Friday, July 31, 2009
I thought I would share a few questions I have in my mind that I mull over from time to time.
*I know I am a writer, and I write periodically, but "my story" still hasn't manifested itself. Does that mean that I do not have a particular story to write?
*I recognize my words have power. How do I best use them to bless the lives of others, as well as fill the desire I have within myself to write "something" meaningful? Is it selfish to want to do more with my words than write heartfelt thank you notes and letters of appreciation?
*Outside of ANWA, is there anything in particular that you feel has truly helped you to discover your voice and pinpoint the things you desire to write about?
*How do you create a balance between your love of writing and your love of other things?
*What has helped you to find your voice?
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Moving day is already here! Of course it would happen to be the day I am supposed to blog! Two weeks ago I was supposed to post the day the ANWA conference began. Somehow my post got lost because blogspot tagged our site as spam??? Ask Marsha...she knows what happened. Anyway, This is quick, because helpers are already moving boxes into the trucks as I sit here among the stacks of 4oo something boxes. Here is just one little tender mercy recently sent my way!
I heard the final word about moving just before 9:00pm Tuesday, July 21st. I immediately drove over to the church to tell the Bishop I was moving is 10 days...and he was going to need a new RS President. Bishop Hunter opened his mouth as if to say something, then he stopped and grinned a big grin...his eyes twinkling...and he laughed. "Sister Pike, I just called a new RS President not an hour ago!" I hadn't told him anything about the possibility of us moving. As a matter of fact, Sunday I told him emphatically, I was not moving, that the potential renters had changed their mind and gone to Oregon.
My heart is bursting with Joy as I witness heavenly Father orchestrating this great life symphony. Can you imagine how many conflicting prayers He receives every moment? And He makes it all work...in His time...and to our benefit. WOW! Life is so beautiful!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Ask anyone who knows me...they will tell you I am a certified workaholic! In my 41 years of life, I have pursued careers in acting and directing, dancing and choreography, singing and songwriting, painting and sculpting. I was in a constant state of trying something new, and then beating it to death. All of these things came easily to me, and perhaps I was getting a little too comfortable; because all of the sudden...I'm hit with the insane desire to write a book. And you know what? It's NOT that easy! And to make matters worse--apparently--I lack the drive to finish even ONE of the four books that I have begun...(that's right...I said, "FOUR" books! I have now become a nightmare-mixture of a workaholic and a fickle slacker.)
What gets in my way, you ask? Facebook. Facebook gets in my way. As does the internet. My cell phone. My eight year old and my 41 year old. And food....I get the munchies and then comes the inevitable: a trip to the fridge which invariably means a drive to the grocery store or fast food restaurant, because someone forgot to go grocery shopping. Six hours later, I remember that I was writing, but realize it's time for scriptures and prayer...darn! I resolve to be better the next day, (but I never am) and the tap-dance continues...I can work around the other distractions--just not food-related ones.
But I believe I may have had a break-through, (in the form of my bathroom scale which told me I was getting fluffy) and so I have embarked upon the HCG diet. For the next 26 days I will be existing on 5oo calories and pregnant women's urine (Ok...people who know me will also tell you, that as a confirmed germ-a-phobe, it is indeed very odd that I would ingest such a thing, but I can safely assure you that it has been refined, cleaned and...and...ok. Never mind. I'm not going to go there. If you want to know more about it, you'll have to Google it.) I will now have to find another reason to live. Another thing that makes me happy...hence; my breakthrough.
What else can I do but write? I am always at my best when I am suffering. Most of my music is written when I'm suffering, and I sing better when I'm suffering...more passion...more conviction. Actors of the Stanislovsky method make themselves suffer before acting...
So, with nothing to do but wait out my 26 day sentence, (while my hypothalamus rewires my brain's attitude towards nummies) I feel a fit of inspiration coming on...Oh I know I will still hear the siren call of my fridge...but as with anything else in my life...I will do this diet, and I WILL beat it to death. And my books? They will be fabulous. I'm always fabulous when I suffer.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Last weekend I read a book. After being 39th in line on the waiting list at the library for this particular book, my turn had come! Friday evening, barely before closing time, I checked the book out and that night I began to read. I was hooked from the start. It was a pleasure to read such a well-written book. My life for the next 24 hours revolved around this book. I raced to the end...how would it all be resolved? I had to know. As the pages became fewer and fewer, I wondered, how is the author going to be able to do it? How can she tie up all these loose ends to my satisfaction? What can she do in so few pages? She must be a genius.
Well, she is a genius in a way, and only following a general trend in publishing of leading into the all-mighty SEQUEL!
AHHHHHH! I was so angry. I got to the last page and instead of "THE END," it said "END OF BOOK ONE." What??????? No closure? Now I can only HUNGER for more?
The title of the book is fitting...
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Oops! I never should have brought up the subject of my character Elijah Marshall on my Character blog. He's demanding that I introduce him to you. Since I don't think any of The Zion Trail is on disk anywhere, I'll have to wing it from a typescript. Problem is, I have a couple of differing copies. I guess I'll try the one on top. It's probably the latest revision. Ha! From back in the late 80s! With two spaces after a period! I'll try to restrain my Inner Editor as I type. Here goes: Elijah Marshall in all his imperfect First Person glory.
by Marsha Ward
Excerpt from Chapter One
As I made a half-circle at the end of the row, I pulled the horse to a halt, swept off my old hat, and wiped the trickles of sweat from my eyes with the back of my wrist. I ran my fingers through my dripping black hair to train it back from my eyes before I replaced my hat. Settling the shade once again on my head, my eyes caught a movement far up the road to my right. (Yikes! A big woopsie!)
Across the rows of fresh young corn stalks I saw the dust rising slowly into the air as two figures walked along the dry surface of the lane. I knew them for strangers by their dress, for no one in our area wore a black suit except on Sunday, and this was Tuesday.
Curiosity was part of my makeup, so I leaned on the plow a while, watching their progress and wondering about their errand. They saw me, and hopped the ditch to approach the fence as they came alongside my position.
At fifteen, I had reached nearly my full growth, and I wasn't beyond considering myself a man. I did as much as my father on the farm, except for the planning and the worrying, so I wasn't surprised when they hailed me as a man.
"Hello, Brother. Can you give us a drink?" the taller man called, indicating my water bucket under a nearby tree.
I wrapped the lines around the plow handles and strode to the fence. "Plenty, and welcome." I bent to shoo away a drinking yellowjacket, and lifted the pail to the top of the fence.
The taller man drank first, and I saw that he was older by three or four years than the shorter man. As they slaked their thirst, I wondered how long since they had tasted water, for they drank with great gusto, and an air of thankfulness.
Their suits were covered with the fine dust that abounded on our roads, but they seemed not to mind, giving all their thoughts to dipping water down their dusty throats.
While the shorter man drank, the taller one looked at me and smiled. "It's been a long, dusty walk. We're thankful for the water. I am Nathan Caldwell, and my companion is Matthew Long. We are ministers of the gospel, and would welcome the opportunity to preach in your neighborhood."
I stuck out my hand and pumped his. "My name is Elijah Marshal, and my pa will be glad to see you. He's a God-fearing man, and every man of the Lord is welcome in his house." I squinted up at the sun. "It's nearly dinner time. Come and eat with us."
Mr. Long grinned his acceptance as Mr. Caldwell nodded.
"Just follow the road to the first lane on the right," I directed them. "Tell my ma I sent you. I'll be along with the horse by and by."
They waved their thanks as I hauled the bucket off the fence and turned back to the plow. Old Tom still stood where I'd reined him in, flicking flies away with his tail and standing three-legged in the sun. His ears twitched at my approach, and I patted his flank before I unhitched him from the plow.
"Tom, boy, we've got company. Won't that make Ma's eyes dance!"
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I find I am struck by lighting now and again and I write a completely different style, genre, purpose, and for different audiences etc.
What is your opinion about writing across the board? That is, in a number of genres? Are writers like actors? Do we get labeled like say, John Wayne? Could you see him---that is if he were still with us---playing a vampire? Not hardly. He is a cowboy through and through.
So if we publish a fiction novel for young adults, can we get away with writing a non-fiction book or a children's picture book or even an adult thriller? Please tell me if we too, are pigeon holed by what we publish.
I want to write a bit of everything, that is within moral bounds. No explicit stuff for me, but I want to dream in living color and in many genres.
What say you writing experts in blogland?
Friday, July 24, 2009
Our four-slice toaster died and my twelve-year-old son begged me to give it to him so he could take it apart. Envisioning crumbs, screws, and gizmos scattered throughout the house, I almost said no. But I handed it over to him anyway. He spent an afternoon taking it apart, putting it back together, and studying every component to figure out how it worked. Then with rubber bands he souped up the springs that pop the toast to see how far he could blast pencils and other objects.
Oddly, the toaster got me thinking about my grandma’s raspberries. Every summer when we visited her in northern Utah, she set a bowl of fresh raspberries from her garden at each of our places. It was part of summer, for me an expectation without a realization of the knowledge and effort it took for her to grow them. As an adult who cringes at the price of grocery store raspberries and with some understanding of the trickiness of growing them, I see more clearly the nature of her simple gift.
That was the relationship between the toaster and the raspberries: simple gifts, borne of understanding or knowledge or skill…and love.
Writing can be a simple gift. My journal is a future gift to my family. Your insightful blogs are gifts to me. Voices of truth and beauty through poetry, songs and lengthier works can be gifts to whoever reads them.
I’m looking more to recognize and trying harder to give simple gifts, seeing them like the tender mercies of the Lord.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
(The reason you see 2 posts from me today is I messed up and posted a week early. When Marsha figured it out she changed it to today's date. Sorry about that. I wrote a post for today and since I like them both... you can read whatever your time and interest permits). LOL :)
UNDER THE MAGNIFYING GLASS (and stepping down from ANWA VP)
by Stephanie Abney
I love all the various meanings of words. I was recently reflecting on the phrase, “Magnify your calling.” Here are some of my thoughts:
One of my school kids’ favorite things to do is to pick up a large magnifying glass off my desk and look through it. “What big eyes you have Mrs. Abney,” they’ll say to me. And I’ll tell them that’s because the magnifying glass makes things seem bigger than they really are.
To magnify is to increase the actual size or magnitude of something. And I found it interesting that when used as a transitive verb, it means to praise God; to give thanks to God.
President Thomas S. Monson spoke of this in a talk found in the Nov. 1999 Ensign: “What does it mean to magnify a calling? It means to build it up in dignity and importance, to make it honorable and commendable in the eyes of all men and women, to enlarge and strengthen it to let the light of heaven shine through it to the view of others. And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.”
Why do we serve? The answers may vary from person to person and from circumstance to circumstance, but I think the bottom line is that we serve because we love the Lord. Going back to the meaning of the word “magnify” when used as a transitive verb, to “praise God,” can there be any better way praise Him than to show our love for all He has done by striving to magnify our callings?
After I wrote this, I thought… hmm, strange post following my stepping down from ANWA General VP... I do have 3 daughters with babies due over the next few months and too many demands at work with all new curriculum and a new grade level as well as some other situations that I find best left unsaid. I felt I could not possibly serve you sisters in the manner I would like to. Much to my joy and personal growth, I have served in ANWA in one position or another for nearly every year I have been a member (which is over 20 years now). So I pass the baton of ANWA VP over to Valerie Ipson knowing that she will do a marvelous job.
Despite all my personal craziness right now, I did not go to the Bishop… rest assured I still have my ward callings. I just think it is time to find other ways to “praise God,” to show my love, by serving my family, my ward, my school and students and hopefully, an occasional written piece now and then. (That was one dang long run-on sentence)!!
I love you all and have learned so much from each of you over the years. Thank you. You are the best!
by Stephanie Abney
“I slept and dreamt that life was a joy,
I awoke and saw that life was service,
I acted and behold, service was joy.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore
Someone posted this on FaceBook recently and then I went to the doctor’s office today for some routine blood work and in the lab where they drew my blood this same quote was on the wall... Is someone trying to tell me something? Naw, I already know and believe this to be true.
It is in giving service that we experience some of our greatest joys and dearest blessings. It reminds me of something I heard when attending the non-LDS wedding of some friends. The Lord is always ready and willing to teach us something. Sometimes the lessons come in the most unexpected places, as in the wedding I mentioned:
Jim and I went to a wedding last summer ~ Troy and Lynda ~ they are not of our faith. It was held in a Lutheran Church. As a life-long member of the Church I always find non-temple, non-LDS wedding ceremonies interesting; many I have observed are very sweet - not the same as the eternal blessings pronounced in the temple, but sweet, nonetheless. This was such a wedding. I sat there enjoying the ceremony and the priest said a couple of rather profound things. One thing he said was that marriage was not given to us to make us happy. Rather, marriage is a gift from God to make us holy… and that would make us happy. A typical definition of holy is “dedicated or devoted to the service of God.” I really like that. In marriage, if we strive to become holy, then happiness is a natural progression. It makes sense. We are told in scripture that “Men [and women] are, that they might have joy.” It also says in Mosiah 2:41 (one of my favorite scriptures): “… consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”
I can’t think of a better “gift” than one that would make us holy and prepare us for an eternity of happiness with our eternal companions. And marriage is a pretty good place to get the prickles and rough spots rubbed right off of ya’.
Now, I recognize that not all of us marry in this life. I have a sister and a sister-in-law and several friends who although not married, can probably think of someone in their lives that has had the same effect that by learning to get along with that person, it has brought them closer to the Lord, hence made them more holy and resulted in greater joy.
Yes, service is joy.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The Universe is trying to tell me something, I know it.
Last week three events transpired within a 24 hour time frame that have persuaded me to broaden my reading horizon. If you ask me, it was completely uncanny.
First, I went to a book signing for Shannon Hale. She is such a great gal. I loved listening to her talk about her books and about her life in general. One thing that really struck me was when she said she doesn't read books in a series one after another because it affects the way she writes. I thought about that, and it's true. After reading a writer's style for so long, you start to think in the same way they write.
The morning after the book signing, I went on a walk with my father. My dad loves to read (I inherited the same insatiable appetite for books from him), and I told him about Shannon Hale's book signing and what she said about reading different books and how I thought that was a good idea. He asked me, "well, have you ever read any classics?" Um, (awkward pause), not since high school. Lately I've only read new releases.
Later that day, I read a wonderful article in the June 2009 Ensign. It's entitled "Our Refined Heavenly Home," by Elder Douglas L. Callister. He talked about how our heavenly parents are "exquistely refined," and that it should be our goal to pattern our lives after them. More specifically, our language, literature, music and art will help us to be cultivated and happy. I loved reading the whole article, but something really caught my eye. He was talking about music, but I believe it could be directed towards books as well :
My parents fed me a well-balanced diet of books growing up, but I've slipped up a bit. I'm not getting all the important book nutrients that will let my mind grow and develop.
Shannon, my father, and Elder Callister have convinced me that I must look beyond the fantasy section of the library and see what else the literary world has to offer me. Gone are the books of my youth that I am comfortable with (so long Mary Higgins Clark, toodles Clive Cussler). They're not bad books, but I need something new. Something different.
I asked my father what book I should read first on my crusade for intellectual refinement, and he suggested this one:
I've seen the movie, so there's no surprise waiting for me at the end. But it's a compelling story. I must be honest though ... I'm falling asleep reading it. There's no action! No superpowers! No arrow-slinging elves with long luscious locks and dreamy blue eyes! I'm having a hard time.
But I'm determined.
I wouldn't want to upset the Universe.
Any good book suggestions?
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Last Sunday was one of those Sundays when all the talks dovetailed into my SS lesson and carried right on through the RS lesson (one thankfully I did not have to give). Because SS is Doctrine & Covenants this year and RS is still the Teachings of Joseph Smith, the lessons often overlap. It was just gravy that the talks also fit.
I marvel at the “coincidence” that happens when a teacher gives a lesson meant for her or him. I am learning more than I knew (and believe me I thought I knew a lot) and finding treasures where there were treasures before but now somehow not the same ones.
Re reading the scriptures from a teacher’s POV opens my vision to deeper and/or different ways of understanding even the most simple of gospel principles. I remain humbled that God would grant me such insight.
It’s the same with my writing. When I review the simple “rules” that so many of you share on this blog, I find a deeper or different way of looking at a piece I am writing. Which is inevitably followed by “Why didn’t I see that before?”
When I began this blog, it was with (confession here) the attitude oh I have so much to share from professional position as a writer at a trade publication (which is quite different from fiction writing) to I have so much to learn at the hands of others going through or who have gone through so much of what I am or will go through.
Like the scriptures, I find treasures in even the simplest of entries that brings that feeling that I am learning, expanding my vision and understanding and how much better a writer I am because of it. I don’t think this blog nor my experience here is “coincidence” either.
Monday, July 20, 2009
(I don't remember why I wrote this for last year's retreat, but I ran across it while looking through my notes from this year's retreat)
Saturday, July 18, 2009
By Christine Thackeray
Friday, July 17, 2009
Stephenie did it.
So did Orson.
And then again, so did Gregory.
I speak of telling a story from a different perspective.
Stephenie Meyer told the story of Twilight from Edward's perspective in the unpublished Midnight Sun.
Orson Scott Card used the Ender series to publish Bean's story as well as Ender's story.
Gregory Maguire wrote Wicked, the popular novel, that has now been adapted into the Broadway musical by the same name.
Clearly shifting perspective isn't a new or unusual writer's tool, but how often do we practice writing as if the lens on our story has been refocused and changed to another character altogether?
Try it and see what changes in your story.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I will be at the retreat when this post comes up. I am very excited at the prospect of having oodles of time to devote to research and writing...renewing friendships and making new friends.
Two weeks ago I put my nineteen-year-old son on a plane to Salt Lake City...and the MTC. All of his brothers and sisters and and nieces and nephews came home to see him off. We had a marvelous two weeks full of swimming, BBQ's, chalk drawings, water bottle rockets, stories, laughter and tears. Many of you know that my husband has been working out of state and that we have been trying to sell our home in Phoenix. While I don't excell at the single parent thing...I have a great deal of support from family and ward members. I thought I was handling things pretty well. Last week a couple of events sent me into a downward spiral. I fell apart. I couldn't think. I couldn't cope...
I got out my scriptures and on my knees. I thought about the challenges I faced. I pondered on the role each challenge played in my life and I thought, "Which challenge would I ask Heavenly Father to take from me?" I quickly came to the conclusion that the answer is "None of them!" I wouldn't have him take a child, or my husband, my parents, or the job. I wouldn't have Him remove any of these things. This is when I knew it was time to humbly admit that I was not strong enough to face all these challenges on my own and ask for that strength beyond my own that we are promised as we strive to make and keep our covenants. Little promptings have come here and there to help me take care of myself and my family. Others have followed promptings to offer services that I didn't even know I needed. I've accomplished more in the last five days, than in the last 5 weeks. I feel joy...and peace...and immense gratitude.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Well, get up and sit down and write! I definitely need this as my alarm clock...
+Thanks to the Mormon Mommy Writer's blog for this UPlifting tune. Let's get up and write!
++Hope to see bunches of you at the ANWA Writer's Retreat this week :)
Monday, July 13, 2009
My friend brought me dinner the other day. It was really for no reason, but that she wanted me to know that she cared about me. It caused me to ponder the first time dinner was brought to me and my husband after the birth of our first baby.
We lived in a small apartment in a neglected part of Mesa. We had been in the ward for about a year at that point, and were “stuck” in the primary that whole time. I didn’t know anyone but the children in our primary class. I couldn’t seem to connect with all the older women in the ward. It was one of those newlywed or nearly dead wards if you know what I mean. I did my best to attend homemaking every month, I did my visiting teaching, and I knew some of the other young mothers in my apartment complex, but other than that, I felt oblivious.
The day I got home from the hospital, a phone call came from an older sister who said she was asked to bring me dinner that evening. I was so excited because I remember the fabulous meals brought to my own mother at the birth of each of her children. I awaited her arrival with great anticipation that I could finally connect with one of the older sisters in the ward.
At her knock, I gently picked up the baby (to show him off) and went to the door. The first thing from her mouth as she stormed through the door and straight to my dining room was something like this, “I didn’t know I would have to climb stairs and park so far away or I would have sent this dinner with someone else!” She never once looked at my sweet baby or congratulated me, she set the bag with dinner on the table and stormed out the door. I never even caught her name. I sat down and cried, feeling so embarrassed. I called the RS President and informed her that we had my mom coming to help us and wouldn’t need anymore meals.
It is amazing how one person can make such an effect on a person. I didn’t accept meals from anyone for the next four years. It wasn’t until the birth of my third child, while living in another state, that a friend brought me dinner without asking. She had known of my issue with that first meal and had simply been the friend that I needed to help me see that it was an isolated incident. Amazing how I couldn’t see it for so long. Time brings a wonderful perspective to my life. I have since served as RS President in my ward and have seen the zillion acts of service on behalf of the sisters of our ward, all because of love and concern. I have been the recipient of more heart felt service than I could possibly remember. Perspective.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Right now I would rather eat a cookie, or take a nap than write. So . . . I will compromise and eat a cookie while I sit on my bed writing this on my lap top.
Do you sometimes have to come up with ways to trick yourself into writing? Maybe trick is not the right word. How about words like entice, encourage, inspire, even discipline?
Nah, the truth of it is that right now I am having to trick myself into getting this blog written.
I stopped for a few minutes to eat my cookie and have a drink with hopes that they will inspire me. No such luck. My cookie is gone, my mind is blank, and I still have a blog to write.
Okay, new plan. I will start my diet tomorrow, that takes care of the cookie breaks. I will get to bed on time, that takes care of needing a nap. But I am still in need of something to get me writing today.
Oh well, I guess I'll eat this last cookie . . . and my bed sure feels comfy and soft. I think if I just catch a few winks I will be able to write my . . .
Friday, July 10, 2009
This summer my five-year-old daughter is in a swim class with two older kids. They can apply what the teacher tells them more quickly than she can, but they are still working on tightening their strokes. The older boy, for example, swims freestyle with considerable flopping and splashing, but he can certainly swim across the pool. As the class session has progressed, so has he: his kicks are a bit smaller, his arms enter the water more cleanly, and he can swim across the pool more quickly.
I’ve been trying to tighten my writing strokes. One thing I’ve focused on is learning from published writers in my genre (middle grade fiction) because I can squeeze reading in at odd moments and because, hey, I get to read and call it writing!
Here are a few books I’ve learned from (and also thoroughly enjoyed):
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson: A character can recognize his/her primary motivation (be the fastest runner) without recognizing a deeper motivation the primary one represents (belonging).
Half Moon Enterprises, by Eoin Colfer: A strong lead character can make you have no choice but to keep reading.
Shakespeare’s Spy, by Gary Blackwood: Hooks at the end of chapters keep you turning pages. Blackwood has great chapter-ending “hooks.”
Gideon the Cutpurse, by Linda Buckley-Archer: Background story dispersed through the main story adds tension and interest.
My Brother Sam is Dead, by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier: I needed a good example of a character torn between two sides of an issue (here, the Revolutionary War), and this was it.
I’ve also learned more about “what’s out there”; what themes recur in book after book (lots of orphans needing to belong!); and that many of my ideas that I thought were so original, like a lead character having issues with his name, are not original in the tiniest bit.
Funny how I could read for so many years and never see these things because I wasn’t looking. Now I can use the books as teachers and tighten my floppy strokes.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Random thoughts by Stephanie Abney (ends with a dang good quote you might like) ~
Well, I have been out of town as most of you know to help my sister who just had surgery. Things went very well. (She saw the doc and is on ANOTHER round of antibiotics for infections, but otherwise, things are good).
Since I got home last night and have been playing “catch up” and running errands all day, I have yet to post a blog and it IS my turn. I’ve been thinking about it, but nothing pressing seems to be presenting itself. However, I was looking at some quotes and was quite taken with this one and so I am simply going to leave you with the quote and would love to see what it makes each of you think of. Be sure to leave your remarks in the comments section so we can see what everyone thinks.
Hope summer is being good to all of you. Here in AZ, it’s very hot!!!!
This makes a good challenge for each of us:
“Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen.” ~ Robert Bresson
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
My family and I may seem normal.
We have a secret.
Wait for it ...
It's a terrible burden we bear, but we have come to accept our lot in life. Our powers have been refined and honed to the greatest level of skill, and we are proud of our abilities, despite how the rest of society may view us.
Well, there you have it. The secret's out.
The only question now is whether to use our powers for good or for evil.
I know that there are countless others out there, hiding, suffering, going through the motions of day to day life, yet behind closed doors are harboring an awesome power.
Anyone wanna confess?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Things took a dramatic turn for her when first her mom passed away, her dad moved away and her husband passed away. Valerie was suddenly a single mom. She was ambushed.
After a period of mourning (but do you ever really get over it?) and a time of burdensome adjustments, she took the reins of our tattered Single Adult program and almost singlehandedly turned it around, topping it with a terrific well-attended conference in Mobile. No small feat I can assure you. She's happily remarried and back to being wife and full-time mom, roles she cherishes.
There was a purpose in her being single for a while. Not only did the program desperately need someone like her to give it resuscitation but it led to a book about being single. I cheerleaded from the sidelines because I know the value of a book addressing singlehood in a very family-oriented church. I've had the privilege of reading the manuscript and am even more convinced of its need church wide.
She covers every aspect from the spiritual to the practical with advice and instruction for confused priesthood leaders, overwhelmed SA leaders and how to survive single in a double-bed church. She utilizes not only her own heartbreaking story but includes comments from singles of all backgrounds (never married, divorced, widowed).
I owe Valerie for many things not the least of which is my membership in ANWA which I treasure. Her insight sheds a light on a dark corner because being an older single somehow feels wrong.
When Valerie tackles something, it comes out a touchdown every time. Hurrah for our fellow ANWA sister who has reached another touchdown in her book “Of One Heart: Being Single in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”
Monday, July 6, 2009
by Joyce DiPastena
Some friends and I just finished running a joint 30 days/30 prizes contest on our blogs. I set it up because (1) I thought it would be fun, and (2) I thought it might win a little publicity for our books, products and blogs. After all, everyone likes to win (or try to win) things, right?
Just as I was putting the finishing touches on the contest, a woman I knew well in high school but hadn’t heard from since, found me on Facebook and “friended” me. We exchanged a brief, “Hi, how are ya! Long time no hear!”, in the course of which she mentioned that she was currently taking care of her widowed father full time, and I expressed my support, having done the same for many years with both my parents. That was the end of our conversation, until I posted our contest on Facebook and decided to send her an invitation.
I was pleased when she began entering for the various days and prizes, a few times mentioning in her email entries how much fun she was having with the contest. And I was even more delighted when, in the course of the contest, I randomly drew her name for one of the prizes.
I heard nothing more from her until the contest ended the last day of June. Then this week, I received a touching email from her. With her name omitted, it read in part:
First I want to congratulate you on your second publication. I have to admit that I haven't done much reading because of taking care of my dad as you know, but since I won the book Torn Apart [by Diony George] I have started reading once again. I have almost finished the fourth book finally of the Work and the Glory, and it's been two years since I started it. That's to you and your friends I have found something that I love to do once again. I still don't have a lot of time to do it but, I take time at night to do so. So, to all of you THANKS!...Thanks for helping me refind my love for books and the time to read them.
We all thought we were “just running a contest”! But never underestimate the power of a good book. In a way none of us expected, we also touched and uplifted a woman’s life. One good read opened the pathway to what will hopefully be for her many more of the same.
For each such expression of thanks received, how many similar experiences might there be that we never hear about? Contests and giveaways are fun to sponsor, but sometimes…perhaps more times than any of us know…to the person winning the prize, that contest or giveaway may be something much, much more. It may be the rediscovery of a long lost love.
Friday, July 3, 2009
To have never seen or felt the immediate effects of war within the borders of our own country is a blessing.
While I would never wish to see the struggles, trials, and horrors of war in my homeland, I see my generation, full of expectations regarding their freedoms, yet without desire to exercise the personal responsiblities that ensure ongoing freedom.
Dick Cheney said, "It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you."
Many struggle to make our freedom our priority in the midst of our busy lives, looking for ease and excuses in many of our daily encounters with patriotism.
So I ask:
Do our flags fly on each national holiday?
Do our hands rest solidly on our chests as the flag passes us by, feeling the beat of our heart speed up as we stand straight, showing respect for the sacred symbol of our nation?
Do we take the opportunity to vote, to make our voices heard, in each election in which we are able?
Have we imparted to our children, even a portion, of the importance of the sacrifices that have been made in our behalf for our country and for our freedom?
Do we strive to live what we are taught in the 12th Article of Faith: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law?"
It has been said, "Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. ...Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong." -- James Bryce.
As I strive to teach each child in my eternal care the importance and lessons of yesterday and how they apply to our today, and to our tomorrows, I am heartened to know that it is their goodness, our righteousness even, that will help our country not only to be strong but also to stay independent. As they put righteousness first, they will find that the patriotism follows and the strength that blesses their lives as they stand for what they believe in.
The 4th verse of My County 'Tis of Thee captures the prayer of my heart:
Our fathers' God, to thee,
author of liberty, to thee we sing;
long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light;
protect us by thy might, great God, our King.
May your Independence Day be a day of heartfelt gratitude and renewed conviction.
We have so much to be grateful for.
*I blogged for the 4th of July last year too...here*
I'm participating in the BIAM this month and am so grateful for the motivation to write. Day One I was finishing up an edit and wrote a long query letter so I reached my goal, but not on my work in progress. The next day I began to write but found I needed to do more research and the time flew. I went to bed at 2am with nothing written.
This morning was writer's group, and I went with my new chapter that I wrote last week. When I got there my friend Julia had a new chapter too. She has five little ones at home and found some time Wednesday evening to go to a little coffee shop and type away. With only limited free time she simply wrote. As we read through her rough draft, she came up with some great ideas that could improved what she had. Together we encouraged her to drop more clues and to have her antagonist make a showing to heighten the need for her protagonist to flee. When we finished, she had made some real progress in her story, discovering whole new motivations, plot points and characters.
Too often I don't write until I know exactly where I'm going and then I read and reread what I've done to take me to the next step, creeping along my plotline at a pathetic rate. Being willing to let go and just write the story is freeing even if it isn't perfect the first time. The key is to remember you can fix it later.
When I took an oil painting class, I was surprised that we began our projects by outlining them in charcoal. Then we did the broad colors, painting only the large forms. After that we added the darker tones and finally put in the reflections with pale shades and whites. So if your first draft is merely a charcoal drawing in words, that alright. The beauty of the age of word processors is that we can write in layers, bringing a texture to our writing that may have been more challenging with only a typewriter.
I say this because I believe it, not because I do it. That's what this month is about.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
What do you blog about when there are thirteen extra children (9 and under), five dogs, and a bird who screams like a pterodactyl, all competing for attention, and you are trying to get a missionary out the door to the MTC?
Never just ask a nineteen-year-old if he has everything ready and packed. If you do ask, and he says everything is under control and all he needs is to do a load of wash...don't believe him. Next time, I've decided to follow one daughter's suggestion. Make your missionary pack everything and turn it over to you for inspection at least two days early. Go through the list item by item. That way you will avoid someone hemming pants at 2:00am...just 4 hours before he has to get on the plane.
Sometimes those small moments of crisis bring great blessings. I had already gone to bed when the un-hemmed pants were remembered. One of his older sisters offered to stay up with her missionary brother and hem the pants for him. They had a tender bonding experience that they will always remember.
While making "funny" putty is a great science lab, it is best to do it when anyone under 3 is asleep.
Kids don't need expensive gadgets and electronic toys to have fun. All you need is sand, water, clay, a box to play in and a cup and a spoon. Throw in some bubbles and a fan and you have a party!
I could listen to children's prayers all day: "And please bless us that we won't pick our boogers."
Since all the grandchildren are little, we have multiple requests for saying the blessing on the food. Sometimes our meals get blessed four or five times before we eat it. It's just more peaceful that way. Besides, how can I say no to hearing, "and tank you fo owa ga-maw" over and over again!"
Dads are indespensible. Water bottle rockets are cool.
When did my children become such amazing adults? How did they learn to be such creative parents? I stand in awe.
Holding in the tears when you put a missionary on the plane is not a good idea. It gives you a big headache. Let yourself shed a few as he waves good bye...just enough to let him know you miss him already, but not so many that he worries about you...and then have a good bawl all the way home. Crying is good for the soul.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
by Anna Arnett
Snatches from Milton’s sonnet that begins “How soon hath time” keep running through my head. I especially like the phrases, “time, the subtle thief of youth,” and “My hasting days fly on with full career,” and “inward ripeness doth much less appear.” They seem to call out to me.
Perhaps it’s a warning that I’d better wake up and take my writing seriously.
I changed a few words to make it fit me, and felt quite pleased. I hesitate to post it, though, because I have yet to find anybody willing to admit joy when I figuratively hog-tie them and make them listen to me spout a Miltonian sonnet.
I know I’m doubling the dosage, since (1) sonnets aren’t best sellers nowadays, and (2) the language and phrasing is odd. Milton wrote during the beginning stages of modern English, which beginnings are already almost archaic. However, we're adept in it if we read Shakespeare and the King James Bible.
To paraphrase Milton, I think he means, Time’s a wasting, and at 23 he not only looks too young, but he hasn’t matured as much as some others his age. However, if he keeps plugging along and trusting in God, it will all turn out okay. I think he’s probably talking more of his writing talent than of his physical features.
Here’s his original. Decide for yourself if that’s what it says to you.
How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wings my three and twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom show'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arriv'd so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great task-Master's eye.
John Milton (1632)
My words, changed to fit me, are in italics. They were fun to make
Translation: At almost 84, my days are shorter and I still have not published enough to brag about. So many of you young’uns have, and I would be jealous, except my trust in God tells me to quit worrying, but use my time wisely, stick with ANWA, and work hard,
How quickly Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Steals on its wings my four and eightieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no publication show'th.
Perhaps my wrinkles might deceive the truth,
That I to writing am so lately near,
And inward talent doth much less appear,
That you more timely-happy spirits knoweth,
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
I still shall write in strictest measure even
To that same plot, however mean or high,
Where ANWA leads me, and the will of Heaven;
All is, though I with effort write it so,
Dependent on my great Publisher’s eye.
—John Milton (1632)
—italics indicate changes by Anna Laurene Arnett (2009)
Okay, it was fun, but I'm not sure even I like it.