Friday, December 2, 2016

We Got Our Tree...It's Officially Christmas Season

I don't know when they turn on the lights on their outdoor Christmas tree, but I know when they do, it's officially Christmas in our neighborhood. Of course, there's nothing "official" with announcements or a lighting ceremony, but when we drive by the house on Main Street just north of the cemetery, we know the Christmas season has begun.

Since it's now Christmas season in the community, we decided to make it Christmas season at home. This morning we drove out to our favorite Christmas Tree sellers, Robinson Tree Farms out of Kalispell, Montana. If you're looking for a Christmas Tree and you drive by a lot featuring trees from Robison Tree Farms, stop in and check them out. We've been satisfied with our purchases for years. We found them again in their usual spot, near the new Winco Foods in Layton, Utah.

We're not done setting up everything in the house. My oldest and I put up our outdoor lights today. We'll see how well we did tonight. Looking back, I guess a tree goes a long way in ushering in the Christmas season.

The snow we got last week helped a lot, too.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Last Night's Theatre Dream...Or Nightmare

When you're in a show, you have a lot of time to get to know your fellow cast mates. There's time between scenes, time before the shows begin, and time after the shows to chat. Last week we opened It's a Wonderful Life at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville, Utah. Actors approach opening night differently. Some are anxious, some relaxed, all excited.

In a conversation I had with others in the show, some mentioned they actually dream about the show and about being on stage. I've done my share of shows, and I couldn't recall ever having a dream about a show, and if I did, I didn't remember it.

Last night changed that.

I actually dreamed about the latest show. It kind of freaked me out.

You know how dreams go. Details that seem so real and rational at the time, are confusing when recalled later. Here's what I remember about last night's dream. I was in a show--I can't say for sure it was the same show I'm now in, but it definitely could have been. Everyone back stage was getting after me because I kept forgetting the show, specifically, I kept missing my scenes. They got mad at me, telling me I should be on stage, but when I heard that, I was convinced I wasn't in that scene and shouldn't be on stage. They persisted and said I should. For the life of me, I couldn't remember what I was supposed to say when I went on stage.

"Where's your mailman costume?"

How did I know? I didn't even know there was a mailman in this version of It's a Wonderful Life (there isn't). I was so frustrated I couldn't remember any of my lines for the show to the point that I didn't even know what show we were doing.

If I wasn't having a dream, I would not worry about things like not knowing the lines to a show I didn't know or not being on stage when I wasn't supposed to be. But, because it was a dream, I didn't find fault in anyone by myself. I was convinced the only reason this play was a disaster was because of my age. I was just too old to do the show, to remember my lines, to remember the show at all.

I woke up frustrated at my inabilities. Of course, when reality reached my brain I realized--in real life--I wasn't missing lines or scene changes, I wasn't in the wrong play and I wasn't supposed to play a mailman. Glad it was a dream.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NaNoWriMo, Week 4...Final Thoughts

On Saturday I did what I thought was impossible. I wrote 50K words within a 30-day span. It's the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. For years that word (that's not really a word...) haunted me, bugged me, even mocked me. It made me wonder if I could ever complete the task.

Ever since I turned my hobby of writing into something more a few years ago, I've met a lot of authors. The ones who are still writing (most of them...) have one thing in common.

They write.

I know that sounds kind of stupid--of course they write, but not only do they write, but they write a lot. What's a lot? Many will crank out at least a novel a year and many write several a year. Me...I was sort of the "write when the itch needs scratching" kind of writer. I know this because I've started so many stories, but when it got hard or you had to plot out the whole thing, I sort of just left them hanging. I'll get back to that story one day I've told myself so many times. My computer's full of unfinished documents.

Yet, another reason why NaNoWriMo affected me so much. People actually finished stories.

For the last three years at least I had a built in excuse--I was involved in a Christmas play. We begin rehearsals in late September and by November, we're in full swing. I thought there's no way I can do NaNoWriMo so I never even started.

Things changed this year. My wife (who reads everything I write, but has stopped because I haven't finished anything...) asked me to write a story for my youngest child. I promised I would. I thought this promise would be a perfect way to motivate me to do it. I asked my son what kind of book he wanted to read, and therefore, what I'd be writing.

He said, "science fiction."

Great, I thought.

I love science fiction--never written a word in the genre. Plus, my son is a middle grade reader. I can think of very few middle grade science fiction stories. That's both a blessing and a curse. But, I didn't let that deter me. On 11/1/16 I began my story. I wrote every day (except Sundays), and four days ahead of the month's last day I wrote, "The end."

What did I learn? 

I learned that by pushing through an impossible task can be conquered. I learned that I just might have what it takes to do this--what all my writer friends who write are doing--write a lot. I learned that there is something that rises above a simple muse providing inspiration--I'm pretty sure I received help from the Divine. And I learned that, when it's all said and done, the only thing keeping me from producing novel after novel, is me.

The story needs a lot of work to get it where it needs to be before I can shop it around. I've made several connections in the past four years and I'm going to see if anything comes of that. But, even if no one picks it up, it will be published. I'll self-publish it because I made a promise and I'm going to deliver on it.

What did I learn this past month?

More than one novel's worth.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What I Learned By Not Helping A Neighbor...

The first e-mail was sent around 1:30pm last Saturday afternoon.

It came while I was right in the middle of the most productive writing day I've ever had. The e-mail let those of us in the neighborhood (ward) know that someone not of our congregation was moving and needed help with their piano. Just so you know, when people think of choosing people to help move large and heavy objects, I'm usually not the first person that comes to mind.

But if there are several of guys my size, we can get things done. I saw the e-mail and decided to go. I wasn't sure just how much help I could be, but taking a break during a marathon day of writing can be a good thing.

Then the second e-mail came. And I thought I'd better get going.

"Where are you going, dad?" the kids asked as I got my gloves and headed out the door. "Just going to help someone move." Helping someone move is a pretty common thing in our neighborhood (ward). We have several apartments in our boundaries and a group of relatively healthy men in their twenties, thirties, and some in their forties can do a lot of service for those in need.

I pulled up to a stop sign and saw a moving truck a few blocks away. After the road was clear I drove on and pulled up to the truck just as three or four healthy guys in their twenties, thirties, and possibly forties pushed a piano up the ramp and safely into the truck. They literally rolled it into the truck as I drove past.

I laughed--if I had only been a few minutes earlier, I could have helped, just a few minutes earlier. Without getting out, I turned my car around and headed home. As I drove away, I saw another neighbor drive past. I knew where he was going and I knew he'd realize the same thing I did. He was late, too. As I drove away, I kept watching in my rearview mirror. I expected my neighbor to do exactly what I did, turn his car around and head home.

But he didn't.

He parked his car and got out. He walked over to see if they needed any help moving. I pulled my car over and kept watching. Apparently, they did need help because he didn't get back in his car for several minutes.

I easily could have gotten out of my car and helped. What affected me most is I didn't even consider doing what my neighbor did. It never crossed my mind. By Saturday night I wrote almost 8000 words. I completed my November writing goal four days early. I'd like to think I didn't consider helping them move after the piano was in the truck because of how important my writing goal was. The goal could have waited, for a few minutes at least. Hopefully next time I'll make different decisions.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fields Of Barley...Vol. 20 The Final Chapter

Fields of Barley, Vol. 20

(If you want to read this from the beginning, click the Stories, Short & Otherwise Link above)

Mark could only stare at this woman. With complete joy in her voice she said, “You will soon know everything about me, about what I will do and where I will live.  You’ll know when I bruise my knee as I fall down running after butterflies, and even feel my pain when my heart breaks for the first time. You will see it all and know my every wish and desire and thought and dream, because you…are my father, and I am your daughter. I am the one you wished so desperately to meet. I’m the child you’ve waited for all those years.”

Now it all made sense. The man standing in the room looked upon his child—father and daughter communicating in an unspoken language heard only by hearts, the two speaking together as members of the same family.

This time is was Mark’s eyes that could not stop the tears, nor dare he even try. He grabbed his daughter and held her tight and she held him, both seeing each other for who they truly were.

"Daddy," she struggled to say. “I’m so glad you’re here, but I can’t wait to go, to meet Mom and grandma and everyone else. I’ve been living here with those who’ve gone before you. I’ve spent so much time with Grandpa. I couldn’t love him more and he’s waiting for you. He can’t wait to see you again.”

Mark broke the hold between them and said, “But you’re not supposed to come now. Janie’s only seven and a half months along—you can’t come now. Janie’s not ready. It’s too….”

She stopped him with her eyes. Again Anna-Lisa had an answer for everything. “Dad, she’s ready. It’s going to be okay. She’s been safe with people who love her all day. This day will not only be remembered for you leaving, but also for me arriving.”

She looked deep into his eyes and said, “Don’t worry. This is how it was meant to be, how it was supposed to happen. And in time I will return to you and grandpa an mom and everyone. We will be together again.”

He knew this was true. Of all the revelations heard this day, this last completed the circle. For Mark now knew it was truly his time to go and he also knew it was time for Anna-Lisa to begin her wonderful adventure.

The couple hugged one more time, a long, lasting hug that would resume at some future date. Anna-Lisa moved to her path and walked to the door. She turned and looked at her father one last time, smiled again and brushed away the last of her tears.  And then she did something completely unexpected. She brought her hands together, cupped them under her chin and with a little hop she giggled with joy, just like a young girl anticipating Christmas morning. Anna-Lisa winked at him, turned, and was gone.

Mark stared at the void where moments before held his daughter. An inner warmth ran throughout his body. He looked down and noticed once again the path that shown brighter than the sun at noonday. Slowly he walked to his own door, paused, and then left the room completely empty. He was now truly home.

The End

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Different Thanksgiving...

I blame my dental hygienist, I really do. After all, had she not asked me what our family was doing for Thanksgiving as I was laying flat on my back unable to properly answer her question, she would not have mentioned that she and her family spent the previous Thanksgiving in Park City having someone else do all the work.

Yes, it's really her fault.

Because she told me what their family did, I wouldn't have mentioned what their family did to my wife. And she wouldn't have called her mother to suggest we do the same thing. And had that not happened, we would have ended up taking three days to prepare all the food and have it at one of our homes.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing--not in the least. It's just the thought of doing something different sounded interesting, a lot less work, and fun. Of course, we'd lose out on all those leftovers...

Or so we thought.

We made reservations at the Grub Steak Restaurant in Park City. There would be eight of us, six from our family and my wife's parents. Leading up to the big day my wife and I discussed about how things were different. For me, things weren't that different--I wasn't the one who did all that prep work. It was a nice break for my wife and the kids.

We worried about a storm that blew in the night before--Park City is, after all as noted by Lloyd Christmas, "In the Rockies." Thanksgiving Day turned out to be beautiful. Our reservations were at 4pm. We arrived a few minutes before.

The menu--we could have a traditional Thanksgiving meal, or steaks and other options. We all chose turkey and the fixins'. I'm glad we did. There was so much food! We all ended up bringing home leftovers--mine fed me two lunches. The place was packed. I didn't see any non-turkey plates. And the service was exceptional. They had so many people working, all to serve those of us who didn't want to do the work ourselves.

Yes, the house didn't smell like delicious food for days before and after Thanksgiving. Now, I didn't get to take a nap while a NFL game blared on the TV. There were definitely things we gave up. This year we tried something new, a Thanksgiving we'll hopefully all remember. And isn't the point of the holiday anyway, making holiday memories and appreciating our blessings, especially family?

Yes. Yes is it.

Will we do it again next year? We don't know. We'll have to see.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fields Of Barley...Vol. 19

Fields of Barley, Vol. 19

(If you want to read this from the beginning, click on the Stories, Short & Otherwise Link above)

Anna-Lisa turned and smiled at Mark. She didn’t say anything but gave him another hug. Mark hugged her back and all thoughts of self-doubt, pity, and depression left him. Somehow he knew those thoughts would never return. His soul had been cleansed completely; he was forever changed and he knew years of anguish, years of suffering, years of personal grief vanished like smoke in a light breeze. He never felt better in his entire life. 

When the two finally released, Anna-Lisa said, “Mark, you are now ready to go on. Now it is your turn to discover an eternity of wonders that await us all. The passageway is before you and all you need to is rise and walk forward.” Mark noticed a path appearing in the floor directing him to the same corner of from which Anna-Lisa entered. The brightness of the path made it appear as if it floated on air.

Mark stood up and began to walk when he noticed that Anna-Lisa did not move. She remained sitting watching him go. He stopped, turned to her and noticed that she was once again smiling, only this time her smile seemed bigger than ever before. He also noticed tears falling gently from her perfect green eyes. The sight reminded him of the time he asked Janie to marry him and tears of joy fell from his wife's face.

“Are you coming?” he said, more of an appeal than a question.

“Mark, I cannot go that way. My path goes there.” She stood and pointed to yet another corner of the room. Instantly another path appeared similar in brilliance to the one upon which Mark stood. “You must make your journey alone. There are many waiting for you and now it is time to join them.”

He was so full of emotion he wished to have Anna-Lisa share these wonderful feelings with him forever. “No, he said—you can’t go that way.  You have to come with me, on this path. You must stay with me. I mean, you came from that door; you can go back.”

Anna-Lisa left the path on which she stood and crossed over to him. This time the tears flowed freely down her face. “Mark,” her voice tinged with love and respect. “I cannot go with you as I have said. It is time I tell you one more truth, one your heart has known since we first met though your mind had not yet understood. The reason I cannot go with you is because I am being called to leave this place. It is now my turn to go where you have gone, to feel things you have felt, to live where you lived."

She took his hand in hers and continued. “You see, your time away from home is over. You have returned. It is my time to leave home and begin that wonderful adventure called life. Soon I will forget everything that I ever knew, just as you did when you left here and were born on earth. I have waited an eternity for this very moment and my only regret is leaving you here, but I know what lies in store for you. And you know what lies in store for me, don’t you?”

To be continued...

NaNoWriMo Tracker: 
223 words written Thursday
3356 words written yesterday
7796 words written Today
50031 words written total
NaNoWriMo 2016 Completed!