Jan 31, 2010

Reflections on Life

by Sarah Hinze

Sometimes I think of myself as another person that I am viewing from afar. Maybe in becoming the mother of nine children, I have had a permanent out of body experience, I don't know. For example today we had two daughters,two sons, and eight grandchildren over for breakfast. We served homemade whole wheat waffles, ham and cheese omelets, and orange juice. My husband and I like to just sit near-by and watch all of them interact with one another. There is way too much talking for us to get a word in edgewise.
They all enjoy each other so much. I never dreamed it would all turn out as well as it has. When they were little, there was a lot of noise, but not always the good kind. I wondered if they would ever speak to each other when they grew up. Not only do they speak--they can't wait to get together often throughout the week.
Maybe this is the way life is. Some of the things we worry about never happen.
By the end of this day, I am reflecting on my blessings and the ups and downs of life that I have experienced. I am grateful for all of it. I have learned that we need to jump into life, embrace friendships, cherish family, warts and all.
As you probably know, I write non-fiction. I also love non-fiction and rarely read a fiction book. Recently my friend Char, who is 85 years young, called me one day and said,"You have to get this book. It is called Light in the Wilderness: Explorations in the Spiritual Life by M. Catherine Thomas. I liked what Char read to me over the phone, several exerts from the book. For example,"And so it seems that the Lord says to each of us,"My spirit is in you, urging you to move to your full potential. Now if you'll start working with your resources through governing your mind and body, through unlocking the love in your soul, I'll open things up for you and give you more light, so that in time, you will know and do everything I know and do. You don't have to depend on me to initiate and augment the powers;the power is already in you. Yes, there is already a good deal of Me in you that you've not yet scratched the surface of."
I like those thoughts. I need every bit of light and spirit of the Lord I can collect to give me wisdom and insight as I finish my new book The Memory of Angels.
It is hopeful for me to reflect on the fact that the power is in me to do the work I have been called to do. The same for you too, sisters. The Lord wants us to be successful in our endeavors and will guide us along as we do our part.
Sister Thomas is a BYU professor and will be speaking in Gilbert on the evening of February 14 at a LDS Church in Gilbert. I will share the time and place when I find out.

Jan 29, 2010

Doing It My Way!!!!

By Christine Thackeray

(Warning: What you are about to read is highly judgemental. You may want to cover your eyebrows so they don't get singed when I'm struck down from heaven.)

Last Sunday a perfectly coiffed woman stood in Sacrament Meeting to speak on the way to raise a family in righteousness. She explained how important it was to lower the dishes to the bottom cupboards so the children could put the dishes away in the dishwasher themselves and how putting up hooks in their rooms at their level gave them the opportunity to hang up their own backpacks. She shared with us how difficult it was to allow her children to be able to make their own beds because they weren't perfectly straight, but that in time they had learned to do almost as good a job as she had. She said how essential it was that we kept our homes in perfect order so that the spirit could be there. Each word out of this woman's mouth seemed to grate on me more and more until her voice produced the same effect as the sound of long cat-like fingernails being raked across a chalkboard.

As I left, I wondered why I was so bothered by her advice. More than the fact there was NOTHING scriptural that came out of her mouth was the sense that although these trite axioms may work for some, other woman would find them to be disastrous. My second son loved breaking things. He smashed every toy we put in front of him, and if I had lowered the dishes to be in his reach, I wouldn't have had any dishes left. The hook idea was one I tried but those little hooks rarely can hold the weight of a toddler looping a belt buckle across it and trying to go repelling against the wall or swinging like Tarzan. And beds that are regularly jumped on have very little hope of staying neat.

It wasn't until three days later that the real reason her words bothered me finally surfaced. She was teaching APPLICATION, not PRINCIPLE. The reality is that the principle of adjusting your expectations and life to meet the physical and spiritual needs of your children is entirely accurate, but how you do that depends on the dynamics of your own family unit. For some that may mean the ideas she mentioned like having the dishes within reach and for others it may mean just the opposite. That is where the gift of individual revelation comes in.

Tonight I joined a new critique group that I'm really excited about. As we went around the table discussing our upcoming projects and our personal ways of organizing our thoughts, I was surprised that each of us had a slightly different way of doing it. One wrote major plot points, did a character overview and then a chapter by chapter synopsis before she ever began her first draft. Another just began with a strong idea, hoping the end would become more clear as she went forward. One wrote random chapters out of order that she is piecing together later. I like to write a brief synopsis, do some character work and then throw it all away and work with those things in mind but be willing to deviate depending on the dynamics of the scene.

I guess the thing I learned was even with our differences, we can all be correct. The principle is that you have to have a plan but how you develop that plan and follow it can be completely different for each writer. Like Sinatra sang, "I'm doing it my way!" (Okay, so maybe those weren't the exact words but I believe in literary license.) There was a reason Joseph Smith said "I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves." So I guess I received great benefit from that talk last Sunday after all. Hmm.

Jan 28, 2010

Good Intentions

by Kari Diane Pike

"Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that the power to work is a blessing and that love of work is success." ~ David O. McKay

I came across this quote the other day while studying the Proclamation on the Family. Did you know that Brigham Young University has produced two textbooks based solely on the study of the Proclamation? The course that uses those textbooks is now a required GE credit for graduation from BYU. As I study these texts, I almost wish I could go back and start my family all over again, just so that I could "do it better." I had a discussion about "do-overs" with my twelve-year-old son just the other day...but that is a topic for another blog. Today I want to share some thoughts about work and intentionality.

I didn't even know "intentionality" was a word until I read it in the aforementioned textbooks. Interestingly enough, over the next several days, I came across the words "intentional," "intention", and even "intentionality" several times. There are a ton of references to "intention" in the Topical Guide of our scriptures. I don't know about you, but when a concept comes to my attention more than once or twice in a short period of time, I get the feeling that someone is trying to teach me something. (I hear you laughing Theresa...and yes, I do have very patient angels watching over me. That's yet another blog.)

Moving to a new community with a different culture and climate created a set of challenges I did not anticipate. After a very stressful year of playing "single parent Relief Society president" I looked forward to the respite of being with my husband in a new ward that had so many active members that they had to create callings like "Relief Society Birthday phone caller--names A through L." Since the move occurred right at the beginning of harvest season, we were quickly involved in all sorts of gardening activities. By the time we finished, the holidays appeared. Then came January. Gloomy, snowy, cold January. The vibrant colors of summer and fall framed by my picture windows faded to shades of black and white and gray. The simple tasks of caring for my family became mundane and cheerless. My children grew more contentious, and I let thoughts of inadequacy and failure overwhelm me. That's when I opened my textbook to the chapter: The Meaning and Blessing of Family Work. The Proclamation lists "Work" as one of the principles on which "successful marriages and families are established and maintained," in the same context as prayer, faith, and repentance. Amazing.

When we read Moses 4:2-3 about how God cursed the ground to bring forth thorns and thistles, we also read "cursed shall be the ground for thy sake." The hard work of eating bread "by the sweat of thy face" was meant to be a blessing! Family work links people together by providing the opportunity to recognize and fulfill the needs of others. Heavenly Father created families. Families are sacred. That means every simple and mundane task that we perform to take care of ourselves and our families is sacred. Okay...so here is where I get back to that word "intentionality." (I hope.)

Natural laws teach us that if we just sit around and do nothing, things around us will fall into a state of entropy, from order to chaos. We have the privilege, the gift even, of intentionally doing what we can to create order in our home and with our families. An "intentional family" (a phrase coined by scholar William Doherty) is more than clean dishes, however. The members of an intentional family feel loved and safe. Sister Beck recently mentioned the need for us to be more intentional. So did Elder Scott. Ar first, I felt despair when I heard that. It just seemed like more hard work. But seeing and feeling the sacredness of each and every task has brought pure light back into my heart and the vision of a full spectrum of opportunities that will help my family transform spiritually as we transform our lives physically.

President Hinckley said:

" The observance of four simple things on the part of parents would in a generation or two turn our societies around in terms of their moral values.
They are simply these: Let parents and children (1) teach and learn goodness together, (2) work together, (3) read good books together, and (4) pray together." (School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, edited by David C. Dollahite, (2000) Strengthening Our Families: An In-depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family, (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book) 177)

Oh...and that mention of do-overs...Never mind! I came across a paragraph in the text that made reference to Doctrine and Covenants 117:13 -- "...and when he falls, he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord." In the Lord's sight, effort is sacred. "No matter the outcome of our sincere efforts, the Lord blesses us for trying." (oh yeah! The Atonement!) (School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, Edited by Craig H. Hart, Lloyd D. Newell, Elaine Walton, and David C. Dollahite, (2005) Helping and Healing Our Families: Principles and Practices Inspired by "The Family: A Proclamation To The World," (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book) 155.)

My next goal is to apply the concept of intentionality to my writing. Who knows...I might even get my book finished. It could happen!

Jan 27, 2010

Quick Fixes, Big Messes!

By Lynn Parsons

I made some bread the other day to take to a sick friend. Don't be too impressed--it was from frozen bread dough.

The dough sat all day, but didn't defrost much. So, I decided to let it sit overnight and bake it in the morning. Two lovely fluffy loaves were ready in the morning, but in the rush for work and an early meeting, I debated whether I'd have time to bake them.

My husband volunteered to wait out the baking time. He left his culinary creations to cool on the stove. Unfortunately, he didn't know they would sweat in their pans and be doughy by that evening.

When I discovered that the bread appeared to be reverting to its unbaked state, I decided to bake some cornbread instead. In an attempt to save money . . . and face . . . my husband suggested I put them back in the oven for a few minutes and see what happened.

Yep, they burned. In three minutes. Flames and everything!

My husband cut off the blackened tops, and we tried to eat the bottoms with dinner. Let's just say smoked bread is not a great flavor.

The quick fix didn't work. And usually doesn't!

Post a comment with your quick fixes--especially if they did work--prove me wrong!

Jan 26, 2010

Women, what have we come to?

by Valerie Ipson

This morning an article in the newspaper caught my eye:

Women ask CBS to scrap Super Bowl ad

Immediately, I'm thinking it's one that objectifies women in some way, maybe leans toward the pornographic...

But, no.

The New York-based Women's Media Center is coordinating with backing from the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority, and other groups to decry an ad which features the true story of a pregnant mother who gets very sick during a trip to the Philippines. She ignores doctor recommendations for an abortion and later gives birth to her 5th child-- Tim Tebow--future Heisman Trophy winner.

So, again, my question: What have we come to? How is it that an ad that very clearly celebrates a woman, honors a woman, can be found protest-worthy by other women? Mrs. Tebow made a courageous choice. Shouldn't that be celebrated?

Or would we rather have more beer ads filled with half-dressed women.

Jan 25, 2010

Words and meanings

By Stacy Johnson

Two chapter meetings ago, we had a great lesson on words.  We were asked to find and collect words that we liked and bring them to our next meeting to share.  Karyn brought us a word for the way the dry earth smells right after rain; petrichor.  I have thought about that word a lot since our recent rainstorm.  Kristine had some words I could not pronounce, let alone remember, and Michelle used some of her words in prose form and shared some tender feelings with us.  For me, one word has been on my mind since Christmas.


A housecoat is neither a covering for a house, nor a coat.  It is a women's outer garment, often loose and comfortable, worn at home.  For me, it reminds me of the warmer months we went to school.  Mom would wake us up with her sing-songy voice "Good morning to you, good morning to you" then return up the stairs as quick as she came down.  I would stumble after her for morning scripture study and find her laying on the couch reading the paper...in her housecoat.

The pink and yellow on white plaid number was what my mom wore over her pajamas before she got ready for the day.  It totally reminded me of when I would go have sleepovers at Grams house.  Grams wore one over her pajamas when she would come out of her bedroom before actually going to bed.  She would also wear it in the morning when she would make us breakfast and serve us juice in little tiny juice glasses.

So what to my surprise when I woke up on Christmas morning and after giving the kids the "please be gracious as you open your gifts, just in case you get something you might not be in love with,"  I open one of my gifts to reveal this cute little number:

Yes, that is me in my very own housecoat. 

Please don't get me wrong, this isn't about whether you should or shouldn't wear a housecoat, it is about what a housecoat means to me.  It means I might be getting old and someone in my house thinks I might be getting old too.  Thanks anyway, I'll stick to my pajama pants and t-shirts, just like my teenage daughter wears.

I'm just glad my husband saved the receipt.
I can think of better ways to spend $14.99.

Jan 24, 2010

Snow Day

by Marsha Ward

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meet together on Sundays for spiritual renewal. Although we try hard to live Christ-like lives every day, having the opportunity to renew our covenants and renew our lives each week really helps our commitment to be and do good.

As always in life, once in a while a bump comes along, and we are forced to see what we will do without the strength of the others we meet with.

This week such a bump came along. We've had a series of snow storms in Rim Country, and I got a call midweek that Church services would not be held in our building on Sunday. It's a Snow Day! The question is, will I be able to sustain my current level of spirituality without the boost from attending services? I hope so. I'll do all the things I do every day to accomplish that. I'll remain flexible, bending my schedule along with my mindset so that I can get through this rough patch of isolation.

So it is with writing. I'm going along, doing my best to be productive, and something happens that bumps me out of my plans. Now what do I do?

The answer is fundamental: I must remain flexible, bending my writing schedule to accommodate the interruption, and adjusting my mindset so I can keep the long goal in sight.

I also can enjoy the change in my routine while it is happening, and be recharged by doing something different.

Such is life, whether in a spiritual sense or as a writer.

Jan 23, 2010

Crazy Lady With a Short in Her Brain

By Cindy R. Williams
Life is crazy. This short story below really happened. I know for a fact that I am a little crazy, normal crazy though. Read this and see how another lady mangaged to upstage me big time.

Crazy Lady with short in her brain: "I need this project done by my birthday."

Normal Crazy Lady: "When is your birthday."

Crazy Lady with short in her brain: "Sometime in March."

Normal Crazy Lady: "Can you be more specific? What is the day?"

Crazy Lady with short in her brain: "How do I know what day it is?"

Normal Crazy Lady: "Hmmm . . . well it's the same day each year, that is the same number each year."

Crazy Lady with short in her brain getting impatient: "Can you get it done?"

Normal Crazy Lady, realizing there truly is a disconnect: "I can have it done March 1st."

Crazy Lady with short in her brain: "That won't be soon enough. I need it before May."

Normal Crazy Lady realizing there may be bats in the belfry: "March 1st comes before May."

Crazy lady with short in her brain: "Oh, well I can use my discretion here, why don't you get it done in July."

Normal Crazy Lady: "Okay, July it is."

Crazy Lady with short in her brain: "Now, why didn't you agree to this all along."

Normal Crazy Lady clamps her mouth shut tight thinking, let it go, just let it go, then lets out a big sigh of relief when the Crazy Lady with the short in her brain is gone.
I heard a comedian the other day, I think it was Jeff Foxworthy, say . . . "They walk among us."

Jan 22, 2010

Gotta Write my Blog

by Sarah Albrecht

School’s started, do the homework
(Gotta write my blog)
Wind is blowing, do the yardwork
(Gotta write my blog)
Five-o-clock, cook the chicken
(Gotta write my blog)
Mop the floor ‘cause feet are stickin’
(Gotta write my blog)
See the doctor, see the dentist
See the vet to check the dog…
Sorry, ladies, life’s been crazy--
So I didn’t write my blog.

Jan 21, 2010

Disengaging the Micro-chip

By: Krista Darrach

“And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them … every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature.”  Alma 30:17

 Everywhere we go we’re inundated with distraction. It’s as if the world (more correct would be Satan) has inserted a micro-chip in our brain– programmed with worldly chatter:

“You deserve it” “You’re worth it.” “You don’t have to take that.” “You can do it.” “Buy now, pay later.” “Everyone is doing it.” “You hold the power.” “You can change your life.”

When I’m consumed by the constant buzz  … the dormant micro-chip becomes active and my brain is once again turned to ME. I am all powerful -- I bring new meaning to the word multi-task. Empowered by the micro-chip … I become Super Mom.

So off I go, thinking I can conquer all the problems in my life (and everyone else's). After all … I manage my household, my kids and husband. I hold a church calling, and have two jobs. I go to endless meetings and sometimes I even find time to write. 

But what happens? I fall short, not quite living up to the status of super mom.

Looking at the above quote- I just need to manage better and everything will be fine.
NOPE!!! It wont! 
The scripture is referencing Korihor’s (the anti-christ) philosophy. Doesn’t it sound like the ‘worlds’ ideas? YEP.

I’ve spent most of this week getting back to basics and once again humbling myself and dismantling the micro-chip. It’s so subtle, the way it creeps up on me. Those evil flaxen cords for sure are out to strangle me. But luckily I have the constant companion of the Holy Ghost, and I realize: Where there are worldly sufferings … there is always divine help.

“We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.” Ezra T. Benson

“If we increase our dependence on anything or anyone except the Lord, we will find an immediate decrease in our freedom to act.” L. Tom Perry

Dependence on anything? Yikes! So when I turn to food for comfort, to make me feel better about my dad having cancer - that would be considered dependence?  Or when I go on a spending spree, or escape in front of the TV or internet for hours, or stay so busy I’m distracted from the important things—this kinda dependence?

“Wherefore my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God.” 2 Nephi 10:24

Aligning my will with God’s will ... helps me disengage the micro-chip and when I immerse myself in the gospel – it becomes even easier to give up my dependence and rely on him. It only takes a mere decision and some willingness on my part to humble myself and ask for help. Help from Him, who has all power, and Him who works miracles in my life.

Once I do that, my actions improve and everything else seems to fall into place. Then I’m given more time and more energy-- but only when my will aligns with His.

Now I’ve just gotta get better at keeping the micro-chip disengaged.

Jan 20, 2010

Deep Thoughts

by Marielle Carlisle

It's raining, it's pouring. Rain in the desert is a beautiful, glorious thing.

For 300+ days of the year, I endure the sun. I love being warm. I love wearing capris and flip flops all year round. I love not having a rear defroster on the car.

But I love me some clouds. An overcast day is cause for celebration. Any rain (trace amounts, sprinkling, cats and dogs) is practically a holiday. A monsoon is an all-out bonaza.

Right now it's strictly rain, no lightening. This last summer we didn't see too much monsoon activity, and I miss it. I miss the rumbling thunder. I miss the blanket of dust that scoops across the valley. I miss the torrential downpour. It's here and gone in 15 minutes, and it's truly spectacular.

I wonder if I would still feel this way about the rain if I lived somewhere where it rained a lot.

Many years ago, about this time of year, we had a constant stream from the sky for about two weeks. By the end of the two weeks, I was done. Done with the gray. Done with the wetness. Done with staying inside. I had soaked up as moisture as I needed, and was ready for the merciless sun to heat, bake, and deep-fry me.

What if I lived somewhere where it rained a lot, and there was two weeks of constant sunshine, with zero cloud coverage? Would I be eager for the rain to return? Would I be itching for clouds? Would the sun's brightness be old news?

Deep Thoughts, by Marielle Carlisle

Jan 19, 2010

MTV's New Show

by Terri Wagner

MTV was one of my favorite channels in the early 80s. Back then it was strictly music videos. I think my all-time favorite still remains "Dave's TV," a David Lee Roth vid of "I'm Just a Gigolo." It was a spoof on MTV and music videos and I loved it. Yes, all that dates me, but notice I didn't say how old I was when I watched it. Since then both MTV and I have parted ways, though I sometimes catch a promo for a new show.

The newest one has a sophomoric title, and I suspect will be as silly as are so many of the shows, but the idea is always intriguing. Make a list of what you really want to do before you die, and then go do it. For once because most reality shows pit people against each other (and there's nothing wrong with competition), this one is pitched as 4 young men who will help each other complete their goals.

I don't know how the show will go, I might sneak a peek, but I thought I'd pitch the idea out to the ANWA land. Let's make a list as writers of what we want to do with our talent, share it and help each other achieve it (really the motto for ANWA). It can be as simple as I want to write a more interesting journal...to much higher expectations.

The first thing I ever wrote was for a road show many years ago which led to some cringeworthy poems for family get-togethers...to fantasy attempts...to writing for the magazine I still work for (opps maybe a small goal of mine can be learning not to end my sentences with prepositions).

I like the show's premise. I hope it will turn out to be a good one. My goal is to write a published/successful novel(s). How can you help do that? And in return, I'll help you. Again, this isn't a new idea, it's what ANWA is based on, but it sometimes help to make a list.

Jan 18, 2010

The Family Tree

By Rebecca Irvine

The Smiths were a large incredibly proud family. The family tree was full of prominent business, political, and religious leaders. They decided to compile a family history of the legacy for their children and grandchildren. A fine author was hired to do the writing. But one problem arose, what to say about Great Uncle George, who was executed in the electric chair. The author said not to worry he could handle it. He wrote, "Great Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest of ties, and his death came as a great shock."

Credit Table Top Pickes and Bits of the Grand Valley.

January 15, 2010

Jan 17, 2010

Sharing a family story

A couple of years ago I received an e-mail from the writer and award-winning playwright Anne Bradshaw. She asked me to submit a piece for her new book, Famous Family Home Evenings. I was happy to comply. One of the perks of being a published author is to meet so many wonderful people.
As I thought about it, I could not think of anything more profound than the story I share here.
We have been blessed with nine children--born within a period of 19 years. We are true experts in fatigue, frustration, chaos and fun. A friend who also has nine children commented to me years ago, “I don’t raise them, I just herd them around.” I can relate.
As our family grew, I realized that we needed family home evenings that celebrate the uniqueness of each individual. I searched many books and came across a simple idea we adopted. Family home evenings that are complicated do not work for me. I love simplicity and especially simplicity that is effective.
The format we developed we call “Celebrating the One”. We use it for special occasions—birthdays, recovery from illness, leaving on a mission, getting married, and during times of rebellion. It helps almost any time someone needs or deserves being praised, built up and included…which is most of the time!
Sometimes we select spontaneously “the one” whom we are celebrating, other times the honored one is announced a few days in advance so every one can prepare. After opening prayer we go around the room and, with an open heart, share why we love and admire “the one” being honored. Each person takes their turn expressing positive and sincere compliments and insights to “the one.” Sometimes special letters or poems or songs are written to honor “the one.” Frequently there is laughter, always there are tears. In a sweet way, the spirit enters our home during those special occasions, in response, I think, to sincere expressions of love. In a busy and often cynical world, we frequently fail to speak words of love to those we should love the most…our family.
As hearts warm and draw close, we often linger long after the activity is over. Siblings who may have been at odds with one another are laughing, joking, hugging and apologizing. Defenses and personal walls around hearts melt. Occasionally during these special times, some of us have sensed angels joining us. It may be an unborn child preparing to come to our family or deceased loved ones or others who love us through the veil. They seem to be smiling upon us, joyful at the love and the spirit of the Lord that is fostered by expressions of love.
I share an example of one of our gatherings. Years ago, when one of our children was struggling through a rebellious phase, we announced a day I would prepare the rebellious ones’ favorite dinner, followed by desert at their favorite yogurt store to insure that he would show up—a most effective tactic we have learned. We had privately spoken to the other children about our concerns for this child and asked them to pray for their sibling during the week before the meeting. We primed the pump by applying a technique Stephen Covey describes in one of his books called “Twelve Hugs a Day” in which an unhappy or rebellious child receives at least 12 physical or emotional hugs (praise, compliments, thanks) per day. When I read about it, I was so desperate to reach this child that I didn’t even allow myself to think it was too simple. I just did it.
We had a good week with him, the whole family practicing the “12 hugs a day” deal whenever we could. Some of the kids did kind things for him such as making his bed or baking cookies. During the evening of our special meal we each took turns expressing love and praise to “the one.” Later, at the yogurt store, with his older brother’s arm around him, this young man promised first his brother and then all of us that he was ready to change. And the miracle was that he did, as we continued to shower him with love and encouragement. I don’t know if that blessing would have come at that time had we not “Celebrated the One.”
So you see, it has become not only an enjoyable practice, but a tradition in our family to “Celebrate the One.” We feel it honors and verifies the power of our Savior’s command, “…love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).

Jan 16, 2010

Must-Have's with Characters

By Christine Thackeray

My oldest son Brian is home from college for a semester and is dying for a creative project. He's decided to start a weekly on-line comic. He's kicked around all sorts of different ideas and finally decided to do a super hero family on skidrow since all super hero work doesn't PAY anything. (Hey, the economy's been tough on some people.) The father has a back injury and constantly is nagging his grown super hero kids to get a job like that spider guy and superman. Of course the boys get fired right and left.

It has possibilities, but I keep telling him that his main character needs a PASSION and a FLAW. The more I write and study writing, the more formulaic I get, especially in the initial creative stages. When it comes to actually building a scene, I'm much more organic but the elements that create a story have become so clear in my mind that I can't watch a movie or read a story without holding up my requirements and seeing if it they meet the grade.

I recently saw "The Avatar" and "2012". I expected to HATE both movies but left really enjoying them because their main characters where awesome. In Avatar, you have a marine who has lost his legs and with it his moral compass. Through the movie he falls in love and finds something to fight for again. "2012" is silly fun. The main character is a writer who has lost his family and his original vision. As the world falls apart around him, he's able to fight for what he believes in and saves his family. Both plots worked for me because the main characters had PASSION and a FLAW which they were able to overcome.

So for my son he's decided that his character is the middle brother who doesn't feels his super power is anything important (he has the ability to shrink different parts of his body or the whole thing.) All he wants is to be appreciated, but stuck in the shadow of his muscle-bound older brother, his brainy younger brother and his youngest super-sonic ADHD brother we'll see.

The scary thing is that very little fiction is involved. But that's another story.

Jan 14, 2010

Knowledge Gained

by Kari Diane Pike

One of the many advantages of living in Utah County is attending (or watching live) the Brigham Young University Tuesday morning devotionals. This week, I managed to catch the last half of Sister Cheryl C. Lant's presentation. Sister Lant spoke about Lehi's dream and applying the lessons learned to our own lives. She challenged listeners to ask themselves several questions:

Where am I on the path to Jesus Christ?
What are my mists of darkness?
How tight is my grip on the iron rod?
How do I feel about being strictly obedient?
How do I strengthen my ability to hold to the rod?
Will I do it?
Am I willing to do all that is necessary to return to live with Heavenly Father?

Sister Lant elaborated on each question as she presented it. While all of the questions made me pause to think, the second question took my breath away. "What are my mists of darkness?" Sister Lant explained that while some things are obvious, like lying, stealing, murder, pornography, etc., there are more subtle mists that Satan swirls about us: things like anger, procrastination, depression, self-doubt, and envy. Individually, these challenges may be "light fogs", but if we fail to pay attention them, they can grow and darken. As I pondered on these thoughts, and assessed where I am on the path to Jesus Christ, I noticed that my personal mists of darkness (or fogginess) include busy-ness. I get so caught up in trying to do everything all at once...and trying to be everything to everybody...I forget to take time to listen and pay attention to the beauty and lessons set in front of me in the moment. I get so busy worrying about things that haven't happened yet, I miss the joys of right now. As I do that, I completely exhaust myself and miss experiences along the way that would otherwise keep my feet pointed in the right direction.

This morning I asked Heavenly Father to help me see what I could do today to be more completely on the path to Jesus Christ. The thought came that rather than trying to do so many things at once, I could focus on doing things one at a time. When the phone rings, stop folding clothes and really listen to the person on the other end. When the kids come home from school and need to talk, stop washing dishes and look them in the eye and pay attention to them. Pay attention to where you are and what is happening around you. Pay attention to who and what you are. I know what you are thinking:

"But that's not efficient. You can't possibly get everything done that needs doing if you don't multi-task. It's a waste of time to sit and pay attention. " I know, because that is what I thought, too.

At the end of my yoga class today the instructor made a comment that I knew was meant just for me. She said,

"Time spent paying attention is not time wasted. It is knowledge gained."

Wow. I'll receive the knowledge I need to meet the needs of my family and friends. I'll hear the Spirit and gain the knowledge I need to fulfill my mission in this life. I will feel peace and joy and light; all for simply paying attention.

Now apply this concept to our writing. Can you imagine how much better our writing can be if we are paying attention and in the moment? If we pay attention, we will know how to add detail to our settings and characters. Our minds will be free of cluttering thoughts and worries, and we will be open to guidance and direction from the Spirit. Best of all, we will be able to share that knowledge gained with the rest of the world!

Jan 13, 2010

Hope in the Mailbox!

By Lynn Parsons

I've been receiving seed catalogues for about a month now. Yarn catalogues arrive year round. Even though our family is on a fairly tight budget right now, I really enjoy looking through them.

It's not that I spend all my time out in the garden, or even knitting (although my family may feel differently!). I just enjoy possibilities and potential. Turning the pages, I can imagine working towards a creation and how satisfying it would be to have something even remotely like the beautiful color pictures before me.

Maybe that's why I work in education. Each child seems so full of possibilities and potential. When I see them achieve even a small portion of their dreams, I feel hope for humanity, for our world, and am excited to be part of the process.

What gives you hope and keeps you going?

Jan 12, 2010

Yay me, I remembered!

by Valerie Ipson
Last time it was my turn to post, I completely spaced it, as in if it's not on my calendar or my TTD List (Things To Do) then it's over, I'm not remembering to do it. That's not to say that an item on my TTD list absolutely gets remembered and done, but the chances are slightly higher than otherwise. I blame it on the whole post-holidaze down-time/no schedule-time when I am either involved in intense family game-playing, curling up with a deliciously good book, or sleeping off a fudge-induced coma. Sleeping, coma... redundant. The week-after-Christmas I actually did do something...I restored the house to it's lovely prior organized state (the standards are low around here) by taking down and boxing up all the Christmas decor, AND it was the year I finally sorted through it and sent the perenially unused items off to a charity yard sale. I'm sure no one would spend actual cash for it, so it will be showing up soon at a Goodwill or landfill near you.

I find that I am becoming more and more obsessed with lists and probably spend more time writing the lists than completing any item listed upon it. It's a disease.

Anyway, if I had remembered to write I might have waxed philosophical, maybe written something eloquently similar to what I posted upon the occasion of a new year last time around, posted here. Instead, maybe this poem by Shel Silverstein is in order for the new year...

Mama said I'd lose my head
If it wasn't fastened on.
Today I guess it wasn't
'Cause while playing with my cousin
It fell off and rolled away
And now its gone.
And I can't look for it
'Cause my eyes are in it,
And I can't call to it
'Cause my mouth is on it
(Couldn't hear me anyway
'Cause my ears are on it),
Can't even think about it
'Cause my brain is in it.
So I guess I'll sit down
On this rock
And rest for just a minute.

Jan 11, 2010

Eight is Great

By Stacy Johnson
Derek William Johnson, born 26 December 2009
I always wanted a large family. I knew when I got married that I wanted at least 7 kids. After our 4th, my husband said we were done. I was blessed, lucky, fortunate (however you want to think about it) to have 4 more. Now, as a family of 10, I am hugely blessed. There is one thing that I didn’t consider when having a large family though. The comments. Yes, I do have a television in my room, I do know what causes it, and I do know what prevents it. You can cut the jokes now. So, in an effort to change the perception of others on how it really is to have a large family, my husband and I have come up with some benefits to having a large family. I’d like to share them with you.

1. We get to drive a 15 passenger van and you don’t have to sit right next to anyone.

2. When I buy the large Stouffer’s frozen meals, they are called “Party Size.” That means when we sit down to dinner, it is always a party.

3. Our family home evenings are super fun, we can have our own 3 on 3 basketball tournament and have substitutions.

4. We get our own bench at church (please don’t sit there).

5. When we go out to dinner, we get to people watch all the folks who have scared/disgusted looks on their faces as we sit down - good times.

6. Another benefit to going out to dinner is that my husband and I can enjoy some of those buffet restaurants without having to get up and help someone all night. We just partner them up, an older one with a younger one.

7. When you get home at the end of the day, there is always someone to greet you.

8. When you participate in any activity (sport, drama, music, etc.), you have your own cheering section, and they are very loud.

I know having a large family in this world is becoming a rarity. I am saddened to consider myself in the minority when just a generation ago, so many families were as large as ours.
I also cannot take for granted the miracle of growing a child inside of me. My heart aches for those who do not get this opportunity. I can only have a glimpse of their suffering when I think of my two angel babies that I will meet someday, and what a glorious reunion that will be. All I know for now, eight is great and if I didn’t have to endure another long pregnancy, I might have eight more.

Jan 10, 2010

Overcomimg Adversity

by Marsha Ward

One of the most satisfying moments in this life is when something finally works right, something that has persistently caused problems and headaches, if not heartaches or even terror. The relief and joy at having overcome a big roadblock are mighty.

So it is in writing. I talk not of the actual writing process, but the underlying theme that many of us fiction authors write under: overcoming adversity.

We put our characters into desperate straits. We arrange for snapping crocodiles to hound their heels, storms and shipwrecks to bedevil them, mysterious forces to seek their destruction. Then we have to figure out how they will extricate themselves from these woes. The relief and joy they experience when they overcome adversity are mighty. We experience it right along with them, as do our readers. That's a great thrill, and probably one of the reasons many of us write in the first place.

Jan 9, 2010

ANWA Writer's Conference Feb 27th!

By Cindy R. Williams

If you are ready to take your writing seriously, you won't want to miss the ANWA Writer's Conference. It is one of the best in the west, with some very big names in the business, and the cost is about a third of most other writer's conferences.
"Start Write Now"
Open to all writers on this or any other planet.

The 2010 ANWA Writers Conference
Saturday, February 27, 2010
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Dobson Ranch Inn,
1666 South Dobson Road
Mesa, Arizona 85202-5699
Discounted Hotel reservations available on the above registration site or by calling Dobson Ranch Inn directly at 480-831-7000 or 1-800-528-1356 http://www.dobsonranchinn.com/ Mention the ANWA Conference.

Keynote Speaker
J. Scott Savage
Author of the "Farworld" Series

Aprilynne Pike
New York Times best-selling Author of “Wings”

Doug Johnston
Publicist Extraordinaire

Nancy E. Turner
Author of “These is My Words”

Dr. Pamela Goodfellow
Writing Coach, Editor and Owner of Goodfellow Publishing Services

Sara Fujimura
Author and Magazine Writer

Helen Bair
Counselor and Author of “Finding the Healer in Me”

Marsha Ward
Author of the “Owen Family” Series
Book signings at end of conference
Early Registration
General Public: $75 before February 7, 2010
ANWA Members $60
After Feb. 7 add $5
Cost includes Catered Lunch
For questions contact, the ANWA 2010 Conference Chair Person, Cindy R. Williams at cindywilliams@q.com or Conference Registrar, Krista Darrach at kristadarrach@yahoo.com

Jan 8, 2010

Fishhooks and Barrels

by Sarah Albrecht

Five tiny new barrel cacti have erupted from the thin layer of red landscape rock in our front yard. The thought warms me like a cup of hot cocoa.

Odd, isn’t it.

I can’t really explain my affinity for barrel cacti. They’re not delicate, majestic, or particularly beautiful; they don’t smell good; they don’t rustle in the wind. They’re waxy, spiny, and sturdy, and they have dimensions that remind one of a thumb.

Yet they intrigue me. They always have.

I should clarify that I’m thinking of fishhook barrels since many varieties of barrel cactus exist. As a child I examined the spines on a fishhook barrel about the size of a footstool, imagining how I could just pluck one of those spines off and tie on a piece of string and catch me a fish. Well, if we had anywhere to fish. How glorious to have such a perfect supply and how agonizing to have nowhere to use them.

The pineapples are another endearing feature. Barrel fruit look exactly like pineapples, growing in a circle about the cactus’ crown. A few years ago my preschooler couldn’t stand another second not tasting those pineapples. Knowing they were edible but not yummy, I let her pick one and take a tiny bite. Blech. But delicious to javelinas.

Barrels also tend lean south as they grow, lending them the nickname of compass cactus. I have yet to see north-facing moss on a desert tree, which in my estimation makes south-facing cactus all the more valuable.

Last fall our ancient-looking, wizened granddaddy barrel tipped over (south), severed his grapefruit-thick central stem, and died. He still had a few pineapples on top, I noted, how sadly quaint…

I wonder where those five new baby barrels came from. Barrels, after all, are all about wonder.

Jan 7, 2010

With Both Feet

By: Krista Darrach

Half measures avail us nothing. Or so this is what I tell myself. Who wants to be lukewarm or mediocre? Why dabble when you can immerse?
Fear. It immobilizes, destroying all creativity.
I don’t want to merely dip my toes in the water. Today, I’m refusing fear and choosing to immerse. Immerse myself in ANWA, writing, and relying on the spirit to be my guide.

My PhotoI’m Krista Darrach and I’m pleased to be a new blogger for the Founder and Friends blog. Actually, I still feel new to ANWA. I only joined a year ago, and what a ride it’s been. How about a little back-story? J

The great Stephanie Abney is in my ward. For the past several years she's been trying to get me to her Wednesday night writers group.

“Stephanie, I’m not a writer.”  Would be my usual response. Wherein she would smile and tell me she knew I was writer and they would be there when I figured it out. Bah! (Don’t you hate it when they’re right! --- J kidding)

So how’d I figure it out? Long story- but I’ll try to shorten it.
I endured a particularly difficult trial where my testimony had been strengthened immensely.  The spirit prodded me to write an article for the Ensign about my experience. I refused—for months. Me write? Heavens no. I’m not educated to write, never finished college. How could I submit something or even try?

Finally, I just couldn’t take it any more. I blew out four pages in less than forty-five minutes. It wouldn’t be surprising for me to save it to a file and try to forget it. But I wanted the prodding to go away, I needed to be obedient.  I emailed it, holding my breath. Thinking, Thank goodness, that’s over.

Low and behold six weeks later they sent me a letter stating they wanted to publish my article—and pay me for it! I was floored. Shocked and tickled.

I chalked it up to the spirit. It wrote the article, not me. Thus I didn’t need to write, I’m not qualified to write. The negative chatter in my head was deafening. My husband continued to tell me to write. I ignored him.

After many months of resisting, I found myself struck by a scripture someone read at church – something about having our talents taken away if we don’t use them as the Lord designed. SMACK- right upside my head. That was for me. I knew I needed to write.

Unsure how or what to do– I went to the library to get several books on writing. Then I found an activity online. The words exploded at my fingertips. Then an idea came to me for a young adult novel. I wrote over 200,000 words in less than 4 months.

Of course, Stephanie got wind that I’d been writing a book. (I was trying to keep it a secret.) I joined ANWA and have been soaking up all the knowledge I can get. Several people have been instrumental in improving my work. I know they are blessings sent to me from Heavenly Father.

Currently ... I’ve just completely my 4th edit (at 98,000 words YAY!) and feel like I’m really getting a handle on my novel. I love the process, I love the way my brain works while writing. I love the inspiration from the spirit. (I don’t love the negative chatter- that’s still there). It’s truly a gift – TRULY! For I know that of myself I could never accomplish such things.

I’m also the NEW Treasurer for ANWA. Wow, this is another one of those things I don’t feel qualified to do. But I refuse to let fear consume me, just as I refuse to listen to those pesky voices that are trying to thwart my progress. I will remain grateful for my gifts and talents ... so therefore I’m jumping in – with both feet.  **SPLASH**

Jan 6, 2010

A New Year for Books

by Marielle Carlisle

I loved Marsha's idea of chronicling all the books she read during the year, so I decided to copy her idea. Three cheers for piggy-backing on someone else's brilliancy!

Below is Marielle's Offical 2009 Books-She-Managed-To-Read:

56. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
55. When you Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
54. The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
53. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
52. Forest Born by Shannon Hale
51. For Elise by Sarah M Eden
50. The Price Paid by Sarah M Eden
49. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
48. The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum
47. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
46. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
45. Eve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell
44. The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell
43. Spare Change by Aubrey Mace
42. Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen
41. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordian
40. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
39. Affectations by Sarah Eden
38. The Rangers Apprentice: The Siege of Macindaw by John Flanagan
37. The Shamer's Daughter by Lene Kaaberbol
36. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
35. The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell
34. Whatever You Do, Don't Run by Peter Allison
33. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
32. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
31. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
30. Austenland by Shannon Hale
29. Fate of the Jedi: Outcast by Aaron Allston
28. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
27. Victoria and the Rogue by Meg Cabot
26. Wings by Aprilynne Pike
25. Corsair by Clive Cussler
24. Cursed by Carol Higgins Clark
23. Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier
22. Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
21. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
20. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
19. Seeking Persephone by Sarah Eden
18. Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George
17. Heroes of the Valley by Jonathon Stroud
16. Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
15. What the Doctor Ordered by Sierra St. James
14. Revenge of the Cheerleaders by Janette Rallison
13. The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
12. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
11. Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull
10. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
9. How to take the Ex out of Ex-Boyfriend by Janette Rallison
8. Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
7. Fame, glory, and other things on my to do List by Janette Rallison
6. Life, Love, and the Pursiot of Free Throws by Janette Rallison
5. All's Fair in Love, War, and High School by Janette Rallison
4. Playing the Field by Janette Rallison
3. It's a Mall World After All by Janette Rallison
2. My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison
1. The Magicians and Mrs Quent by Galen Beckett

You'll notice towards the bottom that I went through a Janette Rallison addiction. I couldn't get enough of her books.

I reread a Shannon Hale. I think she's my all-time, all-star, umero numero author.

Old favorites: Brandon Mull, Jacqueline Winspear, Alexander McCall Smith, Rick Riordian, Suzann Collins, John Flanagan. I always love the new releases they send out each year.

I tried new books by new authors. The pleasant surprises were: Brandon Sanderson (his books are AWESOME! They blow my mind), Jessica Day George, Aprilynne Pike, Juliet Marillier, Robin McKinley, Janette Rallison (duh), and Sarah Eden (because she ROCKS!).

Here's to another great year of books! I always love book recommendations, so please send them my way. I read fantasy, sci fi, mystery, YA stuff.

Jan 5, 2010

Predictions that Didn't Come to Pass...Yet

Whenever I read/listen to/hear someone talk about past predictions, I always set myself up to giggle over what we thought would happen by well say 2010. This time for some reason I'm not laughing. It could have happen; it should have happened. Why didn't it happen?

Here are some of the predictions. What was your favorite? (Or would have been if you had been old enough):

Man would live on the moon. Sure it'd be tough, no air, no rain, but we'd be there like little worker bees, making it an habitable place to live for many future generations. The moon is ours, the galaxy is next.

The ocean is no longer a barrier. We are living beneath the waves and harvesting what is there to help in medical advances and energy needs. Seawater has been filtered and made accessible for the deserts which now bloom with a rose as well as food (little Mormon lingo there).

Our cities would be nuclear (btw I pronounce that the same as President Bush must be a southern "thang"). The power would be safe, sufficent and efficent. Enabling us to sustain and construct architectural marvels like the mile high tower (not unlike the Dubai tower of 200 floors).

Break an arm, no problem, fixed in a jiffy (remember that word, ha). Cancer, measles, crippling diseases, all gone with one small air-powered syringe that doesn't even break your skin. Creating our own organs from our own cells (not stem cell) to replace what gives out. Live to be 900 plus, sure why not?

The wisdom of the ages, the adventures of a lifetime, the knowledge of the past and the lure of the future all ours at the tips of our fingers (ok this one could possibly be the Internet).

I'm sad instead of laughing because I actually "saw" these as realities. They aren't that off the radar. So what happened? Any ideas? Any predictions you thought would be a reality by now?

Jan 4, 2010

Piecing it Together

By: Rebecca Irvine

Today I spent a few hours with my children putting together puzzles they received for Christmas. The first puzzle was a picture of what seemed to be small, funny doodles. There were people, animals, buildings, vehicles, and even a swimming pool. I learned to pick up each piece and look closely at it and then the box to find where it belonged. Because it was larger and the pieces were smaller it took longer. But we enjoyed the process of putting it together.

The second puzzle was of a Disney princess. And most of the puzzle was done in varying shades of pink colors, the monochromatic look making it moderately challenging. An added challenge, though, was in the oddly shaped pieces that were not always situated in a standard horizontal or vertical manner.

These puzzles have made me think a little about my writing. As I am "piecing" together my third manuscript I have learned to look closely at each part and then compare it to the bigger picture. In some cases I have found portions that just don't seem to fit and have had to either move the section, rework it, or cut it out altogether. And the more research I have done the more missing pieces I have found!

In other places I have noticed my writing is kind of monochromatic--repetitious and bland. I am sure this makes my writing as hard to read as it was to put together that pink princess puzzle (maybe harder). But as I have worked to add contrast and color to my writing it becomes easier to read and more memorable overall.

Next time you sit down to write, look closely at each piece of your "puzzle." Don't forget the overall picture you are trying to paint and be willing to add color, shape, and contrast to improve your writing.

Happy writing!