Jan 31, 2009

The Final Stretch and Getting Sidetracked

By Christine Thackeray

With the beginning of a New Year I had completed my last manuscript and was looking for a new project when I read about the Amazon Breakout Novel Contest. I'm really excited about it, but entries need to be in sometime this week and there's a cap on how many they'll take. I'm only at 50,000 words and still have at least three chapters to go.

My sweet husband took all the children except my eleven year old to the grandparents this weekend so I could finish. She has Stake achievement days. Well, I had the whole thing planned and found her a ride, but then her nonmember friend wanted to come and other women called who needed rides for their daughters so my day writing is going to be spent driving to the stake center. I'm determined to lock myself in a room, hoping that I'll get inspiration for my service and write faster and better. I don't know if it works that way, but I can always hope.

I once heard someone describe the pacing of their favorite books as a character climbing up a ladder to a hayloft. Each chapter brings them closer and closer to their destination and then right before the last step, they suddenly fall and tumble to the ground only to land at a funny angle, allowing them to now see their lives through a whole new perspective. Not all books follow this formula but I'm loosely trying to do that with this one and right now my character only has one more step before things start spinning wildly out of control to the end. You know, maybe I'm drawn to this storyline because it reflects so much of my personal life, spinning out of control way too often.

Well, wish my luck.

I think I'll end this disorganized entry with one last tidbit. On another site a published author mentioned her four big no-no's for writing. I've been grateful she upped my awareness of them because I lapse into lazy writing styles if I'm not careful.

1. Using too many -ly's. (Impatiently, Warily, Furtively, Nervously. That is almost always telling not showing.)
2. Trying to get creative with the word said. (She exclaimed, snapped, snarled, stammered, responded, admitted, etc. You can have a few of these but they can be distracting if done too often.)
3. Backwards sentences. (Leaving the stove, she turned to do the dishes. We do this to vary our sentence structure but it is annoying if overused. You only get one ever two pages or so. Use them sparingly.)
4. Head-hopping. (I know I'm awful at this but I also know that everyone picks up on it in my writing group when I blow it. You only get to be in one person's head in a scene. You have to use devices to get out information in other ways so choose your head carefully.)

Well, I've got forty-five minutes to type away before I've got to get the girls in the car. Wish me luck and happy writing.

Jan 30, 2009

Musings On Sisterhood

By Kristine John

My sister has spent the day with me, helping me maintain my sanity and focus in the midst of this life changing ordeal (moving). We are both very excited at the days, weeks and months that lie ahead, and for the memories we will be able to make now that we live just an hour apart from each other.

(My children, upon waking this morning, asked repeatedly, "Is Auntie Becca REALLY in the guest room?" After multiple vocal reassurances from me that indeed, she was sleeping behind the door (and seeing the visual evidence of her car parked on the curb), they resigned themselves to the fact that they would have to wait to see their beloved Auntie after school today.)

My parents-in-law also stopped by this evening, bringing buckets of chicken and enough hugs to go around for all of us. It is a joy knowing that they too will be just an hour or so away, and that we can visit them more regularly as well.

I am finding that there is love and support everywhere here in Queen Creek, and have to wonder about the road that lies ahead.

I have spent a portion of the past month evaluating my priorities and trying to decide what I need to pursue in my time that I call my own. I have a number of things I love, and I must be completely honest and admit that the thought had crossed my mind that I might choose to step away from ANWA. I have not had the opportunity of attending chapter meetings, and have longed to feel the sisterhood of ANWA.

I can tell you tonight dear sisters, that the Lord knows the thoughts of our heart.

I had my visiting teaching companion reintroduce herself to me last Sunday as we talked about when we could go visit the sisters on our beat. I was excited to be assigned as her companion because she is one of the sisters that has made a consistent effort to reach out the past month as we have been adjusting to our new home.

Imagine my surprise on Monday morning when I arrived at Stacy Johnson's house (Hi Stacy!) and she told me that she was not only an ANWA member, but also part of the ANWA blog team.

I knew that I would be nearer ANWA sisters here in QC, but did not anticipate the Lord placing me not only in the same ward as an ANWA sister, but in a visiting teaching companionship with someone who wouldn't let me act on the feelings I was having of letting my writing slip away. (Although knowing my friend Joyce DiPastena is only an hour away too, it would have been hard to completely bury my talent!)

The Lord truly blesses our lives with the things we need. I know that and have experiences that testify of that to me. Right now, it is obvious to me that I need my sisters.

All of you.

Jan 29, 2009

The Test

by Kari Diane Pike

Will you all think less of me if I confess something? I hope not. I must confess I really stink at the "single parent" thing. I'm not literally a single parent. My husband is alive and well and we have a very strong and healthy relationship. He just happens to work 700 miles away and sometimes an entire month goes by without him being able to come home for a weekend, so I feel like I am on my own.

When Doug obtained his job, I felt so grateful and blessed we had a paycheck and insurance, I knew I could handle anything. After all, we took this test before. I knew all the answers this time, and this time I would pass with flying colors. I would single-handedly feed, clothe, and nurture the children, clean the pool, mow the yard, go to school and sell the house...no matter how long it took. (That's the pride part.) Four days after Doug left for Utah, I found myself standing in the hallway holding the cell phone out in front of me as I tried to squelch an argument between my teenage daughters over who got to use the shower first...despite the fact that there were two other perfectly good, EMPTY, showers in the house. I firmly declared, "Listen! Can you hear them? That's it! I'm done! I need you to come home now!" (Now comes the really humble...humiliating...part.) Fast forward a few weeks. What kind of parent, upon witnessing a son lose his temper and throw an object at his sister, would grab him roughly and scream at him for what he had just done? As the angry words flew out of my mouth, and chastisement from the Spirit flooded my heart, I felt so foolish. How do you apologize for doing the exact same thing you are lecturing your child for doing? I stopped my tirade and spoke softly. I explained that I recognized my mistake and I apologized. I also explained that my mistake did not make his mistake alright. I gave him a hug and we prayed.

After the kids were off to school, I sat at the table with a contrite spirit and a broken heart. Despite the fact that I had been through this test before, I had failed again. I opened my scriptures and began to read I Nephi 16. When I came to verses 20 -29, I began to feel hope. In this chapter, Nephi describes his experience when he broke his bow. His entire family begins to murmur and complain about their hardships and the lack of food. Even father Lehi is described as beginning "to murmur against the Lord his God." What did Nephi do? He went to work. He armed himself with a sling and stones and made a bow and arrow. Then Nephi did something that never before seemed very significant to me. He went to his father Lehi and asked him, "Whither shall I go to obtain food?" Despite his father's weakness, Nephi approached him as his father and priesthood authority. Lehi inquired of the Lord. The Lord chastened Lehi for his murmuring, but answered him none the less. The Lord used the Liahona to give Lehi and his family directions and Nephi wrote, "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things."

Nephi easily could have asked the Lord himself where to find food. Instead, Nephi honored and respected his father. I see more clearly the Lord's loving patience with us. He knows our weaknesses and wants to help us overcome them. Lehi was a great prophet, but he was still a man and he still made mistakes. My gratitude for the Atonement grows each day as I learn from my mistakes and not only how to forgive others, but how to forgive myself. As Nephi and his family followed the directions they were given, the Lord blessed them with strength and the abilities they needed to carry out their mission. Obedience brings blessings. Faith and hope bring about love and charity.

There's hope for this parent yet!

Jan 28, 2009

Baby Boomerang

by Anna L. Arnett

Last week I rode up to Utah, with my son Mark and his wife Camille, to attend much of the LDS Film Festival in Orem. We went on Wednesday, even though Mark's documentary, "Baby Boomerang" was not playing before Saturday noon. The film festival was exciting, and exhilerating for me, at least. Mark didn't fare as well. Oh, he had some exciting moments, but he felt pretty sick most of the time. He had bronchitis and the change in altitude from the Phoenix valley to Utah valley left him quite breathless. At least that's how a doctor diagnosed it Thursday evening. About noon that day he had started caughing during one film showing, got up to exit the theater, and blacked out before he reached the door. He found himself on the floor with a raw carpet burn on his forehead and on his nose. Somebody helped him up and out to a comfy sofa in the lounge. He felt, and looked, better after resting, and we made it through the day.

My job during the festival, was to hand out flyers and try to convince people to watch our documentary. My pitch usually went something like this:

"Will you be able to attend on Saturday at noon?"

If they said yes I'd continue with, "Then you must see this documentary." I'd flip the flyer over and point to pictures, saying, "This is me, and this is my husband, and this is our youngest son." Then flipping to the front side, "and this is my husband's ID picture when he was captured by the Germans and taken to a POW camp. He doesn't look very happy, does he?"

From there on, it depended on what response I got. A few brushed me off, merely taking a flyer, but most lingered to talk a little. Everybody seemed very friendly. When it finally showed, we had one of the largest attendance. I was surprised at how few watched some of the films, but a hundred or so people look like only a handful in a theater that seats 750.

I didn't get to see all the films--two were showing at the same time, and we weren't always there. All fils chosen were charming, but there were two or three that I keep thinking about. One was "Father in Israel" which was a slice of life showing the problems of a new bishop.

Another had the intriguing title of "Mafia to Mormon." This really happened. Mario actually went from a life of theft to becoming a temple ordinance worker. He really didn't expect to get out alive from the Mafia organization in Detroit, but he did. And he thanks Governor George Romney who refused a cool million dollars, and the wonderful members whose lives and meetings were watched by Mafia members. Oh, it was very interesting. Stephanie Adair, my granddaughter with whom we stayed in Highland, had a copy of his book, which I read. (Romney wasn't mentioned in the book, just the film.)

A third film I especially liked was a documentary on prisoners of war in Japan. Very different from Charles' experience, which had a happy ending. This documentary seemed to focus on how these soldiers in the Philippines were abandoned by their government, abused by the Japanese, and not only not given official recognization for all they went through, but were even denied the power to seek reparations from the Japanese corporations who used them as 'slave' labor, fourteen hours a day, underfed, mistreated, and never reimbursed. It is sad. But as far as that goes, the 492nd bomb group that Charles flew with were never officially recognized, either. Nor were lots of others who suffered greatly. Men who just kept plugging along, doing their duty the best way they could, under whatever circumstances befell them, and remaining loyal. That's what makes a hero, touted or unsung.

I'd watched "Baby Boomerang" maybe half a dozen times, but watching it again in the theater, and trying to see it through the eyes of the audience, I wept through the last half of it. Then I had to get up on stage with Mark and Camille for question and answer time. Camille had the mike first, spoke a bit and handed it to me. I still couldn't talk, and passed it directly to Mark, whose throat was still sore, but he fielded all the questions. They were directed to him, anyway. I did get my voice again, but don't really remember what I said.

In the foyer several told me how glad they were I talked them into coming to the showing. That felt good.

Mark is hoping to find a sponsor to produce and distribute CD's. Right now he says this is the last film he'll ever make. I won't hold him to that.

Oh, and Mark had his tickets to join my three oldest children in Germany, but the doctor strongly advised against it. This Tuesday, along with a dozen more children of POW's, Marolyn, Wayne and Kathleen are walking the walk Charles and several thousand other Air Force officers walked in 1945, from ten o'clock the night of January 27 until the morning of January 29. The distance is some 55 miles. The POW's walked in deep snow and wind during the coldest winter on record. There is little snow there now. Back then they walked continually for a night, a day, and another night with only occasional five-minute rests. This group will sleep in hotels, take three days, and have a bus tagging along behind to pick up any stragglers. I think a part of me is right there with them. And I wonder if Charles, Ernie and Lucien (pilot, navigator and co-pilot, all now deceased) might also be aware, if not beside them.

Again, these men did what they had to do, and did it as well as they could. Therefore, they're heroes.

(Now to get at my four-hundred plus emails and the week or two of blogs to read and comment on.)

Thanks for listening.


Jan 27, 2009

January's List

by Valerie Ipson

I'm finally doing something that I have wanted to do forever. The problem has been that I always think of it in October, but you cannot start this in October, it just won't work. You have to start in January. So, YAY, I started. No, I am not swearing off chocolate or vowing to spend quality time with my treadmill everyday, I am keeping a list of all the books I read this whole entire year. (I know! Finally a fun goal! I'm so happy for myself!) Won't it be awesome to look back and see the path my literary world has taken. There are eight so far on the list...

The Christmas Sweater, Glenn Beck
Princess Academy, Shannon Hale
The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
The Santa Letters, Stacy Gooch-Anderson
Blockbuster Plots, Martha Alderson
How I Write, Janet Evanovich
A Stranger For Christmas, Carol Lynn Pearson
The Wednesday Letters, Jason F. Wright

The list makes me feel good, not because I can highly recommend each and every book, because, sadly, I cannot (my personal opinion must be saved for another day--or call me and we'll talk! ;)), but I just LOVE TO READ!!!

Jan 26, 2009


By Stacy Johnson

Fall 2007: My baby was in preschool three mornings a week and I was gearing up to apply to get back in to ASU when she went to all day kindergarten the next fall. I finally had some time to myself to actually start writing. I got started writing for The Beehive newspaper and I was loving it! I was actually bringing things to my ANWA meetings and sharing! I was able to coach on the track team at the high school, I was volunteering in the kids classrooms at school without the worry of having to find a babysitter, and having been the RS President in my ward for 2 years, I had to assume that calling couldn’t last much longer. Things were going exactly the way I wanted them to go. I was finally going to start living MY life.

Summer and Fall 2008: I’ll admit, there was some resentment there as soon as she arrived. It all came rushing back; all the loneliness I use to feel with having a baby attached to my bosom for constant nourishment, the late nights, the diapers, doing everything one handed, many of you know the drill. To top it all off, I thought I was Super Mom and could do it all. She was born in June and I started school in September – full time. Fortunately, the Bishop had told me in August, that he would be releasing me. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken him until late October to get it done! Let’s just say there was very little joy in my life at that moment. I wasn’t getting much of any writing done, my house was a disaster, and I was just cranky all the time.

Yesterday: One of the young women leaders called me yesterday and asked me if I could talk to the girls next Sunday about finding Joy In Womanhood. Yeah, right. As if. I almost told her no, then I decided to think about it. As I have spent the last 24 hours or so considering the joy in my life, I am making a choice to look at it from a different angle, a joyous angle.

Today: How joyful am I that Heavenly Father has trusted me with the lives of seven sweet spirits? How can I not be joyful in these economic times, that my husband has a good job that allows me to stay home AND go to school. My joy is overflowing in the fact that I have the talent of writing and so many opportunities to use it. I have seven mouths that need lunch before they leave every morning, and I groan the fact that I go through about 7 loaves a week, but guess what? I can make bread! Isn’t it fabulous? I forgot how much joy I have, that is just the tip of the iceberg. My personal blog will have a more complete list this afternoon. Today, that old Joy School song is going through my head, “Oh, Boy!, I’ve got joy. I do, do you?”

Jan 25, 2009

Depression vs. Hope

by Marsha Ward

Creative people seem to have a gene that predestines them to live on the edge of madness. Many authors, musicians, artists have wild mood swings or battle the impending doom of depression.

I've been dealing with depression lately. It's not fun, and sometimes I just want to drag myself into a hole and pull it closed behind me, shutting out the world. These feelings are crippling, both to the mind and the spirit. They can be triggered in me by--among other things--events, powerful emotions, electrical spikes in the brain, or imbalance in brain chemistry. The trick is recognizing the onset of the condition. I'm probably a little late in that recognition, but I hope not too late to prevent a full-blown depressive period.

Folks who have never experienced depression or mood swings have no understanding of these conditions. They tend to think depression is just a case of the blues that can be turned around with a fun outing, thinking positive thoughts, scripture reading, or fervent prayer. While I don't discount the positive effects of such actions, sometimes only medical intervention and medication will help, just as a type 1 diabetic needs insulin.

The upside is that God loves his creative children. He has given them immense powers of expression in a variety of media. He also holds out hope, though priesthood power, the Gospel, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. These vital elements have been available to me to help me keep the darkness at bay.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently gave a General Conference talk called "The Infinite Power of Hope." As I read and pondered it, and participated in the Relief Society lesson today that was derived from it, I felt the stirrings of greater hope.

I've never doubted that God loves me and has great blessings in store for me, but external pressures, spreading myself thin, and taking on too many duties and responsibilities have almost tipped me over the edge into darkness. I'll always have to guard against that, but for now, I have hope to get me through until the darkness fades and I once again walk in the sunshine.

Jan 24, 2009

Musings on Words

by Cindy R. Williams

Words are just words. The number of words seem to be never ending. Each word has numerous meanings, and there are a myriad of combinations that change their meanings. How we arrange them can be magic, or tragic.

An individual word or name can create different emotions in each of us based upon our experiences. Take the name Scott. I had a boyfriend once named Scott. At the time I thought Scott was the most wonderful name for a boy. After he fizzled, and fizzled he did, the mere mention of the name brought anguish, sadness, loneliness, confusion and feelings of betrayal. So many emotions for just one single word, Scott. Now years later, I still don't like the name. It has become tainted by my emotions. Yet, Scott is just a word, a simple five letters. How strange that it can bring up so many emotions.

Take another word, love. Love is simple yet complex word. Simple because pure, unconditional love is clean with no strings attached. Complex because when you love, the love you feel depends on who you are and who you love. I love my Heavenly Parents and Savior. I consider this love, pure light. I love my husband as my eternal companion, this love is strong and bright. As the mother of five children, I love each child unconditionally, although in my mind the love for each is a different shade. I love my parents, my siblings, my extended family, my friends, neighbors, ward members---the list goes on. Yet, although I love them all, again, I see different colors. I keep different people in different circles of my life, some close, some not close, for the necessity of survival. Love is an amazing all encompassing word, and if I try to quantify it, I find it illusive.

Combinations of words can be fascinating. Rhyming poems can be incredibly clever, droll, witty, esoteric, abstract, deep, wise, funny, silly, sad, the list goes on as long as you can imagine.

The way we combine words to illustrate our stories and emotions can be learned, but how much richer if we are able to label our emotions from our heart and speak our true feelings. The saying, "A picture paints a thousand words" is the opposite of what I strive for. I long to use words, sometimes a thousand and sometimes a tight few to paint the picture.

How we arrange these words can lead us down a long and lonely winding path, or up to the highest and happiest peaks in life. Words---just words, but how you and I use them makes all the difference.

Jan 23, 2009

Can I Cheer for You?

By Sarah Albrecht

A recent Wednesday started with an honor roll breakfast at my son’s junior high school, where he received a certificate for grades and a Top Cat award for citizenship from his teachers.

I cheered from a folding metal chair.

Then I met a childhood friend for brunch. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but given what I knew of her—she comes from an activist, political family and had married an Israeli, splitting her time between Israel and the U.S.—I imagined catching up with her would be exciting. It was. After she finished telling me about earning her PhD, working with Christians and Palestinians while being married to an Israeli, and helping with political campaigns, it was my turn.

Well, I said, at a bit of a loss. Can I just cheer for you?

Later that day, I scrubbed the bathroom, did laundry, cooked dinner, helped kids with homework, and spent a couple of hours in the Expedition carpooling kids to tennis, basketball, and young women at one spot and young men at another. Meanwhile, my husband, who was out of town for his company’s January kickoff meetings, was presented with an award for exceptional work during 2008. What did you do on Wednesday? He asked later.

Well, I said, at a bit of a loss. Can I just cheer for you?

After Wednesday, I couldn’t help but ruminate on the world’s standards of success. Certainly, recognition for achievement is wonderful. Setting goals to achieve is praiseworthy. But, as an unpublished, stay-at-home mom, if I relied only upon the world’s recognition for achievement, I could feel pretty small.

When much of what we do is not recognized by the world, thank goodness another standard exists for measuring personal accomplishment: charity. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things…Charity is the pure love of Christ” (Mor. 7:45, 47).

Without charity, in spite of other heights we may reach, we are nothing. With charity, even with no worldly recognition, we shall never fail. Indeed, we will merit the recognition of our maker. “And whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Mor. 7:47).

I’m still setting goals, striving to achieve in writing and in life, and reaching, above all, for that often elusive charity…

So, looking at life through a different lens, can I cheer for you?

Jan 22, 2009

Culture Charm

by Stephanie Abney
Mesa, AZ

Some of you may know that we have been hosting a teacher from China in our home this week. She teaches at a high school in Beijing. Her name is Sun, Wei and she is 27 years old, about the age of my youngest daughter.

We really had no idea what to expect. She and nine of her students are here for 10 days visiting our school, Eagle’s Aerie, in Gilbert, AZ, a K-12 Charter School. Each of the students is being hosted by a family from the school except for one who is staying with friends of a family from the school. They are all extremely polite and sweet, eager to participate in typical American high school life.

It has been so delightful to have Sun, Wei stay here with us. She is very charming and her English is extremely good. We have not had any trouble communicating. A few times we each had to try a few other ways to explain something but in the end we understood each other. She teaches Chinese. At first I thought that was odd and then I instantly remembered all the English classes I have taken in high school and college and it made perfect sense.

Sun, Wei chose an American name to go by, Karen, but I enjoy using her Chinese name. She arrived Sunday night, visited briefly with us and being very tired from her journey, went to bed early. She has been riding to and from school with me and spends her day either with her students or visiting other classes and answering numerous questions from our students. Since Monday was a holiday, a field trip to the Science Museum and the Diamondback Stadium was planned for the Chinese students. I picked her up afterwards and she attended her first “family picnic” at the park. Some of our family members got together for fun and ham sandwiches and all that goes with it. Sun Wei got sandwiched out that day as she also ate her first peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I packed for her field trip and then ham sandwiches at the picnic. She and all of her students are only children, as is the current custom of China because the government is concerned about their large population. She seems to enjoy seeing photos of and hearing about our large family.

We have had lots of laughs while she has been here. Yesterday was the “All-School Hike” up South Mountain at Fat Man’s Pass. We also went to a “Teacher’s Party” at our local Barnes and Noble yesterday after school. I won 3 prizes, including a globe of the world, by being the first to answer questions about children’s literature. Sun, Wei won one of the free raffle prizes and when we got home, she told Jim, “I didn’t have to answer any questions for my prize. I'm lucky.” Afterwards we went to Ocean Blue and tasted almost every flavor of frozen yogurt they offer. She had never tasted any before. She graciously treated me to a cup of yogurt once we decided on our favorites.
Tuesday night we stopped at “Moki’s Hawaiian Grill” for dinner and she seemed to like the food and last night we picked up take-out at “Panda’s Express”. She laughed when she told me how one of our students asked one of her students if they ate at “Panda’s.” The Chinese student misunderstood the question to be: “Do you eat Pandas?” He answered, rather alarmed, “No! We do not eat Pandas. They are protected.”

Tonight I will fix a typical American meal and she will have several more opportunities to eat what we eat while she is here and she will also cook for us one night. There are several things I have thought would be fun to do with her here but she is still struggling with jet lag and we were told not to do things that were very different from our normal routine so they can experience life in America.
Last night when we got home, Jim was already home and the door was locked. She went to open the door, found it locked and looked a little surprised at me so I couldn’t resist and as I unlocked the door, I said, “Jim is scared.” She got my joke and laughed. In fact, we have made several jokes together and have understood them well. After dinner we watched “American Idol.” Sun, Wei was familiar with it and enjoyed watching it with us. She has been very respectful of us, our home, our belongings and has been the perfect guest. She has bowed her head with us when we have prayed over our food. The first time I prayed over a meal, she looked at me and said, “You are thankful.”

Tonight we will attend a benefit concert at our school, put on by staff and students but the star of the concert is Mr. Gary Gjersted, one of our music teachers, who is also blind. When I asked her if she noticed one of our teachers was blind, she said she had. I went on to say that he plays the piano beautifully to which she responded thoughtfully, “Ah, yes, so God is fair. He takes his sight but gives him the piano.”

We have found, which I think is always the case with people meeting for the first time (no matter where they are from), that we are more alike than we are different. I thought of several things to call this blog entry from “Culture Shock” to “Cultures Collide” but none of those would have been accurate. Yes, I think “Culture Charm” is the best title. I know she has enjoyed her stay thus far; she is always taking pictures and we have enjoyed her. We have become good friends and how charming is that? Very!!

Jan 21, 2009

My Favorite Sounds

By Marielle Carlisle

(sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music)

Pitter and patter of rain on the window

Screeching garage door when Daddy returns home

Giggles and laughter with loved ones around

These are a few of my favorite sounds

“I love you”, “thank you” from happy two-year old

Heat humming on when I have become too cold

Newspaper hitting the ground with a pound

These are a few of my favorite sounds

Timer for cookies is finally beeping

Silence when baby is finally sleeping

Groovin’ to tunes while I’m driving around

These are a few of my favorite sounds

When the cat barfs

When the kids cry

When a curse I hear

I simply remember my favorite sounds, and then I unplug my ears!

Jan 20, 2009

Can We Bottle That?

by Terri Wagner

Due to a series of unfortunate events for a fellow church member, I volunteered to puppysit for a period of about two months to help them out while they looked for a new place to live. The puppy is at that chewy, energetic stage where she can look positively adorable and be a witch on wheels sometimes in a 15-minute period.

My older dogs are hysterical. One of them has given the puppy his mark of approval by licking her and wrestling with her. But then he poops out before she does. My Cassie however is NOT happy. My father is NOT happy.

Me? I'm loving it. I LOVE her energy. It reminds me of being young and going all the time until I passed out from exhaustion. Then getting up and going again. I miss that energy. Watching her makes me young again.

And the good thing about feeling young is the world of possibilities that seem to lie before you. Like writing. I always assumed I would end up a bookish college professor writing academic tones that only other academics read. Instead, I work for a magazine and want to write a action-packed adventure novel. I seem to plan things too much now. Like I actually plan naps...when did that start happening?

Which makes Joyce's post so appropriate for me. She's right and so is Susan Shaunessy and Nike. Just do it. Bottle up that energy and go for it. I'll just channel Zunga.

Jan 19, 2009

Alligators and Me

by Joyce DiPastena

A week ago today, I finally decided to stop fiddling with old writing projects, and start work on something new. Well, “new” is a bit relative. I pulled out a story I’d begun several years ago, but with only a few chapters completed, with the intent of finally tackling and finishing this far-from-finished story.

So last Monday, I got up two hours early to review various notes I’d made on the subject, all of them several years old, as I said. To my dismay, I discovered that I had written three different “beginnings”, with a potential of three different “heroines” (at least I knew who my hero was!), and two to three different potential plot lines! For two hours, I stared at my computer screen, trying desperately to make a decision as to a final direction to take the story and commit myself to which heroine my hero was destined to fall in love with. Each potential plot line and heroine seemed to have as many weakness as strengths, and by the end of the my two hour stare-a-thon, I had neither arrived at any decisions nor typed a single new word to get the story moving again. By bedtime, I was still in despair, not knowing whether to take the story “this way” or “that way”. I felt absolutely numb with indecision.

Then as I lay in bed that night, my mind still in turmoil, I remembered a book of writing “inspiration” I’d bought well over ten years ago. The title, Walking on Alligator Eggs: A Book of Meditations for Writers, had intrigued me, but it was flipping open the book and reading the first meditation as I stood in a Borders bookstore, that sealed the deal to buy the book:

The author, Susan Shaughnessy, had written:

Writing can feel like stepping off into thin air. Some of us can write no other way. Not for us, the well-thought-out outline, the step-by-step recipe that brings the project to success. When we try to apply ourselves to such a well-mapped course, we stall out.

We are the writers who start every day walking off a cliff, fearing there are alligators below. Yet somehow we write; and most of the time, we like what we write. The dark place seems less dark when we get there. It was only the journey that was fearful. We emerge back into the light with something precious, something really worth sharing.

Join us as we take the less-lit road, the road that curves into the unknown places.

See what you bring back.

That essay spoke to me then because that’s exactly how all my manuscripts had worked thus far: feeling like I was stepping off a cliff every time I sat down to write, never quite knowing where my characters were going to take me, terrified of the dark place I was walking so blindly into. But Susan Shaughnessy was right. It was rare that a light didn’t appear along the way, and yes, by the end of my writing session, more often than not, I liked what I had written.

So on Tuesday last week, I decided to take Susan’s advice to heart once more. I decided to step off the cliff and ignore the alligators below. I gave up on outlines and road maps, and just started typing, without worrying about where exactly I was headed. On Wednesday, I did the same. By Thursday, I knew who my heroine was. I knew a little more about her motivation and goals. I know her background and how her family wants to manipulate her and why. But there are still cliffs and dark spaces ahead. I don’t know exactly how she and my hero are going to meet up in the story’s time line. I don’t know what will cause them to fall in love. I have a Point A and a Point B I’d like to get both characters to, but I don’t know how I’m going to get them there.

But unlike last Monday, I’m now trying not to let these questions paralyze me because I don’t yet have the answers. Instead, my goal is simply to get up every morning and step off that cliff, trusting that I’ll escape the alligators below and that a light will appear in the darkness to guide me.

Jan 18, 2009


by Shawnette Nielson

I must apologize for getting this entry out so late. I am actually typing this in the car coming home from a short weekend trip. Family is an interesting phenomenon. Without going into specifics, this weekend was spend with a group of people who are related one way or the other … let me first preface this blog by acknowledging the absolute importance of family. They are all important, especially in the grand scheme of life. They offer support, guidance, love, and a sense of security that is indispensable. They are there often when no one else is, and there is a certain amount of inconvenience that can be expected, both to be felt, and dealt during certain times in our lives. In a way, they have to be there, and you have to be there for them. All this is true. My question to the big world is, when do you draw the line. When do you say, “Okay, I’ve been hurt enough, and I am not going to put myself in a position to be hurt more.” I don’t know the answer and I am not saying my opinion is the best solution, but I will share what conclusion, in a nutshell, I have come to.

Can you truly love someone if you are always worried about getting hurt by them? I don’t think so. If someone, family or no, has a real tendency to hurt you, and it continues to happen, then I do believe that, family or no, it is your responsibility to step back and protect yourself. What do I mean by that? I mean that you don’t make yourself vulnerable to that person anymore. You can still love them, in fact, I believe that by protecting yourself from them, you are able to love them more. I’m sure that you can think of examples for yourself, but here are a few to whet your mind with: a relative that leaves whenever things get tough; one who takes from you (money, time, love, etc.), but never gives back; or one who ultimately will choose self over anything or anyone else, no matter what. It is true that none of us is perfect, but I am convinced that if we acknowledge the hurt that someone tends to give us, and protect ourselves from it, then we will be able to eventually love them more because we won’t always be hurt by them. If it means stepping away from a close relative, then I believe that you should. So ladies, what are your thoughts???

Jan 17, 2009

Losing Focus of Your Goal

By Christine Thackeray

In life I constantly struggle with losing focus of my primary goal. For me that is returning to my Christ with every chair full. Heaven wouldn't be heaven if all my children weren't around me and my husband weren't at my side, so I support him, love and teach my children and do the things I feel the Lord wants of me.

Luckily, I truly feel the Lord wants me to write (although I also know he wants me to balance my activities a little better.) Unfortunately, I often get sidetracked. I get too involved in social activities, get frustrated with my family and get lost in the busy-ness and mess of life, and when I do, everything else falls off track and life isn't as happy or as wonderful as it should be.

Not surprisingly, I do the same thing in my writing. I've been working on my latest manuscript. What I thought was an incredible plot has become muddy and not as poignant as I'd like. At my critique group on Thursday my friends hit the nail on the head, I haven't kept track of my purpose. What is the central conflict and the question this book is answering- the great truth it is illustrating.

Although conflicts can be divided into many categories, there are really only two- love and death. Love can incorporate any number of relationships and death can be physical, emotional or spiritual (as in stories where people are holding onto their sanity by their fingernails.)

I wanted my central conflict to be the dynamics of a family, but it was too big. I had to chose one character and have everyone else feed that one. The single spinster sister going from a relationship of obligation, to one of love- thus, it becomes a love story- ahhh, which I thought I'd never write, but it is the driving emotion that gives me an audience to show the meat of what I want to write about. Without that emotion, I lose my audience and my venue for sharing.

So I'm committed to rewriting a better story. It will mean that scenes that were hilarious but don't feed that relationship will be gone. I can perhaps adjust some of it, but every part of the book needs to add a plot point. I believe it will make the ultimate work more compelling.

It seems every time I write, I learn something.

Jan 15, 2009

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

by Kari Pike
I can't help myself. My four-year-old grandson is amazingly cute. Of course, I think all of my grandchildren are amazingly cute! I try not to bore other people with the many darling grandchildren-isms...but once in awhile, they say or do something that fills my heart so full I just have to share.

One of the many activities we enjoyed during our trip to Salt Lake this past Christmas included caravaning to a TRAX station and riding the train to Temple Square. My aunt had arranged a tour of the conference center and the Temple Christmas lights. After a yummy dinner together, eight of our nine children, their spouses and all eleven of our grandchildren, along with my aunt and uncle and various cousins, bundled up and piled into an assortment of vans and cars. Some of the drivers, mostly my children, didn't know how to get to the particular station chosen to begin our ride, so my husband headed up the line. The grandchildren were extremely excited and couldn't wait to reach our destination. I don't know what it is about trains and little boys, but little boys love trains...especially four-year-olds. Wesly could hardly contain himself. He wanted his dad to drive faster! He told his dad,

"Hurry up! Get in front of Grandpa! Let's beat 'em!"

Trying to settle Wesly down, his mom said, "No, Wesly. We need to follow Grandpa."

Wesly, clearly disappointed at not being able to be the first one to the station asked, "Why do we have to follow Grandpa?"

Mom said, "Because he knows the way."

Wesly thought about that for a moment. Then he asked, "Why is Grandpa a prophet?"

I love the scripture in Alma 32:23: "...Little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned." I shed tears every time I read about the Savior's visit to the Nephites after his resurrection; how he took their children one by one and blessed them (3 Nephi 17:21) and how he personally taught and ministered to those children (3 Nephi 26:14).

Truly, the children who are being sent to live on earth now are choice spirits. They are so strong and vibrant. They have to be in order to withstand Satan's increased assault on all that is wise and good. I am grateful for Primary and Mutual and Seminary and all the men and women of the Church who give support in guiding these special spirits down the right path. I am grateful for the scriptures and the wise counsel we find in those pages and I am grateful for living prophets who do know and lead the way for us to follow.

Jan 14, 2009

Give first, if you want joy

Today I had a real scare. I'd been toying around with my computer, getting ready to write this blog, but doing other things instead, like checking the entrance requirements for post-graduate degrees at ASU, seeing what's new with my bank account, and reading some of my memoirs to see what I wanted to concentrate on next. I got up to look into my big file cabinet, became fascinated in my old ASU records, shook myself and inwardly said, "Anna, for goodness sakes, get back there and write that blog." The screen had blacked our, and to my horror, wouldn't flip back on. I tried hitting every button I could think of, finally turned my iMac off with the button on the back left side, and still nothing. I pushed it again and the computer made a slushy growling noise that let me know it was trying, but nothing came up.

Again I scolded myself. "You haven't backed up anything for I don't know how long, and you were warned over and over. Just last week you told yourslf to find that little doomaflunky that can hold everything you've got in less than a square inch -- now, where in this household is it? -- and you didn't do a thing about it. Will you ever learn?"

I called my son -- the one whose documentary will be showing at the LDS Film Festival in Orem on Saturday, Jan 24 -- but he wasn't home. His wife thought I ought to take the computer to an Apple store and see what they could do.

Sadly, I unplugged my Mac and started to lift it off the desk to carry it down to the car, when I had a flash of inspiration to give it one more try. I replugged it, pushed the back button, and heard the melodic chord that announced, "have a great day on your iMac, because I'm booting up." I'm sure it was the most beautiful sound I've heard all day.

So, here I am, blogging, even without backing up everything because, frankly, I've forgotten how. Or maybe just where I put that little thingamajig I can put it on.

What I want to talk about this morning -- woops, it's afternoon now -- no, after another interruption it's almost midnight -- is the joy I felt last Sunday that came about mostly from Valerie Steimle, through ANWA. From her writing, I've pondered a lot about the position of the single woman in the Church. I've tried to examine my own response, or interaction with those who were not interested enough (or lucky enough) to have found suitable, good, available men who also, at the same time, discovered them. "Perhaps," I thought, "You, Anna, might be guilty of adding to the problem rather than alleviating it. So, you'd better at least make an effort."

So, this last Sunday, after Relief Society, I congratulated a single sister on how well she had conducted the meeting. I'd seen her often, of course, but never 'singled' her out for much conversation. I told her I'd been watching her for some time and was very impressed with how she projected her warm, caring personality, and that I really wanted to get to know her better. I was rather surprised and very delighted at how much the beautiful smile she gave me warmed my soul. We chatted for at least a minute, maybe four or five at the most. I have no idea how much good it did her, but I do know the joy I felt.

A sincere compliment freely given just might be the best two-way antidote for sad or lonely feelings, as well as a perscription for a personal lift. None of us have control over another's reactions, but if it helps out only at one end of the line, it will be definitely be that of the originator.

Jan 13, 2009

The Discipline of January

by Valerie Ipson

I love January. The Christmas tree, showing evidence of near-death experience, is drug out, the last of the pine needles hoovered up, and furniture and home decor is set back in its proper place. The colorfully-lit tree, nativities, and decorations served their purpose by bringing joy to the season, but once the new year arrives, I am ready for order to be restored. Most of us feel that same pull, internally, in January, to set our lives in order.

I've decided it all comes down to one word...Discipline. It's one word, but it's huge in it's significance to our purpose for being here on the earth. We're here to prove ourselves and we do it by disciplining our physical selves, so that our spiritual selves can flourish. Some of us are scared of setting goals, or the proverbial New Year's resolutions, and then failing--meaning, by February we've forgotten all about them. But, maybe if we think of it as disciplining ourselves, it will seem more managable.

For example, generally every January, I remind myself I want to work on driving slower (as in closer to the speed limit ;)). It's not really the type of goal I mark off on a chart everyday, but I can tape a note on the dash to remind me and then when I am in that moment I can choose to ease off the gas pedal. I discipline myself now when I am behind the wheel and it's not even difficult. (Of course, ask me to forgo that donut, and there may be trouble!) I announced my annual goal to the family and said, It's going to interfere with my other goal of being on time. If I'm driving slower, sorry, but I'm going to be later to things, later than I was before." (This is why I'm driving too fast). Obviously, more discipline is in order.

Proverbs 25:28 says: He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. Cities of old that had no walls to protect them, were subject to all forms of an enemy's attack. If we lack discipline, we are subject to the enemy's attack as well--enemies of our time, our standards, our faith, our hope, and dreams.

Jan 12, 2009

Spiritual Scents

Wow! My first post. Thanks for listening! ~ Stacy Johnson

I recently finished up a class at ASU titled Writing Reflective Essays. The whole class was geared around taking a look at your personal life and writing about it. Well, there is nothing I know more about than me, so I figured it was an easy A. Little did I know that I would learn more than I bargained. I have used this bit of information as I write about myself and as I work on publishing the life stories of those around me (cause that is what I love to write about.)

During the first week of school, we took a serious look at memory. Chapter three in the textbook Tell It Slant, by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, defines different types of memories; earliest memory, metaphorical memory, muscle memory, and the five senses of memory. The five senses of memory reminded me of an enrichment meeting that took place just a week before. The meeting was all about how we use our different senses to listen to the Spirit. It was beautifully done and definitely a meeting I treasured attending.

The sense that particularly caught my attention was the sense of smell. The textbook quotes Helen Keller’s autobiography by saying, “Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of mils and all the years we have lived. The odors of fruits waft me to my southern home, to my childhood frolics in the peach orchard. Other odors, instantaneous and fleeting, cause my heart to dilate joyously or contract with remembered grief.” Similarly, in our enrichment meeting, we discussed the ways different smells help us listen to the Spirit. We took a few moments and thought of the different ways that smells affect us. I came up with two examples, the smell of my Gram’s house and the smell of bleach. How do these help me listen to the spirit? I’ll briefly explain.

All my life, my Gram’s kitchen has had the same smell – delicious. There was always something cooking in the kitchen; homemade soup, casseroles, rolls, and the best grilled cheese sandwiches you have ever tasted. Without fail, my Grams would dish up some soup into a recycled Miracle Whip jar or some casserole into an old plastic container and ask me to run it to this neighbor or that one. I didn’t know why they needed the food; I just knew that my Grams was always giving. When I was older and would walk through the grocery store, I would get a whiff of soup from the deli counter or pass through the bakery and smell the fresh baked goods. Do you know what my first thoughts were? I wondered who Grams was taking dinner to that day. So how is that learning to listen to the Spirit? As an adult, I’ve tried to take it one step further. When I get that whiff of a delicious meal or baked goods, my first thought is always, “is there someone I know who might need a meal tonight?” Do I always follow through with that thought? I’m still working on that part.

My second example is the smell of bleach. You cannot know the joy I feel when I smell that regular old smell of plain old Clorox bleach. Really, it is the chlorine smell that I love. You know that smell, when you enter the temple through the baptistry. It is clean, it is pure. I love it and I love being in the temple. How does that help me listen to the spirit? Do you know that smell at the public pool? Or when you are bleaching a load of whites in the laundry? I even found a candle that has a similar smell and I burn it when I’m out of things that need bleaching:) That same smell reminds me that I need to go to the temple more often. Do I always follow through with that thought? I’m still working on that part.

The book goes on to say that smell is intimately tied up with breath, a function of our bodies that works continually, day and night, keeping us alive, it keys us into the memories that evoke the continual ebb and flow of experience. They can be innocent, like the smell of a Barbie doll or play dough, and that reminds you of how precious your children are. Maybe it is that lemon Pledge smell just after you finish dusting that reminds you that the ability to work is a gift from our Heavenly Father. They can also be more complex, like the smell of your baby when you first held her in your arms, reminding you of the miracle of being able to create life. It could be the aftershave your dad was wearing the day he came home after losing his job. Did he call your family in for family prayer and asked that the Lord watch over and bless you? The sense of smell is imprinted in our memory, for good and for bad. Take a moment and consider the smells that are in your memory. Can you think of any scents that help you listen to the Spirit?

Jan 11, 2009

New Year, New Bloggers, New Insights

by Marsha Ward

By now you've met four of our five new bloggers: Shawnette, Marielle, Sarah, and Cindy. Aren't they fabulous? Tomorrow you'll meet Stacy Johnson, or johnsonteammom, as her sign-in name tags her. I think you'll find that she is equally wonderful.

I'm looking forward to reading great insights from these new members of our team. I know we'll have much to contemplate during 2009.

Please join us every day for our takes on the wide world. We're glad so many of you come back regularly and add your comments.

Thank you!

Jan 10, 2009

New Years Goals---Yay or nay?

by Cindy R. Williams

A short while ago, our much loved founder of ANWA, Marsha Ward, invited me to blog on ANWA's Founder and Friends. I was honored and delighted to join such wonderful writers. I have to admit, that I had not been following this blog. Since that time, I have feasted on the insight of your words, and found this blog site to be a window of wisdom bringing light into my soul. I thank each of you for your lovely spirit and your talent in sharing your voice with the world, and particularly with me.

This is my first blog for ANWA's Founder and Friends. I chose to write on New Years Goals. I really hate guilt, and have been of the opinion that if you don't make New Years Goals, then you won't break New Years Goals so I was not going to make any this year. However, my husband taught our first Family Home Evening Lesson for 2009 and asked us to set a Spiritual Goal to improve on one single thing. Now, improving on one single thing is doable. This got the idea flowing that I could improve on one single thing in the areas of my life that I really want to improve. I came up with seven areas: Spiritual, Health, Family, Writing, Music, Peace, Service.

My Spiritual Goal is to feast on the scriptures. I set a goal 20 years ago this year, to read my scriptures daily. This goal became an ingrained habit. What I need now as I serve in the Primary, is to read the Relief Society and Gospel Doctrine lessons so that I will continue to grow. I set a goal to read these lessons each week.

For Health I have chosen to improve on eating to fuel my body, and to strengthen my body through regular exercise and increased activity, meaning participating in more sports with my family. I have also chosen to stop the guilt and obsession with dieting and love the me that I am.

My Family Goal is to serve each family member daily, and to listen attentively by stopping what I am doing and look into their eyes when they need me.

My Writing Goal is to complete, edit and send to agents and publishers my novel, "Thundertail's Tale: The Legend", the first in the trilogy about a boy, a dragon, magic and choices. This means that I will believe in myself enough to write or do something each day to make this goal happen.

For Music, I have kept this very simple. This year, I choose to play my harp to share and bless others and to fill my own well, not for monetary compensation.

My Goal for Peace is also simple; stop spinning my wheels, run smarter, not harder and accept myself at this very moment.

Service ties most of my goals together. The better I become in all these areas, the more I will have to give. I will give honestly to those I am inspired to serve.

I have once again ventured into the goal arena. I will work hard towards these goals. One last thought---even a small step forward in any of these seven areas will be a pleasing success to me. I choose not to let guilt be a part of my life this year.

I hope to hear your thoughts and comments on New Year's Goals. Did you choose to make any, and if so, what is your plan for 2009?

Jan 9, 2009

Thoughts on Creativity

by Sarah Albrecht

I’m excited and thankful to be part of this blog; what a great opportunity to pull thoughts together into a semblance of cohesion, to share life’s wisdom, joys and sorrows with each other and become stronger as a result. Ideally, this post would have been completed and waiting on the lineup before my kids resumed school after the holidays and life resumed its usual frenetic pace. However, that didn’t happen. Each time I sat down to draft I couldn’t seem to say anything.

This problem made me think about the nature of creativity. Bear with me as I approach those thoughts in a rather round-about way.

For years as a young mother, I squelched the need to write--to create with language--that has been with me for as long as I can remember. I labored under the conviction that I had to sacrifice everything that made me individual to be a good mother. Sometime in the past few years, the mists of darkness parted and I realized what I should have known all along: that I could use my talents and still be a good mom. I took a deep breath and started writing.

Soon I found I labored under another illusion: now that I had returned to my natural creative home in writing, all would be well. True, the essence of home is safety, love, peace and satisfaction. However, home isn’t always that way. It can be aggravating, messy, and chaotic.

I didn’t want that part, the aggravation, the mess, the chaos, but there it was. Creativity-- in writing or music or art or even in life itself, for with the agency we have, are we not creating ourselves— is hard work.

To balance out those daunting elements, I turned to the supreme Creator’s example. As Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in his last Women’s Conference address, “Creating…[is an] objective that contributes to our Heavenly Father’s perfect happiness. Creating…[is an] activity that we as His spirit children can and should emulate” (Ensign, Nov. 2008). This is what I learned, or re-learned, on further examination of our Father’s creative endeavors:

-God created all things spiritually before creating them physically (Gen. 2:5, Moses 3:5). Despite the spontaneity inherent in creation, creativity requires planning and skill.
-God created the heavens and the earth, separated light from dark, created plants and beasts and every living thing, and saw that they were good (Gen. 1). Creativity can be fulfilling.
-God rested upon completion of his work (Gen. 2:2-3). Rest from creative effort is necessary and good.
-All was created for the use and enjoyment of man (D&C 59:18-20). In its highest form, with all its planning, skill, and effort, creation is service.

Feeling more validated and hopeful about my efforts to create, in general and in writing, I looked for more wisdom about creativity. Here are a couple of quotes, first from novelist Virginia Woolf, and then from Hungarian scientist and writer Arthur Koestler:

"It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything." Virginia Woolf

"Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual."—ArthurKoestler http://www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_creativity.html

It’s a new year, ready to create with the materials at hand. Best of wishes to us all!

Jan 7, 2009

Allow myself to introduce ... myself

by Marielle Carlisle

I'm so excited to participate in this blog. I hope I don't bore you too much.

Here’s the scoop: I live in sunny AZ, and have been here for 6 years. I joined ANWA back in June, a month before I had my second child. I was only able to attend one meeting before my husband’s Wednesday night classes started. My life is now filled with dirty diapers and sleepless nights. As I write this I am recovering from a 5am wake-up time. I haven’t reached delirium, but I am bordering on insanity.

I’m 6 feet tall, I love to sing karaoke and I’m obsessed with the website Allrecipes.com. I’m a Gemini and was born in the Year of the Monkey. I have brown hair but I used to be blond, much to my dismay (I wish I were blond. I really, really do). I grew up in SLC, graduated from BYU and UCMT, and am now a massage therapist at a swanky resort here in town.

Now let’s go completely random!

Random fact #1: I love watermelon. Like, LOVE watermelon. I’ll carve half a watermelon for a meal, and use my nice big white and blue Tupperware bowl to hold the flesh. I won’t need to drink any water, since I’ll get all my fluids from the melon. After I’ve finished all the other food on my plate, I’ll focus mainly on the watermelon and eat until I’ve made myself sick. My dear husband will then lovingly wrench the watermelon bowl out of my kung-fu grip. During the summer I’ll buy multiple melons and eat them all in about a week. I love watermelon. It makes me happy. Should I be concerned about this? Is this what a drug addiction is like?

Random fact #2: I hate having dirty feet when I go to bed. Something about dirty feet in between the sheets rubs me the wrong way (literally), and I have to wash my them off. During the winter it’s not so bad since I wear shoes more often, but summertime is brutal on my piggies. It doesn’t have to be a deep cleaning, just a good rinse with a little soap.

Random fact #3: I like to eat my ice cream out of a cup. My mother-in-law took it a step further and dished out hot fudge sundaes into hot cocoa mugs. Brilliant! I have the perfect mug, too. I painted it myself while working at Color Me Mine the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years at BYU. It’s a big, bright, multi-colored mug, and holds loads of ice cream. But I’ll still eat ice cream if it’s not in a cup. I’m not that picky.

As of today

This is on my TiVo

This is on my nightstand

This is on my ipod (and in my head)

And this is trying to climb on my lap

Meet Tootsie Roll. There is a cat mixed in with all those toys.

Whew! There you have it. Until next time.

Jan 6, 2009

Nine Rules to Avoid

Recently an article came into our editorial department from the "Publishing Executive" December 2008 issue about luring readers into actually reading your content. These are things to avoid. I thought I would share them with you. Whether you write fiction or magazine articles, they can apply.

Rule 1: Give'em more, more, more: Readers will decide to look at it later and we all know what later means.

Rule 2: Test-heavy means that's where the good stuff is: Too much text is certain death.

Rule 3: This issue is great: Readers take just 2-5 seconds to decide to read a page or not. (Terri's note: This is very true in descriptive heavy fiction.)

Rule 4: I'm not an artist: Think of your text as speaking. We stress what's worth stressing by our diction...do so in your writing.

Rule 5: Make headlines bigger: A small font in the same amount of space can be a big attention grabber. It says I'm important, look at me.

Rule 6: Headlines are the most important: Actually, captions are the most important. The photos draw the eye, the captions draw the interest.

Rule 7: Visual "wow": Be suspicious of visual fireworks, whizzbang, color, weird layouts and peculiar typefaces. They take away from the meat and become a "show" unto themselves.

Rule 8: The more color, the better: Never consider one page as individual, view it as part of a whole.

Rule 9: Design isn't critical: Think of it as editorial tool revealing content, organizing sequence, guiding the reader.

How do you feel about these rules?

Jan 5, 2009

Minting New Coins

by Joyce DiPastena

Okay, I admit it. I’ve been in a bit of a funk since Christmas came to an end. The after holidays blues? My brain’s been feeling all mushy, and consequently, I haven’t been able to think of anything to write for my ANWA blog. So I decided it was time to pull out my Silver Pennies book of poetry again, and give my mushy brain a rest by sharing another poem (by somebody else) with you.

The little introduction by Blanche Jennings Thompson reads:

When you put money into a bank it is not always safe. You may have to spend it or robbers may steal it, but the coins which we put into our “heart’s treasury” are safe forever. The memories of beautiful music, lovely poems, and wonderful pictures are coins of this kind. Can you think of others besides these?

She follows with a poem called, “The Coin”, by Sara Teasdale:

Into my heart’s treasury
I slipped a coin

That time cannot take

Nor thief purloin,—

Oh, better than the minting

Of a gold-crowned king

Is the safe-kept memory

Of a lovely thing.

As I read this poem, I began to reflect on the many lovely memory-coins that are mine from the year 2008. Now it’s time to go forward, shake my mushy brain awake once more, and begin to form some fresh “coins” for the year 2009!

Jan 4, 2009

Where have all the good men gone?

My sister pointed something out to me and I didn’t at first believe her. Until I looked. I started to observe the media, to really see what they were telling us. ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Family Guy’, Home Improvement’, ‘The King of Queens’, and so many more show the man to be useless, dumb, and unnecessary. They make for a good laugh. They are the punch line. IKEA ran a commercial where there was too much stuff to all fit in/on the car, so the husband road on the roof and the wife drove away with a smile. A cartoon, ‘The Pride Family’, portrays the father as being a fool who the daughter and wife laugh at. The classic fairy tale where the hero rescues the heroin is practically done away with.

It’s come on so subtly that I wasn’t even aware of its existence. I began to see that the world proclaimed and celebrated something that wasn’t the truth. In fact, this ‘celebration’ was damaging to our eternal happiness and wholeness. This idea is a simple one, yet so far reaching. It is the confusion of the roles of men and women, and the idea that men are worthless and unnecessary to our overall fulfillment and happiness...and that the only way to be an honorable woman is to do everything and beat up all the men in the process.

I have nothing against tough or independent women, I’m one myself. I wrestled in high school, have held more men dominated jobs than not, and enjoy outdoor activities more than most. But I am still a woman. My divine nature is that of nurturing, rearing, and lifting up my husband and children. I am not complete without a man to stand by my side, just as he is not complete without me. God made us both, individually divine, and very different from each other. ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’ tells us what our divine roles are and how to honor ourselves and the Lord by honoring our roles. To celebrate womanhood and femininity; manhood and masculinity. To do so takes strength, I think.

So, where have all the good men gone? Where are all our heroes? I believe that they are still there. Our husbands, our brothers, our friends, our fathers. Most men deserve our respect and honor because they are heroes. My husband battles the world every day to provide for us all, so that I may stay home and raise our child. He holds on his shoulders the responsibility for our financial and physical welfare. He is my hero.

I believe there are many heroes out there. We just need to help them become the heroes that they potentially can become, and honor them for all the hard work they do, so often without acknowledgement. That’s my schpeel…what do you think?

Jan 3, 2009

My New Year's Resolution- Creating A Platform

By Christine Thackeray

This has been an incredible year for me. I had my first two books published and completed two more manuscripts that are currently under consideration. But in the last month I've also finally gotten back my sales numbers for those books and they were shockingly lower than I had hoped. Just because a book gets strong reviews does not mean it will sell like hotcakes. What I didn't realize is that the sales of a book are often decided before the book is even written.

There is a reason that so many celebrities are able to publish children's books and that Glenn Beck's book became a number one bestseller despite certain story flaws. These people already have a platform. In the publishing industry the word platform means a customer base or people that already know your name and WANT to hear what you have to say. Developing a platform is hard work and the truth is I STINK AT IT! But I'm trying to get better.

So that is my New Year's resolution- to increase my platform. There are a number of ways to do this. First I'm increasing the number of friends I have on facebook. If I don't have you- add me. Next I'm joining more yahoo groups that I'm interested in. If your interests or hobbies have groups you can join, that can be a treat venue. I've already gotten more traffic on my blog and website from reaching out more. Another area I'm going try is to submit articles to other LDS magazines and publications so that people recognize my name. Last, I'm going to look for speaking engagements and create opportunities there. I'd like to work on book club appearances and wonder how I can tap in there too.

With a little luck, I'll get my name out there better. What I wish I had known was that if I started sooner, then when that first book came out, it probably would have done MUCH better. If you are interested in writing, start now to increase your platform. It may not be as fun as simply writing, but it will drastically increase your opportunities to publish and certainly will increase your bottomline when you do.

Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Jan 2, 2009

Moving On

by Kristine John

It's odd to think that in just a mere 48 hours, I will be in a new state, in a new temporary home, waiting to close on our permanent new home within the month.
My kids will be attending new schools.
My husband will have started a new job, with longer hours (but he has a job!), and a very long commute.

We have gone and done as we have felt prompted to do.
Our lives will be considerably different at this time next week, and yet some things will remain the same.

We will have a ward family to learn to love...but the gospel teachings will be the same.
We will change our mode of communication with many that we love here...but the friendships will remain.

Our adventure is well underway, and taking a turn.
I'm excited to see what lies ahead.

Jan 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

by Kari Pike

Happy New Year!
New and exciting things are going to happen and I can't wait to see what they are. Right now I am tucked snugly in the corner of the couch in our son's home in Spanish Fork, Utah. My children children, ages 29-11, are scattered about reading, conversing, playing board games and entertaining my grandchildren. My heart is full of joy and gratitude and I feel a peace that I have not felt for several months.

As many of you know, this past September my husband Doug took a job in Salt Lake City. We hoped that business would pick up in Arizona soon enough to allow him to return home to work so that we would not have to pull up roots and move from our home in Arizona. Due to the kindness and generosity of family members, Doug has a room to stay in and the ability to come home one weekend a month. In order to make the most of our time with him, we decided to spend the majority of the school break with Doug in Utah. Any funds available for Christmas gifts would be needed to pay for gas, and I felt sad that I could not provide the usual surprises and delights we enjoyed in the past. I had no idea we would be given a most precious gift.

What do you get when you have 22 people crammed into a two bedroom house? You either get chaos or...controlled chaos! With a little planning and lots of cooperation, we enjoyed controlled chaos. No one seemed to really miss all the gifts. They spent time playing and laughing and occasionally arguing...and more time reading and visiting and sharing meals. I spent one day house hunting and came away more discouraged than ever. Why?

The third day of our visit, I was in the kitchen with a daughter-in-law, a daughter, and several grandchildren. Thirteen-month-old Nathan toddled around his mother's legs, begging for bites of whatever Mom was putting in her mouth. Mom gave him a bite, and continued cleaning the kitchen. Nathan started to pitch a fit and the next thing I knew, I could see that he was choking. I yelled out in surprise, and his mom grabbed Nathan up and held him upside down and pounded on his back. I swept bits of food out of his mouth, but Nathan continued to choke, then stopped breathing altogether and started turning a horrible shade of gray and blue. His silence tore through my heart. Aprilynne took over and performed a technique she had learned. I prayed for what seemed like forever, but could only have been a few seconds. Just as I began to reach for a phone to call 911, Nathan heaved out bits of food and started coughing and sputtering and crying. I have never heard such a beautiful sound as his crying sounded to me at that time.

I am humbled as I recognize the abundance with which I have been blessed. I am grateful for family and friends and the legions of angels who watch after us and protect us. I am grateful for the blessings of the priesthood and a husband and sons who honor that priesthood and use it to bless others. I am grateful for the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and our Savior and Redeemer. I am grateful for Joseph Smith and all of the other living prophets we have today. I know President Monson is our prophet today and that Heavenly Father continues to send direct revelation to guide us through these troubled times. I know that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ and that we truly can come closer to God by reading its pages than those of any other book. I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me, and I love him with all my heart. I am grateful for his patience with me as I struggle to learn the lessons he sent me here to learn.

As I ponder on my goals for the New Year, I know that they will be much simpler this year. I have a better understanding of what is good, what is better, and what is best. It is a gift I will be opening day after day ...and I can't wait to see what happens!