Thursday, May 21, 2015

Four Lessons When Listening to Broadway Music Made Me Cry Myself to Sleep

by Andilyn Jenkins (Included are several photos from shows I've been in over the years in no particular order. Enjoy.)

Four Lessons When Listening to Broadway Music Made Me Cry Myself to Sleep

“Now, Andi, just because you’re getting married, doesn’t mean you have to stop acting. I see it happen to young girls all the time. Don’t squander your talent,” Gary, the technical director and my fellow cast member, told me seriously at the close of our show, my first at BYU–Idaho.

I had been in Rexburg for seven months. As a freshman, I landed a lead in the fall musical and met the man of my dreams. At the end of the show, my character announces she’s off to get engaged and then winks at the audience. I found Aaron in the front few rows and winked at him.

2008 Steven Kodaly (Seth Nehring) and Ilona Ritter (Me) in BYU-I's She Loves Me

Then I went home for my semester off and planned a wedding. Three months later, Aaron and I were married in the Idaho Falls, ID temple and moved into our basement, one-bedroom apartment. I got a job I loved working at the Writing Center and momentarily put theater on hold to get serious about my new life and my English degree.

Eight months later, I still hadn’t ventured over to the Performing Arts section of campus. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to see Gary or any notices informing me about auditions I couldn’t make. I put theater on hold again. Aaron and I were excitedly talking babies, and I had my nose to the grindstone trying to square away my associate’s degree before she came. I still held my job at the Writing Center, worked hard in my classes, followed my carefully-laid-out plan, and nine months later had an associate’s degree and a baby girl.

spring 2008 Gaston (Simon Nissen) and Belle (me) in Mountain View's Beauty and the Beast (because apparently my favorite pictures are ones where I'm ticked-off).

I was barely twenty.  It was winter in Rexburg, Idaho, and I had a newborn. All my momentum that had pushed me through wedding plans, moves, church callings, work, tests, and morning sickness ended here holding my beautiful baby girl. And with the time to stop moving, I looked behind and wondered where I had gone. “Momentarily” had become two years and I saw no end. I was taking one easy class that wouldn’t fail me for my week of maternity leave. I was forty pounds overweight and covered in stretch marks. My hair started thinning drastically (one of those great post-partum things no one tells you about). Breastfeeding sucked. And cabin fever overwhelmed me.  I felt like I had slipped through a crack and lost me. Not the old me. I was happy to let go of the eighteen-year-old who only worried about finals, boys, and food. But I didn’t know this new me; I hadn’t given her any thought.  

I knew I was a wife and a mother—a spectacular one. I knew I wanted my bachelor’s degree in English because writing brought me clarity and joy. But I knew little else. I was unequipped with the tools to balance my more difficult personal wants with my responsibilities. I knew I was lucky to be a mother, so my depression for feeling “stuck” made me feel dirty and guilty. And my dreams to find my place on stage made me feel selfish.

fall 2011 Clarion (Jacob Chapman) and Rosaura (Me) in BYU-I's Life is a Dream

The turn came six months later with sunshine, a daily workout routine, and prayer. Spring semester was about to start with snow still on the ground, and I changed my minor from education to theater and signed up for my first acting class since high school. By the end of the semester I knew:  acting wasn’t my talent to be squandered. Acting fed my soul.

2007 Chava (Aubrey Denton) and Hodel (Me) in Mountain View's Fiddler on the Roof

I went on to do three more productions at BYU–Idaho and tech’d one musical. One late night at the theater, I sat chatting with two of my professors as we checked the stage lights and programmed the board. Richard Clifford, the department head and lighting director for the show, remarked that with my longer, lighter hair and new last name, it took him a while to connect me to the freshman who played in the musical in 2008. I laughed and replied, “Well, when I had to stop listening to my Broadway playlists because I would spend the evening crying myself to sleep, my husband and I realized I needed to be back in this building.”

His expression softened, and he looked knowingly into my eyes, “Oh yeah. You’ve got it bad.”

2011 Prince Segismund (Richard Myers) and Rosaura (Me) in BYU-I's Life is a Dream

From those hard three-ish years of school, marriage, and motherhood, I took away four important lessons.

1. I am important—which means my dreams are important. I cannot give to my family when I don’t feed myself.

2. Time moves. There will always be times when I can fit acting into my life, and when those times come I just have to push with everything I’ve got. Then there will be times when it doesn’t fit, and those times do not last forever. So crank up the show-tunes because I now know I’ll find my way back.

3. I must want it enough. And I must have support. When I tech’d The Drowsy Chaperone, we hosted a talk-back. One girl raised her hand and asked, “I would love to be in a show, but I don’t have time. How do you fit it into your schedules?” And we all laughed. Because the reality was that none of us were “fitting” it nicely into our overloaded schedules like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. We were collages, desperately trying to layer one more colorful picture onto a crammed poster-board. But we all wanted it enough that we felt compelled to be there. And we all had support—spouses, roommates, parents—that picked up our slack at home and cheered us on. Without Aaron’s support, none of my dreams could be realities.

4. I can “grow where I’m planted,” a beautiful bit of advice from another professor at BYU–Idaho and owner of the Playmill Theater in West Yellowstone, Roger Merrill. The reality is that my family is my first and most important priority—which means, I probably won’t tour across the country for 6 months with Wicked. But I can plant myself in Mesa and make a difference here, whether that be by acting in local theater, doing the Mesa Easter Pageant, or volunteering to help with my old high school’s productions.

2014 my family playing a Biblical version of ourselves in the Mesa Easter Pageant

I am constantly changing. I’m a different person now than I was when I left Mesa, when I got married, when I had Evelyn, when I graduated college, when I had Evan, and today. And hopefully, I’ll be different next month too. But in my life now, I am a wife and mother—a spectacular one. I am a writer, reader, blogger, poet, and technical editor. I am a procrastinator. I am a napper. I am a cookie-lover. I am a baker, cook, and house-keeper. I am a Young Women’s advisor. I am a gym member. I am a student of my own making—studying religion, politics, finance, teaching, couponing, nail art, hair braiding, cooking, and organizing. And I am an actress. Today, I was just a spectacular mother, cook, blogger, and cookie-lover. Hopefully tomorrow, I can wake up that house-keeper from her nap. And, fingers crossed, the actress’s curtain will soon rise.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Furry Friends

by Terri Wagner

This weekend when I was not moving my niece in or having family over, I watched the Barkfest special on Wild NatGeo. Watching those adorable and silly and wonderful furry friends naturally made me think of my own. It seems I am lacking photos of Belle and Jasper so I will spare you those LOL.

So these are the ones who have or who share my life and what I felt about each one.

Chewbecca best known as Chewie was my rock.

Gumbo or Bo was the most hilarious. As long as we were in the house, he was in your lap, by your side, slept right beside me. Once we stepped outside, I was a perfect stranger.

Cassie was the most dignified dog I have ever known. Her perfect manners put people to shame.

Daisy (left) and Kota (right) came to me from people who really did not want to give them up. Circumstances made it necessary. I was blessed. Daisy is the quiet sweet child; Kota is the mommie dog.

Belle was my golden, and my joy. Jasper is a toy Yorkie with a huge personality. What are your furry friends like?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Writing Process

Daily life gets mixed up with my writing process. Does that ever happen for you?

I'm just beginning to plot a new novel. It's interesting to watch the process I go through. I start with an idea, but I don't really know where it's going yet. 

(I have to stop to clean the yard for a garden party. Gave the backyard pines a great haircut!)
I'm fleshing out the characters. What are their strengths? Their weaknesses? They will create a lot of the twists and turns of the story by their actions. Does each character have their own story? How does each of them push the story forward?
 (Today is our day to work in the temple. Always love this day! I will write some more tomorrow.)
Ideas come to me about the protagonists issues, antagonist issues.

 (Took the grandkids to visit an older lady in the ward who had been sick.)
The story only unfolds as I sit down to write. I can't plot in my head and then sit down to write. I have to sit down to write and then ideas come to me.
(Book signing tonight.)
Are my ideas realistic? Do they make sense? Only my critique group will tell me the answers to these questions. I do depend on them. As we talk as a group each week, there are times when ideas are generated by the group that are better than I could come up with by myself.
(Getting ready for LDS Storymakers. Excited!)
What is your process like? Step outside yourself watch how this happens for you. 
Do you ever feel disjointed? That's what my life feels like sometimes. Well, not sometimes. All the time. I still relish the time I take to write in my busy life. It keeps the blood flowing through my veins.
How about you?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Life Can Be Messy

by Kari Diane Pike

Do you remember the story I shared a few weeks back about my young friend Dustin who is recovering from a heroin addiction? (you can read it here.) He shared a post on Saturday that blew me away. Dustin started working in an insurance office and has been studying to take a licensing exam. Here's what happened:
Today was interesting. I arrived at my exam at 8:30am in Missoula which is 80 miles from my house. My dad dropped me off at the University since it was 4 hours long and he had to get flooring. So I show up and the second form of ID they said is okay, now isn't acceptable. Keep in mind they told me to leave all personal belongings including phone and wallet in the car and my father forgot his phone so I have to find a way to locate him in a town of 100,000 people. I was ready to give up when I remembered the time I ran nearly 20 miles for some dope. So I hit the ground running. After 11 miles and 3 hours on foot, I spot the car. I found an extra ID that I insisted had to work, walked back in and aced both exams in under 2 hours with only 5 minutes to spare, nearly forfeiting the money and test slot. You gotta work for recovery,... You gotta work for LIFE like your dope. No excuses, by any means necessary.
It would have been easy for Dustin to walk away and blame the people in charge for poor communication and his not being able to take the test. Instead, he took personal responsibility. He didn't place blame. He thought things out and he went to work to create a solution.

I've been pondering on the ways I prevent myself from succeeding because I blame other people or circumstances for the stumbling blocks I encounter in my life's journey. I tend to let too many outside circumstances give me excuses for not reaching my goals. I can stop sabotaging myself by taking responsibility and doing what needs to be done.

Take my writing goals for example. Lately, everything else seems to take precedence. But as I thought about Dustin's story and then read Mormon 8:13 I recognized that I can stop making excuses. If Moroni, the sole survivor of the Nephite nation, can fulfill his mission to keep and write on the plates of Nephi, all while watching his family and friends be destroyed, surely I can find time to keep my journal and write my family history.

With desire and faith and effort, anything is possible. Doubt not. Fear not. "be believing...come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him (Philippians 2:12)."

My latest motto is "Life is messy. Deal with it." So Dustin, I'm putting on my running shoes and getting to work.

 Life is magnificent.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jury Duty Results

By Marsha Ward

Well, it seems I agonized unnecessarily about the jury duty thing. Except my arms ached for days afterward from the 200-mile round trip. I've noticed they do that these days. Not enough exercise? It couldn't be that.

I arrived about quarter after eight o'clock at the county courthouse and put all my belongings into a tray to pass through the x-ray machine. Then I stepped through the detection tunnel and emerged unscathed.

I found the room where I was to check in, then filled out a three-page list of questions that reminded me repeatedly to put my name on each sheet, contrary to the verbal instructions I was given as the clerk handed me the form. It included a question about our former service on any jury. I turned that in, and only had to wait a few minutes until we were all given instructions to proceed to the vicinity of the courtroom to await our fates. That was probably the only procedure of the day that happened at the scheduled time.

I took the elevator up one story to the third floor. (Yes, the courthouse is built on a slope. The rear entrance, though, is no longer accessible to the public--except when you leave after hours.) Here I found myself in the smallish waiting room with clerks busy behind plate glass at one end and a guard desk and hallways leading to the courtrooms at the other. Opposite a bank of bolted-down seats was the elevator, the door leading to the stairs, and a table with urns of coffee, accompaniments, and several boxes of doughnuts. I resisted the doughnuts and found a seat in one of the halls.

Around 9:30, we were told we could go into the courtroom. Then we waited a while before the judge came in and we did the "All arise" thing. Once we had been seated again, stuff began. Prospective juror's names were called, and people were instructed to sit in the jury box. I was called to do so, and sat in the front row of the box itself, although more people were directed to sit in chairs below the box. I believe we were twenty-four or -six in all for that initial call.

The judge then introduced all the court officials, the opposing attorneys, and the defendant, and read the formal charges against him. The judge read a list of criteria, such as would references to private bodily parts be disturbing to us, yes or no. After each one, those of us who answered "yes" by a show of hands were questioned by the judge. One could ask for a private questioning, and several took that opportunity throughout the morning. That involved the judge rolling his chair off to the corridor side of his platform, the attorneys moving into the hallway, and the court reporter unhooking her machine and following them.

We took a short break in the morning.

The criteria also served to weed out those whose self, relatives, or friends had various connections to the case, via jobs, friendships, work associates, and the like. As the judge dismissed people after each item on the criteria list had been read (if I recall correctly, although he might have done so all at once toward the end of the session), others were called to replace them.

This process took a long time. We were released at about noon for an hour and a half lunch break.

When we reconvened, there was a lengthy pause while the court reporter dealt with a technical issue with her machine. Then TV screens and a roll-down screen and projector were put to use to display another list for us to answer. This consisted of personal data, such as our name, place of residence (town, not street), employment facts, number of minor children in the home--stuff like that. Then about the same for our spouse, if we had one. More questioning took place, from both the judge and the attorneys. The judge asked those of us who had served on juries what kind of case it was (civil or criminal), and if we had served as foreperson.

We took a 30-minute afternoon break at 3 p.m. that lasted for 55 minutes. Then we were sent out of the courtroom again for another break, which lasted quite a while. After we were rounded up again and admitted back in the courtroom, we were sent out for the third time.

I'm saying we went in, sat down, and the judge asked us again to leave. I'm not kidding!

Each time we had been asked to leave, he requested that a handful of people, different each time, stay behind for questions beyond those for which we'd given answers all morning and from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.

When we went back in for the final time, we'd been instructed to sit in the gallery instead of the jury box, so we did. At that time, the court clerk called the names of those who were selected for the jury.

By this time, it was past the promised 5:30 ending time. The names were called in the order in which we had been sitting all day in the jury box and the extra chairs in front of it. The names of the first two people on my row were called. I waited to hear my name, but the next name was that of the fellow at the other end of the row.

I had been rejected!


The defense attorney had questioned me about my having served on the Grand Jury several years ago, and asked if I had happened to follow any of the cases I had dealt with later when they came to trial. I had noticed one in the newspaper, and we discussed details. He asked if I remembered the disposition of the case. I wasn't sure, and suggested "Guilty?" He busied himself with paperwork, then mentioned that he had defended the accused person, and would I be surprised to know that the results came in "Not guilty"? I said, "Probably not. I hear you're very good."

I can only suppose the prosecutor turned me down for that remark.

Because of the late hour, the clerks had all gone home, so we were not handed our vouchers for mileage reimbursement (they did follow us home to our mailboxes, though) or mileage and per diem, in the case of those who were selected as jurors.

Also because of the late hour, the front entrance had been locked, so we were escorted downstairs to the first floor rear entrance, accompanied by a guard who unlocked the gate so we could disperse to our vehicles. All in all, it was an exhausting, but educational, day.

And I hope I don't get called again for a long while.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


ANNOUNCEMENT to the Writing World!
by Cindy R. Williams
ANWA President 2015

Drum roll please ... the next ANWA Writers Conference,
Time Out For Writers,
has a new venue. Even more exciting ... it will be held in the FALL of 2016. Yes, the Fall. And to top that off, for the first time ever, the conference will be THREE FULL DAYS!

Here are the facts:

  • Who: For all writers on this planet.
  • What: One of the world's greatest Conferences, ANWA's Time Out For Writers
  • Where: Double Tree by Hilton, 2100 South Priest Drive, Tempe, AZ, 85282, USA.
  • When: September 15 - 17 2016, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Some COOL perks:
  • Full ANWA Conference Committee already working to ensure the BEST CONFERENCE EVER!
  • Two amazing ANWA Conference Co-Chairs: Sarah Daley and Kari Pike.
  • First time ever, extended conference to three days.
  • Melt in your mouth cookies upon check-in.
  • 24-hour complementary Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) shuttle.
  • The best writing faculty available on the Planet Earth.
  • Palm tree-lined swimming pool and spa.
  • Incredible classroom spaces.
  • High Speed Internet in each hotel room.
  • Bookstore unloading zone.
  • HD TV’s.
  • Fitness Facilities.
  • On site Spa with Massage Therapist.
  • Located minutes from Sky Harbor Airport.
  • Several restaurants on site.
  • Close to down town Phoenix.
  • Close to Mill Avenue restaurants and shopping.
  • New Arizona teacher accredited classes.
  • The world’s only BOB Writers Contest (Beginning of Book).
  • Funkiest Writer's Gala ever.
  • There will be chocolate.

Watch the ANWA Facebook page and the ANWA Website for more info, along with exciting contests coming up to celebrate the next ANWA Writers Conference,
Time Out For Writers.
Right on Write on ANWA!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Happy Mother's Day: So you want to write your wife a love poem?

by Andilyn Jenkins

Or a love letter or a collection of love notes in a mason jar. Have no fear. With Mother’s Day upon us, many of you may be wondering what to get your lover that doesn’t break the bank but that she will treasure forever. Search no more. I’ll make you all poets in 5 easy steps.

Also, note that children, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, etc. may just as easily follow this tutorial.

1. Observe and take notes.

This is the most difficult step for some because it requires that you put on some serious magnifying glasses. Log away moments, mannerisms, facial expressions, or acts of kindness from your wife that you witness. These should be things you notice about your wife that make you smile or just make you glad that she’s yours.

Be specific. And try to note the things that are unique to your wife only. 

Lots of women could be . . .
a) beautiful
b) good mothers
c) amazing cooks.

But only your wife . . .
a) has a scar under her eye that wrinkles when she smiles.
b) rolls down the hills at the park with your children.
c) bakes the cookies so they stay gooey in the center.

2. After you have a collection of moments, select a theme, and start writing.

What is your love poem about? Find a “because” statement and then answer it using the poem. Here are a few samples (you're welcome to use one):

I married you because . . .
You are pretty/beautiful/sexy/cute because . . .
You make me smile because . . .
You’re a terrific mother because . . .
I miss you when you’re gone because . . .
I like to hold you because . . .
I fell in love with you because . . .

After this step, you should have a rough-draft, bullet-point list that looks something like my list I wrote for Aaron.

3. Show, don’t tell.

So in this example: “You are beautiful,” you are telling her what she is. You’ve done this before. She knows you think that. Instead, show her what you see—you’d be amazed what she doesn’t see. A revised version might be something like this: “I love your dark curls and blue eyes swirled with grey.”

4. Organize.

You have your list, now look for common threads among them, and put those list items together in your final poem. 

5. Revise

Poetry is all about SHOWing and making sure every word holds its weight. Don’t be afraid to edit!

If you want to make a mason jar, skip step four and write the “because” statement on the mason jar (ex. I love you because . . .). Then fill the jar with each bullet point on its own slip of paper. And, hey, get the kids involved! Each person could have different-colored paper slips, so Mom knows who said what. Possibilities are endless.

And if you're near Mesa, top off your poem or mason jar with a plate of soft, homemade sugar cookies. Check out my Facebook page for more information on prices and how to win a free BIG sugar cookie. Pick up your cookies any time Saturday, May 9th. You won't regret it.

Good luck, poets! And Happy Mother's Day!

Post your questions, ideas, and/or poems in the comments section below. I would LOVE to help you revise or just applaud you for a job well-done.