The Maiden Voyage

Last week the stake president met with my parents and myself.  Knowing how badly I desired to be a proselytizing missionary, he has been working without rest to help me reach that dream while still avoiding doing anything that would give me pain with the EDS.

It’s been a miracle.  I thought I would have to stay at home and occasionally go with the missionaries to teach, but this is an almost complete fulfilment of the dream I’ve held for as long as I can remember.  We’ll be going transfer by transfer (which are six weeks), testing how well I do.  I’ll have a wheelchair, but mostly I’ll be doing what my companions do.  I get to teach, proselytize, and work with the sisters to bring others to Christ.  If it becomes too much, I get to go home for a transfer then go right back out again.  We’re shooting for six months, but I’ll try to go the full eighteen.

There have been so many angels in this process.  Angel #1 is President Williams, who hasn’t stopped fighting for me.  President Sweeney, Bishop Kai, my parents … it’s been amazing beyond words.  And as I went to be set apart as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I saw a couple I’ve known for a while sitting in the foyer.  They have been my “adopted parents” when my own weren’t able to come to Gospel Doctrine class, sandwiching me between them and smiling, laughing and learning with me.  Their appointment was before mine, then as the bishop came to fetch us, he gave my mom a big hug and whispered something in her ear, seeming very moved.  The couple were in the room and the bishop and the husband set me apart.  They were so excited and the lady kept hugging me.  My mom later told me that they offered to pay for the entirety of my mission.  I’m telling you: angels.  Those God has sent into my path to help me fulfil this dream and bring others unto Him.

Unfortunately my father wasn’t able to be there (we’re trying to sell the house so we can move down to the city and join him) so we Skyped with him — he was dubbed the “electronic father” and “digital dad.”  (My older sisters weren’t there, either — they don’t even live in my state and it’s really hard).  When President Williams presented the idea that would allow me to go like this, my father started crying, he was so touched and happy.  The Gospel means most to us.  The Lord is everything.  And everyone knows how much I want to go and serve Him.  Even my best friend, who isn’t a member of the Church and so hasn’t grown up with the understanding of LDS missions, is such a support.  It’s really hurting her, but she loves the Lord as much as I do and understands why I need to go.  For us, He comes first.

I need to talk a little more about President Williams.  Last Sunday when he called us in and told us what we could do and I immediately agreed, he then resolved to do everything he could to contact the mission president and have him come for another interview after church.  Together they’re sending me off, working so hard to help me do this.  I feel like Heavenly Father has just opened the floodgates to the blessings.  I know it’s all pretty sudden, but I was given the option of going during this transfer or waiting until the next.  I don’t wait, so it wasn’t even an option for me to hesitate.

I have the most amazing group of friends anyone could ever ask for.  I’m going to miss them like crazy, but they love the Lord as much as I do and their love and support means so much to me.  I’m excited to see how they grow as writers and as people while I’m gone, and I really hope Mirriam takes care of my baby Odd-Eyes.  And Ice.  If anything happens to him, Mirri, I might have to kill you.  And Apollo had better wait for me — I’ll be his missionary then I will come back and love him forever and make pretty half-Korean quarter-Bolivian babies that he can chase after.

My family is the greatest blessing in my life after God.  Despite our rather teasing, emotionless way of showing affection, I know they’re going to miss me and they’re the ones that, at night, I’ll be yearning for.  Every day is an adventure with them, and I can’t wait to come home and continue that.  And my baby sister is waiting for her call — so we’ll have two missionaries out!  Kerri, if you go to Africa, I will laugh so hard I’ll need to be hospitalized.

My ward family swarmed around me today, showering me with hope and love.  Guys, I’ll miss you and look forward to seeing you again.  Brother Stepp asked me to sing (okay, he told me a couple weeks ago exactly what I was singing so I didn’t have a choice) and the bishop allowed me to sing I Know That My Redeemer Lives today, even if nothing had been planned in advance.  Brother Vest, who is a WWII veteran and in his 90s told my mother that he had never heard the song so heartfelt before.  I have a very difficult time singing in church because I get so wrapped up in the physical — is my diaphragm in place, is my throat open, oh, no, I missed that note — and the attention that it’s been known to become a performance rather than a song of worship.  But my dear friend Shelby gave me a tip: pray that the congregation and yourself will feel the Spirit as God wants them to.  It worked.  I felt every word and I hope was able to bring something good to the meeting.  Something I felt inspired to do was change many of the ‘I’s and ‘me’s to ‘ours’ and ‘we’s.  I pray I helped someone through the music and my voice.  (Thank you, Mama, for the vocal genes).

There’s so much more I could go into — but I’ll leave it at that.  I may be home at intervals, but let’s hope I’m not back for a year and a half.  I want to serve for as long as I can and with my full capacity, even if that capacity is less than others with healthy bodies.  I have God on my side and whatever gets thrown at me, that’s why I’m out there.  I’m out there for Him and to bring joy to those around me.

Love you guys!

Cheers,

Sister Ana Pinto-Haynes

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Stars, Stripes, and Rainbows

I don’t believe there is anyone over the age of five that doesn’t know about the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.  It’s a matter that has been discussed heatedly all over the world for decades.

I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I do not — cannot — support this decision.  Let me explain.

I’m a Christian.  I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  As such, I’ve made a choice.  There are two options here: agree with the world or agree with God.  As a God-fearing woman, the first is out of the question for me.  Could I really say to God, “Hey, I’m going to ignore what You want in favor of what these people wish me to believe?”  I can’t.

At the same time, we are commanded to love others.  And I do.  I have many loved ones and sweet acquaintances who either are gay or support gay marriage.  Mind you, I have nothing against the feelings that belong to a homosexual.  It’s the action with which I disagree.  Just as having desire for a member of the opposite gender is fine unless it leads to lust, adultery, or premarital sex.  There are rights and wrongs, opposition in all things, and certain rules that we should and should not uphold.  I love those that disagree with me.  They’re also children of God and deserve respect and kindness.  But that love does not transcend into agreement and support of their actions, for the simple but profound reason that I love God more.

Something that frightens me about this issue is that those who oppose gay marriage are being persecuted and silenced.  That’s not what America is about.  I understand we all have equal rights and I don’t mind at all that those with differing opinions speak as they will.  What bothers and genuinely scares me is that anyone who disagrees with gay marriage, transgender topics, or things also related to this are so heavily rebuked for exercising the same rights those who support LGBT communities enjoy.  This is an opposition of ideals.  Both sides believe they are right.  So why are those of us who disagree with the ruling being so persecuted?  We are belittled into silence, feeling shamed by the public, even the government.  This is not fair.  In a country that touts equality and civil rights as the basis for our every action, how can the public justify fighting tooth and nail for their wishes while simultaneously crushing ours into the ground?  America was founded on the God-given rights of free speech and freedom of religion.  These are part of the First Amendment of the Constitution.  The Constitution is what this nation is founded upon.  In shaming us into silence, they are denying us the very rights upon which the United States of America is predicated.  If disallowing gay marriage is unconstitutional, then this definitely is.

I ask you to think of this objectively.  Christians and others who oppose gay marriage are (or at least should be) kind and caring to those who disagree with our beliefs.  Please support giving us the same courtesy.

Sincerely,

Ana

Happy Independence Day!

God Bless America..we all need to help protect our Constitution.  It is up to you to get informed and not let TV add form your opinion. I don’t know if it’s being homeschooled, LDS, or just my family, but we are strong supporters of this country.  Everything the United States of America was built upon was correct not only in the sight of God, but for the benefit and happiness of all men.

America wanted to be able to speak for herself.  She wanted no part of being governed by a people who knew not her needs and were unfamiliar with her standards.  She fought for her freedom to the most basic rights — and she won.  Against all the odds, she won.  She became free.

The birth of this country was not an easy one.  Men, most enlightened, all driven by a desire to make a better country (with the possible exception of Mr. Alexander Hamilton), labored for many, many years over how to govern the United States.  In the words of John Adams, who was acting as ambassador in England at the time of the ratification of the Constitution, “Measures were pursued to concert a plan to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty. The public disquisitions, discussions, and deliberations issued in the present happy Constitution of Government.”

This country is the work of God.  We are blessed — yea, encouraged — to think for ourselves and stand for what we believe in.  This country is founded on the principles of freedom.  I can live my religion with minimal persecution.  I can vote, lending a hand in the development of the country.  I have the right to find a job and go to college.  I am free.

Again, allow me to quote John Adams: “What other form of government, indeed, can so well deserve our esteem and love?”

And I do love this country.  Despite how it is on the verge of trampling my beliefs under its feet, I can make a difference.  The United States of America was founded on the principles of God and freedom.  I believe in what this country stands for.

I love my God.

I love my family.

I love my fellow men.

I love my country.

God bless America.

-Ana

American flag and fireworks

The Last Day of May

As everyone has been continuously reminded, May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month.  And today is the 31st.

This is gonna make me cry.

Please share the word.  There are many of us that are suffering.  We need others to know about this — employers, parents, everyone.  There are so many different ways Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome affects us individually, but almost as many when it comes to families and communities.

Keep us in your prayers and thoughts, please.  Yes, this makes us stronger, but a cure would be really nice.  And tell all your doctor friends about it, please.  If someone comes to them, it would be wonderful if they had the capacity to correctly diagnose EDS.

And I am super tired, so I’m going to bed.  Sleep, here I come!

Cheers!

Ana

Stereotypes and Modesty

Modest is sexy.

It’s a fact of life.

Unfortunately, people so often are of the opinion that being ‘modest’ means wearing frumpy old-lady clothes.  Clothes that are so bad they have never been anywhere near the spectum of ‘fashionable,’ t-shirts that could double as tents, jeans that come up to your ribcage.

That opinion is rather sad, actually, because so often the cutest clothes are the ones that are modest.  The ones that speak for themselves and flatter you while still leaving things to the imagination.

Others also think that modesty is restricting, that it’s oppressive and keeps you from fully expressing yourself.  I think this opinion is twisted.  Our bodies are a gift.  Say you had a precious Ming vase, ‘kay?  Would you put it in your front yard to bleach in the sun and for every neighborhood child to trap dragonflies in?  No — you’d keep it on display in your house, probably in a special case to protect it.  Your guests would be honored to view it, to have the opportunity to marvel at its unique beauty.

Teen girls! You are valuable! Please read this article from a great website, full of resources for young and old!

We are each important.  You wouldn’t pawn off your gold watch for a bag of plastic bugs, would you?  We are of too much worth to sell ourselves like that.  We aren’t cheap — we are priceless.  It’s time society recognized that.  Instead, we are expected to show off our assets, let everyone know how ‘sexy’ we are, but really, that’s just degrading.  Society preaches respect and equality, yet both men and women are looked down on if we show an ounce of it for ourselves and our sacred gifts.

Something about many of the modesty lessons is the reaction of the opposite sex.  I hate it.  “You’ll help the boys by dressing modestly.”  “Don’t tempt the girls by sagging your jeans.”  Yeah, it’s important to help and respect those around you, but I think the true reason to dress modestly is for ourselves.  We need to show the world that we are confident without showing off, that we respect ourselves enough to keep those sacred parts of us away from the cheap, low-minded bidders prowling around with glittering eyes.

On redefining sexy: | 12 Stevie Nicks Quotes To Live By

(Quote by Stevie Nicks that I found on Pinterest).

Another subject I’d like to touch on is stereotypes.  For instance, my style is basically that of a Japanese rocker.  I wear spiked boots, skull-embellished shirts, hip belts and skeleton-cameo necklaces.  As weird as it sounds, I almost feel most complete when my nails are painted black.  I’m usually in black and have a growing collection of spikes and leather.  But I’m always modest.  I live in a small town that wasn’t sure what to do with me when I first came, and that really confused me and made me sad.  I don’t try to be tempting and I strive to be kind and polite with clean language, but I was still rather labeled as a sort of rebel, an unwanted divergent.

I would even wear the nose-thing. XD

(Reita from the GazettE).

That’s one kind of stereotype.  When you see a girl with frills and pink lipstick, don’t label her as shallow and brainless.  When you see a girl with false eyelashes even longer than mine, don’t immediately conclude that she’s a tramp.  This is something I really struggle with, don’t get me wrong.  I’m one of those people that just naturally labels and judges.  But as I’ve gone throughout my life, made friends, worked at Subway, I’ve learned to see past the skin.  True, you don’t agree with the girl who comes in with her neckline down to her bellybutton.  But maybe she’s nice.  The young man with the scowl over there might be bullied and doesn’t know how to show that he’s not mean and rude, or maybe his attitude is a protection against those who wish to hurt him further.  Maybe the girl dressed as a hippie is beaten at home and the way she copes is by clinging to the ideals of peace.

Mormon chick, baby! ;D  This is the sweetest picture, too!

(Isn’t this picture perfectly adorable?)

This post is as much for me as it is for everyone else.  True, there are some folks out there that you instinctively know to stay away from.  You aren’t always going to want to be friends with everybody.  But we mustn’t forget that beneath the outer layer, there is a child of God, one that is precious in His sight and should also be in ours.

We should also notice our own worth.  Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes — that’s what Christ’s Atonement is for.  We live, we fall, we get back up.  And we never do it alone.  We have the potential to rise above it all — yeah, it’s gonna take a long time to get to that point.  But who says we shouldn’t try?

Cheers!

Ana

(Sorry, I had to).

An Open Letter to Everyone

I’m proud to be part of a writing group whose members simply call it ‘the Pack.’  We follow the writer Mirriam Neal (our pack leader), and encourage each other in every endeavor we — either wisely or ridiculously — choose to pursue.  It’s through this wonderful group of girls that I met my best friend.  These awe-inspiring people have taught me the true meaning of friendship and unconditional love, even for those of us that are the most flawed.

We’re an odd bunch.  Any one of us will admit that.  And I think that unorthodox-ness sometimes makes us feel inferior, other, or unwanted.

I recently read a blog post by a very, very dear friend of mine.  The overall feeling I got was that she doesn’t see her full worth.  I look at her and see someone funny, beautiful, and wise beyond her years.  Her soul is inspiring, whether it’s making me giggle or see the world through the beautiful stained-glass window she has created.  She thinks she’s awkward and hard to love, but all the qualities that she thinks make her lesser are what I love most about her.  They make her who she is.  And if someone doesn’t love you for who you are … get rid of them.

I am here to tell you of your importance.  As I’ve come closer to Christ, I’ve truly began to understand the power of love for others.  I may not know you personally, but I testify to you that the qualities you have are not what make you inferior, but what make you special.  Perhaps you have a strange sense of humor.  Perhaps you like to read about neuroscience.  Perhaps you don’t get metaphors.  Perhaps you have difficulty around people.  I don’t care — you are special.  You, just by existing, make the world a better place.

Think about it: where would the world be without you?  I can tell you most assuredly that it would be empty.  Maybe the world would continue to spin, but it would feel the absence.  Have you ever seen the Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life?  It’s one of my dad’s favorite movies, and I finally watched it last December.  It’s about how a man who feels everyone would be better without him is shown how the world would have been different had he never been born.  In the end, he realizes how many blessings he has, and what a blessing he has been.

You are a blessing.  Maybe you’re a social butterfly, maybe you’re Muslim, maybe you’re a survivor of abuse.  You are unique, wonderful, irreplaceable, inspiring.  I want you to look in the mirror and see what I could see: an amazing individual who deserves every chance.  Someone who is loved.  Someone who deserves to be loved by themselves.

Learn to love yourself.  I love you.  But most importantly, God loves you.  He’s given everything for you, and I want you to know that no matter what you feel, you can always turn to Him.  Maybe you won’t get your answer immediately, but He is there, His hand outstretched, just waiting for you to take it.

Don’t cut.  Don’t cry.  Know that there’s someone out there, even if she doesn’t know you, who prays for you and cares about you.  If a perfect stranger can do that, please do it for yourself, too.

With all the love in my heart,

Ana

(Read this adorable thing I found).

This is exactly how I feel about you. (yes, you!!!) :: if you know the artist who drew this, please let me know as I'd love to give them credit. the site this links to searched but could not find the source and neither could I. xoxo

“Hello. What’s Your Deepest Secret?”

Danger lurks around the bend  I’ve always struggled with character development.  I would get a great idea for a book, put together a cast of characters, give them names, and they would just stare at me with blank expressions, somewhere in their minds accusing me of not creating them properly.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, they were right.

My novel Metamorphosis was my trial-run.  I’d written before, and while my technique was good, the rest was sloppy and inexperienced.  I was working on a novel that had inspired Metamorphosis, and getting bored of it and excited for my new project, I abandoned it and began to write Fraina, one of my principal characters.

She had initially started in my mind as a Mary Sue — yuck, right?  Then her hair got shorn, I saw her petite little mouth always set in this tough line, and I witnessed the lightning-fast, penetrating look in her grey eyes.  She became real.

(My model for Fraina).

So, I hadn’t had much experience creating my own characters well before this.  I had always loved stories, but I had never really finished a novel.  Not even close.  I can’t tell you how many notebooks and Microsoft Word documents are two pages long, the few paragraphs filled with such promise, then abandoned when I realized I had no idea what to do with them.  The best I had done was a historical fiction novel that I really need to get back to and the sweet, pathetic story that helped Metamorphosis come to be.  (They will both get their spotlight.  Eventually).  Then Metamorphosis happened.  I loved the idea, the characters, and no matter how hard it was or how confused I got, I kept pressing forward.

Perhaps there is magic in the world.  Because somehow, miraculously, all the frayed strands wove together into something that I never could have accomplished alone.  Now I know how important it is to get to know your characters before you start your story, but thankfully my team of misfits didn’t kill me as we struggled to come to terms with the others’ idiosyncrasies and shortcomings.  As I wrote, I came to know them.  Brunnhilde and I had a bit where I thought she should be regal and wise, and she wasn’t having it.  She’s regal, yes, but in a fiery, wild way.  She was underdeveloped because we were constantly fighting over who she was — it pays to listen to your characters, because the story became so much better after I admitted that she was right.  (Thank you, Shelby, for helping me with that).

(Reference to Brunnhilde’s wings).

But with as much as I learned, even in the beginning chapters of my book, I still struggled with knowing who I was writing.  I didn’t understand how to accomplish that.  I asked my sisters, my friends, and they all said the same thing: ask them questions.  In desperation, I emailed my friend Mirriam Neal and begged for assistance.  She sent me a list of questions she asks her characters, and I still wasn’t sure exactly how to go about this.

I had a brilliant idea.  (Okay, being Christian, I understand that most of my brilliant ideas have had a little help getting through my often-thick skull, so I am immeasurably grateful for a God who puts up with me).  I simply wrote myself into a scene with them.  I basically had my five protagonists in Metamorphosis covered, but I needed real antagonists.  I knew their names, their species’, but nothing of their souls.  Here’s an example of my interview with Quintessa, the Amazon:

Ana shrugged. “You basically tell me what happens and I write it down. Everyone controls their own fate – I just make it happen, being the writer. But I can’t do it properly until I’ve talked to each of you and gotten to know you better. I’d rather write you honestly and as you’d like to be portrayed. I don’t want to make a mistake, y’know?” She refrained from reminding them that they were the villains, and in order for them to seem as powerful and real as they were, she really needed to interview them. She gestured at Quintessa. “Let’s start with you, babe.”

            One elegant eyebrow curved upward at the pet name, but she waved her hand and her companions rose and reluctantly left the tent, staring over their shoulders suspiciously.

            Ana dragged Takeshi’s chair closer until when she sat down her knees would be but a foot from Quintessa’s. Pulling out her dad’s laptop, she lifted the top and opened Microsoft Word.

            “One sec,” she said absently, frowning down at the screen. “Let me write down what you look like.” Jotting quickly, glancing continually up at the regal leader of the Invaders, she managed to write:

QUINTESSA

THE EPITOME OF ROMAN BEAUTY, EVEN IF HER HISTORY IS GREEK (NOT LIKE SHE KNOWS THAT). HER FACE IS OVAL WITH A PLEASANTLY DISTINCT JAW, RATHER RECTANGULAR. HER NOSE IS FIRM, AND HER EYES ARE LARGE AND BROWN WITH THICK, LONG LASHES. HER EYEBROWS ARE STRANGELY ELEGANT, AND HER CURLY DARK HAIR IS BRAIDED DOWN HER BACK. MAN, THIS WOMAN IS TALL! SHE IS ALSO VERY MUSCULAR, ALMOST LIKE A JAGUAR. OH, AND HER LIPS ARE MEDIUM-FULL.

            “There,” she said finally, “I think I got it. Can you read?”

            Her eyes narrowed. “No.”

            Ana shrugged, secretly relieved. “That’s fine. So, let’s get on with it.”

            “I thought we’d already started,” she said coldly, obviously irritated at the inconvenience Ana was proving to be.

            Ana laughed. “Not formally, no. I have a few questions suggested by a friend and I few I’ll add myself.”

            “Which friend?” Ana could tell that what she really meant was, ‘what does this person know about me?’ She didn’t care about ‘which friend.’

            “She doesn’t know about you,” Ana reassured her, “but she’s got some good interview ideas. So, what do you like to wear?”

            A corner of Quintessa’s mouth twitched, as if she were hiding a smile. “And I thought these would be deep, probing questions that I would be seriously reluctant to answer. This is a bit trivial, don’t you think?”

            “Don’t worry, we’ll get to the difficult ones soon, babe.”

As a result of my interview with a Vampire (ha, ha, I’m so funny!) and other beings, I truly was able to know and understand these individuals.  Despite their villainy, I love them.  I know their — sometimes-questionable — motives, their fears, their joys.  They blossomed into real people, one that someday, could even be called my friends.  (Considering they nearly wanted to murder me for invading their privacy, I doubt that it will be anytime soon).

Very Takeshi. XD

(Takeshi, the Vampire in Metamorphosis and my friend Ashley’s husband).

But even with this technique, sometimes it’s really hard to understand your own ‘babies.’  An idea I had after getting frustrated with Marian’s complete lack of interest in the project she’s the protagonist of was assigning them each a song.  I grew up a dancer, so my second home was backstage.  I have three different categories: Disney, Broadway, and pop.  (Opera’s hard to work with because a lot of it is so specific to the characters and plot of its own production).  My naughty characters were each given a Disney song and lovingly forced to perform it.  I would write from each of their perspectives as they had to belt ‘Cruella de Vil’ and ‘Let It Go.’  I carefully selected the songs that fit each of the characters — ‘Be Prepared’ for Magar, ‘I See the Light’ for Nicky and (an older) Piper — and as they performed, seeing their perspectives, getting used to writing their individuality, I became closer to them and could understand them even more.  Even their rage and irritation towards me for making them do all this helped me get to know them.  (Really, I’m lucky I’m alive.  Hugo wants my head).  They even had ‘I’ve Got a Dream’ as the grand finale — it was awesome!  So right now we’re struggling through the Broadway category, and it’s just as fun.  And Hugo may or may not need a restraining order.

Stages of Choosing A Disney Movie to Watch | Oh My Disney...@Jennifer Edgington Curley I feel like this was a way of life when we wanted to watch ANY movie in school...

(This — this right here is the definition of magic).

These are some of the ideas I’ve had to get to know my characters from the inside out.  They have become completely real to me.  I feel like they’re my friends, like they’re my children.  I love them very, very much — simply for being who they are.  I am so proud I get to share my life with them.

I genuinely hope that if you struggle with character development, that you can find ways to come to know your people.  Perhaps this blog post will help, perhaps it won’t.  But I know that you can find a way that will be true to you, your writing style, and your characters.  They will be some of your best friends.

Cheers!

Ana