Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rainbows

by Faith St. Clair

If ever I saw a stunning rainbow, it is right here in the dark of my home office tonight with only the glare of the computer and a small desk lamp. The background noise emits family night routines of baths, phone calls, kitchen clean-up and the slow summer need to get to bed. In the foreground, the scene is one of colorful beauty and peace. We have education, incomes, children, good health, a home that provides shelter and friends, testimonies of the gospel, relative youth, the opportunity for trials, the fortitude to endure them and the faith to learn from them.

A while ago I wrote about my life spinning out of control and blamed it on my mid-life crisis. Today that crisis still churns, but the glimpses of wonder that I catch sight of in between the frantic rotations are overarching. What I see is colorful, beautiful, peaceful - it is a blessed life. Like a dancer who “spots” when they pirouette in order to focus on just one spot so as to not get dizzy, my spot has become the rainbow. And although my gaze is often interrupted by a stream of people needing questions answered, tomorrow’s to-do list that screams to be added to and trials that await just beyond the corner, I’ll look to my rainbow of blessings, opportunities, daily miracles, answered prayers and God’s watchful care. I don’t think the whirlwind has slowed any, but my ability to spot the rainbow has sharpened.

Reverently speaking…thank God for promised rainbows!

The Joy of Journaling

Valerie J. Steimle

I started writing a journal when I was 12 years old. As a young woman, I wrote all about my dreams and aspirations. (Along with whom I secretly liked at church.) It was a great way to keep track of my goals and vent the frustrations of growing up. That was 35 years ago. Now, nine children and seven journals later I‘m still writing. I started a brand new journal at the turn of the century and looking back on the other journals, I was surprised at the details of my life.

There were some things I had forgotten about. For example, I wrote an entry of what it felt like the first time my oldest kicked me when I was carrying her in my womb. People forget about the details of their life. I am grateful that I took the time to write about the little things.
There are some days I am motivated to record all the funny things that everyone did that day in our whole family. It would take a lot of time but it was worth it for all the memories recorded.

Like the time I wrote about a day which started out “Today, I woke up this morning to ‘one of those days’. I knew it was going to be ‘one of those days’ because I went past the hallway bathroom and found three signs taped on the door:
1) DANGER: Biochemical Neurotoxins DANGER
2) DANGER: Biohazard Stupidity
3) DO NOT ENTER: Quarantine Warning

Let me explain: Last night Naomi’s (17) running shoes were stinking up her room. Tasha (14) and Sarah (19) were complaining about the smell. Naomi washed them and sprayed them with ‘fabreeze’ but they still smelled so she hid them under the sink in the hallway bathroom and Isaac (16) hung up the signs.” The day got progressively more chaotic with trying to locate all the Planet of the Ape movies to have a Planet of the Apes movie marathon. I wrote it all down in my journal.

Then there are other days I don’t care to write at all. (I don’t like those days.) So I came up with an idea on how to keep an even keel. Instead of overwhelming myself with the idea of writing all the details every day for an hour, I think to myself, I will only write five minutes every other day and leave it at that. If I write more fine, if I don’t that’s fine too.
I like to record the funny things that my children have done. When I am depressed, those writings can really cheer me up. Then there were times I recorded unusual happenings that didn’t seem to be funny at the time, but now are priceless. For example, one year in the first week of school, (we homeschool) I recorded the complaints of my children whose ages spanned from 3 to 15. I had run to the store for a few minutes and when I came back this is what I heard:
1. “Nobody is doing school work.”
2. “Isaac didn’t want to cut the lawn.” (My oldest son, 13 at the time)
3. Tasha and Jena (neighbor child) were cheating at kickball.” (both 11)
4. “Tasha didn’t want to cut the lawn.” (They were supposed to take turns)
5. “Sarah (15) hit Caleb.” (8)
6. “Caleb hit her back.”
7. “Tasha hit Sarah with her PEZ dispenser.”
8. “Isaac locked Caleb in the closet.”
9. “Naomi (14) is touching everyone’s stuff.”
10. “Everyone is yelling at Naomi.”
11. “Naomi was walking backwards and ran into Sarah.”
12. “Naomi shot Lydia (3) with a rubber band.”

That entry really makes me laugh. It’s so typical of what children will say about each other when they are annoyed. I never would have remembered all those details if I had not written them down.

My life is so full and my writing reflects that lifestyle. I don’t record all the mundane things I do but I write about what is important to me at the time. Sometimes hanging up bed sheets on a cool windy day is important to me so I write about that. Sometimes swinging gently in my hammock under the trees with my 3-year-old is important to me so I write about that. After I do my weekly biking, sometimes I’ll write my thoughts for the morning. One of the best things about writing is that I’ll always have the pages of my thoughts kept safe for reading on another day.

Not only are there snippets of my children’s life in my journal, but my goals for the year and my spiritual insights are recorded there as well. Writing down my feelings about world events and what is important to me in my life is therapeutic. I feel much better after writing for a half an hour and can face the day of peanut butter and jelly faces, a sink full of dirty dishes and homework to correct. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone in the world and I have the personal writings in my journal to prove it.

This blog is late

by Terry Deighton, Tardy Guest Blogger

This blog is late. Liz went out of town with her family for the weekend and asked me to write her blog on Sunday. I did think of it on Sunday, but I never did get it done. Let me tell you about the times I thought about it on Sunday.

I thought about writing this blog on the way to my Ward Council meeting at church. I had made waffles for my family and gotten ready for church, but I had not thought to write this before I left home at 11:15. Then I started thinking about the fact that I had to report to the other church leaders that my committee hadn't been able to get together due to family needs and illness. The luau we are planning is in less than three weeks, and we haven't actually firmed up any of the plans. One of the men in the meeting did know of some Polynesian dancers in the next town over, so that was good.

I thought about writing this blog during sacrament meeting in which my son gave his report to the ward on his mission. He asked his two sisters to speak with him. They all did excellent jobs, and the growth of my son was so evident. He left here a fun loving, good boy and came back a fun loving, spiritually mature young man. His sisters demonstrated poise and confidence. Well, Renae did refer to a scripture in Helium, but she corrected herself (Helaman) and mentioned that she was a bit nervous. Otherwise, they all three spoke as if they did it all the time. I thought about this blog again while I walked down the hall and thanked everyone for saying how wonderful my children are.

I didn't think about writing this blog in the hour I had at home. I was making dinner for the seven people who live here right now. My husband and the three young adults had raced from our ward to the young adult ward, so they could attend Relief Society and Priesthood meetings and so my husband could count the donations from the members of that ward.

I thought about writing this blog when I was at the stake center to hear my son report on his mission to the high council. It was fun to realize that I had known most of those men for many years. There's something very satisfying about having lived someplace long enough to have old friends even if you don't see them very often. My son stood there and spoke fluently and with conviction about his service to the Lord. Then they asked us to go around the room and shake hands with everyone in attendance. My bishop was there on stake welfare business, so that made it all the better.

Alas, I did not think about writing this blog when I finally got home after 6:30. You would think I would have remembered after all of the times that I thought about it during the day. Why is it that we think about things when we can't do anything about it, but when we have time, our minds just blank out? Maybe it's just me that it happens to, but it happens all of the time. People suggest using a day planner, but I know that I would just forget to look at it. I am grateful for the wonderful day I had on Sunday, but I am sorry I forgot to write Liz's blog until Tuesday morning. Now I have to go to work, so I will leave you to think about what you forgot to do over the weekend.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I need a holiday after the holiday

by Terri Wagner

For some insane reason, I always find myself overbooked on a holiday like Memorial Day, Labor Day, and even when I take vacation. I always need an extra day to recuperate from the holiday. One year, I actually took my sage advice and scheduled a day off after every holiday I knew I would be busy. It worked beautifully, however, I have never repeated it.

I thought I did a smart thing this holiday. I worked on domestic concerns Saturday. Got everything done. Fasted Sunday because I'll have company next week. Rested mostly on Sunday, got up Monday and headed into fun activities. By 9 pm, I was exhausted, and sluggish this morning, mourning the fact that I drive 50 miles one way each day to get to work, wondering if a nice simple Wal-Mart job might suit me better. I wanted one more day.

I think next year I am going to schedule things so I take the day after a holiday. The more I remember about that year, the more sensible it seems. But maybe that's because I have two Chinese articles to edit (they don't understand English all that well, and I'm not that good in higher math, ha), several layouts to proof and approve, not to mention the regular column copy we do. Suddenly, the whole concept of that extra day off sounds heavenly. Wonder if I'll remember this come next January when planning out my vacation time?! My guess is I won't.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

by Cecily Markland

Memorial Day 2007, like so many before, has been a special day for me as I contemplated the service and sacrifice of the many brave men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect our liberties and our land. I'm grateful on a grand scale, for universal blessings we all experience because of their service. Yet, today, my gratitude has been for smaller, or at least more personal, blessings as well as.

My memorable Memorial Day actually began Friday. My daughter, who is 16 weeks pregnant, called on Friday afternoon to tell me she was having some problems and her doctor had suggested bed rest for a few days. So, Friday afternoon, I had two hours to reflect as I drove to Tucson to be with her. Then, Saturday night, I drove home so I could be in my ward Sunday to teach Relief Society, then I turned around and went back to Tucson Sunday night and returned home again tonight.

The season and the circumstances seemed to converge to create a wonderful weekend of reminiscing and of remembering all I consider most precious and dear. How grateful I am for home and family, for freedom, for faith. How wonderful it was to remember...but, even more, to FEEL remembered. In my highway reflections, as I considered the goodness of a loving Heavenly Father, I sensed He, too, remembered me and was with me to calm my troubled heart and to make my way a little smoother.

Friday, May 25, 2007

History or Fairytale

by Donna Hatch

In my on-line writing group for Regency Writers, some of us were bemoaning the fact that so many novels labeled historicals are historically inaccurate. In the 80’s, historicals were pretty much anything goes. A few authors did a great job of blending a great story with historical accuracy, but many best-selling authors just wrote whatever they wanted and didn’t worry about any kind of research. Unfortunately, publishers let them get away with it and readers swallowed it.

A prime example of this is the myth that marriage could be quietly annulled if it wasn’t consummated. I don’t know who started that, but it is unarguably false. There was an ancient Scottish tradition that allowed for annulment in certain circumstances, but for all intents and purposes, marriage was permanent. Furthermore, annulment was messy and scandalous and never, ever happened quietly. It also socially ruined them both. Even divorce was difficult to obtain until King Henry VII legalized divorce in England, and even then, never became an easy thing to do until late in the 20th century.

Today, more and more publishers are looking for historical accuracy, but still not enough to satisfy many history geeks. The winner of a nationally recognized HISTORICAL contest began her Regency novel with a grand wedding full of descriptions that are modern inventions which never happened in that era. Why did she win? It was a lovely fantasy that blended history with modern-day "traditions" and she was a good writer. Too bad the judges overlooked the fact that it was historically inaccurate. A few hours spent in research would have won her not only the contest, but the respect of other regency authors and the well-informed reader who knows better.

Why do we care about historical accuracy? Several reasons. First, its true. The fiction comes from the plot and the characters, not the setting. Second, it helps preserve our heritage. Third, we can learn from the past and see that maybe the good old days weren’t all that good, or that they were wonderful and should be treasured. Fourth, many readers (and writers) are fascinated with that era and want sources to guide them through it. Fifth, keeping an accurate backdrop helps shape the characters. Research is more than just learning about what the clothing looked like, or what kind of carriages they drove; its about society and people. It’s a realm long gone and our only doorway back is through painstaking research.

Some say, “Oh, well, it’s the story we want and the fantasy that entertains us.” To that I say, “Well, fine, then label it a fantasy, not a historical.” If you’re going to call a novel Historical, or Historical Fiction, do the research. I know it's a pain. I've had characters nagging me to write their stories for years but I resisted because I didn't want to do the amount of research that would be required. Finally, when they wouldn't leave me alone, I broke down and began researching. It's hard, and frustrating, and very time consuming. But I know it will be worth it.

In the midst of the on-line ranting, one of the published authors in my group shared with us her philosophy:

As a writer, my job is threefold:

1) do my homework well enough to please my fellow history geeks,

2) make the story compelling enough to hook readers who don't care whether or not it's accurate, and

3) don't stress over writers/readers who prefer the fairytale.

It resonated within me. I hope it helps you, too.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Choice to Be Happy

By Kari Diane Pike

A number of months ago, I made a conscious decision to tell people "I am happy." Whenever someone asks how I am, I always try to respond with, “I’m happy!” That decision came from one of those wonderful “Aha” moments that left me with an intense desire to share joy and happiness with everyone around me. I feel a renewal of energy and I have discovered that on those challenging days when I feel discouraged, just the act of saying “I’m happy!” lifts my spirits and opens my eyes to the positive things in life.

I'm continually amazed by the reactions I get to the simple statement, “I am happy!” The most common reaction is “You’re happy? Wow! No one ever tells me they’re happy.” Sometimes I’m questioned with “Happy? Why are you happy?” Once in awhile the other person will stop and look at me and say, “You know, I’m happy, too!”

One day last week, a phone call interrupted my morning session at the computer. A cheerful, feminine voice said,

“Hello, my name is Rhonda and I’m with (fill in the blank) Heating and air Conditioning Company. How are you today?”

Being in a particularly cheerful mood myself, I replied, “I’m happy! Thank you!”

There was a moment of complete silence before Rhonda said, “Oh, so you’ve already had a tune-up. Okay, sorry to have bothered you.”

The first thought to rush into my mind was “How did you know?” Just as I started to ask her if she would like the name of my therapist, I realized she was referring to my home cooling system and not my head. Instead, I told her it was no bother and hung up the phone. Then I laughed right out loud! (If only I had known it could be that easy to get rid of a phone solicitor!)

This past weekend I helped with a funeral, assisted in a birth, attended a temple wedding, (and took charge of all the food at the reception) and witnessed our 16-year-old son receive his patriarchal blessing (a truly humbling experience). I am grateful that despite being physically exhausted, I was able to savor each experience and learn from them, simply because I am happy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Drama of Life

by Anna Arnett

Shakespeare claimed all the world to be a stage. If each of us are players, could we not assume each of us is the star in our own, private drama? Then, if we live long enough, I expect each of our personal plays will write itself out in, roughly, three acts for us to direct as well as perform in.

Act 1 - childhood dependency, where parents play front stage parts, yet we still star. The music is new, upbeat, challenging, with occasional cymbal crashes.
Act 2 - autonomy more or less shared, when our parents recede and other players enter and the stage crowds with perhaps a spouse, children, bosses, etc. The music keeps changing in tempo and tone.
Act 3 - old age dependency that often advances gradually as the stage slowly empties and the music gets soft and sweet.

Perhaps I’m now in the entr’acte between the last two stages, but the drama still holds me spellbound. Each curtain-fall brings with it tears of both joy and sorrow. Such is the glory and blessing of life.

Sometimes my curtain wavers and I’m not sure exactly when it falls. Did my first act end when I left home to work in a distant city? Or did the music simply change? I’ll have to think about that. I’m sure, however, that act one completely closed the day I married.

My second act extended longer than the first by at least sixteen years (the distance between my first and last child). But eventually it closed. Maybe the curtain started to lower the day I stood by a window at Sky Harbor and watched the plane with my youngest son on board taxi to the runway. I turned to his girl friend, saw tears in her eyes, and felt wetness on my own cheeks. I don't remember what I said, but Camille recalls it was something like, "It's okay to cry, but cheer up. A mission only lasts a couple of years, and he'll be back. However, he’ll be coming home to you, not to me." (Which he did.)

Did I feel sorry for myself? Only slightly. I cried tears of gratitude for having a strong role in his first act, and of joy in moving on to a different part. I'd already learned through experience that when my children leave home for college, missions, or wherever they go, it signals the close of a certain kind of relationship—that my role in this child’s drama would now slowly lessen in importance as far as stage setting and number of lines go, and my role in dominance must cease

I learned that as each child leaves home, the curtain lowers, signaling the end of the first act of his play, where I, as mom, had often played front center, even while plotting to bring that child forward. However, my role as mother will never end in my child’s life. I am still programmed to continue, just as my mother’s influence still echoes in mine, though I no longer belong on center stage in his drama.

I simply transfer back to my own play, where I continue my second act as director and leading lady.

The light just dawned. All my life I’ve been acting on several stages simultaneously. I entered as star in my own drama, but played a more or less major role in those of each of my parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and acquaintances. Since my firstborn arrived, I’ve been cast to play a major role in her play and each succeeding child’s play. I’ve slowly had to rewrite my part in each external script, to that of a cheerleader, or the one with the flashlight in a darkened theater, watching while teachers, spouse, children, business, church leaders, new friends, etc. enter from the sidelines and take their part in my child’s dramatic life. I’m still there, however, when I’m needed, and if my understanding is correct, I’ll keep playing these roles together for eternity.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Renewed

By Betsy Love

Once in a while I get this urge to write poetry. A friend told me that my writing had taken a rather dismal turn and that it was rather depressing to read. "Hmph!" I thought. I don't write depressing poetry. Then I read through my last few writings and I had to agree. So I pulled up a slide show called "This Planet Earth" and watched it thinking I might get some inspiration. I did. Hence the poem "Renewed". After watching this magnificent view of earth, the universe, creatures great and small, I picked out one element of incredible beauty and wrote about the rain.

When I was a little girl I lived in a house with a flat roof and could always hear the beating of the summer storms overhead as I lay in my bed at night, waiting for sleep to come. To me the rhythm of those drops were like the catharsis I felt as I wrote this poem. I hope as you read this you too will feel that same peace.

Renewed

A sun rises in the east

Travels its pinnacle high

Shines brightest at day’s end

Colors clothe the naked sky


A cloud frenzies 'round the orb

Across thirsty desert’s loam

Plays youthful hide and seek

Creating ladders from my far away home


Lightening wallops the night

Ashen spider legs crackle the blackened skies

Leaving gloom and chasing doom

Announcing catharsis be nigh


Thirsty earth, my greedy earth

She gulps at every drip

Then heaves a sigh of deliverance

And wipes a dainty lip


Terra breathes her lusty aroma

Releases blossom’s perfume

Traveling swift in an evening breeze

Renewed and not a hint too soon

Looking Through the Lens of Graduation

By Rene Allen

Saturday morning I had one of the best seats in the Mesa Arts Center and a job as a professional photographer. My son hired me to help him shoot the first dental school graduation in the state of Arizona. My angle was to be the handshake between the dean and students as they walked past the dignitaries to receive their doctoral hoods on the other side of the stage.

My husband and I sat in the cordoned-off balcony looking directly down on the stage. Fifty faculty members sat in three rows behind the speaker’s podium, their colorful gowns and doctoral hoods speaking of an accumulation of education and experience in the fields of public health, oral health and other related areas. Three people, including Richard Carmona, the country’s previous Surgeon General, were to receive honorary degrees. Carmona would be the commencement speaker.

A pianist at a Steinway grand played hauntingly familiar music. The moody, introspective phrasing of “Pachabel’s Canon” stirred my memory. By the time the graduates entered, I was well into reliving a balmy night in May in 1975. I was 24. Wrapped with me in the silky robes of my own graduate gown was the secret of my first pregnancy.

The graduates filed in and took their seats. They were young and beautiful, confident and poised. So must I have been. The significance of achievement and mastery – for isn’t that what graduation is, an acknowledgement that you, the graduate, have shown mastery and proficiency in the areas of study, that you now have expertise, and with it comes certain rights and privileges – was the purpose of that well-planned summer evening in front of the College of Medicine at the feet of a white marble statue of Hippocrates. That night I received numerous awards including Outstanding Woman Medical Student. I don’t remember the speaker except that he was someone of prestige and that he came to us at the University of Arizona from Harvard. What I do remember is soaring with the stars, of being so alive and intelligent and full of knowledge anything seemed possible.

I don’t know if ever again I felt so powerful and able. The realities of participating in the events of life and death, of motherhood and of being a wife and managing a home, rapidly made me aware of limitations. What I knew and had learned was not enough. Regardless the desires I had to excel, to never err and be a good person, I did make mistakes; I got tired and frustrated and angry.

Tears came to my eyes. Graduation is coming of age; it is leaving the protected nest of education and learning to fly, it is taking the leap forward into your own life and finding you have resources beyond those you ever imagined. But it is more than that. For one day you soar with the stars, and the next, locked in an arm wrestle with life, you learn about limitations.

I turned my camera to the stage and focused the lens. It is a great lens, one my husband gave me for Christmas, a 300 mm telephoto with an image stabilizing capacity that can handle shaky hands – a human thing.

No one except the man sitting next to me, the one with whom I had shared more than thirty-five years, knew that on a sweet May evening a long time ago, I had received my own doctorate, an M.D., with all the rights and privileges associated therewith; that a few months later we would have our first child; that we would have three more children; that I would finish an Ob-Gyn residency, practice medicine for 17 year and that I would leave medicine. What people knew about me, among those who even knew I was there, was that I had been hired by Ben Allen Photography as an assistant to shoot the A.T. Still University Dental School commencement.

And it was okay.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's all right

by Marsha Ward

Today I visited my old ward (church congregation) in Mesa for worship services. The opening hymn was particularly poignant for me. The text of the first verse is:

"Be thou humble in thy weakness, and the Lord thy God shall lead thee,
Shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answer to thy prayers.
Be thou humble in thy pleading, and the Lord thy God shall bless thee,
Shall bless thee with a sweet and calm assurance that he cares."

I felt as though God put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze to let me know he hears me, he knows me, he loves me.

I haven't checked for updates on the fire today, but yesterday the word was that the fire was 80% contained and that those who had been evacuated from Mountain Meadows Bible Camp, The Brooks summer cabins, and the See Canyon homes would be able to return home this morning.

I'm so grateful for the firefighters and all their work. I don't know when I'll return home, because the smoke will be around for maybe another week, and I don't know if my eyes can tolerate it. I guess we'll see.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What I Learned in Bear Lake and Beyond

by Heather Horrocks

I’ve had an interesting few weeks. My family and I spent ten days on a cruise, drove to Phoenix to visit our three-year-old grandson (and his parents, too, of course), continued our trek up to Saint George, and then arrived home in Salt Lake by 10:00 p.m. on Monday, April 30th.

The very next day, before noon, I had to be packed and ready to leave for a week-long writer’s retreat with my generous writer friend, Kathleen.

Once at Bear Lake, I had a stretch of nearly a week before me. No kids. No husband. No pets. No cleaning. Not much cooking. Ahh. A week of just me, writing, sitting in the hot tub talking about writing, and walking on the beach (talking about writing, of course).

I prayed about what to work on while I was there. Should I finish the last half of How To Stuff A Wild Zucchini (a publishing house has requested the entire manuscript) or on the many smaller projects vying for my attention (much needed website update, mission book, contracts for illustrators and composers, etc)? A clear answer came--write to The End in Zucchini, first draft only (I knew if I stopped to polish, I didn't have time to complete the task).

Okay, so now I knew what I would be working on. Now to come up with a plan (I'm good at coming up with them--it's working them I have trouble with). I had six days to write and . . . 42 scenes left to write?!? That couldn’t be. Surely I’d gotten further into the book than that!

Oh, well. I would trust the answer that had come. And I still had a few vestiges of my high school math . . . Let's see--42 scenes divided by six full writing days was seven scenes per day. Still, they would be seven first-draft, puke-green-dreck scenes, and I already had a detailed outline and knew exactly what would be happening in each.

For those six days, with no children, husband, dogs, or tasks needing my attention, I had an endless vista of beautiful writing time. Even if (as on one day), I didn’t start writing until 4:00 in the afternoon, I could still get my writing done for the day.

So I put a laser focus on the goal of getting to The End, and I went for it . . . and finished Zucchini. I wrote first-draft, puke-green-dreck pages, just like I’d planned. And, in doing so, I broke through a huge block I’d had with that book. With my writing, in general.

But the real realization occurred on our two-hour drive home. As we drew closer to home, I could feel the weight of all the other writing-related tasks I still needed to do (website, etc) and I began to feel the stress of them like the weight of light blankets being piled on me, one after the other. Suddenly, I had the thought that I didn’t need to work on all of them at once. In fact, I knew I couldn’t, because I could already feel that the weight of them all together would keep me from doing any of them.

I’d already decided that, in order to have time for my family in the evenings and weekends and to keep on top of the household stuff (you know--laundry, dishes, basic cleaning), I need to write earlier in the day. In order to feel like I'm actually done writing, rather than having the feeling that 'I need to get back to that scene' I knew I had to assign myself a ‘shift’ to work and, once it’s over, I’m done for the day and can get on with other things. So I realized on the drive home that, after my three-hour shift was over, then I would spend another 30-60 minutes a day working on another writing-related project--but only one. I would decide beforehand which one was the top priority, and I would only work on that one, and take it to completion.

Ahh. What a relief that decision was. I could literally feel the weight of the blankets/tasks coming back off, and I was left with a manageable one task to work on, in addition to my regular writing.

A few miles down the road, I felt the weight of different blankets, this time my household-related tasks. The kitchen cabinet doors still needed painted and rehung. I had to find and buy something with which to organize (once and for all) my spices. General uncluttering. I started feeling mildly claustrophobic again--and stuck, held in place by the weight of these new, different blankets.

I realized that I needed to do the same with these household tasks that I'd done with the writing ones. Every day, after my shift and my writing-related task has been worked on, I would work for 30-60 minutes on one specific, large household task and take it to completion.

Things shifted back into perspective. All this time, when I’ve tried to do everything at once, I’ve moved forward only slowly on any of them and many times stopped, bewildered and overwhelmed, in my tracks.

This was a big ah-ha moment for me. One I’d had a few years ago--and then forgotten (how do I go that, anyway?). I’m praying I’ll remember this time. I’m hoping that my ah-ha moment might bring on a matching ah-ha moment of your own. Because surely I’m not the only woman in the world who has so much to do that she gets too overhelmed to do any of the myriad tasks facing her and she grinds to a halt.

The first thing I did, when I returned, was to sit down and come up with a plan for polishing the Zucchini scenes (after all, a publisher is waiting for them). I’m well on my way to having that done AND I’ve bought the containers and organized my spices AND I’m writing a story I promised my sister. I’m getting lots done AND spending time and attention on my family AND keeping my house clean. (Ha! That last one was a joke! It’s still so cluttered from having the kitchen not quite done that cleaning truly is a joke. But once the kitchen is put back together--which is the next priority--then I can get back on top of the housecleaning again.)

I hope you can look at your life with new eyes today, and perhaps pray for perspective to see how you can unclutter your tasks and put them in some kind of manageable order. It has worked wonders for me.

Oh, and if you can manage a week away with a writer friend, I highly recommend it. : ) Getting out of your regular routine lends marvelous perspective to your regular routine.

Here's to our regular routine--may it be a beautiful, nourishing one for us.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Challenges of Writing

Valerie J. Steimle

I have been sitting here staring at a blank screen for the last two hours trying to write my blog entry. My children are around involved with several things: playing video games, watching Everafter and running the dogs in and out of the house. Still nothing. So I start to research what I might talk about: Politics, religion, health issues, children. Nothing strikes my fancy. I read through my “morning pages” and all I have been talking about is who is dating whom. No good. So I go to my writer’s notebook and low and behold there are some notes on writer’s block.
From Stephen Blake Mettee article on Banishing Writer’s Block, he suggests several ideas. If you think you have nothing to write about then think about this:
1. you have no plan
2. you don’t have enough information
3. you don’t change subjects enough.
4. you have a lack of passion

Having a plan is easily fixed with writing down your ideas in a notebook as I have done. Gathering information about a topic is also not difficult only time consuming. You can do it with a few hours of time. Changing the subjects in your writing isn’t that difficult either. Reading and researching takes time but it is worth it. And the last of them: passion. If you have no passion about anything, I don’t know what you can about that. You can’t just run out and buy some. Writer’s need to work on what gives them their opinions and ideas about certain subjects. The passion should soon develop. I’ve done all of that and still no ideas. What else am I to do.

Perfectionism is another idea Mr. Mettee wrote about with writer’s block. He says to allow yourself to write a flawed and mistake ridden draft and edit it later. Just get the ideas down on paper and never mind how they look. You can always rewrite it. You can’t rewrite a blank page. So I just start typing whatever is in my head.

Self-Doubt. Another challenge to overcome is the negative thoughts that drain your creativity and set you up for failure. Give yourself positive thoughts and just start writing. A pep talk to yourself so to speak. You can do it. You have done it so many times before.

So there you have it. How to overcome writer’s block. A challenge we all face from time to time that we must overcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sharing

By Faith St. Clair


We have all been taught that sharing is a good thing. Give unto others….share your toys, share your food, share your home, your hearts. Share your gospel, share your testimony, share your time and talents. And the one thing that propels us, other than the fact that we are told it is the right thing to do, is the promise that sharing gives you a warm and cozy feeling.

Well, today was my first experience at having to share my son with someone else and for some reason my feelings were fettered rather than fuzzy.

My son (now 22) had hand surgery today to wire some fingers back together and check on nerve and ligament damage and in spite of him telling me that I didn’t have to take off work and go (his girlfriend was going to take him), I went anyway. I’m sorry, but it’s just too hard to turn off the Mother switch. I didn’t go to interfere, I just wanted to be there…in case….something happened…he wanted/needed me…just because I needed to be close and know that he was o.k.

The first sharing trespass occurred when the nurse took him back and said he could only bring one person back with him; it was awkward. Not only did I want to be the one to go in, but I knew they would ask him about family histories (including his own) and I knew he didn’t know the bulk of what they would ask him. His girlfriend, thankfully, said, “You go, I’ll wait,” but it was uncomfortable and for a moment, which gratefully didn’t last too long, I felt guilty for going in without at least a modest protest.

Then, in the recovery room, the poor nurse didn’t know who to talk to. She kept looking at the both of us when she spoke and wondered who was going to take care of this poor boy/man. When the girlfriend kept speaking up and taking all the paperwork, it was pretty clear she intended on taking care of him in his post-op recovery. I remained at the foot of the bed while she was at his side, stroking his hair and holding his hand. I DIDN’T WANT TO SHARE!

I tried to listen to all the information so that I could help his healing process when I got phone calls of confusion from them (which I did). What was the first red flag was that she intended on taking him home to her house, but then leaving him just an hour later to go to work (leaving him alone). The nurse was a little alarmed by this – as was I – but for whatever offers of assistance I made (short of picking him up and carrying him to my car myself), I was told that he would be o.k. and if he needed anything, her mother could come sit with him because she was just a few minutes away.

My locked jaw didn’t last too long. I was quick to attribute her ill attempts of consideration to stupid youth, inexperience and not being a mom. But for all the crying out loud that I wanted to do but didn’t, I just wanted to know that he was going to be o.k. I wanted to be assured that if I did share, she was going to take care of what I was sharing with her.

One thing I think ought to be included in the sharing contract – “the person which is receiving the shared gift, is obligated to take care of said gift in like or better manner than the giver.”

I wondered if I would have felt differently if she were his wife today. I wondered if it would have been easier to share him as a gift rather than a loan.

I felt unhappy that I had to share today, yet I also feel bad I didn’t do a better job at sharing. I digress in my thoughts and take a step back to look at it from the other perspective and I can see all the things that Heavenly Father has shared with me. Have I taken care of said gifts in like or better manner than He?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Temple Ready

by Terri Wagner

That phrase gave me pause last Friday night. I promised my mother that for mother's day I would do the endowments for my aunt. I had one strong memory of my aunt and kept that in my mind on the trip over to Baton Rouge (with several RS sisters) to try to focus on her. Unfortunately, she had passed away years ago. And being a military brat, I knew her but not that well in my growing up years.

As I settled into my seat reverently at the temple, I felt her strong spirit settled right next to me. And she proceeded to practically fling herself into the session. I wanted to laugh out loud as she was obviously having a joyful experience but of course that would not be seemly. After a while though her enthusiasm took over and I just enjoyed the ride. It was beyond a privilege to do this for my mom and an utter delight to reconnect with my aunt. It's comforting to know I have those on the other side waiting for me. And how sweet to know I was able to do something for them, they could not do here.

My one memory of my aunt is after I had joined the church, and we had a family event at her house. And she had bought Coke for me and my sister to drink since we no longer drank tea. Someone said oh they don't drink that either. Exasperated, she said, well just what do they drink? But I knew she didn't have a lot of money and just buying the Coke was a bit of a sacrifice and the truth was I did drink Coke then.

Isn't the gospel a wonderful, joyful thing when you can "pay back" someone who tried to do a kind thing for you? And isn't even better when you know they appreciate it.

It gave "temple ready" a whole new wonderful meaning for me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Letter From My Mother

by Liz Adair

Today is Mother’s Day, and I thought I would post something my mother wrote to me over forty years ago. She was living in Afghanistan at the time. My father was there working for the Agency for International Development, and, though Mother had been assured that she would be able to work for the U.S. Government while she was there, her papers got hung up in Washington, and no job came through. However, she was offered the position of manager of the AID Staff House, a small hotel and restaurant that catered to the American contingent as well as visiting diplomats.

Mother took the job, though she had never done anything like that before. She had a staff of fifteen Afghan men working for her, and she became very involved in their lives. Below is an excerpt from one of her letters. I might explain that on mother’s first day at the Staff House, Saddrudin came to her and announced that he was her ‘system’. He meant assistant.

March 10, 1966

Dearest Children:

I have to sit right down and tell you this thing that happened before I forget just how it was. Yesterday a little boy came to the Staff House with Saddrudin (my “System”), and since I had been wanting some fertilizer for my flowerbeds, Saddrudin said, “Here is a businessman you may want to enter into a contract with for some fertilizer.” So I said, “Of course.” Well, here stood this little ragamuffin. I know he had a hundred patches on his coat. In fact, the coat was made of squares of material put together like a quilt. It was not a coat, but a toga – sort of a long shirt affair. Such a chapped little brown boy; he couldn’t have been over eight or ten years old. He had his turban wound around his head; such a little, old, man-child standing there. He would bring his burros with fertilizer, he said, two bags on each burro for seven afs a bag. He had to bring it three miles, walking behind the burros.

I said great, bring it on.

Well, this morning I could hear one of the boys saying, “Barro, barro,” which means “Go.” I went out into the breezeway, and there was this little boy putting up a very good argument. He had brought the fertilizer, and he had brought three bags on each donkey, and he wanted seven afs for each bag. Well, Saddrudin wasn’t here yet, and I couldn’t remember if it was seven afs a bag or per donkey. The gardeners came flocking around, and all the cooks, and they were all going to be darn sure that I didn’t get robbed by this formidable bandit. The big gardener with the deep voice came and spoke his piece, and since the Afghans are very excitable, you can imagine the din around his head. By the time I got out there, the poor little chap’s mouth and chin were quivering. When I spoke softly to him, he broke into tears and was just a poor little ragged boy and not a big-time contractor.

Well, you can imagine it tore me all up, and I dispatched fellas for cookies and said I didn’t care if it was too much, I would pay the price: forty-two afs for half a day’s work for this little man-child and two burros. He got up before dawn to do this bit of work, and he was a brave little guy. After we got him calmed down, I told him to go to Gertrude’s. She’s no tougher than I am, and I knew she would buy some. Then I told him to come back in two weeks and haul me some more. Probably the whole family will eat for two days on the forty afs I gave him. I slipped him a six-af tip, too. The boys didn’t see that or they would say, “That’s too much, Memsahib.”

The poverty among some of these people is a pitiful thing to look upon, especially in the children. He was a proud little boy, and after this houseboy had given him such a verbal trouncing, he’d be darned if he would take cookies from him. It was only when I told him to take them that he took them in his little grimy paw and almost squeezed them into crumbs. They were peanut butter cookies and kinda crumby anyhow.

Gotta go. Love to all...Mother

To see other excerpts and pictures, go to lettersfromafghanistan.com

Friday, May 11, 2007

Donna's Writing Book of Wisdom: Passive Voice

by Donna Hatch

I am often approached about critiquing people’s writing. Some of those requests are from established critique partners, some are from other writers in my various writing groups. I’ve been asked to critique short stories, anecdotes, novels and memoirs.

People seem to think that there are hard and fast rules to writing, but in order to developing that fresh, original voice editors crave can be difficult. Especially if one is getting bogged down in obeying all the rules!

If you focus instead on avoiding major blunders rather than staying within the lines, so to speak, it can help.

One of the big mistakes writers make is called Passive Voice. Some people advise new writers to watch out for using the weak verbs “to be.” Remember those from grade school? Am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being, etc?

I often hear mentors caution against using the verb “was” and it’s other “to be” verbs because they’re weak. That’s true. They are weak. Whimpy. Meant to be used very sparingly. They also signify passive voice.

Here are two examples:

“She was angry.” This could be more effective if changed to “She trembled in anger.”

“It rained very hard on them as they ran.” This could be “Rain pummeled them as they ran.”

Not only do these second examples use stronger verbs, they are more specific and paint a clearer visual picture.

Just to throw in another monkey wrench, using the words “feel” or “felt” waters down your narrative, too.

"I felt the dog shiver in my arms" is not as strong as "The dog shivered in my arms."

Here's another, "I felt sick" is weaker than "My stomach lurched."

And "I was happy" not only uses the dreaded WAS, but it’s also passive voice. "I felt happy" gets rid of the word was, but it doesn't get improve the passive voice.

Remember, show, don't tell. Try something like. "Unable to keep the smile off my face, I..." or "with a lighter heart and a spring in my step, I..." that way, you are showing that you’re happy and not just telling. See what I mean?"

So remember, to write in strong, active voice, try to avoid “to be” verbs, and “feel” or “felt,” and watch your writing come alive

Happy Writing!

TTFN

Donna
Believe in Happy Endings…

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Questions

by Kari Diane Pike

Our nine-year-old son asked me a question the other day. I didn’t have the answer. I told him I would have to think about it for awhile. That was Sunday. Today is Thursday. I still don’t have the answer. I discussed it with my husband. I discussed it with a friend at church. I even discussed it with complete strangers while I worked out at Curves. Now I am discussing it with you.

His question is, “What is the difference between power and strength?”

Personally, I think there is more than one answer to that question. I think it depends not only on the context of the question, but on the use of the words, “power” and “strength.” It depends on your personal experiences and perspectives, your age and even your gender.

I think you can have great strength (or physical ability), but you may not have the power (as is authority) to use that strength. I also think you can have power, but lack the strength (as in character) to successfully use that power.

I thought of my dear father-in-law when I pondered this question. Dad suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. He used to have power and strength. His body and mind were strong and active. The man could build or fix anything. He always requested me to have a “honey-do” list ready for him whenever he came to visit. He was, as Kenny Chesney would sing it, our “unsinkable ship”…our “unbreakable wall.” Dad still has a great strength of body and will. He can walk for miles. He is determined to find whatever he is looking for. But his power of reasoning is gone. His power to communicate effectively is gone. He has lost the power to live independently. This man, who could take apart an engine and rebuild it again, can’t even figure out how to undo his own seatbelt.

His wife of nearly 60 years cares for Ken in the home they purchased over 40 years ago. Mom is his power. Everything she does for him is motivated by love and her desire to preserve his dignity and independence. Mom has been given strength beyond her ability to care for Dad. Mom has also been given the power to discern his needs and to communicate her love to him.

I thought about power and strength as it applies to our writing. What is the difference between powerful writing and strong writing? Is there a difference? Is one better than the other? You tell me.

Oh, and by the way, our son (the one who asked the question) is going to be a fifth grader next year. His teacher urged us to let him audition for the “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” show. Would any of you consider something like that for your child, or do you think it unwise to expose kids to that type of experience?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Words: Good or Gold

by Anna Arnett

A Few Thoughts About Words

I'm not an expert, even in my own opinion, but I believe I've learned a few things. So, I'm listing them here for my own benefit and review. Hopefully, I'll even use them.

I suppose it's universally agreed that words form the basis for passing on all information—whether truth or falsehood. The more enticingly words are combined, the greater their longevity.

I remember plowing through textbooks that, while they may have held valuable, and possibly fascinating information, were very somnolent for me. Yet I can still easily stay awake all night reading good fiction as I involve myself, heart and soul, with the protagonists, cheering for their success, or weeping for their sorrows.

What makes the difference? Books of all kinds are written merely with words, and according to Word Power, I have an excellent vocabulary. Still, I recall my frustration of almost half a century ago when, while trying to read a college textbook on the history of education, I almost gave up in despair. Here I sat reading the words, eager to learn because I needed the information to pass the class. I knew a definition for every single word in the chapter, yet I had no idea what it actually said. How could that be? At that time, I attributed it to the fifteen-odd years since I had tackled a textbook but I have since often pondered. Why do some combinations of words bore, while others vitalize?

Perhaps it could be because some words get their mileage only in usage. All words are good, and useful in their place but, let's face it, many are extremely mild. They carry little inspiration and, though they willingly assist with all they have, they volunteer very little.

For example, all 'to be' words (is, was, were, are, etc.) are quite static. Sure, they are good words, but they just sit there. I'd like to compare a narrative filled with was-es to a sketch—a rough draft that could stand alone, but also could be developed into something spectacular. Nobody knows better than a fellow artist how much input and imagination it takes to portray any picture, whether with a camera, pencil, brush, or words. Now, if a writer doesn’t elucidate, it leaves the reader to fill in the blanks. In that case, if the reader lacks imagination, the story stays flat.

All action words are not equal. Some can be rather sluggish and indeterminate (came, went, walked, etc.) yet they do give direction, and movement, thus instilling a bit of life. We might say they turn a snapshot-like narrative into something comparable to a slide show, or to the old, jerky, silent movies. (Have you watched any? They are terrific in their own way. Rudolph Valentino exemplified liquid grace even then, and my favorite, Buster Keaton, kept me laughing or cheering without even speaking a word. But I digress.)

Just as better cameras and techniques give grace and fluidity to a movie, so precise, specific action words give depth and understanding to reading. Things flow better as we picture details more easily.

Then there are ‘reaction' words that depict thought and emotion. They help us identify with characters; put ourselves into the story so we really care about what is happening. May I compare it with adding sound to personalize and vitalize a film?

Moreover, is a drama nearly as effective without music? We expect a love scene when violins play, tense for danger with somber tones, are energized by drum beat—you get the picture. Likewise, the words we choose can sway feelings, and bring thoughts not stated. Just as poetry is a concise way of playing upon our emotions as well as upon our minds, words of prose can carry, not only the precise meaning, but also a world of connotation. To write poetically, then, is to choose persuasive, meaningful, words whose very sound, rhythm and sometimes rhyme will contribute to the overall effect. Poetic writing is music to the soul. Remember to take time to read your manuscript aloud to see how it flows.

Some black-and-white films are wonderful but not many people prefer them to color. Therefore, toss in short, descriptive words or phrases.

Putting it all together properly, with imagination and verve, can legendize any story, whether spoken, written or filmed. Words are only tools of the trade. Mark Twain is supposed to have quipped, “Anybody can write a book. Every word you need is right there in the dictionary.” A thesaurus helps find word variety but you, the author, must make the choice.

Precise, descriptive words are golden. Go for the gold.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Mary Greer's "Boxes"

My name is Mary Greer and I am a member of the Pima Poets and Penners. I am blog-sitting for Rene while she is off in Mexico working on her tan. She suggested that I might shock you all by sharing a journal entry called “Boxes”. Here it is.

We are all given decorated boxes containing invaluable gifts of indescribable beauty. We have myriads of gifts, some the same, some different, and we open them at different times, on our individual pacing charts, as we progress through life. Of course, some we don’t value, some we allow to tarnish or sit on a shelf in a dark basement collecting dust, and some we don’t open because we are afraid. Some, because, like waiting for Christmas, it isn’t time yet, we don’t open at all.

Some gifts, like motherhood, infinitely precious, are made of the highest grade diamond, and like those diamonds, for all of their beauty, have razor sharp edges that can slice us to the core. This gift box of motherhood is one of the most highly prized gifts in the church. Read The Family Proclamation. Men have the priesthood, women—motherhood. My whole purpose for being is to be a mother. My whole worth as a woman in Zion is…to be a mother.

I have prepared for that moment that I would have children for all of my life—11 children, 5 biological and 6 adopted. I’ve bought clothes and toys for my babies. I’ve collected books for my children. They will love this book; we will read that one together. I’ve studied and know all about effective discipline and child development. I’ve loved and treasured each nephew and niece, each new classroom of school children.

I’ve bled through every vacation—doesn’t matter how I calendar it. I’ve missed swimming in Lake Erie 3 times now, despite careful planning. I’ve missed weddings and missionary first endowments because of wearing temple white. I’ve suffered many things of many physicians because…some day I would be a mother.

Ain’t happenin’, Babe. This gift is not for me at this time. The two weeks before my surgery were a couple of the most heart wrenching in my life. I got rid of most of my books. I cleaned out my cedar chest and put all of my dreams together to give to DI. They took my treasures and just threw them into a dirty old bin. “Wait,” I wanted to yell. “These things are precious.” Too late. This gift is not for me to open now, not through birth, not even through adoption because children need to go to families where they can be sealed.

The surgery? Life is good. I should have done this when I was 16. Better yet 14 and I could have skipped that whole, humiliating band-trip-wearing-a-white-band-uniform fiasco.

And then there is the sex gift. Read Cosmo—it is the most important thing in life. Some people treasure it, some don’t—another sharp-edged crystalline gift, I guess. I’ve been reading a lot about it lately. Isn’t it incredible what the body does during sex, what changes occur to create an orgasm? Phenomenal. God created our bodies and so he wanted us to have sexual pleasure. Such intricate planning, all of those details!

But I can’t open it yet—not uncommitted sex, not a monogamous relationship. Nada.

There is the connectedness box, the belonging and being special to someone else, someone who can be my friend, with whom I can be emotionally and physically intimate.

Not now. All of the boxes that are the most highly prized in the church, which are supposed to be life’s greatest treasures. Not now.

There are boxes that I have that I can open, that I wouldn’t be able to open otherwise, gifts like a career, independence, education, working with children, being the “special aunt” for my nieces and nephews, gifts of family and friends, the gift of time to pursuit talents and interests, the gift of becoming more physically fit, gifts of time to study and meditate, to sit through Sacrament Meeting unmolested (by my own children), the gift of autonomy, the gift of the time to serve, gifts of the opportunities to strengthen my financial box, gifts of talents and humor, and laughter.

So maybe the whole thing about gifts isn’t the ones that we can’t open now, but the knowledge that we are all opening different boxes, and the fact that some boxes have to wait for now doesn’t diminish their beauty or promise. Like Christmas morning, we will get to them eventually.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Opportunities

by Marsha Ward

Today I want to share my gratitude for opportunities.

First, this blog. When I was a girl, did I ever envision myself typing my thoughts and with the push of a button, sharing them with anyone in the world who could log into the Internet? Well, no! So much of what is available today was only a dream when I was growing up. Not that I'm ancient, but technology and discoveries have moved so swiftly during my lifetime.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts in many venues: books, blogs, websites, articles, newspapers, newsletters and music.

I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to buy an electronic keyboard so that music fits into my tiny house. A piano would fall through the floor, but the keyboard is just right.

I'm thankful for the chance to share music with the members of my church. Today the summertime organist came back to the mountains, so I'll have a six-month rest from playing the chapel organ for the main worship service, but I still get to play the piano or the organ in the women's meeting. I also get to sing during the worship service. I don't play and sing well, so this summer respite gives me a chance to raise my voice in song for a while.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to teach others what I know. This summer, I'll be giving a workshop to a group of writers on writing dialogue. I'm looking forward to that.

I look forward to future opportunities to share my talents with other people. For example, this summer I'm playing Queen Guinevere in a one-act play for the community. I always enjoyed acting in my youth, but until recent times, I've not had the opportunity as an adult to act. Now the pendulum has swung back to give me that chance to be a ham.

What opportunities do you enjoy?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

My Day at the Airport

Valerie J. Steimle

If you’ve never spent the day at an airport all by yourself, you are really missing out on something. I don’t mean a couple of hours, I mean the whole day. Twelve hours. I had the opportunity last Friday (April 27) to do such a thing. Trying to get myself home from Albuquerque, N.M., I went to the airport with my brother, father and daughter all going in different directions. Since my brother had the rental car, we all went to the airport regardless of our flight times. My brother and father had the earliest flight, so my daughter and I checked our airlines to see if we could get an earlier flight as well. Sarah got hers to Phoenix and I got mine to Dallas. The time was only 9:35am so we got off to a good start.

I got to Dallas and I was on stand by for the next flight to get the rest of the way home. I was originally supposed to get home at 2am but this was much better. If all went well, I would be back by 4pm. I was excited. I was pumped. I was already planning what I could do with my extra time as I was rushing to my next gate. But as I rounded the corner of the hallway, I was stopped dead in my tracks. Not only was the flight over booked, I was number 23 on the standby list. There was no way I was getting on that plane. So I waited for the 2:15pm flight, and then I waited for the 4:45pm flight and then the 7:55pm flight---all with the same message: overbooked and no room.

There happened to be a Jazz Festival the same weekend and everyone wanted to get on those flights. So I got my boarding pass for the 9:40pm flight and sat at the gate for a nice long wait. By now it was 5pm and I had already taken two rides on the train around the airport to see the outside world. I called my family to talk. I watched a bird chase a butterfly outside the window. I bought some lunch and watched CNN news for a while. I wrote in my notebook for my morning pages and I read my book Jesus the Christ. I looked at pictures on my digital camera and even prayed a while as I sat there. By 5pm, I was beginning to feel like the Tom Hanks character, Victor Navorski, in that movie: The Terminal. Although I wasn’t planning on sleeping there over night, I had that “never-going-to-get-out-of-here” feeling.

I used the rest room a couple of times and bought a pack of life savors. I watched the clouds roll by and observed the little men working to get luggage on and off the plane. Ahhh, the sunset. What a beautiful sight. I made conversation with the other standby victims and watched people rush by to catch their plane flights. By now the 7:55 flight had just left and the last flight out of Dallas, my flight, at 9:40 was changed to 10pm. 10pm!? Come to find out the plane flying in was coming from Canada. Canada?........ to Dallas? I’ll be lucky to get out of here before midnight. I took a walk around the airport mall. What a long day it was.

It’s a humbling experience to be all by yourself for so long a time. The first six hours I became self-absorbed. Only thinking about myself and my situation. The last six hours I paid attention to what was going on around me. I talked to people. I became involved with what was going on in the airport. I helped two older women with their missed flight. I conversed with the others who were on the flight with me at 10pm. That made the stay much more pleasant and very memorable. Finally, we were all boarded by 10:10 and I was on my way home. The time went faster when I was more involved and it didn’t seem so bad.

I will always remember this day. Remember how I felt all alone for the first six hours and how much better it is to share. Remember that the next time—if there is a next time--to open up to others in the same situation. Remember that my day went much better when I thought about others instead of myself. I’ll always remember my day at the airport.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Honor or Insult?

By Faith St. Clair

At 22 years old, my son has not lived at home for more than a month or two since he was fresh out of high school at 17. He left two weeks after graduation to play soccer in London. Although he was traveling with a team to attend a tournament for a few weeks, he announced before he left that he did not plan on returning. He dreamed of playing in the Premiership League in Europe and intended on staying there to make his way toward that end.

I did not have a problem with this. In the corners of my heart, I found a bit of envy. Oh, to be young and stupid and free and full of dreams, ready to tackle the world…

We gave him a couple of hundred dollars as a graduation gift towards his airline ticket, he sold his drum set and we drove him to the airport. When his team left to come back to America, they left him at the airport, alone, $20 in his pocket, knowing nobody, having no job, no international working papers, or a place to stay.

Five years later, he can claim: having played soccer in London, Spain, Budapest and Romania – although never in the Premiership, only semi professionally – having slept in airports, tiny European closets, on couches and floors, having a diagnosed schizophrenic roommate, arriving in three countries with an incognito agent, not knowing the language or anybody there and trying to negotiate a contract, living in villages without running water or electricity, literally fleeing Romania in the middle of the night for his life, two knee injuries, a trip back to the states, a girlfriend, and a telemarketing job.

The view of his exciting, youthful adventures waned as his quest forged him past the opportunity to serve a mission for the church. Although he looked up the church and the missionaries wherever he went and oft times did splits with the missionaries, his choice not to serve his Heavenly Father has weighed heavy on his mother’s heart. Alas, as his mother, I try not to dwell on it because it makes for long nights and wet pillows.

Fast forward to the present wherein I refrain from asking where he is living because I’m certain it is with his girlfriend. His poor choices give me anxiety and although I try to be cordial, I’m told that I need to be friendlier to his girlfriend. He often says that she and I should get to know each other better. He asks me to bring her gifts when she is ill, tells me to spend some time with her, etc. My personal thought is that it is his job to get to know her, not mine. I’ll save the emotional expense until it is time to prepare a wedding.

His birthday came around and I asked if I could take him to lunch. We were both going to leave work and meet at a designated time and place. I began driving when he called on my cell phone and by the number I could tell he hadn’t left work yet. He said he would be right there and instructed me to just ask the hostess for our table he had reserved by our last name. I got to the restaurant and was asked to wait just a minute. I turned and saw…her. I knew immediately that I had been stood up. I fumed for one second then tried to be cordial. At the same time, both our cell phones rang and it was my son telling us that he would not be joining us, to have a nice lunch and the tab was on him. Midway through the corrugated conversation and lunch, he sent her a text message and she excused herself to get a card he had put in her backseat that he wanted her to read. It was a birthday card to him from himself and said, “Sometimes you just have to make your own birthday wish come true.”

I was insulted and angry that he put me in that awkward position and I was truly disappointed that I didn’t get time to spend with him. Yet… I am honored that he cares enough to care what I think. He was gracious in his comments and care of both she and I and I could tell he loved us both.

When my birthday comes around, I think I’ll ask him to take me to lunch this time. Except, I think I’ll send the Bishop in my stead…after all, sometimes you have to make your own birthday wish come true.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Job Interviews

by Terri Wagner

I'm a bit late today because I went on a job interview this morning. It's been 11 years. I was nervous. It's for a web-design company that is looking for a copywriter.

I got the impression from my interview--which involved three different people--that they are looking for people who are web marketing savvy who also happen to write. I'm afraid I fall short in that category. And the most telling was when they couldn't give me a salary range. I take it I'm making more than they want to offer.

The benefits were slightly better than what I have now. And the beat of the place seemed fast paced, exciting, lots of young people. They promote from within first. The kind of place I'd like to work.

Somehow I have the feeling it won't work out. Still, it made me feel excited about work. I guess after 11 years, you just get stuck on what you're doing and it gets easy and you lose that edge.

One reason I was excited about joining ANWA and meeting with Valerie, my lone partner out here in the Gulf Coast, is that it's something new and different. Writing fiction is so hard for me. My writing partner constantly chides me for writing too "technical." But when I'm thinking of where I want a scene to go, I tend to go right to the most important aspect and forget the stuff like scenery, description, feelings.

I'm glad I have this opportunity to work out a new way to write and do it among friends. Hmmm, maybe we could all start a writing/publishing company. Wouldn't that be fun?