Dec 31, 2010

The Lonely World of Blogging

By Joan Sowards

There is a satisfaction in keeping up a blog. It is a great outlet, a reason to write and share our lives with our friends, and a way for authors to let readers know about their novels.

But every blogger feels alone at times, waiting for a comment or a reader to stop by. Getting visitors is hit-and-miss.

After spilling feelings on cyber pages in an essay, or sharing the excitement of a new book or family news, we hope someone will take a moment to leave a comment, thus saying they care.

The sense of aloneness reminds me of a line from the musical 1776 when George Washington writes yet another plea for troupes and provisions, prompting the song “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?"

We become followers of so many blogs, but unless someone reminds us to come visit, most of us don’t return often.

This is my last blog on ANWA Founders and Friends for a while. It has been fun and I’ve enjoyed the push to write essays and poems.

So friends, happy blogging! Visit me once in a while on my blog and make me smile by leaving a comment. I’ll be back here to visit.

Dec 30, 2010

Sing, Gloria!

by Kari Diane Pike

This has been a wonderful week filled with the celebration of our Savior's birth and time with family and friends. We have had no less than 18 and as many as 28 people staying in our home. I will miss the sound when everyone returns to their homes on Saturday. Anyway, it is crazy around here! I would like to share the experience I has two weeks ago that kicked off my Christmas and strengthened my testimony of Jesus Christ. I wish every one of you a joyous New Year!

Sometime last week, a friend in the ward mentioned on Facebook that he is a member of the Millennium Concert Choir and that they were participating in a performance of Lex de Azevedo's "Gloria: The Life of Christ, Part I - The Nativity." The production was scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday in the historic Provo Tabernacle in Provo, Utah. K-BYU was filming this free concert for a special television program.

We had been unable to get tickets for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert performing at the same time in Salt Lake City, so I was thrilled at the idea of attending "Gloria" and listening to music bearing witness of the Savior's birth. Not only was the performance free, but Lex de Azevedo was playing the piano, and George Dyer and Gregory Pearson were among the featured soloists. I love listening to those men sing! Lex de Azevedo has been one of my favorite composers for many years. Besides that, I wanted to support Randy and all the hard work the choirs had put into preparing the music.

I am told that by Thursday evening everything was ready at the Provo Tabernacle. K-BYU had stage settings in place for the soloists. The intricate stained-glass windows were back lit, and plants and flowers, sound equipment, and cameras all stood in place for the big event. The million-dollar organ and a brand new grand piano were tuned with the woodwinds, harp, and tympani.

About 3:00am Friday, December 17, 2010, disaster struck. A call to the Provo police and fire departments reported a fire burning in the tabernacle. By the time firemen arrived, the tabernacle roof was engulfed in flames. Firefighters battled the blaze inside the building as long as they could, but the heat soon became far too intense and they had to evacuate. A short time later, the architecturally distinct roof entirely collapsed. Everything was lost.

Choir members who heard the news early in the morning tried desperately to contact Brother de Azevedo. When they finally got in touch, like everyone else, Lex was devastated. He threw his hands in the air and declared a total loss. There would be no performance. This time, there would be no show to go on. The loss was too great, too insurmountable.

This wasn't the first time productions of "Gloria" faced challenges. Knowing this, Choir members refused to give up. Could there be any better time to share Christ's message of hope and peace and love? They broadcast frantic, hopeful phone calls, Facebook status's and text messages trying to find another venue where they could produce "Gloria." Lex remained unconvinced, but as he told the audience Friday night, his wife, Peggy asked him to consider that maybe Satan didn't want the show to go on. Maybe Lex just needed to fight a little harder. With a smile on her face, his daughter humored Lex by stating that she thought it was really all a conspiracy. When asked what she meant, she said,

"You know. It's a conspiracy by Kurt Bestor and Michael McLean!" The audience roared with laughter.

At the last moment, the Alpine Tabernacle was made available for the concert. More Facebook and text messages were sent. Street side banners went up. Television stations donated sound equipment and a harp and woodwind instruments were found. There was no time for decorations or special lighting. There would be no "Hollywood" magic. The concert would go on in its most pure and simple form.

Friday night, after a quick sound check, Lex de Azevedo stood at the podium and bore his testimony about the miracle of writing the music for "Gloria: The Life of Christ, Part I - The Nativity." After decades of writing music for the secular world, Lex determined that he wanted to set the story of the Savior's life, as written in the King James Bible, to music. He wanted to answer President Spencer W. Kimball's proclamation that the best music had yet to be written. He spent several months wrestling with his project. In trying to create a masterpiece, Lex described his efforts as turning out to sound like Mozart and Handel, but very bad Mozart and very bad Handel. Feeling his discouragement, Peggy lovingly told him he needed to stop competing with Handel and Mozart and just be the best Lex de Azevedo he could be. Lex described his epiphany as he recognized that while his gift differed from Handel and Mozart, he did have a gift. Then Lex said,

"When the competing ended, the music began to flow."

He taught us all that if we will be the best "us" we can be, angels will make up the difference. He also reminded us that all that was lost in the fire was bricks and mortar, temporal manifestations of something bigger that had first been created spiritually. Everything is created spiritually first. His music was created spiritually, before he put it on paper, and before the temporal representation in the performance. Unlike the loss of the temporal things, nothing can destroy the music. It will always be with us. It was when he realized these things, he agreed to do the performance in the Alpine Tabernacle.

I will never forget that night. The music in its pure and simple form did not need the glitz and glamour of special effects. As I sat in the Alpine Tabernacle with Doug and Levi, the Spirit witnessed to me the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the music carried the message of Christ's divinity deep into my heart.

For the first time, I stopped to seriously consider how the shepherds and prophets and wise men, and yes, Joseph and Mary felt as they witnessed prophecy being fulfilled. I remembered my personal experience when I first heard that the priesthood was finally being restored to all mankind, of every heritage. I don't know how to describe my feelings that day, except that I heard and felt the rushing wind as it carried the message around the world. I know exactly why the angels sang. I felt joy then -- and I felt it again Friday night as I witnessed God's word being spread, even through the challenge of loss and destruction. Nothing can destroy pure and simple truth.

[As a side note: An amazing story is now being circulated about a painting portraying the Second Coming surviving the fire. Initially, it survived undamaged, but the intense heat of the residual fire scorched all of the painting except for the Savior's portrait. Miracles never cease.]

Dec 29, 2010

Looking Out, Looking In....

By Lynn Parsons

As we look towards a new year, it's a good time for reflection. I've been thinking a lot lately about perspectives. I had loads of time to think as we drove from Texas to Utah to celebrate my son's wedding and Christmas--a two-day drive each way.

Perspective is a funny thing. When I was a newlywed, I could hardly wait to be an "established" married couple--with matching furniture, lots of experience serving in the Church, and a calm outlook on life. In fact, my visiting teaching companion, who has three small children, thinks my life must be very easy.

Well, my thirtieth wedding anniversary is tomorrow. You'd think I would be to the settled and calm place of my imagination! Not even close.....

 Although I recently became an empty nester, my time is very full. I work full time, started PhD classes last summer, and my first book, (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: A Guide for Families and Teachers, will come out in May.

My nest is also no longer empty as my newly-married son & wife have moved in until they find jobs.

These combined challenges are part of the reason this will be my last post. It's been a wonderful experience, but my focus needs to be on other things at this time.

Blessings on all of you as you look out on the adventures of life from your perspective. Just remember that things may not be what you imagine as you look in on others.

Dec 28, 2010

It's Been a Fun Run

by Valerie Ipson

This is it, folks. My last post on the ANWA Founder & Friends blog. Thanks to Marsha for the opportunity and to all of you for reading and commenting. It all started when Joyce DiPastena asked me to sub for her. Thanks, Joyce! That was September 1, 2008. I found that blogging wasn't so scary after all and even went on to start my own a few months can still catch me there at OF WRITERLY THINGS ( New posts are expected after the holidays when things get back to their normal abnormal around here--as per usual, I haven't done much posting in December.]

Apparently, this is my 56th post. I've written on a myriad of topics, but thought it might be interesting to see which had received the most comments. Two tied for the top spot--one about posting the conference widget on your blog (a free T-shirt was offered, so it's understandable), the other was one where I talked about my recurring dream about babies and the interpretation of it I'd found in a book. You had a lot to say about dreams. Another top contender was one called I Need Therapy. Thanks for your support of that assertion. Tied with I Need Therapy was one titled No More BFF's. It was one of my earliest blog postings and a lot of fun, so I thought I'd rerun it. (Remember, even though I'm no longer blogging here, we're still BFF's!)

No More BFF's

My checkbook and debit card are no longer on speaking terms. Not that they were ever that close, but still, it doesn’t seem right. The two should be buds, two compadres in a common cause, but whatever they did have is no longer.

I guess Checkbook can only take so much—she’s had it up to HERE, she says. It seems Debit Card has a nasty habit of not reporting transactions to Check Register. That was supposed to be the deal—spend money, write it down in Check Register. Oh, Checkbook has been diligent. When she spends money on something like school lunch or tithing, she meticulously records each item down to its amount, date, and even the reason for the transaction. She is definitely a stickler for details. Debit Card—not so much.

Frankly, she’s like a crazy woman—a discount T-shirt from Walmart here, a dozen eggs and a gallon of milk there, but does she let Check Register know? No. She goes on her merry way as if nothing happened. Eat, drink and wear cheap T-shirts seems to be her motto.

So when a $2.37 debit to Sonic shows up on Bank Balance, Checkbook says, “Hey, what’s up, Check Register? I don’t see an entry for $2.37 to Sonic." (Yummy strawberry banana smoothie, by the way.) Check register can only lift her tiny little arms in defeat. “Don’t look at me. I didn’t know nothing about no smoothie.” (Her grammar’s not the best when she’s stressed.) Again, Debit Card is the culprit. Bad, Debit Card, very, very bad.

Well, Debit Card, I hope you’ve enjoyed your little party because now the jig is up (and we all know when the jig is up, it’s serious--sorry to be harsh, but sometimes you’ve just got to take a stand). No longer will you hold your hallowed go-to position in the wallet. You’re banished to its deep dark recesses between the auto glass company business card and the sub sandwich punch card, and if you don’t mend your ways it’s the desk drawer for you, my friend!

But first, let me make a quick Walmart run…then you’re banished, my friend…banished to the deep dark recesses of the…

Note to Self: Please step up your writing efforts so you can actually sell something, earn some money, and make Bank Balance happy. ‘Cause if Bank Balance ain’t happy…well, you know the rest.

Dec 27, 2010

Best Melancholy Christmas Ever

By Stacy Johnson

At the risk of hurting the grandma's feelings, we took our kids to a cabin for the Christmas weekend.  Because I am feeling a strong need to pull my family closer to me lately, we packed our van tight as we could with a small tree, our gifts, some sleeping bags, snow gear, the kids and my laptop and took off north.

We had a fabulous weekend full of doing nothing.  Except for the cell service (which I can turn off next time), we were technologically unavailable for anyone but each other...and I loved it.  We watched movies, talked, cooked a wonderful Christmas dinner, played in the snow, built Lincoln log houses, and just relaxed.  I learned something about my kids and they learned things about themselves too.  Vance (18) learned that he really does like his family and he even said that I breed funny kids.  Marly (16) discovered she could function on much less sleep than she originally thought.  Drew (14) and Skylar (12) admitted to the fact that they are more alike than they knew.  Katy (9) and Tawny (7) can actually talk nice to each other while they play.  Anny (2) absorbed all kinds of attention from her older siblings who are rarely home long enough to notice her and Derek, who turned one the day after Christmas, grew up right in front of us.  He took off walking, he began folding his arms for prayers, and he even started saying "please" in sign language when he wanted something.

I cried some tears of joy and some tears of happiness as I celebrated the last Christmas with my oldest as a "child" and the first Christmas with my youngest.  I begin yet a new stage of life as I watch my birds begin to leave the nest.    This weekend is a memory forever etched on my heart and that is why it was the best melancholy Christmas ever.

Dec 26, 2010

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

by Marsha Ward

I hope that every reader has been enjoying a warm and wonderful Holiday Season, and that your New Year will be bright and hopeful, full of prosperity and blessings.

As always, each six months I give our bloggers the opportunity to indicate whether they will be able to remain with us, or if it's time for them to move on to other endeavors. Then I ask other members of ANWA if they are interested in joining our team. Once I get indications of interest, I make the determination as to who will be blogging with us in the next six months.

My last few months have been excessively busy. By all reason, I should have opted out myself, but then we'd have to find a new lead blogger, change the blog name, etc., so I'm still in the game. However, I've delayed taking care of business, so several of our team members are going to receive surprises (and probably be very relieved), when I contact them this week about a release from their labors. A similar number of ladies who probably have forgotten they said they'd like to join us, will receive a note in their email inviting them to become team members.

For sure, Joan, Lynn, and Valerie will be retiring. We will miss them, but know they have much to do and more to accomplish, so we're bidding them farewell from this blog.

I love a good mystery, so I'll keep you in suspense a while longer. Who will be saying goodbye, and who will be saying hello?

Is it you?

Editing to add some news: Our departing bloggers are Cecily Markland, Christine Thackeray, Joan Sowards, Lynn Parsons, Rebecca Irvine, Stacy Johnson, Tamara Passey, and Valerie Ipson. We will miss them, but we know they have other things to do.

Among our new blog team members are: Bonnie Harris, Wendy Jones, Kristin Baker, Kami Cornwall, Jolene Perry and Melinda Carroll. We're so happy to welcome them! 

Dec 25, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas to all of you in Blogger Land.

Please share one of your Christmas Traditions.

The week before Christmas we have a Christmas Family Feast with my husband’s side of the family, including four generations. Each family brings an authentic Mexican food including; tamales, taquitos, chicken, beef and cheese enchiladas, chili rellenos, Mexican soup. My niche in the food department is "Mama Cindy's Salsa --Double Burning". If you love hot salsa, you understand about the double burn.

I write a sappy, rhyming treasure hunt poem for my family to follow on Christmas Eve. The treasure at the end is a pair of pajamas for each family member. We also read the Christmas story.

Happy Birthday Jesus and may each of you find peace, joy and love. Oh, and some chocolate too.

Please don't forget to post a family tradition in the comment section.

Dec 24, 2010

The Promised Pictures

Merry Christmas, everyone! I should probably be posting something more to do with Christmas, but let's just say that this posting reflects an early Christmas gift given my son (and me) by a terrific young lady...and she ended up being as much a recipient as the giver. If you didn't read my posting two weeks ago, you should probably check it out first here.

I know this is Christmas Eve, but I promised you pictures of my son's first formal night out two weeks ago. He had so much fun and loved the dancing. Generally, by 10 pm he begins to get grumpy with fatigue and wants to go to bed, so I was surprised that he stayed out until 11:30! The dinner part worked fine, too.

The real surprise of the evening was Lily's reaction. She told my husband the next day in church that Jason had "raised the bar" in dating. To quote her from a Facebook posting:

Jason was a wonderful date!! We danced for hours and I don't think I've had such a fun date in a while!! :D

Dec 23, 2010

Magic and Sparkle

by Susan G. Haws

This time of year as I try to purchase and make gifts I am often frustrated.  As my tension mounts I feel my heart dehydrating.  To try and insure I don't end up with a shriveled prune in my chest and green fur covering my body,  I  take a minute or two to re-capture the traditional magic of the season now and again.  Reading this blog helps me regain my perspective, watching Christmas specials on TV  rejuvenates me.   For you it might be watching It's a Wonderful Life or reading Polar Express to your kids or even helping them set up a train set.   Personally, I enjoy listening to carols by the light of the Christmas tree.  I think that the sparkle that turns plain incandescent bulbs and garland into faerie lights and something special comes from our own souls and our determination to feel the magic and meaning.  I wanted to share some nice music to help you find that sparkle so I have included a video of Oh Holy Night by Jackie Evancho.  What do you do when you feel your inner Grinch possessing your body?  Wishing you peace and joy at Christmas.

Dec 21, 2010

Christmas from Joseph's POV

by Terri Wagner

Found this article online and thought I would share it. Wonderful perspective I too have often overlooked...Joseph's role.

History's greatest male role model and a humbling lesson for feckless fathers today

By Iain Duncan Smith

Over the last ­fortnight, many of us will have been enjoying the ­familiar ­delights of the school ­Nativity play, sharing the excitement that a new generation of children ­always brings to it. Their costumes may be fashioned from blankets, tea-­towels and old dressing-gown cords but you can see from their rapt expressions that the Christmas Story has lost none of its power and magic.

With Mother and the Christ Child holding centre stage, the final tableau, helped perhaps by a bit of prompting from ­parents and teachers, slowly assembles. On come the shepherds, ­earnestly clutching their crooks and toy lambs, closely followed by the three Wise Men, a riot of colour and gold gift-wrap.

It’s such a familiar and enduring image that most of us can conjure it from memory in a moment. But it’s an image that I believe runs the real risk of overlooking the most important character of all, an ­individual whose vital role in shaping the Christian message is downplayed and yet whose story couldn’t be more important, or more significant, in today’s society.

You’ll normally find him in the second row, slightly hidden by Mary or a particularly large King, maybe fiddling with his false beard or tugging nervously with his head-dress. His name, of course, is Joseph, a vital character of any Nativity story you would think. But ask yourself one thing. In all ­honesty, whoever remembers who played Joseph?

Joseph’s extraordinary contribution to the Nativity story and to Christianity itself has been underplayed for centuries but it is my hope that it will be overlooked no longer, for his importance hinges on the critical decision he took, which holds such a powerful message for our own time.

Joseph’s mind must have been in turmoil. The initial sense of shock would have been palpable, followed, surely, by an overwhelming sense of betrayalTo understand this, consider how Joseph responds to news that Mary was with child, an extraordinary event that Matthew’s Gospel rather rushes through, almost dismissively.

‘When as his Mother was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with the child of the Holy Ghost.’

Think about what that actually means. Mary and Joseph may have become engaged but she has let him know that not only is she pregnant but he is not the father.

And there’s worse — or certainly more improbable — news to come for Joseph, with Mary insisting that she is still a virgin and that her unborn child is the Son of God. Even today that would be nigh-on impossible to swallow but back then, for Mary and Joseph, living in a traditional Jewish society, announcing you were pregnant with the Son of God would have been the most serious blasphemy. Mary could have been stoned to death.

Joseph’s mind must have been in turmoil. The initial sense of shock would have been palpable, followed, surely, by an overwhelming sense of betrayal. The woman he loved was pregnant and yet he was not the father. Matthew’s ­Gospel touches on what his ­initial reaction must have been. ‘Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not ­willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.’

In other words, he would have cancelled the betrothal and in such a way that Mary might hide from her shame. And who could have blamed him — the woman he loved, having betrayed him, had also taken leave of her senses. I’m quite sure that many of us today, if confronted with a similar story, wouldn’t have believed a word of it.

Strangely, the Bible solves this problem in a rather ­matter-of-fact manner, with the Angel of the Lord conveniently appearing to Joseph in a dream and telling him that Mary was telling the truth. ‘Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived of her is of the Holy Ghost.’ In other words, according to the Bible, Joseph woke up and promptly married her.

But even if Joseph believed the dream entirely, I don’t think this does justice to the enormity of the decision confronting Joseph when he awoke that morning. It conveniently forgets that notwithstanding the vision, he still had his free will, one that had been forged from the social and religious norms of the day.

Despite the huge social pressure he was facing and despite the potentially dangerous consequences, Joseph took the decision to stand by Mary, to marry her, protect her and raise the child as his ownRunning through his head must have been some enormous concerns: there was still the problem of her pregnancy out of wedlock, the social stigma — for him as well as her — and the anger of friends and neighbours about her blasphemy.

No, it must have been a truly daunting prospect, one he could easily have chosen to walk away from, and left her to her fate. After all, he was a respected man in his community, descended as he was from King David — he had much to lose.

And yet he didn’t disown her.

Despite the huge social pressure he was facing and despite the potentially dangerous consequences, Joseph took the decision to stand by Mary, to marry her, protect her and raise the child as his own. I like to think he took this decision not just because of a vision in some night-time dream but because he loved her and wanted to keep her safe.

Certainly, if he hadn’t, the consequences for her could have been dire. A pregnancy out of wedlock would have made her an outcast, a pariah; but giving birth to a baby she called the Son of God could have got her killed. That’s why Joseph’s role is so important; without his support, neither Mary nor Jesus might have survived at all.

Thanks to Joseph, however, they did survive. This quiet and skilled man bravely stepped out into the unknown — deliberately choosing to protect, provide for and raise Jesus as his own. He mentored him and taught him and even gave him the trade — carpentry — that Jesus would use until the time came for him to embark on his ministry. Joseph must have given Jesus so much as a father and Jesus must, in turn, have learned so much about life from Joseph.

Later, during his ministry, when Jesus spoke of God as being like a loving father, surely he must have been drawing from his own upbringing, drawing on his intimate knowledge of this extraordinarily good man, Joseph.

I am not a churchman and I am not given to commenting on Christian theology — rather I raise all this partly because I have long wondered why Joseph seems to have been so forgotten and partly because it has a very clear message for our own time.

Joseph was not an absent father; he was there, with Mary and with Jesus; and the Christian Church, by underplaying the importance of this in the story of Christ, has missed a real example of selfless dedication and commitment which should resound todayIn parts of our society, too many young men and women grow up without the experience of a loving father. And we seem to have forgotten what an important role a father plays. It’s about far more than earning enough money to provide shelter and place food on the table; it’s about nurturing, support and loyalty, it’s about providing the best male role model that a man can.

But we seem to have forgotten that or wrongly come to the conclusion that we can somehow get by without it. The result is that in too many communities, there are deep-rooted problems now shared by ­generations of young people that stem — directly or indirectly — from the absence of fathers in the vital early years.

I have seen how family breakdown, which often begins with fatherlessness, can lead to high levels of truancy, anti-social behaviour, youth crime, street gangs and teenage pregnancy.

But Joseph was not an absent father; he was there, with Mary and with Jesus; and the Christian Church, by underplaying the importance of this in the story of Christ, has missed a real example of selfless dedication and commitment which should resound today.

Whether it was battling for accommodation for his pregnant and exhausted wife in a crowded town or protecting his family as they fled from ­Herod’s soldiers, this simple man of courage and honour was always there when his wife and son needed him. For some children, we might reasonably ask: where are the men of such courage and ­honour today?

So this Christmas, when you encounter that familiar Nativity tableau, try to look past Mary, the crib and even the Baby Jesus. Seek out that ordinary-looking face in the second row, almost lost behind the shepherds and wise men, and look into the eyes of the forgotten hero in the story of Christ; then smile and give thanks for Joseph.

Dec 16, 2010

Keeping A Tradition

by Joan Sowards

It has become a family tradition to send out an original Christmas song. By the end of November, I usually fret and scramble for a new holiday idea to write about. But I've discovered that some of the best ideas are the simplest ones, even at Christmas.

One Christmas about fifteen years ago, I wrote the following song. It is simple and straight from my heart, but is still one of my favorites. To me it holds the true meaning of Christmas.

A Christmas Prayer

We thank thee for sending thy Son,
The Holy One, the Holy One.
Born in a stable, He did come
To show the way, show us the way.
That sacred night one star shone bright
And angels sang as heaven rang
With joy, For He was born,
The world to save.

(Print sheet music for A Christmas Prayer)

This year's song is also simple--simple for me because my daughter wrote it.
The Whole World Is Sleeping. It is our Christmas gift to you.

New Years Eve will be my last post on ANWA Founders and Friends. Being a blogger here has been a lot of fun. Thank you to all who have visited and made comments.

It Just Isn't Fair -- or Is It?

by Kari Diane Pike

Warning: My intention was to write a well-planned, brilliant post that would bring a smile to your face and a laugh to your heart -- but life is so full of contradictions. It just isn't fair.

I know, I know -- there is opposition in all things. Without opposition, we would not be able exercise our agency. It is all part of the great plan of salvation. I do know that. I also know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. Without his atoning gift, we would be lost and all creation would be for naught. I know the Savior lives. I know the Savior loves us. Everything he did, he did because of his love for each and every one of us. This is the thought that keeps me going today. In the midst of the chaos of right versus wrong, and joy versus sorrow, I find peace in knowing the Savior and who we are and why we are here.

The other day, a sweet friend lost her husband in a tragic car accident. He was 23 years old. He proposed to her during her recovery from the ovarian cancer that struck her in her late teens. They had already been through a lot together. When I heard about the accident, I first thought, what's the point? That is so not fair.

Another friend is faced with the possibility of losing not one, but two of her three boys. Born with a genetic disorder that affects their muscle structure, they were recently diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and the eight-year-old has developed an arrhythmia that could cause sudden death at any time. I can't help but think That is so not fair. Then I read their mother's blog and I feel their faith and testimonies. The boys talk about how if they do die soon, how cool it will be to get to serve their missions together in heaven. Their courage astounds me as I read about their requests to their parents to be able to die in specific ways -- one wants to go quickly and quietly -- the other wants something dramatic like getting shot in the heart. Knowing these boys, even that rather morbid request made me laugh.

This morning, the storm-cleansed sky shimmered as the suns rays burst over the tops of the mountains. At first I felt like it was mocking me. With all the tragedy going on, it should be dark and gloomy, right? I opened my scriptures, looking for peace and hope. My eyes opened wide as phrase after phrase brought joy to my heart: The Lord is near, the Lord God will help, Lift up your eyes, Awake! Awake! Put on thy strength, O how great the goodness of our God, Cheer up your hearts, I know in whom I have trusted, O Lord, I have trusted in thee and I will trust in thee forever, O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.

The earth and everything on it was created for a purpose. We were created for a purpose. Jesus Christ sacrificed his very life so that purpose can be fulfilled. How grateful I am for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the knowledge and power it gives me. I am grateful for covenants that teach me how to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I am grateful for the blessings of the temple and the sealing power that makes it possible for families to be forever. And I am grateful for little children who teach me the power of simple faith over things that, to our mortal eyes, do not seem fair, because if you really think about it, where would we be if life suddenly became "fair?"

Dec 14, 2010

Something to think about...

posted by Valerie Ipson

Dec 13, 2010

Math is Hard

By Stacy Johnson

When I was in college the first time, I took the placement test for math.  I didn't pass any of it.  The dumb thing is that I passed math in high school (by the skin of my nose apparently.)  I had to take those "don't count for anything classes" like 055 and 077, the kind where you have to learn to add, multiply and use fractions.  I'm not even joking you.  I felt like an idiot...but I digress. I finally took my first 100 level class just before my then boyfriend got home from his mission.  Shortly after we married, we signed up to take my second to last math class together.  I thought I was going to breeze through that class.
We had to do lots of homework assignments a number of quizzes and a few tests.  I got 100% on every homework assignment not because it was easy, but because I worked my butt off knowing I'd really need the points  in the end. When it came to test time, I rarely did as well as I thought I would and I was grateful for a little breathing room those points allowed me.  My husband, on the other hand, rarely did his homework, but always seemed to be able to breeze through the tests with at least a high C or B.  So, when it came time to take the final, I figured out what each of us needed to get on the test in order to get an A in the class.  My hard work and effort paid off and all I needed was some lousy number like 50% in order to maintain my A in the class.  Ben, on the other hand, needed to get some outrageous (seemingly unreachable) grade of 99% in order to raise his B to an A.

I got a B and he got an A.  

I never took another math class after that...

until now.

Over 20 years later and here I am, finally taking that last math class...

College Algebra Math 142
Can you sense the drama?

I have been going to ASU for almost 3 years now and I am just now taking my last math class, the one I need to graduate.  And you know what?  It isn't as hard as I remember.  Why is that?  I've decided that my life experiences have showed me that some of the equations we used in algebra really have value in the real world.  I have used math without even knowing I was doing it all these years.  I don't know what I was so afraid of.  I understand most everything, now that I have some life experience behind me.  Maybe it is my teacher, maybe it is my maturity (joking), or maybe all those math lessons in high school really paid off and I really did know that stuff, just didn't know how to apply it...until now.  

Now I feel qualified to tell you about your potential rate of return on investments (without providing any advice on that subject), I can tell you how they measure the amount of energy created (joules) in an earthquakes of different magnitudes, and I can tell you what the H+ measurement is if I know the pH level (I also learned that water is neutral, neither acidic or a base).  I can tell you lots of things about APR, tax rates, and can now use Excel for basic statistical analysis, among other things.  And, I can tell you what I need to get on the test tomorrow in order for me to get an A in the class.  Even though I studied my heart out, I will most likely settle for a B, but that's ok with me.  
My oldest son took the same class last semester and got a C. *wink*
Wish me luck.

Dec 12, 2010

Reigns vs Reins: a Brief Look at English Usage

 by Marsha Ward

Today I want to investigate the difference between the words reign and rein, with side tours to rain and lines. But first:

Reign is a noun (person, place or thing) describing what a king does between his coronation (crown placed on head, scepter handed over, etc.), and his death or disposition (head removed, drummed out of the country, and the like) . My handy Webster's New World Dictionary, revised and updated, ca. 2003, cites it thusly: "1 royal power 2 dominance or sway 3 the period of rule, dominance, etc." In the intransitive verb state, it also means "1 to rule as a sovereign 2 to prevail," as in "peace reigns." I'll briefly mention regnant, an adjective meaning ruling, predominant, or prevalent, but only to point out the g in there, so you think about g being in the ruler's reign.

Also, if you think of "sovereign" or "peace reigning," you won't confuse reign with rein or even rain.

A rein (noun) is "1 a narrow strap of leather attached in pairs to a horse's bit (the mouth thingie) and manipulated to control the animal: usually used in plural. 2 a means of controlling."

You can talk about "giving free rein" if you mean to "allow to act without restraint." That can apply to ideas or actions.

Since rain sounds like the pair above, I'll mention that this mostly refers to that wet stuff that falls from the sky. Of course, there are variations, but they aren't too important in this context.

I promised you a look at lines. Here's why it's important when we discuss reins. The latter word is used when you're referring to a character who is astride a horse and what he or she is holding in one or two hands, depending on their riding proficiency. The former, lines, is the word used in the context of wagons, stagecoaches, and other animal-drawn conveyances. Okay, vehicles! They are those leather straps the teamster or coachman uses in directing his intentions to the animals in harness. Never, never, never use the word reins in your historical novel when your character is driving a vehicle.

Your Homework: How is an ox-powered cart or wagon directed by the driver?

Dec 11, 2010

Christmas, Tomatoes and Strawberries

By Cindy R. Williams

Christmas is in the air, even here in sunshiny Arizona. My wonderful tomato plants in my balcony pots actually froze the other night. The strawberries are doing fine. The leaves, stems and fruits of both plants, yes tomatoes are fruits, are decked out in red and green finery, each as holiday festive as the other, but the strawberries win. Why is that? Are the strawberries hardier plants? Were they in a better location on the balcony –one that has less of a chilly breeze and more protected from the elements? The answer is probably a bit of both.

Writing is a lot like my tomatoes and strawberries. Harsh comments, critiques and rejection letters can cause us to doubt our ability to produce tomatoes. Sometimes we feel the cold bite from even those close to us whom lack understanding of how important writing is to our central core or being. Are we sometimes our own worst enemies and let our self-doubt turn our writing ability into ice? Do we allow adversity to freeze our creativity and leave us dormant and fallow for a time?

I challenge each of you to be more like my hearty strawberries and ward off frosty comments, discouragement and despair. This Christmas Season, let’s deck ourselves with the tenacity of these wonderful strawberries and push through the arctic front we all face at times.

Grow strawberries! Grow!

Dec 10, 2010

Selfless Social Giving

By Tanya Parker Mills

During this season of giving, I was reminded last week of just how wonderful and generous the youth are in our area, whether members of the Church or not. I'm writing of a different kind of giving here--not the Christmas presents and food box variety--but the gift of social inclusion to those generally deemed "different."

When my son was first diagnosed with Asperger's in first grade, I checked off several things he would likely never team sports, go to dances, date girls. A mission, college, and eventual marriage were even questionable. I thought he'd enjoy Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and enjoy getting his Eagle, but no, unlike many Aspies, the outdoors held no appeal for him.

As he grew up in our old ward in California, the youth went through the motions of trying to include him, but many Sundays he came home upset because there were always those who laughed at him and tormented him in some way. I'm so glad we moved, if only for his sake, for it proved to him (and me) that youth in the Church could be as loving and inclusive as Christ wants us to be.

So, what happened last week? I got a text message from one of my former Mia Maids, now a Laurel and a senior in high school. She's not only a member of the Seminary Council, but she's quite popular at school (and she's one of the girls my son, a Junior, has a crush on). Here's what she texted:

Lily: Would it be okay to take Jason to winter ball on the 18th? Do you know if he wants to go? I know it's the night of the ward Christmas party.

Me: I know he'd love to go with you. I'm just not sure he's comfortable about dancing. Let me get back to you, okay?

Lily: Yeah those were my thoughts too. I was thinking maybe we could do the dance for a while and dance with the group and get pics and then peace [sic] out. We'd be at the dance for maybe an hour.

Me: Sounds great. Go ahead and ask him.

Lily: Great! thanks :)

Then on Friday, when Jason went to eat lunch at the Seminary building at school (yes, we are unusually lucky to have release time Seminary up here in the Tri-Cities), he saw this huge banner Lily had put up asking him very publicly to the girls ask guys Winter Ball. Of course, he came home pleased as punch. And on Sunday in front of his whole Sunday School class, he nervously presented her with a long-stemmed red rose and his reply, "Of course I'll go with you, Lily. I can think of nothing I'd rather do."

My only remaining concern was how he would handle the traditional dinner before the dance. My son eats only grilled cheese sandwiches (and only the way I make them), a banana here and there, one particular kind of cinnamon cookie, and Dreyer's Grand Vanilla Ice Cream, and he only drinks water.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Lily had already made plans to double with another girl in our ward (who has a brother with more severe Asperger's), and they were planning on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner. The other girl's mother said I was welcome to come and prepare the sandwiches just the way Jason likes.

I'm not sure if Lily realizes the extent of the gift she is giving my son. Even though she's half a foot taller than him, this beautiful, talented, vivacious girl is showing everyone at school that Jason is worth spending a special evening with. My son is actually pretty popular on campus in terms of friendship. Perhaps this will open the way for him to actually try asking someone to Homecoming and Prom next year--steps I never thought I'd see.

I promise to share a picture or two from his special night out next time I post.

Dec 9, 2010

Reality and Perception

by Susan G. Haws

Every day I try once again to convince my mother that her home is the house where she lives. Some days she is willing to step into my reality and I catch a glimpse of the person I used to know. Other days my persuasion isn’t compelling enough to take that mental leap of faith. This made me think about how a writer’s job is to create a world and make it and the characters so compelling that readers choose to step into it for a while.

Reality and the perception of that reality: We have all heard the story of how when War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells was performed on the radio thousands of people believed that it was actually taking place as reported. Today’s movies and TV are much more sophisticated then a scratchy radio report of attacking aliens. The cues for news, reality entertainment, and fiction more subtle. The expectations of today’s audience are at a significantly higher standard than ten or twenty years ago. How can writers meet, and exceed readers' expectations?

Novels require an effort of imagination on the part of the reader. A give and take between author and reader; so, that the reader starts with words on a page and then pictures bloom in her head , and when she is pulled out of that world by the phone ringing she is surprised to see she is on page 46 since she doesn’t remember turning more than the first. TV and Movies require a lot less from their audience and present their world immediately and fully formed. But in TV and Movies the cast is already set; thus, the audience is an unseen observer on the adventure, riding the motorcycle with Indiana Jones. In a book the reader plays dress up if they want. They can feel like an observer or they can feel like the main character. So a 12 year old girl or a 30 year old man can both feel like an 11 year old boy riding a broom for the first time. Is this greater input by the reader enough? I love reading and I want to share that with others. But I wonder how to exceed astronomical expectation.

Dec 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Remembered

by Terri Wagner

Every 7th of December I ask my dad to tell me what he was doing when the news came. He never says you've heard this a thousand times (that's obviously an a lie since I'm not yet a 1,000 years old). He just launches into his story. I never had the chance to know my grandfather and I lost my grandmother far too early so this story connects me to them and to my father.

My grandparents had 2 sons. My grandfather was in the service. According to my dad, he always wore his uniform off duty or not. That particular day, the family was in the car driving around Colorado, he doesn't remember exactly where. They stopped to get gas and the attendent raced out. He saw the uniform and said, "Soldier you better get back to base right now. The Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor."

My grandfather turned to his wife and said, "I told you they would." My grandfather spent his war years training pilots in England. He himself was was considerd too old to actually fly. Later, he and his family were stationed in Japan just months after the bombs were dropped there to end the war.

What a marvelous legacy that greatest generation gave us. I never tire of hearing that story. Nor of thinking of their sacrifices to keep me safe and free a generation or two after. As did my father by serving in Korea and Vietnam. And as always my heart and my prayers turn to our soldiers out there today still defending, protecting and keeping me safe and free.

Thank you seems too little doesn't it? And yet when I thank a soldier, a vet, anyone serving, they stop for a fleeting second and then say "you're welcome." We both nod, trying not to cry.

I also have to thank our Heavenly Father for giving us this grand and glorious place to live free. He is still protecting us. I pray and work every day to make sure His protection and their sacrifice (and that includes the families) are not in vain.

See a vet today, thank him.

Dec 6, 2010


By: Rebecca Irvine

Here is another writing tip taken from my Comm class lectures. Disconfirmation is a form of behavior where one refuses to acknowledge another person. Taken from the word 'disconfirm,' which means to prove to be invalid, this type of behavior cruely suggests that another person is so unimportant that he or she does not deserve to be recognized in any fashion.

Disconfirmation-like behavior is frequently utilized in classic literature (such as Pride and Prejudiced), in plays (such as The Glass Menagerie), and especially films (such as 12 Angry Men).

So, when might disconfirmation be used in writing? There are a number of instances it might come in handy. There is the obvious use of disconfirmation when a character is angry at another--this is especially typical of immature characters and can be employed in both a serious and humorous manner. But more importantly, disconfirmation behavior can be be used to mislead your readers. For example, Mr. Darcy exhibited these rude behaviors during the Meryton ball, leading everyone to believe he thought himself better than them. In reality, his behavior was due to shyness in the presence of strangers.

Hopefully, disconfirmation can be another tool to broaden the behavior of your favorite characters and make them more diverse and life-like.

Dec 3, 2010

Good Cheer at Christmas?

by Joan Sowards

Just as an author needs to know her/his audience while writing a novel, companies need to know and care about their customers.

Customer service has been discussed frequently in our home lately. Seemingly good companies have lost their good cheer toward customers, forgetting that the customer is who pays their paycheck.

Companies usually stretch far to please the customer. But as of late, my hubby was overcharged $20 for a prescription that the pharmacy refused to reimburse him for; a daughter was rudely treated in a well known toy store when she was told they didn’t price-match, and then when she decided not to buy the toy at their price, they took away the free gift she was given when she entered the store.

But this next example, though it starts out bad, has a happy ending. My daughter bought a warranty on her car that included oil changes. When she went to a service center, they told her they didn’t cover the oil change, and to call the dealer and ask where to take it. The employee she got on the phone was rude to her from the start, and when she asked why she hadn’t been informed that only certain centers did the oil changes, the man asked, “Was I the one who sold you the policy?” She said, “No.” He replied, “Then how am I to know?” and hung up.

Luckily the company actually had a great customer service policy, and this guy was one only one bad apple. My daughter called and left a voicemail complaint and a very sweet lady called her back. This individual gave her the addresses she needed and apologized for the first rep’s bad manners, and even offered to refund her oil change policy if she wished.

Somehow this ties in with writing. By stretching the point a bit, it reminds me that we need to know our customer, our reader, our publisher even, so that everyone is happy and we will be successful in our writing marketing.

Dec 2, 2010

Timeless Memories

by Kari Diane Pike

When the youngest of our nine children turned five, friends and family asked over and over again, "What are you going to do with all your spare time now that all your kids are grown or starting school?"

My what? At first, I assumed it was a rhetorical question, made in jest to tease me about the size of our family. Eventually, I came to the realization that many people held the opinion that I used my children as an excuse to stay home and sit by the pool. I remember slamming the phone into the receiver after this epiphany and exclaiming, "The next person to ask me what I am going to do with all my spare time is going to get their head pinched off."

Well, I heard that question many more times and, while I didn't really pinch anyone's head off, I was tempted to smack a few. Instead, I eventually found myself asking "What did I do with all my time back when I had just one or two babies? For that matter, what did I do with all my time when I had no one to care for except myself?" I started to beat myself up pretty bad with an avalanche of should've, would've, could'ves and a few boulder-size what if's. Not only that, but instead of brushing away the debris from all this negative thinking, I picked it up and put it in my back pack. The past few months, that burden continued to increase as our youngest child became a teenager and I sat watching a Primary program that, for the first time in twenty-eight years, had no Pike children participating in it.

Saturday, a little miracle came into my life that helped me shake out the debris and use it to pave a path of clarity. Grandchild number fourteen entered the world and I headed straight to Phoenix to meet little Gwendolyn and help care for her brothers and sister. This morning, as I sat cross-legged on the floor with baby Gwen in my arms, three-year-old Gideon exuberantly shared with me the fine art of Legos. We traveled to Infinity and Beyond, following The Map to Grandma's House. Of course we had a tool box to fix everything, which came in really handy when the bridge was out and the train almost crashed right off into the water. Sudden memories of playing just like this with Gideon's father flashed through my mind. Everything came rushing back: running through the house with super hero capes and leaping off the arm of the couch, playing with tools "just like Dad's" and figuring out those tools could open forbidden cupboard doors, and that time when he was four and got a hickey on his chest from trying help mom by "nursing" his new baby brother. I listened to Gideon's prattering and nuzzled Gwen's velvety head. I drank in her newborn smell and I remembered. This is what I did with my time. It is what I will continue to do. Whether in caring for children or grandchildren, aging parents, a child in a Primary class, or a neighbor in need, I will always, first and foremost, be a mother.

Each stage of mothering requires a different approach to how time is spent. A friend once pointed out to me that mothering is a lot like making bread. We do a lot of mixing and kneading and shaping, but then eventually, we have to set the dough out and let it rise on its own. If we keep trying to force it, the bread will never reach its full potential. While the dough is rising, we keep on eye on it, but our time is spent with other duties and preparations. So many aspects of our lives fit this analogy. So, instead of beating myself up, I think I will post this blog entry and go to bed and dream of all the things I am going to write in my spare time.

Dec 1, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

By Lynn Parsons

Last summer, my baby went to college. After 28 years of raising children, I have to admit it was scary, but I adjusted pretty quickly. I really enjoy the visits from the children and grandchildren. But I also appreciate the quiet. I even started taking some classes.

Younger son is getting married in December. He's also graduating from BYU. He's looking for a job in civil engineering, but this is a terrible time to look for work. So, they may be moving in with us. The nest wasn't empty for long.

We are in a state of flux. Planning for Christmas in another state so we can attend the wedding, making plans for a reception here, and rearranging the house to make room for the newlyweds. My schooling continues, and another project is about to pop up. Wasn't this supposed to be the time of life when I was going to be bored?

After visiting with a friend whose child has multiple medical problems, I am reminded that my life is richly blessed. While complications arise, we are generally given what we need to make life smooth again.

I pray that at this holiday time, you can focus on your joys, enjoy family and friends, and discover what is truely important.

Nov 29, 2010

I blame sick kids

By Stacy Johnson

I missed my last turn and I am sheepishly admitting to pre-dating this post so it looks like I did it on time.  It is the middle of the night and I am upstairs on my kid's computer which has a missing 'n' key, so if you see a typo, assume that is my problem, it is hard to slow down to get that one right.

The babies have been sick for the last month with some sort of virus like a cold sore, but a million of them covering the insides of their mouths.  Just as soon as I think the hard part is over and we are on our way to better health, the baby got a nasty cold.  Now I am up to my eyeballs in baby bugar snot.  I ought to be asleep now, but I just nursed him (again) and I am reflecting on how different my perspective on motherhood has changed in the last 18 years.

I remember some advice someone gave us when we got married and that was not to postpone starting our family until we had enough money or felt like we were "ready."  We jumped in with both feet and I'm so glad we did.  I remember being so tired and wondering when my body would adjust to less sleep.  I'm still waiting.

My oldest came home from church yesterday and announced that he could start working on his mission papers in 5 months.  It is all getting away from me too fast and I'm feeling that same anxiety I had when the nurse put him in my arms for the first time and I wondered if I was ready for this.

In the meantime, I will keep plugging along, doing my best to teach them what they need to know and hoping they will accept what I have taught.  For now, I think I will try and get back to sleep.

Nov 28, 2010

Quite vs Quiet

by Marsha Ward

Several weeks ago, I followed an exchange on a social site between several people, discussing an admonition by a local church leader to the membership to be more quiet during church services. This can be a problem and a challenge, where families with small children worship together.

One of the participants in the exchange spoke of the problem of getting children to be quite in church.

Quite what? I wondered, but kept reading. After the person repeated the use of quite instead of quiet, I saw the problem. It hadn't been a mere slip of the fingers in making a typographical error. She really didn't realize that she was using the wrong word entirely, transposing the e and the t time and again.

Quiet is an adjective (modifies a noun), or a noun, or even two kinds of verbs, but all are related to a state of stillness, silence, not speaking, not noisy, etc.

Quite is an adverb (modifies a verb) meaning completely, really, positively, very and the like, as in quite warm, quite happy, quite a few, quite a bit, etc.

If you find yourself confused as to which spelling goes with which word, try speaking them both out loud. 


quite (the silent e at the end of the word makes the i say its name, remember?)

I hope you all have a quite quiet Sabbath service today.

Nov 27, 2010

Letters to Heaven

by Cindy R. Williams

Here are some letters addressing God written by young children. There are two important lessons to be learned here, one spiritual and one as a writer. First, children's pure belief in God, and second; the ability to express that profound faith and love with clarity.

Please take a moment to ponder the letters. Allow them to touch your heart and to inspire your mind. Also, recognize how the simplicity of their words hit upon moments of recognition. This is a good exercise to increase your ability to connect to others with just a few words.

Note, the spelling errors are not typos, this is how the children wrote.

"Dear God,
I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church.
Is that OK?

"Dear God,
Instead of letting people die and haveing to make
new ones why don't you just keep the ones you got now?

"Dear God,
I think the stapler is one of your greatest inventions.
Ruth M."

"Dear God,
In bible times did they really talk that fancy?

"Dear God,
I think about you sometimes even when I'm not praying.

"Dear God,
I am Amearican. What are you?

"Dear God,
I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world.
There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it."
Love Nan"

"Dear God,
Please put a other Holiday between Christmas and Easter.
There is nothing good in there now.

"Dear God,
If you watch in Church on Sunday I will show you my new shoes.
Mickey D."

"Dear God,
If we come back as something please don't let me be Jennifer Horton because I hate her.

"Dear God,
Maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each so much if they had their own rooms. It work with my brother.

"Dear God,
If you give me genie lamp like Alladin I will give you anything you want except my money or my chess set.

"Dear God,
We read Thos Edison made light. But in Sun. School they said you did it.
So I bet he stoled your idea.
Sincerely, Donn"

"Dear God,
If you let the dinasor not exstinct we would not have a country. You did the right thing.

"Dear God,
Please Send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year.

"Dear God,
Thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy."

Are any of you writers and readers in a position where you work with or teach children? If so, it would be fun and quite an education to ask them to write a letter to God. You are certainly welcome to leave a comment and share them with us all.

Nov 26, 2010

Why I'm Not Shopping Today

By Tanya Parker Mills

I've never been one to go along with the crowd. I don't know if it's pride or cantankerousness (probably a bit of both), but when masses of people say, "Let's do this, or read this, or see this," I tend to stand back, more than a little dubious. I still haven't read "The Work and the Glory" series. I only read the first book of the "Twilight" series because my son wanted me to read it with him. On that game show "Want to Be a Millionaire?," I would definitely trust the audience option last (even though, time and again, the audience has proven to get it right).

But that is not why I stay at home on so-called "Black Friday." (Okay, in all honesty, that is PART of the reason I stay home on the biggest shopping day of the year. I don't like crowds, particularly when shopping.)

It's the whole American shopping experience that I've grown to detest. As it has evolved, it has become less personal, more time oriented, and with a lot less space in which to maneuver. That may sound strange coming from someone who grew up loving the cramped souks in Baghdad and Beirut. But that was a whole different shopping experience. Lots of people go there, but they meander in small groups, never hurrying. Because there are so many little shops and stalls, you still feel as if you are a valued customer. Why? Because each shop owner treats you as if you are the most important client on earth. They offer you a chair and a cup of tea (which, when refused, they replace with your favorite soda) while they present you with their wares. It is the most hospitable way to shop and bears no resemblance to America's "Black Friday." So I guess I was spoiled.

In the souk, you can always find something unique, some artifact or trinket that seems to speak to you alone, something for which you don't have to stand in a long line out in the cold. Rather than being told by a thousand ads that this is something "you must have," you discover it like a bit of treasure. Think of the souk experience as a combination of antique shopping and Nordstrom's (where they actually wait on you, the customer). My husband thinks I like Nordstrom's because I like expensive clothes...but it's really more about the service. It harks back to childhood memories where, indeed, the customer was king.

Now, if you could find me a souk in my neck of the woods, I'd be there--even on Black Friday.

Nov 25, 2010


By Susan G. Haws

I wrote this a few days ago but forgot I hadn’t put it to post automatically.  So of course I remembered it hadn’t posted when I was already late leaving for my Thanksgiving invitation.  Now that I have already eaten way more calories than is seemly, and had a day full of goodness; I am contented and re-vamping my blog. 
I still feel that today is a day for expressing gratitude, resting, and spending time with family and friends.   So I hope that the holiday relived rather than brought stress.  I have worked holidays so I hope that the people that had to go to their jobs today and the people that spent the day in the kitchen, so that others could rest, get time to elevate their feet and take a snooze soon.   This year I am grateful for family, friends, pets, home, health, and so much more.  I appreciate the men and women that have served in the military.  I am also grateful for the people that came before, both my grandparents, etc., and people like the founders of this country both the ones that made it to the history books and the others that did their part and lived and died quietly. 
In reflecting on giving thanks I remembered that many prayers start “We give thanks….”  I think Heavenly Father wants us to learn to be appreciative and to learn to be positive.  Gratitude is looking for the silver lining.  Some years are more prosperous.  Some you are just glad to be with the people you love.  Some it is hard to find a silver lining.  But when we open our hearts to gratitude we are able to see more to be grateful for, and are able to receive more good things.  Wishing everyone a contented  Thanksgiving.

Nov 23, 2010

Count Me in with the I-feel-Violated Crowd

by Terri Wagner

I had the rare and wonderful privilege of entering a full-body scanner on a recent trip out west. I hated it. I felt uncomfortable, violated and angry. I watched a little old man who could barely put his arms over his head and a young mom blushing as they took their turn in the machine. I heard about the scanners but my first stop airport didn't have them going out. It was the airport heading back that did.

I knew a lot of people were angry about it. I also was fully aware my other option was a more violating pat down. I walked away angry, not irritated, not frustrated but actually deep down mad. I talked to several other passengers and all of them felt the way I did. Not one said the requiste oh well it's for our safety. Nope not one.

We all know Benjamin Franklin's famous quote about giving up liberty for safety gets you neither (I'm paraphrasing obviously). Never have such words had such force behind them. I walked into an airport having to take off my coat, my sweater, my shoes, plastic bag my santizer, step into a scanner and do all this without one smile or joke. Total silence and seriousness.

I'm beginning to believe the terrorists won after all.