Monday, June 30, 2008
I have a chancy green thumb. That means whenever I plant something, there is a chance it will grow, but don’t make any bets.
I’ll admit, the odds are against me here in the desert where caliche starts a half inch under what might be considered the worst top soil in the state – gravel, pulverized eucalyptus leaves and dead ants. I’ve added a ton of mulch but I think there is some kind of mulch eater that comes around at night and devours it. Next morning, all that nice, dark stuff is gone and the ground is just as hard as the day before.
There’s also the problem of getting water to the plants. We have run a mile or so of drip line just to keep the mesquite trees alive.
I have good luck with oleanders. Each spring I prune them back to about four inches about the ground and each summer they threaten to take over the front porch. My husband says you can’t kill bougainvillea or oleanders. Obviously, these are good plants for someone like me who has a chancy green thumb.
I have thrown away at least a dozen dead gardenia bushes. I’ve put them in planters and in the earth. Either way, they make it to the monsoon season and then wither into nothing. Likewise for roses, honeysuckle, and a bunch of other green things that don’t like to take chances.
The reason I keep planting things, is because I like to watch them grow. And with vegetables, is anything more satisfying than bringing in that basket of fresh produce, picked from your own vegetable garden?
With my green thumb that basket is mostly an illusion, although this year, I have improved my chances. I discovered the Earth Box. It is a semi-hydroponic, reservoir type of growing system. Basically, it is a black box that has a 2 gallon reservoir in the bottom. This is topped with potting soil, fertilizer and the whole thing covered with a silver plastic shower cap. The plants are put in holes cut into the plastic. A tube gives you access to the reservoir. Every morning, I put 2 gallons of water in the tank, then stand back and watch things grow.
Seriously, I’ve picked about a hundred eggplants this summer. And with all the concern about salmonella infested tomatoes, this was the year my vines decided to bear fruit. I had to cut back the basil – it was so big and heavy it fell over. And I have enough jalapenos to flood the neighborhood. For someone with a chancy green thumb, this has been a good year.
I take nothing for granted, however. I could wake up tomorrow and find everything in the final throes of terminal droop, the kind overdosing on fertilizer and flooding with water does not help. These, by the way, are my first remedies for ailing plants. The fact they already may be over-watered and over-fertilized only occurs to me late in the game, when it is too late for the first aid of restraint.
I’ve lived in Tucson for 35 years. Other than the first ten years when we lived in town on an old chicken farm that grew everything, sort of like the Garden of Eden, I’ve applied my chancy green thumb to the whims of desert gardening. It’s a challenge. But this year, picking all those sweet tomatoes and a hundred eggplants, I’d have to say taking the chance definitely paid off.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
The last week of June, our small church congregation puts on an old timey melodrama for the surrounding communities. It's a lot of fun, and I've enjoyed my participation onstage in the past.
This year, I was content to take part in the background: distributing free tickets for the four performances, and playing the piano for "The Old Cookie Shop, or Nellie Was Baker 'Cause She Kneaded the Dough". Soon I'm sure I won't be able to play "Sweet Annie O'Grady" in my sleep, or wake up hearing a barbershop arrangement of "Coney Island Baby" playing in my brain. I'll simply revert to Marsha Ward, the community hermit and writer.
And I'll be turning off my computer a lot more than in other seasons. How is it that I forgot our summer lightning storms that seem to blow up without warning? To preserve my data and prevent a catastrophic computer wipeout, I'll be closing down all my programs early each afternoon instead of leaving my baby running for weeks at a time. I'll have to write down on a pad what I was working on, or my ADD will keep me from remembering what tasks I need to complete. Oh well. That's just one of the complications of summertime in the mountains.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
For the on-line writing classes the only critiques I received were from the excerpts I posted on the ANWA critique line and from the instructors themselves. The instructor at Phoenix college discouraged us from posting anything to any other critique group other than her class – she didn’t want us confused by conflicting advice. That instructor and the current instructor actively have each student submit something for critique each class where the whole class participates in giving feedback – but each one had a different style. Several members from that class decided to hang together and offer critiques to each other as we complete our stories we were working on. I’ve also started doing some critique individually back and forth from another individual – via e-mail. So now I’m thinking should I critique? Is my critique of other’s work worthwhile? Is the time I spend critiquing other’s work worthwhile – what does it do for my personal writing? The questions go the other way about receiving critique. Following are my thoughts about this important writing subject.
First I want to thank Marsha for forming ANWA and the different on-line support activities of ANWA. Second I want to thank Kerry Blair for inviting me to come to Daytimer’s chapter meeting and to join ANWA. Third I want to thank all the ANWA sisters who have suffered through my not-so-professional writing and have diligently spent their precious time and offered their expert advice and insight to help me improve my writing. Many of the things I learned in ANWA at conferences, in chapter meetings, at retreats and through the on-line critique before I ever paid the big bucks for classes that taught them in not near as friendly a manner.
Next I want to say that every time I critique someone’s manuscripts I learn a lot. I enjoy reading so much that reviewing their writing is a privilege. Well known and published authors have given me “sneak” previews so to say. If I’ve helped them in the slightest I am happy. By reading their writing I’ve learned to look more closely at my own, gotten ideas to use in my own novels, and learned techniques in a kind of show and tell manner. Thank you for giving me the opportunity and being willing enough to open yourself to my blundering suggestions.
As I’ve improved my writing over the last decade I’ve had some family members and friends as for critique of their writing – whether it was for applications, term papers or professional papers at work. It has boosted my self esteem that they felt my feedback was worth while enough to seek after.
My current instructor gave us 5 items she wants us to comment on in each critique.
a.) Scene setting
c.) believable characters
d.) “By page 3 do you know what the story is about?” Are you re-grounded by every 3rd line.
e.) Is the story propelled forward?
Last winter’s instructor wanted us to look for flaws in point of view, problems that stopped the arc of action like too many names that start with the same letter, overuse of adverbs and adjectives, changing tense and so on. Also she wanted us to notice if the language, descriptions seemed appropriate. Could we fully envision what the writer intended or did we only have “talking head” dialogue, or lots of telling and not showing.
In all – the best benefit of receiving critique is finding out whether you were able to communicate what you intended. If readers have any questions or hesitations about your writing you have the immediate answer that you need to change something, to get the point across better or to make the writing more appropriate.
Some of the critiques I have received are more like line edits for spelling and punctuation. I admit I need help in this area. Anything my spell check doesn’t catch is likely to pass by my eyes without notice. These reviews are helpful.
So, going back to the beginning. To critique or not to critique. I’d say there is a time and season for everything – including critique. Sometimes we need to write for our own enjoyment and pleasure and don’t need or want the “stress” or involvement of critique. Other times we need the warmth and camaraderie of having a common goal with others – writing – and helping each other achieve the very best. I am so glad I have the opportunity to be myself in both giving and receiving. As we give service we also receive it. Thanks again Marsha, for your vision.
Friday, June 27, 2008
As a mother of ten children, I’m often asked questions like, “How do you eat dinner?”, “What kind of a car do you drive?”, and “How much laundry do you do?” I try to be succinct and polite because people seem to be genuinely interested in how things work in a large family.
We eat dinner just like everyone else. I prepare, cook, and serve food to my family three times a day. I have to double and triple some recipes so there’s enough food, but we eat like everyone else.
As far as the car we drive, we have a 15-passenger van that we use for trips (or when we have all of the kids together) and a Yukon that we drive regularly. Most of the time, I don’t have all of the kids with me, especially now that my son is serving a mission and my daughter is attending college.
I do many loads of laundry. No matter how many loads I wash, there always seems to be another load right behind it. I’m convinced the laundry invites other laundry to the party when I’m not looking. So, yes I do more laundry than the average family, but I’m used to it.
Now that my secret is out and people know that I write, I’m often asked, “How do you find time to write with so many kids?” I wish I had a magical solution to that, but I don’t. I’m a wife and mother first and foremost and I try to attend to my family’s needs before I write. I like to read with my kids, play games with them, and listen to them play the piano. I love to watch movies with my family while we eat popcorn and ice cream (those are part of the food pyramid, right?). During the summer, I love to spend time outside while my kids play in the sprinkler or the kiddie pool. I also teach the Beehives, have a garden, tend to the goats, serve on the Boy Scout Troop Committee, plan dates with my husband, and try to work in a daily exercise program. Yes, my life is full, but so is everyone’s.
We all have things to do and places to be. We all struggle to get everything done. For me, I squeeze in writing whenever I can. I’ve also given up hobbies and interests. I used to knit and crochet quite a bit. I also used to practice playing the piano. I’ve found that I can’t do everything and I had to make a choice. I chose writing. Every spare moment I have, I spend on writing. Some days I can write more than others.
I think it comes down to priorities. We all have what’s important to us and that’s what we spend our time doing. The gospel and my family come before writing, but every once in a while, I let the laundry have a big party and invite as much laundry as it wants to join in the fun while I sneak in some writing time. Works for me.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
by Stephanie Abney
I’d like to share a ‘gold mine’ with you… a wealth of information. If you have kids, or grandkids, or love kids (whether or not they’re yours) or if you love books, then you definitely need to know about Carol Otis Hurst. And if you happen to love kids’ books then it is imperative you know about Carol.
If you fancy yourself a children’s author, this is the place to read a ton of reviews on children’s books, find activities, questions and answers, etc. All these resources can only add to your knowledge as a children’s author and only prove helpful to your writing and as you create activities for your own family.
Carol’s Kid Lit website is one of the greatest treasures on the Internet. As a teacher, it is one of my favorite sites but it is also invaluable for parents and grandparents ~ including activities about particular subjects, curriculum areas, themes and so much more. You can get great Family Home Evening ideas there or summer activities for your kids.
It would be interesting to take a poll of the ANWA members and see how many are teachers. As we sat in my family room this month for our Salt River Scribes chapter meeting, I couldn’t help but notice that five out of the eight sisters there are teachers. Many writers started out as teachers. Carol Hurst was a teacher. Sadly, she passed away last year but her daughters plan to keep her site up and running.
Here’s what one of my favorite middle grade authors had to say about Carol:
"I can't think of anyone who knows more about children's books than Carol Otis Hurst. Not only what they're about, and who wrote them (and when), and whether they're any good - or not so good - or downright awful; but also how to make use of them. Carol can tell you which book to place in the not-very-receptive hands of a scowling, reluctant reader: just the right book, the one that will make him grin, make him read, make his life change. Or the reassuring book for the needy, troubled child: Carol knows that title, too, and how to offer it with a gentle touch.If I were a teacher, I would think of Carol Otis Hurst as one of my most important resources. If I were a child, I would simply think of her as my most trusted friend." ~ Lois Lowry
Go to the site and click on the “Expanded Table of Contents” or “Subjects” and you will be amazed. Like so many wonderful resources around us, if we don’t find it ourselves or have someone share it with us, we remain in the dark ~ kind of like sharing the gospel, isn’t it?
So… enjoy: http://www.carolhurst.com/index.html
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I had been wandering in the woods for two days after spending a day and a night with my butchered husband, finding the strength to bury him and then spending a few more hours unable to leave him. If it wasn't for the hunger, lack of provisions or shelter, the fear that the Indians would return, and a two-month old infant to care for, I might have laid right down next to him and waited for the good Lord to take me from my suffering.
But a voice spoke to me and told me to gather my legs beneath me and walk. "You are saved as a beacon to your posterity. March on, Faith, to the place in the West that I have prepared for you and your family. March on toward truth."
So it was that I began wandering, not knowing which way was West, but hoping to find fellow Saints, before long, that could help me. And they did.
There was a Smithson handcart company of 14 families, 250 souls in all, that I saw traversing in the distance. I made haste, as best I could, to catch up with them. I told them of my struggles - that I had been in the woods caring for my infant when the Indians murdered my husband and took our wagon and provisions, leaving me alone and with nothing to secure my survival.
The Wylie family, with 11 children, took me in. Even though I had nothing to offer them, they said I could journey with them to the Salt Lake Valley and counted me as one of their own. I became their "Aunt Faith".
The journey was hard. My feet hurt and blisters and sprains surmounted almost past my ability to overcome them. And although the Wylies took me in, I felt like a burden. I couldn't do enough to repay them. I couldn't give enough to replace their kindnesses. The children took care of my little Celeste on days and moments that surpassed my abilities to do so. There were people parishing all around us - babies, Pa's and Ma's and strong youthful boys. Burials happened on an almost daily basis. But we were spared.
We made it to the Salt Lake Valley. We survived! Our struggles, however large they seemed at the time, appear as small mites compared to the spreading of this true gospel for which we did suffer. It has been revealed that this work will go throughout every land and every ear shall hear that Christ's restored gospel is here on this earth in its fullness.
I had better gird up my weary loins and start with my 2008 pioneer experience by knocking on my neighbor's door and letting them know of this great news!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Then I had the chance to move up to copy editor. These days, proofreading per se has become so passé and frankly you can tell. Copy editing is taking other written material and re writing it to suit your particular publication. Again, the basics were the same, use the stats correctly, don’t change any technical meanings, check the industry lingo (for example, the word elevatoring is a real word in our industry), and always write “one of” the best instead of “the best.”
Then I moved on to associate editor where I began putting together my “own” articles using material found from different sources. Much like putting together a thesis styled paper. State an objective, sequentially build to your conclusion (which is your objective), throw in a few rabbits if you want and then conclude. I also began covering trade shows as a photojournalist so to speak and found that easy to write as well.
Fiction seemed like it would be a natural jump. After all, how much different could it be?! Ha! It’s maddening. I understand little of the rules. I mean are there any rules? I hate writing all that background stuff (in trade publications, a lot is understood to be understood, if you know what I mean). I find I’m really good at action scenes and why not they follow a logical sequence. I’m rotten at transitional scenes because you don’t really need those in techie speak, you just move on to the next subject.
So now I’m wondering: can I make the big bucks writing techie?
Monday, June 23, 2008
With the temperatures in Phoenix hitting 110+ the last week or so, I’m trying my best to “think cool”. And what holiday summons cooler thoughts than Christmas?
No, this post is not about celebrating “Christmas in June”. (Though if it weren’t so expensive, cranking down the A/C and drinking a cup of hot chocolate might not be such a bad psychological idea!) But my efforts to “think cool” recently led to memories of Christmas 2007 with my sister. During a special Christmas morning cocoa party (known at our house as a High Kokolorum, for reasons far too complicated to try to explain here!), my sister impulsively pulled out a book of poems that we both loved as a child. (The book is called Silver Pennies. Familiar to anyone else?)
As we enjoyed our High Kokolorum, we took turns reading our favorite poems from our childhood to each other. For a Child Named Katherine, by Louise Townsend Nicholl, was one of mine:
God and the Faires, be true, be true!
I am the child who waits for you.
I wait for God as I go to sleep.
I stretch out my hand for His hand to keep.
I look for Fairies where grass is deep,
And once where I heard a bell on the sheep.
The Saint who comes at Christmas-time
Is someway not so much all mine.
He surely comes, for Christmas Day,
But I never ask that Saint to stay.
He brings me beautiful things to keep,
But I liked the best the bell on the sheep.
God and the Fairies I cannot see
Are the ones that I want to stay with me.
They always stay with me through the night,
But they go just before the room is light.
It is always just God, or just Fairies, who stay,
But I never know which, nor which is away.
But once I awoke when it was dark
And something made me hush and hark.
My hand which I’d left outside the sheet
Was tucked very gently under my cheek,
So I knew it was God who stayed that night—
And then I slept till it was light,
And when my hand stays out on the bed,
I guess the Fairies are there instead.
I think the Fairies bring the dreams
And when I wake and my room seems
Very strange, because I’ve played
All the night in a woodsy glade
In my dreaming, then I know
Fairy folk have made it so—
Fairy folk who slide, they say,
Into the house on a thin moon’s ray.
But always something has been there,
To fill my room with Day and air
To make one feel so sweet and wise
Before I open up my eyes.
But sometimes when it’s bright and Day,
I feel alone and I must pray.
I am sure then and yet I say,
“God and the Fairies, be true, be true!
I am the child who waits for you.”
I still think it’s a beautiful poem! But what do you think? Would you worry that such a poem might confuse a young child about whether God is with them all the time, or whether He might sometimes delegate His watch care over them to “fairies”? The poem never made me think that way as a child. Probably because, after reading the poem to me, I remember my mother kneeling with me to say my prayers every night, so I trusted that God was always there, no matter how beautiful and sweet the words of this poem.
Example truly does speak louder than words, don’t you think? A parent who takes the time to kneel with their child and pray, establishes a firm foundation of “truth” vs “imagination”. That’s my experience and opinion, anyway. What’s yours?
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I missed my turn to blog last time. I thought I had the base covered, but I had a confluence of people and events that particular weekend that squeeed blogging out of the picture. Because of that, I wrote an essay earlier in the week so I'd be sure to have my blog for today, but I got a phone call last night, and I really need to do a cyber-woohoo, so I'm going to do it here.
I have a four-year-old grandson, Wayne Jr., that the family calls WayJay. He's an intelligent little boy, very mechanically inclined, but because he doesn't yet speak, the world has been frustrating for him. His family was part of the happy confluence that knocked my last blog off line. I blogged about him on Liz Sez.
His family has just moved to Reno, and as part of that move, they enrolled WayJay in all the programs available that he was elegible for. By happy chance (and we wonder, was it really chance?) they had moved to a state that, right now, offers lots of help to the families of autistic children. One of those programs offers the child intensive help with therapists several times a week in-home during the summer.
Last night, my son Wayne called and reported that WayJay had been trying to open a bottle of yogurt drink and wasn't able to do it. He brought the bottle to his dad, set it down on the table beside him, and said, "Help." At the same time, he did the ASL sign for 'help'.
This is a monumental event. He's parroted words before, and surprised his folks with random-but-meaningful words, like the time I wrote about on Liz Sez, but this was the first time he used speech to solve a problem. We're all delighted, and that's why I ditched the other essay and invite all my ANWA friends to join me as I say WOO-HOO!!! Way to go, WayJay!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
One of my greatest gifts and most horrific weaknesses is the fact that I really believe that I am usually right. It isn't just my opinion- it is the TRUTH! Often I do get things right on and am a strong leader because of it- but every once in a while it can be very embarassing like the time I got lost and turned around while driving. When I finally recognized where I was and went up a block I really believed someone had changed the street sign because I knew where I was! My husband was shocked by my surety and has rarely let me live it down.
A side shoot of this trait is that I have an increased drive to assert my opinion on others. Although my intentions are pure, if not checked it can lead to all sorts of problems. I remember one time my husband bought a used luxury car for far too much money (I knew) so I marched him back to the dealership and got them to lower the price and return our trade-in, much to my husband's embarrassment. I've restyled my children's hair, scrubbed their faces and corrected them in public far too often. It's something I'm trying to work on but just oozes out of me naturally.
So the last few weeks have been really stressful and I decided it was time to put a cork in it. I decided that I was going to be more kind, peaceful and just quiet. I've tried to let the little things go and allowed my children to leave the house with unbrushed hair and no shoes more often than I ever would have. Last night the family was watching a video together and I mentioned to my husband that he had to be up early for his 8:50 flight. He shook his head and told me that it wasn't until noon. I shrugged my shoulders and told him that I had seen 8:50 on the paper but if he was sure, that was fine. Normally I would have run downstairs, gotten the paper and shoved it in front of him to prove I was right, but I resisted and let it go.
Well, this morning he left at 10 am and was gone for only a few minutes when he huffed back through the front door and plopped in his recliner. He had missed his flight; it was at 8:50- I was right. Greg shook his head and said, "If you knew you were right why didn't you push it? Why didn't you force me into agreeing with you like you always do- that's why I married you?" So what I want to do is dance around and feel like I've been given free reign to be as assertive as I'd like but the truth is that I need to better temper when I stand up for truth and when I allow people to make their own choices without judgement-- at least, that is my opinion.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
As I log on to write my blog for tomorrow, I see that in my desire and anticipation to "be a writer" I started and named a blog "Seeking My Voice".
The ironic thing about it, however, is that I have never posted a single entry on that blog.
While I desire to seek my voice, I do little to actually walk down the path wherein I actually seek my writer's voice.
(I do write...on my own personal family blog, and in more technical terms on another blog I just started...focused on my Stampin' Up! business.)
I know that I am a writer.
It is a way that I define myself.
My heart sings within me whenever I identify myself that way.
I know that I have a God-given talent that needs to be developed.
But, what am I doing about it, besides identifying myself as a writer?
I have considered coming to the ANWA retreat, but when you don't have a story, how do you apply the talks to what you do write?
What about when you don't have a "WIP"?
How do you find your story?
What do you do, personally...and how do you know when your story is "the one" that you need to write?
I'll start with what I know I can do: sharing my goals with you in a public forum.
(Feel free to hold me accountable)
Here are my goals for the next week:
1. Submit a story I have written to ANWA Critique (be gentle dear ladies)
2. Write something other than family or business oriented blog fodder at least once during the upcoming week
3. Write a rough draft of another story I have been feeling prompted to develop (Hey! That would take care of #2!)
I am a writer, but I struggle to continue, for I am a writer truly still seeking not only my story, but also my voice.
By Kari Pike
I love to read. I love free stuff. Imagine my delight when I received not one, but two free paperback books in the mail as part of a promotion for “heartwarming inspirational romance.” Free and clean? Wow!
Hmmmm…I learned something reading those books. I am a writer! But since I’m not published yet…does that make me an arm chair writer? (Think arm chair quarterback…you know…tells everyone else what to do, but doesn’t really play the game in person.) Reading those novels was one of the most painful, yet educational reading experiences I have had in a long time. Every other page I complained about sentence structure, point-of-view changes, and lack of fact checking. My husband laughed and asked why I continued to read the book if it was that bad. In defense of the book, I did care about the main character. I wanted to know what happened to her. But I found myself looking more for problems than enjoying the story.
In one chapter, there were no less than 5 point-of-view changes on one page. That distracted me. I had to keep rereading in order to figure out whose head I was in. The run-on sentences exhausted me. The prose made me laugh…
“Breathless, she waited while he leaned closer still. The brush of his thumb across her sun-warmed face came as softly as a promise kept. He towered over her, so near she could smell the rain-fresh scent of the fabric softener he used on his T-shirt…”
A few pages later, I learned that you can see through fireman hats. Really!
“The door swung open and a little boy with brown hair sticking straight up dashed into the kitchen. The birthday boy wore a plastic fireman’s hat and a badge…”
I’m not kidding. I copied those sentences just the way they appeared in the book. At first I thought they were referring to two different boys; but no.
So…what is the difference between me and the author of that book? Yeah…she’s published, and I’m not. Not yet, anyway. I think it’s time to get out of my chair, I mean, time to get into my chair and start actually playing the writing game.
What are you doing to get into the game?
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I’m becoming quite a gad-about. When my daughter Kat said she was going to Florida to see her fourth-grade granddaughter sing in a school musical, I volunteered to go along. Not only did I go, but it was worth it. Rylee amazed us by her clear, on pitch, belting out of her solo, and her projection of a saucy personality. For an elementary school (grades K to 5) they outdid themselves in costuming, props, and presentation. Based on Dr. Seuss’s ‘Cat in a Hat’, ‘Horton Hears a Who’ and ‘Horton Hatches an Egg’ (did I get the little articles right?) and full of peppy songs, the whole production fit. Some of the voices, especially in a trio toward the end, totally lacked harmony, but their sweet, young voices were nonetheless very pleasing. The music department worked on it the whole school year, and it showed. That alone was worth the trip.
Kat rented a Suburban so we could all travel together, and she put on nearly a thousand miles as we toured all the way from Ft. Meyers to Key West and back. We counted alligators that surfaced in a muddy lake and marveled at the birds as we air-boated in the everglades. Best of all, though, we played games and visited with Eileen, Ryan, and their four children.
I got home in plenty of time to do my blog, but lost interest when the ANWA blogsite told me I was not a member of any blogsite anywhere. So I went to bed, planning to do something about it the next day.
Then I flew to Cape Cod for a grandson’s wedding. Wayne’s oldest son Doug finally tied the knot. We really enjoyed Maryjane’s family and, believe I or not, I finally got my first taste of lobster. Well, eating it didn’t come handy before. Loved it. I’d been home three days, but I still didn’t blog May 21st. I seriously considered telling Marsha to get somebody else to take my place permanently. Don’t ask me why my mind seemed consumed with lethargy. Maybe it was the TIA that did it, and my three days in hospital getting every kind of test they could devise—all of which turned out normal.
Actually, it was very interesting. I’d just finished the first of a series of eight classes I’m taking along with Cecily M. and Margaret T. and was chatting outside with Barbara L. when I realized the sounds coming out of my mouth had no relationship whatsoever with what I was trying to say. I hugged Barbara goodnight, and walked the couple of car lengths to where my car was parked, and got inside, talking gibberish aloud to myself all the way. I might have thought I was speaking in tongues, had there been an interpreter there. I assumed I was having a stroke and asked for guidance. Was it safe for me to drive home? After pondering it several minutes I still felt comfortable about it, so I turned on the key and set out, still talking aloud incessantly and weirdly. About half a mile down the road my speech returned. The last sound to surface correctly was the ‘d’ sound at the end of a word. Nevertheless, I kept talking aloud all the way home. With nothing better to say, I recited the alphabet forward and backward. To my surprise, by the time I got to ‘k’ going backward, I’d switched to forward. So I tried again, with complete success. I started reciting a poem, but my interest wasn’t really there, and I was almost home.
Kat was talking to someone, so I bee-lined it to Jerry’s office, and asked for a blessing. He didn’t refuse, but asked “Why?”
I told him.
“I can’t believe this. Smile, Grandma.”
“Raise your arms above your head.”
“Stick out your tongue.”
By now this was tempting.
Jerry pointed to his computer screen. I’d caught him in the middle of reading something his brother had forwarded, about the symptoms of a stroke.
After he gave me a priesthood blessing, Kat joined us and we discussed going to the hospital ER. Jerry suggested Banner Gateway, because he had just read it had the shortest wait in the emergency room. Kat drove me over. Jerry’s information was correct. At about ten or eleven at night, my wait was less than five minutes.
After all the testing, the doctors recommended Coumadin for the rest of my life. I resisted. The doctor reassured me it was the best available.
“Doctor,” I said, “doesn’t Coumadin have to be taken at about the same time every single day?
“I’m eighty-three years old, and I can’t think of a single thing I had control of that I’ve done at the same time every day for even a whole week. Maybe I could do it, but it scares me."
“I think I’ll recommend something else.”
So, I went with my youngest daughter, Karlene, to a Naturepath, and I now swallow two tablespoons (that’s one ounce) of cod liver oil, or fish oil, usually before noon every day. If I miss I can take double the next day. Dr. Huber told me it would do everything Coumadin would do without the side effects. My one blood test since was “perfect” whatever that means. By the way, don’t feel sorry for me for the fish oil. It has a slight lemon taste added, and I take it with ease—it’s just having to remember.
I have no excuse for not blogging on June 4. Oh, I was busy enough, but it’s rather like missing Church for a couple of weeks in a row. It’s just harder to get back into the swing of it. I’ve not been caught up with reading my email nor the blogs for a month now, and have hardly even tried to read the book selections for the book club I joined. I wish I’d been smart enough to blog about why I didn’t have time to blog. That was really clever. I simply didn’t do it. Instead, I packed my bag and my fish oil for a drive to California, a one-day trip to Catalina Island, and my grandson Greg Ethington’s graduation from University of California Irvine. He’d played basketball there. I remember how shocked I’d been when I read the low percentage of athletes who actually graduate, until I discovered how few credits they could earn each year because of the enormity of time spent in practicing, let alone the travel and game time. But Greg made it.
Greg graduated June 15. That was also Father’s Day, and my 63rd wedding anniversary. The third one I’d spent without a husband by my side. Once he was in Iceland, the second time in Vietnam. The happy/sad feeling seemed about the same.
This morning, at about 1:30 I awoke still sitting in my LaZboy (I wonder why they don’t call their more dainty recliners LaZgirl) with my book still in my lap. When I was still awake an hour later, I lay there reciting poetry, trying to remember Delsa’s poem about aging skin, and wondering why it had been so long since I’d even been tempted to write in verse. As I began to think about what I might compose, I got up, found pen and paper, and wrote the following. I haven’t decided on a title yet, but “I think I’m getting old” might do. Or maybe, “Why I Can’t Remember When it Happened” How about:
LIKE A RIVER
My past seems like a river
fed by sparkling mountain streams
springing from melting glacier,
growing from hidden springs,
augmented by cool showers,
gurgling on its way
over cobblestone or boulders.
It sings and laughs at play.
Joined by tributaries,
it grows steadily and strong.
Rejoicing, it flows onward
though obstacles seem to throng
along the way. It merely swirls
and froths around each rock,
trusting in its destiny,
strengthened by each block.
Then as the landscape flattens,
it flows calmly and serene,
rejoicing in its memories,
re-living what has been.
Still nourishing the teeming fish,
supporting bathers and boats,
smiling at past pleasures,
‘Til flowing smoothly over
the edge of an unseen wall,
it plunges quite majestically
in an awesome waterfall.
And much that happened in the past
(details, how long ago)
mix to an unclear jumble
in the rainbow froth below.
Anna Laurene Arnett
Monday, June 16, 2008
June 10th was my birthday. I was 59. My mother now asks that if I am that old, then how old is she? FYI, she is 86 and entitled to the privilege of a few memory lapses.
I celebrated by staying home all day with the cats, Bunker the parrot and Chuck Norris, the desert tortoise who ambled into our yard a couple of weeks ago and now safely lives in our front patio. He was a birthday gift from the universe. A friend, Ann, who is deeply connected to Native American folklore, brought out her book of symbols. “Turtle is the oldest symbol for planet earth,” she read. “If you have chosen the Turtle symbol,” or, she added herself, I’m quite sure, “if Turtle has chosen you, you are being asked to honor the creative source within you . . . .
Furthermore, “Turtle warns of the dangers of “pushing the river . . . . The corn that is harvested before its time is not yet full. However, if it is given the chance to develop at its own rate, in its own season, its sweetness will be shared by all.” (Jamie Sams and David Carson, Medicine Cards, Bear and Company, 1988.)
At 59, I am anxious that I am too old to write, publish and sell a memoir. Then Chuck Norris, so named by our son, hangs out underneath one of our mesquite trees and brings this message about “pushing the river.”
There is another birthday I’m remembering just now. Sixteen years ago I was in the middle of a major life shake-up. A year and a half earlier, I’d discovered I had been sexually abused as a child. The intrusive, intensive emotion of memory had pushed me to a psychologist and was hammering at my family and career. For sanity, I worked with a trainer and was as physically fit as at any time in my life.
The work I did with the psychologist centered on listening to the little true-speaking voice that comes from your inner wisdom, a voice I had carefully rejected for years. After all, it had the memory of the abuse. However, when my brother-in-law asked my husband if he wanted to hike Paria Canyon in southern Utah, that little voice spoke up. “You go too,” it said.
“I want to go too,” I said. Then came my contrary voice, the rational, sane, careful one I used in my practice. You, go on a 4 day hike? With a backpack? You have a sore back. You weigh over 200 pounds. You don’t hike. This is insanity.
Dwight stared. My brother-in-law, Curtis Brown was delighted. “I’ve always wanted my wife to go,” he said. “And she never would. Are you sure?”
June 7, 1992, we left a car at Lee’s Ferry in Arizona then drove to the trailhead in Utah. My pack weighed 40 pounds, including a canteen for water.
The first day we walked 11 miles through a narrow, slot canyon. The smoothly polished red sandstone walls towered over us. There was no stopping until we got out of the first part of the canyon because a rain upstream could cause a flashflood with no place to climb for safety.
The next two days were the best of my life. I saw quick sand, seeps – where water bubbles to the surface from a high water table, a natural bridge, a cave. My own two feet took me to these places and my back was strong.
On June 9th, we camped at a place called Shower Springs. A natural spring dripped out of the canyon wall which was covered with a thick curtain of ferns. The water was icy cold. I bathed in it and washed my hair in some my husband had thoughtfully heated over our small camp stove. Overhead was the sky of my childhood before light pollution. Millions of stars stretched endlessly across a black and cloudless sky. I was almost asleep, drowsy and content when that little voice spoke again. “Thank you for giving me my life back,” it said distinctly. Yes, I thought, and tears came to my eyes because it felt so good to be alive. And tomorrow was my birthday.
Every year since, I celebrate my life. At some point, I say to myself that I am glad I have this life, and thank-you for living it the best way possible. I made a promise to myself in Paria Canyon, that I would take life in both my hands and live it. Today, as I write I remember how strongly I felt this, that seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting, hearing were only starting points in the immersion of all the events, people, and opportunities that came my way, and that what I did with them was how I lived and celebrated who I was.
I want to sing Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday to me, and to everyone who has heard her own little voice say “Thank you for giving me my life back.”
Sunday, June 15, 2008
When I arrived home on Sunday, I was exhausted by having attended a week-long convention in the heat of Scottsdale, Arizona, so I didn't blog. Through the miracle of a new Blogger process, though, I can make this look like I did post on the correct day. I'm going to take advantage of that, so I don't trespass on Monday's blogger.
Last week I attended the annual get-together of Western Writers of America, whose member produce much of today's Western Literature, both fiction and nonfiction. WWA is made up of historians, novelists, writers of short fiction, juvenile authors, magazine writers, journalists, and everything in between. We take tours of sites of historical significance; listen to panelists expound on topics from researching and writing military history to how to write Western music; eat very well; and grant the Spur Awards in 17 or so categories of literature, film writing, poetry, and song lyrics.
It is great fun to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones. I lined up several people for future Author Interviews on my blog. I spoke to a potential publisher for my WIP. I gleaned a lot of information, hugged a lot of people, and came home, as I mentioned, exhausted.
What did you do last week?
Saturday, June 14, 2008
This week I learned something about myself. I waste a lot of time. I made a spread sheet of my rotating work schedule (I work 10 hour nights 4:30 pm until 3 am) 7 days in a row on and the 7 days in a row off. I've been doing this for about 3 months. I like it pretty well. But I was wondering why I wasn't getting very much accomplished other than work, sleep, and medical appointments. So I actually blocked in time for writing - just like it would be a job - and behold: I have more that 40 hours a week - both weeks that I can write. This is exciting for me. I've dedicated myself to do this faithfully - maybe I'll make some progress. It is a good thing I'll be joinging Wow starting tomorrow.
What else did I schedule? I scheduled an hour every day for exercise. I scheduled 2 hours in the afternoons of my off week for marketing and planning. I also scheduled my sleep time. I feel this will be helpful for me so that I can help my family understand when I am available and when I am not. It helps me focus on what I want to do, when I want to do it.
Maybe all of you are better organized than I am - but now that I have it down - color coded and all on one page it will be easier for me to plan ahead for things like church callings and other activities - because I can fit those things in the intentionally blank spaces.
Hope you have a wonderfully fun and productive week.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Monday I began the blog tour for Heaven Scent. I have some fabulous people helping me spread the word on their blogs. Each day a new person will post a review and an interview with me. I'm very excited for the tour and want to express my deepest appreciation to all of those who are taking part.
I've answered some interesting questions, too. If you'd like to get to know me a little better, you can read the interviews.
I hope you'll join me on the tour. Karlene Browning will be giving away the perfume we designed to accompany Heaven Scent, it's called Hope.
Here are the dates and places:
June 9 Ronda Hinrichsen
June 10 Don Carey
June 11 Stephanie Humphreys
June 12 Nichole Giles
June 16 Michelle Jefferies
June 17 Emily Debenham
June 18 Danyelle Ferguson
June 19 Ali Cross
June 20 Karen Hoover
June 23 Heather Justesen
June 24 Kim Thompson
June 25 Rachelle Christensen
June 26 Andy Lemmon
June 27 Karlene Browning
June 30 Marcia Mickelson
July 1 C. Lynn Beck
I hope you'll drop by.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I’ve gone back to school in order to complete a degree in Education and to become certified so I can start teaching full-time and not just substitute teach. I have a summer school class called, “Introduction to Education.” I’m really loving this class, not just because the information is so useful but because I think I managed to sign up for a class taught by a “master” teacher, Mr. Ted Telepak, at M.C.C., Mesa, AZ. Just observing him I’m getting great insights about the kind of teacher I want to be.
Today our instructor said we need make good use of our “transferable skills" on our resumes and during the interview process. Just the sound of it intrigued me and I’ve been thinking about it a great deal this evening. “Transferable Skills” are non-job specific skills which can be used in different occupations. We generally develop them through our educational course work, jobs or internships, church service, volunteering, extra-curricular activities or just plain life experiences.
Most of us posses many of the skills considered valuable just as a result of the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences we’ve had throughout our lives. Emma Smith said, “Life is a good teacher.” It occurs to me that this is even more apparent in the case of women because we wear so many different hats. Before I continue and suggest some of the abilities many of us have acquired, I can’t help but wonder ~ eventually, transferrable to where? In the end, just where is it that we expect these skills to benefit us and those around us? Ponder that, while I continue:
As women, particularly LDS women, we have mastered many managerial and/or administrative skills. We’re pretty good at planning, arranging, budgeting, delegating, guiding, directing, organizing, evaluating, and multi-tasking, to name the most obvious. We’re very likely to possess more than adequate communication skills as we deal with those around us (and for many that would include dealing with a spouse and children). We shine in our ability to listen, provide answers, accept input, write correspondence (even if most of it is via email these days), speak in front of groups, lead discussions, teach lessons, persuade, negotiate, read and perhaps we speak a foreign language. We have learned to investigate, research and present information (and do so with a lovely little centerpiece, which leads us into our decorating, scrapbooking, and hospitality expertise, not to mention our culinary and transportation abilities). Our human relation and problem-solving skills have become daily occurrences as we encourage and motivate others, teach and train children, and keep the peace.
You can see how, with just a little brainstorming, that you are far more accomplished than you give yourself credit for. So, now I want to go back to the question I posed earlier ~ where do we hope these skills will be transferable to? Despite the fact that such abilities and talents will enhance our earthly sojourn and bless the lives of those we deal with on a daily basis, I do hope that along the way, I am acquiring skills that will be of value to my Heavenly Father and the hosts of heaven. When I show up with my little resume and recommendation letters in hand, I pray He finds my “transferrable skills” acceptable and that they will include compassion, humility, Christ-like love and faith.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I fell in love with murder mysteries about eight years ago. Until then, I was pretty hooked on sci/fi fantasy as far as fiction. My first love is still a good non fiction history book, but I digress. One of my first oh-you'll-have-to-read this series was by Anne Perry, of which you may be familiar. At some point she became LDS. She has two sets of series both set in Victoria England. Then I got turned on to a series about Brother Cadfael set in medieval England by Ellis Peters and most happily the Amelia Peabody series set in Egypt/England by Elizabeth Peters. And you know what I like most about these series which I re read constantly, they all have moral endings.
As a writer, I know it’s fun to push the envelope, have an anti-hero hero, have a torrid romance that starts with anger/hatred, even push people into situations where they HAVE to deal with one another.
But as a reader, I hate that. I like the genre to follow the genre. I like my heroes to be heroes and I just won’t read books where that’s different. I suspect the ones who like the envelope pushing would consider my choices boring.
I have a point, ha. I am not rambling here (well ok maybe a little). Here it is, tada, write what you like to read. Works every time. Read interviews by authors. They always mentioned how they liked a certain something as a reader that took them on their writing journey.
Ok thunderstorms are back. I’m going to post. Hope this made sense.
Monday, June 9, 2008
In case some of you aren’t aware (I wasn’t until I was browsing the internet Saturday night), the LDS Fiction blog is holding a summer reading challenge called “Summer Book Trek 2008”. All the rules and information are listed on the blogsite—just click on the LDS Fiction link in this post for details. Simply put, between June 1 and August 31, everyone is challenged to read at least one fiction book by an LDS writer—not necessarily “LDS books”, just one written by an LDS author—then post a review of the book on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, LDS Fiction has set up a link with Karlene Browning to provide a blog for you where you can list your reviews instead. And just to make the challenge extra-special fun, LDS Fiction is offering WEEKLY PRIZES for taking part!
One of the rules is to list the books you’re committing to read on your blog. I’ll be listing my choices later today on my JDP NEWS site, but I also want to share my commitment here. In the hopes that I can squeeze out reading a minimum of one book per month this summer, these are the titles I’ve chosen for this challenge:
The Arthurian Omen, by G. G. Vandagriff
Dante’s Daughter, by Kimberley Heuston
The Great and the Terrible: The Second Sun, by Chris Stewart (I’ve been borrowing the books from my sister, so I’m behind in the series…hopefully, I’ll catch up with the other volumes this fall, maybe sooner, depending on how fast I read this summer)
So how about the rest of you? Who else would like to go on a Summer Book Trek in 2008?
Saturday, June 7, 2008
My mother passed away this week and I just got back from her funeral yesterday. It has been a fascinating and difficult time. Since my father passed about two and a half years ago, I'm officially an orphan and that gets to me now and then. But I've got eleven other siblings, a fabulous husband, seven busy children and more on my plate than I can handle so I just need to get up to my elbows in the mess of life and much of my grief will simply drift away in the noise of my reality.
But for today, I have a breath of time and this little space to still consider all that I learned and am because of the great woman I call mother.
My mother was Jaroldeen Edwards, author of twelve books, hundreds of articles and a popular public speaker. Surprisingly, at the funeral I learned a lot of things I hadn't known before about her. Collette, her best friend growing up, said that during her high school years, there was never a wedding in Lethbridge where my mother didn't perform. She would either tell a story or do a reading and apparently they were so dramatic and touching that people were drawn to her. As all my brothers and sisters were sitting around talking about the intricate stories she would weave before us that would entertain us for hours, my sister mentioned that my mother said to her when she told a story that she always was certain of two things, where she wanted the listener to end up and how she wanted him to feel when he got there. Every element of the story was told to feed those ultimate goals.
This gem gave me pause. Not only did it make me re-evaluate my own writing and delete a few chapters and add a few others on my WIP, it has also made me look at life with my eyes open wider. Are my daily choices each based on where I want to end up and how I want to FEEL when I get there? What a great idea! Just like with my manuscript I imagine that in the next few weeks I'll probably do a little deleting of my plans and add some wonderful afternoons of family fun, a few more date nights and an extra temple trip or two.
If the good choices I make today are an obligation, my attitudes may not be much better in the here after. I've got to do better at enjoying the great things around me so when I get to the other side, it will be exactly my most joyful place.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
by Kari Diane Pike
Have you ever played, “I’m Going On a Camping Trip and I’m Going to Bring A….” Someone is chosen to go first. He/she makes up a rule about what everyone can bring on the camping trip…but doesn’t tell anyone what the rule is. The other players have to figure out the rule by saying in turn what they want to bring on the trip and finding out if the first player will let them bring it or not.
We played this game as a family while we waited by the side of the freeway, twenty miles south of Camp Verde, Arizona, for a tow truck to pick us up and transport us to the nearest car rental agency. We continued to play as we rode in our disabled vehicle high atop the tow truck, laughing at how often we were startled that Dad wasn’t watching the road. By the time we hit the road again in our newly rented mini van, the game had ended, but conversations between parents and children continued. The clouds and rain and even a bit of snow made our world seem just a little bit smaller…not in a confining way…but in a protective kind of embrace.
We easily found the turn off the highway that would lead us to Oscar and Winnie’s property near Four Hills Ranch. We were anxious to get there because we knew Oscar had a dead battery in his motor home and needed jumper cables so they could use their heater. Somewhere along the dirt roads, we missed a turn. About the time we realized our mistake, seventeen-year-old Ammon asked,
“Dad, aren’t we getting a little low on gas?”
Right at that moment the warning bell signaled. We were on empty. We were a good 20 miles from a gas station and we had no idea where we were and the cows sure weren’t telling. We had tried calling Uncle Oscar a few minutes earlier, but he hadn’t answered. Now we couldn’t even get phone service. It was time for some serious praying.
After our family prayer, we drove back to a spot where we thought we had missed a turn. Right at that moment we got phone service. This time Oscar answered his phone and we made it to the campsite safely. When we told Oscar about our predicament, he laughed and said he’d trade us the jumper cables for the can of gas he just happened to bring for a chain saw they needed to cut some dead trees. That gallon of gas got us to the nearest gas station.
After we returned home, we talked about the trip with our kids. They will never forget it. Our fifteen-year-old daughter said,
“It was so much fun. Yeah stuff happened, but nobody got upset or anything. We just prayed and did our best, and things worked out. We got to be with family and we got to see our prayers answered. It was cool.”
Next time I go on a camping trip, I'm going to bring...
Monday, June 2, 2008
Given the heap of dirty clothes in the laundry room, either the kids have been mixing their stacks of clean clothes in with the dirty ones again, or science is wrong and there is such thing as spontaneous generation. Whichever is the case, laundry makes me empathize with camels. It’s something about those ponderous, shapeless burdens strapped to their backs.
Feeling like a camel requires coping strategies.
Humor helps, so several years ago I started keeping an alphabetical list of items I’ve found clunking around the t-shirts or banked against the dryer door like driftwood. I do check obviously jingling, crinkling, or bulging pockets, but, in spite of all the stuff that has come through the wash over the years, I don’t check the rest. Call it a streak of perversity, but that would be a lot of pockets. Besides, throwing all those boys’ blue jeans in the wash adds an element of risk to life. It’s not quite like bungee jumping, but it does make the heart race a titch—and my alphabetical list is almost complete.
“C”, of course, is for crayon, the red one left in my husband’s white shirt pocket after church. It ruined almost a whole batch of whites. I definitely should have checked that pocket, but who would have thought? Funny now, but it’s taken a few years for the memory to mellow. “N” is for the handful of nails my son found at a construction site. They made such a ruckus I thought the dryer was about to self-destruct. “T” is for tissue, disintegrated into fine, clingy pieces, and I have to admit guilt myself over this one.
Even the hard letters, the ones the kids agonize over finding in the alphabet game while we’re traveling—no sweat. J is for jolly rancher, although of course the washer dissolves the candy and only the wrapper makes it to the dryer. And Q? Quarter. Piece of cake. I have to make allowances for “X” and do something cheesy like “xtra.”
I made my best dryer discovery ever just a couple of months ago—letter “R.” It’s not that I always open the door with bated breath. Usually I’m in a rush and distracted, as was the case this time. I hurried into the utility room and flung open the dryer door only to find a mob of raisins waiting to stampede. Still abnormally plump from their journey through the washer, they tumbled out with bits of the snack-sized box they started out in. True, extracting the remaining raisins and box fragments from the rest of the clothes was a pain, but imagining the raisins’ journey as they rehydrated in the washer and then desiccated in the dryer seemed wildly funny to me.
One of these days the kids will be gone and I’ll add a final entry for “Z”—zero. Zero sounds sad and final. So until then? Yeah, I can deal with it.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Although I never rabidly watched the TV show, "Seinfeld," I did catch enough bits and pieces to know what a Soup Nazi is. I guess you could call me the ARC Nazi.
What on earth is she talking about? you may ask. What's an ARC?
An ARC is an Advance Reader's Copy, a pre-release version of a forthcoming novel. These are soft-cover versions of the-book-that-will-be-out-soon. They may or may not come wrapped in final cover art, may include errata, and the text may be an iteration that precedes last-minute changes. Publishers usually send them out several months in advance of the book's release to publicize the next big thing in reading, and book reviewers are the intended recipients. More and more, though, selected general readers are getting their hands on ARCs, either through contests, or from a list of the author's fans.
By the way, it's considered very bad manners to sell an ARC on ebay or the like. If you don't want it, just give it to someone who will appreciate it.
Okay. The reason I'm the ARC Nazi is that I have a pet peeve concerning ARCs. Not the existence of them. I love getting ARCs, when I'm fortunate enough. I just hate to hear the acronym referred to as an "Advanced Reader's Copy".
What about slow readers? Don't they ever get any ARCs?