Monday, September 29, 2014

Keeping Our Fetchies About Us


I have many favorite scriptures. So many, I've started to organize them into groups. One such group is entitled: "Cheer." This may seem like an odd title for scriptures, but to me, it makes perfect sense. There are some days when I need to be reminded that it's important to be cheerful . . . or full of cheer. This is often a difficult challenge during these lovely latter days. There are days when I feel like shouting: "There is no sunshine in my soul today!!!" That's usually when an annoying snatch of a hymn, or a snippet of a scripture, or an inspiring thought from a book I'm reading will strive to snag my attention. I'm ashamed to admit that there are days when I do my best to ignore those items. Sometimes I want to pout. I want to shake my fist at the cloud-filled sky and bask in self-pity mode.

When bad things happen, the last thing we want to be told is that we're supposed to be a good sport about it. I suspect it's part of our very human nature to desire a moment to throw ourselves, burst into tears, or smack someone who has truly upset/annoyed/traumatized us. That's when I do my best to walk away for a brief time-out and I try to get my "fetchies" back about me. (It's a family saying. It's important to not lose one's fetchies.) I've learned, that for me, it often takes a combination of things to help me sort everything out and get back on track. A brisk walk in the fresh air, having a water moment (I'm a water person--sitting beside a gurgling brook, or an inspiring waterfall, a gorgeous lake, etc. soothes my spirit) or losing myself in a good, inspiring book, reading through a handful of my favorite scriptures, etc.

This past weekend, a plethora of bad things hit the fan all at the same time. We did our best to survive the adventures, but I think by Sunday, we were sitting in a bit of shock, doing our best to keep our fetchies about us. Fortunately for me, I had been battening down my hatches without fully realizing that's what I was doing. I had felt impressed to pick up a certain book and begin reading it before the adventures started. The title, ironically, was: "If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard," by one of my favorite authors, Sheri Dew. I had actually read this thought from the pages of that book moments before a phone call that shared some rather bad news: "God never bestows upon His people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them." (Brigham Young; Journal of Discourses, 3:206)

After Sister Dew shared that thought, she mentioned that it would've been easy for the handcart pioneers to have turned back when things became a bit dicey--but they didn't. In her words: "They didn't turn back. And neither can we."

Shortly after reading that passage in Sister Dew's book, and after doing my best to absorb the news that had been shared via the phone, a knock sounded at my door, sharing further bad news. Later, as I sat in a bit of dazed shock . . . my fetchies all a flutter, I turned to a favorite scripture, one of those I keep filed away under the heading, Cheer: "Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord an with you, and will stand by you . . ." (D. & C. 68:6)


Taking comfort in that thought, I then rolled up my sleeves and did what I often do when tragic moments arrive and I'm not sure what to do to help . . . I bake. I made brownie cookies to share with loved ones who were having an extremely bad day.

That task kept me distracted for a while, but I'll admit, my fetchies were threatening to bounce off the deep end again later that night. So I watched the talks from the General Women's Conference . . . and it helped me rein things in again.

It seems to me that when challenging times descend, we are never left alone to wade through the deep waters of despair and grief. We are given tender mercies that help ease us through--even if we don't realize it at the time. Looking back, we can always see a pattern of help that emerged quietly--there to soothe us if we so choose. "In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief . . ." is extremely true. (Hymn # 142, Sweet Hour of Prayer). I've experienced this process too many times to doubt that it happens. There are no coincidences. We are prepared, helped, and comforted when we need it the most. All we have to do is to push away the human tendency to lose our fetchies, and humbly accept our Father's loving embrace. It comes in a variety of ways--those I've already listed, and others I haven't touched upon. Since we're all quite unique, how we experience spiritual solace varies. And, as with anything important, the adversary is right there to do his best to scatter our fetchies. It becomes quite a task to block his negativity, and to cling to the positive light that can shine in our lives if we so choose.

Wherefore, we should be of good cheer . . . and not full of fear . . . for our Savior is near . . . to restate the scripture I shared a moment ago. This needs to be our mantra during these crazy latter days. We never know what lies in store, but we can rest assured we will always have the help we need to survive it.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Blatant Advertising


Come see me and forty or so other authors this coming Saturday between one and five in the afternoon at the West Jordan Library, 8030 South 1825 West.  We'll be in the Viridian Event Center.  I don't have a new book out, but I do have a short story in Christmas Treasures, Covenant's newest compilation of short, true Christmas stories by a dozen different authors.  Deseret Book and King's English will be there with copies of many of my books for sale along with those of the other authors. I'd love to meet readers who have checked out my books or borrowed them from friends over the years as well as those who have purchased them. 

This will be a new experience for me since it will be the first time (I hope not the last) that my daughter Janice Sperry and I have been invited to sign our books at the same event. I'm also looking forward to seeing many of my fellow local authors. 

Here's a list of most of the authors who will be there: 

Ken Baker
 
Laura Bastian                                  

Anne Bowen

Mikey Brooks

DJ Butler

Juli Caldwell

Stacy Lynn Carroll

Cindy Christiansen

Jaleta Clegg

Angela Corbett

Kristyn Crow                              

Julie Daines

Kristyn Decker

Peggy Eddleman

Bonnie Glee

Josh Hanagarne

Ka Hancock

Jennie Hansen

Cindy Hogan

Marion Jensen

JR Johanssen

Kim Justeson

Fay Klingler

Alysia S. Knight

Wendy Knight

Caren Liebelt

Dene Low

Lisa Mangum

Carol Masheter

Shallee McArthur

Mark Minson

Andrea Pearson

Bobbie Pyron

Jess Smiley

Janice Sperry

Joy Spraycar

Carolyn Steele

Sherry Taylor

Jaclyn Weist

Robison Wells

David West

Martha Sears West

Lance Why

Camron Wright

Michael Young

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


I read that book when I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade and truly enjoyed it. The title attracted me, since I had endured several such days myself. I find it interesting that a movie is now surfacing based loosely on this small book. I will more than likely go see it, to compare notes, and to see how closely the script follows the storyline. ;)

That being said, I suffered through one of those horrible types of days last week. It was not my idea of a fun time. At all. When I woke up, my first hint that it would be a less-than-fun type of day surfaced. I did not feel well. But since this sometimes happens because of my interesting body (as some of you know, I an a Type 1 diabetic, blessed with a form of rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. yay.) On the day in question, I chose to ignore the signs that all was not as it should have been, and continued with the plans we had made to journey to Logan and attend a temple session in that location.

There were moments that indicated this was not a good idea, but I ignored them, thinking I would eventually start feeling like a person. After all, that's part of my life a good deal of the time. I wake up feeling like the last chapter, start moving around, soak in the tub, stuff like that . . . and "ta da," I begin feeling better. I've learned that with the type of RA that I endure, I'm better off to hit the ground moving, and the sore joints loosen up. Soaking in a warm bath helps with that process.

My first clue that things were amiss on the day in question should have been the fact that as time went on, I felt worse, not better. The "ta da" factor didn't kick in. This was a bad sign.The nausea I woke up with continued, and I pondered the reason why it didn't go away. Arthritis pain can inspire such moments, as can bouncing blood sugar levels. Etc. Plus, I was planning to hit a temple session with my husband. I've learned that oftentimes, obstacles will surface to challenge me along the way. I usually persevere and eventually, things fall into place and I get along just fine. Except for this day. This day was going to be the exception to that rule.

It turned out to be the worst session that I've ever suffered through. (Emphasis on "ever!!!") I knew I was pathetically sick by the time we reached Logan. Still, I was determined to go through with our plans for the day, since I felt it was important. So I took something for nausea and prayed for help, figuring I had covered my bases. WRONG!!!

About 15 minutes into the session, I quickly caught on that I was less than well and this had not been a good idea. (Sigh . . . I know . . . sometimes it takes me a while to put things together. I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer that day.)

As I sat there in total misery, the followed thoughts dawned on me:

1) I think I'm really sick.
2) Kennon claimed to have some type of food poisoning the night before--after we had consumed food from a local eatery . . . and I ate something similar. Totally uncool.
3) There was a nasty stomach bug going around . . . hmmmmm.

Regardless of the cause, I knew I was in trouble and had finally caught on that things weren't getting better--in fact the discomfort was growing worse.

Have you ever noticed that when you aren't feeling up to par, time slows down? A lot? That session proved to be the longest 2 hours of my life (at least it seemed like it.) I pondered my options, but they seemed rather limited. I didn't want to draw attention to myself, but wasn't sure my body understood that concept.

I found it difficult to concentrate, and broke out in a cold sweat as I did my best to survive that difficult time. Prayers for help were repeated silently as the discomfort I was experiencing grew worse. A scripture popped into my mind, one of my favorites that I had actually turned to earlier in the chapel, before the session began:

"My (daughter), peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; . . . thou are not yet as Job . . ."
(D. & C. 121:7-8; 10)

Actually, during that miserable moment, I felt a sort of kinship with Job. I felt certain he would have expressed empathy for what I was suffering that day. ;)

Then again, I realized that my temporary discomfort did not hold a candle to what Job, or Joseph Smith suffered long ago. That scripture did quite a bit to snap me out of self pity mode, and I continued to suffer in silence through that session until it was finally over and we could  head home.

Later, as I lay on the couch in our living room and did my best not to die, I realized that despite everything, I really had been watched over that day. It could have been a lot worse. And even though I suffered a bit for about 3 days (we're thinking it was a nasty flu bug) I did eventually recover and continue on.

I believe we each experience terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Days of discomfort, grief, and pain. Those are indeed the times we are convinced that no one has ever suffered as we have. Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize that despite everything, there is One who does understand how we're feeling. Our Elder Brother experienced everything any of us would go through-- during His time in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is impossible for us to envision or comprehend how excruciating that challenge was for our Savior as He paid the price for our mistakes, and endured every pain we would ever suffer. He truly knows our hearts and He know how to help us through when we are wading through our own painful trials.

So when those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days surface (and they will . . . it's part of this probationary time) remember that despite everything, we're never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Cling to the glimmer of hope offered to us by our Savior during our darkest moments. With His help, we will survive--and better days will come.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

STOP


Don't you hate it when you're reading and something happens to grind the story to a halt?  I don't mean those annoying phone calls, household interruptions, or any kind of external demand that has the reader reluctantly setting the book down. The stop I'm referring to is something in the book that diverts the reader's attention from the story. 

The most common stops these days are caused by poor or no copy editing.  Self published books  have a bad reputation for spelling, grammar, and other assorted copy errors, but they're not alone.  Most of us can skim over an occasional such error, but more than a few and the spell  is broken, the story loses its luster.  Concentration is broken. 

The success of a book is measured to a great extent by how well it can maintain an illusory world, an alternate reality for the reader. When the illusion is broken and the reader's attention is diverted to something else the story becomes less satisfactory.

Typos and writing errors are not the only stops that diminish the reading experience.  Poor research is a killer.  Facts concerning history or geography matter.  I recently read a book that placed a particular group of buildings I happen to know well, in the wrong town.  

Lately there seems to be a competition to see who can invent the most weird names for their characters.  That's fine if the names are pronounceable, but if they're just cutesy versions of better known names, or words I have to stumble over each time they appear in print, there goes the alternate reality while I stumble over how to pronounce the jumble of letters. It's understandable that writers want to give their characters distinctive names, but there's a difference between distinctive and mumbo jumbo. 

While we're reading through our manuscripts for a final check before submission, it would be wise to check for stops.  If beta readers have to ask how to pronounce a name, it's the wrong name.  Beta readers should make note of anything that causes their minds to wander or distracts from the flow of the story.  It's important to keep errors to a minimum, but it's also important to just plain eliminate those annoyances that bring our stories to a crashing halt.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Totally random off-the-wall thoughts!

 - I love opening the windows and screened doors in the predawn coolness and letting that lovely cool air seep into the house before I have to shut out the hot sun a few hours later. I'm sitting at my computer checking my e-mail first thing this morning and there is a strange noise outside - coming from all the windows! I raced to the patio door where the noise seems the most concentrated - it is raining! The rain splattering on our solar cover on the pool is making a terrific noise! Sad to say, we get so little rain I didn't recognize that unusual sound. Now the air smells wonderful! Is there anything better than rain in the desert!

 - I received a summons for jury service. I registered on line, then took the juror's orientation on line, so when I checked after 5:00 p.m. to see what my schedule would be for this week, I don't have to go in today. I'll check again tonight to see about tomorrow. This entails getting substitutes at the Family History Center and finding someone to take my blind friend to her doctor's appointment if I need to report in tomorrow. But the process today is so much easier than it used to be when you had to sit at the telephone for an hour trying to get through to the proper person who could tell you if you reported in or not. Or just going to the court house and sitting in the jury room until you were called or dismissed. Love today's technology!

The last time I was called to jury duty, the case was about a security guard catching a shoplifter in the act of stealing electronics. They asked if I could take the word of the defendant over the word of the security guard. I said no. I had many friends who were police who had been trained to observe and I believed their powers of observation were better than most. If the security guard saw this man steal and conceal, I would believe him over someone who was a habitual criminal. (He had just been released from jail a few weeks previous for stealing.) I was, of course, promptly dismissed. Understandable! :)  The time before that, when they learned that I had been a legal secretary, I was immediately dismissed. 

My husband just finished his tour of jury duty. He got seated on the jury, but when the defense attorney questioned him about his background and discovered he was a former career military officer and aerospace engineer, he thanked him very much for coming in and dismissed him. Apparently they don't want conservatives on their jury.

 - I'm worried about our lack of border security. Thousands are pouring across our borders, overwhelming our schools and medical systems - not just here in California. They are being shipped all across the nation! But the gang members - and who knows who else coming - are a real threat. I'm angry at the administration for inviting/condoning/not stopping this! What will it take to make them see these "potential voters" are a grave danger to our country! Probably a terrorist bombing in a very public place that kills or injures thousands. What a sorry situation! What a sorry administraton!

The one bright spot in today's world is the gospel of Jesus Christ! It is the only thing that can calm my fears of what is happening in America and the world. Thank heaven for our Savior and the plan of salvation! At least I can have a measure of peace in my little corner of the world when everything else is going crazy, mad, and falling apart!

Monday, September 1, 2014

When Dark Clouds of Trouble Hang O'er Us




We’ve endured some fairly impressive storms the past couple of weeks. Before one arrived, I received an alert on my cell phone, compliments of a so-called “app” on my Droid. It hinted that a doozy of a storm was due to arrive shortly. So we did all we could do to batten down the hatches. The garbage container was wheeled into the garage because of the high wind advisory. Windows were shut in the house, and in our vehicles, like the truck and the camper, which were outside. We also warned family members, neighbors, and friends that things were possibly going to get ugly. We figured we had done the best we could to prepare, and then the skies grew dark. Beyond dark. Scary dark in the middle of the afternoon. This led us to believe that perhaps we were in for the tornado that had been predicted, a rare event in our area. 

Not long after that, it began to rain, in what looked like sheets of water. The temperature dropped, and it began to hail. It wasn’t a light hail, like we normally see—it was a powerful hailstorm of epic proportions. Plants were shredded, as hailstones the size of a dime fell from the sky in a massive quantity. Crops were destroyed in this farming community. Animals panicked. Our poor little cat was traumatized. She loudly cried for comfort and reassurance that all would eventually be well.

 It fell to me to convince her to come out of her hiding place under the porch in our garage. This took some intense coaxing, but finally, she came out and practically flew into my arms for safety. It was all I could do to convince her that she would survive, and that despite what she believed, the world had not come to an end.

I suspect that is part of the challenge of our day. Many storms will come into our lives, some of epic proportions. There will be moments when we’ll fearfully wonder if we will survive, especially when the days are dark, and full of scary events. We may hide, certain of our impending doom, as the adversary does his best to convince us that all is lost. It will take a lot of faith to trust in our Savior, to come forward as He coaxes us out of our hiding places and into His safe arms as He helps us weather the storm. He knows our hearts and how best to help us heal from the destruction that may surface in our lives. He will walk beside us until we are strong enough to walk on our own, and He will lend us hope when we are certain there is none to be found. 

He will expect us to prepare as best we can to face the challenges that will come. That is something we’ve been warned about from those who are called to alert us to the dangers that may lie ahead. It is up to us to take the suggested precautions, and to do all we can to help others along the way. Together, we can weather the crazy days ahead, relying on the One who can bring light in the midst of any storm.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

SUMMER FOOD


 
Like most people, I like to eat and fresh garden produce is surely some of the best eating ever. Our garden space isn't very big and we supplement it with wooden barrels.  Between the two, we've enjoyed potatoes, beets, chard, carrots, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, rhubarb, chives, strawberries, and peaches this summer. Some items have done better than others; a hill of potatoes produces enough to feed us for three days while the strawberries could be counted on my fingers---and the birds got most of them. 

There were no nearby grocery stores carrying fresh produce where I grew up so I looked forward each summer to the goodness grown in my mother's garden.  They were a much appreciated respite from bottled or canned fruits and vegetables.  Fresh produce is readily available now all year long, but I'm convinced the store bought versions aren't as good as those picked from my garden. They certainly aren't as fresh. 

Each year I feel sad when summer begins to draw to a close since that means the end of our garden.  Already the potatoes are down to two hills, I picked the last of the peaches this morning, and the beets and carrots are getting a little sparse. During the cold, rainy spell we've had the tomatoes stopped ripening, but I expect with a break in the rain we'll have enough for us and our neighbors again soon.  The zucchini hasn't done as well this year as other years, but I've had enough for some of my favorite recipes.  I'll include two of my favorite gluten free zucchini recipes for those like my husband who has Celiac. (For those who don't do gluten free cooking, use regular flour and leave out the Xanthan gum). 

Gluten Free Zucchini Cake 

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups grated zucchini
3/4 cup potato starch
3/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup all purpose gluten free flour (May substitute
all purpose gluten free flour for both starches as well.  I prefer the King Arthur brand.)
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup raisins (May omit)
Cream Cheese Frosting  (Use Pillsbury cream cheese frosting if lactose intolerant)
1/2 cup chopped nuts 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray pan:  15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1 (jelly roll) or 13 x 9 x 2
Beat eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce, and zucchini.  Stir in dry ingredients. Mix in raisin.  Pour batter into pan.  Bake until light brown, 25 to 30 minutes. May take a few minutes more for 13 x 9 size pan. Cool frost with cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle with nuts.
 

Zucchini Brownies 

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup sugar or Splenda
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups gluten free flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups zucchini 

Nuts, raisins, or chocolate chips may be added to taste.  Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.  Ice with favorite fudge icing.  (Pillsbury chocolate fudge is lactose free.)