May 31, 2008

The Math of Life

by Margaret Turley

It is open enrollment at work this week. Our company’s business is “consumer health.”

We promote healthy living in the care and advice we give and by encouraging the consumer to make choices that can have positive influences in their future, financially, physically and mentally. The CEO believes in “practicing what we preach,” and ingrains these values into the employees by laying out the plans offered and carefully illustrating the effect each option will have. Financial rewards are given to those who demonstrate positive actions by taking a personal health survey and choosing to participate in healthy habits, and by cost savings.

Other employers have made efforts in this regard, but I felt they were mostly focused on cutting costs through limiting benefits available. Instead our corporate culture presents a smorgasbord of choices from carefully screened partners that we do business with and offers them our services in return. I feel empowered and satisfied with the options I choose and promote.

As a writer I have discovered a couple of useful exercises. One is to forecast what certain actions will attain. It’s like making a life financial plan for 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and retirement. Another is to make the character old, years after the time period of your novel and have them reflect on what they have done. Are they satisfied? Did things work out differently than they hoped? Do they have regrets? Would they choose to approach situations differently? How did things add up? What was taken away? Was their life divided into too many endeavors to finish any of them successfully? Were exponential outcomes derived from multiple factors?

I feel we can apply the same principles in our personal and family and business lives. Careful consideration and execution will help us acquire happiness and health.

May 30, 2008


By Rebecca Talley

My oldest daughter in high school has been particularly ridiculed this year for being LDS. When she chose to leave her health class because Planned Parenthood was going to present its pro-abortion platform, she was harassed. When she makes comments about what she believes, other students make fun of her. Toward the end of the school year, she was sick and tired of all the bullying simply because she chooses to live the gospel.

In Lehi’s dream we learn about the tree of life. We read about the path with the iron rod as well as the large and spacious building where others are in the attitude of mocking those who cling to the rod. It’s important to remember that those who are mocking are in the large and spacious building, not on the path to the tree of life.

Sometimes, we might feel justified in mocking or ridiculing those who are not living the gospel. We take on an attitude of self-righteousness and snub those we feel aren’t worthy of our attention. While it is true that we cannot lift another unless we are on higher ground, it is the attitude with which we choose to “lift” others that matters. When we exercise compassion and remember that not everyone has had the blessing of the gospel in their lives, and even more, those who do have the gospel may not have had the same experience or learned the same things, we can more effectively lift others. When we are mocking someone, we have lost the opportunity to teach him the truth.

My son was involved in theater in high school. Most of the kids in the theater group chose to live their lives differently than my son and while he didn’t agree with their choices, he still loved them as people. A small number of kids in theater were involved in a religious group that repeatedly told the other kids how they were going to burn in hell because of their choices. The accused kids would then come to my son and ask questions about what he believed. Many of these kids told my son how much they appreciated that he never judged them or condemned them, but loved them despite their choices. He was also told on several occasions by these kids that if they decided they wanted religion, they would come to him because they knew he truly cared about them.

We do not like to be ridiculed for our beliefs. We, as a church, have endured years of persecution. People do not understand our beliefs and as a result mock us for them. Others with different beliefs also do not want to be ridiculed. While they may make choices that we understand are breaking commandments, we need to keep in mind that we are all in need of repentance. None of us live our lives perfectly. We make mistakes. We break commandments. We all need the atonement.

Instead of condemning those who don’t live the gospel, we should concentrate on teaching them the true path to happiness. We can only do this when we love them and we can only truly love them when we don’t mock them.

May 29, 2008

~ My Belated Memorial Day ~

by Stephanie Abney

"Memorial ~ remembrance of a person or an event”

For whatever strange reason, Memorial Day was difficult for me this year. My love and admiration for those passed on never ceases but my moods do tend to come and go, without the slightest warning. For the first time in over 30 years, I did not join the rest of the extended family in decorating the graves and these days, we have a lot of graves to go to. We meet at row 5 of the Mesa Cemetery (dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles and children and grandchildren ~ we are quite a large crowd when we show up) and moving across each row like this giant wave of humanity, stopping at grave after grave to clean up the headstone and leave flowers, we end up at row 12 where our precious BJ is. (And although we can visit Jim’s parents’ graves, mine are both buried at Forest Lawn in Hollywood, CA and I’ve only been able to visit their graves once since they passed away 8 and 10 years ago).

I haven’t been to the Mesa cemetery for a few months, but I hope to make it tomorrow. I think I just need to sit by my son's grave, alone… and I haven't been able to go yet. Odd... it's been almost eight years and I've always gone to decorate the graves but this year I wasn't up to it and I’ve been in a “mood” ever since. My work has suffered; totally missed a deadline for 2 articles. All the interviewing was done, the photos acquired and yet I sat at the computer and just nothing came.

I think part of it is going to so many of BJ’s friends' wedding receptions or missionary talks when they return over the last couple of years. I don't know. I wouldn’t miss being there for any of them and am grateful their families always remember to invite us, but sometimes I just get sad that it’s never BJ striding up the airport walkway, grinning from ear to ear, and that he’s not the one at the pulpit telling of his remarkable experiences (although I don’t doubt for a minute that he has been serving a mission all these years and has many marvelous stories to tell). He would be 24 years old this September. He was our youngest, our baby and 2 months after his sixteenth birthday, he was gone. And I miss him every moment of every day.

My daughter, Kaci, needed me to drive my 3 oldest granddaughters (ages 10, 12, & 14) halfway to her house in Coolidge (her husband left this afternoon for scout camp and the girls are going to help her with her two little toddlers). On the way we played silly word games, like “I’m going on a trip to Alaska and I packed…” each of us taking turns over and over, always repeating all the previous items, adding to the list alphabetically. It was such fun and I remembered how blessed I am to have these wonderful grandchildren in my life (I have 14 total so far).

We met Kaci halfway and she presented me with a belated Mother’s Day gift… a framed picture of each of her little girls and one of their sweet family with a word under each photo: “Live, Laugh, Love” and I remembered how lucky I am.

Then I did some errands (should have gotten out of the house more this week) and just getting things done for Jim that he didn’t have time to do made me remember the partnership we have shared (and built with such effort) for nearly 38 years and I remembered how loved I am.

And lastly, I attended Liz Adair’s workshop tonight ~ “Using Family History in Fiction.” It was awesome and so helpful and as she taught us, I remembered my honorable heritage.

So, today was my day for remembrance, not Sunday night when our family decorated the graves or even Monday when we had the family over to dinner (which was fun but I still felt ‘lost’ even with everyone there). No, today, I remembered; it was my belated Memorial Day and for me, it was just what I needed. The Lord is merciful (and patient) indeed. Today, I found myself again. I’m feeling much better and tomorrow I will go and take my blanket and my Native American Flute that BJ loved so much and I’ll tell him about stuff that I’m sure he already knows and I’ll play my flute and I’ll remember… and be glad. Happy Belated Memorial Day!!

May 27, 2008

What Makes Dependable People Boring?

by Terri Wagner

I've just spent a holiday weekend being asked several times what's your favorite movie character. Everyone is always amazed; but he was so boring; he got so weird, he wasn't really a good actor; well that sure is odd; blah blah blah. I guess it was going to the new Indiana Jones' movie of which I noticed most of the audience were mostly my age. (The younger ones are not impressed with Harrison Ford or the new movie.) I'll leave it at that since many of you probably haven't seen it.

Since Harrison Ford aka Indiana is so popular among my age group, it is assumed he is/was a favorite. But he’s not. I liked then and still like Luke Skywalker. Why? Because he was the dependable one. You knew his motivation, he knew his duty, and he did it. I like the hero guy, the quiet one. I enjoy watching the “I’m making it up as I go along” type for buddies. But give me Mr. I’m gonna be here for you every time.

But I’ll confess. When I’m writing about my hero if you will, I find it hard to give him much personality. Why does dependable mean boring?

May 26, 2008

No Time to Blog Today

by Joyce DiPastena

I don’t have time to blog today.

My sister is visiting from Salt Lake City. We will be spending her birthday together later this week, but we’re starting our celebrations early. I want to spend every minute I can with her while she’s here, so I don’t have time to blog today.

We have three summer blockbusters we have to fit in while she’s here. I think we’ll save The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and the new Indiana Jones movie for later in the week. Iron Man has been out the longest, so it’ll probably be the easiest to get in to see on Memorial Day. It’s a long drive to a theater from Kearny, so I don’t have time to blog today.

While we’re in Mesa, we’ll find somewhere fun to go out to eat. Maybe Serrano’s Mexican Food. (My sister says they don’t know how to “do” Mexican food in Salt Lake City.) Or Marie Callendars to share some strawberry pie. Or maybe the Chinese Gourmet Buffet all the way in Chandler. They do know how to “do” Chinese food in Salt Lake City (or at least, in Bountiful), but I’m not in Salt Lake City (or Bountiful) to eat Chinese food with her right now, so we’ll have to eat it in the Valley. We’ll have to hustle to fit in both a movie and a “nice” lunch, so I don’t have time to blog today.

And after the movie and lunch, we’ll have to go shopping for a birthday cake to bring back home with us. And we might have to swing by a Cold Stone Creamery and use the gift cards we gave each other for Christmas, without knowing the other’s intention. (I guess we just think like sisters!) After all that movie watching, eating, and shopping, it might be late when we get home, too late to blog today.

So I hope you’ll all forgive me, just this once. I’ll try hard to do better the next time my turn rolls around. But as for today…I just don’t have time to blog!

May 25, 2008


by Terry Deighton, sitting in for Liz Adair

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.

It’s a time to remember those who have gone ahead, especially those who fought and died to protect our freedom. Remembering has never been my strong suit. I have trouble remembering what day it is, how old I am, even where I’m going when I’m driving down the street. I’d like to blame it on getting older, but I’ve always been this way.

When I was about thirteen, my brother stopped by the booth where I was selling candy at the Fourth of July and told me that he was going home with a friend. He asked me to tell our parents where he’d be. He wanted us to pick him up when we headed home.

When my parents met me to go home a couple of hours later, my brother didn’t show up at the appointed time and place. We were all very worried. We looked all over the booths and carnival rides. Finally, we headed for home, five miles away, to see if he had gotten there on his own somehow. Half way home, the memory of talking to my brother popped back into my head. I gasped and confessed my error, and we headed back into town to pick up my brother exactly where he had said he would be.

However, as bad as my memory is, I have no trouble remembering our fallen patriots. That same little town that hosted the Fourth of July celebrations of my youth sits along the same harbor as a U.S. Naval base. My dad retired from the navy after twenty years. Patriotism and honor for our veterans, living and dead, runs in my veins.

In my little Navy town, everyone stood when the flag went by. No one had to think about whether or not to salute it. Every hand automatically rose to every heart as the flag entered the peripheral vision of the crowd and stayed there until it exited the other side of our view. It didn’t matter how many flags were in the parade, either. Each was respected and honored. The men in the throng had fought in World War II, Korea, and, in my teen years, in Vietnam. They had lost friends, and some of the women had lost their husbands. The remembrance was personal for these folks.

It makes me sad to see the bumper stickers and signs that tell us to “Support our Troops.” We shouldn’t need to be told. It should be as automatic as saluting the flag they represent. Even if we do not agree with the politics that direct our armed services, we must support and honor the men and women who comprise our fighting force. Each has his or her private reasons for joining the military, but each also wears the uniform that requires a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. That willingness demands our respect. We must give today’s soldier, sailor, and marine the same respect that was given to the veterans of other eras. If we do not, how can we expect them to be there for us in our hour of need?

Let’s take a few minutes tomorrow to remember amidst our barbecues and yard work. Let’s remember the men and women who stand ready to defend our right to spend our day off any way we choose. Let’s remember that freedom has a cost and be grateful for those who are willing to pay it.

Happy Memorial Day!

May 23, 2008


By Kristine John

One of my great joys is getting away every other month for a scrapbooking/stamping night that I do not teach.

It's my time just to sit back and relax, and learn from a friend and fellow Stampin' Up! demonstrator.

Last night was that long awaited night.

I was actually like a little child all week with constant questioning, "Is it Thursday yet?"

My spirits were high, and my creative juices were flowing. I arrived and gave and received hugs all around. (This is seriously one of the sweetest groups of women who I have ever had the chance of associating with!)

The night always begins with a dinner, lovingly prepared by the "hostess" that month. These ladies go all out and fix wonderful meals to share with their friends and start out the evening just right. We had lovely conversation over the meal...and enjoyed just being together.

Shortly after all the dinner was cleared away, however, I started feeling queasy... I kept dismissing it, thinking I would start feeling better...and perhaps I had just eaten a little too much. The queasiness was followed by dizziness...and shortly thereafter, the absolute inability to follow anything that was being said. I even put tape on the wrong side of a project and nearly ruined the whole thing! (Keep in mind that I teach other people how to do this most of the time, so that was the final, telling straw that I really was ill.)

I packed up my things, and made a quick exit...praying that I would make it home safely.

I still feel miserable...and have spent this, the first day of summer vacation, sleeping away, waking just long enough to ask for the older children's help with the baby. I do think it was something I ate...but I don't think anyone else was affected...which seems a bit odd.

It's bad enough to be sick, but to have to leave my precious night of stamping early?

That's just flat out wrong.

May 22, 2008

"Inspire, Don't Require"

By Kari Diane Pike

(Marsha, if you hadn’t sent the link to the Six LDS Writer’s and a Frog blog, this post would have been posted many hours sooner.)

During the October, 2007 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Dalin Oaks gave a wonderful talk titled “Good, Better, Best”. Since then, I have listened to and participated in several lively discussions about determining what defines good, better, and best and how we can apply that in our lives.

During a dinner table discussion with my children, the opportunity came up to share and teach the concept of good, better, and best. Grade reports had been sent home and our 15-year-old daughter had dropped from having an “A” in English, to a “B”. When I asked her about the reasons for the drop in her grade, she became quite defensive and flat out told me that a “B” is above average and so it was good enough. Lots of her friends were struggling to just pass, so she felt like getting a “B” was no big deal. Of course a lively discussion ensued. (I’ll leave that to your imagination…hint…her Dad’s countenance was not exactly full of light. His thinking is if she could send and receive 9975 text messages in a 28 day period, she has time to get an “A” in English.) Anyway…during a Relief Society lesson the next Sunday, I asked for input as to how to teach our children to recognize and choose between good, better, and best, while the world teaches them that whatever they do is “good enough,” just as long as they "pass." After the meeting ended, a beautiful young woman, Kara, approached me. She was home on break from her studies at George Wythe University. Her eyes glittered with tears as she said,

“Sister Pike, can I share a thought with you? I have known you since I was a little girl and I have learned so much from you. I want to tell you what I learned at school that I think will help you understand how to help your children. You have helped me so much, and I feel so excited to be able to share something that will help you. Our university president often gives the morning devotionals himself. Recently he spoke to the student body about these three words. ‘Inspire, don’t require.’ I don’t think I need to really explain it to you…I know you understand. Its right in the scriptures, isn’t it? Isn’t that the Lord’s plan?”

Wow. And little did I know how well those three words would serve in the days to come. I knew something bothered me about one of the new teachers at our youngest son’s school and I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it. I saw my son losing his spark and enthusiasm about learning and being challenged. Instead of spending extra time on assignments and looking for extra projects, he began writing yes and no answers and asking to play more video games. Then I read as essay he wrote for another class.

“Mrs. _____, former teacher of mine, is an exceptional relationer, extraordinarily well-experienced teacher, and her ideas were ‘oohed’ and ‘awed’ at by the class. Mrs.____, my current teacher, though okay and has her good moments now and then, is a bit too old school. (You know, 1 whisper = time out / chick=young lady I barely slouch = sit straight up) She’s good at teaching, don’t get me wrong, but her style and taste just don’t work out with me, unlike that of Mrs. _____.” Levi goes on the explain how the new teacher always tells the kids she has to teach by the assessment so she can’t give them “free days” the way the previous teacher did. “Mrs. _____ would let us have a free-day but, while we were playing, she would teach us about what we were doing.”

This became my “Aha!” moment. As I reviewed the school year, I could see the pattern clearly and I recognized what bothered me so much. The new teacher “requires” more than she “inspires.” She was so caught up in keeping to “the rules” and teaching to the “assessments” that she forgot about her students’ needs to learn how to learn and how to discover joy in the process. Her teaching is “good.” Her students are learning facts. But her teaching could be the “best” and her students could be inspired to learn how to ask questions and find answers.

Perhaps I’m stretching things a bit, but I can see how we can apply this to our writing as well. How often do we let “writing to the rules” diminish our joy of writing words? How often do we settle for writing something good, when we could have been writing our best? Do we look for inspiration or do we just give the facts?

Where do you find your inspiration as you write? Can our writing be a source of inspiration, even when we are writing fiction? Should it?

May 20, 2008

Ode to My Favorite Class

By Betsy Love

As an ode to my favorite class, I had to write this for them and thought I’d share it with you as well. The class had gone rather nicely and the lesson plan went off without a hitch, that is until I strolled between rows of desks and one student had not secured his backpack under his desk as had been frequently requested. Not only was the offending item left in the middle of the aisle, it was also unzipped. A disaster waiting to happen. Perhaps it was a “had to be there” moment. But for my 2nd hour students when I read this tomorrow I know they will all get an end of school year laugh.

It lurked under Ernest’s desk

And slithered into the aisle

Its jaws opened wide

And waited with a smile!

The teacher moved nearer

And closer to her doom

Knowing that inside it

Her foot would find no room.

It clamped down round her ankle

And sucked her toes right in

She pulled and struggled

Her escape was slim

But at last a might tug

Jerked her body free.

Alas she had escaped it

But her shoe she could not see.

The back pack had swallowed

And belch a happy tune

As teacher fell forward

Embarrassment full bloomed.

The students howled with laughter

At their teacher’s awful fate.

She blushed and tried her best

To look calm—alas, too late.

May 19, 2008


By Rene Allen

Today’s blog will be short. It’s 9 pm and I just returned from Mesa and my brother-in-law’s funeral. Norris was 77. He had cerebral palsy and for the last 15 years of his life was confined to a wheelchair. He became increasingly hard of hearing. As his ability to move and participate in normal social activities decreased, so did the size of his world. For the last decade he lived in an assisted care facility in Mesa.

There were no tears at this farewell. Rather, as his brothers talked about Norris’s life and accomplishments, there was a sense that at last his compelling mind and spirit would be free of the limitations of his body.

There was some pain at the end. He had fallen from his wheelchair, injured his lower leg and developed an arterial clot below the knee. Because of other problems, he had only two choices: amputation or do nothing, in which case he would die. “I’ve lived long enough,” he said, and five days later passed away.

Norris had no use for money. His immediate needs were taken care of where he lived. When Dwight and I cleaned out his apartment, we didn’t find any pennies behind the couch or at the cluttered far end of his desk drawer. There was no money. Norris had money. Money paid for his room and board. But he had no use for it other than that. Can you imagine, not needing money?

The great lesson of his life was patience. He had to wait 77 years and suffer the kind of limitations most of us don’t even consider before he was finally free.

No, there were no tears at his funeral, only a sense of joy at a shared vision of this dear man walking into heaven.

May 18, 2008

Our Awesome ANWA Volunteers

by Marsha Ward

I've been looking over a lot of files on my computer the last few days, searching out who the leaders of ANWA have been for the last decade. One thing surprised me: many of the names have shown up again and again in leadership roles.

Theresa Sneed was elected President three times. Stephanie Abney, Joan Sowards, and Janette Rallison have served as Vice President and President. Joan also filled a term as Secretary. Margaret Turley and Carrie Marsh have also been Secretary, and Carrie was Newsletter Editor, as well. Kerry Blair was the Newsletter Editor at least twice. Connie Wolfe has been Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer! There are a lot more women who have volunteered countless hours of service who I can't document at this moment.

When they weren't serving in an elected office, many of these same women served on committees: getting faculty for the conferences; preparing or buying and serving food at conferences or retreats; contacting periodical publishers for sample copies; getting publicity for ANWA; or securing speaking gigs for our authors at bookstores. Many chapter officers have served time after time.

Why do they do it?

It must be the rewards: countless hours spent in meetings and away from their families; growing to know and love each other; phone calls and emails to counsel and advise members and local leaders; planning and executing leader training; hosting and rubbing shoulders with authors, editors and agents; meeting ANWA members; and on and on.

Another crew of volunteers make up our blogging team. We now have fourteen women from all over who each blog once every two weeks. We've gotten to know each other in a way that is difficult to duplicate in the real world. What fun! We are truly sisters.

I encourage everyone who reads this to volunteer somewhere for a purpose that is close to your heart. Dive on in! You won't regret giving service.

And let me remind the ANWA members who read this that elections will be held at the end of the year, both in chapters and on the executive leadership level. Maybe 2009 will be your year to help out.

May 17, 2008

Graduation Time

It’s the time of year for graduations. They start as early as pre-school and kindergarten, all the way through post graduate school. I attended my son’s graduation from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana last week. He earned his Master’s Degree in Russian and Eastern European Studies and is now diligently seeking employment to be able to sustain his family in the style he would like. Cost of living is rising exponentially and he feels an urgent need to be able to provide for them.
Laura, Kevin’s wife, has her BA in
I am proud Kevin continued on with his education in spite of many obstacles and hurdles. He juggled fatherhood (3 girls), his calling in the bishopric, part-time jobs, and being a “good” husband. He is the first child / grandchild of my parents to go to post graduate school and complete a Master’s Degree. My father had a Master’s in Education, and my mother a Bachelor’s in elementary education with added hours in special education.
My youngest brother achieved a Bachelor’s degree in Science and PE with an AZ teaching certificate, and taught school, then changed careers to Electronics after a 4 year apprenticeship with APS. My BA is in Health Care Management. After practicing as a registered nurse with an associate degree for 15 years, I saw the need for a higher level of education to secure my career. The rest of my siblings did not complete Bachelor’s Degrees. All of them have some higher education – certifications and training.
As women we frequently focus on getting an Mrs. instead of a BA or MS – or even a PhD or JD. Even though we are LDS and are taught to look forward to motherhood – we need to remember self-reliance and a complete, competent education is part of that. Some never marry – and need to be productive and self-sustaining. Others marry – but either loose a husband through divorce or death – or his earning power through accident/illness. It is important that we be able to provide for our children and ourselves rather than be reliant on welfare – from the church or the government, or the “goodwill” of others. Yes, we can practice our faith and prayers, but the Lord also helps those who help themselves.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do respect and admire those who strive all their lives and work industriously. I am also aware of the many inequities in pay. For instance – teachers are not paid commensurate to the amount of education they have or the importance of their roll.
Some people through “luck”, hard work, or natural talent, manage to obtain a job or engage in some entrepreneurial venture that reimburses them well and provides enough income to raise a family.
So what am I trying to say? I think it is important to foster a love of education, and a sense of duty in our sons and daughters / grandsons and granddaughters so that they will be able to succeed no matter what life’s circumstances throws their way. It should be done through example and encouragement from birth on.
In the Education section on the Provident Living website for our church it says the following: Members of the Church, especially the youth, have always been counseled to do everything necessary to get a good education. This includes receiving the training necessary for employment. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to attend school. We may be concerned about the money, time, or effort required. But because the Lord wants us to be well educated, He will help us attain this goal if we seek His help through prayer and make our best effort.

In the September 2007 New Era “To the Point” question and answer section the following appeared.
Q: “What is more important for women after they get married: to finish an
education or to start a family?”
A: It’s not an either/or decision, because while education is an important step
along every woman’s path, so is starting a family. Decisions about timing
and other details should be made between you, your husband, and the Lord.

My personal feeling is that the answer should be for the woman to complete her education before marriage whenever possible. The accompanying question would be: “What is more important for a woman: to marry or to obtain and complete an education. I was tempted to quit and marry before getting my RN – having only an LPN. My mother strongly encouraged me to finish. I have been so grateful for her wise counsel. Of course each person, family, situation is different. Once again the decision and timing should be considered with fervent prayer and counsel with family members. Both my son and daughter in-law needed to complete their BA’s after they married. They carefully timed their classes and student teaching after their daughter was born so that she would not be left with strangers. They graduated together and our families are very proud of their achievement.

The New Era article continues:
“President Gordon B. Hinckley has often stressed getting a good education. To the women of the Church he says that education “is the latchkey to success in life,” but in the next breath he reminds us of President David O. McKay’s teaching, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home” (“To the Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 115). While education is important, it shouldn’t displace the importance of children and family—for either men or women.
Your choice to have children does not have to exclude finishing your education, or vice versa. A classroom is not the only place to gain an education. Many part-time or distance study options are available to you if you want to finish your education. Even if you have completed the degree you were seeking, you can always become more educated through personal study and experience.”
I’ve heard some say that it is a waste of education for a woman to have a degree – and then not use it. Certainly no education is ever wasted – whether it be a man or woman. All education helps us be better members of our communities, better able to serve others including our children and other family members, and productive citizens. My daughter-in-law has not taught school or had a formal job since graduation. She does offer voice lessons in trade for babysitting. She also joined a group of sisters in her Ward and has been teaching Joy School to her children and theirs for the past two years. No pay other than happy, well adjusted children. What better reward could there be?
Another factoid is that many companies don’t require a degree in a specific area for hiring – but do require a 4 year degree minimum.
The topical guide lists references on Education from the Old testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, D&C and Pearl of Great Price. I will list a few favorites below:
BOM –1st Nephi starts with:
“I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat
in all the learning of my father;”
Proverbs 22:6
“Train up a child in the way he should go:”
D&C 88: 118
“Seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
D&C 88: 127
“School of the prophets.”
D&C 90:15
“Study and learn, and become acquainted with all good;”
D&C 93:16
“ The glory of God is intelligence,”
Abraham 1:2
“Desiring to be one who possessed great knowledge.”

Home schooling is becoming more and more popular. It behooves the parent who thinks about doing so to be adequately educated themselves. Recently I met a mother who plans to home school. She has a bachelor’s degree in English. She is vigorously studying various methods and approaches for homeschooling including on-line possibilities. She is not making this decision lightly. She wants to offer the best to her children, while trying to shield them from the evil and corruption of the world. My cousin home-schooled some of her children – due to unique problems each child had that was not being adequately addressed in the public school system. Now there are more options available that ever before including charter schools, private schools, public educations and parochial schools. Whatever method we decide to use, or interweave into our children’s lives – once again, prayer and careful counseling with family and or church leaders is appropriate.
Coming from a long line of educators starting with my grandparents and continuing on to my paternal aunts and uncles, I suppose I may have stronger feelings about education than others. My maternal grandmother didn’t get to finish more than an elementary education. But she saw to it that each of her siblings and children were able to complete their educations. She also learned at least a college level education through diligent self-study. I admired her greatly for this.
Well, after meandering around in thoughts about education I’ll circle back around to graduation. What is the most important graduation of all? Of course it is our passing the trial of living on earth and making it into the Celestial Kingdom along with our family and loved ones. From personal experience I’ve found that when our temporal lives are in order – our spiritual lives run smoother and visa versa. May we all help each other along the path to happiness.

May 16, 2008

The Whitney Awards

By Rebecca Talley

Have you read an outstanding book by an LDS author this year? Why not nominate it for a Whitney Award?

The Whitney Awards, the brain-child of author Robison Wells, recognizes the best in LDS fiction. LDS authors whose books aren't specifically LDS are also eligible for awards.

I was pleased to attend the very first Whitney Awards Gala in March. It was a fun night with great food and even better company. It was wonderful to see people recognized for their contributions to literature in the LDS and national market. Our very own Joyce DiPastena's book Loyalty's Web was nominated. Since then, Joyce has been offered a contract to republish her book with Leatherwood Press. Congratulations, Joyce, on both accounts.

Some changes have been made to The Whitney Awards. More people will be able to vote this year and there are small juries for each category as well as changes to the categories. All of these changes will only make a great program even better. You can read all the details at the website.

As you read books through the year, don't forget to nominate those you feel should be recognized for excellence.

May 15, 2008

The Eclectic Word Lover Who Struggles with Brevity (Can you tell???)

by Stephanie Abney

Yep, that’s me. Hello, this is my first blog on ANWA Founder and Friends and I thought that there may be a few readers who do not know me and that perhaps I should introduce myself.

I am a lover of words… I love the sounds of words, the various definitions and often hidden meanings of words. I enjoy delightful and funny alliterations and the way certain words just roll right off your tongue while others are like a gentle breeze, soothing and relaxing. Some words are as meaningful as a hug or sadly, as hurtful as a knife.

Everything about words fascinates me… the etymology of words, their power and their magic. I’m grateful for a mother who knew just the right words to use when one of us had a difficult day or when she wanted to share the beauties of this world with us. I’m also thankful that on many occasions I have been prompted to do the same.

Words are just the configuration of letters on a page and yet they can bring you to tears, warm your entire being with hope and love or cause joyful and often hysterical laughter. Words can mend relationships and heal hearts. They can also cause harm and even start wars. This line of thinking really intrigues me. I guess it is because of my love of words that I am a writer. However, a writer is only one small facet of who I am.

My favorite word is “eclectic.” If I had a middle name, it would have to be “eclectic.” Sounds strange, I know. But it is the most all-inclusive word I can think of to describe me. I love “picking and choosing the very best” from a wide range of options, etc. I am so random sometimes; I can be quite the paradox and I just love the sound of the word “eclectic.” I guess that’s why I use it so often.

I figured I’d just give you a quick “run-down” of some of the other facets that make up Stephanie Peterson Abney:

I was born in 1951 (doing the math?) in Burbank, CA in a hospital across the street from Walt Disney Studios and raised in Studio City, CA (in the foothills about a quarter mile from Universal Studios). My parents, Steve and Geneal Peterson, were both from Utah and I have one sister, Camille. I gradated from Hollywood High School (I drove past the famous “HOLLYWOOD” sign every day on my way to school) and met my husband, Jim, in a snowball fight at B.Y.U. We will celebrate 38 years of marriage this August and are the parents of 5 children (3 girls and 2 boys). We currently have 14 grandchildren.

We have lived in Mesa, AZ for the past 31 years where Jim works for the church taking care of many of our local LDS buildings and I am a substitute school teacher (and part-time writer who dabbles in network marketing because I love the business model of helping those on your team).

Like everyone, we’ve seen our share of heartaches. The hardest thing Heavenly Father has ever required of us was to watch our healthy and bright 10 year old son battle leukemia for 5½ years and then say goodbye until the next life just 2 months after his 16th birthday. He was an incredible kid and it was a year of great loss. My mom passed away nearly ten years ago and then eighteen months later, my dad died suddenly; six weeks after that, Jim’s dad died from an accident in the home; five weeks later Jim’s mother died due to (preventable) complications of surgery and just three weeks later, with all of his grandparents awaiting him, our sweet son, BJ, passed away. In a four month period we buried 4 immediate family members. We are grateful for the gospel, a strong faith in the Lord’s plan of happiness and wonderful family and friends who loved us and blessed us during those trying times.

My life is also one of great joy. I am an eternal optimist and truly feel I lead a charmed life. All I need do is sit back when I’m surrounded by my family, watching them interact together, look around at our modest yet welcoming home and know that I am indeed a very blessed daughter of God.

Some of the things I enjoy are reading, writing, doing research (my personal choice for relaxation… I love to hunt up facts and stories), being in nature, hanging out with family and friends, playing the Native American Flute and watching great movies.

I have been a member of ANWA for about 19 years and it has been one of my greatest joys. I have developed sweet friendships, learned much and am a better person for it. This year I am the General Vice-president. I look forward to taking my turn on this blog and getting to know many of you better.


May 14, 2008

Choosing a Mother

by Faith St. Clair

I heard a husband tell his wife, “I don’t need a mother,” as she attempted to encourage him to be a little more patient. I’ve thought about that comment and, although we as wives may sometimes over-direct our families, I can’t imagine anyone, if they had the choice, not wanting a mother – grown or not.

Who wouldn’t want someone to unconditionally love them, support them in all their righteous endeavors, look out for their welfare, help them to grow and learn, bodyguard them in the face of any attack on their morale, self esteem or character, sacrifice for them, or give them an everything-will-be-all-right hug on the days when the world seems like it is deflating and crushing in on them?

In contrast, would someone want to stand alone, healing and helping themselves, finding themselves, learning on their own (sometimes not at all if they’re not motivated), with nobody to encourage them when they get down because they have a depend-on-nobody-but-yourself attitude?

I find the contrast stark and hard to believe that anyone would want to stand as an island – alone, fighting their way through this life instead of being pulled and guided along by a mother who loves and cares about their growth and destination.

And to think that we don’t need a mother is such a slap in the face of God who values the role of motherhood and a slap in the face to those who are mothers – to think that they are not needed????? It smacks of absurdity.

A person couldn’t be if they didn’t have a mother. Perhaps one, in their new-found motherless theories, ceases to be.

Even as an adult, whose mother has passed away, I long for a mother-role in my life. I’m not looking for someone to replace her, but I enjoy the relationships with people that I have who love me in spite of me, have faith in me no matter what I do, encourage me, lift me and tell me that I can, helps me to grow and direct me to new learning and new discoveries that benefit me and broaden my horizons.

I can’t imagine that it is such a difficult decision…

Motherless = a lonely island
Mother-loved = Disney land

I want the Disney Land and all of the happy, hopeful, wondrous, discovery-filled, I-can-do-and-be-anything feeling that it gives you – much like that of a Mother who loves you.

May 13, 2008

Define Drama Queen

Every good story has a drama queen or in some cases a drama king. And we generally know how to write up drama queen characteristics, yes, it’s stereotyping but then is that always a bad thing?

Recently, I ran across a writing exercise that challenged you to define a drama queen without using words or phrases like she threw things, she cursed, she yelled, etc. The exercise was eye opening in many ways. Obviously it was hard to find different ways to create a drama queen character without the usual accompanying descriptions.

After reading several such entries, I came to the conclusion I may be a closet drama queen. And that was NOT a happy moment for me. I live in a family of drama queens/kings and always prided (a word that should always send up a red flag) myself on not being a drama queen. However, in redefining such a person/character, I discovered to my dismay (amid much squirming) that I am a drama queen, just not the loud, object throwing kind. Here is what was my final entry:

Her lips tightened. She spun on her heels, leaving the room and the tension that danced around her. Fleeing the hostile atmosphere filled her with a sense of superiority. She had maintained her cool. No one could ever accuse her of throwing things, cursing like a sailor or behaving in a socially unacceptable way. Oh no, not her. She had learned to control her feelings.

Deliberately using a quiet focused voice, she called the dogs to her. They burst out the side door and raced to the field beyond, she followed more slowly, thinking on the argument she had just witnessed, priding herself on not being a part of it.

A single thought struck her speechless. Had she not indeed reacted to anger with anger; had she not sweep from the room, leaving the situation unresolved; had she not made it clear how she felt; had she not thought only of her discomfort and judged harshly those who reacted more physically; had she not contributed to the overall environment with disgust and distaste.

Was she not in fact a closet drama queen? Was it true that what we hate in others we hate in ourselves? Her tears flowed, her head bowed, her spirit squirmed with the plain truth. Why had she not seen it before? Wasn’t the core problem with drama queens of either gender that it was all about them? And hadn’t she just confirmed by her attitude that it too was all about her? She was not a peacemaker. She was adding to the hostility in her own quiet focused way.

She squared her shoulders, the squirming died away. It was time to admit her drama queen tendencies and learn to combat hostility with love, the kind of love that flooded her heart when she thought of her Savior. She could do this. She would do this.

May 12, 2008

Glimmers of Light in the Dark Ages

by Joyce DiPastena

While I was answering a question for Faith St. Clair last week about games children played in the Middle Ages, I ran across two comments in one of my research books, Childhood in the Middle Ages, by Shulamith Shahar, that caused me to stop and reflect a bit on the so-called “Dark Ages”. I’ve always been a bit annoyed at how freely that phrase is tossed around to describe the period of the Middle Ages. As if the people of that time were empty-eyed, ignorant creatures frozen in the “darkness” of their ignorance. A time when nothing important happened. A time without progression.

Of course, I could argue at great length against the fallacy of this idea, but I’ll spare you that discourse here. And I confess that even I have acknowledged the possible validity of the term “Dark Ages” in relation to the fact that the full light of the gospel was not then currently on the earth. (But neither was it during the “Golden Ages” of Greece and Rome, or even during the Renaissance, and no one ever refers to those ages as “dark”.)

In any event, two suggestions regarding children in the Middle Ages struck me deeply as I researched Faith’s question, and caused me to ponder how, even without the fullness of the gospel, there were people who were sufficiently touched by the Spirit to offer the following counsel to medieval parents:

According to Shulamith Shahar, a man named “Giovanni Dominici…acknowledged children’s predilection for imitation and the importance of play for the child…. He proposed methods of exploiting [this] as an educational tool. He suggests that parents playing with children deliberately lose the game and then hasten to the household chapel to pray. In this way, the child would learn to appeal to God when in distress, and would also realize that God also loves the losers.”

What modern parent has not “deliberately” lost a game he or she was playing with a child? But do we think to turn such a common adult tactic of “letting the child win” into a teaching experience, by showing them that God still loves us (the parent/adult) even when we lose? Or is it much more common to wait until the child loses an important game at school, and then try to “cheer them up” with reassurances that God still “loves the loser”? I, myself, admit I am guilty of the latter. I’m not suggesting that any of us run and kneel by our beds and offer some sort of “pretend” prayer to the Lord. Yet I found something touching in the image Giovanni suggests. Just maybe Giovanni had a point that “example” (seeing his parent’s confidence that God loves him/her, i.e., the parent, when he/she loses) might truly speak louder than belated words after a child’s first loss?

Another of Giovanni’s suggestions should strike home with any Latter-day Saint. According to Shahar, he also counseled that “a child should deliver a sermon to the household (to which all would listen attentively without laughing), and on the next occasion the parent would preach.”

A Medieval family home evening, anyone?

So often we think these kinds of concepts are new, modern, enlightened by the restoration of the gospel. But from these two examples, we can see that there was, indeed, enlightenment in the Middle Ages, too. God loves his children in all ages of the world, and even in the darkest of times, He does not leave them without light and guidance from above.

How many people adhered to Giovanni’s counsel is anyone’s guess. But how many people follow the counsel of the Lord’s prophets today? In turning a deaf ear to such counsel, perhaps in some of the most basic aspects of life, the raising of children, some have not progressed so far as we would like to think from those long ago “Dark Ages”.

May 11, 2008

A Poem My Mother Taught Me

By Liz Adair

I first remember hearing my mother recite the poem ‘Lasca’ in my grandmother’s living room. Several of my aunts and uncles were there, and one or another would break in to take up a stanza and carry the narrative for a while. It was obvious that they all knew it by heart. I came across a handwritten copy the other day. It’s written with a fountain pen—probably long before ball points came into being, as the handwriting, though my mother’s, isn’t quite as flowing as it was when she was a mature woman.

The next time I heard mother recite ‘Lasca’ was in our kitchen. I was nine years old, and we were living in a log cabin in Alaska. It was the beginning of a project, and housing for Bureau of Reclamation people was scarce, so we had three of Burec bachelors living with us. They sat at the table in rapt attention as she spoke, and when she finished, each had to drag his handkerchief out and dab his eyes.

I committed this poem to memory when I was in the fifth grade, and I can still recite it, but I found it on the web in a couple of places, hoping I could copy and paste so I wouldn’t have to type it. It's by Frank Desprez, an English playwright who lived three years on the American frontier as a cowboy and wrote this poem when he returned to England. He died in 1916.

I'm sure this poem is old enough to be in the public domain by now. At each web site, the poem starts as my mother’s copy started, but when I was in the fifth grade I found it in an anthology, and it had a prolog that went like this:

It’s all very well to write reviews
And carry umbrellas and keep dry shoes
And say what everyone’s saying here
And wear what everyone else must wear
But tonight I’m sick of the whole affair.

Here’s the poem, as I heard it from my mother:

by Frank Desprez

I want free life and I want fresh air;
And I sigh for the canter after the cattle,
The crack of the whips like shots in a battle,
The medley of horns and hoofs and heads
That wars and wrangles and scatters and spreads;
The green beneath and the blue above,
And dash and danger, and life and love --
And Lasca!

Lasca used to ride
On a mouse-gray mustang close by my side,
With blue serape and bright-belled spur;
I laughed with joy as I looked at her!
Little knew she of books or of creeds;
An Ave Maria sufficed her needs;
Little she cared, save to be by my side,
To ride with me, and ever to ride,
From San Saba's shore to LaVaca's tide.

She was as bold as the billows that beat,
She was as wild as the breezes that blow;
From her little head to her little feet
She was swayed in her suppleness to and fro
By each gust of passion; a sapling pine
That grows on the edge of a Kansas bluff
And wars with the wind when the weather is rough
Is like this Lasca, this love of mine.

She would hunger that I might eat,
Would take the bitter and leave me the sweet;
But once, when I made her jealous for fun,
At something I'd whispered, or looked, or done,
One Sunday, in San Antonio,
To a glorious girl in the Alamo,
She drew from her garter a dear little dagger,
And -- sting of a wasp! -- it made me stagger!
An inch to the left, or an inch to the right,
And I shouldn't be maundering here tonight;
But she sobbed, and, sobbing, so swiftly bound
Her torn reboso about the wound,
That I quite forgave her. Scratches don't count
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

Her eye was brown -- a deep, deep brown;
Her hair was darker than her eye;
And something in her smile and frown,
Curled crimson lip and instep high,
Showed that there ran in each blue vein,
Mixed with the milder Aztec strain,
The vigorous vintage of Old Spain.
She was alive in every limb
With feeling to the finger tips;
And when the sun is like a fire,
And sky one shining, soft sapphire,
One does not drink in little sips.

The air was heavy, and the night was hot,
I sat by her side, and forgot - forgot;
Forgot the herd that were taking their rest,
Forgot that the air was close oppressed,
That the Texas Norther comes sudden and soon,
In the dead of night or the blaze of noon;
That, once let the herd at its breath take fright,
Nothing on earth can stop the flight;
And woe to the rider, and woe to the steed,
Who falls in front of their mad stampede!

Was that thunder? I grasped the cord
Of my swift mustang without a word.
I sprang to the saddle, and she clung behind.
Away! On a hot chase down the wind!
But never was fox hunt half so hard,
And never was steed so little spared,
For we rode for our lives, You shall hear how we fared
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

The mustang flew, and we urged him on;
There was one chance left, and you have but one;
Halt, jump to ground, and shoot your horse;
Crouch under his carcass and take your chance;
And, if the steers in their frantic course
Don't batter you both to pieces at once,
You may thank your star; if not, good-bye
To the quickening kiss and the long-drawn sigh,
And the open air and the open sky,
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.

The cattle gained on us, and just as I felt
For my old six-shooter behind in my belt,
Down came the mustang, and down came we,
Clinging together -- and, what was the rest?
A body that spread itself on my breast,
Two arms that shielded my dizzy head,
Two lips that hard on my lips were pressed;
Then came thunder in my ears,
As over us surged the sea of steers,
Blows that beat blood into my eyes,
And when I could rise--
Lasca was dead!

I gouged out a grave a few feet deep,
And there in Earth's arms I laid her to sleep;
And there she lies, and no one knows;
And the summer shines and the winter snows;
For many a day the flowers have spread
A path of petals over her head;
And the little gray hawk hangs aloft in the air,
And the sly coyote trots here and there,
And the black snake glides and glitters and slides
Into a rift in a cottonwood tree;
And the buzzard sails on,
And comes and is gone,
Stately and still like a ship at sea.
And I wonder why I do not care
For the things that are like the things that were.
Does half my heart lie buried there
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande?

May 10, 2008

The Biggest Decisions of Our Lives

By Christine Thackeray

Much of life seems to rush forward and as mothers we get dragged along by its swift current. Children call in need and we respond. Obligations cry for attention and we respond. Friends call to have fun and we respond- too often. Laundry calls from the corners of our bathrooms and closets and we ignore it. (Oops.) But every once in a while we hit a crossroads and have to sit and make a choice. Sometimes that choice can have serious consequences and that is when I freeze. I am standing at the cusp of one such decision right now and I am twisted into knots over it.

It is interesting that it was this ability to choose that the very war in heaven was fought over and Christ thought it of such value that he was willing to give his life for it. At times I wish I could just be told what to do and do it perfectly and I'd be happy. But that was Satan's plan, wasn't it? In a marriage it even gets more complicated as you face important decisions together. Often I take a backseat, leaving the burden on my husband but with this decision he won't let me get away with that. I need to stand up and decide.

So I'm praying and asking for inspiration (and blogging about it) but with all of that, there is still a point where we have to leap and it's making me sick to my stomach. Not because it is a bad decision, I actually feel good about it, but it is a huge obligation that will be challenging to face. It will mean sacrifice and going without and challenge- none of which appeal to me. But the ultimate goal is for our family to all sit down in heaven together and if that is the cost I should just suck it up and jump. (But do you mind if I bite my nails down to the quick first?)

For those of you who wonder what this decision is we are looking at buying a stinking house. We are renting in Portland and the only safe schools we feel good about leave my husband with a long commute and with gas prices it is going to kill us. We found a house with six bedrooms right at the top of our price range in an older neighborhood but haven't been able to find anything else close to it in price. It is not really an investment with the housing market the way it is and I want to just ignore it but I have the feeling everytime I pray that it is the right thing for us- but I don't want it to be. The yard is tiny. Ugh! I hate being a grown up and our mortgage will last until my husband and I are 80. AHHHH!

So I could apply this to committing to an idea for writing and spending months building and working to that end. If you only focused on the cost and time it takes to complete a manuscript, would you ever do it? Or having a child or accepting a calling? I suppose we'll just have to see what happened to us but if you find you have a few more seconds on your knees with nothing left to pray about you could add me to the list.

May 9, 2008

Learning Curves Hurt

By Kristine John

In parenting, it is often said that the oldest child bears the brunt of the parental learning curve. I believe, that today, I have introduced a steep curve into the already tumultuous waters of beginning teenagehood.

My oldest son has now spent almost 2 full years at our local middle school...enduring bullying...both verbal and physical, and dealing with flat-out sexual harrassment.
(Since when did being nice and not cussing or thinking crude thoughts classify a young man as gay? Has it always been that way?)

On Monday, he was punched "where it counts", and it was witnessed by the PE teacher.
While the teacher did check to make sure Stephen was "ok" numerous times, he did not report the incident or take further action against the student who hit my son.
On top of everything else that has happened, this particular incident was the end for me...I requested a conference with the counselor...wanting to know some coping strategies for my son and for myself.
When she heard the level that things had gotten to, and the names of the kids involved, she asked me to talk to the principal.
(My husband was leery about me going in to begin with, but especially did not want me to go to the principal because he fears more bullying and unkindness will be focused on Stephen).
I agreed to talk with the principal, feeling that I would have a leg to stand on (i.e. a documented meeting) if things got worse in the future.
The principal asked if he could talk with Stephen...and I agreed, thinking at the time that it would help if Stephen felt like he had an adult on his side...

Within about 10 minutes of leaving the principal's office...I have been unsure and worried about my decision to "take this to the next level".
Yes, Stephen only has a few days left of 7th grade...but if the other kids know that Mommy was in the office, he'll have more reprecussions he can deal with.
Unfortunately, there is no way to see how this will turn out until it does just that....turn out...
either positively or negatively....which one still remains to be seen.

Add a prayer to mine that we'll make it through the teenage years with him still talking to me.
Learning curves hurt.

May 8, 2008

Motor Man's Tale

By Kari Diane Pike

Initially, Dad called him “Deuteronomy.” His incessant, generator-like purring earned the big orange tom cat the name, “Motor Man.” The name fit him well. He acted more like a person than a cat anyway.

Motor Man loved yogurt. Every time Mom opened a carton, he jumped onto the arm of her chair and tried to snatch licks. Mom would chide him,

“No! Wait your turn.”

Motor Man would sit back on his haunches, twitching his tail in anticipation of the creamy treat, and watching every bite that went into Mom’s mouth. The spoon scraping the bottom of the carton signaled his turn. Mom held the carton up while Motor Man stuck his face in as far as he could and licked it clean. He led a charmed life until Dad developed a severe allergy…to the cat. That’s how Motor Man inherited me.

Moving from a quiet, two-person home to a home with not only small children, but a large dog as well, proved to be a challenge for Motor Man. Gone were his days of being pampered with kitty massages and brushings and, of course, his yogurt fixes. This proved to be an “every critter for himself” kind of home. Poor kitty. But Motor Man adjusted. He learned where to find his food and the litter box, and the best places to hide from excited little girls who liked to play “Dress the Kitty.” He even learned how to use the laundry chute in my bedroom as an emergency escape route.

Motor Man became my shadow. I could always count on him being somewhere near my feet; whether it was under the computer desk as I wrote, or under the table where I studied or cooked. Going down the stairs became hazardous because Motor Man had a bad habit of crossing in front of me. He followed me out to the mail box or to meet the school bus, and always popped out of somewhere in the yard to meet me as I pulled into the driveway after shopping or running errands.

He came close to getting evicted once. Our daughter’s wedding was just a few days away and we were busy with all of the things one does for weddings. Family came to visit, and that included a couple of extra dogs. Motor Man took his usual refuge in my room, but this time he also exacted revenge. I went to my closet to retrieve the wedding dress, to show to a friend, and Motor Man had used the train of the dress for a litter box. Fortunately, the fabric was washable (I’ll save the flooded bathroom part of the story for another day) and I managed to not tell the bride until after the wedding…but Motor Man knew he was not in my good graces for a very long time.

Motor Man liked to leave me gifts at the door. I often found offerings of lizards or geckos on the doormat. Bird offerings were more rare because Motor Man had been de-clawed by previous owners. I should have known something wasn’t right when he left me birds several days in a row. I had seen a number of dead birds in and around the cul-de-sac, but I didn’t really think about it until it was too late. Saturday, I noticed that Motor Man acted funny. By Sunday morning I knew that something was terribly wrong. I made a comfortable place for him on the porch, but he wouldn’t eat or drink. Sometime in the night, Motor Man left this life. I found more dead birds. Someone in the neighborhood is poisoning them.

It feels strange to sit her at the computer without feeling Motor Man’s tail tickling my feet. I miss the gravelly sound of his generator-like purr and the way he insisted I follow him to his food dish and touch his food before he would eat it. I never used to think of myself as a cat person. But then, Motor Man never thought of himself as a cat!

May 7, 2008

What a Week

by Anna Arnett

I'm wondering if I'm getting a little too old for all this traipsing around. I flew to Florida with my daughter last Tuesday, and came home this. We went mostly to see her granddaughter--my great granddaughter--act in an elementary school musical producion. Rylee is in fourth grade and has struggled with the usual 'younger sister' complex, but happily found a talent she excelled in. She can belt out a song--on tune--and project a sassy character.

It was worth the trip. I'm amazed at the quality of production from such young kids, fifth grade and under. They've been working on it the whole year. The costumes were fantastic, and the backdrops excellent. Many of the kids sang very well, though occasionally the tunes became difficult to recognize, and harmonizing was anything but. Still, the young voices charmed and delighted us. Oh, the production was Seussian Jr., or something close to that. Dr. Suess characters, especially from the "Cat in the Hat", "Horton Hears a Who", and "Horton Hatches an Egg" sang, danced, and romped around the stage. We were biased, but we thought Rylee was the best of the bunch.

We also shopped, taxied kids, stayed up half the nights playing "Clue", drove across the Everglades, stayed a night in a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, then drove to Key Largo, which we thought would be far enough to at least say we'd been to the Florida Keys. However it seemed more like crossing a river into another town. How could we go back without driving some distance with water stretching out on both sides of the road? So we kept on driving until we finally found the southernmost spot in the continental United States, where we stood in line for the privilege of taking our pictures to prove we'd arrived.

Just before sundown, we found the Key Largo Branch chapel, with several cars in the parking lot. Some friendly Primary children begged us to stay overnight. "You can come to church in your slacks," they promised. Half our group wanted to stay, but Eileen is in the Primary presidency, and the president and secretary would not be there. Besides, it was Ward Conference. We arrived back home at about two in the morning. Somehow, getting to church on time seemed almost insurmountable.

Monday I got slightly sunburned and very windblown riding in an air boat, looking at crockodiles, turtles, birds (including a bald eagle) and finally seeing what an egret looks like. The weather surprised me, almost as dry as Phoenix, and in the low 80's. Lovely, all week. That night was the production (we'd gone to a dress rehearsal earlier) and on the way home Kat made a wrong turn, putting her on the freeway with no exit available for seven miles! What an adventure!

I think I got at least two hours sleep before we had to leave, but the early flight got us home in time to rest a little bit before getting ready for the ANWA chapter meeting at our house.

Today (Wednesday) was my turn to blog, and I planned to get right at it. But I had a dozen (tat's all) phone messages to recover, over 200 email messages to skim over and friends from New Hampshire to meet at the Capitol Building in Phoenix. I knew I'd have plenty of time this evening, but instead I went with a granddaughter and her husband to the Diamondback-Phillies ballgame, totally forgetting until on the way home that it was my blog day. So already it's past midnight..... Again..... Just like it was last time I blogged. I'm sorry, sleepy, repentant, but happy. I still haven't unpacked. But there's always tomorrow. Woops, it's already that.

Tweeked to look like it was posted on Wednesday--Editor

May 6, 2008

The Tale of the Interloper

By Betsy Love

This is the story I submitted to an online, 24 hour short story contest. I won't hear anything until the end of May. Wish me Luck.

The Tale of the Interloper

Everything changed the day he came into Roxie’s life. Mom carried a box of his belongings, much of which looked new, as if she’d purchased them for him. Although tanned and handsome, he looked like trouble to Roxie. She watched her mother put their picture in the scrapbook, as if he too, belonged there. Mom left it on the coffee table. Roxie sneaked it off into the other room and deliberately shredded it. Mom didn’t scold her. But then she never scolded her for anything. All she did was gather up the pieces and throw them in the trash. She never reprimanded him either when he did bad things. Shortly after moving in he knocked over Mom’s lamp—it went in the trash, too.

Roxie couldn’t bring herself to say his name. She refused to acknowledge his presence, except for the devious things she thought of to annoy him while Mom wasn’t looking, like hiding his belongings behind the couch, or sneaking food off his plate when he wasn’t looking. He never complained to Mom, but Roxie saw the scowl on his face when he caught her, the mean angry draw of his eyebrows, the dark mist that came over his eyes, and the wicked grin, practically baring his teeth. He was playing some kind of game with her, wasn’t he? Waiting, but for what?

Whenever Roxie came into a room where Mom was present, he spoke sweetly, kindly. “Give her some time. It’s a big adjustment. Just us two for ten years.” Mom toyed with his ear and kissed his ugly face.

But Roxie noted the change in him as soon as Mom left the room. Two-faced interloper. Roxie knew a matter of days existed before he convinced Mom to send her away.

His love affair with Mom grew thicker. Roxie’s stomach turned to lead every time she saw him snuggle up against her mother. Revolting, she murmured to herself when he kissed her, moving in with that tongue action. Since he moved in, Roxie secluded herself away from them so she wouldn’t have to witness their disgusting displays of affection.

One afternoon, while he was messing around in the back yard, Roxie surreptitiously watched her mother load a picnic basket, counting the number of plates, forks, napkins. Roxie began pacing around the kitchen, getting in Mom’s way until finally hands on hip, she glared at Roxie. “I suppose this means you want to go, too?”

She didn’t really, but said, “Yes.” Her future could be too easily decided with one cuddle from Mom’s new love.

Closing the lid of the basket, Mom put her hand under Roxie’s chin. “I guess I’ve been neglecting you a bit.”

Roxie didn’t pull away and allowed Mom to pat the top of her head. “You can come too.”

Not expecting to ride in the front seat, Roxie settled into her spot in the back so she could keep an eye on Mom. What Roxie didn’t expect was for him to join her in the back seat. Perhaps to fool mom with his goodwill, but she knew better. His large frame spilled over to her side and she shifted closer to the door. He sat gazing out the window; a sad expression came over his face. She’d never seen him look like that before, and a lump formed in her throat. Not because she felt sad for him, but because she remembered Sophie, her little sister. Sophie would still be with them if it hadn’t been for her wandering off like that. Maybe he’d lost someone and remembered that time. No! Roxie would not allow herself any kind of sympathy for him. He is the enemy.

Suddenly he looked over at Roxie, and she dipped her head so as not to meet his baleful eyes.

“Off we go.” Mom made the car roar to life and rolled the back windows down. Roxie placed a hand on the edge feeling the empty ridge where the glass had disappeared, willing the wind to calm her as it rushed across her face.

Once out of the car Roxie lifted her cheeks to the breeze blowing through her hair, and smelled the forest, the pines, the wildlife, everything that said outdoors.

Up the hill a few tents secluded themselves. The aroma of grilled steaks floated down to her, and Roxie’s stomach gave an audible growl. The smell of the meat seemed to draw out the savagery in him. She shivered at his fierce glare. He hadn’t brought her along for the picnic. She didn’t know how she knew it, but he’d wanted her along for his own sinister purpose. Her heart pounded in her throat. Hunger suddenly lost all meaning. By the greedy look on his face she knew he had other plans.

The moment Mom reached for the picnic basket, allowing Roxie to stray from her vigilant care, she bolted for the woods. She didn’t think about which way she ran, all she knew was she had to get away from him. Her mouth parched, she panted heavily, daring to rest only once when she thought she heard water trickling over rocks. Following the sounds, and ignoring the thorns slicing through her legs she headed toward the stream. That’s when she heard strangers calling her name, perhaps the campers, but how had they known?

She quickly stepped back and her hair got tangled on a low branch. How she wished Mom had let her cut it short. The forest canopy swallowed her as she sobbed, stumbled and repeatedly whispered to herself, “Why couldn’t I have been cat?” A tree would have been the perfect escape.

Abruptly he stepped out of the woods in front of her. He growled, barked, pounced on her and then wagged his tail. The game was up, and Roxie had lost. Next time she’d be ready.

May 5, 2008

More about bees . . .

by Rene Allen

At dusk, Monday, March 24, at a remote desert site in Eloy a semi-truck stopped long enough for a swarm of beekeepers to unload 420 hives fresh from the almond groves of California. Among the horde of alien-looking humanoid figures in eerie white clothing was a newcomer, 62 year-old Dwight, who, in anticipation of impending ownership of 24 colonies, forgot that bees hate black. He, too, had the veil, gloves, shirt and pants that are ubiquitous among beekeepers, but he forgot his socks, the black ones he put on that morning. After being bounced around for 10 hours on the business end of a semi, the bees had an attitude and now they had a target.

Thus are the origins of Allen Bee Company located on the steep, slippery slope of the learning curve. Dwight took forty stings to his ankles, had a flush of hives as the poison entered his circulation, then loaded his bees onto a trailer and hauled them to a citrus grove in Mesa. The Lord blesses beekeepers, particularly new ones. He came home with a story, seemingly no worse for wear.

Every weekend since he has been in Mesa, dividing, re-queening, and adding supers for the bees to fill with orange-scented honey. Each trip has been another step up the learning curve, but nothing comes close to the adventure a week ago when it was time to move the bees to a mesquite grove in Florence.

Dwight had located an old cotton trailer, purchased some kindly used tires to replace the old, sun-rotted ones that had been there for thirty years, and borrowed a heavy duty truck to tow the trailer to Mesa from Higley.

It was Friday afternoon. My oldest son, Grant, was helping his dad. They worked mightily getting ready, but what was supposed to happen, bees loaded and ready to go by midnight or so, did not. In fact, the trailer wasn't in place until 1:00 A.M. And while you may move bees at night, you do not work them at night when they crawl rather than fly which means they are more vulnerable to injury as well as crawling as a swarm onto the beekeeper. Since my son had to be in Tucson in the morning, he drove the truck home and Dwight slept on a cot near his bees. He said he wanted to watch them get up in the morning.

I later talked to Grant about what happened next. He said dad underestimated the time it would take. “He kept saying how he had been wildly optimistic about the job.”

It took an entire day to load the bees. Each time Dwight called home where I was recuperating from knee surgery, I heard the incessant angry buzz of bees as I talked to him. Once, he called to say he was taking a rest but couldn’t take off his bee suit because the bees had followed him. So he sat in a chair in a square of shade and drank water from the hose through his veil. He didn’t have a bite of food until 8:30 that night when the bees were finally loaded. Even then, my father had to drive his truck with Dwight in the back to blow the bees off before he could take off his bee suit. Then, he went straight to Sonic and bought himself the biggest root beer float they made. “I’d been thinking about it all day,” he said. Afterwards, he went to my parents’ house to wait for Grant to come back and to have pizza.

By midnight, they decided Dwight’s small Chevy wasn’t strong enough to pull the trailer, now loaded with 5000 pounds of bees and honey, out of the citrus grove. It was one of the many tender mercies of the Lord that night that my father had purchased a new diesel truck four days earlier and still had his old one parked at the house, a stone’s throw from the bees. Graciously, he gave Dwight the keys and told him to bring it back when he could.

Then began the long journey to Florence. They drove 15-30 mph, stopping every so often to check on the bees and trailer. From my parents’ house in Mesa, it is about forty minutes at 60 mph to Florence. At 3:30 I got a phone call. “Where are you?” I asked.

“We’re in Higley and we need David’s number.” David, my brother, manages 1000 acres of farmland and is a great mechanic. The farm shop is in Higley. “The Lord was watching over us,” Dwight said. “I was on Power Road but there was construction. Somehow I got disoriented and ended up at the shop but it’s a good thing. The lug bolts on one hub have wobbled so much the rim is chewed up and the wheel is about to come off. I have an hour before these bees wake-up and go crazy. Can you give me his number?”

I limped into my office where I found the number. Fortunately, he was at home, rather than on one of his frequent trips to Utah where there is another farm. He met Dwight in 10 minutes, got the blow torch, cut out the old lug bolts, and found suitable replacements. The repair took under an hour. “Now get out of here,” he said, fully realizing Dwight had to get through the town of Queen Creek before the bees started to fly.

They stopped one more time to check on the tires. Grant started to put his bee clothes on in the truck but had rolled a window down and several bees came inside. Not thinking because each time he had checked before it had been dark and the bees had not been flying, he got out of the truck to put on his suit which was a mistake. There was enough daylight for the bees. When Dwight noticed Grant was having trouble, he had already run more than a block to the protection of a service station. By the time he was back in the truck, he was having symptoms of mild shock from the fifty or sixty stings he had on his neck and head. Another tender mercy is that the symptoms passed.

At 7:30 Sunday morning, they unhitched the trailer and returned to Tucson.

Grant had to go to urgent care to treat the massive swelling about his head and neck and missed a day of work.

Dwight had flashbacks all day Sunday about what could have happened in Queen Creek if they had broken down there. “I’ve got some tired guardian angels,” he said. “I guess I was wildly optimistic.”

I bent my swollen knee in prayer and gave thanks.

But beekeepers are like fishermen. It’s more than a hobby or avocation. There’s a passion in them. Dwight went back to Florence yesterday and took 1500 pounds of honey from those hives. Today, after church, we’re going back to return the frames and boxes. I’m staying in the truck with the windows rolled up, a safe distance away. He will put duct tape on his ankles and wear white socks with his other beekeeper clothing. When he is finished, he will climb in the back of the truck and I will drive like the wind to blow the bees off.

Hopefully, we’ll get the job done in an hour or so, but the way things have gone, well, that might be wildly optimistic. I’ll let you know.

May 4, 2008

Listen to the Spirit

by Marsha Ward

Today is Fast & Testimony Meeting in LDS congregations around the world. That doesn't mean it goes quickly, but that the members gather for worship in a state of fasting and prayer, to share their testimonies of and thanks for the role of God in their lives.

In the LDS Church, we don't have a paid clergyman who gives a sermon each week. After the congregation participates in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, spiritual talks are given by assignment by members of the ward or branch (the former is larger than the latter). However, on the first Sunday of the month, the worship service follows a slightly different format. Talk time is given over to whichever members may be inspired to get up on shaky legs, approach the pulpit, and share their personal testimonies. The shaky legs part comes not so much from infirmities of age, but from nerves or hesitation or being overwhelmed with spiritual emotion. It's certainly not required, but is a frequent state among those who come forward.

I have a bird's eye view of the pulpit, since I play the organ for meetings. I get to see tiny children stretching up on tippy toes to speak into the microphone to witness to others what they know in their young hearts of Jesus and His gospel. I see young men and young women baring their souls in gratitude for a personal Savior. I see adults of all ages brought to tears by their belief in a Heavenly Father who loves them, no matter their trials and faults. They strengthen my faith.

Sometimes, God, this Heavenly Father we love, has messages for us, and sometimes they come as we are moved by the spirit that others share in these meetings. That happened for me today. The message isn't important for you to know. What is important is that I was listening and received it, and acting on it will have an impact beyond my insulated life. How grateful I am that I could hear His message in my heart. It might have passed over me if I hadn't been in a quiet, reverent state, listening to the impromptu speakers with a soul open to a heavenly message.

The people of this world need to do that more: listen, receive, act. Can you find that quiet place today, where God can speak to you?

May 3, 2008

Sing Like a Bird

by Margaret Turley

I have a bird that sits in the mesquite tree in my back yard who warbles throughout the night.

He starts his greeting at sundown and continues until mid morning. His cheery songs accompany my work and let me know I am not the only person up and working at two in the morning.

The question has come to mind: Doesn’t he know it’s bedtime? Why sing solo through the night when he can join a beautiful chorus during the day?

The answers are: He prefers a cappella. His gifts of music are infused into the darkest part of night to dispel the gloom. One can be happy no matter how dire the circumstances.

So how can I follow his example?

  1. As a night writer I choose to write while others sleep and can inspire others and please myself
  2. I can let my light shine in the darkest of circumstances, providing illumination when most needed.
  3. Choose to be a leader, not a follower.
  4. Music lightens any burden and is good for the soul. I will praise my Heavenly Father even in my darkest night.

May 2, 2008

The Diaper in My Writing

By Rebecca Talley

People say there's only two things you have to do for sure: die and pay taxes. I'd like to respectfully disagree with "people" and add one more thing: laundry. No matter what else happens, there's always another load of dirty clothes. In fact, the only thing that multiplies and replenishes the earth faster than I do, is my laundry.

While I was transferring the wash load to the dryer today, I noticed an unwelcome item in the laundry--a disposable diaper. "Eeww," I thought, "how did that get in there?" Upon further reflection, I realized that as I scooped up the dirty clothes, I must have also snagged a diaper. In my rush to send the load through, I didn't take the time to carefully check it. My mistake.

I then wondered how many diapers I've thrown in with my writing. Do I take enough time to carefully root out all of the unwanted items from my prose? Do I search through my writing to make sure it only contains what should actually be there?

I'm afraid I probably have more diapers than I'd like. Sometimes, I rush to get through a scene or a chapter and don't think it all through. Other times, I can't "see" the diapers because I'm too close to what I've written. Just as a diaper can be stinky, so is writing that has too many -ly adverbs, telling instead of showing, or flat, cardboard characters.

I'm going to take a little more time from now on to make sure I throw the diapers out before starting my wash load and, hopefully, it will all come out nice and clean.

May 1, 2008

It's not really my day to post, but . . .

I'll take it anyway.

It's Heather Horrocks' day, but she had to catch a plane because she can't bear to sit long enough to drive from Utah to the Phoenix area. She loves her family, and since they all rode off without her, she flew down to be with them.

Whether she will arrive before or after them is immaterial. She's not here. She will show up sometime later this month to say goodbye, though, as she is leaving our blog team.

Now we have a new blog team member on board: Stephanie Abney. I'll let her introduce herself when the time comes, but just to let you know a bit, she is a witty, fun, marvelous friend, and a longtime member of ANWA. She has opinions, thoughts, insights, and ideas. She has experienced loss and disappointment in life, and plays the native American Flute. She is also the current Executive Vice President of ANWA. Please welcome her when she steps up to blog.

If life teaches us one thing, it is that nothing is so permanent as change. My advice, therefore, is to savor the moment. Take pleasure in what you do while you are doing it. Enjoy the ride.

~Marsha Ward