Apr 29, 2007

Walking on Water

by Liz Adair

Last night in the evening session of our Stake Conference one of the speakers made reference to Peter’s experience of walking on water out to meet the Savior. I nodded in silent affirmation as he told of how, as Peter looked down at his feet and at the insubstantial, fluid surface he was standing on, how his faith failed him and he began to sink. I know that feeling, for in a very small way, I have a Peter moment every weekday morning at 6:30 a.m.

Nobody ever complimented me on my piano skills, and there’s good reason for that. Growing up, my mother was convinced that I had a gift hidden somewhere inside my clumsy hands, and if we just persevered, it would show itself. We lived a nomadic life, early on, moving all our belongings in a home-built trailer my father pulled behind our 1939 Nash. Later on, the government moved us from place to place. However, wherever we were, my mother rented a piano and made some provision so I could take lessons. I remember that she did sewing for one lady in exchange for lessons. I wish I could have rewarded her efforts with more accomplishment. I loved music. I wanted to be able to play well, but I think I must not have been willing to leave my books to grind out the time to make it happen.

I got so I could play hymns passably. Alone. With no one else in the room. Add one listener and my fingers began acting like seditious anarchists, refusing to follow acceptable patterns. My poor mother! Every time she asked me to play for some visiting relative, a disaster ensued. Either I refused and went to my room to cry, or I played, stumbling over the easiest passages and changing keys in inappropriate places.

When I was sixteen, living in the tiny town of Fredonia, Arizona, I was asked to play the organ in Sacrament Meeting. Such was my devotion that I accepted the calling, but we were severely limited in the hymns that we could sing because of my inhibitions. I had a technique I used to bolster my confidence: during the meeting I would push the volume pedal all the way closed and soundlessly practice the closing hymn. I don’t know how much it really helped, but somehow it made me feel better to have that time to prepare.

One hot summer Fast Sunday, about halfway through a testimony meeting that had great swaths of silence in it, as people sat dozing or fanning themselves with the cardboard fans stuck behind the hymnbooks, I decided it was time to practice my closing song. I had taken my left shoe off to play the pedals, but had left my right shoe (red, with 3-inch spike heels) on and pushed the pedal all the way closed (I thought). Unfortunately, with that shoe on, the heel pushed the volume all the way up, not down. I had never heard the organ as loud as when that first practice chord rang out. High priests sat bolt upright, children were wakened from their naps, every head snapped around to look at me, and the teenage boys on the back row about fell of the pew, they were laughing so hard.

I don’t remember anything beyond that first chord. Was I scarred for life? Was the congregation? I don’t know, but my organ playing career tapered off after that.

Until two years ago, that is, when I was called to teach seminary. We had a competent pianist in the class that year, but she NEVER came on time, and I’m a stickler for starting seminary on time. So, I played the piano. And, I’ve discovered that, if I act like I can play and don’t think about making mistakes, I can play adequately. No, better than that. I can play well. It’s funny, because I am not consciously reading the music. I don’t even see the notes. If I look at the page and just play, I can. But if I even start to think about the mechanics of the process, or the accidental that’s coming up, then I fumble.

My class is mostly boys this year. I have two girls who are rays of sunshine, but their sunrise is always after the opening song, so usually the opening song is sung by my boys, none of whom is musical. Sometimes there’s only one or two there when we do the opening song, but, they sing. I wonder if the reason they’re willing to make that venture is because I’m willing to make it, too. And, when I’m in my walking-on-water groove and I hear that low drone in the background--my boys singing--it’s the sweetest sound in the world.

I think of my mother’s determination that I learn to play. All these years later I’m so grateful. I haven’t been able to offer much to the kingdom at the piano until now. But every morning at 6:30, I’m there for the Lord, and if I have faith, He’s there for me.

Apr 28, 2007

Right and Left

by Anna Arnett

When I responded to Donna’s blog this evening, I started with: “How right you are, Donna. To write daily is the right way to write. Right?”

I felt so self-conscious of this play on words, I amended it to merely, “We do need to exercise our right to write.”

I'm reminded of the Aussie who, when I commented that at home we drive on the right, shot back with, "Does that make us wrong?"

I quickly answered, "No, you merely drive on the left."

Later, I pondered the various meanings of 'left':

left out,
left behind,
politically left winged,
or a left-handed compliment.

So today I looked in Webster's, and smiled to see 'left' came from the Old English word 'lyft' meaning 'weak'. Then I chuckled over the primary definition: "of or on the side that is toward the west when one faces north."

Left also happens to be the past tense of leave.

Left used all of eight column lines, with fifteen more for other versions.

By then I was hooked. I simply had to look up 'right'. This same paperback, pocket-sized New World Dictionary gave seven definitions of 'right' as an adjective (with the 7th being divided into a, b, and c.); four different meanings as a noun; six as an adverb; and three definitions as a transitive verb.

Whew! Right also came from an Old English word--'riht', meaning 'straight'.

However it evolved, ‘right’ ascended way above ‘left’. Of course, lost under adjective definition number 7, 'right' is defined as 'on the east side when facing north'. Still, while ‘left’ was shortchanged, look at all the wonderful, positive definitions ‘right’ managed to collect:

mentally or physically sound,
the power or privilege under law,
the side designed to be seen,
very (in titles such as ‘the right honorable’,
to put in order,
most helpful and reliable (the president’s right-hand man)
having correct views or sound principles (right-minded)
and, of course, ‘right-of-way.
Also, don't forget 'right on’(you're right)
or 'right away'.

No wonder we strive to “Choose the Right.”

Apr 27, 2007

Today's blog from Donna Hatch

Please click on this link for today's blog. It got stuck in the system as a draft two weeks ago. Releasing it today made it appear to the world, but with the date of April 13th!


Apr 26, 2007

Our Growing Season

by Kari Diane Pike

Perhaps it is just the season, but I’ve noticed that most of the life lessons that have come to my attention lately seem to be oriented around growth: growth of our children and grandchildren, building and strengthening our faith and testimonies, and a growing knowledge of the mind and will of a loving Father in Heaven.

Our family spent the hours between General Conference sessions planting a vegetable garden. I loved listening to the talks and feeling the Spirit and then working outside with our family preparing the soil and placing the seeds in the ground. As I listened to our children whistle or whine, depending on the task they were assigned, I couldn’t help but wonder about the allegorical seeds that are being planted in their lives. As we toiled to dig the nasty Bermuda grass, roots and all, out of the soil, I pointed out how leaving just a small piece of the root in the ground would allow more of this tenacious plant to spread through the garden. I asked them if they could find a gospel analogy in that example. Ammon, 16, and Brittany, 14, both rolled their eyes and at the same time said,

“There is an analogy in everything!”

I smiled and asked, “Yes, and the scriptures teach us what? That all things…”

“Testify of Jesus Christ.”

How do I express the joy that filled my heart in hearing that my children are grasping these gospel concepts? Even if they responded in less than enthusiastic tones, they gave me a glimpse of their spiritual growth.

Recently, an article in April’s Ensign, telling the history about the Tabernacle, caught my attention. The article does a wonderful job of showing how the Tabernacle was built through great sacrifice and under less than favorable conditions. It describes the uniqueness and importance of that remarkable building, and it tells about the sacred spirit of the Tabernacle. The article then closed with a quote from Pres. Hinckley,

“Our bodies,…our minds, are the tabernacles of our spirits. He who is the Father of those spirits would have us build strength and virtue into these personal tabernacles. Only in such strength is there safety and growth and happiness. If there is one great ringing message I take form the builders of this structure it is this—be strong!” (Building Your Tabernacle,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 51)

My mind whirled with comparisons of building and growing: planning, blueprints, goals, tools, materials, and so on. I think it is safe to say that most of us grow under less than favorable circumstances. And, like the unique design of the Tabernacle, it is the very stressors we experience in life that give us our real strength. Those stressors give us the opportunity to make choices and it is through making those choices we experience growth. Without choices, there would be no growth! And without growth, we could not come to know the mind and will of our Father in Heaven and experience joy and happiness in this, our season of life.

The Arizona Book Festival and I

by Anna Arnett

I can’t believe it! Last week I kept checking the blogsite and wondered why nobody posted on Saturday the 14th. It took me a week to discover—I was supposed to post.

So this is an extra—out of turn. My regular turn comes up in a couple more days. Please forgive.

Nevertheless, Saturday, April 14 did turn out to be a wonderful day. With confidence and ease, I took my son David by the arm and convinced him, with only a mild twist, that he should accompany me to the Arizona Book Festival held on the grounds of the Carnegie Center (Library) in downtown Phoenix. I must have already commented about my current health status, because my dear husband, who walks, stands, bends, etc. with even more difficulty than I, told me he would go with me rather than let me drive alone. I knew how much Charles didn’t want to go, so that's what gave me the twisting power with our son.

David and I only stayed for a couple of consecutive sessions—the ones I especially wanted--luckily in the same spot. As often happens, I forgot to put my hearing aids back in my ears after I showered, so I needed good acoustics. We sat on the front row. From there, even I could hear beautifully.

Jerry Simmons, former Vice President, Director of Sales for Time Warner (I'm quoting from the program, even the punctuation) spoke about "What Writers Need to Know About Publishing." I listened so intently that I forgot to take good notes. Even David learned a lot. Obviously, publishers are in business for only one reason--to make a profit, so editors pick books on sale-ability, and writers are expected to help sell. Therefore, the pitch put in the submission cover letter does not need to stress how great a story is, tell its whole plot or enumerate how it will enrich the reader, etc., but stress why and how well it will sell, and to what degree you, the writer, are willing to help.

He also dispelled a few myths: For instance, self-publishing will not preclude finding a publisher, should you want one, but can be gobbled up if you can show that your book sold well, even if only within a small test area. Also, agents are not a necessity (except for a few publishers who deal only with agents). You still have to come up with a good cover story (pitch) and help with publicity.

When an editor accepts your book, it's a good idea to ask to be introduced to everybody in the publishing office who will have anything at all to do with your book. Develop a personal relationship with them, and in small ways it pays off.

Don't hesitate to ask questions, like where do your books go? If the majority go to book jobbers, remember that's just another term for warehouses. They may sit there forever.

Another thing that fascinated me: publishers announce the size of a printing, but that is not necessarily how many they plan to really print, which is usually much less. Why do they announce a big printing? To compete for shelf space in the big chain bookstores. Every display, every bit of shelf space, is bought and paid for by the publishers. Amazing. That's why free-lance publishers go for independent bookstores, whose display space is up for grabs.

Jerry Simmons also sat in the panel of three for the ‘pitchapalooza’ hour and a half that followed. A writer and his agent wife joined him. Here, those who had signed up had a minute or less to pitch their great idea for a book.

True to form, I had somehow missed the where and when to sign up, and as I sat and listened, I turned to David and whispered, “I’m glad I’m not signed up. I’m not ready for this.” David agreed. Yes, I had planned, written, and prepared, and I would have learned a lot by the experience, but most of the presenters far outclassed me. A twelve-year-old boy impressed everybody, The panel chose one winner and a couple of runner-ups. They promised to assist the writer in every possible way to find a publisher and get published. Next year, I’ll really be ready.

Here are a few ideas they presented:

It’s hard to pitch a series. Publishers are interested only in the first book. If it sells, then . . .

Read the flap pitches in the same genre. If your pitch can go on the flap to attract readers, it will also attract publishers. If they buy, you’ll probably have to write that pitch anyway.

Pitch with passion, and authority. Also, pitch to everybody you know, or see—verbally, or otherwise. Get the feel for a good pitch. Remember what others find exciting, but skip over the parts that glaze the listener’s eyes.

Jump right into the middle. Editors get too much introduction, anyway. Even listeners may not stay around for the good part if you start too slowly.

State reasons why a publisher would want to buy this particular book, or why a reader would crave it. Write objections you think they might have, and overcome them.

If you can, get a blurb from well known authors.

Test your pitch and your story with others—besides family and close friends.

In all this, dear sisters, ANWA shines. Hurrah! And thanks!


Apr 25, 2007

Poetry Attempt

By Betsy Love

I rarely write poetry, but every once in a while the mood strikes me. I was listening to a snippet of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon". The imagery of the title and the mood of the music really hit me for some reason on this particular night, and I jotted a few lines down. I've rehashed my poem several times and this is the latest version. It's still in the renovation phase...but then do we ever really get it where we like it?

Camping on the Dark Side of the Moon

I’m going to pitch a tent on the dark side of moon
I’m going to lay out a fire of ash and rock and dust
I’ll crawl right in, cover my head, and allow myself to cry
I’ll not watch for shooting stars; they’ll only pass me by.

I’ll sleep through my absolvent delusion
I’ll not bear down on you, crushing forth lament
I’ll sit here on the dark side of the moon
Where I can quietly hide from your view

I’ll cover the mirror where you were once reflected
In my tent pitched on the dark side of the moon I’m not rejected
I’ll creep into my fire of ash and rock and dust
I’ll not watch for evening stars or meteors of rust

Even if we admit regret from pains we meted out
Where would we go from here when there’s really no way out?
So I’ll sit here in my tent pitched on the dark side of the moon
No one hears my woeful song so horribly out of tune

For an angel without a lyre can’t sing her truest song
And an unforgiving soul can never right a wrong
So I’ll sit here in my tent pitched on the dark side of the moon
And hurl a prayer that won’t be heard through this darkened gloom

A tent on the dark side of the moon is a lonely place to be
A tortured soul can still dream of things that cannot be
Is your tent right next to mine on the dark side of the moon?
Did you build a fire of ash and rock and dust too?

Isn’t it scary on the dark side of the moon?
Even if we’re here together, no light can pierce the tomb
Tents are lonely places where we can never trust
Especially ones shut up with ash and rock and dust

Apr 23, 2007

Mary's Violets

by Rene Allen and Mary Woods

For my last blog, I introduced Jennifer Leigh from our Tucson ANWA chapter, who wrote about creativity in her work as a kindergarten teacher. This week, I would like to introduce Mary Woods, a truly accomplished woman with many gifts and talents. She is a trained musician and vocalist, a teacher, writer, and now, her most recent passion is quilting. Her husband is Rex Woods, Professor of Music at the University of Arizona and a bishop. They have three sons. Mary is Canadian and grew up Catholic. She converted to the church in her 20s. Her mother died when she was in her early teens. What follows is an excerpt from a longer piece she had been working on, which was included in her sacrament meeting talk on Easter. - Rene

I began this talk with a quote from a poem which was set to music, and I would now like to recite the words to an aria from Handel's Messiah which I also love to sing. The text is taken from passages in the Book of Job in the Old Testament and from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

"I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead. The first fruits of them that sleep."

The last time I visited my Father in Canada, I knew I probably was not going to see him again in this life. He was 93 years old and becoming more feeble and grouchy with each passing day. Dad had never had any religious faith and even ridiculed my mother for her strong beliefs. Just before I left to catch my plane back to Arizona, I sat down beside him and said, "Daddy, I just want you to know that I believe in life after death. I believe in heaven. I believe that you will see family who have already passed on , even Ole." Ole was my dad's 16 year-old brother and best friend who drowned when my Dad was 14.

With a hopeful, loving smile, he said "That's nice, dear."

A couple of months later, my brother called from Canada to say that Dad had just died. I got the distinct impression that my mother, who had died almost 40 years ago, was indeed there to greet him. This was confirmed in a small way when I looked over the African violets I was trying to grow. My mom always had beautiful specimens but mine rarely bloomed. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw my plant, now covered with delicate purple flowers. It was as if she was saying, "Don't worry, Mary. He got here safely and we'll get him started on those missionary discussions tonight."

Two months ago, my family and I went to the temple. Rex was baptized, confirmed and endowed for my father. Then with my two older sons as witnesses and my mother-in-law standing in for my mother, my parents were sealed and I was sealed to them.

How glorious is this gospel. How perfect and just is His plan, that we are entitled to bounteous blessings both in this life and the next as we claim the victory and the joy accomplished by Jesus Christ on the first Easter.

Apr 22, 2007

Look at Both Sides

by Marsha Ward

Okay, so I bought this nice steak for today's dinner, since it snowed yesterday in the morning, and I call that still winter, right? Red meat is great for warming the body and soul.

I heat the frying pan just so, then unwrap the steak and plop it in. It sizzles so nicely, and the aroma is delish! Yum! My mouth is watering, I tell you.

So I wait the right amount of minutes to get a great start on the first side, then I get out my special two-tined fork to turn over the steak. A jab in the thick part, and I'm ready to flip the wrist.

Yikes! What on earth is that in the bottom of the pan? I peer at it, disbelieving my eyes. Yes, there's a black thing stuck to the pan. Ick! Immediately I know what it is. That blood-soaker thingie they put underneath meat to make sure it looks great in the tray. You know, no one will buy a bloody steak!

So there I am, holding a steak on a fork in one hand and the handle of the frying pan in the other, lifting the pan off the heat so that soaker pad won't get any hotter. Now what?

I lay the steak down (you don't want to know where) and use the fork to remove the pad and dump it in the garbage. Great! There's a burned-on, white residue in the pan. Who knows what noxious chemicals are sitting there, waiting to kill me?

If I were 35 years younger, I might be dancing around the kitchen, squealing, "Eeeekkkkk!" But I'm not. I've reached the ripe old age of, but that's immaterial. I'm older, okay?

I'm hungry, I have a steak lying--somewhere, and I want to cook it. So now I have to clean out the pan of noxious chemicals and begin the cooking process all over again. I wash the pan (sizzle, sizzle), scrub, wash again, use a paper towel to make sure any residue is whisked away, then put the pan over the fire once more. I pick up the steak with the fork, and now I'm cooking with gas. Yes, I am. The meal is rescued, the steak is wonderful, and my tummy is satisfied.

Lesson learned: look on both sides of the meat before you plop it into the pan!

Apr 20, 2007

Main Street America

by Joan Sowards, Guest Blogger

I was lucky to be born in America when Main Street was still the center of the world. No mall or mega center has ever been able to duplicate its uniqueness.

You could find anything you needed on Main Street, be it clothes, furniture, dishes, or just a friend. Service was personable, and once a salesperson waited on you, she knew you forever and called you by name. In my hometown there were great stores such as JC Penney’s, Sears, Mollie’s Dresses, Dell’s Corsets, Stapley’s Housewares, the Co-op for feed and lawn, Everybody’s Drugs, Rexall Drug, Newberry’s, Woolworth’s, and of course the hub was Valley National Bank.

There was magic in downtown and I didn’t mind Mother pulling me along to keep up with her step as we stopped in the shops she needed to visit. Of course she had to talk to everyone she knew, which was unavoidable because our town’s population was only 60,000.

My oldest sister had the very prestigious job of Soda Miss at Newberry’s fountain. I thought she was so grown up in her striped uniform and cap. The manager had sewn the uniform pockets shut so that the fountain help couldn’t keep tips. He believed everyone should share in the profits.

Stores closed by 7pm every night except Thursday, and then doors stayed open until 9. Everyone in town knew the schedule, and the teenagers especially enjoyed gathering at the soda counter or dancing in the record shop.

All shops closed for the Sabbath. The three drugstores rotated who stayed open for emergencies and pharmaceuticals. Even the religious diehards agreed it was the right thing to do.

The magic of Main Street was at its peek at Christmastime. Bells jingled in every doorway. Nativity scenes decorated display windows everywhere. Each department store employed their own Santa, or you could find a jolly fellow handing out candy canes on almost any corner. Groups caroled on the street. Holiday music rang from speakers, and no one was afraid to call out “Merry Christmas!”

Into my early teens, Main Street thrived, but just as nothing stays the same, the day of the mall arrived sooner than anyone really wished it to. JC Penney’s was the first to move into the mall. Slowly, through the years the other shops closed their doors or moved elsewhere. A sadness came over Main Street; a sadness for what was, for the happiness and community that was once there.

But alas, all things pass and new takes its place. Even those first malls have closed and been torn down, and newer, bigger, shinier malls have sprung up elsewhere. But for malls and all their spaciousness and shine, high fashion and prices, I’d trade them all for a friendly community downtown any day, where the salesperson knows my name.

Apr 19, 2007

Letting Her Go

Valerie J. Steimle

April of 2004, my mother found out she had pancreatic cancer and was ready to fight for her life. It was caught early on as a very small tumor so we all thought she had a chance. But as we rang in the New Year that January, we started having our doubts.

The end of February came with surgery and the realization that she didn’t have long. My weekly 40 minute drive increased to 3 days a week and I really looked forward to my visits. I enjoyed doing laundry, cleaning house and changing the sheets. It gave me a purpose and my mother and I could talk. She chose the topics of discussion only mentioning once that she didn’t know how long she had and she didn’t want people feeling sorry for her. I ended each visit with “I love you”.

It’s difficult trying to cheer someone up when they know they are leaving soon, but I managed to succeed one time when I came with a dress I was planning to wear to the Stake Gold and Green Ball. I wanted to make some adjustments on the dress and she immediately popped up out of bed and started searching for jewelry to match my outfit. She had once worked for Tiffany’s in New York back in the 1950’s and she had a great eye and appreciation for jewelry. She insisted I pick something from her collection to match my dress. We had jewelry boxes and drawers all over the bed and I finally found a match.

My brother (aka. The “Joseph” of the family) flew in from Utah to spend the week. We all thought my mother would brighten up with him there, but it never happened. Three days later she left us and it was over. We were all glad it was quick and the suffering was minimal but it still surprises me that it happened.

There was no viewing, no open casket, no long winded church service. Only a simple gravesite program with the dedication of the grave and a short review of her life by me and it was done. It was easier for all of us that way.

Nothing prepares you for the actual occurrence. You can talk to all the people you know about losing a loved one but nothing prepares you for not having them there. In the days between the actual passing and the gravesite service I kept asking myself, “What is she doing now?” “Who is she visiting with and what is she talking about.” I just can’t pick up the phone and call her when ever I wanted as I did in the past. I just had to let her go. As it is with the rest of us, we have to let our loved ones go when the time comes. I know she is happy and that is the best I can hope for.

Apr 17, 2007

Thoughts, Prayers, and Looking for Answers

by Terri Wagner

I'm sure we are all full of thoughts and prayers for those who lost their loved ones at VA Tech and for those whose loved ones are injured.

I cannot even begin to imagine how the family of the killer feels. Senseless death disturbs me on my most basic level. I guess because it is so senseless. So unnecessary, so horrifying, so unacceptable. And I wonder for just a brief moment how HF will judge such a child.

I am reminded of what President Kimball said in the RS lesson I gave Sunday found in Chapter 8 of the manual. That people will seek for dramatic answers to the horrors of the world, but not the church. That our perspective and understanding of the gospel gives us a clearer vision of what can be done.

So I find myself wondering what small gesture can I give that will help? I know prayer helps. In the very least it comforts me. And I wonder what can I do, what can I give, what small gesture of support can I offer?

I am determined to find an answer to this because I have a sure knowledge that such events will continue (I am deeply sorry to have to say) but I have been given instruction by a prophet of the Lord. And I must find a way to follow it. Any ideas?

Apr 16, 2007

Cecily's list

by Cecily Markland

It seems I'm great at makings lists. I write "to-do" lists while sitting in church or waiting for my computer to boot up. I make grocery lists while driving, I scribble lists of bills to pay, lists of people to call, gifts to buy, ideas to flesh into a novel or article. I list things I remember from class, snippets of information I need to pass on to my sister, you know, lists. My lists are written in every color of ink, and I use any shape or size of paper. If you'd gather my lists together, I'd have a great wip--or at least a novel-length manuscript, though the content may be a little redundant, the action a little lackluster, and the conclusion, well, the conclusion would be non-existent.

Which brings me to the point of all this. I've decided to take up a new genre! I'm scrapping my "to-do" lists, my one- or two-word "wishful thinkings" and, instead, spending time each day to write a "DID list."

I wish I'd decided this on my own. Rather, it came as a suggestion from a great motivator, Donna Boyette. She says:

Don't keep a to-do list, keep a Did list instead.
The things you don't do stay undone when you're dead.
What you plan to do won't matter unless done.
Things you don't do are recalled by no one.
So keep a Did list and review it each day.
If the list is empty, give your TV away!

Great idea, don't you think?

I'll now add "ANWA Blog" to my "Did" list for today, then I better sign off and go see if my "2006 taxes" is going to make the "Did" list as well!


Apr 15, 2007

Suspense & Expectations

by Terry Deighton, Guest Blogger

Liz Adair has something else to do or somewhere else to be, so she asked me to write her blog today. She has a habit of getting me into things. She got me into ANWA, so I will forgive her some of the others.

I like to go places, but I hate to fly, so it is with trepidation and excitement that I contemplate an upcoming trip. I am going to fly to Utah to go to Women's Conference with my daughter. Then I am going to fly to Texas and rent a car to tour my son's mission before he and I fly back to Washington. This trip symbolizes a lot of indecision that has been faced in our family lately.

The daughter in Utah graduated from BYU a year ago and spent the summer trying to get a teaching job in Utah while living in Washington. She felt inspired to stay in Utah, but she convinced herself that it was a joke and came home. The job didn't happen, so she moved to Payson, Utah and signed up to substitute and work retail in the evenings and weekends. Now she is looking for a teaching job for next year. She is applying here, there, and almost anywhere. Where is she going to end up? The suspense is killing me.

The son who is finishing his mission and his twin sisters who are graduating from high school all applied for various colleges. The suspense on Mom was excruciating. Finally, they all got accepted to every college they applied to. BYU answered last and stipulated that Matt and Randi come in the summer. That would give my son only a month at home after being gone for two years. It would also split the twins up sooner than they had thought especially since Renae will be in France when Randi has to be in Provo, so they won't see each other from mid June until mid August. Randi had a hard time deciding what to do, and we had to wait a week to get Matt's decision in his weekly email, so I had to wait. The suspense didn't kill me, but I thought it might. They have all decided to go to BYU where it's no secret Mom wanted them in the first place.

I think one of the things that make life changes so hard is dealing with our expectations. We worry a great deal about whether or not things are going to work out the way we expect them to. I had a real lesson on expectations when I went to the Bahamas with my mother and my husband. Mom just hated it at first. She had a hard time understanding the people. It was very hot. It wasn't a tropical paradise like the Hawaii she remembered from thirty years before. I, on the other hand, had no expectations. I had a great time. All I was looking forward to was getting away from my three little kids for a little while before the fourth one came and changed my life again. (That's the son who is finishing his mission if you were wondering how long ago this was.)

After we've prayed and made a decision, I think the best thing to do is try to form only those expectations that will allow us the flexibility to enjoy whatever happens. It does no good to worry about the bad that can happen or to dream up fantastic pie-in-the-sky possibilities. We certainly have to prepare ourselves for possible outcomes, but then, I am determined to just go with the flow now that the suspense is over! I'll leave the worrying to my husband; he's good at it.

Apr 13, 2007

Donna's Writing Book of Wisdom: How to Avoid Writer's Block

by Donna Hatch

Other authors often groan when I confess that I seldom have writer’s block. They probably think that I’m either lying, or that I have some secret channel to the writer’s muse to bless me with inspiration for writing. That’s not true. I cheat. Here are some ways to coax the muse into visiting you.

First, write your story. Write every day, even if what you write is worthless dribble. Just put it down. Most people who want to write never get past the first few pages. Make yourself finish the thing! Give yourself permission to write utter trash. It can always be edited out later and no one ever need know it existed.

I made a goal to write at least 5 pages a day, not matter how bad my writing is. A friend who is published had reminded me to give myself permission to write total bunk without worrying if it was good enough. I didn’t have to show it to my critique partner, or my friend, or my editor. I could always review it later and edit it out and make it presentable before any one else saw it. So, yesterday, as I was in the midst of writing useless rubbish, I discovered something unexpected about my hero which will affect his personality and his motives throughout the entire book.

Now I plot a little; I at least know my characters, where the story is going, and what some of the major scenes are going to be (that’s a whole new topic). But while I was writing absolute trash that I knew I would totally edit out later – or if I didn’t, one of my critique partners would – this surprising back story, which will profoundly effect his characterization, popped up. When the thoughts are flowing and the internal editor is turned off (because I already know it’s really bad writing), something else wakes up. Call it the muse, or inspiration, or what have you, but giving yourself permission to write badly or to write scenes that are pure back story or scenes that have way too much internal dialogue, surprising and wonderful things can crop up. Like discovering something new and amazing about your hero.

So, lesson one in Donna’s Writing Book of Wisdom is to write. Just write. Sit down at your keyboard, or pick up your pencil or pen if that’s your preference, and write. It might be terrible writing. It might be boring or stupid or cliché. That’s okay. Write. And then don’t go back and read it until after you’ve written several chapters. Decide much later if you want to delete it, or move it. Then sit back and watch what wonderful things appear.

In the immortal words of Tigger, TTFN, Ta-ta for now.

Because I still believe in happy endings…

Apr 12, 2007

Creativity - continued

By Kari Diane Pike

I am still “poundering” on the thoughts expressed in Rene’s blog on Monday. Rene posted an essay by Jennifer Leigh concerning her position on creativity. I loved it! Her thoughts fueled a lively discussion in my home about culture, parenting, governments, economics and their affect on creativity.

Jen mentioned her husband’s coworkers’ observation that while they all performed their jobs well, their American counterparts seemed to come up with more innovative ideas. They compared their childhood activities and concluded that perhaps their upbringing made the difference. My mind, of course, immediately took the let’s-look-back-and-see-how-guilty-I-can-make-myself-feel-because-I’m-sure-I-
stifled-my-children’s-creativity- path. I tried to take my husband, Doug, down the path with me. Fortunately, he refused to follow and instead steered me a different direction. Doug reminded me about all the time we spent with our children in make-believe play and other creative pursuits that included: boxes, crayons, glue, paper, scissors, salt dough, rocks, feathers, leaves, sand and of course, water. Now, I have to admit that the main thing these items had in common was that they were either free or extremely inexpensive. I rarely gave the kids color books. Besides, they have all been so fiercely independent that color books never appealed to them; it’s part of that whole “I don’t like staying in the lines” attitude. Anyway, once Doug set my feet back on the Happy Mom trail, we continued our discussion about the many different aspects of creativity and the dynamic system of development.

Some of the main ideas we came up with that affect creativity…and that includes our ability to write, Ladies…are: fear of making mistakes and receiving criticism, lack of self-confidence, fear of risk taking, and attachment to rules. Most fears are learned. So where and when do we learn to be afraid to be creative? How does our culture contribute to those fears or, just the opposite, how does our culture foster creativity?

Since I could go on forever on this topic, I will just list a few items that we talked about. People raised in the United States tend to take for granted that we enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of religion, a lack of a caste system, and a culture that encourages the individual to stand out. Even our ability to own a piece of land, or own a business, encourages our creative juices to flow. We can choose to pursue our wildest dreams!

I know there are many opinions about how to foster creativity and studies are ongoing. I am learning from this discussion that I have no excuse for not exercising my own creative abilities! I can become confident and free from fear! ANWA and other writing groups serve as a great resource for support and dialogue and inspiration. What do you feel has helped you develop your creative side? What do you consider to threaten our creativity?

Apr 9, 2007

ANWA in Tucson -- Meet Jennifer Leigh

by Rene Allen and Jen Leigh

Jen teaches kindergarten in Tucson, is an ANWA member, holds a Masters degree in Library Science and has recently been moved into a leadership position at her school. The following is her vision/position paper on Creativity.

Critical Creativity

My physicist husband had a conversation with his co-workers recently in which the subject of American creativity came up. In his lab, he works with people of many nationalities (in fact, he's the only native-born U.S. Citizen). Several of the workers mentioned that they had often observed that while they and many of their friends were excellent computational theoreticians, they collectively felt that many of the most innovative ideas came from their American counterparts. They then talked about their high stress childhoods and all of the intense studying they did at very young ages, and how they felt this may be the cause of their studious natures as adults. My husband talked of his childhood, and his fellow scientists were struck by the amount of free time he had had playing soccer and tennis, going to scout camps, goofing around in his backyard, and generally playing.

After discussing these ideas with my husband, I woke up in a panic last week with one question plaguing me...what is happening to our creativity? My mind raced through the seemingly infinite range of goods and services readily available to the American public. Birthday party stores, home decorating centers, .......... I wondered to myself, “What has happened to my own creativity? What have I done with my talents?”

I remember dance classes, piano lessons, art teachers, and the many opportunities I was afforded when I was a child. I also reminisce upon the things I did not have in my youngest years: store-bought clothes, instant pre-packaged foods, disposable diapers, electronic toys, and a myriad of other “necessities” I have so come to rely on in the raising of my own children.

I think of my mom who seemed always so strict, efficient, managerial, and polished. Although the bulk of my childhood took place in the 70's (a time rich with stirrings of liberated womanhood), my mom grew and canned her own fruits and vegetables, sewed our holiday dresses, packed our lunches with homemade bread and jam, and was known to decorate her home with paintings she'd painted, draperies and trimmings she'd sewn herself, and even furniture she'd designed and built. I say this not to make all of us feel inadequate in our liberated, enlightened state, but I mention it in terms of how much I miss the “do it yourself” ideal which she worked so hard to engender in her children.

I work each day with your precious children, and it gives me great pause to reflect on the spirit of creativity which I see alive in them. They do not fear making mistakes. If something is not exactly what they had first envisioned, they either begin again, or try something new. They transfer each new idea or concept into a new arena. I have seen a lesson on flight show up minutes later on the playground as children imitate birds. I have enjoyed watching bubble painting, yarn and construction paper kite creation, miming, playing “kitties and doggies”, superhero adventures, and the hammering and nailing and gluing of everything from wood to bottle caps to buttons to juice lids.

Several adults over the past few weeks have shared a similar thought with me. They have come into the Kindergarten room and marveled at all of the “kid-made” and “teacher-made” materials. Some have been confused and asked me, “What is this for?....I've never seen anything like it.” To clarify some of these questions: The huge red hanging thing is the students' “Ant Project” complete with “lags”, “abmn”, “torx”, and “hd”. Yes, the woven article on the wall is a rug, and yes, it does have a bird, pearls, ribbon, feathers, and other sundry things woven into it. The twig hanging from the ceiling above our art table DOES serve a purpose. It casts interesting shadows on our workspace and is an excellent place to hang shiny, tissue papery, and other artistic creations that might not get adequate billing if stuffed into a scrapbook immediately. We, as a Kindergarten class, are very pleased with all of our “Not-A-Boxes” which include a duck, a monster truck, a tunnel, a model house, and other fantastic creations. And finally, YES, we are aware that bicycle pieces are hanging from our ceiling (thanks to a recent field trip to BICAS, and our accompanying “wheel unit”).

I first came to this school with my older son 6 years ago. At that time I had little appreciation for the notable absence of worksheets, flash cards, memorization “drill and kill”, and other activities which were not a part of our academic day. Today, as I watch my second child flourish here, I gratefully acknowledge the vast creativity displayed by the parents, grandparents, staff, and community at large which is so evident within these gentle, nurturing classrooms and yards. I watch with wonder and hope at these precious children as they cover themselves with mud, scale trees to collect seeds, run with a chicken and a duck, smear paint on anything they can find, and then settle into a lap to enjoy a story.

I think of Mrs. R. demonstrating for us that cooking can be an art that children can enjoy (and still eat the final product). I think of Mrs. L. showing us how a juice cap becomes precious when a child's picture and a magnet are involved. I think of Mrs. S. sifting through second hand stores to find treasures for her classroom walls. I think of Mrs. Sj. and the variety of surprises and treasures that mysteriously appear in digging pits and gardens. I think of Mrs. B. and her math games (which parents always seem to ask ME first how to play...). I think of Mrs. W. and her tie-dye escapades with 18 Kindergartners simultaneously. I think of these women and other dedicated people who help this school be what it is and I have a feeling that despite the disposable diapers, prepackaged foods, and electronic toys that many of our children will ultimately experience, their creativity will still flourish because it was nurtured here at this school during the critical early development years.

I also quip that spending more time at this institution certainly has increased the flow of my own creative juices – the Kindergarten children have “Mrs. Leigh” thinking up silly songs in German again – something she hasn't thought to do for a very long time.

Apr 8, 2007

He is Risen!

by Marsha Ward

Today is Easter, the day on which Christians celebrate the transcendent event of the whole history of the world, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our Savior and Redeemer was crucified, then rose from the dead, immortal and glorified, the first fruits of them that slept. In our church services, we sang and spoke of this event. We had a choir, made up half of local people and half of grandchildren of one of our church members. What a wonderful experience we had!

I came home from church, buoyed by the church service, and ready for another week of toil. As I drove through the mobile home park where I live, I noticed that a lot of the 'flatlanders' who have places up here had arrived for the weekend. However, it was pretty evident that most of them weren't seeking a hallowed place for worshipping and celebrating. Instead, they were doing yard work.

Yard work?

On this lovely spring day, I choose instead to remember and be thankful that, as the children's song says, "Did Jesus really live again after he had died? Oh yes! And so shall I!"

Apr 6, 2007

Life, The Universe ... and Painting the Kitchen

by Heather Horrocks

What an interesting week this has been. We’ve been preparing our kitchen to paint and I am, once again, amazed at how long the preparation portion of a project can take. We haven’t even picked up a paintbrush and I’m already sore and tired. (So I am definitely thankful for the break to write this blog today!)

I must have gone to Home Depot five times. Here’s how it went: Choose yet another five cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, take them home, put them in place, take them down again, go back to the store, chose more knobs and pulls. The guy at the return desk knows me by name now. Our family finally narrowed the field to two winners--and then we realized we really need to paint the walls and cabinets first, because our current choices might not look as nice with the new paint.

Yesterday we spent most of the day trying to find molding to add to our cabinet doors to spruce them up. The entire day, including two more trips to the store. Luckily my son and daughter-in-law (who dropped the word "outdated" in referring to our kitchen--and she’s absolutely right, which is why we asked for help) met us there the second time and helped us make a choice, also pointing us to a molding store that charges much less.

Today’s tasks are to go actually buy the molding, cut it and nail and glue it in place, and, while the glue dries, we’ll (finally) start painting. And I’m sure the painting will continue into tomorrow and Monday.

This is one of those projects that are large enough to set aside normal life as we know it--but it’s not one nearly as fun as, say, going on a cruise (which we’ll be doing soon, probably still needing recuperation after this kitchen debacle). But it’s also a project that will make a tremendous difference in how we view our home when we’re done. The room that is the ‘heart of our home’ will be much more enjoyable to be in (especially after the next project, after the cruise, which is to replace the flooring).

I hope today that your day is life as usual--and I hope your life as usual is a satisfying one. I hope you enjoy your home and that you’re in a job you love. Hmm . . . jobs seem to be on my mind today. I read an article (yesterday? A few days ago? Time has lost meaning this week) about a guy who loved playing in the sandbox as a kid--and now has a business creating elaborate, Guinness award-winning sand sculptures! Bet he loves his job. A friend of mine just got her dream job, complete with car, gas card, travel, and good pay, after several years of putting in many, many hours working toward it. I spent a lot of years in jobs I didn’t like and one in particular that stretched out over two decades--that one I grew to despise even as it robbed me of my health and peace of mind. I was blessed last year to finally leave that job behind and begin one I do love (writing full-time, of course).

And so this commentary that began with my current life in its not-so-usual state seems to have morphed into a comment on our normal lives and how we spend our hours. If your life as usual isn’t one you want, perhaps ponder over the next week what your dream job would look like, schedule like, feel like. As a (wo)man thinketh, so is (s)he. So put on your thinking caps and rustle up your dream job. Then type it up.

What’s really interesting to me is that, in searching for something else on my computer, I came across a file dated a year before and titled ‘My Dream Writing Life.’ I realized that (other than the part about spending lots of money that is continuously coming in from my writing : ) I am now living that dream life. I have the schedule I want. I don’t have some of the other ‘perks’ such as being a household name (yet : ) or being on the bestseller list (yet : ), but I am living the schedule I thought would be my dream writing life. It was almost a year after creating the thought and list of my dream writing life that it can into being.
So think about your dream life, type up what you want, and then forget about it. Maybe next year, you’ll find the note or file and realize you have it.

And maybe next year, I’ll be a household name. (Okay, okay. So maybe that will take two years : ).

Apr 5, 2007

Romance: Is It Just Twitterpation?

Valerie J. Steimle

Romance! I love romance. I love romance novels. I love romantic movies. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. A crisis occurs. The couple is split apart by circumstances. Something happens and they get back together again. What a wonderful story. All of that clever dialogue. All of that heart wrenching emotion. All of that positive energy you feel when you read or watch to find at the end of the story that the couple involved have gotten back together and they live happily ever after. So it was interesting to find myself right in the middle of one last month after attending a singles conference from my church.

This guy just swept me off my feet. Phone calls every day, weekend dates lasting all weekend-- not just an evening. Long walks on the beach, dinner, movies—it was incredible. He was completely smitten by me and I just stood there aghast. Why are you aghast, you ask? Well, because this has never happened to me. This only happens to someone else. When I was single the first time, I had lots of guy friends which I really liked. But there was never just one who was completely smitten with me, even when I met my husband. It was a “grow to love you” type of a relationship, not love at first sight. This new guy was just too good to be true.

So when I forwarded some of the jokes to my son that my new boyfriend emailed me, he called me “twitterpated”. “I’m just twitterpated because its spring and the jokes weren’t that funny”, he wrote back. Twitterpated: a word used in the Disney movie Bambie to mean you really like a member of the opposite sex and your thinking is elated. It’s the way you feel when your arms touch while sitting together for the first time. It’s the way he looks at you when you are talking. It’s the feeling of security you have because you know he likes you. Everything seems brighter and more alive.

So now I had this boy friend and I spent far too much time thinking about him. I talked to him on the phone several times a day and I spent the rest of the time making plans for our next date. I had it bad. My kids would just roll their eyes whenever I was excited to go out. I would try to keep my excitement to a minimum but it was difficult. I called and emailed all of my friends and told them of my good fortune as well.

This went on for three weeks. After a while it became exhausting and I couldn’t keep up. I started feeling a great pressure and thought that this might not be such a great thing after all. I had the feeling that I was being backed up into a corner. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. It was supposed to be “happily ever after” but it wasn’t. He was supposed to go to the next level in the relationship, but he didn’t. As the fourth week rolled on, I started thinking that I couldn’t do this anymore and I wondered how in the world I was going to break this thing off. It appeared to me that this was the wrong guy. Well, nature took its course and I finally ended it.

After looking back on the whole experience, I can honestly say that I learned something. What did I learn, you might ask? All those romantic movies I have watched, all those romance novels I have read aren’t what they are cracked up to be. It just doesn’t work that way in real life.

The real romance is going out on your regular Friday night date with your husband of twenty-five years and still having a good time. The real romance is when he holds your hand when you are in great pain to try to make it better. The real romance is cracking a joke after you mistakenly bounce a check. The real romance is when your husband holds you close after being gone all night because your best friend’s husband died and you had to stay with her. That is real romance…... and that is the kind that lasts forever.

Apr 4, 2007

Recruiting My Senses

by Faith St. Clair

Can anyone tell me where to find instructions on how to have a successful mid-life crisis?

I’ve looked everywhere and haven’t been able to find any instructions that sufficiently cover my frantic search for self, mission, form (of the physical kind), balance or brains.

I’m sure it’s in the same place as the how-to-be-a-good-parent-and-raise-happy-loving-obedient-faithful-always-doing-the-right-thing-children, the how-to-lose-50-pounds-without-chemicals-or-life-changing-habits, and the how-to-stay-focused-amidst-children, a-husband, re-structuring-at-work, work, learning, politics, wars, ACT’s, college-planning, financial-planning, yard-work, saving-your-children-in-a-social-decline, remodeling, homework, contemplating-new-second-careers, proms, church-callings, serving-others, cleaning-your-house, exercising, eating-right (which means shopping at healthy, pricey stores, reading all the ingredients and taking more time than to have raised the farm yourself), friends, family, fun, praying, pondering, fervent-praying, kneeling-to-pray, fasting-and-praying, or the smiling instructions are, but for the sanity of me, I can’t find them either.

I have a friend whose daughter asked her once, “Why can’t you be more like Faith? She’s always focused.” Focused?! I can’t see a thing! I’m going so fast and in so many directions, things are blurry. I don’t mind stopping on any one of the aforementioned avenues to bask in the fullness of what they can offer me as an aspiring-to-all-good-things-human in training. I feel like a jack of all trades, but master of none!

The chapters I want to look up in the instruction manual are, At What Point do You Have to be Grown Up and Declare that You Have Arrived and Have Become What You Always Wanted to Be? Or, What if You Never Figure What You Want to Be - Does That Mean You’ve Wasted Everything? I also need to read the section on How to Find the Priority in 100 Number-One Priorities.

I am grounded in the teachings of the gospel, the strength of positive thinking, the power of prayer, the confidence in being a daughter of God and in the direction these influences take me. But when your priority is not between good or bad, but rather between great and wonderful, important and meaningful, necessary and imminent, I kind of get sloshed in the middle of the spin cycle unable to find any focus.

So you say, “Have faith,” “Put it in the Lord’s hands,” “Carpe Diem!” I can’t seize the day, a month or even a lifetime if I can’t handle the seconds screeching by me! How can I be the captain of my soul when I can’t even recruit my senses?

Since I can’t find the right manual, I just want to make note that I’m 42 and have begun the blotching, sagging and wrinkling mode. If anyone has good information, I’d like to know how to restrict that to just the physical self so that it doesn’t seep into the mental and emotional self.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I get the what, I just need to know the how of having a successful mid-life crisis. If you find any helpful instructions, please share them.

And by the way, apparently I’m ahead of my time! I’m not supposed to be doing this until age 46. The good news is that it only lasts 2-3 years, unless you are a male, then you can expect it to last up to ten years! Whew!

Signing off…in what direction I’m not sure…

Faith St. Clair

Apr 3, 2007

Why Are Buildings Special?

by Terri Wagner

During the Saturday afternoon session of GC, I found my attention wandering a bit. The Tabernacle means very little to me. The stories the GAs told about their experiences was touching, especially Brother Monson's and gave interesting insight to the way the church administration has changed. But I was still puzzled as to why this building had such significance.

I'm sure it has a wonderful history; I'm sure if I lived in Utah, I might understand more; I'm quite sure I'm missing something here.

Do buildings matter? I'm not sure. Years ago, I lived in what I consider my adopted state (military brats never feel at home anywhere) of Virginia. When she came visiting, I took my mother on a ferry ride across the James River to the oldest still-standing plantation in the area. She was impressed by the history, the people who had stayed there, the old ways of a forgotten time; however, I was impressed by the living tree that has stood there for several hundred years. I wondered if maybe Moroni has passed that way in his wanderings. I wondered if George Washington or the early Jamestown settlers had sat in the coolness of this tree; in short, I was impressed with the tree!!!

I can't remember the talk or who gave it, but someone once told about having an experience in a rock canyon (I don't see much of those around here) and contemplating how old the rocks were, and in a sudden burst of realization (don't many of our testimonies come this way?) knew with complete certainty that he was actually older than the rocks. His vision of how old became a testimony of eternity.

Can buildings invoke that feeling? Is there something significant in bringing the building up to code? Will it play a more important role in the future? Why are buildings special?

Apr 1, 2007

From April Fool to highest value

by Anna Arnett

I missed my turn to blog again yesterday, so I’m taking advantage of April Fool’s Day to write a tad about tricking others. My early ‘off the cuff’ hoaxes usually fell flat. I remember three quarters of a century ago putting salt in the sugar bowl. Instead of laughing, Daddy gave me a good scolding—after he finished spluttering over his ruined dish of oatmeal.

April (or All) Fools Day may be lighthearted and fun, but how did it get started? I went to Wikipedia for suggestions. Nobody seems to know. All explanations are flawed. Some say it developed when the Georgian calendar changed New Years from spring to January 1st. Others suggest it was merely a matter of spring fever. But do we have to know to enjoy? Now, that’s a moot question.

My plentiful experience deepens my belief that we enjoy on different levels. A child laughs because his parents laugh. He may not know why, but he truly knows the joy of joining. It’s always sad to learn about children who do not know the deep joy of family. When all is said and done, family joys are usually the most lasting. Forgive me if I now boast a little.

Last week, in Newport Beach, CA, we participated in the creating of a new, eternal family. Our grandson, Greg Ethington, a six foot eight inch athlete, married Brittney Whitworth, five foot seven and also athletic. Greg’s grandparents, parents and all eighteen of their descendants, several uncles, aunts, cousins and friends convoyed to California for the wedding. Brittney had even more relatives and friends there. Her whole family, including her three living grandparents were absolutely delightful, and I soon felt we were old friends. In the two full days we were there, I never heard even one cross word. (Yes, I know my hearing is bad.) It was as pleasant as an ANWA convention.

Best of all, Greg is the fourteenth grandchild my husband has had the privilege of marrying. Greg’s also the fourteenth grandchild to marry. We have fifteen more to go, but who knows when or where. We really do count our blessings. We returned home worn out, but happy.

(Notice, this is one of my short entries)