Jul 30, 2007

Thoughts on Art and Self-Revelation

by Rene Allen


I’m taking a drawing class and the last meeting is tomorrow night. Homework is to do a self-portrait. I am thinking, uh-huh, sure, terrifying idea, to put myself on a piece of paper. Way too much self! And that's the bind. Everything about this self-portrait, be it good or not, reveals something about me to anyone with an even remotely curious psychological bent.

Take for example that I had go to Wal-mart to buy a hand mirror because currently every mirror in the house is glued to a wall and no where near a place where I can draw. Since I can’t very well do a self-portrait by Braille, although the idea merits consideration, I had to get a mirror I could carry with me to my art table. Now, I am sure this anonymous person in the great critical void who will analyze my painting with a Freudian sneer on her face will think I have an attitude. She will think I don't give a fig about what the back of my hair looks like when I leave the house because I've never seen it. I can tell you how it feels: short, smooth and straight. And, despite what Madame Freud thinks, I know that the back of my hair is a non-descript bottled dark blond because my hair-dresser always hands me a mirror when she finishes my hair and says, “Do you like it?”

More about this self-portrait. “Just do anything,” said the instructor. “A line drawing, contour, shading if you want to.” One woman who was visiting our class from another had already done hers. It looked just like her, soft-grandmother cheeks and gray-white hair framing her face all the way to her earlobes. She was proud of her work and should have been. She was also pretty in a nice, I-am-sixty-five kind of way. I think she was proud of that, too.

So, I am thinking, basically I don’t like what I look like so why should I reproduce it? This is what I mean by too much self. I’m sure it will show up, like it did the last time I had to draw myself, and made my head about three times as big as it should have been and because I was caught in the throes of a really good anxiety attack, drew my body off the page so no one could see it.

See what I mean? There is something about a blank page and pencil that requires truth, be it through the written word or through drawing. Why didn’t this art instructor assign a nice flower to draw, or a landscape, or chair, or a cat? No, instead she said draw yourself and bring it in so we can see it.

Here’s a little bit more about this self assigned to do a self-portrait: I’ve always been on the camera side of photographs. Now this woman is telling me to put the camera down and look in the mirror. “Draw what you see,” she said.

Two eyes, a nose and a mouth . . . ears, hair, a bit of a double chin . . . a middle-aged woman, certainly, but wait a minute—can you see the honest soul there as well, the one who is terrified to show you so much of herself—her keen desire but limited skills, how she wades into the waters of acceptance to see what will happen if something less than perfect is presented to the class?

A self-portrait? And I always do my homework. . . .

Jul 29, 2007

The Writer's Support System

by Marsha Ward

According to our wise Executive Secretary/Treasurer, Connie Wolfe, every writer does better at her endeavors if she has people who play four key roles in her life. These roles are Mentor, Cheerleader, Critiquer, and Motivator. Let's take a brief look at these roles:

Mentor - this person gives the writer tools so she can do a better job at writing.

Cheerleader - this person buoys up the writer, telling her she can do it.

Critiquer - this person's role is to keep the writer sharp and examining her work for errors. The Critiquer also gives suggestions for improvement.

Motivator - this person gets the writer past hurdles that come along, such as writer's block, keeping the writer moving and motivated. May be the best at being a sounding board or brainstorming partner.

Sometimes a person may act in more than one role, but usually four people shake out into the roles.

Who fills these roles for you?

Jul 28, 2007

Moaning Meme

Marsha tagged me for the Moaning Meme Game. You will probably learn more about me than you ever wanted to. ~Donna Hatch

The Moaning Meme

5 People who will be annoyed you tagged them:
David
Liz
Jennifer
Jeanette
Arloa

4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth.
Telephone socitors
The Simpsons
Bikinis
Cigarettes

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently.
Talk during a movie
Smoke in public
Go on and on about their pets as if they are children

2 things you find yourself moaning about.
People who don't return phone calls
People who offer child care advice who don't have children

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself.
I'm a scary, scary person

Rules:
Link to the original meme at freelancecynic.com so people know what it's all about!
Be as honest as possible, This is about letting people get to know the real you!
Try not to insult anyone - unless they really deserve it or are very, very ugly!
Post these rules at the end of every meme!

Tag Game - Terry Deighton

I apologize to Terry Deighton that I didn't get this post up last Saturday. When I came home from the Retreat, I took a nap, and awoke too late. ~Marsha

Not Entirely British
Marcia Mickelson
Writer in the Pines
ANWA Founder and Friends (Marsha)
ANWA Founder and Friends (Liz)

Here are my responses.

What were you doing ten years ago?
Ten years ago, I was getting up out of chairs more quickly without having my knees creak. Ten years ago, my oldest child graduated from high school. This year, the youngest graduated. Ten years ago, I was substitute teaching. I still am.

What were you doing one year ago?
A year ago was about the same as now. Subbing during the school year and writing, not cleaning, and hanging out with my kids during the summer. The difference is that my husband went back to work, so he's not here to hang out with this summer.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Cookies
2. Apples
3. Candy
4. Nuts
5. Chocolate covered anything

Five songs you know all the lyrics to:
1. I Am a Child of God
2. Called to Serve
3. Five Little Speckled Frogs
4. Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree
5. Happy Birthday to You

Things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Quit working
2. Start a Soup Kitchen
3. Hire someone to finish all the stuff we haven't finished in our house
4. Buy a piece of land and house off the highway
5. Share with the kids

Five bad habits:
1. Being a smart aleck
2. Staying up late
3. Procrastinating everything
4. Being late
5. Blaming other people for my problems

Five things you like to do:
1. Read
2. Write
3. Cook but not clean up
4. Sit around a campfire
5. Go boating

Things you will never wear again:
1. Certain yellow/green colors that turn my face green
2. a wedding dress
3. panty hose - trouser socks rock!
4. a girdle
5. High heels, but I never have worn them

Five favorite toys:
1. Computer
2. Sudoku handheld
3. Laptop
4. Cardmaking supplies
5. Scrabble

Where will I be in ten years?
In Sedro Woolley hopefully playing with the grandchildren that will be born between now and then. Also, with hope, I won't be working, so I can work on family history, read, and write.

People to tag:
Katie Watters
Ann Acton

Jul 27, 2007

Finding Inspiration

Valerie J. Steimle

This weekend I have a stake singles activity to head, a Primary sharing time lesson to give, and a family home evening lesson to present to a group of singles in another ward. Hmmmmm…….

How do I get all the inspiration to do all of this stuff? I can’t delegate it because I’m the one they have delegated to, so I just deal with it by coming up with something. It usually turns out okay but in the time before I actually do it; it’s very nerve wracking.

For example, I was asked to teach a Relief Society Lesson last Sunday and had plenty of time to prepare. I knew that I didn’t have enough material for the whole forty minutes but as much as I tried to find more things to talk about and plan the lesson, it ended at fifteen minutes before the hour and I had nothing else to say. I told the Relief Society President that was the whole lesson. So she got up and talked bit about some of the sister we were to pray for and announced that we would just end early. Just at that time, our Bishop opened the door and looked in. I breathed a sigh of relief as did the Relief Society President. The Bishop asked what was going on because we all reacted when he opened the door.

He told us that he was sitting in the Priest Quorum and all of a sudden the Spirit told him to get up and walk down the hallway. So he did and ended up in our room telling us a spiritual message we wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t of ended early. That was really cool.
So inspiration comes even when we don’t know why we are doing what we are doing. We just have to follow it.

I believe it’s the same with our writing. We sit and type all day at our computers trying to write something worthy to be read but we are never quite sure if we have accomplished our goal. Until we get feedback from a happy reader, we will never know. Nevertheless, we should continue in what we feel the urge to write about, taking our ideas from our own lives and what we have observed in other people. You never know how your thoughts will help another.

So my point being, we should ponder and meditate on what lesson to present in family home evening and Primary, brainstorm your plans for an activity and when you feel that you have done all that you could in preparing, just go with it and hope that it will help someone else.

Jul 26, 2007

Harry Potter's Grand Finale ... And Other Great Series

by Heather Horrocks

Wow. I just finished the 759 pages of the seventh book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

As a writer, I’m in awe of how J.K. Rowling crafted a story through the seven books and tied them up in this final book. Now how can I get a story idea like that to come to me?

And I will definitely not ruin any of the secrets for you! Unlike the coworker who, after seeing the 2nd Star Wars (original #2, not Episode #2), informed me that Darth Vadar was Luke’s father. AAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH! If I’d had a light saber on me, I’d have gone over to the Dark Side that very instant. The force would’ve been all over that guy.

What are some of the other great series, in movies and in books?

For me, Star Wars (the first three, anyway–I could have used a light saber on George Lucas, too, for Episodes 1-3). Back to the Future. Lord of the Rings. (I owned a video store for five years, back in the ‘80s, so I always have great movie examples.) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But of these, only Star Wars was plotted out through several episodes like the Harry Potter books.

All those story threads, woven in and out and around and up and down.

What is it about magic and fantasy that are so intriguing to us humans? Sometimes it’s nice to leave, not only our own troubles for someone else’s, but to lose ourselves in a while other world. And it’s been great walking the halls of Hogwarts with Harry.

Remember the quote ... life is not the destination but the journey? The best books prove that. I have a few favorite cozy mystery authors who make the journey so fun that I don’t mind that they don’t tie things up as neatly as I normally require.

So, tonight, as I put aside the last, big Harry Potter book and wonder what I’ll read tonight, I’m thankful for creative writers who can imagine wonderful things, can pluck them out of thin air, and weave a tale we want to get lost in, new worlds we want to visit, new characters who feel like old friends.

Jul 25, 2007

Love and Death

by Faith St. Clair

What’s the one thing that, besides love, is most written about? It is death.

I think death is wonderful. I mean, you get all the good stuff. You get people mourning your loss, flowers all around you, wonderful things being said about you (even if they’re not true). You get freed from debt and cares of the world. You don’t have a boss anymore and your family loves and appreciates you more now than when you were alive. They wish you were around, whereas, when you were alive, they barely called. You used to always be the blame for your children’s limitations, problems and failures. Now, in death, your advice is the best they ever had.

Why is that? Even if your life was lived just a notch above the caliber of pond algae, people fawn all over how wonderful you were and on and on. Are people religiously bound to say that regardless of what kind of person you were, or do they just all of a sudden get slammed with amnesia the moment you’re gone? Maybe they have ulterior motives, your money for instance, or maybe they have an I’ll-get-struck-by-lightening-if-I-talk-bad-about-the-dead syndrome.

I’m sorting through these questions because I’m headed to a memorial for a mother who lived her life as far away from that noble title as she possibly could. This woman was a prostitute, gave up four of her five children at birth (most addicted to drugs) to be raised by other people and aborted countless others. She served 25 years in prison for murder and was always a source of contention and let-down amongst her children. She gambled, stole and lied her way through life. What was the one, constant importance in her life? Herself. Everything was always about her.

Through the years, I’ve watched her children go through much anguish over her, her lack of motherhood, her inability to care, her tumultuous life choices, her crass tactics and dealings with other people. It has taken many years and a lot of prayer to overcome feelings of blame and anger and come to a resting place of forgiveness. Many of her children, even in their adult years, struggle with insecurity, a quick temper, self-indulgence, and even lives without firm foundations. (Who says our choices don’t affect others?) Yet for some reason, beyond my comprehension, people from all over the country will be flocking together to blubber in her absence and spread their tears and her ashes across Cleveland. The obituary and program speak highly of the loving mother she was and how everyone will miss her terribly.

I guess I’m too far away from forgiveness to understand how things like that can be said.

In contrast, my Mother passed away last year and left a legacy of love and service and kindness. She was not perfect and struggled in her later years with mental illness, but her overarching epitaph is one of truth and charity. Although her kindnesses touched hosts throughout her life, only few attended her memorial and most were there in support of us children rather than in remembrance or honor of her.

I’m feeling a little angry that one ill-directed life will be memorialized by many and one honorable life was mourned by few.

In writing through my struggle, I’m realizing that what it really boils down to is us learning to forgive, learning not to judge and learning to find the best in everyone. I will commit to doing this, to letting only our Father in Heaven do the judging and to remembering that everyone is a child of God. I will ask for forgiveness of my own Mother for not appreciating her more while she was alive and I’ll love my children whether or not they appreciate me now or ever.

The other most written about topic – love…

I love life – the joys and beauty and trials and fun…and I love death – the reunions and freedoms and flowers and amnesia!

Jul 24, 2007

Harry Potter

by Terri Wagner

I got one of those emails where you think, do I really want to answer this, and if I do, what on earth can I say??!! A friend of mine who terms herself spiritual whatever that means was confronted by her stepmother about letting her children read the "evil" Harry Potter. She knows I'm LDS and a bit of what we believe. So she asked me what I thought. Here's how I answered.

How would you?

"There are a lot of Christians who are uncomfortable with what they perceive as evil. I deeply believe that God and Satan are a package deal. You believe in one, you must believe in the other. I know that Satan is real and his purpose to bring you to misery and keep you there. It’s his job, he’s been doing it for centuries, and he’s very good at it. He figured out a long time ago that obvious evil is repugnant to most every one so he wraps evil up in beautiful things and seduces you until you are well and truly caught, then you find out the awful truth, “the beauty masks the decay.”

As Christians, we have a responsibility to be careful about dappling in evil. And while we have the Bible and centuries of those who have gone before us, it’s still hard to determine what’s evil. I know that I personally try to avoid anything with overt sex in it, simply because I am for some reason especially vulnerable to it. I have LDS friends who are not and will tolerate a certain amount of sex in their casual reading.

On the other hand, I can read just about any evil/fantasy novel, play role-playing games and even video games and feel just fine about it. I loved Dragon and Dungeons, played it often. Love Harry Potter. Am a rabid Star Wars fan and adore the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series. I try to keep my standards high. And look for moral endings wherein the bad guys face their consequences and the hero is good. In short, I find no problem with this type of stuff.

So Jenn the bottom line is as Christians, we have a duty to avoid evil and seek out good. It is a judgment call on our part. And it is an intensely personal call as well.”

She responded with: Ok, if I find any chicken parts lying around their rooms, I’ll get worried.”

Moms, they always put things in such perfect perspective.

Jul 23, 2007

Is That Me In There?

by Joyce DiPastena

My very first novel arrives, hot off the iUniverse press! With the strength of ten very excited writers, I drag the hefty box of 20 free copies over my front door’s threshold, and somehow wrestle it into my living room and up into a rocking chair. With the speed of twenty fleet-footed writers, I dash in the dining room to retrieve a pair of scissors and back into the living room to pry open my precious parcel. I rip off the packing paper, and staring up at me I discover…my beautiful, blonde heroine with streaming dark brown hair.

Uh-oh. Somebody made a mistake, and it wasn’t me. (I was very specific about the hair color on my proof forms.) With the annoyance of thirty…well, you get the picture…I carry a copy of my defective prize straight to the computer, where I immediately pound out an email to my Publishing Services Associate, whining…I mean, politely explaining about the mistake. I receive a prompt apology, promising a correction of the error. In the meantime, I’m stuck with twenty “wrong” heroines and furthermore, my book has been put on hold and is no longer “hot-off-the-press” available for anyone to order.

I don’t remember praying for patience lately, but apparently the Lord thinks I could use more practice anyway. I take a deep breath and examine my “first book” more closely. Aside from the brown hair and the not entirely authentic medieval attire, the cover isn’t all that bad. (As in, it could have been much, much worse.) They’ve done a nice job of portraying the title (Loyalty’s Web), and it is pretty cool to see my name on the cover of a book. With fresh excitement, I open it up to my dedication. Wow! That’s kind of cool, too.

I flip to a random page…and slam the book shut. Oh my gosh, those are my words inside. What are they doing in there??? I peek at a different page. A tingle of almost horror steals down my spine. Aren’t those the words I slaved over for years, typing faithfully into a computer to be printed out on crisp, white, loose-leaf paper? What are they doing in this foreign format, staring back at me from off-white pages, bound inside a book?

One more wary try. I crack the object open one more time. My horror only grows. Those aren’t just my words. That’s me in there! No, I didn’t write about myself. I didn’t imagine myself as any of these characters, and I certainly haven’t had any of their medieval experiences. But nonetheless, there I am, inside that book. Those words came out of me. Out of my mind, out of my heart. (Dare I say, out of my blood, sweat and tears?) How did I delude myself all these years that my writing was something somehow “apart”? That it somehow existed in it’s own little world, with only the most tangential relationship to “me”. Only now do I see how inextricably intertwined my words and I are.

I can’t explain how or why, but there’s no denying it any longer. Yes, that’s me in there. And there are only two words to describe how it feels:

Too freaky.

Panic soon joins the Twilight Zone feeling. I’ve written this thing, I’ve self-published it…and now I’m supposed to sell it? Total strangers reading my work, no problem. But what about people I know, people who know me…or who think they know me? “Little Miss Quiet”, “Little Miss Shy”. Nobody except my family and a few writer friends knows anything about this side of me. Only a very few people have ever even stumbled across the fact that I have a “vague” interest in the Middle Ages, and I’ve told nobody, but NOBODY, that I like to write. How will they look at me now? The thought is slightly terrifying. If I’m inside that book, will people see me there? Will they see the part of me I want them to? Or some part of me I haven’t recognized. Or, worse, will they see a “me” who isn’t there at all?

Or will they only see the story? I hope they only see the story! Because although I am in my book, I am not my story and my story isn’t me.

(Is that a conundrum? A paradox? Where’d I put that dictionary?)

Trying to explain my convoluted thoughts is making my head spin, so I think I’ll stop for now. As for my future readers, those who claim to “know me”…I can only hope that when they read my book, they don’t come away shaking their heads and thinking:

“Too freaky.”

Jul 22, 2007

End of the Tour

By Liz Adair

When the pilot announced that the weather in Seattle was sixty-five degrees and rain, the parched cells in my skin and lips shouted hallelujah for the impending moisture and coolness. Though I didn’t mind leaving behind the heat and zero humidity of Phoenix, I was sorry to have my tour come to an end. I had traveled no farther than the Mogollon Rim, yet I had visited cities, parks and manors beyond compare at the ANWA retreat.

I hope you won’t mind if I share my travel pictures with you. I have them right here—my mental snapshots of the retreat. They include:

  • Anna and Kay reciting poetry
  • Becky and Mischa’s class on plot—new for me: start with a setting
  • Lorna’s admonition about critiques—remember, two positives first
  • Marsha’s class on dialogue—thanks for the reminder about if a quote runs two paragraphs, don’t close the quote at the end of the first
  • Sheri’s joyful dedication to her fitness program. Go Sheri! You are an example to us all
  • Becky and Mischa introducing me to letterboxing. I tucked that away to use sometime in a plot
  • Listening to Cindy play the harp—just the right touch for a heavenly weekend
  • Connie playing the piano whilst ably carrying the lead as we worked our spontaneous way through the hymnbook
  • Anna’s class on poetry and my reacquaintance with “On His Blindness”
  • Watching Julia and Sisiley engage in the process, and understanding that the force for good in future literature is in capable hands
  • Watching the faces of the sisters as they talked about their work: Marsha’s scene about the runaway wagon, Betsy’s solution to the identity problem, Joan’s intriguing Book of Mormon premise, Connie’s romance that began at the fifteen-items-or-less grocery line, Terri’s mystery about the runaway, Gertrude’s journey to empowerment, Theresa’s re-worked intro about the evil in the shadows, Lorna’s Seattle murder mystery
  • Ina with her birding binoculars and her joy in caring for the earth
  • The generous, thoughtful and invaluable critique Connie and Becky gave to my class.
  • Karen Beals looking like a serene Madonna
  • Melinda and Cindy giggling far into the night and being hushed by the teenagers

The snapshot I will carry with me in the wallet of my heart is the one from the balcony on Friday night. Mindful of my body’s rebellious nature when deprived of rest, I went to bed a little past ten. As I looked down on the hardy Writer-Owls collected in several groups, I could hear the murmur of multiple manuscripts (how about that for alliteration?) being read aloud to one or more attentive listeners. Other W-O’s were hunched over laptops or notebooks, furiously plying their craft. Before I went to sleep, I gave thanks for the privilege and honor of participating with such dedicated, gifted, and charitable women, my ANWA sisters.

Edited to add two more snapshots.

Jul 19, 2007

Because He Loves Us

by Kari Diane Pike

I recently completed a class in adolescent developmental psychology. The class differed from the childhood developmental psych class I took previously and the adult developmental psych class in which I am currently enrolled. Those two classes focus more on the clinical side of the developing mind. The adolescent class focuses more on parenting skills and interesting discussions about how the people we serve are the people we love most. What does that have to do with adolescents? My first thought was that perhaps the adolescent mind is so impossible to understand that all we can do is learn how to defend ourselves. By the time I finished the course, I had a new perspective of parenting, love, and our purpose in this life.

I bring this subject up because for the past 10 days I have been away from home caring for my oldest son's family as they welcome a new baby into their lives. The fifth day of my absence, I received the following e-mail from our 14-year-old daughter:

"MOM!!!!!!READ!!!!!!

dont be surprised if im dead by the time you get home on monday.

i have had WAYY too many days of locking myself in my room to ignore the kids' fighting.
i am TIRED of meals from boxes and microwaves!!

AND the phones have been really messed up and
I WANT A CELL PHONE!!!!!

infact, i actually NEED one seeing as how the phones never work anymore, and right now, bcuz dad is gone, if i had to get a ahold of him, i wouldnt be able to.

Mom, you have NOO idea how much i miss you<3

i NEED to get out of this house, i have no idea how you do it. after two hours i gave up trying to stop Levi and Micaela from fighting.

its WAAYYYY hard.
:]

anyway. ily, miss you, and think you should talk dad into getting me a cell phone!! =D
pleeeeaaaaase."

(After I read this, I didn't have the heart to tell her that since the baby hadn't been born yet, that it looked like I was going to need to stay for at least 4 extra days.)

My first reaction to the message was to laugh. When did my daughter become such a drama queen? Later, I started thinking about the things my daughter expressed. She not only misses my cooking, but she has begun to recognize that being a mom involves more than just cooking and cleaning. She is learning that sometimes "It's waayyy hard."

My hope is that she will learn that along with the being "way hard," parenting follows the rule: With the greatest tests come the greatest blessings.

Our ninth grandchild was born Monday, July 16. As I watched his mother labor to bring him into the world, I relived the births of each of my children. I felt each contraction and I wished I could take the pain away from her. But the pain is part of the memory, branding each child's name into our hearts forever. Gideon came into this world on his own schedule and weighing a whopping 10 pounds, 11 ½ ounces. There were several tense moments as shoulder distocia (my son claims this is another way of saying," Geez, wasn't his head big enough?") and hemorrhaging threatened the lives of both mother and baby. Fortunately, the experienced midwives were guided in their actions and all is well.

We most certainly love the ones we serve. That is why a mother can love her children so fiercely. It is the reason we were given this earth to live on and the reason our Savior gave his life for us. Because he loves us.

Jul 18, 2007

Pike's Peak and America - also Tagged Again

by Anna Arnett

Last Wednesday, I rode a cog train to the top of Pike’s Peak. The weather was cool and the scenery spectacular as the two carloads of tourists, including many attendees of the 497th Bomb Group reunion, chugged for a couple of miles up a wooded canyon, alongside a busy, sparkling mountain stream. Above the timberline were meadows reminiscent of Biblical times, and we half expected to find sheep and a robed shepherd with his long, crooked staff. Then came the rocks, a huge pile that extended clear to the top. Occasionally we spied marmots atop a big boulder, but the Rocky Mountain sheep must have been elsewhere at that particular time.

“You may consider these rocks huge,” our guide said, “But to us this is merely gravel.”

At the top, 14,100 feet high, we staggered out on wobbly legs, panting with the exertion, and feeling rather lightheaded, drank more water. There were enough clouds to obscure the valley itself, but the waves of varied blue and purple peaks surrounding us gave pause to gaze, and marvel.

At the highest spot in the leveled-off summit stood a huge monument—a plaque dedicated to Kathryn Lee Bates, who rode a donkey up a primitive trail and stood at this very site. The sight so inspired her, that upon her return to the valley, she penned the hymn that nearly became our National Anthem: "Oh Beautiful, for Spacious Skies, for amber waves of grain; for purple mountains majesty above the fruited plains. America, America, God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."

I could hardly read the words of the first two verses, engraved on the plaque, without tears. It touched that deep well of patriotism within me, and I tingled all over. What a great land we have – what a great heritage!

Now we’re home again to the mundane—if there is such a thing. Since Liz tagged me again, I’m just going to add it to this blog, whether that is kosher or not. The one good thing about aging is that I feel much more comfortable about breaking, or at least bending a few more rules.

I’m not sure I understand all the instructions, but I’ll give it a try.

If I tagged you, remove the blog from the top, move all the blogs up one, and add yourself to the bottom. You have to copy and paste the whole thing into a Word document (or whatever) and use it (what?) as a template for your own version

Not Entirely British
Marcia Mickelson
Writer in the Pines
ANWA Founder and Friends Liz Adair
ANWA Founder and Friends Anna Arnett

1. What were you doing ten years ago?

Good gracious, I don’t know! I do remember that twenty years ago I retired from teaching pregnant girls in Mesa , spent six wonderful weeks in Vermont at an NEH seminar on the suffering of the innocent, and in late September left for a temple mission in Sydney, Australia. But ten years ago? I was serving two or more shifts a week as an ordinance worker in the Mesa temple, and was probably working with music in the Primary. I think that’s about the time I started the first of three courses I completed with the Institute of Children’s Literature, and I was probably writing that novel I almost completed.

2. What were you doing one year ago?

That’s slightly easier. I was released from teaching in Relief Society and put into Primary, mostly to write their program for Sacrament Meeting. Still there. We attended a 497th Bomb Group reunion in Dayton, Ohio, where we met for the first time two daughters of Charles’ co-pilot back in WWII. Lovely women. My husband (and sons) commissioned an artist in Paris to paint a picture of two B-24’s; one like Charles’ and one like his best buddy’s, and donated a printed copy to the Air Force Museum in Dayton. I completed five years of volunteering an hour or so a week at a nearby assisted living home, and I attended an ANWA retreat for the first time.

3. Five snacks you enjoy.

1. Chocolate candy (but I’m thinking of giving it up)
2. Trail mix
3. String cheese
4. Ice cream in most any form
5. Cookies

4. Five songs you know all the lyrics to.

1. The Star Spangled Banner (well, at least four verses)
2. Stardust
3. I’ll be Seeing You
4. Sentimental Journey
5. Somewhere between half and three-fourths of the hymn book (that’s cheating!)

5. Five things you would do if you were a millionaire

1. Endow the Arnett Foundation
2. Hire a maid.
3. Travel extensively
4. Hire a chauffer
5. Give the rest away (but only to worthy causes)

6. Five bad habits.

1. Procrastination
2. Putting things down instead of away
3. Staying up too late
4. Eating too much
5. Talking when I should be listening

7. Five things you like to do.

1. Knit
2. Crochet
3. Talk on the phone
4. Get positive feedback from ANWA
5. Anything with my family

8. Five things you’ll never wear again.

1. Three inch heels
2. Two inch heels
3. Size twenty or above (‘never’ is an iffy word)
4. Tight or short skirts
5. Clip earrings

9. Five favorite toys

1. My computer
2. SuDoku puzzles
3. Call phone
4. Exercise machines
5. Jigsaw Puzzles

10. Where will you be in ten more years?

Still busily enjoying people. Hopefully gazing at my certificate of graduation with a PhD. Hopefully staving off the swarms of people who want my autographed copies of whatever. Probably enjoying great-great grandchildren. Actually doing some of those ‘millionaire’ things. Enduring to the end—if it’s not already here. If it is, I expect to enjoy it.

Jul 17, 2007

Parable of the Brick

By Betsy Love

God held me on his lap. “You will be born in a few minutes and I have one last gift to give you before you go.” He handed me a red brick, indistinct from any brick I had ever seen. Its surface felt rough in my hand. God had given me so many wonderful gifts. He promised me a strong body, a quick brain. He gave me compassion, and musical talent. He gave me the gift of words, to use them powerfully. All these things He told me to use for the benefit of my other brothers and sisters already on earth, and those who would come after me. But why the brick? He said, "I want you to carry this brick with you all your life, and then when I call you home, bring it back to me, just as I gave it to you."

"I don't understand," I said.

God gave me one last hug, kissing me on my brow. "You will," He spoke gently in my ear. I threw my arms around his neck. I knew I would miss Him, but I was excited to start my journey on earth.

Wrapping my fingers around my brick I replied,"Promise me, you will bring it back the way it is now," God commanded.

"I promise." Then I slid down off his lap and headed to my departing point. Clutching my brick I dove into earth to begin my life. I carried my brick with me everywhere I went and kept it perfect. At first it was easy to protect it. I didn't let anyone touch it, and it stayed exactly as God had given it to me, at least for a while.

One day while I was out riding my bike I dropped it. A corner chipped off. It was only a little chip. I searched in the dirt for the broken piece. Maybe I could glue it back on. I searched and couldn’t find it. Examining my brick I realized it was only a tiny piece, the smallest of specks; surely God wouldn’t even notice one fleck. I decided I would be more careful.

As I grew my brick suffered more nicks and scrapes and tiny missing pieces. It was really starting to look a little worn. One morning as I looked at it, I decided to see if could replace it. Surely here on earth I could find a brick to match this one. God would never know it wasn't the same brick. I searched every brickyard I could find, but not one brick quite matched the unique color or texture of the one God had given me.

After years of searching I finally stuffed my marred brick in my backpack. I forgot all about it even though I still carried it everywhere I went. I kept it wrapped in a cloth to help protect it. One day, I met the most wonderful man. I married him, had babies and forgot all about my brick; that is until one day my two-year old found the brick and was banging it with a hammer. Shrieking, I grabbed the brick from him and put it high on a shelf. The shelf wasn't high enough and one by one all my children and my husband had knocked it to the floor more than once. The pieces were swept up and thrown in the trash before I knew that they had nearly demolished my brick. My brick became so banged and almost unrecognizable that I wondered if it were a brick at all.

I tried to hide my brick so no one would do any further damage to it. I stuffed it in my bottom drawer, my grandson found it there and drove his toy car over it, and so I put it in a closet, behind my clothes. My granddaughter found it one day while playing dress up and pretended to iron my clothes. The brick left crumbled red stains on my white blouse. My family wasn't the only one to abuse it. The exterminator sprayed bug killer on it, leaving an ugly brown stain. The carpenter who came to fix the water damage in my bedroom knocked it into a bucket of sheet rock mud. I never could quite get all the white goop out of the cracks and crevices.

One day when I was very old I heard God's voice calling me, “It's time to come home now.” I didn't want to go yet. Hadn't I left so many things undone? What about my brick? I pulled it out. Looking at its broken and misshapen form I sobbed.

Heavenly Father saw the tears streaking my face. “What's wrong?” He asked. I sobbed even harder. “Show me what's behind your back,” He said. I hid my face and held up what was left of the precious gift God had given me.

“My, but it's a mess,” was all He said.

I clasped my brick to my chest, hoping to hide it from his view. “My child,” He said, “I asked you to bring it back the way I gave it to you. Did you not know that you could not come back without a perfect brick?”

The tears stung my eyes and fell onto my shirt. I turned to leave His, knowing that I had failed and that I was not worthy of His presence.

With my head down, I didn't see my brother come in, but I heard His voice, kind and gentle. “Father,” he said, “I have all of the missing pieces.” In his hands he held the red broken shards, chips and filings of my brick. Turning to me He said, “Hand me your brick.” I placed it in His hands. He smoothed my brick over with the contents I had lost and then showed it to our Father. “I have made her brick perfect.” Then my brother turned to me. “Here is your brick. It is whole again.” I only hesitated to take it because His hands bled from the labor of fixing my brick.

“Your hands are hurt. I didn’t mean for you to hurt yourself for me.” I said.

“It only hurts if you reject the brick.”

I took it from His hands and even though the brick was restored to its perfect form it didn't seem heavy at all. “Welcome home,” God said as he accepted my perfect brick.

Jul 16, 2007

Rules and the Unruled

by Rene Allen

Allan Ginsberg died 10 years ago. He first published “Howl” in 1956, became famous and was able to live a profitable life as a poet, which is not easy to do. My son who is an electrical engineer took a writing class at Pima Community College. “Everyone was talking about ‘Howl,’ he said. “Who was Allan Ginsberg?”

“He was one of the Beat Poets,” I said. “A wild man. Drugs and other things. And his poetry was wild, too.”

The poem currently is on my desk. That “Howl” is resurfacing is not, I suppose, surprising given the great cultural confusion currently in our country. My impression is that the poem is both graphic and pornographic though it was considered well-made by the famous American poet, William Carlos Williams, who was Ginsberg’s mentor. It is considered to be a brilliant literary work. I have yet to read “Howl” in its entirety and it has been on the shelf with other collections of poetry for over a decade. I too, learned about it in a writing class.

I have been asked to talk at our empty nesters family home evening tonight about literature, refinement and spirituality. The premise for this evening’s discussion is that refinement and spirituality have positive influence on one another, in a kind of upward (as in toward heaven) spiral. The corollary is that as your spirituality increases, you want more of those things that that are “virtuous, of good report and praise-worthy.”

In literature and writing classes, students are taught to critique the application of the tools of the craft of writing and literature: how well does the author use style, form, imagery, dialog, etc., to tell his or her story. Content is considered hands-off. Thou shalt not censor! From the back cover of “Howl and Other Poems,” I learned that this little book was seized by U.S. Customs in 1956, and became the subject of a First Amendment Rights trial. The court was finally convinced by a string of experts, poets and professors, that it was not obscene.

How do you do that, convince a court something is not obscene when the eye and ear and heart tell you it is?

Tonight, I am going to read a few lines from “Howl.” I am going to say it symbolizes that movement in our country that is without restraint, that pushes the notion of individual rights into the gutter of self-indulgence. There is nothing refining about it, regardless the brilliance that created it.

So, perhaps the real question for this evening’s discussion is how to be in the world but not of the world. As a writer, I have access to the minds of my readers. I bring ideas and images. I raise questions and offer solutions. What is my responsibility? Must everything I write be uplifting, moral and refining? Should I remove whatever restraint I have placed on myself as a writer? And does restraint equal self-censorship?

Once, one of my children used a four-letter word in church. Fortunately, he was underneath the bench so it didn’t make it to the acoustical pathways of the chapel. But when we were home, I pulled out a dictionary, the largest one I could find in, about 8 inches thick, and we looked the word up. “Is that what you wanted to say,” I asked him after we read the definition.
“No!”

“What did you want to say, then?”

“I wanted to say ‘stupid.’”

There are those who would argue free speech permits my child to say whatever he wants in church. I would argue such words detract from the spirit my child was working to cultivate there, one of reverence and worship for his Father in Heaven.

To those who dirty the intent of free speech with their brilliant perversities, I would say you go too far. The blatantly unfiltered work of artists and authors, along the line of Ginsberg, brings a kind of toxicity that does to the spirit what polluted water and air do to the body. Now, I wonder, where are the environmental watchdogs for this kind of pollution?

Tonight, I also will read from the work of one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost. I think I’ll read “Birches.”

. . .I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Literature and art that are refining are much like those beautiful birches, a way toward heaven.

Jul 15, 2007

Tagged Again!

by Marsha Ward

I was tagged again, and agreed to post another meme in answer to the questions.

The rules are that you’re supposed to remove the blog site at the top of the list below, move all the blog site names up one, and add yourself to the bottom.

Sundial in the Shade
A Writer's Ramblings
Musings from an LDS writing mom
LDS Writers Blogck (Connie S. Hall)
ANWA’s Founder & Friends

What were you doing ten years ago? I was a housewife, raising young adults and teens.

What were you doing one year ago? Retired, widowed, living in a forest community, working on a novel to finish a trilogy.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1) chocolate candy, 2) almost any Ben & Jerry's ice cream, 3) strawberries, 4) nectarines, and 5) chips & salsa

Five songs you know all the lyrics to: 1) I Am a Child of God, 2) God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again, 3) I Stand All Amazed, 4) Gently Raise the Sacred Strain, and 5) Cuando Sali de Cuba

Things you would do if you were a millionaire: Make sure each child was housed, travel, buy stock in Amazon.

Five bad habits: 1) overeating, 2) not exercising, 3) procrastinating, 4) not visiting my loved ones' graves, 5) sitting at the computer without rest breaks.

Five things you like to do: 1) Read, 2) Write novels, 3) Write blogs, 4) Visit my grandkids, 5) Sell and sign my books.

Things you will never wear again: 1) high heels, 2) nylons (well, rarely), 3) I agree with Connie on girdles, 4) pedal pushers, 5) pink lipstick

Five favorite toys: 1) Alpha Smart, 2) Laptop, 3) Computer, 4) Lexar multi-card reader, 5) DVD recorder

Where will you be in ten years: Traveling to book signings for my many novels.

Five people to tag:
Michele Holmes, Stephanie at Write Bravely, The Guru of Hullabaloo, LoraLee Evans, Serene Company, and Chilly's World. Oh, is that six? :-)

Jul 14, 2007

Marsha's Tagee

by Liz Adair

Marsha tagged me, and since Saturday is guest/fill-in/tagged people day, I'm posting my response and tagging three more.

If I tagged you, remove the blog from the top, move all the blogs up one, and add yourself to the bottom. You have to copy and paste the whole thing into a Word document (or whatever) and use it as a template for your own version. (Marsha, you will probably have to go in and put the Blog name in the proper format.)

Sundial in the Shade
Not Entirely British
Marcia Mickelson
Writer in the Pines
ANWA Founder and Friends

Here are my responses.

What were you doing ten years ago?
I was Director of Education for Sylvan Learning Center, a dream job that I was soon to leave to join my husband on a job site in the woods above North Bend, Washington, sleeping on an air mattress in a rented apartment we shared with two foremen and using an outdoor privy during the winter. It’s a move I have never regretted. Besides getting to work with my husband, I’ve gained new skills and have been involved in some interesting projects.

What were you doing one year ago?
Just what I’m doing now: keeping all the balls in the air. Grandkids, job, writing, exercise. Last year, though, our youngest son was home for most of the summer. This year he’s studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan. He has an NSEP scholarship to study in Cairo this school year, so I won’t see him until this time next year—unless we go to Cairo.


Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Mission Carb Balance whole wheat tortillas
2. Fudgsicles
3. Celery and cheese
4. Cashews
5. Diet Pepsi with fresh lime squeezed into it

Five songs you know all the lyrics to:
1. Begin the Beguine
2. Feelin’ Groovy
3. City of New Orleans
4. Amazing Grace
5. Come Come Ye Saints

Things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Endow an orphanage
2. Establish a local program to promote literacy
3. Fund my daughter’s charity SWAN (Serving Women Across Nations)
4. Put in a back yard swimming pool and heat it year round
5. Buy a Nordic Tug and live aboard all summer

Five bad habits:
1. Not folding clothes right out of the dryer
2. Staying up late
3. Dog-earing pages in the book I'm reading
4. Borrowing pens and not returning them
5. Losing my reading glasses

Five things you like to do:
1. Watch period movies
2. Write
3. Ride my bicycle around Sedro Woolley
4. Drive my Miata with the top down
5. Swim

Things you will never wear again:
1. Size 10
2. Size 12
3. Size 14
4. 3-inch heels
5. False eyelashes

Five favorite toys:
1. Computer
2. Personal DVD player
3. Baritone Horn
4. Miata
5. Crossword puzzle book

Where will I be in ten years?
In Sedro Woolley. Either moving around or planted in the cemetery, I’ll be here.

People to tag:
Terry Deighton
Anna Arnett
Kari Acton

Jul 13, 2007

The Mind of a Determined Woman

Valerie J. Steimle

Since Pioneer day is coming up I thought the entry I had written for my own blog over a year ago was appropriate for today.

March 10, 2006 : It’s only been two months since my husband passed away. After having a little pity party for myself, I found a marvelous book to read that I had read a few years ago but had forgotten about. My husband had given Heroines Of the Restoration to me for Christmas and I picked it up and started reading it again.

All 22 women written about in the book had been widowed at some time or another. I can take a lesson from them. They were all strong women and did what they had to do, my favorite being Mary Fielding Smith. I had given a talk about her at church one Sunday morning back when I was teaching Seminary and remember her story well. I really admire her. The author of the article about Mary Fielding Smith (wife to Hyrum Smith) said it so well I will quote her:

"It's not that it's so hard to find a determined woman. We see them all around us: the older woman resolutely keeping up with youngsters who could be her grandchildren, finally working on her degree after years devoted to family; the young woman, tomato-splattered and flustered, intent on canning every single one of the tomatoes she grew and brooding over the zucchini surplus; the mother who has made up her mind that her offspring are going to have the musical advantages she missed, even if it means insisting on and supervising unenthusiastic practice sessions from now until the far side of forever. A lot of women are blessed with determination. A lot of men joke about it, looking nervously over their shoulders lest they find themselves overtaken by a resolute female person intent on her own business. Mary Fielding Smith would have outdone them all. It's a matter of historical fact that she overtook a good many men in her day."

The writing goes on to tell the story of Mary Fielding Smith's trip to the west. "The captain of her company, a man named Cornelius P. Lott, was so unenthusiastic about the idea of including her assortment of women, children and half broken wild steers and half-grown oxen in his company that he told her bluntly that she should go back to Winter Quarters and stay there until someone could take charge of her. If she persisted in her attempt to travel west, he said, she would never make it to their destination and would be a burden to everyone else in the company as far as she might manage to get.

Joseph F. Smith (only 9 at the time) was with her and heard what his mother said to Captain Lott. She told the captain that she would beat him to the Valley and would ask no help from him while she was doing it. Then, without further discussion on the subject, she went ahead and did exactly what she told him she would do. She got there a day before he did and she got there without his help." Written by Beppie Harrison.

She is one great woman. She was on the Lord's errand and did what she needed to do without complaint. She was a determined woman. After Bob passed away, many people (even at church) thought I would and should put my children in public school and go to work full time. I really had to put my foot down and tell those who that tried to talk me out of homeschooling, that my children needed to be home with me and that sending them to public school would be devastating to them. I also have to be just as determined to tell my sons they cannot play Halo 2 no matter what they say.

So a woman with a determined mind has the gift of knowing what she wants and gets it done. She sticks to her guns in what she really believes in no matter what the rest of the world tells her. She doesn’t give up on her life goals especially when life pulls her away in different directions. We can all take a lesson from those women in the past who paved the way for us in the 21st Century.

Jul 12, 2007

Feeding Lions and Tigers and Bears - OH, MY!

by Heather Horrocks

I’ve been vacationing for the past week. Camping in the Uintah mountains during a family reunion. I had a truly wonderful time, reconnecting with children and extended family. Now we’re home, with one son off on a rafting trip, another is at his job, a daughter and son-in-law safely back in Phoenix, and in-laws in their trailer at CamperWorld.

I did have a great time. I did. So I'm reluctant to admit that, after fixing three meals a day for eight people for seven days in a row, I’m kind of glad to be home. Isn’t a vacation supposed to be more relaxing?

Don’t get me wrong. I love cooking. I love my family. I love the outdoors where we go to camp. But I’d like a vacation from cooking and serving. I bet I could find a place like that, too, but it would probably cost a bundle of money and I’d have to leave my family behind. But wouldn’t it be nice, just once . . . Oh, well. Time to pull up my big-girl pants and get on with real life. (And that brings up a whole new subject – Where can I find Wonder Woman big-girl pants?)

Now ... on to the animals. Bears first. I haven’t seen Smokey the Bear on TV for years, but I remember his warnings about preventing forest fires. Someone or something started a big one, and the huge Neola fire pushed on quickly past our campsite before we got there, showering ash all around, and then, when the wind shifted (while we were still there), it started moving back toward us. Luckily, the closest we came was the smoke. Then we got back home to watch newsreel of the fire taking out cars on I-15 as our daughter and son-in-law were traveling that stretch of road to get back home. What a summer. (Is Smokey the Bear in retirement somewhere? Just wondering.)

We were afraid the fire would send wild animals through our camp area, but we only saw deer, and a lot of them. I was afraid of a bear (and not friendly though stern ole Smokey the Bear, either), especially after the fatal attack on that little boy a few weeks ago. Luckily, we encountered no bears. No lions or tigers, either, for that matter.

Well, though at times I felt like a zookeeper who had to keep feeding the voracious lions and tigers and bears who are related to me.

Today I have to agree with Dorothy on her way back to Kansas: There’s no place like home.

And, though I still had to fix meals today, that was all right, too. I’m home. Back with my pets and my flowers and garden that need watering. Back to my routine. I guess I am a creature of habit.

While I was gone, I spent several hours writing, but not nearly enough to keep me sane. I’m glad to be writing this blog and, afterward, immersing myself in my latest romantic comedy. Time writing always makes me a happy camper (as it were : ).

I hope you all get a chance to take a nice vacation this summer, even if you still have to fix meals. And I hope some of you are lucky enough to have someone else waiting on you for a change.

And we’ll pray that all the voracious lions and tigers and bears--oh, my!--in our family can at least find a moment of appreciation for all that feeding we do in our family zoo.

Jul 11, 2007

11th Hour Reflections

by Faith St. Clair

Here I am again, literally at the 11th hour. Please don’t think that I put this blog last on my list or anything. I usually spend my two weeks in between pondering, sketching, writing, re-writing, and doing it all over again before I post on my scheduled day. I often even see if my editor has a moment to look at it, but alas, a vacation, a funeral for a mother-in-law, a nephew leaving on a mission, a flooded house and political and organizational havoc at work have all led me astray these past two weeks.

I’ll keep my reflections short since that seems to be all the time I have.

My Nephew left on his LDS mission last week for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I think I was more proud of him than his own mother (maybe not, but that’s how I felt).

I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and so is my husband. My brother (also a convert, of course) was the first link of our ancestors to go on a mission. Jason, his son, is the first in our posterity. What joy and excitement it was to see the gospel literally roll to all nations as Jason sky-walked out of our sight and into the world abroad, carrying a great message and a choice spirit.

This was my first experience sending off a missionary. I think what made it all the more exciting was the hurdles of disappointment that precluded his departure.

I have two sons, neither of which chose to serve a mission. My first son had his call to the West Indies and just hours before leaving for the temple, he said that he couldn’t do it – he wasn’t going. My other son found things within the world to keep him more interested than the gospel – soccer over seas, music, screenwriting, more soccer and a girlfriend. They are really great guys, whose company I really enjoy, but the ache to see them not take an opportunity of a lifetime or to declare a casual commitment to the gospel is often more than I can cope with. I do have to remind myself that we all have to go through the refiner’s fire and I have faith in their futures (even if that faith is more of a trickle than a waterfall on certain days).

My brother and sister-in-law were more joyful to have Jason leaving to serve a mission than they were sad to see him go. Jason has a twin brother who chose not to leave on his mission. Instead, he will be married on August 9th.

The pulls of joy and pain are always at polarized ends and they are always constantly working.

Today, I’m glad to be pulling on Joy’s team – even in the midst of wet, pulled up carpet, tools, papers and dust everywhere.

Jul 10, 2007

Our Little Yankee Doodle Dandy

by Terri Wagner

Whenever I hear the phrase, "You don't get to pick your relatives," I always laugh inside thinking, well actually, yes, you do. How exactly that works I can't say, I don't remember, there's a veil in my way, but I know we can thin the veil at times to feel a certain affinity for one relative that we don't have with the others. That affinity seems to be there from the beginning here on earth.

My affinity is with my brother. I can’t tell you why. He was born on a rainy Saturday morning on July 4, 1964 on an Air Force base, making him an official nephew of his Uncle Sam. He was the long-awaited boy. I had a sister so I was thrilled I got a brother; somehow I just knew it’d be better.

It was.

From the moment he came home from the hospital (he stayed there a bit longer than most since he was one sick little fellow), I adored him. And he me. And that hasn’t changed. My sister-in-law was terrified to meet me before they married because, as she put it, I was his second mom, and he listened to every word I said. If I didn’t like her, tough potatoes, she would be dropped.

I have my doubts about that, but the truth is, I like her too, so much so, that at one time I lived with them for about 4 months while going to school.

Recently, we all went to Las Vegas on vacation together. He and I got up early (for Vegas) and roamed the streets together, hardly saying a word.

That’s probably my favorite part about my brother. He just doesn’t talk that much. My mom chatters incessantly; my dad can wax on about any subject under the sun; my sister never has been one to hold back; I’m in-between, but my brother is like a quiet, peaceful, deep pool of water. I’m grateful for him.

Knowing that we were meant to be family and that it lasts for eternity gives me a warm wonderful feeling inside, so much so that I can handle the others I’m not quite so fond of. As I often remind myself, there's a world of difference between loving someone and liking someone. And in his case, both feelings are there in great depth.

Jul 9, 2007

Reflections on a President

by Joyce DiPastena

Weeks of intensive research. Two days of high powered organizing, color coding, weaving together of information, and perhaps most painfully of all, chiseling out beloved passages and anecdotes to come up with a 15 (okay, okay, 17) minute talk on George Washington for Sacrament Meeting on Sunday morning. By bedtime Saturday night, my brain felt totally fried. Sunday morning everything, including the talk, went by in a whirl.

Now, as relief and relaxation at last set in, my thoughts still linger on the Father of our Country. I honor and appreciate the examples and precedents he set, and the sacrifices he made so that our free country could be born. But these are not the things that float in a pleasant glow in the aftermath of my talk on his “Importance”. No. The images of the man that continue with me this restful Sabbath evening—many of which I was forced to excise from my talk for “time”—are as follows (in quite random order):

Washington at Mount Vernon, enjoying a slice of pineapple, one of his favorite foods.

Washington the General, breaking another tooth on the battlefield while cracking a Brazil nut between his jaws.

Washington the husband, sitting across the breakfast table, reading the newspaper to his wife, Martha.

Washington the friend, relaxing at Mount Vernon with houseguests beside the warmth of a crackling fire.

Washington the step-father, taking Martha’s children, or perhaps his step-grandchildren, to see a passing circus and forgetting his cares just long enough to “oooo”, and “ahhh”, and laugh along with them.

Washington the farmer, inventing his own plow.

Washington the builder, erecting a four-story gristmill, not only to process his own wheat, but that of his neighbors.

Hot blooded Washington who, as President, once so lost his usually tightly controlled temper, that he threw his hat on the floor and stomped on it right in front of Thomas Jefferson.

Reserved, supremely self-confident Washington who yet possessed sensitive feelings that could be easily hurt. When criticized for his presidential bows (in lieu of a more informal handshake), he responded, “Would it not have been better to throw the veil of charity over them [the bows], ascribing their stiffness to the effects of age or to the unskillfulness of my teacher, than to pride and dignity of office, which God knows has no charms for me?"

Washington the insecure, so self-conscious about his lack of formal education that after retiring as commander-in-chief at the end of the war, he dug out the letter books he had kept in his youth and diligently corrected misspellings and grammatical errors before he would allow them to be copied for posterity.

Washington the aging commander, digging a pair of spectacles from his coat pocket to read a congressional message to his officers, and bringing them to tears when he said, “I have already grown gray in the service of my country. I am now going blind.”

Washington the weary President, who at the end of a long, stressful day, found comfort and joy in watching children at play.

The Soldier I admire, the President I honor . . . but it is Washington the Man that I have come to love.

Jul 8, 2007

ANWA Fun

By Liz Adair and Round Tuit Writers

For my blog contribution today, I want to share some of the fun we have each ANWA meeting. It has become a habit for us to take the last fifteen minutes and do a writing exercise in notebooks we keep for just this purpose. Each member draws a slip of paper on which is written a word that has been chosen at random from a dictionary. I set the timer for 5 minutes, and we scribble furiously with the aim of weaving that word into a coherent paragraph. Then we share what we’ve written.

Here is a sampling from different members’ books. Bear in mind, this is just five minutes’ work. We are allowed to finish the sentence we were writing when the buzzer goes off, but that’s all.


Random word: clarinet By Katie Watters

This Christmas, my sister gave my ten-year-old son, Andy, a clarinet. When she came to see me yesterday for Postum and cookies, he began to play for Aunt Peggy. The shrieks, squeals and gasps lasted for fifteen minutes. My neck hairs curled, and it drew my spinal cord inward. He left to practice in his room after tremendous applause and, “Wow was that good!” Peggy’s and my eyes met. She gave me that Mona Lisa smile.

Random word: autoharp By Melisse Lee

Jessie was afeerd to ask that sweet young thang that looked at him from crost the barn. What if she said no? Why, it would just about break his heart. The music started again—Ole Ben a strummin’ his guitar and Billy Bob beating a tune on his autoharp. He could see her tapping her foot and giving him that come-to-me look. He steeled himself, took courage, and made his way to stand before her. She lowered her eyes and, well, he just up and asked her, “Would you like to stomp with me?”

Random word: garden By Liz Adair

“Get out of my garden, you runny-nosed little twerp!”

Sister Rinderknek came puffing out of her house waving a fly swatter as I ducked under the fence with my pockets stuffed full of early snow peas.

“If I see you inside my fence again, I’m going to call Robert Burford!” The loose skin under Sister Rinderknek’s chin wobbled as she shook her arm in the air.

Random word: horseback By Carol Addington

Jenny was dressed in her new hunting tunic that her grandfather had given her for her tenth birthday. She was very excited. Today she was old enough to ride horseback in the fox hunt. She loved horses and had looked forward to today for it seemed forever. Of course her dreams of riding astride in the hunt never included the fox. Later that day, after the hunt, she would sit in her room on the bed and fill several hankies with her tears. She had never expected that they would kill the beautiful creature. She vowed never to ride horseback again.

Random word: hypoxia By Terry Deighton

The fireworks exploded above the crowd. The resultant boom resounded deep in my breastbone. I held my breath and watched as the next series of brilliant stars burst into view. “You’ll give yourself hypoxia if you don’t breathe.” My daughter laughed at seeing her old mom mesmerized by the lights and the noise. Do we ever outgrow the marvel of such things? I hope not. Fireworks, babies, a bird in flight, even fire, still amaze me and transfix me. Somewhere, deep in these experiences, are truths too deep to be told.

Random word: painstaking By Marilynn Hughes

Her life was painstaking. Everything was hard, much harder than it needed to be. It had been a year since her baby had died, that horrible night in July. It had been hot, humid. The air was full of smoke from fireworks in the aftermath of the celebration of the Fourth. She had not heard her baby cry or even whimper….she just was gone. Her little angel had put on her little wings and gone home to heaven.

Random word: bomb By Kari Acton

“Girly, girly, come here to Daddy.” She gives a sly look with her big blue eyes and darts to the kitchen. Her wobbly, chubby legs get hung up on one another, and Dad snatches her up in his protecting arms. The door to the kitchen swings open and the kids dash in. “Holy Moly! What is that smell?” Dad replies that the baby dropped a bomb.

Random word: fleece By Ann Acton

Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard;
We’ve heard these same rhymes before,
But I want to know what comes next in the tale.
Did she get up and head to the store?

Did Little Bo Peep’s dear little sheep
Really heed the advice of her friend?
Or did she go out with some grain and a shout
And bring their fleece back to the pen?

As you can guess, everyone is delighted with the creativity and inventiveness that has bubbled up in those few minutes when we put pencil to paper with a purpose. It’s a “Little Engine” moment. We each leave smiling, with “I think I can, I think I can” in our hearts.

Jul 7, 2007

Good-Deed-Doers

by Betsy Love

Good deeds. They are the little things that brighten someone’s day, the simple moments when we give up our selfishness in behalf of someone else. In the last few months I’ve spent way too much time thinking about the person who cut me off on the freeway, the fellow student who offended me, the friend who was thoughtless, the rude family that took cuts in front of me at the movie concession line, and other such things that bring my spirit down. All it’s gotten me is a bit of misery.

Today I spent a few minutes thinking about good deeds and feeling guilty that I don’t do enough good deeds. Sarah, my youngest daughter is such an example to me. Yesterday she spent the morning caring for two young children in our ward whose mother broke her foot and is in a wheel chair. All of the young women were asked to sign up for a day to help out. My daughter, being an amazingly sweet good-deed-doer, signed up for four days. She said it would go along with one of her young women’s values. When I went to pick up Sarah I asked Sister Rose who was coming in for the afternoon shift. “No one,” she replied. So I had Sarah grab some things and we took the older of the two home with us and left the nursing 4-month old home with her mother. Sarah fixed Lizzie lunch and played with her. It made me feel good to be a good-deed-doer, even though all I did was bring her home. (I did clean up the lunch mess).

My husband left yesterday to go fishing with the boys. Before they left, I ran around town getting a backpack, fishing license, and other camping supplies. I’ve usually let them pack their own things allowing them to learn the intricate strategies of backpacking. (Actually, I really hate packing if I don’t get to go!) This time, however I helped. I made sure everything in their packs was lightweight (taking paper towels off the rolls, not slipping in the end of a roll of tin foil, but rather pulling it off as well, copying the cardboard instructions for the water filter, rather than throwing in the whole cardboard packaging). I felt good knowing I had been the good-deed-doer.

While at Costco this morning, several things happened that made me think of good deeds. Two women, completely engrossed in conversation didn’t notice that they were blocking an entire aisle, especially in front of the onions I needed to get to. I waited a few minutes (okay, it was probably seconds) and then realized I didn’t have to be irritated, so I went around another way. They have no idea that I did a good deed by not getting huffy and saying something rude. They don’t have to know. What is important is that I know that I did it and that made my day. When I blocked someone’s way at the book section, the women sweetly asked, “Will you hand me that book?” It was so easy to be understanding and apologetic. I’m not saying if I hadn’t had the other encounter I would have done something irrational like tip the woman’s cart over and yell at her to wait her turn, but I did feel good, all the way home, rather than the usual grumpy attitude I come home with when I go shopping on a Saturday morning at Costco.

Last night I listened to a young man tell me about a death he tried to prevent. It might not have been a big deal to an EMT; it happens; people are going to die. But this was his first experience with losing a “patient”. I’m glad I took the time to listen, it was a simple good-deed, but one that was important to him.

That’s just my two cents worth today. Good deeds, feel good, mostly for the do-gooder.

My Big News . . .

by Donna Hatch

My big news is that my first novel, a Regency called The Stranger She Married, has officially gone into contract with The Wild Rose Press. All of their books are published first in electronic form, and then about six months later, they come out in paperback. I already love my editor. She’s been incredibly supportive and encouraging, but she assures me she’ll be ruthless with her edits. That’s great with me. I know I have a lot to learn and I consider this my apprenticeship, or on-the-job training. I figure, hey, she liked my book enough to buy it, regardless of what else she says during her edits, it’s only to improve it and show it to it’s best possible advantage. She wants me to turn this and my next few books into a series, so we are busy brainstorming on series titles and book titles. It’s all very exciting. I look forward to the journey.

I wrote the back cover blurb with the valuable input of my wonderful critique partners. I can’t believe how difficult that was. It took me two days to write three paragraphs. If the rest of the book had been that slow, it would take years to write it! Trying to get the gist of a 300 page book condensed into a few sentences, without giving away any surprises, and tease the reader into wanting to read it enough to spend their hard-earned money on it, about drove me out of my mind!

Oh, and there’s another book out there with almost the same title; The Stranger I Married was released a couple of months ago, also a regency romance, so now I might have to change my title. Booo. That’s in the hands of the higher powers now.

Anyway, here’s my blurb:

When her parents and only brother die within weeks of each other, Alicia and her younger sister are left in the hands of an uncle who has brought them all to financial and social ruin. Desperate to save her family from debtor's prison, Alicia vows to marry the first wealthy man to propose. She meets the dashing Lord Amesbury, and her heart whispers that this is the man she is destined to love, but his tainted past may forever stand in their way. Her choices in potential husbands narrow to either a scarred cripple with the heart of a poet, or a handsome rake with a deadly secret.

Cole Amesbury is tormented by his own ghosts, and believes he is beyond redemption, yet he cannot deny his attraction for the girl whose genuine goodness touches the heart he'd thought long dead. He fears the scars in his soul cut so deeply that he may never be able to offer Alicia a love that is true.

When yet another bizarre mishap threatens her life, Alicia suspects the seemingly unrelated accidents that have plagued her loved ones are actually a killer's attempt to exterminate every member of her family. Despite the threat looming over her, learning to love the stranger she married may pose the greatest danger to her heart.

Donna Hatch
----
Believe in Happy Endings

Jul 5, 2007

Gifts and Talents

By Kari Diane Pike

Marsha Ward taught me something Sunday. The lesson is growing and expanding, filling my being with light and joy and love. Marsha related her experience during Sunday school and studying the parable of the talents as told in Matthew 25. She said,

“So it is with the talents the Lord has given us. He will come again and ask us how we did with His talents.

His talents.

They are on loan to us, to increase them during our stay on earth. If we do our very best with them, we will be called good and faithful servants, and receive all that He has to give.”

I went back to my New Testament and reread Matthew 25. Actually, I read it several times, fascinated by the depth of this parable. I wanted to know more. I read all the cross-references at the bottom of the page and I turned to the Topical guide and looked up “gifts,” and “God, Gifts of,” and “talents.”

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Doctrine and Covenants 6:10 says, “Behold, thou hast a gift, and blessed art thou because of thy gift. Remember it is sacred and cometh from above.”

These scriptures verify the very thing Marsha shared with us. The gifts and talents we have all come from our Father in Heaven and they are sacred. Wow! But now what? How do we recognize the gifts over which we have been made stewards? What do we do with them once we have become aware of them? We know we are expected to do something with them because the parable teaches us that there will be a day of reckoning. The Lord tells us in Doctrine and Covenants 72: 3-4,

“And verily in this thing ye have done wisely, for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity, For he who is faithful and wise in time is accounted worthy to inherit the mansions prepared for him of my Father.”

Doctrine and Covenants 6:11 teaches, “And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know the mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways.”

1 Peter 4:10 gives us another clue. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Doctrine and Covenants 46:11-12 says, “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another that all may be profited thereby.”

Doctrine and covenants 82: 18-19 says, “And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the property of the whole church – Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.”

Doctrine and Covenants 46: 26 tells us, “And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.”

As I studied these verses, I imagined all of us gathered around the Lord as he named our gifts and gave us stewardship over them. He knows us each by name and he knows our different abilities. Some of us received one, some of us received two, and some of us received five of these sacred and special responsibilities. We promised to develop our gifts so that we could share with all of our brothers and sisters; something like a co-op of farmers, each assigned different crops, all of which, after the harvest, would be placed in a community storehouse. Every talent or gift that we increase benefits not only our self, but every one of the Lord’s children.

I was excited to share my new understanding of these scriptures with my Monday morning walking partners. And guess what! I learned even more! Julie had just returned from a seminar at the George Wythe College in Cedar City. One of the lectures focused on the subject of recognizing, understanding, and using our gifts. He told the audience that he was going to name nine general categories of gifts. He said that one or more of those gifts would stand out to them and that he wanted them to write it down, because more than likely, that was their gift. He also told them that perhaps another gift would come to their mind rather than one of the ones he stated and that they should listen to their hearts and write them down. Then he began listing the categories,

“Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, teach truth, heal families….”

I didn’t hear the rest. I started crying. The spirit touched my heart, my mind, my entire being. I have since read the verses in Matthew 5, Matthew 25, and in Doctrine and Covenants 46. Have you ever sat down and made a list of the possible gifts the Lord has waiting for you? This question has been asked before on this Bog, but I will ask again. Why do you write? What is your purpose in writing? What is your gift? Take a moment, or an hour, and make a list of the gifts available to us. It is exciting!

Jul 4, 2007

Independence Day

by Anna Arnett

As soon as she heard the first firecracker, Mother ran to open the screen door. Within seconds, Uncle Orris’s big dog Poon careened in, ears flat, tail between his legs, seeking safety under the bed where he lay trembling. A bullet once creased his head, and last year he’d gone right through the screen.

This is the first Fourth of July I remember. I was five, almost six. We lived on a farm about a dozen miles south of Rexburg, Idaho. I tagged along when Mother went to town, but my brother Don, three years older, elected to stay home and light firecrackers under tin cans.

Up on the Rexburg Bench (a flat area overlooking the rooftops of Ricks College and purported to be formed by the shores of prehistoric Lake Bonneville) a lone cabin plane landed on a graded dirt runway and taxied right up to where we were standing. I hid behind Mother’s skirts. Before I knew what to expect, Mother lifted me up into the airplane, and two of my uncles assisted Grandma Wilcox and climbed in behind me. Somebody sat up front with the pilot, and a seat belt held me tightly between Mother and Grandma.

The engine roared, and we bumped along about the same as we did in our Model A Ford. As we gained speed, I thought we bumped less. Soon Mother unfastened my seatbelt. “Do you want to stand up and look out?” I did, but there was nothing to see except sky. Mother nudged me closer to the window. Pressing my forehead against it I looked down, and gasped in amazement. The cars looked like little beetles parading in lines, and people hardly seemed larger than dots. The plane banked, and I could see even better. Then it turned the other way, and Mother tugged me back to my seat and fastened me in. I have no idea how long the flight lasted, but when we got out, everybody congratulated my jubilant grandmother.

Grandma was born in Winter Quarters in February 1847, and arrived in Salt Lake City by covered wagon in September. Now, at eighty-two, she’d flown in an airplane! I, her youngest grandchild, got to ride with her.

The fireworks that night were the first I remember. We lay on quilts on the grass in the city park to watch the dark sky light up with umbrellas of sparkling color.

My husband says when he was a boy on a farm near Duncan, Arizona, somebody went up onto the clay bluffs and detonated a charge of dynamite to wake up the valley on the Fourth of July.
But his real Independence Day, he claims, was not in July. It was April 29, 1945, when he and about a hundred thousand other American and British prisoners of war were liberated from a camp in Mooseburg, Germany, with a tumult that far exceeded one dynamite blast.

Just before sunset on April 28, an American Major, dressed in combat uniform, with his 42 still strapped to his hip, presented himself at the gate and gained entrance. He brought welcome news.

“The American forces are near, and tomorrow you’ll hear shelling on both sides. I’d advise those of you in tents or in the open to hit the slit trenches to avoid any stray bullets. Sometime tomorrow, you should be free!”

The hoped-for word spread quickly as the sun went down. The Major stayed the night. Next morning the boom of mortar shelling woke them. American troops approached from the east, and the flash of tracer bullets and overhead mortar fire filled the air. A stray bullet hit the brick chimney of the latrine. Another hit the dust a dozen feet away from 2nd Lt. Charles Arnett, erstwhile B-24 bomber pilot. He jumped into the nearest trench, but watched as the forces split and charged on either side of the camp.. Every man eagerly watched the American forces converge on the village just down the hill, while the defending Germans retreated.
A hush fell over the camp and collective breaths came short as they watched the Nazi flag with its hated swastika tumble swiftly down the flagpole, and the Stars and Stripes of America rose triumphantly to the top. A hundred thousand prisoners cheered as one, giving a shout of joy that Lt. Arnett felt sure should be heard as far away as Berlin.

Tears streamed from the eyes of these weary, tough, hungry, unwashed, lice infested, courageous men. They could see, taste and smell freedom. This became forever their Independence Day.

That afternoon, General Patton himself arrived. He took one look around, asked a few questions, then stood in his Jeep, not ten feet away from Lt. Arnett, and addressed the men. He promised them white bread for supper. How an army on the march could come up with that much bread is another amazing facet of the ingenuity jewel created by Americans working together. Within a couple of hours the bread trucks rolled in, and every man ate white bread with his K-rations.

The war for freedom began long before the earth was formed, and is still going on. Freedom is precious. And it comes only by obedience to correct principles. Whenever we disobey, we give up just a little more of our rights – even if it’s only the right to a free conscience. Think about it.

This morning, at our Ward Independence Day breakfast, Charles has been asked to tell this experience. Excuse me, while I go with him.

Anna

Jul 2, 2007

Putting First Things First and Other Annoying Habits

by Rene Allen

This morning I confessed to my husband that in our home, I am the one who makes the biggest messes. He laughed. “Dear,” he said and turned it into a five syllable word. “We’ve been married thirty-something years and you just figured that out?”

I said this because as we were kneeling for family prayers, I noticed a pile of shoes by the side of the bed where I take them off. Once a week I put up my every day sandals, my black church sandals, tennis shoes, walking shoes, rubber flip-flops and Berks. Somehow, they manage to get together again, like teen-agers meeting covertly at the mall, without my permission. Of course, they belong in the closet. Why don’t they stay there?

Then there was the pile of laundry I’d been meaning to fold and put up for four days; and a stack of books I’m trying to read; and the hair dryer still on the countertop because I was late for church: all of this in our bedroom. My good husband looked around and buried his face in a pillow. His shoulders were shaking, though, and so was his stomach because he was laughing.

I have a long history of putting first things first rather than putting them away. My desk is an example. Yesterday I taught Sunday School. To my right is the institute manual on the New Testament, two notepads, and loose papers with notes from two weeks ago, as well as yesterday. To my left is Talmage’s Jesus the Christ and a stack of a dictionary, McConkie’s Doctrinal New Testament Commentary and a thesaurus. Precariously leaning against the dictionary are my planner and writing journal, and on top of those are two membership renewals from the watercolor guild that I have to forward to the new membership chairman since I’m not doing it this year.

The problem is I eventually have to put things away because there is no more room for first things first. Then I have a collection of stuff and it takes a long time because some of it has been out so long I don’t always remember where everything goes. But if nothing else, I am a problem solver, even if this means tearing everything out of a closet to reorganize it and make room for newly homeless belongings. This creates another problem, though, because at my age, short term memory is impaired enough, after a few days, I can’t remember where the new place is, either.

You’d think with all this trouble, I would put things away after I use them. What a good example I would be to my family. How efficiently I would work. It is a great idea, but so is losing forty pounds. Habits die hard and new ones are slow growers because seldom do they get to that desirable position of being in the first things first category.

I’ve worked this problem for a lot of years and really do want to change. I can enjoy the fresh air feeling of order and organization as well as the next gal. But doggone it, it means you have to make picking up after yourself as important as writing an essay, or preparing a lesson, or doing a watercolor of three saguaros in bloom for the next show.

Sigh. I turn it over to you, my writing friends. Ideas? Suggestions? Reprimands? Please hurry. My husband can’t stop laughing. He is gasping for air and his stomach muscles are in tight spasms, but every time he looks around the room he starts in again. I think he may be out of control.