Monday, March 31, 2008
Through an unexpected series of events especially designed for shy people (i.e., people too timid to initiate face-to-face interactions with such scary personages as bookshop owners!), I found myself, prior to the Storymakers Conference, invited to do a book signing of Loyalty’s Web at the Arizona Renaissance Festival. I received an email (the shy person’s boon) out of the blue by author Ann Chamberlin, who had come across one of my bookmarks and asked if I would be interested in doing a signing at her shop at the Ren Fest. (Like I was going to say, “No, I’m too busy, thanks for asking?”) The only date we could jointly coordinate was March 29, on my way home from staying overnight in Mesa after returning from an after-Storymakers visit with my sister in Salt Lake City.
My signing was scheduled for 2 PM, but nervous energy drove me to arrive at the Ren Fest at 12:30. I had to rent a costume, which I’d never done before. After a series of embarrassing attempts to squeeze me into outfits only a Barbie doll would fit in, an assistant finally found me a loose, flowing, yet beautifully elegant ensemble that they actually had to pin in the back to make it fit. (Oooo, I finally felt skinny after all!) To her credit, the assistant was incredibly sweet and tactful, scolding me kindly whenever I muttered embarrassed apologies for not fitting into the “Barbie” clothes, and by the time two more assistants had successfully “arranged me” into my costume, I was indeed beginning to feel like a princess. (And I finally understood all those movies where multiple servants are required to fit their mistress into her Renaissance dress. It was far too easy to stick my arm through a “decorative” hole, rather than the actual sleeve, not to mention coping with all the lacings of strings that had to be done. I’ll never criticize a Renaissance woman for all her servants on screen again!)
I checked in to Lady Ann’s Bookshop to let her know I was at the Faire, then I had an hour to kill before the actual book signing. Since I’d had my “fun day” at the Festival earlier in the spring, I decided to wander around and take pictures of some of my favorite places at the Faire to send to my sister (who never manages to make it down to Arizona from Utah during Ren Fest season to visit the park with me). Despite the fact that I have been to the park every year since it’s creation and thought I had the lay of the land completely memorized, when it was finally time for my book signing, naturally I became completely discombobulated and suddenly had no idea how to find my way back to the bookstore. (Or more likely, the bookstore had decided to simply change positions on me, just for the fun of tormenting me.) I finally stumbled into another shop and asked for directions. And, of course, the bookshop ended up being about two steps from where I was standing. Isn’t that always the way?
Lady Ann welcomed me warmly and set me up at a table in her shop. Periodically she would announce to people who wandered in that “we have this lovely lady doing signings of her book today”, but of course, most people promptly did their best to avoid eye contact with me and hovered around the edges of the shop as far away from me as possible. (I can hardly complain. I’ve done the same to enough hapless book signers, myself!)
My good fortune came in being the last author book signing of the day. Since there was no one scheduled after me, Lady Ann let me stay as long as I wanted, and since I was enjoying chatting with her and her assistant about Medieval and Renaissance history, the time didn’t drag by nearly as slowly as I thought it would. I had originally planned to stay an hour, but ended up staying a little over two, and interestingly, all THREE of the books I signed sold in the second hour, not the first, so if I’d quit when I’d first meant to, I’d have gone home without any sales at all.
To be honest, I have an odd lack of memory about the first book I sold that day. But the second book was picked up by a very young woman (I’m guessing between 18-20 years old), who read the back and then my prologue, then turned to her boyfriend and said, “I would so totally buy this book.” Which happily for me, she decided to do. I addressed the book to “Josie” as she asked me to, and after she paid for the book, she turned back to me and said, “Your parents were named Louis and Josephine?” I’d mentioned them in my dedication, and said, “Yes”. She smiled and said, “My name is Josephine, too, but people call me Josie for short.” As far as I’m aware, Josephine is not an extremely popular name just now, and I had a sense that finding her name in my book, even in the dedication, was one of the things that drew her want a copy. So honestly, you just never know what might draw a person to a copy of your book!
The other sale that stood out in my mind was by a woman who rushed in just before I started closing up. She worked in costume rental, was told by one of her co-workers that I was doing a book signing, and finally broke away from her job to snatch up a copy before I left for the day. No, she didn’t know me or my work, but she is a writer herself, and wanted a chance to talk to another writer. We only chatted briefly at the bookshop, but I ran into her again shortly afterwards as I returned my costume and changed back into my street clothes. She came into the dressing room and plied me with questions about writing while I changed. I actually ended up sitting down and taking an extra half-hour just to answer her questions. She was so sincere, so earnest in the questions that she asked, I could tell that writing was far more than just a “whim” for her (as those of us in ANWA can relate to only so well!). She seemed so sincerely grateful for the time I took to talk with her, that I pointed out my email address on the bookmark I’d stuck in her book and invited her to email me if she had any more questions or wanted to talk about her writing. (Which she said she might do).
Oh, yes, Lady Ann bought an extra three copies of Loyalty’s Web to keep in her bookshop before I left, which made a sale of 6 books, and invited me to come back again next year. Naturally, I was thrilled that I sold any books at all. But I think what I enjoyed even more were my conversations with Josie and Susann (the writer working in costume rental). For a person as excruciatingly shy as I am, I have to admit, saying even a few words to bring a genuine smile or expression of appreciation from another person feels better than selling all the books in the world.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Face it. I’m an old fogey. I wasn’t sure what an old fogey was until I became one. I think I realized it when one of my seminary students tossed off the word pimp one morning. He was using it as I would have used the term deck out or fix up, but I took the opportunity to define the word plainly, teach a mini-lesson on why it had not a trace of positive connotation, and state that it had no place in my seminary classroom.
I feel my fogeydom as I walk in the mall behind a group of teenagers and hear a word that got books banned when I was their age used as an incessant, casual (and meaningless), intensifier. Well, maybe not banned, but certainly put in plain brown wrappers.
I feel sorry for those kids that they haven’t been taught that there are still places where language like that is inappropriate. And I wonder at a society where we place such emphasis on clean air, going to great lengths to educate people about the danger of secondhand smoke, and yet we think nothing of secondhand smut. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful not to have to breathe smoky air—I remember well how it used to be before smoking was banned in public places—but I’d like the same protection for the neighboring sensory organs—my ears.
I said hoo-rah to myself when I read about the nun, principal of a private school, who announced a list of words that wouldn’t be tolerated on campus by naming each word on the list. I’m sure there were lots of very wide eyes in the assembly that day, but no future offender could claim a misunderstanding.
Matthew 15:11 says “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” I believe this is so. And, as secondhand smoke clings when I’ve had to stand near a smoker, I feel the grime of aural smut as I trail a group of potty-mouths.
Maybe this is what it takes to live in an age when we have tremendous freedom of choice. Certainly, when I was a teen, we didn’t have such freedom, for society’s rules were explicit about what one could or could not say or write in public, and common schoolground parlance today would then have landed the offenders in front of a judge.
Joshua declared, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.” I think we manifest that choice in the words we employ to convey our thoughts.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Last week I went to the LDS Storymaker's Conference. It was so great to finally meet so many people I have gotten to know through ANWA and to learn from many authors who have had the opportunity to share their voice with a larger audience. I attended various workshops and participated in critique sessions, referred to as boot camp which were very helpful. I tried to use every second to my advantage, asking everyone about their projects and hob-nobbing with successful writers.
When I walked in my own front door at the end of the weekend in a daze I couldn't quite define my feelings, but after a few days of unwinding and warming up to my out-of-control laundry room, a few insights have filtered through my addled brain and dropped silently at my feet. You may not agree but this is what it seemed to me-
- There was a number of authors I met who had written one or two books some years ago and that was it. Either because their sales were not very good or they ran out of ideas, instead of building an audience, they just stagnated. I so don't want to do that.
- After listening to various writers talk about the creative process, I finally feel like I'm doing it right because what works for me IS right. I heard as many processes as people, almost. You had some writers who calendar or map out their stories and some who just wing it. Others who write the most poignant scenes first and then make them all fit together afterwards. That was freeing.
- The elements of a story are essential for it to be engaging. I need to do a better job at defining character, conflict, consequence and the one I think they left out, PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. There has to be a reason not to overcome the conflict that is as compelling as wanting to overcome whatever difficulty is presented, otherwise there is no dilemna- it's a no brainer.
- The three writers I met who have taken their careers nationally with large publishers each invested their time and efforts meeting agents and editors face to face at other writer's conferences. They also wrote on a regular basis and kept their production up. They looked at writing as a business and carefully guarded their time. Although I hope to always have a voice in the LDS market, I would like to step into the national venue and need to invest my efforts there if I hope to make that leap.
- Getting your book in print is only half the story. Marketing your book is essential for a successful release and for your publisher to want to invest in your next project. You have to be proactive and work hard to find as many readers as possible any creative way you can.
I guess the reality is that anything of real value we choose to pursue takes a lot of effort if we hope to do it well- BUMMER! Publishing on a regular basis and production writing is just a lot of hard work.
This life is full of new experiences and adventures.
Last Friday, we took our children to Albuquerque so that our 4th child, Thomas, could have an
Electroretinogram (ERG) performed on his eyes.
This meant his eyes were dialated for most of the afternoon following the test, hence the styling sunglasses!
A little history for you: We have known since he was 2(ish) that he had difficulty seeing, but it wasn't until he started school and his kindergarten teacher started asking multiple questions that we realized that his glasses did not correct his vision to 20/20.
Over the course of his life, he has seen numerous specialists, and had his eyes dialated more times than I can remember.
In the past year, we have made 2 or 3 trips specifically to find more detailed answers in regards to his vision.
This last trip was one that we hoped would bring results, but I hardly dared to hope we would receive a really helpful answer.
Yesterday, however, I received a phone call from the pediatric opthamologist and he discussed the findings from Thomas' ERG...(can I just say thank you to a doctor who discussed the findings with me over the phone rather than expecting me to make the 5 hour drive back to Albuquerque for a 5 minutes discussion of the findings?!!).
The ERG showed that Thomas' cones in his eyes do not work appropriately.
In fact, Thomas has was is called "Cone Dystrophy"
Here's a little information that I found on the internet:
Cone dystrophy is a term used to describe a group
of disorders that affect cone cells in the retina. This
decreased function of cone cells can lead to decreased
central vision, reduced color vision, and often sensitivity
to bright lights.
People with cone dystrophy typically have trouble with
color vision, or in some cases..., do not
see color at all. A person who does not see color may
not even have a concept of what color is, as everything is
seen in shades of gray.
Although patients are concerned about going completely
blind from the condition, this is actually uncommon
for people with cone dystrophy. It is more likely that a
patient may be considered “legally blind.” This is defined
as having best corrected vision equal to or worse than
20/200 in both eyes (which cannot be corrected with
(from: Understanding Cone Dystrophy, University of Michigan, Kellogg Eye Center Brochure)
So, in trying to wrap my mind around what this really means, I've come to a few conclusions:
The only sadness and loss I feel at this point is the realization that Thomas' eyes can't be "fixed".
I know part of my heart wanted to feel that I had done all I could to make sure my son could see as well as possible.
I now know that there is no surgery, no "better" doctor, and no different pair of glasses that will "fix" Thomas' vision.
I can pray for a miracle, but I fully realize that a miracle does not necessarily mean perfect vision for my son in this life.
A miracle may simply be that the right people are brought into his life in order that he may learn to function as well as possible with the limitations the Lord has allowed him to have.
We are here on this earth to learn...about ourselves, and how willing we are to follow the Lord and His plan.
Despite the road bumps, and new subjects that are thrown our way for us to learn, ultimately, the Lord wants us to show our faithfulness by continuing to turn to Him.
As I start down a more clearly defined path in regards to my son Thomas, I pray that I may be a willing student and turn to the Lord when I am the one who cannot see.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
I’ve been thinking. I do a lot of that, actually. Thinking. I probably spend too much time thinking. On the way home from the ANWA conference, I thought out loud about a lot of things as my friend patiently listened.
“I’m sorry for going on and on. I love to brainstorm!”
“No problem,” she replied. “I love to make things happen.”
Throughout the last two weeks, I thought a great deal about the things I wanted to blog today, and about the things I want to make happen. Here’s what happened instead.
Three hours after I submitted my last blog, I thought about all the things I needed to do to get ready for a week long trip to Utah and Wyoming. Then my mother called. She was sitting with Dad in the emergency room and had already been there almost five hours. I hurriedly packed some food and drink and rushed off to the hospital to lend my support. I didn’t get home until after 9:00pm. “No problem,” I thought. We weren't leaving until 4:00pm the next day, so I still had plenty of time to pack. What was I thinking?? Dad had an appendectomy about 7:00am and I nearly forgot I had a class to teach at 9:00am.
Thank goodness I have a husband who likes to make things happen. Teamwork is amazing. When all was said and done, we managed to hit the road by 5:00pm, with a minimum of crankiness among the children and a decent amount of excitement. Okay, I forgot a few things, but nothing that couldn’t be borrowed or purchased down the road.
I had lots of time to think in the car. Reading or handwork in a moving vehicle makes me ill, so I get to think. I used to sing with the kids, but now they immerse themselves in books - lucky kids - or have their ears plugged into their own music. I thought about the landscape as it rushed by, and the people along the way, oblivious to our Big Mormon Wagon speeding on down the highway. I thought about all the things I wanted to write as soon as we reached our destination.
The week flashed by: Reading to grandchildren and listening to them read to me; shopping for pioneer clothes; touring BYU Law School and obtaining information for yet another of my chicks preparing to leave the nest; a snowy drive to Wyoming; the baptism of our oldest grandchild; snowboarding and watching my ten-year-old son walk in the door with his head wrapped in bandages; bowling with 3 and 4-year-olds…who beat me…and much laughter and a few tears. Aprilynne received her book contract from Harper Collins while we were there and I thought about the things I thought about writing, recognizing that she had made it happen.
On the way home I thought about how good it would feel to sit at the computer and make something happen. That’s what I get for thinking. My phone rang about the time we arrived in St. George. One of my birth clients was in the hospital threatening to have her baby four weeks early. As my husband pulled the van into the driveway, I bailed out and began preparing myself for a long night. Twenty-four hours later, just as the sun was setting on a beautiful Easter Sunday, I glimpsed a beautiful baby boy as his father and a NICU nurse wheeled him into the nursery for observation. I thought about Anna and Charles and the whole circle of life as I said goodbye in my heart to one friend and greeted a new one.
The brain fog of exhaustion had taken over by Monday night and I could no longer think about anything except sleep. Just as I was drifting off, the shrill ring of the phone jerked me awake. Mom had Dad back in the ER. I offered to go sit with them, but Mom declined. Dad had pancreatitis. She told him he was running out of organs.
Tuesday morning I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck. But I didn’t have time to think, let alone be sick. I had a presidency meeting and a PPI with the Bishop and sixteen new names to add to the visiting teaching routes, but only four new visiting teachers. I had a birth education class to teach and a sister in the ward called to say she was at Phoenix Children’s Hospital ICU watching over her sixteen-year-old daughter. It was time to make things happen. I earnestly prayed for abilities to match my tasks, and you know what? It all happened.
I am grateful for a quiet morning, even if I forgot until nearly noon that I was supposed to write this blog. Nursing my headache and fever and chills, I checked my e-mail one last time before I started writing. I found a note our daughter in Wyoming sent about how glad she was we arrived home safely and how much the grandkids missed us. Then she left me with a thought that four-year-old Ephraim proclaimed at the dinner table.
“I figured out that blue and yellow make green! It’s so cool! When I pee in the blue water at the church the water turns green, so now I know and I think I won’t ever forget!” Now there’s a kid who knows how to think and make something happen!
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
It’s been a long two weeks, and a longer, packed weekend. Strange. Happy. Sad. Filled with family and friends. Lonely. Above all, feeling grateful, especially that we did not rush.
As we planned for the funeral, there were a few things we all agreed on. One daughter was adamant that it had to be short. “Everybody gets antsy when a meeting goes too long. One hour is plenty for any funeral.” We all nodded.
Another agreed-upon guideline; ‘there will be no repetition.’ All the kids wanted to talk about their father, so they divided Charles’ life into seven different phases, one for each: early life, mission, military, courtship and marriage, parenting, famous quotes, and grandparenting. To make sure we didn’t go over, Marolyn asked everyone to write up a talk and submit it so she could tell that it would not last more than five minutes. Milan, our son-in-law, was chosen to ‘preach’ the plan of salvation.
I wanted all the family to sing four Primary songs, and chose “I Am a Child of God”, “I Will Follow God’s Plan”, “I Feel My Savior’s Love”, and “I Know My Father Lives.” Charles had long ago asked Camille to sing the song I wrote words, melody and chords to some thirty years ago but still have not written the accompaniment. I call it my Separation Song. The words go like this:
The time has come, my darling, when we have to part,
For pathways do not always coincide.
But though we’re separated, you will yet be in my heart,
For in special thoughts, you’re always at my side.
When duty calls just one to go, it almost seems the end
Of everything that makes our life worthwhile.
But through our faith in God, and our knowledge of His plan,
We’ll accept our new experiences, and maybe, even smile.
Life does not end, it just continues onward
Around a bend, that now obscures our view.
And passes forward, into light and sunshine
Where loved ones wait, as I will wait for you.
Lone will be the hours, when we are not together,
But through love’s labor, we’ll enrich our days.
For we are sealed together as a family
Through power divine, with faith to light our ways.
Love does not die because of separation,
But you and I will yet together be.
And through all time, through every generation,
Our love will grow, and live eternally,
Our love will surely grow, throughout eternity,.
“Okay, Mom, that’s too much, but if you want it . . .”
“Thanks. Also, I’d like to say a little, and then I would love to have President Hall say a few words. He’s such a special man, I think I see an aura around him. He won’t talk long.”
“Oh Mom !”
“And his counselor, President Laney. He’s been special to us ever since he and his wife took the parenting class we taught.”
“It will be too long!”
“Trust me. It will be all right.”
And it was. Here are a couple of quotes we’ve received since.
From David Udall: I don’t know when I have enjoyed a funeral more that your Dad’s last Saturday.
From Chris Baker in our ward: “It seems strange to say this, but we really enjoyed his funeral. We laughed, we cried—we were truly touched. We always thought he was perfect but to hear someone’s own children say they think he was perfect is really amazing. We enjoyed hearing all the stories your children told about their dad and his earlier life. I loved your analogy of “graduation day” and I think you’re right; he aced all his tests. The way Brother Arnett lived his life inspires me to be a better person.”
How long did it last? Well, right on two hours. But we all agreed it was just about perfect, even if we had never rehearsed the Primary songs.
The family luncheon was at our ward building, about a mile and a half from the stake building. When we walked into the cultural hall, I felt nearly blown away. The round tables and the serving table were beautifully decorated as if for a wedding reception. Truly a tribute above and beyond the call of duty.
Since the National Memorial Cemetery does not bury on weekends, we were privileged to have Easter between the funeral and burial. What a wonderful time to affirm my deepest feelings. I talked with the Primary children during sharing time (I’m Grandma Friendly) about death and the resurrection and how I know I will feel his body again, not as a china doll or a sculptured statue, but as the strong, vibrant, living man I’d married.
The older children seemed intrigued with the thought of four jet planes doing a flyby at the burial, and later a couple of single propeller-engine planes like Charles trained in.
And they did. There was also a semi-circle of men and women who came on motorcycles and stood in a semi-circle holding giant flags that waved gloriously in the breeze. Most of them asked what Charles had done to get the VIP treatment usually reserved for generals and war heroes. Paul told them he didn’t know. He had requested a flyby, was told only the Pentagon made that decision, and somehow, the request was granted. Charles never seemed to consider himself a hero. He just did whatever was asked of him, to the best of his ability.
Louann Thomas, Arizona State Captain of these Patriot Guard Riders said on their website,
“In 1944 a very young Charles Arnett was shot down. One of the crew died but Charles survived and was captured as a POW. In calculating the days after Charles "should have died" he lived an extra 22,912 days and he made every one of them count.
“Lt.Col. Charles Arnett (Ret) Stand Down Sir! Your mission accomplished with
great heart and spirit, you are a part of American history and reflect with
Honor The Greatest Generation. Your generation taught all of us how to move
forward and we will now carry your sword, your spirit forward with pride and
passion as you did thru your life. Thank YOU for loving this Country and
standing so proudly for Her. Thank You Sir for the life I have enjoyed as
an American. I am honored to stand for you now as you stood for all of US for so very long.”
At a 400-seat Harkins Theater in east Mesa Monday night our youngest son, Mark, showed his documentary “Baby Boomerang”, that he’s been working on for at least fourteen years, to a very appreciative crowd that filled every seat. It portrayed how he, a 'baby boomer', looked at the ‘greatest generation’ through the life of his father, who piloted a B-24 he named The Boomerang. I loved watching Mark and Charles tell the story, but regretted that I hadn’t lost forty pounds before Mark filmed my part.
After the showing, Mark said he had more than a dozen couples file by and tell him, “Your father sealed us.” It is for this, the perpetuation of eternal families, that Charles would like to be remembered.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I was listening to Julie Andrews and couldn’t help but think about some of my own favorite things:
Arizona sunsets at the end of a stormy afternoon
Late night talks with my daughter, who loves the Lord
Deacon sons who pass the sacrament
Dates with my eternal companion
Precious grandchildren who think I’m the best
Crawling into bed after a long day and snuggling into my soft, luxurious pillow
A note from a grateful student
Puppy licks and a wagging tails
Discovering the next part of my story
Playing with my characters as I drift off to sleep
Lobster dipped (drenched) in butter
Ocean waves as they bring their briny aroma
Warm sand between my toes
A baby’s laugh
A cool breeze on a spring day
My tickled tummy from swinging too high
Rubbing the nap of a freshly washed dog
Hot showers on cold frosty morns
Watching snowfall through the thick window pane
Birthday cards from unexpected friends
3:40 Monday thru Friday
Singing at the top of my lungs and not caring who hears:
(Sung, of course, to the familiar tune of “My Favorite Things”)
Creosote and juniper and deep summer rains
Thunder and lighting and soft breeze refrains
As song from a meadow lark makes my heart sing
These are a few of my favorite things
Pine needles crunching ‘neath thick leather boots
Raven and crow calls and owls night time hoots
Campfires crackling and smoke rising above
These are few of the things that I love
Sons holding priesthood and daughters of God
Returned missionary who faithfully logged
Hours and hours of serving his Savior divine
The things are the very most favorite of mine
My greatest joy is the one that I wed
Through laughter and sunshine I’m righteously led
Anticipating the time that we share
These are things that none can compare
When my life rough
When the way’s hard
And I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad
I could have gone on and on, but I’ll leave that for my prayers tonight. I am truly thankful for my Heavenly Father’s abundant gifts
Monday, March 24, 2008
At approximately 4 pm this afternoon, my husband, Dwight, will assume ownership of 24beehives. These bees will have just arrived from the almond fields of California and will be taken directly to a citrus grove in Mesa where they will discover they are in celestial bee heaven because the trees are blooming and there is nothing more wonderful than citrus blossoms.
Currently (it is 8:30 am Tucson time), the bees are on a semi-truck with dozens of other hives in route to Eloy which is where the southern Arizona bee depot is. From Eloy, beekeepers will claim their bees and return them to bee yards in the San Pedro valley and other places remote from concentrated housing areas.
This may seem like a lot of work, but the truth is every third bite of food we take depends on pollination from bees and almonds are 100% dependent. Bees are imported from as far away as Australia to pollinate California almond trees.
Bees are something I assumed always would be around, hovering over opened soda cans at school picnics and making their characteristic buzzing sound over rose blossoms. But there is a crisis in the beekeeping world and it has to do with dwindling numbers of this fascinating little insect. For a variety of reasons that include among other things disease and something called Colony Collapse Disorder where bees simply do not make it back to the hive with their loads of nectar and pollen, bees are no longer ubiquitious.
What are the consequences?
A couple of years ago, I planted zucchini hoping this prolific producer would give me some summer squash to share with the neighbors. The plants grew and bloomed. There were male and female blossoms and I figured nature would take its course, that soon there would be zucchini babies.
It didn’t happen and I wondered why until I noticed I hadn’t seen one bee, not a single one, crawling in and out of the zucchini blossoms. So, in what I call Sex Ed for Zucchini, I hand pollinated the plants and collected a handful of squash. That was the first time I realized how important pollinators are.
My husband is a couple of years from retirement. We had been thinking about something to do after he retired, a family business perhaps. He had beehives while he was in high school and loved beekeeping. It wasn’t a big jump to the 24 hives arriving today from California that will soon be divided into 48.
What is the down side? Well, our carport is ankle deep in sawdust because we have been making bee boxes. Then there is the time commitment. Tonight, after work, Dwight will drive with another beekeeper to Eloy to get the bees, then on to Mesa, and then home, arriving sometime after midnight. Shortly after that, we will make another trip to Mesa to add pollen boxes to each hive and divide them. There is always something to do, to check, to make, and we must squeeze these things into our already full schedules. Additionally, there is the bad reputation domesticated bees have gotten because of their more aggressive cousins, the Africanized bee. And theft and vandalism are also problems for beekeepers.
But, the thing is, it feels good. These bees are good for the planet, good for its food supply and good for its people. Working them is almost like a meditation. You move slowly and carefully. You watch, awed, the micro-environment of the hive. You learn about them and see benefaction in the creation of such fascinating creatures. You want to care for them, to preserve them as you would any truly good thing.
Stay tuned. I think we’re in this for the long haul.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
The cap of the LDStorymakers' Writers Conference this weekend was the Whitney Awards Gala, held last night in Sandy, Utah.
I'm actually writing this on Saturday night, and I know it will post itself when I hit Publish Post, but tomorrow I'll be on the road toward home, and won't have Internet access until I get home, very very late on Sunday night. I don't want to miss my turn!
The Gala was sold out--in fact, it was as packed as could be without the fire marshal stepping in. After a dinner of filling chicken something-or-other (I'm not good at identifying food I don't get from the drive-thru or off a menu) with rice and green beans, Robison Wells, the President of the Whitney Committee, began the evening's festivities. Included were readings from the finalists for the Best Novel of the Year.
I'm not going to go in the order Rob did, but I'll give you the Whitney Award Winners and Lifetime Achievement Honorees and go hit the sack. I'm exhausted, and the odor of chlorine in the lobby where I have to go to get a good connection is overpowering!
Each award was accompanied by a check from the Marquis Sponsor of the Whitneys, yourLDSneighborhood.com. The first award went to the Best Romance / Women's Fiction Novel, Counting Stars, by Michele Paige Holmes. The Best Mystery / Suspense Novel award was given to Sheep's_Clothing, by Josi Kilpack.
Fablehaven, Volume II: Rise of the Evening Star, by Brandon Mull, won the award for Best Young Adult / Children's Literature. The award for Best Speculative Fiction went to Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale.
The final Category Award went to the Best Historical Novel: Out of Jerusalem, Volume 4: Land of Inheritance, by H. B. (Heather) Moore.
The award for Best Novel by a New Author went to Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George.
Lifetime Achievement Honorees were Jennie Hansen, Dean Hughes, and Anita Stansfield.
The final award, that of Best Novel of the Year, went to On the Road to Heaven, by Coke Newell.
I had a ball teaching my class with Jewel Adams, met many longtime friends face-to-face for the first time, bought too many books, and I'm glad I'll get a good night's sleep before hitting the road. So long!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
On March 14th, my newest granddaughter, Anna Kate Turley, was born. She weighed 7# 13 oz and was 21 inches long. I had the privilege to be there and help take care of her older sisters, Miriam age 2, and Elizabeth age 4 & 1/2, while the "Yucky part" was happening. Then I got to watch as they came into the room to meet their baby sister.
The night before as Kevin and Laura visited with me, Laura expressed her fear that perhaps there would be more sibling rivalry with this birth than when Miriam was born. Her mother, Sandi, and I commiserated and discussed the probabilities. Each of us has dealt with the problem when our children were younger or with other families.
Miriam's first astonishing words were: "Adorable Anna." She was fascinated with the new life her mother cradled against her breast. Elizabeth cooed over the baby and started singing songs to her. I don't believe I've witness a more loving scene anywhere. Each one was anxious to assist with feeding and holding their baby sister. Both were filled with wonder at her perfect body with 10 long fingers, 10 long toes and very dark hair and eyes.
When mother and baby came home the excitement continued. Miriam always wanted to know where Anna was. Elizabeth wanted to kiss and hug her at every opportunity. Anna wasn't happy unless being held. Of course this was a considerable "hardship" to let her snuggle in my arms for hours at a time. (I drank in every moment as the opportunity wouldn't last very long.)
It was hard to pack up and drive away to Chicago and fly home on Wednesday. I wished I could stay with them and soak up the love, the fresh baby smells, the toddler chatter and bouncy enthusiasm, and the pre-school "I'm the big sister" attitude.
Now that I'm home, back at work, I miss them all so much.
I wonder how heavenly mother feels as she gazes down upon us. Does she miss being able to hug us close to her and whisper endearments and consolations in our ears? Does she shiver in anticipation of faults she knows we are bound to make in our earthly trial period and hope that we learn well enough to return? Does she hide her face in Heavenly Father's Shoulder when she is disappointed by the choices some of us make that must cause her unbearable pain?
Does Heavenly Father work hand-in-hand with Heavenly Mother to nudge us on to do our best like I watched my son and his wife do every day and night by having family prayer, individual prayers with each child, scripture study, singing of children's hymns and bedtime stories? I was comforted to see how wonderfully they work in tandem. In spite of all the mistakes I made while raising my children, he seems to have overcome the challenges of his past, tackles the current ones at hand, and looks forward to the future with hope and faith.
My heart is filled with gratitude that he has a wonderful, kind and understanding wife who keeps the household running smoothly and gives all the attention to my three granddaughters that they need and deserve.
My heart bursts with Thanksgiving for the sacrifice our Savior gave freely to us by his atonement so that we might have eternal life. I believe I glimpsed a small slice of it this week.
Friday, March 21, 2008
(I'm attending the LDStorymakers Conference and just sat across the table from Joyce when it suddenly hit me that I hadn't posted my blog for today. Good thing I sat by Joyce!)
Although I missed the ANWA conference a few weeks ago, I'm sure it was wonderful. I thought it would be fun to interview one of the presenters, Tristi Pinkston, about her new book, Season of Sacrifice. Tristi is a very talented writer and all around great person. I'm excited to read her book.
Can you tell us a bit about your new book, Season of Sacrifice?
Season of Sacrifice is the true story of the Hole in the Rock pioneers
who colonized the southeast corner of the state of Utah. My
great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Perkins, engineered the passage of the
wagons down the cliff face, forming the Utah landmark. I have his journal
and life history, and was able to draw from those to create a moving, yet
historically accurate, depiction of the event and the things that happened
You decided to self-publish. Can you tell us why?
Benjamin was commanded in his patriarchal blessing to practice polygamy.
When he and the other Saints reached the Bluff area, it was made known to
him that he should take his wife's sister as his second wife. This caused
a huge amount of tension in the family, and this portion of the book
contains some of my best writing ever. Regardless of that, the LDS
publishers aren't able to publish books that contain polygamy at this
time. It's a topic they just can't touch, even though it's historically
accurate. After submitting this book to several publishers and having
them say the same thing, essentially "We like it, but we can't take it" I
decided to go ahead and self-publish the book so it would be available to
my family members and all those who are interested in the story.
Do you have advice for anyone considering self-publishing?
Go about it very wisely. Self-publishing can give an author a bad
reputation because many self-published books have not been edited well and
don't have very good covers. When a reader has only experienced this type
of self-published book and they hear of another book that has been
self-published, they aren't inclined to think very highly of it. This is
a shame because there are many very well-done self-published books on the
market, but those that aren't so well-done have given them a bad name.
If you're going to self-publish, make sure you either know what you're
doing or you work with someone who does. Edit. Proofread. Edit again.
Make sure that every element of your book is as good as you can possibly
make it. Be professional and package the book professionally.
What was the inspiration for your book?
I've had access to my family history books for years, but one day in about
2003, I sat down to read them again and was struck by the enormity of what
these pioneers did. I was especially touched by the trials Sarah,
Benjamin's second wife and my great-great-grandmother, endured. I knew it
was a story that had to be told.
What's the central message of Season of Sacrifice?
The messages that exist aren't overt, but they are evident in the lives
of the characters. We see the importance of doing what you know is right.
We see devotion to the Lord, faith that He will guide us through, no
matter what the obstacle and how the odds are stacked against us. We see
examples of utter obedience, even when that obedience causes you pain.
Most of all, we see courage.
Why did you feel so compelled to write this story?
I am a firm believer in the spirit of Elijah, how the hearts of the
children will be turned to their fathers. My heart has been turned. I
want everyone to know how truly incredible these pioneers were, how they
accomplished something that modern engineers have said they couldn't
accomplish even with all today's technology, and how they did it all with
the Lord's help.
Where can we purchase a copy?
Season of Sacrifice is available at www.tristipinkston.com.
Thank you so much, Tristi. I hope you enjoyed getting to know Tristi better.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I attended the opera for the first time Saturday night. The play was Andrea Chenier. I loved the fact that the opera was sung in Italian, set in the French revolution and had English subtitles. I was struck anew how touched my life is by modern conveniences.
And I love my modern conveniences. I love the Internet and the access it gives me to my ANWA sisters, my church and my world family. I love being able to IM with my college roomie across the miles from Alabama to Washington. I love being a part of something bigger than I am. I am grateful that unlike my ancestors, I can drive 100 miles roundtrip to work and it only hurts when I fill up with gas (growing more painful every day). And I love being able to jump on the Internet to find that piece of information that I need.
In a time of war, I find it astonishing that I can communicate citizen to soldier. My dad served in Vietnam, I remember days/weeks before we would get 2-3 letters at once. I love my cell phone and feel safe knowing I’m just a call away in an emergency.
And nicest of all is the fact that I can turn off the Internet, the cell phone, the car and feel the calm of starry night or a breezy beach or a still quiet moment with my dogs. I feel blessed to live in such a marvelous time. And humbled because I know as I’m sure you know these conveniences are for a greater purpose than our own indulgencies.
It truly is the dispensation of the fulness of time. I hope I never forget that though these are the last days and there is much evil, there is also much good.
Monday, March 17, 2008
When I learned that my book, Loyalty’s Web, was a finalist for a Whitney’s Award, I came very near deciding not to attend the awards gala on March 22nd, where the winners will be announced. Not because it was too far to travel to Utah. I have sister who lives in Salt Lake City who would be thrilled to have me visit her for the duration of the Storymakers Conference and a little beyond. Not because of the unlikelihood of my actually winning (my book is up against the national bestseller, Eclipse, after all). But because I had tickets to a concert that fell on the same day as the awards gala. Not just any concert. This was a Tchaikowsky concert.
It isn’t easy for me to attend classical concerts of any kind, because of the distance I live from classical music venues. The closest venue to where I live is the Mesa Arts Center, a good hour and half’s drive from my little town of Kearny. But when I read last fall that the Mesa Symphony (now the Symphony of the Southwest) was going to perform an all-Tchaikowsky concert on March 22, 2008, I snapped two tickets up and found a woman in my ward willing to drive over with me. I had been looking forward to this concert above all other concerts for literally months and months.
Now, to understand why this concert was so important to me, you have to realize that Tchaikowsky is not just any composer to me. In the first place, he and I share a birthday. (Go look him up, if you want to know the date. ;-) ) The main theme of his piano concerto was turned into a popular song during the Big Band era, and was a theme my father played often on the piano as I was growing up. Though neither he nor I knew who Tchaikowsky was at the time, it was clear early on that both my dad and I were always deeply attracted to the wonderful melody. When I went to college, I took a course in Music History, where I learned the full score to Tchaikowsky wonderful piano concerto. I bought a recording and played it over and over on Sunday mornings as I would prepare for Church. What joy that concerto brought to me through those years!
Then came a long period after graduation where Tchaikowsky and I parted ways for many years. Not out of any conscious decision, just kind of a gradual slipping away and moving on. It was not until a few years ago, when both my parents died, that he came sweeping back into my life in a most unexpected way.
I had spent many years as a live-in caretaker for my parents, and when they passed away, I found myself alone for the first time in many, many years. The house was unnervingly quiet and I was, of course, very lonely. I tried to fill the void with music. I had assembled a collection of Classical audio tapes that I had never really listened to much before then. But to fill the quiet, I decided to start listening to them, especially in the evenings while I cooked and did the dishes at night. I started “at the back”, with Wagner and Vivaldi…as wonderful as Vivaldi was, I remember how “frantic” his Baroque music seemed to sound in my ears, almost nerve-jarring (though I no longer feel that way today). Working my way backwards, it was not too long before I came to Tchaikowsky. The instant I hit the “play” button, the instant his Romantiac themes began to flow from my tape player, I felt this curious feeling of calmness and peace flow over me, something none of the other composers had brought into my heart at that point. A long ago bond was instantly revived, and even expanded as I became acquainted with glorious new compositions that I had never known before. Unlike other composers, which whom I have more “gradually” fallen in love, my love affair with Tchaikowsky’s music was instant and complete. And I have never forgotten, or failed in my gratitude, for the comfort and, yes, joy his music brought to me in those lonely days after the passing of my parents.
So when I realized I had to choose between attending a “live” Tchaikowsky concert and attending the Storymakers Conference, it nearly tore out my heart. Of course, I wanted to do both! But I could only do one. At first, I leaned towards staying home for the concert. I prayed about my decision. The answer did not come in a flash, or even in a stupor of thought, but very, very gradually I felt the Lord moving me towards attending the Storymakers Conference. It didn’t make the decision to leave Tchaikowsky behind any easier, but for whatever reasons (and I’m not saying it means my book will win…merely that the Lord seems to want me to be in Utah that weekend), I surrendered the tickets for my long anticipated concert to another woman in my ward, and made the necessary arrangements to fly to Utah and attend the conference instead.
Now, here’s the miracle. Last week, our dear, dear Anna Arnett’s husband passed away. I remember each time I said my prayers that day and started rattling off a list of things I thought I “needed” that day, I caught myself and said (in so many words) to the Lord, “Heavenly Father, Anna needs you so much more today. My wants and needs are so small compared to her. Please, give all your comfort and attention to her. I can wait for another day.”
That very day, I received an email from my sister, telling me that they were advertising a Tchaikowsky concert by the Utah Symphony for the day I was flying into Salt Lake City, and asking if I’d like her to get tickets for us. Not only that, but they were performing the very same Symphony (No 4) that I would be missing here in Mesa! I could scarcely believe my ears. (Or actually, her email.) Why, I wondered, would the Lord offer me such an incredibly wonderful gift? And why would he even be thinking of me on a day when a dear friend was mourning for her beloved companion and needed his help so much more than I needed such an unexpected boon from his hand?
The answer, after much pondering? In a way far beyond the understanding of my finite, mortal mind, Heavenly Father has time and is able to bless both those who need him in such great depth on a particular day, and still have time to bless those of us whose wants and desires maybe be so much smaller, seemingly insignificant in comparison on that same day. To me, it was testimony that he loves us all and is aware of the desires of our hearts, great and small, and that he need not neglect one of us to have time to remember and bless the rest of us, too. This was a lesson I greatly needed, and pray I can always remember.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I've created a monster, my brother tells me. Yes, I agree, but such a nice monster.
It started at the beginning of the year, when I proclaimed 2008 the Year of Family History. I remembered the situation twenty years ago when, though we had ample lead time, my mother and I never managed to get her photos identified before she died. I don't have too many pictures from her trunk that are enigmas, but there are plenty that would slip into that status if my brother and I were gone.
That's the reason for the proclamation and the proposal that we start a family blog. (Translation, he was to set up the blog, and I would join him in posting pictures and writing about them.) It took a little prodding, but finally he emailed me to check out http://www.ronnietootie.blogspot.com/
I would have named it something different, but who am I to complain, since he not only followed through in setting up the blog, but has done a wonderful job of posting pictures and writing about them.
What a wonderful tool the internet is. It lets us connect in so many ways. Our far-flung family can check out the blog and experience a mini e-family reunion any time it's convenient. We're just in the infancy of using this tool, but I expect that it will do great things for our family. Especially if I can find my scanner under the piles on my desk and get busy contributing.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Next week I am going to my very first writer's conference with LDStorymakers. I so wanted to attend ANWA's and hope that next year I'll be able to do it. But my mother lives in Pleasant Grove so I could use the excuse of visiting her to justify the travel expense to Utah.
I'm really looking forward to the different topics that will be discussed and the idea of learning from the "pros" because I'm so NOT. The only thing that has me a little nervous is boot camp. We have each been asked to bring nine copies of six examples of our writing including the following elements:
Balancing Your Writing
Choosing Your Words
Dialogue vs. Narrative and Exposition
Creating Lovable Characters
Now this has been a huge challenge because I haven't written that much. My first completed manuscript was just sold and my other work has been non-fiction. But I've started my next two projects and have been trying to create something sort of in that category. My original plot was much more subtle having the protaganist be merely the angst of trying to live through a very stressful life. Because of Boot Camp I've adjusted the plot to intensify the nosy neighbor into a women trying to get her house condemned. I do think it will make a better story- and isn't that the point of these writers conferences, to improve your writing?
See, it's working already and I haven't even gotten there yet.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Time is an interesting concept.
For the majority of the week, my children have tried to wrap their minds around the concept of Daylight Savings Time.
A common question is, "So, it's really 7am, even though the clock says it's 8am, right?"
Trust me, having grown up in Arizona where you never worry about DST and changing your clocks, it's a pretty tough concept to comprehend.
We change the clocks...and VOILA...it's a different time of day.
This is my 5th year dealing with the "time change", and I must admit, it is still a difficult thing to adjust my body clock and my mental thinking based solely on the numbers on a clock.
I didn't realize how much I depend on specific cues to let me know what time it is...and how easily those cues can throw me off when I'm not thinking about the literal time.
Earlier this week, I made a phone call, thinking I had quite a while to talk before running to the bus stop to pick up my children.
I made this assumption based on how much sunlight was coming in my west windows...and I had judged that it was about 2pm.
About 5 minutes into the call, I glanced down at my computer clock, and saw that it was almost 3pm...or was it?
In Arizona it IS 2pm, and if I were to think about Europe, we'd be looking at it being 11pm instead of afternoonish.
Regardless of the time on the clock, there were obligations to be met...and they hinge on those pesky numerals.
I ended the call and headed out the door...but it did make me ponder.
What is time?
We use the concept in many different ways:
It's time to go (somewhere).
It's MY time (for solitude).
It's time to (crawl, etc...).
I have time (or don't have time).
I had a good time.
It's almost time (birth).
It's his time (death).
Clearly, there are many interpretations of time and how we perceive it.
One of my favorite quotes is this:
"When the veil which now encloses us is no more, time will also be no more (see D&C 84:100). Even now, time is clearly not our natural dimension. Thus it is that we are never really at home in time. Alternately, we find ourselves impatiently wishing to hasten the passage of time or to hold back the dawn. We can do neither, of course. Whereas the bird is at home in the air, we are clearly not at home in time—because we belong to eternity! Time, as much as any one thing, whispers to us that we are strangers here. If time were natural to us, why is it that we have so many clocks and wear wristwatches?" Neal A. Maxwell, “Patience,” Ensign, Oct 1980, 28
Time, as we comprehend it, must be utilized to the best of our ability...and we must understand that there are many things that will be experienced during our time here on this earth.
These scriptures comes to mind:
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
May we use the time we are given to the best of our ability.
There is a purpose and plan for each of us...we just need to take the time to find out what God would have us do daily, weekly, and in the larger scope of our life.
In the words Mordecai to Esther: "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4).
Our mission will become clear as we petition the Lord to understand His will for us, our time (which is really His time) and our life.
I've been blogging here most of the morning...time got away from me...I've got to run!
See you next time.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
by Kari Diane Pike
On the first of the month, I attended the annual writer’s conference sponsored by ANWA. I learned that I am a writer! I have a love of words, an appreciation for the written word and I have been gifted with a passion to share the light and truth that lies within each of us.
Something huge came to my attention as I sat and listened to incredible women share their own truth and light. I am not my “experiences.” I am of infinite worth simply because I exist – a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me. I am Intelligence, clothed in Spirit and placed in a physical body so that I can become like my Heavenly parents. I have heard (and even written and said) these things many times, but for some reason, on March 1st, 2008, I heard that little “click” as the light switch turned on and felt the warmth of that light fill my entire being. Who I am does not depend on praise or adoration or even criticism from others. While praise feeds my ego, it is like the cistern described in Jeremiah 2:13, broken and unable to hold water. The story in John 4 where Jesus asks the woman of Samaria to give him water from Jacob’s well, has new significance for me. How often have I, like the woman of Samaria, not recognized the Savior and questioned why he would bother with me? How often have I been given “tasks” or “gifts” and wondered, “Why me?” because I felt inadequate or unequal to the task, just as the woman of Samaria may have felt “unequal” to the Savior, he being a Jew? And how often has he lovingly put his arms around me and led me to that fountain of living waters, just as he testified to her of his divinity? We find strength and joy and peace through the knowledge of who we are and who the Savior is. We learn to recognize that the outside things – experiences, accomplishments, the way we look, perceived failures, and actions of others- are what is described in 2 Peter 2:17 –“These are wells without water, clouds that are carried without a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.”
Jesus bore witness to the woman of Samaria that, “Whosever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up in to everlasting life.” As we come to know and recognize Christ we begin to fill our well with that “living water”, or light and truth and love of God. With that living water we find we can grow and flourish no matter where we are or what we are experiencing. The light and truth that comes from partaking of the living waters will never fail us. No one can take it away from us or turn it off without our permission. Just before her passing, Linda Shelly Whiting wrote a poem that reawakened a yearning in my heart to come to know our Savior. Here are her words:
The cat’s claw vine climbs
The wall by the courtyard
Next to the garage.
Wild exuberant unrestrained
Inch by inch it heads for the sky
Tiny sticky prongs grabbing
Onto white stucco as it
Pushes each center sprout up
Toward that fire in the firmament.
Growing recklessly, with abandon
Branches soon cover the garage door.
Walking through the garage one day
I see a branch probing down inside
Through a crack of light at the top
I laugh, wondering why it entered,
Then notice the large fluorescent lighting on the ceiling
Flooding the garaged with light.
Someone must have left the light on all night!
I switch the lights off
Two days later, walking through the garage
I see a withered branch of cat’s claw near the crack.
I stop, and look at it in dread.
How often have I followed bright lights that deceive,
Leading to destructive, hurtful paths
Even knowing Christ is the Light of the World?
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The last thing I computed this morning answered an email about the worst day in somebody's whole life. I chuckled over it, little knowing that I was about to experience the most unbelievable, weird, horrible, mind-boggling, yet strangely comforting day in my whole life. I've experienced a kind of transformation -- a division -- and transition -- that I know many have had, one that cannot be completely unexpected, but should not have come to me yet. Perhaps I could never have been ready.
Charles slept later than I, and as he came to our sitting room, he chided me gently. "You didn't come check on me last night," he said.
"You'd gone to bed by the time I got home from my ANWA (chapter) meeting," I replied. "I did check, and knew you were all right."
We talked a little more. Then he said, "The alarm didn't go off for pill time."
I looked at the clock and reminded him the cell phone alarm was set for eight, and it was only about seven thirty. Shortly thereafter, I went into our bedroom, to my computer. I probably spent a little time completing a Sudoku game I'd started yesterday, then started checking my e-mail.
I don't know how long I'd been reading and sorting e-mail that should have been disposed of long ago, but each time I went to sign off I'd find four or five new messages had arrived.
When I answered the phone a while before ten, a friend said, "You're home. If you come open the door, I'd like to come visit."
I went immediately to tell Charles to go let him in while I got dressed. My husband was sitting in his LaZBoy with his head dropped to his left, his mouth open. I smiled to think he was napping, but a second look, and I knew.
"You're gone!" I said, and repeated it a couple of times, feeling his cold hands and face. I hurried downstairs and let Brother Plotz in.
"Oh, where did he go?"
I felt rather like a zombie, acting outside of reality. Upstairs, we reclined the chair, making the body Charles has inhabited (for the last 88 years, 5 months and 6 days) look more comfortable. Brother Plotz offered a priesthood blessing.
I called 911, and from then on the house opened to a procession of helpful policemen, firemen (and women). It seemed impossible to find a doctor to sign a death certificate. My husband's primary care doctor hadn't seen him in about a year, and she was off duty today. The VA Hospital couldn't produce a qualified doctor, so eventually the Medical Examiners took over. They scooted us out, spent ages examining, then left, rolling a gurney with the body in a big, navy blue plastic bag. I watched from a front window. It still felt unreal. And it may stay that way for quite a while.
The ME won't be able to release the body to the mortuary in time for a funeral this Saturday yet for all concerned, a Saturday is most appropriate. So we're planning the viewing to be Friday evening, March 21, at Bunker Mortuary on Centennial Way in Mesa; the funeral Saturday, March 22 (the day before Easter) at the Gilbert Stapley Stake center on Cooper and Houston in Gilbert. Since the National Cemetery in North Phoenix (on Cave Creek Road north of Loop 201) is closed on Saturdays, burial will need to wait until the day after Easter. Hmmm. That's just a couple of days before it's my turn to blog again.
All seven of our children and many of the grand and great-grandchildren came quickly. All live in the Phoenix valley. Brought-in-food appeared like magic. I’ve had a full week’s worth of hugging, and find fresh tears with almost every kind word of praise.
Now the house is quiet. It’s nearing midnight, and I’m probably sleepy enough to rest well. Nothing quite seems real, yet it still is. I realize I just made a transition from wife to widow, from part of a couple to a single. I’m not sure I like it, but I aim to cope. I want to prove that nothing is so bad but what there is something good to enjoy sneaking around somewhere, waiting to be discovered. I think Charles would like it that way.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
That is the question tonight. I had actually gone to bed, relieved that I'd finished all I needed to do for tonight, when this little nudging said, "Oh, no you didn't do everything."
I laid there for about 5 minutes thinking, "This is rediculous. I'm exhausted. I have a huge day ahead of me. Plus I have a great excuse not to blog."
Andrew, my first son to serve a mission arrives home in exactly 15 hours and 13 minutes. Not that I'm counting. How could I not express my excitement and jubilation and joy at the service my dear son has so willingly done in the past 2 years. He has set such a marvelous example for all of his syblings, not just for his younger brothers and sister, but for his wayward older ones as well. I know that his missionary service will continue as he is an influence for good in their lives.
Now I am off to bed, knowing that this time I'm really done for the day.
Monday, March 10, 2008
You may recall my last blog was about the monsters who live under our beds. This was in response to my having a cardiac stress test. Today’s blog is about what happened when I went to a cardiologist for results. I told the doctor he should be honored. “My blood pressure is only 150 when I see my internist. For you, it is 175.”
You may think that because I am a physician it is strange I have such a bad case of “White Coat Syndrome.” Usually, knowledge brings power. In this case, knowing the what-ifs of stress testing and what might come next (angiograms, angioplasty, stents, by-pass, sudden death) brought terror and I felt silly about it—until the cardiologist, a friend from way back, told me about his experience with a lung tumor. Even when he was coughing up blood, he was convinced he had Valley Fever and ran a hundred tests which all came back negative. Such is the power of denial. Without denial you have reality: Valley Fever is a lot better than a lung tumor.
For those who need to know how the story ends, my friend had surgery and is now healthy enough to laugh about his experience and to tell me my stress test was fine which is another happy ending, perhaps not exactly happily ever after, but enough to bring my blood pressure back to normal.
I would really like not to have this problem with “White Coat Syndrome,” principally because I feel like an idiot trying to explain it. How much of the story do you tell? “Well, I had a bad experience with anesthesia when I was four, and the nuns at the hospital made me stay in a crib so I threw a fit and tossed all the bedding on the floor . . . which is a true story by the way, although I can’t remember what the sisters did after my tantrum.
This problem with blood pressure has a lot of angles. For the time being, I have to accept the fact that it is part of who I am and until I find a cure – nothing comes to mind except avoidance and death, neither of which is particularly practical at this stage of my life – I will continue feeling like an idiot whenever I go to the doctor and try to explain my maverick nervous system.
What is the lesson here? Well, one lesson is that life is a grand comedy. If I were on the other side of the blood pressure cuff, I would smile at the middle-aged woman with the red face and bounding pulse. “I know you don’t want to be here,” I’d say. “Do you really think I’m going to do something to you that would justify 170?” That would make me – the woman laugh. Seeing the ridiculous is good for blood pressure.
Me, my friend who had a lung tumor, and all the rest of us ordinary people who inhabit this good old place called Earth manage our stress in unique and creative ways. (Ask me about a couple of macho patients who two days after major heart attacks, in order to prove they were okay, raced their wheelchairs down the sidewalk in front of the hospital!) What I know is, the more I can accept that I am more human than impossibly strong, the less I will feel like an idiot about my “White Coat Syndrome.”
A psychologist once told me that vulnerability is a hard one for all of us. There are many ways I, you, we—am and are vulnerable. Threats to security, personal safety, to our ability to control our lives and environment are plenty enough in our day and age. The seesaw between the seeming control of denial and anxiety ridden reality bounces up and down and whether we like it or not, we are often its passengers.
Not everyone of course is on the denial – reality ride. There are some who invite faith into their lives and demonstrate great courage in the face of adversity. I am reminded of a patient, a young woman with deer-like brown eye and an appealing, soft-spoken calm. She related her adversities: a husband with a chronic illness who might never work again, three children, two of whom had severe attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities, her own prolonged bout with mononucleosis that made it difficult for her to complete a day’s work.
I listened amazed at her equanimity. “How do you do it?” I asked. “You have so much going on in your life.”
“I know God loves me,” she said.
I felt an immediate peace when she said it, and I feel it now. The seesaw stops. It is after all else, the best solution. “Be still and know that I am God.”
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Traditions can bring part member families closer together and promote tolerance. In our church families and gospel activities are strongly encouraged. Sometimes pursuits that are not necessarily gospel related but shared by the family unit are best for opening opportunities to reach out to each other because the defensive barriers don’t automatically come up. I’d like to explore my experiences with some of these pastime interests and hobbies.
The path to a man’s heart is said to be through his stomach. Cooking is definitely one of the endeavors my immediate and extended family share. Love of food is evident to anyone that sees us – the majority of us are portly.
My Dutch Grandmother was an excellent cook that could whip up a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast using one kerosene burner stove. (A trick she learned during WWI & WWII.) She was widowed when her daughter was seventeen. She established a strong reputation for great quality cooking and catered to pay for my mother’s college educations.
My mother integrated her European heritage with the local Southwestern cuisine. Our home housed a bakery every weekend – turning out a dozen loaves of bread, cookies, cakes, cinnamon rolls and whatever else was desired along with functioning as a cannery during summer and fall.
Mom worked full-time as an elementary school teacher. I was the oldest of six, plus we had foster children in our home from the time I was nine years old until after I graduated from high school. Out of necessity I learned to cook more or less cafeteria style. My apprenticeship started when I was seven or eight taking on simple tasks that didn’t always turn out, on to cooking the evening meal for a household of thirteen every day during my senior year. I sometimes still flubbed – like the time I added ¼ cup of salt to the cookie dough, misreading the recipe that required ¼ tsp. We had a two year supply of oatmeal raisin cookies after I depleted my parent’s year supply of sugar, flour, and shortening trying to cover up my mistake. Thank heavens they were Dad’s favorite.
When my son and daughter reached their teen years I was working 12-hour days at the local hospital, giving music lessons to 20 students and doing part-time work at a home health agency. They decided to cook out of self defense. If they wanted to eat more that PBJ’s and cold cereal they had to cook the meals themselves a good share of the time. Sibling rivalry set up a competition between the two as to who could cook the most unique, eye-pleasing, best tasting, and desirable dishes. It was a pleasure to come home and find the table set and delicious edibles ready to go.
Now both my children are adults. My son married a wonderful woman who was raised in a family where cooking was a natural art. She is very talented in making gorgeous mouth watering meals. She is also an expert at making the available food stretch to match their shoe-string budget. Kevin still likes to cook and either takes his turn in the kitchen or works by her side for holiday family gatherings. Serena is attending the Scottsdale School of Culinary Arts. For years she’s watch Martha Stewart, Emriel, and other cooking shows, and tried new recipes from exotic cook books to everyone’s delight. When she is done she wants to open her own Vegan restaurant – I’d say she probably inherited the entrepreneurial spirit.
Another family occupation is music. My parents both loved music and some of my fondest memories are of going to sleep listening to Mom play the piano while Daddy sang. Each of my brothers and sisters learned to either play an instrument and or sing. We spent many evenings making music just for fun. I played flute in band and violin. I didn’t get to join orchestra until I went to college.
Because of my love for music, I taught my children how to play violin. As they grew older Kevin took viola lessons and Serena learned to play cello. We invited a friend to play with us and we had a quartet – whichever string instrument they played – it worked. We entertained on holidays and at wedding receptions. I volunteered my services to the school orchestra teacher and we joined the local community orchestras where we lived as a family. During those challenging adolescent years – music brought us together, including when my daughter decided to go with percussion in addition to, and then instead of strings. For a couple of years we drove four hours one way every other weekend for them to have lessons and participate in ensembles. It gave excellent opportunities for them to learn driving, and for us to bond. Neither one is making music their profession – but the memories we made together are special and everlasting.
Kevin’s wife, Laura is a lovely soprano. Both he and she have bachelor degrees to teach music. They are passing on music to their girls starting in the womb. My four year old granddaughter proudly demonstrated her piano playing when I visited at Thanksgiving. My 18 month old can keep rhythm and bounces along to any kind of tune with a beat. I’m sure that it will go on down through the ages. We may not produce any Mozarts – but it’s good enough to make it feel like heaven here on earth – even if the learning process isn’t always celestial.
The third custom is reading. Starting back with my grandparents reading is a trait our family enjoys. My Dutch grandmother only had a grade-school education – but she read voraciously. She provided herself with a college level knowledge in many subjects and could converse with anyone intelligently. My father’s parents both had college educations and were school teachers. My father and both his sisters and all their spouses became school teachers. In our family we read a lot. Cold winter nights we sat wrapped in quits around the wood stove reading classics. As children our parents read us Dr. Seus and fairytales every night. By the time we started school we all read on our own. Reading became an obsession for me and a couple of my brothers.
My children were raised the same way – I read to them or had them read to me. Both of them now read all the time on their own. We may not choose the same type of literature, but reading is a basic part of our daily lives that stimulates conversations on many topics.
For several years genealogy has been the craze around the world. My paternal grandmother was an avid genealogist. Their summer vacations were spent visiting relatives and doing genealogical research. My mother is serving her third mission in the Family History library. She has several relatives that share genealogy with her because they are excited to learn more about their ancestry – and they voluntarily give Mom permission to have their temple work done, even though they are not members of our church. My daughter has helped Mom with her family research. Now my son has caught the “bug”. He is seeking out ancestors from a completely different line that no one else cared to look into before. Yep Family History is a great tradition to share with your children and grandchildren.
I could go on for several more pages about traditions that help us weave a tight web of love, trust and concern for our family members – whether or not they belong to the church. I’m sure if you think about it – you’ll find things your family does that provide extraordinary experiences that knit you together throughout generations.
Margaret L. Turley
Friday, March 7, 2008
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the ANWA conference. I'm hoping to change that next year. Though I didn't attend, I'm confident it was well worth every second because I've heard Tristi's presentation on Voice and it's amazing. I still think about her presentation and the quotes she used. She's an inspirational teacher.
And Kerry Blair is fabulous. I love her books and her sense of humor. I respect and admire her greatly. I'm sure her presentation was wonderful. I don't know the other presenters, but I'm sure they all gave excellent talks.
I attended a SCBWI conference some years back. I wasn't familiar with the presenters, a big mistake, and attended a presentation touted as, "YA Plotting Techniques." Silly me, I expected to learn something about plotting from a nationally published author. I sat in the class while she explained, in detail, her life story. Her novel, in verse, was based on her daughter's drug addiction. She then shared some passages from her book. Appalled can't even come close to how I felt as she read the most explicit, intimate scenes in her novel. The words and the images were so crass and so degrading I didn't even know what to do. I was dumbfounded. I wanted to jump up and run from the room, but didn't want to be rude. After the class was over, I felt as though I needed to visit with my bishop to repent of what I'd heard. Yes, it was that bad. Needless to say, I determined that if that's what was being published in the national market, it wasn't the market for my work. And what about the "plotting" part of the class? Never happened. She didn't teach us a thing about her method. The class was a disappointment all the way around.
I did learn a valuable lesson, though. Never attend a conference/class without first researching the presenters to make sure what they write is in line with my own values. I should have researched this presenter. If I had, I would never have made the mistake of attending her class. While I'm sure there's a market for her work, it isn't what I choose to read or write and that should've guided me in my choice for her class.
Conferences can be invaluable opportunities for learning, networking, and reuniting with friends, just beware of unfamiliar conferences/presenters so you don't make the same mistake as I did.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
by Faith St. Clair
Throw a dice, a dart or a penny in a pond, but it won’t matter. Nine times out of ten, we’ll take the easy route. If there’s chocolate vs. bean sprouts or TV vs. scriptures or sitting with a bowl of ice cream vs. running that mile, I think we’re pretty predisposed to shirking what we know is better for us. Even developing the talents we’ve been given fade into the background of our efforts as we scurry around our mazes in busy work. What is that called? Satan?
Why is sit so easy to be bad and so hard to be good? Now I know most of you are reading this thinking that I’m devil-spawn. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of slacker to we have here? I never eat chocolate, watch TV or sit down. I’m in top spiritual, physical and emotional shape. My house is sterile yet homey, my husband handsome and supportive, my children focused and pure, my spirituality strong and sharing, my talents honed and productive.” Well, to those sisters in the world I say, “Give me your number; I can make you millions on the inspirational speaking circuit!” To the rest of us, I’m still wondering why we lack so. I know we don’t dodge our duties and efforts, but I do know we always feel like we fall short. I think that’s Satan’s way of tearing us down and keeping us from building up.
At ANWA’s writing conference this past weekend, Tristi Pinkston talked about how creativity is used to build things to honor God. The opposite of creating/building, is destroying. God builds, Satan destroys. See, I was right, that Hershey kiss is Satan wrapped in foil – how symbolic is that? He foils us all the time! Getting back to my point, aren’t we destroying ourselves and sometimes those around us, if we’re not eating right, exercising, strengthening ourselves spiritually and growing the gifts we’ve been given? The obvious answer is, yes.
So the next time you pull those warm cinnamon rolls from the oven and dress them with silky, sweet-creamed icing, remember there is Satan in the swirl. The next time you walk past your running shoes, remember you’re destroying a better you. When your scriptures remain closed, remember God is waiting to strengthen you. And when you haven’t written anything today, remember the Adversary is in the blank page before you – destroying that which you are trying to build.
Our odds of creating are greatest with God’s strength.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The latest romantic misadventure got us to thinking someone really ought to write about these experiences. For one thing, it's cathartic; and for another it's downright hysterical. I told her to write a book, I was thinking fiction, something along the lines of Saturday Night Live in SA land. She went down a different path.
She responded with a whole project consisting of several articles involving the spiritual aspect, the emotional angle and the "reality" experience. I told her to go for it. She contacted someone to help her out. Got some ideas going and even laid out an outline of what she would do. Then she got busy and formulated her introduction, which I'm sure you all will be asked to critique.
When something goes this right, it's meant to be.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Considering my next posting date falls almost immediately after the 2008 ANWA Conference, I’ll bet you’re all expecting me to share my experiences and impressions of all the excellent workshops on March 1st. Sorry. Although I know that the workshops will indeed be excellent, and I’m looking forward to attending them and learning how to continue to improve my writing, the fact is, I’m actually typing this post a week prior to the conference, so I don’t have any experiences or impressions to share with you yet.
The reason for my “early” post is that I’ll be staying overnight with an old college chum in Phoenix after the conference and going to Church with her the next day. By the time I get home Sunday night, I’m sure I’ll be too exhausted to write any kind of post that would do justice to the conference, and since Marsha (harsh Blog Mama task-master that she is ;-) ), wants my post online by noon on Monday, (and since I’m not an early riser, especially after trips out of town), I decided to type my blog early, so I can get it posted by deadline on Monday, March 3rd.
So, since I don’t yet have any reflections about this year’s conference, I thought I’d share with you some of my reflections from ANWA Conferences of the past.
I’ve only attended three or four ANWA Conferences, as I recall. I’ve enjoyed them all tremendously, and always learn wonderful things and come away much inspired. But since I’m very shy, I have always sort of made a point of “hanging back”, trying not to be seen, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible while drinking in the information that’s there for me to learn. Lunch has always been the greatest challenge for me, because I feel awkward talking to people I don’t know and I’m not very good at making conversation with “strangers”.
But this year, I’m looking forward to things being different. Thanks to participating for the first time in the various ANWA email loops (ANWACritique and ANWASocial) and participating Marsha’s ANWA’s Founder & Friends blogsite, I’ve “met” all kinds of wonderful ANWA members I’ve never known before, and they’ve all been so tremendously kind, that I’m honestly looking forward to meeting them this year, and not spending the entire day trying to be “invisible”. I may well be as tongue-tied as ever, but still, for the first time, I feel like I have both acquaintances and friends. What a loving, supportive group of women. And how grateful and blessed I was on the day the Spirit prompted me to move from strictly newsletter membership to active participation in the various online ANWA groups!
By the time anyone reads this post, it will already be out of date, as hopefully I will finally have met many of you in person. But my gratitude will be no greater come Monday, March 3rd, than it is today, for all the kindness, support, and friendship you have all extended to me! I only hope that eventually, I can somehow return to favor to you all!