Nov 30, 2007

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Valerie J. Steimle

This is a particularly difficult blog to write. I wasn’t going to write it now. I was going to wait until later in the day but I couldn’t sleep anyway so I thought I might as well get it done early. This past week things were not right with the guy I have been seeing. We had such a great time together in the last seven months and it was time to find out whether we should get married. His answer to the prayer was different from mine, surprisingly. His was a big no and he knew for the past week. But he wanted to be sure that was the right answer and was dragging his feet in telling me. That would be why we didn’t have such a great week together. So last night we met in the middle of Pascagoula, Mississippi and Loxley, Alabama and he told me. I have never had to go through that before. Back in my BYU days, I was always the one to break it off, not the one being broken off to. So now I sit at my computer writing about the woes of breaking up a relationship that I thought was going to go on a lot longer than it did.
Last year I went to one of those singles conferences and sat in a workshop which was taught by an LDS woman psychologist and she brought out the point that it is not uncommon to not marry someone that you love. I just felt that idea was so strange. How can someone love another person and then not get married to them? It just seemed so foreign to me but now I understand that idea much better. It will be difficult to listen to The Eagles, Love Will Keep Us Alive after this. We would dance to that in his living room sometimes.
I feel like becoming a hermit but he said that it wouldn’t help. He became a hermit for a long time after his divorce and I was the one who brought him out of it. It will take time to get over this one. Not like losing a husband but it is painful. Something I had to learn in life, I suppose. I wonder what my husband thinks about all of this.

Nov 27, 2007

I Think I Need to Move

For the past several years, I have lived in Virginia (consider myself an adopted Virginian) and Alabama. Unfortunately, in both these lovely places, the weather "turns" generally about Thanksgiving, which means I'm always sick for Thanksgiving. While everyone else is out eating and eating and eating, I'm laying in bed wondering how on earth would I survive without modern medications. I wonder if I would have been "delicate" as they called sickly people in the past or if just one of those sick Thanksgivings would have "done me in."

This past holiday was no exception. I got sick on schedule on the Thursday before and spent Thanksgiving in bed surrounded by three dogs, a concerned dad, tissues, meds and a good book. Thank goodness for old Christmas movies. I attempted to eat but usually at this point everything is tasteless. My dad asked me how many times had I been sick on this particular holiday and which was the worse one. Hmmmm!!! Can’t really answer that one. They’ve all blurred together.

Except there was that Thanksgiving in Utah. The weather had turned several weeks earlier, and I was over my usual sickness. I remember it well. An old bishop from my days at the University of Alabama had moved out there to teach at BYU and asked me and my roommate over. It was wonderful. They had nine great kids, tons of good food, and the whole family sat down together to put together a 1,500-piece puzzle. It was hands down one of the best. Germany was pretty good as well, since again the weather had turned, and I was over being sick. But you know, other than those two, I have been sick each year at Thanksgiving.

So I think next year (since I’ll probably still be in Alabama), I’ll have Thanksgiving a bit early or a bit later. Maybe I can psyche out my semi-yearly aliment (yes, I get it every year in March or April when the weather turns again), which messes up Easter, which is a whole ‘nother irritation.

Isn’t it weird that someone can “plan” on being sick???

Nov 26, 2007

Road Maps

by Joyce DiPastena

[Note: I first wrote this in 2003, while exchanging “writing prompts” for a time with my dear friend, Kristine (who has since moved to New Mexico). I stumbled across it again during this Thanksgiving season while my sister, Janet, was visiting from Salt Lake City. Since she’s preparing to “leave me” once again today (we’ll be dashing to the airport as soon as I post this), I hope you all don’t mind me posting this in place of my usual blog. I’ll come up with something “new” next time, I promise!]

Road maps terrify me. Whether clear, straight lines or twisty, curvy scribbles of black, red, green, or blue, they dance in a bewildering maze before my eyes. I approach road maps warily. They must be absolutely simple and related very closely to paths that I already know. Familiar territory. That’s what my timid, driving heart caves.

Road maps are frightening and confusing when I’m forced to travel them alone. But I feel safe, even adventurous, when I have someone along to follow the road map with me. A companion, a friend.

The Holy Ghost is my companion and friend. I know that I shouldn’t be afraid when He is with me, that He will protect and guide me along my way. But sometimes, how I long for a physical, touchable body sitting next to me on the journey!

Last Friday, Janet and I used a road map to find the Fairytale Brownie Company in Chandler. The map was simple. I could probably have found my destination alone. But Janet made it an adventure. She made it fun. Helping me to watch the signs, calming me if I made a wrong turn, even exclaiming and laughing at unexpected discoveries, like the close proximity to the brownie company of the offices of Unisys, her lousiest performing stock company. (Who knew they had an office right in the heart of Chandler, Arizona? I tried to get her to walk inside and demand an explanation for their ineptness, but she refused.) Friday, I wasn’t afraid to follow the road map, because Janet was sitting right there in the car beside me.

Janet made the adventure fun. But on Monday, Janet was gone again. Flown back to Salt Lake City.

That seems to be the pattern of my life. Following the road maps of life alone. It’s lonely. It’s scary. No sooner do I get a friend, a companion, than she or he is gone again. They never stay. Always, they go away again, and I am left to find my way alone.

I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus and the Holy Ghost live. I know They will help me navigate the road maps of my life. But sometimes They feel so far away…so physically far away. No arms to hug me when my heart aches. No voice to sing in the car with me and help me lift my spirits, or visit back with me when I have news to share. Letters are nice. Emails are nice. Even phone calls are nice. But all are distant, non-corporeal responses. No touch of the hand. No smile. No gentle waiting in the eyes, as I stumble from very rustiness to express myself in words that require a tongue and actual vocal chords. Sometimes, everything, everyone feels so far away, that the effort to share a thought, a feeling, is more overwhelming than just keeping it silently inside.

Mortal life is, by its nature, transitory. Loved ones come. Loved ones go. Always, in life, they seem to stay such a little time until they’re gone again.

I look forward to that day when things no longer change. To an eternity of shared mansions, neighboring mansions with those I love. But until that day comes, away they go to follow road maps of their own, leaving me behind, struggling to find the courage to explore a new adventure, the twists and turns in that road map called “my life”.

Nov 25, 2007

Dappled Things

By Liz Adair

Last Wednesday, I sat around a fake campfire with my seminary students, and we spent the entire fifty minutes taking turns saying what we were thankful for. It’s a yearly tradition. I bring as many blankets and pillows as I can fit in my car, and the kids snuggle in, wrapping themselves in the warmth of the quilts and the spirit of the Comforter that is surely there with us. Several of the kids say that it’s their favorite seminary lesson of the whole year.

So, I’ve had thankfulness on my mind, but I’ve been struggling with how to say what I wanted to say in this Thanksgiving blog. I went to bed mulling it over, and woke with “Pied Beauty” running through my head. This poem, written by Gerard Manly Hopkins, a 19th Century Jesuit priest and poet, has always been a favorite of mine. It goes like this:

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

As I woke to, ‘praise be to God for dappled things’ (well, yes, I quoted it wrong in my memory), I thought, That’s it! I’m sooooo grateful for the swift/slow, sweet/sour, adazzle/dim parts of my life. Lehi told his son Jacob that ‘it must needs be that there was an opposition in all things’ as we live our lives. He was speaking about choosing good from evil, but I think opposition can cast the good in bold relief and cause us to be grateful.

My seminary kids were blown away when I said I was thankful for pizza, because I was eighteen before I had my first taste of that delightful dish. Here are some other things I’m grateful for:

I’m thankful for copy machines. When I was sixteen and worked in the typing pool at the Bureau of Reclamation, you had three options for copies: 1) carbon paper, and woe betide the person who made a mistake, because you had to erase all those copies, too (and you’d better put a shield in, or your erasure would smudge the sheets lying behind), 2) thermo fax, the newest in copying, a heat-sensitive film that became brittle and disintegrated before the year was out, 3) copy-eze, also a technological breakthrough, a 3-part photographic process that resulted in a wet copy that wrinkled as it dried. Cumbersome as it was, we were grateful for the copy-eze, because that meant we could copy any document instead of having to create a copy on the typewriter.

I’m thankful for forced-air furnaces. Growing up in rural New Mexico, we had small (unvented) space heaters, and though I remember with nostalgia my knees burning as I sat close and stared at the patterned glow of the ceramic backing, I remember how cold my backside was at the same time. Long live central heating!

I’m grateful for the infrastructure we have for electric power and water. My father worked construction, and several summers we lived where there were no utilities. The company hauled water in on a truck, and we carried it to our domicile (one year a tent, another, a home-made trailer house) in a galvanized bucket. My father made a food cooler out of a frame covered with burlap bags that wicked moisture out of a pan and evaporated it into the air. My job was to wash the chimneys of the kerosene lamps we used in the evening. And, of course, our bathroom was at the end of a path into the woods.

I’m grateful for Skype. With that free, downloadable program and an internet connection, I can talk to my son, who’s studying in Egypt, for hours on end without charge. As soon as he gets a webcam, I’ll be able to see him. My gratitude for this is heightened as I remember my parents’ five years in Afghanistan where it took three weeks for a letter to arrive and no phone service was available at any price.

And phones! You don’t have to be very old to remember when there were no cell phones. But I remember lots of years without a phone in our house. And then, when we got one, we had a four-party line, and when anyone on the line got a call, it rang in every house. Our ring was two shorts and a long. I remember the joy of getting a single party line, where no one could listen in on my conversation, and I didn’t have to note the ring pattern to know if it was for me or not.

There are so many more things to remember, lights and darks in the pattern of my life. The sweets that are sweeter because of the sour, the dazzles that are brighter because of the dimness. I've touched on conveniences here rather than social and family relations, health, and economic well being, but there have been couple-colors there too, and I'm grateful for the hard times as well as the good.

I love Hopkins’ penultimate line, “He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change,” because of all that it suggests to me about the nature of God.

And I do praise Him.

Nov 22, 2007

More Gratitude

by Kari Diane Pike

I sat down to write something for this blog about a gazillion times over the past week and a half. I wanted it to be extra special because this is such a special day. While I could think of numerous topics (like how I promised Faith I would add to her blog about leadership...sorry Faith...), nothing seemed "just right." So I will add my list of things I for which I am grateful to those posted earlier.

It has been a very unusual Thanksgiving for me this year. It is the first Thanksgiving in 30 years I have been apart from my darling husband. I am thankful for those sacred covenants that bind us together for time and all eternity. I am grateful to be one with a worthy priesthood holder and to be going down the same road together hand in hand. He very lovingly encouraged me to come to Tucson to be with our daughter while she awaited the birth of her third child. He took five of our children, a son-in-law, and two cousins to California to spend what will probably be the last Thanksgiving he will spend with his father in this life.

My daughter's mother-in-law has been here with me in Tucson. I am very grateful for the extended family members we gain as our children grow and marry. I adore these women with whom I share (or will share) grandchildren. They have so many gifts and things to teach me. Since I didn't have sisters growing up, I am adopting these women as my sisters.

Of course, I am also thankful for all of you, my sister writers in ANWA. I love the sharing of ideas and the encouragment that I find every time I read your works in progress. I am grateful to live in such a time as this; where we can communicate so easily.

I am very grateful for the blessing of motherhood. I am especially grateful for the blessing of grandmotherhood. My heart melts the instant I see a grandchild's face light up as they run at me with open arms, yelling "Gam-ma!" Our tenth grandchild was born yesterday. I was blessed to be able to attend the birth. No matter how many times I witness this miracle, it remains exactly that, a glorious miracle. He is my grandmother's one- hundreth direct descendent. She was counting and recounting the other day...just to be sure. She is thrilled by it all. I am grateful for the great heritage I have been given.

So as I sit here trying to digest the turkey dinner we ate in the hospital cafeteria (it was actually quite good), the list goes on: a healthy mother and baby; my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ; hot, running water; air conditioning; sunrises; rain; and good friends who will actually read this list and ignore the mistakes because I am old enough that caring for two toddlers all day and night takes a toll and so I had to write this off the cuff and well, you get it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. God be with you.

Nov 21, 2007

My Thanksgivings

by Anna Arnett

Nov. 21, 2007

"I've got to go grocery shopping," I told my husband this afternoon as we drove back from home teaching.

"Why? What do you need?"

"Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I haven't shopped for a thing. I haven't even priced, let alone bought, a turkey or even looked at the grocery ads. It feels downright sacrilegious."

Charles gave me that slow grin that extended to his eyes. It said, 'I'll never understand you, but that's okay.'

This is the first Thanksgiving I haven't been in charge of almost everything. It seems strangely unreal. Since our family numbers are approaching the equal of my age, we're celebrating in four different dinner groups--all here in the valley. Charles and I will be in the smallest group.

I'm remembering our first Thanksgiving dinner as a couple. Charles had poured the foundation for our house, and we got the wild idea we'd like to dine 'at home'. The middle bedroom in Mom and Dad Arnett's house was still our living place, and I helped Mom cook the traditional feast. Then, as all the rest of the family gathered to eat, Charles and I took our portions down the road a mile or so, and ate a la fresco, with boards across a couple of saw horses for a table and upended orange crates for chairs. The hot food quickly cooled, and the cold food warmed, and we got strange looks from the few farm folk who happened to pass by, nor did we linger long after we ate, but we still had Thanksgiving at our very own home (site).

As the next Thanksgiving approached, I found a recipe for pumpkin chiffon pie in The Joy of Cooking book we got for a wedding gift. It called for whipped egg white, and when I took it from the oven (as the directions clearly stated) it looked beautiful. However, as it cooled it shrank, and kept it up until the filling seemed thinner than the crust. How appalling. I didn't want to eat it, and even Charles passed it by, saying, "I guess I'm not as hungry as I thought I was." I took it out to the pigpen, and even the pigs wouldn't eat it.

The day before Thanksgiving, Charles said, "I'll make the pie." He asked his mother what went into pumpkin pie. I had all the ingredients, and watched him dumping, stirring and tasting as he mixed, poured (I did get the privilege of making the piecrust) and baked. My feelings were definitely mixed when that pumpkin pie tasted and looked beautiful. I've never used a standard recipe for pumpkin pie since, and the results please us.

In Japan, about a decade and a half later, we heard the Thanksgiving dinner at the NCO club was outstanding, so we took our six kids there. (One of our sons told me the other day that he did remember those dinners [we ate there three times] because it was the only times we ever took the family out to eat a formal meal.) Our news source was correct. The meal was very traditional, well prepared, and exceedingly satisfying. At the door as we left, a waiter handed us each a paper bag containing an apple, an orange, and about a cup full of unshelled nuts. And the cost was negligible. We were sold.

However -- we had no leftovers! Nothing traditional to munch on. It suddenly didn't feel like Thanksgiving. I spent the late afternoon in the kitchen, but with no turkey or stuffing or giblet gravy to sample, the older ones in the family, especially Charles and I, felt somehow cheated. The next two Thanksgivings, I roasted a turkey and made pies to snack on before I left, and we still had Thanksgiving Dinner at the base.

You'd think my thanks giving is all for food. That's only part of it. I'm thankful for a great many things. Indeed, my prayers of thanksgiving get pretty lengthy long before I've hardly more than begun to enumerate all my blessings. Come to think of it, I don't believe I've ever listed them all. And new ones keep cropping up.

One more blessing. When Thanksgiving is over - Christmas is coming!

Nov 20, 2007

When Upon Life's Billows

By Betsy Love

And there have certainly been a few of those yesterday. We have had billows of smoke and flame shooting heavenward as our chapel literally burned to the ground. I followed the story all morning, until I finally had to leave for work. Later that evening as I crawled into bed and picked up my journal and wrote about the day’s events, I came to the part of my journal I never forget: Things I am grateful for.

  • For a Heavenly Father who has such merciful love for all his children that he allows trying things to happen to us to teach us love, patience, tolerance, and all those things that build us and strengthen us.
  • For friends at work who commiserated with me in my sadness over losing our beautiful chapel. For one friend in particular who said, “Don’t you think that angels kept the steeple from falling over?” She’s not even a member. I am thankful for her beautiful insight.
  • For a family whose first thoughts were, “I wonder which building we’ll go to until they rebuild ours.” Is that faith or what?
  • For the safety of my children who attended the stake fireside the evening before. Isn’t it ironic or coincidental that they would hold a fireside the night it went up in flames? Too bad they hadn’t thought to bring marshmallows.
  • For the gospel of Jesus Christ which allows me to share my love of my church and my testimony with those who have so many questions now about why God would allow one of His buildings to burn.
  • For all of you, my dear friends, who read my blogs and ramblings and are always so kind and sweet with your words.

For all my blessings, of which these are only a few…I am truly thankful!

Nov 19, 2007

Turkey Trials

by Rene Allen

After reading Marsha’s blog, I realize there is a new anxiety to add to my growing list of dreads - you know the ones - nightmares about missing a class all semester and discovering it one week before finals; or being invited to a high stakes dinner and tripping over the rug and landing on your can in front of 500 well-heeled and coifed guests; and now, promising turkey for Thanksgiving dinner and its cast of a thousand relatives and ending up with a cold bird and raw dressing.

I’m cooking a turkey this year. It’s in the fridge now, thawing. I don’t know how turkey does in a microwave, but short of a power failure, it will be my alternate strategy. I’ll cut it up with a chain saw and push Start if my real oven, lovingly cleaned this past weekend, fails.

My parents and brother are coming from Mesa. Three of my sons, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren will be here along with my husband who stops eating the night before Thanksgiving dinner to make room for a massive amount of mashed potatoes and dressing. He always goes last in line so he doesn’t have to feel guilty about taking so much. This, I believe, is a hang-over from ward dinners when he was bishop. My youngest son and his new wife are having a quiet Thanksgiving in Rexburg, Idaho. I think it’s just as well. Thanksgiving dinners can be hard on new wives.

My first Thanksgiving married was with my husband’s family. They are good people, but have their own way of doing things. I was assigned sweet potatoes. Well, I’m for trying new things but being newly married hadn’t yet figured out new is not for a traditional meal like Thanksgiving dinner. I put pineapple and apples in my sweet potatoes, using a recipe from an aunt on my side of the family. No marshmallows. No syrup. Big Mistake. One person, probably my husband, took one small spoonful and I took home two pans of sweet potatoes.

So this is another anxiety, that of meshing with the in-laws. One of my daughters-in-law, on her first Thanksgiving with my extended family, volunteered to make pies. She made eight, all different types and was so exhausted she fell asleep at the dinner table. When it was time to leave, my son whispered in her ear “Kelly, you need to wake up. If you don’t wake up you’ll have to make another pie.” She sleep-walked to the car, having impressed us all.

It’s amazing, with all the things that can go wrong at Thanksgiving, like a glitchy oven and uncooked turkey, that so many things go right. It is a time to settle in, eat too much, wrap arms around those you love most and celebrate our country, our freedom, our right to worship, our family, our lives. There is no right or wrong way to be thankful. There is no one to impress.

Nov 18, 2007

And Now, For Something Different . . . Cold Turkey

by Marsha Ward

I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving of 2001. After almost 30 years of preparing turkey dinner with all the trimmings, I had learned a trick or two. For example, I was accustomed to cooking the dressed turkey all night in a slow oven. That year was no different. I stuffed my bird, wrestled it into the roasting pan, covered it with tented foil, and hefted it into the oven about nine p.m. I turned the oven on, then left to check my email.

Time flies when I’m on my computer, and along about midnight I decided to go to bed. First, though, I went to check the turkey. As I crossed through the family room, I wondered why I didn’t smell the roasting bird. When I opened the oven door, I found the answer.

I didn’t need the potholders I used to slide out the oven rack. Sticking my hand into the oven, I discovered there was no heat. I checked the controls. I had the function knob turned to “bake,” all right. The thermostat? It hadn’t even made it to “warm!”

Nov 16, 2007

Remember to Be Grateful

Valerie J. Steimle

I was so motivated to finish my editorial this week for the paper I contribute. I got the idea for my article from an email that was supposedly written by Jay Leno himself. So a week ago, I mailed an actual snail mail letter to Jay Leno, care of the Tonight Show, thanking him for writing this wonderful email on being grateful. Tuesday late afternoon, after my deadline was past and the article was already printed, I received a letter in the mailbox from the Tonight Show. What a quick reply and I was very excited thinking that maybe Jay Leno wrote me a letter back. The address written even looked like what his handwriting would be. So I opened the letter to find out that it was one of his staff writing to tell me that: “Sorry, this email was written by someone else and that through email alterations and multiple forwards the impression was given that Jay Leno wrote the whole thing. It was Craig R. Smith who wrote it and Jay Leno only used the last sentence for a joke on the show.” I was so disappointed. Even worse I had already run the article that was to come out on Thursday (yesterday). I hoped no one would call me about it and so far no one has but here is what I wrote about being grateful for food for thought on this Thanksgiving holiday:

With Thanksgiving coming next Thursday, there have been many writings on the internet and in newspapers about being thankful. One in particular was from an unexpected writer: Jay Leno. Usually a funny guy, Mr. Leno wrote a poignant piece about what we should be grateful for and I wanted to write some of his words here. This is from Jay Leno:
"The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true, given the source, right? The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed, and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the President. In essence, 2/3's of the citizenry just isn't happy and want a change. So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, ''What are we so unhappy about?''Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job?Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time, and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year.Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state?Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter? I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough.Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all, and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.”
He asks interesting questions and he goes on to talk about how 70 percent of us have homes in this country and if there were ever a fire at our house, a group of men and women volunteer or are paid to come and put it out. Our neighborhoods are free from bombs dropping and militias raping and pillaging and where many teenagers have computers and cell phones.
We live in the greatest country in the world but yet we are so spoiled. There is nothing worse than a child who has everything and then just thinks about what he doesn’t have and demands more. Are we really that unhappy? No, I don’t think so. We are just ungrateful. We have so much freedom and so much wealth and opportunity. We are so blessed and there is so much to be thankful for, we should be the happiest people in the world.
So this Thanksgiving let’s remember our blessings and be happy. Let’s not buy into that negativism that we read about all the time. We have a lot to be thankful for in our lives. Just ask Jay Leno. He’ll tell you.

Even though it wasn’t Jay Leno that wrote those things, somebody did make a good point and we should still be grateful for what we have. Especially around this time of thanksgiving.

Nov 15, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve Pie Party Tradition

by Heather Horrocks

One of the best holiday traditions I ever started (or copied, however you want to look at it) is our Thanksgiving Eve Pie Party.

I read about the concept in a magazine and was intrigued. After all, on Thanksgiving Day, we’re way too stuff with turkey dinner to eat nearly enough pie. So why not eat dessert first? Now we do.

We invite family and friends. I spend several days baking pumpkin pies (best recipe is on the Libby’s pumpkin can, using 2 T. pumpkin pie space instead of the spices, and using butter in the crust instead of shortening). I keep hearing how good my pumpkin pies are but, since I don’t like pumpkin pie, I’m not sure I believe those rumors.

If I can get my friend Marie (Callender) to sell me her pies cheap enough, I enlist her help. This year, my sister is coming for the week and I don’t want to spend days preparing for the party. I want to visit with my sister. So I found good deals on MC pies and bought 6 (two cherry, two apple, two chocolate cream). I’ll bake the pumpkin pies tomorrow and freeze them, along with the key lime pies. The only pie I’ll need to actually make on the party day is the banana cream pies.

Our rules? Pretty simple. People come, with their kids (but we let them know they have to come with their kids because the first year one couple sent their kids in and then went to a movie while we tended their kids). If they want to bring a pie, they can (whatever kind they choose), but they don’t have to (though if they’re bringing a large horde, I do ask that they bring a pie).

With grown kids, it’s nice to have an event they can come to even if they’re going to the in-laws’ home for Thanksgiving dinner. We have friends who come every year. And one little boy in our neighborhood makes his family put off leaving for Idaho until after the pie party! (This year, we’re having a mini-party for their family, so they can leave for Idaho earlier.)

We’ve had great fun doing this and I highly recommend it (or a version of it). Several friends of mine who live in another city have also started doing this and are having a great time.

Happy Turkey Day. And may I suggest that, this year, you eat dessert first.

Nov 14, 2007

Leadership Personalities

by Faith St. Clair

My employer asked if I would take a seminar on business/professional writing. I was not interested in going, since my love for writing emerges from creativity and emotions, not technicalities. However, I figured that any knowledge of writing would be advantageous, so I agreed to go.

The seminar, however, was less on the technicalities of writing in the business world (although that was discussed, i.e. formatting, proper punctuation, etc.) and the majority of the day was talking about “who” you are writing to and how to approach your audience with the content of your message. The instructor talked of Tony Alessandra’s “Platinum Rule.” We all know the Golden Rule to treat others as you would have them treat you, but the Platinum Rule suggests treating others as they would like to be treated, indicating that not everyone is the same and people react different to different communications.

A Director personality, for instance, is someone who is targeted and has two governing needs - to control and to achieve. They are most comfortable when in charge of people and situations, they are fast-paced, task oriented and love to accept challenges. A Director can often be dominating, impatient, stubborn and insensitive to others. Their motto is: “My way or my way!” A Socializer is someone who is enthusiastic, friendly, party animals. They like being in the limelight, they have charm, are optimists, persuasive and good idea people. They don’t like being alone, have short attention spans and can be risk-takers, not inclined to verify information. A Socializer’s motto is: Any topic, any time, anywhere, or let’s party!” A Thinker is analytical, persistent, detailed-oriented, systematic and enjoys problem-solving. They are always in control of their emotions, they have high expectations of themselves and others and are slow deliberate decision makers. They can often be skeptical and over-critical. A Thinker’s motto is: “Everything in its place, everything done correctly.” A Relater is one who is warm and nurturing. They are people-oriented, excellent listeners, devoted friends, approachable, loyal, team players who like the status quo. They avoid risk and need security. Their motto is: “Let’s all just get along.”

A few weeks ago, I spent a few days with 100 fifth-graders up in Prescott Pines at an Outdoor Education field trip. One of those 5th graders was my youngest daughter. It intrigued me to watch her with her peers and for the most part, she acted as though I wasn’t even there (except to hold her water bottle or hone in on special privileges like first in the shower or lunch line). As I observed her, I was amazed at her leadership and four separate adults that week spoke to me of the same observation. My usual comeback was, “leader or just bossy, I’m not sure which.” They argued for a leader. As you watched the reaction of those she led, they flocked to her, her suggestions and ideas. If she was just bossy, their reaction to her would not be so agreeable.

There were many times, however, that I had to remind her to join in the activity, not just direct it - to take a minute and talk with a girl who didn’t seem so eager at the “direction” my daughter had given her. My daughter reminded me of my husband who shares with her a domineering “director/socializer” personality.

What I have felt for years about my husband, I all of a sudden realized with clarity while watching my daughter – what power they have! Focused in the right direction, with gospel principles behind every venture or idea, the power they have to be a guiding light to their fellow men blows my mind. If they just realized the power they have, they could work wonders by building the kingdom of God, creating praiseworthy environments and putting positive energies out into the universe.

How to get them to realize the gift they have been given?

I turned to The Book of Mormon’s King Benjamin, my favorite leader, and re-read the reasons that drew me to that decision. A true leader is not one who directs people, but one who guides. You can tell people what to do, but the results are far better if you show them, guide them, love them, work with them and be an example to them. King Benjamin was humble, an optimist, nurturing, devoted, courteous, in control, able to take charge, but considerate as well.

So what kind of personality is a leader? Most would think that leaders are Director-type personalities. I think that a good leader, like King Benjamin, is a little bit of all of them. A good leader may be driven by one particular personality quadrant, but they emit the good characteristics of all the quadrants.

We all have weaknesses in our personalities. The trick is to nurture our best qualities and try to garner the other good qualities that perhaps aren’t so intrinsic to us. We all are leaders; we just need to decide what kind we want to be.

I am a Thinker. So I’ll have to muse about it a while, but I think I would like to not be so critical, be more approachable and garner a little more charm. Any ideas how I get there?

Addendum: Here is how you communicate with the different personalities:

With a Director - you need to be sensitive to their time – don’t waste it. Be organized, get to the point and give them bottom line information and options. Appeal to their egos by supporting their ideas, let them call the shots and if you disagree, argue with facts, not feelings.

With a Socializer - remember they thrive on recognition, so pour it on sincerely. Support their ideas, goals, dreams and opinions. They are social butterflies, so a stimulating and entertaining conversation, jokes and liveliness will win them over. They are people-oriented so give them time to socialize, don’t rush into tasks.

With a Thinker - be sensitive to their time. They need details, so give them data. Support their organized, thoughtful approach to problem-solving, but be systematic, logical, well-prepared and exact with them. Give them time to make decisions and work independently. Recognize their contributions and compliment them on their brain power.

With a Relator - remember they want warm, fuzzy relationships, so take things slow and earn their trust, support their feelings and show sincere interest. Argue with feelings, not facts (opposite of Directors). They don’t like ruffled feathers and want to be assured that everyone approves of them and their decisions. Don’t back them into a corner, coaxing is much more effective.

Nov 13, 2007

Baptisms on the Beach

Last Saturday, a new convert to our small branch decided to get baptized in the relatively cooler waters of the Gulf of Mexico. (Around here that would be pronounced “guff.”) One of our members has a beautiful home right on the water and built it with these kinds of activities in mind. Most of the attendees spent the first moments passing each other on the walkway out to the water. It was a chilly, cloudy morning. Most of us were commenting on how cold it was. (FYI here cold is 60 degrees.) I’m not sure it was wise to have us face the stunningly beautiful water as the talk on baptism commenced. I found myself contemplating the beauty of the earth and not focusing in on the talk. Then we walked down to the water.

Just as his close friend lowered the new convert into the water, I’m not kidding here, the sun broke through the clouds and stayed out the rest of the day. It was pure magic, the stuff of fairy tales.

Once we were all settled in for the talk on the Holy Ghost and welcoming into the branch, I again found myself staring at the beach. It was an awesome experience. And being the history oriented person I am, I thought of how many baptisms went on in the Gulf maybe even centuries ago. And how much like a jewel this earth is. I’m not poetic but I hope you get the picture.

I turned to my niece who I am happy to report has decided to join the church and asked her if she would like to also be baptized on the beach. She looked at me with mock horror and said, “Oh no, I would never be able to concentrate on what was happening, I’ll take the traditional font route.” I sighed both because I understood and because I wanted another magical moment.

Nov 12, 2007

Veteran’s Day: Evening Reflections

by Joyce DiPastena

I miss you, Mom. On this Veteran’s Day evening, I know you’d want me not just to remember you, but to remember your love for your country and the service that you gave her in the US Navy.

I remember how much you loved to talk about your days as a Navy WAVE. How your eyes lit with laughter when you told of the time in the mess hall, when you accidentally dumped your silverware off your tray into the trash and while you were digging around trying to fish it out, a sailor walked by and said, “What’s the matter, mate, didn’t you get enough to eat?”

I remember the songs you taught me as a child, the silly little ditties you’d march to during drill. “Ding ding ding ding ding, here comes my wagon, my wagon…I’m from the nutty factory,” and “Be kind to your web footed friends, for a duck may be somebody’s mother.”

I remember your stories of shore leave (even though you never actually served overseas), how the other sailors and WAVES liked to take you along, because they knew while they’d be drinking alcohol, you’d be drinking 7-Up, and would be sure they all got back to base safely.

I remember how, while growing up, when I’d wake you up from a deep slumber you’d come awake with an audible gasp and a shudder. You explained to me how you’d developed that habit while serving as a nurse in the Navy hospital during “death watch”, and how being woken up at night meant that a patient had died and you had to go help, and how much you dreaded that call…hence the gasp and shudder that accompanied a sudden awakening, even into my teenage years.

I remember the pride you had all your life in being able to say, “I was a Navy WAVE.” Not in a puffed up way, but in a, “Being able to serve my country for two years were some of the best days of my life,” kind of way.

I remember how much you loved your country, and how you taught me to love it too. To be a good citizen. To vote. To be respectful. To honor the great Founders of our nation and respect the Constitution as a divine document. To sing the great patriotic songs of our country: America, The Beautiful…My Country ‘Tis of Thee…The Star-Spangled Banner. And to honor the flag. How erect you would stand, with such a proud, but fond look in your eyes, whenever the flag passed by!

And tonight, after you’ve been gone for seven and a half years, I still remember this song you taught me from your Navy days:

When I was young life was one big whirl,
I never thought I’d see those gates of pearl,
But when I got there I was very old,
And everything there was blue and gold.

I met Saint Peter and he said to me,
“I see you’re a member of the ship’s company,
So of course I’ve reserved a place for you.
Mrs. Saint Peter was a Navy WAVE, too!”

I treasure all the memories and lessons you shared with me of your days as a Navy WAVE. I hope you and Mrs. Saint Peter are having a nice chat this evening. But as for me, tonight, Mama…I miss you.

Nov 11, 2007

Northwest ANWA Writer's Retreat

By Liz Adair

Well, we did it! With Terry Deighton shoring up my short-term memory lapses at every turn, we brought off our very first annual retreat sponsored by Round Tuit Writers. It was held at the overnight lodge at Silver Lake, a Whatcom County Park that sits on the instep of the Mount Baker foothills.

Lodge is a bit of a misnomer, if that word conjures up a rustic log structure with huge beams, bear rugs and antlered walls. The overnight lodge at Silver Lake is a three bedroom, daylight basement apartment. It does have a nice gas fireplace, but it has only one bathroom and limited seating apparati. The six kitchen chairs are some of the hardest that have ever held my posterior, though a couch and easy chair offered more comfort to four lucky people.

The scenery is spectacular, though, and the lodge sits right by the lake. Forecasters had predicted horizontal rain, but they were wrong again. We had lots of sun and blue sky, and though the weather was brisk, it was a joy to walk along the lakeside and watch the little black ducks.

Sherry Ann Miller spoke to us Friday night and urged us not to give up, but to hone our craft and keep submitting. Saturday morning, Cecily Markland taught us how to put some life into our family history writing. Shauna Humphreys, former managing editor for Covenant Communications came and spoke to us about what an editor does and described the ideal author/editor relationship. I wound up the presentations with a retooled rendition of Using Family History in Fiction, the presentation I gave at the ANWA retreat last July. I used suggestions given me by several ANWA sisters as I tried to improve it. (Thank you ladies!)

Terry and I asked, should we do this again, and got a resounding yea vote. Where? Here? Another place? Everyone thought that Silver Lake was great because it was near, it was so beautiful, and there was no cellphone service. But, they asked for maybe one more day and fewer presenters so there could be larger blocks of time to just write or edit. And, maybe we could bring some canvas foldup chairs to use instead of the bum-numbing kitchen chairs?

I think we can do that.

Nov 9, 2007

Hawks and purists

by Donna Hatch

After all the contests I’ve entered, critique partners who’ve edited my writing, and the process of revising and rewriting before going into publication, I though I’d grown a really thick skin. I always tell a new critique partner; “Be ruthless. Don’t worry, I can take it.”

Not always, I guess.

I recently got a critique the other day that managed to ruffle my feathers. Truly, I was so hurt and upset that my first reaction was “It’s hopeless, I can’t write. Why do I even try!”

Well, that’s silly. My editor thinks I can write. In fact, I’m committed to a four book familial series. But self-confidence is a fragile thing.

The critiquer (is that a real word?) wasn’t cruel, or even terribly nit-picky, she just pointed out some tendencies that I have. Her letter was very sweet, gentle and almost apologetic and most of it came either from a book or from other critiques she'd gotten.

She said that I should try to avoid:
using any form of the verb to be,(am is are was were be been being, etc)
adjectives (words that describe a noun such as old, dark, thin, ragged),
adverbs (words that end in ly, like quickly, lightly),
would and could (which are just another form of the verb to be, by the way),
and qualifiers (just, that, only, really, merely, etc).

I thought myself an advanced enough author that I was beyond making those new author mistakes, but I’m not arrogant enough to believe myself perfect. Far from it. But the thing that killed me, though, were her words, “Too much passive voice. Show, don’t tell.”

If you ever want to drive an author to suicide, tell him/her the ambiguous words, “passive voice” or “show don’t tell.” They are both things that are really, really hard to pin down, and is often based on a vague feeling, of “I didn’t love this piece of writing, and I need to say something intelligent, so this is what I’m going to say.” She did offer some suggestions of how I could show rather than tell.

And she’s right. These all CAN BE symptoms of passive voice. However, none of these things should be truly avoided. Without them, writing becomes flat and sterile.

After I soothed my wounded pride and cried on my friend’s shoulder (see my earlier blog about the importance of having a cheering section), I wrote back this one-time critiquer and asked for examples of these problems, rather than a vague letter that read like a chapter from a how to writing book.

She responded with very specific sentences or paragraphs from my writing that made her feel that my writing was passive and that I was telling rather than showing along with some suggestions of how to fix them. Armed with this information, I took a look at what she was trying to tell me and realized that she had a point…to a certain extent. In a few cases, I’d written sentences that could have been stronger if rephrased. Also, and more importantly, I should have had the heroine interact with objects rather than merely observe that they were in the room. Now, I had a clearer idea of what bumped her out of the story and made her feel distanced from the heroine – good symptoms of either the dreaded passive voice, or a lack of sensory details (taste, touch, temperature, smell, etc), as well as impassive observations about the setting. And by utilizing some of her suggestions, my chapter in question did read much better. She did help and I am grateful. Really.

Here are examples of what I’m talking about:
The overuse of adverbs to make up for a weak verb: “The girl walked slowly” reads better if you say “the girl trudged.”
“The wind gently blew the curtain” would read better as “The wind stirred the curtain” or even “the curtain stirred”

Show don’t tell: “It was raining” is telling. “Rain pelted him as he ran to his car” is showing.
“She was angry” is telling. “She clenched her fists until her nails dug into her palms” is showing.

Passive Voice: “The door was opened by the mother” is passive voice. “The mother opened the door” is active.
“He could feel the ship shudder under her feet” is passive. “The ship shuddered under his feet” is active.

Most of these “mistakes” are not horrible when used occasionally, but a book filled with them can slow down the pace and keep the reader at arms’ length from the characters. Many older books are written this way, but today's readers want a faster-paced read.

When I mentioned to my steady critique partner about my experience with this one shot critiquer, and asked if she noticed that I have a tendency to write this way, she said, “That other person sounds like a passive voice hawk to me.”

Hawks are those people who have odd little pet peeves about certain things. Some are POV (Point of View) Hawks. A friend of mine has been labeled the POV police because she always points out when an author switches POV too often. I’ve been called a POV purist, because it bugs me when I can’t tell if the hero is really thinking he regrets kissing her or if the heroine only believes that the hero is regrets kissing her. I never switch POV in the middle of a scene. I wait until a scene break or a chapter break to switch POV. So, yeah, I guess I am a POV hawk. Sometimes switching POV in the middle of a scene can be done well, and then it doesn’t bother me. But that’s another whole subject.

Another friend hates qualifiers like: just, merely, only, etc. She’s a qualifier hawk.

Many others are Hawks about the verbs “to be:” am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being, have, had, etc. Some particularly hate the use of "should, would, could," and call them vampires. “Was”, in particular gets booed whenever it shows up. I’ve done it myself, but only when it’s overdone.

Overusing these forms of the verb “to be” and qualifiers are symptoms of weak or lazy writing. I’ve blogged about it. I’ve marked it on the writing I’ve critiqued.

However, I’d like to remind people about the saying, “moderation in all things.”

Adverbs and adjectives are what bring books to life. They can be overdone, but they are necessary - especially the adjectives. Take them all away and you have a really dry read.

The verb “was” is not bad. It is not evil. It is not something to be avoided at all costs. It is something to used sparingly. Moderately.

Here’s what my critique partner, Frances, said:
Most sentences using "was" or "were" are actually set in the imperfect or past continuous tense. This can be overdone but is sometimes effective, not to mention necessary.
Example: He was walking along the street [past continuous] when he slipped [perfect, or past simple tense] on a banana skin. [i.e. walking is an action that takes some time, slipping is a quick, one-time (hopefully) event]

If the so-called “passive” hawks rewrote this sentence, it would become, “He walked along the street and slipped on a banana skin.” That might be better in some cases, but it does change the mood of the sentence. I think it takes away the impact.

Think of this example: “He was brooding on the misery of life when she walked in stark naked.”
All those wases, weres, shoulds, woulds etc make up the rich multiplicity of tenses in the English language (not to mention the “moods” - indicative, imperative and subjunctive). Yes, don't over do them. But really, writing that uses only the perfect indicative is dull - might as well just read Time Magazine or AP reports.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Frances.

So, my advice is, when you get a critique that ruffles your feathers (and because we are sensitive creatures, many critiques, however well-intended, will hurt), step back and let it sit. Then go through the comments and see if there is any truth in them. Often, there IS something wrong, even if the judge or critiquer can’t nail down exactly what. Consider their suggestions. Appreciate them. Implement the ones you feel are valid.

But beware of the hawks who are hurting because they feel stifled by the rules of writing and have had some other hawk rip apart their writing. Often, the harshest critics are either very new authors who’ve just risen above the brutal and bloody world of contests and rejections, and aspiring authors who are still trapped in it. Let these writers help you, but don’t take their comments as gospel truth, or as an indication that your writing is worthless dribble that needs major surgery. Also, not every piece of writing will resound with everyone. Ever read a best-seller that you hated?

Remember, writing rules are merely guidelines, not absolutes. Refresh your memory on the rules only if you feel something isn’t working. Don’t allow them to suffocate your writing. Following ALL the rules ALL the time kills passion and your own unique voice.

Happy Writing!

Nov 8, 2007

To Tell the Truth

By Kari Diane Pike

I received an e-mail the other day that said:

“Please help do this... refuse to accept these [new dollar coins] when they are handed to you. I received one from the Post Office as change and I asked for a dollar bill instead. The lady just smiled and said "way to go" so she had read this e-mail. Please help out....our world is in enough trouble without this too!!!!!”

There was a photograph following the statement that showed a picture of the front of one of the new coins, pointing out that our national motto “In God We Trust” was missing. I knew the sender was highly concerned and that she considered her source to be reliable enough that she didn’t need to check to see if the story was true. (After all, there was a picture!) Fortunately, I have informed coin collectors in my house. It turns out that the story is true; at least the part of it that was told.

What the story doesn’t tell the reader is that the coins are minted with the date and the words “E Pluribus Unum” and the motto “In God We Trust” around the edge of the coin. A President’s head is on the front and the Statue of Liberty is on the back. What has become known as “the godless coin” is an error that occurred during the minting process. A certain number of the George Washington coins missed the edge minting and were circulated before the error was caught. Those coins are being purchased for anywhere from $350 - $1600 a piece.

Because of missing information, the story being sent around on the Internet is skewed, creating distrust and anger. In fact, I am seeing more and more e-mails circulating that are deliberately meant to create fear and distrust. Subtle changes in words, missing facts and details, and attaching a “reliable source” are just a few of the tricks used to lead us down a path of mass confusion.

I heard Sheri Dew relate an experience that illustrates a big reason we are so easily taken in by these urban legends. She was with a group of LDS women when a certain topic arose. Sister Dew asked if any of them had heard what had been said concerning the subject during the General Relief Society Broadcast just a few days before. None of the women had taken the time to watch the broadcast or listen to it. One sister commented that she probably should look it up on the internet, but then asked, “Did you hear what Oprah had to say about the topic during her show the other day?” When Sister Dew asked her how she had time to watch Oprah, since she worked, the woman told her she never misses the show because she makes sure she records it every day. Sister Dew wondered how this woman could tape Oprah everyday, but not take one evening to listen to the messages the Lord was sending us through his Prophet and Church leaders. I’m not saying Oprah is bad. She has accomplished a great deal and tries to help people all over the world. But she is aware of how much power she has and she does all she can to influence others to think the way she does. Where are we putting our faith?

As writers, do we truly comprehend the extent to which we influence our readers? I doubt it. I recently attended an incredible leadership seminar that taught me a great deal about power and influence as it pertains to leadership. [See my next blog for a report!] As writers, we have a great responsibility and opportunity to disseminate truth. We don’t need to sensationalize or skew the story. Nor do we want to. If we put all our efforts into sharing uplifting and enlightening truth, we will discover that we have the power to help others be and do more than they ever imagined.

Nov 7, 2007

Mind over Matter?

What does a gal write about when her mind feels blank? A web log seems to be set up to talk about whatever manifests itself as most important at the time of posting. So, what's most important to me right now, after a three-hour unscheduled nap just might have dulled my brain forever? I can't imagine, but I can at least try.

Today I lunched with the two women I taught with for around a decade and a half. We get together three times a year -- have done since we retired. Ostensibly, it's to celebrate our birthdays, and this was mine; only two months, one week and a day late. Not bad. We aren't always in town together, but where there's a will, there's a way (to quote a cliche older than I am). I feel fortunate, since both these friends are widowed. We ate at the Home Town Buffet, and I 'pigged out'. Perhaps that's the real reason for the briain shut-down.

We laughed again at the time we stood, still conversing, outside The Olive Garden when a cab pulled up. The cabbie rolled down the window and in a rather thick Brooklyn accent, asked, "Could you ladies help me?" Of course, we love to help. Why else would we have become teachers? We stepped forward, crowding around him as he gestured toward the open street guide resting on his steering wheel. Desperately, he pleaded, "Do you spell 'Juanita' with an 'H' or a 'W'?"

(So much for trying! I've already deleted the rest of the boring recital. Somehow, my thoughts lack the passion I need. I even stopped and wolfed down four Halloween-sized Hershey bars, but so far they haven't helped. Maybe talking about the books I'm currently reading, will arouse me. Okay, Anna, keep tring.)

A granddaughter ordered some books online and found she could get one more for practically no more cost, so she added "Rich Dad, Poor Dad". When it came, she loaned it to her dad, who read it and brought it to me. Interesting to read, so far. I've also watched the DVR of, and am now reading, "The Secret", and these two books compliment each other amazingly. Both stress that our thoughts are the most powerful tool we can ever own, and that good thoughts attract good happenings. Who knows? Could this mean that my life has been so 'easy' because I've always expected it to be?

Right now, the easiest thing I can think to do is to go to bed. Goodnight.

Nov 6, 2007

Things I'm Supposed to Learn

by Betsy Love

Many of you know I teach 9th Grade English. What you may not know is I teach predominantly Hispanic kids, most of whom are the children of illegal aliens. Many of them barely speak English, let alone read and write it. Along with their background come challenges that I must cope with on a daily basis. To say that I am struggling this year is an understatement. But for some reason, and I don’t know why, this is where Heavenly Father wants me to be. I know He wants me to learn.

So here is what I’ve learned thus far:

  1. Mexican jokes are only funny when told by a Mexican.

My 4th hour class is my biggest problem and I have to admit, I really don’t like that class on most days. My principal tells us constantly that homeroom is where we are supposed to connect with the students, to get to know them, to like them. As I struggle with the idea of actually liking them, I think to myself, “Why?” They are rude, disrespectful, mouthy, mean, and hateful. I’ve taken it to the Lord and most days I still am thrilled when the bell rings and they are gone, at least for twenty-three more hours. Something happened yesterday that made me appreciate their culture.

One of my Hispanic boys, Jason, came and sat next to me and he began his usual light bantering, which nearly always turns ugly. He asked me, “Mrs. Love, do you like Mexican jokes?” This completely threw me off guard. I’ve certainly heard my share of racial jokes, which for the most part I find offensive.

“I’ve heard a few,” I replied.

“But do you think they’re funny?”

The rest of the class became silent to hear what I have to say. “I don’t tell racial jokes,” I said.

His questioning made me extremely uncomfortable. Then he tells a Mexican joke, which made everyone in the class laugh, including me.

I then said, “See, you can tell a Mexican joke and everyone laughs because you’re Mexican.”

He continued to tell joke after joke—all racial slurs and of course we all laughed. Then he says to me, “Don’t you know any Mexican jokes?”

Smiling, I said. “Yes.”

“Tell it.”

So I did, and it was one of the least offensive ones I could think of. The class laughed except for Jason, who said, “That’s just mean.”

“See,” I said, “you can’t tell Mexican jokes unless you’re Mexican.”

I then shared with the class almost every redneck joke I knew, which kept the class laughing until the bell rang.

So the second thing I’ve learned:

  1. Maybe I can like this class.

Nov 5, 2007

Some Thoughts on Getting Older . . .

By Rene Allen

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning that indicated there are a few areas in which the aging brain can outperform those upstart whippersnapper twenty-and-thirty something brains. Ah-hem, Math and music were a couple. As was chess. And then there was something about making critical life decisions. We older folks do a better job. Conclusion: age really does bring wisdom.

Now, I look in the mirror and well, I can’t hide the wrinkles anymore or that truly abominable swing in my double chin whenever I walk. I have to ask as if there were a choice, is wisdom worth it? I see all those changes I dreaded happen: age-splotchy hands, thick middle, eyelids that suddenly grew thick and droopy, then comfort that funny looking, old lady in the mirror by reminding her how wise she is. “See for yourself,” I tell her. “Without a small fortune there’s not much you can do about your face. You’ll just have to live with it.” Wisely, she nodes and disappears into her day’s work.

There isn’t a choice about getting older. There is one about being wise. I’ve thought about this. Being wise means making experience count.

A couple of months ago, in preparation for my son’s wedding, my husband fixed the bathroom door by the kitchen so it would lock, implying that for the 17 years we have lived in this house, the door didn’t lock. But impressing your son’s future in-laws is a high priority for old and wise parents.

Engineer’s love to fix things. My engineer husband studied the doorknob, ascertained the hole in the door was cut a notch above the actual latch so he cut a new one and suddenly the cats couldn’t come in whenever they wanted, and we had privacy.

The doorknob, however, was an old doorknob. Gradually, the mechanism became sticky, and then it became difficult to open the bathroom door. My son and I learned ways to do it, how to lift, twist and pull all at once. The thought did occur to me that I could get stuck in the bathroom and then what would I do? But I was always able with some conniving to get the door open.

Fast forward to one night last week. Wise, old people go to bed earlier than unwise people. At 9, I turned in, leaving husband and son watching a movie and doing something on the computer. At 3, my usual, haunt-the-house hour like many women my age,I got out of bed and headed to the kitchen for a drink of water. One the way I passed the bathroom with the repaired doorknob. It was making a great deal of noise, a vigorous rattling sound. This was very odd, since the door was closed and the light inside the bathroom turned off.

It occurred to me, forgetful as I am getting, that I hadn’t seen my husband in the bedroom. “Dwight?” I asked, wondering if we had captured a burglar. “Are you in there? Why is the light off?”

“I thought I’d go to sleep until someone could get me out of here. Go get a screwdriver.” Now, I was terribly impressed with this wisdom, to catch a little shut-eye while he waited. But then my husband is very wise, having had many experiences.

Well, you can figure out what happened as well as I can tell you. I found the screwdriver eventually, and just as I was going to stop laughing and work on the doorknob, Dwight tried turning it one more time himself. The door opened. Then, because of his wisdom and experience, he took off the doorknob. Now if you get locked in the bathroom when you’re four, there’s not much you can do except tell your father. But when you are sixty and you are the father, and you have spent the last two hours locked in a bathroom with only one copy of “Sports Illustrated, you take off the lock.

After I stopped laughing, I looked at my own experience. I knew there was a problem with the door, but had thought to take my chances. My husband is two years older than I. What this means is I’m in line for a lot more wisdom. “Get your wrinkles ready,” I told the woman in the mirror. “I can hardly wait.”

Nov 4, 2007

He Knows My Name

by Marsha Ward

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we don't have a paid ministry. Our clergy is called from among the members of the local congregation to serve until they are released. Likewise the leaders and teachers of the auxiliary organizations for the instruction of the children, youth, and women's and men's groups are called to serve from the membership.

I live in a small congregation known as a branch. We've had about 60 members, mostly retired people without children or teenagers. During the summer, our locality is a destination for camping, hunting, and hiking. We would get children and youth among our visitors. We had teachers who were called to give gospel instruction to this segment of our visitors.

Very soon after I moved here from the big city, I was called to be the Young Women President. My only duty was to prepare a lesson for the girls between the ages of 12 and 18, when they came.

All this changed in October. Members of our branch were invited to attend a joint meeting with two other congregations, both "wards," that is, larger congregations of the church. The geographical boundaries of our branch were extended to include Star Valley, a town outside Payson, Arizona. This bumped up our membership numbers to 224, including children and youth. We're still a branch. We must have 300 members to become a ward.

The duties of my calling as Young Women President changed overnight. A full service president is in charge of the spiritual growth and achievement goals of all the girls, plus holding weeknight activities, plus girls camp, plus . . . the list is pretty long. Not having a need to do so, I have never learned the ins and outs of the full program, nor have I worked in a Young Women position before, except as a teacher for a short time soon after Noah landed in the Ark.

I was stunned at the magnitude of the responsibilities that lay before me. Where was I going to find the time to do all of them, let alone learn about them? A two-hour phone call with the "stake" leader who has oversight of my branch consolidated my anxieties as I learned of conflicts between what I already was committed to do in my professional life and upcoming Young Women activities. I expressed my concerns about my time to the leader, and she said to talk to my branch president (a branch's equivalent to a ward's bishop).

My nature is to be a nurturer. I hate conflict and confrontation. I knew what the branch president was going through in having to get our adult branch staffed for the changes in demographics. He had said there were not going to be changes in existing positions. I didn't want to approach him.

Some wise friends buoyed me up, and today I went to church with a mental list of why I was too snowed under to continue serving in this altered calling. I was one sentence into my preamble. Then the loving branch president told me that he had been praying about the position of Young Women President. He said a name had come to him as one who had more time available and would welcome the calling, and that as soon as he could talk to this woman and offer her the position, and as soon as she accepted, I would be released from my responsibilities. It happened today. The weight of the calling has been lifted from my shoulders.

I believe in continuing revelation from God. I believe this man was humble enough to seek for answers and to listen to inspiration. I believe that God knows my circumstances, and as a loving Father, he is concerned that I not be distraught at my inability to function in the capacity of a full-service president. I have other callings that I can fulfill. I am so grateful for humble, receptive leaders and for a Heavenly Father who knows my name. I testify that He does. He knows your name and loves you, too.

Nov 2, 2007

The Evolution Of Halloween

Valerie J. Steimle

As October has come to a close, Halloween has been stuck in my mind. Wednesday was the celebration of “All Hallows Eve.” There has been a long history of this festive day throughout all the ages and in our modern world we sometimes forget the reason why we do what we do.

The history is too long to write it all here but suffice it to say that the British Isles had the market on this holiday way back to the 8th century. All Saints Day was celebrated on November 1st (being yesterday) and the people in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales created a “Day of the Dead.” The dead were honored and a feast was held, not as those who are dead but as the living spirits of loved ones and guardians. “All Hallows Eve” events also included dressing up in unrecognizable costumes and mischief making to get treats to eat. As the early Americans adopted this tradition from their European ancestors, it evolved into what we know now as Halloween. But something very interesting has happened.

Back in the day when I was trick-or-treating, (60’s and 70’s) many children participated in this fun, seemingly innocent activity. I remember how much fun it was to go from door to door in our neighborhood to get candy and Hollywood wasn’t as interested in scaring you silly. The 80’s and 90’s came along and my children went trick-or-treating as well. I noticed then that there weren’t as many children knocking at my door. The movie rating changed from “R” to PG-13 so we get more violence and horror in what used to be considered unsuitable for “under 17”.

Now it’s after the new millennium, and the focus on Halloween is mostly celebrated as “Fall Festivals”. There aren’t nearly as many trick-or-treaters as there were even ten years ago and the emphasis in Hollywood is ghouls and horror. To add to this whole scary holiday an article was published in “The Advocate” this week saying that the Gay community thinks they should be taking over Halloween because the Christian world has killed it and they see it as a way to parade their outlandish and outrageous costumes. I really don’t think that is true.

Maybe Halloween has decreased in trick-or-treaters because of the scare in the 80’s of neighbors putting drugs in candy and razor blades in apples. Maybe it’s because those parents from my generation of trick-or-treaters sees the holiday as a different celebration and don’t want to be sucked into that Hollywood’s idea of gruesome and ghouls. Whatever the reason, Halloween has evolved into a time when community groups and churches promote fall activities and games instead of mischief and tricks and the few trick-or-treaters left have to get to houses by 9pm or else everyone is out of candy and has turned off the light. It is amazing to me to see this metamorphosis take place and to think about what Halloween has become.

On the one hand, Hollywood sees Halloween as an opportunity to scare you to pieces, while on the other hand many communities want safe and fun festivals for their children to still dress up and give out treats. I wonder what Halloween will end up being ten years from now? It makes you wonder.

Nov 1, 2007

Happy Halloween/Christmas/Thanksgiving?

by Heather Horrocks

The seasons are all mixed up -- at least the seasonal holidays are.

This morning I got a worried call from my husband asking me to go help his father, who had locked his keys in his car and now could not get into either his car or his house.

When I started driving toward my husband's work (to get his copy of the house key to deliver to his father), I was amazed to hear Christmas music on two local stations (97.5 and 106.5). Hey, guys, it’s only November 1st. It's not anywhere near the day after Thanksgiving. It's only the day after Halloween.

It just didn't seem right. Now don't get me wrong. I love Christmas music. I love to listen to it the entire month of December and even earlier. It's a wonderful tradition for me to pull out our Christmas music and start listening on Thanksgiving, and listen to my family pretend to complain about it (though I know they enjoy it, too).

I do have to confess that, after professing outrage, I went home and pulled out two new Christmas CDs I purchased last year. I figured if I was going to listen to Christmas music, I'd preview the music I bought. (It was fun.) But then I turned it off and went back to my regular fare. It's just too darn early.

In this social climate of Winter Festivals being the politically polite way to keep from saying Merry Christmas, I'm glad there is still music to listen to that proclaims my Lord, Jesus Christ. I did enjoy that aspect.

Whether you start listening to Christmas music now or later, I'm glad we have it to listen to.
I hope you had a fun Halloween. I hope you have a wonderful time with your family on Thanksgiving. And I hope you all have a great Christmas season.

And, if you’re like our family, you might like to add a new Thanksgiving tradition to your list: have a Pie Party on Thanksgiving Eve. It’s turned into a big thing at our house, with neighbors and family dropping in all evening to eat pie and visit. (We figure we’re too full on Thanksgiving Day to fully enjoy the pies, so we do the party the night before.) It’s been a fun tradition, too.

So ... Merry ThanksgivingChristmasThanksgivingNewYears to you, too. I especially hope we all keep our seasons straight.