Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Give Me My Children."

My great-great Grandmother Margarethe Schreiner often had very significant dreams. This account was recorded by her daughter, my great-great aunt:

Sometime after our family had been to the temple our mother had another remarkable dream. Mr. Alexander Sonntag, in whose home she had worked as a young girl and who was godfather to our brother Alex, appeared to her in a dream and asked her to give him his children. She told him they were dead and she could not bring them to him, but he insisted she could help him. Again she felt she had had a significant dream and this meant he was asking for his baptismal ordinance since children did not need this when they died in infancy. Sometime later she dreamed of him again at which time he demanded a suit of clothes. She laid out a dark suit for him which he threw on the floor and angrily told her, “You know what I want - I want white.” This dream was easy to understand and my parents arranged to have the temple endowment ordinance performed for him. Before our mother’s passing in June 1927 she called me to her bedside and gave me the responsibility of obtaining the necessary genealogical information to have the temple work performed for Mrs. Sonntag who had passed away, and to have the two infants sealed to them. As per her instruction I wrote to Florentin Sonntag, brother of Alexander, and he sent me enough data so that this could be accomplished together with the sealing of Mr. and Mrs. Sonntag to their parents.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Guilty Pleasures that Backfire

Sometimes I actually respond to those "I am a lost prince and I want to give you money" spam emails because I think it will be fun to string them along for a while just to mess with them. "Let's discuss the scenario where you just send me a check. So is English your third language, then? Tell me about your sister."

After three or four emails, however, it becomes clear that 1) these people are dumb as rocks - so dumb that it's actually not as fun as you thought it would be and 2) if they are dumb, they think you are dumber.

It's like trying to explain to a toddler that, as much as you would like to give them some candy, none exists in the house. But all they can see is that you're not giving them what they want, so they throw a toddler tantrum. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

No longer Squeaking

The Squeaker, as he has been known for so long, is turning six this month. He has grown very tall, loves to put things together, and is generally brilliant. He has graduated from Squeaking and requires a new blog code name.

Ladies and Gentleman, my I introduce The Engineer:

Here's what I mean when I talk about putting things together: Some friends very generously gave us an old erector set that they were no longer using. Part of the set was already put together as an airplane. The Engineer took it completely apart so that he could use the pieces for a different project. After it was completely disassembled, he decided he liked it better as an airplane so he reassembled it almost (but, to be fair, not entirely) exactly as it had been before.

He says he wants to design aircraft when he grows up. He probably will.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Note on Voice in "George Washington Hill And the Cybernetic Bear."

I originally wrote the short story, "George Washington Hill and the Cybernetic Bear" in 2010. It was only like the second thing I had written since I graduated from college five years before. In the time since it was published in 2011, several people have expressed admiration for it. In particular, people have been impressed by how seamlessly I was able to blend George Washington Hill's actual journal entry with my own sci-fi Borg embellishments in the style of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." The charm of the story, I am told, is that the whole thing really sounds like a guy from the 1800s wrote it all. That was what I was going for, and I am very pleased that history has deemed me successful.

Lemme tell you how I did it.

I think I was eleven or twelve or something when I first started reading stories from Andrew Lang's Color Fairy Book Series. I've talked about them before - a few people to whom I've sung Andrew Lang's praises have been unimpressed, which saddens me. I think people hear "The Color Fairy Books," and think that the stories are something like, "The Bravest Pinkest Fairy Ever flitted from flower to flower, sipping nectar as her gossamer wings hummed through the amber light of the morning sun. 'Nothing bad will happen today!' She sang, unaware that in just a few short moments her mettle would be sorely tested by the evils of snottiness and refusals of other, less brave fairies, to share with her."

Yeah...that's not what these are at all.

Andrew Lang published his Color Fairy Books were published mostly around the turn of the century, and as such contain a much in the way of 19th Century language. Like so:

The news made the spiteful little hunchback furious, and she resolved to be cruelly revenged for the contempt with which the emperor had treated her. She ordered her nurse to pretend not to notice what might be passing, and meantime she had a trap made so that if the emperor pushed his way through the brambles at the foot of the tower, it would not only catch him, as if he were a mouse, but would let loose a number of poisoned arrows, which would pierce him all over. 

Notice the length and number of clauses contained in the second sentence. Classic.

During this same time period I also read much from the works of L. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz books (there are thirteen.) These were published during the same time frame as Andrew Lang's work, and even though the content is very different in terms of absurdity (and snark!) the writing style is very similar.

And then in high school, being intrigued by Disney's animated Tarzan movie, I went on an Edgar Rice Burroughs kick and read five or six Tarzan novels, also written in the Victorian style.

Check this out - it's my favorite part, but only because it's so melodramatic and ridiculous:

When the long knife drank deep a dozen times of Terkoz' heart's blood, and the great carcass rolled lifeless upon the ground, it was a primeval woman who sprang forward with outstretched arms toward the primeval man who had fought for her and won her. 

And Tarzan? 

He did what no red-blooded man needs lessons in doing. He took his woman in his arms and smothered her upturned, panting lips with kisses. For a moment Jane lay there with half-closed eyes. For a moment—the first in her young life—she knew the meaning of love.

I wish I had some ground-breaking process to share, but I don't, really. I was able to replicate the rhythm and cadence of 19C language because it's something with which I am very familiar. I just read a lot.

But you could also argue that this is a double-edged sword. I often find when I'm writing that I tend to slip into this style without meaning to. This is the language of my childhood, the language of stories. It took a while for me to find my own voice as a writer instead of just copying Lang and Baum and Burroughs.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Change may or may not be afoot

Well, here we are, I've been blogging for about seven and a half years now. I originally started because I wanted to hop on the "knitting blog" bandwagon, but over time it changed to include the shenanigans of my children, sharing amusing (and not so amusing) anecdotes from the past, and my own personal rants on controversial issues.

Since January I've been writing articles on emergency preparedness over at and as a consequence I haven't been writing on my own blog as much. I also had a personal essay published by Sukoon Magazine (it's on page 40), and an article about Mormon Patriarchal Blessings that I wrote appeared on Millenial Star. I feel like I've come a long way since 2011 when I had "George Washington Hill And the Cybernetic Bear" published in Monsters and Mormons and I felt like my involvement was almost a joke because I was such a nobody.

So I guess you could say I'm moving toward becoming more serious about writing. Thus, it's time to revamp my blog. At this time, I'm not entirely sure what that will entail. I might take down a great number of my old posts - I've written like 760 or something like that since 2008. I might move to another domain name that sounds more professional. I might start offering professional services as a beta reader and freelance editor.

Bottom line: Change is in the air.

Friday, May 29, 2015

On Criticism

Several years ago, some girl's blog post appeared on my pinterest feed with the title, 'Are Mormons Christian?" She said no. And fine, whatever. It's common for Evengelical Christians to deny Mormons our Christianity. But I took serious issue with how she went about it.

She made an attempt to line up side by side "Christian" vs. "Mormon" theology. She cherry-picked individual verses and points of doctrine taken out of context to make it appear as though Mormons did not believe in the divinity of Christ, nor the virgin birth, nor the resurrection of Christ. (Mormons believe in all of those things.) I pointed out her omissions and her response was a little huffy. "I did research for this article."

Yes, well, two hours of research is not the same as attending Mormon sacrament meetings every week for a couple of decades.

She probably didn't like being told that she was wrong. She probably REALLY didn't like it when people suggested that perhaps she could have benefited from a little more research, like at least taking the missionary discussions. And she especially didn't like having her pet project being met with less than cries of adulation.

It's been on my mind because now I think I have a better idea how she felt. But she totally should have read the Book of Mormon instead of just complained about it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

On Other Homeschoolers

I'm part of a homeschooling group on facebook. I'm just about ready to quit it.

To just list a few reasons:
  • Way too many people are in love with homeschooling philosophies and/ or curricula that I think are dumb. 
  • A disturbingly large number seems to be anti-intellectual and anti-science
  • A lot of people in the group are kinda whiny and are always asking questions like, "is there a science curriculum where I don't have to do anything?" If you're not going to put in the effort to actually teach your kid, why are you homeschooling?
  • An annoying number of people keep asking for "educational apps" for their kids. Technically our household owns a smartphone and a tablet, but there are NO GAMES on them, and that is for a REASON.
I really like homeschooling, but thanks to facebook, I don't think I'm a huge fan of other homeschoolers. 


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