Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Fortunate Life

One birthday, about twenty years ago, a friend from Australia sent me a book entitled "A Fortunate Life." It was written as a memoir and as I read into the first, second, an third chapters I wondered why the publishing company let that title slip through, because the author's life was anything but fortunate. He would overcome one trial or obstacle, only to encounter another that was waiting in the wings. Several times I set the book aside in frustration, only to pick it up again to see how the man shouldered his burdens and moved ahead. And, he not only moved ahead, but did so with lightness and gratitude, saying, "Mine is a most fortunate life."

By the end of the book the fortunate life was evident. The determination, positive outlook, and kindness he'd built into his character over the years made him a person to admire and emulate.

I can't remember the author's name because the book is gone and my reading of it was twenty years ago, but I do remember his life outlook. In fact, the story came back to me yesterday as I was grumbling about some little irritant that was ruining my day. I paused, looked up at the mountains with their Autumn colors of burnt orange and yellow, and took a breath. "Mine is a most fortunate life," I said loudly, and a most wondrous thing happened...my heart was changed from grumbling to gratitude.

Amazing grace.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A WRITER'S GARDEN



October is a time to tidy up, clean up, and put away. The harvest is done.  Only a few die hard potatoes are left in the garden.  The last brilliant roses are defying the coming snows. The season is nearly over.
 
 

Every year the onset of cooler weather is my signal to trim back my perennials, root out the annuals, dig in mulch, roll up and drain the hoses, rake leaves, put away the patio furniture, and generally get my yard ready for winter.  I learned a long time ago that the more effort I put into making all secure in the fall, the more beautiful and work free spring will be.

Like most writers I find an analogy to writing in almost everything around me.  I've often compared spring to the excitement and discovery of starting a new work.  Summer as the patient slogging through the grand vistas and discouraging, blistering middle, and fall as the completion, the time of harvesting or finishing a novel.  October is that period of clean-up; the time of going back through the manuscript to check the spelling and grammar, ensure that it's in the best possible shape. Review the comments of beta readers. It can be seen as exhausting necessary work or it can be filled with satisfaction from knowing you've done your best and you have a completed, ready for submission story ready to send to an agent or publisher. 

October is also the time to plant tulips.  Tulip bulbs, or those "big seeds" as my granddaughter calls them are almost magical and are often used as symbols.  To me they are a symbol of faith, a promise that no matter how deep the snow and how low the temperatures fall, spring will come.  Each writer needs a bit of tulip faith.  Even as this season's manuscript is sent on its way, seeds, big seeds, need to be planted.  Start that next manuscript before you hear back on the one already sent.  Dream big.  Plant big seeds.


 

 

  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Observations on Today's Teenagers

I'm fresh off an eight-day stay with two teen-age grandsons. What a completely different experience from raising my own kids! Granted, I only had one son who lived - these boys are the offspring of that son. Their third son is currently serving his mission. My son always said he probably missed his brother more than we missed having a second son. That may have been true when his three sisters bugged him and one shared his journal with a girl friend. (Not sure that breach has even yet been repaired!)

But these two grandsons are a fun mix of his good and not-so-good characteristics. It is fun to see, and yet there are times I wanted to tell them their behavior was not acceptable now, nor was it from their father all those years ago.

The 13-year-old is totally in the moment. He never misses a thing. He can quote conversations verbatim that you didn't even realize he heard. He is a talented musician - plays a wicked piano and is now taking voice lessons. He sings from the minute he gets up until he falls asleep at night - much to the annoyance of his 15-year-old brother because he isn't singing softly, but at the top of his lungs! He spends as much time fixing his hair as I do - maybe more. He has an immaculate and well-organized closet. His shirts are color-coordinated. He's extremely observant and questions everything. Why do you do it this way? Why? Where? How? Fun conversations with this one! And he loves shopping. Being the youngest, he got to do lots of shopping while his mom was redoing their house. She is working at being an interior designer. He is thinking of being an architect. He loves taking long solitary walks.

The 15-year-old is something else. Totally lost in his phone and music. Never without ear-phones. Also spends much time with his hair and grooming. He is an individual who doesn't want to be classified with the crowd. He started wearing headbands to school and tie-dyed a bunch of shirts while I was with them. His friends call him a hippie, but he's certainly not laid-back like that generation that we are familiar with was. He also is musical (their mom plays the piano beautifully and sings). He plays the piano and last year began guitar lessons. He's quite good and loves blues combined with rock. Thank heaven! Couldn't have stood eight days of rock! He also loves to bake cookies and has the recipe memorized for amazing chocolate chip cookies.He is a skateboard star - doing things that frighten me! His dad's dare-devil streak certainly came full bore to him!

They are too busy to eat unless I force them to sit down to the table - then they devour whatever is there and are gone again! Getting them to bed was impossible, though they both had set bedtimes - 9:30 and 10:00 respectively - but it never happened! My instructions were to take their phones when they went to bed - and I'm convinced that if I hadn't, the 15-year-old would have stayed up all night on his!

I guess the electronics are the main difference in raising my kids and staying with these boys. Homework is done with Google. Texts are sent to teachers about assignments. Everything is instant communication and constant! Although I was very happy for it so I could text them and say "I'm coming to pick you up. Be out front." Or "Where are you? It's time to come home." or they could text me. "Gramma, I forgot this. Will you bring it to me when you pick me up from seminary?"

It is a new world, but some things never change. Boys will always be boys and try your patience and press to test at every opportunity. I'm just grateful they are good boys! What would I have done if they were juvenile delinquents!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Morality and Education

I would love to know the statistics on the number of students being home-schooled now as compared to thirty years ago. I know the number would be vastly greater today, therefore, my next question is, why? Does education today have a different purpose and dynamic than it did thirty years ago? Does it have a different focus than envisioned when America was established?

The Founding Father's set the Constitution on pillars of decency and morality. Because of this standard, there was a philosophy of acceptance of all religions in the communities being established across the country. The Northwest Ordinance, drawn up in 1787, outlined the standards that territories must follow in order to become states. Article 3 of the Ordinance required that schools in the new communities should be established, and that students should be taught three basic things: religion, morality, and knowledge.

When French political statesman and writher Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831, he was intrigued by the vibrant successes he witnessed in the fledging country. In his famous work, Democracy in America, he wrote the following:

Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of
society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political
institutions...in France I had almost always seen the spirit of
religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions.
But, in America I found they were intimately united...There is no
country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater
influence over the souls of men than in America.
 
 
In the early 1900's an influential educator by the name of John Dewey began to train teachers at Columbia University Teachers College. By 1953, 1/3 of all the presidents and deans of teacher training schools in America were graduates of Columbia's Teachers College. There is a note of interest which should be looked at in connections with this training. John Dewey based his entire program on humanism, in fact, he was the President of the American Humanist Association. He signed the Humanist Manifesto, and consented to its principles, one of these being:
 
I believe in no God and no hereafter. It is immoral to indoctrinate children with such beliefs. Schools have no right to do so, nor indeed have parents. I believe that religious education and prayers in school should be eliminated. I believe that denominational schools should be abolished...I believe that children should be taught religion as a matter of historical interest, but should be taught about all religions, including Humanism, Marxism, Maoism, Communism, and other attitudes of life...I believe that unborn babies are not people; I am as yet unsure whether the grossly handicapped are people in the real sense. I believe there is no such thing as sin to be forgiven and no life beyond the grave, but death everlasting.
 
 
With such dogma permeating our "modern" educational system, is it any wonder that the basic strength of our system has deteriorated? Whereas America in its early years was the envy of its European neighbors, it now ranks towards the bottom of global comparison. The 1950's, 60's, and 70's brought a further "dumbing down" of American education and morality.
 
Is it any wonder that more and more parents are opting for private schools with a return to the principles of education set down by the founders, or for home schooling? It doesn't surprise me in the least. 
 






Monday, September 29, 2014

Keeping Our Fetchies About Us


I have many favorite scriptures. So many, I've started to organize them into groups. One such group is entitled: "Cheer." This may seem like an odd title for scriptures, but to me, it makes perfect sense. There are some days when I need to be reminded that it's important to be cheerful . . . or full of cheer. This is often a difficult challenge during these lovely latter days. There are days when I feel like shouting: "There is no sunshine in my soul today!!!" That's usually when an annoying snatch of a hymn, or a snippet of a scripture, or an inspiring thought from a book I'm reading will strive to snag my attention. I'm ashamed to admit that there are days when I do my best to ignore those items. Sometimes I want to pout. I want to shake my fist at the cloud-filled sky and bask in self-pity mode.

When bad things happen, the last thing we want to be told is that we're supposed to be a good sport about it. I suspect it's part of our very human nature to desire a moment to throw ourselves, burst into tears, or smack someone who has truly upset/annoyed/traumatized us. That's when I do my best to walk away for a brief time-out and I try to get my "fetchies" back about me. (It's a family saying. It's important to not lose one's fetchies.) I've learned, that for me, it often takes a combination of things to help me sort everything out and get back on track. A brisk walk in the fresh air, having a water moment (I'm a water person--sitting beside a gurgling brook, or an inspiring waterfall, a gorgeous lake, etc. soothes my spirit) or losing myself in a good, inspiring book, reading through a handful of my favorite scriptures, etc.

This past weekend, a plethora of bad things hit the fan all at the same time. We did our best to survive the adventures, but I think by Sunday, we were sitting in a bit of shock, doing our best to keep our fetchies about us. Fortunately for me, I had been battening down my hatches without fully realizing that's what I was doing. I had felt impressed to pick up a certain book and begin reading it before the adventures started. The title, ironically, was: "If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard," by one of my favorite authors, Sheri Dew. I had actually read this thought from the pages of that book moments before a phone call that shared some rather bad news: "God never bestows upon His people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them." (Brigham Young; Journal of Discourses, 3:206)

After Sister Dew shared that thought, she mentioned that it would've been easy for the handcart pioneers to have turned back when things became a bit dicey--but they didn't. In her words: "They didn't turn back. And neither can we."

Shortly after reading that passage in Sister Dew's book, and after doing my best to absorb the news that had been shared via the phone, a knock sounded at my door, sharing further bad news. Later, as I sat in a bit of dazed shock . . . my fetchies all a flutter, I turned to a favorite scripture, one of those I keep filed away under the heading, Cheer: "Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord an with you, and will stand by you . . ." (D. & C. 68:6)


Taking comfort in that thought, I then rolled up my sleeves and did what I often do when tragic moments arrive and I'm not sure what to do to help . . . I bake. I made brownie cookies to share with loved ones who were having an extremely bad day.

That task kept me distracted for a while, but I'll admit, my fetchies were threatening to bounce off the deep end again later that night. So I watched the talks from the General Women's Conference . . . and it helped me rein things in again.

It seems to me that when challenging times descend, we are never left alone to wade through the deep waters of despair and grief. We are given tender mercies that help ease us through--even if we don't realize it at the time. Looking back, we can always see a pattern of help that emerged quietly--there to soothe us if we so choose. "In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief . . ." is extremely true. (Hymn # 142, Sweet Hour of Prayer). I've experienced this process too many times to doubt that it happens. There are no coincidences. We are prepared, helped, and comforted when we need it the most. All we have to do is to push away the human tendency to lose our fetchies, and humbly accept our Father's loving embrace. It comes in a variety of ways--those I've already listed, and others I haven't touched upon. Since we're all quite unique, how we experience spiritual solace varies. And, as with anything important, the adversary is right there to do his best to scatter our fetchies. It becomes quite a task to block his negativity, and to cling to the positive light that can shine in our lives if we so choose.

Wherefore, we should be of good cheer . . . and not full of fear . . . for our Savior is near . . . to restate the scripture I shared a moment ago. This needs to be our mantra during these crazy latter days. We never know what lies in store, but we can rest assured we will always have the help we need to survive it.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Blatant Advertising


Come see me and forty or so other authors this coming Saturday between one and five in the afternoon at the West Jordan Library, 8030 South 1825 West.  We'll be in the Viridian Event Center.  I don't have a new book out, but I do have a short story in Christmas Treasures, Covenant's newest compilation of short, true Christmas stories by a dozen different authors.  Deseret Book and King's English will be there with copies of many of my books for sale along with those of the other authors. I'd love to meet readers who have checked out my books or borrowed them from friends over the years as well as those who have purchased them. 

This will be a new experience for me since it will be the first time (I hope not the last) that my daughter Janice Sperry and I have been invited to sign our books at the same event. I'm also looking forward to seeing many of my fellow local authors. 

Here's a list of most of the authors who will be there: 

Ken Baker
 
Laura Bastian                                  

Anne Bowen

Mikey Brooks

DJ Butler

Juli Caldwell

Stacy Lynn Carroll

Cindy Christiansen

Jaleta Clegg

Angela Corbett

Kristyn Crow                              

Julie Daines

Kristyn Decker

Peggy Eddleman

Bonnie Glee

Josh Hanagarne

Ka Hancock

Jennie Hansen

Cindy Hogan

Marion Jensen

JR Johanssen

Kim Justeson

Fay Klingler

Alysia S. Knight

Wendy Knight

Caren Liebelt

Dene Low

Lisa Mangum

Carol Masheter

Shallee McArthur

Mark Minson

Andrea Pearson

Bobbie Pyron

Jess Smiley

Janice Sperry

Joy Spraycar

Carolyn Steele

Sherry Taylor

Jaclyn Weist

Robison Wells

David West

Martha Sears West

Lance Why

Camron Wright

Michael Young

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


I read that book when I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade and truly enjoyed it. The title attracted me, since I had endured several such days myself. I find it interesting that a movie is now surfacing based loosely on this small book. I will more than likely go see it, to compare notes, and to see how closely the script follows the storyline. ;)

That being said, I suffered through one of those horrible types of days last week. It was not my idea of a fun time. At all. When I woke up, my first hint that it would be a less-than-fun type of day surfaced. I did not feel well. But since this sometimes happens because of my interesting body (as some of you know, I an a Type 1 diabetic, blessed with a form of rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. yay.) On the day in question, I chose to ignore the signs that all was not as it should have been, and continued with the plans we had made to journey to Logan and attend a temple session in that location.

There were moments that indicated this was not a good idea, but I ignored them, thinking I would eventually start feeling like a person. After all, that's part of my life a good deal of the time. I wake up feeling like the last chapter, start moving around, soak in the tub, stuff like that . . . and "ta da," I begin feeling better. I've learned that with the type of RA that I endure, I'm better off to hit the ground moving, and the sore joints loosen up. Soaking in a warm bath helps with that process.

My first clue that things were amiss on the day in question should have been the fact that as time went on, I felt worse, not better. The "ta da" factor didn't kick in. This was a bad sign.The nausea I woke up with continued, and I pondered the reason why it didn't go away. Arthritis pain can inspire such moments, as can bouncing blood sugar levels. Etc. Plus, I was planning to hit a temple session with my husband. I've learned that oftentimes, obstacles will surface to challenge me along the way. I usually persevere and eventually, things fall into place and I get along just fine. Except for this day. This day was going to be the exception to that rule.

It turned out to be the worst session that I've ever suffered through. (Emphasis on "ever!!!") I knew I was pathetically sick by the time we reached Logan. Still, I was determined to go through with our plans for the day, since I felt it was important. So I took something for nausea and prayed for help, figuring I had covered my bases. WRONG!!!

About 15 minutes into the session, I quickly caught on that I was less than well and this had not been a good idea. (Sigh . . . I know . . . sometimes it takes me a while to put things together. I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer that day.)

As I sat there in total misery, the followed thoughts dawned on me:

1) I think I'm really sick.
2) Kennon claimed to have some type of food poisoning the night before--after we had consumed food from a local eatery . . . and I ate something similar. Totally uncool.
3) There was a nasty stomach bug going around . . . hmmmmm.

Regardless of the cause, I knew I was in trouble and had finally caught on that things weren't getting better--in fact the discomfort was growing worse.

Have you ever noticed that when you aren't feeling up to par, time slows down? A lot? That session proved to be the longest 2 hours of my life (at least it seemed like it.) I pondered my options, but they seemed rather limited. I didn't want to draw attention to myself, but wasn't sure my body understood that concept.

I found it difficult to concentrate, and broke out in a cold sweat as I did my best to survive that difficult time. Prayers for help were repeated silently as the discomfort I was experiencing grew worse. A scripture popped into my mind, one of my favorites that I had actually turned to earlier in the chapel, before the session began:

"My (daughter), peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; . . . thou are not yet as Job . . ."
(D. & C. 121:7-8; 10)

Actually, during that miserable moment, I felt a sort of kinship with Job. I felt certain he would have expressed empathy for what I was suffering that day. ;)

Then again, I realized that my temporary discomfort did not hold a candle to what Job, or Joseph Smith suffered long ago. That scripture did quite a bit to snap me out of self pity mode, and I continued to suffer in silence through that session until it was finally over and we could  head home.

Later, as I lay on the couch in our living room and did my best not to die, I realized that despite everything, I really had been watched over that day. It could have been a lot worse. And even though I suffered a bit for about 3 days (we're thinking it was a nasty flu bug) I did eventually recover and continue on.

I believe we each experience terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Days of discomfort, grief, and pain. Those are indeed the times we are convinced that no one has ever suffered as we have. Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize that despite everything, there is One who does understand how we're feeling. Our Elder Brother experienced everything any of us would go through-- during His time in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is impossible for us to envision or comprehend how excruciating that challenge was for our Savior as He paid the price for our mistakes, and endured every pain we would ever suffer. He truly knows our hearts and He know how to help us through when we are wading through our own painful trials.

So when those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days surface (and they will . . . it's part of this probationary time) remember that despite everything, we're never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Cling to the glimmer of hope offered to us by our Savior during our darkest moments. With His help, we will survive--and better days will come.