Jul 31, 2014

First Amendment for Dummies

Sheesh! Talk about by the skin of my teeth. I only wrote this one week ago--but forgot to schedule it!
So, here I am again, a day late and a dollar short. . .
Not polished, but. . .take it for what it's worth.

By Susan Knight
FYI, I don’t support the CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) but I like this flag calligram.


I spoke out about the Second Amendment to the Constitution at the beginning of this month of Independence. I think I shall write about the First Amendment this time around.

The phrase “separation of Church and State” has always given me heartburn because of the way people have turned it around. The First Amendment was not created to protect the State from religion, but to protect the right of We-the-People to practice our religion and not be dictated to by the State.

Most of the immigrants who crossed the ocean to come here, pre-Revolution, did so to escape religious persecution. If you lived in a State or Principality, in Germany say, in the 1500s to1800s, before it became one, big country, you had to belong to the state religion. In Germany, it was Lutheran. In England, it was the Anglican Church. In France, it was Roman Catholic (until the French Revolution), and in Scotland it was Presbyterian, and so on.

America was a place where nobody could tell you what religion to belong to. You could choose—freedom. Even though the idea took a while to catch on, that’s what eventually happened, since the Constitution and the First Amendment made it law. Freedom of Religion and all the First Amendment freedoms, first applied only to the federal government and not states’ governments, who could control religious practices if they wanted to. But in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted and, along with the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment has applied to state and local governments, as well as the federal government, meaning the government—any government—couldn’t dictate what We-the-People chose about religious beliefs.

For the longest while, state religions were adopted in the United States. People who lived in Rhode Island were predominantly Baptist. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the state religion was Puritan for a time. Those who lived in Maryland were Catholic, and so on.

Even though religious freedom was a premise of the Constitution and its First Amendment,  these freedoms could not stop personal persecution. Unscrupulous people did lash out. The early Mormon church is a good example. Even William Penn was convicted of preaching a Quaker sermon which, at the time, was illegal, due to states rights.

Thomas Jefferson saw what was happening and spoke to We-the-People about a big wall of separation of church and state. He remembered what it was like being under the thumb of the English and having to do what the king said. He believed the state should not be able to enforce which religion to join or how one would practice their religion. The state could not "establish" a state religion. This phrase did not mean to prohibit religious beliefs or opinions, or to practice that which went against the laws of the land (the Ten Commandments). For instance, human sacrifice would be against the law of committing murder, so whichever religion practiced that would not be protected under the First Amendment.

Since that phrase, "separation of church and state" has been turned around in this modern world, We-the-People bought into the thinking that religion cannot be involved in anything pertaining to the State, or the government, as it’s now been contrived. People think they can’t pray in schools, or in public anywhere. But that’s exactly what the First Amendment protects—our right to pray in schools, or at City Hall, or to open a session of Congress or the Senate. The government cannot force us to pray, tell us what to pray, or have anything to do with us praying, but it cannot prohibit us from praying.

Any religious denomination has the right to meet in a school. Freedom of Assembly is also protected by the First Amendment. As long as the assembly is peaceful, it’s protected. Yes, seminary can be held in a high school. You might have to hold it before or after school, reserve a room, probably pay for the room, but you can hold it in a public school. I researched this when I taught early morning seminary in Pennsylvania. I opted to have it at my house, though. I lived across the street from one of the high schools in our ward.

Our country is based on Judeo-Christian thinking (not Buddhist, Hindi, Muslim, etc.). Our Ten Commandments form the basis for most of our government laws. If not, it wouldn’t be a crime to commit murder, or to steal. And it wasn’t too long ago it was a crime to commit adultery and adultery was grounds for divorce. Fines and sometimes imprisonment were the punishment. (Adultery is still illegal in twenty-one states.) These are the Judeo-Christian principles as outlined in the Ten Commandments. These beliefs are protected by the First Amendment.

So that’s my take on the Freedom of Religion part of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Do you know the other protections we have under the First Amendment? Take the quiz below and see how you do.
One of my favorite movies has a wonderful scene about the First Amendment. Even though it wasn’t specifically about Freedom of Religion, I thought I would include it. It gets me every time.

Jul 30, 2014

That Time I Found a Four-Leaf Clover and Nothing Happened

by Andilyn Jenkins

“Ya know, I’ve never found a four-leaf clover. And I’ve looked,” I remarked to Aaron as I pictured myself at ten combing through clover patches in the park around the corner from my house.

“That’s because they don’t exist,” Aaron replied matter-of-factly.

“Oh. Are you sure? I mean, they would be a mutation. ‘Cause clovers should only have three leaves. But mutations exist,” I asserted, leaving X-Men intentionally out of my support case.

“Good point. I don’t know. I’ve never seen one,” Aaron swayed.

“Me either. I guess that’s why they’re lucky,” I reasoned.

Can You Find A Four Leaf Clover?? by NarutoFreakazoidT
                                                                            I found this picture here.

In the Redwood Forest admiring the gigantic trees dusting the clouds from the sky, Aaron and I shuffled along the tourists’ dirt path. Thick patches of clovers blanketed the forest floor, so I scanned their ranks to pass the time while the kids squealed, raced, climbed, and tripped around us.

“Wait. Is that a four-leaf clover?” Right next to the edge of the path, the clover waved up at me. Its fourth leaf was tucked behind one of the other leaves just enough that I couldn’t be sure until I plucked it from the ranks. I held the stem in one hand and fanned apart the heart-shaped leaves with my fingers. One. Two. Three. Four.

“Aaron, it’s like the clovers heard us talking and rewarded me for believing in them,” I giggled.

“Well then, leprechauns are definitely real,” Aaron teased, darting his eyes around the Redwood roots. And in that moment, I felt like I pinched faith from a two-year-old. I looked inward and saw a child hugging her good-luck charm, believing in leprechauns, magic, and eaves-dropping clovers.

My luck didn’t exactly change. My baby still woke up in the middle of the night. I still stubbed my little toe on the kitchen counter—twice.  I still gained four pounds after eating nothing but pies, cinnamon rolls, Costco muffins, and homemade vanilla ice cream for a week (go figure).

But for the rest of our vacation, I always said yes to ice cream with fresh peaches. I sat on the floor just to snuggle the dogs. I played with my daughter’s princess sticker book while she napped.

And I felt pretty lucky.

Jul 29, 2014

Too Many Serious Things

by Terri Wagner

Most of the time I can watch the news with some degree of peace. Lately, I find myself reading about such tragedy and sorrow, I find little peace. I try to remind myself we are in the last of the last days, be patient, look to the prophet, pray, and remember we have been through this before in the war in heaven. Today, however, it seems overwhelming.

For today, I want to be sad
to reach out with love to those who are in a very bad place
I want to hug heroes
and pray like Nephi in Chapter 7 of Helaman who knew his country was in dire straits.
Just today I want to remind myself of the importance of free will, and why that can sometimes take the face of evil.
And then tonight I will whisper these words to myself

"I am sore wounded but not slain
I will lay me down and bleed a while
And then rise up to fight again"

...and let tomorrow bring back the comfort that is always just a prayer away

Jul 26, 2014

My Little Kindle Friend

When we first came to Memphis for our mission, I met Marguerite. 

She comes to church each week, dripping in costume jewelry and colorfully coordinated outfits.

We've been to her house several times—once for my husband to unstick her bathroom window after painters had done some work for her. They had painted the window shut. A putty knife and a little elbow grease corrected the problem.

We took the young Elders over another time to get her patio furniture out for the summer.

Her house has a musty smell laced with cologne. It's tidy, but it's so cluttered with stuffed animals, pictures of her past life, and tables set for a party with full service dinner and glass ware that she never gives it a good cleaning. 

She invited us over this past week because she needed help with her Kindle. While we were on the phone, setting a time, she volunteered, "I cain't be friends with most women."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because, if I talk to their husbands, the wives get jealous and think I'm making a pass at their men."

I smile. She is so cute! I just love her.

We go to her house. She invites us in, and we sit on the couch across from her collection of Christmas cards and ornaments while she gets her Kindle. 

She can't get it off D&C 84. She read a verse from that section last week as part of the Relief Society lesson, and she got stuck there.

We practice touching Moroni (softly) in LDS tools. She is delighted to get back to the library. She laughs. Then we practice finding her Sunday School lesson. When we turn to the Teachings of the Presidents, she asks, "Now which prophet are we studying?
I tell her, "Joseph Fielding Smith."
She scrolls down to Joseph F. Smith. "Is this right?"
I help her find Joseph Fielding Smith.

We practice changing from one screen to another, but she still gets mixed up.
So I say, "If you don't know what to do, punch Moroni and start over again."

We try this several times, and it works. She needs a simple rule to help her begin again.

We laugh and have an enjoyable visit. I try to figure out why admire her so very much. 

*I come up with the fact that she is action oriented. The world doesn't pass her by. She's part of it, and having a great time along the way.

*She seems undaunted in her quest to join the electronic age. Even though she gets confused and doesn't know what to do, she keeps going. Her positive attitude is catching. 

*Her youthful mind-set keeps her involved in life around her, and gives her kind of a crazy flair that's fun.

*She has a strong testimony of the gospel since her conversion forty years ago. She drives herself to the temple every week (a little scary) and motors to church every Sunday (also a little scary).

*She makes things happen in her life, and that's a great attitude to have..

Jul 25, 2014

Don't Be Afraid of Social Media

by Marsha Ward

Last Saturday I gave a class at a writers' retreat held at the Merritt Center and Lodge in Payson, Arizona, by the Rim Country District of Arizona Press Women, (now known as Arizona Professional Writers). On the program it was called "Don't be afraid of social media to promote your work." I expanded the topic to include other online tools for marketing yourself and your products.

I introduced the concept of "1,000 True Fans" being a goal to work toward to ensure a living wage from writing. I wrote about that here. We talked about the importance of having an Internet presence of some sort, either a website or a blog. I challenged the participants to quantify their readership by using a worksheet to identify who "follows" them on whatever social media outlets they use or what lists of contact information they have assembled. I encouraged them to commit to use at least one social media or other outreach to their readers, whether it be a Facebook Page, a blog, live events, a newsletter, or Twitter. Then we had a lively question and answer period to end it all.

To my great relief, the class was received well, and I got a lot of comments from the attendees. I even sold a couple of books afterward. It was a good day.

What social media or other methods do you use to become and stay engaged with your readers?

Jul 24, 2014

Appreciating the Risks

by Kari Diane Pike

What's on your bucket list? Only in the last couple of years have I had the courage to put on paper the things I want to experience in this life. My list changes almost daily. More often than not, opportunities arise that I had never before considered and I'm learning to grab hold and take the ride. Then I add it to my bucket list and check it off. Is that cheating?

One of those crazy opportunities came up last week when I arrived at my Dad's house in Spokane, Washington. My step-sister invited me to join her and her daughter in an upcoming Dirty Dash. When all was said and done, eight of us "Newcomb" women descended upon a local thrift shop and outfitted ourselves with tacky, Dirty Dash worthy outfits and running shoes. We signed the required release waiver which, after giving warnings about risks of injury, attacks from wild animals, and the certainty that this would be a tough run, ended with this statement:

"All such risks being known, assumed and appreciated by me."

Being in the Dirty Dash turned out to be a lot like my life's journey. Just like the warnings in the release waiver, I can just picture myself in the pre-existence being taught about the many experiences I might encounter during my mortal existence. Some challenges probably sounded pretty scary, but I was so excited to get a body and experience mortality, I was willing to go through hard times. I was taught that I would get dirty and that there would be pain. No one gets through life unscathed. But our older brother Jesus Christ promised He would help us and make it possible for is to be clean again. I can imagine that waiting in line at "the starting gate" must have been full of anticipation.

First, we had to stand in line and wait for our turn to run. I wonder what I did while I waited for my turn on earth. What did the group before me say? What am I teaching the generation following me?

Right from the beginning of the race, there was mud. We saw five injured runners before we even started our journey. Then we had to run along a hot, dusty road. I never thought I would welcome crawling on my belly through narrow culverts in a foot of muddy water. The eight of us stuck together and helped each other get over, under and through each obstacle. One of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, was waiting in line to slide down the ginormous water slide. Patience has always been a trial for me. But we cheered each other on.

My ten-year-old niece, Sara, taught me what it really means to have courage. Her body shook. Tears channeled over her mud-streaked cheeks. Her breath came out in sobs. But she climbed over those barricades and conquered the ten-foot rope ladders. At first I yelled encouraging words to boost her confidence, but as she took on each test, my cheers became more and more sincere. By the end, I had tears running down my cheeks as I watched her eyes spark with the joy of accomplishment.

We finished the race strong, holding hands and running through the last mud puddle. We finished together and we finished strong.

The daring, darling, Dirty Dashers!

Later that evening, my fourteen-year-old niece asked her older, more experienced cousin about high school and if it was going to be hard. Megan answered Shayley with wisdom beyond her years:

"High school is kind of like the Dirty Dash." It's as hard or as easy as you choose to make it, and as fun as you want to make it. The more effort you put into it, the more worthwhile your experience is going to be."

Just like life. And thanks to a muddy, tough race through the forest, I appreciate the risks more than ever. I am grateful for this glorious chance to experience mortality. And I am thankful for the Savior's gift that enables me to overcome the challenges and be washed clean from all the mud.

Jul 23, 2014

Shooting Quivers and Individual Piglets

by H. Linn Murphy

It really snags me when I'm reading along in a perfectly good book and I come BANG up against a glaring fallacy or misused word or continuity error.

The other day I was reading a book and the main character shot things with her quiver. Any self-respecting archer or person who has read much about archery will know that a quiver is the case which holds arrows, not the arrow itself. Another place the author called the hilt of the sword the helm. A helm is a helmet and worn on the head. Those are very small mistakes, but they take the reader out of your story. The reader can't forget that mistake. Once a friend of my daughter wrote a story with her in which she was describing a medieval feast. Her words: And they all had individual piglets. My family has never forgotten those words and it's been well over a decade since they were written. I doubt that's how she wished to be remembered, but she'll never live that down.

One of our family hobbies is to try and spot continuity errors in movies. But while you're looking for errors, you aren't participating in the story. In effect, you've put yourself out of the scope of the piece.

Get yourself a really good dictionary. For those words you don't quite feel you know for sure, look them up. Also there are some excellent thesaurus programs which will allow you to use words in new ways and to check the ones you're using. They aren't always just for finding new words.

Even a work of fiction needs its research, especially if it deals with a time, place, or situation unknown to you the writer. I'm writing a book right now about a girl who studies honey badgers in Africa. I've never been to Africa, nor have I ever seen a honey badger up close. So the research I'll need to do will be extensive. Already I've spent some time researching honey badgers and Johns Hopkins University where my main character works prior to getting her grant. I'll need to research camps in Africa and about the area where we'll put this camp. I want to know everything about my subject I can so I don't come off looking ignorant.

The other thing I do besides exhaustive research, is to run through the book several times. I do maybe nine full book checks before the manuscript goes to Beta readers. I want to catch ever single misspelled word, misused word, extra space, and every chance to tighten up. I want to put a book out that I'd be proud to have my name on. It's called learning the craft. We owe our readers a well-crafted book. We owe them our best work and the benefit of as much education as we can cram into ourselves.

We also need Beta readers. We need people with fresh eyes who will spot the things we're too close to notice, as if we're looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. They'll catch those fallacies or plot holes. And we need to listen to them and let them help...to a point. Your Beta reader is the mouth of the reader.

Listen to your editor. They may make some unpopular decisions on things to cut or change, but they generally have your book at heart. Make sure you find an editor who will work with you, but you also have to work with your editor. I keep a slag heap for things I have to cut that I think might be useful elsewhere. That makes cutting things not quite so painful. I also always remember that I have the original manuscript...:o)

Write on! And keep your quiver on your back.

Jul 22, 2014

Marketing Your Books

by Lucinda Whitney 

 Back in June I attended a one-day Indie Publishing conference and one of classes I took was taught by Abel Keogh, who has extensive experience with marketing on his day job.

His class was called "The 5 Best Ways to Market Your Book":
#5— Know your audience well. It seems kind of obvious, but you can't market if you don't know who the audience is. By reading reviews (both positive and negative), blog comments, etc, you can get a firmer grasp on this.

#4— Target your media blasts. This goes hand in hand with the previous one. Once you know your audience, you can target your efforts more efficaciously. For instance, if you plan a blog tour, arrange it with blogs that cater to the same genre as your book.

#3— Blogging, which can be either frustrating or effective. Some simple ways to make it work better for you is by having entertaining and informative content; by NOT making it about your books (your readers will get tired of the same subject all the time); by making your blog a place where readers want to go (refer to #4 and #5); by writing to your target audience, and by blogging regularly (and even on the same day).

#2— Email Newsletters. Don't send the newsletter unless you have something worthy to say (like announcements about a new book coming out). When sending announcements and other news, share them on the newsletter first, and then on other platforms.

#1— Write a new book. And why is the best way to market your book writing another one? Because word of mouth is the best marketing tool. With each new book published, your readership will increase, and so will the word of mouth referrals.

And there you have it. Five simple ways that help market your new book, but simple always works better. Thanks, Abel, for the tips.

Jul 19, 2014

Alzheimer's Blessings

by Cindy R. Williams

My Mother-In-Law moved in on June 28, my husband's birthday. She has Alzheimer's. I lost my father to Alzheimer's so feel like I'm somewhat prepared to take on this challenge. I say somewhat because each person reacts differently and you figure it out as you go.

When my husband asked if she could live with us, my answer was "YES!  Of course! She is your mother and we don't turn our backs on our mothers." He got tears in his eyes and told me his other siblings didn't feel the same way and wouldn't take her for various reasons. I admit I was a bit stunned. Mothers are the greatest. Who wouldn't want their sweet mothers with them after all the many years of incredible sacrifices.

It has now been about 3 weeks. Sure there has been a learning curve for all of us. Sure I have been ordered to leave "her home" a few times. Sure I have been asked the same question 50 times in an hour. Sure my schedule has been topsy-turvey and I have many exhausted days, since it is much like tending a little child 24/7.

But . . . guess what I also have.  I have a deep and abiding love for my MIL. Her giggles warm my heart. I feel peace that I am doing what my Heavenly Father wants me to do. I feel I have a glimpse into Heaven and now finally understand the meaning of charity. Our family is united in serving this elect woman and in doing so, we have blessings pouring out on all of us.

The adage, you love who you serve is ever so true.

Life is good!

Jul 16, 2014

Eight is Enough?

By Susan Knight

When I was two-and-a-half years old, I lay on the living room floor of my grandparents’ house, where I lived the first three years of my life. My mother and father were leaving, but my mom paused, one foot out the door, looked at me and said, “We’re going to the hospital to get our baby. Do you want a brother or a sister?”

I remember thinking for a split second and said, “Brother!” This memory is still vivid.

Like magic, they brought home my baby brother in their shiny, blue Mercury. My mother held him in the front seat, of course.

The next time, three years later, from our new home a block away from my grandparents, my mom and dad left for the hospital again. I shouted, “Bring me home a sister this time.” Apparently, they didn’t hear me as they sped away in our new, white, Ford Country Squire station wagon.

Fourteen months later, I reminded them I wanted a sister this time, but to no avail. At six-years-old, I began to think the magic was gone, or never existed. Nevertheless, this brother's birth necessitated a move to an even larger home, a whole two miles from my grandparents' house that time.

About two years later, I sensed this almost-yearly phenomena was going to happen again. In a Catholic family, you just expected another baby every year or so. I can still see my mom in her pink maternity outfit she handily sewed.

At age eight (which I testify is the age of reason), I realized every time my family was going to have a baby, my mother got fat. I inquisitively asked her why, and she told me the baby was in there. Nonplussed, I went on to ask how the baby came out. My overly-modest mother told me, “Through my belly button.” After more why’s and how’s, my flustered mother just left it at that. (Because I never got answers to all my questions as a child, I grew up to be a newspaper reporter. . .just sayin’)

Eight years and three brothers later, on July 16, 1962, I bounded down the stairs on a lazy, summer morning to see my grandmother giving my brothers breakfast. I knew why she was there.

“A boy or a girl?” I asked, then held my breath, not wanting to get excited.

“A girl,” she answered without looking up. “Now sit down and have some breakfast.”

Unable to contain myself, I leaped into the living room and began my happy dance. I whooped and hollered and I’m pretty sure I did a cartwheel, too. I finally had my baby sister. How could Granny be so apathetic? This was the most auspicious day of my life thus far. No big sister was happier than I was that day, over fifty years ago now.

Another white Country Squire, two more brothers, then another little sister rounded out the Eight is Enough scenario of my family, but I’ll never forget the day my first baby sister was born.
Kathy was baby number five. Do I look happy?
Kathy was born the same time as Pebbles Flintstone and, to follow suit, had this fountain hairdo for years

Eight is Enough, right?

We adored each other. Still do. 


While Cooking Sunday Dinner

by Andilyn Jenkins

I'm sharing this short narrative to illustrate two writing tips.

1. Sometimes, the meat comes after I cut the first three quarters of what I've written. And, while the other three-quarters were, of course, brilliant, they were unnecessary. So, don't be afraid to cut your hard work if it means highlighting the best stuff.

2. Allow your writing to go somewhere unexpected. I began this piece because I wanted to write about the contentment in my home on Sunday while our family made dinner together. And while the other three pages have a lot of fun imagery and dialogue, this moment outside that I almost didn't write about turned out to be where I was able to scratch out that feeling.

I'm sure many of you have sacrificed more than three pages to the "pre-writing" gods. Tell me about it in the comments below or just let me know what you think. (smiles:)

While Cooking Sunday Dinner

Outside, the wind shakes the orange trees’ branches and they shimmy uncomfortably like busty old women. And before I hear the pinking on the roof, I see the grey spots appear on the cement patio. “It’s raining!” Aaron announces to the house as he heads for the backdoor and slides it open. I pick up Evan from his Bumbo and sit him in my arms, facing out. 

                                                                                                                   I found this picture here.

The monsoon weighs down the Arizona heat, so when Aaron opens the door, the air swims powerfully over my face and through my nose. It wraps itself intimately around me, folding warm blankets fresh from the dryer but still damp from the wash around my index fingers, ears, calves, knee caps, neck, hair roots. I step barefoot onto the warm concrete and walk just far enough to get dusted with the starter rain drops. Then I inhale the dirty rain. I have loved the smell of rain wherever I have lived, but in Arizona, my home town, it smells like baptism. The dust, dirt, and oil washes the streets, bubbles in the gutters, and floods dry, grassy retention basins.

Evan feels the raindrops tap his arms, feet, and face and blinks into the sky, making sense of the heavens. With a furrowed brow, he reaches one hand out and tries to capture a drop in his squishy fist.

I blink the rain from my eyelashes and look out, making sense of the earth. Sunshine in Arizona bleaches my perspective. But overcast days unveil the desert’s colors: green leaves, magenta bricks, white trunks, orange, brown, red, blue, silver, grey, rust, yellow. The swimming pool reflects what it sees like a pair of sunglasses and turns deep grey as the water rustles and plops, churned by wind and raindrops.

Tasks wait inside—dishes, cooking, playing. But here, mother and son get polka-dotted by the rain. While I drink in smells, colors, and sounds, Evan concentrates on the sky and plays catch with angels pitching him raindrops.

(Feel free to check out some of my other narratives and poems over at Andilyn Thinks.)

Jul 15, 2014

Facebook....good or bad...or simply there?

by Terri Wagner

About a month ago, my 81-year-old dad decided he wanted in on Facebook. I sat down with him and signed him up, assuring him that it was indeed free. Then we set up his profile. He wanted only certain information listed. I explained the process of finding, requesting, and confirming a friend. I showed him how to hide things he did not like, and how to follow email FB mentions. I was excited. I hoped he would reach out and find the men he flew with during his years in the Air Force, get back in touch with old friends, and enjoy the funny quips and quotes. We both love labs and goldens (the dogs) so I set him up to get the cute posts.

Then life got busy, and I forgot. Every now and again, he would ask about something, and I would explain it.

Then one day he says I want out of it. Take me off. I get too many posts about things I don't care about. How do I delete myself off here?

After I got over my, well, call it disappointment, I had to google how you do that. Turns out you have to wait 14 days. I hope it then deletes him permanently or he'll be nuts!

I was curious and talked to him about it. The things I like about it, annoyed him. I mean if a family member posts every two hours about driving down the road, etc., I just skip over that part. He did not want to know that much information.

The dog posts bothered him because it reminded him of the ones we've had that have passed on. I enjoy the posts, and think of Chewie, Belle, Bo, and Cassie with great fondness. Maybe it's knowing I will see them again that comforts me.

He did not like all the ads. He couldn't really tell the difference between an ad or a post. Mostly, he was not really interested the posts. I think he must have thought it was supposed to be serious, or maybe about something serious.

He loves all the other aspects of the Internet, and thoroughly enjoys surfing the 'net. He got me to wondering why do I like FB? Why can I just slid by what doesn't interest me? The ads rarely stump me. And don't bother me. I like FB. It's a place to keep in touch, although admittedly, I post very little. I don't really follow all the latest privacy issues or likes that determine well something I don't know about. I just see it as a place to have a bit of fun, laugh a little, and once in a while, post something.

Jul 12, 2014

Sally and Her Hip Replacement . . . Quitting Won't Kill You.

By Christy Monson
Sally has been a two-pack-a-day smoker all her life. She quit to be baptized, but life and stress got in the way and she relapsed.

When she found out she needed a hip replacement, she was sure she could stop smoking while she was in the hospital. To prepare for it, she cut down on the number of cigarettes she smoked each day. She called me one day and told me she had found a secret way to end her habit. She needed a little nicotine after every meal so she was going to have only two puffs of a cigarette after dinner. 

That way it would take her four days to smoke one cigarette. She struggled with her plan for several days, and in the end it didn't work. She couldn't have just two puffs of her cigarette.

"I's trying," she said.

We bought her some Nicorette gun several weeks before surgery and she cut down, but it was hard. She had a few cigarettes now and then while she chewed the gum. 

The doctor told her she had to quit before her surgery so she stopped smoking. But every time we saw her she was chewing the gum so intensely she could hardly carry on a conversation. 

"I's trying," she kept saying.

Before and right after her surgery, she proudly told everyone she had quit smoking. The first week home from the hospital she was in pain and too drugged out to think about cigarettes. But the second week her younger sister Pookie came into her house smoking. Sally couldn't help herself, she had to have a cigarette.

She was hooked again. I felt like shaking Pookie and banning her from the house, but I didn't.
When we saw Sally that day, I took her face in my hands and looked her in the eyes. "You have to quit smoking."

"Yes, Ma'am. I's trying."
"No trying," I said. "You have to do it."
She sighed. "Yes, Ma'am."

Sally made a new rule for Pookie. She had to finish her cigarette outside before she came in the house. When their older sister (Ms. Truck Driver who has been cigarette-free for years) found out Sally was smoking again she told her to stop:

1.         Quitting won't kill you.
2.         The cravings won't last forever.

Bless Ms. Truck Driver! Sally and I say those two statements every day.
Sally's on prescription patches right now. Hope she can make it this time. It's a real struggle. But each time she quits it's a little easier. 

She is trying.

Maybe this will be the victory lap.

Jul 11, 2014

The Joys and Woes of Editing

by Marsha Ward

You would think the biggest hurdle in writing had been conquered once you have typed The End at the end of the first draft of the manuscript.

You'd be right.

And you'd be wrong.

Depending on how a particular writer's process works, the post-writing period can be a breeze or a tempest. Of course there are the usual items to check: spelling, correct word usage, plot holes, character growth, satisfactory ending.

There is also the matter of deciding whether or not a scene fills a purpose, which character's point of view is most important for carrying a scene, and how the sentence structure should be composed for best effect. Do I place the strongest item at the beginning of the sentence, or finish with it? Should that parenthetical phrase go here or there?

Some writers decide these issues in the first draft, because they edit each scene to polish it to perfection before they go on to the next. Other writers look on The End as the Holy Grail and rush toward it so they can bag it. They worry about polishing it later.

I'm in the "Hurry toward the Holy Grail" camp, with a toe in the "Polish until it shines" camp. Actually, I've discovered that my mind does a lot of the prep work before I ever put my fingers on the keys. Some scenes don't get the bleeding ink treatment.

Unfortunately, I can't say every scene is pristine at the beginning of the editing phase. Thus, my editing goes a little like this:

"Yes!" [fist pump]

"Sheesh!" [groan]

"Aha!" [drag and drop phrases]

"Ah..." [big sigh]

"How did I miss that?" [hair pulling]

I'm almost two-thirds of the way toward the end of the first edit. Wish me more joys than woes, please!

Jul 10, 2014

Finding My Words

by Kari Diane Pike

What do you do when you've been planning a large family reunion for months and the owner of the cabin you had reserved for almost as many months cancels the contract just  three weeks before said reunion? Besides panic, I mean.

Stay calm and pray. Then use your resources! In this case, we needed a venue for about seventy people...half of them children under 12. The Solution? An elementary school! Of course it helped that my husband works for a charter school organization. After all was said and done, I knew this was going to be even better than a cabin in the forest. The little ones love the swings and the slides.  It's amazing how many things middle-grade kids and teens can find to throw through the basketball hoop. I absolutely adore watching children in the middle of creative play.

Within the first few hours here, we have experienced a gorgeous sunset, uninvited, yet fascinating guests (what's more interesting than a tarantula?), car problems and solutions, minor head traumas (and the accompanying lessons in physics and the the law of gravity), and lots and lots of love.

In the quiet before the chaos of breakfast (and discovering that there are two refrigerators and one freezer in the kitchen -and yes,we had guessed incorrectly) I got in a little scripture and pondering time. I knew I needed to write this post, but struggled to find the words to describe the emotion that fills me to overflowing and leaks out my eyes.  Then I came to Ether 12: 25-28. In these verses a great prophet describes his own struggle with putting words down that could adequately express his feelings and knowledge. Then the Lord answered that prophet's concerns and promised him that "my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness...my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak thing become strong unto them."

Well, complete chaos has erupted. Hoola hoops, basketballs and pool noodles are flying across the gym. A two-year-old is crawling over my back and a five-year-old just slid into my feet. The giggles and dimples are just too important to miss. I hope you all have a great couple of weeks. As soon as I get home from this reunion, I fly to Washington for another...and then I have three weeks to finish wedding preparations for our youngest daughter. See you soon!


Jul 9, 2014

Stalking the Nearly Extinct Word

by H. Linn Murphy

I have a love affair with words. It's been this way since I was old enough to plead with my mom for yet another fairy story. She told them by the boatload and I was always there at her knee, begging for more, greedy little cuss.

We lived on a small farm in Colorado for most of my growing up years. There were forty five rabbits to feed and water. We also had a flock of chickens (all named by my brother) to feed, water, gather eggs from, and clean up after. We had nine goats (Apropos for a Heidi to have goats.) to feed, water, milk, treat, and clean up after. There were also hunting dogs, a magpie, pheasants, ducks, trout, and a parade of short-lived chinchillas to take care of. Lastly we had an enormous garden and fields of alfalfa to cultivate and later bale and buck.

You'd think that I'd never have time for words. But I made time. I told myself stories, composed songs and poetry, and read every chance I got. My parents bemoaned the fact that I was always off in the fields somewhere cuddling a good book. I had an hour long trip to and from school on the bus. Sometimes I had a good book. Sometimes I read the dictionary. Yeah. I was that geeky.

I loved wrapping my tongue around a new word, tasting it, feeling its creaminess as I played with it in my teeth and filling my mind with a delicate tracery of lives and places and possibilities.

Prestidigitation. Bamboozle. Malfeasance. Rococo. Beneficent. Asinine. Gobbet. Pungent. Astringency. Conflagration. Sylvan. Variegating. Discombobulated.

The right words can add spice to and define the pictures in our mind, filling our heads with blazing sunsets and spinning skyrockets and the planes of a dear one's long lost face.

My father was a teacher. When I didn't know how to spell a word, he'd tell me to look it up in the dictionary. I never understood how that was supposed to happen very well if you couldn't spell it correctly. But a funny thing happened every time I went to find the wretched thing. There were other words--tempting words--opportunistic words waiting like bridesmaids and groomsmen to ease the way down the aisle. Sometimes I'd find the word I was supposed to be looking for only after several minutes of delightful dalliance (the good kind, not the bad) with those other attending words.

With the advent of the computer and Google, these little assignations don't occur with nearly the frequency. Our little pumpkins go straight to the on-line dictionary and voilĂ , presto change-o, there's the word, brought forth naked into the world without its glorious entourage. And that's if they bother to look it up. Way too many people rely, often erroneously, on Spell-check.

When I went to college, I took a class on language. I loved that teacher. I will never ever forget the difference between clamor and clamber. For the first, he had the class scream and yell at the tops of our lungs. For the second, he got down on the floor in his three piece suit and scrambled up onto the table one leg at a time to stand beaming as the class dissolved into laughter. We examined the writings of Marcus Aurelius and Ray Bradbury and Mark Twain and Jane Austen. We teased open sentences and tough-to-crack words. We learned where they originated. That's where my love of the English language gelled into infatuation and then love.

My major was always something to do with art. I graduated with high honors in a double major, neither of them creative writing. But along the way there were always classes in Children's Lit or English or Humanities. What broke it open for me was my senior project for Illustration. I had to write, illustrate, typeset, and bind my own children's book, which I did. The story was tight, the illustrations blazed forth from the page. I've read that book to countless children in several schools as well as to my own. All of them loved it. So when I went to get JOHNNY'S RUTABAGA published and neither publisher wanted it, I choked.

I put the book away for several years. But it lay there under its coating of dust and called piteously to me. More ideas crept up to join in the cacophony of voices. So I began to write. I can see each character in my head, thanking me for giving them a voice and filling their lives with words.

(I still need to find a publisher for Johnny's Rutabaga. My eldest daughter is hounding me to bring that book to the finish line.)

The dilemma is in pleasing the masses with an ever-shrinking stable of broken down hack words, or in finding a way to slip in an incisive word or two. "We had to look that word up. Too many big words." I've heard that one. But when is it time to help our readers stretch just a little bit? If we don't raise these words from the dead, they'll be lost to a lonely, unattended grave, along with new ideas and fresh vistas. It'll be easier to let others control how we think and what we say, and more difficult to illustrate our ideas in a comprehensive way.

Don't let delicious words die. Don't let our once civilized world go down to a ten-word dialog and grunts. Fill the mind's sky with splendid lexicography! Let your pen blaze forth in fanciful fireworks of finesse and filigree. Celebrate words!