Friday, April 30, 2010

Being on Stage Is All the Rage!


Got home very late last night after four hours of dress rehearsal for the BIG show. That's right. The young adult ward members that call my husband "Bishop" (and other things) will be performing tonight in a huge talent show, and I can't wait! I have a feeling this is going to be fun, fun, fun! And funny, too! Not that every act is amusing, mind you (we've got lots of serious skillz in our ward), but humor will definitely be a factor in the evening's entertainment. Especially when it comes to the big finale, performed by the bishopric and ward council and "directed" (if you can call it that) by little old me.

Tomorrow, you can bet my humble blog will be bustin' out some candid photos of the talent! And of the not-so-talented, too...the Bishop and his cohorts, for example. (Actually, that isn't an entirely fair assessment of the guys; looking like buffoons is a talent, too, right?) Hey, Will Ferrell's got nothing on our boys when it comes to making a fool of oneself. In fact, I think you will agree, after viewing the soon-to-be-posted evidence, that they are distinctly Ferrell-esque in their presentation.

Be that as it may, I'm looking forward to a super-duper time, some really yummy kettle corn, and a nice mix of inspiration and mortification.

Who doesn't love a good talent show?


(7:30 pm, folks. Step right up...)

=)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Skin Care: I Don't Like Crows or Their Feet


Okay, ladies. (Gents, too, if you're so inclined.) Remember when I wrote this post lamenting the demise of the original line of Principal Secret face care products? I had used them for years and was afraid to try something new on my allergy-prone skin, but many of you were kind enough to offer your suggestions on finding a good replacement. With that in mind, I'm taking a minute to share with you my brand new beauty regimen. Granted, it's trop cher (expensive as all get-out), but I have officially splurged. Hey...since I don't spend money on make-up, I'm entitled, right? Uh, yeah. (I'm sure my husband would agree.) Not.

Be that as it may, I have started using the Complex Organics skin-care system by Ada Thibiant. My skin looks and feels great, and I pretty much love the stuff. In fact, I almost look forward to performing the whole face-washing ritual every morning, a practice that normally bores me to tears. (Granted, I am the most impatient person ever when it comes to the mundane ministrations required by the beauty care aspect of personal upkeep.) However, I am pretty dedicated to making every reasonable attempt to keep my skin as soft and supple as aging will allow, particularly in light of my aversion to make-up. Let's face it; at 57, I need all the help I can get.

I called Thibiant's spa initially, and they were happy to send me some free samples. (Free is an excellent price, so you may want to phone them and get a few for yourself.) Even if you have more sense than to actually purchase Mme. Thibiant's wares at such exorbitant prices, you will surely enjoy her gentle yet effective products. THAT I guarantee!

I should also mention that the products ship free and have a return-in-30-days-and-your-money-back guarantee.

=)

PS. Now if I could just find something that really works for thinning hair...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ready for PriDetime: Our Son, the Scholar

Todd is studying to be a doctor.

(prostate cancer cell dividing)

Okay, how cool is this? Our son, Todd, who has been working at the University of Arizona Cancer Center as part of his extracurricular hours for applying to med school in June, just got his name on a review in the Journal of Cellular Physiology. If you click below, on the word "Abstract," you can even take a look! (Apparently, the printed copy comes out later...And you can bet I will be buying one.)

Mini-Reviews

The laminin binding integrin alpha6beta1 in prostate cancer perineural invasion (p n/a)
Isis C. Sroka,
Todd A. Anderson, Kathy M. McDaniel, Raymond B. Nagle, Matthew B. Gretzer, Anne E. Cress
Published Online: Apr 21 2010 9:19AM

[DOI: 10.1002/jcp.22149] Abstract | References | Full Text: HTML, Save Article


Pretty cool, right? At least, we think it is, even though he assures us he just happened to be in the right place at the right time and was lucky to be included.

(Hey, then we're proud of him for being in the right place at the right time...)

=)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It Is What It Is


Ready for the close-up?


It is what it is. And what this is, is my favorite new bracelet. The inscribed phrase, of uncertain origin, resonates with me because it's pretty much my philosophy in life. Events and circumstances are what they are, and the human side of that equation is to use attitude and action to make whatever comes our way work for us. In other words, "You cannot control the wind, but you can adjust your sails." Trying to change or rearrange things that lie beyond our control is an exercise in futility.

It's all about acceptance, a quality the apostle Paul really understood: "...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Philippians 4: 11).

It is what it is.

The more I adopt this point of view, the less stressful my turn on earth becomes. Doing my best not to judge the merit of any given life experience by comparing it to whatever potentially growth-inhibiting circumstances I might favor (translation: path of least resistance) brings me peace. I feel better when I "trust in the Lord with all [mine] heart and lean not upon [mine] own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5), and I try hard to make a conscious effort to be grateful that God is in charge and has a plan for me that is better than anything I might be able to come up with myself.

There's just one catch. I don't always succeed in my efforts. Hence, the bracelet.

(A gentle reminder, for––and from––one of my BFFs.)

Me.

=)

Monday, April 26, 2010

A New Spring in My Step!


I've got a secret weapon in my arsenal these days. A whole new feather in my cap. A little more magic in my bag of tricks.

Go ahead. Be very jealous...

But not too jealous, because I won't be one bit mad if you copy me. Not even a little miffed. You see, I'm all about generosity of spirit. And the free exchange of ideas. As well as the American way.

Although I think this idea started out with the French. Or maybe the British, if you take Jimmy Choo into account.

Perhaps you're thinking Dorothy (the original ruby slipper gal) should get the credit.

Whatever. The point is that these red shoes make me feel like a new woman! A vibrant, vital, vixen of a grandma. A borderline babe of a mom! And a sizzling siren of a wife. But that's the least of it.

They give me good energy. (More Glenda, less Wicked Witch of the West.)

Of course, all good things must come to an end...Eventually, I'm eager to head on back to the house, kick 'em off in the general direction of my closet, slide into my trusty crocs, and bask in the relative comfort of familiar frumpiness.

After all, there's no place like home.

(Dorothy told me so.)

;)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Life is a Hard but Heady Job


Life never fails to be an interesting adventure, does it? Obstacles are constantly presenting themselves in the form of challenges to be overcome: streams that need fording, rivers that need crossing, and mountains that simply cry out to be scaled. Of course, some days, weeks, or months are more challenging than others; and sometimes, we feel as if we're being singled out for more than our share of the struggle.

As it happens, quite a few members of my family are climbing steeper-than-usual mountains in their lives right now––and for some, it's not just one mountain but a series of ever-heightening ranges. Looking at these from a distance (as I do) can be pretty awe-inducing......daunting, even......and yet, I have every faith that they will come up with whatever it takes to get the job done. These people that I am blessed to call my own inspire and impress me, and they are doing some pretty awesome work out there. Heady work. Hard work. Muscles straining, eyes trained upward, they are actively engaged in battling one rocky slope after another, and they are not going to take no for an answer.

They will conquer their mountains. I'm sure of it.

Which helps me conquer mine.

they inspire me

(and make me proud)

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:3).

"I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials,
and their troubles, and their afflictions and shall be lifted up at the last day" (Alma 35:3).

“I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left,
and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up" (D&C 84:88).

How can we miss, guys?

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Mother's Gifts

Happy birthday, Mom. In you,
a mother's love comes shining through.

Your sacrifice and loving care
have blessed my life beyond compare.

I wish I had the words to say
the gratitude I feel today...

for lessons taught and stories read,
for children tucked up into bed...

and Swedish pancakes in the morn,
for sisters and a brother born...

to grace my years with lifelong friends,
reminding me that nothing ends...

(including my own love for you
and every special thing you do).

Of all your gifts, the greatest wealth
was teaching me to love myself.

Thanks for always making me feel important, Mom.
You are so beautiful.

Happy 83rd Birthday and
lots of love from
SUE

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mea Culpa...It's All on Me!


I came to an abrupt realization the other day that has left me fairly reeling with self-doubt and recrimination. (For those who may have taken this type of post on my part a little too seriously in the past, here's my cue---> I am kidding.) Almost entirely.
;)

I stand before you today (or sit far away from, actually) determined to accept complete and incontrovertible responsibility for the fact that I have, however unintentionally, dealt my sons' marriage prospects a severe blow. It's true. Certain choices and tendencies of mine have narrowed their prospective fields of marriageable girls considerably (though not, I believe, fatally), and I am ready to acknowledge that.

The thing is...I don't wear make-up. At all. Ever. It's true. (Not even for weddings. Gasp!) And the colossal hair-do efforts of my senior picture, immortalized here, were no more than a one-time fluke, perpetrated upon me by an older sister with a knack for hair and a fondness for french twists and beehives. In short, I am not, nor have I ever been, a "floofy" girl. I am, instead, the no-frills variety––a product of the 60's, stuck in a time warp. My concept of doing a good job beauty-wise is having a clean face, shiny hair, good haircut, soft skin, and a pleasing scent. No manicures (I do keep my nails filed evenly), no pedicures (just my own, cut-rate clipper-cuts), no facials, waxing, dyes, or fills...no yen for plastic surgeon skills...NO FRILLS.

Don't get me wrong. I see my beauty regimen...or lack of one...as neither vice nor virtue, just personal preference, but here's the rub. How many young women (and especially LDS young women) do you know that don't at least make a reasonable effort to enhance their look in all the ways that are so popular today? It's true! Right now, the pervasive style is more "done-up" than "dressed-down," and not just in Utah, either. California girls seems to have moved in the same direction. (My eldest son found his bride in Utah, but she was a beach girl from California...And that was more than a decade ago, when the trend was a little different.) These days, Orange County girls look like they're trying out for ingenue parts on the O.C.! And most of them could probably get said parts, too. They look gorgeous.


Woe is me. What have I done? Stabbed myself in the back, that's what! How many wonderful daughters-in-law have I missed out on because their hair was poofed up a little too much, or their eyes were a bit too artfully shaded or shadowed? Which potential mother of my grandchildren has gone by the wayside because she had some fun with the red lipstick thing or covered up the natural wonder of her freckles? Would there be more estrogen-bearing inhabitants of our family sphere if I had polished my nails a bit...or added some mascara to my faded lashes? And here's where the non-kidding part lies......Have I been so easy-maintenance that anyone who does any kind of maintenance at all seems like too much work? (I sincerely hope not.) Because judging a woman by her trappings (or lack of them) is plain, old superficial. And that word just doesn't jive with what I know about my unbearably handsome, incomparably intelligent, reliably humorous, and delightfully depthy boys. (She said modestly. And should I be worried that I am referring to my nearly 28 and just-turned-30-year-old sons as "boys"?) Just wondering on that one. And be gentle...

So, what's the verdict? Should I be glamming up my style in order to repair whatever damage I may have done to the feminine mystique that is woman? Probably not. For one thing, it's a little too late to teach this old dog many new tricks. And it probably wouldn't work anyway. Let's face it, if I've inadvertently managed to ruin the men in my family for truly gorgeous and/or elegant women, the damage is already done. Which means I might as well just continue to please myself, keeping the expectations about my personal allure low. Because looking the same when I wake up in the morning as I did when I went to bed the night before really works for me.

(Even if "the same" isn't necessarily a good thing...)

;)

PS. Okay, I have to 'fess up and admit that either one of my single sons would probably want to date these beautiful girls...But you can bet they'd be trying to get them to lose the make-up!

PPS. Do yourself a favor and take a quick run over to my friend Karen's giveaway at Still Crazy after All These Years. Not only does she have a great blog to visit, but she has some of the cutest, handmade prizes imaginable over there!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bowersox and Me: Rockin' the Glamour Shots

I'm probably smiling like that because Kate on DWTS finally went home

Recently, Kristina at Pulsipher Predictions was doing the Mr. Linky thing with so-called "glamour shots" of participating bloggers. I meant to get in on the fun (a couple of my blog pals did), but then I wound up being distracted by other, more serious topics. Today––even though I'm six days late to Kristina's party––and in the interest of offering you some lighter fare after several heavy blog meals in a row, I have opted to share this somewhat bedraggled version of my senior picture. You'll note that my eyes look like a cross between Village of the Damned and The Stepford Wives. Kind of nightmarish, and I think you'll agree that I won't need to superimpose the big hair that was going around as part of the glamour shot...because I had my own VERY big hair thing going on. (I only wish I could still find even one-fifth of that hair on my head.) Believe it or not, I used to think it was a nuisance! As if.

I also have to talk about Crystal Bowersox of American Idol, who had her own glamour shot going on last night. Boy, can that girl sing! And with such heart, too. When you watch this video, look at her face in the close-up shots and let me know if you see what I do...a sweetness that emanates from her in a way that draws me in every single time and makes me want to root for her. (And I do root for her. Stridently. I even vote!!) Yep, I have a feeling that I will be a Crystal Bowersox fan long after American Idol is over. Something about this girl just resonates with me. In a big, BIG way.

{i'm a fan}
(You may want to click off my red playlist in the right sidebar before playing.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Parents, Personal Revelation, and Promptings


Two of my favorite bloggers, Momza and Cherie, reminded me of an experience with personal revelation that might be worth sharing here. While it's not one of my favorite stories to tell, it probably is one of my most valuable lessons learned.

It begins many years ago, with a field trip sponsored by my eldest son's junior high school in Southern California. As always, he was excited for the opportunity to escape class for a few hours, and he and his friends were in high spirits at the prospect. Unfortunately, their energy played out in a most unfortunate way on the bus ride to their destination. At one point, my son looked over the back of his seat to banter with one of his best friends, only to have that friend shoot him directly in the eye at close range with a rubber band. The boy thought this would be a funny prank...never considering the damage that might be caused. My son, on the other hand, realized he had a problem fairly quickly (due to the pain that ensued) but instead of going to an adult for help, he decided to protect his friend from getting in trouble by wearing a pair of borrowed sunglasses to cover his injured eye and hide the evidence.

My son went through the whole day in a lot of pain and with decreasing vision, but he told no one. By the time he got back to the school, he was pretty frantic. With a great sense of relief, he hopped on the bus to go home, praying the entire way that I would be at the bus stop to pick him up. (There were no cell phones in those days, and apparently he had faith that I would get the message.)

His faith was justified. I did get the message. Loud and clear. Several times.

Each time the prompting came, I felt more compelled to go pick that child up...And each time I gave myself a sterner talking-to, reminding myself of my tendency to be overprotective and repeating in my mind a recent resolution I had made to offer my children a little more space and a little less hypervigilance. My son was a big boy. He could find his way home from school without mommy's assistance. For some reason, it never occurred to me that my urge to pick Matt up was a prompting and not my own self-talk.

When I wasn't at the bus stop, my son panicked. By now, his eye was throbbing with excruciating pain, and all he could think of was getting home as fast as possible. He ran the entire way, jarring his injured eye with every pounding step on the hard pavement. When he got home, he showed me the eye immediately.


He had a hyphema like the one pictured above, except that the level of blood behind his eye had risen almost to the top of his pupil, which was damaged as well. It resembled a cat's eye (like the one below), because the pupil had been slit by the rubber band.


I tell you with no small amount of still-present maternal pain that his first words to me were, "Mom, how come you didn't pick me up at the bus stop? I prayed that you would be there!" I'm not sure I have ever felt greater regret than I did that day, especially after the doctor told me that running home was absolutely the worst thing he could have done because it had made the bleeding so much worse.

My son was in the hospital for a full week, with orders not to move his head from side to side or even lift it from the pillow. The doctor's prognosis was not good; he was hoping there might be some residual sight after the blood dissipated. Cosmetically, his eye was kept dilated for six weeks in hopes that the pupil would heal with some semblance of normal roundness. It seemed the aesthetic outlook for his eye was more promising than the functional one.

I apologized profusely to my son for not heeding the message the Lord had sent me, and it became a learning experience for all of us....me in particular. Since that time, I do not ignore strong impressions when they come my way. Not ever. In fact, I probably overcorrect a bit by erring on the safe side. When in doubt, I act.

That's my story about personal revelation as pertains to my children. My story about priesthood blessings is that Matt emerged from this experience with an eye that was completely healed in every way. There was no residual damage at all...just an increased disposition toward glaucoma that is carefully monitored. How grateful I am that my son did not have to suffer a lifetime of consequences for the mistake of a good friend who acted without thinking and a mother who acted without listening. Or failed to act, I should say.

"One of the most crucial parts of our communications with Heavenly Father is the ability to recognize the means by which He speaks to us through the promptings of the Spirit. If we have properly prepared, we will become sensitive to these promptings" (Neal A. Maxwell).

Mothers need to use all of the gifts available to them, especially the spiritual ones. (Grandmothers do, too. And fathers.) Happily, the Lord is eager to endow us with whatever little bits of truth and knowledge and intuition we require to raise our children. All we have to do is let Him. By listening AND acting.

The very happiest of birthdays to my sister, Nikki, a gifted mother who is very much in tune with spiritual things and has often used personal revelation to bless her children's lives. Have a great day, Nik. I love you!

=)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Oh, That I Were an Angel: A Spirit-Soaring Sunday



I had one of those exquisitely beautiful experiences yesterday, the kind no post could possibly describe. (Being a literary masochist of the first order, I have decided to try anyway.)

It was the missionary farewell of two young women who belong to a good friend of mine. They are twins, and I can't help remembering what a lively pair they were as young children, running harum scarum through their mother's world and requiring a great deal of extra effort and patience on her part. Frankly, we were all in awe of my friend's stamina in those early years, along with her loving determination.

As the girls matured, eventually entering the Young Women program of our church, it became evident that all of her hard work (and theirs) had paid off in spades. The two of them were lovely in every way. What's more, they were good examples. Active and involved at school and in the community, the popular pair influenced more people than they probably knew...individuals of all ages who admired them not only for their beliefs but for their willingness to share and live by them.

Standing at the podium yesterday, bearing testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they were as lovely as ever. In fact, they were beyond lovely. Glowing with the spirit, expressing their gratitude for the opportunity to serve as His emissaries in Scotland and England respectively, these two beautiful young women were nothing short of glorious. They literally shone with love and enthusiasm, and it was a joy to be in the room and hear them bear witness of Jesus Christ and their call to serve Him.

There may have been a dry eye somewhere in the house, but I wouldn't want to bet my life on it. What a gratifying (and unifying) experience it is for a ward to send out missionaries who are so well prepared to preach the gospel. And our ward was privileged to welcome one home yesterday as well, a handsome young man who had grown and matured so much it was hard to stop smiling as he spoke (with a slight but easily discernible accent) of his experiences in Argentina. What a trio they made!

Looking at all three of them up there, the thought entered my mind that anyone visiting our church for the first time would have the impression that all of our children must be drop-dead gorgeous. For a moment, I chided myself for being so superficial as to notice their outward appearance, but then I realized that (despite their very real good looks) it was not the outward appearance I was seeing. The beauty that emanated from them was of an entirely spiritual nature; they had received Christ's image in their countenances.

The girls' dearest friend played a piano solo of "Be Still My Soul," their favorite hymn. It moved first one and then the other to tears, and I cried with them. We all did...our newly softened hearts conjoined in love and faith.

I had one of those exquisitely beautiful experiences yesterday, the kind no post could possibly describe...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Die Is Cast: Giveaway Winners at Last!


Hear ye, hear ye! The winner of three Jane Austen special edition classics is Kiurious, and Lisa from The Davis Dialogues has won the tote from Ronna.

Congratulations to both of you! (Here's the kicker...These two are a mother-daughter team with the luck of the Irish...and maybe a few other nationalities as well!!)

Thanks to everyone else who participated, and may fortune smile upon YOU when giveaway time rolls around again...

=)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Errand of Angels...and Raising Them


Today is my second son's 30th birthday, a milestone event, to be sure. Next month, my youngest boy (and I use the term loosely) will turn 28, and my lovely daughter already hit 32 in February. October will make me the mother of a 35-year-old man, which will be a pretty big shock to both of our systems, I suspect.

You may remember that I did lengthy, over-the-top birthday tributes for every member of my family in 2009; this year I'll just be doing the honors in person. I will, however, be writing about motherhood today, because the four delightful people I brought into the world more decades ago than seems possible are doing me the honor every day of being my children––unique, interesting, and accomplished individuals of whom I am shamefully proud.

The thing is, motherhood has been on my mind a lot lately, partially as a result of these birthday reminders, but also because Segullah (one of my favorite internet venues) has been discussing the subject this week, most notably here (A Natural Woman, by Angela), but also here and here. If you can't take time to read all three, go with the first one, because the comments made there by some of the coolest readers around (next to my own, of course) are unfailingly interesting, intelligent, and inspirational. Not only is Angela one heck of a writer, but her commenters are great, too! I also enjoyed reading Jim Rowberry's thoughts on cjane, relative to the art of loving your wife during the postpartum phase. Such a sweet, wise, and funny offering it was from a young man who grew up in my ward before establishing his current home in Salt Lake City. (How surprising and sort of surreal it was, hopping over to cjane for my daily perusal of her blog and running into his smiling, familiar face...looking almost exactly as it did 10 years ago, I might add.) It's A Small World, especially when you're LDS.

But back to the subject at hand. Motherhood. And my love for it. The discussion on Angela's post at Segullah centered around the premise that women are "natural" mothers, blessed with a gift that makes us uniquely suited to raise and nurture children. Most there agreed that the basic statement was true, but some disagreed about the definition of "natural," and many chafed a bit at the onus and expectation that seem to accompany motherhood when presented in that light. Two particularly interesting points were made by Angela in her essay: First, that not one of us is perfect, despite suggestions to the contrary in the form of tributes, pedestals, and platitudes that only serve to make some women feel that they are falling short of the mark; and second, that motherhood doesn't come "naturally" to all of us but that excellence in that area is, rather, a result of hard work, very personal choices, and sacrifice. Angela maintains rather sensibly that a woman should be able to own her efforts and be credited for and by them, rather than having the inference constantly made that the behaviors around motherhood come easily to her. What's more, Angela does not feel edified by having the paragon of a proverbial "angel mother" held up to her every time she turns around, at church or elsewhere, nor does she believe that such an unreachable ideal is particularly helpful or motivating for the many struggling mothers who are painfully aware that, if angel motherhood exists, they are still looking for their wings. All good points and worth thinking about.

The discussion went in a lot of different directions, many that had little to do with Angela's own opinions. But that's what made the whole thing so interesting...and since I don't have time or room to discuss it in greater detail here, that's also why you should head on over and read it yourself! I will say, though, that a common thread emerged and surprised me because it was so well-represented...the reality that, while all of the women there were happy to be mothers, an unexpected (by me) number of them were not especially comfortable in that role, and a few even found the particulars of the job rather unpleasant...more duty than pleasure. It made me grateful that being the mother of my children is an exercise I have been blessed to enjoy in every aspect. It also occurs to me that my liking for the job may be a direct result of the particular children who came my way, lo those many years ago.

My children pretty much rock...and they always have. Oh sure, they did put up the usual fights and fusses...went through the awful phases, stages, and difficult ages...but even as young children, they never once made my life utterly miserable or inspired me to wonder what on earth I had ever gotten myself into by having four children so close together. If it hadn't been for all the sicknesses they seemed to attract like magnets in their younger years...and the teenage/young adult antics that I still maintain turned my hair grey...the whole experience would have been perfect! Instead, it was perfectly wonderful. (And it still is, despite the ups and downs and ins and outs of their adult lives.) In fact, being their mother is my favorite thing. Why? Because of who they are.

So I want to thank them...each one...but particularly Ryan, since this is his birthday. Thank you, Ry, for coming my way 30 years ago with your wide, wondering eyes; smashed baby nose; down-covered head; and crooked little feet (things got a bit tight in utero). Oh, how I loved and love being your unabashedly imperfect mom.

And Matt's.
And Karin's.
And Todd's.

Yep. I am one lucky mother. Which may be why the controversial notion of "angel mothers" (and similarly lofty characterizations, discussed with no small amount of angst by Angela and others over at Segullah and infused into our culture by Abraham Lincoln so many years ago) fails to make me feel much of anything but special.

Or at least, potentially so.

***Don't forget that today is your last chance to enter my 500th-post giveaway by making just one comment here. Winners of the special edition Penguin classic books by Jane Austen and the super-cute tote by Ronna will be announced tomorrow morning. Good luck!

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned"


I just finished reading a new book by Michael J. Fox, entitled "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned." I admit to having purchased it because of the title, which is one I might have written myself...and not only the content, but the style. As those of you who've stuck with me awhile know all too well (sorry, guys!), I'm pretty fond of rhyming my titles. In fact, sometimes I have to consciously stop myself from going there. Becoming a one-trick pony is never a good thing, but becoming a literary one-trick pony is a writer's death knell.

Michael J. Fox has written several books, and I can't imagine him ever being a one-trick pony. What a complex and interesting personality he is! At once irreverent and respectful, his unerring radar for the ridiculous is tempered by a profound sense of the sacred. With personal life experience as his guide, Fox does a good job of presenting what amounts to a literal and figurative commencement address, 112 pages that are well-suited to young and old alike. (I can't say that I had any real aha moments, but I did thoroughly enjoy myself, nodding vigorously at various times and frequently smiling with delight at a particularly apt expression of truth as I know it.) More importantly, I found myself thinking that I wanted to share portions of the book with my children because I thought his "voice" might be more easily heard than mine on certain subjects. In all candor, I should also note that Fox uses mild profanity a handful of times (namely the word equivalents of donkey, excrement, and the opposite of heaven)––nothing that would keep me from presenting the book to my children, but enough that it did give me pause for a moment.

The book is billed as the "perfect" graduation gift, and I would agree almost wholeheartedly, with that minor language caveat. A good rule of thumb might be to use the anticipated audience as your guide. It does seem a shame to throw the baby out with the bath water, and I think I'd probably feel comfortable giving the book to pretty much anyone 16 or older––though I would personally feel the need to include a jokey-yet-serious disclaimer about the language in my customary book inscription.

I can see myself giving the book to certain adults, too. "A Funny Thing Happened..." could resonate with a person of any age who is transitioning from one phase of life to the next...or one who has transitioned...or will transition. In short, the book is applicable to most anyone, and I recommend it nearly without reservation. (How's that for an oxymoron?)

Here are a few of my favorite quotes, the first of which is attributed by Fox to Coach John Wooden (UCLA basketball) and the second to Gary Goldberg (creator and producer of Family Ties):

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
– John Wooden

[Speaking of Fox] "All I know is I write him two jokes, he gets me three laughs."
–Gary Goldberg (I like this idea of always taking what you have and making more of it.)

But Michael J. Fox's own quotes are the best ones offered in his book:

"Life is good, and there's no reason to think it won't be––right up until the moment when everything explodes into a fireball of tiny, unrecognizable fragments, or it all goes skidding sideways, through the guardrail, over the embankment, and down the mountain. This will happen (and probably more than once). What I've just described may be shocking coming from me, given my reputation as an optimist. Although I like the identification, it's not exactly the way I would characterize my outlook. I think I am a realist. The reality is that things change; the question is, how will I perceive that change, and am I willing to change along with it? It may seem hard to believe, but it's catastrophe that offers the most promise for an even richer life. This is the gateway to the good stuff. In other words, you never truly know which way the wind is blowing until the s*@# hits the fan. And further, if you don't mind getting a little dirty, that breeze will carry you a long way."

Rather surprisingly, considering the undeniably coarse (but unerringly descriptive) nature of its last two sentences, that previous quote reminds me of my favorite scripture: "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:11-13).

"My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectation."

"Loss is not a vacuum. If I don't impulsively try to fill the space it creates, it gradually begins to fill itself, or at least, present choices."

"Don't spend a lot of time imagining the worst case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice. When things do go bad, don't run; don't hide. Stick it out, and be scrupulous in facing every part of your fear. Try to be still. It will take time, but you'll find that even the gravest problems are finite...and that your choices are infinite."

"Remember, that though you, alone, are responsible for your own happiness, it's still okay to feel responsible for someone else's."

Enough of the preview. If you like what you've seen, give the whole book a whirl. "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future..." is pretty much a thumbs up from me. Will I keep it for my own library? Probably not. But I will absolutely give it to a few graduates...and may even keep some copies on hand for friends who are experiencing, as Michael would say, a period in life where the...um...digestive waste product is blowing through their lives a little more strongly than usual.

And yes, I have a poem for that...


Of all the people
in the world
millions of guys
zillions of girls
of all the animals
there are
from Timbuktu
to Zanzibar
of all the statues
ever raised
to villains feared
or heroes praised
of all the buildings
ever built
that stand up straight
or even tilt
of all the car tops
ever made
from fiberglass
to steel
to suede
why did it have to
land on me
not on the ground
not on a tree
not on the street
or at my feet
but on my head
with liquid dread
I must exclaim
at the deadly aim
of the dreadful turd
of that dreadful bird

(As you can see, I'm not above a little crassness myself to make my point...)

;)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Neglect Not the Gift...


Here's something that really tickled me when I was visiting the grandkids and their illustrious parents back in So Cal last weekend. Take a look at this close-up shot of the lovely (though crooked by virtue of photographer incapacity) plaque that hangs on the wall above my granddaughter's bed.


My daughter-in-law, Heather, created this cute wall hanging from a poem I wrote for one of my books (©2004 Susan Noyes Anderson, His Children, Vantage Point Press). I love knowing that she wanted these words of mine in plain sight for Carli to view and perhaps draw inspiration from through the years, as she goes from crafty young girl to artsy teenager. What a neat compliment! Maybe, one day, Carli will even want to read the entire book!! (She's already putting a pretty good dent in the Magic Tree House series...)

The idea of creation is especially meaningful for me. When President Uchtdorf gave an inspired talk to the women of the LDS Church on the topic, I was several degrees beyond thrilled. Years ago, I had taught a Relief Society lesson about every woman's amazing power and gift to make something from nothing...or (at least) relatively little. The notes from that presentation later became a chapter called "Respecting and Directing Your Personal Power" in my book, "Awaken Your Spiritual Power: The Fairy Godmother Isn't Coming" (©1999 Susan Noyes Anderson).

Anyway, the backbone of this lesson was an acronym I created for the occasion. (There's that amazing verb again!) Here's how it goes...

Catch the vision
Request the Spirit
Experiment with ideas (prepare)
Accept inspiration
Take courage (trust your gift)
Express your divinity
© All Rights Reserved

Of course, there was a poem to go along...


The gift is given. Will we make a space
within the cluttered circles of our lives?
As mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and wives,
will we lay hold or run an endless race?

Will we lay hold, or run an endless race...
and, running, lose our vision of the prize?
"Be still," God said. The cup goes to the wise,
for every gift must have its time and place.

For every gift must have its time and place
or be forgotten...and the Giver, too.
Come, let us dedicate ourselves anew.
Receive and magnify each gift with grace.

Receive and magnify each gift with grace.
Create a fertile ground; make room for growing.
We have the seeds, and they are ripe for sowing.
The gift is given. Will we make a space?

One of the things I love so much about blogging is that the gift of creativity is constantly being expressed in language and photos that mirror the use of that gift in each blogger's life. An empty "New Post" page is simply another space where beauty can find a home.

...Which is a perfect segue to this reminder that the giveaway for my 500th post anniversary doesn't end until Saturday night, and you still have time to comment here and win one (or several) chances to take home a few examples of beauty in the form of three special editions of Jane Austen's work or a lovely tote by Ronna. What better way to embrace and celebrate the creativity of others than to accept these tangible manifestations of their considerable gifts?

CREATE. Yep, I love that word.

;)

PS. Don't you the way Joni Mitchell uses notes and silence to create the haunting rhythm of this song? Perfect.

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