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Archive for the ‘career’ Category

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 2

In career, death, divorce, fiction, marriage on February 12, 2011 at 11:41 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Our story continues from last month’s issue with Rachel just a few hours away from divorce court. Her assistant Kevin just presented her with an envelope containing the remaining effects of a resident who passed away the night before at the hospice-type facility where she is the director.

“He’s dead, Rachel,” Kevin leaned down to make sure his news connected with my brain. It had. I stiffened with shock and set the phone back on its base. “1:03 a.m. You need to call her now,” he added. “She went home last night sometime after midnight and no one wants to call her.”

I slumped back into my chair as Kevin gingerly lowered the envelope back on my pile so as not to trigger an avalanche, twirled on his heel and left. The news was eerily ironic, given that today was the death of my marriage.

I’m ashamed to say that I too dreaded a call to Mrs. Stone, but not for the same reasons as my staff. They assumed I vicariously held their pejorative opinion that she takes advantage of our facility, Afterglow Journey Center, and staff by her ubiquitous presence. Her husband, Russell Stone, is—was—our longest resident, and his “illness” was dubious at best.

We accepted Russell Stone because Mrs. Stone was a past board member of the umbrella organization that founded the center. Otherwise, his condition did not at all fit into our acceptance criteria. In fact, none of us are quite sure what his condition is, I mean, was. We were just notified by the chairman of the board about nine months ago that we were to make a room for him and treat him as any other resident.

This did not sit well with my staff. Angie, Mr. Stone’s nurse, felt there was nothing wrong with him; that he was faking his illness and was a waste of her time. I tried several times to assign another RN to relieve Angie of Mr. Stone, but her incessant moaning about him had by that time prejudiced all qualified candidates; soon the whole staff was singing the same song.

As administrator, I duly noted and addressed each complaint, but you must know that my reason for distancing myself from the Stones was more personal. The Stone’s were very nice people, he was polite with a quick wit and she was quiet with a sweet—almost too sweet—rosy perspective on everything. I say almost because it was like she didn’t quite have a grip on her situation.

Angie was the first to point that out. She had marched into my office after his first month with us, flopped down and just began raging about how Mrs. Stone was being duped by this man who was playing her for attention; she was convinced he was lazy and using his dear wife and our facility. I admit, from that angle it looked like Angie was right, so I decided to delve a bit deeper and get to know the Stone’s better.

After several conversations, Mrs. Stone confided to me that Mr. Stone’s “issue” was clinical depression and some trauma he had suffered as a boy. But when I asked more questions about their marriage, I was shocked to learn that Mrs. Stone served her husband of 23 years with a sacrificial love that enslaved her to a life of celibacy. I found it repulsive, especially because Mr. Stone seemed so much like Steve—my soon-to-be Ex; it was that piece of information that solidified my decision to file for a divorce. I refused to allow our marriage to play out like theirs.

To be continued….

(read part one here.)

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 1

In career, death, divorce, fiction, marriage, relationships on February 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick


My assistant handed me the envelope as I breezed past his desk en route to my office. I had no intention of opening it; I was due in court by nine and could not afford distraction. “Thanks, Kevin,” was my auto-response. I walked in and tossed it onto the pile I had run from late last night without registering the words that came with it: “These are the remaining effects of Mr. Stone.”

I turned to the board mounted on my door and plucked off three phone messages. “Go away Kevin,” I said without turning around. I refused to acknowledge his statue. I hate when he does that. Poor guy. My faithful assistant of eight years had morphed into a pitiful, nagging stalker, forced to haunt me day and night in order to complete the tasks I assign him; sadly, I am his greatest obstacle.

Kevin followed me in and watched me sit. He was immune to my mannequin mode so I knew that any attempt on my part to ignore him would be wasted. I also know that his postured stance by my desk meant that I would end up looking into that envelope. I turned and picked up my phone.

“I’m not here Kevin—today is D-day.”

“I’m not here either Rachel—I took the day off.” He bent at the waist and stretched his arm until his extended index finger and thumb could clasp the corner of the envelope. I watched peripherally, swallowing a laugh at the drama and inwardly admiring his increasing creativity in harnessing my attention.

With an exaggerated grimace, Kevin plucked the envelope off my desk like I had dropped a dirty sock on top of an elegant dessert buffet. “I came in to make sure you got this.” He dangled the clasped contents in front of me until my eyes locked with his.

“Kevin, I’m serious. I’m due in court by nine. I don’t have the time for whatever is in that envelope. It can wait.” He cut me off.

“These are the remaining effects of Russell Stone.”

I blinked.

“He’s dead, Rachel,” Kevin leaned down to make sure his news connected with my brain. It had. I stiffened with shock and set the phone back on its base. “1:03 a.m. You need to call her now,” he added. “She went home last night sometime after midnight and no one wants to call her.”

I slumped back into my chair as Kevin gingerly lowered the envelope back on my pile so as not to trigger an avalanche, twirled on his heel and left. The news was eerily ironic, given that today was the death of my marriage.

to be continued…

Sick

In career, Children, choices, Christ, God, healing, Jesus, kids, parenting, resurrection on August 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm

His daughter was about to die.  He had only one option to keep her alive: find the Healer.

sleepless night

That decision could cost him everything; his job, his reputation, his dignity. But Jarius was desperate.

He cast off the protocol of his position as a ruler in the local synagogue like an old stinky coat and publicly threw himself at Jesus’ feet.  Not exactly proper behavior for a religious leader.

Didn’t he already have a hot line to God?  Why Jesus?  Wasn’t this ‘Blasphemer’ just a radical empowered by the Devil?  That’s what his peers were saying.

Looks like Jarius is about to get the pink slip.

So what!  My daughter is dying!

My guess is he didn’t take the time to process the consequences of his actions; he couldn’t care less what anyone thought – only that his daughter lived.

A sick child stops the world for a parent. They will cross social, economic, political and religious barriers to save them and nothing else matters.

It was such a circumstance that caused this father, employed by an institution that was hotly opposed to the ‘False Prophet,’ to beg for help. So here he was.

“My little daughter lies at the point of death,” he said to Jesus, “Come and lay your hands on her, that she may be healed and she will live.”  So Jesus went with him.

But there were snags along the way that I’m sure tested Jarius to the brink.  Jesus had stopped to talk to a woman! She had had the nerve to touch his garment, crawling in the dirt like a dog.

Why are you stopping to talk to a WOMAN?!  My daughter is dying!!  Come on!!

Jesus stood patiently to hear the woman’s story. Come on – come on – we’re running out of time!

A hand was placed on Jarius’ shoulder. “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

Jesus heard the news and instantly infused the stunned father with faith. “Do not be afraid, only believe.”

Earlier in the Gospel of Mark, where this story is found, another public situation revealed the huge risk Jarius faced by seeking out Jesus.

His peers, the scribes and Pharisees, were incensed when they saw Jesus dining with ‘tax collectors and sinners.’  They pulled His disciples aside and asked why he would do such an unclean, inappropriate thing.  Of course, Jesus heard them and had an answer.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Only the sick need a doctor. Do you see His innuendo?   We’re all sick!  Jarius got it, and his daughter lived.


The Next Chapter

In books, career, God, Jesus, plots, publishing, Uncategorized, Writing on June 23, 2009 at 7:46 pm

If you study the anatomy of a book, you’ll find its chapters consists largely of suspense, as in, what’s going to happen next? Writers craft words in such a way as to keep that book in your hand so you cannot put it down until the very last word.

Open Book

I have always viewed my life as a book with each season being a chapter. However, I’ve spent most of my adult life bemoaning the fact that the past chapters of my life contained mainly horror, fear, and tragedy. It never occurred to me that such negatives build hope in the reader. After all, which of us does not have a built-in cheerleader that starts cheering whenever they encounter an underdog?

It’s true. We all rally around those who have suffered injustice. We have a natural desire to right the wrong, to reverse the outcome or aid the victim. Many who have been ‘reading’ my life ‘chapters’ have rallied around me – even those of you who regularly read my newspaper column. I have been so blessed by many of you as I’ve written my stories on this page, month after month, year after year – can you believe I’ve been writing for the Community Word since 1998?

Here I am at the fourth paragraph and am still toying with my point. You must know by now that I plan to build suspense and then hit you with it all at the end! Ok, where was I?  Oh yes, chapters. If you’ve followed this column, you know that I acquired it on the heels of a court battle. I was a victim of domestic violence one cold February night when my teenage son rescued me and drove me away from a near strangulation – an act that closed the door on my radio career.

But God opened a window.

An essay contest sponsored by Children & Family Services offered me an opportunity to nominate a local family who was instrumental in my rescue from that night of horror, and I won! A wonderful woman, Suzette Boulais, was captured by my essay and referred me to her friend Bob Renner, then owner of CW. Bob offered me this column and a new chapter in my media career was born.

Many chapters have come and gone since. I had always liked writing, but it was more of a hobby. I certainly did not qualify for a career in television, having only a ‘face for radio’ (the camera and I are not speaking), so my print media career was born. I embraced it here in this column and have since become a co-author and soon-to-be author. I now ghostwrite books for a living and I could not be happier.

But, last month a page turned and I found myself at a much unexpected new chapter. Are you ready for the BIG NEWS? I’m leaving Peoria.

After 11 years in Central Illinois, I’m moving back to live near my family by my home town. Now, when I bought this house – my House of Grace – I thought I was home. I thought this is where I will live out the rest of my days.

But God had another chapter to write in my life.

It seems Peoria was a healing ground, a place of preparation. I thought it was the last chapter, when actually it was a pivot point in the plot of my life.

I leave here as a full-time freelance writer, healed, cleansed, stable and content with whatever God has planned for the climax of the book he is writing titled, Cheryl Courtney Semick. Who knows what glorious things he has planned for me! I used to fret about my future. I used to wallow in pity over my past chapters. Now I anxiously await the turning of each page, anticipating the Author’s point and purpose for creating a story with me as its protagonist.

I’ve learned much here in my Peoria home, the most clear lesson being that life boils down to two choices: live by fear or live by faith. Everything we encounter, every path we follow, every place we end up is based in either faith or fear. I chose faith when I stepped into print media and stayed in the town where my life nearly ended. I couldn’t run any more.

I faced my greatest fears in Peoria. I realized that fear isn’t a place or a person – it’s a choice. Jesus faced the ugliest of all fear when, at a wicked cross he put his faith in God, his father, trusting that his story would not end in a cruel death – that there was a happy ending.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

I am eagerly anticipating the events that are written in the end of God’s book, the Holy Bible. If you’ve not read it, you’re in for a big blessing! I don’t want to ‘ruin it for you’ but let’s just say that the ‘underdog’ becomes the Prince and justice is served!

Like Mom, Like Me

In career, Children, Moms, office on May 1, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Mom drifted off to sleep long before bedtime most weeknights. As a child I remember how she got up early every day, dressed up real nice and went to work. My brother and I got home before she did, and when she arrived she wasn’t up for much conversation.

Paperwork Overload

One day Mom told me she could use some help at her office, something about a machine that folds letters and stuffs them into envelopes going haywire; it folded hundreds of letters the wrong way.

I was thrilled to go to work with her.  She was the Office Manager at a Christian magazine and it was cool seeing her orchestrate the circulation department. The day I sat in the office with her to refold all those letters and stuff them in envelops was the day I got the bug.

Not sure if that’s the right word for it – some days I would call it the disease, but whatever it was I got it. Now, I get up early, dress up as nice as I can and work in an office!

I’m not saying I dreamt of becoming an office professional, I didn’t. It just got into my DNA that day and now the mundane, monotonous tasks that so many loathe, I love.

I was only 12 when I sat at that desk in my Mom’s office, but I was old enough to understand that she and her staff were indispensible and could never be replaced by machines.

As a 20-year veteran in the administrative profession, I now know why Mom was so exhausted when she came home.  I fully respect her efforts and endurance in a career that without question can try the very soul of the most stable personalities.

One must possess incredible patience and skill to sit behind a desk all day, magically complete their tasks and dodge bullets of gossip, condescension and backstabbing – not to mention staying clear of dueling egos. The workload alone is not for the faint-hearted.

Mom is now retired from the office world and I’m still plugging away at piles of paperwork – though my office is wherever I want it to be – as long as I have my laptop and a strong Wi-Fi signal.  Technology aside, the work is still the same, and still rewarding.

Sometimes I wonder how I can be so much like her in that respect and yet so different. She could cook circles around me in the kitchen and had a wonderful flair for decorating and entertaining.  I’d rather be at my computer plucking away at these keys, cooking up stories, and entertaining readers. ‘To each his own,’ as they say.

I love my Mom. She is kind, thoughtful and generous. And, while I’m proud that I share her skill set professionally, I’m still working to earn the profitable wages of a life lived with a mother’s heart.