Tuesday, July 2, 2013

One True Sentence

"A Moveable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway was the subject of discussion at this month's book club.   The book is autobiographical of his time while writing in Paris.  When referring to his writing process, Hemingway says, "All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know."  He then says to use that sentence to start your writing.  This technique cuts out fluff and gets to the meat of the topic.
As part of the discussion, we participated in a writing exercise.  We were given a few topics and we were to write one sentence about that topic.  Then we returned to the original sentence and edited it by removing the following words: that, many, there, I and thing.  We then took out any adverbs that could be replaced with a better verb choice.  The exercise was hard but fun.
 One category was to write about yourself.  "I am an L.D.S. woman."  was my best sentence.  It uses the word "I", but felt that it was needed.  It is a declaration, and I thought rearranging it to remove "I" would lessens its impact. I wanted to claim the fullness of what an LDS woman is and can be. Now that I have had more time to think about it, I realize I could have said, "My values and personal characteristics are definded by the principles established by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."  This sounds fluffy to me.
 The problem with both of these sentences is the full meaning of the statement would be lost on anyone who wasn't also an LDS woman or member of the church.  To the outsider it is too restrictive and only tells one part of my story.  I haven't found the sentence yet to tell the full story without making a very boring list of the things I do, think and believe.  
 My next true sentence is, "Work must be done."

Goal Setting

I am not a January 1st-New Year's Resolution type of girl.  January doesn't fall at the beginning of anything for me other than a page on the calendar.  It's not that I don't set goals for myself during this time, it's just that I prefer to do it at two other times during the year.  These times are at the start of summer and at the start of the school year.  
These are the times that I can implement changes not only for myself, but for my family as well.  We try again to make sure the laundry is sorted in the laundry room every night and get back on the band wagon with our Family Home Evenings. One of the things I like to implement when school starts and when summer starts is new bedtimes.  I love this.  Summer is always great because of getting to stay up later and sleep in a little longer too, but it gets old pretty fast and I am always ready to get back to an earlier schedule for school.
These times work well for me with my personal goals as well.  For instance, I made a goal last year to get up and make breakfast for my child who attends early morning seminary.  It was good for me to start with the school year because the sun was still up that early in the morning.  If I had tried to start it in January, when it is so very dark in the morning, I do not think I would have been able to do it.  I also like these times as I work on something that needs organizing around my home.
My personal goals are in the works at all times of the year.  If I feel like there is an area I should be working on, I don't want to wait until some future date to start.  Usually I feel excited about doing something new or accomplishing something that is hard for me, so I like to get right on it.  I am one of those people that has to jump right into the cold water; if I hesitate, it isn't going to happen.  It is the same thing when I am trying something new.
There really isn't a best time of year to set goals, just better times for goals in different areas of my life.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

June is a good month for my husband and me.  It’s my birthday month, and he loves Father’s Day.  Some years those two celebrations fall on the same day.  I love it when this happens.  These are the years that our gift plays double duty; we get one gift that is for both of us.  These gifts range from things like computers and cameras to evenings out for dinner.  My favorite double gift has been the gas grill.

When I told my girlfriends what I had gotten for my birthday, they gasped.  “That’s horrible!  Are your feelings hurt?” I was shocked at their reactions.  “No way!” I answered, “This is the gift that keeps on giving.  Not only do I not have to cook on the nights he is grilling, but I get to eat what he skillfully prepares.”  I would say this was a win-win situation, but honestly, I think I got the best end of this deal.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Little Bit of Writing

          I am currently in a writing class and I am really enjoying it.  I thought I would share some of the things I have written lately. In this first essay we were instructed to write about something that most people do not see as beautiful, an overlooked beauty.

Old Hands
I saw his twisted and scarred hand open, reach out, and take hers in its grasp. Her hand was wrinkled with blue, bulging veins.   They are old hands, but they are hands filled with love, with strength and with life. The years of these hands flashed before me like faded photographs in a leather bound album.
                It’s the First date. The photograph shows saddle shoes and a poodle skirt, wingtips and a bow tie.  He is holding the door, and she the popcorn.  Their hands brush as she passes by, and they smile. The next picture is near an altar.  Standing shoulder to shoulder, their hands, now enfolded, show the glint of gold and the commitment they have made to God and to each other.  
                Turning the page, the biggest picture is the first night home with their new child.  They are seated side by side, their hands interlaced under their precious bundle, their eyes unable to look away from the heavenly gift they are holding.  She softly rubs her newborn’s skin while his fingers tremble under the weight of new responsibility.  A smaller photo on the same page is the two of them walking away from the camera together, their hands comfortably bound between them.  In his left hand he carries a bucket overflowing with potatoes, carrots and onions.  She balances, in her right, a wicker basket of freshly folded, sun and wind dried laundry on her hip.
I flip a few pages and stop to catch my breath.  They are at the bedside, close together, their hands hold the word of God: grasping scriptures, turning the pages, seeking truth, and searching for answers. The intimacy between them in this moment of prayer clutches my heart and brings tears to my eyes. Those hands hold tight to each other, giving comfort and strength as they pour out their souls to the Lord.  There is no need to hear the words; the image is felt more than seen.
                Again they appear beside each other, hands clasped between them.  They use the other to wave at the back of a college bound car. There are tears, but they quickly change to laughter.  They stand for a while, their heads tilted towards one another contemplating the life they lived with their family.  There is satisfaction, contentment and pride in a job well done.  This life is not over, just changed.  They marvel at the future, of grandchildren, of spreading the gospel, and of being together.
                The book closes and I am brought again to the present. As he leads her forward, he squeezes her hand gently, and she smiles.  Their hands are grateful, loving, and proud as they walk together to the front of the room and claim the sweet intimacy in knowing, sharing and living a life together.

A tap on my shoulder pulls my sight away from the aged hands.  A younger hand with familiar scars and callouses reaches out to me.  I place my hand in his, and as we walk together I pray to receive the blessing of sharing old hands.

This next essay was a love letter written to an object.

Dearest Baldwin,
            I didn’t know what I was missing until you came into my life.  Emotions, thoughts and creativity were bubbling under the surface of my existence with no outlet for expression. You were given to me as a gift from wise parents who understood my need to develop a relationship with you.  Do you feel objectified by that?  I hope not.  You are an important part of my life. I want you to know that I have never taken you for granted.  I am aware of the significant role you play for me in my mental, emotional and spiritual life. Thank you for allowing me freedom to explore their gift without judgment.
We have spent many hours together you and I.  Every one of those moments has been a joy.  If I had a year for each of your 88 keys, it would not be long enough.  I love the coolness of your ivory keys and the smell of polish in your gleaming wood panels.  I love the shininess of your damper pedal where I rest my foot and feel the reverberations of sound as we work together to make music. You are as familiar to me as my own hands.  The spaces between your keys match the size of my hands perfectly.  How did you do that?  You have always been a comfortable fit even as my body has grown and yours has stayed the same.
Although I enjoy making music with you, the time we are together is more than mere entertainment.  Remember all those times when I needed to escape from the world?  You were there.  You have always been there. I know I have not always been kind to you.  I have often been harsh as I have worked out my frustrations upon you.  You never seem bothered by this.  You just allowed me to be physical, harsh and cruel until I wore out, calmed down and worked anger and fear out of my system.  You allowed me to find perspective.
My favorite time with you is when we pray together.  As we make our prayer music my spirit soars and I am elevated to higher plains.  Through you I feel my savior’s love as He takes the music we’ve created and breathes upon it, and returns it to us fuller, richer and greater than the creation you and I made alone.  I love your companionship as I commune with Him.
I have had to learn to share with others the space you took in my heart and I am grateful to you for allowing me to do this.  As you have not begrudged me my time with my family, I have not begrudged the time you spend with each of them.  I feel much of the same joy in the relationships you have made with my children as I do in our own relationship.
Thank you for being a true friend.

This last essay was to be about a memory.

John came through the door, set his lunch box down, took me in his arms, and smiling, kissed me on the forehead.  “It looks like you have had a good day,” he said stifling a laugh.  The day had been busy, but was it good?  I looked around our small living room at the "Kid" mess, the "Me" mess and smelled dinner cooking from the kitchen that had its own mess.
The children had awakened early, but happy. I waived my right to a shower and we spent the morning playing together. There was a green marker lid under the table from crafting cards to send to Grandma.  The cards were beautifully designed with child drawings of hearts, and flowers, and rainbows.  Child script was punctuated with smiley face stickers and kisses, and these expressions of love were translated into small print at the bottom of the pages. There was a small tantrum thrown when it was time to clean up so I covered my child’s face with the stickers while singing, “When you see a frowny face, do not let it stay…”  It worked. 
“Thank you, Mommy, for singing my sad away.  I will share my stickers with you.”  She placed one on my face; I kissed her eyes, and she kissed my nose.  We were friends again.
After lunch, I fixed hair and washed two small faces, then we loaded into car seats and drove to the elementary school.  The drop off circle was filled with moms waiting to pick kids up, so we parked in a space near the teacher’s parking and walked into school together.  Her teacher had been assigned to duties at the front door and she greeted us as we went in.  We made a small detour at the office to pay for next week’s field trip, and at the library to return an overdue book.  I kissed my big girl goodbye at the classroom door.
The toddler and I ran a few errands together: the bank, the grocery store, the post office.  We had picked out pretty stamps with bright pink flowers on them for the letter to grandma, and sent it off sealed with a kiss.  We made it home for a short nap before returning to the school, this time early enough to use the pick-up circle. 
At home, while I prepared dinner, the girls had been entertaining themselves with blocks, dominoes, hair clips and an assortment of Barbie dolls.  The toy box was empty, the whereabouts of the previous contents unknown.  The box was turned on its side and was being used to make a house for Barbie and her friends.  I smiled as I looked at them remembering having done the same thing when I was small. 
Bringing my attention back to John, I said, “I suppose the day has been alright, but why is that so funny?”  He led me down the hall and turned me into the bathroom. He flipped on the light and I saw it reflected in the mirror.  Directly in the middle of my forehead was a bright purple smiley face sticker. I calmly turned off the light, kissed my husband, and walked back to the kitchen.
“Aren’t you going to take it off?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “It looks like I’ve had a good day!”