Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Journalism vs. Creative Writing

In High School one of my English teachers worked hard to convince me that I had writing skills.  She suggested that I take a Journalism class.  That lasted about two weeks.  Honestly, how is it possible to slice, dice, and chop the written word into sharp, concise sentences that can summarize the life of a 97 year old into 5 lines or less?

When our teacher, (who was very talented, by the way), explained the age old story about what the audience wants to hear, dog bites man is passe...not interesting.  On the other hand man bites dog, now THAT'S a story.

I personally would rather not read about ANYBODY getting bitten,  If it were left to me, crime reporting would only happen in our police offices across the nation.

A creative writer might describe a sunny day in this method.  "The sun shone brilliantly, reflecting off a crystalline lake.  A journalist might say, "The sun shone, the lake was pretty.  Not a brilliant comparison on my part but a relatively accurate one.

Use of hyperbole in journalistic writing is forbidden.  My sweet church going, God loving Mama once said to me when caught in an obvious fabrication of the truth, "If I told the story exactly how it happened who would want to listen?"  Who indeed?  She passed on to me the desire to add to a story, not delete.  In fact, I have been given a wonderful skill set.  The ability to make a SHORT story, LONG.  I quickly realized that if hyperbole was forbidden, I was in the wrong place.

 Newspapers are threatened to go the way of the Stegosaurus.  No more crisp words folded neatly on paper.  We will gain our news via the internet.  Gone will be our newsy youngsters, out earning a living by tossing a newspaper accurately on your porch. 

Can you imagine what chaos would reign in our newspapers if creative types like me were given free rein as reporters?  Suddenly stories that could be adequately covered in 100 words or less would spring into novelettes.  There might even be mini-series in print.  There would be MORE paper used in the paper. My consumption of paper might cause environmentalists to rise in protest.

Envision this writer's report.  "Man bites dog.  There was a report printed last week that dead pets were showing up on doorsteps all over town.  The creatures are basically zombie's.  They are inherently evil.  A man was bitten by his evil zombie pet, and he in return bit his pet.  Madness may be ensuing."

I will let you guess as to the identification of the aforementioned imaginary newspaper article.  What about this delivery?  "Joyfully she gazed into the man's eyes.  She had finally found her life's love.  He was not handsome.  He was not brilliant.  He was hers.  That was all she wanted."

To sum up this rambling post, the journalistic class taught me a few principles that I recall profoundly.  One of these is the cut-off paragraph.  That is the very last word on the subject that is not necessarily important and can be "cut-off" if needed to provide space for other articles.  Of course, the discretion would belong to your editor.  He alone would decide...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dictionary Walking?

In college my roommates called me a "Walking Dictionary."  I have always loved language.  I actually used to read a dictionary just for the pleasure of learning new words. 

One of my roommates gave me a quote that they had found that said, "People who strive to be walking dictionaries need to remember that reference books are never taken out!"  lol  I love that quote.

Not long after I met my hubby he confessed in chagrin to me that as a child he read the dictionary routinely.  He ADORED words, and the origins of speech.  I was a freelance typist as well as a secretary in the Brigham Young University Theater Office.  Typing a screenplay that Nyle wrote, I fell in love with the man.  My reasoning was that anyone who could write with such joy, such passion, HAD to be a man with the gifts I was looking for in a husband.  I was ever so correct in that impression.

In High School I took a lot of remedial classes.  I am NOT proud to admit that I learned they were easier than regular classes and therefore signed up for them.  No ACCELERATED courses for me!
In my remedial English class my teacher asked me, "WHY are you in this remedial class?  You should be in my advanced class.  You are intelligent, and a gifted writer.  You need to challenge yourself."

Well I DIDN'T sign up for any ACT classes.  Yet she gave me the courage, and self-awareness that I needed to do more writing.  Through the years I still hear her voice encouraging me to do more, and try harder!

One of the lessons that I learned in her class that I still adore was a lesson about how Greek and Latin Roots were involved in the formation of our language.  It was ever so exciting to me to learn that "man" referred to hands.  In other words when we discussed MANUAL labor, we were referring to labor that you performed with the use of your hands.

Knowing even a few of these "roots" helps to unlock the mysteries of language meaning, even if you have no access to a dictionary.  Thank you Mrs. Beatty for those gifts that you introduced me too.

Hyperbole is a tool of language that I engage.  I don't see a nice blue sky, or a white cloud.  I see an azure sky, blue as the water of the Caribbean.  The clouds are puffy, fluffy, floating gently on a tender breeze.  Hyperbole is an exaggerated expression of words.  Nice is simply not nice enough for me.  These are my routine words for nice, wondrous, grand, great, exceptional, splendid, etc. etc. etc.

Today, look at the world around you and see if you can explain it to yourself with new ideas.  Instead of thinking the grass is green.  Maybe you can say, "Green began in the center of each blade of grass.  As spring progressed, and water nourished, the green moved outwards.  Green expanded until the contagion of the color filled the lawn."  Don't worry about grammar...don't worry about ridicule from others.  Just open your mind and your ideas.  Create newness in the world around you.

If you have access to a child, whether it be yours, a child you teach, a grandchild, or the neighbor's child, take them for a walk.  Listen to their expressions about the world.  Their curiosity about the world around them is precious.  It can uplift and enlarge our spirits and help us to remember the importance that this life bears.

For those who are blessed with more mathematical intelligence, there is a science that converts words to numbers.  My husband loved this class.  Quantificational Symbolic Logic was the name of the class.  He would come home and explain to me how to use these ideas to turn words into numbers.  That was, unfortunately for me, a road that I could NOT travel.  My brain simply refused to understand anything having to do with these ideas.

Isn't it marvelous to focus on the strengths of each and everyone of our brains?  There are strengths in all our minds.  The trick is to find those strengths and utilize them.

Well enough of words, and images.  It's time for me to rest my mental faculties, and use my physical ones for awhile.  Exercise, here I come! :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Hold your breath.  Breathe in and then hold it, until I tell you to breathe.  Come on, you can do it!

As a baby I was diagnosed with severe allergy asthma...and a miserable immune system, almost non-existent.

Our church group became involved with our family needs.  The Doctor had told Mama and Papa that they could NEVER lay me down in a crib.  He demonstrated, (OK LET GO OF THAT HELD BREATH), by wrapping me in a blanket.  I tried to get out of that blanket but my oxygenation dipped to the level where my lips were turning blue.

He said, "You can NOT lay this infant all.  Somebody must hold her at all times!"  So our church group came in and helped hold me around the clock.  Mama and Papa still did not get much sleep worrying if I was going to quit breathing. 

As I grew older, (which I'm convinced happened because my parents were so pro-active in getting help for me, AND because they just wrapped me up in love and prayer) I would often awaken in the night gasping for air.  NOW you may understand why I had you hold your breath.  That may have been hard for you as an adult.  Try to envision a small child gasping, struggling to even get enough oxygen to speak,  to be able to call for my parents to come and help me.

There were many nocturnal trips to the ER for oxygen.  That was all they could do for asthma in the late 1950's.  The medicos told Mama and Papa that small children will not let them place a face mask over their faces to get oxygen.  Imagine their surprise when I grasped that mask with all my might and would NOT let go!  (Again if you did the little exercise I suggested you may have a small understanding of what it's like to be oxygen starved).

On our journey the Doctor's explained to my parent's that it was critical for them to NEVER  show fear.  They explained that if I became fearful I could choke to death before they could receive medicinal assistance.

To this moment I wonder HOW?  As a parent now myself I struggle with hiding MY fears to protect THEM from fear.  If your child is in medical danger, how do you restrain showing your fears.  Fear IS a natural defense mechanism.  It exists to help us protect ourselves from harm.

Mama and Papa's ability to face the unknown with faith, faith that God was with them,  faith that I would be protected from harm, and faith in a future where my health would become stable, blessed me.  Their strength and faith over time became my own. 

Can faith and fear co-exist in the same mind?  Not really.  When fear finds focus in your thoughts, it chases faith away. 

Those years of struggle, were filled with powerful master classes on faith.  I remember hearing my Mama say to me, (after a night of illness, and breathlessness), "Listen sweetie, the birdies are singing.  We have made it through the night into a brand new day."  I still rejoice when I hear the birdies sing their joy at a new day.

I remember my Papa (who was working a full-time job, and then volunteering as chaplain at Chino Men's Correctional Center), stumbling into my room dizzy with sleeplessness.  He would pray and put his hands on my head.  I learned that his faith, and my Mama's faith combined had vivid power.  It was not just a benign concept of belief. 

For those who do not align themselves with organized religion I would remind you that faith is a valid principle for every person on earth.  Whether you are Taoist, Buddhist, or LDS, or whether you do not ascribe to any type of religious organization, you still need faith as a power to move through life.  It takes faith to know that the sun will rise again, faith to face the death of a loved one. you need faith in your own potential and faith in the power of love amongst family and friends.

The Beatles sang, "All you need is love."  I disagree to an extent.  Love IS powerful.  Still it takes faith to believe in an untried relationship.  It takes faith to feel love.  You simply can not have love without faith.  Today in your minds you can change the Beatle's powerful lyric, "All You Need is Faith."  That is what I'll sing today!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fibromyalgia - ALL IN YOUR HEAD?

I actually had a medical doctor tell me that once we were able to get my depression under control, the Fibromyalgia would go away.   I told him that he had the dynamic backwards.  I explained that I NEVER struggled with clinical depression until AFTER I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. 

I have heard about every sort of homeopathic, alleopathic, naturopathic "cure" for it.  One woman said that taking baths with Epsom salts 15 minutes a day for two weeks would cure Fibromyalgia.  It did help with the generalized overall pain, but it did NOT cure the overall symptoms and causes of the disease.

I have lived with Fibromyalgia since 1991.  I received a double diagnosis.  I was 34 and I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, AND Fibromyaliga.  Two lumpectomies, and 25 radiation treatments, and I have been in remission from Breast Cancer for 22 years plus.   I am ever so grateful that my Breast Cancer has been in remission for all this time.

I wish that my Fibromyalgia would go into remission and stay there!  One of the first things that I learned about Fibromyalgia is that there is no cure.  Once you have this disease, you will battle with it for the rest of your life.

I am still very grateful for one of my sister-in laws who sent me a wonderful resource book shortly after my diagnosis.  She, unfortunately, was diagnosed with this disease before me.  Bright, and studious she had done research to find this wonderful book written by two medical doctor's who both have Fibromyalgia.  I would love to share it with you...but that was over two decades ago, and I don't know where that book is any more.  (I could probably find it if I was given a week to look). 

Even better than having the book was the knowledge that I didn't just have to give up living, and let this disease be in charge of me.  I have done years worth of research.  Some of the things that I initially learned about Fibromyalgia have later shown to be false. 

Still there are even pain specialists who do not understand this disease, what triggers it, if there are hereditary factors involved, do exercise and diet play a role, etc. etc.  I actually had a pain specialist tell me, (less than 5 years ago), that Fibromyalgia was a "Throw away diagnosis."  That means that he didn't even think it was a valid condition.  Forgive me but I secretly wished him a temporary case of Fibromyalgia.  I would love to have seen his response when he had this "Throw Away" condition.


1.  YOU MUST be your own advocate.  Many people are able to continue working while they manage their medical condition with the help of a combination of western medicine, exercise, and alternative medicine such as acupuncture, massage therapy, etc.  If a well meaning clinician tells you that you aren't feeling what you know you ARE...don't believe them...believe yourself!  Do research, find sources that can back up your needs.

2.   Learn everything that you can about this condition.  Knowledge IS power.

3.  If you have done all in your power and your condition simply makes working impossible, apply for disability.  I was told that nobody ever is accepted for disability with the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.  I received approval the very first time I applied.  I was very clear in listing the details of my job description, and then one by one I listed the physical challenges that made those details impossible.  If you are not able to wage the battle on your own for whatever reason, get an attorney.  Legal clinics will often take a case pro bono (free) to give their students valuable experience.

4.  Find a support group, or create your own.  It's critical to have someone that you can call to say, "I feel really lousy!"  Or someone that YOU can lift and help teach meaningful ways to face this disease.  Being able to help others cope with Fibromyalgia helps me to affirm that there is a purpose for living with this syndrome.  Being ill can make you feel extremely isolated.  Don't quit living, just find new ways of doing things.

This sounds weird, and I am NOT a masochist, but this miserable condition has given me some powerful gifts.  I have learned lots about empathy, and about what really matters in life.  I have learned that it IS possible to find joy even when you may be stuck in bed for a while.  I have also learned that "chair aerobics" are better than no movement at all.  I have made many friends that I wouldn't have met otherwise.  It's remarkable to me how many amazing people that I've met that do not let this disease define them, but neither are they ashamed that it IS a part of who they are.

If anyone reads my post and has questions or comments I would be very happy to answer them.  Fibromyalgia is NOT curable, but it is also not terminal.  You CAN have a positive quality of life, even when faced with a "New normal."

Releasing my Inner Hispanic

My earliest memories began in Southern California.  I LOVED that beautiful time and place  There were avocado orchards, orange orchards, and all other types of fruits growing there.  The air was still relatively clean.  When those orchards would bloom and blossom the air smelled a luscious fruit salad.

When we moved to Colton, California we bought a lovely home at the end of a culdesac.  It was slightly run down, but my hard working parents soon had it looking lived in and loved.  Each and every one of our neighbors was Hispanic. 

My two best friends were identical twins named Rosemarie and Toni.  I adored visiting them at their home.  Their Madre was amazing!  One moment she was embracing a child and giving them love in Espanol, the next she was correcting another child with her eyes flashing in a righteous call to repentance. 

I adored the Spanish language.  It seemed so much more musical, fluid to me than English.  In English language we were taught to make each separate word crisp and clean.  Diction and enunciation were an early part of our education.  In Spanish the words blended together so that the speaker sounded like they were singing as much as speaking.

The adobe homes of my neighborhood were usually quite brightly colored.  Next to each other the house colors were orange, red, purple, turquoise, yellow, every single amazing color.  There was no attempt to make these homes blend in to the landscaping around them.  The homes were bold in jeweled colors.  My adoration for brilliant color began there.

I learned that California had many names that were Hispanic because the area used to belong to Mexico.  In other words, if you immigrated into the area, the governmental body, the rules and regulations were all Mexican.

I have absolutely NO intention of discussing the controversial topic of illegal immigration in America.  I wish this post to be about the humanitarian issues, not the political ones.

I was ever so sad when our family moved to Utah.  So boring, everyone was the same skin color, same language, and same religion....dull...dull...dull  I HATED the state with all that was in my six year old soul for an entire year, and then gradually I began to "Bloom where I was planted."

Decades later a lovely young woman from Tampico, Mexico married the man who lived across the street from us.  She was lovely, enthusiastic, and ever so caring.  I felt like that the very first time I met her I had discovered a friend.  She was such a gift in my life.

She and I danced to Zumba one day. She told me laughingly that I had an inner Mexican!  I loved the concept.  What she meant by that was that I respond positively to music with a Latin beat.  This is absolutely true.  When I exercise with "Just Dance," I always score the best on Latin songs. 

Cinco de Mayo always remind me of my gratitude to grow up mostly Hispanic.  The food of Mexico fills not only my stomach, but my soul as well.  The clothing are comfortable, and often colorful.  Give me a Mariachi band any day to wear out the souls of my dancing shoes!

The countries that comprise those of the Hispanic group are not free from troubles.  Mexico is so sadly in constant flux due to the drug cartels.  Yet the people do their best to keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing their best to keep living a positive life in spite of the negativity they often face.

How about today?  Do you feel your "Inner Mexican," calling you to dance, sing, or eat delicious food? 

Is Mexico free of problems?