Friday, January 31, 2014

The Groundhog is Coming!

I know it's foolish, but I still put a little hope in the groundhog. Goundhog day is coming up and I have to admit that I wait in anticipation every year. I long for Spring! Naturally this day interests me because it gives me a little glimpse of the excitement that comes with the changing of seasons, particularly the shaking off of snowflakes and the slipping on of flip-flops change. Will he see his shadow? Will he? Will Spring come early? Fingers crossed, eyes closed, I hope, I hope, I hope. And then sometimes I watch this movie, which is never as good as the first time I saw it.




Thursday, January 30, 2014

Game Review--Coloretto


Recently we had some family in town which meant lots of game playing. I love playing games. I am known as the cheater in the family, which I'm sure used to have some merit but which now annoys me. And I can be a little too competitive, which probably sparked the cheating. I'm trying to overcome it, really I am. My sister's in-laws brought this game and it was a lot of fun. It is such a creative way to play with colors and have a good time trying to win while making things difficult for your opponents.

Goal of the game: get lots of points by collecting colors (hopefully only 3 colors because more counts against you).

How to guarantee a win: didn't figure that out yet, but I'll let you know if I do.

Fun ranking: 5/5 chocolate chip cookies. It really is a fun game. Check it out the next time you're at your local game shop, or here it is on Amazon.

Oh, and ignore the drawbridge. Or make up your own rule for it because nobody knows what it is supposed to do.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Playing Catch-Up

It seems like all I've done the last two days is laundry, errands, dishes, and wait on hold with various incompetent health care entities. But it's all good. Every once in a while we just need a few days to catch up.

Oh, and it's lonely on my blog. Like it's just me and nobody else. I remember it used to feel lonely when nobody would leave a comment. It's a different kind of lonely now that nobody CAN leave a comment. It's sort of like if someone took away your sidewalk, porch steps, doorbell, etc. Before, I used to hope that someone would leave a comment so it didn't feel so lonely. Now it's just lonely without the hope. Hmmm. What do you think? Would you like to leave a comment? If only you could answer that. :) Maybe I'll bring comments back to my blog.

Playing Again



It's hard to believe I almost sold this beauty. Not that it's the best cello in the world, but it IS gorgeous, has a decent sound, and came with a coveted real wooden bow. When I decided to sell it, my daughter stepped in and saved the day, offering to take orchestra in school and begin to learn it. I told her that if she wanted to learn it I would keep it. And she is doing so well. I love watching her play it.

Lately I've been playing it also, preparing for a couple of upcoming selections I'll be performing. And I'm grateful. I'm grateful my mom encouraged us to be musicians. I'm grateful that my elementary school had an orchestra program that came with a wonderful teacher (who happened to be a cellist). I'm grateful that even though I wasn't very good, I kept playing because two of my best friends played the cello too. I'm grateful for the musical foundation it gave me, opening the door to learn other instruments. I'm grateful my daughter allowed me to hold onto this "talent." (Yeah, I don't think I'm really that talented, but you get the point.) I'm grateful that I can keep working on it so that it can be a real talent someday. Hopefully.

Maybe someday I'll record something and put it on the blog. That could be fun. Or embarrassing. :)

Hoping you find something musical to lift you up today,

Melissa 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Guilt Theory

I've learned a lot about guilt and shame the last few years. Like too much. One of the popular theories out there is that guilt = "I did something bad" and shame = "I am something bad"

I've been thinking about this, letting it ruminate in my overused brain. It never really clicked for me, the idea of this. I feel a lot of guilt. Some days it is constantly there and no matter what I do I feel guilty.

"I was so lazy today! I didn't even finish the laundry."
"I probably said the wrong thing to my kids. They're going to be so messed up."
"I forgot to . . ."
"I didn't . . ."
"I said . . ."
"When am I ever going to get it right?"

And from what I've heard and experienced, this guilt trend is a problem for a lot of people, particularly the women I associate with.

Here's the thing. I know I am a good person. How do I know? I am in touch with my heart. I know what my desires, wishes and intentions are. I am learning to determine when I make a mistake. A TRUE mistake. And what I feel when I make a mistake is NOT guilt. It's something else.

And I think most people are really good people. Sure we all make mistakes, but deep down, at the heart of us, we are good. So why is there such a problem with guilt and shame, and what is the difference between them?

Here's my new idea. Shame is external. It comes from outside of us. Someone yells at us for something. We feel shame. Easy enough? Guilt is internal, but it is 100% connected to that external shame. We spill a drink and we feel guilty because someone once yelled at us for spilling a drink. Does that make sense? I guess what I'm trying to say is that they really aren't that different. Shame causes us to think something in us is bad, and so every time we are reminded of that, we feel guilty, or we re-experience that shame and call it guilt.

I think they're both useless most of the time. I used to think we needed guilt to steer us in the right direction, to encourage us to make things right when we've made a mistake. But I think that's not always the case. I think we can toss guilt right out the window with shame most of the time. I think guilt is only useful when we know what is right and intentionally go against that knowledge. Then it can lead us to repentance. But I think most of the time it plagues the good and innocent in unnecessary and damaging ways.

So what do we need? What we were born with?

Not shame.

Not guilt.

The light of Christ, which I think most people, Christian or not, will understand better if I call it the "conscience." It's what lets us know that we've done something wrong. Not to torment us, but so that we can fix it and move on. I'm trying to listen to that a little better, be aware of it more often. And when I feel guilt, I try to work through it as quickly as possible and rinse it from my brain. Because I think it really is useless to the person trying to do their best. Guilt is for the truly guilty.

Here's a little poem I wrote about guilt.

Guilt

Heavy
Like tangible fog.
A maze of endless burden.

Thick as clumpy, burnt molasses.

The density of concrete prison walls.
Clamping.
Pressing.
Squeezing.
Holding.
Trying.

Hostage keeper of the mind.

Unwelcome nagging companion.

Slave maker.

Hell.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Overcoming Depression

I'm writing this post because it is now January 23rd. It's cold outside, and wet, and icy. The sun is shining today, but I hadn't really noticed until now. Actually, as I drove to the dentist it was a little blinding. Why does all of this matter? Because for the last several years, I have hated January. Hated it. Maybe I could get through the rest of the months okay: December has Christmas, February is oh so close to March and Spring. It's tolerable at least. But January? It used to be the bane of my existence, and one of the biggest triggers for my depression.

What changed? Me.

I love the saying "Choose to be happy."


I keep this reminder in my home, thanks to a good friend who made me this adorable framed version. But there were times when I couldn't choose even if I wanted to. I remember sitting in my therapist's office one day and her saying the most comforting words: "You can't fix this with a positive mental attitude." I love her for saying that! I knew it was true. To me, depression feels like a brick wall. I am on one side all alone, and on the other side stands everything else in my life, including those I love and the things I desperately desire, all the good things I want to be and do. I want to be on the other side, but there is this stupid brick wall inside my chest and I cannot get past it. There is not a door in this brick wall. One cannot simply "choose" to go around it or through it. It has to be pulled down brick by brick. And that can take some time.

I have worked hard over the last few years tearing down those bricks one by one. I imagine the tools people use will be different, but I now believe that depression is a disease that is treatable and in some cases even curable. Now I can make the choice. When I'm feeling down, I can take a step back, evaluate the scene before me, remove any bricks that are being stacked, and keep the brick wall at least passable. I CAN choose to be happy. When someone tries to put a brick in my way, I can say, "No, thank you. I don't need any bricks. How about you take care of your own bricks?"

And do you want to know something? It is beautiful on the other side of that wall. And January isn't so bad after all.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Writer Frustrations

I sent a query letter this week for the first time in almost a year. I'm fully expecting a rejection. I hope my pessimism isn't too upsetting. I guess I think of it as realism. Based on my experience, sending query letters to agents ultimately results in rejection. Honestly, there are times I seriously consider quitting this thing that I love so much. Why? Because I have other marketable skills that seem to work out much better for me. Like teaching piano lessons.

I've told myself so many times, this is the last one. If I get a rejection on this one, I'm done. And I can't seem to stop writing. It just makes me happy. Mostly. Because the business side of this business is a little frustrating. I'm not giving up yet. I still have some great stories to write. I just had to vent to the great unknown because my letter is out there, sitting in someone's slush pile, probably lonely and wanting to come back home.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Pointlessness of Finger Pointing

I've been feeling a little . . . frustrated. Just a bit. Like such a small amount that it really wasn't bothering me that much. But as I thought about what I was frustrated about, and who I was frustrated with, I realized I was doing the exact. same. thing. I needed that little reminder, that when something out of my control is bothering me, it's time to take a look inside and see what I need to fix myself.

This is a concept I've been practicing for the last couple of years. It's something I'm trying desperately to teach my children (hence the no tattle-telling policy in my house). If you've got a problem with someone, take it up with them, not me. Better yet, look inside yourself and see what YOU can fix, rather than focusing on someone else and what you think they're not doing perfectly.

Finger pointing really is the world's biggest waste of time. Imagine if everyone just focused on how they could make the world a better place. Hmmm.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Word Poems

Maybe it's the word nerd in me, but I love writing these.


Satan
Hollering
Ample
Misleading
Earfuls

Benevolent Enduring Attentive Understanding Truthful Yearning

Overalls
Pigtails
Tongue twisters
Insights
Muscle
Investment
Seashells
Memories

Benign Engaging Accepting Unique Tender Young at heart

Monday, January 20, 2014

You Want Evidence of God? Look in the Mirror.

I have been reading and studying the scriptures since I was ten years old. While I don't profess to be a great scriptorian (which sadly isn't a word known by Google), I have given a lot of time to the study of God's word. While I operate in faith much of the time, I am also scientifically minded, and have seen through the years evidence of the truthfulness of the scriptures, of the reality of the spiritual, of the existence of God.

And some people still deny it. Well, not to worry. You, too, are evidence of these things. I find it so interesting that those who oppose God's word, or who even deny his existence, fail to see what is so obviously there.

Let me give you an example. 1 Corinthians 12:3 3 "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."

Do you see it in there? You don't believe in God? Well, that's because you aren't using the Spirit of God. You're just using the spirit of man. Like this scripture says as well. 1 Corinthins 2:9-1414  "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."


The scriptures are filled with references like this, references to people who will not understand, will not believe. It's been predicted, prophesied about, and therefore all those who enter into these thoughts and practices are . . . EVIDENCE.

Here are some more of my favorites:

For those who will not accept the Book of Mormon as scripture I give you 2 Nephi 29:6

"And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible."

For those who think they are so smart and knowledgeable because of all their education and simply cannot accept things of the spiritual I give you 2 Nephi 9: 28-29

"O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."

I love the words of Alma 30:44
" . . . Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, show unto me a sign, when ye have had the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."

All things are evidence of God, even those who do not acknowledge Him. So take a look in the mirror. And see the evidence.





Friday, January 17, 2014

Reassuring Self Talk

I am a big believer that people need reassurance. As I've thought a lot about depression over the last few years, I have come to believe that often depression stems from a lack of reassurance.

I had the opportunity last night to practice on my daughter. I planned to drop my two daughters off at gymnastics and then run some books back to the library. As I was saying goodbye, I noticed my youngest daughter was sincerely upset. She didn't want to stay at gymnastics, probably especially because I was leaving. I tried to reassure her that she would be all right. Her sister would be with her and I would be back before her class got out. But it wasn't enough. Knowing that my daughter's feelings and comfort are more important than a trip to the library, I asked her if she would like me to stay. She nodded. So I reassured her that it was all right. I was not leaving. I told her I would stay and sit and watch her in her class. I walked over to a table and got out a chair and plopped myself in it. "I'm staying right here," I said. Still a little hesitant, but convinced I was staying, she joined her class, waving to me through the window as she passed.

Today I had an experience where I was upset. I began crying, sinking into a pool of despair, a pool I've swam in before, remembering experiences in my past that were not pleasant, feeling caught up in times that were so lonely. After sobbing into my hands for a minute, I had an idea. "I'ts okay," I told myself. "You don't have to go back there. Ever. I'm sorry you had to go through that. We know now that's a pool we don't want to swim in. Everything is going to be okay. I'm not leaving."

Maybe it sounds crazy. If it makes you feel better, I don't actually say these things out loud. :)

Another thing I want to point out is that crying is okay. Sometimes, when I'm in that place of reassuring self talk, I say, "It's okay to cry. Cry as long as you need to. Let it all out. We'll move forward together when you're ready." It's been amazing to see how much better I am able to control my emotions when I give myself permission to indulge in them. Fascinating.

Reassuring self talk is great, but it is even better to be surrounded by people who love to give reassurance. People that will stay with you when things get tough. People that do not judge. People who care.

Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

It's also important to remember that at times, we are the ones who need someone to bear our burdens with us.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

POV Does Not Stand for Pushing Out Volumes

I thought I'd post a little about writing craft today and visit POV, which stands for Point of View. A story's point of view is extremely important, and I believe that every novel out there should have a point of view that is best for its individuality, plot, characters, style, etc. So, when I have a book idea, I spend some time thinking about POV. Would this story be better in first person? Third person close? Third person distant? Narrative? Recently I began a novel where I had decided to write every other chapter from first person present tense. After writing the beginning, I second guessed that decision and re-wrote what I already had in third person close and HATED IT. Discovering the best POV for your story is important from the beginning because it isn't fun to do a full POV rewrite of several hundred pages.

So, here are some things to consider as you make the best possible choice for the POV of your story.


  • Who is the story written for?
  • Can you do everything you want to do from that point of view?
  • Do you need or want to have multiple points of view or will that weaken your story?
  • Who needs to tell the story? Or in other words, whose story is it to tell?

It helps me sometimes to take a few pages and write them from different points of view to get the big picture of how the voice will sound. But I truly feel that there is a RIGHT POV for every story. And yes, that means there is also a wrong (or maybe just a not as good) POV for every story.

As you continue your story, make sure you avoid what I call violations of POV. If you're writing from first person or third person, you will not be able to get into the head of every character. Keep that in mind, and stay within the bounds of your chosen POV. If you want to be in everyone's head, which is common in early chapter readers and some middle grade books, you need to write from omniscient POV. 

If you would like to study different points of view, here are some recommendations for you.

1st Person: Hunger GamesGoodreads list

Third Person Limited: Like almost every YA book out there. Goodreads list

Omniscient: A Tale of Two CitiesSome more thanks to Goodreads

Narrative: The Book Thief. Goodreads has awesome lists

Second Person: Who would do that? I'll have to read one. Goodread's list


Monday, January 13, 2014

Anger in the Morning

I was really struggling with some anger this morning. There are a lot of different ways I deal with this emotion. Again, poetry is just something that works for me. When other methods failed today, poetry calmed me down.


YELLOW

The box is heavy
He is waiting

Ugly, the contents ooze and spill out
Dark, twisted, bloody

This used to be inside of me
He is waiting

For me,
He waits in a field of yellow

Hands shaking
I hold the box out to Him

He takes it
Unflinching, without hesitation

The weight is gone
We smile
He turns to leave

I watch
Because I know what's coming

He lifts the box
Out bursts a swarm of butterflies

Every color
A fluttering, joyful rainbow

He looks back at me

In Unison we call
"See you next time."

Looking down I see
Pollen-dusted pants


Movie Review, Ephraim's Rescue

This is one of the many movies we watched over the holidays. It was pretty good. Not as good as 17 Miracles. (I love that movie.) But Ephraim Hanks is every bit as awesome as Levi Savage. I found myself connecting with him even more than I did with Levi. This story is character driven, and even though it involves other pioneers and the rescue of the Willie and Martin handcart companies, it really centers around Ephraim Hanks. What did I like about how he was portrayed? He was human. And he knew it. I loved that about Ephraim. Oh, and did I mention? I'm glad I wasn't a pioneer. And I'm grateful that whenever my children complain about the cold I can say, "At least you're not walking across the country in knee-deep snow bare foot just to have your feet chopped off." Yes, I actually say that to my children. I think of the pioneers whenever I'm outside and feeling a little too cold. I am grateful for their sacrifices. Always.





Friday, January 10, 2014

The Book of Mormon Saved My Marriage

I realized the truth of this a while ago as I was preparing for my Sunday School lesson. As I pondered the scriptures and the influence they have in my life, I knew I had to share this with my class. About a year and a half ago, I reached a crossroads. My husband and I had separated, and the evening he left, I felt an outpouring of love. I received comfort from a source outside of myself, one that I could not see. I also had the impression that getting a divorce was my call, that it would be okay if that was what I needed. Over the next few days, I turned to where I always turn when things are really bad, the one place I know provides solace and direction, often instantly: the scriptures. I don't remember if I just opened the Book of Mormon to where I had already been reading, or if I simply said a prayer and parted the pages with a hope in my heart that I would open on the spot I needed right in that moment. (This actually works sometimes by the way. Not always, but sometimes.)

Either way, I opened to Alma chapter 14. Do you know what happens in Alma chapter 14? Men that believe in Christ are separated from their wives. Then, to punish them, the wicked in the land take their wives and children and burn them to death. I've read this story at least a dozen times. On occasion it has touched me. More often it has probably angered me. But this time, it spoke to my heart like no other scripture had before. I knew their pain. I felt the heat of those flames raging around me. I knew my children felt them too. I knew my husband stood at a distance, suffering in his own way at the separation, being apart from us, unable to do anything about it.

I kept reading. There are a few mentioned characters in this story. Alma and Amulek are the preachers. They have to stand by and witness this awful scene. Then there is Zeezrom. If you go back a few chapters, you find that he was a vocal opponent to Alma and Amulek, a lawyer so full of himself that he stands boldly against two men called of God, accusing them and persecuting them. His actions contributed to this horrible event.

As I read, I tried to remember what happened to Zeezrom. And I couldn't. I wondered if this was the man who was trodden to death after denying the Christ. That's when I asked God to show me the way. I looked to this man as a symbol of what I should do in my life in that moment, in my current struggle. Alma chapter 15 tells of what happens to Zeezrom. Having left the land of Ammonihah, Alma and Amulek find Zeezrom in the land of Sidom. He is not trodden down and killed. He is sick with a burning fever, caused in part by the guilt from his actions and the ramifications that came as a result. He asks Alma to heal him. He changes.

I read that story and knew God was speaking to me of the hope that still existed for my marriage.

Why am I writing about this? Because it's true. The Book of Mormon saved my marriage. I can honestly and openly testify to the power of this book of scripture. It does what it says it can do. And I'm grateful.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Emotion Poems

The last two years have been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster. And do you know what I learned from that? That is what life is supposed to be. Many years of my life went by where I wasn't really in tune with what I was feeling. It is refreshing to have that back. Being aware of my emotions helps me work through them quickly. On to the next. When I'm feeling strong emotions, sometimes it helps me to write about it in the form of a poem. I thought I would share a few from last year.

Sorrow

"Is it a dull pain, or a sharp one?" the doctor asks.
But why he asks I cannot understand.
Dull and sharp can hardly matter now
For reaping never ends where sorrow is sown.


Faith

Like the moon you wax and wane,
A flower to blossom and wither.
You come and go like the unscheduled train,
But one thing you don't do is slither.


Peace Wash

Cloth and soap and water warm
Bathing rain, gentle storm
Calming flood and, "Peace, be still."
Sweet immersion; basin filled.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fighting Those Winter Blues






I am determined. I am on a mission. I will get through this January without hating all of existence. It may help that I'm not around Salt Lake in time for the inversion, but just in case that's not enough, I have a plan.

1. Get up early and exercise. Yeah, I decided against the get up early part.

2. Visit the tropics. My kids and I discovered this fun botanical garden over the break and I'm so glad we did. Why haven't I thought of this before? Visiting botanical gardens, breathing the artificial summer air, seeing and smelling the flowers. It's brilliant.

3. Do Yoga. Yoga specifically designed to help with mood improvement. I'm so glad that someone from my church is offering to teach this class. Sweet.


4. Have a writing goal to work on. Easy. Amazon's break through novel contest begins this month and I'm entering it. Should be fun. I just need to read through my manuscript and fix as many typos, plot holes, and oopsies as possible.

5. Smile. Smile. Smile. Even if it's fake. I'm trying. I really am.

6. If the sun is out, I will be in it! Whether I'm sitting by the window with the blinds pulled up high or I go out for a walk. I am going to soak up that vitamin D like a prickly cactus. A prickly, smiling cactus.

Here is to a HAPPY, HEALTHY January.