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?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

How Writing Can Be Cathartic

It's been four years since my father died. He passed exactly eleven months after my mother. Though the doctors blame Gangrene and Diabetes, I know it's from a broken heart.

For Mom, I cried once for three or four minutes. After that, I was done.

 I never cried for my father. Not as I watched the light fade from his eyes, or when they carted his lifeless body out of the house, or at his funeral.  I wasn't even teary-eyed.

For a while I felt guilty for having no emotion.  My father was a hard man to love, but he was still my father. Wasn't that enough? Apparently my mind didn't think so.

In my heart, I've known for years that Define Normal needed to be written. But I opted to let other projects take precedence, pushing it further down my to-do list.

Finally, this winter, my sisters and I decided it was time to write. The sisters decided since I was the writer (insert laughter here), I would spearhead the project.  My only stipulation was that all stories would be funny. I didn't want Debbie Downer vignettes. Define Normal was designed to heal, not re-open wounds from our past. The Crazy Cady Sisters were created.

We began writing, each of us tasked with turning out one story (3-4 pages) per week, and 1 blog post every two weeks.  At first, we reminisced about growing up together, discovering different perspectives about our family and parents based off our 20-year age gap, and added new memories to the old.  We Skyped twice a month, and most of it was spent rolling with laughter and wiping our eyes.

Friendships were re-kindled, and sisterhood was strengthened. We were well on our way to having something to pitch in September at the ANWA Conference.

However, last night, I was reading a sister's blog post, preparing to add it to our Twitter feed.  The blog discussed all the things our father did for our family of ten children.  As I read the exhaustive list, I cried.  Not delicate trickles down the cheek, but giant crocodile tears, snot running out of my nose, and hiccuping sobs.  Years of resentment, anger and sadness escaped.

I mourned the loss of my father while cursing my ignorance and selfishness. I hadn't noticed his struggles to make our family fun, filled with laughter, and to raise hard-working, hard loving, independently minded children.  I cried over my unwillingness to see, and the many chances I missed to tell him I loved him. I sobbed over his big heart. And my small mind.

When I finished wiping my eyes, I knew the tears were a result of our book. We had written the thoughts in our hearts. Some, we already knew. Other emotions were discovered after they settled onto our pages. All of it will be forever etched in black and white for the world, and our other siblings to see.

In the end, I hope our family will draw closer to one another. If we cannot, at least I know how much my father loved me and each of my siblings. Now, after all of these years, I can properly mourn him.