Monday, July 4, 2011

Thank you, thank you very much

Renae Mackley gave me this award! Thanks Renae, for the award and for helping me build my blog spot. With this award I am supposed to reveal seven random facts about myself and, like Renae said on her blog, GULP!
1. When asked my height I say I am 5'2" but I am really 5' 1 3/4".
2. I received my 'name and blessing' when I was 6 years old. My parents were raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but hadn't attended in many years. When they became active in church again and wanted to be sealed in the temple I had to receive the name/blessing so I could be on the records of the church and be allowed in the temple.
3. I moved 9 times before I was 12. Nope - we weren't a military family. My Dad was going to different colleges working on advanced degrees. BYU was his final stop.
4. I served a mission in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. I only had 4 areas and two of them - Hershey and York - were chocolate capitals. I served for a total of 13 months in places where the air smelled like chocolate and I could get factory seconds at a discount rate. Total evidence the Lord knows what's in our hearts.
5. I have been writing stories since I was 12. It started out as a way to understand the world around me then grew with school assignments and the love of reading. I have tried many other hobbies and ways to find fulfillment but I always come back to writing.
6. I was in a major motion picture in the crowd scene. There were hundreds of us 'extras' but I got a good camera shot for about 2.7 seconds. The movie is 'Take Down'. Bet you never heard of it.
7. I worked at a Cold Storage in Alaska the summer I turned 19. It was such a great experience unloading crab boats, prepping fish and crab for the freezer and living in a place so different and with people so different than I had previously known. I count that summer as one of the best times of my life.

Okay, I guess that's it. It's kind of fun to think of random facts from my life. It would be fun to learn everyone's random facts - that what I like about life. All of us have a unique story.

So, here are my nominees for the "Irresistibly Sweet Blogspot"
Stacy Henrie
Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
Josi Kilpack
Nancy Campbell Allen
Jody Durfey

I do not have all their blog addresses at present but most of them can be accesses from my sidebar. They are all writers. I met Stacy at my first LDStorymaker's Writer's Conference and we were surprised to find how many ways we were connected besides writing [she lived in my in-laws ward; her sister married my brother-in-law's brother, etc] She is awesome and writes both historical and romantic fiction. The other four are in my writing group and have been invaluable to my progress as a writer and are wonderful friends. I met Josi at one of her books signings and she has been inspiring me ever since.

Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Judgment Day

So, I got a speeding ticket. I earned it. But, in my defense, I had already realized I was speeding and had started to slow down when the police pulled me over. Turns out I was speeding even more than I thought - I thought the speed limit was 60 and it was only 55. whoops!

I was prepared to accept the consequences for my actions, after all, I do speed a lot. it's a natural result of always being late for everything which is a natural result of trying to do too much. I have received several warnings but no traffic tickets except for one when I was about twenty. I was due.

I went to the courthouse to pay. They nearly had to call the paramedics when I found out how much the ticket was going to be and almost had a heart attack. $90!!!! What? I wasn't going that fast and I was already slowing down. It is a state mandated fee they said. I was given the choice to talk to the judge about it or just pay.

I chose the judge.

I went back later that night when court was in session. I admit, I have watched a lot of legal drama so I was not prepared for this courtroom: brown folding chairs on commercial grade orange carpet with specks of brown and yellow. [I got caught speeding in a small town] There was a podium and 'the bench'. The small handful of us gathered had to rise when the judge came in. Seriously? protocol in a room from the 70's? Okay that's a bit harsh but the atmosphere was so casual I didn't know why they had to make everything so official.

And then the Judge spoke. And he was very official. I'd planned on reading a book until my turn but I hardly dared take it out of my bag. This guy took his responsibilities seriously. I straightened in my chair.

I found out quickly that people who came with a lawyer got taken care of first. Again, they were so official I really wondered if I was prepared to stand before the judge. Was I supposed to call him 'Your Honor' too? How would I know when I was supposed to use that title? I was glad others without lawyers got up before I did. They showed respect but didn't use a lot of legal jargon the way the lawyers did. Most of us were in for traffic violations but one guy had anger issues and was questioned about whether he was keeping up on his probation and taking classes for it. I thought he'd looked kind of brooding but who am I to judge? [pun intended]

When it was my turn I pointed out that I had a very clean record and even though I was speeding I had been slowing down. The judge focused on my admission of guilt. I guess if I had said not guilty or asked for leniency because of my record things might have gone differently but when he started the whole thing out by reading a statement which said speeding was a Class C Misdemeanor and punishable by 3 months in jail or $1000.00 fine, $90 didn't seem so bad. I had no idea speeding was so illegal. I didn't dare say I wasn't guilty because I was. The only reason I was there was to ask if the fine could be reduced. After a bit of discussion the Judge did reduce it - by $10. Grrrr. I understood. I really did. But I'd been honest - AND I was slowing down.

I had to pay $80.

I still find myself speeding. Some places it isn't hard to stay in the speed limit and I usually don't exceed it. I just stretch it to the max. But slowing down isn't the only thing I learned from this experience.

I've been taught, and have taught, for years that you can make choices but you can't choose the consequences. The consequence of speeding [ and getting caught] was a ticket. That was expected. What I didn't expect was the 'punishment' by way of a fine. I knew I would have to pay but I had no idea it would be so much. It is not easy to come up with that much money when you're on a tight budget. [some of the other defendants - I hope that's the correct term - had to pay huge fines so mine wasn't too bad] I have so many other places I could use that money but I made a choice that led to a consequence that had a high price. The judge and the state set the laws and the consequences and my choice left me with no choice but to pay - unless I wanted worse consequences. Ouch.

There are a lot of similarities here to the Atonement and the Final Judgment. First, it helps to have an Advocate [or an attorney] who knows the laws and the language and can articulate the case and have some authority with the Judge. Second, all choices have consequences and some are larger than others. The people with moving violations had different fines than those with DUI's. Third, all of us got the chance to plead our case, explain our actions. The Judge considered everything, asked probing questions, was concerned that the 'sentence' be something that would keep law violators from putting themselves and others in harms way again. He was really a good judge and it made me think of the compassion Heavenly Father and Jesus show us. They want to help us correct our ways so we can have the best Life. Consequences, fines, and penalties help keep us on a good course. It's actually an act of love and concern.

I am out $80. But I learned a great lesson. Sometimes it is good to be judged.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For Better or Worse

A few months ago when my two daughters were home from college for a three day weekend, their Dad and I had a chance to sit with them and just talk. It was a really good conversation. And then my oldest randomly asked, "Do you and Dad still love each other as much as you did when you got married?"

It should have been a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer - at least that's what my daughter said when I stumbled over my reply. For me it was a very complicated question.

Let me set the stage: it was after 10:30 p.m. which is not a big deal for college age kids but for someone who gave up sleep for many years to be at the beckon call of her children, it is late at night and my brain was tired. On top of that my husband and I had been re-doing our family room which involved pulling off wallpaper, puttying, sanding, painting, and re-varnishing built in shelves. The fumes from all of the products used were dancing in my head. But the most significant reason for my hesitation in answering my daughter's question came from a project I'd been working on.

 For over a year [because I have to think about things for a long time before doing them - wish I could fix that] I had been making 'counsel' books for my daughters, full of all the things I hoped I taught them, hoped they'd listened to and hoped they'd remember. In fact, that's what I entitled it: The Things I Hope You Always Remember. I know I'm only a text, email, or phone call away if they have something they want to talk about but I wanted to put in writing the things I really wanted them to know. I shared personal experiences, quotes, scriptures, General Conference talks and so forth to support the different areas of counsel/advice [read - 'lecture'] I included. The books were complete except for the section that I felt was one of the most important: Love.

I had been pondering for several months what I could say to my daughters about Love. I want their lives to be filled with it. However, I have learned it isn't as easy as it sounds. Lyrics to songs, television, movies, novels, fairy tales all give us this idea that you fall in love and its wonderful and lasts forever. It can be like that but it doesn't just happen. You can't just 'fall' and expect it to be bliss. I've always liked the LDS jingle that says, "Love isn't something you fall into, its something you grow." That's what I have learned and what I wanted my daughters to understand- good things grow, they don't just happen.

Now, in the beginning, I agree there has to be attraction and attachment but true love grows beyond that. It requires commitment and sacrifice, cooperation and determination. It also needs to be rekindled now and then to keep the fire burning. There are plenty of books and lectures given on the subject so I won't elaborate too much but I have found a definition of love that works for me. It is a scripture from the Book of Mormon [a similar one is in the New Testament] Moroni 7:45. It speaks of charity which is often associated with kindness given to others but is probably most important to practice in the home. This definition of love can apply to spouses or children. I'm going to modify the scripture just a little:

Love suffereth long [patience, enduring]
Love is kind [tenderness, thoughtfulness]
Love envieth not [happy for each other's successes, encourage developing talents]
Love is not puffed up [not prideful or self centered]
Love seeketh not her own [no 'my way or the highway']
Love is not easily provoked [stay calm and carry on]
Love thinketh no evil [you never intentionally hurt people you really care about]
Love rejoices not in iniquity [there must be fidelity and trust]
Love rejoices in truth [thanks for being honest about where the money went]
Love beareth all things [face challenges together, lean on the Lord]
Love believeth all things [together we can do anything, unity makes us strong]
Love hopeth all things [if we do what's right and do our best the Lord is on our side and we won't fail]
Love endureth all things [make the best of this life until we get to the next one]

This may be an over simplification but, to me, true love is all of those things and they need to be put into practice over and over again because people don't remain stagnant and relationships don't either. They are either getting stronger or weaker all the time. True, long lasting love, is not based on a one time "WOW is he ever hot!' moment.

The thing about love is its going to be tested - can you be patient and kind when you're tired or hormonal?  Can you be happy for your spouse when they get to go on a trip or have some fun that you don't get to participate in? What happens when both of you have good ideas but have to choose only one? Is it ever okay to say "I need a 'ME' day?" [it is by the way][in my opinion] If love isn't true, if it isn't nurtured it will not pass the tests. It has to be a priority to keep it growing.

All of these things and more ran through my head when my daughter asked, "Do you and Dad still love each other as much as you did when you got married?" I thought about the sacrifices I'd made, the times I had to be patient and kind when I really wanted to scream, the nights I endured listening to my husband snore and keep me awake, times when I did seek my own instead of respecting the budget and so many other big and little life events. I also remembered the support in developing my talents, a surprise trip to Vegas, dishes done without being asked, and having dates be a priority. All of these things have affected how I feel about my husband and led to changes in how much I love him.

So, now that I've had more time to think about it, if my daughter were to pose that same question today I would have to say, "No, I don't love him the same as I did twenty two years ago. I love him completely different."

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

If I were to write a story about an LDS family with four children a mother and father who loved them and did their best to serve the Lord, the setting would seem fairly normal to most who read this blog. And if the parents held many significant positions of responsibility in the Church at a ward and Stake level [Bishop, High councilman, ward/Stake Primary, YW and RS President] it would still feel pretty mainstream. In my story the children are high achievers - two boys, two girls. Ideal. The oldest son served a mission, married his high school sweetheart, has a little girl and a baby on the way, graduated from college and has a secure job. The second child, a daughter, also served a mission and is in her final year of college. The 3rd, another daughter, is attending college out of state and dating someone special. The youngest, a boy, recently graduated from high school and is preparing to serve a mission. The father has worked for the same company for almost 30 years; the mother has been employed off and on in the local school district. They live in a modest home in a small town. A temple is being built in their midst. Life is good.

Every plot needs a bit of conflict to move the story so I'm going to add some adversity. First, the Dad will have some heart problems, then the mother's brother dies in a car accident, and a grand-niece also dies in a tragic accident. The father gets well only to have the company he's worked so long for go bankrupt. All his retirement/savings are lost. But, after a year and a half, the company is able to turn their misfortune around. They come out of bankruptcy and employee stock has value again. However, just as things are looking up, the father has health problems again. This time it is a brain tumor.

At first the 'fight' goes well. Dad has a half bald head and an impressive scar. Surgery can't remove all the tumor but chemo and radiation help. In faith, the family presses forward with life. Then other complications arise: the brain swells, the steroid causes problems, weakness results. Dad has to go to the hospital, then a rehab center. The battle they were sure they could win, suddenly seems very precarious.

In the midst of all this, the oldest son's wife has a baby, the first daughter prepares to graduate from college and gets a teaching job, the second daughter gets engaged and the son receives his mission call,. But can they go on? Should these events be put on hold until Dad is well enough - until they know for sure he will live?

'No', the father says. He leaves things in the Lord's hands. He and his wife have always trusted the Lord. He has helped them many times and they know He won't forsake them now. The kids are encouraged to proceed with their plans.

The boy leaves in the Fall. It's hard to go but he knows it is what he should do. He relies on his faith and that of his family as he leaves for two years. As Thanksgiving approaches, Dad isn't doing so well. Some of the meds don't agree with him and there are other challenges as a result of trauma to the brain. A CT scan is performed because of a severe headache and reveals an infection in the skull bone. Antibiotics are administered. A new treatment on the tumor is decided on - restricting blood flow to the tumor so it will die. The family is confident they will beat the cancer. They are all in good spirits as the daughter's wedding approaches on the Saturday before Christmas.

The headaches don't go away after the infection clears up and another CT reveals a horrible truth. The infection ate a hole in the bone, exposing the spinal fluid. The cancer may be beatable but this isn't. The doctor grimly reveals that Dad only has 2-5 days to live.

The wedding is in a week, the son is in Chile, Christmas is two weeks away. No one is supposed to die at a time like this. It isn't right. It isn't fair. Friends and family have been fasting for a miracle and this isn't what they had in mind. It would be too much to have a funeral and a wedding and the biggest holiday of the year in one week.

Now, if I handed a plot summary like this to an editor at this point they would most likely say it's too much, too extreme, too dramatic. It's improbable. Fiction has to have some semblance of reality. Remove some of the challenges; have a faith promoting miracle.

But this isn't a plot idea. It is very real. It happened to a family who lives just around the corner from me; an extraordinary and stalwart family who have always exemplified faith by the way they live.

The day they found out the father didn't have long to live they were able to talk with their son in Chile. Dad was unable to talk but it was obvious he understood what his son had to say. All that the father wanted to say he had said over his life time - by word and example. The news of his quick demise slowly trickled out to the ward and neighbors. It seemed impossible. No one wanted to believe it. His daughter was getting married in a few days. We all hoped and prayed he'd be well enough to attend. In the end he did - well and whole and as a spirit. He succumbed on Wednesday - thirty two years to the day his father died. His daughter married on Saturday. His wife and other daughter were in church on Sunday.

The funeral was held two days before Christmas.

The timing of this may seem like the harshest of ironies yet it actually brings together what Christmas and the temple are all about. Christ came that we might live. He gave His gospel that we might have faith. He gave His priesthood so we could be blessed. He gave His spirit that we might be comforted. Christmas is a celebration of the One who gave us all things. Through His priesthood we have the organization of the Church and temples - the House of the Lord. In the temple, families are sealed forever  with an unbreakable bond. How much hope is given in this significant gift!

This Christmas, I saw a family hold on to their faith in Christ at the darkest of times. This same family touched both time and eternity as a new family was created in the temple and loved ones watched beyond the veil. Christmas felt more real and temple marriage more meaningful because all of the promises given by both came together on that day.

Many of us were fasting and praying for a miracle. I think we got one.