Sunday, May 31, 2009

URL Shorteners

by Marsha Ward

We all know how long URLs can get, those Uniform Resource Locators that point to website addresses. This is especially so when we're dealing with "absolute" URLs, or the unique addresses for exact blog pages or online magazine or newspaper articles.

Long URLs can be a nuisance. They can get so long in emails, for example, that they fold over into two or three or more lines, often "breaking" and causing problems for those unschooled in Internet use and how to reconstruct broken links.

With the popularity of social media sites and Twitter, where shorter messages are desirable or required, the problem of long URLs has become, well, a greater problem.

Thus, we have seen the growth in recent months of URL Shorteners, websites dedicated to converting the long URL to a smaller code that redirects the user to the absolute URL. One of the first,--and still probably the largest--is TinyURL.com, but there are dozens to pick from. Some I have seen used frequently by people I follow on Twitter are:
is.gd
bit.ly
short.to
tr.im
hub.tm
and snipr.com

See how some don't use the dot com domain convention? Dot com is the business or "commercial" top-level domain (TLD) extension we see in so many URLs. But...there are many more, like dot net, dot biz, dot us and even dot tv.

Those last two, dot us and dot tv, are actually "country code top-level domains," or ccTLDs. The United States has been assigned dot US by the governing body of such things, the IANA, or Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Dot TV is the country code of the nation of Tuvalu, whose Ministry of Finance and Tourism rents out the use of the code to the television industry!

So it is with other URL shorteners that don't end in dot com. Bit.ly uses a Libyan address, is.gd originates on the island of Grenada, short.to gets its code from Tonga, hub.tm (hubspot) is authorized through Turkmenistan, and tr.im is licensed by the Isle of Man.

There is much discussion on the competitive blogosphere of whether URL shorteners are evil or not, depending on if you need search engines to bump your site to the top of their lists to gain revenue or not. It appears using URL shorteners may confuse the issue of who gets the recognition for the visit to your site. Discussion also centers on whether longevity of the shortener sites will be a future problem.

I'd suggest that if you send an email or tweet or update your Facebook profile, using a shortener to suggest a link is of little concern, since those are momentary communications. If you post a link on your website--designed to be up and sending links to presumedly long-lived sites--you'd better use absolute, though long, URLs.

That's up to you to decide.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Best Time to Write?

by Cindy R. Williams

It is after midnight, which is one of my best writing times. The reasons are:

1. Family is in bed, safe and sound.
2. Cats, dogs and fish are fed and happy.
3. No phone ringing.
4. No wash beeping.
5. No cooking to do right now.
6. No running a taxi service.
7. Garden is watered.
8. House is tidy.
9. And best of all; when I am tired, my creative brain thinks outside the box, and I can fly into my waking dreams and my imagination soars.

Great reasons, but there is one drawback tonight . . . I am now too sleepy. Good night!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Getting a Grip on the Project

by Sarah Albrecht

In the third grade I decided to make a skirt. Green, my favorite color. It would be so simple: cut out two skirt-shaped pieces of fabric, sew up each side, and done! Given the expectation I started with, my introduction to measurements, grainline, patterns, matching notches, pressing seams, finishing seams, and gathering waistbands was painful to say the least. My mom finished the skirt.

About ten years ago I started my first house painting project. Muted yellow and green, my favorite color. It would be simple: paint the top of the guest room yellow, the bottom green, add a chair rail between, and done! Given the expectation I started with, my introduction to painter’s tape, cutting in, second coats, goo gone, back saws and mitered corners was painful to say the least. My mom wasn’t there to finish this project, so I did. Sort of. Years later when we went to sell the house I found myself chipping hardened masking tape (the wrong sort for painting) out of corners and off the baseboards. And we ripped out the chair rails because they’d split when I tried nailing them on.

I’m mulling over the nature of projects because this week I’m painting the toy room, sky blue on top and green (my favorite color) on the bottom with a chair rail in between. Then if I manage to see the project through, I’ll make curtains, cut on the grain with pressed and finished seams.

The projects may be time consuming, but over the years I’ve gotten a grip on the tools and the rules, so my expectation is more in line with the outcome. It wouldn’t be if I hadn’t already gone through the pain in other projects.

With writing, I’m hoping to do the same: get a grip on the tools and the rules, and--maybe!-- the outcome will be in line with the expectation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Power and Blessings of "Showing Up"


by Stephanie Abney

My husband, Jim, and I are a couple of “show-uppers.” We show up to just about everything and anything we are invited to, are expected to be to and even lots of places where no one thought we would be there. Life happens, of course. Sometimes we are double-booked, out of town, ill or a few times, just plain forget. Nevertheless, generally speaking, we show up. So do a lot of other people. I can’t help but notice a pattern, however. It seems in any given circle, it is pretty much the same people that show up.

The same teachers show up at afterschool events or meetings, the same people show up at ward temple day, welfare assignments, service projects, Eagle projects and Courts of Honor, convert baptisms and wedding receptions, particularly those that are really too far away (but the “show-uppers” will come anyway). They show up at kids’ performances (often when they are not even related), graduation parties, baby and bridal showers and more.

We are also “stay late and help clean-uppers.” Oh yeah, I married into a large bunch of stay late and help out folks. If we are at a wedding reception of someone we don’t even know that well and we happen to get there as it is ending, I can guarantee that the Abneys are not going home until the last table has been stripped of its cloth and decorations, the last chair has been stacked and the floor swept, if not mopped.

Am I bragging? No… just making an observation. It takes a big chunk out of your life to be a “show-upper.” Yet, I know from experience, that when we have an event, a talk to give or any other number of things that may involve others and we look out to see “so-and-so” and we KNEW they would be there… because they always “show up” and we knew we could count on them, there is something so sweet that washes over us. Everyone has fun, gets the work done, cheers the drama student or band member, finishes the Eagle project, does the temple work, supports the new church member, the new grad, the new bride or the new mom or whatever the event may be. Everyone is also enriched, either for having given or received. Everyone becomes closer, bonds of family and friends are strengthened. In this there is real, tangible power… something that adds to your own framework and rounds out the empty spots, fills in the gaps, brings out the smiles and creates value, love and blessings. Yep, I have a lot of gratitude for those who “show-up” and I’m proud to be counted among them because the blessings are a two-way street. It’s impossible to bless the lives of someone else without blessing your own life. You just have to “show-up.”



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Temporary

by Marielle Carlisle

Last week I made my biannual visit the dentist, and received bittersweet news.

The good: No cavities. Woot woot!

The bad: I grind my teeth, and one of molars is cracking. (sigh)

I'm now sporting a temporary crown, and will go in next week to have my brand spankin'-new crown fitted.

Alas, this temporary crown has been gettin' all up in my grill (translation: causing me problems). Friday night the whole right side of my face was throbbing. It's as if my ugly, temp crown knew it was a holiday weekend, and that I couldn't make an emergency run to the dentist to have my crown filed down until Tuesday. I was popping Motrin like nobody's bid-ness.

But finally! Relief! I sit here, Motrin free for at least 8 hours, the pain slowly fading away. My dentist completely filed down my temp so that it's not even TOUCHING the opposing tooth.

As I was lounging in my pain-killer induced stupor over the weekend, the only thing that pulled me through was reciting my mantra "it's only a temporary, it's only a temporary ..." Even though I was in pain, I knew it wouldn't last forever. I would be able to visit the dentist for help, and eventually I would get my pretty little permanent crown snapped into place.

So it is with our "temporary" existence here on earth. Our lives may have overbites, grinding, cavities, temporary crowns, and any other numerous problems, but it won't last forever. There will be pain. There will be cracks from wear and tear, but it is not permanent. Our Heavenly Father is always here to help and support us, and is more then willing to file down the uneven surfaces if we simply ask.

And then finally! Relief! We will be fitted with a glorious, eternal crown.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eternal Perspective

As the relatively new gospel doctrine teacher in my small branch, I find myself daunted looking out over all the people in the class who are much wiser than I and think how can I teach this material in a way to reach them. I know it's not me personally. It involves study, preparation, prayer, the Holy Spirit and delivery to touch them with a timely message. Every week I go through the agony of listening carefully to the Spirit to make sure what I think I am hearing is in fact what I am hearing as far as the direction of the lesson.

I read several additional material and, in the case of the Doctrine & Covenants, I try to read up on the church history behind the sections we are studying. So I feel somewhat prepared by Sunday. The problem for me is making sure I am focusing on the message I need to give. Sometimes that doesn't happen until I actually stand up and welcome them and even sometimes not until someone asks a question and it sends me off to the message I suddenly perceive is indeed the correct message.

Funny, I don't put that much effort into my writing. I don't take the time to contemplate the why of a scene or the personality of a character. I expect it to flow creatively from my fingers on demand. And I get frustrated when it doesn't.

I think the message here for me is take my writing as seriously as I take my callings. How I do what I do counts as much as what I do from an eternal point of view.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hymns for Memorial Day

by Joyce DiPastena

During the televised memorial services for those who died in the bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole in 2000, the Navy band played a tune that struck me as particularly beautiful. When I mentioned it to my mother, she immediately sprang up and pulled out her old “Song and Service Book for Ship and Field” from her days in the Navy WAVES. She flipped to a page in the book and handed it to me. As soon as the memorial services were over, I went over to our piano and played and sang the song that the Navy band had performed. The words brought me to tears. They are as follows:

1. Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

2. O Saviour whose almighty word
The winds and waves submissive heard,
Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

3. O Sacred Spirit, who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
Who bad’st its angry tumult cease,
And gavest light and life and peace;
O hear us, when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

4. O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go,
Thus ever let there rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

This song, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” is also known as the “Navy Hymn”. I decided to do an internet search on this hymn this Memorial Day weekend, and discovered that additional verses have been added to this hymn since my mother served in the Navy in the 1940s. Some of these verses recognize other branches of the U.S. Armed Services…and more! I thought you might enjoy reading the words to a few of them on this Memorial Day.

Eternal Father, grant, we pray

To all Marines, both night and day,

The courage, honor, strength, and skill

Their land to serve, thy law fulfill;

Be thou the shield forevermore

From every peril to the Corps.

--J.E. Seim, 1966

Lord God, our power evermore,

Whose arm doth reach the ocean floor,

Dive with our men beneath the sea;

Traverse the depths protectively.

O hear us when we pray, and keep
them safe from peril in the deep.

--David B. Miller, 1965

O God, protect the women who,

in service, faith in thee renew;

O guide devoted hands of skill

And bless their work within thy will;

Inspire their lives that they may be 

Examples fair on land and sea.

-- Lines 1-4, Merle E. Strickland, 1972,
and adapted by James D. Shannon, 1973.

Lines 5-6, Beatrice M. Truitt, 1948

Eternal Father, Lord of hosts,

Watch o'er the men who guard our coasts.

Protect them from the raging seas 

And give them light and life and peace.

Grant them from thy great throne above

The shield and shelter of thy love.
--Author and date unknown

Eternal Father, King of birth,

Who didst create the heaven and earth,

And bid the planets and the sun

Their own appointed orbits run;

O hear us when we seek thy grace 

For those who soar through outer space.

-- J.E. Volonte, 1961

God, who dost still the restless foam,

Protect the ones we love at home.

Provide that they should always be 

By thine own grace both safe and free.

O Father, hear us when we pray 

For those we love so far away.

-- Hugh Taylor, date unknown

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly 

And those who on the ocean ply;

Be with our troops upon the land,

And all who for their country stand:

Be with these guardians day and night 

And may their trust be in thy might.

--author unknown, about 1955

And when at length her course is run,

Her work for home and country done,

Of all the souls that in her sailed

Let not one life in thee have failed;

But hear from heaven our sailor's cry,

And grant eternal life on high!

--Author and date unknown

“Eternal Father was the favorite hymn of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was sung at his funeral at Hyde Park, New York in April 1945. Roosevelt had served as Secretary of the Navy. This hymn was also played as President John F. Kennedy's body was carried up the steps of the capitol to lie in state.” (Source: Naval History and Heritage Command website: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq53-1.htm)

May we each take time to remember on this day those far away on land and sea, past and present, the guardians of our precious freedoms!

(Click here to send a free postcard to our troops!)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Parenthood

By Shawnette Nielson


As now a baby comes along
To join us in our family song,
I sit and ponder a parent’s role
To help their children through earths toil.

This topsy-turvy world surrounds
Filled with temptation, lies, and sound
Distracting from the Holy One
Who strives to lead us to the Sun.

Open our eyes for we must see
All that surrounds you and me.
Brave we stand, alone we trod
A pathway, we want, back to God.

Mom and Dad, we must be strong
To lead our children all along.
Show the crevasse they must not walk,
Help over trouble and softly talk

Of life and purpose, God and love,
The Plan from our Father up above,
The goals, the trials, the fire, the sin.
The way which leads us back to Him.

“Be brave, my child,” we all must say
So many times in our early day.
Success will come, but at a cost.
You must be strong to not be lost.

Grow with me, oh child of mine,
And let us walk to the Divine.
Surround ourselves with good and right
And seek, oh seek, yes seek the light.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Good, Better, Best


By Christine Thackeray

We all know the story of the Master's Touch, an old violin seems worthless until it is played by a virtuoso and then everyone wants it. Well, I remember as a child having that same experience, ironically, with a violin. Growing up, my mother wanted each of us to learn a musical instrument. I chose the violin and screeched on it for two long years before we all agreed it was better for the whole human race if I put the thing away and never touched it again.

The following year a woman moved into our ward who was petite and demur (two things I will never be.) I remember standing in awe of her and then one Sunday she performed the special musical number, "Oh My Father" on, you guessed it, a violin. It was GORGEOUS! I sat in my chair crying at the opportunity lost. I could have made music that lovely if I had persisted. But the reality is that when I played, it was squeaky and awful. I remember wishing that I had listened to her playing while I was practicing. Then I might have endured.

As a writer, I often make the same mistake. I get trapped in my own favorite words or languish in my flat voice, sometimes getting flatter the more I continue. It's imperative that as I write, I keep myself exposed to great material so that I can hear that well-played violin and have a better idea of what I'm reaching for, rather than wallowing in my own mediocrity.

One way to do this is to constantly read good books. Another is to join a critique group with writer's you admire. Last week Betsy Grow came to our group and brought a piece she has been working on. I'd never heard her stuff before, but it was brilliant! She used metaphor and simile A LOT but it worked and made things come alive! In one scene a girl is in the high school cafeteria being embarrassed in front of a boy she likes. As she turns to go, the football team rushes through the door, surrounding her with jersey-clad torsos the size of trees.

I got home and decided my descriptions could use some more umph! So, I did a rewrite. Tell me what you think-


GOOD:

Lindsay ran her hands through her wet, light brown hair and stared at the dark circles under her eyes. It’s going to take three different kinds of foundation to hide this face from the ladies at church.


BETTER:

The corners of Lindsay’s mouth pulled downward as she ran her hands through her wet, light brown hair. The last traces of the golden highlights it once sported were gone, and she knew she couldn’t afford to replace them, leaving her hair the color and texture of a used industrial mop. She leaned over the yellowed counter and inspected her reflection. Broad crescent shadows rested beneath each eye, and her hand smoothed across two miniscule wrinkles on her forehead that hadn’t been there a few weeks ago. It’s going to take three different kinds of foundation to hide this face from the ladies at church.



I'm sure it's not BEST yet so if you have any suggestions for that first line, I'd be grateful. But it is a wonderful thing to learn and get better every day. What a gift! I have good friends who are taking classes from WritersU.com and others who are constantly reading, attending workshops and challenging themselves. They are reaching for better, which is awesome.

From my debached violin experience I learned that practice doesn't necessarily make perfect. We can simply practice our mistakes over and over until we become really good at stinking up the place. No, I need to reach for better every day, not just in writing but in everything I do. An important key to doing that is to have a standard of what BEST is. Without that, we don't really know what we are aiming for. In writing that standard may changed, but in life I suddenly appreciate the perfect standard given to us by a brilliant Father in Heaven. Christ gives us something to emulate and strive for so someday we can be our best. Cool.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Upon Reflection

By Kristine John
In life, I tend to try and do things alone.
I consider myself resourceful and strong much of the time, and hesitate to use such words as prideful or stubborn.
Upon reflection, it is when I truly struggle that I truly realize that I am never alone...and that I simply cannot do anything without the ultimate Healer.
This poem speaks to my heart...and I feel the need to share it here.
The Carpenter of Nazareth
By George Blair
In Nazareth, the narrow road,
That tires the feet and steals the breath,
Passes the place where once abode
The Carpenter of Nazareth.

And up and down the dusty way
The village folk would often wend;
And on the bench, beside Him, lay
Their broken things for Him to mend.

The maiden with the doll she broke,
The woman with the broken chair,
the man with broken plough,
or yoke,
Said, “Can you mend it, Carpenter?”

And each received the thing he sought,
In yoke, or plough, or chair, or doll;
The broken thing which each had
Brought
Returned again a perfect whole.

So, up the hill the long years
Through,
With heavy step and wistful eye,
The burdened souls their way
Pursue,
Uttering each the plaintive cry;

“O Carpenter of Nazareth,
This heart, that’s broken past repair,
This life, that’s shattered nigh to death,
Oh, can You mend them, Carpenter?”

And by His kind and ready hand,
His own sweet life is woven through
Our broken lives, until they stand
A New Creation—“all things new.”

“The shattered [substance] of [the] heart,
Desire, ambition, hope, and faith,
Mould Thou into the perfect part,
In Nazareth, the narrow road,
That tires the feet and steals the breath,
Passes the place where once abode
The Carpenter of Nazareth.

And up and down the dusty way
The village folk would often wend;
And on the bench, beside Him, lay
Their broken things for Him to mend.

The maiden with the doll she broke,
The woman with the broken chair,
the man with broken plough,
or yoke,
Said, “Can you mend it, Carpenter?”

And each received the thing he sought,
In yoke, or plough, or chair, or doll;
The broken thing which each had
Brought
Returned again a perfect whole.

So, up the hill the long years
Through,
With heavy step and wistful eye,
The burdened souls their way
Pursue,
Uttering each the plaintive cry;

“O Carpenter of Nazareth,
This heart, that’s broken past repair,
This life, that’s shattered nigh to death,
Oh, can You mend them, Carpenter?”

And by His kind and ready hand,
His own sweet life is woven through
Our broken lives, until they stand
A New Creation—“all things new.”

“The shattered [substance] of [the] heart,
Desire, ambition, hope, and faith,
Mould Thou into the perfect part,
O, Carpenter of Nazareth!”
(This poem was quoted in Brother Jeffery R. Holland's April 2006 General Conference talk.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ramblings of a still busy old lady

by Anna Arnett

The discussion on email about age quite intrigued me.  What seems old at one time in life, definitely seems young at another. We all know that.  Even little kids understand.

During my first year of teaching pregnant students, when enrollment stopped before twenty and I taught alone, I oncew took my grandson along.  Yes, I was his babysitter.  On the way, I talked about what he could do during the day.

"There are some jig-saw puzzles, but you may not be old enough to do them."

"Grandma, are you old enough?"

"Oh yes.  I've very old." I felt I was exaggerating, for I was only fifty-two, and felt young and active.

"I thought so."  

His sister had already hit me with, "Grandma, is it because you're old that you have that skin hanging from your neck?"

"Where?"  I dashed for the mirror and discovered my wattles for the first time.  Yep, I was getting old.

Today, all the fifty-year-olds look young to me, and worse still, those in their nineties look about my age.  At my single stage, a married woman, even my age, looked older, and a 20-year-old mother had aged far past me.  After my marriage, I felt about the same age as those up to twenty years older. 

Not only the concept of old and young, we have myriads of words in our language that have no precise meaning--tall, short, big, little, dark, light, up, down, even happy, sad.  The list goes on and on.  Without some point of reference, these definitions are nebulous.  Sometimes this is good.  It can let the reader/listener choose.  But at best, it's rather blah.

In a picture, size, color and proportions give perspective and draw the viewer into the scene.  A good writer works just as carefully to achieve the same goal.

Just as no two artists will paint the exact picture, so each writer creates a unique "word print" as individual as a signature or fingerprint.  We learn the rules, as Mark Twain says, so we can also understand where and how we can break them with impunity.

Yesterday, as I critiqued another writer, I thought she was a little too wordy, and her word needed a lot of tightening up.
This morning, still pondering her efforts, I came to a profound conclusion:  

Like everyone else--in my own humble opinion--all  written thoughts I've come up with are precious.  My ideas are great, so why I bother to write them. When I go to edit, I continually add more words to illustrate my feelings, actions, arguments, or whatever, but it's hard to cut.

On the other hand, I can more easily find fault with ... .

Well, I was going to make a great comparison here, and I tried, but deleted it all.  There's really no comparison to make.  For the most part I'm impressed with what I read, even when I didn't originate it. There's good there. I feel at one with each of you.

I planned this blog to give some wise insight into something or other, and find I'm not so wise after all.  So, I'll turn my attention elsewhere.

I'm impressed with everything you ANWA sisters are doing.  You are publishing, winning awards, writing encouragement, welcoming new members, building fantastic blogsites, raising children, giving service, handling problems, and moving right along.  I know it's not always easy, but you are doing it.

Now, my mentor Pamela is pushing me.  "I've known you for about three years now, and you ... "

"I've just been playing around with writing,"

"Yes.  It's time you stop playing and get to work.  Set yourself some goals,  with deadlines as near as possible, and then shut out all those extra things you do and make yourself work.   I know you say you are writing your bio mostly for your children, and you're still healthy and alert, but you have no guarantee of how long  that will be."  The more she spoke the more passionate her voice.  "Now go home and get busy." 

So, I've been busy.  I knit on an afghan for a granddaughter for a couple of hours; I spent that long working on a little problem on my income tax I'd had to extend; I answered a few emails; read a few blogs; wrote this; rearranged some books that needed it; made a list of things I needed to do today, nearly half of which are done, but only one of the many undone ones had to do with my upcoming book; I plan to go run some errands that mustn't be postponed; I need a manicure and a haircut; and somewhere or other I need to find something to eat besides the chocolate that's handy in my desk drawer.  Oh, and my visiting teaching is only half done.

I wonder from whence cometh any hope.  And I know the answer.



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Like Jello

by Valerie Ipson

I've overloaded at the books-on-writing buffet. My library card receipts will attest to all the plot, character development, grammar, point of view, ad nauseum, that I have piled on my plate, then devoured and digested. Frankly, I'm feeling bloated and I need a mental Tums.

Now, it's such a treat to find a really well-written book on writing, and even better when you have those A-HA moments that you're able to set aside in Tupperware or cover with Press-n-Seal for use later to sweeten your writing. I found one of those...

We writerly sorts always talk about character arcs, which basically means that the character shows growth from the way he/she is at the story's opening to how he/she is changed at the end. (Our Heavenly Father is looking for those same kinds of character arcs out of us.) I don't have the book in front of me, but was reminded of it from another source, so I am not quoting here...but in James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure, he talks about a concept he calls The Force Field of Character Change that can be helpful in creating satisfying "arcs." JSB says we have certain self-concepts, values, and beliefs that make up who we are. We protect these, in his words, create "force fields" around them, because if they are disturbed it puts us into a state of disequalibrium.

We have varying levels of these force fields. I drew a circle to represent them for my own use, but I won't draw one here because that would involve internet technology of some sort, so bare with me. The outer circle is opinions--these are easiest to change in someone. Next comes attitudes, followed by a person's values, then their beliefs--each harder to change than the one before it in the circle. The inner circle and hardest to penetrate is one's self-image. Human beings tend to protect that almost at any cost.

So how do we apply this to our stories and character arcs? We begin by challenging our character's opinions, then move on to their attitudes, and so on, until at the end of the book they have had their core self-concept challenged and changed.

I'm thrilled with JSB's refreshing morsel of insight. It gives me a recipe for the smorgasbord of a journey I must lay out for my character, and like jello, it goes down easy and there's always room for more...

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Predictable Life

By Stacy Johnson
So, I guess we've all been a little busy, the last two weeks seem to have flown by. I would say my life is chaos right now and things are hectic, but good. My husband blogged on his personal blog today and it got me thinking...do I lead a predictable life?
I had big plans when I was growing up. I dreamed of growing up and going on a mission, graduating college, being CEO of my own business, traveling the world, eating in the finest restaurants, living a life of luxury. And, when the time was right, I would marry in the temple and have a family of my own. I swore by my patriarchal blessing where it said, "In due time you will be married." I figured I might be a little older, so I was going to spend those "waiting" years accomplishing all these really great things so that when I got married, I could just be a mom and do all the mom things; clean the house, have babies, teach primary, etc. Little did I know that I would meet my husband when I was merely 17 years old. He hadn't even served his mission yet. Talk about due time!! I was finally married the summer I turned 20, three whole years later!! I had done none of the things I dreamed of but yet excited for my future. To top it off, Baby #1 arrived three days before our first wedding anniversary.
So, have I led a predictable life? As I sit and reflect, I guess I'd have to say that it isn't exactly as I had predicted it, but fairly comporable. For example, I haven't gone on a mission yet, but I am saving now for when I'm old enough. I haven't graduted college, but I bet if I added up all the classes I have taken over the last 20 years, I technically have enough hours for one, they just don't all belong to the same major (something I am working to correct by December 2010). That doesn't count the number of enrichment/homemaking classes I've taken on home decorating, crafting, food storage, family history, scripture study, etc.
I may not be CEO of my own business, but being the mother of 7 (plus we found out another is on the way) and a recently retired RS President puts me awfully close.
When we were in the military as a young couple, we lived in some interesting places, even if I haven't traveled the world. I've been blessed with a husband who has had wonderful jobs that rarely included travel but when he did go, they were great places to visit so I would join him for a weekend here or there.
As far as eating in the finest restaurants, I am glad to say that I like to try new things. I don't venture too far from home and I like my old stand by places, but we are brave and try the out of the way spots too, ask me about great sushi spots, mexican food, korean, thai, etc.
As for luxury, I guess it depends on how you look at it. I've never wanted for a roof over my head, clothes to wear, food to eat, furniture to sit on. I do live on a budget and while it seemed hard at first, I have never gone without. I have seven of the most beautiful children you will ever meet; they are talented, witty, athletic, honest, dependable, and hard working (most of the time). And my husband? Well, he was worth "waiting" for, that's for sure.
The mom thing isn't so bad; I clean the house when I have time, pregnancy hasn't killed me yet, and I've taught primary and survived.
So has my life been predictable?
Yes and No.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's Been a Busy Week

by Marsha Ward

I have one last thing to do before I go take a much needed nap: do this blog.

Why do I need a nap? It's been an exceedingly busy week.

It started out with Mother's Day. No explanation needed there. My daughter traveled up from the Valley to take me to dinner in town. I was to meet her and her housemates at 3 p.m.

I did learn in the course of the day's events that the extra button on my armrest in the car DOES have a purpose. After church I tried to wind up my windows, and only the driver-side one worked. I use the word "wind"--long i--in the sense that I hit a button and tiny servo-motors in the doors do the actual work. This time, they didn't work! I sighed, wondering what on earth was going on, and dreading the drive to town with the wind-noise assaulting my ears. Yeah, it was as bad as I imagined it would be.

I happened to mention that I probably needed to visit the car dealership to check out the window problem, and my daughter's housemate said he'd take a look at. I'd located the various fuse boxes already in my ownership manual, and pointed them out. All the fuses looked good.

While my daughter was showing me their new van--which, incidentally, got totalled in an accident this week!--the housemate continued checking things out. I heard a whirring sound behind me: the window going up. Housemate had located the problem.

That extra button? It's a child lock. It locks windows so children can't operate the automatic buttons and roll the windows down. Somehow I
accidentally tripped it.

That was Sunday. Monday was busy with preparing for a Book Signing the next day, as well as updating various web pages.

Tuesday was the four-hour-long book signing. Afterward, I went home and crashed after finishing preparations for the presentation on Dialogue that I was to give to a writers' group the next day.

Wednesday I was prompted to go to the Valley after my presentation and attend another writers' meeting. I grabbed my suitcase, which always has "travel" things in it, put in a change of clothes, and set off. The presentation went well, the drive was nice, and the meeting that evening was super. I even survived the night without my CPAP machine, which I had prepared to take along, but missed getting into the car.

I did several errands on Thursday, and went safely back home.

Friday was catch-up day, preparing for an ANWA board meeting on Saturday. Printing off materials used up most of an ink cartridge. New came that the hostess was ill, so the meeting was moved to another home. I emailed that I was coming the next day, and to give me directions via phone by 8 a.m., my departure time.

After I got to the Valley, I checked my phone (which I had forgotten to turn on!!!) to learn that two other members of the Board woke up sick, so the meeting was postponed. I ran several other errands (including getting passport photos taken), and met with family members to decorate the graves of my husband and daughter. Then I returned home, somewhat hot from the temperature in the Valley. I crashed for a nap, but when it was time to wake up, decided to just go back to sleep for the night.

Today was another busy Sunday, with choir practice before church. I think I'm wiped out now, so it's nap time. I don't want to fall ill.

Get well quick, Stephanie, Cindy, and Aimee!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Frazzled?

by Cindy R. Williams

Hurry here, hurry there
No time for fun.
Housework is waiting
Chores are undone.

Kids need attention
And want me to play.
Hubby is calling
He needs me today.

I want to go write
And spend time alone.
But I am the glue
That makes house a home.

Meetings to go to
And not enough sleep.
I can't crawl out
'Cause I'm in too deep.

Above all the chaos
And worry and strife
Is the panicky feeling
That I'm flunking life.

I heard a poem much like this when I was in Jr. High. I am not sure who the author is. As time has gone by I have changed words here and there to fit my life at any given time.

Whenever this poem sounds too much like my life, I find a quiet corner, which is quite a feat at my house, and ponder, pray and breath deep. I usually come up with the same solution. "Line upon line, one thing at a time."

Line Upon Line
by Cindy R. Williams
Line upon line,
One thing at a time.
As a Daughter of God I have been given this day,
To use my free agency so I choose to pray.
Dear Father bring peace to my troubled heart,
So that I may choose wisely, the better part.
Line upon line,
One thing at a time.
Test this out. I promise you, you will get the same or even more accomplished in your day. The best part is you will find joy and peace. When you lay your head on the soft pillow at night, you will know you did what was needed and right. Peace will be in your heart.

Friday, May 15, 2009

We Might Find the Child

by Sarah Albrecht

Fourteen months ago I opened the olive-green paint box my dad left to me, searching for a charcoal pencil. The long-closeted scent of turpentine rocked me with it a wave of memory so powerful I had to sit back and close my eyes.

In that instant of reconnection, I knew I had to write--not my dad’s story, but his father’s. In spite of good intentions, I had never written a life story and wasn’t sure why the urge to start this one felt so strong.

All I knew about my paternal grandfather was that he came to Wisconsin, a German from the Ukraine, at age four. Years later he met my grandmother at the county asylum where they both worked, nursed her through the influenza of 1918, married her in 1920 and had five children, then died of complications from diabetes in 1933. Because of the hardship my grandmother experienced after his loss, he hovered through my life simply as the grandfather who died. I knew even less about his parents and the rest of his family. Based on that knowledge, his story would have been about two pages.

Despite lack of research experience, I started hunting for more information: interviews, books, internet sites, historical societies, chronologies, timetables. I found recipes, songs, postcards, broken legs, weddings and babies and deaths. Distilled from the mass of new information was the fact that the family sailed from Bremen aboard the Braunschweig, together with the family story that one child died aboard that ship.

No one knows the child’s name or age. They think she was a girl. My mom has been searching for her for forty years.

By accident one Sunday afternoon, I stumbled onto a site quoting a BYU professor on finding immigrant ancestors. He listed the German archives that held records for deaths aboard ship. It took a minute to realize the significance of what was on the screen: We might find the child.

Like so many families, my grandfather’s family resonates with struggle and perseverance, and I have learned and grown through my connection to them.

And above all, we might find the child.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I laid down on a bed of nails

by Stephanie Abney

I guess you really can do anything... given the right reasons and/or the right circumstances. (I'll explain this more as we go along). This is going to be short (at least, short... for ME). I'm so tired that I think I'll be asleep for the night by 7:30 tonight. Slowly, we are making our way to the end of the school year and at my school we still have 10 actual days of school left (we come back after Memorial Day). What a journey this first year of teaching full-time has been, particularly at my age (58).

I've loved all the years of substitute teaching and now I have really enjoyed this year as well. I think I was truly supposed to be the teacher for some of these kids. I hope I have been able to give to them what they were in need of, as they certainly have given to me. Case in point: every morning I read to the children about someone remarkable and we talk about them and the traits that made that person so amazing so they can learn to model them. The last two days we have been reading about Albert Schweitzer. Anyway, when I finish reading, we discuss it a bit and write some traits and ideas on the board and the kids settle down to write a journal entry about it and then illustrate it. It's amazing what young children can come up with. So, this morning I was at my desk when all of a sudden one of my little 7 year old boys quietly gets out of his seat, walks up to my desk, stands right next to me, leans his head on my shoulder until our heads are touching and gives me a little squeeze and then slips back into his seat without saying a word. Yep, that's why I teach.

I've tried to make every day memorable for them. Tuesday was National Limerick Day so we learned about them and tried our hand at writing a couple of them. Yesterday we went to the Science Center and the Planetarium. Today is (in case you were wondering, and why wouldn't you be????) National Dance Like a Chicken Day, so we had a reading comprehension on dancing like a chicken and then I put on a CD with the music and the whole class did the Chicken Dance.

Sat. is the anniversary of the day that Root Beer was invented so tomorrow we are having root beer floats. And so it goes, there is always something to celebrate ~ I see to it. I live my own life trying to celebrate each day. Some days I'm more successful than others.

Back to the bed of nails... if you didn't read the title, bet I caught you by surprise!! At the Science Center yesterday, there was a "bed of nails" ~ 1,000 of them to be exact, all sharp, but all PERFECTLY lined up. The theory is that if you have all these nails to support and distribute your weight, it doesn't hurt. This is true. I have PLENTY of weight to support and I laid down on it twice and it didn't hurt. Every nail was exactly where it was supposed to be; none of them were trying to be in the limelight and stick up higher or be all insecure and be lower than they should be. Each nail did its part. I found it interesting. Lots of analogies there... every member of a family, a ward, an ANWA chapter, etc. etc. fulfilling their part and being there to support each other. Pretty cool. So, if you've read this far, I guess you deserve proof. So, here it is:
(you gotta' love that stupid sign that says "300 pound weight limit" right under me ~ but I didn't need to worry ~ I'm not there yet!!!!!!!!!

Kind of makes me want to head off to bed now. Nighty night!! Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Recharge

by Marielle Carlisle

I really enjoyed the lesson this last Sunday in Sunday School. Even though my calling required me to duck in and out of the room throughout the hour, I caught some interesting "aha!" moments.

Our lesson was about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. At one point the instructor asked why we need a Sabbath Day. Many people raised their hands, and most spoke about how they needed a 'spiritual recharge,' to bring the focus of Christ back into their lives after a week of the daily grind.

One sister's comment really struck me. She first talked about the perfume department in those huge Department Stores, and that research shows that after the fourth squirt of perfume, our senses can no longer smell any perfume. She compared this to our lives through the week. We get so caught up in our worldy pursuits, that if we do not take ourselves out of that monotonous cycle of life, we cannot 'smell' the changes or adjustments that need to take place to center our lives around Christ.

Sunday is not merely to take naps and go to church (though both are important!). It breaks up the week, stops the constant spraying of perfume, and offers us a chance to recharge, renew, regroup, re-smell life, if you may.

So, take a deep breath ...






ps I made this for dinner last night, and it was incredible. I will never cook salmon in the oven again.

pps I just finished this over the weekend, and I loved it. Good work, Sarah.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just a Reminder

It's awe inspiring when a small moment comes to us to remind us of how much we are loved by our Heavenly Father. One came to me out of the blue. This year for Mother's Day I felt nudged to give my mother something to remind her of my stepfather who passed away two years ago. I threw in some of the Church News, a few magazines we both like and a card for my sister. There was cash money involved so I sent it UPS. I saw it was delievered on Thursday so all was well. When I called my mom on Sunday I was a bit surprised she didn't mention it. So I asked her if she got her package. I knew we were in trouble when she said what package?

We investigated and realized I had transposed the numbers from 460 to406. The next day she told my sister about it but for some reason thought I said 405. That house had no such package.

On her way to work, my sister felt impressed to go to 406 sure that's what I meant. It was locked from the outside, looked unoccupied and trash was on the porch. But she was "nudged" to look further. Getting out of her car, she went up to the porch, pushed away some of the trash and found my package all wrapped up in plastic.

When she called me to tell me she had found it, she didn't say look what I did. She said Heavenly Father really loves you. And you know what, she's right. He didn't have to do that. But He did. Reminding me that I am loved.

Like all of us here at ANWA I get caught up in the grammar or just the right word or even RL and momentarily forget He wants to be a part of all of my life, including the writing and UPS packages.

Monday, May 11, 2009

ANWA—A True Sisterhood!

by Joyce DiPastena

It’s just been a little over two weeks now since I attended the LDS Storymakers Writers Conference in Provo, Utah. I first attended the conference in 2008, and although I loved all the classes and workshops, I had a very difficult time during non-class time. Although a few members of ANWA attended that year, somehow I never seemed to successfully hook up with them. I felt lost and alone and, quite honestly, miserable during such things as mealtime. I’m extremely socially shy, and it seemed like whatever table I ended up sitting at, everyone knew everyone else and I always felt like I was invisible at best, an intruder in their “circle” at worst.

This year it was different. More sisters from ANWA attended, and this year I found myself slipping easily and happily into their company. I called my sister (with whom I was staying in Salt Lake City) between classes a few times. Remembering my struggles of the previous year, she asked me each time how I was doing. My reply: “Oh, I’m having so much fun this year. I sat with some of my ANWA sisters during the classes. I sat with some of my ANWA sisters during lunch.” Etc.

It wasn’t until I’d repeated a version of this several times that I realized something unique. I never said, “I sat with an ANWA member” during such-and-such class, or lunch, or dinner. Without even thinking, I always used the phrase, “my ANWA sister”.

My sisters. Where else do I use that phrase, outside of Relief Society? Nowhere! But the phrase slipped so easily and naturally off my tongue during the conference. I realize now in a way I think I’d only taken for granted before that ANWA is much more than just a writing group. It is truly a SISTERHOOD of writers. I wasn’t “alone” at the conference this year. I was with “family”. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chivalry is alive but afraid

By Shawnette Nielson

In the past I believe it was easier for a woman to be a woman, and for a man to be a man. Now, in this age of complete fairness between the sexes, woman’s sense of gentle femininity has been swashed as well as mans … well … man-ness.

I went to a water and ice store to fill up three 5 gal containers. I am 9 months pregnant, and though I am ABLE to carry these full water bottles, I do appreciate when someone offers to help. During this particular trip, as I loaded the bottles into my car, I noticed a gentleman looking my way. I sensed that he WANTED to help. He looked concerned and I KNEW that had it been 50 years ago, he would not have hesitated to rush over to help me load the water. I knew it. I also knew that the reason he chose NOT to help was that he was afraid of me being offended, or of getting in trouble, or maybe even of being insulted by me.

This incident convinced me that CHIVALRY IS ALIVE, but it has been insulted, squashed, and rejected so many times in this day of ‘enlightenment’ that men are afraid to follow their instinct to protect and help women. And I do believe it is instinct. I believe that chivalry, when acted upon and appreciated, inevitably makes the man feel more a man and makes the woman feel more a woman.

On this wonderful day of Honoring Women, I would like to implore all women to step back when chivalry is offered and appreciate it for what is truly is: a sign of respect and honor. Let’s let our men BE men! And let us realize that we are worth a little fuss :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Lost Dog, Lost Keys and The Power of Prayer


By Christine Thackeray

Okay, I'm notorious at losing things. I swear it isn't me. Either the children borrow it or my husband but I always seem to get stuck with the blame. So this Thursday morning no one was surprised when I woke up and couldn't find my keys.

Actually they had been missing since Sunday. I was sure I left them on the kitchen table but I looked everywhere and finally gave up and pulled out the spare pair. Well, wouldn't you know my husband offered to drive the first load of kids to school and noticed my keys were gone. He put his foot down and said I couldn't drive again until I found them. (He's been sick with the flue and was feeling grumpier than usual.)

I had already almost torn the whole house apart looking but knew they had to be here somewhere and so I started searching again with only ten minutes before were supposed to leave to take my fourth grader. As the clock ticked away, I checked every shelf, junk drawer, basket and even lifted the cushions off the couches. With five minutes to go I went out to the car to check again.

With all my focus on the keys, I didn't notice that the dog was out until she was halfway down the street. I called to William but by the time he stuck his head out the door, the dog was no where in sight. Leaving my son to find the dog, I stepped inside and finally bowed my head and said a prayer. Little did I know that my son, worried about being late was doing the same thing outside.

As soon as I lifted my head, I walked straight to the corner where my husband was checking email and started straightening his corner. He had a windbreaker on the floor that he had worn during the weekend. I picked it up and heard a familiar jingle.

There in his pocket were MY keys. He forgot that he had used them to visit one of his home teaching families Sunday night. Giving him ample dirty looks, I ran outside and drove down the street to find William coming home with our naughty puppy. He hopped in the car, Jelly Bean in tow and said that he couldn't find her and knew he'd be late so her prayed and she came right to him.

We drove straight to school and on the way I told him how I found the keys. Will turned to me and beamed. "You know, Mom, prayer really works."

Good thing.

There is Hope, Smiling Brightly Before Us

By Kristine John

When you experience deep sorrow or heartfelt struggles, or encounter unexpected negative news, it is with certain shock and foggy foresight that you push forward to find solace.


Throughout the course of my life, I have been touched with difficult experiences on a fairly regular basis.
From the time I was small, and my parents divorced, I learned that change was to be expected, and that "these things would give me experience" (D&C 122:7).
Understanding that change was inevitable never made the difficult times easier for me to bear though.
In fact, if anything, that understanding instilled a sense of fear regarding change in my life.


As I have aged, (both in body and in spirit), I have come to find that the more we can turn to our Savior, indeed, the more that we can rely on Him through our trials, the easier difficult things are to bear.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said this:
"The things we hope in sustain us during our daily walk. They uphold us through trials, temptations, and sorrow. Everyone has experienced discouragement and difficulty. Indeed, there are times when the darkness may seem unbearable. It is in these times that the divine principles of the restored gospel we hope in can uphold us and carry us until, once again, we walk in the light.

We hope in Jesus the Christ, in the goodness of God, in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, in the knowledge that prayers are heard and answered. Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future. In times of distress, we can hold tightly to the hope that things will “work together for [our] good”27 as we follow the counsel of God’s prophets. This type of hope in God, His goodness, and His power refreshes us with courage during difficult challenges and gives strength to those who feel threatened by enclosing walls of fear, doubt, and despair."

I know that hope in the Savior, and hope in the reality of His Atonement takes away not just sins, but the pain and difficulty of trials that include physical pain, emotional struggles and the
shock and disbelief that accompanies monumental change.

May each of us reach to Christ, each day, each hour, and indeed, each minute, if necessary and feel of that eternal peace and ultimate joy that He supplies.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lessons Learned

by Kari Diane Pike
Most of you who read this blog know by now that my daughter-in-law Aprilynne wrote a delightful novel, Wings, that debuted May 5th. Watching this metamorphosis taught me not only about the publishing process, but lessons I can apply to life in general.

1. Stayed focused on what you want to achieve. (This assumes, of course, that you know what you want.) That lesson became a turning point for me. In the past, I could tell you all about the things I didn't want to see happen in my life and with my writing. I struggled to name the things I did want. When I began setting goals, writing or otherwise, and focused on those goals, amazing things began to happen. Focusing on the positive brings more positive, and doubts and fears about the things I don't want, slowly melt away. When I recently tried to explain this concept to a younger child, I remembered a driving lesson many years ago. I had a dangerous habit of drifting to the side of the road or sometimes getting too close to the center line. I struggled to keep the vehicle in the center of the lane. Finally, my dad asked, "Where are you looking while you drive?" I told him I was diligently keeping my eye on the line at the edge of the road...or if there wasn't one, on the center dividing line. Dad laughed...a bit nervously as he once again pointed out my drifting. "Keep your eyes up ahead! Look ahead down the center of the road. Where ever you look with your eyes, that is where the car is going to go!" Why it took me thirty five years to "get it" is another subject for a future blog!

2. Talk less, do more. Do more than just talk about writing! Sit down and write. Aprilynne shut herself in her office for a certain amount of time every day. She didn't answer the phone or IM all her friends. She focused on her goal and took steps toward achieving that goal. This goes right along with setting priorities...and of course, knowing what we want.

3. Do your homework. I watched this woman research agencies and publishing houses. She read everything she could on blogs and websites about what the powers that be were looking for in the next season of books. She asked questions. She wrote queries...and not just one or two dozen. Aprilynne literally wrote over a hundred query letters. In writing and in life, I cannot emphasize enough, the value of education and perspiration. I hope I never stop learning or working towards learning new things.

4. Network. If you visit her blog or website, you will see that Aprilynne has communicated with writers all over the world. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It is much easier to learn from the experience others have had than trying to reinvent the entire process. Attend conferences, join writing groups and discover as much as you can about who's who in the writing business. Find out who knows things...and learn from them!

5. There is as much joy in watching someone succeed as there is in personal success. All too often we allow feelings of envy to spoil a relationship. When we embrace another's success and celebrate their talents with them, we add another dimension to our relationship. It has been a joy to witness not only Aprilynne's success, but the blessings that have come to others because of her success. I took the thirteen-year-old daughter of a friend to Aprilynne's book signing. Megan had never been to a book signing before. We acted like groupies, taking pictures, asking for an autograph, listening intently to every word Aprilynne had to say. I got the biggest kick out of watching Megan and the other young girls in attendance who wanted to know how the story of a teen-aged girl, who discovers she's really a fairy, came to be. As I watched to light in their eyes, I remembered what it felt like to dream.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mother's Day Thoughts

by Anna Arnett

After I got home from my shift at the temple, and as soon as I remembered it was my day to blog, I thought about Mother's Day, and spent most of the afternoon hunting for a poem, or at least a ditty, I once wrote.  I called it, "Mother's Day is not for Mothers."  It wasn't anywhere that I thought it should be.  
since it's out of sight and un-memorized, it keeps getting better in my mind. Enough so that I do hope it's not gone forever, like the reader's theater text I wrote to go with my music for a 45-minute presentation on the restoration.  I really don't want to have to write either of them all over again.  Just possibly they're both still on my old IBM computer on a high shelf down in the basement.

As a kid I couldn't figure out why my mother didn't like Mother's Day.  It was a fun day for me.  I drew a picture for her, and made some kind of present out of whatever material was at hand.  I pranced around singing "Oh, I Had Such a Pretty Dream, Mama," and told her what a wonderful mother she was, but I don't remember fixing dinner for her, or even washing up afterwards unless she made me. 

It took me a long while to realize how little she liked the holiday, but she finally confessed, "I don't like to hear my funeral oration before I'm dead."  That absolutely amazed me.
Until I became a mother.  Then I saw her point.

Just listen to the talks on Mother's Day.  They talk about all the wonderful sacrifices mother's and mother figures freely give, and how perfect they are.  

Or read Proverbs 31:10, to get the Old Testament view of  a virtuous woman.  She's one who works most all night and is up again before dawn, keeping a spotless house, managing a business,  carding, spinning, weaving, and creating luxurious clothing for her family and enough more to stock a boutique.  She works out at the gym for flexibility and lifts weights to keep her arms strong.  She probably takes college classes to keep up with the wisdom of the times.  In her spare time she's busy cooking gourmet meals, buying fields, planting vineyards, taking care of the poor, and the needy, while her husband sits at the gate and looks wise.

My husband read that whole passage to me one evening, somewhere around the middle of our temple mission in Australia.  I wondered why he'd suddenly read aloud, and concluded he was trying to tell me how great I was.  When he finished, he closed the book with a soft bang and spoke. 

"There you have it."

I have no idea what he really meant by that, but it felt like cold water thrown on my face.  I immediately bawled aloud and gushed enough tears to hardly distinguish his astonished face.  That's when I thought I knew how my mother felt.

After years of working on it, I found the key to love Mother's Day.  There are a few simple rules.

1.  Never think of myself as a mother on Mother's Day.  Think of my own mother, or Mother Eve.

2.  I have 364 other days every year to evaluate myself.  On this day don't even think of it.

3.  If I want some special gift on Mother's Day, like breakfast in bed, tell everybody. 

4.  Even so, expect nothing and be pleased with whatever comes my way.

5.  Realize that Mother's Day is not really for mothers.  It's for children.  It does our hearts good to think of our mothers, to thank them, and to bless them.

6.  Relax, and enjoy.

Right now, my greatest joy is that Mother's Day isn't tomorrow. I'm so sleepy at this moment that my head keeps jerking, and my eyes blur.  I'm slipping out of womanhood and back into childhood.  I resist sleep, occasionally drool, forget to flush, expect to be waited on, made a fuss over,  and loved.

Actually, it's quite fun.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Baby News!

by Valerie Ipson

(That title will get your attention.)

For those of you scoring at home, on the edge of your seats, just wondering if I will have the baby dream again (see blog post--Tuesday, April 21) I do have news to report. About one week later the baby dream re-occurred. I thought that once I discovered the interpretation there would be no need for it to come back, but it did. Ah, but with a twist. And it is the twist that gives me hope (if I can even give credence at all to my dreams--who knows? Though, I guess, Stephenie Meyer gives us all reason to do so. She dreamt her way to a big bank account).

In this most recent baby dream the baby is not starved and neglected. Whew! What a relief! It's only issue is that it has not been named. What were we thinking? The baby needs a name. My husband and I discuss it and I say I don't want anything traditional and we eventually decide on the name Brinley.

So is my subconscious now acknowledging an increased focus on my writing goals? Not sure, but do you like the name spelled Brinley or Brinlee? What middle name goes well with that?

[originally posted at valerieipson.blogspot.com on 5/2/09--Krista responded there and if I was having a baby naming contest she would win for suggesting Brinlee Joy. I like it--it may have to be the name of a future character someday!]

Monday, May 4, 2009

Priorities

By Stacy Johnson

Here I sit, it is 11:14 pm and I have finally gotten the baby back to sleep. I managed to make it through stake conference weekend unscathed. I was asked to lead the stake choir and conduct the hymns, a task I thought was beyond my capabilities. I grew a little, stressed even more than that, and I learned a lo. I came away feeling the spirit throughout the meeting. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I sat through all two hours without having to hush a single child, thanks to my parents. You see, my husband and oldest daughter sang in the choir, and my oldest son was asked to speak. I was off the hook, and my parents were in charge of the five youngest, the baby woke up with a fever. Good luck with that mom. I'm sure it is related to the ear infection she has had since February, so we Motrin her up and get her ready. She survives the meeting. That afternoon, she is still running a pretty high fever, so she is given a priesthood blessing. She is able to sleep most of the night, but today was a different story.

Today I had to put things in perspective and realize that I might not get my post done by noon. Now look, it is almost midnight and I am babbling something nonsense that is for sure. All I know is that the laundry still needs folded, the kitchen dishes need loaded, and we are running low on baby Tylenol. Holding my baby was my priority today and that is ok with me.

Uh oh, she is fussing, gotta go.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Taking a Culture Break

by Marsha Ward

My brother called me yesterday afternoon. I was taking a break from working on websites, and picked up the phone. "Nyla and Lisa are on their way to Payson," he said. I wondered if I had to clean up the house really quick to greet my sister-in-law and niece, but he continued. "They're singing in a concert at the Payson Stake Center at 7 p.m. It's at (and he gave the address).

"I know where that is," I said, laughing. "I've lived here four years now."

"Oh," he said, clearly not knowing the ecclesiastical relationship between my church community and Payson. "It that your stake?"

"Yes."

Where is [your hamlet] from Payson?"

"[X] miles east," I replied. My brother must not be big on geography. He does get fuzzy on extraneous details, but he's a heck of a good lawyer.

I told him I'd try to rearrange my schedule and drive into town to attend the concert. We hung up after a short conversation (he might have interrupted his viewing of a soccer match to call), and I figured that if I hit the bed right away, I might get my badly-needed nap before I had to change into concert-appropriate dress.

The nap really helped, and soon after I awoke I was on my way to town.

I'm so glad I went. Not only was the concert of the Arizona Deseret Choir an amazing experience, I also got to greet many old friends (and several relatives) who sing in it. I met many of these people when I sang in the Arizona Morman Choir several years ago. After it was disbanded, other choirs sprung up, but this one clearly carries on the tradition of excellence that the former choir held for so many years.

Waves of nostaglia swept over me as I silently mouthed the words of well-beloved anthems and songs. The music carried me away into remembrances of previous years and the adventures I had in many choirs, singing this same music. I'll admit I shed a few tears of both joy and sadness, brought about by poignant memories. However, I left the stake center last night with my well of cultural need refilled.

That's a need we all have. Take the time once in a while to break free of the writing cocoon and fill it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

LDStorymakers Conference 2009

Cindy R. Williams

Ramblings on the LDStorymaker's Conference,
the home of my youth,
Awards given to ANWA Members,
the drive back to Arizona,
a harp,
two Schnouzers
and . . . back to reality.

My head is full of so many words, my heart is full of so many emotions, my spirit is bursting, or maybe it' really my head bursting.

It is Saturday night, technically Sunday morning in Utah. I am too keyed up to sleep after the two day LDStorymaker's Conference.

I was born and raised in Sandy, Utah, and graduated BYU. This is my old stomping grounds, and so many sweet and bittersweet memories have jumbled in and out of this tired brain. My sweet father is buried in the Murray Cemetery, but this trip there isn't time to visit his grave. I know it is is okay with him, because he always was so proud of me and wanted me to become . . . well . . . me. He is unconditional love and charity all swished together.

What a fun, intense, hard, sobering, soul searching, gut check time it has been. I am surrounded by some very good writers. Five ladies joined ANWA today, and it was nice to welcome them into this great association. I think there were 22 members of ANWA at the conference. We often sat together for classes and meals. We are staying at the Marriott in Provo, so it has really been like stepping into a different world for these two days.

Liz Adair made ANWA pins for us to wear. Thank you Liz. This made us more visible and our ANWA sister's stood out at the conference.

ANWA members took a total of EIGHT AWARDS! Terry Montague took 1st place in Historical Fiction and 3rd in Romance/Fiction. Melinda Sanchez took 2nd Place in Historical Fiction. Tina Scott took 2nd place in Sci-Fantasy. Cindy Williams took 3rd in Non-Fiction (that's me.) Karen Hoover, won the Grand Prize, and Norene Uchytill aka Sandra Grey, took home a prestigious Whitney Award. (Norene is a former member of ANWA, and said she will be back with us shortly.) Kerry Blair was honored with a Life Time Achievement Award. ANWA is becoming a force to be reckoned with. I am so happy for these ladies and very proud of them.

I hope articles about the classes we attended will soon be written up in the ANWA Newsletter, so that we can share this opportunity to learn with all of you.

While here, I picked up the belongings that one of my daughters left, from a move. I have stuffed most of it in the luggage rack and the rest in the back of the van.

When I wake in the morning, it will be time for the "BIG DRIVE" back to Arizona. I have ANWA member, Melinda Sanchez and her daughter, Morena, riding with me. We find each other quite clever and spend most of our time giggling. We will stop by Snow College and pick up a harp from Melinda's daughter, Siciley, to bring home with us since it is the end of the semester. I am Siciley's harp teacher, and am tickled she took her harp to college with her.

We are also bringing home two eight-week old Schnouzers for a friend in the ward who raises them. Two puppies, a harp, my daughters belongings, our luggage and three giggling ladies with cinnamon bears and chocolate. This could have been a crazy episode of "I Love Lucy." It will be a delightful ride home.

As I get ready for bed, which signals the true close of the conference for me, the more anxious I become. My darling daughter is getting married in the Mesa Temple in twelve days so I will be caught up in preparing our back yard for the reception, and getting the house and food in order, since I will be catering it myself. Melinda calls me the "Energizer Bunny." I just smile and roll my eyes. It is all part of being a mom.

I do believe the point of all this rambling is that . . . LIFE IS GOOD!

Keep writing, and see you in July at the ANWA Retreat!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Alone in the Water

Sarah Albrecht

I posted this several months ago on Stacy Anderson's As a Beacon Light blog and thought I'd share it here.

Two simultaneous classes ran during a recent session at my preschool daughter’s swim school: hers, and a mom and tots class. The last day of the session, only my daughter and one little boy that looked about two came to their respective classes. The little boy had cried through every class. Today was no different; in fact, it was worse. For this final class, and according to normal procedure, his mother didn’t come into the water with him so that he could experience working through the various activities with someone else.

He hated it.

He hated it so much his mother had to leave in order to not be a distraction. Near the end of class, as the little boy wailed, I stepped into the small adjacent office to fetch a tissue for my daughter. The boy’s mother sat on a white resin chair just inside the door, a lovely woman with long dark hair and sculpted cheekbones, her hands clasped tightly between her legs. She was carefully monitoring her son while just as carefully staying out of sight because his progress in the essential skill of swimming depended on her absence.

Most parents have experienced similar situations. Since I witnessed rather than participated in this one, though, I could see the big picture more objectively. In fact, it reminded me sharply of our loving Father, sitting just out of sight to monitor our progress in essential growth while we, not understanding the trial in the larger scheme of life, feel alone in the water.

I like to picture Him there.