Thursday, February 21, 2008

a Tribute to President Hinckley

Back in the olden days, whenever those were, elegant elderly gentlemen walked about in public with elegant walking sticks or canes, as we call them today, even if they didn’t need them for assistance. The walking stick was associated with gloves, a top hat, and a well-groomed beard and/or mustache. These fashion accessories seemed to be acquired along with age and dignity.

Several years ago, when President Hinckley experienced some episodes of vertigo and was advised by his physicians to carry a cane, he obediently followed their orders and carried a cane. We rarely saw him depend on it as an assistive device, however; he appeared to find it useful to wave at the crowds and point out objects of interest in the distance. It became a joyful extension of his hand, his reach, his warmth, and his ability to charm everyone he met.

Soon canes began to arrive at the LDS Church Headquarters Building in Salt Lake City. They were gifts sent by loving members and represented every possible variety of cane or walking stick known to mankind or womankind, I imagine, and they came from many countries and cultures. One day I expect to see this impressive collection of President Hinckley’s canes as a permanent exhibit at the Church Museum of Art and History.

I was privileged to be in President Hinckley’s presence on several occasions. The last time, about five years ago, took place in the Salt Lake LDS Temple in a meeting to launch the Tabernacle Choir’s summer tour of the east coast. Flanked by beefy white-suited bodyguards, the small white-haired man entered the room, which was suddenly quiet as everyone rose to their feet in respect for the Prophet. And President Hinckley did carry a cane that day. It was hooked over his arm, as usual. The bodyguards each had a hand by his elbow, should he need assistance, which he didn’t.

For one moment, as he walked by our row, I was just a few feet away from him. In that moment I gazed directly into his bright blue eyes, and I was filled with an indescribable sense of warmth and well-being and love.In the meeting, which he conducted, he praised the choir as one of our greatest missionary tools and beamed as they sang to us. Their singing was remarkable, too, as choir members were seated among the rest of the group assembled at the meeting, and simply stood in place in when it was time for them to sing. The effect was surround-sound, one I won’t soon forget. President Hinckley blessed them for their efforts, blessed their families and loved ones, and wished them well on their tour. Then he waved his cane, taking in the whole assembly with the gesture.“All right, let’s all go home now. It’s dinner time.” And with that he was escorted from the podium and out of the room.

News of his sudden passing surprised us, as he had been following his normal routine and had been seen in public shortly before his brief illness. We always knew he was mortal, but in our hearts we never wanted him to succumb to the inevitable end of mortal life. That was a selfish wish, of course, and though he had expressed his loneliness for his dear wife and said he hoped they would not be separated for long, and though he had announced that he was in the “sunset of his life,” we simply didn’t want to let him go.

Because the cane had become a part of President Hinckley’s public appearances, according to Meridian Magazine, “a group known only as ‘Cane Wave Tribute’ is proposing that Church members line the streets between the Conference Center and cemetery, hopefully with thousands of admirers, waving canes as the cortège passes.”On Saturday, I’m sure I’ll be touched by television coverage of crowds of respectful mourners carrying canes for the most beloved, elegant elderly gentleman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

It’s a lovely thought and should be a remarkable sight. And a fitting tribute to the distinguished gentleman that he was, minus the beard and top hat and gloves. Many have spoken eloquently about the man and his remarkable life and accomplishments, but my favorite memory of our prophet will always be of that warm summer evening, looking directly into the kind blue eyes that sparkled with life and love and wit.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Right to Write

I remember as a kid being fascinated with words. I loved their feel as they rolled around on my tongue. I loved their slender shapes sprawled on the page. In fact, I became so enamored with words that by junior high I would sneak a dictionary into my room and spend the afternoon reading nothing but words.

Words like defervescence and boride and academe. Words like penicillamine and featherstitch and quire. And thus, is it any wonder my favorite book was The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norman Juster? (Which, by the way, if you've not read you simply must!)

But in the midst of all these wondrous words, I began to feel smaller and smaller. In the midst of their power, I began to doubt my ability to string them together in stories people would want to read. I still wonder that at times. Do you?

Yet, there is a special something deep in my heart that tells me the God of our spirits feels otherwise. He, who creates universes, knows a thing or two about the import of creativity. And He fashioned us in His image. Do I (or perhaps you) really think He would fail to tuck away within us the creative gift? Could it be possible we, in this one area, are NOT like our Father in Heaven?

I think not! Thus, the next time I feel impotent in my ability to self-express, I will shun the thought. And I hope you will, too. We are created in God's image ... and as such, we have the gift of creativity. We have the right to write! May we use that gift well, working with all these wondrous words.

Friday, February 15, 2008

You Are What You Eat

by Lori

If someone made a, "You Are What You Eat," poster of me ten years ago it would have revealed lots of pizza, fried foods, and crème Brule. In addition, it would have shown that I consumed lots of bad snack choices: tons of chocolate covered almonds, Doritos, soda-pop, sugar cookies, and mint crisp shakes. My countenance would have beamed with a message which said: eating junk food is cool! Unfortunately, I would also have made a good poster person for the saying, “A Minute on the Lips -- A Lifetime on the Hips.”

I cut out all fried food and 99% of the soda I drank and, within a few months, dropped over twenty pounds. Buoyed by my efforts, I decided sugar cookies could be cut back to one or two a month, mint crisp shakes to one every six months. Doritos went all together, and one of my very last boxes of chocolate covered almonds went to Kenya (the writer, not the country). Pizza and crème Brule had to stay – in moderation.

One problem: working at the computer all day made me susceptible to the munchies. If I wanted to continue to slim down I needed to make healthy snacking choices.

Currently, my favorites are:

Kashi Bars – the honey almond flax is wonderful
Kashi Seven Grain Crackers
Dried Blueberries
Wasabe Almonds – thanks, Janie!

I haven’t tried the Kashi cookies yet as I could easily envision myself thinking I couldn’t eat just one – box. I keep a bag of Swedish fish on hand and, for emergencies, I've stashed a hard-to-get-to box of chocolate truffles. Water and lemon favored Propel are my beverages of choice -- a bit boring but much better than cans of pop!

If anyone has ideas for healthy snacks, I’d love to hear about them!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Invisible chains

I still do not have easily accessible internet. I must beg to use somebody else's computer to write my blog and submit it. Every time I think we have the problem solved a new challenge jumps in and laughs at me.

The challenges stand in a perfect row looking very much like Stepford (is that how you spell it?) Wives. Seemingly innocent, all looking serene and just alike until I have to deal with them. That's when I realize the invisible chains locking doors I've previously gone through with ease.

This is life. It's like flying over the earth. When you look down from the airplane it all looks so uncomplicated. You can't see the conflicts, challenges, sorrows, heartaches, and other problems facing the individual people driving those little bug sized cars or living in those miniature houses. However, the closer you get the more reality you experience.

For me the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know, especially with computers. Or let me say the more things I need a computer to do the more complicated the functions become and then those invisible chains slink around me and temporarily freeze or impede my progress.

I've been taking an intensive writing course leading to the publication of a difficult project. I have wondered almost on a daily basis if I took too big of a bite this time, and I won't be able to eat the whole thing after all.

I know this isn't true. The adversary and his minions would like to paralyze us. They want to enslave us in invisible chains and make us believe we can't progress. But the object here is to realize that the chains are "invisible." They only exist to the degree that we belive they do. If I can just step back a little bit and see the whole picture. I realize I only stubbed my toe on a small stumbling rock. It's just the way the light shines on it that makes it look like an impassable boulder.

I hope this helps somebody else out there who is having "chained down," feeling of discouragement today. You can do it. Somehow, some way there will be a computer you can borrow, or a thought, quote, or bit of research you'll find, or just the hope of a better tomorrow to get you through.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A writer pleads guilty to avoidance behaviors

by Patricia

Confession is messy, unpleasant, and makes us squirm in our seats. But it's good for the soul -- or at least good for a blog post.

So here we go with a list of my most worn-out, over-used writing avoidance behaviors (not in any particular order):

  1. Testing spider solitaire to make sure it wasn't affected by those pesky hazardous programs my anti-spyware says I picked up while surfing the net.
  2. Checking Miss Snark's blog, because I don't want to miss out when she takes a hiatus from retirement.
  3. Downloading free trials of story-building software.
  4. Uninstalling the free trials after I realize I could write a novel in the time it takes to figure out how to use story-building software.
  5. Giving my cat a bath.
  6. Watching reruns of Law and Order.
  7. Returning to the kitchen for yet another handful of reduced fat Cheez-Its.
  8. Clicking the refresh button on my email inbox.
  9. Visiting in case Today's Special Value is something I can't live without.
  10. Listing some of the avoidance behaviors I practice during those times I'm supposed to be writing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Making Ourselves Understood

Words are a writer’s most important tool, more important than our computer, our cat, or our hot chocolate. Without them, books and articles can’t exist. And we can’t use just any old words—they have to be just the right ones, and completely understood.

On Thursday, I embark on a new challenge. There is a great need for languages in our ward, and we will be offering English, sign language, Spanish, and Portuguese as part of our literacy program. I’m the literacy leader, and appropriate calling for an author. My friend and I are tackling the English class. We have no special training and neither of us know the languages of our students, other than a vaguely remembered smattering of high school Spanish (and for me, high school was long, long ago.) When someone pointed out my lack of credentials to teach ESL, I pointed out that I was much cheaper than the classes taught by professionals, and that there are waiting lists for those classes. I’ll do until they can get a better teacher.

We are using the Book of Mormon Stories as the text for the religious half of the class. Since they’re meant for children, I thought they would be easy to teach. However, because a number of our students will not be LDS and a number don’t speak any English at all, I’ve realized this is harder than it seemed.

It’s easy to teach some words. Put up pictures of men and women, say the words as you sort them, and they will understand what the words mean. But then you get to sentences like this one: Many churches claimed to be true.

Many is doable, more or less. Churches can be shown. But what about true? You can’t put up a picture of the word true. I know what it means. I use the word all the time. I can define it—if you know enough English to understand the definition. But in an EFL class to brand new English speakers? The word true is challenging. What do you do with the word prophet, when you’re teaching it to people who don’t know what a prophet is and don’t have the words to understand the explanation?

Words are powerful tools, but they are more complicated than I really understood. When I sit down to write, I am beginning to more greatly appreciate those tools, and the importance of making my meaning understood, no matter what level of background my reader might have for the topic on which I’m writing.