Saturday, August 30, 2008
It has been a long summer filled with a missionary farewell, a funeral, a move, EFY, scout camp, girl's camp, an eagle project and a huge project at my husband's work that has left echoes reverberating in our home. The lazy days of barbeques, day trips and swimming in the sun until the sunscreen gives up on you have passed us by and I think all my children and I feel like it is too soon to go back.
So many plans never even got off the drawing board and writing got stuck behind the dryer with the unmatched socks. The one thing I have accomplished was lots of reading. I tried to read as a writer and glean what I really liked about different authors. I tried to see where the balance between exposition and dialogue fell and when it was effect to use one or just annoying.
So I had recently picked up a quick read called "The Last Centurion" and got sucked in on the first page when my thirteen year old son walked in the room and asked, "I thought you were supposed to be writing not reading- you must have writer's block."
I looked at him and shrugged. Sort of, actually I have writer's fear. Although the reviews of my first book were very sweet and most said they looked forward to the second, many also said they saw flaws or it wasn't extremely well written or they looked forward to me growing as a writer. OUCH!
So with the next book I want to grow. I want to look at form as well as plot. I want to write better and I figured the way to do that was to read and decide what I did like. Sadly, I discovered that I'm not that deep. I can force myself to plough through the literary stuff and find it fascinating but I gobble up escapism especially if it has a dash of truth mixed in.
On Tuesday the kids go back to school and I'm committed to four hours a day on the keyboard. With any luck my reading will have not simply been due to writer's block, but will have helped nudge my prose forward- at least a little.
Friday, August 29, 2008
As I was studying my scriptures the other morning, I found this passage held new meaning for me:
1 And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.
2 But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.
3 But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.
4 And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.
I was touched, because this was the first time that I actually "heard" what Nephi had to say as a writer.
His words resonated in my heart...for as a writer, I worry that my words will not convey the emotion, the power that I desire them to carry.
I love that even he, in all of his ability and power, still struggled to feel that he was effective as a writer.
It impressed my heart, and touched my spirit that he chose to bear testimony of how the Lord can touch others lives with the words that are written, even if they are "written in weakness" .
More than anything, it reaffirmed to me the spiritual nature of my gift, (of your gifts my dear ANWA sisters), and the need to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost in the things I choose to create.
Our desire to write, truly is God-given, and as we rely on Him, our words can and will become "strong" unto all who choose to read them.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
By Kari Pike
I’ve said this many times in this forum, but I want to say it again. I love reading the scriptures! I am eternally grateful for the scriptures and the joy and peace they bring into my life. I am grateful for the prophets who heeded God’s command to write these things down and I am grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who saw fit to preserve these writings so that I (we) can have a knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the great plan of happiness. That said, here are some thoughts I had the other day as I studied chapters 43 and 44 of Alma.
The very first verse in Alma 43 touched my heart. “And now it came to pass that the sons of Alma did go forth among the people to declare the word unto them. And Alma, also, himself, could not rest, and he also went forth.” Alma worked. He worked and lived the very things he taught. Do I work and live the things I am trying to teach? Do I go forth and serve and teach or do I just make assignments and sit back and wait to see what happens? Do I talk the talk, or do I walk the walk?
Moroni recognized Alma for the great leader and teacher that he was. After Moroni became the chief captain of the Nephite armies, he physically prepared his men for battle with swords and cimeters and breastplates and shields. Then Moroni sought guidance from his priesthood leader, his prophet and seer, Alma. Moroni had faith that Heavenly Father would tell Alma whether or not they should defend themselves. Alma gave Moroni direction and insight into the intentions of the Lamanite armies and spiritual preparation for the battle that ensued. I found several comparisons in our own lives:
- Do all we can to “arm” ourselves against wickedness and temptation. Prepare ourselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Study things out and turn to our Church leaders for further light and knowledge. Pray, ask, listen, and then follow through by carrying out our duties.
- The Lamanites, Zoramites, and Amalekites, outnumbered the Nephites “by more than double.” (Alma 45:51) We may often feel outnumbered by our personal challenges, but the knowledge of who we are and why we are here can spur us on. “The Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their libertes, their wives and their children, and their all, yea for their rites of worship and their church.” (vs 45) What are we fighting for? Do we know that we are “doing that which [we] felt was the duty which [we] owed [our] God?” We must defend our families against wickedness, just as the Nephites defended their families.
- Moroni set a wonderful example as a leader. In verse 48, when his men are discouraged and ready to give up, Moroni doesn’t berate or chide them. He reminds them in a positive and uplifting manner with “thoughts of their lands, their liberty, yea their freedom from bondage.”
- Unity. Verse 49 describes how the Nephites “cried with one voice unto the Lord their God,” and how in that unity “began to stand against the Lamanites with power.” – so much power that “in that self same hour…the Lamanites began to flee before them.” (Alma 45:50) How can I build unity in my home, with my neighbors, and in my ward?
- In verse 26, Moroni gathers the people of Manti and prepares them to defend themselves, while his army hides nearby. Moroni knew the intentions of the Lamanites. Just as Alma and Moroni worked together to prepare the Nephites, our leaders train and teach us and do all they can to help us prepare for the challenges ahead. But ultimately, we are the ones that must fight our battles. We have available all the tools we need to succeed in this life and we have certainly been taught what Satan’s intentions are.
While we may be on the battlefront, we have unseen armies surrounding us, just waiting to help us. Chapter 44:4 – “God will support, and keep, and preserve us, so long as we are faithful to him, and unto our faith, and our religion; and never will the Lord suffer that we shall be destroyed except we should fall into transgression and deny our faith.” Don't you just love the scriptures!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The other day as I prepared to get into the shower, a little black spider moved purposefully across the white rim of my bathtub. Now, I'm not against spiders in general, but sharing my bath with one seemed a little much, so I grabbed at a washcloth and attempted to scoop it up. I thought I had succeeded, for the porcelain lay bare and shining, but when I opened the cloth, it was also pristine. This wily spider had simply disappeared. Yet, a hand towel lay in the corner, and I gingerly lifted and opened it. There was the same spider, climbing steadily up the towel.
Okay, I thought, I'll drown him out by simply turning the water on full blast and holding the towel underneath. Still, every time I checked, the plucky spider still clung to the towel, and forged on up, though having been forced downward considerably. After the third or fourth time, my aversion turned to awe. That brave little spider deserved to live. I placed the towel gently toward the back of the tub, expecting the spider to move. But it did not. After all that resistance and difficult work, my spider had given up and died. Somehow, I felt a twinge of loss, bordering on feeling bereft. If only that small spider had managed to hold on another second or two.
How often, I thought, have I put in hours, days, months, and even years on some project or other, only to give up before I'd completed and polished it? How much of my writing is just a few hours away from submission? Was it King Alfred who got his inspiration from watching a spider work endlessly to swing its web high enough to catch the aimed-for crag? Perhaps my empathy for the spider may yet bring me to work with more tenacity, and know the joy of not only submission, but also acceptance and fulfillment.
By the way, my family is helping me celebrate my 84th birthday anniversary this Saturday. I'm pleased and rather proud to acknowledge every year I've managed to keep breathing. I'm also chagrinned that I have not accomplished more--or rather, completed more. But there's hope for another year, during which I might continue learning from such lowly things as spiders, and simply keep hanging in there.
Monday, August 25, 2008
It is 5:30 AM. Outside the sky is early-morning gray – a sign to me that the days are shortening, the nights growing longer. A month ago at this time, the sun was up, and the Mexican Birds of Paradise outside my window brightly illuminated. Now they seem dull colored, but even the gray morning can’t disguise the inherent throbbing orange and yellow of their blooms.
I am up, but wish I were still asleep. I wish the phone call from my father at 11 o’clock last night had been a dream. I wish I had awakened to a clean palette of thoughts, of fresh ideas about a new day. Instead, I have a tragedy to deal with and it is so meshed to the ideas of my blog two weeks ago as to be stunning.
My last blog was about this life being the time to prepare to meet God. Last night, my father called to tell me that my brother and his 23 year old son were killed along with 8 other people in a plane crash a couple of miles from the Canyonland, Utah, airport. Lansing was a dermatologist. Each month, he and his office staff traveled to underserved locales to provide skin cancer screening and other medical services. He has been doing it for five years or more. His son, Dallin, whose wife will soon have their first child, accompanied him. Dallin was in the process of applying to medical school. He idolized his father, and Lansing was immensely proud of him. I recently helped Dallin with his personal statement for medical school. Now, I struggle to accept the process has ended, that this young man who was serious about life and about making contributions, is gone and that my dear brother is, too.
But I return to the Book of Mormon for comfort. After Alma talked to his son Corianton about the resurrection and mercy and justice, he told him that he was called to preach the word, that he may “bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them.” And then Alma took his sons and they went to do the Lord’s work.
In my mind, I see Lansing and Dallin, father and son as companions, teaching the word: the great doctrines of the resurrection, of a plan of Atonement, of the Savior and his love for each of us. I see them in radiant white and they are glorious and powerful.
We here who remain suffer their loss and we grieve. I think of what the future might have held and there are now huge gaps, vacancies, distortions in what should have been and this makes me incredibly sad. But then I see them, their white clothing and gleaming faces, and feel comfort, and assurance, and hope.
Here is the promise of eternal life, of our unique faith and religion, that families are forever.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Today my time is limited by an incoming thunderstorm (I turn off the computer to keep it from being fried by lightning), so I am going to refer you to two recent General Conference talks from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The first was given by President Thomas S. Monson, the president of the church, on April 5, 2008. Examples of Righteousness.
The second talk was given the same day by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the second counselor to the president. A Matter of a Few Degrees.
I want to relate these talks to writing by reminding all writers that we are responsible for our words and should keep in mind the examples we set for others. We also need to strive to hold a correct course in our writing life that will help us achieve our goals.
Thanks for visiting!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Please do not disturb!
I recently had my daughter move out and then 2 days later had a sister from the ward move in to my home. My office was moved from a separate bedroom to my room when I moved to the master bedroom at the other end of my home. The room is large enough that my desk and computers are on one side and the bed and dressers on the other so that I have a “place” to work – like when I go into the office and sit in the assigned cubicle.
I have had a non-family member share my home as a roommate before, but it has been several years. At that time I wasn’t telecommuting, or writing. So we decided on putting a sign on the outside of my door to let indicate when I cannot be disturbed. I made the sign for when I’m telecommuting (working as a tele-nurse from my home office via phone and computer) so it is a friendly non-threatening way to let anyone that happens to be in my home at the time that I am currently unavailable. A little quirky – but so far it’s working.
I’ve decided I’m going to post a similar one for when I’m writing. It is essential to have uninterrupted work time for my writing. I tried to list the reasons I don’t make as much progress as I should. Logically if I write 1000 words a day (four pages) I can complete a novel in 100 days, have time to do the editing, polishing, marketing and then move on to the next within 6 months. Ha – I’m not doing that. But obviously it can be done – as there are many authors that have books published every year, or sometimes two or three in a year. So my goal is to write a thousand words at least 4 days a week. That gives me 3 days off the hook so to speak – to breathe, catch up or whatever.
One of the rules is that I cannot answer my personal – cell phone while working. I believe that it would be helpful if I did the same while I’m writing. Turn it off or leave it in another room where I won’t hear it. That way the flow of writing, my train of thought won’t be interrupted. It is giving myself a place and a time to work – just like going in to the office for a paycheck.
My thoughts wandered around how I could use this little device or something like it for other things in my life. I thought about how Mom would go to her quiet place by the fish pond or fountain to read her scriptures in a chair at home. She does the same thing at my sister’s home – made a quiet spot out on the porch – where she reads her scriptures in the morning. I need to follow that example, and instead of rushing at the last minute to cram in the reading that is due, or prepare a lesson, I need to give myself the time to prayerfully ponder on the words of the Lord and let them sink deeply into my soul. That way I can keep the oil replenished in my lamp and be ready for the time it is needed. I need to set aside a time and place for my spiritual growth and rejuvenation.
Another example my mother has set is to take her journal with her wherever she goes. I have yet to follow her footsteps in this pursuit. She often writes while on a break at work, or while waiting for someone. The journal has poems, stories she remembers from her youth, and random thoughts she has from day to day. She has filled several notebooks with her writing. Occasionally she shares her entries with me. I’d be more diligent in journaling if I did the same.
How about exercise? Yep that is another item I need to set a time and place for as well as any other worthy pursuit or goal that I want to achieve. By setting a time, and making a place we notify ourselves, our family and friends that we are busily engaged in a worthy cause. Something we want to prioritize. Something sacred.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Years ago, I sat in a PTA meeting while we discussed changing the start time for our elementary school. I was pushing for it to begin later because kids, some as young as 3 years old, have to meet the bus at 6:30 am each morning because we are in a rural area and we start school at 7:40 am. That is very early, especially for young children. My own kids don’t start school until first grade so that I can teach them to read and can feel confident they are going to school with the ability to read, do simple math, and have a closer relationship with me. But, many parents send their children to pre-school and it seemed as though starting the school day a little later made sense. Last year, my first grader fell asleep on the afternoon bus everyday so I had to be sure to meet the bus at the end of my lane to make sure the bus driver didn’t forget my sleeping son and accidentally take him on her next route with the older school kids. As we discussed changing the start time, I was startled to hear a mother exclaim, “Start school later? Are you kidding? I’d rather have it start earlier so I can get rid of my kids sooner.”
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I always feel so sad when school starts and my children leave for most of the day. My older kids don’t come home on the bus until after 5:00 pm, which means they are away from me for over 10 hours each day. That makes me sad. I love being with my kids.
This summer was crazy busy with camps, a Youth Conference, Scout training, and my son returning home from his mission. The house was usually in disarray with all the kids playing games with each other, dressing up, and making crafts. We didn’t have a set schedule, though I did try to make sure we did some cleaning and watered and hoed the garden. It was a bit chaotic at times, but it was great. I loved watching the kids play together, especially with their younger siblings who don’t attend school yet. The summer ended far too fast for me.
Next week, will be even harder when my two oldest leave for college and the next step in their lives. They won’t be gone for 10 hours a day; they’ll be gone for days and weeks at a time. Yes, I understand that this is the normal cycle of life and that children grow up and leave home, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I often think of the song, “Sunrise, Sunset,” as I watch my children grow. Where does the time go? What happened to that little baby I held in my arms? I must’ve blinked.
And so here we are, another school year has begun and I’m sad to see my kids go. I miss having them around the house. I miss the hum of their voices. I miss the squeals and excitement while they spray each other with water. I wish summer break was 9 months and school was only 3 months.
Maybe I’m just weird . .
PS—Don’t forget to enter the contest on my blog for a chance to win a bottle of perfume http://rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com/2008/08/contest-win-perfume.html. All you have to do is tell 5 people about my book and leave a comment. It’s easy!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
NOTE: My life is so wonderful BUT SO CRAZY right now as I try to settle into a routine and have lesson plans ready at least a day ahead of my class ~ being a first year teacher at my age is just plain nuts... But, I love it and it's going well, as long as I don't sleep too much!! hee hee. I'm kind of running on empty and still have a mountain of things to do before I leave for school so please forgive me for posting something previously written. Those in my ANWA chapter are familiar with it and I even ran it past the online crtique group a number of years ago, but everyone seems to enjoy it when they hear or read it and I'm off to get school stuff ready so, for the many newcomers over the last few years, enjoy [TRUE STORY]:
I’m a rather off-the-wall and frugal homemaker, always on the lookout for new, unusual and inexpensive ways to manage our home. Whenever I come across an idea about making something from scratch, with things already on hand, I’m truly in my element.
Imagine my delight when the very morning that I emptied the last kibble of dog food into our dog’s dish I happened to read a recipe in the newspaper for “Homemade Dog Food Patties.” As I read the ingredients, my excitement rose. Oh, I have all of this on hand, I thought to myself. For the ground meat I could use that six-year-old elk meat at the bottom of the freezer. I knew that old weevil infested rice would come in handy some day… surely it could only mean more protein for the dog. She wouldn’t know the difference anyway. I was certain that they ate insects somewhere in the world so I figured I’d just broaden my dog’s horizons and consider this an intercontinental delicacy, weevils and all.
I dug to the bottom of the freezer, retrieved the ground elk meat and popped it in the microwave to defrost and then set the rice and weevils to boil on top of the stove. Next, I went to work chopping onions and grating carrots. I carefully diced the celery and joyfully combined everything together in a large bowl. I shaped about a dozen patties of homemade dog food on a cooking sheet and popped them into the oven. Finally, I washed up my bowl, pans and utensils, wiped the counter and got ready to run some errands. The patties were done just as it was time to leave the house. I left them on the stovetop to cool and congratulated myself on providing food for our dog while making use of ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste.
About forty minutes later I pulled into my driveway. I noticed that it was perfect timing as my husband, Jim, had already parked his car and was no doubt home on his lunch break. As I entered the kitchen I was about to call out to Jim to see what kind of sandwich he would like. Instead, I stood amazed, staring at the three empty spots on the cookie sheet that had previously been home to my dog food patties. Hoping against hope that the cat had jumped up on the counter and helped herself, I called out to Jim, “Uh, do you know what happened to those patties that were here when I left?”
He replied, “Do you mean the ones you left out for my lunch?” YIKES!!!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It was my turn to blog on Tuesday and I was jetting all over the country trying to get back home from a wedding in Spokane. I THOUGHT I could blog successfully via the Internet via a laptop via an airplane, now how cool would that be?!
It didn't work. I'm sure it was operator fault. However, I did have a wonderful time in Spokane, after all, how many people can say they escaped the 90s with 100% humidity and fly to the great Northwest to 100s, sheesh!!! I think it went down after I left.
My post boiled down to this: I have been faithfully keeping up with the BOM gospel doctrine class and flying over this beautiful country, I was struck anew both with its beauty and with my stewardship over it. The BOM reminds us constantly it is truly a blessed land and we who hold it must care for it.
Just last night as I drifted off to sleep home safe and sound I read where Captain Moroni promised that as long as those called Christians were faithful, the land would be blessed. There's our clarion call. To thank my Heavenly Father for such a blessed land, I must live up to the Christian principles Captain Moroni did.
Isn't it a truly a marvelous work and a wonder to have those who once possessed this land to warn us knowing they would lose it? Giving us the keys that can keep this blessed land in our hands?
Monday, August 18, 2008
It’ my turn to blog, and my mind feels completely empty. You’d think I’d have something vaguely interesting to say. I scan back through the week. Did anything unusual happen? Not that I can remember. Did I have any “significant” thoughts? Not really. I remember once in college, going with a friend to visit a friend of hers who I didn’t know. Being extremely shy back then (unlike now—ha!), I sat mostly silent and listened while the other two chattered and chattered away. Finally, the woman I didn’t know turned to me and said, “You’re so quiet. I’m always intrigued by quiet people, because I know they must be thinking very deep thoughts.” If I hadn’t been so shy, I would have laughed, because I remember thinking to myself, “I’m not being quiet because I’m thinking deep thoughts. I’m being quiet because my mind is such a total blank, I can’t think of anything to say!”
Pretty much the way I feel right now, as I sit down before this computer. Apparently, I haven’t progressed as far as I would have liked from those old college days!
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Last time I blogged, I declared my goal of reading and reviewing books by all my published ANWA sisters. This blog today is to report on what I’ve accomplished so far.
1. I set up a blog specifically for the purpose of reviewing books and reporting on the progress of my own writing.
2. I wrote and posted two reviews that I had promised two of my LDStorymakers sisters prior to my declaration in this blog.
3. I ordered Joyce DiPastena’s Loyalty’s Web, Marsha Ward’s Ride to Raton and Jennifer Stewart Griffith's Delicious Conversations. I already had Gayla Wise’s book The Power of Your Patriarchal Blessing in my library, and it’s in line to be read.
4. I finished Loyalty’s Web last night at midnight. When I review it, I’ll post an invitation to all my ANWA sisters to check it out.
My family laughs at me because, when I took up the baritone horn, I decreed that everyone had to take up the baritone horn. I blogged about that here in an essay entitled “Free Agency and How to Enforce It”. Well, this is shaping up to be another of my crusades, only there are no brass horns involved.
This crusade is for us to collectively raise the profile of LDS literature on the internet. I hope you’ll join me in reading and posting about the books you’ve read. If you don’t have your own blog, you can post on www.amazon.com . Just search for the book you've read and go to its page, then click on 'write a review'.
Or, join Goodreads at www.goodreads.com or Shelfari at www.shelfari.com Joining both is easy and free. Setting up your own blog is also easy and free. Go to http://www.blogspot.com/ and follow directions.
And by the way, thanks to Rachel, who accepted my invitation to tap me as a friend on Goodreads. That made my day!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
The last time I was supposed to blog I totally blanked out. I just forgot even with my nifty reminder because I was attending the Willamette Writers Conference. It was my second Writer's Conference ever. I attended the LDStorymakers this summer which was fabulous. I gobbled up every word about the ANWA conference. It sounded wonderful. And perhaps it was my angst at being stuck here in the far Northwest, away from the Arizona heart of ANWA that made me leap at the opportunity of attending another Conference.
Liz Adair responded to my last minute plea for someone else that might be interested in going because I didn't know a single soul that would be attending, but this year did not work for her. WWC is one of the largest writers conferences in the Northwest. Hundreds were in attendence and the speakers included both NY agents, editors from many of the major publishing houses and experts in film. We even had the vice president of MGM speak to us. I met a handful of women from Idaho that had driven over to come.
I learned so many things. Here are some of the Workshops I attended-
Confessions of An Eavesdropper-
Sometimes when we write, it is hard to make our characters not all sound the same. A good exercise is to listen to other's conversations and write them down so you can analyze different speech patterns. One thing this woman observed is that when people are very emotional they either speak very few words OR wax into trite phrases because their brain sort of shuts down. (I have to confess, I've started keeping a little notebook and it is fun to do. A teenager walking out of IKEA the other day said, "Wow, that place is like a furniture Disneyland.")
Four Beats and Other Dialogue Tips-
Cindy W. wrote Buffalo Girls and has worked on hundreds of scripts for TV movies. She taught us that with the short attention span of readers a good rule of thumb is to only have four beats or less of dialogue before breaking it up with some sort of action or interjection. Beats mean natural pauses like, "You may not be superwoman (1) but I'm superman. (2) I can handle anything this world throws at me- (3) anything. (4)" Of course if you have a court scene or a character that is extremely verbose, that wouldn't apply, but if you want your book to keep up pacing, it is a guideline. Still, remember that rules are made to be broken.
The Psychology of Writing-
This was perhaps the best class for me. Witchey talked about the dreaded "SECOND BOOK SYNDROME." Often after people have published their first book, they struggle with producing their second because the first was written for the fun of it, without expectation or a deadline. If they get a contract for their second, the pressure of being under a contract and having to produce as opposed to just wanting to can squash what little creativity you have. (I met two women who had published their first books, were under contract for a second, missed their deadline and lost their book deal.) How sad is that?
He gave some good suggestions for developing routines that lift and strenghten the creative part of your brain including doing fifteen minutes of new creation every day (not on you work in progress, somethinig totally fresh.) He also encouraged reading with a writer's eyes and pulling in resources that make you think outside your world. He used trivia cards and writer's exercises.
He also said there comes a point where you have to look at your writing like a business and start recording your hours with fingers on the keyboard working on your story (not blogging or answering email or thinking about what you are going to write without actually writing.) He said that a lot of writers, once they begin to get into support groups and conferences, spend too much time doing things other than actually writing. Although these support activities are important, he suggests allotting yourself half an hour a day to do them and then focus on really getting things out.
There were so many other things I came away with and maybe I'll share that next time but the thing I learned most is that the majority of the presenters were not actively writing. They had gotten so caught up in coaching writing and doing workshops that they weren't in the thick of it as much anymore. I realized that if I really want to accomplish my personal goals for writing I need to actually write.
Although I'm going to miss my children terribly, I'm grateful in a way that school starts in two weeks so that I can get back to focused writing. My poor character has been trapped in a rotten neighborhood with everyone conspiring to get rid of her for way too long.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Wonder ensues as a beloved pet chases a tarantula out of it's home. There is jumping, flipping, dancing happiness to be found on the trampoline.
Splashes and giggles can be heard at every puddle in the yard as rocks are thrown into the fresh-formed water holes.
Swing-set "monkey bars" prove to be enticing, even at age 9.
Webkinz stuffed animals find new adventures in the fading light...watched over by careful owners, "aunts" and "uncles". Sunset is met with a pleasant, cool breeze, making the hour outside a joyously refreshing one.
Summer...stay...stretch your reach and linger with us for just a little longer.
You are full of memories already.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
By Kari Pike
After a crazy, busy, challenging, joyful summer, I sat down at my desk to regroup and put some order back into my life. Determined to make the new school year as stress free as possible, I carefully recorded upcoming events and times in my brand-new 18-month planner/organizer. It was fun to color co-ordinate birthdays, school events, and medical appointments. Just about the time I began to feel rather proud of this accomplishment, I discovered that I had 10 days to plan and prepare for a Relief Society board meeting scheduled to be held in my home, on my birthday, the day after school starts. How did that happen??? How do you forget your own birthday? (Now you know why I bought the planner.)
Since I still had day care children, school shopping, and doctor appointments, not to mention being in charge of a luncheon for a missionary zone conference, I knew I needed strength beyond my own. I prayed for direction and diligently searched for a thought or idea that would help me teach and inspire the women with whom I serve. I love the way the Spirit works. I came across this acronym on the B.Y.U. Women’s Conference website:
“H.U.G.S. -- Heartfelt Unity Grows Sisterhood.”
It was perfect! My counselors liked the theme as well and we had a great time planning handouts and the refreshments for our culturally and age-divers board. But I still had the responsibility of preparing a talk.
Sunday, I continued to struggle with what I wanted to share with the Relief Society Board. I made my concerns the focus of prayer and fasting. During one of the lessons, a teacher made reference to D&C 38. I opened my scriptures and came to the right section very quickly because I had extra notes stuck in the pages. (Did I mention how much I love gifts of the Spirit?) Verse 25 begins to tell the parable of the twelve sons. The commandment is to be one, and my notes pointed out that whenever the spirit of the Lord is present, there will be unity! We could even carry out our garden theme because verse 39 warns us to beware of pride. I couldn't think of a better analogy for that noxious weed Bermuda grass. Another reference took me to Alma 32 and the analogy of planting the seed of faith...and another acronym...Swell, Enlarge, Enlighten, and Delicious.
After I studied those scriptures, I knew the majority of the time we had should be used for group discussion about how to implement the idea of planting our garden of unity and faith. Here is a brief outline of the ideas shared at our meeting:
Plan: Take inventory. Get to know your Sisters. What interests/hobbies/education/talents does she have? What are your own resources/strengths/weaknesses? Schedule time to socialize with the women in your ward. Communicate with the missionaries/ward mission leader.
Prepare: Yourself spiritually/emotionally. Be friendly. Learn something new or dust off an unused or underused talent to share with others. Think ahead.
Plant: Be active. Participate in events/activities…Extend invitations to others to participate. Offer them a ride. Sit by someone you don’t know. Introduce yourself. Smile. When you have a nice thought about someone…tell them! If they have a skill you would like to learn, ask them to teach you. Share a skill you have with someone else….canning, sewing, computer technology, accounting, gardening...etc.
Nurture/Feed: Remember birthdays/ special events. Be sensitive to special needs that may come up. Pay attention and listen to promptings of the Spirit. Then act on them! (Hint: Almost everyone likes chocolate!) A smile and a friendly hello go a long way. Everyone likes to be acknowledged.
Water: with tears of joy and sorrow and laughter.
Weed: Eliminate weeds of pride. Dig out every root. Pride is like Bermuda grass. If you leave one little root, it will soon spread out and take over the garden. There were other weeds mentioned…but you get the idea.
Needless to say, I had a joyful birthday. I felt humbled by the outpouring of love as I was surrounded by family and friends and showered with HUGS. My testimony grew stronger as it was nourished through service, both given and received. I am grateful for all those gifts and more. I am truly blessed.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I planned to post this blog as soon as I woke up today, to share a couple of poems I used last night at our chapter meeting. Well, you can see how late I am, but it's still almost like early morning for me. I haven't dressed yet, I haven't made my bed, I haven't even had more than a sip or two of breakfast. Why? Well, I've been busy. And, I get distracted very easily. Little things like checking email, answering the phone, making a few other calls, having a daughter drop by to visit--you know, things like that.
Now to the poems. Saturday, in sorting through paper scraps I found a couple of verse about a horse scribbled on the back of a 2003 deposit slip that I'm pretty sure I haven't done anything else with. I know I wrote it because it had so many scratches out and substitutions. I'd forgotten it, but it quite intrigued me, so I worked it over a bit. Here's how it turned out (so far):
A horse can’t pull while kicking
No matter how he tries.
Nor can he kick while pulling
Regardless of his size.
Now, when we get disgruntled
And angry thoughts are pricking,
If we but pull an honest load,
We’ll have no time for kicking.
Sunday, I read it to my family, gathered in the kitchen, and Steve (a grandson) said he heard a talk in his ward that morning about how a horse was made for riding, but had to be broken first. We are made to be obedient, but like horses, we also need breaking to become what we are created to be. So I thought I'd play with that idea, too. Here is at least a draft:
THE MEASURE OF CREATION
A horse was made for man to ride;
By nature, he runs free.
So man must curb a horse’s pride
And teach humility.
We call it ‘broken’ when inside
A horse accepts duty.
God made man, gave earth as school
To teach obedience.
By nature man resists God’s rule
And follows carnal sense.
With ‘broken heart’ some find the tool
To glorious consequence.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Part of yesterday’s gospel doctrine lesson was about Alma teaching his son, Corianton, about restoration. “Carnal for carnal,” Alma said. “Evil for evil, good for good.” It makes no sense that good would replace evil. And in clarification, Bruce R. McConkie was quoted as saying The resurrection is a restoration, both a restoration of body and spirit and a restoration to the individual of the same mental and spiritual acquirements and attitudes he had in this life.
Considering the struggles I have bridling my tongue, thinking kind thoughts, striving to be charitable when I’m actually feeling contrary and self-centered, I asked if anyone found this idea as terrifying as I did. I may be in fair shape with my mental acquirements, but it’s those darn attitudes that are going to get me in a lot of trouble. “It gives new meaning to Alma 34:32, that this life is the time to prepare to meet God,” I told the class.
Agreeing with me, the bishop, responded, “Well, that’s what they mean when they say ‘that’s the hell of it.’”
I’ve given more thought to this. Apparently, the neural synapses that makes us who we are will not undergo a more pleasing rearrangement when we, meaning our spirits, get back together with our bodies. We will be who we are.
In order to stand in God’s presence, we must be perfect, even as He is. What does that mean?
The word perfect itself has some surprising meanings other than the most common: being without flaw or defect. According to Webster’s dictionary perfect also means
satisfying all requirements:accurate
corresponding to an ideal standard
faithfully reproducing the original
lacking in no essential detail: complete
There are magnificent ideas here, hidden in the simple meanings of an ordinary word, perfect. The one I am most intrigued with at this time is faithfully reproducing the original. We are, after all, created in His image.
I believe becoming like God, means we must first come to know Him. And to know Him, is to understand His great love for us, that somehow, with all of our imperfections, we are vastly important in the grand scheme of eternity.
What do you think? I invite your participation. I would love to read your understanding of these principles, that on this Monday morning are almost too profound for words.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
During today's Sunday School lesson on Alma, chapter 29, composer Wanda West Palmer told how she came to write her best known song, "Oh, That I Were an Angel," set to Alma's poignant words. Years ago, a speaker referenced the first verse in a meeting where she was the choir director. She turned to her accompanist and asked, "Can't you just hear the melody in those words?"
Looking blank, the accompanist said, "No."
Over the next six months, Wanda struggled to find the right notes, in an effort to capture the melody that ran through her head. Many times in the years since, people have told her that they heard/sang that song in the preexistence. Wanda wondered if she composed the song there.
Today, her son, Rick, accompanied by his wife, Elaine, sang the song, his voice choked with emotion.
I cried because the Spirit was so strong in the room.
At the last ANWA Writers Conference, Tristi Pinkston told us that we were prepared and trained to be writers before we came to earth. What a wonderful gift to know that our urge to write is eternal in nature! Don't forsake the heavenly treasure.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
While preparing the home evening lesson on becoming more like Christ for our singles group this week from the Preach My Gospel manual, I was impressed by how many scriptures repeat the same theme.
In D&C 4 - Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.
13th Article of faith: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men . . . If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
Philippians 4: 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are hones, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
2 Peter 1: 5 – 8 “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”
D&C 121: 41 “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.”
Alma 7: 23,24 “be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.”
So my thoughts are, what am I seeking for in the literature I read, music I listen to, movies or other media I watch? What example am I setting with my actions, words, and deeds? When I write do I portray these things as My Father in Heaven would have me do? Am I as diligent in following these actions when around family, friends, co-workers or in private? I hope to strive to be the best I can be so that some day I may reach the admonition of being perfect, even as He is perfect.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Last week my family and I vacationed in Santa Barbara, California, where I was born and raised. Santa Barbara is a gorgeous city that sits on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
The city has strict building ordinances so most of the buildings are Spanish style with the red tile roofs. The Courthouse is an incredibly beautiful building that was built over 100 years ago.
Many years ago, I was in the car with my maternal grandmother (who was raising me after the deaths of my parents) and we drove past a white brick building with a steeple. I asked her about it and she replied that it was an LDS Church. She then admitted that she was a member of the LDS Church but hadn’t attended for years. I asked if we could attend church and the next Sunday we did. As is par for LDS wards, we were immediately assigned a home teacher and not long afterward, I was baptized by that home teacher.
Last Sunday, while in Santa Barbara, we attended church in this same building. As soon as I entered the chapel, I was overcome with the emotional connection I have to that building because this is where it all started for me. This was where I was baptized so many years ago, where I attended Primary, Mutual, and Seminary. This is the building where I spent so many early summer mornings practicing for a Road Show and then a Dance Festival a few years later. I played basketball in that gym for my YW team. I also danced in the same gym when we had ward dances and ate dinner there for ward activities and daddy-daughter parties with my grandfather. I remember dancing under the stars during a New Year’s Eve dance we held in the patio area and the Pioneer Day bash on the back grass.
Back in the day, when we had Primary on a Wednesday afternoon, my best friend’s mom served as President. As teenagers, my friend and I helped play games with the Primary kids. I also remember the cribs in the nursery that are now long gone. I can remember being in the Jr. Primary room and watching the YM bless and pass the sacrament to the young children.
Every inch of that building holds a memory for me. But, most of all, this is the building where my tiny mustard seed of a testimony first received its nourishment and began to grow. This is where my feet were first planted firmly in the gospel sod. Ward members gathered me under their wings, fed my spirit, and loved me into the gospel.
It seems strange to have such a strong connection to a bunch of bricks and mortar, but for me, this building will always symbolize my connection to the Savior.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Well, everyone ~
My feet hurt. I’m exhausted, but it’s that good, satisfying exhausted feeling. It’s my turn to blog and it’s getting pretty late so I figured I’d tell you some sweet moments I had with my first official “Meet Your Teacher” ~ well, certainly I’ve GONE to plenty of them, but this is the first time that I was the teacher and the students and parents came to meet me, in the rain no less. It was awesome. I’m pretty much in heaven; tired heaven, but heaven.
In case you are not aware, I am teaching full time this year after 13 years of substitute teaching (including 10-11 years at the school I’m now at). I’m at Eagle’s Aerie School (K-12) in Gilbert, AZ and our own amazing Lorna Hale is the Assistant Director (and as such, she pretty much runs the show ~ there is a Director, Tim Peak, and a board and all... but Tim and Lorna’s husband, Rob, are pretty busy with the L.E.A.D.S. center and that’s another blog all on it’s own), so Lorna hired me and Lorna has done the most training these last two weeks (although her hubby, Rob, did some and Tim has given us some excellent information) and here I go again… running off at the mouth (or the keyboard keys) and not telling you about the school or my evening. However, I should mention, that Lorna is a dream to work with because she is so supportive and follows through on everything she says she will do ~ she’s been there every night until after midnight for days now just getting ready for the new school year.
The focus at Eagle’s Aerie is on citizenship, leadership, patriotism and excellence. They embrace what is known as a “Thomas Jefferson Education” (you should get the book: A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver Van DeMille). You will be enthralled with the principles. They use a “mentoring” program for the upper grades (7-12) – those students are referred to as the “American Leadership School.” (And ANWA’s own Kaleen Polakoff teaches the upper grades). Eagle’s Aerie has a rural feel to it and maintains a barn with horses, goats, chickens and other animals as well as garden patches. Working with the animals is part of the curriculum for all grade levels. It’s pretty cool. It’s not uncommon to open the door and have to wait for a mother hen and her chicks to walk past before you can continue on outside. This school also sets aside “reading days” and “writing days” every Monday (switching between the two subjects) and their reading and writing scores have shot through the roof (in the top 5% for the entire state of Arizona). The school also has a brief “opening” and “closing” ceremony each day where the pledge for the flag is done, patriotic and character building songs are sung, announcements given, etc. American Leadership Scholars take turns leading these ceremonies and gain leadership training and so much more.
Anyway, now that I’ve thoroughly impressed you with all of that when I said I was tired and it is late, I’ll confess I just copied and pasted that (NO, not plagiarized) it from the answers I gave to a question in my EDU class that I took this summer (with a few little added tidbits). So, on to tonight… Every day after training and staff meetings for the last couple of weeks, we have been given time to work on our rooms ~ the room I inherited was in pretty bad shape ~ but with help from the school maintenance staff and my husband, Jim, we whipped it into shape.
A couple of days ago I was in the office when a cute little boy was standing there waiting for his mom. I spoke to him and found out he was new to the school and would be in the second grade and I told him I was the second grade teacher. So, tonight after his mom filled out the forms in my room, she said that he told her he really hoped I would be his teacher because he met me in the office and I was so nice. Sweet. (Maybe he missed the fact that I am the ONLY 2nd grade teacher). Then, one of the moms walked in, took one look at me and said, “Oh it’s you!!! I’m so thrilled.” And she gave me a big hug (she remembered me from substitute teaching). She was bringing in her daughter this year. And then, a cute little girl that met me earlier in the evening and then went to some other places on campus brought her mother back to my room because she “wanted to say good-bye” to me.
Everyone there is so marvelous… very much a servant leadership situation… which is awesome. I was running behind getting my room set up because I was starting from scratch and they had to paint it, etc. My husband was very helpful, coming out two nights to paint a bookcase apple red for me and to help out otherwise. And then tonight, it was getting close and I still hadn’t had a chance to set up the desks and they were all bunched together at one side of the room. In walks Lorna (just 30 minutes before she had to be meeting parents), and Angel (she teaches horsemanship and riding) and then, Cody (Tim Peak’s son who works on the grounds) and with all of us, and a brainstorm from Cody ~ we got it all to fit beautifully and then, I was ready.
Towards the end, it started to pour and I still had a couple of families show up. Once it was over, that sweet Cody (whom I remember well from years ago and throughout the years when I would substitute for whatever class he was in). He's a great young man and I enjoyed him then as a little boy and I have loved getting to know him all over again. He is so friendly and helpful. We had to park our cars out on the field to free up parking space for the parents. When it was time to go home, Cody came in my room with an umbrella and said, “Come on; let’s get your car off that field.” He handed me the umbrella and walked me to my car. I drove it to my classroom door, went in my room, gathered up my things, turned off the A/C and the lights, locked the door and slid in behind the wheel of my car, thinking, “When you come to the end of a perfect day…”
More later ~ I actually have a combined class of 18 children, ages six, seven, and eight … makes me feel like “Little House on the Prairie” ~ but the school offers individualized education ~ whatever that child needs, is what that child gets so it doesn’t really matter which class they are in.
Good night ~ I’m going to bed!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
As CPO3 would say, “it's my lot in life” to be surrounded by those who are infinitely more sensitive than I. This is both good and bad. One particularly difficult relationship with a roommate in therapy turned out to be a boom for me. She paid for it, but I benefited from it. After each session, she would tell me what he said and I would take it to heart and use it. I'm sorry to say she hasn't yet.
One such was reframe, which is actually like the song from My Turn on Earth...Turn It Around (or something like that). Recently, my niece is taking a bit of church therapy and was told to reframe. She wrote me about how hard it is to be mom to her daughter with her mother around. It's a long and sad tale with a wonderful ending in sight. But for the moment, grandmother, daughter and granddaughter share time together. It's taxing on all three to say the least. And probably on my brother most of all.
But in the latest email, I think my niece realized the futility of dealing with her daughter's tantrums (she's four) with grandmother around. So I shared with her this observation from years ago.
When my niece came along, my mother and her mother didn’t see eye to eye either. My sister-in-law saw a willful, disobedient, defiant child who was seemingly immune to time out, spankings, lectures or grounding. My mother saw a free spirited, strong, extremely bright young child who needed a variety of daily activities especially active ones.
How’s the niece’s daughter? A spoiled princess with a wonderfully peaceful personality that is easily distracted from a tantrum. Too bad, my niece and her mother can’t share this reframing.
In literature, they call this point of view. And some very successful books/movies use this to promote growth in their characters. The best I’ve seen lately is the movie Vantage Point. It is a visual demostration of what reframing can do.
Monday, August 4, 2008
A week or so ago, as I was standing in the office supply area at Target, I overheard a little boy saying excitedly, "I think I need a pocket folder. I think I need a pocket folder."
Not wanting to stare, I sent a surreptitious glance in his direction. He looked like he might be entering first grade, second grade at most. He had dark hair and glasses and was fairly bouncing with excitement at picking out his school supplies. A pleasant faced man was with him, undoubtedly his dad who, I guessed, was giving his wife a well-deserved break from the opening frazzle of the fast approaching school season.
As the boy grabbed a folder with the necessary internal slots inside the cover and held it earnestly up to his dad, his dad replied in all seriousness:
"That will never fit in your pocket."
I had to dash around the corner of the aisle to hid the giggles that threatened to overcome me. I don't know how the rest of the conversation turned out, but let me just say here and now:
Hurrah!!! to all well-meaning dads, however occasionally clueless, who take the time to help out their wives and children by stepping outside of their comfort zones into what must, at times, appear to them a completely new and alien world!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
In a speech given to at BYU-Hawaii’s graduation on 15 December 2007, M. Russell Ballard spoke about conversations going on around the world about what our church teaches. Some are well informed; others are not. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, he observed, most are much smaller. However, all conversations have an impact upon participants, and conversations on the web, moreover, don’t disappear, but stay as archive material that can be pulled up long after the conversers have moved on.
Elder Ballard asked faithful members of the church to start conversing. He urged the graduates (and, by extension, us) to participate on the internet and find ways to explain what the Gospel means to them/us. He asked us not to let other people define us. He suggested we use the interactive aspects of the internet to correct erroneous information we find. He further suggested that we learn to blog and let our lights shine in the blogosphere.
I’m reminded of his talk as I scan the list of names attached to the sidebar in this blog, noting the names of new sisters taking the electronic plunge. And, I smile as new bloggers venture out on their own, thinking about the force for good that is growing out there. Talk about leaven. This is Cyberleaven!
In the name of leaven, I’d like to suggest one step that Brother Ballard didn’t cover as far as something we can do as a force for good in the internet. We can use whatever platform we have to review and spread the word about our sisters’ books. How many of us are published? How many of us have read the books published by ANWA members? Marsha Ward has published two books with a third on the way, Cecily Markland has published a children’s book, as has Anna Arnett. Kerry Blair, Jeanette Rallison, Gayla Wise, Joyce DiPastena--who am I leaving out? Me. I’m there, too. Who else? Jennifer Stewart Griffeth. Cindy Williams, Rebecca Talley, Christine Thackeray. Please help me by posting comments adding names of our other sisters with books out in the marketplace. I’m having a senior moment, here and know I’m forgetting more than one.
If you don’t have a blog where you can post a review, you can join Goodreads or Shelfari and post reviews there. These are like electronic book clubs. After you join, you can look around and see who else is there that you know and collect ‘friends’. Friends are people who will let you know what they’re reading and people with whom you will share what you feel about the books you’ve just read. See how this is a natural place to share about ANWA authors? By the way, when you join, look me up and ask to be my friend. I’d love to hear about what you’re reading.
Another thing you can do is go to Amazon.com and write reviews of ANWA sisters’ books. (Also, read a few of the ones posted there, and if you agree, mark that the review helped you. Someone wrote a scathing review of one of my books on Amazon, and because a single person said that review helped them and no one said the positive review was helpful, the terrible, awful, nasty review is the one that pops up first.)
I hate for someone to give a talk and then issue a challenge, so I’m not going to do that. But I am exhorting you all to set a goal to read X (your own number) of books written by LDS writers (and particularly ANWA Sisters) and put information about that book out on the web. I myself pledge to read and post about at least one book from each of our published ANWA sisters this next year. (If you’re one of them and have a druther about which book or where it’s posted (Amazon, Goodreads, my blog, this blog) let me know by email and I’ll oblige.)
Sisters, this is a small service we can render. Like any service, we can’t know just how far the reach of our offering, but let’s do it in faith.