Friday, December 30, 2016

Is it 2017 Yet?

Elisha and Jason Lee, Married 12/17/16
at the Spokane, WA temple
I want to apologize for missing my last two blog posts.  I don't know about you, but these last few months have been crazy, busy for us. I came home from the NW Retreat at the end of October and kicked it into overdrive.

Somehow, I managed to find time to work, finish NaNoWriMo in November, have Thanksgiving (that's the holiday with a turkey dinner, right?), taking my daughter through the temple for the first time, plan for and have a wedding the week before Christmas, THEN have Christmas, followed by sending my husband and son off on their "Christmas gift": a trip to Denver to watch the Broncos play football.

I'm sitting in my chair, nearly comatose, my house looking like a tornado hit it, and a pile of un-finished writing assignments and tasks screaming for my attention. My neglected to-do list is pages long, and I'm ready for it to be over already.  Much like 2016.

And although 2016 had many incredible highlights, I am ready to move forward onto bigger and better things.

This year I hope to focus more on my health, strengthening my family, and carving out more time for writing.  In 2017 my youngest daughter will get baptized and my oldest son will be a senior in high school.  This will be the year I hope to have my first book published - either traditionally or independently.

When I look back on 2016, I'm tired; weary from the struggle of growth and endurance.  But when I focus on the next year, my spirit lifts, and I envision so many hopes for the future, and all it's possibilities.

I hope that as we say good-bye to the old, and usher in the new, we can take a moment to reflect on the lessons we learned, the blessings we received, and the lives that we touched.  May you find strength and peace in last year, while experiencing giddy anticipation for what lies ahead.

Happy New year everyone!  I'll see you next year!


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Do the Actual Words Matter?

by Terri Wagner

When I am reading, I often wonder why an author used a specific word. Why that word? When it fits like a glove, I think well done; when it really does not work, I think what were you thinking. So I thought I would show an example or two of what I mean.

The Preamble to the Constitution originally reads thus:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

In your own words what might it sound like today:

We are Americans and in order to form a government, we have to establish laws and court system, peace within other countries, attack when other people defy us, provide a government and economic system to make people satisfied, and to secure freedom. We have established the Constitution of the United States.

Or maybe like this:

The citizens of the U.S.A. in order to make a better country create fair laws, make sure our country is at peace, providing military defense, make everyone happier, to have ourselves and future generations in this country be free, and legally make this Constitution for the U.S.A.

How about another country's take on a preamble like say India:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR ,DEMOCRATIC, REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

Maybe sometimes the "old" words best convey what is actually meant.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Seek the Light

One of my favorite scriptures is Moses 6:63 “... and behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.”

Basically, this says the whole world is full of visual aids, things that symbolize Christ and his gospel of peace.  At this season, when the world is at its darkest, I crave light the most. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re losing seven minutes four seconds every day...not that I’m counting, mind you...and I seek light! The electric bill skyrockets, I light candles, and I seek Christmas lights wherever I can find them.


Giving and serving others in tiny ways doesn’t take much time, yet  the light it causes in your life and theirs is magnificent.

Seek the light in whatever form you can, and Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 22, 2016

More Christmas Memories

By Kari Diane Pike

Deb and Terri's posts stirred up all kinds of thoughts about past Christmases. I dug out a few of my journals and wandered through some of those memories. Wow. I wish I had been better about writing in my journals in my younger years. The pages that I did manage to fill over the years contain experiences that I thought I would never forget - I even state how I would never forget - and yet, I have almost no memory of  many of those events.

What I do remember about Christmas during my childhood is the anticipation. The closer the big day came, the longer time took to pass. I thought  Christmas would never arrive. Mom would tell us that the sooner we went to bed, the sooner the next day would get here. Going to bed was easy. Falling asleep, not so much.

I wanted to go to sleep. I really did. But I wasn't tired. So I threw the bed covers off and stretched out on my back. I kicked my legs as hard and fast as I could, hoping to tire myself out. Mom would hear all the activity and yell at me to settle down. I could see the Christmas tree lights glowing through the curtains hanging over the French doors that separated my bedroom from the living room, so I started counting how many times the green lights flashed, then the white ones, then the red ones. Lights turned to stars and the next thing I knew, it was Christmas morning. 

I also remember wishing that every day could be Christmas and how I expressed that thought out loud. One grown up who heard my wish crushed my heart when he told me that if every day were Christmas, then no one would care any more and then there would never be Christmas again. My adult self understands what that person tried to teach, but I still remember how sad I felt at his words.

The more mature me has learned that I can make my childhood wish come true.  Every day can be Christmas when I remember Jesus Christ and follow in His footsteps. Every day that I choose right over wrong, defend the weak, mourn with those who mourn, and comfort a weary heart, I give a gift to Christ.

Through the years, our children have asked, "Mom, what do you want for Christmas?" My number one wish has always been, "I want my children to be happy." 

3 John 1:4 - "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." 

This scripture expresses my heart's desire. When I see my children and grandchildren walk in truth and light I know that no matter what circumstances they might find themselves facing, my children can feel joy and peace in their hearts and live "after the manner of happiness." 

I know how much joy the gospel has brought to my life. It's the kind of joy that sustains me through tough times and opens my eyes to the Lord's tender mercies. The light of the gospel shows me how to truly be happy. Heavenly Father gave us His Only Begotten Son who gave us the greatest gift of all. 

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He lived on the earth. He performed miracles. He loved. He suffered, bled and died, just for you and me. And then He rose again. He broke the bands of death so that we, too, might one day live again and return to live in our Father's presence. Gordon B. Hinckley taught, "There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter."

I hope all of you find peace and joy this Christmas and throughout the coming year. Life truly is magnificent - but we have to decide to make it that way.

Merry Christmas!
hugs~

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Christmas Memory

by Terri Wagner

Deb started it LOL. I got to thinking about family stories and what one I would share. It did not happen to me but every time I pass a Toys for Tots I remember and add a sometimes very inexpensive gift depending on my Christmas budget. My sister's husband was transferred to Iceland. My sister had one small son. Dad as always had to go first. So she had to deal with driving from Indiana to Norfolk where happily I was living close by in Newport News and my mom drove up from Alabama to help out. We navigated the huge Navy base to get the truck to the proper port to be shipped to Iceland. We made a list and started doing everything we could think of that she might need. It was October which is a stunningly beautiful time in Virginia and I gave them the royal tour. We finally had to wave goodbye, and mom headed home.

My sister calls me in just a few weeks crying. Back at that time to get your Christmas gifts you had to order them in October when she was just getting over there. And there was nothing in Iceland that could at that time compare to what we had over here. She begged me to find stuff for a young boy and see if I could get them over to the Navy base asap. No matter what way we tried to do it, the gifts were not going to get there on time. She was devastated. Both of us were so worried about what her son would think on Christmas Day. I still do not know who tipped them off. But one day before Christmas, some very welcomed Marines showed up with gifts wrapped like a Macy's gift all for a young boy. As a family we never pass up the opportunity to pay them back even though this was over 26 years ago. Christmas was saved thanks to the Marines.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Best Christmas Present Ever

Best Christmas Present Ever


Our family begins asking, “What would you like for Christmas this year?” in October. Several years ago, I wanted to head them off.

Our kids were all in their twenties; students, newlyweds, one with a young child, two pregnant, busy, all underemployed in various stages of poverty, but each with a giving heart. They’d want to give me a Christmas present; gift giving is a big part of the season’s fun. Telling them, “Don’t get anything for me” would hurt their feelings. Besides, I like gifts!

I don’t need more Stuff, and at this stage of life, if I see something I’d like to have, I buy it myself. What could they give me that I’d really treasure, not tuck away on a shelf? If I could come up with a wonderful, meaningful, inexpensive gift, I’d be happy; bonus points if it was a long-term idea.
I pondered for days. 

What do I value? I value my family, the Savior, travel, conversation, and the power of Story. We’d taught our young ones to tell stories since they were tiny; it's part of the fabric of our family. Stories bind us together and set us apart as people. You don’t see raccoons sitting around telling tales, do you?

That was my answer: I wanted stories! I pondered for days, and settled on these criteria: I wanted a story from each adult and literate grandchild (one, at that stage). I clearly said, “This is not a let-the-wife-handle-it-type gift.” The story was to be non-fiction, preferably a memory from their own life, it could include me, but didn’t have to, and it was to be long enough to properly to tell the story, whether that be eight pages or six lines.

In October, I sent out a mass email to all of our children and their spouses, detailing the gift I wanted. Just think, all they had to do was write a story! It’s the perfect gift---no cost, except their time, no stress or shopping, and it’d be something I would cherish. My heart smiled as I imagined reading stories for Christmas, my birthday, Mother’s Day, and onward.

I was excited to hear their responses. Instead, my email was utterly ignored. Over the weeks approaching Christmas, my broad hints were brushed aside with a sighed, “Oh, Mom, really.” My heart sunk, resigned to another lovely throw pillow or bowl.

On Christmas morning, tears flowed, but not from disappointment. While I thought my kids were ignoring me, they were conspiring. A daughter bought plastic sheet protectors. A daughter-in-law was tasked with designing a scrap-book-type cover for the optimistic-sized loose-leaf bind my son was ordered to purchase. All of them wrote a story, just for me!

The stories gave insight into family members. I learned why a daughter-in-law’s family values education so strongly, and I could feel her shock in finding her dad’s 8th grade report card with a C+ on it, tucked in with his baseball award. Another daughter-in-law detailed the day of her engagement. I hadn’t known my son proposed to her on a cliff. As he knelt, he “accidentally” dropped the ring box into the valley a thousand feet below. As I read, I could imagine her scream echoing across the canyon, and her relief when he laughed and pulled the glittery ring from his pocket.  

My five-year-old granddaughter dictated her story, and drew a delightful, wobbly illustration of the stuffed felt chickens I had helped her sew the previous month. A son-in-law wrote of a camping trip on a sailboat in Alaska with his eleven siblings... and no running water. My daughter wrote of the things she had learned from me, her mother, and her hopes of being a good mother to her unborn child. Our son wrote of the joy he felt teaching the gospel and bolstering the sagging spirits of discouraged missionaries; in his mission, he was known as a “fixer.”

Another  son detailed memories of a family trip in which we played in the snow on a mountain, acquired sunburns in the high desert, sledded, swam, hiked through a canyon, toured an orchard and sampled new apple varieties under development, rode a ferry, visited a museum, splashed in  a waterfall, enjoyed an old-fashioned soda fountain, toured a hydroelectric dam, crossed a steel-mesh bridge on foot through an old-growth forest, climbed on a vintage train, played on a massive new playground, toured a candy factory (with samples), drove through desert, mountains, farms, forests, meadows, across rivers and valleys and canyons...all in two days. I sighed, remembering our many family vacations, most of which were just that packed. “As long as we’re nearby, we may as well see as much as we can” was an unspoken motto.

I wiped tears, I laughed, I choked up as I read each story aloud. My heartfelt response encouraged my kids: at last, they had a gift idea Mom loved! Every Christmas, birthday, and Mother’s Day since then, I’ve received a set of new stories. That optimistic-sized binder is stuffed now, as stories multiply and grandchildren grow old enough to add their own stories. On sad days, I take comfort in reading over my fat collection of stories. This truly is the best gift I could ask for.


Christmas is coming! If you love stories as much as I do, feel free to take my idea. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Gratitude and Tender Mercies

By Kari Diane Pike

I have never been so grateful to be assigned to speak in church. Sounds crazy, right?!

My previous "every other Thursday" post made mention of how our bishopric called Doug and I while we were out of town and asked us to speak in Sacrament meeting - the Sunday we had planned on driving back to Arizona. I think we took about two seconds to move our travel plans up a day and agree to share some thoughts on the topic of gratitude. I've always felt strongly about supporting and sustaining our church leaders, whom I know are called to their positions by inspiration from Heavenly Father. I had no idea we would be showered with so many tender mercies and blessings of protection as a result of that simple choice.

Had we waited until Sunday to leave Provo, we would have been caught in a terrible snow storm. No snow tires and pulling a trailer in that kind of weather would have been horrendous. Saturday we had sunshine and fluffy clouds from dawn to sunset. Doug and I listened to General Conference messages (when we could get cell service) and scriptures about gratitude and discussed which aspects of gratitude each of us would include in our talks.

An hour or so after we passed through Las Vegas, the Durango's speedometer waggled back and forth, or sometimes quite working all together. At the time, we were in the middle of nowhere because we had decided to avoid the mountains to get through Kingman, Arizona and took the long route over to California and down to I-10. We pulled over a couple of times to fuel up or get something to eat and each time we started back on our journey everything worked again. Until we reached Tonopah.

An hour past sunset and just a little over eighty-four miles from home, Doug checked his rear view mirror. The lights of the car pulling up behind us revealed smoke billowing up from under our car. Doug pulled to the side of the road as quickly as he could. Holiday traffic roared past us as Doug checked under the hood and then walked around the car and trailer. He couldn't see anything wrong. We didn't see smoke any more, but the acrid smell of burning oil seeped into the car and turned my stomach.

Doug got back in the car and pulled on to the freeway. The smoke returned almost immediately. That's when we spotted the first gas station we had seen for miles and miles. And it was only about two hundred yards off the freeway. Doug drove into the parking lot and found a place where our vehicle and trailer would be out of the way. He pulled out his phone and called our insurance agent and a tow company. We both choked a little (or maybe a lot) when we heard an estimate of $600 - $800 dollars to tow us home, but somehow it didn't seem to matter. Even when the mechanic handed us the final tow bill of $1200, we shrugged our shoulders. Okay, to be completely honest, there may have been some gagging noises and a couple of Facebook rants, but neither of us felt overly upset about the situation.

Doug and I held hands as we watched the tow trucks pull away. When we turned to walk into the house, I looked up at my dear husband in amazement and grinned. "We were so focused on gratitude and recognizing all the tender mercies in this trip, we forgot to get into an argument!"

Doug laughed. We both knew that our past experiences with cars almost always resulted in some kind of disagreement. Fatigue, fear, and worries about money lead to shortened tempers and perceived offenses. But this time was different. It was different because our hearts and minds were focused on gratitude. Gratitude for not breaking down in the middle of nowhere without phone service or a safe place to park. Gratitude for the fact that even though there was smoke, there was no fire (We had burned up the rear differential so bad that the housing for the speedometer had completely melted down. Huh. No wonder the needle waggled!). Gratitude for having put aside emergency funds so that we were able to pay for the tow. Gratitude for lovely weather. And most of all, gratitude for each other.

Needless to say, we had plenty to share when we spoke in church the next day. I find it interesting that in seminary we also happened to be studying John, chapter 9, which teaches us that God can use our adversities to show forth His works and His power. And, as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, our spiritual vision and understanding become clearer. All of these things together gave me a greater understanding of another challenge that had been plaguing me and another aspect of gratitude to share in my talk.

For the past year, I have struggled with the loss of my voice. About a year ago, I had to quit singing because of the pain it caused, not only to my throat, but to ears of those who had to listen. Even talking takes a tremendous amount of energy. For a long time I felt cheated. I also felt like my worth as a person had diminished. But this lesson in gratitude enlightened my mind and changed my heart. I remembered that as a daughter of God, my worth is inherent. Even though I will always be an "unprofitable servant", I can always be a recipient of the Savior's mercy and grace because He loves me. He knows my heart. My worth doesn't come from my abilities, but from my Father in Heaven. He created me.

After our church services ended, an elderly gentleman reached out to me and shook my hand. With tears in his eyes, he thanked me for sharing my loss and how I learned to find gratitude. He had been struggling with his own losses because of a brain tumor and he hadn't been able to understand why he had lost so much. Because I was able to share my experience he found the peace he had been seeking. Oh, how I love being a witness to how Heavenly Father used my adversity to help someone else. He truly knows us by name and knows our every need. He hears and answers prayers and sometimes we get to be part of that answer.

Life is magnificent. Share the Light!

Hugs~


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

You Will Need A Sidekick, Trust Me

by Terri Wagner

Does anyone think Batman and not follow that with Robin? Can you say Qui Gon Jinn without saying Obi Wan Kenobi? Han Solo without Chewbacca? Sherlock Holmes without Mr. Watson? And in a very dramatic way Dr. Jekyll without Mr. Hyde? The list is probably endless. But exactly what are sidekicks and what is their literary function?

Ultimately your sidekick is the reader. By that I mean the sidekick says or does things that helps the reader understand what is going on...gives the main character a chance to show off his/her brilliance. The MC bounces things off the sidekick which gives the reader inside information. Generally though not always the sidekick is slightly denser than the MC. In Star Wars, of course, Chewbacca did not even speak. But his muffled roars gave us a pretty good idea of what he was thinking. Your sidekick is a critical part of your story. Choose well how you define him. Most writers blog now, and they can give you pretty good advice on how to develop your sidekick. Even down to names. For example, did you know a sidekick never has a name that starts with the MC's name, i.e., Lana is the MC, Lilian would NOT be the sidekick. That sidekicks are usually simple easy-to-remember names. These are not set in concrete as any fantasy reader/writer can tell you. However, it is a start. Pick your sidekick's vocation. It must mesh in some way with the MC. Cop shows usually have a quirky coroner that adds some fun in otherwise gruesome scenes.

A sidekick is generally the likeable character, especially if your MC has some dark sides to him. For example, early on in Star Wars and in the current sequel, Han Solo had a dark side, a murky past...you were never really sure if he could be considered the hero type...but Chewbacca served as his conscience...which lead to Solo becoming a hero and a dad reaching out to a son that unfortunately did not end well. A sidekick almost always has the opposite personality of the MC. And a sidekick is almost always by the MC's side. They can be the comic relief in a tense situation. Or the as in the case Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings, Frodo's rock to lean on during the difficult journey. Samwise is a great example of a sidekick in that he has one mission to assist Frodo...he distrusts most everyone and so functions as a warning to Frodo not to be so trusting, he is average in looks with one passion, the young lady back home in the shire that he wants to marry. He is also rather plain looking. This is more important if your MC is depicted as being considerably handsome, charming, or extremely clever.

Here are a few blogs to check out about sidekicks

Yappy Sidekick

Kick up your story with a sidekick

Sidekick Archetype

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What’s In A Name?


 
What’s In A Name?

I’m Deb. Although it’s not an uncommon name, certainly not an interesting name, I’m particular about it. If you call me Debbie, I may not respond, and the only places I tolerate being addessed as Debora is in doctor's offices. No need to get chummy there.

 My brothers married Debbie and Deborah. At the very least, that shows a distinct lack of imagination. Growing up, there were at least three or four Debs/Debbies/Debras in every class. Names run in streaks, you know.

By adulthood, I’d had enough. I determined to name my children not-typical names. We ended up with Mollika, Bjorn-Josef, and Darthaniel. I’m convinced Darthaniel was born three weeks late because Husband insisted on naming him D'Artagnan; you know, from the Three Musketeers story. It took me a while to find a close-enough name he’d go for.

Tell me, how would a child with an apostrophe ever get through kindergarten? As it was, our boy hated his name his first month of school. The rule was, “As soon as you write your name, you may go play.” Tim and Sue had the advantage, while Darthaniel and Stephanie struggled with their extra letters. They soon became “Stef” and “Darth.” In the age of “Star Wars,” that had its own drawbacks.

My criterion for names is that they should be interesting, and must be pronounceable at a glance. I met a woman named Alycyee, who insisted her name was Alice. What were her parents thinking? Same with my friend’s daughter, Kuqwinnsce, whose name sounds like Quincy. Husband’s uncle, Maurice, says his name is Morris, not pronounced Mor EES, as it’s spelled.

As I’ve dabbled in fiction writing, working on Novels #2 and #3, I find my opinion is the same for naming characters. It’s slightly less agonizing than naming a full human, but still important. If you pick the wrong time period or geography, it may jar the reader. A Native American warrior will probably not be named Giovanni, any more than a medieval princess be called Lulu.

        Partway through my first cozy mystery, I needed a name for the kooky cruise director. I wanted to name her Lisle. I’ve always I liked that name, and we didn’t have enough daughters to inflict it on. As I mulled it over, I could plainly “hear” the character blurt “Lisle rhymes with weasel, and that won’t do for a public relations job, so I’m Cinci, from Cincinnati.” Cinci turned into a favorite character—and what a character she is!

        I’m all in favor of talking to myself– sometimes, it’s the only guaranteed attentive audience– but coming from a non-fiction background, hearing voices in my head that didn’t sound like my own was unnerving. I learned to listen to the characters speak as if they were already developed, just waiting for me to wrap words around their story.

           As you write, try listening to the character’s voice, envisioning them speaking to you. After all, names are meant to be personal, validating, and imaginative, within reason. I draw the line at ridiculous names, such as the little boy named Fruit Stand, and his sister, Celestial Being, called Bea.

       Life’s hard enough, without one’s own moniker being a handicap.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Kari Diane Pike

Happy Thanksgiving! As a neighbor pointed out the other day, this is a day of giving thanks, and a day for giving. What are you thankful for? What are willing to give and to whom will you give?

Dear Hubby and I are hanging out in Utah for this Thanksgiving holiday. Two of our nieces chose this week to marry their sweethearts for time and all eternity. So bonus: We get to spend time with many different branches of our family all in the same week. Extra bonus: The most beautiful snow fall I have seen in many years. Great big, downy flakes drifted to the ground, piling up almost four inches in the three or so hours we spent preparing dinner and pie crusts and sipping hot chocolate and playing Five Crowns. Of course we had to step outside and celebrate...and take a picture. We even had enough on the ground to make snow angels.

I have been pondering on the virtue of gratitude lately, and not just because dear hubby answered a phone call from a member of the bishopric asking us to speak in church this coming Sunday on the topic of gratitude. To me, gratitude is a virtue that leads to the development of all the other virtues. Gratitude has taught me how to recognize trials as blessings all wrapped up in paper and string. Gratitude teaches me how to forgive as I recognize the role others have played in my life to teach me humility, patience, and charity - and who open my eyes to understanding and seeing that we are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us and who wants all of us to return to live with Him someday.

I shared this quote a couple of years ago. I still love it:
 It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach? Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.
—Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Grateful in Any Circumstances
Life is magnificent!
hugs~  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Acrostic Poems and Gratitude

Photo attribution: Pexels.com
My friend Mary introduced us to poetry at our last Chapter Meeting (and at the NW Retreat, if you were there).  One of the types she introduced were acrostic.  Which, for me, is almost do-able. In an effort to broaden my horizons, and to celebrate one of my favorite times of year, I've written a few to share.  Happy Thanksgiving!







Thoughtful teachers who challenge my children
Hot cocoa on a cold winter night
ANWA sisters and brothers to lift me up
No more political posts!!
Kneeling to converse with my Father in Heaven
Friends who offer undying support
Unadulterated love from my family
Laughter until my stomach hurts

                     
 ***

Turkey until I'm bursting at the seams
Holiday cheer fills the air
Apple cider warms the tummy
November frost nipping at our noses
Knee-deep in mashed potatoes
Sweet and savory delights makes mouths water
Gratitude is the attitude
Introducing young ones to Thanksgiving parades
Victory dance after football games
Icicles dripping to puddles in the snow
Not quite Christmas
Grateful for my abundance

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Font Fun

by Terri Wagner

Because things have been so nuts lately I just thought I would share this little meme from Facebook. Picture worth a thousand words?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Spoons


     

SPOONS   by Deb Graham



A little boy, about age eight, stood on Testimony Day in our ward at Church. He said, "I've been trying to think of my blessings, and today I thought about spoons." He went on to talk about his deep gratitude for spoons, of all the overlooked things.

He said he was glad he could eat his breakfast cereal with a spoon before Church, "because it's hard to suck Cap'n Crunch and still keep my Sunday shirt clean."  He talked about playing in the sandbox with his little brothers on Saturday, and said spoons were just the right tool for tunneling under the castle. He liked the soup his mother made for dinner last night, and said, “good thing I had a spoon, or those noodles could have gone right in my lap."  Spoons, he said, were the best thing ever for eating ice cream. “Just think of how much you'd miss if you had to use a fork, or chopsticks!"

 People in the congregation were chuckling by now, but it set me to thinking. I've never been thankful for spoons. I've hardly even given thought to spoons at all! 

Historically, I know forks were important. The Pilgrims only had a knife and a deep wooden spoon to eat with; forks were harder to make, thus more expensive and rare, and ownership of more than one or two was even considered a sign of pridefulness. Often only one fork was available per household, used by the cook for turning over dinner in the pot. And of course knives are essential; if people didn't have knives to eat with, manners would be out the window, along with the Flintstone-sized bones after dinner. No dainty bites for you! But spoons... hhmmm...

      I paid extra attention to spoons the whole next day. I used two for breakfast (I don't like hot cocoa in my Frosted Flakes). I used another two to make Et Cetera soup for lunch; a wooden one to stir, a smaller metal one to spoon leftover rice and vegetables into the pot. Oh, wait; I also ate the soup; that's three. I made Killer Chocolate cookies later on that day. Let's see; I used one spoon to pack the brown sugar, a measuring spoon, a wooden spoon to stir the chocolate chips in, and two teaspoons to drop the dough on the pans. I finished painting the philodendron vines on the wall by the laundry room, and used a plastic spoon to stir the paint. Repotting my teacup orchid required another plastic spoon. I cooked dinner, using two wooden spoons in the preparing, and a large spoon and a slotted spoon for serving, plus I set the table, one spoon at each place setting. I polished off the last of the lemon pudding before bed; that was the fluted spoon that I like best. That's nineteen different spoons---in one ordinary day!


          I'm a lot more aware of spoons in my life, but what other tiny everyday items do we overlook, things that make our lives so much better? Toothbrushes, erasers, tissues, buttons, soap? Think about it, next time you pick up a spoon, and in this season of Thanksgiving, count your blessings!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Ultimate Weapon

by Kari Diane Pike

Recent attempts to broaden my reading horizons and (guilty admission here) a search for something to binge on on Netflix because I watched every episode of Gilmore Girls and needed something to tide me over until the new episodes come out, brought my attention to a particular theme common to nearly every genre: the search for the ultimate weapon (like a super soldier) - someone or something to defend and protect from or even destroy the enemy.

They need not look any further. I encountered a real life secret weapon last Sunday. Code name: "Sunbeams". Sunbeams (for those not familiar with vocabulary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Sunbeams are the children who are three-years-old, turning four) have the ability to enervate even the most experienced adult. They lure the poor patsy in with shy, dimpled smiles and coy giggles.  They peek from behind their parents' backs, wave their chubby fingers, and create a false sense acceptance. Once left alone with their common enemy,  Sunbeams synergize and zero in on their victim's greatest vulnerabilities. They take no prisoners. They paralyze and then suck their prey dry. Except for the tears. Sunbeams leave behind lots of tears. I should know. I was there. Me, a veteran mom with more than thirty-five years and nine plus more children worth of experience.

I knew I was in trouble when one of the four Sunbeams in the class declared: "Don't listen to her. Let's play pretend and I'll be the king and you can be the princesses  and the wizard and she (meaning me) can be the witch because she doesn't talk nice to us."

I had told them I was disappointed in them because they were using their outside voices and not listening to the story. I would have to talk to their parents, I said. They would be sad, I said. I guess I did lay it on a little thick. Plus, I didn't have food. Never  let yourself get trapped with Sunbeams without food or they will turn on you. Really, really fast.

I changed my tactics and we spent the rest of class time singing and playing "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button." Their parent's picked them up at the door. My husband took me to the car where I melted into a puddle of tears.

For some reason, I can't wait to go back. Maybe that's what makes them the ultimate weapon. The enemy actually wants to go back for more. I really do love those Sunbeams. Some days are easier than others. You can bet I will be better prepared from now on. I will go in armed with prayer, patience, smiles, love, and lots of snacks.

Life is magnificent!

hugs~















Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Going Back to School

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

It's one of those days when I don't know what to write about. I started the day with a brilliant idea for a blog post, but by the time I actually came to the blog to write it, I'd forgotten what I had in mind.

Sheesh!

It has been a crazy day. I have a list of things I must accomplish today. It started with seven entries, but now it's up to nine--ten, including one more thing I just thought of. I've only done three of them, but those were time-sensitive, so I guess that's a good start. I'm working on number four here. I have yet to renew my library books or pay my property taxes--which is a crazy story all its own about missing a deadline. Or do my school assignment, which, oh yeah, was what I was going to write about for my post!

Okay, having remembered the topic, I'll spill the beans:

I've gone back to school, sort of. I decided that I needed to learn some stuff about writing that I wasn't sure I had covered. Or mastered. So I'm taking a six-week online course called "Depth in Writing," aka "Writing with Depth," or just "Depth," for short.

It's a video course featuring Dean Wesley Smith, who is a hoot. I enjoy his style of teaching.

The course is one of many offered through WMG Publishing, which is a company out of Oregon run by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, two of my favorite writing mentors. Among Dean's non-fiction books on my shelf are Think Like a Publisher, How to Write Fiction Sales Copy, and my all-time favorite, Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline. I have several more of his books on my tablet as ebooks.


Kris Rusch just did a long and intense series on her popular blog about contracts, agents, publishers, and dealbreakers. That has resulted in her new book, Closing the Deal...On Your Terms: Agents, Contracts, and Other Considerations. It's currently available in Kindle. I hope it will come out in paperback soon, as well.

But back to school, so to speak. I'm a proponent of life-long learning, and have been for many years. The course I'm taking teaches how to take readers deep into the mind and life of a character. There are assignments, just like a regular class. I'd better get to this week's homework. See you in two weeks.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Publishing Update

by Cindy R. Williams

I have been posting about my publishing journey. There has been a sad change. I have two children's books ready to rock and roll but, my artist/illustrator bailed on me. Sad days. She gave my storyboard and supplies I had given her to another person to give back to me. Needless to say, I am disappointed.

So . . . these two wonderful children books are on hold. They will find a home, when it is their time.

In the meantime, I have a clean romance novella into Heidi Taylor of Shadow Mountain. It is part of a four part sister/anthology. Three of my writing friends wrote the three other sisters, Melinda Sanchez, Jeanie Davis and Joyce Horstmann. We call ourselves the DIP's--Diva's in Progress. Great fun!

I also have a proof of another book into Kathy Gordon at Covenant and will send her the edited file soon.

My dragon book is getting ready to fly out of my hands and computer.

This writing journey is fun. Someday my books will be out there. It's going to happen someway, somehow.

Watch for more updates.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My First Rejection Letter

I'd been waiting nearly six weeks.  I'd tried not to let my hopes get up, but it was my first query, ya know? Every night--who are we kidding--every few hours I'd check my in box, wondering if they'd responded.  Then I'd check the Spam folder, and any other folder the e-mail could have possibly been filtered to.  Just in case I'd inadvertently missed the acceptance letter, and the agent was waiting for me to respond.

No such luck.

You can imagine my open-mouthed surprise when I discovered a response tonight in my inbox. I'd been closing down my work computer and it was there. Poof! Just like that.

I read the e-mail. Then I read it again.

The agent was really quite kind, for a rejection letter.

I sank back into my office chair and stared at the screen, waiting for the burn of embarrassment to rush to my face.  Or a pit of shame to form in my stomach. After all, I had not meeting this agent's expectations. What other emotion is there after a rejection?  But shame and embarrassment didn't come.  That, of all things, is what shocked me the most.

I dissected my emotions, or lack thereof, while driving home, but I was still clueless when I walked through my front door.

I relayed my rejection to my daughter and she asked, "What are you going to do now?"

What was I going to do?  My story had been rejected.  Am I not as good a writer as I thought? Maybe I was right to doubt.

Maybe not.

I recalled an article I'd read before I'd even considered publishing.  The writer ranted about how they had a 1 in 10,000 chance of being published traditionally.  I remember thinking, "I guess that means I need to send out 10,000 queries. Thank goodness we have e-mail instead of snail mail."

To my daughter I said,  "I guess that means I have 9,999 queries to go."

Of course, it's more than that.  I'm pretty sure I know what I need to cut, and where I lost this agent in my story.  I lost her at the vanity scenes I'd kept because I wanted them, not because they furthered the story.

I'd submitted this story because it was good enough to be published, but knowing it wasn't my best work.  Now, I will go back and re-write it, not to be good enough, but so readers will fall in love with my characters the same way I have.

Am I going to stop doing queries? Nope.  Look at the incredible morsels of knowledge I learned from one rejection.  Imagine how much I could learn from several.  Besides, the more rejections I get, the closer I am to my goal. Only 9,999 to go!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

When Is It Time?

by Terri Wagner

I have been blessed with the best dogs ever! Each one has brought a joy and delight to me that is truly indescribable. And I take pleasure in knowing through the gospel I will be reunited with the animals that gave such joy to me. I sincerely hope I can communicate better with them because some times I just don't know.

I'm facing an "I just don't know" moment right now.

Several years ago, I had lost my Golden Belle. She died far too young to me although she was 10. A friend called up and said I hate to ask you this but would you consider taking my children's yellow lab? She's less than two and my ex is divorcing wife two and will have to move into an apartment. My kids want Kota to go to a good home.

What could I say?! So the ex brought this beautiful golden looking lab to my office one afternoon. She seemed sad like she knew something was up. And he seemed heartbroken, that did not gell with what I had been told about his actions toward and in truth there some funny ways that took her years to work through. One was as a simple as she was terrified to come through a slightly ajar door. It literally took me years and it still makes me smile when she bangs on through the door these days.

She sat in the back of my car so sorrowfully. Once I got her home, she and my then-half husky half lab danced around each other in silence, then accepted the new situation.

Cassie left me too early too and it was just Kota for a while until another friend had another lab mix in need of a home. This lab Daisy and Kota are the same age. They adore each other. But Kota has arthritis very badly whereas Daisy is just noticeably less fast than before.

For some time I have been sneaking Daisy out of the house for walks since Kota really cannot any more. But last night she just seem to beg me to take her. So I modified the walk to the back field and let her take her time and rest a lot. It wasn't even a football field worth of a walk. But later on she paid the price for her walk, and I had to give her a stronger pain pill.

So when do you look into those trusting loving eyes and say to yourself it's time. If she could talk would she tell me? Dad wants me to do it this time. I am going to see how she is today, but I am afraid she is more ready than I am ready to let her go over the rainbow bridge

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Who am I to shine?

Who am I to shine?

by Deb Graham
 
I’ve cherished books since I was a little girl, wandering in the public library, longing to be old enough to venture unto the mysterious realm of the Middle Grades room, certain the thick books held untold mysteries, away from my beloved picture books.

Books are to be cherished. For every holiday since our first son was born, gifts have included a book. I want my kids to associate reading with happiness.  I taught them each to read when they were not much older than toddlers. As a character in my novel asserts, “The world can’t put anything over on a body who can read.” She’s a pioneer; they talk like that. 

I guess my love of books passed down. When the kids were young, I sometimes found myself scolding, “It’s one o’clock in the morning! Put down your book and be asleep!” I’d step into the hall, wondering if I was wrong to fuss. Perhaps I should have encouraged another chapter. I delight in hearing my grown children complain about their little ones reading far into the night, or, at least, sleeping with a pile of picture books.  

Reading is a gift.  But writing is a whole nuther thing.

Who am I to think I can write anything worth reading? A song, a poem, an article, a full-length book? We’re warned against pride and arrogance, cautioned about the virtues of humility, and to present before the world something out of our own creative minds is ...well, daunting.

We may admit, with lowered eyes, “Oh, I write a little.” Somehow saying, “I just published my eleventh non-fiction, one of them has almost  300 reviews on Amazon, my debut novel is selling well, I’m working on two more and I’ve collaborated on three others and I'm thinking about writing a peanut butter cookbook,” sounds like go-stand-in-the-corner boasting. Not to mention, it's anxiety-inducing. Wrapping words around actions can do that, you know.

Let’s look at some wisdom from reputable sources:

Matthew 5:16 (KJV) says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

The Lord of all tells us to shine. By writing good quality books, articles, stories, poetry, blogs, music, etc, we push back the darkness.

Nelson Mandela quoted Marianne Williamson in an inaugural address:

 “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (1)

In October 2008, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:

“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before. Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.” (2)
To deny our probably-inspired creativity doesn’t benefit anyone. The World is great at cutting us down, making us feel inadequate; we need no help in that regard. What we need is  a source of uplift, a reminder that we’re on the right track. I hope we each can find that.

As you read this, I’ll be at the ANWA Northwest Retreat. It’s a coming together of like-minded women, all sharing ideas, strengthening one another, teaching, sharing, building relationships, mixed with time to write in complete, uninterrupted sentences in a beautiful setting.  Last year was my first retreat, and I came home feeling so energized, so accepted, so inspired, I was among the first to sign up this year.
 Last year’s retreat triggered three new books and two bathroom remodels (3), along with tangibly increased self-confidence. Who knows what will happen this time? 

One of the most valuable things I learned was to own it, to boldly say, “I’m an author!”


 ~~~                                ~~~

(1) “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

(2)  Happiness, Your Heritage, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
(3) I designed the backsplashes in our bathrooms and made them of beach rocks from the retreat’s beach, which I gathered a month later. Benefit to living nearby!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookie Memory

by Kari Diane Pike

It's half an hour past this early morning seminary teacher's bedtime, but I haven't forgotten my every other Thursday friends. What a day! I didn't mind the doctor visit (despite gagging on the scope three times), braving Costco on the first day of the new coupon book, or making a double batch of chili for the trunk-or-treat at the church. I did mind the fact that it was 101 Degrees today. Will someone please turn the heat off?

Anyway, my sleep meds are kicking in, so I thought I'd offer you all a little Throwback Thursday. Five years ago, almost to the day I attended a little writing class that changed my world. Oh, and my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe because I love you all so much. 


October 20, 2011
I don't know if it was purgatory or heaven. I'm still shaking in my woolly socks. I am either scared out of my writer's mind, or I just became the newest Caleb Warnock groupie. It could be that my blood sugar is too low. I just realized I haven't eaten anything since I walked through the doors of the Historic American Fork City Hall into the jaws of -- what? I don't know what to call it. I think my muse is still curled up in a fetal position in some secret passageway of that old building.

Sorry. I don't mean to sound like such a drama queen, but I've never seen a teacher make students cry like that before. At the same time, I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants. Too cliche. But it's true! Next time, I am definitely visiting the ladies room before class AND during the break.

Do you remember the movie "The Paper Chase?"  John Houseman portrays a much feared law professor by the name of Charles Kingsfield. (If you haven't seen this movie or the series on TV from a few decades back...you should watch it. The characters are fascinating...or you could read the book...by Jay Osborn, Jr.) Okay -- put Professor Kingsfield's mannerisms into a big, burly, blond English professor/farmer. Put that guy in jeans and Tevas (and navy blue, gold-toe socks). Now put him in a room with 8 female writers ranging in age from their mid-twenties to somewhere in their 70s. One woman is pregnant with her fifth child. I should have known there was a significance to the food offerings some of the women brought to the class. (Now I can't help imagining natives throwing food into a volcano to appease their fire gods.) 


Professor Caleb began the class by announcing that he needed to raise $1000 by Thanksgiving for the American Fork Fine Arts Council Press. His plan: to get 50 people to commit to asking 20 friends for $1 each. Then he started writing all our names down and asking for suggestions for other names. After about 20 minutes of "bullying", one of the other first time attendees said,


"I'll write you a check for $100 right now, if you'll just start the class."


He nodded. She wrote the check. Class started.

I don't think it's possible to describe what happened after that. You kind of have to be there. After making a couple of students write their sentences on the white board, and everyone getting a bit frustrated, Caleb felt the need for a visual to make his point. He climbed up and laid his body across the tables and acted out a woman giving birth. Yeah, like I said, you kind of had to be there. Later in class, one lady started talking about reading a negative review of the movie "Abduction." She said, "But, I liked that movie." Her friend said, Yeah, but you like Caleb, too." ahahaha! Writers can be so snarky! I love it.

In all fairness, I want to share this great comment from Loraine Scott (a member of Wasatch Writers and the gal who told me about this class). "The class always has the 'take no prisoners' kinda attitude. You are expected to bring work and share... he says his comments are filled with "buckets of love" but they can be pretty difficult to take even filled with love. But... he says he would rather be honest and help you then to deceive you into thinking "your crap is good". We already think we've written the great American novel and then Caleb looks at it and we see it for what it is. Only the great survive C's classes. Many of his students have gone on to publish and that's really what its all about for him. He wants to see people succeed and now that he has had his first book published, I'm sure he's gotten even worse. If you feed him chocolate, he behaves himself."

Caleb did cut me some slack when he asked me if I brought anything with me and I said no, that I thought I would listen and learn the first time around. He didn't let me get away with not participating, however. And guess what! I got a snorty laugh...and a round of applause for my first sentence! One class member said that he is always nice the first time, and beguiles you to come again, and then gets really mean. Then I got another laugh and applause for the second sentence. Whew. After class, Caleb asked if I was going to bring anything next week. I hesitated, and he said, "Without being fearful." I said I would bring something, but that I would be full of fear and trepidation. He accepted that.  

And you can bet your first book that I will be going back. I feel like I could write a best seller just by being a fly on the wall and writing about all the writers in the class and how their life stories play out during the class. Besides, I have something to say, and I think I found the help I need to learn how to say it.

I'll take some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies with me...just in case.
Here's the recipe we like best...(sorry, no pictures today...too many other things on my plate!)
In a large mixing bowl, cream together:
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
2 cups butter


Add:
4 eggs

Mix well and stir in:
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt


Add 6 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. Mix in carefully. Don't overmix. Stir in 2 cups (or more) of chocolate chips.


Drop by spoonfuls (I use a scoop!) onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 deg. for about 10 minutes..or until light golden brown. Don't overbake...unless you prefer a crunchy cookie. I like mine crisp on the outside, but still gooey inside. Is there anything more comforting than a really good, fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookie? Maybe...but not many!
hugs~