Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Just a Piece of Paper

Since Mom and Dad grew up during the depression, there were not a lot of opportunities open to them.   Going to college was just for rich kids and not everyone graduated from high school.  Some kids dropped out to help support their families.

Dad was one year younger than mom.  He proposed to her when he was 16 and Mom was 17.  Mom wanted to graduate so she asked him to wait a year while she finished high school.  Dad finished his junior year.  They married on schedule and Dad never graduated.

Times were hard.  They didn’t have much.  Mom said they lived on love.  Dad was a hard worker.  Little by little he became a successful man. 

Dad also loved to learn.  He tried lots of things, and when he had the time and resources, he began branching out.   He read a lot and took  classes here and there.  He became successful at business and held a public office.  He was well-respected in our community and some sought his advice.

Though Dad had earned the respect of all who knew him, he lacked one thing: a high school diploma.

One day an old friend called my dad.  Dad’s friend held a government position and he was helping to choose an ambassador for India.  He recommended my dad.  “I don’t know anyone who is more qualified for the job.  How long would it take you to get ready?”

“I’d need a week,” chuckled my dad.  He was kidding of course, but you can sense his eagerness. What an opportunity.

One week turned into two then a month.  Several months passed.  Eventually, Dad called his friend to check out the score.  As Dad suspected, the lack of a diploma was the one thing that stood in the way.

We didn’t move to India.  My dad was well-educated by every standard but one.  Some people think that a diploma is just a piece of paper, but what a powerful piece of paper it is.  Having a diploma, or not having one, can make a critical difference in your life. 

I think of my dad as self-educated.  He was always learning.  Even though he learned a lot in the school of hard knocks, he valued education.  He encouraged us to get as much education as possible.  I thank him for that.   All of us children went to college, and eventually Mom did too. 

Education opens doors.  There are many kinds of education, but without a diploma some doors remain closed. 

Linda Garner

Monday, March 25, 2013

Writing--A Process and a Journey of Hope

I am ready to query agents with a picture book I wrote several years ago. I’m writing a series on helps for children with anxiety and depression.
It’s discouraging to try to get a picture book published in the market now. Things are tight, and picture books cost a lot to publish.
I decided, though, I want to publish a picture book. It’s a dream I’ve had for many years.
I’ve written a lot in the past five years, and I can tell I’m getting at least a little better. Even though it’s hard, I still want to keep trying.
I don’t know if I’m good enough or if the market is good for this kind of book, but I have to keep trying. I just can’t let go of my goal.
This process has helped me put things in perspective. My skill level is getting better, and I can communicate my thoughts and feelings through the written word with more ability than I could before.
I’ve let the book sit for a while, but I just can’t do it any longer. I have to reach for my goal. I hope it’s attainable, but I don’t know. I just have to have faith. Hopefully there’s a place in the world for this work.
 “God gives us skill. But He could not make Antonio Stradivaris violins with Antonio.” George Elliott
Christy Monson

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Dress

We didn’t choose black on purpose, it just happened to be what we found.  The dress was for Mom.  We girls chose it together, for Dad’s funeral.  She wore it twice—once for the viewing and once for the service. 

The dress had to be easy to get in and out of.   Mom wasn’t as flexible as she used to be.   This one fit the bill and though it was simple, it boasted a classy jacket.  The jacket had sparkles and gold buttons. Mom loved to sparkle.

She looked good in the dress, though her health was failing. Did she look eighty?  We pushed her in a wheel chair.  She usually managed on crutches, but not this time.  

After Dad was gone, Mom’s Alzheimer’s grew worse.  Her fragile memory constantly played tricks with her.  Sometimes Dad was out fishing, other times he was patching up the roof, she didn’t always remember that he was really gone.  The funeral dress teased her from her closet.  She didn’t remember wearing it.

Four months later, I gathered with my sisters to choose another dress for Mom.  This one would be white and she would wear it to her own funeral, lying in a casket she had chosen. 

We dressed Mom, and did her hair for her. It was the least we could do—after all she had done for us. We didn’t mind.   It was a healing experience.  We would miss Mom, but she hadn’t been herself in a long time.  In a way, we had lost her long ago. 

We bid Mom a tearful, cheerful good-bye; more cheerful than tearful, really.  We were glad that she could join Dad and be free of the worn out body that had imprisoned her and the once-sharp mind that had betrayed her. 

I kept the dress.  Black isn’t my color, but we were nearly the same size and the dress was brand new.  I’ve had a few occasions to wear it, but the most memorable were the times I needed my mother.

Though I have grown older and more independent, I still need mom sometimes. I needed her to get through a difficult family occasion.  I needed to feel her love when I felt as if my world were unraveling.

I wore it once to a wedding, when I wanted her to be there. I think she was.

I needed her with me when I was asked to direct a choir.  Mother led choirs her whole life.  This was my first time.  I felt insecure.  Wearing her dress helped me feel close to her—helped me draw strength from her.

Mother’s dress still hangs in my closet—a gentle reminder of a life well-lived and a heart that is bonded with mine.  Whenever I need her, I can slip into her dress and think of her.  I can wear the sparkly jacket and remember. 

I’ve never needed sparkle in my life, never craved it like Mom.  Maybe she was all the sparkle I needed.

Linda Garner




Monday, March 18, 2013

We just received news that our sweet granddaughter has cancerous growths on her thyroid. I was devastated by the news. I love her so very much. I’ve been thinking back on the fun times we’ve had together and will have together:
She and her cousin took my phone and giggled nonstop in the back seat of the car as we returned home from a trip. The next day I found 75 pictures in my photographs of their eyeballs, toenails, and noses. What fun!
I love to listen to her recital piece on the piano at 5:30 in the morning before a busy day at an early morning study group and school.
Every summer we hike the Idaho mountains and swim in the icy cold waters of a hidden lake.
She loves to cook and can take over in the kitchen in a flash.
Just after her doctor visit when she found out about the cancer, she had a swim meet. Determined not to let the bad news get the best of her, she swam her heart out and cut two seconds of her 100 fly.
I cherish the moments we’ve had together. Our prayers are with her through this trial. I wish she didn’t have to go through it. I know she’ll be alright, but this incident has caused me to remember the gratitude I feel for her love and her life. 
It's now two weeks later she had the growths removed and is now waiting to have the radioactive pellets injected into her blood stream to make sure the cancer is all gone. We hope and pray she'll be alright. 
Life is so fragile, you never know from one minute to the next what will happen. Through this whole experience, I have learned to cherish life more than ever before.
Take care. Hug your family today!!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

If the Shoe Fits

I have a love/hate relationship with shoes. 

If I had my druthers, I would rather be barefoot.  This works well around the house, but not so much outside.  I don’t mind running around the house in my stocking feet, but again it doesn’t work so well when I’m going places.

I am very picky about my shoes.  Comfort is my number one priority.  Keeping those ten little piggies happy is a big job.  When I buy shoes, I test them out in the store.  I walk around for a long time, making absolutely sure that they are going to work.  My sole is at stake, here, and I take that very seriously.  I’m never callous about shoes, and I’m determined not to be a heel.

The second thing on my shoe-do list is they can’t be ugly.  They can be a little on the plain side, but ugliness cannot be tolerated.    This lets a lot of comfortable shoes out.

Price is always a factor, but it comes in dead last after comfort and looks.  No matter how good a deal the shoes are, if I can’t enjoy the way they look and feel, it is no deal at all.  My favorite shoes are usually the ones that cost me more than I really want to pay, but I’m worth it.  My feet agree.

I gave up most heels long ago in favor of comfort, but I’m not wild about flats, so I try for something in between.   The shoe has to be lightweight.  Most shoes weigh me down, and I hate that.  It wears me out.  I want shoes that are as light as air.

Not long ago while shopping in my favorite thrift store, I found two pair of shoes that were just my size.  They were adorable and they were cheap.  I walked around the store for about an hour and decided that they would work, even though the heels were a bit higher than I usually wear.

The brown pair had a bow and they went perfectly with several of my outfits.  I wore them to church and three different people asked me where I got them.  They were so impressed when I told them how clever I was.  I haven’t worn them since.  They didn’t pass the comfort test.  They felt fine in the store.  What was I thinking?

The black pair is almost as cute and is decorated with buttons and stitching.  They aren’t quite as high and I love how they look, but really, I can’t wait to get them off after Church. 

I gave the brown ones to my daughter.   She loves them.   I’m still wearing the black ones—for now.  Was Cinderella this picky? 

If the shoe fits…

Linda Garner

Monday, March 11, 2013

Seeing the World as Kate Does

Seeing the World As Kate Does
I just read Kate DiCamillo’s web site. (I am looking at web sites to see how I want mine to be.) She describes a writing class she took in college. Her professor read her essay and asked the class what was remarkable about it. He said it wasn’t the writing; it was the seeing that made Kate’s work stand out. She took time to really see the person she wrote about. He went on to say that it was the responsibility of every writer to see the world they wrote about.
Did Kate do that with Because of Winn Dixie, Mercy Watson, and the other books she has written? I think she has. In Winn Dixie there are lonely children and even lonelier adults. We know this because Kate takes time to show us the characters. They become real to us because Kate sees them and tell us about them.
At critique group the other night part of my feedback consisted of:
Let us see the countryside
What are the characters thinking?
How do they feel?
I was not seeing my writing as clearly as I could. I’ve gone back and redone the pages. I hope I don’t make the same mistakes again, but I’m a slow learner and seem to need to be told over and over. (I hope I’m getting better.)
So here’s to Seeing the World! Let’s each set a goal to see the world in our writing.
Thanks Kate for your advice. Point is well-taken.
Happy Writing, Christy

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What's Your Point of View

Christy gave me a great opening yesterday.  She talked about a writing exercise she did in Clint’s class. Clint asked participants to write a story from more than one point of view.  I love this idea. I do the same thing when I teach writing in elementary classrooms.

I use this exercise when I teach about voice.  I use one of my stories called Grudge Rock.  The kids always love this story.  After I read it, we talk about the characters.  Walker is the main character, and he is definitely having a bad day.  We talk about his personality and his attitude.  Most of the kids can identify with him. 

Next we talk about Jake.  Jake used to be Walker’s best friend, but not anymore.  Jake tripped Walker in basketball game at recess and scored just as the bell rang.  Did Jake trip Walker on purpose?  Walker thinks he did.

How would the story sound if Jake was telling it?  The kids see right away that Jake wouldn’t tell the story in the same way.  His personality is different.  His attitude is different, and most importantly his point of view is different.

Point of View is part of voice.  Jake and Walker have completely different points of view.  Though they were playing basketball together, their experiences were different.

I love reading what the kids write when they tell the story from Jake’s point of view.  Some kids see Jake as bewildered.  He doesn’t have a clue why Walker is mad.  Other’s see Jake as a kid who thinks Walker is just a whiner, who needs to grow up.

The kids love it and It’s really fun to see what they come up with.

What’s your point of view?

Linda Garner


Monday, March 4, 2013

Making Your Characters Live
I attended a workshop with Clint Johnson at the League of Utah Writer’s Roundup about a year ago. He had us write an incident from one character’s point of view, and then he asked us to write the same scene from another character’s point of view. In each exercise, the setting was seen from different eyes. The smells and sounds were different. The voice of each carried a unique view of the world. Internal and external dialogue differed according to the person.
When I write my scenes, do I take time to get into each character’s head to really know their world? Do I really let them have their own thoughts and actions?
As I said last week, I’m writing a Family Councils Book for Familius. When I was asked to do this at first, I didn’t even know what I was going to write. But as I got going, I started having a lot of fun with it.
As you all know, I’m a retired Marriage and Family Therapist. I have years of stories of people’s lives stuck in my head that I can write about. Of course I have to change each incident up a bit and give the people new names. (That’s not hard because I don’t remember a lot of the names.) I do remember the people and their feelings and struggles. And the hope and strength they found within themselves to continue their quest. They are very real to me still.
Since I’ve been writing for several years now, I can make the characters and incidents live much better than I could before. It’s fun to take a two page story and make each family member live—with real feelings and quirks, etc. I love that I can make them live.
Maybe when I get back to writing fiction again, I’ll be better for having done this exercise in nonfiction. I don’t know. All I do know is that it’s fun to make the characters come alive in each story.
How are your characters? Are they living or flat?
Happy writing, Christy