This morning on, our walk, my dog Maggie and I walked by our neighbor Tom Martin’s yard. He’s the kind of neighbor who wins City Beautification awards. (I’m not.)

Tom has a new young Japanese maple planted in his yard.

You know that feeling you get when you see a little puppy? I had that feeling upon seeing his new plant. Japanese maples are my favorite shrubs. I’ve planted five and have six at my home.

A-few-years-old Japanese maple growing in my yard.

A-few-years-old Japanese maple growing in my yard.

As Maggie and I completed our walk, I reflected on how pretty young things are. And I almost wished I could keep them that way–saplings, puppies, me. But I thought of the majesty of my other Japanese maples.

Japanese maple over twenty years old.

Japanese maple over twenty years old.

Japanese maple around 18 years old.

Japanese maple around 18 years old.

The red one has been pruned several times, but the green one hasn’t. They’re gorgeous, if you like that sort of thing (which I do).

And I thought about how enjoyable an older dog is–less work, more companiable. Puppies are delightful in all their stages of life, but there’s nothing like an older dog.

12-year-old Maggie.

12-year-old Maggie.

I also thought about President Uchtdorf’s talk entitled “The Gift of Grace.”

President Uchtdorf says we weren’t meant to stay in or return to Eden. We’re meant to progress. And we’re going to get pruned.

Years ago, Elder Nelson gave a talk on aging. He said, “The aging process is also a gift from God, as is death. The eventual death of your mortal body is essential to God’s great plan of happiness.”

What I remember most about it was that he said, or implied, that if we didn’t age we wouldn’t want to die.

I’m aging. Sad truth. I don’t like some of it, but there are things I appreciate about being older. I can’t say I’m more beautiful, but I’m kinder. Like the Japanese maples in the photos, I’m more apt to give shelter than censure. My interests, abilities, and influence spread farther than I realize. And I would never consent to return to the state of ignorance I once enjoyed (ignorance was bliss).

However, I feel old. I feel big. My body is yet capable of more movement than my current girth allows. My hip joints hurt and I have to move carefully. Part of me remembers physical youth–even as recently as a few years ago’s youth–and misses it.

Why does this tell me there is a God? Because there’s no logical reason why we shouldn’t go on and on and on. Our bodies are capable of rejuvenation. They renew themselves within a seven-year period. I’m a reasonably healthy, fairly uninjured person. I’m clever, accomplished, and eager to do more. Why can’t I go on living as a youngster? Because God says no.

I’m OK with that. As painful and uncomfortable and unattractive as aging is, I trust God. I know He’s trustworthy. I know it. And I know He’s got the whole world in His hands. We’re safe with Him.

How to join pin loom squares together is a puzzle that plagues us all. This post is an attempt to ameliorate the struggle.

As Count Rugen said, “Remember, this is for posterity so be honest.” I would amend that statement to “be thorough.” To be honest, I’ve been as thorough as I can stand (up to now). So if this tutorial isn’t something future, as well as present, generations can use, at least it’s helpful to me. I’ve assembled what I’ve learned by experience. If it helps someone else, great. There are many useful sites Out There, so this one may not be the last word in how to join those little squares we’re all getting so fond of making. Read More →

50 ways your leaves to cover.

List 50 things that might happen in your story.

My writing (and otherwise) friend Michelle Hubbard taught me the most useful writing exercise I’ve ever run into. It always works (for me). And it’s growing more and more useful each time I use it.

A couple of years ago, our writing group met at the local Zuppas and Michelle told us about this exercise: write a list of fifty things that could happen in your book. We got paper placemats from the workers and started making our lists on the backs–don’t ask me where we came up with four pencils or pens–Michelle probably.

Heather, Michelle, and Michelle were in the midst of writing books, so the items on their lists were wordier than mine. I had finished my first book (unpublished) a few months earlier and was still working on polishing it up, so I made a list of 50 things that could happen in the new book I was just beginning; my items were brief.

The list started with things like, “She could ride a skateboard. She could babysit”–boringish stuff. But the more I wrote the faster I got and the more interesting and even outlandish my ideas were. My gaze skated around the room, out the windows, into my imagination, searching for inspiration.

One of the things I wrote on that list became the germ for the book I’m writing right now. This book started out as a Middle Grade contemporary novel. I had it roughly planned out, had written a number of scenes, and had begun composing the first chapters. I’d shared the first pages with my writing group (which has grown to include Susan and Jenny) and they all approved and offered a few suggestions.

Then I decided to change the book into a fantasy. I needed to drop a couple of characters. Suddenly my plan wasn’t going to work anymore, but there was still a lot I liked about it. And now I had to create a fantasy world! So I made a list of 50 things that could or should happen.

Worked like a charm. My story grew along with my list. This time the items on my list were much wordier and were this-story-and-its-events-specific. Now when I sit down to work on it, I have something to write about, a plan to guide me.

Recently, Heather and I decided to try an experiment. We want to collaborate on a story. We’ve chatted a teensy bit about what we want to write. On Tuesday I suggested we make a list of 50 things we’d like to have in the book. Dear Heather wrote her list up that very day, during our weekly writing session at the Orem Public Library. My attention was divided between my MG fantasy and ideas for the new book, so I only put seven things on my list.

Today I started working in earnest on it. (Heather emailed me her list two days ago and I’ve had to slap my hand–figuratively–several times to keep from looking at it before mine is done.) I wish to point out that we have no idea what will happen in the story. Here’s what we’re going on: MG fantasy, a boy and a girl, probably related to each other. Not a lot to frame a house on. I’ve thought a bit about what might be in the story, but once I started making the list, the book took off. I provisionally named and assigned ages to the two characters, came up with primary and secondary goals, a time limit, an “or else,” and some character traits. And my list is only 33 items long so far!

That’s all I have to say about this exercise right now. Just wanted to record how it’s grown from a scanty list of “might-be”s into a substantial story outline.

Life mirrors fiction: what if I take that first photo and mess around with it a bit?

Life mirrors fiction: what if I take that first photo and mess around with it a bit?