Friday, August 31, 2012

New Genre: Rural Fantasy

I was thinking about genres yesterday. My current project is a YA urban fantasy so I was thinking about what makes it an urban fantasy. I live in a very rural area (one church building and a gas station make up our "town"). I was driving into the city to pick up my daughter from cheerleading practice and glanced across the rural scenery on my way. Suddenly I had an idea. What if I created a whole new genre and named it rural fantasy? What if this new genre was about scarecrows possessed by demons or ghosts inhabiting the cornfields? What if barns actually housed vampires and witches ran the local farm co-op? And that hound dog, what if it was really a werehound? I think I could really make a go of this new genre. What do you think?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Role Models

I haven't read much about Paul Ryan and I hadn't heard him speak until last night. I really enjoyed his speech. What impressed me the most was the tribute he paid to his parents. My favorite quote was, "My mom is my role model." What a great thing. Not only that his mom was worthy of being a role model, but that he chose her as his. It says much about him and the importance of family in his life.

Who are our role models? Are they celebrities? Politicians? Teachers? Leaders of our churches? Fictional characters? The Savior?

I think it's important to ask ourselves this question: Whose life do we emulate? The answer will influence us more than we think.

The flip-side of that question is are we living a life worth emulating by our children? By someone else? Do we set an example of being honest, trustworthy, and trying to do the right thing?

I remember an ad years ago. It showed a little boy and his dad walking along a country road. The dad threw a rock and so did the son. The dad did a few more things and so did his son. Then the dad lit up a cigarette and the caption was, "Like father, like son." There's also a song by Rodney Atkins, "Watching You," about how the little boy wants to be exactly like his dad. There's an old saying, "I can't hear what you're telling me because your example is too loud." Are we the kind of role models we should be? Do we model the kind of behavior that we should? Our kids as well as others are watching us. All the time. I can only hope that my kids will be able to say of me, as Paul Ryan said of his mother, that I was their role model. And it will be a good thing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Crossing the Line

I read an article yesterday about a little boy who is deaf. He communicates using sign language. Apparently, when he was enrolled in school the school officials felt like the sign that he uses for his name resembles a gun.


Yes, that's right. They think the sign for his name looks like a gun so they've asked the parents to change the sign that he's been using for his name.

This is beyond ridiculous. Asking a child who has already experienced the fact that he's different because he must use his hands to communicate to now change that sign to accommodate an overactive fear is callous and cruel.

I admit that the world today is different from the one I grew up in. While I was in school we had no school shootings. People could go to the movies without worrying about being shot. Violence has definitely escalated over the years and more and more people are using lethal force for no reason. However, even amidst all of this, have we lost our common sense? Are we so saturated with fear that we're willing to take something away from a small child simply because it *might* resemble a gun?

How far are we willing to go? Will we no longer be allowed to point because it might look like a gun?

Some years ago, we had a similar overreaction. A few kids were sent home from school because they'd drawn a picture of a gun. A picture. 

I have lots of kids in school and I absolutely want them to be safe. I expect school officials to do their due diligence in keeping students safe. If there's something amiss then I expect school officials to take care of it properly. A few years ago, a student brandished a knife on the bus. I know the kid and he was just showing off. He wasn't threatening anyone, but still he had a knife and we have very specific rules against bringing knives to school. It was a huge ordeal that included police, sheriffs, locking down all the schools and keeping the buses there for hours. It was very scary during the incident because no one was telling us exactly what was happening. In this instance, I believe the school officials acted with due diligence.

But, asking a kid to change the way he signs his name? That's just ridiculous and completely over-the-top. I hope that in this violent world we can still keep some common sense about us and realize that something like this is unnecessary. And hurtful.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Polluted with Pride

Pollution is a hot political keyword. Politicians and activists like to talk about all the different types of pollution we have in this world--groundwater, ocean, air. People complain about the brown haze over the horizon, the effect of plastic bags that pollute the ocean, and groundwater that's being polluted by oil and gas wells.

Pollution is a dirty word. It conjures up images of grease and grime. I remember an oil spill when I lived in CA and how it affected the birds. I remember seeing images of birds covered in tar and how that oil spill had killed so much sea-life.

In my own experience, we clean along a stretch of our highway twice a year. I've seen plenty of pollution: beer bottles, beer cans, liquor bottles, cigarette butts, fast food bags and wrappers, diapers, trash. People toss it out their windows without a thought of how that will affect the environment and who will eventually have to clean up after them.

No matter how you slice it, pollution is a bad thing.

Pride can also be, and many times it is, a bad thing. I believe it's acceptable to be proud of your children for making good choices or to be proud of them for receiving a good grade after studying for a test or to be proud of them for playing a piano piece they practiced or performing in a play. But, pride can take other forms that make it undesirable. There are obvious definitions of pride: thinking you are better than someone else, not being willing to listen to others because you think you are right, taking pride in your possessions, thinking you are smarter than God, etc. There are also other ways of being prideful, like being rebellious or considering yourself better because you have a higher education or thinking that commandments don't apply to you.

When you combine pride with pollution it's a powerful image. Being polluted with pride puts it in perspective. Am I polluted with pride? Do I let my pride get in the way of serving others or allowing them to serve me? Do I allow my pride to prevent me from experiencing things? Do I miss out on opportunities because of my pride?

Pride can pollute us if we aren't careful. It can canker our souls and make us miss out on important life experiences. It can separate us from our loved ones and from God.

I'm going to try to not let my pride pollute me. I don't want to be like one of those birds in the oil spill and be covered with the grime of pride. I think the best way to prevent myself from becoming polluted with pride is to be grateful, to remember that everything I have and everything I am comes from God. I need to have a grateful heart every day. In having that gratitude, I hope I will be able to avoid being polluted with pride.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School Blues

Why is it that the summer just whizzes past every year? I look so forward to summer so I can hang out with my kids.

We went to the pool several times this summer. Every time we go to the outdoor pool it makes me think of "The Sandlot." If you've seen that movie, I love the scene where they go to the pool and one of the boys plots to get a kiss from the beautiful, and much older, lifeguard so he pretends to drown in the pool. While she gives him mouth-to-mouth he kisses her. She then kicks him and his buddies out of the pool. "The Sandlot" is such a summer movie and we watch it every year.

I love hanging out at the pool because it reminds me of being a little girl. I grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and when we weren't at the beach we were at a pool. I spent the entire summer in a swimsuit. I loved the smell of chlorine on my skin because it meant I'd been swimming in the pool. I love swimming, I love being outside, and I love summer.

The best thing about summer, though, is having my kids home. I love hanging out with my kids. During the school year I feel like I hardly even get to see them. The oldest ones leave before 6:00 am and the rest leave at 6:40 am and most of them aren't home until after 5:00 pm. Then there's all the activities during the school year like cheerleading, Scouts, piano, basketball, theater. Summer is my time to just be with them and I'm always sad when they go back to school. I can't believe how fast time goes by. I spend all the time I can with my kids and I still feel like I don't get enough time with them.

So, yeah, I sing the "Back to School Blues" every year at this time.