Mar 30, 2017

Embarrassing Moments - The Night of the Invisible Fire

by Kari Diane Pike

Embarrassing moments. Everyone's had a least one. Or a dozen. Writers live for them - particularly if they happen to someone else. While the distress during the moment may turn our faces red, bring tears to our eyes, or even send us scampering to hide under a blanket fort with our thumbs in our mouths, embarrassing situations often become the stuff that makes the greatest stories.

Some years ago I shared my "Great Fish Story". Yeah. That was awkward. Don't ever listen to random college students on spring break. You might end up throwing some poor fisherman's freshly caught dinner back into the ocean because of the mistaken impression you could save the marine ecology one fish at a time.

Coming in a close second is "The Night of the Invisible Fire". Our young family of seven had relocated from California to Flagstaff, Arizona about ten months earlier and had just moved into temporary housing for the third time since the big move. A poor local economy forced my husband to accept a job in another town across the state. He worked during the week and came home only on the weekends.

One Wednesday night, I dreamt that the house was on fire. I remember trying to open my eyes, but the smoke made them sting and I kept choking on the fumes. Our dog kept barking and barking and I couldn't find her anywhere. I started coughing and woke with a start when I realized something was actually wrong. The dog really was barking and my eyes and nose and throat burned. The smell...I couldn't figure it out. The nauseating odor reminded me of a time the neighbors had an electrical fire in their car.

I leaped off the bed, forgetting to grab my glasses and felt my way down the hall to wake up the kids and get them out of the house. But who to wake up first? How could I get them all out in time? Panic clouded my thinking. I hesitated at door to the girls' room. I needed to calm down so I didn't upset the kids. The idea of a fire would scare them enough. I tried to take a deep breath and slow down my racing heart. That's when I realized the smell wasn't as bad in the hallway. My tears had washed away the sting. I peered back down the hall - as well as my nearsightedness would allow anyway. I couldn't see any smoke.

The closer I got to my bedroom, the worse the fumes became. I grabbed my glasses from the bedside, turned around and walked through the kitchen and living room. No smoke. Just that nasty, burning smell. I opened the front door to see if something was burning outside. Nothing. Nada. Back in the house. I took a deep breath and coughed out the invisible, acrid stench that filled my throat. Something was definitely wrong. What should I do? I wanted to call the fire department, but what was I going to tell them? I decided to call my friend Stephanie who lived down the road. I knew she rarely went to bed before midnight and the clock on the wall read 11:55.

Stephanie answered on the second ring. "Hello?"

Hearing a my friend's voice slowed my heart from its marathon pace down to a 10K - pounding, but not heart attack mode.  "Hi Steph. It's Kari. I'm sorry to call you so late."

"It's okay. What's wrong?"

"I had a dream that the house was on fire and woke up to a terrible burning smell and I can't find smoke anywhere, but the smell burns my eyes and throat and I almost called the fire department, but I don't see fire anywhere." I paused to catch my breath. "I don't want to waste their time. Can I bring the kids over to your house until I'm sure everything is okay?"

"Of course. You are always welcome. Do you want us to come help? Did you try calling the non-emergency number and see if they can send someone over to check things out?"

"Oh, good idea. I'll call right now. I'll call you back in a minute."

I called the non-emergency line and explained the situation. "Would it be possible to just send an officer over to quietly check things out?"

"I'll dispatch someone right now, Mrs. Pike."

A minute later, sirens echoed up the street. Oh dear. Now the whole neighborhood is going to get woke up. Not one, not two, but three fire trucks appeared around the corner, accompanied by two police cars. A tall fireman climbed out of the first truck that pulled up and approached me. I repeated my story and he ordered the others to search the house and yard and alley behind us.

I hurried back into the house to get the kids. I couldn't believe they were still sound asleep. The floor creaked behind me. I turned and the fire chief motioned for me to follow him outside.

I pointed to the girls' room and whispered. "I was just getting my children up to take them to a neighbor's house."

"I don't think you need to wake up your kids, Mrs. Pike. We don't see a fire anywhere. Let me show you something."

I followed the chief out the front door and around to the back of the house. He stopped and pushed aside a loose board, revealing access to the crawl space under the house and right below my bedroom window.

"We didn't find a fire, but we did find a skunk. I think your dog got in there and scared it good. I hope you have lots of tomato juice. They say it takes the smell off pets and people." The corner of his mouth twitched and I knew he was struggling to keep a straight face.

"Oh. Well, then. That's good! I'm so sorry I bothered you. Just write in your report 'Hysterical woman whose husband was out-of-town'. I'm sure y'all will get a chuckle out of this for a long time." I ducked my head and reached my hand out to shake his hand and thank him. One large, warm hand wrapped around my cold fingers. He placed his other hand over the top and held it for a moment. I peeked up, too mortified to look straight at him. The fire chief smiled.

"It's okay, Mrs. Pike. Better safe than sorry. We get calls like this all the time." Chief motioned for the rest of the rescue workers to load up. The police officers turned off the lights flashing on their vehicles, turned on their engines, and drove away.

Stephanie pulled up right as they left. She jumped out of her car and ran up to the door. "Are you okay? We heard the sirens and knew it had to be for you. What happened? Are the kids okay?" She stopped to take a deep breath. "Whoa. Ew. Did the dog get a skunk?"

Ummm. yeah. About that.

So...readers, how do you handle embarrassing moments? Have you ever noticed that some people are more prone to them? What about the people who have no idea they should be embarrassed? Or should they? What do you do to make it easier to laugh at yourself? When's the last time you let yourself enjoy an honest-to-goodness belly laugh? Do it. It's good for the soul.

Life is magnificent.


Mar 28, 2017

Life Is Out of Control!

by Marsha Ward

Okay, so I have to post-date this post because I'm posting it on a day on which I'm not scheduled to post, but life is like that recently. What I mean is, it's all messed up.

Not life, per se, but my scheduling thereof. I've been postponing working on finishing one nonfiction project so I could finish another one. Well, the recipe collection is now completed, and it's available in print as well as ebook formats. Here's a link to my website with details.

But have I resumed writing the last two chapters on the other nonfiction project?

Um, no.

Because I'm testing something out for that project, by formatting another of my books for print! That's a difficult project, due to the length of five-books-in-one. I'm trying to keep it under the limit of 840 pages. I might need to go to a bigger-size of book, like 8 1/2 x 11-inches, but I hope not.

Perhaps I should abandon the present test format until I have time for the large book, huh? Maybe do the testing on a shorter work, like a novella or a short-story collection? The formatting is taking a lot of time that should be spent in other ways, like getting the testing done so I can get back to the original task: finishing the nonfiction project!

Because I have other work to write. Sheesh!

It would help if my Internet were cooperating. We have a lot of wind today, and for some reason, wind affects my satellite connection in bad ways.

Whiny Wednesday, anyone? Oh, that's right. It's not Wednesday!

Mar 23, 2017

Sharing the Writing Process With My Teenaged Son

the bookshelf of a teen-aged bibliophile
Nathan's books - well, 1/4 of them, anyway.
Connecting with my son through writing has been one of my biggest rewards.

Nathan is 17 1/2 now. He's at that age when most boys hold up in their rooms, blast music or play video games, and block their family out of their lives. At least that's what my brothers did growing up.

Nathan, on the other hand, reads.  He's been fanatical about reading from the moment he discovered new worlds unfolding on the pages in front of him. At one point, he had thousands of books downloaded on his phone. He keeps telling me he needs another row of shelves along his bedroom walls for books.  I continue to put it off. If I build a shelf, he will want to fill it. And that gets expensive fast!

As I've written my Unleashed! series, Nathan has always known at least one of the books would be about him.  He's been a good sport so far, bless his soul.  He's endured photo shoots, questions about hypothetical situations and how he would handle them. We've had actual arguments over how my imaginary characters would or would not act. The boy has an incredible grasp of human nature and strategy.

This weekend, I mentioned to Nathan how I didn't think my first chapter of Unleashed! was strong enough to catch the Literary Agents' attention. To my surprise, he agreed.  Then, he proceeded to tell me four different areas that were weak, or unbelievable. After hearing his reasoning, I hung my head, and trudged to the computer to create an alternate beginning.

I've spent the last week slaving over my laptop, and finally have it finished.  Nathan likes the new start much better.

If you're interested in offering up your opinions, let me know and I'll send each of the versions to you. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say.

Now, I'm off to go pick a fight with him about whether or not a seven-year-old girl is physically capable of taking down a 300 lb man.  Wish me luck!

Mar 18, 2017

Bending Phrases

Bending Phrases by Deb Graham

I taught my granddaughter to read. Not long afterwards, we came to A Big Word.

"Honey, do you know what that means?"

She sounded it out. "Flex  ibble. That means all bent out of shape."

I like words. I like their origins, their usage, their colloquial twists, the twists they take with various dialects across America. Region phrases, such as “fair to middlin” or “catty-wompus” delight my ears. Some words baffle me.  I fly often (more than I’d like!) and always puzzle over de-planing at the end of a flight. Never have I  de- bus-ed, de-boat-ed, or de-car-ed.

I’m always on the look-out (listen-out?) for a new way to express a point. I find myself irked at too-often repeated phrases, including A Lot On Her Plate, Out Of The Box, and Take It To The Next Level. They’re rendered meaningless by overuse.

I like the ways English can bend to make a thought clearer. But I admit I keep a running list of abuses, found in print, as if somebody’s editor was asleep at the time. English is flexible, but not that much. Still, they’re good for a smile.

 Here are some of my favorite abuses of words:

In a published novel, a character said she was “full to the gunnels.” Gunwales has a fine history, and the fact that it lost a few letters in pronunciation on the way from England is not the problem. It’s not “gun whales”, either, which I’ve also seen in print. Whales are unarmed. (Hint: if it’s a trite phrase, yet your spellchecker flags it, and you can’t find the word in a dictionary, you might need another’s opinion as to the spelling, instead of making up your own.)

He raced down the hill at breaknet speed. Now, that’s a good idea; if you’re tearing down a hill, get a net.

In a magazine article, a writer alluded to “that trite old phrase, ‘there is no mayonnaise in Ireland.’” It took me several moments to figure out she meant “No man is an island.”

I’ve read about how “gossip spreads like wildflowers.” I like that one; especially if you’re spreading something good somebody did, wildflowers is a lovely image. Wrong, but lovely.

A newspaper article referred to a man who’d won a “pullet surprise.” Was it a chicken dinner?  Oh, wait...Pulitzer prize!

I think “self phone” makes total sense, albeit wrong...many people are totally tuned into self only with the ubiquitous things.

Somebody wrote me a letter telling me they’d been trying to reach me by curtsy call, and unable to do so, had resorted to the letter. A what? A curtsy, like at the end of a stage performance? No; a courtesy call!

In a novel, “two men ran down the street, their cloaks bellowing behind them.”  Can’t say I blame them; if my outerwear began shouting, I’d run, too.

I read a note saying she needed to “reign in her enthusiasm.”  Wonderful—that’s the only way to rule!

A mother admonished her kids to “stay within earshout,” which makes total sense.

  In a report on hurricane recovery, a reporter wrote, “a Katrina survivor said that he’d lived in FEMA trailers, tents, and Kwanzaa huts for the first year after the storm.”  Kwanzaa huts? A whole year of celebrating Kwanzaa? What fun!

In a mystery, the author insisted her character was a “bonnified Scotsman.” I think she meant bona fide, but who am I to argue? Later on, this man with the bonnet became “embroidered in battle.”  Perhaps he did need the bonnet.

I’ve read several instances of “pealing paint,” but mine just sits silently on my walls, never ringing out at all. Sigh.

Did you know the difference between humans and other mammals is “a posable thumb”? It’s a funny image, to think of thumbs, posing like models.

Several times, I’ve read “her eyes shot across the room.”  That’s gotta hurt. Glad my eyes are better anchored than that!

“It’s not my first radio,” insisted a character in a novel. Perhaps this is why I’m more comfortable writing nonfiction; I don’t have to keep track of how many radios one owns, or what that has to do with the character’s ability to solve a mystery.          
Somebody insisted her mother was “lack toast and intolerant.” Perhaps she was grouchy because she was hungry. Give the woman some toast, already.

Several times I’ve read in a book this phrase: “a shutter passed through his body.” I don’t care what was happening previously; now we have a death at hand.  “Udder despair” is another common error; the heroine is sad, and suddenly, she’s thinking about the business end of a cow.    Why?

“Lawn force meant agencies” are not immune. A police report read a man was charged with “wreckless driving.” I thought that was the goal. The report continued, “...then chaos insured.” Oh, good. Chaos can be expensive to repair.

In a book, a police officer “upholstered his gun.” We all need a hobby, right?

An interview quoted a rock musician as saying his shirt was “from my hippy dipping days.” They don’t like that much.                           

Some bent phrases seem more believable than the intended words. Here are some other good ones:

turn into a new leaf (that would be fun to see)
it’s a doggy-dog world
she balled her eyes out (that’s gonna hurt)
it’s a mute point (oh, good; we didn’t want to hear about it anyway)
Flamingo dancer     (well- trained birds!) 
he’s in intimate danger (another good reason to group date)
two sense worth  
hammy downs  (is this outgrown clothing, or lunch?)
a look of otter confusion
 in the mist of a project (that explains the lack of clarity; a brain-fog)
a fine tooth-comb  ( I brush my teeth, but never comb them)
mid-evil style of dress (can’t you just see it?)
 not aloud to say a word  (shh)
  she let out a grown (like growing pains?)
an outer body experience
I want to speak my peace (but they never do)
for all intensive purposes
Wreaking haddock through the store ( are generally not ill-behaved)
 “His doctor sent him to a specialist, a eurologist.” If he’s sick, geography won’t help)
from the gecko (get-go I understand, but who listens to lizards?)
It was a pigment of the imagination (of course! Imagination should be in full color)
“Whoa is me,” she sighed. (stop, already)
He acted like a bowl in a china shop (pretty inert, if you ask me!)
She’s on maturity leave.

And finally, “Be polite to the wizard, or he’ll wave his hand and your toast.”    Just unhand my breakfast! 

Mar 16, 2017

Finding Peace

by Kari Diane Pike

The tight grip of the blood pressure cuff released with a hiss, accompanied by the tap-tap-tap of the keyboard the nurse used to type the data into her computer. Two minutes to go until the next reading. I shifted under the hook-and-loop straps that crossed my chest, hips and ankles to prevent me from falling if I passed out during the test.

Nurse Rylee looked over her shoulder at me. "Are you doing okay? Let me know if you start to feel light-headed."

"I'm okay. Just tired of standing here." The thirty-minute standing part of the tilt table test was almost over. If I fainted, they would stop the test. If nothing happened, they would give me a dose of nitroglycerin and make me stand there another thirty minutes to see if they could recreate the syncope I had experienced at home a few weeks earlier.

Only thirty seconds to go...oh. Whoa. Heat spread out from the core of my body - as though someone had ignited a gas burner - through my limbs and up toward my face. "Ummm...something's happening. Oh, my head." My head felt like the hot air balloon I had once seen being prepared for take off. My peripheral vision started to go gray and then, just as quickly, someone turned off the switch. The heat drained from my face and limbs and my head felt heavy and dull, but I didn't pass out.

Rylee took my blood pressure and watched the activity on the EKG. "Well, your blood pressure definitely spiked there. But you stayed conscious. That's good. We just have to wait for the other nurse to come in before we start the next part of the test. So tell me. What do you do for a living?"

I shifted my weight from foot to foot trying to get the circulation back in my tired feet. "I have been a stay-at-home mom for thirty-eight years. Although I did do day care in my home for twenty-something of those years and have done of lot of free lance writing. I also teach childbirth ed and am a certified doula."

"Oh. That must be it." Rylee opened the privacy curtain to let the other nurse know we were waiting for her. "You just have something so calming about you and I've been trying to figure it out."

At that moment, the other nurse and a PA walked into the testing area and handed me a tiny white pill to place under my tongue, preventing me from further conversation with Rylee.

The rest of the test was unpleasant, but uneventful. During the drive home I told my husband about Rylee's comment and how I wanted talk with Rylee some more and tell her how I had prayed for peace of mind and how I knew that no matter what happened, or what the test results were, everything would turn out okay.

Later that afternoon, I sat down to study and prepare the following week's seminary lessons. We are getting ready to study Philippians 4 where I find great reassurance when I read verses 6-9, and 13.

Reading those verses again, I pondered on what it really means to have the "peace of God". I went on a scripture search. Isaiah 52:7 and Mosiah 15: 16-18 teach about how Christ redeemed us from our transgressions and our responsibility to publish peace. I asked myself and then in prayer asked Heavenly Father, "What does it mean to publish peace?"

Christ is the Prince of Peace. As part of the armor of God, we are admonished to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. We are comforted and strengthened by "the peace and power of [His] Spirit that will flow unto [us]" (Doctrine and Covenants 11:8). The Lord is the founder of peace. He has power over death - both physical and spiritual. There is hope.

It was during this point in my study that I realized that what I really wanted/needed to know is what is peace? So I looked up peace in the dictionary. Then I looked up the root of the word "peace".

"Peace" has the Hebrew root [slm], which means to be "complete or whole" or to "live well". Deeper digging - root verb shalom meaning be be "complete, perfect and full". "Wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of discord."

Another source mentioned a word the Kekchi Indians of Guatemala have that comes close to the meaning of shalom that defines peace as "quiet goodness".

All of this pondering on peace teaches me that peace is active and vibrant. When we do as Paul taught and "in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God", He blesses us with the "peace of God which passeth all understanding" and guards our hearts and minds from needless fear and worry (Philippians 4:6-7), because  we "can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [us]" (Philippians 4:13).

Elder Richard G. Scott taught, "As you exercise that agency and include [Father in Heaven] in every aspect of your daily life, your heart will begin to fill with peace, buoyant peace. That peace will focus an eternal light on your struggles. It will help you to manage those challenges from an eternal perspective" (Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority," Ensign, Nov. 2014, 93).

To publish peace is to testify of Christ, not just vocally, but in the way you live your life every day. Love, live and serve to the best of your ability the way Christ did, knowing that He loves each of us and that He is always with us. We can feel that inward peace, wholeness, and completeness that living after the manner of Christ brings, even during difficult challenges. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, it will all work out. I hope and pray that Rylee finds the peace she is looking for.

Life is magnificent.

Mar 14, 2017

Will I Always Be a Step Behind Schedule?

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

I'm running as fast as I can, but I feel like I'm always a step behind where I should be. Perhaps I'm judging myself harshly, but I lost precious writing days earlier in the year due to bad weather and power outages, which put me behind schedule for producing new work. That caused me to give in to anxiety, which of course put me further behind in my production schedule. I'm trying to catch back up, but the days have been lost, and putting more pressure on myself could cause another period of anxiety-driven down time, which can't be good. Unless I'm supposed to stop being so busy and be still.

Maybe I need to explore that concept?

I haven't worked out how being still will aid my publishing schedule, except in the realm of being still and knowing that God is, and that He loves me and is mindful of me. That is always a great comfort.

Two weeks ago I revealed the cover of my new book, From Julia's Kitchen: Owen Family Cookery, which was published last Friday. I'm now working to finish and format the manuscript of another book, a nonfiction Indie Publishing guide, so I can release it soon. I've been agonizing over a cover for that book. I just couldn't find anything that suited it. Then I decided to throw off fear and make the cover myself.

Perhaps that will work. I hope so! Yes, I'm fluffier than the chick on the cover, but that's how I'd like readers to think I look. I can dream, right?

I won't give you a date for the release, but if God be willing and the creek don't rise any higher (literally), it will be soon.

I have more story ideas than I have time to write them, so wish me luck, good weather, and lots of energy so I can get them all written and published.

Mar 10, 2017

Building My Writer's Platform

Unleashed! is written, and I'm submitting to Literary Agents.  However, as many of you know, this part of the process is slow going.

It can take upwards of a month or two or six before I'll get a response on my book, if I get one at all. So, in order to keep from going crazy, I'm building my writer's platform. Ugh.

This means, building and maintaining my website, working on my blog, building a mailing list, and increasing my reach on social media.  I don't have 11K followers on Twitter, like Brandon Mull.  I don't have thousands of people on my e-mail list. Technically, I don't even have one. Yet. But I do have almost five thousand followers on my Pinterest account. Does that account for something?
I hope so, because what I learned from building followers on Pinterest is this: The first thousand followers are the hardest. After that, the ball begins to pick up momentum on it's own. Any work a person puts in after that, only increases the momentum.

It took a month of hard work - hours upon hours pinning and following others until they started finding me on their own.  Now, I average a few hundred new followers per month, putting in minimal work. If only I can translate that effort into an e-mail list.

At the ANWA Northwest Writer's Retreat last Fall, Leah M. Berry presented her book, Story Marketing: How to Have Fun Marketing Your Fiction Book. I was fascinated, enthralled, and excited by all the ideas she presented. Marketing has always been the hardest part of running a business for me. But she presented it in a beautiful little package that sang to my introverted soul!

I bought the book then went home and drafted a list of ways I could use her ideas for my book. Now I have 110 blogs, and a year's worth of tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram ideas.

I know what you're thinking: "That's a lot of work!" But Seriously? If you're like me, you already spend hours in front of a computer editing, writing stories, and building entire new worlds. You've already done the work.  Why not use some of the material that didn't make it between the cover of your book to draw more potential buyers?

Right now, I'm in the throws of website creation and integrating the mailing list to the website.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.  Hopefully it will be good news!

Until Next time...

Mar 7, 2017

Dad Passed On & I am Dealing with it

by Terri Wagner

Quick note. My dad passed on and I have included a link to his obituary. I am finding my first week back at work harder than I thought. For over 20 years, I would walk in the door and dad would ask how my day went. The dogs are grieving as well.

I know where he is and have a pretty good idea of what he's doing, and that is a comfort I cannot testify more about.

I was asked to give the eulogy and so many people thought I was so talented. All I could think was ask any Mormon what it's like to give a talk lol.

His memorial service was at his Baptist church he loved so much. I find myself talking much more to the dogs, and saying crazy things like "you'd better not go any time soon." I say this because the Yorkie has untreatable cancer, Kota is 13, and Daisy around 12. We are not spring chickens around here. I know I will get through this as President Hinckely said so wisely one baby step at a time.

Billie W Wagner

Mar 4, 2017

Tell Me A Story

One of the flaws of growing Old, I find, is that now that I’ve accumulated a few decades of wisdom, nobody wants any of it. I guess that’s valid; I wasn’t keen on taking advice from “my elders” either. 

To console myself, I look back on some of the things I’ve done well over my lifetime. One is teaching my children the power of story, of wrapping words around thoughts in a way others can see your meaning.

Husband and I taught our youngsters to tell stories from the time they could lisp soft words. Before they turned two, they could tell about their experiences. “Look, a duck!” is a fine story, and worth listening to. Image result for duckclipart freeWe pelted them with questions to help them sort their thoughts: what did it look/sound/feel/smell like, and then what happened, and what did you think about that, and what was the best part, and how did you feel when that happened? Asking them to tell their experiences caused them to be more attentive to details, while things they may have glossed over took on meaning. 

By the time they reached school age, they were proficient story-tellers. They clamored to tell about their day as soon as they came in the door, often tripping over their words (and those of their siblings) in their haste to tell their story. If they lagged, we’d prompt: what was the most interesting thing you noticed today, did you see any kindness, what was funny, what new thing did you learn today, did you imagine a different ending?

Their friends caught on fast; often, a playmate after school also lined up to tell their story, about that silly thing that happened on the playground, or the drawing their teacher sketched on the board; either a fish or a sock, they weren’t altogether sure. What did it look like, what color was it, why was that unusual, was that something you’d enjoy doing again?

 As a parent, I learned a lot by listening. If a daughter mentioned her new friend Jill every day for a week, then quit mentioning her, I knew to ask about Jill later on. If I noticed a story included a bully, a phone call was in order. If a child reported his teacher in tears, I’d walk the kid to school the next day, just to let the teacher know she wasn’t alone (and to apologize if my son was the tear-trigger; especially in first grade, he usually was).

As I age, I value stories more than ever. I see how helping our little ones learn to express themselves well helped them through their lives. It makes my day when a now-grown child calls and says, "Hey, Mom, want to hear what I did today?" I delight in seeing them teach my seven adorable grandchildren to tell stories, too. I’m a big believer in circles, and this one is powerful. Maybe getting Old allows me a wider vista. 

Mar 2, 2017

The World Gets Smaller and Brighter

by Kari Diane Pike

Have you ever walked by a group of people, not really paying attention because you expect them to be strangers, and your brain does that "flip through all the photo I.D. pictures stored in your memory files" because a face in the group set off your "I know that person" alarm? Then you do a double-take and trip over your own feet because you know that blast from the past now lives more than six hundred miles away. You want to shout out a greeting and grab them and give them a big, ole hug - but you're in a place where noise and exuberance is highly inappropriate and it takes every ounce of self-control to maintain decorum.

That very thing happened to me this week. I had just finished my shift volunteering in the Gilbert temple. I walked through a foyer filled with people getting ready to attend the only wedding scheduled for the day. One face stood out to me - a friend and neighbor twenty-four years ago, Becky had moved from where I met her in Flagstaff, Arizona to a home in Utah. 

I touched her arm to get her attention and whispered her name. "Becky!" 

Becky's face lit up with the smile that I remembered so well. "Kari!" She glanced at my name tag. "You're working here in the temple?"

"Yes. It's so good to see you." I waved my hand toward the missionary name tag clipped to Becky's blouse. "What are you doing here?"

Becky nodded toward the other women seated next to her. "Craig and I are serving a mission in Orem, and he's still there, but I got permission to travel down with family for my great-niece's wedding. She searched for eight years after a messy divorce and finally found the most perfect guy. We are so excited for her." 

A temple worker motioned for the wedding party to move upstairs. Becky and I exchanged hugs and parted company with a promise to connect through Facebook.

Happy memories and the joy of reconnecting with a good friend accompanied me into the parking lot. Cotton candy clouds left over from a recent storm drifted across a blue sky. Tree branches conducted a slight breeze that danced with the petticoat petaled petunias and pansies. I looked across the parking lot to find my car and headed that direction. A gentleman and three ladies stepped out from between a row of vehicles and headed my direction. Wait. I know that guy. And the blonde lady with him - that's his wife. It's the Robertson's. Wow. First Flagstaff and now Phoenix friends. What a great day. 

I quickened my step towards them. "Hey, I know you!" 

Brother Robertson grinned and waved."Well hello. How are you?" He shook my hand. 

I turned and greeted his wife and gave her a hug. "What are you guys doing down here? You live so close to the Phoenix temple."

"We're here for our son's wedding. He went through a divorce a few years ago and finally found someone who likes getting dirty and fixing cars as much as he does."

"That is amazing. And this is a second marriage for her too, after eight years of searching." 

Sister Robertson grinned at me. "Yes. And you know this because..." 

"I know some of the bride's family. I just spoke with one of her aunt's because we used to be neighbors in Flagstaff. They said that your son is the best thing that every happened to [the bride]. Plus, it's the only wedding on the schedule today." 

We shared another round of hugs and I let the Robertson's get off to the wedding. 

I couldn't wait to share with my husband how our world just got a little bit smaller. Every time I experience these connections the universe makes more sense. My belief that we are all here for a reason deepens. The light gets brighter. My love for others expands. And my testimony of the plan of salvation and faith in the Savior's Atonement grows more firm. Life is magnificent.