Saturday, July 23, 2016

All The World Is A Stage

by Deb Graham


 What was a shy, middle-aged Mormon mother doing, standing in a spotlight in a legendary comedy club in downtown Seattle, in front of a packed house of half-drunk critics, confidently wielding a microphone? In the vernacular, Killing It Dead.

A few years back, I hit a rough patch. In a fit of I’d-Better-Do-Something-Drastic-ism, I rashly signed up for a stand-up comedy class at the local community college. A couple of evenings a week spent laughing would be a healthy way to push back the walls, to do something just for me, right? Imagine my shock in the first class to learn that it was a participation course, not the spectator variety. Class members were expected to take turns on stage! For a set period of time!  No Stage Left until the light flashed!

Husband encouraged me, reminding me Mom didn’t raise a quitter.  “What have you got to lose?” 

I spent the week desperately seeking something– anything – funny. I came up with a few “bits” (the technical term; after all, this was a college course). My inner child shrieked in terror. What was I thinking? Who was I to even attempt standing on a real live stage before strangers, let alone say something giggle-worthy?

Tuesday arrived. The heavy microphone shook in my sweaty hands.  Forgetting all I had tediously rehearsed, I blurted, “I’m scared. I was talking to my husband at dinner. I knew it’d be my turn first tonight. I said, ‘What if I can’t do this? What if I faint on stage? What if they laugh at me?’” 

The outburst of sincere laughter startled me. Taking a breath, I reached into my blouse front for my note cards. They weren’t where I’d tucked them, minutes before!  In a panic, I dug deeper, muttering, “I know I had two in here a minute ago...”

As the laughter rang out, I felt an unexpected wave of the Holy Ghost's influence wash over me. Incongruous, at best; was a usually dignified Mormon woman supposed to be cracking jokes in a room full of “Gentiles” instead of at home, tackling the three page To Do list? For that moment, this one was. The Spirit testified that this was exactly what I needed to push back the walls, to regain my sense of Self that threatened to wash away under grief and loads of laundry, Cub Scouts and Girl Scout leadering, Primary Presidenting, supporting a husband who worked ten hour days and raising a boy so accident-prone the ER staff knew us by name, and a mentally ill son who made every day an adventure and the garden and... all of it.
 
 I made it through the rest of my time until the bright light flashed. Shaken by the performance, I stumbled to my seat.  Applause filled the small theatre. I heard a man behind me exclaim, “I’ve been to a lot of comedy clubs, and I’d pay $20 to see her again!”

  Me?

To wrap up the story: That class, and the three subsequent ones, changed my life. I was invited to perform at Comedy Central in Seattle, a couple of scouts demanded interviews, I performed on television, I was clearly on the rise as a stand-up comedian. The Circuit beckoned.

But wait...was that my goal? Not really. After a year, I stepped off the stage. Oh, I still emcee the ward talent show, but that’s about it.  However, that experience changed me. It drew out a confidence I lacked, from somewhere deep inside me. I learned I can make people laugh, be it a crowd of two hundred drunks  or a twelve-year-old on the verge of a come-apart. I’m lighter, myself.  I can see the funny side of just about every situation, sometimes even in the middle of it. I’m no longer intimidated by microphones or spotlights. I can improvise a talk or lesson easily. I found my voice: I can handle rejection.  I felt the Spirit encourage me as I developed this peculiar talent.

This is a writing blog, and I didn’t forget that. It just looks like I did. A few years ago, my husband encouraged me to write a book. “Just do it. You have the skills and the knowledge. Just write.” 

As I shook my head, I again felt the Holy Ghost nudging me forward, onto a stage where strangers would look at me,  my thoughts, my ideas, my concepts. They might turn away, they might laugh, they might reject me or love me, but I had to try. So my first book was birthed. I’m currently working on Books #11, #12, and #13.

Yes, three at once. What have I got to lose?


What steps have you taken to develop a talent you didn’t know existed? When daily life threatens to crush the light out of you, how do you push back? I’d really love to hear from you, and I promise not to laugh. Probably. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Overcoming Fear

by Kari Diane Pike

When I submitted my post two weeks ago, I had no way of knowing that in a few short hours eleven police officers, on duty during a peaceful protest, would be gunned down in the street. I never imagined that something like that would happen in this country in this day and age. Oh, how my heart aches for those officers and their families and friends. And for our country.

The Savior's words in Luke 2,1 where He tells of the signs that will precede His Second Coming, come to my mind:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26)
One of the primary emotions, fear can create an uncomfortable sense of vulnerability. That discomfort often leads to anger. Anger triggers a surge of energy and creates a sense of control and power. People often see anger as the quickest and easiest way to regain control.

Part of the law of thermodynamics is the law of entropy which states that "a system will always move from a state of order toward a state of disorder." Everything falls down unless one makes the effort to keep it together. It takes work to keep a house clean, a garden weed-free, or a relationship healthy. Anger comes naturally, but since natural law tends toward entropy, when we give in to anger, we find ourselves on a slippery slope, moving from bad to worse. We have to overcome the "natural man/woman" and remember who we are and why we are here.

Elder Russell M. Nelson expressed his thoughts on this topic far better than I ever could.

video

I know that I am a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father who designed me to be a creator. It's part of my divine heritage. When I find myself in a difficult or uncomfortable situation, instead of letting myself give in to anger, I can look for the lesson to be learned and create joy from the experience. I can't always control the things that happen around or to me, but I can choose how I react to the situation. There have been times when I've felt wholly inadequate to face the task. It's a really scary world. But when I remember what the Savior did for me, I am reminded that even the smallest effort on my part is enough. He will make up for what I lack. Because He loves me. And because He loves me, I can show that love to others. 

Life is magnificent. 

Hugs~

I came across this article by Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley after writing this post. I find it very applicable to our needs today:https://www.lds.org/ensign/1991/06/of-you-it-is-required-to-forgive?lang=eng

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Scene from Ride to Raton

by Marsha Ward @Marsha Ward

Some writers plan out everything they will ever write. Not me. My brain doesn't work that way.

When I finished my first novel, The Man from Shenandoah, I thought I had written the only full-length novel I would ever write. I thought that was it for these people, and any further long-form fiction, as well.

But evidently I had more to tell. I left James Owen sorely wounded in heart and mind, and he demanded that I give him a chance to work through his pain.

Accordingly, I wrote Ride to Raton (It probably should have been called Ride to Raton Pass, but I liked the sound of the three words, and totally forgot the fact that there is a town in New Mexico named Raton). I thought this novel would finish up my account of the Owen family from Virginia.

Boy, was I wrong! The two books have grown to five, with offshoots and spinoffs going in all directions, and more to come.

This never-before-posted scene from Ride to Raton occurs after James is shot in Pueblo, Colorado Territory, by a disgruntled former Union soldier. Randolph Hilbrands, a friend of James's father, has taken him into his home to recuperate.
~~~

“Mister James, Mister James, wake up, please? You must be hungry.”

Surprised to hear his name, James rolled over, grinning at the soothing touch of the water on his naked body, and swam upward from exploring the bottom of the pond behind the flour mill on a creek feeding the Shenandoah River. He tried to shrug off the hand that gently touched his right shoulder, but the movement brought such a flood of pain to his side that he moaned before he could catch himself.

“Please, Mister James. Ma said I wasn’t to come back to the kitchen without feeding you. If you don’t wake up soon, your food’ll be stone cold.”

He thrust his head and shoulders above the water, opened one eye, then immediately shut it against the sunlight that streamed through an open window between muslin drapes and hit his face. His body felt bloated, invaded by aches and twitches. And although he was still naked, he seemed to be lying half covered by a sheet and quilt on a bed inside a room, instead of treading water in the millpond.

Someone besides himself was in the room. “Six little beans!” he grunted, trying to shade his eyes with his left hand, remembering that a girl’s voice had addressed him. “It’s brighter than noon day in here. Can you shut them curtains?”

A young girl put the tray of food on the washstand and ran to the window to pull the drapes together. She returned to stand beside the bed, and James blinked his eyes as she drew near.

The girl was about fifteen, he judged, slender and blonde. She wore a white bib apron with a full skirt over a light weight gingham gown patterned with sprigs of lilacs on a white background. Her wavy hair hung below her shoulders, tied back with a white ribbon. The girl smiled, tentatively, and one dimple appeared in her cheek.

“Who’re you?” he asked, wondering how he came to be between the sheets. The last thing he remembered, he had been lying atop the coverlet, enduring the sting of a thousand hornets as Amanda Hilbrands’ needle pierced the flesh of his side. Now he looked around. The tub was gone from the room, and the towel had disappeared from around his hips. James blinked twice, and reached down to draw the sheet over his chest, grateful that the quilt masked his nakedness from the girl.

“I’m Sylvia. My pa runs the hotel. Don’t you recall he brought you here?”

James shut his eyes for a moment, less to remember his arrival than to recall where he had heard the girl’s voice before. He gave his head a shake, then opened his eyes.

“Yeah,” he sighed, a long drawn out sound, and fingered the bandage around his chest. “Your ma put this thread into me a couple of hours ago.”

“That was two days back!” the girl exclaimed. “You’ve been asleep since then.”

“Six little beans! Did I take a fever?” James got himself onto his elbows, and the girl bent forward to put a pillow behind his back so he could sit partway up. As the sheet slipped and gathered in creases about his waist, the girl’s hair brushed his shoulder.

The blonde hair—he could see it on another head, arranged in tumbling ringlets behind a face twisted with fury. A voice—with the same timbre as this girl’s voice—batted at his ears: “You never came around, Carl Owen. Cecil was here. I have a right to marry a man I can trust!”

James shuddered.

“No.” A frown furrowed Sylvia’s forehead. “I reckon you’re just wore out. You been through a lot of woe since you came to Pueblo City.” She turned away to bring the food tray, then sat gingerly on the edge of the bed with the tray on her lap. “This is a good room, though. Pa let Ida use it for her wedding night.”

A wrenching pain invaded James’s gut. Ida Hilbrands had breathed this air, her body had lain on this bed. The body that should have quieted Carl’s lusts was given to an English dandy—on this bed, beneath this quilt. James swallowed. His throat closed on cotton.

The girl touched his wrist. James’s arm twitched under the cool fingers.

“Are you all right, Mister James?”

He cleared his throat. “You sound like your…older sister.”

“You mean Mary?” The girl’s face brightened. “How is her little baby doing? We all want to see her.” Sylvia picked up a spoon and a bowl and stirred the contents.

James again eased the sheet up to cover his chest. “The little gal’s growing, but no, I wasn’t speaking of Mary.” The sheet bunched in his lap again, and James jerked it upward and pinned it underneath his arm.

“Oh. You mean—”

“Ida! I mean Ida.” His voice rasped in his throat as he said the name.

The girl looked puzzled. “Are you angry with Ida?”

James felt his face settling into ridges as he scowled. Angry? The word was wrong. Wrong and far too weak. I hate her. I despise her wide blue eyes and her lying, cheating heart. He cleared his throat again. “I have reason.” His breath left his lungs in a lengthy shudder.

Sylvia looked at him for a moment, puzzlement crinkling the skin around her eyes. Then she picked up a spoon.

“Here, have a taste of porridge. Ma made it fresh for you today.” Sylvia held the spoon to James’s lips, and he accepted the morsel. “What did Ida do to you? I thought it was Carl she threw over.”

For a moment, he could only chew, then swallow. He sensed no taste, no savor. Before he had a chance to speak, Sylvia put another spoonful of mush into his mouth. He swallowed that down, then, as Sylvia brought up another bite, James shook his head.

They’ll know sooner or later. Pa will come in for supplies, or Ma will send a note to Mrs. H. by a passing stranger. He turned his head to look at the doorway. Will I be gone, first? Or will Danny O’Brien shoot me in the back? He looked at the girl and squeezed his hands into fists. The pain forced his mouth open.

“You didn’t hear, I reckon. Carl got over being mad at Ida. He wed Ellen Bates about a week past.”

“Oh, Mister James! She was pledged to you!” Sylvia dropped the spoon into the bowl, and it clanked against the side.

Instantly, he repented of his burst of words. “Forget I said that. Just forget it!”

“I’m sorry.” Sylvia held her hands tightly together in front of her mouth.

James snorted. “It’s done and over.”

“How could that happen?” The girl moved the tray from her lap to the bed and leaned forward.

Bitterness rose in James’s throat, and he turned his head to swallow it down.

Sylvia bounced once on the bed. “Ida caused it. She sure is mean.”

James shuddered anew, slumping against the pillow. “Go away,” he said.

“What?”

“Take your gruel and leave me be. I’m weary.”

“But you didn’t finish.”

“Tell your Ma I fell asleep again. It won’t be a lie. Look. I’m nodding off now.” James shut his eyes.

He heard her get to her feet and pick up the tray. “I reckon I tired you out, talking so much.”

“It’s not you. I’m wore out, like you said.” James twitched the quilt higher on his chest. Suddenly he bolted upright, winced, then lay down again. “You’d better get your papa, girl. I got to put myself deeper in his debt.”
~~~


I'm participating in the Payson Book Festival this Saturday. Come up to the cool pines of Payson, Arizona and bring your kids to this family-friendly event. It's FREE! Except for food and snacks, and of course, a multitude of books to purchase from nearly 100 authors, in every genre and for every age group, fiction and non fiction alike.

It will be at Gila Community College, 210 N Mud Springs Road(north off Highway 260, opposite the Ranger Station) from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Come and go, or stick around for talks, kids classes, and music.

My novels will be in the Bookstore, and I'll be in the courtyard at Table 14. See you there!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What a Wonderful Thing it is to be a Writer

This weekend, we had our ANWA chapter meeting.  It's summertime.  The sun is shining.  Families are vacationing.  And people are pulled in a dozen different directions.   For this reason, I didn't expect many women at our meeting.

One woman showed up.

But what a wonderful meeting we had!  For the first time, I wasn't the newest writer in our group.  I had the opportunity to listen to this woman's journey, her story, why she writes, and what she hopes to accomplish by putting pen to paper. We read and edited each other's pages, discussed our WIP's and encouraged one another in their journey.

I went home invigorated and uplifted.  Not only because a friendship was strengthened, but a passion for writing was shared.   Although we write completely different genres, our love of writing made us kindred spirits.

As writers, all of us have much to offer the world, and to each other.  We are a sisterhood filled with passionate, like-minded individuals who choose to touch the world through written word. We pour our our hearts and souls, hoping our readers will understand and love us.  We slave over our work, obsessing day and night.  We dream of our stories, acting out scenes in our minds, and then one day, when we're ready, we let others take a peek.

Oh, what a wonderful thing it is to be a writer!  I become more excited with each woman I meet, and tidbit I learn.  I am fortunate to have found ANWA, and the women within.  The experience has been uplifting, enlightening, and liberating. I look forward to finally having a face and a body to go with the names I've learned on our Facebook page and through the blog.  Maybe I'll meet you at the conference.  Maybe we will meet at another time.  But until then, write on!  And know that I'm in your corner, cheering you on.

 




Saturday, July 9, 2016

July 9, 1976

  by Deb Graham

July 9, 1976.
As I quietly, joyfully, acknowledge an eternity-sized anniversary, one that changed the course of generations to follow, the math is inescapable.

I’m Old.

I was baptized at the age of eighteen, nineteen days after I first met the full-time missionaries, on July 9, 1976; I had to wait because America was caught up in the Bicentennial celebration. I know you’re too polite to do the math, so let me help you: that was forty years ago. 

FORTY. Four Whole Decades.  

I try to deny it with every product in my bathroom cabinet, but it’s true: that skittish 18 year old is far in the rearview mirror.

Looking back over that 40 year long trail, was it worth the cost? I had  decided to be baptized into a Church where I knew no one, had no connections, and knew little about, beyond knowing it was what a God I didn’t know existed the previous month wanted me to do.

Who did that teen become?

In the last forty years, I’ve attended university, married a good man, designed a house to raise our family in, reared three kids and grieved the four others who were born too soon to keep. Along the way, I found my voice and built my confidence a brick at a time by serving in many Church callings and community positions.

 I’ve learned big things over the four decades: how to pray, how the Holy Ghost speaks to me, and I’ve made covenants with a God I count as both father and friend. I’ve come to trust my Savior, those around me, and mySelf. I’ve learned my voice and opinion is every bit as valuable as the next person’s. Sometimes, I’ve been an answer to prayer, and a few times, I even noticed it.  

My first bishop had an annoying habit of greeting ward members with “Welcome to sacrament meeting. You’re our second speaker today.” Because of him, I learned how to confidently speak in public, even if my stomach felt like it had a herd of frogs in it – and to always have a talk in mind, at least a rough topic. (Want to hear about sponges?).

 I quaked at first, but I learned to teach and, eventually, to improvise a memorable lesson on the fly. I know what’s required in organizing a ward dinner; I can plan a ward social in ten minutes flat.

As a shy teen who had no LDS friends, I leaned on stronger women in the ward, learning to serve by watching their example, the example they didn’t suspect they were setting. From those glorious, ordinary women, I learned to be a strong woman myself. I learned that God values his daughters as much as his sons, and to take my place because there isn’t room in the Last Days for wimpy women.

By participating in the Church, I learned to reach out to new people, to work those with whom I’d never associate with under other circumstances. I learned that relationships matter most.

I learned that every soul on earth has something to teach me; the fourteen year old mother, the 88 year old artist, the sleep deprived  woman  finishing her  PhD while homeschooling her seven children.  I’ve learned that I’m of worth, too.

Of course, it hasn’t been easy; learning never is.  I’ve suffered breathtaking losses, mopped many mascara-cheek-streaks, and repeatedly stumbled over bumbling humans. I've often been one of the bumbling humans.

Through all four decades, I’ve stayed active and involved and enthused about the Church for one reason: It’s real, all of it. The Church is literally God’s kingdom on earth, restored and complete, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Sure, I’ve been tempted to step aside, take a breather, "go inactive" for a few years. But knowing what I know, believing what I believe, I’d have to come back, and how embarrassing would that be?

My patriarchal blessing was received four months after my baptism, so long ago the envelope has a 12 cent stamp on it.  It promises I would be a strong influence for good in the lives of women. As an innocent teen forty years ago, that sentence was baffling. At this end of the continuum, I catch glimpses of its fulfillment.

Looking back, I’m awed by the courage of the 18-year-old girl who squared her then-slim shoulders, set her hand to the plow, and didn’t look back. Getting Old isn't so bad. 


 July 9 is a date I silently mark each year. Even though I’m Old, today’s a great day to start my new role as one of Marsha’s Friends on this blog. Thanks for the welcome!  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Life is Magnificent

by Kari Diane Pike

My husband Doug is a news and politics junkie. He devours information. Then he studies different sides of the issues and tries his best to make wise decisions. I, on the other hand, have to watch and listen from a distance so that I don't put my foot through the television screen or throw the computer across the room. My emotions get the best of me more often than I care to admit. In the past, Doug only had to talk me off the ledge during election years, but conditions in our country today were making my panic attacks a daily thing. Keeping me away from news on the television and newspaper isn't enough anymore, because Facebook and other social media provide fertile ground for spreading even more negative, often false, and particularly inflammatory information.

Okay, let's be honest. I live in a bubble. I have been sheltered from most of the evils of the world most of my life. That's not to say I haven't experienced challenges and heartaches. No one gets through life unscathed. However, I have been shielded from the worst horrors. I was lucky enough to be "born of goodly parents" and benefit from many of their choices in life. They taught me how to be responsible and self sufficient so that I can make choices that will benefit generations to come.

While I happen to like the bubble in which I live, I also recognize that I have a responsibility to reach out and help others. I can't do that in ignorance. But how can I find joy while the world around me broils in turmoil, contention, and hate? How can I settle the anxiety and heartache I feel when I see so many people suffering? What can I do to make a difference?

I found some answers for myself during scripture study these past few weeks. The war chapters in Alma and the early chapters in Helaman in the Book of Mormon have provided me with a great deal of comfort and food for thought. Helaman 3:20 shows me how, despite "great contentions, and disturbances, and wars, and dissensions among the people of Nephi" (verse 17), it is still possible for me to fulfill my roles as wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and friend. Helaman filled the judgment seat with justice and equity despite the turmoil around him. He kept the commandments and "he did prosper in the land." By keeping the commandments and doing "that which [is] right in the sight of God continually," I too, can carry on with my responsibilities and "prosper."

I can be informed, but I don't have to be afraid. I can stay calm. I can pray. I can be positive.The world may have a lot of ugly stuff going on, but there are breathtaking views all around me. Best of all, I can choose to share those inspiring views with others through my writing.

I know that Jesus Christ lives. He atoned for the sins of this world. Through His grace, I know that no matter what happens, everything is going to work out. The Savior said, "Fear not." I like to think that He meant that to be more than a suggestion. His love is perfect and perfect love castes away fear. Life is magnificent.

Hugs~

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

New Blog Team Member

by Marsha Ward

We all know that Life Happens. Well, our sweet Cassie Shiels had a baby not so long ago, so we're saying goodbye to her as a Blog Team member so she and Number Four can get better acquainted.

Taking on the alternate Saturday slot is Deb Graham, who begins posting this Saturday, July 9. We look forward to getting to know Deb and seeing what she brings to the Blog.