Happy New Year!! I want to start off the new year with a confession/apology. I took the week between Christmas and New Years off and when I say I took it off, I really took it off. I not only took time off work but I intentionally resisted writing on my book or even maintaining my blog. I spent the entire time with my family. The way I see it my children will only be young once and I need to spend every moment that I can with them. As far as an apology goes - it really isn't an apology at all. I would gladly put everything on hold again to savor more moments with my wife and children. If you missed seeing updates on the blog - you need not worry because I am back. The kids are back at school and Julie and I are back at work.
This year will see some changes to this site. (I think I say this every January.) The website is changing though and I am very excited. One thing you will see more of in 2013 is guest postings. I have an increasing number of businesses who wish to post on the site and as long as their subject matter is family friendly I have no reason to deny them the opportunity. Due to that wonderful change, you will see more guest postings by professionals this year. I am also planning on making some vlogs (video blogs) this year. I have written about it in the past: Tourism Vlogging
I don't have plans to do too many tourism vlogs since I don't travel much. (I would love to do it though if anyone wants to pay me for it.) I do plan to dabble in vlogging on occasion though - just to mix things up some. I have some other plans in the works but it wouldn't be fun to tell you all of them today. What would you have to anticipate? Here's to a great 2013!! Also, I would like to thank all those who still visited the blog in my absence. I was pleasantly surprised to still see a high number of hits on this site even though we haven't posted any new material in almost two weeks!! I hope you have a fabulous 2013!!
Today I am posting the 3rd chapter of my book, The Night Terror. You can read the first two chapters here: Chapter 1 / Chapter 2
You can purchase the book here: The Night Terror
If you have read the book, please share this blog with others on Twitter, Facebook or whatever social media you use. Your help getting the word out is greatly appreciated!! Thank you, Tim.
The Night Terror
Aaron Elijah Foster had led an exciting life. He had spent almost a decade as a good, highly decorated homicide detective in Chicago. During his years on the force, he had saved eight lives and helped solve twenty-seven murders. He was highly respected, but all that changed, when Susan was brutally murdered. He and Susan had been married for almost 12 years. In fact, the murder happened just a week before their 12th anniversary. After she died, Aaron lost his desire to work or to live. He could not bring himself to investigate more murders, knowing each one would be torment, causing him to relive Susan’s death.
The night of Susan’s murder, Aaron had heard the call go out over the scanner and rushed home. He was off duty and already travelling home with groceries. He was only a block away when he heard the call so he was the first on scene. When he walked into the
house, he saw the bloody body of his wife on the kitchen floor and the body of the assailant a few feet away. The assailant’s knife was on the floor next to his left hand and his body was lying in a pool of blood. Andy was kneeling on the floor holding his mother’s hand and a 9mm Beretta. Sobbing, Aaron broke down and embraced his son. Within minutes, a squad car and an ambulance pulled into the Foster’s driveway. Aaron explained that he had arrived home and discovered the assailant had attacked Susan. He said he shot the man, but he was actually covering for Andy. He knew it was wrong to lie on the report, but he wanted to protect his son from being questioned. Everything else about that night had escaped Aaron’s mind. The trauma was too much. He was never able to work homicide again.
One year later, Aaron moved to Carbondale, Illinois. He applied for a job with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as a Park Ranger in Cedar Bluff National Wildlife Refuge. This was a far cry from working homicide in Chicago. Life was slower,
everything was more peaceful and the air was clean. He loved the outdoors and believed he had finally found a place he could start a new life. Nature seemed to bring him some peace. Listening to all the forest sounds—the water trickling, the birds chirping, the
squirrels scurrying—gave him serenity. He was enjoying the sights and sounds of nature when he met his second wife, Marcia. She was hiking one of the trails in the park. She noticed him working on a damaged sign and asked him some questions about the history
of the trail. She was gorgeous. As soon as Aaron saw her, he was intoxicated by her beauty. For the first time in years he thought he could love again. You could say it was love at first sight, but mostly he thought she was just really good looking. Aaron was a tall, rugged man who worked out frequently and spent much of his time outside,
so Marcia found him attractive as well.
Marcia Teresa Diego had recently graduated from law school at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIU C). She was Latin American and the youngest of three children having an older sister and brother. Southern Illinois had always been her
home. Her parents, however, had immigrated to the United States from Mexico and found work in the farms near Cobden, Illinois. They were very destitute. Growing up in a Hispanic family was challenging. They were very poor and made their living by working hard every day. Many people looked down on them. Marcia’s family had legally immigrated to the United States, but because they were Hispanic farmers, most people assumed they had immigrated illegally. Very few people offered to help the Diego family with one major exception. A local priest became close friends with the family. Marcia looked at Father Benjamin as family, calling him Uncle Ben. This embarrassed her parents, but Father Benjamin said he thought it was humorous. When Marcia was a little girl, Father Benjamin told her that he would make sure she could go to school and become whatever she dreamed of. Marcia said, “I want to make a difference when I grow up. I want to help out those who can’t help themselves.” Father Ben smiled, “I am sure you will do just that little one!”
Marcia had a very difficult life. Her older sister, Stephanie, disappeared and was never seen again. Her parents thought Stephanie had run away because she left the house after an intense argument with her mom. Because they never heard back from her, they concluded she had not merely run away but had been kidnapped or killed. The police had found one lead, but could never locate the suspect. It was as though he had also disappeared. After a few years, it was classified as a cold case, and she was presumed dead.
When Marcia turned 17, Father Benjamin kept his promise. He helped pay her way through college. It was their secret; Marcia told her family she had received a scholarship. Father Ben never said otherwise, he considered it a scholarship from above. Marcia did work as a waitress and paid half, but Father Ben paid the other half
of her expenses for undergraduate work and then law school. After her graduation from law school, Marcia was hired by a local law firm that specialized in offering legal services to the poor. When Marcia met Aaron, it was like her life had reached a pinnacle. Having lost his first wife, Aaron had become gentle. He didn’t seem to take life for granted and he treated Marcia like a princess. This all happened after that first encounter. That day
Marcia first asked for directions, but after talking for a few minutes asked Aaron for his phone number. “Mr. Foster, you have been very helpful. I wonder, however, if I could call you in case I have more questions, about the park, of course.” “Well, Marcia, you can call me Aaron. Since you would be calling me with questions ‘about the park,’ I see no harm in giving you my personal number.” They both laughed and exchanged contact
After a few calls and many texts, they went on their first date. Aaron was so nervous. He assumed that since Marcia was Mexican, she would prefer going to a Mexican restaurant. She was very gracious and accepted and they had a great time. At the end of the date, she asked if she could choose the location of the next restaurant. “Aaron, thank you so much for tonight. If we are going on any future dates, however, I must confess I really like Chinese food.” They both laughed and he agreed to take her out for Chinese next time. They began to date often. They went to see movies, went out to dinner and Aaron began to bring Andy on some of the dates. They were married three months after the meeting in the park. Marcia loved Andy and made every attempt to be the best step-mother possible. For several months, they operated like a perfect family, but as time went on things began to fall apart.
Working as an attorney was very taxing on Marcia who began spending more and more time working. Each case seemed to affect her personally. To escape the stress, she relied more on her friends and less on her family. She wasn’t intentionally leaving them out of
her life, she just felt like she couldn’t connect with Aaron as well as she could with her best friend, Brenda. “I have a very demanding job,” she would say to Aaron in defense of her late nights. Everyone knew that things were falling apart.
Aaron and Andy were almost at Devil’s Canyon Lake, a secluded area within the Cedar Bluff National Wildlife Refuge. Not too much activity took place in mid-October, but Aaron wanted to check on some college students who were camping in the park. When they arrived on Friday, Aaron made sure they didn’t have any alcohol and checked them for signs of drug use. They seemed clean, but he figured that just the fact that it was guys and girls could spell trouble. Sometimes that combination can be intoxicating enough,
especially when camping near a lake. Aaron had asked one of the other Rangers, Kevin, to periodically check on them. Knowing there would probably be some activity, he wanted to prevent them from harming themselves during the night.
As they approached the campground, the first thing to catch Aaron’s attention was skid marks on the road. Parking his truck on the edge of the highway, he climbed out and started to tell Andy to stay inside. Aaron had been so deep in thought that he hadn’t even noticed Andy was sleeping until that moment. Deciding not to wake Andy, he locked the truck doors and walked over to the skid marks with his flashlight in hand.
He followed the skid marks and realized they led off the road. He walked to a tree a few feet away and realized it had been hit by something. Approaching it, he shined his flashlight on it, revealing traces of red paint. His pulse began to race as the sense of urgency increased.
As he looked down the embankment, his flashlight beam bounced off something metallic; he realized it was the wheel of an overturned car in the gully. Running toward the car, he recognized it was a red Mercedes—Marcia’s car. Growing faint, Aaron continued to rush toward the car and slid as he approached it. He got on his stomach and looked into the car. Deflated airbags were everywhere and a roll bar had automatically deployed when the car flipped. He had trouble seeing because everything was so dark, but he could tell that Marcia was not in the car. He felt some type of liquid on the ground and dipped his finger into it. Examining it, he realized it was blood and concluded Marcia must have sustained some type of injury. He could only imagine the condition she must
be in, if she was even alive. “I can’t think like that,” he told himself,
“I must find her.”
For those reluctant to purchase my book, I decided to give you a sneak peak into the first three chapters. You can read chapter 1 here: Chapter 1
You can purchase the book here: The Night Terror
Remember, it would make a great Christmas gift.
Here is the next chapter...
The Night Terror
Andy’s mother, Susan, was a beautiful woman, loving wife and mother, who cared deeply for her family. Aaron and Andy loved her very much. Her life had come to a sudden and tragic end when she was beaten and murdered; Andy was only 10 years old
at the time. According to the police statement Aaron shot Susan’s murderer, but Aaron knew differently; the assailant had actually been shot by son. It was self defense, but this tragic night had changed Andy. He would never talk about it; he couldn’t, he had been mute ever since.
Aaron went back to the bathroom and tried removing the ceramic from his back one last time. He was able to get most of the shards out then took an Ace bandage and wrapped it around his torso as best as he could. He figured he could have it looked at in the morning when he went to work. He began to wonder if his wife would be coming home soon. Aaron had recently remarried but was already experiencing marital strife. His wife had a tendency to stay out late with friends. On an occasional weekend, she would
not come home until the next day. Aaron began to think this would be one of those nights. He hardly ever saw her and wondered how long their marriage would last. In addition to not spending much time with Aaron, she had a very demanding job.The stresses of her job were wearing down her patience and only fragmented their communication more. Aaron became depressed and decided to try to go back to sleep to escape the pain of reality; he just hoped that he would not dream of the monster again.
After 10 minutes of lying awake, Aaron knew he could not go back to sleep. He kept thinking about his failed life, and whenever he closed his eyes he saw a vivid image of that beast and the trail of blood in its wake. He was tormented and could not escape the despair of emotional separation from those he loved. He found himself completely unable to slow his heartbeat. He had a sense of urgency to get out of the house; feeling as though there was something he had to do. He had no idea why, but he felt a strong desire to go to the campground. He remembered his nightmare; the monster had been at the campground at Devil’s Canyon Lake. Maybe that was why he wanted to go or maybe he actually was sensing something wrong. He hoped going would ease his mind. The idea of checking things out, calming his fears and proving to himself that it was in fact a dream offered him hope of attaining some solace. Escaping his torment seemed to be the only way he would find peace for the upcoming day.
Aaron proceeded to the bathroom to prepare for his journey. He took a cold shower; something about the sensation of cold water on his spine made him feel alive. To some degree he liked pain, it energized him and renewed his strength.
While he showered and dressed Aaron debated whether or not to take Andy with him. The way he saw it, he had four options: first, he could wake Andy and let him know he was leaving; second, he could leave him a note; third, he could leave and hope he would be back before Andy woke up; or lastly, he could take Andy with him.
He felt a strong sense that something was wrong but kept telling himself it was all in his imagination. This would be so much easier if his wife, Marcia, was home. Aaron called her cell phone but instead of ringing, it went directly to voice-mail. “Ah, her phone is off,” thought Aaron. He decided she was sleeping at her friend, Brenda’s, house; it would not be the first time. He decided not to call Brenda in the middle of the night; it would
just escalate things. Instead, he wrote a note for Marcia in case she returned while he was away.
Aaron decided to wake Andy instead of leaving him alone. Andy was a gentle young boy with a small frame, sandy brown hair and his mother’s deep blue eyes. He had a face that glowed with innocence. Although he was every bit of 13, Aaron still saw a five year old boy. Andy rubbed his eyes and spoke to his dad in sign language. “What is wrong, dad,” he signed. Aaron audibly replied to Andy, “I just feel that something is wrong at one of the campgrounds, and I am going to check it out.”
He could see fear in Andy’s eyes as if he too were replaying a bad dream. With a look of determination, Andy nodded and signed, “I will get dressed and come with you.” Andy climbed from bed, changed clothes and met his father downstairs. They clambered
into Aaron’s truck and headed for the campground. The time was 12:44 a.m.
I sometimes wonder if I am in the right career. I keep hoping I one day see an opening for a position labeled something like, “looking for self starter who is great at generating vision, creating new endeavors, passionately leading others but lacks discipline in seeing the vision fully implemented.” I know, it sounds like I fit right in as a manager [poke, poke] but I think this is something that requires deeper explanation.
For starters, I am not saying that I am lazy, just a little absent minded. I am one of those people who loves daydreaming. I greatly enjoy coming up with all types of ideas. My biggest problem is that I often never put feet to them. Finishing my first book was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It’s not that the story wasn’t in my mind, it’s just that I am really, really, really good at not finishing. I’m like a sprinter in a marathon. I excel and starting the race with everything I have. I run hard and fast, but I exhaust myself long before the race is finished. This is why I need to find a job where I can create ideas but others can finish them.
I constantly have random stuff flying through my mind. It can really be exhausting to be me at times.
One area is movies. I’m not great at making movies but I constantly have new concepts – usually some type of farce on an existing popular project. Here are some examples of random thinks I thought about last night… while trying to go to sleep… A spoof on Justin Bieber's Baby, Baby, Baby called Money, Money, Money focusing on singing to make money… A spoof of Gangnam Style called Gomer Pyle... changing Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen’s Good Time to Bad Time and some other stuff that I can’t remember. I’ve had the idea of remaking The Amazing Spiderman but changing it to where Dr. Connors is studying the regenerative powers of the starfish instead of a lizard. Imagine Spiderman fighting a giant starfish…out of water.
I am also coming up with book ideas constantly. It is really hard to focus on my current book when I keep thinking of other great ideas.
I also think about changes I want to make to my cars, places I want to live, new business ideas, t-shirt designs (one was of a WANTED picture of a large soda – in New York, another is a shirt that says WARNING, CONCEALED GUNS with arrows pointing at the biceps on each arm – this one is political but a shirt that says “We should have known Obama would be re-elected, the Mayans predicted it,”) stuff I want to invent and on and on and on. My brain is like the energizer rabbit... and that has got to have some purpose… doesn’t it?
I don’t really have a point and I have been really thinking about not finishing today’s article because that would fit really well, but I do want you to see how my mind works. Maybe you have an idea about how I can use this gift to help society.
Wait a minute!! I have a great idea…
Okay, I admit it; I only wrote that title to get more hits. Let’s face it, people are fanatical about sales and the biggest search term for today will be ‘Cyber Monday.’ People who have no idea about Stratosphere Networking are now reading this blog in hopes of finding what deals they can get from the site. I don’t really have any discounts to offer, unless you want to buy my book. You can message me and we can see what we can work out if you want a copy at a reduced price.
Otherwise, I offer advertising. There are some very talented people listed on this site and I encourage you to check them out. You just might want to book the services of one at your next event. You may want to check out the products offered by others. This site is what it says it is – a networking site. You have the opportunity to network with some very talented people, so I guess I am giving you a deal. Just click here to learn more.
I recently wrote an article entitled "5 Simple Laws of Customer Service." In that article I addressed a fable we have been taught in the business world. That fable is that the customer is always right. This just is not true. You rarely find a statement to be true when it involves an indefinite word like always, forever or never. An example would be when a mother tells her child, "you never clean your room." This may be true in some instances, but most children do clean their rooms on occasion. Their definition of clean may differ from the mother's but do say they never clean the room is not accurate.
The idea that the customer is always right is one of those inaccuracies. It can be a destructive one because it can leave the wrong message to those working in customer service. The idea is to always treat a customer with respect and do your best to service his/her needs. This involves listening to his/her problem and doing what you can to help find a solution to that problem. Stating the 'customer is always right' does not properly communicate what to do when he/she is wrong. It leaves some people in a bind when they are faced with the inevitable - a time that the customer is wrong.
In the past I gave an example of when a customer buys a product from one story but tries to return in at another store - one that happens to not sell the product in question. The customer may be right in his claims that the product is faulty but he is not right in blaming a store that does not even sell the product. In that instance I suggested the customer service representative kindly direct the customer to the proper store. This could not happen if the customer service representative assumed the customer was always right.
Here are some suggestions on what to do when the customer is wrong.
1 Peter 2:17a (The Message): "Treat everyone you meet with dignity."
Do you ever feel overwhelmed?
If you answered 'no' - we need to talk because I really want to know your secret.
I will openly admit that I do feel overwhelmed at times. Fall tends to be a thorn in my side. I've mentioned before that I am a warm climate person and not too fond of Winter. I have also talked about how Fall serves as a constant reminder that Winter is coming. I think one of the real reasons that Fall darkens my palette, however, is that I often experience burnout during the season. It's really due to a combination of things. The weather is getting colder, I usually get a cold and everything seems to build up. I'm not sure why but it just seems like everything in life piles up during fall and I have trouble breathing - emotionally speaking. I often get frustrated and bogged down and my creative side gets buried beneath a pile of conflicting priorities. I think it is partly because the year drawing to an end and everyone begins turning the hamster wheels a little faster in order to reach their goals. We collectively contribute to one another's frustration.
This year I am attempting to keep those creative juices flowing. Being creative is part of who I am and when I put that part of my personality on hold, it's like losing a part of my identity. It seems to only contribute to the frustration instead of defeating it. For that reason I am looking into how my websites look and I am working to improve their appearances. Last week I made a major overhaul to one of those websites: http://thenightterror.weebly.com/. My next goal is to see how I can improve this website and make it more attractive and user friendly. I am also wanting to find better ways to promote the musicians, artists, writers and businesses that are advertised on this website. Expect to see some creative transitioning in the future. This blog will most like look and feel different and Stratosphere Networking will improve. I know Fall can bring me down if I let it, but this year I am fighting to keep it from bringing me down.
I would LOVE to find an easy way to make some extra dough without doing any real work. I always find it tempting when someone says something like, "make $100,000 a year by sitting at your computer and keeping your own schedule." I think we are all very familiar with the ever growing plethora of money making schemes. You have everything from the classic pyramid scheme that just evolves into differing forms like internet sales and herbal supplements to the computer marketing campaigns. If you are like me you have clicked on a few of these ideas and contemplated the validity of their claims, you understand the temptation. You know you have daydreamed about a life where you are in charge of your own schedule and get to live like a millionaire in the process, admit it.
The truth is that most of us never fall into money and we are required to work for our salaries. That is why it's referred to as earnings. We earn the money and that really isn't such a bad thing. Can you imagine a world with no work ethic? What we we be like if everything was handed to us on a silver platter? How would we treat others if we did not understand the meaning of the word sacrifice? Could we have compassion if we never were in a place where we needed compassion? The very fact that most of us are required to work to live gives us the ability to empathize with one another. We understand the principles of sowing and reaping.
As much as I hat to admit it, work makes us better people. If the claims of the money marketing schemes were true, I think it would rob us. We would become greedy and selfish. We need to understand the meaning of hard work because it teaches us the importance of determination. I am determined to improve my life and the lives of others. I have this drive because I know what it means to be poor and I understand how life is when it is lived from paycheck to paycheck. I don't have a 'silver spoon' or a quick money making solution but I do have something more important. I have a work ethic. With that said, I still wouldn't mind finding a simple way to may a few extra bucks. ;)
Galatians 6:7 - "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap."
I just completed an insane weekend. It was a mixture of crummy and awesomeness. The crummy part was due to me coming down with some type of cold but I had the opportunity to participate in some wonderful activities which is what provided the awesome factor to my weekend.
Here is a hint of the schedule I maintained the past few days.
I somehow still made it to work today.
I wrote all of this to remind myself and you that even in great times we often face some type of adversity. This doesn’t mean that we cannot enjoy those good times.
When you are serving customers, you will face some type of adversity, but this does not mean that you cannot offer good customer service. Just as I pushed through and accomplished much despite dealing with an awful cold, you can push through and offer good customer service even when you don’t necessarily feel like it. That’s something to chew on.