Monday, August 31, 2015

Who Is your Favorite Super Hero?

Valerie J. Steimle

It seems all we hear about at the movies are super heroes… Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Ironman, the Hulk, Hawkeye, Birdman, Bugman, Big Hero Six; the list goes on and on.  The rehashing of stories over and over again; how many Batman series has there been? Whew!

We had this discussion last night around the dinner table with my teen children and they think it’s great.  They kept asking me who my favorite super hero was and they would not let me rest until I told them. I guess I’m not into super heroes but if I had to pick one it would be Captain America. He’s lived through trials in his life which helped develop his humility and he is devoted to his country.

This got me thinking about super heroes. My true super hero would have to be those we read about in the Book of Mormon. A Lamanitish women by birth, Abish had been converted to the Lord for many years “on account of a remarkable vision of her father.” (Alma 19:17) She was one of the servants to King Lamoni’s wife and when Ammon, and King Lamoni, along with his wife fell down under the power of God, Abish was right there to gather the city together to see this miracle. She had helped in the cause of strengthening the city’s testimony of God.

Another one is Captain Moroni with his title of liberty: (Alma 46:12) “And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.”

Now that is a real hero. He rallied his people to defend their faith and their families. Both of these people are heroes in my book and as writers we need to fashion the idea how important it is in our writings to promote peace. Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, we can promote goodness.  

We can inspire our readers to look for the good in others and remember what is truly important.  We can create memorable characters and touch the hearts of others with our stories. Yes, being a superhero has its drawbacks of long nights of editing and rewriting, but the end result is worth all of our hard work. We are the super heroes of modern times.

Friday, August 28, 2015

First Day of School

I was supposed to post on Monday, Aug. 24th, but it was the first day of school. 

A big day at our house as the oldest was shipping off to the unknown territory of middle school. 

She'd agonized about it all summer long. The night before I had to calm her down from having 3 panic attacks. 

The fateful morning arrived. The alarm went off and she was dressed before her parents were even out of bed. Ready before the bus departed, she excitedly bounded out the door with her twenty pound backpack, I and other parents were relegated to watching from a respectful distance on a nearby street corner until they loaded and drove off. 

All morning I waited for her lunch time to arrive when I knew she could text me how it was going. As I sat in the movie theater enjoying The Man from UNCLE with my mom to celebrate my birthday the day before, I discreetly checked my phone to see the glowing text message icon with a numeral one in the corner. It was my daughter. With equal parts worry and hope, I opened the message to read:

Middle school is AWESOME!

A smile and large sigh of relief unrelated to the film graced my features. Life was good. My daughter would survive this milestone with joy. 

That message has been repeated all week. She loves it. I hope the trend continues and it continues to be a positive experience. I pray she will come out relatively unscathed by all the negatives that can be encountered at this age. Prayer is one of the few tools I have left in my arsenal to protect her. 

Not to leave out my son, he started 2nd grade. Nice teacher, a few friends already in class, and lots to look forward to. But he'll have his own struggles I'm sure. 

Best wishes for your first day of school. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A dog and his gifts...

by Suzanne Warr

When we decided to sell our mini farm and move our family and dog, Zeke, away from the four fenced acres he was used to running on, I knew it would be an adjustment.  When we settled on a new home and the fenced part of the back yard turned out to be just big enough for him to turn around in, I expected the worst.  This was a dog who was accustomed to alertly watching over his property, with the nearest neighbors a few horses and goats down the street.  A dog who enjoyed occasional walks around the deserted pond just further down the lane, but was happiest keeping an eye on the chickens and guineas in the barn.

He slept in the house, but had free access to the outdoors almost 24-7, and he loved to roam.  How was he possibly going to adjust to city life?  And would we all survive it?

I shouldn't have worried.  Here we are, almost six months in, and I'm grateful every day for my walking buddy.  At first I worried about how icky I'd find cleaning up after him.  After all, a dog's gotta go, and where he goes needs to be left clean and any 'gifts' bagged up!  On our acreage, I didn't have to worry about that, because my sweet dog always did his business off in the woods and buried it.  I'm telling you, he really was the perfect farm dog!

But, I've found the knack for quick clean up with an inside-out bag, and our neighborhood comes stocked with both bags and trash cans to put them in.  And the walks!  They've been just lovely.

Without Zeke needing me to take him out, I wouldn't have seen the gorgeous sunsets, rainbows, and evening bats I have.  My stress levels and body wouldn't have benefited from getting up from my writing and editing desk so frequently to take a quick turn around the neighborhood.  I'm also meeting neighbors quicker, and getting to know the area's walking trails and lakes.  Truly, it's been the most unexpected of blessings!

Yesterday was National Dog Day, or some such, and plenty of people posted pics in appreciation of their pooches.  I'm appreciative of my sweet dog, too, for his adaptability and steady companionship.  And I'm also grateful for the good things we never see coming.  It's so easy to roll right over the small blessings, and better-than-we-thought outcomes.  Today, I'm taking a moment to savor them.
Do you have any you'd like to share?  We can savor together!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

One Day, Ten K ....

This spring, things sort of went haywire for me. We were living in a house that had issues, and as the final straw in a long, long list of straws, our basement flooded to the point where my children had to vacate their bedrooms and bring all their stuff up into the living room. Yeah, that was fun. We found a new place to live and moved into it eight days after finding it. For anyone who's counting, that means we moved three times in eight months. Not my favorite thing ever. The side effect of this is that I got very behind on my work, which meant a lot of scrambling trying to catch up. Catching up never did happen, but I did get the projects done ... very late, but done. Some of that was accomplished by pulling several ten-thousand-word days. Yeah, crazy, huh? Some authors do that as a matter of course, but I never had. I'm in the groove now, baby!

Let me share some tips on how to make it work.

1. Get your family on board. Tell them you have a lot to do and ask for their cooperation. Do this a day or two in advance so they know what to expect.

2. Have plenty of your favorite writing snacks on hand.

3. Team up with other writers who also want to write all day, and check in with each other regularly to cheer everyone on. This is a pretty important part of the process. Gotta keep that motivation high.

4. Have an idea what you're going to write - take a few minutes to jot down key words for your scenes so you aren't spending precious time just staring at the screen.

 5. Once you start, don't stop to edit or criticize yourself. Just get it out on paper. You can edit it later.

6. Stand up and walk around a lot, and while you're walking, be thinking about the next thing you're going to write so you can dive right back in.

 7. Take a nap in the middle if you need to, or a shower, or a walk. But get right back to it when you're done.

 I warn you, your hands might be a little numb afterwards, and your brain will feel like it's been turned to pudding. But you can do it! Maybe not 10K, if you're new to writing or not a quick typist, but you can increase your word counts and amaze yourself with your awesomeness. And I may have actually hit almost 13K on one of those days, but who's counting, right?

Monday, August 17, 2015

People and Other Trash

by H. Linn Murphy

My youngest daughter is finally going through the room she once shared with her sister, shoveling out years of garbage I've asked them to clean countless times. The middle daughter has gotten married and she now and then deigns to come by and rescue an item or two. It is, in our house, as if a giant had an upset stomach and has belched forth a giant, bulky pile of vomit.

The thing is, that now that she is in this mode, (or call it 'they' since middle daughter participates on occasion) J is getting rid of everything. All ties to her past have been cut loose and are now relegated to big black trash bags and boxes in my living room and kitchen and bedroom. As long as it isn't in her new bedroom. Things I'd given her and her sisters are jumbled up with old school papers and broken hair ties and a million other bits of flotsam.

Don't get me wrong. I've begged them to shovel out their room on many occasions. I just want them to be carefully selective. It's been very painful for me to see everything go. Toys that cost us loads of money and were barely played with, she tossed out as if they were bags of bug-infested candy (also in there). I fully expect to see my grandmother's carefully concocted doll house resting atop Crud Mountain in the next day or two. Maybe she's weighing the thought of having it gone, with the fit she thinks I'll pitch.

So this morning I thought about it. Why are they so blithe about dumping everything? Why does it bother me so much that I can't give them the least little thing. They demand all new stuff. Why should their tossing things I've given them bug me so much? Maybe it's because for me, all of this is actually a parable about people.

This is the deal: All of my life I've been the Stuff Adoption person. I don't get new stuff. I've never once had a new car. I've never gone to a store to buy a new couch or any other large item of furniture (although last year my husband bought a new dish washer and stove). I very rarely get to go buy myself new clothes. I adopt other people's stuff, whether it's from my mom or my grandma or my messy best friend. I've examined each thing that people are casually dumping and wondered if it had a place in my house--if its presence would mean that we could have something new without paying anything for it. Does it have value? Or should I let it go into the trash? It offends me to see people toss perfectly good pennies (sometimes in actuality). Save up the pennies and buy something good with them.

It's not like there are tiny trails around my house amidst the tidal waves of rubble--well normally. (This week is an exception, apparently.) I'm not a mental hoarder case. I do toss stuff all the time. I donate items regularly. I've tried to promote a mindset of one thing in, one thing out. But I have also built a home some people call eclectic and cute. And I've done it without breaking the bank. I give things value. I enjoy taking out the old things from my childhood to look at and reminisce over.

I think that the children of today don't know how to assign a value to anything that isn't currently new or in constant use. They want all their music on Pandora. They want all their movies on the Cloud. They get their recipes and decorating ideas from Pinterest. They get their knowledge from Google. They want their relationships on Facebook or Twitter or the next big thing. "Those things will always be there," they say. But I know they won't. Those things will go away and they'll have nothing to show for it all.

I and my husband often chaperone youth dances. The kids these days hardly move. They stand on the dance floor and text each other.  Why can't we have decent face-to-face conversations anymore? And why do they refuse to think that there is anything wrong with insulating themselves with barriers of circuits and plastic and miles?

Not only that, they don't want to have to carry boxes of old things around with them. They, the perennial nomads, flitting from one garishly spangled ride to the next at the fair. What catches their fancy had better be glitzy and at the cutting edge of fashion or they won't offer it a second look.

And that's apparently often how they want their relationships. If you aren't exactly their type, they don't have time for you. They rarely take a moment to dig for the real gold. It's all surface sequins. "What have you done for me today? Nothing much? Bye-bye." "Misunderstanding? Too bad. I don't have time for you." Those learning instances go flying past with the speed of a runaway freight train.

I'm hoping it's not too late. I'm hoping that someday soon she'll wake up and realize that what she's been running over for the last six months wasn't gravel, it was people with very real feelings. Take time to get to know a person. 

When I first started visiting teaching as a young married lady, I didn't really 'get' older ladies. They were just homogenized, two dimensional paper dolls with bluish white hair and a weird split pea soup smell. But then one day I took the time to stop and listen. Whole vistas opened up for me that day. Each woman had stories, many of them avidly interesting. I've known dancers, authors, a woman who someone just gave a child to, lock, stock, and barrel. I've visited climbers and artists and war brides. I've known cowgirls and chefs. 

All of those millions of hours of life to be wadded up and thrown in the trash because they're an old lady paper doll? I don't think so. I want to teach my children that each person matters to Heavenly Father--each one is intrinsically important. If He keeps track of every single sparrow, what then of His beloved children?

What, then, of the works of their hands, of their hours of service and creation? They have value. I feel appreciating a person's value is one lesson Heavenly Father is avid for us to learn.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

If I could just freeze time riiiiight ... now.

Raising six kids isn't always easy. They fight, they want dinner every single day (along with breakfast and lunch—go figure), and they make messes seconds after the house is cleaned up. Oh, and they're really, really good at ganging up on their parents. But I wouldn't trade them for a second.

As my kids have grown, I've enjoyed each stage. When you get to cuddle them close with their tiny fingers and toes. Then when they roll over, sit up, stand, and take their first steps. The first time they discover they love to draw—on your walls. Well, let's just say I could have handled skipping the 3 year old stage ...

Anyway, watching their personalities develop and learning what they like and dislike has been fascinating. We've raised them all the same, but they take those lessons differently. Of course, there are similarities as well. They all love sports, they'd trade anything to go swimming or camping, and nothing beats going to visit their grandparents. And on the negative side, they're learning to talk back from their older brother. Yippee.

But having gone from the newborn stage up until now, I would like to just say "Freeze!" Right now. Right now is the perfect time. They're not babies anymore and are independent children who know what they want and know how to get it for themselves. And they're not old enough that I have to deal with crushes and dating and high school anything. But just for this year, because while Jakob is a freshman, he's still at the junior high this year. So, can we freeze time?

Why? For a few reasons. My little ones take care of their mom. They make sure I'm dressed and fed every morning (even when I just want to sleep for one more hour), they make sure I have time to write (and give me all kinds of ideas—especially my youngest), and they bring me what I need. It's not that I need it, because I'm perfectly capable of doing all those things on my own. It's because they want to make me happy. They want to spend time with me. And I can't guarantee that it will always be the case.

My oldest likes to remind me that he only has four more years until his mission. But it's more of a "oh my goodness, I'm almost old enough to go on a mission!" than a "Yes, I'm outta here!" attitude. My youngest informs me she's no longer a baby because she's going to kindergarten this year.

So, could I just have a little more time with them how they are right now? Can I just freeze time long enough to get as much playing time as I can while they still beg me to play? No? Well, then I guess I better go make the best of what I have now. Where's that fishing pole?