Oct 31, 2017


by Terri Wagner

Once upon a time, I used to dress up on October 31 and wander around my neighborhood getting candy. I usually went with a group and had a blast, the homemade treats were as tasty as the bought candy. Each house tried out do its neighbor in the scary but fun aspect of Halloween. I graduated from princess to pirate to Star Wars characters as my Halloween celebrations went from trick-n-treat to dances and parties. I had fun no matter what I did. I looked forward to being the house that dressed itself up, and handed out the flavor of the year treat.

In the words of a Tim Burton movie, "something went terribly wrong." Halloween became well weird. People started calling it Fall Festival...which just is not the same. People began x-raying candy, candy dispensing centers became the norm, think mall, and the age and time and date to trick or treat got complicated. What happened?

Did Satanists hijack Halloween like the Fall Festivalsayers claim? Did the inconvenience of a weekday Halloween just become too hard to set up? Did parties and adult tricks become the norm? Did the horror (think gross out) films take the fun from the holiday? It makes me sad.

I hope the tide changes or the pendulum swings back or whatever it takes to make it a fun kids holiday again. My favorite costume as a kid...hands down the pirate. I mean I got a sword! As a young adult, dressing up like an Ewok and singing Halloween carols to the bishop/stake presidencies at their homes, as an older adult, hands down opening the door to the cutest kids with the biggest smiles and handing out a treat.

The church's trunk and treat comes close to what I used to know. Let's take the holiday back.

My trunk and treat cuties...the mermaid and the rock star.

Oct 28, 2017

Whose Story Is It Anyway?

by Deb Graham

Whose story is it?

“Using the pointillism technique we’ve explored this week, draw a human foot. Due Monday.”

Confidently, I jotted down the assignment and headed home for the weekend. I got this! My grandmother was visiting, and she had the oddest feet I’d ever seen. Her baby toes curled under, and the corns near her big toes bulged.  I knew she’d welcome the chance to sit and pose for me while she crocheted. And I knew my art teacher would love it.

Pointillism; a series of dots gathered together in a foot shape; I knew I could excel at this art class’ first homework. I spent two hours carefully detailing every inch of Grandma’s left foot. My family agreed I’d caught the realism.

 On Monday, I slipped my sketch paper out of my hinged portfolio and clamped it on my easel to show the teacher when he circled the room. Ten minutes later, I was in tears, humiliated from the public mockery and scolding dished out.

 Inaccurate lines.

Bulge by big toe.

Baby toes grotesquely rolled under

 Visible boney structure and exaggerated veins.

And he announced my grade to the class; my very first D-. He said he only gave Fs when assignments were not turned in; this was a half point above not drawing at all. I held on another three weeks, then dropped the high school class, and with it, whatever latent drawing talent I may have had.

Today I secured a floor-length artist’s smock around my grandson; at only two years of age, adult clothing is always floor-length. I set him in front of an easel, and offered him his very first paintbrush.

“What color do you want?”

“Yite bwoo!”  No surprise there; light blue is his favorite color.

I sat back. The little guy dipped his brush in the paint. Sure of himself, he arched wide blue swaths with gleeful abandon. I envied his confidence and obvious joy. And I didn’t tell him how to hold the brush, what strokes to make or criticize his choice of color. This was his art, not mine.

I’m a writer and an author. I've published 17 books, three this year. I’m most comfortable in nonfiction because it’s predictable; I control the outcome. I’ve written two novels and I’m working on three more. Fiction tends to go off on its own, and I find that unnerving. Characters speak to me, scenes veer off where I hadn’t intended, plot lines refuse to stay on track. Nonfiction doesn’t behave like that.

When I first attempted fiction, I figured I’d need all the help I could get. I researched, starting with internet searches on How To Write A Novel, How To Set A Scene, How To Write Dialogue; the basics. I also sought human help, including a critique group, beta readers, and editors.
When I wanted to learn to draw, I sought a teacher. At this stage, I find both about equally helpful.

Readers change the voice, insisting Will has to use complete sentences, and Cinci can’t use run-on sentences, although that’s the way I hear
 them in my mind. Others call my style “Yoda-like” and insist on most sentences starting with He Was or She Went; passive to the point of yawning. One said a child couldn’t jump on a trampoline for ten straight minutes, but clearly, she hadn’t seen a joyful child on a summer’s afternoon. “You can’t kill off that character, or I’ll be mad at you!” wailed another. “Put him back!” 

If I listened to them, my stories would be unrecognizable mush.

An artist paints, then steps back, admiring. Never do they create a masterpiece, then hand over the paintbrush to a person to let them add a few strokes to the bridge or erase that tree on the left.

As writers, why do we open ourselves to peer-critique? No one can hear the story in our words, so why do we allow Them to change our voice, to dull its sharp tones, to conform the structure into mind-numbing dullness?  It’s time to stop running our writing through committees.

How? Trust yourself. You’re the one who can hear the character; let them speak, unflattened. 

Believe in your own writing. Trust the process, because what’s the worst that can happen?

Be brave! Get a copyeditor who will only find typos. Ignore any attempts to change your style or writing in any way; they’re only suggestions. 

Sure, rules of grammar apply, and punctuation is critical; I get seriously annoyed by authors who lazily neglect to close quotes or who think every sentence must be paragraph-length, and you just can’t spell “unique” as “yewneak” and expect me to bother reading the rest. I have my limits, and anything that requires me to use a magic decoder ring to read isn’t worth my time. But editors who seek to change your plot, characters, theme, etc should...go write their own book.

Writers are artists, and we need to trust our art. The world needs to hear our voice, our story, and sometimes, just telling it and putting it out there is best, rather than letting it be edited to death.

I can’t draw anything fancier than a straight line, but I can write. 

Oct 26, 2017

New and Exciting Things - Life Happens

by Kari Diane Pike

In that space between sleep and wakefulness I watched the sun rise.The light chased away night's shadow and dressed the clouds in gowns of fuchsia, and gold, and copper. Color overflowed from the sky and a vibrant rainbow arched down to touch the valley below. The feelings of peace and gratitude  and joy that accompanied the scene added to the beauty.  The rainbow began to fade and I reached for my camera in order to capture the moment but I couldn't find it. The rainbow shimmered in a valiant effort to keep shining, then burst into glittery specks that fell to the earth. That's when I realized I had to be dreaming because (1) seeing a rainbow in front of the sun was scientifically impossible and (2) rainbows don't explode into glittery confetti.

The light faded behind a silvery mist and the echo of a train whistle outside stirred my consciousness. One more thought rode on the tail of my dream as it slipped away:
You couldn't take a picture of what you saw, but you can share its beauty by writing about it. The gift is yours as long as you use it for good.
 Today I met my new visiting teaching partner. As we chatted and got to know each other, she told me at least three times that I should write a book.

I haven't even been consistent lately about posting on this blog. What makes me think I can write a book? Sure, I talk about it. All.The.Time. But, you know. Life happens.

And then it hit me. Life happens! And it is magnificent. I love recognizing the Lord's tender mercies and watching the way He has prepared a way for everything to work out. Every day He sends angels to assist me on this incredible journey. And I want to share the beauty of witnessing how the Atonement of Jesus Christ blesses my life.

Two weeks ago, I learned I would be helping our oldest daughter drive her vehicle with five children, a dog, from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Phoenix, Arizona - oh, and towing a tent trailer the whole way. Sheer terror twisted my stomach in knots because, you know, two lane roads, ice, bar ditches, ice, never been there before, ice, camping along the way, ice... So I prayed. Our daughter prayed. My husband prayed. And several people came across our path. I learned from one friend that if we took the ferry to Seattle, we would save 1200 miles. That sounded like a perfect solution to avoiding the snow and ice that decided that week to cover the roads across Alaska and Canada.  Except we couldn't find a ferry schedule. And believe me, we searched.

A few days later, I met a man in a hospital waiting room who had lived in Alaska for twenty-five years. In less than thirty seconds, he pulled up a ferry schedule. Hoorah! Another step forward. But alas. The ferry wanted $4500.00 for the three day trip for our Clampett-like entourage. Nope. Not happening. More prayers were offered. More research took place. My husband determined that the best decision was to store the truck and the camper in Fairbanks and fly everyone to Arizona. Staying alive was much more important than the expense of flying. Our daughter searched some more and found plane tickets that would cost less than the amount needed for gas to drive for 60 hours or more. Win-Win!

That's how a Grandma, a Mom, five children, a dog and kennel, 13 checked bags and backpacks of various sizes, seven carry-on bags and seven personal items descended upon an Alaska Airline flight to Seattle and Phoenix. Compared to the idea of driving and camping in the snow for a couple of weeks, the ten hour layover was a piece of cake.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin spoke about "Come What May and Love It". He taught about four things that help us get through life:

  • Learn to laugh - it will extend your life
  • Seek for the eternal
  • Understand the law of compensation - every tear today will be returned a hundredfold
  • Put your trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
So during the past couple of days when my list of things to do threatened to topple over and bury me, I took a deep breath and watched the sunrise. I focused on the most important things, including a bike ride around the block with an active grandson and playing Mr. Potato Head with an imaginative granddaughter. I even found the time to post this blog, even if it had to wait until 10:35 p.m. 

In about eight hours the sun will rise again and new and exciting things are waiting to happen. I look forward to seeing what comes. I know it will be spectacular. 


Sunrise in Fairbanks. October 23, 2017

Oct 14, 2017

Bring on the Retreat!

by Deb Graham

As autumn settles in for good, I realize I’m exhausted. 

Part of this is because I just returned from a trip, and I leave again next weekend. Looking over my calendar, I see these are my 11th and 12th journeys this year, and two more biggies are scheduled before the holiday frenzy sets in. By the time my wedding anniversary rolls along, I’m invariably out of emotional fuel. Whose idea was it to marry right after New Year’s?  

Along with a whole lot of travel, I’ve had other bumps in my road this year; a few significant illnesses, my husband retired in May, then started a new (and undiscussed) job of work the following Monday. My eldest son has torn at the fibers of my family, causing sleepless nights and stomach pains.  My favorite (and only) daughter moved away and I grieve the loss of near-daily contact with her and my cute grandkids. I learned the meaning of Sandwich Generation as I worry for her having a rough time settling in and health challenges of her own, plus my mother who rode out a major hurricane at our place. I never aspired to be peanut butter, but sandwiched I am.

Writing has taken off this year; I’ve published three whole books and have several more in various stages of completion. Time-consuming, stressful, and enjoyable, it’s on my mind even when I sleep. I’ve longed for a personal assistant to take over the chores of advertising, website stuff, and other writing-related tasks that are not much fun.

As I said, I go into Fall feeling depleted, which is less than ideal since I live in the Pacific Northwest.  I need all the emotional energy I can muster to get through the upcoming long, gloomy, dreary, soul-sucking, endlessly rainy, dark, chilly days ahead. This year, I’m running on fumes, and it’s only early October.

But there is light on the horizon! I’m grateful to be at the ANWA Northwest Retreat as you read this! It’s my third year going, and I’m counting on the same uplift I found in the other years. The coming together of diverse, strong women, united in faith and common interest is soul-filling. I soak up knowledge insights, and information, but the best part of the Retreat is nurturing my bruised, tired soul absorbs.

These are not ordinary women; they’re creatives, out to push back the darkness of the world by writing uplifting, wholesome pieces that inspire and uplift. They’re warm and accepting, no  matter the level of writing we find ourselves, and just being in their presence is exactly what I need right now. I know I’ll come home re energized, buoyed up, strengthened and confident enough to step forward with feet undragging.

I’m not done unpacking from the last trip yet, but I already set aside a heap to take with me to the Retreat.  I can’t wait!!

Oct 10, 2017

Honoring Christopher Columbus

by Marsha Ward

Yesterday was the observance of Columbus Day in the United States, in accordance with the Monday holiday scheme. The original Columbus Day holiday is October 12, meant to commemorate the landing of Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492.

I extend my gratitude and thanks to Christopher Columbus for finding the New World and revealing its existence to the Spanish court. No, he was not the first to "discover" it, only the first to publicize its existence. And for that, I am truly thankful and grateful.

For an interesting article from WallBuilders that explains more about the man and why I celebrate Christopher Columbus, click here.

Oct 6, 2017

My Black Thumb Strikes Again

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. Crisp air turns noses red, dense fog blankets the earth and hovers over the river. Leaves turns brilliant hues of yellow, orange and red. Homes are decorated with pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks and hay bales. Crunching footsteps tromp through piles of dry leaves. Children chatter about their Halloween costumes, and the smell of pumpkin pies and warm, spiced cider waft through the air. I can almost feel the heat on my face from the crackling fire in the fireplace, flames dancing over a log, casting shadows on the pages of my book as I read nearby.

In Spokane, the metamorphosis from Summer to Autumn occurs almost overnight. One week, sweat rolls down my back, soaking into my shirt from triple-digit weather. The next week, frost covers the green grass, and I'm scraping car windows before I take kids to early morning seminary.

But by ten in the morning, the weather is perfect. 65 degrees F. Vivid blue sky with puffs of clouds and a brilliant sun brightening the day. It's the kind of weather that makes me want to go outside and do something.

Courtesy of: http://parkseed.com
Today, I only had two appointments, which means I had a few hours without (gasp!) anything to do.  So, I went outside for the first time since...well, who are we kidding? It's the first time all year. And, it's October. Ahem. Anyway, I went outside. To do yard work. I'd had a box of Red Hot Poker plants my sister had given me two months ago. They'd been sitting in the dilapidated cardboard box, slowly dying, changing from deep green, to pale green, then to tan, and a few of the stalks were now brown and brittle.  I'd walked by that pathetic, wilting box several times a day going to and from my car with my kids. I'd scurry from therapy sessions to school, seminary, church, and everything in between, promising myself I'd plant those poor flowers tomorrow. 

Tomorrow was today.  I grabbed a shovel, drug the box with my half-dead plants over to the side of the house where it gets the most sunlight during the day. I cleared out all the weeds vines, and debris from a year's worth of neglect, and planted those darned plants. 

As I stood, staring at the side of my house, dotted with green, wilting stalks, I shook my head.  It'll be a miracle if these poor things survive the winter.  Heck, who are we kidding? It'll be a miracle if they survive a week. Especially with my black thumb. But at least they have a fighting chance. Something they weren't getting in that stupid box!

I went into the garage and put away my shovel, lamenting over how I'd managed to neglect another set of plants. As I opened my front door, I glanced at the rock garden where my rose bushes used to be, and spied an itty bitty little purple stem from a burgeoning rose bush! The very same plant I've uprooted
four times, placed landscape tarp over, and then covered with about 2,000 lbs of rock. And yet somehow, this tenacious little plant has found it's way to the sunlight again. 

I think I snorted. I guess if that thing can survive me intentionally trying to kill it, my Red Hot Pokers have a chance at surviving my unintentional murderous tendencies. Either that, or I'm going to have to put a cape on that little rosebush, because that bugger has super powers!