Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Bluebird of Happiness

By Terry Deighton, Guest Blogger

Liz is off doing something fun, I hope, so I am taking her turn on the blog today. It's my daughter's twenty-fifth birthday. That's not so bad except that she's my third child, so there are two even older. How did that happen? The worst thing is that the twins up and went off to college last month. That was like killing two birds with one stone. Their older sister was home for a while. She said that a bird in the house was worth two at college, but then she got a job and moved away. It's an empty nest around here. Whose bird brained idea was it to let them all grow up?

The little chickadees used to chirp and cry until I thought I'd become a bird brain. They were owly and flighty, and sometimes they had fowl tempers. Then, just when they were starting to get interesting, they flew the coop for hours at a time driving our Eagle and only came home to roost long after the sun went down. They didn't give a hoot that the old crows back home were worried sick that they had become jail birds or worse. They were flying high with their flock of friends and trying out their wings.

They did come around occasionally for some scratch. They thought our hard earned money was just chicken feed. One silly goose about laid an egg when we told her to save half of her money as a nest egg for college. We told her to feather her nest while times were good. After all, the early bird catches the worm. She's glad she has a nest egg now!

Now the time has come, and the last of them have gone south for the winter. It really sticks in my craw that they don't bird call home more often. I'm just like a mother hen whose little chicks are lost.

Really, they've given us something to crow about. We're as proud as a couple of peacocks of our little brood. May the bluebird of happiness rest on their shoulders!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Piece of Work or A Masterpiece?

By Kari Diane Pike

For the past couple of months, I have been taking a course in adult developmental psychology. I am fascinated by the way the brain develops and the workings of the mind. One chapter looks at the reasons we choose different occupations and the way those occupations affect our lives. Several pages in the text are devoted to explaining the difference between “job” and “work.”

A job is described as “an activity one performs because one has to do it, and it provides no intrinsic reward in itself but only some extrinsic payoff.” In other words, you do the job so you can get the paycheck. There is little to no inner satisfaction as a result. Work, on the other hand is defined as, “an activity one performs because one has to do it, but it also provides a high degree of intrinsic motivation because the activity itself is personally satisfying to the individual.” The text further explains that most of our activities lie somewhere in between the two extremes. Depending on our frame of mind, we can find some kind of satisfaction in doing our best work, and many times we even get some type of external reward…like a paycheck!

As I studied these concepts, the words in Moses 1:39 kept coming to mind: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Since I am in a home-study program, I rely on the wit and wisdom of my spouse to help me think things through. Doug related a talk he heard during his mission from Hartman Rector, Jr. Elder Rector explained that the Savior’s “work” was to bring to pass our immortality. He did this when he overcame death and rose on the third day and assured that we, too, will rise again – spirit and body together – in an immortal state. The “glory” of the Lord is to bring about our eternal life. He made it possible for us to be forgiven of all our sins and to enter back into the presence of our Eternal Father in Heaven and experience life as He knows it; a quality of life far beyond our mortal understanding.

How does this apply to my life right now? The French word used for “work” is “travailler.” It is used to describe not only one’s occupation, but can also be used for the English word “masterpiece.” If I look at my “job” or my “work” and recognize the intrinsic rewards – in other words, change my perspective – I will discover great treasures of joy and peace and understanding. My mind will be enlightened; my burdens will become stewardships. As a writer, I want to see each piece I write become a masterpiece. As a mother, each child is a masterpiece. As a wife, my relationship with my husband is a masterpiece, as is my work as a daughter, sister, and friend. Because of the Atonement, and the Savior’s sacrifice, someday, you and I can become a masterpiece. We are “his work and his glory.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Power of Music

by Anna Arnett

They say no great movement ever gained true greatness without at least one rousing theme song. Be that as it may, it’s still obvious to me that theme songs do rouse emotions. That’s why schools adopt their own special pep songs, and their ‘alma mater’. Political conventions gain unity and work up enthusiasm with singing. States and nations each legislate their anthems, which are played or sung at widely varying events. Where can you find an American who does not thrill when the strains of “The Star Spangled Banner” indicate another gold medal for America at the Olympics?

Why is music so powerful? There’s something about the rhythm, rhyme, cadence, melody, and harmony that combine with stirring words to speak to our senses with great force, enhancing that which our minds embrace. Religion, or worship, is no exception. Scriptures are necessary; listening to sermons and following commandments both help us learn; prayer is essential. However, singing somehow binds all these together to forever stir our bosoms.

Think of your favorites, the songs, hymns, or anthems that form your emergency-room refuge to which in mind and spirit you can flee when sorely tempted, or when soul-shattering or mind-perplexing problems threaten to overpower. Which ones best express your joy in living? With what music do you achieve that special, deep feeling of worship?

I spoke in church last Sunday, on the assigned topic of worshiping through music. I wish I had written this before I spoke so I could have used it, instead of rambling on in another direction. (My best talks are not the ones I prepare, or deliver, but those I think out after the fact.) A youth speaker and I spoke, and about half an hour was left for anyone to come to the podium to tell which was their favorite number in the hymn book, and why. Then the congregation sang at least two verses of that hymn. What a very stirring meeting -- less preaching and more music. Members introduced, and we sang, at least half a dozen hymns.

One especially stirred me. A young mother whose husband is in the Air Force, and away on duty, told with tears in her voice of how greatly she appreciates our national anthem, especially the verses we seldom sing. We all stood and sang with fervor. I needn't copy the first verse here. Every red-blooded American knows it. The second verse, to a large degree unknown, tells of the joy Francis Scott Key felt when, after a long night of battle, dawn dissipated his greatest fear.

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes
What is that which the breeze o’er the towering steep
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam.
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream.
‘Tis the Star Spangled Banner, Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Then comes the verse that I wish we would always sing—even when we only sing one verse. This, for me, is the epitome of patriotism, and I can seldom sing it without a catch in my throat. I’m actually crying right now as I type this. I recall the poignant feeling, and see in the back of my conscience, a base in Japan, where I stopped my car along with every other car in the vicinity, placed a hand over my heart and watched uniformed drivers get out and stand at saluting attention as “The Star Spangled Banner” blared out over the speakers. We watched our glorious flag and the Japanese flag descended simultaneously. Somehow this is etched in my mind as a symbol not only of patriotism, but of enmity turned to brotherhood.

Here it is, the most stirring verse of all, and in my mind the most appropriate:

Oh, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the battle’s confusion.
Blessed with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, “In God is Our Trust.”
And the Star Spangled Banner in Triumph shall wave,
O’er the Land of the Free, and the home of the brave.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Clearing the Air

By Rene Allen

According to today’s Arizona Star, the monsoon season for Tucson has officially ended. Directional air flow, seasonal shift, the rotation of Mother Earth and her tilted axis, call it what you will, but there’s been a precipitous drop in humidity and mornings are something to sing about.

On the evening of September 1, we shouldered through a wedding reception in our backyard. Before, everyone watched the sky. Rain or no rain? It rained. I sat on the porch swing at 3 in the afternoon and watched it. There was a grand lightening show. Thunder rolled and banged. Our son’s in-laws, straight from San Francisco worried. Would it stop in time? “Never fear,” I said.” This is the desert. In an hour it’ll all be over and the air will be about ten degrees cooler and well, it couldn’t be more perfect.”

We received a lot of rain this summer, almost 7 inches. The Catalina Mountains to the North, burned out in two consecutive wildfires three and four years ago, are green and happy. I’m happy. When there is rain and the cacti swell like plump thumbs and dozens of thimble sized baby quail scurry after their parents, I feel like Robert Browning did in “Pippa’s Song,” God’s in his heavens, All’s right with the world.

Fifty years from now, were someone to cut down one of the 100 ft. tall eucalyptus trees behind our home, and look at those telling tree rings, he would see a good year, a nice fat ring coming after seven extraordinarily thin ones. It’s been a long, dry haul. Strangely, we haven’t heard a word from Tucson Water about rationing this year, and they didn’t even bother with their Beat the Peak campaign about being smart water users. I think it was relief, plain old relief that this year the heavens opened and gave us water and okay, take a break from all the worry about having enough to survive. We’ll get back to that soon enough.

And now, officially, the season is over but I don’t think anyone told the desert. It’s still green and happy, optimistic about another year, recovered from the seven years of drought. That’s the amazing thing about the desert, how it manages when there is so little moisture, and how those dry and brittle limbs and shriveled saguaros turn green and plump after the rain.

I wanted to write about hope today, how that is the compelling quality that keeps us going when times are tough, hope that they’ll get better, hope that something will change, hope that I can change. That’s what a famous teacher once told me, Virginia Satir. She said there is always hope your life can change because you can always learn new things.

I remember looking out my window two years ago, when the rainfall had been half what it is now, and wondering if the desert would be scarred and changed forever. Today, I look out and see bees hovering over the Mexican Birds of Paradise, and a autumn blue sky that is clean and clear, and I am reminded that there in One who knows more, loves more, blesses more than any of us souls who worry so much about the desert and rain and what the future holds.

In Moroni 10:22, Moroni says if you don’t have hope, you are in despair, and that despair comes because of iniquity. I have thought a great deal about that verse, asking myself what kind of iniquity was Moroni speaking about?

He also says that where there is faith, there must also be hope. Is that iniquity of which Mornoi speaks a lapse in faith? I have wondered.

Faith, hope, rain and drought and the end of the monsoon season, wheeling into fall: it’s been a good summer, a reminder that my ways, are not His, He who created this earth, who watches and governs it. "God is in His heavens, All’s right with the world."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rambling Around

by Marsha Ward

Because I post on Sunday, I usually feel the need to say something spiritual in my message, but today I think I'll talk about Autumn, and the changes in the weather that it brings. As I get going, I may venture off into something else, so my title reflects my scatter-brained approach to today's entry.

Last week I noticed a need to keep the bed's quilt on top of me at night. That means the temperature is dipping down into the 40s outside. Soon I'll need to wear slippers around the house, and don a sweater during the day.

It rained all night last night. That's so nice, because we need the moisture. In fact, it rained most of the morning today. It slacked off just before I had to go to church. Thinking it was going to continue, I put on my new pink rain jacket. Of course, it didn't rain a lick all during church, and wouldn't you know it? I left my pretty pink rain gear hanging in the hallway at church. Maybe if I blog about it, I'll remember it next week. Maybe some of you will remind me in a comment to bring it home next week?

The pre-fall weather has been quite nice, but next week the weatherman says we're going to have a bit of warming up. I imagine that will be the last gasp of summer, now that fall is officially here. In the mountains, that means something that you don't notice much in the Phoenix area. It means that the slight yellowing of my oak trees will soon morph into bright yellow trees, then bare branches. We'll have orange and gold and red leaves around here before too long. The daytime temperatures will get nippy, and frost can't be too far behind. In fact, frost will probably be on the pumpkin next month.

I enjoy fall. I no longer panic when I smell wood smoke in autumn. It's not from a forest fire; it's my neighbors stoking up their woodstove to keep warm. There's no fragrance quite like it. I've mentioned the turning of the leaves. Another thing going on is elk bugling. Just as there is no fragrance like wood smoke, there is no sound that resembles an elk calling. It's a part of living in the pine forests that I love.

What do you love about where you live?

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Funny Things In Life

Valerie J. Steimle

Whenever someone asks me to tell them about my life, I like to tell funny stories. They are more entertaining than regular stories and it makes my life seem more interesting. So when I sat down to write today, I thought about some of those funny stories.

For example, before we moved into the house where we live now (13 years ago) we lived in an old farm house farther south which no longer exists. We were waiting to move into the house we were building so it was very temporary and several interesting things happened to us there. I was very pregnant with child number seven and we were homeschooling the four oldest children.

One morning we woke up to find six pigs in our front yard. Now mind you this was a farming community but our house was situated on a very busy highway, so we were afraid the pigs would get run over. We all ran outside and chased them towards the back. We noticed they weren’t adult sized pigs. They weren’t piglet sized either. That left only one conclusion: they were teenaged pigs and they didn’t want to be caught. No matter what we did, they got away from us. My older four children enjoyed the pig rodeo for a while but were left frustrated because we were not successful in catching them. We used a fish casting net and they ran right through it. We tried a trail of my very tasty bread rolls to the fenced area but that didn’t work either. They didn’t like them. (Imagine that) We tried to trap them in a pit but they ran out. My children came up with the idea of hiding in the bushes and barking like dogs to scare them into the pen area but again that didn’t work. They just merrily wondered around looking for something to do. So we reported the lost pigs to the amused police department and went to Walmart. When we returned, the farmer of the pigs had somehow followed their trail to our house and was able to pen them into the fenced area awaiting their return home.

Another funny experience in that house happened when I was quietly sitting in the living room by myself watching a little TV at night when two mice appeared. We had been catching them left and right in traps because the house sat in the middle of a field and was not in the best of conditions. I think the total mice caught before we moved out of there were 23. Anyway, these two mice were just standing in the middle of the living room and I kept quiet and watched. They stood on their hind legs and started waving their fore legs around as if they were dancing with each other. I was the only one that saw this, so naturally no one believes it ever happened, but I know it did. It has been the family joke ever since.

Before we left that house my 12 year old daughter was accidentally locked in the bathroom and could not get out. The door was stuck shut. An air balloon landed in our backyard and an ultra light airplane crash landed in the front yard. And finally, we found a huge corn snake in the broom closet which was killed with a sand wedge golf club by the oldest town policeman they could find.

The funny things in life………it’s what keeps us from getting bored.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Time to Stand Up With the Good People of the Earth

by Heather Horrocks

Several conferences ago, Pres. Hinckley said it was time to put filters on our television sets, and he said it just in time. Clicking through channels awhile back, I noticed with dismay that Sex and the City, a sleazy HBO show I thought was contained on cable (which I don’t have) and never wanted to watch or to have my children watch, had oozed onto our regular television screen. And I just learned that what will be crossing over in a couple of years is even uglier. The filth is growing exponentially. It truly is time for filters.

He also told us it was time to stand up with the good people of the earth. So that’s what I’m doing today. Be forewarned that there is one explicit word, used three times below, describing what is headed toward your television screens because it is already on HBO. I was appalled at both the level of filth HBO is spewing and also the response to it in the local newspaper. The word is offensive, the newspaper's response both offensive and condescending, and the implications horrendous.

In his column in the Salt Lake Tribune dated September 7, 2007, reviewer Vince Horiuchi extols the virtues of the latest HBO ‘provocative drama’ in which he states that ‘one actor masturbates another in an unsimulated sex act – a first for television.’ He seemed proud of the fact that it was a first, but it terrifies me. Unsimulated. It took me a moment to realize what that word implied. Let’s see. Simulated is faked so unsimulated would be unfaked or . . . real. This show is currently on cable television. And we’ve already learned that anything on HBO can slither its way onto regular television stations after a few years, so this unsimulated sex act will undoubtedly move to regular television soon.

Then Mr. Horiuchi had the gall to state that this unsimulated sex act wasn’t pornography, but, instead, the "opposite of pornography."

Incensed, I sent a letter to the editor of my local newspaper (they didn’t have the guts to print it). As I want others to become aware of our need to stand up now, I’m going to include the letter here, as part of my blog, along with suggestions for simple steps we can all take that will make a huge difference.

Okay, here’s my letter to the editor (the next five paragraphs):

I’m always on the lookout for media that is the ‘opposite of pornography’ for my family –– and now Vince Horiuchi, reviewer for the Salt Lake Tribune, has kindly pointed the way. Apparently, I just need to let my family watch HBO’s new ‘provocative’ drama Tell Me You Love Me. Yup, the opposite of pornography for me and my family. We’ll just turn on the set and watch –– an unsimulated sex act in which one actor masturbates another?!?!? Turn off the set, Junior!

Amazing. A generation ago, ‘opposite-of-pornography’ television viewing included the likes of Gunsmoke and Perry Mason (and everyone and their grandmothers understood precisely what constituted pornography); today, HBO would have Festus masturbating the marshall. Please, Mr. Horiuchi, do not condescend to me because I do not choose to watch your version of the ‘opposite of pornography.’

I find it disturbing, on so many levels, that HBO continues to push the limits of graphic sex on television, in opposition to what used to be accepted standards of sexual morality, especially as HBO’s smut seems to slither its way onto the regular channels after a few years. So prepare yourselves, even if you don’t have cable, because the ‘opposite of pornography’ will be showing up on your regular television channels within a few short years.

And thank you again, Mr. Horiuchi, for showing me how very prudish I am (inferred from reading your column). I recently re-read George Orwell’s 1984 and found your command of doublespeak prodigious (opposite of pornography, indeed). Perhaps the newspaper could spring for a thesaurus for your use; contrary to your rationalization, the opposite of pornography isn’t "unsimulated sex act," after all, but, rather, "morality."

While I realize that you, Mr. Horiuchi, do not determine programming on HBO, your attitude is perhaps most offensive of all: "This absorbing domestic drama is as comfortable with the subject of sex as everyone should be." Doublespeak and condescension in one column. I prefer, Mr. Horiuchi, that you not ‘should’ on either me or my standards. I’ve grown weary of having my standards denigrated in the media, in general, and thus my being labeled a ‘prude’ because I don’t care to sit around watching what our grandmothers would have had no problem identifying as pornography. I used to enjoy reading your column, but now I’ll choose to read elsewhere to find someone who isn’t so willing to flaunt their standards at the expense of my own. I may have to subscribe to another newspaper to find what I'm looking for: a paper that has both a thesaurus and a reviewer who knows what the "opposite" of pornography truly means. (End of letter.)

So, though the focus in my blogs is usually going for your dream and/or writing and/or life in general, today it’s on activism and standing up for what you believe. If you believe as I do, perhaps you’ll want to take one of the steps I suggest below (or one of your own).

Perhaps you could call the Salt Lake Tribune’s Reader Advocate, who accepts complaints, at (801) 257-8782 and let them know how disappointed you are with Mr. Horiuchi’s column (and attitude). Or call Mr. Horiuchi directly at (801) 257-8607 and tell him yourself.

Though HBO does not list their phone number on either their website or with toll-free directory assistance, I did find two email addresses: the new CEO of HBO might want to know our feelings (mailto:(bill.nelson@hbo.com) and the general email address is (http://www.hbo.com/apps/submitinfo/contactus/submit.door). If you feel so inclined, tell them you’re aware of their smut and, in the future, will work toward keeping it off the air.

Perhaps it’s even time to let your legislators know of your displeasure with the ever-increasing sleaze. You might be surprised at how easy it is to find their phone numbers (I know I was–these sites even list their home phone numbers). You can find your senator at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and your congressman at http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ I’m thinking a nice polite phone call to inform them that we expect them to support standards of decency in television–both regular and cable–might be in order. We are, after all, voters.

You can go online and sign up for newsletters from groups of people who are already watching the airwaves, are appalled at what they’re finding, and are speaking out and taking action. One that I’m aware of is the American Family Association (http://www.afa.net/). Their website says they have over 3 million people subscribed to their newsletter, so when they send out a notice calling for action about something particularly offensive, say a corporation’s sexually charged ads, often there are enough responses that AFA will report back later that the companies pulled those offensive ads. I’m sure there are other groups doing similar things; let’s start watching for them. Let’s stay informed and take action. I like AFA because many times all I need to do to take action is send an email and the text has already been provided (though I can change it if I want) and the links and/or phone numbers to any corporations/legislators needing to be contacted will be provided. They make it easy to get involved.

So . . . where do we buy these filters that President Hinckley said we need to put on our TVs? And how do we use them? A program called TV Guardian mutes the profanity, but is restricted in that it can’t take out offensive visuals. The networks hype the V_Chip (mainly because it allows them to keep broadcasting smut and say it’s the parent’s responsibility to keep it from their children) and the folks at http://www.fcc.gov/vchip/ say that the law provides that "All [television] sets 13 inches or larger manufactured after January 1, 2000 must have V-Chip technology. Set top boxes that allow consumers to use V-Chip technology on their existing sets are now available." (I was unable to find any set top boxes on the internet so I’m not sure how available they really are.) If our TVs most likely already have V_Chip technology, why are most of us not using it? Because, as with anything electronic, most of us would have to get our children or grandchildren to set it up for us (and I’m guessing they could then bypass the system if they wanted to). And, as another informative website (found at http://www.slate.com/id/2095396/) put it: "Since the system does not rate news or live sports, the filter has loopholes large enough for Janet [Jackson]'s breast to slip through." Apparently Janet’s breast was just the tip of the iceberg on the smut to be pushed through onto our television screens.

The rating system used in conjunction with the V_Chip has ‘TV Parental Guidelines’ somewhat similar to movie rating. Equivalent to a movie’s G_rating are TV-Y (young children, no sex or violence), TV-7 (kids seven and up), and TV-G (General Audience, little objectionable). Equivalent to a PG is TV-PG (Parental Guidance Suggested, contains material parents may find unsuitable for younger children.) Block out the nearly R_rated TV_14 (Parents Strongly Cautioned, not for children under 14). And for those of you would want an X rating (that’s sarcasm, in case you can’t tell), watch for the TV-MA rating, for Mature Audiences Only. (Tell me--why is it considered mature to watch X / NC-17 rated programs? Wouldn’t it be more truthful to label them for Extremely Immature and Lascivious Audiences?)

I’m not really sure what steps to take in my stand – but I’m going to find out. Because it truly is time to stand up for what we believe, to stand with the good people of the earth, to stand up for truth and light rather than someone’s twisted, perverted version of it. It reminds me of the scripture that says in the last days good shall be called evil and evil shall be called good. These shows are evil, but yet are portrayed as enlightened and trendy and (my favorite) ‘edgy,’ and anyone who objects to them is a prude who ‘should’ just be more comfortable with sex.

I’m tired of being made out to be wrong. And I’m tired of being part of the silent majority. Let’s stand up and start making some noise. Let’s start being the squeaky wheel for a change. Let’s create some changes for the good. Let’s be part of what people later say was a call for decency that Congress and the Senate couldn't ignore, a call they had to sit back and take notice of, a acll they had to respond to because it swelled into a roar. Let’s truly stand up for what we believe, alongside the other good people of the earth. Let’s speak up for truth and light. Let the roaring begin.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thinking Positive

by Faith St. Clair
I am so grateful for the gospel – the commandment to attend church meetings. I don’t know how people fill their cups when they are “religious” but don’t go to church.

There are times when I mope around, not having enough faith to wipe away my worries and life seems all too overwhelming and dim. It is in those times that I am grateful to have a testimony strong enough to push myself through the chapel doors, put a quasi smile on my face and go to my church meetings.

It has been a confusing time for me lately – perhaps a midlife crisis, but none-the-less, a time of many choices and decisions I’d rather not make. I feel pushed and pulled in too many directions. I wish I could be more like Anna Arnett and just have those major decisions made for me without thought! But alas, my life doesn’t seem to flow that naturally – I must be too synthetic I guess.

Even when I’m not in church, God gives me people and opportunities in my everyday life to teach and remind me of who I am and what I am supposed to be doing. Heaven must know that I can’t remember anything longer than a minute!

I had lunch with a gentleman today and we talked about one of my favorite books, James Allen’s “As a Man Thinketh”. It reminded me that I am the master of my destiny, character, position and happiness. Allen says, “As a being of Power, Intelligence, and Love, and the lord of his own thoughts, man holds the key to every situation, and contains within himself the transforming and regenerative agency by which he may make himself what he wills.”

So today, I think I’ll be young, smart, happy and positive!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm Late

In my new position at work, I am responsible but not boss. Strange place to be. Just today, I had a coworker drop me out of an important loop and a boss that wanted to know why I didn't know. Then agreed that I couldn't really reprimand the other person. So that was left unresolved.

Then two coworkers who have disliked each other for the six months one of them has been working there had a big blowup for a mistimed comment. I personally thought the comment rather funny. After a meeting with the boss, the Human Resources person and the two coworkers, it was left, yes, unresolved.

On the way home, I prayed about how awful I feel for both of the people involved. I like them both but I have worked with one of them for 12 years. She's very serious. The new worker is flippant and reminds me of myself when I started out in the workforce.

Heavenly Father stepped in to comfort me greatly. He told me that the lesson I needed to learn here was that sometimes it's a lose-lose situation. Neither person will try to change enough to even make it civil. I was instantly flooded with a sensation of oneness with Him. How difficult it must for Him when we fight or hurt one another inadervantly and then refuse to admit it or try to change.

And it reminded me of how grateful I am for a God who answers prayers and cares deeply about what's bothering me. There are seriously bad things afoot in the world and serious things on the horizon, yet, He took the time to comfort me over what after all was not the end of the world as we know it.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Dedication to a Teacher

by Joyce DiPastena

When I first handed a copy of my book, Loyalty’s Web, to my sister, she flipped to the dedication, pleased to see our parents listed there, then said in a puzzled voice:

“Who’s Dr. Thomas Parker, and why did you also dedicate your book to him?”

Dr. Parker, as I say in my dedication, was a “professor of Medieval History at the University of Arizona, who with passion and wit, fed my history-hungry soul.”

If I ever loved a professor during my college years, it was Dr. Thomas Parker. Probably already nearing retirement age when I first encountered him, he was a relatively short man, with a stocky build and graying hair. Wire-rimmed glasses sat on the nose of his rather square face. He became more familiar to me than any of my other professors, because of the multiple classes I took from him…History of Western Civilization (Part A), Medieval England, Medieval Europe…I think there were one or two more, but I can’t remember the titles anymore.

Dr. Parker lectured at the speed of light. I could barely keep up with him in my notes, and only because I learned to leave all the articles (“the”, “an”, etc) and vowels out of my words. (Made for some interesting deciphering around exam time.)

He held a deep respect for his students and their time. Unlike other professors, who might take weeks or even months to grade an essay or exam, if you turned in an essay or book report or test on a Friday, Dr. Parker had them graded and handed them back to you on Monday. He said if his students could turn in their work on time, then the least he could do is spend his weekend grading them and return them in a timely manner.

His love for his subject constantly shone through. Occasionally he’d have a grudge with a particular historical figure. I remember in at least all three of the above-named classes, somehow St. Bernard of Clairvaux came up. Dr. Parker’s voice always deepened to a growl when he spoke of Bernard’s intolerance and arrogance. Yet oddly, there was always a twinkle in the blue eyes behind the glasses while he growled. Did he bear a reluctant, unspoken respect for Bernard? Or had he simply developed a kind of affection even for the “villains” of the era he had devoted his teaching career to…much as an author might develop a love-hate relationship with the “villain” she creates for a book?

When I was growing up, the public school system was a sad wasteland for information about the Middle Ages. The time period had always intrigued me, and I became particularly interested in it during my high school years. (Mostly through reading the World Book Encyclopedia and Thomas B. Costain’s series on the Plantagenets.) After this long dearth of being left mostly on my own to scrabble crumbs of information on the subject where I could, Dr. Parker made the era come alive for me. As I said in my dedication, he “fed my history-hungry soul”, and he did it with an infectious passion for his subject, and with humor and wit that left my spirits soaring when I walked away at the end of a lecture. When I began studying for a master’s of library science at the end of my bachelor degree studies, I actually found myself feeling “homesick” for Dr. Parker’s classes!

Sadly, he never knew how much I enjoyed his classes, how much I respected and appreciated him. Why? Because I was so excruciatingly shy in those days, that I never had the courage to walk up to him and tell him, “Thank you.” Far too many years later, I tried to track him down. I obtained a retirement address for him from the University of Arizona, and wrote him a letter, belatedly expressing my deep gratitude for the gift he had given me. The letter was returned, “Address Unknown.” It is quite possible that he has passed away after all these years, and my gratitude comes too late.

I hope that in the “next life”, I will have an opportunity to see him again, and that this time I will have the courage to express what’s in my heart. Without all that he taught me, and the love with which he taught it, I may well never have written Loyalty’s Web, or any of it’s prequels and sequels. And so, until that day comes, I dedicate my first published book to the teacher who opened the vistas of medieval history to me, with passion, wit, and a twinkle in his eye.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Mighty Change

By Kari Diane Pike

It was supposed to be a happy day. My house rang with the busy, cheerful chatter of family and friends gathered together to go to the temple to witness the sealing of our daughter and son-in-law. My mind whirled with thoughts about how to keep the clutter under control, the bathrooms clean, plenty of food on the table and whether or not the younger kids took enough water to their soccer games. Of course, there was also the last minute rush to get out the door in time to get to Mesa by 7:30 am. It’s hard to smile and feel happy when your head aches and you feel like everything depends on you.

I tried to relax once we finally rounded everyone up and began our journey. I even had my favorite squishy pillow with me. Then I remembered that we needed to pick up an order of peaches and my daughter announced we needed to give a ride to one of her friends across town. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. We were already going to be late. I looked up to see that we were nearly half way, transitioning from Interstate 17 South, across the loop bridge, to Interstate 10 East. Brilliant rays from the early morning sun caused my husband to reach up and pull his visor down. Seconds later, we both saw the heavy metal spring flying through the air, headed straight for the windshield. About the same time I closed my eyes and sucked all the oxygen out of the van, the spring smashed into the top of the windshield right where it meets the frame of the car. Glass showered onto the dashboard and into Doug’s lap. Fortunately, the visor protected his face and eyes. I couldn’t tell where the glass came from. There were lots of cracks in the windshield, but no visible holes. We were safe and the van was drivable. Doug just kept driving.

My heart still pounded as we entered the temple doors. I watched our daughter and her husband look into each other’s eyes and hug each other. I reached for my own husband’s hand and held it tight. I smiled at my dad and his wife and my sweet mother-in-law. I felt the presence of many others whom I could not see. And I knew. I knew we were not alone. I knew we had angels among us and that they had protected us in our journey to the temple that morning. I knew that no matter what, everything was going to be okay. I thought about the Savior and the Atonement and rejoiced in experiencing that mighty change in my heart. The day became more than happy. It became glorious.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Reminiscing

by Anna Arnett

For my birthday, my middle daughter gave me a copy of Jane Clayson Johnson's book, "I Am a Mother." What a delight it is, and for a mother, it's a tremendous ego builder. As I read, I discovered more and more what a great life I've led. Yet, the most important goals I've reached just seemed to happen, with no regard to my planning. I remember thinking I would graduate from college in about 1946, get hired under a county agricultural agent to help farm women and work with 4-H clubs. Eventually I would marry and have a few children, but I didn't worry about that much. I hadn't met anybody that I thought I would like to live with forever.

World War II erupted during my senior year in high school, and I got caught up in the patriotic spirit of working for the government. I became a Civil Service stenographer, and went eastward to do my duty (and get paid the enormous sum of one hundred twenty dollars every single month). And it just happened that this Idaho farm girl met an Arizona farm boy at Sunday School in the big city of Indianapolis, Indiana. I soon discovered he had more integrity than any boy I'd dated, and decided that if he ever asked me, I'd marry him.

Well, his proposal was the first (and only) I ever received, which came after he got home from the war and a prisoner of war camp. We married ten days after he proposed. It's been a great life, but the big decisions seemed to me to be made elsewhere. To me, there was almost always no conscious choice. I just did what seemed natural. I remember Charles asking me once how it felt to know I could move with my seven children to any place in the whole United States, and I answered that I didn't know, because Mesa, Arizona was the only place that came to mind.

I've lived at least a month in fourteen different states, the District of Columbia, Japan, and Australia. We moved everything we possessed twenty-six times during the first twenty-one years we were married, even averaging in three years on base at Yokota AFB, Japan. Charles has also lived, as an Air Force officer, in England (woops, don't count that, he was only there a couple of weeks) Germany (on the wrong side of a guarded fence), Iceland and Vietnam. He was single in England and Germany, became the father of five while in Iceland, and missed a whole year of living with five teenagers and two younger ones while he kept track of communications in Vietnam.

When he returned to the States to finish his last year in the Air Force at Luke AFB, AZ, our seventh child (the one made in Japan) started first grade, and Charles suggested I might go back to college. Wow. I loved it. This time I majored in secondary education, and in 1970 earned my BA, and in '72 an MA in Education, with an English teaching major and a history minor.

Nobody seemed to want to hire me, which was probably a lucky thing since I am among the world's worst disciplinarians, and might not have lasted. I hadn't applied again, but about mid-semester in spring, Dr. Lloyd offered me a job as a homebound teacher in the Mesa Public Schools. The next October, he told me to find a place to rent and we'd open, under the blanket of special ed, a school for pregnant girls. For the next sixteen years, I was the 'pregnant teacher'. I loved that job. How blessed can I be? If I counted right, I worked with 1,111 different students--each a good girl who either made a poor decision, or was caught in a situation she could not control. But they all elected to stay in school.

When I retired in 1987, we served a temple mission in Australia, and another mission at the Family History Center in Mesa. The last fourteen years we've been ordinance workers in the Mesa Temple. Charles was a sealer both there and in Sydney. Now we're slowing down, especially on our feet, but seem busier than ever. And every day we pour out our thanks for each of our wonderful blessings. We have twenty-nine grandchildren, and so far 36 great grandchildren. We're an easy going family, but we like each other tremendously.

So what am I? First a daughter, then a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, traveler, bookworm, quilter, crafter, especially in knitting, crocheting, needlework, and beadwork. I love to take classes, to volunteer where I can, and to shop--not just windowshop, but to buy. My favorite calling right now is singing fifteen minutes every Sunday with the children in the nursery. They're fantastic.

So what makes me think I'm a writer? I often ask myself that. It's just that there's so much I'd like to say. You can tell that easily by the length of my blogs. So I'll keep plugging along. The most wonderful part about trying to write, is that it brought me to join ANWA. That's a real joy, thanks to all of you.

And now it's past my bedtime. Goodnight.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Life of a Cat

By Betsy Love

If I believed in reincarnation, I decided I’d be a cat. My cat is the proud owner of our home without paying one single mortgage payment. She sleeps when and wherever she wants, eats as much as she wants, whenever she wants, gets as fat as she wants. There are no worries over bills, or maintenance of the house or yard. If she requires attention all she need do is cry about it, and someone jumps to see what her desire is. She is queen of the castle and knows it.

As for me? I am her loyal servant. The minute I walk in the door she greets me with, “Meow, meow, meow.” The interpretation is, “Where have you been? I was lonely. And don’t touch me, I just cleaned my fur.” I tell myself every day when I get home from work that I am going to completely ignore her. The results? “Meow, meow, meow,” until I look into her gleaming yellow eyes and answer to her complaints, “Excuse, me, I’m the ruler here. What took you so long? And fill my water dish, again.”

If I could be a cat I’d come home and say to my family, “Whine, whine, whine.” Interpreted means, “When’s dinner? Somebody else has to do the dishes. And I’m going to get on my computer and don’t bother me.” Of course the reality is that my family thinks they are all cats too. “Take me to the store. I need $60 dollars for a swimsuit. Help me with my homework.”

Maybe I’ll be a hamster.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Son . . .

by Rene Allen

[At Rene's request, this blog post has been removed]

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Life Changes Around Us

by Marsha Ward

Last night I heard that noted tenor Luciano Pavarotti died this week. Today, an email informed me that Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, also passed away this week. I'm sure other, less well-known people have gone to their reward this week, but I haven't checked the news to see. Life, and death, goes on all the time.

So it is with adversity. It is a constant part of our lives, to one degree or another. Sometimes we have to deal with huge adversities and feel like we're drowning. Sometimes they are not so big, and we seem to tread water quite well.

Many of you know that I've been battling with my eyes this year. Each eye has had to heal from a significant corneal scratch. Now I have blurred vision and a sensitivity to light, especially fluorescent bulbs. It's not unusual to see me wearing sunglasses in church.

On Wednesday, I will get the news whether or not I officially have diabetes. Since this may be tied to my eye problems, I actually look forward to knowing. Once the determination is made, I can go forward with increased awareness of my medical status, and, incidentally, update my eye doctor. This can only be good, since my glasses no longer work properly, which plays hob with my piano-playing calling. I don't know if I'll be able to play the organ when winter comes and the summer organist goes home. It will be quite difficult unless my glasses prescription gets changed before then.

The problem is that I see best for close work with my left eye at the bottom of my no-line glasses, while the top of the right lens works better with the right eye. Can you see why I just close the right eye much of the time? That does get old, though.

Not being able to see properly has been driving me crazy. The left eye is the "good" one. It stays pretty near normal most of the time. The right seems to like fuzzyville. However, sometimes it gets much better, almost normal, then something I eat or do or encounter in the air sends it back to poor vision.

Wish me luck, and the best medical care I can obtain so I can make it past this drowning adversity and into the realm of treading water once again. Thanks.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Right Decision

Valerie J. Steimle

The magazine contest I entered had a prompt to start the story. Here is the prompt: After years with a traveling carnival, the strong man and bearded lady try to adjust to a normal life as a married couple.

Here is the story I have written:

Tony sat at the breakfast table shifting his oversized body in his chair and trying to read his newspaper. He looked up from his paper to his newly married wife sitting across the table from him. She looked deep in thought. Normally, she was a chatterbox in the morning but today was different and Tony didn’t know why. He shifted his body again and went back to his paper.

Tony was a large man in stature it was true but he was also quite shy and didn’t have much to say. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say however, that he had muscles upon his muscles and he loved to work out at the gym he now owned. For the last 20 years before buying the exercise gym, lifting heavy weights was the only life he knew.

His wife Jenny, on the other hand wasn’t an attractive woman. In fact, sometimes it was difficult to tell she was a woman at all. That might be a harsh judgment to place on someone but for most of Jenny’s adult life, she grew a beard. It grew on its own and she never knew why. This was the only life Jenny knew.

“Where do you think they are, today?” she asked him.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t say in the paper.”
Their former employer traveled a lot and Jenny was always curious as to their whereabouts. They looked at each other for a moment and went back to their own thoughts. Tony adjusted his body again and looked at the paper.
“You think we made the right decision?” she asked him.
Tony put his paper down.
“You ask me that every day, Jenny. Yes, we did. We couldn’t work that job forever. We have to think about our future. Besides, I love you, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I remember.”
Tony went back to adjusting his body and trying to read his paper.
“You know, I unpacked more of my things this morning and put them away,” she told him.
“Good for you”, he said as he looked up from his paper, “you’re going to leave it in the drawers, right? We are staying right here.”
“Right,” she answered with conviction, “we are staying right here….. Are you going to the gym today?”
“Yes, later.”
He went back to his paper. She went back to her thinking.
“Do you think I should start shaving?” she asked after a while.
Tony put his paper down again.
“That’s up to you,” he answered, “I love you just the way you are.”
“What about the neighbors? They still give me funny looks.”
“Then shave, if it makes you feel better,” Tony said as he adjusted his body for the tenth time. The chair sagged under his weight. He went back to his paper. She went back to her thinking.
“Do you think we need to rearrange our furniture in the living room? It doesn’t look right,” she said anxiously.
“If you want to”, Tony said not looking up. It’s a good thing we only have a one bedroom apartment, he thought, laughing to himself.
“We have to move, you know,” she said again interrupting him trying to read the paper. Growing exasperated from all the interruptions, Tony tried to stay calm.
“Jenny, we just moved in . . . . . . we are not moving again. You just need to get used to staying in one place. I know it’s difficult but you’ll like it after a while.”
Tony smiled at her.
“I need to tell you something,” Jenny said. She couldn’t contain herself anymore.
Tony’s smile was gone. His chair creaked as he adjusted his body once again.
“What is it?” he asked hesitantly.
“I’m pregnant,” she said smiling.
At that point, Tony’s chair broke underneath him sending him to the floor. Jenny jumped forward to make sure he was okay.
As Tony lay on the floor laughing he said, “I guess we’ll have to move, then.”

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Birthdays and Short Stories

Valerie J. Steimle

It’s my birthday today and I am happy to post this extra bonus entry to help Heather out.

It has been a time of reflection and writing all week long. Other than the fact that I’m two years closer to a half a century without my husband around, I thought about how writing is like having a birthday. Or better yet, giving birth to a baby.

I had the opportunity to write a short story for a magazine contest this week and it was like giving birth. I think most women writers would agree that it is the process that is sometimes very painful. When I read the prompt, an idea popped into my head and I immediately started writing my ideas on paper. Then I rewrote the ideas to what I thought might be a pretty good story. I let it alone for a while to go cut the lawn. As the day progressed, I kept coming back to rewrite. The process of cutting the lawn some, then writing some more, then cutting the lawn some, and writing some more helped me to think clearly on exactly how I want to word my story. Then more cutting and more rewriting. Kind of like laboring to bring a child into the world.

Hours past by and I had finished the lawn cutting but not the writing. Then when I thought I had the story completed, I sent it off to be critiqued. Suggestions came back and another rewrite was done. So now the story is done, right? Not yet. I always let my writings go for a couple of days so when I get back to it again, I have another chance to reword something I missed or catch a typo. This is the best process I have found to write and I don’t think I am the only one that does it. Every writer has their own system to write and keep writing but I think that there are general similarities in writers.

So now I wait. I submitted the story for the contest and only time will tell what will happen. But I’m not anxious about whether I win or not. I think the experience of writing the story helps me to be a better writer. Even though my forte is non-fiction, it is good to accomplish writing in other genres to improve my writing skills.

My non-writer friends are absolutely amazed at what I have done. Not only this week but in the past when I have written other articles or essays, they are truly amazed. I have thought about what I have accomplished in the last 20 years as a writer and I have to count my blessings. I can express myself in writing as there are some who cannot or will not. When I think about all that I have written; it is truly an accomplishment. If you are a writer, I think you will feel the same way as I do. We should all be grateful for our talents and don’t forget to use them.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Making Difficulties in Life Easy

by Faith St. Clair


I love being able to blog. This is like world-wide therapy! I get to wax philosophical, ponder extemporaneously, ask rhetorical questions and I can usually garner a few solid remarks of peoples’ valued opinions – those who have been where I have been, who have asked and answered the same questions, who have proven records of emerging above the quandaries I find myself floundering in. And all for free! Who would have thunk?

Here’s my reflection for the day…

How come it is sometimes so hard to communicate with those that you love – the ones who should be the closest to you - your spouse, your kids? Why do we hesitate to express our thoughts and desires? What could be the worse thing that can happen? Well in some cases, it can cause riff, argument or tension. Well, we might understand the reason we’d want to avoid that, but what comes in its place? We get tension, riff and out-of-balance selves.

I have been going to see a therapist this last month – a health therapist. I’m trying to send my body into a healthy future for the last ½ of its existence. I’ve spent plenty of years abusing it with the wrong foods, not enough exercise and a lack of interest in the mechanics of it all. Well, my therapist keeps telling me to let go, first mentally, of anything that doesn’t serve me well. Once I can let go of that, I can let go of it physically.

Holding in discomforts, tension and imbalances in a relationship doesn’t serve anyone well. If we let out our tension, however, then our attempt to find “balance” will most often be viewed as “nagging”.

How is it possible to communicate frustrations in a positive light?

I have been married for 25 years and have struggled through my own communication issues over the years because I hate confrontation – and not just with my husband, but with my kids as well. I have even struggled at work, trying to communicate in high-tension situations. I have watched numerous friends and colleagues deal with a variety of communication issues in their marriages and families – some have failed and some have not, but whether it is a struggle between one spouse spending too much and one trying to save, one has a substance abuse problem, one is dealing with depression, one being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease yet not wanting to pursue medical treatment, feelings of disconnectedness or growing apart, adultery, dishonesty, etc., etc.), there is always one thing in common. Although the scenarios can be as varied as the colors in heaven and differ in their severity, they are ALL emotionally draining. When things are not in ‘balance” at home, it debilitates every other life aspect. Being able to focus on any other issue or try to acquire happiness is an impossibility.

The first plan of action to these impasses should always be prayer and the effort to change ourselves, perspectives and attitudes. The latter is not always easy, but when we’ve done all that we can do and we’re still struggling to communicate with those we care about, what then?

Here is what I have learned from a friend and her marriage counselor (not my own idea) that works!

Write a letter.

Now, how easy is that for us writers?

Don’t kid yourself; it can be as difficult as finishing the first “War and Peace” novel you’ve been working on for 25 years. It is no easier for you than a “non-writer”. In this case, everyone is in the same boat.

Here, however, is a simple format that aids in the process…

Your letter will be three paragraphs.

The first paragraph should be filled with positives. You can tell him/her how much you love them, how grateful you are for them, how hard they work, etc. Basically, you recognize their strengths.

The second paragraph should be the “I feel” section. “I need to bring this to your attention”…how the situation makes you feel. Be careful not to condemn or accuse the person. Just pour out your feelings regarding the situation.

The last paragraph should be your request/expectations. Ask them to make an appointment with the doctor or a counselor, ask them to talk with you, ask them to write you a letter back – whatever you want from them. Be sure in your request to be specific about your expectation and give them a deadline. Something like, “Can we talk about this on Thursday night after I get home from work?” or “Can you please make an appointment with the doctors by the end of this week?” You get the idea; give them some time though between when you give them the letter and when you expect them to act.

Making difficulties in life easy, will always be our aim.

Happy writing, happy communicating, happy mending, happy uniting and happy loving…

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Living at the Beach

by Terri Wagner

I made a dreadful mistake and then compounded it on Friday. I forgot to leave work by 2. By 4 p.m., Interstate 10 was backed up; nope, no accident, just everyone headed to the beach for Labor Day.

I normally take the downtown tunnel, however, because the interstate tunnel was backed up, the downtown traffic was a nightmare. Left lane backed up for miles and people cheating by taking the right lane and easing into the left. That made me so furious I called a friend who works in a tall (that being relative) building and asked her to shoot the driver of the white pickup two ahead of me. He let in 10 cars!!! That was nice in overkill.

I took a back road to the main road to the beach. Uh, compound mistake, should have taken ALL the back roads. I sat in traffic on my cell phone ranting about all the out-of-state cars that made my normally one hour commute into a two hour vision of, well you know.

My other human house occupants were off for the weekend/holiday. My canine occupants were so glad to someone, anyone, that they instantly forgave me for being late. Ok, a few treats were part of the forgiveness.

Saturday, I took an older newly-single sister with me to the movies, back up the same beach road. I personally found it offensive that the weekend was gorgeous. It should have rained if there was any justice!

On Sunday, I found myself in the ox-in-the-ditch syndrome and had to stop at the store. I forced myself to get only what I had to have, knowing I would have to come back the next day. But at least I felt I tried to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

That night as I read my scriptures--New Testament, Paul’s adventures in missionary work--it occurred to me: I had lost my way. I was doing all the right things (staying at work, transporting older sisters, taking care of my dogs) but it all felt wrong. I was actually furious with my fellowman. I needed an attitude adjustment.

So at midnight on Sunday (or is that Monday), I ordered a pay-for-view movie, The Nativity Story. I had somehow missed it at Christmas. Wonderful movie, put me back in the proper frame of mind.

I am so grateful that Heavenly Father gently reminds me of how much I have and that a little inconvenience is the price I pay for living on the Gulf Coast. So really, how bad could it be?!

Mental note: carry something to read in car when backed up with traffic. There, that should ease the anger.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Musings for Monday

by Joyce DiPastena

I feel in a very non-creative mood as I sit down to write this. I don’t have anything useful to say. I may have written one good book, but my talent has all dried up since then. My mind is a blank. Who am I to call myself a writer? To think I have anything of worth to offer the world?

Hold on there a minute…didn’t I just finish teaching the monthly presidency message in Relief Society this morning? And what was the topic I picked, aimed at myself as much as anyone else in the room? “Overcoming Feelings of Inadequacy”, by Elder David S. Baxter, from the August 2007 Ensign. Good heavens, Joyce, were you even listening to yourself?

What was the point of that whole conversation we had in Relief Society about “divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance”? Elder Baxter defined “divine discontent” as “the Savior [inviting] improvement to encourage us in reaching our full potential.” Whereas “the devil’s dissonance” is “the adversary [deploying] derision to discourage us with feelings of worthlessness.”

What if I try applying our discussion to my first paragraph above?

“I feel in a very non-creative mood as I sit down to write this.”

Devil’s Dissonance: You don’t feel creative, so why even try? Just blow off your blog assignment, who cares?

Divine Discontent: Just sit down and try. Type whatever comes into your head and see where it goes. People are depending on you to keep your Monday assignment.

“I don’t have anything useful to say.”

Devil’s Dissonance: You’re right, who cares about what you have to say? Besides, you’re sleepy, go take a nap.

Divine Discontent: Everyone has something useful to say. You’re my daughter, and all of my children have useful things to say. Just keep typing. Something will come.

“I may have written one good book, but my talent has all dried up since then.”

Devil’s Dissonance: Yep, your mind has gone to mush, you can barely string two sentences together. Besides, trying is hard work. Do you really want to work that hard? Wouldn’t you rather do something (anything!) easier?

Divine Discontent: Just look at what you’ve already typed on this page. Obviously, your mind hasn’t gone to mush, and you’ve strung more than two sentences together. Keep trying. You’ll feel worse about yourself if you give up and quit, than if you just try, whether the end result is dross or gold. You’ll feel better, just because you tried.

“My mind is a blank.”

Devil’s Dissonance: You’re right. You have nothing to say. Go take a nap.

Divine Discontent: No naps until you finish this. You clearly had more in your mind than you thought—just look at all you’ve typed thus far! That didn’t come out of a “blank mind”, my dear daughter.

“Who am I to call myself a writer?”

Devil’s Dissonance: That’s right. You can write until you’re blue in the face, and you’ll never make anyone laugh the way you laughed at the books of Georgette Heyer, or write such a witty character as Brother Gregory in “A Vision of Light” (by Judith Merkle Riley), or write as poignantly as Diana Wynne Jones in “Charmed Life”—and while you’re at it, don’t forget the snappy dialogue in “The Three Musketeers”, that puts every dialogue scene you’ve ever written to shame!

Divine Discontent: Is your name Georgette Heyer or Judith Merkle Riley or Diana Wynne Jones or Alexandre Dumas? No, you’re name is Joyce DiPastena and I don’t expect you to write like anyone but yourself. Your talent came from Me, not from The World. Use the talent the best you know how, study, practice, share, and write from your heart. That’s all I ask from any of my writing children. The reason for your talent and who it will touch will be made clear in my own time. Be patient and have faith till then.

“To think that I have anything to offer the world?”

Devil’s Dissonance: You don’t. Give up. Think nap…nap…nap…

Divine Discontent: Re-read my last answer above. And while you’re at it, you might want to notice that you’ve successfully written a blog for Monday. Now don’t you feel better about yourself? (Yes, actually, I do!) Save what you’ve written to post for tomorrow, and then, my dear daughter…yes, you may go take a nap.

CHALLENGE: Then next time you feel inadequate about your writing or anything else, take the Devil’s Dissonance/Divine Discontent test. You might be surprised where you end up!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

In the Garden

By Liz Adair

A few days ago, on a glorious, sunny California morning, as I walked through the rose garden of the mission in Santa Barbara, I listened to a friend (whom I shall call Mary) speak of her daughter’s first communion, which took place in that historic church. When I asked if she had been reared in the Catholic Church she said no and went on to tell me of her religious odyssey. Mary’s parents had been upright, moral, non-attending believers, but she had gone to neighborhood church with a friend and had been baptized. As she grew older, her pragmatic, analytical side often warred with her spiritual side, and she shared with me some of the fruits of that struggle.

Mary said that she has come to believe the Bible is flawed because, though it may be the word of God, it has come through the minds and hands of men, many of whom had their own agendas as they disseminated its teachings. However, she also believes that, though it is a flawed book, yet it is so pure in intent, so venerable, so holy because of its antiquity, so powerful because of the word of God that it does contain, so ‘right’ because it has been proven by ages of men, that we must listen and follow its teachings.

Mary said that, as the daughter of an engineer and as a student of science herself, she found herself wondering about the Christian message, which has as its centerpiece the resurrection and life after death, a fantastic and scientifically unproven claim. One day, in physics class, they were studying Einstein’s theory of relativity, and suddenly E=MC2 took on a new theological meaning for her. Here it was: mass (or physical matter) becomes light, or energy. It was in physics class that the afterlife became a reality to her.

I asked Mary if I could use that thought, tucking it away for a character to voice at some future time in a book yet unwritten. But as I look back upon that weekend, upon the wedding and the museum, upon the used-to-live-in houses we visited, and the wuuuuunderful tacos at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, it is that moment that stands out. I think I shall never again smell a rose but what I will remember Mary’s words and feel anew the glow as her sweet, believing spirit reached out and touched mine.