Saturday, August 19, 2017

One Foot in Front of the Other


My cute baby granddaughter thought about Up. She watched her brothers running through the house, her little brow furrowed in concentration. How do they do that?  One day, at the ripe old age of eight months, Babykins pulled herself to standing, using the sofa for support.

 The first couple of weeks didn’t go well for her. She hadn’t learned how to un stand; when her little legs fatigued, she fell backwards. She quickly learned how to roll her spine so as not to whack her fuzzy head every time. Feet were another issue. Sometimes her little feet slid out from under her, and she ended up doing splits. They sometimes slid away from the sofa, leaving her at an untenable 45 degree angle, clutching the sofa, squawking for help. Her mother rescued her, picked her up for a hug, chuckling at the baby’s determination to get back and down and try again.

This all reminds me of the baby’s mother at that age. Once my daughter learned to stand and take two steps, she refused to crawl ever again. It was simply beneath her. That was fine once she could walk capably, but the first couple of weeks were rough. She’d stand up against a chair, take a few wobbly steps, invariably tip over, and scream as if she’d been attacked by lions. One of us would have to go stand her back on her little feet; she simply couldn’t bear to crawl the two feet to the chair. A pride issue, I think, along with early evidence of a stubborn streak wider than her head. She kept on practicing, and as other adults, she now walks without a thought.

No one criticized her when she was learning, and no one scolds Babykins for not doing it right, for falling over yet again. We praise her for trying again, clapping, smiling, telling her, “Good! Now try again,” knowing that, with practice, she’ll learn to walk like everyone else.

I’m an author of sixteen books. I suppose I know what I’m doing, to some degree, and I keep on learning daily, constantly improving my craft. Some of the phrases I string together are flat, hokey, even syrupy. Other times, I read over a paragraph in delight. Sometimes I kick paper wads in frustration, knowing what I want to convey, but unable to get my point across. 

I suppose what babies and toddlers deal with effects writers, too—the terrible twos are partly about being frustrated because you’re smarter than your motor skills or your mouth, you want to color the picture, ask for the toy, and you’re bumbling, incoherent and no one gets it.

My advice to writers is WRITE. Write a lot, good stuff, worthless stuff, keep on writing.  My baby granddaughter will be chasing after her brothers in no time, but it’s not only time that propels a child onward to more sophistication and skill. It takes effort and practice, and occasionally falling on one’s head. Write, write, write because the road to good writing is made of words strung together and not all of them are well-arranged words. With practice, it gets better.


We don’t scold a child for stumbling when learning to walk. We value their adorable attempts, and pick them up when they tip over. Do that for the writer inside you. Praise the good parts, encourage the weak parts, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Prejudice

by Deb Graham

Racism is a hot-button topic in our society these days. I’m not sure why: I really thought we’d be at a place beyond that by 2017. I’m happy to report I failed utterly at teaching my kids about racism, just as my parents failed to teach me.

I lived for the first ten years of my life in a blue-collar town in New York, only seven miles from Niagara Falls. Quite a few residents were a couple of generations, if that, from the Old Country, wherever that was. I knew people had different backgrounds, and I knew that made them different. I learned our Polish neighbors made the best cabbage rolls. The Lebanese woman down the block was legendary for her paper-thin bread and baklava, and our German friends played music I didn’t hear at home. In my little-girl mind, I registered differences.

My parents neglected to teach me that other races were Bad or Less Than. I knew some people were not worthy of respect; lazy, cruel, mean-spirited people who wouldn’t rise about their raising, those who did not value their family, mouth-breathers who put sports or card-playing obsessions above their wives. They were Not Good People, and I felt the shame when I heard my parents speak of them.

But my parents neglected to teach me about race. At age ten, my family moved to a small town in Georgia. I learned it was where the Ku Klux Klan was established. The calendar insisted it was 1969; the people there acted more like 1949.  Segregation was in the rearview mirror, but not there. Signs reading “Whites and Coloreds” still lingered over drinking fountains and doorways.  Proprietors excused themselves with “well, I ain’t got around to repainting that wall yet.”  Mom was shunned at PTA meetings. It seemed wherever we went, we heard whispers of “Yankees. They don’t know their place.”

 School was hard for me. On my first day, I was faced with a classroom full of resentful eyes turned on me, children on the left, children on the right, empty row of desks down the middle. I was shy, and felt I had done something wrong just by walking in the classroom. The teacher barked, “Ya’ll take yer seat nah.” I slid into the first available seat, just to get away from those accusing eyes.

Before long, I noticed the teacher stood in front of the left side of the classroom, never glancing at the students on the right. Children from the left were always chosen to be classroom helper and office runner and to answer questions, as if the others were not even in the room. The only time the teacher moved to the right side of the classroom was to break her ruler over the desk of a child who'd committed an offense; leaning into the aisle to retrieve a pencil he'd dropped. Even then, she never spoke, as if the child wasn't worth the words required for a scolding.

 It finally dawned on me that the kids on the right side of the room were uniformly white, while the other side was made up of black children. Puzzled, I looked closer, to see what valid differences had caused them to be shunned like this. Both sides wore similar clothes, overalls without shirts, or cotton shifts, some barefoot, some in tattered sneakers with holes cut out for toes. A few wore dungarees, which I later learned was almost worse than wearing nothing at all. I felt terribly overdressed in my new plaid skirt and white blouse with rosettes at the collar. I kept my shiny penny loafers tucked under my desk.

Culture shock was awful at school, bad in public, uncomfortable even at church, and nothing we could do helped one bit. I learned never to speak up in class, because the teacher led the taunts of my Yankee accent. Reading aloud was torture. I could plan on being mocked every time. How was a little New York girl supposed to know how to pronounce "victuals"? I'd never seen that word in my life, and sounding it out was a disaster. The teacher screeched, "It's vittles, stupid girl! Vittles, like ya'll eat at home!" No clarity there; I still didn't know what a vittles was, Mom never cooked it for dinner. 

After the longest four years of my family’s life, Dad took a new job and we moved North, to a Chicago suburb. I think my first day in the new school was the first time I’d drawn a full breath in months.

I vowed that whatever prejudices I had witnessed and experienced would not define my life. And I determined to not raise my children to discard whole classes of people differentiated solely by accent, geography, or skin color. If you dislike someone, you have to get to know them enough first to make sure your opinion is valid, not just by sight.

Years ago, my young daughter was excited about me being Room Mother. Before my first visit to the classroom, she jumped up and down telling me about her new friend. Jill had the cutest little braids, she liked to wear yellow, her favorite item was a ruffled sweater, and she had a pompom on her backpack. I looked forward to meeting Jill, and getting to know the rest of the class. 

I chuckled as I politely shook hands with Jill later that morning. My little girl had neglected to mention Jill was the only black child in the whole first grade. That detail completely escaped her. As they've grown, I've listened to the way my kids talk about their friends. The old prejudices my Dad taught shine through, about lazy people or willfully ignorant folks, but they interact with other races as easily as they do with other age groups and hair colors, and I love it. 


I succeeded. Now, what’s up with everybody else?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

When the Family Gets Together

by Kari Diane Pike

About thirty years ago, my husband's parents came up with a plan for a family reunion every three years. Each of the seven siblings has taken turns as the "event planner" with everyone else pitching in to help make things happen. The location has varied: Mom and Pop's house in Calabasas, CA, Bear Lake in northern Utah, an empty school in Cottonwood, AZ, a beach side campground near Santa Barbara, CA, and even the Redwood forest. Activities have ranged from surfing and swimming to hiking and card playing and the giving and receiving of lots of hugs.

This year marked our tenth such reunion. We returned to Mom's house (Dad has been gone for nine years now) to celebrate "Grandma the Great turns 88".  For the first time in many years, all seven of the Ken and Delores Pike children were able to attend. Even most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren made the journey from as close as living in the same house to as far away as Anuktuvuk Pass, Alaska in order to celebrate our much beloved matriarch.

Dad Pike's family has a long history of family get-togethers - usually geared around Thanksgiving and Easter. With nine children in that family our numbers regularly fell between 80 and 100 people. This year was no exception. We laughed, talked, body surfed, browsed museums, discovered hermit crabs, sea anemones, and the occasional scorpion, and played games with about 117 links from our family chain. I'm happy to report that only one child wandered off and went missing for a few minutes at the beach and no one got run over.

We can't forget about the food. One night alone, we consumed 18 large Costco pizzas, three watermelons, 7 pineapples, 10 pounds of strawberries, 6 pounds of grapes, a #10 can of mandarin oranges, 4 large bags of Caesar Salad mix- plus croutons, and two entire sheet cakes. On other days, parents and grandparents alike pitched in to feed the masses with countless pb&j sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, granola bars, bagels, cold cereal, french toast and the requisite s'mores.

Our daughter Kati played a video she had created from snatches of old home movies taken over the years. Seeing the smiles and hearing the voices of children now grown and older relatives  who have passed on brought tears to my eyes. My sister-in-law Penni provided stories from the lives of Ken and Del and from each of their parents. We played a family trivia bingo game based on the stories and sang "Love is Spoken Here" and  "A Child's Prayer." Old wounds received healing and love and the hearts of the children truly turned to their fathers as we remembered who we are and why we are here.

Getting together is getting more difficult as our family grows and spreads around the world. Del is the last of her generation still living from her side of the family and only one of Dad Pike's siblings remains. The Pike reunions of days past fell by the way side as the older generation passed away. Some how the baton got dropped. I hope that we never drop this one. Families truly are forever.

Hugs~

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Useful Podcast for Writers from Joanna Penn, with Dean Wesley Smith

by Marsha Ward

I don't listen to many podcasts, because, well, you know, time. But recently I listened to one from author Joanna Penn's series at https://www.thecreativepenn.com/podcasts/

The title is "Your Magic Bakery Of Intellectual Property Rights With Dean Wesley Smith" and it's found at
https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/07/31/intellectual-property-rights-dean-wesley-smith/

If you know me at all, you know I count Dean Wesley Smith as a mentor, which is really why I listened to the program in the first place. I love Dean's view on many things, including keeping your intellectual property rights intact. I'm a control freak like he is, I guess.

The podcast lasts just over an hour, which includes an introductory discussion from Joanna, but if you can't bear to listen all that time, the site includes a transcript. DO read it. Go take a look here.

Marsha Ward is the Founder of American Night Writers Association. She is a writer and novelist who grew up with a love of American values that are reflected in her body of work. Her historical novels in "The Owen Family Saga" are Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, Spinster's Folly, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms, all available in print from her website, at WestWardBooks.com, from online booksellers such as BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com; and in ebook formats at Smashwords.com as well as the booksellers above. Her latest work is That Tender Light, the origin story novella for the Owen Family series.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Twitter Pitches: An Entirely New Experience

I've seen mention of Twitter Pitches in other writing forums. Usually I hear about them after the fact. A few months ago, after missing another one, I decided to do some research.

For those who have never heard of a Twitter Pitch before, is where those who have a completed, polished manuscript create a Twitter-length (140 characters) pitch about your book (you must leave room for hashtags describing genre, and twitter pitch hashtag).  For example, one of my pitches looks like this:

Homecoming Dances, Bullies, Kidnapping, and the Mexican Mafia are a typical day’s work for this teenaged spy. #IWSGPIT #YA #Ad

It's not fantastic, but I had all of 20 minutes to come up with my pitch because I forgot the Twitter Pitch was today. It ultimately doesn't matter though. What I'm really gearing up for are the Pitch Wars, and PitMad which occur in August and September.  Brenda Drake ( http://www.brenda-drake.com/) has a lot of great information on how to participate in a Twitter Pitch.

Today, I am taking part in the Insecure Writer's Support Group Twitter Pitch (#IWSGPit).  This is the first time they've hosted a Twitter Pitch and with more than 30 Literary Agencies represented, I thought I'd give it a go.

At the very least, I'll work on my elevator pitch or hook.  At the most, I might get one or two agents to request more information.

I'm two pitches in (I can submit one pitch per hour) and the only people liking my pitches are people who follow me on Twitter. But I'm treating this much like any other query prospect. It's a long shot and a learning experience which will better prepare me for the Twitter Pitches I'm preparing for in the future.

Have any of you participated in a Twitter Pitch? What did you think of it? Did you get any feedback?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Where's Cesar Milan?

by Terri Wagner

It started yesterday. And I am perplexed and worried. I have a roommate who has a chow/golden mix. Sandy is beautiful but her temperament is definitely that of a chow. My roommate has been extremely reluctant to socialize Sandy to other dogs because she is an alpha dog with snarling tendencies towards other dogs. With people, she's sweet as can be. Debbie had to up her move in time because her house is being fixed up to sell. After all what was the point in two of us paying bills separately when we could share the expenses.

So Sandy came to live with Daisy my lab mix. Daisy has a goofy temperament. She is not alpha, but does not take much. She won't start anything, but she would never back down. The problem is my Daisy is now around 14 years old, and has a slow growing cancer. My vet told me old age might "get" her before the cancer. Not comforting odds there.

First few weeks have been ok. Sandy is an escape artist so Debbie had been barricading her in the bedroom while we work. Apparently Sandy is a camel when it comes to needing to use the bathroom lol. Daisy is more like me. So we have to leave the doggie door open. At first, the two circled around each other, and seemed to be settling down.

However, last night, Sandy snarled at Daisy, then tried to clamp down on Daisy. Fortunately I saw it, so did Debbie, and we immediately handled the situation. Later, Sandy barked, and we heard Daisy leaving through the doggie door. I was worried about her so I hunted her up in the yard, and got Daisy back in the house. As Daisy came in the door, Sandy tried to snarl her off again.

I realize it's a jockeying for the pecking order, but I'm a bit sensitive about Daisy due to her age and health condition. She should be able to live out her time as sweetly and peacefully as can be. She has lost her "Pa" her Kota and Jasper all in less than six months. I need Cesar. We have to succeed in bringing Sandy to a happy place with other dogs. Daisy won't be my last furry companion on the planet. Anyone got any ideas????
Daisy and her BFF Kota.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

To Those Who Came Before Me

To Those Who Came Before Me

I’ve always been interested in the stories of the American pioneer, those hardy souls who hitched up bootstraps and crossed the plains. Okay, I’ve never been really clear on what a bootstrap is, exactly, but still, the idea of a whole  body of faithful people leaving all and sundry behind and striking out to a new land, warms my heart. As a child, I lapped up pioneer stories; I still do. 

Brigham Young said something to the effect of the land in the West being so inhospitable, no one else would want it, so it’s ideal for the saints of God. Not exactly self-esteem food, yet off they went.

I have driven their route in my soft, air-conditioned car with a speedometer that may or may not have stuck to the posted limits. Nebraska is mighty long, after all. I’ve seen the ruts left by pioneer wagons, ground in the rocks in eastern Oregon. As I marveled at the ruts, a herd of vicious no-see-ums feasted on my exposed skin. As if heat, dust, fatigue, insufficient food and water, and endless walking wasn’t enough to try their souls, nasty little insects with teeth added to the experience.  

Two of my grown kids live with their families in the wilds of modern Utah. I spent two weeks visiting them in July, and my take away is this: those early pioneers were tough people! They arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in July, the same time as my visit, give or take a few days. It was hot, very, very hot there, and drier than your average desert. I found myself sucking down water bottles and wondering how long a tray of cookie dough would take to bake if left in the rear window of my car.

At the Independence Day parade, a bank thermometer read 110 degrees. I’m from western Washington, and I’m pretty sure our local banks only have two digits on their thermometers; a temp of over 80 triggers Extreme Heat Warnings in the local media. 110 here...? People would die, outright.
Even with shade, a spray bottle, and a giant Slurpee, I nearly melted into a greasy spot on the pavement. The most popular floats on the parade route were the ones that sprayed the crowd with high-powered water guns. 

And I thought about those early pioneers. They were tough people, I tell you!  I was uncomfortable, just sitting around...Imagine having to build a house and plant a crop in that heat, after a 1000 mile hike? Yet, if they collapsed under a scrawny tree, there’d be no food for the winter or protection from Utah’s harsh winters just a few months down the road. We think of them being tough, invincible people, leaders all. In reality, they were mostly city-folk who suffered from culture shock --imagine, downtown London to Missouri?--who wore preposterously small shoes, if they had any at all. And the dresses! Sociologists say a more impractical outfit could not have been designed for a trek of that magnitude. Yet they pioneered on. 

We're all pioneering in our own ways, but  I honor those who went ahead of us, laying the path! We owe them a debt of gratitude bigger than the wide prairie sky.


In Church recently, the choir sang a song I hadn’t heard before. It’s beautiful!*


To Those Who Came Before Me
To those who came before me in seasons long ago
To those who are the loved-ones that I have yet to know
To those whose noble names I bear,
whose light within me burns
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned
To those whose lives of courage prepared the way for me
Whose works became my heritage,
whose harvest I may reap
Who left for me a legacy that I have yet to earn
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned
To those who came before me in days and years long past
To those who are the family that I shall know at last
To those who seek the blessings
of the truth that I have learned
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned


* http://www.defordmusic.com/sheet-music/alphabetical-list/to-those-who-came-before-me/

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reading Through the Generations

Much of my childhood was filled with books, listening to stories, telling stories, and falling asleep to stories. On trips, my parents would play children's books, narrated on colored audio cassette tapes, each tape color coded for it's respective story.  We'd spend hours in the car reading along with the lively storyteller, letting the words come to life in our minds.

Before I was old enough for school, Mother would pile four or five of us on her lap or at her feet to read a few chapters before nap time, often featuring scripture-related themes. Colorful illustrations would fill the pages for us to view while Mother spoke.

At bedtime, Dad would come home, gather us onto a bed, and proceed to tell us lively renditions of The Three Billy Goat's Gruff, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Little Red Riding Hood.  If we were particularly lucky, he'd make up an adventure of his own.  One all-time favorite was the Green-Handed Monster From Piccolo Street. Dad would gesture, change voices, and provide lots and lots of tickling. Then he'd tuck us into bed, kiss us goodnight, and our dreams would continue where his imagination left off.

As we got older, reading became second nature.  Mom and Dad had bookcases filled with layers of books in all shapes, sizes and genres.  I remember one particular wooden book case with scroll work and doors.  I'd spend hours pulling the books out and reorganizing them by shape, name, or color - depending on my mood.  When my father passed away, that was the item I requested from his estate.

In their closet, another bookshelf filled with the paperbacks, displayed their favorite titles.  Dad had nearly every Louis L'Amour book written.  Mother preferred romances, particularly Barbara Cartland stories.  As soon as I was old enough to read, I began sneaking into their paperback stash and borrowing a book or two.

Between my library books, and the borrowed books, I was constantly reading. While some children got in trouble for causing mischief, we were scolded for staying up till three or four in the morning reading.

Now that I'm a mother, I work to find new ways to introduce the love of reading to my children. There was no Internet, cellphones, and little TV for me growing up.  Now a days, these items seem to be the babysitter, entertainer, teacher, and friends to people of all ages.

My third child is now eight.  This year she began reading chapter books and exploring independent reading.  This opened new worlds to her, especially this summer when we limited her use of electronics and television.

Now, she's started her own blog, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook Page, and Twitter Account to review each of the books she's read and to give her opinions.  I don't know where she gets her ambition from (ahem), but she seems to be thriving. She mentioned to one of the local librarians that she was starting a vlog, and now the person in charge of author spotlights for all the libraries in the county has requested an interview. My sweet little pipsqueak is loving every minute of it.

I don't know if the vlog will continue past the end of summer, but at the very least Courtney is exploring new genres, authors, and books.  Plus she gets to wear lots of different outfits when she vlogs!

If I am lucky, she will continue her love of literature into adulthood and beyond. Hopefully she will share that love with others around her, reminding them there is more to this world than smart phones, vines, and Snapchat! And she will understand that with each story she reads, entire worlds will open up to her.

What things have you done to encourage reading and literacy with your children, grandchildren, and young ones? I'd love to know!  And if you happen to be a children's author and want Courtney to review your book, drop me a line!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

There are some things I know

by Terri Wagner

I have always been so careful to say "I think" "I suspect" "I am 99% sure" rarely do I say "I know." Mostly I say I believe. Those two phrases have such different meanings. And I have particularly been careful in using "I believe" vs "I know" in my testimony of Christ (and His church). Mostly because as a historian, I realize that much of what we "know" is as Paul implied only true from a certain perspective. It has taken me many twists and turns to find that ultimate place God wants me (and all of us) to be. For lack of a better term, I simply call it living in the light. Some time ago, I was asked why I felt spiritually I was at a standstill. I related that I mostly thought of crossing up and over to a higher plane of understanding was like a door I was often brought to but never stepped through. I struggled to explain why I never would or could step through it. On some unconscious level, I feared it would require too much of me.

I don't know about many of you, but loving others has never come easy for me. I care, I serve, but really feel a deep down love....not so much. And I suspect God knew that. My childhood was military, and while that brings awesome opportunities, it also brings a sense of isolation. No one is really there long term but family; and no place is ever really home. And when my parents divorced, it only emphasized for me that I had no home. And one of the terrible consequences to the divorce was a feeling of aloneness I have never really gotten over....until now.

I was challenged by a very good friend to walk through the door and see what happened. It at once both electrifying and terrifying. I am so glad I went ahead and walked through the door and into the light. My whole world has opened up in ways I never thought I could comprehend. I really feel like a kid on a new adventure.

The very first thing that surprised me was the connection I now feel to my fellow earth travelers and to the earth itself. I always cared and served, but now I truly love. I hope this feeling never goes away. I feel connected in a way I have never felt before and eager to help everyone on their journey, where ever they are and where ever they may be traveling. And for me the best part is I don't have to worry about judging people. That's Heavenly Father's job. We live in a world where nearly every thing goes except being religious. Instead of concentrating on how "they" treat us, I am working on "how" I need to treat every fellow human being.

And so now I know!!!!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hands

Hands



Do you ever look at the magnificent engineering at the end of your wrist? Pulleys, scaffolding, interior structure, circulation, heating and cooling systems, and strength we take for granted. I wrecked my wrist some time ago, spent four months in a brace with orders to not so much as waggle a finger until the worse of it healed. 

Mercifully, I’m extremely right-handed and this was my left, but I certainly missed being able to type two-handed, carry groceries in more than one bag at a time, fold laundry efficiently (try rolling a beach towel one-handed!), and even minor tasks like slicing a cucumber  required an awful lot of thought. Actually, I’m rather proud of that: realizing I needed the darn thing to hold still while I cut it, instead of it squirting across the itch, I rigged up a nail at the end of my cutting board –also one handedly—and simply impaled whatever I needed to chop. Not pretty, but I resented the loss of independence threatened by not being able to cook unassisted. I needed my hands.

Hands come in handy (you knew it was coming) for more things than we notice in a day. Just this morning, I stripped off wallpaper, brushed teeth, painted half of a wall, colored my hair, turned pages in a book, and here I sit typing, remembering I forgot to eat breakfast. As often as I forget to eat, I really should be a size two and the fact that I’m decidedly not is just further evidence of the universe being an unjust place. I digress.

Hands are good for waving a greeting, offering a thumb's up of encouragement, hailing a cab, stroking a baby's soft cheeks.

Hands mark different phases of our lives. When my baby granddaughter was born, her hands were tiny, seashell-shaped fists, cunningly formed, but suitable only for waving around frantically when she cried, often startling herself as they flew by her face. Now that she’s a big girl of six months, she can hold toys and suck on her hands and even pull her big brothers’ hair. She enjoys that more than they. 

I have four small grandsons whose hands are learning fast.  Big boys now of age 2, 2, 4 and 4, they can drive toy trucks and make intricate Lego layouts, eat unassisted, dress themselves, (complete with superhero capes, some days) and the older two can write their names and draw recognizable pictures, if you squint. Their cousin is seven, already writing stories and coloring within the lines when she feels like it. My oldest granddaughter is fifteen, confidently working math problems that look like Martian to me, and she can text (accurately!) with both hands in her pocket. Her hands are artistic, careful, deliberate.

My daughter’s hands are those of a young mother, in constant motion, helping a child, comforting a baby, creating another meal, teaching, nurturing, helping her little ones learn to care for themselves and others, to use their young hands for good. In her rare spare moments, her hands crochet at the speed of blur. When Daughter was twelve years old, she and I took a crocheting class together. I never quite figured out how to make my hands maintain proper tension...something to do with recalcitrant fingers, I think...while she went on to create baby dresses, little-boy sweaters, crocheted toys, slippers, shawls and scarves, designing new patterns, happily churning out gifts from her heart and her talented fingers. I never quite mastered a chain stitch.

I see a few more wrinkles in my tired hands that I’d like, but nowhere near as many as my mother, in her late 80s. She says that when she was a little girl, she’d stroke her grandmother’s hands, worn by decades of work and living, marveling at the thin blue veins just under the surface of her translucent skin. And now Mom’s hands are the same, thin and boney, the skin so smooth and soft, barely covering her insides like a cellophane-wrapped anatomy display. Her tendons ripple as she works another NY Times crossword puzzle in the too-quiet afternoons, proud of the fact she missed only one word all last year. 

I suspect they’re thin because she simply wore the skin off; I’ve never met a person who washes her hands as often as Mom. Take meatballs; hers are cleanest in seven counties, because she lathers her hands between every single one. I bought her a meatball-maker years ago, but she said she has to feel the meat in her hands to make sure each meatball is just right, then wash off the grease and goo in between. Mom’s hands are old, and no one can count the number of tasks those old hands have accomplished or how patiently she instructed her sons and daughters.

When we lost our first, second, fourth, and fifth pregnancies years ago, I sobbed in prayer, and the soft answer came, “If your arms are empty, your hands are free.” To heal my broken heart, I turned to helping others, to using my hands to serve, to aid, to teach, to uplift where I could. Sometimes, I’ve even succeeded.

I use my hands several hours a day now for writing, since my home is empty much of the time and my hands are no longer needed to raise a family.  I find pleasure in composing books, carefully crafting sentences with my mind and my hands.  

Hands are not to be taken for granted as they bear testament to the seasons of our lives. What do your hands tell about you?



Thursday, July 6, 2017

God Bless America

by Kari Diane Pike

Think of two things you would miss the most if you found yourself stranded on a deserted island, assuming you could find water, food, and shelter.

My trip to Europe last month brought a couple of seemingly small things to my attention that turned out to be kind of a big deal: ready access to free drinking water and free public toilets - even public toilets in general. Since returning home I've had a lot of time to ponder on the abundance and freedoms that I enjoy every day without giving them a second thought.

I remember an experience I had on July 4th a few years ago, as I listened to a young man home from a tour of duty in the Middle East. He shared a conversation he held with a friend he made there - a young man native to that country. He asked his friend, "If you could have one thing that the people in the U.S. have that you don't, what would it be?"

His friend didn't hesitate to answer. "I would love to have a big park with green grass and trees. I would love to have the freedom to walk through that park with my family every evening without the fear of being shot at."

The speaker continued to list things he learned to appreciate: running water twenty-four hours/day; reliable electricity all day, every day, etc.

Until then, I hadn't realized that a large percentage of countries lack the infrastructure needed to keep up with their populations demands for water and power. Communities have to take turns throughout the day to receive what most of us consider essential, basic needs.

While waiting in the dentist's office a couple of months ago, I met a dear lady who reminded me of something else for which I far too often neglect to express gratitude. I can't recall her name, but I learned she immigrated to the U.S. from the Middle East. Now a citizen of the United States, she works as a middle-grade school teacher.

During our conversation about culture and students and how things have changed over the years, she shared an experience she had in one of her classes. She noticed that a couple of her students stopped participating in the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. They also started making rude comments and acting disrespectful while the other students recited the Pledge. One morning, she had had enough. She demanded the students to stand and show respect. "You students have no idea what you are doing. You have no idea how important your freedom is. You don't know anything about it. You take everything for granted. You think everyone can walk down a street and hang out with their friends. You don't know anything!" She told me most of the students just stared at her. A couple of them laughed at her.

One young man scoffed. He looked at his classmates for support and then spoke out. "That's easy for you to say. You came here from a place that doesn't have anything. You came here so you could have more money and stuff. Everyone in this day and age has freedom to do what they want." Some of the students nodded their heads in agreement.

My new friend pointed her finger at the boy speaking, then glared at the rest of the class. "You have no idea what you are talking about. Let me tell you something. When I was growing up, my father managed an oil refinery. We had everything and anything we could want, every luxury.  I had education and learned to speak several languages. We wanted for nothing...except the one thing we didn't have. We had no freedom. That is what we wanted most of all. We gave up everything to come to the United States. My father had $50.00 in his pocket when we came here. That's all he was allowed to bring. But it was worth it. You have no idea how much your freedom cost. You will stand and show respect in my class."

Her entire class now shows respect for our nation's flag.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017, our family attended the flag raising ceremony, bike parade, and pancake breakfast held at our church building. When a couple of scouts came out with the flag all crumpled up in their arms, my heart ached. What were they doing? Hadn't anyone taught them flag etiquette? But it got worse. The boys lifted the edge of the flag up to attach it to the ropes and as it opened up I felt sick to my stomach. The flag was faded and dirty and torn into shreds on the end.

I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed. My husband joined me about then and I motioned toward the flag. "What in the world are they thinking? That flag needs to be retired. Where is the flag we usually fly?"

Doug left to search for the other flag only to discover that it was locked in an office cabinet and no one in attendance had the key. The old flag would have to do, or there would be no flag raising.

Tears blurred my vision as I listened to our nation's anthem play and watched that tattered, torn flag hang limp and wrinkled as the Scout's worked the pulleys. A couple of times the pulley got stuck and the scouts had to back it down a little before raising it again. I could almost hear that flag give a heavy sigh when it reached the top of the pole.

Everyone started to clap and cheer at the end of the anthem. A bit of wind kicked up and the breeze lifted the flag. It collapsed, then lifted again. Another gust of wind caught the flag and it flew straight and proud. Yes, it was beat up, but it flew. It flew proud. And in that moment, I remembered some history and how another battered flag flew in the glare of rockets and bombs bursting.

I couldn't help thinking how the condition of our country is kind of like that flag right now. We been bruised and frayed and torn apart by dissension. I realized even though we have taken a beating, everything is going to turn out okay. We can pause and "back up a bit" and take stock of our situation. We can correct our course and keep moving upward. It's not too late to unite our efforts to defend freedom. Our country can keep flying because it is "the land of the free because of the brave." Brave people who put their lives on the line to stand for home, family, and religion. Brave people who sacrifice everything they have in order to experience freedom. Brave people who get on their knees and pray, "God bless America!"

Life is magnificent.










Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I had a moment

by Terri Wagner

This past week I got to spend time with my nephew and his wife who are expecting their first child. My sister is psyched to be a grandma for the first time. Thanks to modern blood tests, we should know next week the sex. You don't have to wait for that ultrasound anymore. When planning our trip for New Carlisle, Ohio, my sister discovered that only three-and-a-half hours away was Kirtland. I resisted her plans to go. For some odd reason, I have no desire to see church historical sites. But our trip was scheduled during her birthday, and I felt an obligation to go. When I prayed about, still silently grumbling, the Lord said, you will have a moment there, go. So off we went.

We first went to the historic Kirtland site where the church has the Newel K. Whitney store, the mill that produced the wood that built the Kirtland temple, the home the Whitneys built and allowed Joseph and Emma to live in. The room where the school of the prophets was held. The Issac Morley farm was also nearby and the missionary couple there were so interesting I decided I wanted to learn more about Brother Morley and his utter devotion to the newly restored gospel.

No moment yet! As most of you know, the Kirtland Temple is owned by the Community of Christ the former Reorganized Church. You pay to tour the temple, and they ask for donations to keep up the temple. Our tour guide was a young woman from Independence Missouri who was terrific.

You first watch a film showing how the temple was made which of course follows the LDS version until after the saints leave Nauvoo and eventually the Community of Christ buys it and restores it as much as is possible. The film ends, the curtains open and there is a stunning view of the temple and grounds. Then we walked over to the building itself. Our guide tells us each part that is original and what is not. We toured the second floor first and then the bottom floor. So far no moment.

Then she told us about how they worshiped in the temple following LDS beliefs and then asked if there was a pianist and a music director. Since we were all LDS of course there was. And we all knew the first verse of "The Spirit of God." We started singing and there was my moment. I cannot adequately explain what happened. A friend called it an out-of-body experience. All I know is that I felt and "saw" that body of saints singing with us and yet I clearly heard us along with them. It was glorious to connect so with those early saints. Their joy in the temple, the first in centuries, and their excitement about what the temple meant. I saw them, felt them, and at the same time felt our reverence for this first temple. Heavenly Father came through and gave me my moment. It rekindled my excitement over the gospel something I had lost for a while. Interesting side note: the Kirtland temple was originally more of a gray/blue color with a red roof and green doors. I kinda like knowing temples do not necessarily have to be white.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Expectations

 Some years ago, our then-three-year-old granddaughter spent the night with us, and in the morning, we took her to a parade, her very first. Grandpa and I set out some rules of behavior as we parked the car.

1. Hold hands until we get to the right spot.

2. You may sit in the street.

3. If anyone throws anything at you, you may keep it.

Wide-eyed, she silently climbed out of her car seat, unsure what to expect. Holding hands in public was standard protocol, but I’m pretty sure her parents never told her to sit in the street, anywhere, any time.

We wound our way through the crowds to a good location alongside the street.  Still not questioning, she sat on the curb, her bare knees visibly trembling under her tutu (because what else would she wear to a parade?).

Twenty minutes later, she turned to me with shining eyes, her hands full of candy tossed by waving people on the passing parade floats. “Grandma! You said people would throw stuff at me. I didn’t know I’d LIKE it!”

I’ve often thought about that morning; how trusting was that little girl, having no concept of what the word “parade” meant, but knowing if her beloved Grandma and Grandpa felt confident taking her there, it must be alright.  In her day-to-day life, no one threw anything at her, and she’d been repeatedly warned not to even go near a street...yet she relied on us to keep her safe.

I cut out a comic strip years ago, and taped it inside my journal. Two old guys sat on a park bench. One says, “I don’t mind life passing me by, but I wish it wouldn’t throw things at me on its way past.” I feel like that some days. I wake in the morning confident, with a mental list of things to accomplish in the day. I lie down at night, and review the day. Some days, I actually do what I set out to accomplish, or close to it, while other days, I’m like the guys on the park bench, ducking as life throws things at me.


I think it has to do with expectations. We need to be strong and focused, but if life throws a need or a serendipity experience at us, we need to be flexible enough to seize it, not trapped by our Must Do list. Or as my friend says, “we must remember that we are human beings, not human doings.” And you can’t go wrong mustering the faith, trust and joy of a child.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Adventures

by Kari Diane Pike

May 24 - Last day of Seminary. Emergency trip to dentist. Emergency trip to endodontist. Try not to                   cry during root canal.
May 25 - Meet with foot doctor. Watch grandchildren. Post blog entry. Take pain pill.
May 26 - Return to dentist for permanent filling. Attend nephew's birthday party. Last minute                             shopping for trip to Europe.
May 27 - More shopping. Workout at gym one more time before trip to Europe in hopes that I can get                 away with eating pastries, gelato, and schnitzel. Pack backpack.
May 28 - Homecoming for niece. Time with family. Teach Primary. Print boarding pass.
May 29 - Arrive at airport and begin Power Tour 2017 with daughters Brittany and Kati.
May 30 - June 9 - London, Paris, Frankfurt, Schwangau, Munich, Rome, Florence, Venice, London.
June 10 - Arrive home.

We hiked more than 110 miles according to the fitness devices my daughters wore. We traveled by plane, metro, buses, train, and boat.  The most steps walked in one day came to a little over 29,000. We even got to see the Pope! I cannot lie. One evening I ate an entire pizza by myself and enjoyed gelato every day we stayed in Italy. Upon my return, my sweetheart met me at the airport with flowers and a great big kiss.

June 11 - missionary homecoming for a friend. Sleep. Or at least try to. Jet lag is real.
June 12 - Up at 3:00am. Time to face consequences. Work out and weigh-in with trainer. No way. I                     lost four pounds! Maybe I should look deeper into this whole pizza/gelato/pasta/pastry                         lifestyle. How can I fit walking ten miles a day into my schedule? Give in to jet lag and go                   to bed at 7:00 pm.
June 13 - Up at 4:00 am. My last shift in the Gilbert temple. Clean house. Prep for foot surgery.
June 14 - Check into surgical center at 6:00 a.m. Get dr.'s signature on my left foot. Wheel into OR.                  Take a little drug induced nap. Wake up. Sit up. Vague memory of getting into car and world                spinning. Stand up. Throw up. Take two steps. Throw up. Repeat. Shoot me now.
June 15 - 19 - Emerge from post anesthesia brain fog. Develop mad skills using crutches. Melt my                     brain watching Netflix while on pain meds. Attend seminary inservice with crutches and                     pillows.
June 20 - I love my writing family. MM chapter met at my house since I can't drive.  For the first time                 in months I want to write again. I need my brain back.
June 21 - sleep Until 7:00 am. Take that jet lag. Foot doc declares surgery a success so far. Brain fog                   clears. Try to take things slow so healing can continue, i.e., postpone today's appointment                    with trainer for a couple more weeks. Try not to curse at crutches or boot.
June 22 - Plant backside in chair, prop up foot and write.

Going back through my journal, I found this entry before our trip.

May 19 - Seminary. I stood at the door waiting for students to arrive. I had prayed for the Spirit to direct my  thoughts and tell me what the students needed to hear today. I pondered. I listened. I searched. Standing there at the door, a new thought came clearly to my mind. I knew in that moment what I needed to share with my students. I watched out the glass doors. I felt prepared. I could relax. And at that moment a silent "alarm" went off in my head.

Don't tune me out now! Keep listening. I know you feel like you got your answer but that doesn't mean you should turn off the receiver. You don't have to save batteries or worry about an energy bill. Our line of communication needs to stay on and tuned in every moment. Never stop asking. Never stop listening. That way you will always be able to receive the assurance and encouragement you and your students need to keep going. Remember to always stay tuned in. 
I realized in that moment that I have a bad habit of hearing part of the answer and then in excitement "taking off and tuning out" without taking the time to fully grasp what the Spirit is trying to teach me.
                                                               ************

As much as I dislike having my activities restricted, I am grateful to have an excuse to slow down. My eyes have been opened to some things I've been taking for granted - like being able to wash my hair - and I realize that challenges I face help me become more compassionate. My experiences can teach me how to help others in their time of need, particularly as I keep those lines of communication open and listen to the quiet  promptings of the Spirit.

 Taking that trip helped me face three of my biggest fears: 1) fear of getting lost 2) fear of heights 3) fear of closed in spaces. But that's a blog for another day. My foot is telling me I've worn out my welcome and yammered far too long. If you read this far, thank you for stopping by.

Live your dreams my friends. Listen to the Spirit. Life is magnificent.

Hugs~














Thursday, June 15, 2017

18 Ways to Improve Your Writing Efficiency

We had our monthly ANWA meeting today. As usual, it was wonderful. A sister returned who hadn't attended in nearly a year, and we discussed our writing progress.

A common thread emerged during conversation: "I need be more productive when writing."

 So I decided to brainstorm ways we can become more efficient to increase our writing output.


  1.  Turn off the Internet. Okay, this is a no-brainer.  For many reasons. For the purposes of writing a book, you should disconnect your Internet for at least seven years, just to be safe.  Imagine how many hours you can devote if you're not reading the news, talking to other writers, reading writing prompts, or connecting with family. The internet is evil. Eeeeeevilllll. 
  2. Get rid of children. Speaking of family, your kids are impeding your productivity. Get rid of them. Dump them on your spouse, your older children, introduce them to the television, or confine them to the backyard. Parenting is highly overrated anyway. Leaving them to their own devices is the only way to prepare them for the cold, dark world around us anyway. As long as they are alive, and relatively well fed, then you're good. 
  3. Get rid of spouses, friends, and anyone else who likes to talk. While you're at it, it might be best to sever all ties to your spouse, friends, relatives, and anyone else who sucks time away from writing. Consider removing the dog's vocal chords. There's nothing more annoying than catching up on Aunt Alice's latest fashion disaster when all you want to do is work on your current WIP.
  4. Remove pets from your writing space. C'mon. Fluffy does NOT need to be on the keyboard.  She will be perfectly fine confined to the bathroom.  Better yet, send her out back with the kids. They'll take wonderful care of her. No, those scissors little Billy snagged are not intended to give Fluffy a haircut. And Sally is fast enough to stay out of his grasp. Her ponytails will be just fine. Honest. 
  5. Read Books. We hear it all the time.  Read read read! In fact, I've heard 36-hour reading marathons work wonders on one's relationships, writing ability, and housekeeping skills.  If you're lucky, maybe you'll find an author with a 15 book series.  You might have to binge. Oh, the sacrifices you must make in the name of your craft!
  6. Listen to podcasts, and read articles or blogs on productivity. This is much like a Netflix binge. Find a podcast or author you like and listen to every podcast produced since the beginning of time. If one podcast is good, then 7,894 is better, right?
  7. Quit your full-time job. To be a serious writer, you must sacrifice for your craft.  All true artists make sacrifices. The greater the sacrifice, the more committed you are a a writer, right? So go ahead. Quit your job. Lose your house, eat less food, don't pay the bills.  In the end you'll have massive pools of experience to draw from for future stories.
  8. Ignore your church callings. Heavenly Father will understand. He wants what makes us happy. And writing makes us happy. He won't mind if we take a small hiatus from our callings...or church for that matter.  As long as we're doing what makes us happy. 
  9. Starve. Wait. Scratch that. Indulge.  Make sure rich, chocolate, caffeinated sodas, savory chips and goodies are always within reach while you're sitting at your computer.  Use those extra calories to maintain your energy and keep you from being distracted by annoying things like family dinners. If your cup doesn't runneth over, buy more soda. 
  10. Don't clean your house or do yard work. Oh the hours you'll save if you leave the housework and domestic responsibilities to someone else!  Just put on a set of blinders, or better yet, situate your desk facing a corner. You'll never see the chaos around you. Or the rats and bugs. I'm pretty sure the health department can't enter unless you let them in. 
  11. Holidays are highly overrated.  Holidays require a person to go to parties, socialize, make extra food, shop for presents, and spend time with (shudder) family.  Holidays are no bueno.  Avoid them at all costs. 
  12. Limit your sleep to three hours per night or less. Utilize time originally spent doing nothing. Sleep is a perfect example.  You were accomplishing nothing during those hours anyway. Instead, rise several hours early. Or better yet, pull an all-nighter and hammer out a few thousand more words. 
  13. Type until your fingers bleed. Breaks are for lazy, un-dedicated amateurs.  Carpel Tunnel? All in your head.  Need a break? That's why God created potty breaks. Fingers tired? Rest them while you're grabbing a handful of Cheetos. Then get back to work! Sit down at 5:00 a.m. and type until your fingers bleed.  
  14. Never ever ever write by hand. Oh heavens. There's a reason why typewriters were created. Then replaced by word processors, which were replaced by computers. Who needs the tactile input pen and paper offers? Plus, you're killing trees.  Tons of them!  You don't want to be responsible for decimating an entire rain forest, do you?
  15. Steal, if you must. Sometimes writer's block becomes unbearable. Or you get lazy. Whatever. In that case, plagiarism is okay.  But only if you don't get caught.  If you get caught. Well, then. You're on your own buddy!  Don't say I didn't warn you. Because if anyone asks, I totally threw a hissy fit telling everyone to never ever ever EVER steal someone's work. That'd be just wrong (wink wink).
  16. Let the words flow like a waterfall. Trust your initial instincts.  the most ineffishent use of ur time iz editing ur first & subsequant drafts.  1000's ov people submit there NaNoWriMo 1stdrafts to publishers & lit. agents mere days after completing they're first draft.  Thousands of people can't be wrong, can they????????
  17. Never ever ask for help. Forget about it. Nobody wants to help you.  They're only interested in your final draft. You are an island.  Suck it up and do this by yourself. 
  18. Ignore me.  In fact, do the opposite of everything mentioned. Utilize the Internet for information and resources as needed. Take care of children, nurture family and relationships.  Fulfill your callings. Go to work. Take care of yourself and pets. Take breaks. Ask for help and edit like crazy. Learn along the way. Take your time, and go at your own pace.
Writing is most efficient when done in moderation, fully dependent upon your particular life, priorities, and lifestyle permits. Writing is an activity that can be a hobby, a profession, an obsession, or any variation in between.  The key is to make sure you don't burn out, and you don't ignore the other priorities in your life. The only requirement you have to be a writer is to write. Put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. One word, or 500,000 words; it doesn't matter. Just write.  

Good luck!  Enjoy the journey, and be sure to take time for yourself along the way.  Everything else will come in it's own time. 

All the best, 

Susan 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Second Coming

by Terri Wagner

I gave this lesson in Gospel Doctrine this past Sunday. It thankfully turned out to be more of positive instead of gloomy lesson, and we as a class managed to reel in the ones who wanted to go speculating. I suggested that perhaps we should ask ourselves why we think we live in the "last days" as compared to other time periods. That was my opening gambit.

I shared with them interesting aspects from the Shardlake series. A brilliant writer CJ Sansom has captured a segment of England's break from Rome in a powerful and compelling way. His main character a medieval lawyer who solves puzzling murders without DNA or cell phones. It's a wonderful series, but the compelling part for me is the backdrop of the break with Rome.

Shardlake starts off a reformist with deepseated beliefs that Erasmus is right. That breaking with Rome will usher in the Second Coming. He also throws his lot in with Thomas Cromwell who you should know helped Henry VIII cast off his Catholic wife and marry wife number two. What makes all this so fascinating is why the reformists believed the "end" was near. See if this rings a bell.

Cataclysmic events were shaking the earth at the time. The plague had been around several times, and still cropped up. Riding on the coattails of plague came famine, and death. The disruption of the monasteries threw thousands out on the streets as beggars, and hospitals for the poor and mentally ill were closed. Nearly all of them starved. Governments were run by men out for their own gain. When Henry VIII closed the monasteries and centuries of beautiful art was destroyed, his "beloved" counselors of the moment lined their own pockets at everyone else's expense. Hard fought civil liberties were set at naught overnight. First the Bible was distributed to any free man or woman, then snatched back only to be given to men in high places who did not stay long in those high places. "They" could come in the night for you for breaking the Sabbath, having an opinion different from the norm, eating or selling meat before Lent was up, throw you in the Tower never to be heard of again.

The reformists believed the restoration had come about through Martin Luther and the shaking off of the Catholic stranglehold. Fresh beginnings were taking hold, religion was central to every aspect of life in medieval England. And the land of milk and honey brought strange wonders like bananas and chocolate to the old world. It is not hard at all to see why they believed the Second Coming was so close.

Bringing it full circle I then asked my class what is different now from then that gives us assurance we are actually the ones living in the last days?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Feet.

I’m pretty particular about wearing the right shoes for any occasion. One thing I refuse to do is to wear heels high enough to compensate for my compact height. I realised when my oldest son grew to eye level that I’d be in trouble if I kept buying higher and higher shoes so as to tower over him. I’d need  shoes of a scale that’s just plain dangerous, like the ones I saw an ABBA review band wearing. Those platform shoes had to be eight inches high, and I worried the whole performance about one of them falling off his glittery shoes and breaking a leg in front of the audience. In the case of my son, I feared I’d end up with orthopedic stilts in my old age; not my goal. He passed me up by a good nine inches, and I’m okay with that.

I travel rather a lot, and shoes can make or break a trip. Blisters are tiny things, but the agony they trigger is anything but tiny. On old cobblestones or scaling yet another lighthouse, I don’t want to wear wobbly shoes that invite a turned ankle. When I’m on the go, I opt for walking shoes with good soles; nonskid, cushy, and flexible. I want to be free to explore, without sore feet. 

I bought new shoes for a recent cruise; pretty, comfortable, versitile;  exactly what I needed for the trip. They, plus the ones on my feet, were the only shoes I brought. I chose a much smaller suitcase than Husband’s  and he said, “If you need to put something in mine, just set it on the bed.” I left the pair of new shoes and an alarm clock with his stuff to pack.

 In San Diego, I was baffled to find only one of my shoes and no clock. Who packs one shoe? Found it on the floor at home when we returned; guess it had slipped off the bed, but I still think he should have asked if I really intended to bring both shoes. Does he think I hop?

On a three-week Mediterranean cruise last year, I thought a lot about feet and shoes. In fact, that trip turned onto a thick book, one of my best sellers. We visited nine countries, over 17,000 miles, with nary a blister. I clambered up marble stone steps, walked down streets of Pompeii and Ephesus and old Roman structures I’d only seen in my history books, steps and paths and buildings worn down by three thousand years of people passing by, and I thought about shoes.   

 Think of it; centuries ago, long-forgotten workers laid the stones. As time passed and styles changed, many feet crossed that place. Bare feet of slaves, Roman sandals, tooled leather boots,  soldiers’ shoes, laced sandals, ragged shoes on the feet of travelers from  many nations, delicate high lace ups on the feet of fancy women, stiff boots worn by invading soldiers, soles of leather and wood and fur,  medieval footwear, on to flip-flops and modern athletic footwear, even the preposterously high heels I saw on some silly tourists, across the centuries, on the same byways, scuffing the same stones, walking the same streets, mounting the same stones.

 Think about what those stones could say if they would speak! The people that they’ve seen walking by; families across generations, government leaders, warriors, people whose names were destined to go down in history, slaves in shackles, societies in crushing poverty, others in great wealth, rulers and leaders bedecked in jewels and gold, peasants in rags. The battle of religions came in jolting waves as Christians, Catholics, Muslims, and smaller groups jostled back and forth for the same territory, conquerors, warriors, ordinary residents trying to take care of their family as families take care of their  children all across the generations and all across the world—to walk where they walked was astonishing.


Now I think of the footsteps I make in my daily life. They’re usually invisible, unless I track through something unfortunate, but I leave my unseen mark, same as generations before me.  Who will follow in my steps, generations form now? Am I going anywhere important? When others speak of the example I set, will they have anything kind to say?At the very least, I’ll be comfortable walking there, and I will have both shoes on.  

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

ComiCon Report

by Marsha Ward  @MarshaWard

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I recently shared a booth at Phoenix ComiCon. I had an interesting four days.

I could tell you about the gunman who got in on Thursday, but I was unaware of the event until I read about it on Facebook. Fortunately, Phoenix police officers took the fellow into custody without incident.

That caused much discomfort for fans on Friday, though, as they had to wait in the sun for a couple of hours while staff and security searched all backpacks, large purses, etc., for any contraband. Prop weapons were banned, weapon sellers were obliged to put purchases into opaque bags (that is, black garbage bags), and one vendor created such a stink that he was told to pack up and leave.

But you probably want to know about my experience. I met two of my booth-mates for the first time. I learned that I probably want a table-front banner of some kind and/or book cover posters if I do something like this again. I did decide to emulate something another author did in our booth. You'll see what that plan is when you come to the Payson Book Festival on July 22.

But as I said above, I had an interesting four days. Costumes abounded, some incredibly detailed, some pretty basic, some outlandish, some lacking much substance. I was amazed, however, at how easily I let go of the need to judge all manner of people and their fascinations. That's not my job, anyway. I simply enjoyed the spectacle and the homemade ice cream.


I sold a handful of books. I didn't expect to sell loads of books. In fact, I scaled back my inventory from tons of books to five of each, because I knew I would not sell many books (plus, I didn't want to undergo the dock loading process).

For one thing, I'm not a well-known, super-star author.

For another, I was offering historical novels for sale at a convention more into sci-fi, fantasy, gaming, and popular TV shows and movies of those cultures. But I did give away my handouts, which have QR codes on the back for people curious about what I was doing there. That is a part of my brand awareness advertising plan.


I enjoyed looking at the costumes, but I could not tell you who about 90 percent of them represented.

I did get a Whovian thrill, though.


BBC America had a Dr. Who booth at which one could have free photos taken: outside with your own camera/phone,


and inside, with a photo emailed to you. By the way, the TARDIS really is bigger on the inside!

Will I do ComiCon as a vendor again? The verdict isn't in yet. If I ever write a book in a genre more in line with the spirit of the Con, perhaps yes. If I don't I can always go as an attendee. That will probably give me less stress and fewer hours of after-event decompressing.

Have you ever been to an event like a ComiCon? Were you an attendee or a vendor? What did you experience?