In the canon of Mormon lore there are few more colorful or beloved characters than J. Golden Kimball. Kimball was famous for being tall, skinny, and for his colorful way of putting things.
Much of what he said and did has become legendary and one doesn't know exactly what is true and what is apocryphal. But that doesn't spoil the fun of the stories.
I just finished a book about J. Golden Kimball's time serving as a missionary in the South. This was a time when it was not terribly uncommon for Mormons to be beaten and not unheard of for them to be killed. Kimball served as a missionary himself, and then, years later, came pack to preside over other missionaries. This book did a really masterful job of portraying the difficulties, both emotional and physical that came with the territory, and painted a very vivid image of the privations and challenges. I was particularly impressed with the insights into struggle between human fears and
This book is not strictly a history. The author acknowledges that no sustained efforts have been made to separate fact from fiction. And, to be honest, I felt that the folksy narrative could have been toned down somewhat. Still, the book is a lot of fun and provides an enjoyable look at a unique and one-of-a-kind character. The fact that Mormons are (rightly) known as being a pretty strait-laced lot makes hearing about some of our more colorful progenitors a lot of fun. Kimball reminds me in some ways of my grandmother, a feisty country girl who never outgrew the ability to cuss with the best of them. We are a pretty straitlaced bunch now, but we're not that far away from an era of cowboys, ranchers, and pioneers.
A few of my favorite stories from the book:
While returning back to Utah from his first mission in the South, Kimball heard a man loudly criticizing Mormons for their strange and blasphemous beliefs. He listened in silence, growing angrier and angrier. Finally the man said that he wanted to go where he wouldn't risk encountering Mormons. Dander fully up, Kimball said, "You can go to hell, for I know there are no Mormons there."
Another time, Kimball and a group of missionaries were in imminent danger of being attacked by a large group of Klansmen (a group with whom he locked horns several times--something I did not know). Vastly outnumbered by men with guns and boiling tar, Kimball simply bluffed his way out. Referring to the folk rumor that Mormons had horns, Kimball yelled out, "Let me tell you something--Mormons have horns! You cross that stream, and we'll gore the hell right out of you!"
I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review and I enjoyed it. You can buy the book here. One final note: this book is probably going to me more enjoyable to Mormon readers than it will be to readers from other faiths. There's nothing offensive, just some terminology and cultural references that will make the most sense to LDS readers.
Today, my friend Julie Ford is having a giveaway to celebrate her new book, No Holly For Christmas. I have been swamped with two plays, so I haven't had time to read it, but Julie if a wonderful author and I'm looking forward to it. It's only .99 today!!! And you can register for a $25 gift card. I'm heading over right now to get my copy. Here are the details and synopsis. Giveaway details:
Enter to win a $25.00 gift card from Barnes & Noble when you purchase the .99 ebook and/or hard copy from Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Just email your conformation number to us at Steph&Jules: email@example.com by November 1st.
Two additional ways to win:
Enter to win a free hard copy and/or ebook of No Holly for Christmas when you do one and/or both of the following between Tuesday, October 29th and Thursday, November 1st:
Like Julie N. Ford on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/JulieNFord.Author?ref=hl
Follow Julie N. Ford on Twitter https://twitter.com/JulieNFord
Synopsis: No Holly for Christmas
As Brian McAlister struggles to move past being jilted not once, but twice by the only woman he’s ever loved, he’s all but given up on relationships. Then, on special assignment for the DA’s office, he crosses paths with ex-socialite turned social worker, Holly Cavanaugh Winter—and romance blossoms.
Widowed, practically penniless, and reduced to shopping at WalMart, Holly is dreading the approaching Holiday Season. However, her angst isn’t due to her husband’s untimely death the previous December 25th, but because of a secret that could reveal itself unless she can find a way to avoid the coming Christmas.
Love at first sight quickly turns frigid for Brian and Holly when Holly gets pulled into a manhunt for an accused murderer who now has his sights set on her. His case unraveling, Brian finds himself tasked with keeping Holly and her two daughters safe while bringing an assassin and the powerful man who hired him to justice.
A heart-warming story of suspense, healing, giving and receiving, No Holly for Christmas is the perfect addition to everyone’s holiday reading list.
I know it's not Monday. But I've been gill-deep in finishing one play and starting another. So I'm late.
Let me talk about a very difficult subject with a personal anecdote. In high school, I had a friend who was very funny. So was I (at least in my own mind). Together, we were hilarious. Or so we thought. Actually, we were sarcastic and sharp to the point of being quite mean. It's not one of my better times in life. One night, we heard about a party all our friends were having--a party to which we had not been invited.
We are furious and hurt. How could our so-called friends be so cruel as to leave us out? We vented and raged and had our own party, wallowing in bitterness.
At some point, I confronted one of our other friends. He told me that we were had been excluded because we were so sarcastic and caustic that no one wanted to be around us.
That hurt. And it made me mad. And then I realized he was right--and that he had just done me a huge favor by helping me understand what I was doing wrong and giving me the chance to fix it.
It took a while, but with some sustained effort, I was able to change my habits, smooth the rough edges away, and end the year with a very rich and rewarding social life.
I'm so grateful my friend had the guts and honest concern to tell me the truth. He really did me a huge favor.
Okay, let's talk about a very depressing problem that I think most kids (and parents) face at some point in their lives. What do you do if people leave you out of social activities, conversations, etc.?
This is a really painful situation to be in and the cure may seem worse than the sickness at first. But, over the years I have seen people navigate this and come out on top by applying some basic principles.
So, if your child comes home and says that no one likes them, or they are being left out, etc. what do you do?
Sometimes, this might just be in their heads, or at least, not as extreme as they think it is. In 7th grade, for example, no one feels liked. No one feels included. I've written about this before. So, let's leave this aside. Let's assume that your child really is being excluded.
Your tendency will be to see your child as the victim and the others as malicious bullies. Please, for your child's sake, don't do this. In some cases this might be true, but in my experience it is usually far more complex than this.
This is where the cure starts to be a bit painful. You need to try to realistically assess how your child is contributing to the problem.
Over my years in teaching, I have known children who were charming with adults and were really quite nasty to their peers. You need to be open to the possibility that your child is doing something that is off-putting, possibly inadvertently. This is very difficult. It's where you earn your parenting stripes. No one wants to acknowledge that their child might be the issue. But most time when I see social problems, a lot of it rests with the child in question. Peers will vote with their feet. If someone is mean, catty, snide, arrogant, whatever--no one will want to be around them and no amount of parental intervention can ever change that.
How do you find out if this applies to your child? Well, you ask teachers or coaches or, if you feel you can, the parents of their peers. Obviously, this is sensitive and you have to careful in how you approach it. You can't, for example, say, "Hey, your child is excluding my child for reasons I don't understand. Is there something she did to make your daughter act in such an unkind, petty way?" You will need a bit of diplomacy and tact.
You will also need to be prepared for the possibility that they will tell you the truth. And it will hurt. And you will feel defensive and want to lash out or at least defend your child. Don't do this. Bite your tongue. Listen. Nod even if it kills you. And thank them for caring enough to be honest.
I've learned over the years that most people really do not want to hear difficult truths, even when those truths could free them from various problems. I've seen so many difficult situations that could be solved with relative ease IF the people involved could understand the situation and make some changes. But too often, that requires confronting painful realities.
So, if you are lucky enough to get candid advice, listen and thank them. Then think about it and see if you think there is merit to what you hear. Is your child pushy? Bossy? Full of him or herself? Have they been unkind, etc.
Once you know, you can make a plan to try to fix these problems. But wait, there's more and it's IMPORTANT! Like, All-caps important.
It is human nature when we feel someone pulling away from us to push ourselves towards them. The more they pull away, the harder we push towards them. This is almost always a mistake. You will have to help your child stop. If you're in a social hole, stop digging. Whatever is going wrong needs to be fixed, and the current actions have caused the problem. So, stop.
This is hard because your child will be wanting to see instant results. They might have been arrogant for six years, and then they stop for a week and will wonder why things haven't changed. They'll have to be patient and let the others see that they are changing.
Sometimes, a direct conversation might be useful. "Hey, I realize I've been kind of mean and I'm sorry. I hope you'll give me a chance to show you that I want to be better..." Other times, you just have to let time go by and let people see it on their own.
One strategy that might help is to let some time go by where there is a complete suspension of contact (or as complete as is possible)--a few weeks. During this time, your child does not keep pushing themselves onto the group. This is sort of a demonstration of good faith, a chance to clear the social palate, so to speak. After a few weeks, and yes, this will be a painful and lonely time, they might start reaching out to one or two people, inviting them to do something like go see a movie or whatever--something simple, something with a limited emotional and time commitment, etc. Your child needs to essentially woo them back, showing that they can be trusted.
It's important to resist the temptation to be clingy here, or to rush the relationship--it's very similar to dating, really--the same pitfalls and the same bad consequences, namely being alone.
Yes, this is painful, and yes, it takes some time. But usually, if you don't do something like this, the problem gets worse. I've seen so many kids over the years who just absolutely sabotage their social life by being a bit of a pill, and then, when people retreat, pushing hard. A strategic retreat, some honest self-assessment (with parental guidance) can make a huge difference.
And, the rewards are well worth the discomfort.
One of the drawbacks of my profession is that my professional success essentially rests in the hands of 12-14 year olds. Yeah. Think about that for a minute. If they do their work well, then I'm the most amazing director ever. If not, then I'm losing my touch.
Because of the nature of theatre, there are ups and downs in every production. Moments when you are sure it will be the greatest thing ever, followed periods of certainty in which you are quite sure that you'll be lucky if you can get a job as a bagger in a grocery store.
These ups and downs are even more pronounced in middle school theatre, I think, simply because adolescents are, by nature, up and down. So, a production filled with them will naturally reflect those ups and downs.
So, until the performance, one just never quite knows how it will be. I've heard coaches talk about how they don't know if they'll win a game or not--it depends, they say, on which team shows up. I feel like that sometime. I see how the play can be good--or not. Depending on which cast shows up that night--the focused, energetic one, or the giddy, goofy one. The funny thing is that theses casts are made of the same kids.
All this to say, I'm delighted to report that opening night of My Fair Lady was good. Actually, very, very good. One of our best, I'm told by people who would know and whom I trust. I'll post pictures when I get them. I'm excited to see them, actually, because I always knew it would be a visually beautiful show. But I'm happy to say the students lived up to the quality of the sets, costumes, and props. Magnificently.
This is not an easy show and I was apprehensive about choosing it. But it fit the talent profile of the students I have more perfectly than anything else I could find. So, I took a deep breath, jumped, and we did it. So proud of them.
This shot below is of Prof. Higgins' study. It's part of a turntable that revolves to reveal different sets at different times, and this picture is taken from the wings off stage left. The study is ready to be turned into place.
I know I'm strange, but one of my favorite things in the world is looking at empty sets--ready to be used but not in use at the moment. There is something about the latency and potential of it all that really intrigues me. The other picture is an opening night gift. I post it because I also really like cookies.
It has been a crazy few weeks here at bradenbell.com, Mockingbird Cottage, and all other associated environs. So, I haven't posted anything for MSM. This week is our fall production, My Fair Lady, and so it's crazy again. Or still. But I had a quick thing I've been thinking about that I thought might be good to pass on.
I've been thinking about a concept I call "Emotional Depth Perception." In my experience, this is a quality that most adolescents, even the very mature ones, simply don't have. What I mean by "Emotional Depth Perception" is this: adolescents tend to feel things very strongly. Their emotions are powerful. But they tend to respond to all feelings equally, acting on their feelings as if feeling something means it is true, or wise.
Adolescents generally can't discern where a powerful emotion lies in relation to other facts, and the larger context of their lives. It is immediate, powerful, and often is what drives them to act.
Adults do this too sometimes, but I really think this happens almost universally in adolescents. Part of this is because they don't have a lot of life experience to provide perspective and balance.
Most adolescents are unable to look at something and say, "I'm really stressed right now, but this is actually fairly minor in terms of the real-world consequences." To them, very small things that don't matter all that much are often equal to huge, life-shaking developments because both kinds of stressors generate emotion and adolescents are not very good at deciding which are serious and real, and which are passing.
Synonyms for emotional depth perception would be: balance, perspective, experience, prudence. All the qualities that allow someone to be in a situation that is highly emotional and rationally get to the point that mitigating factors are considered.
Some examples would be as follows:
A student is participating in the play and possibly playing a sport. He or she is tired and stressed. When a teacher assigns something that causes the student to stay up late, he or she falls apart.
Emotional depth perception tells the student, "It's not the end of the world. You feel like it is, but it's not. You might even get a B, but next year, probably next week, this will no longer matter."
A student is treated unkindly or ignored by people he or she thought were friends. They are sure that no one likes them and that they will never again have friends. Emotional depth perception allows the student to say, "That was really hard. But tomorrow things will likely be different again."
It works for more positive emotions as well. Someone gets the lead in the play or a spot on the varsity team and the boy/girl they like returns their affections. They are sure life is perfect now, going to proceed in an untainted, unalloyed, rose-strewn path. Emotional depth perception allows them to say, "This is great. But I need to realize things won't always be perfect."
As I type this, I realize that adults struggle with this as well. In my mind, the difference is that adults *can* do this while most adolescents are simply not capable of looking beyond what they feel at the moment.
It goes without saying, I think, that an adult's job is therefore to help them develop this emotional depth perception. It's to help them learn to not act immediately on the basis of something they feel strongly, to not believe in the wisdom of every feeling, and to help talk them through things. It is not to prevent them from struggling or encountering trouble, it's to help them learn to assess it and balance it properly, understanding it so that they can then work through it.
It is so gratifying to get reviews from national journals dedicated to reviewing books in my genre! The last one comes from VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) a journal that is largely for librarians who specialize in Young Adult fiction.
At any rate, here is the quote part: "Bell's novel is an entertaining read about a theme that never gets old: magic. Bell's cast of characters is driven as well as humorous. The transition from becoming a teenager to finding out you possess a hidden talent always makes for good subject matter. This book is an adventure from the very beginning..."
The rest of the review is more of a synopsis of the book, so I didn't include it here. I don't have a link to the review in VOYA, but they were kind enough to post on Barnes and Noble.com, so you can see the source here.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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