Meet Linda Tillis; Crime Scene Investigator (Ret.), Photographer, and Author.

Linda Tillis

One of the best things I have gained from blogging, writing, podcasting, and audiobook narrating over these past several years is the people that I engage with. One of those people that I have had the honor of developing a friendship and partnership with is Linda Tillis. She has written three books, and I have had the pleasure of narrating two. I believe you will find her as interesting as I do. Recently, she agreed to let me interview her.

 

Q: Your third book (A Heart for All Time) has just released on Amazon for pre-sale on Kindle. Congratulations!   Have you always wanted to be an author?

A:  As much as I loved to read in my younger years, I never once gave thought to becoming an author.  And I did love to read!  In my senior year of high school, I would sell book reports to friends during Thursday’s lunch hour.

 

Q: Tell us about your early career that led up to your writing.

A:  Immediately after graduation, I went to work at a sewing factory. (Thank goodness for four years of Home Economics). I spent eighteen years there, nine years on the sewing floor, then nine years as the assistant to the production manager. When garment manufacturing started to die here in the United States, I saw the handwriting on the wall and started looking for another job.

I went to work for the local police department. I spent a few months as a dispatcher, then applied for an opening as a non-sworn Crime Scene Investigator.  The Corporal who trained me had been a medic in Vietnam. He had been doing CSI work for ten years and believed that no one should do it for longer than that.  I replaced him and went on to do the work for twenty years.

During those years I saw a side of life that most folks never see, and that’s a good thing. The constant exposure to death, brutality, and total lack of morality can either harden a person or push a person to the edge of their personal tolerance.  My husband realized I had reached my limit and suggested that I retire.  I realized he was correct, and when I reached the twenty-year mark, I left police work.

 

Q: It’s interesting that you have broken down your career into segments. So, what was the next chapter in your life? Pun intended.

A: My husband bought me a good camera and said,” Now go out and take pictures of living things.” And so, I did.

Once I had a nice portfolio of nature photography, he insisted I should write articles and sell them.  I sold two separate articles, with photos, to the Florida Wildlife Magazine. During this time, I had gone back to work for the local sheriff office as a 911 dispatcher. At the end of seven years, I retired permanently. Then my husband said, “You should write a book about the things you’ve seen.”

I jokingly said, okay. But once I had started, the first book just poured out. I found it was less painful to address the awful memories if I put them in a historical context, so I became a historical romance/inspirational writer. Telling stories of strong women who overcome adversity to find the love they deserve.

 

Q: Looking back, what would you say that you would have done differently?

A:  The only thing I might have done differently, is to start writing earlier, however, I am a firm believer that everything happens in the Lord’s time. I believe He knew I would need this career at this point in life, and I attribute my small success to Him.

 

A Heart for All TimeQ: So, now you have three books out. The most recent, A Heart for All Time, has just been released. Would you tell us a little about it?

A: It is a time travel set in Greeneville, Tennessee, where my sister has lived for several years. Just like the first two, there is a thread of law enforcement. The heroine, Sarah Haskins, is a 911 operator. She buys a piece of Cherokee Indian jewelry that transports her back to 1890 just in time to save a man from hanging.

 

Q: I would like to post links to your books and your author page. Which ones would you like for me to use?

A: I am in the process of building a new website, but, anyone interested can follow me at

https://www.facebook.com/LindaTillisAuthor/

The books can be found on Amazon at   https://amzn.to/2uL3TBJ

Or The Wild Rose Press at   https://bit.ly/2IuRrYT

 

You Are Called

This last week a young man came to me at our church to ask what it would take for him to become a deacon. I smiled and asked why he would want to be a deacon. He said he wanted to be more committed to God and the church. I remembered when I felt called to go deeper in my commitment to Christ. I went to our pastor and asked. I remember our pastor loved me enough to tell me that I was not ready to be in the ministry or even licensed to preach. I was hurt. I thought this was the next steps when God calls you.

Back to the young man. As I was trying to figure out how to answer him without crushing his spirit, I told him he had to be married. I was stalling. “You’re making that up,” he said. I took out my bible and turned to I Timothy 3 and showed him the qualifications of a deacon. “Look, you’re supposed to have children too,” I pointed out. He said, “Well, what does it take to be an usher?” I began to laugh. I told him that I admired his desire and for him to study the passage in the bible and we would talk again.

The Main Question

The main question here would be: is everyone called? I think the answer is yes. Too often we associate our call with some kind of church work or missionary endeavor. I don’t believe the bible shares this point of view. Here’s why. If God only called people to church vocations then who would farm? Who would teach? Who would enforce the law? Who would do any vocation? God is sovereign. The world, though now fallen was created perfectly by Him and He didn’t just walk away afterward.  What did he call the first man and woman to do? To tend the garden. The bible further shows how God called kings as well as prophets. It tells how He set times, peoples, and nations. He is a God of order.

Our Race

pexels-photo-618612.jpeg    In the bible in the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, we are instructed to run our race. That race is different for all of us. The main problem with the world is that mankind thinks they know better than God. Again, look at the Garden of Eden. If we all did what God called us to do then the world would function perfectly. We, mankind, are flawed and subsequently, our ways are also flawed. Still, there is within all of us a calling. Some call it a passion. Either way, it is there.

pexels-photo-696573.jpeg    I had a chance to talk with this young man again on another day. I explained to him that he indeed had a calling. God did not create us first and then think, “Hmm, what could I have him do?” No, God had a purpose in mind when He created each of us. That is our race. God had the race first and then He created someone to run that race. The young man asked me how to find his calling. I asked him what he was passionate about. He told me his dreams. I told him to start there. I also told him that he could do a process of elimination. I.e. did he feel led to farm, police work, or teaching. He said, “No.” Then I said he could rule these out. I told him to try different things and if he failed not to see these are failures, but as learning opportunities to find his purpose.

Are you looking for your purpose? Here are five things you could do, just like I told the young man and others to get going in the right direction:

  1. Know that without a doubt you were created for a purpose and that God wants you to know it. Hebrews 12:1 and following.
  2. Read the bible for examples where God called men and women from all walks of life.
  3. Read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and start with the five things that God has called us all to do.
  4. Eliminate what you know for sure you don’t have any interest in doing. I would suggest, if possible by trying it first.
  5. Seek out the things that do interest you and try them. Once you try them, you might find out you really weren’t as interested as you first thought.

 

 

Meet Peter Younghusband: Nurse and Book Review Guru

PETERWhen I was working on publishing my first book in 2015, someone told me to join some writing groups. I did some searching around on Facebook and saw one I found interesting. It is one of those groups you have to be accepted in to be a part of it. I read some of the feed and thought this one was pretty interesting. So, I asked to join. Just like that, I was introduced to the group. I was welcomed by the group instantly. I noticed there was a gentleman who consistently posted reviews of books like the one I was working on. It was Peter. After getting to know Peter better through his posts and his reviews of books (blog: Reviews by Peter), and email correspondence, I asked if he would take a look at my book. He did and posted his review. The link is listed here. Over the years he has given me sound advice and has become a good friend. That is why I wanted to share my friend with you.

 

Q: First off, could tell everyone where you live?

Peter: I currently live in Point Cook, a suburb west of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your younger life, family, and how that affected your choice of occupation.

Peter: I am the youngest of three with an older brother and sister. We all just happen to be exactly 16 months apart, pure fluke, not planned! My mother was a Registered Nurse and my father was a clerk with the Australian Post Office.

My parents had us, three children, later in their life. My mother was in her late 30s when my sister was born and I was purely a mistake on their part as my mother had actually started menopause! I grew up with my mother telling me stories about being a Nurse and also listening to her do the same with her Nursing friends. In Year 12, when I realized that Teaching was not what I wanted to do, I decided to give Nursing a try, seeing I grew up familiar with this. So I applied and started the following year. I was 19 years at the time.

 

Q: So, you were off to nursing school, a choice that not only led to your career choice, but to another life-changing event. Tell us about that.

Peter: After graduating 3 years later, I consolidated my nursing career for 2 years in the general wards of the hospital. After this, I branched out into a specialized area of Nursing. This dealt with the diseases of the eye, ear, nose, and throat [(Ophthalmology and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat)] as I loved these during training. My other passion for Nursing was working in the community, specifically in Occupational Health (Industry). To do this, I needed to have experience in Accident and Emergency. So I took a position in this department and it was here that I met my future wife, Debra. She was an Occupational Health Nurse (Nurses who work in Industry applying Health and safety from a Nursing POV to employees) and sent one of her injured employees to this department where I was working. She had a position available at the abattoir where she worked. I applied and was successful in my application.  Nine months later we married! I continued working at the abattoir for a further nine months. I then moved to another industry (car manufacturing) then a petrochemical company before being retrenched from a downturn in this industry.

At this stage, we were expecting our first child and I needed a job. I was unable to return to Occupational Health Nursing as I did not have formal qualifications in this field (despite working in it!). I realized I needed a career change in Nursing. I accepted a position at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. I have been there ever since which adds up to 25 years now.

Peter and coworkers   I am currently working in Medical Services department as a Clinical Nurse Consultant. Here I offer medical advice to blood donors concerning their edibility to donate from a medical perspective. I also offer staff health advice in relation to biological exposures (needle stick injuries, blood and body fluid exposures). My other responsibility is the vaccination against those diseases that staffs are at great risk of being exposed to in dealing with blood donation.

 

Q: You mentioned having a child. How many children do you have now?

Peter: Three years after our first daughter, Laura, was born, we had another daughter, Hannah. Now they are 25 and 22 years respectively. The eldest married in June and has now had her first child.

 

Q: Grandchild? Congratulations. I think we have found another interest and passion for you.Peter and grandbaby

Peter: Now a grandfather!

 

Q: You pointed out your passion for nursing, but this is not your only passion.

Peter: In my childhood and adolescence I loved collecting coins and stamps. I have not continued this since leaving home but still have my collection. My other interest and which I am passionate about is reading. I was not brought up with a love of reading, but it was not discouraged either. How I discovered reading was due to a bullying episode when I was in Grade 3. After their abuse on many levels on that particular school morning, I retreated to the classroom to get away from these bullies. Here I came across a few other students who I knew briefly. They were reading novels when I arrived and we started talking. I asked them about the books they were reading and it was them who introduced me to author Enid Blyton. I was hooked! The Famous Five and The Secret Seven series were my favorites. Then I discovered the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. From this introduction to reading on that fateful morning, I have always had my head in a book. I even ran the bookstore at Church!

 

Q: I think that is one of the reasons you and I connect, our shared interests. I too collected coins and stamps, but it is our love of reading that caused our paths to cross. I too loved the Hardy Boys, but your love of reading sparked another passion, one for reviewing books on a grander scale. How did that happen?

Peter: I started writing reviews on and off when I discovered Christian fiction when I became a Christian at 19 years of age. My first novel in this genre was Dwellers by Roger Elwood (now out of print). This dealt with the Nephilim whom the Bible mentions in Genesis 6: 4. This was my first introduction to edgy, speculative fiction and I have sought this genre out since. It was this genre that led to my review blog. Steve Goodwin, a Christian author, suggested I start it after I had written a long, but comprehensive, review of his two edgy, speculative fiction novels. He believed that blogs like this would serve well in promoting this genre and in the process, Christian authors. He believed that Christian fiction in all its genres, and especially Christian authors, needed more promotion than secular authors. This has proven to be very true. Reviewers are the best promotion for an author and are their best asset! That is the most motivating reason I keep reviewing.

 

Q: As an avid reader and author, I would have to agree.

Peter:  The other motivating reason is that I feel readers should write a review to show their appreciation of how well the author’s book has affected them. Were they only entertained? Did the author educate them on the subject matter as well? Was God glorified? Was their faith challenged, and relationship with God deepened? If there are any negatives, these can be fed back to the author in a positive manner to encourage the author so they can see what they need to do to improve their writing and novel construction.

 

Q: What other interests’ do you have, my friend?

Peter: My other interests are singing. I used to be the worship leader at church and have been involved in the Music Ministry since becoming a Christian. However, I am not involved anymore. Unfortunately, the side effects of asthma medication have affected my singing voice. I have lost my upper register (high notes) and some of my lower registers as well. I also love modern technology, gizmos, and gadgets.

 

Q: You have been at reviewing for some time now, any advice for would-be authors?

Peter: Be specific in your words, plots, characters, mean what you say and say what you mean. There is nothing worse that ambiguousness or lack of detail or information relating to various parts of the novel. It confuses the reader, detracts from their enjoyment and unfortunately gives the impression the author is not a good an author than the reader thought.

Don’t be afraid to show what you believe as far as Biblical topics or issues are concerned. Be bold in expressing your faith through the characters and plot arcs. You are writing for God so let Him have your creativity and talent to tell the story that He wants to tell. You have no idea how far God can use this to bless, uplift, encourage, challenge or draw the reader whether Christian to Him as part of His plan for their lives.

I have been blessed, uplifted, challenged and even chastised by what a Christian author has written in their novels. Unlike secular authors, your mandate is not only to entertain but to minister to the Christian reader through any biblical principles and expression of your faith in your novel and point the way to God to the reader who does not know God yet or encourage them to consider Him.

Never give up. When discouraged, go to God in prayer, asking for discernment, wisdom. Be Honest with Him and humble.

Seek out the advice and mentoring of other Christian authors. Accept their advice and counsel with a humble heart and a teachable spirit. You will be a better author because of it (and a better version of yourself as well!).

Be the same with the feedback from beta readers, reviewers and do not take it personally. Do not be hard on yourself when you feel that things are going pear-shaped or you feel like giving up. Us readers (and reviewers) do not want you to give up or accept second-rate authorship and novels! We want to sing your praises as an author and being an instrument of God.

Enjoy the story you are creating. It should not be a chore. You are creating a wonderful, unique world in your novel and all for His Glory and purposes. You have quite an honor and privilege to the conduit for God to minister to the reader in the fiction you are creating. Be proud of your work, but remember it is for His Glory and purposes you are writing. His instrument.

 

 Q: Peter thanks for sharing a little bit about you with us. With your permission, I have listed two more interviews on other blogs and your URL link to your site as well.

Peter: My pleasure! That was fun! Thanks for the opportunity!

You learn more about Peter at the two links listed below as well as visit his website to get his take throuigh his reviews on what he calls “edgy” Christian books.

Interview by Christian Author/ Blogger Donovan M. Neal

Interview by Christian Author/ Blogger D.I. Telbat

Reviews by Peter

 

Five Reasons Why You Should Employ the Golden Rule at Work

Golden Ruler  To start, let’s define the Golden Rule, rather than just assuming everyone knows. It was first spoken by Jesus and is a basic principle of life. The premise: treat others as you would have them treat you. If you want respect, give respect. If you want loyalty, give loyalty. If you want courtesy give courtesy. Will you always get what you give? Not always, but here are five reasons why you should still employ and encourage others to employ the Golden Rule in business dealings. They work in tandem with each other.

Better working environment.

If you want others inside and outside of your organization to not only get along but build trust and rapport, then this is foundational. You must build relationships to succeed. It starts with how you treat people. People and relationships flourish in the soil of appreciation, respect, and trust. If you or you allow others, to mistreat those within and without your organization, this equates to abuse. “Even a dog will stop being your friend if you continue to smack him.” Everyone by the very virtue of being a human deserves respect. Insubordination goes only one way – up. Respect and disrespect go two ways. It has been said, “employees don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.”

Law of Unforeseen Consequences.

A maxim I have used many times is “Be careful of the hell you create today. You will have to live in it tomorrow.” The way you treat people is a decision. A choice. Each choice we make, notice I said, choice not action, has consequences. Non-action is a choice. If we allow or exercise mistreatment, betraying of trust, gossip, or backbiting, then it will come back on your organization. Usually, this is in ways that were unforeseen and to a level, we did not expect. The same is true for treating and encouraging others to treat others well. It’s also the principle of sowing and reaping. You reap what you sow. Sow kindness, get kindness, sow trust, get trust, sow honesty, get honesty.

Structures and relationships will always change.

You do not know today what the structure is going to be like tomorrow. How many times have you seen someone work their way from an entry-level position to one higher than yours or to become your boss? Another saying: “Be careful of who you tick off today, you may need them tomorrow (or they may be your boss tomorrow).” I could probably write pages about this one.   

I once knew a paramedic who was speeding and was stopped by a state trooper. The trooper gave the paramedic a hard time about obeying the law and how he was in the public eye, etc. etc. They got into a heated discussion. The trooper got mad and wrote the paramedic the maximum ticket. Several months later, the trooper flipped his car during a high-speed chase. Guess who responded on the ambulance? The paramedic. They remembered each other. The paramedic took the high road and gave the trooper the best of care.

Seek first to understand.

We all want others to listen and understand us. If something must change in your organization, seek to understand what effect it will have on others. If you must “take down a fence (especially a sacred fence) seek to find out why the fence was placed there to begin with.” If you start a stampede you might wish the fence was still there.

We need each other.

“The turtle on the fencepost didn’t get there by himself.” For fun, people will put turtles on a fencepost (yes I know it can be deemed animal cruelty, but bear with me). The point is that turtle got there with some help. So it is in the success journey we are all on. We need others to help us. If we are too stubborn or prideful to seek or accept help, if we get to the top it will be lonely. If we do accept help, we should be quick to give credit where credit is due. I am not talking about handouts here, but hand ups. Help others and it will come back to you visibly in ways you would have not expected and invisibly in ways, you may never know.

There are many more ways you can improve the relationships you have worked so hard to develop. I have given you five here as a foundation treating others how you want to be treated. Employ these and see how the environment changes. The good thing – these can be used in any relationships to strengthen them.

What Happened to the Blog?

Question MarkRecently, several people have asked me this question. For the first time since September I don’t have a looming deadline for an audio book. It was in August of last year that I started my audio book narration career, stint, what ever you care to call it and through it all I did not have time to write anything. The answer to the title question: It didn’t go at all.

The problem is that I over estimated what it would take to do audio books. I thought it would be a simple process. I mean,  how hard can it be? It’s just reading a book into a mic, right? Wrong. What I found out is for every hour of audio someone records, there is about four hours of editing, producing, formatting, and performing a quality control check. Honestly, I got in over my head.

I over booked my self and then I joined with a great lady who has learned so much in the way of narration and is great at accepting coaching and critique. We formed a team for audio books that seemed to be missing in the medium we chose to use.

So far, I have  completed four books personally and Becci and I have completed four. We are currently waiting on the approval of our fifth and are set to start our sixth book together. Through these books we have learned to back off and have fun doing the books and to leave time and room for the unexpected and the priorities in life.

The unexpected for us included: increased travel for my day job, increased hours and responsibilities for her at her job, sickness, and learning the ropes for both of us. Learning the ropes was probably the hardest part. I have went back and listened to some of our first books. Boy, how I wish we could do those over again.

For those of you have inquired about my writing, thank you. For those who have inquired about the audio books, thank you. I plan to take the time to start blogging again, this being the first for 2017. The next will be concerning a new direction containing reviews in a format I call “The 360 Second Review with the Salty Eclectic.” I also hope to get back to doing the interview type blogs that I had started in 2016. I also plan to get back to the blogcasts. I believe you find they will be of better quality. Thanks again.

Meet Jeremy Bullard: Security Officer and Writer

When I was working on publishing my first book someone told me to join some writing groups. I did some searching around on Facebook and saw one I found interesting. It is one of those groups you have to be accepted in to be a part of it. I read some of the feed and thought this one was pretty interesting. So, I asked to join. Just like that, I was introduced to the group. I was welcomed by the group instantly. One of the administrators, who happened to be a resident of Dothan, expressed how glad he was to have someone from the group so close to home. When he saw where I was from, he reached out to me. I want to say “we hit it off immediately” because I liked his posts and his sense of humor. It was Jeremy Bullard.

We corresponded through posts and IM over the past year or so. Several months back I contacted Jeremy and asked to meet. It only made sense, since we both lived so close and were in the same writer’s group, to meet. He agreed. We met at a local coffee shop and discussed everything from books to theology. I recently asked Jeremy if I could recap some of that conversation and some of the other things we had discussed through the time I had been in the group. He graciously agreed.us

Q: Jeremy, could you give us a little background on you and your family?

Jeremy: I’m 44 years old, and have been married to my wife Mary for 15 years this October. We have three children, Olivia (12), Caleb (10), and Madison (8), who I am convinced, are going to be the death of me. If not from their homeschooling, from their EPIC level in-fighting!

Q: Family history?

Jeremy: History? That could take a while, but just to broad brush things… I’m the product of a broken home, twice over. My biological father left when I was a newborn, not to be seen again until I was 38. My Mom and the man who became my Dad just couldn’t keep their stuff together. But for all that (I could complain about stuff daddyinglike that), it actually taught me to see the OPPORTUNITY in the hardships. If not for my biological father leaving, I never would’ve met my Dad. If not for that broken home, I never would’ve had the benefit of going to school in Illinois and summering in Alabama. If not for the stark differences between my Mom and Dad, I never would’ve gotten my serious Christian walk, which is coupled with a strong “what if” personality. All of the seeming trials in my life flow together to create a unique experience that created a unique me, as it does with EVERYBODY’S life. 🙂

Q: I know you make a living at a career, but also have a side “passion” if you will. Could you tell us what you do for a living?

Jeremy: I’m an armed security officer at the local nuclear plant (and just to dispense with an oft-perpetuated myth; no, the radioactive material at a nuclear plant CANNOT “blow up” like a bomb). I’ve been there for ten years now, having started work there about a month before Caleb was born. I joke about the pay, but it is hands down the best job I’ve ever had.

Q:  But you have a passion for writing?

sisJeremy: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I was always all over the map with how my creativity manifested, but I had “specialties” for different stages of my life — angsty poetry as a teen, songs as a young adult, and fiction as a mature adult. My interests in writing tend toward the fantastical, thanks in no small part to my Dad who raised me on a steady diet of Star Trek and Dragonlance. No, I didn’t get into the Hobbit until I was well and truly grown, and even then, it didn’t really appeal to me. I LIKE it, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t speak to me like other fantasies do. It’s quite like Grape Nuts cereal — hard to chew for an interesting yet unimpressive flavor and it settles thickly in your stomach. I guess that’s the price you pay for being the first in a field.

Q: And you published a book? Tell us about that and what you are working on now.

Jeremy: I self-published a book two years ago, called Gemworld. I’m currently working on the second book in the series, with plans for a third and a stand-alone based in the same world. I’m a movie and TV buff, and my tastes are all over the place — typically the weird stuff. This, I guess, leads me to my more current writing. I tend to write what interests me — sci-fi and fantasy, heavy on the fantasy. My first forays into fiction were fan-fictions based on games I’d played. From that I moved to a Quantum Leap story that I dearly love but have never finished. I’ve also got a Dark Tower fan-fic that I’m convinced is my best work. I do the occasional horror (not my thing) and sci-fi (love to read, hard to write), but mainly it’s all magic and dragons and damsels in distress.

Q: Jeremy thanks for sharing. Where can people find more about your book and find out more about or contact you?

Jeremy: I can be reached on Facebook, either on my personal page or on my book page. I’ve got a blog that I occasionally post on. You “might” reach me at my Amazon author page, but I highly doubt it. And I can be reached through email, though I gotta give you fair warning — my junk mail filter is KING!

I appreciate the writer group that we are both part of called Iron Sharpening Iron or ISI. They are a group of Everyday People who bounce ideas and hurts off each other as well as ask for prayer and advice. They are from all over the world and I have grown to love their posts and their journeys and their humor.

A little interesting side note, shortly after Jeremy and Ichi met at the coffee shop, I saw him again a few weeks later when I was at the veterinarian office for my cat. He came in to take care of some business with his pet. When we spotted each other, we smiled and greeted each other. With “we meet again” and “so soon”. One of those “it’s a small world” experiences because we both use the same animal doctor. As you can tell from this interview and pictures, Jeremy has quite a sense of humor and adventure.

You can find more about Jeremy through the links below and you can also visit the ISI group for more information about them as well.

 

Jeremy’s Book, Gemworld on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MJNSGW0

Jeremy’s Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/facetsofreality

Jeremy’s Blog – https://nashdude.wordpress.com

Jeremy’s Email – nashdude2011@gmail.com

Iron Sharpening Iron Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/417974044985457/?ref=bookmarks

BFF vs. SSF

Are BFFs practical?

You may have heard the idea that we all brighten a room, some by entering it and some by leaving it. You may also have heard the term BFF which is short-text speak for Best Friend Forever. As wonderful as it may sound, is anyone really someone’s friend forever? Okay, there is Jesus, but other than Jesus, can someone be your friend forever? Okay, my train of thought took another direction. Let me bring it back on track by giving you two examples of what I mean.

What is a SSF?

Have you ever had a friend who brightens your day any time you interact with them? You know the kind I mean, the one who brightens the room and your life when they enter it. I call them Sun Shine Friends or SFFs. These are the kind of people who are the most friendly and genuinely love others. We love being around them. When life looks gloomy, they say something or do something that brightens your day. I can think of two such people in my life, Connie and Cheryl. I don’t get to see either of them as much as I used to or like.

SSF Connie

Connie is a fellow church member. I don’t believe I have ever seen Connie when she wasn’t smiling. I think if I ever saw her sad or crying, it would just break my heart. She insists on giving me a hug whenever our paths chance to cross. Actually, if I don’t get a hug from her when we see each other, I feel that I have been cheated out of a blessing in my life and it is incomplete. It feels almost like the stars are out of alignment. It’s not one of those “Oh, I guess I better hug him” kind of hugs that equates to a dead fish handshake. Oh, no, it’s more like I love you and am so glad to see you kind of hugs. One you enjoy and will leave feeling good. It is always accompanied by a big smile. Like sunshine personified in her laugh and embrace.

SSF Cheryl

Cheryl was a coworker. Though she is a hugger, she is more of a doer. She loves to spread her sunshine by doing for people and by giving gifts that make you think about how much she loves and appreciates you. She came back to work for me a short time after she had left our company. Unfortunately, financially we could not keep her position the second time any more than the first. I had already started to refer to her as one of my SSFs and had explained to her what it meant. When she left the last time she decorated my office. On my wall she placed a “Faith Family Friends” plaque and she signed it. On my bookshelf she placed a stuff animal chicken that had a sign stating “Good morning, sunshine.” I had already started to ref20160909_163812er to her as one of my SSFs and had explained to her what it meant. She also left a wind chime hanging from a hook in the corner of my office. It had the usual little pipes that rattled and on top was a metallic sun. Where I work we have helicopters fly over on a regular basis and when they do the wind chime rattles ever so slightly. You have to know what it is when it rattles or you will miss it. It reminds me of Cheryl every time it does and I cannot help but smile. It has brought sunshine on some very down days. I say a little prayer, thanking God for my SSFs.

Who are your SSFs?

Let them know by saying so by sending them a text, email, or tagging them with this article if it reminds you of them. You can even let them know by giving them something with a sun on it, like a chicken, wind chime, or a card. I thank God He created Sun Shine Friends and He placed some of them in my life to spread that sunshine. After all they are more practical.

 

Meet Earnie Faulk: Entrepreneur & Seller of Snowballs

Several months back, my wife and I were in Sam’s Club stocking up on our monthly goods. We had passed several other folks with their buggies who were just shopping. You know the routine. Shopping at Sam’s Club isn’t exactly Date Night. Sometimes it’s just a necessary evil.

Except for this one guy who is I see coming down the aisle as if he is enjoying his club experience and life. I watched him as he came closer and his demeanor made me smile. He had a genuine skip in his step. When he got within range, my wife said hello. You know the range. It is the distance where the person is close enough to you to say something friendly, but not so close that you accidently spit on him; the safe distance. He responded with a friendly greeting and a happy smile. He stopped his buggy for a moment to talk. It was full of nachos, cheese, hotdog buns, and all the good stuff that you would find at a fair or good ole fashioned football concessions. I had to ask about his buggy full and he handed us his card. It was Earnie Faulk, owner of Earnie’ Snowballs. We converse a little longer and then he joyfully moved on. We moved on a little more joyfully too.

I gave Earnie one of my cards that day as well. Later we became Facebook friends. I had read several of his posts and found him to be very interesting. I messaged Earnie and asked for an interview.

Me: Hey, Earnie. We met in Sam’s Club and exchanged cards. I am a blogger and I have a category on my page called “Everyday People.” I started it because I meet so many interesting people with great stories. I like to introduce them to my friends. Would you be interested in an interview?

Earnie: No problem, T.J.

Me: So, Earnie tell us a little bit about you.

Earnie: I am 32, single, no kids. Born and raised in Dothan. I love to travel inside the United States and outside it. I really like mountain bike riding and trips near water. I am the owner of Earnie’s Snowballs on Ross Clark Circle. I started my business as a hobby because I have always wanted my own business. I knew that I was meant to create and not just consume.Earnie on the Rigs2

Me: I thought I had read in a post of yours that you once worked on oil rigs. Can you tell us about that?

Earnie: I worked offshore for 8 years. I traveled to towns like New Orleans, Texas, Mobile Al, Madrid Spain and Canary islands. I worked my way up to Rig Safety and Training Coordinator/ Offshore HSE Advisor.

Me: I bet you have some interesting stories.

Earnie: As far as interesting stories, I was born into farming and livestock, played high school football, became a college level Co-ed cheerleader, worked on a farm a little while, cook at a restaurant, cheerleading and gymnastics coach, Class A CDL driver, drove for Waste Management, and a former dental assistant.

Me: Ah, a kindred spirit. So, back to the Earnie’s Snowballs. How did you get started in that? You said you were born to create not just consume.

Earnie: I started the business 2 years ago. I got started by listening to the people whom I worked with who said I would be good at the Snowball business. I was also tired of the corporate world, traveling, and always being away from home. I was tired of partying and I wanted to settle down and build the foundations to start a family.

Me: Is Earnie’s Snowballs open all year round or do you work another job or have another passion?

Earnie: I am open all year except the end of December first of January. This is my passion and I am focused on it only as far as business at the moment. I will not work another job at the moment. Chili dog consumption should start becoming very popular soon.

Me: Ah, football season?Mobile Unit

Earnie: I think our mobile unit will be booked more due to football/party season.

Me: Do you cater?

Earnie: I have the ability to.

Me: So, tell us more about your mobile unit.

Earnie: I found my trailer on Craigslist. Sold some things to purchase it. It can be booked for just about any party type; kids or adults.

Me: Any advice for anyone who wants to own their own business?

Earnie: My advice would be to find a mentor. They are hard to come by. If they can’t find one buy books and mentoring programs.

Me: Tell us how people can find out more about you and Earnie’s Snowballs.

Earnie: People can find out more about me by adding me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They can even call me on my cell 334-685-5787.

Me: That is all awesome. Great stuff. Thanks for the conversation.Best Ice Treats 2016

You may think you have seen the yellow building for Earnie’s Snowballs, but just can’t quite place it. It is located on the Ross Clark Circle near 84 West. This year, 2016, Earnie’s Snowballs was voted the Dothan Eagle’s BEST of the Wiregrass for “Best Ice Treats.”

And as you may have surmised, Earnie serves more than just snowballs. Like I mentioned at the beginning, he serves all the good stuff you would find at any tailgate party or high school football game and more. Click one of the links below to find out more about Earnie’s Snowballs or to book his mobile unit for a kid or adult party. Earnie told me he has seen some folks take his snowballs and make “tipsy” snowballs. I’ll let Earnie tell you about that.

Earnie’s Snowballs on Twitter

Earnie’s Snowballs on Facebook

Shack

 

Meet Ashley Smith: Accountant & Amish Retailer

Introduction

Meet Ashley Smith, mother, wife, accountant, Hubby and Daughterhorse lover, and seller of Amish goods. I was first introduced to Ashley when we both worked together. I had recently been promoted and was given a budget for the first time in my new position. Honestly, I didn’t understand the process and codes. It was all Greek to me. I was told to “go talk to accounting.” So, the testing of patience for Ashley and her fellow accountants began and continues even to date. And patient she was, as well as understanding and helpful. Truth be told, I do my best to make the folks in accounting my best friends and they truly are.

Ashley no longer works with us, but her friendships continue. As so often is true in life, her passion turned her in another direction. I and the accountants have been fortunate to keep in touch with Ashley and her adventures which often take her and her family to Tennessee to the Amish country. I caught up with Ashley and I asked her if I could share my conversation with her with you. She generously agreed.

 Our Conversation

Me: “So, Ashley, I would like to introduce you to my friends. You good with that?”

Ashley: “Absolutely.”

Me: “Great. So, tell us a little about yourself and your family.”

Ashley: “I’m 42 years old, married to Stacy for 15 years, have one child (13 year old girl-Carsyn). We enjoy living in the country & riding horses. I have a BS & a Master’s in Accounting. I work at Harris Tire Company during the week as their comptroller.”

Me: “How many horses do you have?

Ashley: “We only have two right now.”

Me: “You say you work as a comptroller during the week. I know you ride horses in your spare time, but you also like to travel to Tennessee a lot, especially the Amish Country  there. Do you own a house in Troy where you live and in Tennessee?”

Ashley: “We live in Troy but my parents have a second house in Tennessee.”

Me: “I see. I know from other conversations and via Facebook that you sell Amish items. Mostly handmade. How did you get into that?”

Ashley: “For the past 20 years I have been Acorn Birdhousevisiting the Amish in Tennessee several times each year. I have accumulated several of the things that they make. After having people repeatedly tell me how they like my purchases and how much they would like to have the same thing; I decided to start trying to sell some of the smaller Amish handmade items myself. So, in the summer of 2015 I started selling Amish handmade wooden items such as birdhouses, cutting boards, bird feeders, rolling pins, etc.”

Me: “That’s pretty cool. Tell us more about your experience with the Amish people.”

Ashley: “We love going to visit the Amish and relaxing at the house in Tennessee. Over the years we’ve made friends with some of the Amish. I like selling stuff the Amish make so that hopefully people can learn to appreciate the craftsmanship the Amish have and all without electricity!!”

Me: “Would you be willing to give up being an accountant in making this a full time pursuit?”

Ashley: “I would love for this to turn into a full time job one day!!”

Rolling PinMe: “Somehow I see you loving this too much to call it a job. So, you have a store online. What is it called?”

Ashley: “Going Back In Time.”

Me: “How can people get a hold of you or get an idea of what it is you are so passionate about?”

Ashley: “People can reach me by phone/text at 334-618-3201, Facebook, or email ashsmith.1974@yahoo.com.”

Me: “Great. Ashley thanks for your time. It was good conversing with you again.”

 A Little More Information

If you would like to see more of Ashley’s line of handmade Amish items, click on the link below to go to her Facebook Page “Going Back In Time.” When I approached Ashley about doing an interview she told me that she was excited about it and thanked me for thinking of her. I think you will agree that even though this article is listed under “Everyday People” on our blog site “The Salty Eclectic”, Ashley is an interesting Everyday Person and I thank her for letting me introduce her to you. Be sure to like her Facebook page.

Going Back In Time Facebook Page

Meet Michelle Elkins: Cake Artisan

Meet Michelle Elkins: college student, newlywed, and (though she will not call herself this) cake artisan. Michelle is pursuing a degree in business at Troy University while working and learning what it is like to be a wife. She makes her home with her husband, Jonathan and three cats in Headland, Alabama. I had the chance to sit down with Michelle and ask her about her cake creations. I found out, as I already suspected, that she is very creative in crafts as well. Here is our discussion in a Q & A format.

Me: “How long have you been decorating cakes?”

Michelle: “Since the 6th grade in school. So, a little over ten years.”

Me: “How long have you been doing this professionally? I.e. working in a business.”

IMG_20160722_123135
Cat Cake

Michelle: “For well over a year. I started with Delectable Edibles in Dothan, Alabama and they have just recently went out of business. I currently work at Sweet and Sassy, also in Dothan off of Westgate.”

Me: “So, Sweet and Sassy picked you up, as it were, from Delectable Edibles shortly after their closing?”

Michelle: “Yes.”

Me: “How did you come to creating these cakes? I know you say you are a cake decorator, but these cakes seem to be more like creations than just mere cakes. I would consider you a cake artist.”

Michelle: “Well, I don’t know if I am a cake artist. I had an interest in cakes from watching shows like Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes on the Food Network and it really interested me. My mom started taking cake classes at Michaels and she began to teach me what she learned. Then she would let me create my own. I filled in the rest by internet searching.”

Me: “Was there a lot of trial and error? Did you fail a lot?”

Michelle: “Oh, yeah. I still do, but I have learned so much along the way.”

Elkin's Wedding0660Me: “You have been recently married and I understand that your mom wanted to let someone else make the wedding cake and the groom’s cake, but you convinced her to let you do it. You also created the cake for your husband-to-be’s man shower.”

Michelle: “Yes. I did all three.”

Me: “What would you say is the hardest cake you have ever done? And what made it the hardest.”

Michelle: “A four tier wedding cake. It was all pound cake, so it was heavy, and by the time I was finished with the swirls and scrolling, my wrists were hurting.”

Elkin's Wedding0668

Me: “What would you say is the cake you enjoy making the most and why is that? And could you give us an example?”

Michelle: “It would be the cake where I get to be the most creative. Recently, a lady asked me to do a cake for a coworker who is an accountant. She really wasn’t sure what she wanted, so we brainstormed and I came up with a cake that she loved. I was able to create a cake that was unique to her situation and for her coworker.”

Me: “You also do crafts. Tell us about that.”

IMG_7341Michelle: “I love to paint on canvas and create other things like door hangers. I also like to draw and illustrate.”

Me: “Where can people get in touch with you and/or get a better idea of the cakes and crafts you create?”

Michelle: “The best way for people to reach me is through my Facebook page and they can see more pictures of my cakes and crafts on Pinterest. Both are called “Cakes and Crafty Things.” They can also find me at Sweet and Sassy on Westgate Parkway in Dothan.”

One can see by the pictures of cakes scattered throughout this article that Michelle is indeed more than just a cake decorator. She told me she “decorates” cakes ranging from cupcakes all the way to full sheet cakes for all occasions. For reference, the common birthday cake you or I would get at a bakery is called a one-quarter sheet cake. Imagine four of those put together into one cake.

For more on Michelle’s Cakes and Crafty Things or to contact her, you can click on the link below:

Michelle’s Cake Facebook Page

Movie Time Cake
Movie Time Cake

 

Super Hero Cake
Super Hero Cake