Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life Comes at You Fast!

by Kari Pike

The exercise club I patronize has computerized their workout equipment. I carry a little tag that contains a computer chip holding all my personal workout information. As I use the machines, the computer keeps track of my range of motion, strength, and calories burned. It can even tell me the percentage of energy each of my muscle groups contributes to my workout. Little green or yellow lights flash at me to let me know if the intensity of my efforts is meeting the goal that will improve my fitness. When I earn a green light for so many workouts in a row, the computer raises my fitness level and as a result, the intensity of the workout needed to get another green light.

The thought occurred to me that life is a lot like that. Just as soon as we think we have our challenges figured out, new ones pop up. Sometimes, though, new challenges confront us before we resolve the previous ones. I often feel as though I am in the middle of one of those “Life Comes at You Fast” commercials. Take July 3rd for instance:

Doug (hubby) got up at 3:30 because he had drawings to finish for a work deadline. About 7:30 am, my brother came to drop off his children for the day. Terry did not look well at all, but he said he was okay. A few hours later, my friend Pamela called. In between sobs, she told me her doctor was sending her to St. Joseph’s hospital to meet with an oncologist. Instead of being pregnant, he thinks she has cancer. I offered to keep her children so her husband could go with her. A couple of hours later, my friend Kelly called. Her daughter’s best friend had just committed suicide. Kelly needed a listening ear and a sounding board to calm herself and to know how to help her daughter. Another hour, another phone call. Debbie’s car broke down and she needed a tow. Could Doug help? The phone rang again. My neighbor Dot was in distress. She missed the last step on her way down her stairs, fell hard on her back and could not get up. I have a key to her house and was able to run over and help her. As soon as I returned home, the phone rang again. Vicky wanted to know if I could keep the kids longer because she had to take Terry to the hospital. Another minute, another phone call…Good news! Pamela does not have cancer! She came to pick up her children and we all had a spaghetti dinner together and shared hugs and tears of relief. Vicky called back. Could I please keep the children over night. Terry was being admitted to the hospital. Then Mom called. She had thrush. Yuck! She felt miserable.

After dinner, Doug left with one of our sons to tow Debbie’s car home. Yep. The phone rang again. It was Mom Pike. Dad Pike laid down on the bed a couple of days ago and refuses to get up. Mom just wanted to talk and let us know how things are going. We are not ready for the end, yet at the same time we have been expecting it. After that last call, I announced to the family, “Nobody move! As soon as Dad and Jared get home, we’re having family prayer and going to bed!”

About 10:00pm, our guys returned safely. We had prayers and Doug went right to bed. That’s when Jared turned to me and said, “Mom, we need to get Dad a new tow rope for his birthday. The old one broke while we were towing Debbie’s car tonight.” I had to laugh. I think the adrenaline wore off about 2:00am and I finally fell asleep.

The next 72 hours included attending a labor and delivery, unexpected company from Texas, and the sewing of 2 more sets of pioneer skirts and aprons and bloomers. Another 24 hours saw us loading up the buses and heading our for our first youth trek experience as a Ma and Pa.

The trek was a new challenge in and of itself. I was a little concerned how my grandma-age body would hold up to the rigors of hiking 17 miles in 3 days and sleeping on the hard, rocky ground with nothing but a sleeping bag and a tarp. (Sleeping bags trigger claustrophobia.) I knew I would see growth in the youth. I didn’t expect the growth that came to me. I will end this long missive with an entry from my journal about the trek.

“Somewhere along the second mile (on the second day), we were met by a group of men dressed in Cavalry uniforms. They said they represented the President of the United States and they read a petition calling for our men to serve in the Mormon Battalion. Since the Forest Service wouldn’t let us use a different road or trail, the men, young and old, had to walk beside the handcarts and pretend they weren’t there. We women had to pull the handcarts as if we were all alone. We couldn’t speak to the men, or they to us. I gathered the young women in our family and we had a prayer together asking for strength and endurance and safety.

Shortly after we began pulling the handcart, the road turned very rocky and became a rather steep hill. The five young women pulled the cart from the front and I pushed from the rear. I carried “Charlie” and one of the Stake leaders told me I could hand the sand baby off to Douglas if the going got too hard. I think we pulled the handcart a total of nearly two miles. Whenever the road leveled out, many of the young women would go back and try to help the other carts in our Company. My bonnet acted as blinders, limiting my peripheral vision severely. Being at the back of the handcart, I had to look down at the road to keep from tripping over rocks and debris. I couldn’t see over or around the cart to know what lie ahead. Just when we would reach a particularly difficult spot, when we would stumble and get stuck and think we would never make it, I would see a pair of feet appear next to mine and two hands grab the back of the cart and start pushing with me. When the way became easier, our “angels” would disappear. I remembered the stories I read about the presence of angels when the real Handcart Pioneers crossed the plains. I cried the whole last half mile of the pull. I cried for the hardships my ancestors experienced so that I could enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel. I cried for the joy I felt at knowing the Lord gives us strength and sends others to strengthen us. I cried because I did something I never knew I could do. I cried because I saw those young men stress about not being able to help—and then run out in front and move rocks out of the road so that our way would be easier. I cried because I could see the great power that is available to all of us as God’s children. He did not put us here to fail. He sent each of us to the time and place he needs us most. He wants us to succeed and has given us all the tools we need to prove ourselves worthy to return to His presence.”

On the bus ride home, we received news that Dad Pike passed away. I'm glad he finally got all his green lights and moved up to the next level!



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More inspiration

by Anna Arnett


I'm attending a reunion in Minneapolis of the 492nd Bomb Group--the one my husband flew with in 1944. I debated about going this year, but I'm glad I went. I roomed with Shay, a daughter of my husband's co-pilot, from Georgia, yet it did not seem like the meeting of east and west--or even southeast with southwest. It was more like rooming with a daughter. We talked into the wee hours at least once. The food was good, and the entertainment excellent.

One guest speaker, Betty Wall, is five years my senior, and so vibrantly alive I decided to change my ways. A tiny women in an Air-Force-blue uniform ablaze with ribbons, she exhibited the wit and fluency of middle age, and the energy of a teen. She learned to fly fresh out of high school, and when war broke out, became a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. They ferried Army Air Force planes of all sizes and makes to wherever they were needed, even overseas. I doubt she has ever slowed down. At age 71 she flew an F-16, and a B-17 when she was 82. Naturally, I bought the book her son helped her write.

Another night, three professional story tellers presented a gripping tale quoting excerpts from the letters of Ruth Register and the diary of her mother. When Ruth was widowed at age 26, she joined the Red Cross and served in England and France. She's now 91, white-haired, short and thin, but amazingly active. Her daughter, who compiled and edited her book, "My War", came with her and watched over her like my kids watch over me, now.

These two women thrilled and inspired me into re-resolving to get my own experiences written, edited, and published. Yet with 656 email messages to sort, stash, or delete, including 139 still unread after spending an hour on them, I wonder if I'll ever have time to actually write.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer Writing

By Betsy Love

Can summer be almost over already? It flew by way too fast for me—how about you? Mostly I’ve sat at my computer and worked on my novel. It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of fun, too. Mostly what I have done is clean up—you know getting rid of tag lines, varying my sentence structures, using lots of m-dashes (—) and the worst part, finding all the plot holes and asking myself, would Margaret let me get away with this. (A line from the retreat.)

My favorite part of the whole process is that my dear, dear friend Theresa and I took turns at each other’s houses with our laptops side by side as we read each other our books, each taking a turn to read a chapter. (By the way, her story is delightful.) It’s amazing how many of those adverbs creep up on us without even realizing we’re using them. I want to keep up the tradition of critiquing like this, but alas, summer is almost over.

I’m working hard to complete my manuscript and then send it out to readers, people who will not oooh, and ahhh over it, but critiquers who will say, “Is this right?” or “What just happened here?” Then when I send my it in, I want the publisher to be so thrilled with it that they oooh, and ahhh over it and send me an acceptance letter.

The last time I sent my baby to be admired, the editor sent back a lovely rejection letter. “Fix the plausibility issues.” So with that in mind, I’ve gone back through it and looked for anything that might not be believable. Keep your fingers crossed, and say a little prayer for me. My summer is almost over, and soon it will be time to go back to work teaching 9th graders the importance of the English language, and I still have so much left to do on my book.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ignition Rituals

by Rene Allen

A few years ago when my boys were in high school, they drove a ’76 Land Cruiser that wouldn’t start on cold mornings or after it had been driven and the engine was hot. These idiosyncrasies became the necessity that was the mother of invention.

One ploy was to take the air filter off, spray the carburetor with ether and crank the ignition. It was inconvenient to raise the hood and pull the air filter off, but usually, after a puff or two of ether, the engine would fire up and the boys were on their way.

Another was to park on a hill and use the clutch and momentum to turn the engine. Since our house is on a cul-de-sac at the low end of a very shallow depression, the boys parked the Cruiser at the top of the driveway. This meant they had to walk almost out to the road to start the car.

It was funny to watch. Since they had taken the doors off the Land Cruiser, I watched them climb in, turn on the ignition and release the brake. Gradually, the car rolled down the driveway and gained momentum. Predictably, just as it made the turn, whichever son was driving popped the clutch and with a couple of sputters, the Land Cruiser started so that with a characteristic roar and spray of gravel they were off.

Now, it occurs to me this Monday morning as I’m getting ready to dive into the day, that writing a memoir has some of the same problems as starting that old Land Cruiser and if I could locate a figurative hill to park on when I stop writing at night, I would.

For me, the problem is finding the thread of thought I had and continuing as if I had never stopped. I’ve tried Stick-It notes on the window sill. Next to my laptop, I have a yellow legal pad filled with ideas, phone messages, and whatever else needed to be written including notes about whatever project I’m working on, but, no matter how hard I search, I can’t find the story line. Obviously, these methods don’t work.

But perhaps I have finally found something that does. A couple of years ago at an ANWA chapter meeting, one of the women made a presentation on a writer’s journal. “Keep it where you write,” she said. “It’s for your writing.”

Well, it’s been a two-year evolution, but I think this system gets my engine started. In fact, this journal has become a lifeline to my brain. I start each day’s entry with the File name I am working on, what my intentions are and the date. At the end of my writing session, I summarize what I wrote about and add a paragraph about the ideas I have for continuing. I make this part as detailed as possible.

The untitled spiral bound notebook book with a magnetic fastener is for me like a whiff of ether is for a carburetor. No question, it makes it easier to start.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Heads up on a new e-mail scam

by Marsha Ward

I had a very insightful post ready for yesterday (yes, I'm writing this on Monday, but it will appear as a Sunday post), but with one thing and another, it didn't get posted, and went right out of my head as I slept. However, I think this warning from Data Doctors is timely:

Very few e-mail scams get past the seasoned user, but I almost fell for a very cleverly crafted message that came in this week. Tis the season to be flying, so anything that looks like an airline confirmation gets my attention (especially since others can book a flight for me on occasion). Here is what came in that almost fooled me enough to almost get me to open the attachment:

Thank you for using our new service "Buy airplane ticket Online" on our website.
Your account has been created:

Your login: Custfeedback
Your password: passNUX8

Your credit card has been charged for $406.44.
We would like to remind you that whenever you order tickets on our website you get a discount of 10%!
Attached to this message is the purchase Invoice and the flight ticket.To use your ticket, simply print it on a color printer, and you are set to take off for the journey!

Kind regards,
Ted Hensley
Frontier Airlines

======================================================


The attachment was listed as: E-ticket_N7399294.zip

Because I don't often fly on Frontier and wasn't familiar with their e-ticket process (and wasn't paying attention), I opened the zip file which had the following file in the extraction list:

E-ticket_N7399294_and_Invoice_for_N73992943442.exe

Nothing that anyone sends you should ever be an "exe" file as they are executable files (a program that will run some form of code, in this case, malicious).

This was one of the more clever attempts at infecting through e-mail that I have seen in a while and wanted to make sure everyone keeps their "eye of suspicion" out during the summer flying season!




Saturday, July 26, 2008

Happy Birthday thoughts

by Margaret Turley

I turned 53 yesterday. I got a call from my nieces and nephews all wishing me a happy birthday. One nephew shares my birthday – he turned 14 and will be ordained a teacher on Sunday. Next I was called by my mother. We had a pleasant conversation and planned for when she will return to the valley next week. Then my sister called and wished me the same. My daughter started my day off by having a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the table and a cute card. She cooked me a prime rib roast supper. She has promised me a day next week where I had to block out my whole day for her to “surprise” me. I’m looking forward to it. My co-workers and supervisor e-mailed birthday greetings to me. I spoke with my son, Kevin, the day before. All in all it was a good day – and not nearly as traumatic as when I turned 40 and knew I’d gone over the hill, was now too old to ever be young again.

Looking back on what I accomplished this past year makes me feel very grateful. Next month I’ll be back to work, full time for two years after having been off work for two years for medical reasons. That is a great accomplishment – to have a job I love and the health to do it with.
I’ve completed two writing classes since January and am signed up for another starting August 6th. Though I didn’t get any contracts for publication this year, I submitted to several publishers and agents. Three different short stories were submitted to contests. I wrote poems and lyrics for different holidays at work and received notes of thanks. I finally feel like the writing juices are flowing again.

Two trips to Illinois this spring filled in my schedule beautifully. I’m so happy to be a grandma and proud of my granddaughters. It was wonderful to be present for the birth of the third one in March. Nothing feels as good as hugging your grandchild. It also did my heart a great favor to see my son sing and read to his daughters along with his lovely wife Laura. I was so proud of him when he graduated with his Master’s in May. These are not my personal accomplishments – but very special moments I got to share.

My mother came down to Mesa to serve a family history mission. It’s been great to be able to visit with her a couple times a week and share in her excitement as she helps others and continues to have amazing success with her genealogy.

I have attended two writer’s conferences and once again was able to go to the ANWA retreat, after missing that for a few years due to health. It was so nice to share that couple of days with so many sisters that have similar goals. It was great to visit with old friends and make new ones. Now I feel like I’ll be able to recognize who the person is I’m reading submissions for on the critique line. Yeah!

Thanks to all of you for your support. I hope we have another great year together.

Friday, July 25, 2008

LDS Fiction: Please Define

By Rebecca Talley

As of late, we've been having quite a discussion about how to define LDS fiction. You can read the discussion here.

Since I like to write for children, I read a lot of children's literature. Well, maybe I should say I start a lot of children's books. I've been surprised at the themes and the language included in books for kids as young as 9 years old. It isn't at all unrealistic to find the Lord's name used as an exclamation in many of these books. Though I hate to ever throw books away, I have found some books so offensive, I've tossed them in the trash. And, these books have come highly recommended.

I've gone the rounds with English teachers at our high school about books. My son was required to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for his English class. He attempted to read it, but finally came to me and said, "Mom, this book has the worst language. I'm trying to get ready for my mission and I can't do it with these words in my head all the time from this book." My daughter decided to take a lower grade in her English class because she just couldn't read an assigned book because of its content. This same daughter was enrolled in honors English this summer. She started Catcher in the Rye, a book recognized as classic literature, and after trying to read it for a few days decided to disenroll from her honors class so she didn't have to argue with her teacher about this book. I've been very disappointed in our English program at our high school for recommending some books and then hassling students who refuse to read them.

Because of these, and other, experiences, I've turned mainly to LDS fiction, or fiction written by LDS authors that I trust will not have any inappropriate material. I feel like there's enough evil in the world assaulting me and trying to vie for my attention, I don't need to purposely go out and fill my mind with it.

So I find this discussion on LDS fiction interesting. I guess what I find interesting, or disappointing, is that some would like to label books LDS fiction that clearly do not fit in that genre. I have certain expectations when I pick up a book advertised as LDS fiction. I want to feel comfortable telling my children to read LDS fiction. I want it to support the gospel. I don't want to begin reading a novel and then find out it twists gospel principles.

Yes, everyone has the right to write whatever they want. I will certainly not dictate to anyone how or what to write, but don't advertise it as something it isn't.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Pioneer in You

by Stephanie Abney

Bet you can guess what my topic is today. Actually, there is something inherently wrong in my mind to write about anything else on Pioneer Day. I’m a life-long member of the church and come from what is fondly referred to as “pioneer stock.” All eight of my great-grandparents walked across the plains to get to the Salt Lake Valley. Most of them did so in their youth so my great-great grandparents also crossed the plains with them. Even my grandfather walked across as a child. (He was an older gentleman when he married my grandmother, both of them widowed and then they had 3 more children, including my mother, in case you were wondering how I could possibly have a grandfather that was a pioneer). In fact, I remember being told the story of when he was sick and his mother told him to get into the wagon and he refused. He said he wanted to be able to tell his children and grandchildren that he walked every step of the way. Three of my great-grandparents (and the grandfather mentioned above) were born in Europe so you can add that long sea-voyage into the mix as well. It is thrilling and amazing how the love of the gospel and a desire to conquer new territory can sustain someone through the most difficult of experiences.

I’m actually half Danish and half English. My maternal grandfather was English and my maternal grandmother was Danish, while my fraternal grandfather was Danish and my fraternal grandmother was English; making each of my parents “half and half” and when you add up all the fourths (one from each grandparent), my sister and I still come out “half and half.” Sounds kind of like cream. Well, that’s a good analogy because cream rises to the top!

The human spirit fascinates me and I marvel at what drives people to accomplish such remarkable tasks. Today marks the anniversary of the arrival of a weary group of Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. President Young told the saints that it was enough, saying, “This is the place.” For 20 more years another 70,000 Mormons traveled by wagons and handcarts to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. After the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, overland wagon travel declined and emigrants began arriving by rail. In the end, it didn’t matter how they came, only that they arrived.

Thus it is with each of us. It doesn’t matter what struggles we have to face to get where we are going; it only matters that we get there. The obstacles along the way shape us; they reveal our true character and prepare us for eternal life with our Heavenly Father and our loved ones. By its very definition every one of us is a pioneer: to be the first to prepare the way, to take part in the beginning of something, to initiate, to lead the way… so, to this I say, “Go forth and be bold!” Happy Pioneer Day, all you wonderful pioneers!!

Being the research queen that I am, I’ll leave you a couple of great links to help you celebrate:

Special treat ~ Pioneer Coloring Book: The Prayer Quilt ~ here is a pdf file of a coloring book about the pioneers that you can download and print off for any little ones in your family:
http://lds.about.com/od/visualmusicalaids/a/pionneer_book.htm

Excellent site for tracing your Mormon Pioneer ancestry from Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, and South Africa to Salt Lake City, Utah: http://www.xmission.com/~nelsonb/pioneer.htm

Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing “Come, Come Ye Saints”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_9_uQiMmyQ

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Struggling with Stretching

by Terri Wagner

I write for fun as well as for profit. In one capacity, I write for a trade publication/reporter; at home, I write stories about lives I might have lived (cop, spy, trust fund brat, etc.) with an LDS sister I've known for 30 years (hard as that is to believe).

We keep getting stuck. For a few years, we had fun with our characters, threw in silly cop/investigator type plots, romance when it was deemed appropriate and ended the story when the "mystery" was solved. We printed them out, added photos from the Internet for visual appeal, bound them and re read them now and again.

We also wrote short stories for various contests, winning some, losing most, trying out different things. We created a bunch of characters we've fallen in love with and intend to use in a "real" novel "some day." (We all know about some days don't we?)

But lately, my fellow fun writer has turned serious in what is supposed to be fun. Suddenly, she wants more realistic plots, more complications, more "real" romance (as in they argue, gripe and sometimes not even like each other). I myself am not really happy with this turn of events, but let's face it, the old stuff was getting just that old.

Here's the problem: I think we're getting too complicated. We find ourselves in plots that we can't solve ourselves. I'm always wanting the bad guy to confess so we can move on to the next cute scene while she's always telling me, that's too easy. We argue more than we write.

It's not fun anymore. But oddly my writing skills are improving, my creativity is being stretched and the characters are more real. I know in my head you have to stretch as an author. Write in a different genre just to refresh the basics. But stubbornly I don't like it even though it's working.

So let's not tell her she's right for pushing for more; let's just let me grumble here and re read the old silly stuff for fun alone at night under the covers with the flashlight, oh and the obligatory stash of peanut M&Ms.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reflections on This Year’s ANWA Retreat

by Joyce DiPastena

It’s just over a year ago, now, that I started blogging on ANWA Founder & Friends. And it was not long after that, that someone posted the most beautiful description of last year’s ANWA Retreat. (Forgive me for not remembering the author, but I was very new and Marsha was the only person on the roster that I knew at the time.) I had read about the retreat for several previous years in the ANWA newsletter. Being a “regional” member (i.e., not belonging to a chapter) and also being very shy, I had always struck the retreat off my list of “things to do” the moment the subject came up in the newsletter. But somehow, when I read a recounting of retreat events on this blog last year, I felt an odd pull in my heart. It sounded so fun, so uplifting, so peaceful, so friendly—actually, all those words feel completely inadequate to express my reaction, though each of them is certainly true. All I know is that for the first time since joining ANWA, I found myself thinking, “That sounds like such a beautiful experience! I wonder if I could really screw up my courage to attend next year’s retreat?”

This year rolled around, and I had discovered many new friends on the ANWA Critique and Social lines. I’d even met a few of them at the writers conference in March. People actually started inviting me to attend this year’s retreat. Part of me longed to go, while another part of me—that shy, “what will I say to these people when I meet them face to face, or will I have the courage to say anything at all?” part of me—continued to hang back. I hemmed and hawed every time someone (via email) asked me, “Are you coming?” I made lame excuses. (“I don’t know if I can find someone to feed my cats while I’m gone!”) I plead wariness at driving up to unfamiliar Pinetop and trying to find the unfamiliar cabin by myself. Then dear Tina Scott from Thatcher emailed me and offered to meet me in Globe and let me ride with her.

I had been praying about making a decision about the retreat, and when I received Tina’s email, I finally took that as a signal that the Lord actually wanted me to attend. And so, with Tina’s help, I did!

I’m going to leave it to someone more eloquent than I to blog in detail about the retreat events. (Hint hint to some upcoming blogger on this list!) But I will say that I could not have had a better experience! The sisters welcomed me immediately, invited me to sit with them at meals, asked me about my writing and shared with me their projects. There was much laughter and beautiful music, wonderful meals and shared prayers, peace to write when desired and supportive sociality when needed. And never once a harsh, sarcastic, jealous, unkind word from or to anyone. Names on an email list became “real people” and dear, dear friends. (Oh, yes, and the workshops were incredible, too!)

For someone who feels very alone with her writing most of the year, the blessing this year’s ANWA Retreat was to me is beyond my capability to express. (A pretty sorry thing to say for a writer, but sometimes the feelings of the heart are just too tender and grateful for words.)

My only regret was the absence of so many of you that I have met online who were not able to join us, for whatever reasons. I know from the ANWA lists what wonderful women you all are, and there are so many of you that I long to meet in a deeper setting than the quick “Hi’s!” that is all there is often time for at the ANWA Writers Conferences.

Thank you to all who welcomed me so warmly! And for those who weren’t there this time, I pray I will be able to be one of those who welcomes you warmly at an ANWA Retreat in the future!

Note: I found the blog that so inspired me last year. It was written by Liz Adair, End of the Tour. Thank you, Liz! If not for you, I might not have had any snapshots of my own to carry in my heart today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dahlias

By Terry Deighton, Guest Blogger

Liz asked me to take her place on the blog today. She’s out there enjoying the summer.

My son is getting married in August. That’s incidental to my tale except that the colors for the reception are dark red and black. I thought it would be nice to have my mother-in-law put her green thumb to use growing the flowers for the centerpieces. I bought some run of the mill dark red dahlia tubers at Fred Meyer and some more exotic almost black ones from a dahlia farm, delivered them to her at the appropriate time, and she did the rest.

One of the black tubers rotted in the ground due to the excessive rainfall this spring. Oh, well, I wanted more red than black anyway. As the summer has progressed, the plants have grown, but they are not as large or as close to blooming as the dahlias in my yard or the ones my mother-in-law has had for years. She expressed her concern. I told her I wasn’t worried. There’s still a month to go. Plants can do amazing things in a month. I bought small vases, so we don’t need a lot of flowers. It’ll be fine.

Then I started to wonder what I would do if there weren’t enough flowers. There are lots of possibilities. I can buy some at the dahlia farm, but it is over an hour’s drive away. Costco has some lovely dark red roses that would be nice. My bright red dahlias are doing well and starting to bud up. No one else is going to care if the color isn’t perfect. There are a lot of options. There’s no need to panic.

Our writing is kind of like these dahlias. Some pieces of writing rot in the ground before they ever take form. We move on and forget them. Other stories start out slowly, and we wonder, some times for years, if they are ever going to blossom. Other writing endeavors shoot right up, grow tall and straight, and blossom beautifully for all to see. The thing is, the stories that we struggle with are the ones we love the most. They are usually the ones others appreciate the most also. The exotic tubers are harder to grow, but the flowers are unusual and interesting. The writing that is the most work is usually that which is also more interesting, more enlightening. If we never try new and different types of writing, we may miss some very rewarding experiences.

The moral of the story is to let your writing develop at its own pace. If you are having trouble with it, fertilize your mind with reading and research if necessary, but don’t try to make it happen. When it’s time, the story will blossom, and it will be more beautiful than if you had forced it. Forced flowers can be beautiful, but they are before their time and short lived. Wait on the real thing. It will be worth it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's A Crazy Day and a Full Life

By Christine Thackeray

I'm panting and sweating and running around like a crazy lady but I have to blog. It's my turn and I missed last time because I was at a family reunion. So today I helped put on a wedding shower this morning, getting to the church at 7:45 am and cooking for two hours about five incredible recipes that I never would have made for my own family but must have come right off a show with Martha Stewart.

With the napkins folded and the garnishes shining, the women arrived and we welcomed and laughed and ate and gave advice and ate some more. It was great. When it was over, my friend had to rush out because she had a friend that was having a baby so I was stuck cleaning up more than I thought. You should have seen me rushing around trying to get out of there so I could be home for my nine year old's birthday.

I walked in as everybody was getting antsy. My eleven year old daughter grabbed the presents and we ran in the back room and wrapped them with Christmas paper because it was the only wrapping paper we could find. Then we started loading kids in the car when I suddenly remembered it was my turn to blog so here I am tapping like crazy on the computer, making everyone frustrated.

Tonight I leave the party early to go on a Relief Society retreat with the women in my new ward that I don't really know at all. AHHH! Too much of a good thing but so much better than not enough. Don't you think?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Birthday Season

By Kristine John

We have 5 of our 7 children's birthdays between the end of June and the middle of August.
It is definitely a birthday season for us.

Today is my oldest daughter's birthday.
She's growing into a beautiful young woman, way too fast.
She'll enter middle school this year, and for some reason, I feel older and more concerned with her going this year than I did two years ago when my oldest entered middle school.

It is a joy to celebrate her, in a way that is focused and fun.
She'll have her first "friend" party this evening, and we are in the throes of preparation for that.
I'm excited to see her be the center of attention.
In a large family, that opportunity only comes along once in a while.
She definitely deserves the spotlight.

Forgive me while I run...
Today I've got to put my mom hat on first.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Missing in Action

Our posts have been a bit sparse this week, but that's because Betsy and Anna were at the ANWA writer's retreat. When they post, they can (or I will) pre-date their posts to fall on their usual days.

Unfortunately, Kari Pike had a death in the family, and that's why you didn't see a post from her on Thursday. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

~Marsha

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

JUST LISTEN

by Anna Arnett

I returned from this year’s ANWA retreat with my battery recharged, my ambition ignited, my determination renewed, and my body invigorated. Then my age, indolence, and the need to sit and ponder took over. That, and a multitude of busy work—things like finishing a crocheted item for a baby shower, attending a wedding reception, having the air conditioning go out on my car and ending up buying a new one, finishing a writing class, having a great grandson baptized, substituting for the Primary chorister, having a physical checkup, returning books to the library, reading and disposing of a pile of postal enticements and attending to a couple hundred emails—you know, the ordinary events of living in today’s fast-paced world—all take over and resolutions seem to get lost in the shuffle. Lost? No, merely waiting for time to be allotted.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the joys I feel because of my membership in ANWA. The fun activities, the challenges, the acceptance, the encouragement, the willing help, and the shared faith, both in God and in each other—all these and more have enriched my life and challenged my talents. I thank you from the depths of my heart and soul.

This morning I found the following as I browsed through my computer files, and thought it would be nice to share. Not that any of us need the advice, but that this is a good principle to remember. It might help us be better parents, better friends, and perhaps even be a come-back when the men in our lives seem to think that any time we address less than upbeat thoughts, we are asking them to fix whatever is bothering us. I don’t know who wrote it, but the following must have been conceived by a woman – perhaps old and wise or, even more probably, a teenager.

LISTEN


When I ask you to listen to me
And you start giving me advice,
You have not done what I asked.

When I ask that you listen to me,
And you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way,
You are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me,
And you feel you have to do something to solve my problems,
You have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen: All that I ask is that you listen,
Not talk or do--just hear me.

When you do something for me
That I need to do for myself,
You contribute to my fear and feelings of inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact
That I do feel how I feel, no matter how irrational,
Then I can quit trying to convince you
And go about the business
Of understanding what's behind my feelings.

So, please listen and just hear me
And if you want to talk,
Wait a minute for your turn--and I'll listen to you.

Author Unknown
Ann Landers' Column
Mesa Tribune, September (sorry, I left out the year)

Oh, if you read this, please say so. I'm so late I suspect nobody will look this far back. All you need to say is, "I'm listening."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Tender Mercy

by Rene Allen


Today’s blog is going to be very short. It’s 9:30 pm. The day has been eventful.

This morning I had one of my grandchildren while his mother took his older brother and sister to their swim meet. Perhaps you recall swim meets, the hours of waiting for the seconds your children are in the water. Hyrum is 3 and would like to compete as well only he can’t swim yet. So he had Grandma time this morning.

As we were getting ready to deliver him to his mother because I had another appointment, she called. Can you watch him longer, she wanted to know? Her husband, my son, had been in an accident on his way to work.

Of course, I’ll watch him, I said. Call me when you know something. I went to my appointment then drove to the hospital.

It could have been worse. He blacked out, reason unknown at this point, crossed into on-coming traffic and went up an embankment. The car flipped to its side but didn’t roll. It crashed back to all four wheels. At least this is what observers say. My son can only remember pieces of it.

He is okay. No one else was hit or injured. This wasn’t a little tender mercy. It was huge.

Tonight, he’s in the hospital but only for observation. My husband and I just said our prayers together and expressed our gratitude for the blessings of this day.

It’s where I want to stop, now, being grateful. Everything could have been so much worse.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Season of Sacrifice

by Marsha Ward

One of the books I've read this summer is titled Season of Sacrifice, a historical novel by Tristi Pinkston. It's a fictionalized biographical account of her ancestor, Ben Perkins, whose skills and imagination provided the way for the Saints going to the San Juan in Southeastern Utah to get through the Hole in the Rock.

The book began in Wales, where Ben was put to work in the coal mines at a tender age, learning how to use blasting powder to blow coal loose for carting out of the mine. After he joined the LDS Church, he was presented with the opportunity to go to America to Zion--the Great Salt Lake Valley. He left behind a budding relationship with Mary Ann Williams, but before he left, he received her promise to come to America later with his family.

The novel continues with Ben and Mary Ann's marriage when she arrives in Utah, their settling in Cedar City, and then their call to go on the San Juan mission. An expected six-week trip turned into a horrendous journey of six month's duration. The Saints battled the elements and the terrain, building roads and scaling mountains, always facing seemingly unsurmountable odds in achieving their goal to take their wagons and their families to a new place for a new life.

The final section deals with the difficulties wrought on the family by polygamy, when Ben proposes to Mary Ann's younger sister, Sarah. As Mary Ann put it, "I had prepared myself for a stranger, for a woman I hardly knew. You would build her a house far away from mine, and I could pretend the whole thing didn't exist. I could do that, Ben. I could love you and care for you and pretend that there wasn't some other woman out there, also loving you and caring for you . . . You've taken that blissful ignorance away from me."

Once the author realized that the characters (her ancestors) weren't converted to polygamy, but to obeying God, and believing in His promise that all would be made right someday, she was able to tell the story of how they came to the same conclusions.

The book contains over 300 pages of text, including notes. Frankly, given my eye problems in the past, I wondered how long it would take me to read the novel. Once I began, I flew through it, even staying up far too late at night to finish. It's a satisfying read, one I recommend.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Speak Kind Words

Verse 1

Let us oft speak kind words to each other.
If we’re in the mood or we’re not.
When our words are given without thought
Retrieval may never be bought.
Hate words, idle gossip and slander
Will shame and drive us apart.
They’ll sadden the heart that’s repining,
Kill courage, all hope and our love.

Verse 2

Spiteful words, quick retorts, snide remarks
Come quickly and wound instantly
They are words no one wants to hear.
They gash just like rocks or a spear,
They hurt the receiver, you and me;
At home or where ever we may be.
Till hearts break and minds close to view
A friendship we’ll never renew.

Chorus

Oh the service we give will be kind words and live
Forever in everyone’s heart.
Let us oft speak kind words to each other;
Never let hurt our lips depart.

(Adaptation from LDS Hymnal #232 by Margaret Larsen Turley 7/12/08)

Recently at work, church and home I’ve had occasion to reflect on what the effect of my spoken and written words has been, whether given in person, via phone, through e-mail or other means. At times I have a sharp tongue that lashes out in anger, self-defense, and protection of loved ones or sometimes plain selfishness. Later when the simmering pot is on the back burner I often wish I could undo, un-say, un-send what I said even though it may have been justified in my mind at the time, or I may have been correct. When given time to think about the situation I can come up with a softer way to approach, kinder words to correct, or a better method to teach. Then I regret that I can’t erase the damage done, there is no way to retrieve the impression on vulnerable minds and hearts, and sometimes irreparable damage is done.
So, I hope in the future to count to ten before speaking, delay sending an e-mail until I can objectively review the intent and the effect it may have, and remember that I am speaking or writing to a child of God. So even if I am hurt by what someone else says or does, rather than react I hope to act as Christ our Exemplar would. I also ask forgiveness from any whom I may have offended recently or in the past.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Power of One

By Rebecca Talley

I’ve been thinking about the power of one lately. We are all aware of the One who sacrificed his life and took upon him our sins through the atonement (which has one contained within the word). The Savior had the power to save his life, but he chose to lay it down for each of us. The Savior is the one who provides the way for each of us to gain exaltation. It is only through his name that we can be saved. He is the one shepherd and we must come unto his fold.

We read in the scriptures how the Father and the Son are one. Some misinterpret this to mean that they are the same person, but we understand this to mean that they are one in purpose, they are unified. We are counseled to be one with our spouse. Our families should be one. Our organizations within the church should also be one. When we have the same purpose, the same goal, the same vision we can be one.

In Doctrine and Covenants 18:15 we read, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” How great will be our joy in bringing one soul back to God. Of course, when we bring more than one soul our joy is multiplied, but even bringing one soul will make a difference. As teachers and leaders we are counseled that even if our words only touch one person in our class or organization, it will be worth the sacrifice to reach that one person. If a lesson or a talk or a testimony can make a difference in just one life, how great will be our joy.

In these latter days, we can see the power of one in Joseph Smith. Through his unyielding testimony and faithfulness, he restored the gospel to us. He was only one young boy who has since changed the lives of so many. The world saw him as an insignificant teenager, but we see him as one who’s changed the world. He could easily have been overwhelmed by his calling and believed that he, as just one person, couldn’t make such a difference, but he did. One young boy made a difference.

Rosa Parks stood, or sat, alone and with courage and determination, she made a difference.

What can we learn from these examples? There is power in one.

We often hear that one person cannot do much or make a difference, but I believe we can. Each one of us can have an impact on those around us. Each time we pick up a pen or sit at our keyboards we are using the power of one. Every time we compose an article or create a story we are using the power of one. Though we may never know the effect our words might have on another, we have the power to change lives because our words may be the healing balm that comforts, teaches, or helps someone else. If only one life is touched by something we’ve written, it is worth the sacrifice to create it.

There is power in one.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Feedback

by Stephanie Abney

We had a wonderful ANWA chapter meeting at my home last night and it got me thinking about “feedback.” Are giving critiques and giving feedback the same thing? Maybe, but today I’m liking the sound of “feedback” better so that’s what I’m going with.

However, I didn’t like the definitions of “feedback” I found in the dictionary so I’m going to make up my own. The word “feed” means “to nourish” and “back” would be “giving back.” So, the way I see it, when we give feedback to each other as writers, we are offering something to nourish, to help our manuscripts grow and to give back to each other as a thank-you for what has been given to us.

As I said in my first post ever to this blog, I’m kind of a word-nerd ~ love ‘em, love ‘em and I'm always looking up definitions of words. I REALLY loved the definitions I found for “nourish,” all three of these are awesome: 1. to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth. 2. to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc. 3. to strengthen, build up, or promote. And that’s exactly what our feedback can do for each other.

Writing is not for the faint of heart or those easily discouraged because by its very nature, it requires criticism. So WHY do it? I think we all write because we can’t NOT write. There is something so internal, so personal, even spiritual, regardless of our genre, which continually begs to be set free that we can’t help but write. And once we do, we become vulnerable. Yet we do it anyway. So, let’s strive to sustain each other, supply what is necessary for growth, to cherish, foster, and help keep alive each other’s dreams.

What we all should remember is that sometimes, just like an overgrown tree, the most caring thing that we can do is to prune, shape and trim down our work. The most important thing about sharing feedback is that it is useful, sensitive and only the type of feedback the writer has asked for. Sometimes, we just want to share and don’t want anyone pointing anything out. That’s okay, but it’s the writer’s job to let the rest of us know that when something is presented in a group or online. If we are clear about how much and what kind of feedback we are looking for and if those giving the feedback stay within those parameters, we have a win-win situation.

Feedback is a very valuable tool. We learn to be better writers by writing more, but evaluation along the path is crucial. When feedback is accepted in the spirit in which it was given, we can make changes that will improve our finished work. By following this process over and over, it finally evolves into that precious written word that could change someone’s life, lighten their load, give them hope, cause them to reflect or maybe give them a much needed belly-laugh.

So, sisters, go forth and do what LDS women do best … feed something!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Beach Bouncing

by Faith St. Clair


I have nothing fancy to focus on today other than our 4th of July expedition. I might call the 4th “fun”, but not fancy. It was also retrospective and cold – imagine that in July!

At the last minute, we discovered that our daughter had off from work, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so we headed to the beach in Playa del Rey, CA! We got in late Thursday night after everyone had gotten off of work and stayed at our friends’ condo right on the beach. It was fun to be all snuggled in a little apartment on couches and a blow-up mattress, listening to the outside clamor of early 4th of July preparations as the sun rose on Friday morning. We didn’t have any central air, so open windows with the smell of the Pacific Ocean breezing through our sleeping quarters gave way to some calming dreams. Even the overzealous partiers, claiming their picnic spots at 5am didn’t deter our peace (well…mine, anyway).

I got up and went for a solitude walk on the beach. As I stepped into the sand and walked closer to the water, I began to drown in a tsunami of emotions, flooding from childhood memories. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and as little tots, my Mother took us to the beach on a daily basis. The sand pushing up the arches on my feet and squeezing between my toes, the smell of the seaweed and the sound of the rushing waves took me home – I was home. We were one – the past, the present, my Mother, the beach and me.

After I felt I could part with my memories, I left the beach and went back to the condo where we tuned into the annual Hot Dog Eating contest. Imagine someone asking you what you do for a living and you say, “I’m a professional eater.” Well I often feel like that, but I must only be an amateur because nobody ever pays me for it nor do they put me on national television. It’s a good thing too, because watching me shove 64 hot dogs AND THEIR BUNS into my mouth in 10 minutes might be something they would have to air on a horror station rather than a fourth of July event!

Next came my most favorite part. We set our stuff up at the beach with umbrellas, rolled towels and a sheet to lie on, tucking the corners underneath the sand to keep it from blowing away. As the girls went on a bike ride, I laid out onto the sheet, used a towel as a pillow and nestled into a nap. That’s the best place in the whole world, sleeping on the beach listening to children’s laughter, the water tumbling and splashing, light conversations as people pass by, small aircraft advertising local wares and pelicans screeching across the sea. I could have stayed there forever – and almost did as confirmed by my Kenai Red Salmon-colored legs.

We walked the bike bath around the inlets and over by the marina and enjoyed the fireworks at the beach that night. The next day we drove up to visit more friends at Ventura beach (spreading the wealth of our company). I’m not sure if it was the breeze, or the breeze on my sunburn, but I thought it was rather cold! I’m from the east coast. We never did “cold” at the beach! Both days, the water was too cold for me to get into and for that reason, I really missed my growing-up beach in Florida.

The beach, the freedom of being able to go to the beach, fireworks, time with my family, great people, a nap at the beach and food! Sounds like a perfect vacation to me – even if it was only for two days!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How Important are the Little Things

Some times people get a trifle too important in their own minds to do the little stuff. And yet it's the little stuff that makes the big stuff work.

For example, my mother has always been a fashion guru. She coordinates everything from her hairdo to her toenails. And consequently always looks nice. She likes bling and flash, while I am considerably more conservative. However, I learned from her that small things matter. Wearing a beautiful tailored suit with proper heels and a messed up "do" won't cut it.

It's the same small attention in our magazine that makes such a difference. We have to make sure our proofing is correct. We have to make sure names are right: like Andersen instead of the more familiar Anderson. Making sure whatever style rule we have, we follow.

This came into play just yesterday which prompted this entire post. I had to "call" attention to some small proofing errors, and my "crew" felt a bit feisty and wanted to argue me down. (I think that open door policy is working, ha.) Finding ourselves on opposite sides, we appealed to the publisher who responded with a "flexible" rule.

So no one went home happy!

It really is the small things that make such a difference in the polished look of a manuscript. It can even cause a publisher to print something that would normally have been passed over, because “it was just written so well.”

So I’m leaving you with a strong hint: In our trade-publication world, someone who took the time to find out our style method and then incorporate it in their article, nine times out of 10 will get published, regardless of how peripheral their work is.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dante and the Book of Mormon

by Joyce DiPastena

I recently reviewed a book as part of my LDS Fiction Summer Book Trek 2008 reading challenge. The book I reviewed was Dante’s Daughter, by LDS author Kimberley Heuston. If you’d like to read my review, you can do so on my JDP NEWS blog. There was one comment I deliberately left out of that review, however, as I was trying to review it for a “mixed”, rather than an “LDS”, reader audience, and I wasn’t quite sure how to phrase it so that a non-LDS reader of my review would understand my complaint. Or perhaps my concern was that bringing up this complaint would ruin a scene for a non-LDS reader who would have no basis for seeing what I saw in it, and hence, might be moved by the scene, rather than finding themselves rolling their eyes, as I did. But since the scene is the type that does, indeed, bother me as an LDS reader—or perhaps, “annoy” would be a better term than “bother”—I wanted to share my reaction somewhere among other LDS readers and see what they (or in this case, you, my lucky ANWA sisters!) think.

To place the book in context: Dante’s Daughter is a fictionalized account of the life of the medieval poet Dante Alighieri’s only daughter. (Yes, the Dante who authored The Inferno, and the rest of the Divine Comedy.) So here was my problem. I was reading along, swept away by Kimberley Heuston’s extraordinary lyrical writing style, thoroughly enjoying in particular every scene that Dante appeared in. Yes, there are spiritual elements of the novel throughout, but they don’t feel at all contrived because the Middle Ages was a deeply spiritual age, and hence fit naturally into the story. Then, towards the end of the book as Dante approaches old age, he relates to his daughter a dream he had many, many years before. Now, I have not read enough about Dante to know whether he did, indeed, have a dream that inspired him to write the Divine Comedy, but great artists do, indeed, sometimes have such inspirational dreams, so I was ready to buy into the possibility that this might be a true event. However, then Dante went on to describe the dream to his daughter, at which point the scene lost such credibility with me, that I admit, I had difficulty recovering for the remainder of the book.

My problem, as I say, was not in Dante having a dream, but in Dante having this particular dream. Now tell me, does this sound familiar to anybody besides me? (Okay, this is edited for the sake of space. In the spirit of full disclosure, the author did throw in a few elements to vary the scene a bit from the original source, but there was no misunderstanding that source of these particular lines, at least to me!)

Dante: “I looked for the laurel tree and the meadow with the fountain, but I could not find them. A dark mist arose, and a noise, lots of noises—groans and whispers and creakings—but no words. Nothing you could hold on to. I felt the earth falling away from me, and in the moment when I was sure I would be swallowed up by a chaos that was so profound that I could not see or hear or touch or name it, I called out to God…. [T]he tentacles of darkness that seemed to be growing over me fell away like dried husks from the vine, and I found myself on a mountain with a woman dressed in white. She asked me what I wanted, and I said to see the tree of my mother’s dream. She pointed, and there it was, and I ate of the fruit , and drank of the fountain, and I was filled…. My companion asked me if I knew what I was feasting on. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It is the love of God, shedding itself abroad in the heats of men.’ Then she asked me again what I desired, and I told her I wanted to share the sweetness of the fruit with the people I loved. When I said it, I meant you and your mother and your brothers, but then she said, ‘Look!’ and I saw crowds of people, all looking for the tree, and I realized I loved them all. I called to them, but a mist of darkness arose and a Babel of voices, and I could be neither heard nor seen. Then she said again, ‘Look!’ and I looked, and I saw angels writing the book of heaven and earth, and prophets writing the book of God…”

Okay, I think that’s enough to give you the idea. Let’s be honest now. Am I the only one who recognized Lehi’s dream/Nephi’s vision from the Book of Mormon in this? I fully expected the “great and spacious building” to pop up any moment, and although it never did, I’m pretty sure that’s where those “Babel of voices” were coming from.

Now, as I said, I was perfectly willing to buy that Dante may have had a dream…but that he had Lehi’s dream? That turned into a complete non-starter for me, and so jerked me out of the narration of the story that I had serious difficulty ever climbing comfortably back in.

Is it just me? What do you think about authors who…let us be kind here, and say “borrow” so directly from Book of Mormon scriptures when writing a book aimed at a non-LDS audience? Particularly when the vision (or dream) “borrowed” is portrayed as originating elsewhere (in this case, with Dante), rather than with Lehi and Nephi, as we know it did. Perhaps one might argue that the Lord sent a similar dream to Dante to inspire him. But even if that were the case, is it likely that Dante would use nearly the exact words to describe his dream? (Right down to the angel repeatedly saying, “Look!”)

I’m just curious to know how other LDS readers (i.e., you!) feel. Would such a scene as the one I’ve quoted above have bothered you, or would you have enjoyed the LDS “touch”? And what of a non-LDS reader who read this passage, then later read the “original” version in the Book of Mormon? Might they feel, in retrospect, that the author was trying to manipulate them with her religion by inserting a Book of Mormon scene into her novel about medieval Italy?

I’m open to all opinions here. Please let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hurrah for Choices

by Liz Adair

I blog on Service for yourLDSneighborhood twice a week, and for last Friday's post, I asked a friend to write her thoughts on July 4th. She is one of my daughter's oldest friends, and she and her family come to our family campouts every Memorial Day. We missed her this year, because she had just left for a year's deployment in Iraq.

As I posted what she had written, I thought of how things had changed since I was a young woman. I remember, when Ben Hur was just released--was it the 1950's?--there was an article in some magazine about the woman who played Ben Hur's love interest. She was an Israeli, and the article talked about her being in the Israeli army and said that all young people, men and women alike, had to service for a time in the armed services, and women were not kept out of combat.

That idea was so foreign to me. This was still Leave It To Beaver time. Women were just beginning to swell the ranks at colleges and in the workforce, but very few had non traditional roles. It was expected that, though a woman might have a college education, she would still, when the time came, settle down and become a full-time wife and mother, and there were lots of barriers put in place should she want to do otherwise.

Even though the pendulum has swung to the extreme that women who choose to be full-time wives and mothers are out of the ordinary, I love the freedom to choose. One has to have lived through the first 3/4 of the 20th century to understand the pressure to conform to a stereotype of what is 'women's work.' I work with women architects and engineers all the time now, but when I was young I don't recall any women engineers on any of the jobs my dad was on.

With all of that, I think the operative word is CHOOSE. The old traditional choices weren't bad simply because they were old. Mothering is one of the most rewarding focuses a person can have, and it is the greatest teacher of Christian virtues. The window of opportunity is short, and if passed over for something more glamorous or better paying, may not come as a choice a second time.

And, contrary to what it may seem like when one is young and weighing decisions about career or family, there are great stretches of time after children are raised when a woman is at the top of her game and can build a successful career.

I say this realizing that there are lots of women who don't have the choice to stay at home and be a full-time mom. Bless your hearts, you've got a tough row to hoe, but I know as you seek to make decisions that will bless your family you'll have doors open that you didn't even know were there.

I've said this very badly. What I meant to say was, hurrah for choice, but make sure ALL the choices are on the table, and include the Lord in the consideration period.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sweet Freedom's Song

by Kristine John

Independence Day.

It is a day that fills my heart and soul with joy and pride, honor and respect, and remembrance.

I desire to open my heart and pour the feelings I harbor within myself into my children...and yet, I know that it is only through the things I do, and the things I say, and the things that I teach them that they can begin to experience the feelings that I treasure each year as this day arrives.

I remember the Fourth of July celebrations of my youth.

The parade, viewed annually from my great-aunt's home situated conveniently on the main street (West Cleveland in St. Johns, AZ) was one of the highlights of the day.

I distinctly remember my grandmother, and my mother gently teaching me, and then reminding me in years to follow, to honor the flag and those who bore it as it passed.

My hand rested over my heart, and I stood, straight and attentive, as the breeze played the cloth from the flag forward, creating images that are still vivid in my memory today.

I did not know at such a young age that my great-uncle had died in World War II, or that my great-aunt, whose steps and curb I frequented each Fourth, had served as a cook in the United States Navy.

I did not know that my family had given their service and their lives in defense of my very freedom.

That knowledge, even today, swells my heart and brings a lump to my throat.

I am grateful for the sacrifices, large and small that countless numbers of men and women have made, and continue to make, EVEN TODAY, to ensure our freedom.

I love the words to this song:

God Bless The U.S.A.
by Lee Greenwood

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there's pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

The knowledge we impart to our children, our friends and our neighbors must be strengthened by the assurance that we have been given this land of freedom by a gracious God, who desires that we defend this land of beauty and liberty, not only with righteousness, but also with courage and strength...even in the face of controversy.

I had a hard time singing the final verse to our national anthem on Sunday, simply because I know there are men and women that stand today between their loved homes and war's desolation.

Star Spangled Banner
By Francis Scott Key
O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


May our trust truly be in God, and may we wave our flag proudly o'er our homes, o'er our hearts, and o'er our families, today and every day.

HAVE A BLESSED AND BEAUTIFUL INDEPENDENCE DAY!



Baby Hungry?

by Kari Pike

Call it a yearning, a longing, a desire. It’s a feeling difficult to describe. My mother-in-law used to say her arms ached. Many hearts are set on it, eager for it, even hunger after it. Actually, I’ve frequently heard it referred to as being “baby hungry.” Some women never experience it, but many women, including myself, find they need a “baby fix” on a regular basis.

When my sixth child was just six weeks old, my husband and I were invited to a Friday night BBQ with friends. As one couple walked into the house, the husband loudly announced that his wife was not allowed to come within ten feet of our baby because he knew what would happen. She worked her way over next to me and quietly asked if she could hold our baby. Then she sneaked up behind her husband and said,

“Honey, look. Take a deep breath. Doesn’t he smell good! Don’t you just want one! Oh, Honey! Smell!” She held our baby up to her husband’s face and then embraced him with the baby snuggled between them. At first, her husband protested loudly. But his eyes betrayed him. He melted like Jello in July.

I thought I had outgrown the baby hungry stage. After all, I have nine living children, and 10 grandchildren with two more on the way. I experienced twenty years of being pregnant and/or nursing with just one or two breaks in the middle. I was tired, and it has been nice to have children who are self sufficient and less needy. But who’s kidding who? (or is that whom?)

Last week, my brother and sister-in-law entrusted us with the care of their six children, ages 13 months to 13 years old. While it took a lot of work, I reveled in caring for a baby again. Never mind that he has an ear piercing, super-sonic, “just shoot me now,” scream. I felt bad at one point for wanting to get a spray bottle and squirt him in the face every time he screamed. Then his seven-year-old sister told me it wouldn’t work anyway because their mommy already tried it. I didn’t even mind staying up all night with him while he was throwing up and running a fever. As I held his hot little body against my chest and felt his heart beat against mine, I was taken back to all the years I held my own babies. I drank in his baby scent and realized how much I missed being needed.

This was an interesting awareness for me. Can you tell I just had another fledgling leave the nest? I am struggling with my identity and “what I want to be when I grow up.” My role as a mother is transforming. I am crossing a bridge between generations as I spend less time on my children’s needs and more time caring for my parents. I also have more time to serve my neighbors. My “baby fix” put things into perspective. Whether tending aging parents, comforting ailing friends, or nurturing grandbabies, I am what I want to be. I am a mother.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

ANOTHER HAPPY-SAD MILESTONE

by Anna Arnett

This morning I feel drained, and rather sad. I know it needed to be done, and I’m ever so grateful for two of my daughters who came to help, but it’s still sad. The last couple of days we cleaned out the section of the closet and the chest of drawers that once held my husband’s things. A few items have been discarded, but most of the clothes and keepsakes are down in the living room, waiting for the kids to gather and see what they want.

His flat, field cap has suffered a few moth holes, but the blue air force jacket still looks great, with his ribbons, wings, and major’s gold leaf. He never bothered to purchase new insignia when he received his Lt Col rating in the AF Reserves.

Draped over a chair lies his mess dress uniform, sans cummerbund and black bow tie. The pleated shirt is yellow with old starch and the cuff links currently elsewhere. I remember clearly the day Charles finally capitulated and purchased 'the wole she-bang' because he simply had to wear mess dress to the big promotion party at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan. After all, he was one of the honorees, since he now wore the field grade rank of major. He wore mess dress to a few air force functions and at least a couple of our daughters’ wedding receptions. My heart still swells and my eyes mist, as I recall how handsome he looked in such formal attire. He said he felt like a monkey.

The white dress cap especially touches me, as I finger the braided black band and shiny leather visor. The metallic grey embroidered AF emblem shimmers, as does the silver chinstrap. This cap would look nice, displayed on my bookcase shelf. I’m just made a decision to keep it.

I see a plethora of shirts and ties (mostly gifts) but only a couple of suits. Whenever I talked about buying him new clothes, he insisted he had all he needed, or wanted. (We once even purchased a new white temple suit, but he returned it, saying his old one was still useable.) My side of the closet took up many times double his space, but he never complained. I wonder sometimes if he even noticed.

Charles’ wants were simple. A car that would run and be comfortable, a good roof overhead, sufficient food to eat (preferably home cooked because to him one need only eat at restaurants to fulfill social obligations or when nothing else is available), enough clothes to keep him warm and decent, and indoor plumbing with plenty of hot water. All these were important, but church, family and friends headed his list.

Charles claimed he was basically two things—a tightwad and a draft dodger—and about as successful at one as another. He spent little on himself, but was generous to others, both with money and possessions, but especially he was ‘generous to a fault’. So much for being a tightwad. As to draft-dodging, he joined the National Guard in college, but waited to be drafted in WWII. He also joined the Air Force Reserves at BYU, and then decided to stay for retirement after being recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict. Maybe I said this before. Oh well . . . .

Believe it or not, just writing this much has cheered me up considerably. I can even look for a brighter side. My clothes have more room in the closet, and I have double the drawer space. Besides, what must be—must be. Memory and agency are still two things that cannot be given up nor taken away, though both obviously can be lost. I only hope to use each one wisely, and keep the two of them forever.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good Friends

By Betsy Love

I have lots and lots and tons and tons of friends. I have some tall ones, some short ones, some skinny ones, and some that are a bit plump. I have friends who are Mormons and some who are not. I have friends I met online and some I see every day. I have friends I’m related to and some I’m not. Hey, I even married my friend. I have male friends and female friends. I have some friends I haven’t spoken to in weeks, months, and even years. I have friends in different colors, who speak a different language. I have friends all over the world, (okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration), but one from Japan, one from China, a couple of friends from the Philippines and one from Denmark and ones as far away as Bosnia and Sweden.

So what is it that makes a friend? Like rain in a thirsty desert, friends are the moisture to a dried out soul. Not that most of our souls are dried out. However friends are a great source of comfort; they are the balm in a painful world. When I am down and out, I know that I can always turn to my friends. But even friends can let you down. Sometimes they don’t understand what’s really going on, and it’s so hard to tell them what’s actually troubling you. Once I tried to tell a friend what was troubling me, but couldn’t find the words. Something bothered me so deeply that the only friend I could turn to was my Savior. I knew that only He would understand exactly how I felt. I didn’t even need to find the exact words. All I had to say, “Are you there? I need you.”

I pictured myself sitting at his feet with my head on his knee, with Him gently stroking my hair, telling me He knew, He cared, and He would help to carry my burden, because He had already carried it.

I hope that you will treasure your friends, every one of them. But always remember that the one friend, who will ultimately never misunderstand you or forsake you, is the one who bore all things. I love Jesus Christ. He is my BFF. (Best Friend Forever)