Monday, January 18, 2016

Retirement Mode

So here we are in the middle of January in a brand new year. Is anyone else still scrambling to catch up after the holidays? ;) True, the past few weeks have been beyond crazy for our clan, but that seems to be the theme for life at the moment. In the middle of the holiday season, my husband retired from his place of employment--somewhere he has worked steady for 34 years. We not only celebrated Christmas and a brand new year, but a major milestone in our lives. The dust is still settling.

As I look back, I can see that our lives have been a series of milestones. Skipping over the numerous landmark events that occurred as we grew into adulthood, there were many adventures along the way. Our engagement era was fraught with life-changing moments. Kennon had graduated from ISU, and was adjusting to life after serving a mission in Japan. My family had moved to yet another new area (we moved 8 times while I was growing up), I graduated from Ricks College, and developed a lovely character building condition known as Type 1 diabetes. Kennon and I met, fell in love, and married a few months later in the Logan Temple.

We gutted a small local home and after replacing carpet, painting walls, etc. claimed our first abode. About a year and a half later we welcomed our first child into our midst. Three months later, my father passed away. Three years after that, we buried my husband's father. In between we lost a plethora of other relatives, welcomed a second son into our clan, and built a new home.

The list goes on. More deaths, births, family weddings, life changing callings, and health challenges. While  my husband slaved away at a job he didn't always care for to provide a comfortable living for our family, I did my best to help raise our 3 sons and keep the home fires burning. I stumbled into the writing world in the middle of all of that which gave me a chance to help out with little things like braces, family trips, etc.

The years passed quickly and before we knew it, our sons were growing up. Now they were heading off to college, experiencing mission life, and starting families of their own. So it goes. I've heard life described as a giant circle. In some ways, that is an apt description. We pick up where our parents left off, and continue the mortal saga. In turn, our children do the same. And through it all, time passes much too fast. As we squeeze precious grandchildren, we wonder where the years went. Wasn't it just yesterday when we were squeezing our own children?

I remember hearing the advice to savor each day--and make the most of the time we have. In literally the blink of an eye, things change. One minute we're fretting over getting to work or sending kids off to school, and then we're taking care of our parents and preparing for our retirement years. One day we'll find ourselves on the other side of the veil, wondering where the time went. And from what I understand, eternal time is reckoned in a different fashion. We'll be shown that we were only gone scant minutes from our heavenly home. Some of us may exclaim, "No way!!! I was only gone 10 minutes . . . and I did all of that?" Hopefully that statement won't be followed by an exclamation of  "Oops!!! My bad!!!" ;)

In short, mortal mode is a probationary time of learning and growing, and in the wise words of my paternal grandmother, "You never know when you're going to be hit with a pop quiz." We take each day as it comes, and do our best. That's all our Heavenly Parents ever expected of us. We are following in Their footsteps, trying to emulate Their example. Our Elder Brother showed us the way--we have but to look to His standards of living to know what we're supposed to be doing in this mortal sphere. And someday, when it's all said and done, we'll find out it never is. ;) I fully believe that we will continue to grow and learn after we graduate from this life. There is no such thing as eternal retirement. I'm just sayin; . . .

So here's to life . . . and the whirlwind that accompanies it. As we continue from one adventure to another, may we pause to reflect on all that really matters, and ignore the stuff that doesn't. That is the secret to finding peace and happiness in today's crazy world.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hello 2016!

I think this is the very first year that I didn't make New Year Resolutions - or set new goals for the new year. Or even make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go. We've had super cold weather in normally sunny Southern California and my husband hasn't been able to play golf every weekday as usual so I've been improvising to keep him from dying of boredom. The greens are frozen!

I have to say - boredom is something that I simply cannot fathom. My children knew it was a word they didn't say in my hearing because I had lots of solutions for that condition. I'm not sure I have ever been bored a day in my life because I always have a list of things that is never fully accomplished. But here I am, making lists of things we can do to keep him from slipping into depression. He suffers from that seasonal disorder that is so aptly named: S.A.D.  I even bought him a "sunshine" lamp that he is supposed to shine in his face for 30 minutes a day to replicate the sunshine he isn't getting. Don't think it helped much.

We've put together puzzles, driven to an outlet mall and wandered around, then had lunch and drove home. Nice to be together and lunch was good, but after Christmas, how much shopping can you do!? We even watched all the Star Wars movies in order before my grandson took them back to the Coast Guard Academy after his Christmas vacation so we could go see the new one. I felt so weird watching TV in the day time! Something that I never do!

He'd be happy to go to lunch every day just to get out of the house but eating out isn't as enjoyable for me anymore since I'm off sugar, white flour, additives and preservatives and am trying to do all organic to prevent the recurrence of cancer so there are only a few places I feel comfortable eating. Then, of course, there is the expensive factor! :)

 But back to those resolutions or goals. President Thomas S. Monson said something that makes perfect sense regarding the subject:

1. When we deal in generalities, we shall never succeed.
2. When we deal in specifics, we shall rarely have a failure.
3. When performance is measured, performance improves.
4. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of performance accelerates.

So as I finally have a minute to sit down alone and think about where I want 2016 to take me and what I want/need/plan to accomplish in this new year, I need to keep those four things in mind. I promise I'll be specific, I'll devise a way to measure my success, and I'll report on progress and success in December. Guess the first thing on my list is making a new list of things to do and places to go to keep my hubby from going off the deep end until he can get back on the golf course and his daily five mile walk. Or until it is warm enough for him to go back to working in the yard and garden.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas - Come and Gone

I love Christmas! I love everything about it - the planning, the shopping for gifts for everyone in the family. What fun I would have if I had unlimited resources to buy for everyone! We watched a cute movie on the BYU Channel the other night - the Christmas Angel. We talked about how incredible it would be to go around helping people anonymously - paying for missed house payments, medical bills, helping with whatever needs they had. I'd love to play Santa Claus every day of the year.

I love the Christmas carols - the traditional songs. I don't like the crazy songs - Gramma and the reindeer, missing teeth, etc. I could play Christmas music all year. Who doesn't love the Hallelujah Chorus and Carol of the Bells and Silver Bells and the beautiful hymns we get to sing on Sunday in church!

I love setting up my nativity sets at the Creche Festival showing how different countries celebrate Christmas with their version of the nativity. Then bringing them home and decorating my house with them - book shelves, end tables, coffee table - every flat surface gets a nativity set.  I'm so grateful to my international traveling kids who bring me back beautiful depictions of the birth of the Christ child from nations across the world.

I love my blue and silver Christmas tree. There is such peace sitting in the soft glow of lights and pondering the magnificent gift our loving Father sent in his Beloved Son to live and die for us. What a miracle in our lives that is!

I love making mounds of caramel corn, then delivering it to neighbors and friends to tell them we are thinking of them at Christmas. I love receiving Christmas cards from friends scattered across the world and reliving so many fond memories of our times together. I don't even mind writing in all those cards!!

I love planning special music for sacrament meetings in December to help everyone remember the meaning of Christmas. What power there is in music to bring the Spirit to a meeting! The messages seem so much more uplifting at this time of year.

And I love the day after Christmas when all the kids and grand kids have gone home and the house is quiet once again. The chaos is over. Wrapping paper and boxes are put away for another year. Peace and order are restored. We can sit quietly and bask in the glow of loving family, a loving Father in Heaven and our Savior who makes all this happiness possible.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Finding the Joy in Christmas

This time of year I find myself reflecting on the events leading up to the birth of our Savior. I read passages from the New Testament that share what transpired. I marvel at the great faith that Mary and Joseph exhibited. In my mind I picture the shepherds and their reaction to the appearance of an angel who told them about the birth of Jesus Christ. Their initial reaction was fear, which gradually transformed to great joy as they sought out the tiny Christ Child.

Wise men faithfully watched for a predicted sign, and then led by the Spirit and a marvelous star, they journeyed to bring gifts and to show their devotion to their Savior.

As I reread about these sacred events, I ponder how I would have reacted. Would I have had the courage and faith to be with the shepherds and wisemen, or would I have blocked my heart to the spirit of the time? Would I have rationalized away the great miracle and gone on with my daily tasks, oblivious to what was taking place?

Fast forward a "few" (okay, over 2000) years to our day. There are still shepherds and wise men among us who daily worship our Savior. They are the ones who bravely stand up for all that is right and good in this world. They are the ones who reach out to help those who are struggling or less fortunate. Through their acts of kindness they are showing their devotion to Jesus Christ. In following His example, they are reflecting a way of life that will bring true happiness and eternal joy.

So during this busy/crazy time of year when we're all rushing about preparing for the Christmas season, may we each take a moment to ponder what we're really celebrating. Reflect on the numerous ways our lives are blessed by the birth of our Elder Brother. Do those things that help us capture the true spirit of the season. Reach out to those around you who may be struggling. Offer a smile or a thoughtful word to someone who may need it. Be kinder and more patient with those who cause frustration. Keep in mind that most of us are on the same path, trying to find our way. Instead of pushing and shoving as we hurry forward, take the time to aid those whose footsteps falter. In short, the best gifts we can give to Jesus will be those that come from the heart. As we reach out to the people around us, we are reaching out to our Savior. (See Matthew 25:34-40)


Monday, November 23, 2015

Small & Simple Saves the Day

An experience came to mind recently, something I believe I’ve shared before, but I sense it’s something I need to touch on once again. Years ago, in the days following my father’s death, my husband & I helped my mother and my younger siblings pack and prepare to move. In the midst of the confusion, a plant that had been in our family for years was stashed inside of an open truck. By the time we arrived at our destination, this poor plant looked like it had been through a war. Its leaves were shredded, and it drooped horribly, but my mother didn’t have the heart to throw it away. Instead, she gave it to me, hoping I could nurse it back to health.

My husband and I lived about two hours away from where the rest of my family would be residing for a while. After we helped get everyone settled, we returned to our home with our infant son. The plant I had been given was placed in a corner and pretty much forgotten.
This plant was at least as old as I was. It had been given to my parents when I was very young. A dracaena palm tree, it tended to grow quite lush and tall. When I inherited the plant, it was shorter from a recent pruning, and in a dilapidated state compliments of the move. It resembled what I felt like on the inside of my heart.

I kept it in a distant corner, where I didn’t have to look at it very often. I watered it when I watered my other plants, but I didn’t give it any special attention. Then one day, an observant friend looked at that plant, and then at me. “Why aren’t you giving that plant a chance to access any light?” she asked. Though I had given it water, no light could shine on its leaves, the very thing that would help it thrive. It had tried to survive, but now it was dying—the leaves had yellowed, and I wasn’t sure I could save it.That’s when it dawned on me that I had been secretly hoping the reminder of my dad’s demise would fade away. I felt a bit ashamed of myself. Had I been wallowing in self-pity so much that I was neglecting things of importance? 

Struck by the symbolism of that small tree, I pulled it out of the corner and trimmed off the dead leaves. I found a new place for it in the bright sunshine and gave it the attention it required. Within a couple of weeks, it began showing new signs of life and started to flourish. Giving it the nourishment it needed gave it the strength to survive its traumatic ordeal. I was so touched by all of this that I wrote a poem about it:

It was kept in a darkened corner
Where light and warmth could not penetrate
A reminder of all that had gone before
Slowly, green faded into yellow
Then brown
At times it was pruned
But nurturing was limited
Gradually it slipped into partiality
Until one day
A chance beam of light
Dared glimmer on the withered leaves
Struggling through a forest of night
Reaching through leaves, stem, and decaying roots
It had been forgotten--this beacon from the past
Stored for a time
When strength could absorb
The offering of light
Awakening joy--pain--happiness--and sorrow
New life passing from roots to stem to leaves
Rebirth from the darkened past
Brought it forth into light
Where brown embraced yellow
Then green
Leaves reaching now beyond the rooted pain
Of mortal existence
Toward the hope of light
And truth
Green with the knowledge
Of warmer days.
Cheri J. Crane

As you may have guessed, this small tree was symbolic of the healing journey I endured following my father’s suicide. It still exists, taller now than it has been in years. It is a reminder  that despite the heartaches of this life, we can go forward and flourish, with the right nourishment. It is indeed those small and simple things that help us to endure challenging days: prayer, studying the scriptures, church and temple attendance, all of those items that nurture our spirit. When we neglect those things, we tend to wither. And currently, we live in a time when we each need to be as strong as we can possibly be as the adversary steps up his assault on all that is good. We can survive anything, as long as the gospel light shines within our hearts. It is that light that gives us the hope to face each day, knowing it will all be worth it in the end.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Review of Jennie's New Book

Julie Bellon reviewed my new book By The  River for Meridian Magazine today.  I thought I would share it with all of you:
Jennie Hansen fans have been anxiously awaiting her new release and By the River does not disappoint. Kira Paxton is a woman small of stature, but big in heart. She wants to fall in love, be independent from her smothering family, and live a full life. All of those dreams are set on a collision course, however, after she makes the grisly discovery of a young woman’s body near her running trail. 
Her screams bring Ford Kettering to the scene of the crime and from that moment on he tries to help Kira heal from her horrifying experience. She could fall in love with him, but when the young victim’s identity is released, Ford is listed as a person of interest because he was her high school teacher.  The budding relationship between Ford and Kira is a strong pull throughout the story, and readers will enjoy experiencing it with them through all the ups and downs.  Readers will also relate to Kira’s family problems as she tries to transition from the role of sheltered daughter to independent woman and the difficulties that come along with that.  When Kira’s condo is vandalized and an attempt is made on her life, she clings to independence, but also allows those around her to help keep her safe. From all appearances, Kira has become a loose end to the killer and, despite everyone’s best efforts, he is drawing closer. She will have to use all her wits to stay alive through this story that has more twists than a switchback road with hairpin turns at every corner.
By the River has all the shivers and thrills you’d expect from a Jennie Hansen suspense novel.  The reader is kept guessing until the very end who the killer is and if Kira will survive not only physically, but emotionally. Ford is a relatable character, fighting for his own innocence and for what he might have with Kira. He definitely lives up to the slogan, “Ford Tough.” The other “character” that is a standout is Jasper the dog. Jasper is a scene-stealer who will win your heart with his fondness for shoes, canals, and mischief of any kind, but who also proves dogs can be a man–or woman’s–best friend. This is a quick read because readers will not be able to put it down–and you’ll never look at running trails quite the same way again.
Jennie is an accomplished writer with over two dozen published novels to her name.  She writes in several different genres including romantic suspense, mystery, historical, and western and most of her titles can be found in LDS bookstores or on Kindle. 
By the River by Jennie Hansen published by Covenant Communications, softcover, $14.99, available on Kindle $10.49
Julie Coulter Bellon is the author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels. Julie offers writing and publishing tips as well as her take on life on her blog You can also find out about all her upcoming projects at her website

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

So Much To Be Grateful For!

At the beginning of the year in my journal I entered something that I was grateful for that day. I never had to stop and think what my blessing had been - there were usually so many that I could record several.

In September I found a lump in my breast and was immediately rush through mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds and ultimately surgery to remove the offending tumor. I was grateful I found it. I was grateful they removed it so quickly. I am grateful they were able to remove it all. I am everlastingly grateful it had not spread to my lymph nodes!

And I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers I've had. I know they have been a major blessing to me through this. I have been calm and felt peace through the whole experience and as I have decided against chemo which my oncologist recommended, (though bless his heart he did not insist!!) and also against the pill - the magic bullet that was supposed to seek out and destroy any mutated cells that could turn cancerous. I feel I can pump up my immune system and let good food and other things I'm doing take care of those nasty little maverick cells.

My prognosis was a 35% chance of recurring cancer in 5-10 years if I don't have chemo and the pill. By the same token - I have a 66% chance of not having cancer recur. I choose to continue feeling really good and improve my diet and health so keep feeling this good. My husband wanted me to have the chemo - he wanted to have me around as long as he is here. But he admitted that he would not have chemo if they found cancer in him. (Double standard here??) :) 

I'm so grateful for the information everyone is sharing as to what they have done and what works for them. I'm grateful there are many out there that believe as I do - that chemo can kill every bit as soon as cancer! And it sounds to me as if it is more painful than the cancer itself!

I'm grateful for every day that I have been given on this earth and especially for a loving supportive family. And I'm grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who hears and answers prayers. Does it get better than that??