#51c - The Final Tag

My Sister-in-Law Adrianne also tagged me a couple of days ago. This is going to be my last tag for a while. :)

4 Goals you have for the next 5 years...
1. Finish the rough drafts of the books I'm working on
2. Get my house in order
3. Learn Spanish, at least semi-fluently
4. Get published

4 Places I WILL visit someday...
1. New England, but specifically, New York
2. Hawaii
3. Mexico
4. The Caribbean

4 of My Favorite Foods...
1. Sweet & Sour Chicken over white rice
2. My mom's Waffle Brownies
3. Baked potato piled with cottage cheese, ham, peas, green peppers...etc.
4. Tortellini

4 Jobs I've had (that you might not remember)...
1. Small icing decorator
2. Hostess
3. Newspaper delivery girl
4. Coder (categorizing responses to phone and mail surveys)

2 Places I've lived
1. Utah County
2. Salt Lake County
That isn't just two of the places I've lived. It's the only two. It doesn't get more boring than that, does it? :)

2 Places I'd like to live
1. Boston
2. Washington state coast

4 things I'd do with my spare time (if I had any)
1. Read books (Let's be honest - I already read enough books, but if I had more spare time, I'd read more books) :)
2. Write music
3. Paint / draw / sculpt
4. Decorate the house

The only person I'm going to tag is Elana, because she's never been tagged. Now she's really going to wish she hadn't told me her blog address. :)

#51b - Another Tag

Okay, I got tagged two more times in the last couple days. I don't know how much stuff all of you /really/ wanted to know about me, but I'm going to go ahead and reply and you can read, skim, or skip at will. :)

This one was posted on my friend Joy's blog, inviting all readers to respond:

Welcome to the 2008 edition of getting to know your friends. Copy then change all the answers so they apply to you, then post on your blog. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little things about your friends that you might not have known!

1. What time did you get up this morning? 6:55 - in just enough time to get the kids off to school.
2. Diamonds or pearls? Can I answer 'Sapphires'? My wedding ring is a combination of diamonds and sapphires. I think diamonds are a little boring alone and I'm not in love with pearls, either.
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? I can't remember the name; it was too long ago. It was a movie about a person living in an apartment that used to be inhabited by a person who died, but they show up as a ghost and fall in love... Help me out with the name, anyone? It was a good movie.
4. What is your favorite TV show? Everybody Loves Raymond
5. What do you usually have for breakfast? Fruit smoothie
6. What is your middle name? Louise
7. What food do you dislike? Seafood
8. What is your favorite CD at moment? Mindy Gledhill, Feather in the Wind
9. What kind of car do you drive? Honda Odyssey
10. Favorite sandwich? Crispy Chicken
11. What characteristic do you despise? Arrogance
12. Favorite item of clothing? Wrap dress
13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? New Zealand
14. Favorite brand of clothing? I don't look at the brand
15. Where would you retire to? I'd be happy staying here
16. What was your most recent memorable birthday? This year - My husband gave me a great early gift to enjoy on our cruise, and then he gave me another great gift on my birthday when we got back. Two great gifts sandwiching a cruise... I don't know if I could beat that. :)
17. Favorite sport to watch? I don't like watching sports.
18. Furthest place you expect someone to look at this from? Malaysia
19. Person you expect to send it blog back first? ?
20. When is your birthday? May 24
21. Are you a morning person or a night person? Night, although I wish I was morning
22. What is your shoe size? 7 1/2-ish
23. Pets? Nope
24. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Our basement is done!!
25. What did you want to be when you were little? A writer
26. How are you today? A little blah
27. What is your favorite candy? Any chocolate-cookie combination
28. What is your favorite flower? Iris
29. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to? Dec. 24 :)
30. What is your full name? If I told you, I'd have to kill you
31. What are you listening to right now? Mindy Gledhill
32. What was the last thing you ate? A handful of marshmallows and some brownie crumbs
33. Do you wish on stars? Of course
34. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Forest green
35. How is the weather right now? Mild
36. Who was the first person you talked to on the phone today? Nobody yet
37. Favorite soft drink? Root beer
38. Favorite restaurant? Prestwich Farms
39. Real hair color? Dark brown
40. What was your favorite toy as a child? Cabbage Patch Kids
41. Summer or winter? Winter
42. Hugs or kisses? Hugs
43. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate
44. Coffee or tea? Hot chocolate :D
45. Do you want your friends to email you back? Sure
46. When is the last time your cried? Saturday
47. What is under your bed? Shoes and Christmas wrapping paper & supplies
48. What did you do last night? Watch Stargate Atlantis while eating Longboards
49. What are you afraid of losing? A child
50. Salty or sweet? Sweet
51. How many keys on your key ring? 5
52. How many years at your current job? 9 years as a SAHM
53. Favorite day of the week? Thursday
54. How many towns have you lived in? 5
55. Do you make friends easily? No, but when I do make a good friend, it's for life

Now, I tag all of you in turn. I'd love to find out more about you.

#51 - Me

My friend Kim tagged me on her blog, Green-eyed Frog

I'm supposed to list 6 unspectacular quirks about myself. Hmmm.

1 - I clean everything in reverse order. For instance, I like to deep-clean the counter top /before/ clearing everything off of it. Yes, it's quite a trick. :D I just hate trying to find places to put everything. My style of cleaning would be best described as "moving the mess."

2 - I'm not dyslexic when it comes to reading, but I get left/right, and east/west mixed up most of the time. So if I'm ever in the car with you and I'm supposed to turn right, just tell me to turn left and we'll be good. (Thanks for pointing me in the right direction so many times last night, Stacy and Elana!)

3 - I almost always put my make-up on in the car. (When I do wear make-up, which is usually only to church and on dates.) I just get in such a rush that I can't fit it in before leaving. When I'm the one driving, I wait for stoplights and such. Of course, when I'm not driving, it's still good to wait for stoplights. Have /you/ tried putting lipstick on at 30 mph? And forget about mascara! :)

4 - I go to an OD instead of an MD. (He's awesome and I would totally recommend him to everyone except he's always booked out for 3 months at a time, so I really don't want to share him with you.) I also gave birth to 3 out of 4 of my kids at home with a highly trained, awesome midwife, Suzanne. I also use a lot of alternative kinds of health care methods. It's not that I don't believe in modern medicine at all. I use it when I feel like it's called for. I just don't believe doctors know quite everything.

5 - I hate wearing shoes. I'm constantly kicking them off. And then, of course, I have to search around to find them the next time I need to wear shoes.

6 - I was trying not to use any book-related quirks, but my brain is tired, so I'm giving in. My last one is that there are piles of books all over my house. That's always true anyway, but right now, it's especially bad. I'm in the process of moving all of my bookshelves out of the bedroom and down to my new office in the basement. I'm trying to organize my books as I go, so there are literally piles of books all over the floor downstairs. I can't wait to be done with this project!

Here are the terms and conditions for those of you I'm tagging:
Link the person who tagged you
Mention the rules on your blog.
List 6 unspectacular quirks about you.
Tag 6 other bloggers by linking them.

Those lucky friends of mine who get to respond to this tag are:

Melanie, Heather, Ali, Danyelle, Nichole, and Julie

#50 - Phonics

Heather's comment to my last post reminded me of something I meant to bring up in said post.

There is a wonderful book I'm using to teach my 5-year-old to read and I just want to recommend it to everyone.

It's called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I love it so much because it's completely phonics-based, and it introduces concepts very slowly and seamlessly. Every lesson seems so easy because it's almost exactly like the lesson before, but just barely different enough to learn something new. Each lesson is mostly review, in other words. My daughter is constantly wanting to skip lessons because it's so easy.

When Heather brought up the 'l' in walk, etc. it made me think of a tactic that is used in the "100 Easy Lessons" book.

The child sounds out the word (wwwww-aaaaa-lllll-kkkk) (remember, the a will sound like the a in apple) and the parent says, "Yes, we sound it out ww-aa-ll-kk, but we say it 'walk'. It's a funny word." So every time the child goes to say that word, the parent says, "Remember, this is a funny word."

The reason I was going to include it with my last post is because there are a lot of "funny words" in the English language!!!

I do have to give one disclaimer for the book, however. I tried to teach my oldest child to read with the same book and it was a disaster. She did learn to read pretty well, through the first half of the book, but even then it was a struggle. It was more a personality problem between the two of us in general than it was anything to do with the reading program itself, but it's proof that no one method is best for everyone.

With that said, though, if your child is at the age where they're ready to start reading and you want to give them a head start, or if they're having a hard time learning to read in school, go and get a copy of this book. I think it's wonderful. You can see some sample pages by following the link above and clicking on the picture of the book on Amazon's site.

#49 - The English Language

Every time one of my kids learns to read and write, I realize all over again how crazy the English language is. Why can't we just spell things the way they sound?

For instance, take the word 'of.' Why is it spelled o-f anyway? Shouldn't it be u-v?

My 5-year-old decided to write and illustrate her own book the other day. It's amazingly cute, if I do say so myself. :) Here is a sample page from her book:

"Wuns upon u tim thar wus a pepil and tha wr pikeing bares blubares and pikeing flower."

A couple of those things she actually got right because she asked me "How do you spell flower?" and because she already knew them, like i-n-g says ing. But look at the words overall. Why shouldn't "once" be spelled w-u-n-s? Or "they" spelled t-h-a?

Other examples throughout the book are "soccer" spelled s-o-k-r, "person" spelled p-r-s-i-n, and "team" spelled t-e-m.

It's not just "i before e except after c...." The fact is, there are more exceptions than there are rules in the English language.

Of course, once I got through the younger grades, everything just made sense and became intuitive. But I'm sure glad I didn't have to learn English as a second language!

My kids just started at a school that teaches Spanish from Kindergarten, so it's fun to watch the kids come home with new Spanish words and songs every day. I've been trying to learn Spanish for about a decade now, and it's not coming along very fast.

But as I think about how much harder it would be to have to learn English, my task in learning Spanish doesn't seem so hard anymore. I'm also feeling some renewed motivation to keep going in my studies as I think about how soon the kids are going to pass me by in their Spanish. I better do what I can with my head start. :D

#48b - Writing Scripture, Part 2

I just realized a few minutes ago that I wasn't being fair in my comparison of the Book of Mormon to the other 2 books I listed. Breaking Dawn is only one volume in a 4-volume series, and there are 3 books in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Both of those books are just one piece of a larger body of work. So I'm going to correct my numbers here to give a more accurate comparison.

There are approximately 560,000 words in the 4 books in the Twilight Saga. It took Meyer about 5 years to write them all. And there are about 561,000 words in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and it took Tolkien 12 years to write it. Of course, all of these numbers are just estimates, but since the same method was used to calculate each of them, I think it's a useful comparison.

So, both of those books are about 2 1/2 times larger than the Book of Mormon is when put into perspective.

Another example I just thought of is Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling wrote the 7 books in that series in about 17 years and together, they are approximately 1 million words. Okay, so THAT is a big book. :D Rowling was about 47 when the last Harry Potter book was published, and was also a college graduate.

Like I said, nothing is impossible and there is no absolute scientific proof one way or the other that is going to say if the book is an historical record or a work of fiction. Joseph could have just been an amazing writer, up there with the likes of the best fiction writers of the 20th century.

But the other thing we have to consider is that these writers didn't just take up a pen one day and decide to write a book and get it right their first try. They worked and practiced the craft for a long time before coming up with the story and writing it. Rowling said she wrote almost consistently from the age of 6. That means she practiced the craft of writing stories for 20 years before starting to write Harry Potter.

Tolkien, in turn, wrote scholarly publications, as well as other kinds of articles. He also practiced his craft by writing editions and translations of Middle English works, he studied languages, and he practiced the art of storytelling for years before actually publishing any works of fiction.

Just by virtue of graduating with a degree in English, Meyer had to have practiced the art of writing as well. A lot.

And I do have to sneak in one more correction here on the subject of education. I had said in my last post that he had the education of a modern-day 4th grader. I was thinking about it and it didn't sound right, so I looked it up. He actually had only 3 years of formal schooling. That would make him more like the level of an early-1800's 4th grader if anything, which is a much different thing altogether. He was mostly schooled at home and spent most of his time working in the fields.

If we look at The Book of Mormon as a work of fiction, it is an amazing one. It is an epic saga unlike anything that has ever been attempted before. Characters and storylines flow into each other and cover a huge amount of time. There are no plot holes. Different characters write in different styles. Some of the stories are told in 1st person. ("I, Nephi, having been born" and "I, Moroni, after having made an end" and "I am called Mormon" for example) and others are told in 3rd person ("And it came to pass that Alma and his brethren" and "Now Ammon said unto him" and "Then Jared said unto his brother") During the chapters that are in 3rd person, Moroni interjects his thoughts here and there. During the chapters that are in 1st person, he doesn't. When Mormon is abridging the plates, there are places where he quotes the person he is writing about ("Alma began to deliver the word of God . . . saying, I, Alma"), but when he's done quoting, he goes back to 3rd person. Nowhere does it vary. That is a lot to keep track of.

If we look at The Book of Mormon as a work of non-fiction, it is also amazing. (We do have to look at it as a work of non-fiction even if we think Joseph Smith wrote it instead of translating it, because he marketed it as such and it is set in real places and a real time period in the past.) There are so many details in the book that would have taken a lot of research to get right. What is the terrain around Jerusalem like? How would middle-eastern people have acted? How do you prune olive trees?

If we look at the Book of Mormon as a piece of falsified scripture, it is also pretty darn amazing. It's one thing to study the Bible voraciously, but it's quite another thing to write in that language in a way that mimics real scripture.

But, on top of all that, if Joseph Smith did write the Book of Mormon, he would have had to do all three. He had to have been amazingly good at mimicking scriptural language, as well as being a master at fiction-writing, and he had to have also been very good at writing non-fiction as well.

Considering the time frame he wrote it in, his writing experience, the scope of the work, his accuracy in details that it takes modern-day writers tons of research to get right and a group of editors to perfect, I just personally think it is extremely hard to believe that he was that good. Like I said, though, not impossible.

#48 - Writing Scripture

I was talking to someone the other day about the validity of the Book of Mormon and whether Joseph Smith could have written it or not. It really got me thinking about the subject and I wanted to share some of my thoughts here.

Personally, I think it is virtually impossible that he could have written that book out of his own imagination and with his personal knowledge base. I admit that nothing is *impossible*, but seriously, in my opinion, the chances that he wrote the book are, like, less than .1%

I estimate the Book of Mormon to be roughly 254,000 words. (I counted the words on 3 random pages and averaged them out, then multiplied that by the number of pages in the book.) 254,000 words is a very large book.

To put it in perspective, I used the same method to estimate the number of words in "Breaking Dawn" by Stephanie Meyer and there are about 170,000 words in that book.

To use another example, there are probably about 187,000 words in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings. (That estimate is based on a number someone posted on the internet by a person who estimated it using the same method I employed above.)

As far as Breaking Dawn goes, I think it's safe to say that The Book of Mormon has a LOT more substance to it. To be fair, though, I admit that The Lord of the Rings is significantly more substantial than Breaking Dawn.

Historical sources estimate that it took Joseph Smith 80 days to "write" The Book of Mormon.

It took Stephanie Meyer about 1 year to write Breaking Dawn.

Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings in roughly 4 years.

Stephanie Meyer was 35 years old and had a bachelor's degree in English literature when Breaking Dawn was published.

Tolkien was 62 and was a major scholar of the English language, specializing in Old and Middle English and twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford.

Joseph Smith was a 25-year-old farm boy with the formal education level of a current-day 4th grader when The Book of Mormon was published. It's true that he was much more bright and introspective than the average bear, but it is too much of a stretch for my mind to make to believe he could have written that book from his own personal knowledge and education.

If Joseph Smith did write The Book of Mormon, he was the most brilliant writer in the history of the world. And it just so happened that he was also a religious fanatic who wanted to deceive the whole world into thinking he had seen angels and translated a book from a set of gold plates. What a coincidence that one person would be both of those things.

On top of that, I just want to talk about the structure, story, POV, etc. in the Book of Mormon from a writer's perspective. I've tried to write a book and it is HARD. There is so much to keep straight. I find myself often trying to remember how old one of my characters is, or what name I had given to their mother, and a hundred other details. What was the name of the town they grew up in, again? Who was that person they met in chapter 2? And that's with a story that only has a dozen or so prominent characters, and the whole story being told from the same point of view.

The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, features so great a number of characters, I couldn't even begin to estimate how many there are. And the stories are told from so many different peoples' points of view. And never do the different characters vary in form throughout their section of the book. When Mormon is abridging parts of the book or summarizing them, he often says, "And thus we see . . ." and goes on to give the moral of the story. Never does Nephi or Alma or any of the other characters do such a thing. What book have you read recently that didn't break POV at least once?

And, there is the fact that Joseph would have had to know a lot of things about Middle Eastern life and cultures. How many books do you think there were in the Palmyra City Library in 1825 about the methods used to graft in branches on wild and tame olive trees? It is different than the care of any kind of tree Joseph could have known about in upper state New York, yet he described exactly how it is done in Jacob 5.

Authors who write about another culture do a LOT of research in order to get all their facts straight. If there had been a professor in Joseph's home town who taught him all of these kinds of things, or if he spent countless hours at a university library, I think someone would have known about it.

Meyer and Tolkien had editors and publishers they worked with to help them correct mistakes in their books. I don't know about Tolkien, but I know Meyer sends her manuscripts out to readers, who help her figure out some of the things she needs to change to make the story make sense, flow better, etc. Joseph Smith had none of that.

Sorry to ramble on for so long, but I've been thinking a lot about this. Especially now, as I'm trying to get back into writing the book I'm working on and struggling with it. I have a lot of reasons to believe the church is true, but I'm not trying to bear my testimony here. :) I just wanted to comment on some of my thoughts about The Book of Mormon from a writer's perspective.

If any of you have thoughts about what I've written (as opposed to bashing on the church) I'd love to hear your perspectives.