Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Timelines

by Terri Wagner

The devil is in the details as they say. And one detail that keeps tripping me up is timeline issues. Now, I know you’d think this would be an easy detail to keep straight. However, I seem to get it wrong more than I get it right. I recently read a twology (I didn’t know they made such things, but leave to sci fi to come up with it) and nearly laughed out loud when I realized yes indeed they had messed up their timeline. Made me feel better. Course when you’re dealing with elves, dwarves, warrows, men and fairies, you don’t really have to be that right because who can say you’re wrong?!

It seems easy enough to keep straight morning, noon, night, midnight, but seasons give me a headache. I’ll have an ice skating party, then want it to be early fall because suddenly someone has to travel and how can I have them traveling in the 1800s in the bitter winter? Yes, I realize some of our gallant pioneers did just that, but it was after all under necessity. And my particular characters are not in that desperate a strait. Although, hmmm, that’s an idea!

Painfully, I am learning what a very successful writer once told me: write down your characters, your locales, your timeline and your plot, THEN write your story. Doing it any other way means endless editing on details that cause you to miss bigger issues. Ones you can bet no publishing company editor will miss. I thought it would interfere with my creative spirit. I also thought it would be reducing it to some scientific experiment.

Maybe I really ought to listen to the “habits of highly successful writers,” eh?

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Best Investment We Can Make in Our Writing?

by Joyce DiPastena

While eating my breakfast before Church on Sunday, I read a General Conference talk in the May 2008 Ensign by Elder Sheldon F. Child entitled, “The Best Investment”. He related how, as a young boy, after his first experience with paying tithing, his mother expressed her pride in his obedience to this commandment, then added, “Your grandfather always told us children that if we would faithfully pay an honest tithing, the Lord would bless us and it would be the best investment that we could ever make.”

I think few of us who pay our tithing faithfully would argue that, indeed, the keeping of this commandment is “the best investment” we can make in both our financial and spiritual well-being.

As I pondered Elder Sheldon’s talk, I reflected on my current impasse with finding writing time in my life. Which led me in turn to reflect on the ten-percent principle. What if, I wondered, I looked at all the waking hours of my day and decided to try to “tithe them” towards my writing talent? One tenth of my daily or weekly time devoted to researching, studying, or actively writing? Yes, that would likely involve budgeting, but so does the ability to pay one’s tithing. I might have to cut out some “frills”…TV time, internet time. For some reason, tithing my income feels much easier for me than attempting to tithe my time. Yet I realize that doing so would likely be one of the best investments I could make in whatever writing talent the Lord has given me.

Now the question is…can I do it? Will I do it? When my turn to blog rolls around again two weeks from today, I’ll let you know!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I Don't Know Where I'm Headed, but This Feels Right

by Liz Adair

This is going to be short.

I've been saying for some time that the problem with my writing is that I like my day job as much as I like to write. Last year, my day job expanded so it just about crowded out everything else. Add time to prep for and teach seminary to that, and my writing was really suffering.

In the midst of that, on faith, I took on the job of writing the service blog for yourLDSneighborhood.

Covering all my bases suddenly became possible at the end of the school year. I was released as a seminary teacher, and at the same time, I hired someone to fully take over one of my clients. I'm still super busy, but writing is now part of the busy-ness.

Last Thursday, my daughter Terry asked if I'd like to go to Bellingham with her to have lunch with a lady who wanted to talk to her about humanitarian outreach, since Terry is the driving force behind SWAN. I automatically said no, I didn't have time, but something didn't feel right about not going. I realized, because of the changes, I really did have time, and this would be a good chance for some mom/daughter bonding time during the 40 minute drive to Bellingham. So I called her back and said I'd go.

The result of that lunch was my September 26 blog on Liz Sez. I found out about a need that exists in third world countries that is getting little attention. The blog I posted called "Seize this Day to Make a Difference" is my small part in doing something about it. I hope you'll check it out, if you haven't already.

I'm trying to listen to the spirit as I bumble around. I'm electronicly naive, an internet klutz, but still, in a quavery voice, I'm humming, "I will go, I will doooooo...."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Not The Way I Planned It

By Christine Thackeray

Last year I had a plan. I had published a short novel, "Crayon Messages" and completed a non-fiction collaboration with my sister on C. S. Lewis. The plan was to finish my next "visiting teaching adventure" by the end of the summer and with the fall get started on the historical fiction novel I have brewing in my brain.

Well, the summer was a bust. Unexpected family events and a move left me with very few written pages. I think when the children left school I was at page 45 and when they started I was in the 80's.

It was not for lack of trying. I plotted out the entire novel, and even wrote a chapter by chapter synopsis. Then, based on advice I heard at a writers conference, I wrote three or four unconnected chapters that I felt the most passionate about. But when I tried to connect the dots, it seemed too manipulated and the delete button swept away hours of wasted time.

Finally, I buckled down and started writing in a line from where I left off. I started reading more which helped me to change my POV and many days I just muscled my way through scenes that left me empty.

I still have to thank Marsha for the WOW (Week of Writing) because I was still flailing, having my characters push forward without being sure where they were going to go.

Friday afternoon, when the kids arrived home I got up and fixed them an afterschool snack, went and volunteered at the school and picked up my sixteen year old from cross country. When I had left the computer, my dialogue was half finished but I couldn't write the rest. When I came back, I realized that I didn't need the rest but wanted to follow a different character completely. Suddenly all the dominoes fell in place and it is actually going to be done in just nine more chapters and it is going to be brilliant!

I was recently reading a book by Collier on how to write and sell your first novel. One of the statements he makes is that if you decide you really want to be a writer, you need to give yourself a writing quota. Although you may well exceed it, whether you are sick, busy or even if your brain has totally shut down for the afternoon, you need to write your minimum quota for the day. Blogs and writing exercises don't count- it has to be on your work in progress.

Your only break is when you finish your rough draft and then you take a two week vacation from the computer. Live, read the paper, look for new plots and things that interest you. Then you edit, send it out and start again.

When I first read this advice I was skeptical but after what I've learned from WOW, bad writing can take you through the hard spots so you can see where you have to shift to make it better. With me I had to go back and change multiple conversations to make the new version work but it does work, which is fun.

I have a friend who plans out her books and always writes from her synopsis. What I keep learning is that it is alright that she does it that way. For me, I do the research, create the characters, have a clear story arc and then let nature take its course. Until the last word is written I have to be willing to change scenes, characters and plot in order to build the story that I want.

For me the heart of the story is what the reader feels when they read the last word and put it down. I hope they smile and feel like they have been brought to a new place and have a new understanding of the beauty of their lives.

So like my perfectly plotted novel that didn't turn out that way, my time table also has been dashed in the wind. The plan is important but flexibility is also important to achieve the desired outcome. Wooh, that is so true of my life! Nothing has gone as planned. So when I sit and write out what I'm going to accomplish today and a friend calls or my husband happens to work at home that day, I should simply shrug and go with the flow as long as its taking me the right direction..

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Recognizing Gifts

by Kari Pike

I feel like a small child the week before Christmas. I stand in awe of the colorful pile of wrapped packages and wonder which one I will open first. Sometimes I pick one up and examine its shape, size, and weight. I poke it here and there and give it a gentle shake. I’m pretty certain of the contents of a few of the gifts because I made special requests for them. Many of the gifts before me, however, are a complete mystery. Some are quite large, others small, and every one of these gifts is uniquely wrapped.

Christmas is still a few months away, and my birthday came and went like any other day. The gifts before me now are the daily opportunities I have been given to learn and grow. In order to recognize these gifts, I have to rip through the wrapping of challenges that hide them from my view.

A number of years ago I learned the importance of preparing myself to receive the many gifts waiting for me. I was standing in the carport of our small home, switching loads of laundry and folding clothes. Several boxes stood stacked beside the washer and dryer. The thought came to me that it had been a long time since I had gone through those boxes and that I needed to sort and organize these items in order to be prepared. Prepared for what!? We had just gone through the experience of a premature birth of our ninth child and then nearly losing that baby to illness a few weeks later. We finally had everyone healthy and my husband had a new and better paying job that didn’t require him to be away from home several days a week. Maybe that was it. I had used up my allotment of blessings and now needed to be tested again. (Sheesh…Satan is sooooo good a putting false beliefs in our heads!) My heart pounded and beads of sweat formed on my forehead. What was going to happen this time? As panic set in, I began an earnest conversation with Father in Heaven. Almost immediately, I felt my heart slow down and fill with warmth. I felt, rather than heard, “Hush, child.” Then I felt these words form in my head: “It is as important to prepare to receive blessings as it is to go through trials.”

The experiences that came over the next several years have been glorious gifts. Sometimes the layers of wrapping have been really tough to remove, but those turned out to be the most precious gifts. Now, I stand in front of a suspiciously large gift. I have unwrapped and opened the box and discovered it full of manure. I am climbing in with shovel in hand. I am excited about digging into this challenge. I know there is a pony in there somewhere!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wedding

by Anna Arnett

(Because I missed blogging a couple of weeks ago, I'm doubling up today. I'm supposing age allows me some advantages.)

Last Thursday, Sept. 19, Mark’s daughter Andrea married Spencer Bates in the Arizona Temple. For me and my side of the family, emotion sometimes bubbled up with tears. Charles had had the privilege of sealing the first fourteen grandchildren and this was the first grandchild who missed having her temple marriage sealed by Grandpa. But Brother Perkinson, who knew the Bates family well and had worked with Charles for some time, brought a special, spiritual feeling as he performed the ceremony.

The Bates family had a wonderful brunch and program before the wedding, which I could describe in glowing details, but since this is my blog I’ll toot the Arnett horn. I suspect every mother finds her own children to be exceptionally unique.

Mark and Camille chose the Harkins Theater in east Mesa for the wedding reception. Actually, it was in the same theater room where Mark showed his “Baby Boomer” documentary the evening of Charles’ military burial. I might add, for the benefit of those who saw the film, that Mark would not accept the financial demands for rights to some of the music he had used as background, and replaced it with original compositions and new musicians, but finally got it all tweaked up and has submitted it to a dozen or so film festivals.

The reception was not only delightful, but comparatively easy. Announcements looked like theater tickets which didn’t even have to be shown. Decorations were minimal. Just a sign-in table in the hall by the entry, and black cloths on the refreshment table. The relaxed reception line lasted only until the beginning of each of the three showings, and only the bride and groom wore formal attire. The rest wore jeans, black T-shirts (well, the bridesmaids and best men wore red) emblazoned with the names of Andrea and Spencer, and stood in their most comfortable shoes. Refreshments were theater style: popcorn, pop, water, red vines or boxed Milk Duds. Pre-showing ads with a few weird instructions like “Please do not speak French during the showing”, and quizzes about the likes and dislikes of the new couple provided background for the reception line and seat-finding. Then the houselights dimmed. In theater-comfort we watched about a fifteen-minute wedding film done by Mark with his flair of humor sneaking out at unexpected times.

Andrea originated the idea for a theater reception several years ago, but Suzanne married first. So this became a new and improved version. I’ll freely admit that watching one of Mark’s dozen or so wedding videos in a theater far out-rated the hard chairs and stretching to see over heads in a cultural hall setting.

Mark claims it saved him several thousand dollars over what many of his friends spent for their more traditional but lavish receptions. I think the only cost for my own receptions, way back when, was for refreshments, and the orchid corsage my dad bought for me for the one in Utah. Invitations were by word of mouth, decorations were practically unheard of, and only cake and punch were traditional to serve. Of course they took sugar ration stamps, but returning servicemen were given a generous supply. Ah, how times have changed.

Thanks for listening.

Anna
.

My Birthday Party

by Anna Arnett

Grandma’s Birthday Flower Bouquet
August 30, 2008

For my 84th birthday, most of my adult posterity brought good food to share, after which each in turn presented me with a silk flower, telling me why they chose that particular kind. I would have posted a picture of the bouquet on this blog a couple of weeks ago if I had only known how to do it. Sue took notes and transcribed them for me. Now I’m passing it along to you. In the off chance any of you want to know who is who, all seven of my children were here: Marolyn, Wayne, Kat(hleen), Paul, David, Karlene, and Mark. That’s the order of their birth. The grandchildren who came gave flowers right after their parents.

Mark & Camille – This flower was planted in good soil, grew, bloomed and faded gently like you. Grandma has bloomed, flourished and nourished all of us. We chose a purple flower because it is bright & vivacious just like you. There are little flowers next to it, which are all of us trying to be like her.

Karlene & Jasen – This flower is pink because Mom looks hot in pink and it is her favorite color along with turquoise and black. It looks like a pom-pom and so it reminds me of Mom because she is my biggest cheer -leader. It looks like a friendship flower too. She is my best friend.

David – I chose the Bird of Paradise flower because it was the most unique flower I could find and Mom is very unique. The meaning of the flower is magnificence and Mom is magnificent. I got a yellow flower because it starts with the letter Y and why am I doing this silly thing? - because Marolyn and Karlene made me.

Paul – I got a huckleberry because they are from Idaho and Mom used to pick them every summer. Her mom made the best huckleberry pie.

Kat & Jerry – I picked a red poinsettia for Mom because she loves Christmas and always buys poinsettias for the Holidays.

Eileen & Ryan – I’m giving Grandma an Easter lily because it stands for Heavenly to be with you, and purity. I know that every Easter Grandma would buy a pot of Easter lilies and so Easter and Easter lilies remind me of her.

Jacob & Diane– Baby’s breath is for Grandma because it means everlasting love. Their (Grandma & Grandpa’s) everlasting love inspires all of the rest of our family’s relationships.

Lisa & Heath – I picked a lavender iris for Grandma, because it stands for faith, hope, wisdom and valor which all describe her.

Greg & Brittany – The sunflower is for Grandma because it is a happy flower. It also reminds us of the country and Grandma is a country girl. Additionally the sunflower follows the sun like Grandma follows the son, our Savior.

Steve & Kiera – This yellow daisey is happy and cheerful just like Grandma always has a smiley face.

Wayne, Sue, Mitch & Angela – We picked a pink peony because Mom loves peonies and they represent a happy marriage, happy life, warmth and adoration. She and Dad have had a wonderfully happy marriage, & life and we feel such warmth and adoration for them. “We adore you!” Grandma’s grandma carried peony bulbs clear across the plains to Utah and they always bloomed just in time for Memorial Day.

Celeste & Ryan – I picked a white carnation. Grandma added that carnations last longer than any other flower like an energizer bunny. Grandma has lasted a long time. I wanted to pick a white flower because the thought came to me of the temple. I am so happy that I get to be with Grandma and Grandpa forever because they were married in the temple.

Doug & Maryjane – We picked a purple iris for Grandma because of her faith, hope and wisdom, which are represented in an iris. We thought it was perfect. You give an iris to someone who you have great admiration for and Maryjane & I have great admiration for Grandma.

Will & Traci - Will picked a sunflower for Grandma because of her sunny disposition and because she is so fun to be around. Traci gave her a daisy. Daisies represent innocence . Grandma still radiates childlike innocence. Daisies also represent loyalty. She is loyal to family and church.

James & Emily – A carnation was picked because it represents pure love, innocence and purity and these are three of the many wonderful traits of Grandma.

Brian & Amanda – We picked a gladiola for Grandma because she is always glad of heart and we are so glad that she is our Grandma.

Marolyn & Milan – We love the way you are so good and that you work at it…keeping the commandments and seeing the good in others. “Mom, you are the best and most pure woman I know.” We chose this white peony because it represents your pure heart.

Christopher & Cheryl– On the Arnett website quiz both Grandma and I (Cheryl) were sunflowers and I was so excited because I want to be like grandma more than everything. Wherever Grandma is, she is happy. Sunflowers can grow and thrive anywhere. They bloom where they are planted. Grandma is like a sunflower. Christopher adds that unlike the sunflower, everything revolves around grandma.

Kristen & Rob – I love that Grandma is sassy. I loved it when she said she was sick of sharing her birthday with Charles. “Grandma, I love you and I hope one day I can be like you. I want to be sassy, cute and lovable like you.” The yellow flower represents the sunshine you bring to everyone.

Stephanie & Dave – I love that Grandma is a wonderful grandma and great grandma to her children. “Grandma, you always make me smile.” I chose the blue flowers because blue is calming just like you.

Staci & John – I love how Grandma is always happy and that she is extremely intelligent. “Grandma, my highest ambition is to be just like you when I grow up.” I chose the red flower because it represents power and your traits are powerful.

Grandma’s message for her posterity – I am overwhelmed by all these well-chosen, beautiful, silk flowers, by your love, and your glowing compliments. Since the scriptures tell us that we become what we think in our hearts, I know that only our thoughts limit us. Therefore, we can be whatever we believe we can be. So, keep happy thoughts. That’s what keeps me going. After all, there’s nothing so thin that it doesn’t have at least two sides. My heart-felt message for you is to choose well which side you’ll concentrate on -- and never forget that I love you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Write it down!

by Valerie Ipson

I teach Gospel Doctrine in my ward. The first week I got up to teach I said, "I'm your new Gospel Doctrine teacher...[pause]...I know, it's scary for me, too." Really, anything with the word doctrine in the title should not have ME anywhere in the vicinity teaching it--isn't that best left to General Authorities and Seminary teachers? I guess a love for the scriptures counts for something because I'm going on about 6 months now in this calling and no uprisings or mutiny thus far.

I am by far the greatest beneficiary of this calling, as it has opened my understanding of the Book of Mormon as never before. Take Sunday's lesson--we read about how all the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite came to pass--"every whit," no less. All the people witnessed the day, the night, and the day with no darkness; they saw the new star; there were many other miracles that were not named specifically. And yet, as time passed, some "began to be less and less astonished at a sign or wonder from heaven." They even convinced themselves that the miracles were "wrought by man and by the power of the devil." (3rd Nephi 2:1-2) What happened?

I'm telling you, THEY DIDN'T KEEP A JOURNAL! A journal entry records one's feelings in a particular moment in time. When you go back to read it, you review that spiritual experience, that personal revelation, that answer to prayer, that miracle, and you remember what you felt. You can't change it or erase it or rationalize it away. It's there exactly the way you expressed it and felt it.

So, let us write it down...all the wonderful things that occur in our lives, and never stop being astonished at His handiwork.

PS. Check out ldsjournal.com for a cool, new way to keep a journal. I love it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Day with Inspirational Writer Bob Yehling

By Rene Allen

Saturday, I attended a five hour workshop given by Bob Yehling, author, editor, book doctor, etc., on inspirational writing, which he calls transformational writing.

One of the highlights of the workshop included a discussion about the three types of thinking in transformational writing and how they are interactive in a piece of writing. Proactive thinking is just that, planning, doing pre-writing, and creating the emotional, physical and mental space for the project. Critical thinking is looking at the material and making decisions about what goes into a piece, and after a first draft, about structure and editing. Visionary thinking is also important, seeing the end from the beginning, the ability to create the goal which then helps stick to the process of writing.

One of the problems with inspirational writing is that it usually requires the writer use self as a springboard in a cause and effect format. Getting into the core, the self where passion and feeling are can be difficult. There are techniques that help do this, such as writing about the environment when something is so difficult it cannot be approached directly. For example, writing about the furniture in a room may permit a “backdoor” entry into an event that was hard but life changing. Also, finding a metaphor for the experience and expanding it, then returning full circle to saying how my life is like ________ may be a way into the emotional essence of an experience as well.

As an example of this, I used the simile that my writing time is like a target in a batter’s cage, then described how different types of hitters, including myself at times, deflect me from my writing.

Bob Yehling has self-published a book that won the bronze prize in 2007 for self-published books, “Writes of Life,” that include his tips on writing inspirational material. Here’s an inauspicious beginning for my inspirational writing. I made it home with two of the three books I purchased at the workshop and lost that one. Sigh. There’s always something . . .

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Prayer

by Marsha Ward

It's my turn to post a blog again, and although earlier in the week I thought I had something to say here, it kind of evaporated because I didn't write my idea down.

Sometimes I get inspiration from my weekly church meetings, but today I'm not sure I have anything from there.

Except, all month long our theme in church has been Prayer. My thoughts have been turned to prayer by happenings around the blogosphere and in the world. A couple of my friends were in the path of recent hurricanes. A young man whose grandparents were dear friends of my parents was in a tragic plane crash with his sweet wife and a flight instructor. The flight instructor died, and the couple received horrible burns that will change their lives forever. Our blogger Kristine posted about it here.

I have been praying for all these people, those I know and those I don't.

It was my turn to pick the hymns for worship services in September. Here is one of my favorites about prayer, Oh, May My Soul Commune with Thee, Hymn #123 with Text and music by Lorin F. Wheelwright, from Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985:

Oh, may my soul commune with thee
And find thy holy peace;
From worldly care and pain of fear,
Please bring me sweet release.

Oh, bless me when I worship thee
To keep my heart in tune,
That I may hear thy still, small voice,
And, Lord, with thee commune.

Enfold me in thy quiet hour
And gently guide my mind
To seek thy will, to know thy ways,
And thy sweet Spirit find.

Lord, grant me thy abiding love
And make my turmoil cease.
Oh, may my soul commune with thee
And find thy holy peace.

I hope these yearning words lead you to prayer that gives you peace today.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Of Dogs and Doors and Pleasing Our Master

by Margaret Turley

This week my household was expanded by one four-pound teacup Chihuahua named Pepito. My daughter saw him at a dog rescue, took a picture with her cell phone camera, and sent it to my sister, who showed it to me. His face could be Bambi, and I fell in instant like. $150.00 later I had a dog – something I haven’t had since our family pet – Hercules – a buff cocker spaniel, died four years ago of cancer.

I am amazed at how much love a dog can give, with just a look of his trusting eyes, the happy wag of his tail, and the all-over shivering delight in his body. He is perfectly content to curl up in my lap while I work at the computer, or at my feet, or next to me in bed. He is smart and has learned to adapt to his new surroundings quite well.

I received an e-mail this week that dealt with death, dying and a dog. The story went like this:

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.”

Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don't know.”

“You don't know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”

The doctor was holding the handle of the door. On the other side he heard a sound of scratching and whining. As he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here. When the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death. But I do know one thing...I know my Master is there and that is enough.”

I’ve thought about that a lot this week. We know we have nothing to fear because of Our Lord’s atonement. In fact we look forward to having forever families and living with our Father in Heaven once more. We need to be as devoted and enthusiastic about pleasing our Master as our pets and more, since we have the ability to choose to do His will and keep His commandments.

We should also be as excited to share the “good news” of the gospel. We don’t know how it will be accepted, but we do know for each soul that receives the gospel there is great rejoicing by all the others in the next life. Then they can look forward to making the next step because they will know the Master too. All it takes from me is the faith of a mustard seed – much like my tiny canine that trusts me and does my bidding.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Remodeling

By Rebecca Talley

We live in a rural area so we depend on a well water to run our home. Our water is extremely hard and as a result our plumbing takes a beating. We've had problems with the plumbing fixtures in our bathroom for a while and decided it was time to replace them. Unfortunately, the plumber that installed our shower system didn't use universal parts. We realized we couldn't replace the shower head, tub spout, and handle without either 1) removing the entire bath unit or 2) making a hole in the wall behind the bathroom. We chose number 2.

My husband has been working hard to replace the hardware. As soon as that's finished, we'll be doing some tiling. I'm confident the bathroom will look much nicer and the plumbing will work properly when we're done and I'll have a tub spout again!

As I've thought about our bathroom, getting rid of the old plumbing and putting in the new, it made me think about remodeling myself. What old things about me do I need to get rid of and replace with something new that actually works?

I have the world's worst first reactions to things. My kids always have to preface something they know I won't like with, "Now, Mom, don't freak out." I'd love to replace my tendency to "freak out" with a calmer, more productive reaction. I've found that if I walk away and take a few minutes, I can usually have a better reaction to something. I just need to implement that more often.

I'd love to replace my old, been-with-me-forever, rebellious attitude. My rebellious nature served me well as I grew up with anti-Mormon sentiments in my home, but now my tendency to do the opposite of what I'm asked or never allow anyone to tell me what to do, doesn't serve me so well. I'd love to replace my rebellious attitude with a softer, more willing heart. I'm better than I used to be, but still have such a long way to go. Perhaps, if I live to be 240 I might finish remodeling that part of me.

I can say that I'm currently in a long remodeling stage of biting my tongue and censoring myself better. I've been known to say whatever pops into my head, but I've gotten better over the years and can usually keep things to myself. I have some very strong opinions. In the past, I believed everyone was entitled to hear my opinions, but I now realize that isn't such an endearing quality. On occasion, though, I do falter and "tell it like it is."

If only remodeling myself could be as easy as the bathroom. If only I could just throw out the old stuff without another thought. I suppose, though, I wouldn't learn as much if it were so easy. Just as my home will need continual remodeling, so will I. In the end, both the house and I will be better for it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Brain is Full

by Stephanie Abney

You know how sometimes your stomach is just as "full" as it can be? That's how my brain has been feeling lately. It is just plain OVERLOADED ... too much going on, too much reading for preparing for class, too many Internet searches for just the right worksheet for school, too much thinking, if that's even possible and this, from someone who LOVES to think, study, read and learn.

So, a couple of random things (are we surprised I would be random?? ~ nope). This is Constitution Week and I hope you are all aware of it and doing things with your family to remember what a treasure this country is to us and at what a cost to the founders we enjoy it today.

Anyway, I'm disturbed by all the stress I see my little 7 year old students having over their school work. I want them to love learning and they are just plain stressing over the littlest thing. I gave an unannounced spelling pre-test on a list I passed out on Monday and I had 3 meltdowns... despite the fact that I said it wasn't for a grade, that it wasn't going home and that it was only for ME to see how they were doing so I would know which words we needed to go over. Good grief. I can't say much because that would be inappropriate to mention if any school parent tracks down what I ever have to say on the web, so I'll just say I could not believe how upset a few of them got.

The other thing that has been going on is that my daughter in Nevada is about to do battle with some school officials over what they have done to the math program in Clark County because the district was scoring poorly in math. So, they (whoever "they" are in this case) wrote a new, very ridiculous, math program with problems that resemble the ones found on the annual test. Well, if the problems she read to me over the phone are indicative of what is found on the test, NO WONDER they are scoring poorly, because they are the most confusing math questions you would ever imagine. When a mom (my daughter) who aced College Algebra is unable to help her son with his 3rd grade math, something is wrong. This "teaching to the test" nonsense is ruining the real education of our future generations. OK, I better not go there or I'll be up all night.

So, where does any of this lead? Probably not to a good night's sleep, which I could really use about now. But perhaps to a delightful new "hero" I found just two days ago when looking for something in reference to my classroom. I happened across his material and read and read it. I picked up his book at the library today (although I haven't had two minutes to even look at it yet) but you will LOVE the title: Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards by Dr. Marvin Marshall. (The subtitle is "How Teachers and Parents Promote Responsibility & Learning"). It teaches how internal motivation is far more powerful and effective in changing behavior than punishments or rewards. I can't wait to read it an implement it. But even more than that, I loved what he had to say about testing and grades. What do you think?

Here's the website about the book: www.disciplinewithoutstress.com ~ check out the sample chapters, especially Collaboration for Quality Learning ~ WOW, does that ever make sense ~ instead of this we are creating "competetion" and that promotes cheating and kids asking questions like: "Is it going to be on the test?" ~ they no longer want to learn for the sake of learning, but only care about what they are going to be tested on (sounds like some districts we know of, hmmm). It's really fascinating. Also, I think you'd really love going to HIS website and watching a minute and a half video of one of his presentations ~ http://www.marvinmarshall.com/ ~ I can't stop thinking of his perspective and how much sense it makes in nearly all aspects of life.

~ Enjoy!!! I've got to get to bed. I'm outta' here (I am sorry that it's been too crazy to visit this blog with any regularity or to make very many comments... hopefully, I'll get a routine down soon that will help to calm my life).


Love and Blessings to all,
Stephanie

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Powerful Prayer

by Terri Wagner

This Sunday I have to give a 10-minute talk on the power of prayer. As always, the topic assigned seems to mean more to the person giving the talk than those who are hearing it. Our small branch finally has a small building, and the dedication is this Sunday, hence the short talk. That's actually easy for me. It was drilled into me by my college speech professor that if the speech is 10 minutes, that's what you talk, give or take a few seconds.

I decided to do something out of the norm for me and tell of the prayer that eventually led me to the church. I say prayer because although it was spread out over many months, it was essentially one prayer. Heavenly Father not only answered that rather long prayer when I was 13 but gave me a bit of knowledge that caused me to search out the church that believed what I believed…I did not really know then that it was true doctrine, it was just something I had come to know.

It occurred to me as I was rehearsing my talk (yes, speech class drilled that into me as well [out loud]), that I don’t often pray with the intensity and fervor that I did then. Because I wanted my prayer answered, I was also very strict about praying over everything, a habit I’m afraid I’ve let slip.

So here’s my vow. I will pray every day for writing opportunities to come my way and then follow through, even if it’s at midnight!!! That way something everyday worth reading will get written. I know the power of prayer, and ashamed to admit, I’ve been neglecting it. Powerful prayer is a gift of the Spirit and as with all gifts, if we fail to use it, we will lose it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Don’t We Know More About Our Pre-Founding Fathers?

by Joyce DiPastena

Thank you to Valerie Ipson, who substituted for me two weeks ago during my trip to Pennsylvania! Though I was sad, upon returning, to learn that Betsy Love has left our blog rotation, I am thrilled that Valerie has joined us and look forward to reading many more excellent posts from her in the future!

My first trip to Pennsylvania was quite an adventure. I traveled with my sister, who works for the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and was attending a Genealogy Conference in Philadelphia. While she was attending classes and workshops, I was pretty much on my own to explore this wonderfully historical city. If I were to try to share all my experiences with you, this blog would run several pages, so I’m only going to share one.

Except for two visits to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I spent most of my time in the “Independence” area of the city, soaking up the history of the founding of our nation…viewing the Liberty Bell, touring Independence Hall to learn about the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution Center to learn about…well, the Constitution of the United States. While there were a few brief references here and there to William Penn, who founded the colony named after him, it was the presence of Benjamin Franklin, a native of Philadelphia, that seemed to emanate everywhere.

My next to last day, I decided to visit the Christ Church burial ground, to see where Benjamin Franklin was buried. I took a picture and, as appeared to be a tradition, threw a penny on his grave. (After all, “A penny saved is a penny earned!”) I wandered about the grounds for nearly an hour, reading various grave marker inscriptions, and snapping photos of the markers of other signers of the Declaration of Independence. Towards the end of my self-tour, a groundskeeper told me that I “must be sure to visit Christ Church, also”.

I thought Christ Church would be nearby the burial grounds, but it turned out to be some walking distance away. While excited to find there the pews that had once belonged to Betsy Ross and her family, and another assigned to George Washington, I found myself a bit unnerved by the discovery that, not only had a number of people apparently been buried beneath the Church, but that these “Church worthies” had shiny engravings on the floor, marking their “places of rest”. Keep in mind that Christ Church still serves an active congregation on Sundays. I’m not at all sure that I would feel comfortable knowing that I was literally walking on the dead when I went to Church each week!

One of these church vaults belonged to a member of the Penn family, and so did one of the pews. But nowhere in the Church, or it occurred to me in the burial grounds, had I seen any grave markers devoted to the colony’s founder, William Penn himself. So I asked a tour guide who was hovering nearby, “Where is William Penn buried?”

His reply: “William Penn is buried in England,” followed by a slightly surprised, “No one’s ever asked me that before. All people ever want to know about are the founders of the American Revolution.”

He then launched into a rather earnest discussion of the vastly underappreciated William Penn. Mostly he dwelt on how Penn, a Quaker, had wanted to found a colony free of a prescribed religion, where people could worship “according to their own consciences.” (He may as well have been reciting the 11th Article of Faith to me!) As he talked, I thought, of course, about the miraculous way this country had been founded, laying the groundwork for the Restoration of the Gospel. I realized that, while I am familiar with the stories of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson and the founding of Rhode Island as a place of religious freedom (usually from talks in Church about events leading up to the Restoration), I have rarely heard William Penn’s name mentioned alongside theirs. Rarely? More like never, since although I was familiar with his name, I was not aware that his colony, too, had been established on principles of religious freedom.

My historical interests now roused, I asked the tour guide where I could find out more about William Penn. After all, the gift shops were filled with books about Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and John Adams. How could there not be at least one book among the shelves with a biography of William Penn? But the tour guide said there wasn’t, then added, “I wouldn’t even know what books to recommend. You’d have to Google ‘William Penn’ or look on Amazon to try to find something written about him.”

So, on returning home, I did indeed Google “William Penn”. Thus far, I have only read an article on him in Wikipedia, but that has been enough to convince me that William Penn is indeed a vastly underappreciated “Pre-Founding Father”. Not only did he influence America’s path towards “freedom of religion” (although his successors in Pennsylvania rejected his ideals for a time after his death), but he made significant other contributions later adopted or adapted by those who ultimately established our current constitutional form of government.

To quote a summary from the Wikipedia article:

“Among Penn's legacies was the unwillingness to force a Quaker majority upon Pennsylvania, allowing his state to evolve into a successful ‘melting pot’. In addition, Thomas Jefferson and the founding Fathers adapted Penn’s theory of an amendable constitution and his vision that ‘all men are equal under God’ in forming the federal government following the American Revolution. In addition to Penn’s extensive political and religious treatises, he wrote nearly 1000 maxims, full of wise observation about human nature and morality.”

Some of you may already know more about William Penn than I did. But if you are as uninformed as I, you can read about him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Penn. As for myself, I’ll be searching Amazon soon for a good biography of this great man!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fearful Forgetting

Liz is away, so this is Terry Deighton taking her place.

I almost forgot to post this blog. "I forgot and I don't care mean the same thing," my husband would say. He is fond of repeating this maxim to me and the kids. I, for one, do not agree with him on this point. I did care about the eggs I left on the stove, all day, on Wednesday. I care about the wasted electricity, the ruined eggs, and I care about the smell that still permeates the house. Most of all, I care that the house could have burned down.
I care about fulfilling my commitment to Liz to post a blog today. I care about getting my WIP finished and out there to publishers. I care about having my husband's white shirt washed before he needs it. I care about sending home the flyers the office gave me that my students are supposed to show their parents. I care about all kinds of things that I forget, so why do I forget them? My husband would say that I don't care enough. Maybe there's something to that. I let other things that seem urgent crowd out what is important. I need to learn to stop and think before I act. I need to ask myself if there is something more important I should be doing than watching TV or playing computer games. Maybe I should post signs around my house. They could say: Stop! What are you forgetting? The key would be to actually stop, read the signs, and think instead of letting the junk in my head distract me from seeing what is in front of me.
There is another reason I forget things. It is more sinister than the brain cloud described in the previous paragraph. Somewhere, lurking in my brain, there is a little creature who makes me forget things that scare me. I hate making phone calls because I am afraid I'll say the wrong thing or say something stupid, so I forget to make them. I am afraid to send my book to a publisher because I am afraid it will be rejected, so I forget to work on it. I am afraid of failure, so I forget to try new things. I wonder what kind of sign I could put up to help me wipe out fear?
Maybe it could say: Stop! Forget Your Fear and Move Forward! After all, I'm good at forgetting!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Power of Words

By Kristine John

As writers, we paint our lives with our words.
We choose the things that we portray to others with love, and hope that the spirit of what we feel will be carried through in our words to the hearts of our readers.

In recent weeks, I have been touched by the impact that an LDS sister of ours has had on the blogging world.
I do not know her personally, but her story has touched my heart, and I feel the need to share it here today.

Stephanie Nielsen is the blog author of NieNieDialogues.
Last month, she and her husband were in a plane crash in eastern Arizona and both of them were burned critically.
They are both still in the hospital with the cost of their health care expected to climb into the millions.
(They have four delightful children that are being cared for by family members in Utah.
You can follow their story here: C Jane Enjoy It.)

As word has spread of the plane crash, and the physical hardships that lie ahead for the Nielsen family, support has poured in from around the globe.
Most of the people offering help are not people who know Stephanie personally, but people who have been forever changed by her words.

Family members have been interviewed by the local news, the New York Times and even appeared on the Today show.
Consistently, reporters have been surprised that people who do not know the Nielsen family would be willing and even anxious to help a family they have never met.
Such is the power of words, especially words written from the heart, with the spirit of love.

Stephanie chose to focus on life as a joy, motherhood as a blessing, and marriage as a gift.
She took the time to share what was in her heart, and bear testimony, time and again, of the fact that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, paragraph 1).
She chose to share the traditions she established and special moments she shared with her family and friends, and ultimately, with all who read her blog.
She is a writer who shared what was in her heart, and painted her life vividly with her words.

Sometimes as writers, we minimize the power of our God-given talent, and don't strive to share the things in our heart with the world around us.
I would be greatly saddened if Stephanie had chosen to keep her voice quiet and not written the things that were important to her.
She continues to have an impact on the lives of those around her, even as all of her time and energy is given to helping her body recover.
Such is the power of words carried to our hearts by the spirit of the Holy Ghost.

Let us each strive to write honestly, personally, and from our hearts.
We never know whose life we may impact.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Attitude of Gratitude

by Kari Pike

Alma 45:1

“Behold, now it came to pass that the people of Nephi were exceedingly rejoiced, because the Lord had again delivered them out of the hands of their enemies; therefore they gave thanks unto the Lord their God; yea, and they did fast much and pray much, and they did worship God with exceedingly great joy.”


When I read that scripture a couple of weeks ago, I marveled at how the Nephites not only prayed in gratitude, but fasted as well. When in need, I have knelt in prayer and fasted many times. I have knelt in prayer in order to thank my Heavenly Father for the blessings He has sent. But I don’t think I have gone out of my way to give thanks with the same energy I have used to ask for something.


Later that day, I came across an Ensign article by Elder Merril J. Bateman. (May 1995) Elder Bateman referred to Luke 17: 12-19 – the story of healing the ten lepers. Christ met them as he entered a certain village “and they cried out ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’” Jesus told them to go to the priests, which they did, and they were healed. But only one came back to thank Jesus. Only one both recognized and acknowledged from where the gift came. The one that returned was a Samaritan. That is significance in that. “He fell down on his face at [Jesus’] feet, giving thanks…” Jesus responded by asking, “Were there not ten cleansed?” Then he told the Samaritan, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” Elder Bateman pointed out that “in becoming a whole person, the grateful leper was healed inside as well as on the outside.” The other nine lepers were only healed skin deep. The one leper’s life was changed eternally because of his “faith in the Savior and the healing power of the Atonement.” He felt and expressed gratitude and was made whole.

The word “whole” stood out to me. I wondered how the idea of gratitude making us whole ties into the scriptures that admonish us to be perfect “even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The footnotes for “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 show that the alternate translation for “perfect” from the Greek is “complete, finished, fully developed.” Doctrine and Covenants 67:13 tells us, “Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.” We can not achieve perfection in this life, meaning without faults or mistakes. Mistakes are unavoidable in this life. However, we do have the ability to prepare ourselves to return to our Father in Heaven through faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, obedience and service. I think that an attitude of gratitude can and will help us make and keep these sacred covenants and indeed make us whole, both inside and out.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Finishers Wanted

by Valerie Ipson


In an address given by Thomas S. Monson in 1972, he talked about seeing a sign in a furniture store that read "Finishers Wanted." He then went on to talk about accomplishing all the important work of this lfe and enduring to the end. For an aspiring writer this phrase can relate directly to the work of writing and seeing a project through to the end--something I struggle with. I have a box load of first chapters and notes for at least 10 novels and snippets of children's stories here and there as evidence.

I'm always eager to hear how other authors "did it"--what was their routine, how did they churn out page after page, chapter after chapter, how did they finish? It's as if there will be some magic formula that will be the key to unlocking my "finishing" dreams. In all my research of this topic I've come up with this (best put by Joan Sowards as related by Kerry Blair): "Just write the dang book!" I think that means I just need to sit at my computer and type--that's the secret.

President Monson said, "Finishers have the capacity to visualize their objective--vision without effort [though] is daydreaming; [and] effort without vision is drudgery; but vision, coupled with effort, will obtain the prize. Then he quotes a well-known poem:

Stick to your task ’til it sticks to you;
Beginners are many, but enders are few.
Honor, power, place and praise
Will always come to the one who stays.
Stick to your task ’til it sticks to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it, too;
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life’s victories after a while.—Author Unknown

Now a sign hangs above my computer with a picture of President Monson and the phrase Finshers Wanted (thanks to Barbara who shared this thought in our chapter meeting). I'm not so concerned with the "honor, power, place, and praise" the poem mentions--I JUST WANT TO FINISH!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back to the Bees

by Rene Allen



This morning when a UPS driver knocked at the door and my husband answered (he’s home today because he has a cold) she didn’t even try to hide her smile. There were eight boxes of honey bottles to haul out of the truck and plunk down next to the front door and he volunteered to help.

Of course, the boxes are in front of the potted gardenia that will need water in the morning and dangerously close to the ficus that will also need water. This is a problem because Dwight is getting up in the wee hours to accompany his bee buddy Jerry to requeen his hives and will no doubt forget about the honey bottles.

You’d think I’d bee used to this kind of thing. Over the past six months we have accumulated an extractor the size of a Jacuzzi, a decapper, a bottler, half a dozen bee suits, frames, supers, strainers . . . all of which are supposed to spontaneously migrate to Mesa where we built a honey house onto a storage garage at my parents’ house.

I’m wondering if things have gotten out of hand. My husband goes to Florence where the hives are every other weekend to do some kind of bee business which might include putting hubs on the trailers the hives are on, pulling the pollen traps, or just standing amazed watching these fascinating little creatures. He loves it. Is this weird?

Dwight’s day and night obsession with bees has made him a target for poor puns like “Dear, do you realize how bee-headed you are?” (Think about it. Do you ever use beheaded with the present tense? Example: You will be beheaded at noon – future tense, but do you ever say you are beheaded?) Turns out there are lots of “be” words in the English language: bee-fuddled, bee-muddled, bee-twixt and bee-tween.

Actually, we’ve all been bee-witched by the bee business. Am I, for example, really looking at a glop of wax, dead bees and propolis and thinking about making chapsticks? Are we turning into a Mom and Pop Bee and Honey store?

Stay tuned as we climb the learning curve. Its sure to bee an adventure.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Communication

Communication—The Maker-Breaker of Any Relationship—Professional, Family, or Informal

It’s not only the words we say, but how we say them: It’s the intent, the hidden meanings, the blatant realities, and everything else from A to Z. It’s honesty or lies, love and or hate, excitement or boredom, wanting to share or wanting to hide, and everything in the dictionary plus all the new lingo that hasn’t made it there yet in every language, written or spoken, read, heard or felt.

We tell “little white lies” to cover up our mistakes, or prevent someone’s feelings from being hurt, or just out of habit. We pretend we are “listening” because we are busy, our minds are on other subjects, or we really don’t care. We wield our pens or other writing instruments with courage, blindly lashing out, and blithely hide behind the shield of not knowing or wanting to know the consequences of the message interpretation. We distance ourselves from people we do not want to associate with either because of personal hurt, prejudiced misconceptions, and pre-conceived notions.

By now I guess if you’ve read this far, you can tell I’m frustrated. I have put up walls around myself to protect me from hurt because of past experiences that affected my health and happiness. The barriers I put there also prevent others from being able to get past to help, hold and comfort me. I say things that probably bounce right back at me, rather than penetrating through for full understanding and true communication.

So, one of my goals now is to listen, with full attention, all my heart and mind. Speak with kindness and thoroughness, and then take the time to make sure the reception was clear.

This should help at work, church, home, and with family, friends and acquaintances of any duration.

Thanks for letting me vent,
Margaret

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin and Down Syndrome

By Rebecca Talley

This is not a political post. Rather it is an examination of what Sarah Palin’s candidacy may mean for the 350,000 Americans who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome, and their families.

Each year about 5000 babies are born with an extra 21st chromosome. Shortly after an egg is fertilized, it begins to divide and change. Normally, each person has 23 pairs of chromosomes resulting in a total of 46. Individuals receive one chromosome per pair from the father and one from the mother. In the case of Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, a developing egg may have divided incorrectly or something else caused it to receive extra genetic material on the 21st chromosome. The result is 47 chromosomes instead of the normal 46. How this extra genetic material affects people can vary greatly and much is still unknown about what genes are actually replicated. It is the most common chromosomal abnormality and the chance of it happening increases with maternal age. However, most births are to women under age 35.

A statistic that I personally find appalling is that 90% of all women whose babies are diagnosed with Down syndrome choose to abort that baby. 90%. Why? I believe it is because there are still so many misconceptions about Down syndrome. After the announcement of Sarah Palin’s candidacy, one such commenter blamed Palin for causing her son to have Down syndrome because she didn’t receive adequate pre-natal care. DS is a genetic condition and has nothing to do with pre-natal care, yet this misconception survives.

I’m hoping that Palin’s candidacy will shed light on the truth about Down syndrome. I know I was completely ignorant when my son was born. I expected him to be a blob. I was so wrong. He is so not a blob (some days, though, I wish he would be a blob for just a few minutes). He constantly keeps me chasing after him and trying to stay a step ahead of him, though I always seem to be two steps behind him.

He has his own distinct personality and knows what he likes and doesn’t like. He’s a tease and loves to torture his older sister. He loves to “play” the piano and as soon as he hears the pianist begin at church, he raises his hand to “lead” the music. He performs for anyone who will watch. His favorite song is “The Wheels on the Bus” and he will do the actions, always making sure we’re watching him.

Will he have challenges? Honestly, I don’t know. In a sense, don’t we all have challenges? He may have to work harder to learn to read, but I don’t always understand, nor can I recall, what I’ve read in my scriptures and need to constantly reread and supplement my scripture study. He may have challenges expressing his feelings, but after all these years, I express my feelings far too frequently because I still haven’t learned to be patient. He doesn’t say many words, but I sure have to work hard to bridle my tongue especially when I think someone deserves a good tongue lashing. He might not understand his own needs or the needs of someone else, but I rarely think about others’ feelings because I’m not very compassionate. We all have our struggles, his may just be more apparent; though it’s likely his struggles won’t keep him out of the celestial kingdom while mine will.

I often wonder why Heavenly Father chose me to raise such a son. I feel so unworthy to be blessed with this child. It’s like Christmas every day with him, he’s a gift I can enjoy repeatedly. Of course, all children are gifts, but the world seems to shun that gift when it’s wrapped a little differently.

Will Sarah Palin change attitudes? I hope so. The world needs to realize that every life matters, every person deserves a right to live, and every child deserves respect even if he or she has an extra chromosome.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

In My Heart Forever

By Stephanie Abney
This is a tender time to be blogging ~ tomorrow would have been BJ's 24th birthday and I know he would have grown up to be such a fine man. I miss him all the time. Some times are harder than others... but I had the sweetest experience that I would like to share. If you've read anything anywhere that I've posted lately: on this blog, my blog or via email then you know I'm teaching full-time this year (after many years of substitute teaching). I'm 57 years old and a little nuts to boot. But I do love it. The kids are great and they crack me up... not that there haven't been a few "moments" when I wondered why I wanted to do this. But, mostly, it's been truly gratifying... but also, OVERWHELMING as I have such varied abilities in my class of 6, 7, 8 and even a 9 year old. I've tried so many approaches to reach all of them from where they are at so we can build on it and keep on going. Some things have worked out well and others, well... not so much.
Seems no matter how hard I've tried (and no matter how many HOURS I've spent preparing, or how much $$$$ I've spent) I have felt frustrated that I just am not getting there yet... so on Sunday, I asked Jim for a priesthood blessing. He gave me one after church and although he was the only other person in the room and the only one with his hands on my head as he pronounced the blessing, he continually said, "WE bless you... and WE bless you..." (with this and that...). I felt like someone else was there but no one was physically. When he was done (and the blessing was very sweet and helpful - but I'm still trying to figure a lot of stuff out), anyway, I asked him about saying "we" throughout the blessing" and he simply said, "None of it was my own words, Stephanie... I just said what the Lord told me to." And then I realized, that it was BJ who was helping him give me the blessing and I asked him what he thought. Jim agreed; it must have been BJ. I felt even more comforted by the blessing and Monday was quite good... but I'm still figuring things out.
At any rate, we usually have a family party on BJ's birthday and even get a cake that says, "Happy Heavenly Birthday" or something like that... however, tomorrow night is the 50's dance at school and I guess that's where we are headed and Saturday is our ward talent show... maybe Sunday we can do something special for his birthday.
So, tomorrow, I'll think of BJ but I'll be at school most of his birthday. I thought I would share a little cinquain poem I wrote a year before BJ passed away and then I'll head to bed. Take care.
Children
A gift from God
Grace our lives for a time
Remain in our hearts forever
Precious

Stephanie Abney ~ © 1999

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Terrifying and Beautiful

by Terri Wagner

There are things in our lives that exemplify the universal law of opposition. I experienced one such event this past weekend. Gustav came to visit. While he made landfall many miles away, his feeder bands as they are called, visited my Gulf Coast region. In fact, even today, we are still having some wind and rain.

Yesterday, a friend and I went down to Gulf Shores. It was wonderful and scary at the same time. The wind was blowing so hard, the sand literally stung you; the waves were awesome (particularly since our little piece of the Gulf of Mexico is usually too tame and too warm this time of year to be considered anything but bathwater); the sky was blue, black and white all at the same time; and several people were out with cameras; and yes, a few actually at the edge of the water.

It was breathtaking to watch and hear and see and smell the pounding waves and know that somewhere out there was danger. And that danger had an element of excitement to it. Just how far could you go before putting yourself in literal danger.

My friend and I had such opposite reactions as well. She was very upset over people taking pictures of children against the backdrop of the surf, while I was thinking what an awesome picture and why didn’t I bring my camera.

Do some of us walk on the edge of the abyss even when we know we shouldn’t? Or do we sometimes walk not really knowing? As writers do we sometimes wonder how far is far enough? Should we kill off that character so gruesomely? How far should the sexual scene go? If our character uses profanity, should we actually write the words?

Gustav hit my brother’s area (near Baton Rouge) much worse than he hit my area. And yet in the danger was excitement for him and his family; in the terror was beauty; and in the storm was protection.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Logic of Emotion

Valerie Ipson is Guest Blogging for Joyce DiPastena today. She will join us as a regular member of the Blog Team on September 9th.

By Valerie Ipson

Thank you, Joyce, for the opportunity to substitute blog here on ANWA Founders and Friends! As it turns out, I have recently been selected to fill an every-other-Tuesday spot with the group, so this will be the first post of many to come.

I taught a lesson last week in our ANWA chapter meeting called The Logic of Emotion. Okay, so I really didn’t have a great title like that for my lesson, but the things I taught were taken from an article with that name by Eric M. Witchey. It appeared in Writer’s Digest magazine in July 2005. (Did you know you can check out past issues of this magazine from the library—very cool!) Mr. Witchey wrote about character-driven novels and the fact that “they sell faster and haunt the reader longer.” He says, “It’s because you’ve engaged the reader in the emotional reality of your characters.” He goes onto explain, and I did, as well, in my lesson, that characters need an emotional foundation for their motivations, this emotion drives decisions, the decisions lead to actions and the actions create conflicts—or new situations, but not always something negative. When these are resolved, the character enters a new emotional state—and from there makes new decisions…and the process repeats itself.

We discussed how employing this pattern in our stories would serve to pull our reader along to the end just so they could find out what the character does or what happens to them. They will be emotionally connected to the character. Well, as often happens when you get a group of like-minded sisters together, the lesson took a magical turn (not magical as in “magic,” but as in “sweet” and “goose-bumpy”) as one sister related this same pattern to our spiritual lives. Go back and reread the pattern…isn’t this a pattern for reality? We have an emotion, it drives us to decide something, then to act on that decision, then a situation or conflict arises, then we make it through and then experience a new emotion. Knowing this pattern, then, will serve us as we realize that conflicts (trials, challenges) are only a part of the whole. We can resolve them, and by doing so will go on to new emotional states and new decisions and new action in our lives.