 as they are in Season 5. The narrator’s shtick hasn’t changed at all. It’s always one more search will get us there; we’re inches from the treasure; today may be the day; this new find gives us the motivation to keep on going. That much hasn’t changed, so far into the fifth season.

Published in May, 2011, I've sold a whopping 54 copies of this.
Published in May, 2011, I’ve sold a whopping 54 copies of this.

It suddenly occurred to me that that’s exactly how I am with my books: hoping this next one will be the breakthrough book, the book that gets widespread attention and lots of sales. My first publication was the short story “Mom’s Letter”. I had no expectations for it to sell. It was a story I wrote for a contest (that I didn’t win), and I self-published it because I didn’t have anything else quite ready, so I published it to see what the mechanics of self-publishing were like.

 

This was my first book to write, fourth publication. It remains my highest selling book.
This was my first book to write, fourth publication. It remains my highest selling book.

I was intending to publishing my first novel, Doctor Luke’s Assistant, but I didn’t feel like it was ready. So I pulled together my newspaper columns, expanded them, added fifteen new ones, and had Documenting America: Lessons From The United States’ Historical Documents. I didn’t have high hopes for this one either. It sold 30 or so copies in it’s first year.

It wasn’t until the next year, 2012, that I finally published Doctor Luke’s Assistant. It became, and still is, my highest selling book at 128 copies, adding seven to the total so far this year. Now, you’re going to note that 128 is NOT a lot of copies, and if that’s my highest selling book, how low are the others? Good observation. I had high hopes for my next book, The Candy Store Generation, being a political book in a political season. But it sold poorly: 15 copies its first year and a few each year since.

I was very surprised when this one didn't sell.
I was very surprised when this one didn’t sell.

Then came my baseball book, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I thought it was good enough to sell, and would be popular. Alas, not. I sold a few more in 2016, when the Cubs won the pennant, but it still hasn’t sell.

My point is, with each publication (now 26), I’ve thought “this will be the one, the one to breakout.” But each one disappoints. I don’t do a lot of marketing, just Facebook posts. I did one Facebook ad that resulted in no sales. I’ve interviewed authors on this blog, who have sometimes reciprocated. Each of those has resulted in no sales. I did an hour long radio interview, which resulted in no sales. I haven’t done any paid ads yet. Maybe that’s what I need to do. But I’ve thought my publishing should pay for itself, and so far haven’t seen my way clear to buy an ad. Perhaps I’ll change that in 2018.

Even dropping the e-book price to $0.99 has resulted in no sales.
Even dropping the e-book price to $0.99 has resulted in no sales.

So I’m much like the people searching for treasure on Oak Island. Just keep going, sinking costs—in my case the cost of time—into the endeavor a little at a time, hoping for change, for lightning to strike. My recent publication, When Death Changes Life: The Danny Tompkins Stories, is a boxed set of six related short stories, reaching all the way back to “Mom’s Letter”. I set the price of the e-book at $2.99, and the print book at $6.00. I sold zero. I do have three pre-orders of the print book, which will happen next week once my copies arrive.

I have two works-in-progress. One is a prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, which is more laborious than expected. The other is the sequel to The Gutter Chronicles. I actually have people at work asking for this, so maybe I should turn my attention to it. I could sell 30 copies without difficulty, and might sell 10 to 20 of the first one to people who are new at work.

But will either of these be a breakthrough book? I can hope, I suppose, because without hope there’s no reason to go on. Hope is starting to grow thin, however.

Worn Out

As I mentioned in prior posts, my schedule at my day job has suddenly changed. While still having the title of Corporate Trainer, I’ve been assigned three projects—failing projects—to manage. One of our project managers became overloaded, items weren’t handled well, and the projects moved from construction to crisis. I’ve come up to speed on each of them, one after the other, and am now tackling outstanding issues. Supposedly, two other projects, all for the same client, are waiting for me to deal with, but are not yet assigned.

So, Friday evening rolls around. End of the work day. Time to go home and forget about them, get some writing done, get my weekend work done, worship God and study His word on Sunday, and get some more writing done. I told the wife I was hoping to write 5,000 words over the weekend.

I get home Friday, and I have to prepare supper. I did a simple one, including some frozen and fresh stuff. I decided I would put off writing until Saturday (which is what I usually do), and just sit in my chair, watch television, and read. My current read is Day of Battle by Frank Atkinson, about WW2 in Sicily and Italy. I was now in the section on the invasion of Italy. This was the operation my dad was scheduled to be in when his transfer to the Stars And Stripes came through, and he was plucked off an LSI to go to Algiers, with a very high air priority. But that’s a story for another post. Since Dad soon found himself in Italy, with a mobile edition of the Stars and Stripes, I find this part of the war particularly interesting.

Alas, I fell asleep in my reading chair while watching TV. That’s not unusual. I enjoy my little naps there. It wasn’t a long nap. Soon I was back awake, watching TV. I multi-tasked, however. I took a geotechnical report from the third problem project and re-read it. I had read it earlier in the day, didn’t quite understand it, so printed it with the idea of reviewing it in depth over the weekend. I got that done.

I slept well Friday night, was up early Saturday morning, and got to work with personal filing. I usually let this pile up for a month or so, then do it over a couple of hours. Lately I’ve been doing this Saturday mornings, before anyone else is up. I don’t want to go outside and create noises there that will disturb the others. So I worked on this and got a lot done, including sorting through and marking miscellaneous receipts that I need to enter in the budget. By 9:00 a.m. I was back upstairs, ready to work outside, mainly removing leaves. But…it was now raining, with strong wind. Outside work was impossible. Lynda was to drive to Oklahoma City that day, and my main work was helping her get packed and on the road. I did that, and she got away about 1:00 p.m.

But, before she left, I sat in my chair, intending to catch up on
Facebook and other websites, and promptly fell asleep. Again, this was a short nap. I shouldn’t have been tired as I hadn’t done much physical work that morning: just walk between where I put stuff for filing and where the file cabinet is. Before long I was up and helping Lynda get on the road.

So finally, around 1:30 p.m, I went downstairs to begin writing. I had an hour I figured before heading to Wal-Mart for the weekly grocery trip. I activated the computer, opened Word and my files, opened a browser, and…the computer was barely functioning. The browser kept crashing, Word was crawling. I closed out of everything and headed to Wal-Mart.

That chore done, I went back to the computer around 4:00 p.m. and…same thing. I did a re-start and went upstairs, deciding to just read and/or watch college football. I think the minute my head hit the chair I was asleep, and slept for at least an hour. I woke up later, and couldn’t believe the time.

I pondered all of this. On a day when I had little physical work, I had three naps in my chair, one of them a long one. What was causing me to be so tired? I finally figured it must be just the pent-up emotions of the week, and the physical toll that took on my body. The intense work on the newly assigned projects, trying to keep my training activities going, plus the annual training exercise Tuesday and Wednesday, and, well, I was emotionally and physically drained. Must have been.

Saturday after supper I decided to just read, a most enjoyable activity for me. Sunday was a restful day with Life Group (I didn’t have to teach), church, a two-mile walk, and down to The Dungeon for writing, only to find the computer never did restart and it was still sluggish. I did a couple of hard boots and it still didn’t do anything. The third time it worked, while I was on the phone with Geek Squad. Naturally, as soon as you call for help, it works. Apparently the slowness was related to an update that hadn’t finished updating. Multiple hard boots is somehow the answer for this.

So I sat down to write, having only 30 minutes before I would have to go upstairs and prepare supper. I couldn’t do it. It just wasn’t enough time. I think I completed a paragraph and did a little more, maybe 100 words. Alas.

I don’t know if working with these projects is going to leave me so tired I won’t be able to write. Somehow I’m going to have to figure it out.

The Crunch Continues

Today was an incredibly busy day. This came after two full days of hosting/facilitating an off-site training session, in town, something we do every year. It went well, with fewer glitches than normal.

Still waiting on the paperbacks to be printed and arrive. I have a grand total of 3 ordered.
Still waiting on the paperbacks to be printed and arrive. I have a grand total of 3 ordered.

But, while I was doing that, the troubled projects I took over haven’t advanced any. I should say I’m going to take over. I’m still just the old engineer who’s helping out the youngins with some difficult situations. Three particular projects have gone bad, all for one client. Last week I dealt with one of them, made decisions about remedial work that needs to be done, and gave that to the client. I understand that’s been given to the contractor, who is mulling it over.

The second project I also dealt with last week. Nothing has been decided, but we have to wait on some tests at the site, and a report by a geotechnical engineer. E-mails this week indicate there’s been a slight delay in that, but it’s getting closer. Meanwhile, they aren’t ready to do investigative soil borings on-site, so I won’t be heading to the St. Louis any time soon.

So this week, interspersed with the training, I have been working on the third project. Early in the week I studied a long e-mail chain, and came to a basic understanding of the problem. Today I started looking at our design and construction files to see what we did on the project. Then I had to look at City and Watershed District standards to see what the outstanding issues are. Today the client e-mailed the current project manager to get an update on what we’re doing. I was able to answer it and keep them informed.

By the end of the day, including working almost an hour past time, I think I figured out what needs to be done to correct some problems at the site. The main issue is the client has $290,000 in a financial assurance bond that can’t get closed out. By the end of today I think I figured out how to get half of it released why we keep the rest in place as we deal with the problems. I’ll try to confirm it in the morning, then contact the client—with good news for a change. Only moderately good, but still good. I will still have issues to investigate, and some modifications that will have to be made at the site, but I can see this third one coming together in the next week. Possibly easier than either of the other two.

So a few people want Volume 2. Maybe I should finish it.
So a few people want Volume 2. Maybe I should finish it.

Meanwhile, today, I attended a pre-construction conference in Centerton, functioning as city engineer for that project. I brought another engineer with me, the one who is preparing to take over for me with this client. She sat in on one pre-con already. Since this was her second, I said the next one she would be in charge. She doesn’t seem real anxious to take over that role. But she’ll do fine.

While in Centerton, the head of planning asked if I had brought my next book. She buys everything I have in paperback. I said no, it was ordered, but might not be here for almost two weeks. She also asked when I would have another edition of The Gutter Chronicles. I said I’ve started it, but was only on the fourth chapter.  Several people have asked about this, making me think maybe I’d better get back on it again.

I’m hoping to be able to put in a fair number of hours this weekend on Adam Of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, I’ll spend what time I can at work—breaks, noon hours, before hours—on the other one. Maybe I’ll get one of them done some day.

Be Careful What You Pray For

The time of my retirement from my day job draws closer. As of this morning it’s 1 year, 1 month, and 17 days away. I’m not sure how vacation will play into that. I might actually have my last day a bit earlier.

My problem is, I’ve been having a bad case of senioritis. Yes, many school students get that both at the high school and college level. As the end draws near you no longer care about doing your work, and you slack off.

That’s how I’ve felt at work of late. My position as corporate trainer is one that requires me to be a self-starter. I have to make work for myself: figure out classes to teach; look for classes for others; have the gumption to work on our standard notes, details, and specifications. I’ve found that harder to do lately. It’s so tempting to sit at my desk and just wait for people to come to me with problems. As I am the senior engineer in the company, that happens a lot. People come to me with a design problem they can’t figure out, or a construction problem they’ve not encountered before. It’s quite fulfilling for me, actually, to help the youngin’s through these.

But all that won’t even fill an hour in a day. My work for the City of Centerton is little more than that, though it comes in spurts. Of course, I’m in the process of turning that over to another engineer, and soon she will be taking lead in our work there. That will end my 17 years as city engineer, or substitute city engineer, for that small, nearby city.

So, due to this growing senioritis, and knowing I couldn’t just sit there at my desk and draw a salary. It wouldn’t be right to work on my books during the work day, other than normal break time. I was starting to grow dissatisfied with the work and especially with my performance.

So I made it a matter of personal prayer. I asked God to help me shake off the growing lethargy, and do a good job for my employer. I began to look at the job with a little more concern. I sensed my prayer was being answered.

Then came last Monday. By 8:30 a.m. my boss, the CEO, was in my office. He said he had an urgent situation he needed me to work on. We were having problems with a certain client. The project manager over that work was overloaded, and they needed to reassign some projects to others. He wanted me to take over that client, solve problems on three already constructed projects that can’t seem to get closed out, bird dog two other projects about to go to construction, and see what could be done to improve the engineer-client relationship.

Now, I haven’t actively managed projects in over ten years. I happened to be entering two weeks with some special events in them, or with personal things scheduled (annual physical; eye exam; etc.). The timing wasn’t great, but I was glad for the challenge and the work, even if it would become all-encompassing to me.

The week was full of coming up to speed. I first tackled a project in Ohio with failing pavement. This project seemed to have the most correspondence of late. Then I shifted to a project in the St. Louis area that has a failing environmental pond, and may also have an improperly designed and constructed retaining wall. The third project is in Minnesota. I haven’t had time to even look at it yet. Hopefully I will today, with the other two somewhat in hand and waiting on outside data.

For the St. Louis project, it will likely require me to go there to observe some remedial investigations of the retaining wall. I spoke with a retaining wall expert on Friday, and he hopes to be authorized to do some drilling behind the wall. If so, it will be on a weekend, since the facility is open for business on weekdays.

About three days into this new adventure, I remembered that I’d prayed about my senioritis situation. Now, I was asking God to help me be more faithful in my self-starter work, not to load me up with new work, urgently needed. But that’s exactly what He did. I suspect He’s laughing at the situation. “Oh, so you’re worried you’re not working hard enough, that you’re having troubling getting motivated? I can fix that real easy.”

He sure did. I came home each day this week exhausted and mostly brain dead—but truly fulfilled, knowing I was working hard and making a difference.

The Dream Is Still Holding On

I changed the final e-book cover some from this. I keep forgetting to upload it from my computer at work.
I changed the final e-book cover some from this. I keep forgetting to upload it from my computer at work.

Not too long ago I posted that I had published my latest book, When Death Changes Life, as an e-book. As always, I have a lag between publishing the e-book, which is relatively simple, and publishing the print book, which is much more involved primarily due to the cover. I uploaded the print book more than a week ago, but kept finding little errors in it: a poem that had a widow on one page; failing to start something on the right hand side; things like that. I ordered a proof copy, but while waiting on it I worked on fixing those errors.

Finally, the proof came yesterday. I had already fixed the errors, uploaded them, and had them approved by CreateSpace. So I pressed the button, and the print book published yesterday. It still hasn’t synced up with the e-book into one listing on Amazon. That typically takes two or three days to happen. Sometimes I have to turn in a manual request for Amazon to make it happen.

What are my hopes for this book? It doesn’t have anything new in it. It’s the six Danny Tompkins stories pulled together as a box set. How well did they sell as individual stories? Here’s my sales numbers, lifetime.

  • Mom’s Letter – 39
  • Too Old To Play – 9
  • Kicking Stones – 10
  • Saturday Haircuts, Tuesday Funeral – 4
  • What Kept Her Alive? – 4
  • Growing Up Too Fast – 0
Zero copies sold of this one. Perhaps the market is speaking to me.
Zero copies sold of this one. Perhaps the market is speaking to me.

Clearly, the series hasn’t caught on. Even the original 39 purchasers didn’t come back to see if there were more stories.

So, will they sell better as a volume? That is the hope. I feel badly for a couple of people who bought four or five of them early in the year. Someone coming in now could buy all six for $2.99, whereas the others paid $0.99. I suppose that’s life. They have sales. Sometimes you get in on it, sometimes you don’t. Still, what happens if I drop the e-book to 99 cents as a promotional and see if anyone bites? (Still no sales of the boxed set.) Same too bad.

But, in talking about it to people, at church and in the office, it seems like the title is catching, the subject is of interest, and a few people have said they would buy a copy from me. Some may even follow through on that. I can think of three or four sure sales.

With each book I publish, I think “This will be the one to catch on, to sell in the hundreds if not the thousands.” Alas, each time I’m lucky to sell in double digits. A few will go to 10 to 25 copies, a couple have sold in the 30s. Only two have hit 50 or more, and only one 100 or more. What makes me think this one will be different? I don’t know that it will be, but I hope.

The dream hasn’t quite died. It’s holding on for dear life, battered by busyness at the office and at home, by a tired brain and a tired body, trounced by hits from every quarter. I’m tired of late, really tired.

Still, I have to hang on to the dream. Otherwise, there would be no point of going on.

Author | Engineer