Feb 27, 2011

It's Like Meeting an Old Friend

A few weeks ago I got an Amazon gift card. Of course, I bought a ton of books, some of them new favorites and some favorites from when I was a teen. And it got me thinking about how books are like friends, and just like friends there are different degrees:

That person you see all the time who seems really awesome, and has lots of friends, but you never get up the nerve to talk to. This is that book that everyone loves, and it's been on your list to read forever, but you basically know that you are never going to read. Some of my examples of this are: Les Miserables, Wuthering Heights, The Poisonwood Bible

That person you met once at a party, a work meeting, or through a mutual friend and had a great time talking to, but you'll probably never see them again. You know that book that is fun/amazing/good when you read it, but it's not something you are going to go out and buy? It gave you some good times, kept you from boredom, but you don't really seek out reading it again. My examples: The Hunger Games, Atonement, Great Expectations

That person who you really liked when you met them, but then you spent some time away from them and realized how they really are and now you avoid them at all costs. This is that book that you read because it was cool and exciting and fresh. You'd never known something like this. You wanted to spend all your time with it, and when you weren't reading it, you were thinking about reading it. You procrastinated doing all the things you were supposed to do because you just had to read one more page. Then you finished it, went away from it for a little while and when you came back you noticed all the flaws and manipulating within it. My example: Twilight

That person you were really good friends with in school that you thought you were so lucky to be their friend, but you randomly saw them at the grocery store and you said hi and maybe caught up a little but it isn't the way it used to be. This is that book that you just remember loving when you were younger (like a teenager). You read it over and over again and the spine is all broken. But it has been years since you read it and you see it in a bookstore or library, so you get it and read it. And it's good, just not as good as you remember it being. My examples: Spindle's End, Summers at Castle Auburn

That person who you were friends with at school and every once and a while you'll see them some place and it's just like it used to be, laughing at the same jokes and talking without any problem. These are the books that you know no matter what that you love. You read them maybe every couple of years, and it makes you feel the same way you did when you read them for the first time. Not only that, but now that you've grown some, you get even more out of it than you did before! My examples: Anne of Green Gables, the Chronicles of Narnia, Ella Enchanted

That person who will be your best friend forever and always even if life takes you in different directions and your only face contact is every few months, but you talk about them all the time and think about them occasionally and tell everyone how great they are and that they would love them if they met them. These books are close to the previous books. It might not be that you read them every month, but when someone asks you for suggestions, these are the books that you recommend. And when you read them, it's like meeting your friend again after being apart and just feeling like everything is right again. These are the books that grow with you and seem to change every time you read them, but are still basically the same. My example: Pride and Prejudice

That person you just met, and right now you are great friends, but it's too early to tell which of the previous kinds of friends they will turn into. Don't you just love meeting new books? You get into the new world, and you learn about new people. It's so fun, and exciting. Sometimes you know right away how you feel about them, but sometimes you get to be friends for a while, or maybe even forever. It's hard to tell. But right now, you get to have some fun. My examples: Beastly, I Am Number Four, the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series, Little Women

What are some of your friends? (From any of the categories.)

Feb 17, 2011

When Strangers Come to Town

About a month ago I entered a Writer's Digest "Your Story" writing contest. They gave the opening line of the story, then you can take it in anyway you want as long as you keep it under 750 words. I really liked my story. I thought it was interesting and one of the best things I've written. Well, today I went on to see who made it to the top 5, and my story wasn't there.

I guess I can't be too disappointed. What I'm mostly upset about is that no one except some unknown selection committee will ever read that story. It won't be published for a national audience. And I was just thinking about how if I were a songwriter I could go to a venue and play my music. If I were an artist, I could enter my art in an art show. If I made films, they could be entered in festivals. At all these things at least I would be able to share with other people and they could decide whether or not they like what I do. Writing isn't like that. You submit your manuscript and if you're lucky one person reads it. If that person doesn't like it, it sits in an ever growing pile of manuscripts. No one of the general public will ever see it.

So, I decided that I will put the story up on my blog (at the bequest of some friends). Maybe some random person will come across my story. Maybe that person will like it, maybe he won't, but at least it will get read.

When Strangers Come to Town

It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town. Needless to say, the townsfolk were livid. No outsiders had dared come to town since they ran off Bob Barley ten years before.

“I declare, some people have no regard for boundaries,” said Mrs. Simmons, the mayor’s wife.

“Yup, they’s just as well turn their trucks around and butt outta town,” agreed the local bartender Joe.

The sheriff said nothing, but nodded as he turned the page of his newspaper.

The circus didn’t butt out of town. They set up the big top and made themselves comfortable. The townsfolk avoided the circus folk like they would avoid a rabid dog.

All of them except young Tyler Poole. Tyler Poole had always been a queer member of town, with his big dreams of traveling the world and meeting new people. His school teacher called Tyler a “smart kind of kid but with the most ridiculous notions.”

The first time Tyler was seen at the circus, the mayor was informed immediately.

“Now, Tyler, you know we don’t take kindly to strangers in our town,” Mayor Simmons said. “People are starting to talk. Let’s make sure I don’t hear anymore of this circus business.” And the mayor left, thinking that was the end of it.

Two days later Tyler was seen buying one of those circus folks a drink. The townsfolk stared at them sitting at the bar, laughing like they were best friends. Joe the bartender wouldn’t have served them if Tyler hadn’t been paying.

The townsfolk were outraged as they watched Tyler through the windows of their stores, and homes. Every morning they gossiped in the diner as they watched him walk into the circus camp, and every night they huddled together in the bar when he walked back out. Sometimes, he even brought one of them into town.

Two weeks went by and the talk of the townsfolk got louder. Something had to be done about young Tyler Poole and those circus people. It just wasn’t natural. Mayor Simmons gathered the men in the bar late one night. Joe ran the taps as freely as the men ran their mouths.

“I don’t like it. What’s he doing there all day?” asked Pat the mailman.

“Can’t be nothing good,” said Joe.

The sheriff said nothing, but nodded as he turned the page of his newspaper.

“Exactly, so what are we going to do about it?” The mayor banged his pint on the table.

The men raised their voices, getting louder as they drank more. The mayor shook his head at all their suggestions. The night grew old.

“I say, we show those freaks what we think of ‘em!” Joe suggested. “Show ‘em how we feel about thems encroachin on our hospitality.”


“Let’s show them, mayor!”

The mayor nodded, and finished his last beer. “Let’s show them, men.”

In not very long, the men were walking through town carrying various items. Bats, car jacks, knives. The only man left behind was the sheriff, reading his paper.

The circus men came out, attempting to talk some sense in the townsmen. But a couple of broken windows, a dented truck door, and a smashed animal cage changed their minds. As the circus people ran about trying to salvage their livelihood, the townsmen destroyed it.

“Mayor, stop!” Young Tyler Poole stepped into a flashlight beam. He held his hands up.

“This is for your own good, son,” said Mayor Simmons.

The men moved closer, but Tyler stepped in their way. A murmur rose up from the crowd, the drunken men wavering. In a surge the crowd moved toward Tyler. He moved from man to man, trying to stop them, but he was thrown off and the crowd streamed past him.

The camp was destroyed by dawn. As the last circus truck left town, the men sent up a cheer. A yell pierced through and they turned to see young Tyler Poole lying in his own blood.

At the funeral the men held their hats in their hands. The women cried into their handkerchiefs. The minister read words from his worn Bible.

At the diner afterward, Mrs. Simmons said, “We tried to warn him. Foolish child.”

“He shouldna spent all that time with them,” said Joe.

The sheriff nodded his head and folded his newspaper. “Yup,” he said, “that’s what you get when strangers come to town.

Feb 14, 2011

Love Day

First, I have to say that not being at BYU for Valentine's Day is AWESOME!! No icky couples kissing all the time, no seeing everyone else get flowers, no sitting at home alone eating ice cream and watching a chick-flik . . . Pretty much a good V-day on my end.

Last year I posted about how Christ is my Valentine, and with Him I have no need of anyone else. Well, you want to hear something really cool? I have a friend on a mission in Austria right now and she sent me a letter last week. She says that there they call Valentine's Day the Day of the Pure Love of Christ.

Kind of makes you think a little differently about it, huh? I never have loved Valentine's Day, but I've realized that it is more than romantic love, it is love for all people, all things, all creation. It's the love that Christ has given us by everything that He has ever done for us. He and the Father created this beautiful world, Christ lived and died, all for us. For everyone, no matter who you are or what you believe or what you've done. That's love for you.

So, here's wishing everyone a Happy Day of the Pure Love of Christ!

Feb 13, 2011

Sunday Special: Mormon's Work

So, I'm an editor. Part of my job right now is to cut down articles so that they are the correct length for what we want to use them for. About two weeks ago I was asked to take an 800 word article and make it into a 250 word article.

I got to about 400 words and then felt I couldn't cut anymore without losing the integrity of the story. I explained this to the managing editor and we came up with a different idea for the feature. Instead of a story about the Book of Mormon, I was going to do a little step by step of the introduction to the Book of Mormon and talk about what Mormon did to make it what it is.

I started thinking about it and here's a little of what I learned:

Mormon was an editor too! He was asked by God to make an abridgment of the records of the Nephites so that it would be the correct length for us. Now, this isn't just merely taking an 800 word article and making it 250 words--in fact, Mormon might have scoffed at my inability to do so. This was taking over 1000 years of records and finding the most important data, writing in summaries of the rest and maintaining the integrity of the entire record. That is a task I wouldn't have wanted to be given.

If you read Words of Mormon, and Mormon 1:1-5 and parts of other chapters, you'll see kind of how Mormon approached this task. But I think the most important thing is that he had God helping him. I'm sure that God gave him inspiration on what to include and what could be left out--for now. We know that there is more of the record that we don't have, but I don't think that we need it at the moment. The record we do have is exactly what we need for right now.

I don't really know what the point of this is, except that we should trust in God to inspire us in the work that He has asked us to do. Trust in him and the work will be done.

Feb 12, 2011

An Adventure in Baking

About a month ago I found a recipe for thin mint cookies. I decided it would be a nice thing to make some and take them to my co-workers for Valentine's Day. Little did I know what an adventure it would be!

I doubled the recipe, which was not necessary at all. I am including the regular recipe which I got from the internet at The Family Kitchen, posted by Brooke McLay.

Cocoa Wafer Cookies
3 T butter
1 egg white
1/4 c brown sugar
pinch of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c cocoa powder
1/2 c flour (plus 1/4 c)
2 drops pure peppermint oil

Combine all ingredients together (I ended up using a pastry cutter, and then my hands). The dough shouldn't be sticky, and you should be able to roll it out. Preheat the oven to 325. Use your favorite cookie cutter to cut out shapes. I found a really cute heart one at the store. Roll the dough out. The recipe says "verrrry thin" but I don't think that's accurate. Just do what you think it best. Bake for 4-7 minutes until cookies have firmed and browned slightly. Let cool.

Baked cookies, cooling.

Peppermint Buttercream Layer
2 c powdered sugar
4 T melted butter
2-3 drops peppermint
1/2 tsp milk (the recipe says heavy whipping cream, but I didn't want to buy a whole thing of whipping cream for 1/2 tsp.)

Mix all ingredients together. The buttercream layer will be stiff, and not sticky. You will be able to roll it out. I was going to make them pink since it is for Valentine's Day, but I forgot. I realized this after I rolled them out.
Cut with the same cookie cutter you used before. To make the cookies and the buttercream layer took me about an hour and a half. I have no idea why. AND! I was trying to make the buttercream layer, and measuring out the milk and I was trying to not spill a whole bunch of milk so I got this great idea of just sticking the measuring spoon into the milk carton. Well, the spoon is now in my milk carton. And I ended up with too much milk anyway, so I had to put more powder sugar in. But it all worked out and I got it rolled out.
After you cut the buttercream, put it on top of the cookies.
The next step is to dip it into chocolate. The original recipe said to use Candiquik, which I don't know what that is. I just used confectioner's chocolate from the grocery store. I bought two pounds (since I was making a double recipe), one pound milk chocolate and the other dark. Follow the directions for melting on the package. I did the microwave directions.
Dip the cookie in the chocolate and cover. Set on parchment/wax paper to cool. This step took FOREVER! My hands got all chocolatey and I kept licking the chocolate off, which meant I then had to wash my hands, and I got sick of chocolate. For the time being.
Here's the finished product. I don't think I will be making these again in, like, ever. They were majorly time consuming and frustrating. I spent all afternoon on them with very few breaks and I finally finished them at around 8. My parents said they taste good though--I was so disgusted with them by the time I was done that I haven't even tried them yet.

Anyway, if you're up for it, try them. They look cute and I really hope that my co-workers like them.

Feb 6, 2011

Sunday Special: The Adversary Works Hard

This last week as I was researching something for work, I came across a story about a young man named McKay Hatch.

McKay is a resident of California and is LDS. When he reached middle school he became increasingly disturbed with the amount of swearing that he heard in school and among his friends. He decided to do something about it and started the No Cussing Club. That was almost three years ago and now he has almost 20,000 members of the club, internationally.

I think it is such a wonderful thing, and he has gained so much attention that it seems many people think so too. But unfortunately, not all the attention has been positive. Though a club that has members who are resolved not to swear seems innocent enough, McKay and his family has received a large backlash. Not only has he received hate mail, but even death threats. McKay even received suspicious packages with derogatory names on them. These got so bad that the Hatch family had 24 hour surveillance by the local police and the FBI got involved.

Why would there be such a backlash against a no swearing group? It seems ridiculous. Except, when you think that the adversary would be so against any little good thing that he would work very hard to get it shut down. He would dislike anything that is in alignment with the Father's teachings, that he would even fight against the littlest and most innocent of causes. Fortunately, I think that the adversary underestimated McKay and his friends' resolves to do right.

If we all can fight hard to do what's right and not let Satan make us waver in our resolve, we can help to change the world--at least a little part of it.