Thursday, April 30, 2009

Betsy Brannon Green continues the 'Mountain' Theme - Climbing Mountains - Fording Streams - Following Rainbows toward my Dream

I had the opportunity to drive Emily across the country to Idaho so she would have a car while beginning her college experience. I dreaded the thought of driving that far (again), but looked forward to spending some quality time with her. And we had quite an adventure. We were supposed to leave on Thurs (April 16 - Emily's 18th birthday), but then I got the idea we could leave on Weds afternoon right when I got out of school and at least make it to St. Louis. So that's what we did. We had a good drive on Weds afternoon and made good time all the way to St. Louis and even drove on about an hour or so to Columbia, MO. We stayed at a dumpy Motel 6 but it was cheap and we weren't there long so it was okay. Since we were relatively 'fresh' and since I had a gray stripe down the middle of my head, I made use of the hotel's bathroom to color my hair. The plan was to get up early on Thurs and drive to at least Evanston, WY and if we felt like it-- push on another hour to Ogden and spend the night there. Laura and Josh were leaving Salt Lake on Friday morning (heading back to Rexburg where they hope to be in permanent residence), so if we made it to Ogden we could just wait for them in our hotel room and then follow them to Rexburg.

So we got up early on Thurs and drove and drove and drove and were doing really well until we got to Cheyenne, WY and then it started snowing. It was big huge wet flakes and they weren't really sticking to the road but they got clogged on the windshield wipers so they didn't work right and I couldn't see (besides the fact that the clouds were down really low like fog and trucks were going extremely slow so I had to watch real close to be sure nothing was in the road in front of me). We drove on like that until Laramie and finally the snow was collecting on the road in a kind of dirty slush. It was still wet but there was enough of it to be slick. Then we went over a mountain and saw that on the other side of the interstate hundreds of cars were trapped trying to go up the mountain we'd just come down. Two trucks were stuck at the top and couldn't go on. Visibility was terrible and even though it was only 5:00 in the evening and we had planned to drive for HOURS still, I was afraid to go any further for fear we'd get stranded on the road. So I got off the interstate and we checked into another dumpy Motel 6 - this time in Laramie. And then we got snowed in. There was at least 8 inches of snow on the car the next morning. On the weather they said some areas got 4 FEET.

Of course I didn't have any real shoes with me - since I'm from Alabama and down here April means SPRING - so I went outside with towels tied around my feet covered with Walmart sacks. Emily and I each had half of the pizza box from our dinner on Thurs night and scraped the car while standing in snow up to our knees. A plow came through and got the roads pretty much clear so we went and checked out the road conditions while filling up with gas. The roads weren't great - lots of the brown slush, but they were passable. So we went back to the motel and were packing up to go when it occurred to me that I'd better make sure the interstate was open. It wasn't. We were stuck there. We sat around all morning miserable and not knowing when we were going to get out (they said on TV that it might be Sunday).

It kept getting clearer - no sun but brighter - and the little bit of snow still on the car melted and we got hopeful. We could stay in our room until 12:00 and then we were going to have to pay for another night. So at 11:30 I called the Laramie police and asked if they knew when the interstate was opening. They said not at all that day. So I paid for another night at the dumpy Motel 6. At about 2:45 Emily checked the Wyoming Road Department Website and it said I-80 was open. We immediately threw our stuff in the car and checked out. They wouldn't give me even a partial refund but said if I-80 wasn't really open we could come back. We got up on the interstate and the lights were still flashing saying it was closed but a few other cars were on it so we went. And we made it all the way to Pocatello before we got too tired. We drove in to Rexburg on Saturday morning (instead of Friday like we'd planned). We were NOT traveling with Laura and Josh and Harrison (they went on without us on Friday) and we were afraid that all the BYU-I offices would be closed. But that was not the case. We were able to do everything on Saturday that we would have been able to on Friday except get Emily a bank account - which she handled on her own after I left (at 3:30 am on Monday - that's when I left - not when she got her bank account!!!)

Anyway, I'm sure you're wondering how the Mountain Climbing title figures in to the is post...

While Emily and I were driving we listened to the Sound of Music soundtrack about a hundred times and the song Climb Every Mountain became particularly meaningful to me. I've always liked it - but while driving across the country (in adverse conditions) and with a son in Ethiopia (Heaven help me) and a daughter about to get married (that Heaven help me thing) and 4 little grandchildren (so far) who have to grow up in this evil world and two more sons at home to raise - it's easy to get overwhelmed and tempting to say 'it's too much - I can't do it'. But the words of that song - talking about how in order to reach your dream you have to give all you have - all the love you've got - for your whole life - rang true to me. I started out my married life nearly 30 years ago with a dream to have a large family and to raise them to be productive, happy, tax-paying, God-fearing people. I was blessed with 8 beautiful children and if I achieve my greatest dream - I will spend eternity with them and my husband. Many times during this life process I've reached roadblocks or deadends or snowstorms which have required an adjustment in course. But to quote (sort of) Maria from the movie, When God closes a door, He opens a window. So when the path was blocked, I've had to climb what seemed like mountains and ford hypothetical streams and follow figurative rainbows - working toward that goal of eternal togetherness. It's been a lot of hard work and I know I have more work ahead of me. As the song says if I want to reach my dream I'll have to work 'every day of my life for as long as I live'.

So now when I get discouraged or overwhelmed or just tired I hum a few bars of that song and press forward. Maybe something good did come of all that driving in the snow...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The View from the Top is Worth the Climb by Michele Ashman Bell

Several years ago I was driving North on I-15 toward downtown Salt Lake City. Traffic was heavy and I was paying close attention to the road ahead of me but happened to glance over as I passed a billboard with a man's picture on it. He looked like he was sitting on top of a mountain. I happened to catch two words before I looked forward again. The first was Everest, and the second was blind. Those two words didn't seem to go together, but I was certain that's what the billboard said. That evening, when I returned home, I went to my computer. I hadn't been able to forget about the billboard. I Googled the words blind and Everest and what came up was a story that changed my life.
Erik Weihenmayer lost his vision when he was 13 years old. Consequently he had to relearn how to do everything. His father suggested he enroll in a class that taught wall climbing. Bravely, Erik took the class and discovered that not only was he good at climbing, but it provided him with a feeling of accomplishment and freedom. His fingers became his eyes and as he felt his way to the top he felt he was connecting the dots. This led to bigger and harder climbs until he became an expert climber. Still, imagine the response he got when he said he wanted to climb Mt. Everest!
Most people doubted that he could do it. Everest was hard enough to climb sighted, let alone blind! But Erik didn't let people's doubts discourage him from going for his dream. He said, "people judge me by what I can't do, instead of what I can."
Luckily he had several people who did believe in him and support this dream and Erik put together a team of climbers to help him reach this lofty, if not impossible, goal.
As the climb began, Erik used several techniques to help him up the mountain. His greatest tool though was to follow the sound of a bell, carried by the climbers in front of him, and he relied on the encouragement of the climbers behind him.
The path up Mt. Everest is strewn with giant boulders and sheer thousand foot drops. Some of the chasms were spanned by several ladders tied together, which the climbers crossed, while the ladders swayed in the wind.
Ninety percent of the climbers who attempt Everest don't make it to the summit. But Erik and his team made it to Camps Two, Three and Four.
At Camp Four, preparing to head for the summit, a storm came in that almost dashed their hopes. With the lack of oxygen and the frigid temperature, most of the climbers face masks had fogged over, at which point, all of them were climbing blind. They almost had to turn back, but then, one of the climbers was able to see a star through the clouds. They continued to push on to the South Summit, with a 10,000-foot vertical fall into Tibet on one side, and a 7,000-foot fall into Nepal on the other. South Summit is often where climbers turn back. Hillary Step, a 39-foot rock face, is the last obstacle before reaching the true summit of Everest.
Erik made the final climb up the Hillary Step and then . . . there was no where else to go. He was at the top of the world. As Erik Weihenmayer stood there, he knew he was standing there because of the determination and passion, but also because of the great support and encouragement from those who believed in him and helped him.
Many of us are facing Mt. Everests in our lives, or have even conquered a few already. Emotional mountains, spiritual mountains, and physical mountains wait in front of us, daring us to conquer them. Sometimes we feel as though we are climbing blind. It is at that point that we have to follow the guidance of the spirit and the promptings that help us along the path. We can also rely upon those who are behind us, giving us support and encouragement, loved ones and friends who want to see us reach our goals and our dreams. The path can get hard along the way, it can even seem as if it is impossible to continue. We may feel like our only choice is to turn around and quit. But, if we will stop, and look hard enough, we will see that one small star in the stormy sky and know, we can make it.
And then, when we stand on the summit and look out, we will be able to see the splendor and glory of all our hard work. We will be so glad we didn't turn around because the view from the top is worth the climb.


It’s had a hard time getting here this year, perhaps that is why I’m so conscious of every sign of Spring I see. I’m not sure we won’t still see another snow storm and we’re not safe yet from fruit-killing frost, but tulips are blooming, the trees are glorious with their blossoms and pale new leaves, the lawn is a lush green needing to be mowed, and we’re ready to plant a garden. Last week we traveled to Twin Falls and along the way we saw tractors and seeders in the fields, the smell of smoke from burning ditch banks filled the air, and long-legged marsh birds waded in ponds where fuzzy ducklings and goslings trailed their mothers. Spring---I love this season of new beginnings. I’m ready to plant something.
The summer before I turned nine, a flood made our house unlivable, so we went to live in an old house on a neighbor’s property for the summer. There were ten of us in that tiny, unpainted shack with no running water. On a fishing trip to the mountains a short time later I found a pretty little pine tree. I wanted to keep it so I dug it up and brought it home. (That’s not allowed now.) It was only about a foot high. The man who owned the farm and house where we were staying persuaded me to plant it near the house where we were living so I could water and watch over it better than back at our house which we might not ever be able to live in again. He told me something that day that has never left me. He said a person who plants a tree has greater faith than anyone else. You have to believe in tomorrow and trust in the future to bother planting a tree. That little tree became a symbol of better things to come. We moved away that fall and I’ve never been back, but I’ve heard from others that the tree flourished and grew to a huge size. Since then I’ve planted many trees. Just last year my husband and I planted a peach tree. Each spring I think of that little pine tree and all the trees and plants I’ve planted and nurtured since. I relish each new beginning and consider each a promise that tomorrow will come, something better is coming.
It’s not January first with its frosty cold calling out for hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and a warm fire to snuggle near that prompts me to make resolutions and to begin a new weight loss program. Not at all. This is the season, Spring, when I crave garden vegetables, to walk in the sun and dig in the dirt, to go places, and do things that shed pounds. Summer clothes provide a much clearer hint, too, than do winter ones, that I should stick to a diet and exercise program and I assure myself that digging grass and weeds from my flower beds, planting new flowers, and finding the right spot for zucchini and tomatoes is just as good as a workout at the gym. You can have New Years; I'll take Spring.

Spring makes me want something new to wear, to try a new hairstyle, to clean my closets, to plant seeds, and fly a kite. It lifts my spirits and makes me believe in myself. I want to write better; I want to review better; I want to be a better friend, and I want to do more with my family.

This spring seemed awfully slow getting here, but now that it has arrived it has brought so many new possibilities with it. I’m going to find some kind of vine with trailing red blossoms to plant at the top of my rock garden. I’m going to divide my perennials to help my daughter plant gardens around her new home. I think I’ll give her a tree for her birthday. I’m going to place a comfortable reading chair beneath a maple tree. I’m going to try writing on my laptop on the deck instead of in my office. I’m going to take a grandchild or two to the Jordan Parkway to feed the baby ducks. My daughters and I are going to the tulip festival at Thanksgiving Point this weekend.

The Whitney Gala Saturday night held a touch of spring for me. Awards were given to writers who have already accomplished a great deal, but the air was filled with a sense of blossoming hope and dreams for the future on the faces of so many new writers. As older friendships were renewed, new ones were formed. Resolutions were made to someday stand at the front of that room with an award in hand. Though I didn’t receive an award this year, I felt that I had, as so many people whose work I have reviewed introduced themselves to me and expressed appreciation for the reviews I’d given them. It made me feel the way I felt when someone told
me how big and beautiful my little pine tree had grown.

It’s Spring! The planting season is here. It’s time to plant a garden, nourish a child, bring to life a dream. It’s a time to hope, to believe, and to start anew.

Monday, April 27, 2009

THE Teen Writers' Conference

Hey all- the following is an interview with Josi Kilpack, THE Teen Writers' Conference chair. I'm honored to be on the committee with her and am looking forward to this conference. It's going to be great, and if you know any kids aged 13-19, please pass the info along!!

NANCY: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Josi.

JOSI: I’m a mother of four, ages 15-7, and an author of 9 novels, with a tenth coming out in August. I have been a member of multiple writing groups, large and small, and a committee member and former conference chair for numerous writer’s conferences. In addition, I’m a frequent presenter to schools and groups, a fabulous cook (if I do say so myself) and amateur chicken farmer.

NANCY: You are the conference chairperson for an upcoming writers' conference for kids. Please tell us about the purpose of the conference.

JOSI: Several of the committee members and myself have been involved with putting together writing conferences for several years. We started small and have grown until our most recent conference had well over 250 attendants. Over the years we have had some teenagers attend our conference, and while they have enjoyed the experience, it seems to also be a bit overwhelming to walk into a two day, morning to night information-fest. So, we began discussing the idea of having a conference where the format, classes, and overall environment is created specifically to give kids, ages 13-19, the best overall introduction to writing conferences as well as instruction that will be most helpful to where they are now on their journey of being a writer. From there we started throwing out ideas and it really just rolled all together until we have this; THE Teen Writer’s Conference.

NANCY: What is your purpose for the conference? What do you hope the teens who come discover?

JOSI: Our hope is that the attendees will discover a lot of things, 1) that they are not the only kids that write, 2) that whatever goals or ambitions they might have in regard to becoming a writer are within reach, and 3) that it takes knowledge and time and concerted effort to accomplish those goals. Those of us on the committee, all of us being writers ourselves, have spent years honing our craft and are excited to help set these kids on that same path—perhaps earlier than we ever started.

NANCY: What kind of classes will you be offering?

JOSI: We will have classes that focus on actual elements of writing, as well as classes on book markets, the publishing process, and what they can do now to best prepare themselves for a future in writing. We have a variety of classes so as to appeal to both new and experiences writers.

NANCY: What if a teen would like to come, but is really shy? Will there be anything that will make him or her uncomfortable?

JOSI: Our entire focus and reason for putting this conference together is to create a comfortable place for young writers to come, learn, and flourish. We have been and will continue to put their comfort as our first priority because we know if they are intimidated and anxious, they will not benefit from this experience. However, we also expect them to be ready for this experience. Each youth, along with their parents, will need to determine if they are ready to be a part of this. Not all teen writers will be, and that’s okay. We hope to make this an annual event, so if this year won’t work, then perhaps by next year they will be ready.

NANCY: What is your overall goal for every youth that attends the Teen Writers' Conference?

JOSI: That they leave encouraged and inspired to do their best, to hone their craft, and to truly reach for the stars in regard to their writing and their life. We also hope they will make friends with one another and feel a sense of community among other writers their own age.

NANCY: How were you able to get such excellent editors and famous writers to attend?

JOSI: Well, in all humility I have to admit that they are my friends—my very good friends. We are like-minded people that saw a common goal and made it happen. I admire each and every person on this committee, and understand the sacrifice they each make to be a part of this. We are joined in this purpose as well as in our passion for great writing. I am blessed to rub shoulders with some of the best writers out there and the attendees get to benefit from that gift in my life.

NANCY: When is it and how do teens register?

JOSI: Registration is open for another 4 weeks. To register, attendees need to go to the website and print off the registration form. Those attendees under the age of 17 will need parental permission to attend; then they will mail the completed registration, along with payment, to the address printed on the page. They, and their parents, will receive a welcome e-mail upon receipt of their registration as well as updates as the conference gets closer. Updates will also be posted on the website.

NANCY: Finally, this conference is for 13 to 19 year olds. Why that age group?

JOSI: We discussed this issue at length, and then simply decided since it was a TEEN conference, we would make it open to TEENS only. We feel that having them among their peers will help them relax and yet be willing to ask questions, meet other kids, and focus on the instruction we’re providing. For the older attendees, this will likely be a kind of introduction to adult-focused writer’s conferences, showing them what to expect and how the typical conference is organized. For the younger attendees, we hope they will come back year after year and continue learning about what they can do in the future.

NANCY: Any other information you'd like to share?

JOSI: We’ve had some parents express concern in regard to leaving their children at the conference without them. Again, this conference isn’t right for all teens, or all parents, but we do ask that parents consider the value of letting their children experience the independent nature of this conference. As a committee, we are dedicated to their safety and comfort; they will come to no harm while attending. And while we ask that parents stay clear of the conference rooms, there are many places on campus that are great for reading or getting some other work done if they worry about going too far away. We will also allow attendees to keep cell-phones on silent throughout the conference so that parents are only a phone call away. For those attendees without cell-phones, they are welcome to use a committee member's phone at any time.

NANCY: Where can people go to find more information, and especially to learn about the writing contest made available just for those who attend?

JOSI: has all the details of the conference, contest, venue, etc. If something is not answered, there are e-mail links that will send you to us so we can give you the details you are looking for.

**And a final note from me- this is going to be so fun. What I wouldn't have given to have had something like this when I was a kid! I'm looking forward to it and am pleased to be teaching a class, myself!

Questions or comments? Check out the website or feel free to email me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Hardest Work

About three months ago my oldest brother, S., asked if he could come live with me. He and his wife had been living in Denver but after almost a year of being out of work, he was about to lose his house. Since his wife's children lived in Utah, they decided to come even without a job.

About the time S. moved in, I too lost my job but at least I would have some unemployment benefits (my brother's were long gone) and I worked a few part-time jobs. I’d also gone through a period of unemployment a few years back, which had had a relatively happy ending, at least temporarily. So my load isn’t as heavy as my brother’s.

What makes his situation even more difficult is that his wife, who has massive and expensive medical problems, is living with her children (who couldn't take the family pets, which is why my brother is with me). She also thinks about his job situation more in terms of her own comfort, or lack of it, which means she’s more inclined to say “you’ve got to get a job, you’ve got to get a job” instead of offering any emotional support or empathy. And while they no longer have a house payment, the medical bills are nonstop.

Right about now in the story people who hear this start offering advice: have you applied for Medicaid, have you tried this or how about that? And the answer is usually yes, we have and this is what's happening and why. (Sadly, Medicaid is based on last year’s income so if you’re not employed this year, you’re out of luck until next year.) There are some great programs for prescription drugs, also, for situations like this; unfortunately, they don't cover all drugs.

People also have lots of advice about what to do in looking for work, how to be more aggressive in one's jobsearch or have fewer expectations in terms of the kind of work and the rate of pay. True, something is better than nothing in most cases ($8 an hour vs. $0 an hour) and I speak from my own experience. A few years ago my teaching schedule went from almost full-time to barely 10 hours a week, so I took a job that paid about a third of what I was used to. But by then I was just glad to know I had some kind of income to anticipate--for groceries, gas, anything, even if it wasn't enough to pay all the bills.

Many people will relate to this and know the frustration of having a loved one go through something like what my brother is going through. How can you help when you can’t give someone what he or she needs most—a job that will pay the bills and give benefits and a place to go everyday and do something needed? And even if you could help financially, that's only part of the problem and solution.

Just yesterday I read a phrase about unemployment: The hardest work is being out of work. The need and desire are there, but it’s not a situation where we have much control over the end result. And while we have some control over the day-to-day details of the jobsearch, it takes enormous strength to keep looking and trying when there’s nothing to feed the hope.

So this is just a thought on behalf of my brother and others like him who are doing everything they can. A job loss is like other losses, including death. It may be that the best thing we can do for people won't be to offer suggestions or advice or platitudes. They may have tried, and may be trying, everything we think they should do. I don’t have many suggestions for my brother either. But I can ask how he is. I can listen. And bring home chocolate chip cookies to eat while we watch “House.” (Now there’s a guy with problems!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

These are the Times That Try Men's Souls

There was a political cartoon in the newspaper the other day that was right on. A man reading a paper said, "I feel like I'm back in the 1770's with all these headlines of pirates and tea parties." And speaking of tea parties, when your elected officials are on a run-away course to establish Socialism in government and the national media are blazing liberals and mock anyone who differs from their viewpoint, what are we conservatives to do? Stage a tea party!

I mailed tea bags to the White House, as well as an empty red envelope with a message about a life being snuffed out by abortion, preventing that person from developing into a responsible, productive person. I give funds to support Proposition 8 in California. I vote in every election for officials who share my conservative point of view and support a Republic form of government with moral Christian principles instead of the big government that takes everything from productive people to give to those who refuse to work. And I pray continually over our country and those that defend it.

I do all I can think of to do, and it's not enough. It's so frustrating to know that the good things we try to do are mocked by a liberal press. Good, honest, hardworking Christians are called right wing extremists and labeled as dangerous by our Homeland Security leaders. Our returning military heroes are likewise labeled. What is wrong with this picture??

I feel so frustrated I'd like to buy a little place on the top of a mountain and raise all my own food and not have to deal with these crazy people anymore. Our illustrious California leaders scream that we must protect our earth, and they shut of the water to the Central Valley which raises 80% of all the food consumed in California - to protect a little Delta Smelt fish. So the people who raise the food will go hungry, or pay exorbitant prices, as well as the rest of the people in California. Does that make sense? Have they never heard of fish hatcheries?

They cry about using clean energy - yet refuse to allow wind farms and solar energy in the Mojave Desert because they must protect the desert tortoise and the pristine nature of the desert. It's a desert, for crying out loud! And there hundreds of millions of acres of desolate, barren land out there that are good for nothing BUT wind and solar farms. It's enough to make you bat your head against the wall. How do we elect such narrow-minded people? What will they end up doing to our world?

We had stake conference last weekend. It was a marvelously spiritual weekend, beginning with a chapel session at the temple on Friday night where a member of the temple presidency spoke. A visiting member of the Seventy was the main speaker Saturday night and Sunday. Wonderful messages of hope and uplift from everyone who participated - and the talks all had a similar theme: Keep the commandments. Go to the temple. Give service. Forget yourself and serve wherever you can.

One member of our stake presidency who is a real sports nut said he devised a motto to keep him on track - he used the well-known ESPN to remind him of what he needed to do every day: Exercise, Study the Scriptures, Pray, Not do anything Naughty. ESPN. Then a couple of years later, he updated it. Exaltation, Priesthood, Spirit, Nice things - charitable service. He said if he thought of those things every day as his goals and aids toward them, he had no trouble keeping out of the world.

I guess that's the key to survival in this insane world today. Distance ourselves as much as possible from the madness by immersion in temple attendance, scripture study, prayer, our callings, service to our families and fellow man, and seeking to have the Spirit constantly. Then I believe we'll be guided to do whatever small things we can to improve life in our tiny sphere of influence.

As we were told repeatedly during conference: the temple is a place of refuge from the storms of life and we can be renewed while we are doing service for those who can't do it for themselves. There are certainly storms raging around us - political and otherwise. So I'll see you at the temple! It's the best way to ease the frustrations of today's headlines! And yes, I'll join you at the next tea party in July!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Let Me Onto That Boat!

by Gale Sears

Yep, I admit it. I was one of those kooks who attended a Tea Party on tax day. Yep. Me and about three hundred other kooks stood out in a snowstorm at the Federal Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, and caused a ruckus. Whoa boy! Look out! We carried posters that said hateful things like, “KEEP THE CHANGE” and “COMMON SENSE NOT NONSENSE!” We got silly and teary eyed when a young man sang our National Anthem, and when a returning Iraqi soldier spoke about the precious gift of freedom, we were unabashedly emotional. Now the way the main stream media was talking you’d think if there’d been some tea around, we mad right-wing protesters would have chucked it in the harbor.

We cheered for speakers who spoke about the courage and insight of our founding fathers, and the idea that we, as lucky citizens of this country, should have ideals, a work ethic, and faith in God. This band of weirdoes even had the audacity to believe that “we the people” should take care of our own problems and not rely on Big Government for unnecessary entitlements.

And at the end of the rally when we sang together, “I’m Proud to be an American”, we felt like patriots. We felt like we had a voice. Freedom of speech, now that’s quite a radical concept, isn’t it? Yep, kooks with radical ideas—just like old Ben Franklin, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry. Actually, I’d hang out with them any day.

I believe there’s another Tea Party on July 4th. Want to join me?


I remember as a little girl hearing a song my sister used to play on an old 45 record called “Time Good, Time Bad” I may be wrong but it seems like it was Bobby Goldsboro that sang it. For the life of me, I couldn’t find it anywhere while searching for the title, lyrics, or artist.

However, if memory serves, the song had a great message.

It talks about how Time can be good or time can be bad depending on how we view it.
The song tells a story of a person who one day looks out their window and sees a young child crying. The child is frustrated with time. Will it ever stop and see, or must he always be a child? Time is always passing him by and therefore, it seems he will never get to grow up.

So, the person goes out walking. They come upon an older woman who is heartbroken because of time. In her lifespan, time has done nothing but rushed by. Time turned her hair to gray and put wrinkles in a face that once was so lovely to see. Her time is coming to an end and as days rush swiftly by, time has done nothing but left her aged and worn.

Finally, the person meets up with the a man who is satisfied with Time. This man is coming to a point in life where he can look back and see what time has done for him and says, “Time, you’ve been so good to me.” Time brought him a life filled with love and experience and he wouldn’t trade a minute of his valued time.

For some reason the song comes to my mind periodically when I feel I have no time, or rather, when I feel I can’t or I simply don’t take the time, whichever the case may be.
It is said we always make time for what is most important to us. I think we certainly try. But real life sometimes even hinders our best intentions of taking the time to do what we want or what we think we should do.

I can’t help but think to myself how quickly time is flying by. There are so many things to get done. So many tasks to accomplish, that at times, it feels overwhelming and it’s hard to stop and just take a deep breath and try to slow the pace a bit.

At the end of the evening, when I come home from work, often times I will go in and kiss my son good night. Sometimes I’ll sit on the edge of his bed and watch him for a minute and play with his dog that insists on snuggling up beside him to sleep. My son is sound asleep so he doesn’t even know I am there. It’s usually in those moments that I watch my son that I realize time is moving too quickly.

My point is, there are only so many hours in a day and we can only do so much. We should take time to relax and enjoy. Sure, we all have our responsibilities and pressures. But I don’t want to look back in time with regrets because I spent my entire life, worrying and stressing, (I am a HUGE worrier and stresser, by the way so, I am really working on this) or because I didn’t take the time to enjoy the good times. We need to do those things that will make our time of value.

We only have so many hours in our lifetime, no matter how we choose to use them up. It’s my hope that we can all go to bed each night feeling that we used our hours that day, wisely. Whatever that entails. So that in the end, we can look back and realize time has been good to us.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times

by Anna Buttimore

There has never been a better time to be a writer. If you are of a creative bent, and get a particular thrill from seeing your prose "out there" for everyone to enjoy, then the web means that you can blog and twitter and comment and vent and voice your opinions and publish and pontificate in the public forum from the comfort of your own home to your heart's content.

When I started writing, if you wanted anyone outside your own circle of friends and family to read your work you had to send carefully-typed double-spaced pages of heavy manuscript to a publisher, with a suitably professional and polite letter, and then hope and pray that your genius would be recognised. In my case, the publishers generally chose to use the stamped self-addressed envelope I'd sent them rather than my masterpiece, and so I would select another publisher and go through the whole process again. I'd comfort myself with the knowledge that the editors had at least treated my manuscript with due respect. There were no dirty finger marks or coffee-cup rings on it, and the pages had been turned with great care so that there were no creases or torn edges.

Today, if you want to submit a manuscript for publication in order that the general public can benefit from your knowledge and skill, you need only attach a document to a professional and polite email. But why bother with a publisher at all? Why not just put your book on a site for digital download?

If you want to write something that millions of others will read, you can do it right now. Having spent my first thirty years of life trying to get something with my name on it in the public domain, I now do so almost every day. Today, for example, I launched my new website. (I'm quite pleased with it, so take a look - And I'm blogging. I may Twitter later, just in case six billion strangers are interested in what I had for lunch. Yes, if you love writing, there has never been a better time to be a writer. The ideas in your head are no longer condemned to stay there; you can very easily tell everyone.

Unfortunately, this is also a bad time to be a writer. Partly because the very blessing I have just spoken of can also be a curse, in that much of the writing out there is dreadful, unnecessary, and often downright wrong, if not libelous. And have you noticed how many people seem to have no real grasp of the rudiments of punctuation or spelling? And there is so much information that many people no longer feel the need to buy books. Whilst it affects fiction to a lesser degree, why would you need to buy on doing your own tiling when you can look up step-by-step instructions on Wikipedia? How many books haven't you bought because you chose to use the Internet instead?

So is this the best of times for writers, or is it the worst of times? I'd love to know what you think.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Still Love These Books!

Reading to my children is particularly fun when the book is one I enjoyed as a child. For instance, I read Robert C. O’Brien’s The Silver Crown to my son. I’ve loved this book ever since my sixth-grade teacher read it to our class. In the book, ten-year-old Ellen gets a mysterious silver crown and her life turns upside down. Her house gets blown up. Bad guys are chasing her. She wants desperately to get to safety at her Aunt Sarah’s house in Kentucky. Instead, she ends up at a creepy castle/school hidden in the woods where a magical machine created centuries ago is at work carrying out an evil plan of world domination. The machine’s minions will stop at nothing to get their hands on Ellen’s silver crown, an artifact even more powerful than the machine. Yep, Ellen’s in a pickle. It’s a gripping story, and it was fun watching my son’s interest and excitement as the story unfolded.

At the library, I was in the children’s section with my kids, and on the shelf I saw the book Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp. I was thrilled. “I love this book!” I exclaimed, thrusting it upon my daughter. She probably thought I was nuts to get so excited about a book, but I haven’t seen this book in years and didn’t realize the library stocked it. Here’s the story: eighteen-year-old Louisa Amory goes with her nine-year-old orphaned niece, Jane, to live with Jane’s grandmother for the summer. Creepy things start to happen, and it becomes apparent that the spirit of Emily, the long-dead twelve-year-old daughter of Jane’s grandmother, is determined to wreak her selfish, evil will on the living—and she’s especially interested in Jane.

I loved these books as a kid and still love them. In fact, many of my favorite books are children’s or YA books. Here are a few more favorites of mine:

The Westing Game
, by Ellen Raskin. Rich old businessman Samuel W. Westing has died—was he murdered?—and his fortune will go to whichever of his colorful cast of heirs can unravel the clues and solve the Westing Game.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Spear. Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler leaves her home in Barbados and settles in Puritan-era Connecticut. Struggling to adjust to her strange new home, Kit makes misstep after misstep. Eventually her compassion for a lonely old woman leads to her being accused of witchcraft.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L’Engle. This is the third book in the series that started with A Wrinkle in Time. I loved Wrinkle, but the third book is my favorite. Boy genius Charles Wallace joins forces with unicorn Gaudior to save the world from a madman. He travels through time in his quest to bring about the change that will save the world.

Secret Agents Four, by Donald J. Sobol. This is one of the funniest books I have ever read, the kind of book where not only is the plot fun and intriguing, but every line is a delight. Written by the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, Secret Agents Four is the tale of spy wannabe Ken Mullins and his friends, Orv, Bo, and Horseshoes. Ken’s father works for government agency Mongoose, so Ken and company create their own teenage secret spy group--VACUUM (Volunteer Agents Crusading Unsteadily Under Mongoose). Their goal: to battle the evil forces of Cobra and thwart their plot to wreak havoc on Miami.

What books did you love in childhood that you still love now?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Electrifying Moments

A few years ago when I was a little girl, there was a lot of hoopla over the space program. I remember how excited my parents were when they learned that men would eventually walk on the moon. My father, who was always eager to learn about new technology, was fascinated by the space age. He did quite a bit to encourage us to appreciate the era in which we lived. We gathered as a family, enthralled as rockets were launched into space.

This excitement made a huge impact on my overactive imagination. My mother has shared that I was always able to entertain myself, and my siblings as we grew up. I invented games for us to play, etc. The year I was almost five, I nearly met an early demise because of this vivid imagination, and the space program.

Back in days of yore, ice cream came in gallon-size cardboard containers that resembled small drums. My mother saved them to give to us to play with. Mine held toys, and variety of treasures. Then one day, soon after we had moved into a brand new brick home, I dumped everything out of one of those cardboard containers. I hauled it into the hallway onto my mother's prized and polished hardwood floor. Tipping it upside down, I pretended it was my launching pad. I stood on top of it and began a countdown.

My mother was busy fixing dinner in the kitchen and she said later that she heard my countdown, but wasn't sure what I was up to. Then she heard a disturbing noise and the lights in the house flashed. Rushing into the hall, she saw that I had jammed one of my metal barrettes into an outlet. Since our house wasn't grounded yet, I was receiving quite a bit of voltage up my arm. Fire shot out around me and effectively burned a half circle on the new hardwood floor.

Panicking, my mother raced into the kitchen, grabbed a wooden broom, and knocked me away from the outlet, saving my life. I tried to explain later on that my barrette was the key to my rocket ship, but no one seemed very amused by what I had imagined that day. All I can say is that my guardian angel was definitely on active duty that afternoon. I spent 2-3 days in bed, sick from the electrical burns I had received up that arm. But I recovered fully and I was much wiser with regard to things electrical.

Now lest you should think ill of my parents, I should stress that I was cautioned repeatedly about not sticking anything into the electrical outlets. (This was before outlet covers existed.) And I was usually an obedient child, but that day, my creative flare and excitement over the space program combined in an unruly fashion. I've never forgotten what I learned that day, and I've had a healthy respect for things electrical ever since.

This past week, we endured quite an adventure compliments of a nearby power pole. My oldest son, Kris, and I had just returned from a trip to town and we had only been home about 5 minutes when the power went out. Since it was storming in a most impressive fashion, we figured it was responsible for the power outage. Then Kris walked into our living room and glanced out the bay window. That's when we learned that the power lines that cross our front yard were beginning to sag. We raced outside and saw the following catastrophe near our home:

If you study these two pictures closely, you'll note that the top of the power pole had collapsed on top of the transformer, causing it to arc, sending flames into the air, and effectively ruining what was left of the top of that pole. We were later told that because of the moisture this storm had furnished, the rotting wood of this old pole caved in on top of itself. Good times.

This particular power pole is located in the corner of our neighbor's front yard, right beside our pasture. Because of what took place, the power lines were hanging extremely low, causing yet another danger. Unaware that he could have easily been zapped in a violent fashion, Kris darted across our yard to "rescue" his car. He parked it a short, safe distance away, then risked his life again as he crossed underneath those sagging live wires to approach our home.

We had already called for help. I had contacted the power company and my son had dialed 911 because of the fire danger. It only took both organizations about 10 minutes to respond and we were told to keep our distance while they attempted to get things under control.

A bright orange cautionary cone was placed in our driveway, underneath the sagging power lines. Then the race was on as the weather raged, the fire burned, and the power lines were rendered harmless. One power truck had responded to the initial emergency call. As time marched on, four more trucks would show up to help. Evidently this was a serious situation. I don't think I've ever seen that many power trucks arriving to fix the same problem before.

Kris and I obediently stayed inside the safety of the house, taking pictures from the windows in the living room and garage as these courageous men toiled to contain the fire, remove the damaged pole, and insert a new one.

Eventually, Kris had to leave to go to work, but since the power had been cut to the lines, he was okay to leave. Not long after that, my husband returned home from his job and he was given permission to walk across the power lines that were lying in our driveway by then.

Four hours later, the new pole was in place and all was well. My husband walked out to thank these men for their valiant efforts. They had worked in extremely cold conditions, but had stayed with it until the job was done. They are to be commended for all they did that day.

After the power came back on, things returned to normal, aside from a little glitch with a local internet tower. The power outage had fried some of the delicate parts of this tower and so we were without the internet for a little over 24 hours.

This entire adventure has made me realize how much I sometimes take for granted. When you ponder all that electricity makes possible, it becomes a new miracle all over again. Lights, heat, music, TV, computers, not to mention little things like the ability to keep food cold, or curling irons hot are all a direct result of electricity. Combine that with the ability to communicate instantaneously with people throughout the nation or world, and as my father emphasized years ago, we do indeed live during a marvelous time. There may be a lot of negative things taking place in this world, but when you truly consider all that we have been blessed with, it rather gives you an entire new slant to life during this current age. I know I for one, would not enjoy going back to the days of fire and kerosene. What think the rest of you?

Monday, April 13, 2009


President Hinckley compared life to a journey on an old time railroad car. He suggested we were going to be disappointed if we expected the whole trip to be composed of wonderful experiences and lovely scenery. He spoke of the bumps, the jarring starts and stops, cinders and soot with only an occasional breath-taking vista. He concluded with “the trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” Easter weekend turned out for me to be one of those “grand vistas,” an occasion to thank the Lord for allowing me the ride.

To begin with my younger brother and his wife came down from Idaho to spend the weekend with us. They arrived Friday and we had a good time just talking and going out to dinner together. Saturday became more involved with shopping and visiting places they wanted to see. Since it was close to one of the places we intended to go, we stopped at the IFA store and saw all the baby chicks, goslings, ducklings, turkeys, bunnies, and two kids (baby goats). I’m opposed to giving kids live animals as Easter gifts, but IFA is a farm store and most of their baby animals are headed for rural homes where they belong. Since all four of us were raised on farms, it was a fun reminder of our childhood.

After purchasing items at various far flung stores, we headed back to my home where two of my daughters and their small children met us for Easter egg coloring. The three-year-old is a little accident prone, so his mom took precautions to make certain which dyes and colors he used. Of course, he was the only one that didn’t spill anything. Three spills in a row had blue and green dye sinking into my chairs, splattering the walls, and spreading across my floor. The grandson with the yellow dye managed to contain his spill to the tray holding the various brush-on paints and glitter. My nine-year-old granddaughter who is so careful and very artistic was in tears and her white shirt splotched in blue, the egg she was holding splashed in multiple unintended colors. While I cleaned up my granddaughter and found her something dry to wear, my daughters tackled cleaning up my kitchen. They did a good job, but I suspect I’ll be finding remnants of blue paint in unexpected places for some time. By the time the eggs were finished and the mess cleaned up, it was too late for anything but hotdogs for dinner. The spilled coloring dye might be related to cinders and soot, but there was something lovely, one of those scenic vistas, in seeing the competent, non-judgmental way my daughters dealt with their children’s disasters and their concern for making certain I wasn’t the one left to shampoo my chairs or mop the floor.

Being avid Jazz fans we were looking forward to the game, but it was another disaster. It was after the game that we were treated to one of those vista moments. The lights came on at the nearly completed Oquirrh Mountain Temple and from our upstairs rooms we were able to show my brother and sister-in-law the sparkling city lights high lighted by the sight of three temples framed in one bedroom window.

One of my sons-in-law makes wonderful omelets. He volunteered to come over Sunday morning to make omelets and I prepared a German coffee cake, starting off Easter morning on a pleasant note. Sacrament meeting was one of those Easter services filled with music and messages that was so perfect it brought tears to our eyes. Even the noisiest children (and we have lots of those in our ward) were reverent and the choir was at its best which says a lot for a choir that I’m sure already ranks as one of the best in the Church, and a pair of talented thirteen-year-olds sang a beautiful duet.

On returning home all five of our children, their spouses, and our ten grandchildren arrived for dinner and an egg hunt. Being all together, sharing too much food, lots of laughter and stories, watching the older children hide the eggs, then the younger ones hunt for them put a satisfying cap on the day.

After all of our children and their families left, the four of us who remained experienced one of those tired, but peaceful times of reflection. Together over the past few years we’ve faced some of life’s painful tragedies, deaths of loved ones, serious illnesses, worries, and difficulties, but the fun moments, the nostalgic moments, the small disasters, the loving gestures, and the intense spiritual warmth of this weekend filled us with assurance that the Lord loves us and He gives us just enough experiences like this weekend to keep us searching for just such “grand vistas” and to remind us to thank Him for letting us have this ride we call life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What a beautiful world!

We just returned from a trip to Bryce and Zion Canyons with two of our daughters and their families. Eleven of us made the trip - my husband being the oldest at 71, and my new little grandson at age 12 weeks being the youngest. Trying to coordinate that many people of vastly different ages for meals and lodging was interesting, to say the least, especially with a nursing baby. Julian always decided it was time to eat just as we were about to embark on a new adventure, so sometimes we waited for 45 minutes for him to eat, and sometimes we just left mom and baby to do their thing and went to do ours.

The decision to leave them behind when we hiked down the Navajo Trail at Bryce was a good one. I took 3 1/2 year old Violet while my husband and my other daughter and her family started down the trail in head of us. We were told this was an easy to moderate hike of only a mile and a half so we didn't think anything about Violet's little legs giving out on her.

The sky was a deep blue, the rocks were incredibly red and pink and orange, interspersed with the dark green of the pines and junipers. Such an unbelievably beautiful place. The hoodoos took on personalities and everyone had fun naming the different formations. "Oh, that looks just like ...." Fill in the blank.

The trail down was fairly steep in some places, with a lot of switchbacks. Violet shied away from the muddy places at first, but then it became sort of a game - plop into the mud and see if your shoes get stuck! We slipped and slid down the shady areas where the sun hadn't yet melted the snow and ice on the trail, and took pictures of the older grandchildren climbing up into holes in the rocks for photo ops, or posing for pictures in twisted cedar trees. They took off on their own into little side canyons (really nothing more than steep crevasses) and crossed the dry creek bed on fallen trees while the slower members of our party (mainly Violet and me) stopped to look at bugs and squirrels and explore shallow caves.

It was a gloriously beautiful day and the sun became warmer as it got higher in the cloudless blue sky. By time we began the trek back up from the bottom of the canyon, I was ready to shed more than a few of my layers. We were all melting. What a change from the 18 degree temperature when we watched the sun come up that morning at Sunrise Point!

Grandpa praised Violet a couple of times, telling her she sure was a tough little hiker to keep going and keep up with the older kids (a motivation to keep her moving), but when the trail got harder and steeper and Grandpa offered to carry her on his shoulders, Violet shook her head and her long blonde curls bobbed from side to side. "I'm tough. I can do it." And she did. We stopped and rested and enjoyed the view back down the steep trail and took lots of pictures, had a drink, and then started up again. I think a couple of times, if someone had offered to carry me, I would have taken them up on it.

The next day we did the two mile hike into Zion Canyon along the Virgin River to the Temple of Sinawava. What a contrast from the day before. It was early morning and the sun hadn't yet reached into the canyon. We were freezing. But no one complained. Not one of the five grandkids who were hiking did anything more than snuggle closer when we stopped for pictures. And of course, Julian was nestled snug and warm in his little carrier and slept through the entire hike.

The whole trip was a great experience in watching how our children are teaching their children to appreciate the beautiful world God created for us. The older cousins were so helpful and watchful with their younger cousins, it was a pleasure to see. All in all, it was an unforgettable few days. A wonderful time bonding with grandchildren that no longer live close enough to see every day - or even every month - and discover how they are changing as they grow up.

My beautiful 16 year old granddaughter confided if she had to be something else, she would choose to be a yellow flower because they are so bright and cheerful and hardy, and seem to grow everywhere, even in rocky places and along the road side. My 13 year old grandson, now almost a head taller than me, enjoys my company and I love his running commentary on the world. Emily, the 9 year old, is independent and always running ahead to explore, (driving her mother crazy!) while Heather, my six year old granddaughter, loved holding my hand while we walked - and talked non-stop, of course.

What an opportunity to get a glimpse of the world through the eyes of my grandchildren and share my feelings with them. But am I ready for a month long cross-country trip with them this summer? Mmm. We'll see. And when I figure out how to get the pictures from the DVD into this, I'll forward them!! :)

Write What You Know?

So one of the most basic pieces of writing advice you're ever likely to hear is the old, "write what you know," phrase. It's certainly good advice; when you're writing about something with which you have a lot of experience, it's bound to come off sounding authentic and will draw your reader that much more into your story.

But what if you don't like what you know? Take me, for example. I'm a SAHM with a degree in elementary education. Now, there's probably a great story out there waiting for me where the heroine is a teacher and a bunch of crazy things happen. But that's really not what I want to write about. Now, anyway.

In my books, my characters have time traveled, been doctors, spies, private investigators, archaeologists, antique experts and survivors of the Civil War. Some of my heroes have been accountants, tech guys, former drug addicts, blacksmiths and victims of amnesia.

Nothing in my shorter novels, (those that exclude the Civil War seris), has ever happened to anyone I know. A lot of what I've written is what I call "escape fiction," and is totally out there. That's because it's what I like to read, as well. When I read for enjoyment, I like to be completely and thoroughly entertained.

I also happen to love research.

Eeewww! So many people hate research, but I really love it. And here's one of the biggest benefits to spending a bit of time researching: it becomes what you know! I know, how great is that! If you spend some time becoming familiar with something else- a different occupation, location, time period- you have moved yourself into the realm of knowing something about the subject and when you do that, all sorts of things open up for your writing. Suddenly it becomes very easy to imagine a character with a given set of traits who, when you put her into a given set of circumstances or a profession, takes off on her own.

I suppose what I mean with all of this is that while yes, you will write with your own set of experiences behind you, it's ok to venture out into the unknown and make it known. Don't be intimmidated about writing something you haven't personally experienced just because you haven't personally experienced it.

Crack open a book on ancient Egypt, google archaeology, buy a guidebook on India or England--the sky's the limit if you don't limit yourself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

There's Nothing Like Family

First, my apologies to the wonderful women who faithfully blog on this site for missing my last turn. I didn’t know how to turn my thoughts into something others would want to read. However, this time, I'm ready and will just hope that this is something someone will want to read. Be warned, I love learning about my ancestors and thinking about their lives, which means—genealogy. It can be frustrating and difficult but I find it fascinating to look into history and into others’ lives that have a connection to mine.

Three years ago a job change led me to sell my house and move 50 miles south to Nephi, a town with one traffic light and a population of 5500. I knew the town and had even done some genealogical research in the area but had certainly never planned to live there. It took me months to realize that it was an opportunity to learn more about an ancestor’s stepfather who had settled in Moroni, a town just 20 miles east of Nephi.

When Peter Anderson had first surfaced in my research for my great-great grandmother, he was something of a mystery figure. No one in my family who researched Mary knew anything about him. There was only one record giving the names of Mary’s parents, and Peter was not her father’s name. Since so little was known of Mary’s parents, it was assumed they had died when she was very young. At first I thought Peter and his wife had adopted Mary.

But I learned that Peter’s wife’s name was Catherine Thomas, Mary’s mother’s name. My research uncovered that Mary’s father had died when she was small, and her mother had married Peter when Mary was four. Nine years later, in 1854, Peter and Catherine joined the LDS church and emigrated from Denmark to America with Mary, her young brother, Christian, and their other children. Catherine and four of the six children had died of yellow fever or cholera after the ship passed through New Orleans. Mary and a younger stepbrother named Peter were the only children to survive. Peter Sr. had remarried while traveling westward, possibly so his children would have a mother. (A note for mothers: I love thinking that Catherine would have felt the sacrifice of her life was worth the opportunity for her children to go to Zion.)

After a few years in Utah, my ancestor married and moved to the northern part of the state, to Wellsville, while her stepfather settled in Moroni, which is in the central part of the state with his new wife and son Peter in the county next to my new home. Since no one seemed to know about Mary’s stepfather, I started to wonder if she’d ever talked about him, or if they had perhaps been estranged.

However, I learned from another person’s research that Mary had not only stayed in contact with her stepfather, she had even made the 200-mile trip to visit him and his family. I was so busy packing and moving that this information was slow to register, but it did seem to indicate that Mary had been close to her stepfather and stepbrother.

At first I made the 40-mile commute to my job in Provo, I hardly thought of Mary or her stepfather, but over time the thought occurred that I might easily be taking the same route Mary took to visit her stepfather. If I kept driving north another 160 miles, I would pass through Logan and Wellsville, two neighboring towns where Mary lived for over 60 years. I wasn’t certain but thought it likely that my drive to and from work passed through much of the same territory as Mary’s journey would have. To the west of the valley lay the Ochre Mountains, to the east the Rocky Mountains. Much of the land I drove past outside of Nephi was undeveloped, open and desolate, the land covered with clumps of sagebrush with a few stubby trees. Except for the fences and power lines, it might have been the same view Mary saw on her own trip.

Each day I drove to work I found myself grateful to be driving rather than riding in a wagon or even on a train. I had a heater and stereo and could stop at a convenience store for a cold drink or snack. For me a 200-mile trip would only be a matter of hours; for Mary Ann, traveling in the West between 1860 and 1900, it would have been a hot and dusty, even grueling, trip to make.

Over time it occurred to me that my genealogical research had only confirmed that this particular Peter Anderson was Mary’s father. My visit to the town cemetery had confirmed that the birth dates and places on his children’s gravestones had matched the dates and places in Mary’s life. I hadn’t found any obituaries in the two largest newspapers in the state and my search ended there. Now I began to wonder if any local newspapers might offer more information.

I learned that three small newspapers had covered the county since the late 1800s; the Mount Pleasant Pyramid was the paper I wanted. Their office had hard copies of their newspapers from about 1940, too late for what I wanted, but a small college in the county had microfilm of earlier copies of the Pyramid so I shot off an email to verify this and made my plans to visit the college, an hour’s drive away.

At the college, my first reaction was one of disappointment. Somehow I hadn’t realized that the earliest microfilmed newspapers in 1915 was still too late; Mary Ann’s stepfather had died in 1900 and by 1915 she would have been nearly 60, too old to make such a long, difficult journey. Still, I had come this far so I began by looking for her stepbrother’s obituary in 1917.

When I found it, I was momentarily elated until I remembered that this Peter Anderson was her stepbrother, not her stepfather. But I read the print with hopes of some discovery of value. Mary had been seven when her half-brother Peter was born, thirteen when their mother had died, and 16 when she had married. Was it possible that for those nine years she had mothered him, as big sisters often do, building a bond that would last their entire lives despite the years and the distance?

“Respected Man Dies at Moroni,” said the front-page article. One of the county’s most successful farmers, Peter was praised for his service, teaching the other farmers to raise sugar beets successfully.

The final paragraph was the gem I sought. Peter had left a wife, four sons, and one daughter as well as two brothers and one sister, Mary, who was living in Logan, in northern Utah. It was a small thing but important to me that Mary was not identified as a stepsister or half-sister. She was his sister, he was her brother; they considered each other family. That single word gave me a new understanding of Mary and her family.

This may seem such a very small and insignificant thing, but it made me feel a lot better, knowing that Mary had a loving family in her new life in a new land. Yes, she had children and a husband, but she also had family members who had shared her life in Denmark, their voyage to American, their native language, and their shared loss that would nevertheless be restored to them one day.

There's just nothing like family, is there?

P.S. For genealogists who want to know the rather amazing story of how I was able to learn Mary's story--when she had changed her name and left very few clues about her life--you can find the article I wrote with another genealogist who (1) I met by chance at a work luncheon and (2) had done Mary's research using Danish records, allowing me to confirm my own research. The article is at

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


by Gale Sears

My husband, George, ties his shoelaces in a weird way. The first time I saw him tie his shoe, I laughed. Shallow, I know, but I did. I said, “What are you doing? I’ve never seen anyone tie their shoes like that.” He looked at me sheepishly and said, “Well, no one showed me how to do it when I was little. I had to figure it out on my own.”

You can imagine what a wakeup call that was to my superior I-tie-my-shoes-the-right-way sensibility. I apologized to my dear hubby, and used the incident as a metaphor for a broader life lesson.

Not everyone is going to approach a task, problem, challenge, or crisis in the same way; indeed, most often solutions are as individual as the individual. My mother and I used to argue about the best way to load the dishwasher. Boy! Was that a waste of time and energy? Who cares? The dishes came out clean regardless of how they were stacked. My sister and I do our laundry differently. My friend and I have a different liking for books and movies. At one time, my children journeyed off on different roads I certainly wouldn’t have chosen for them.

The philosopher, Hermann Hesse said, “Each man’s life represents a road toward himself.”

Life isn’t a ladder. I am not above or below anyone. Life is a circle. When I stand in a circle with my fellow life travelers, I can see them and they can see me. We can hold hands and help each other along. God is in the center of the circle—equally accessible to all. Each person has their own unique path to walk, and who am I to judge their journey?

A broadening of vision brings us to examine the history behind people’s decisions or behavior—therein we find understanding, tolerance, and compassion. When I knew the unsettled nature of my husband’s childhood upbringing, my compassion grew. Now when I watch him tie his shoes I do so with great tenderness and admiration, and the Native American saying, “Don’t judge another until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins,” has much greater meaning.

Monday, April 6, 2009

General Conference

I remember talking with my brother in law one day. He said to me, “If you knew that Christ would be speaking to his people hear on earth, what would you do?” I looked at him a little confused, not sure where he was going with this, and I guess not being a real deep thinker, I shrugged and said, “I’d listen.” “So, would you give anything you had to be there, to hear what he had to say? To feel of His spirit? To be a part of that experience?” he asked. “Well, yeah” I simply said. I still didn’t know where he was going with his questions, but I figured, who wouldn’t do that? He nodded at my answer but didn’t say anything more. Finally I asked him, “Why? Wouldn’t you?” “Well, sure I would. But when you think about it, what do you think General Conference is?” Then he walked away and left me alone with my thoughts. That conversation put a whole new perspective on conference for me.

As a child conference was about picking my mom out in the crowd of Tabernacle Choir singers and to see how often the camera showed her on TV. As I grew older, I tried to see how close she was to the Prophet and General Authorities. Again, as I grew older, the messages grew more important and it was with some disappointment when the choir sang the closing hymn. I finally started to recognize the importance of the words being spoken to us over the pulpit.

This past weekend I had a really interesting experience. I mentioned to someone I hoped they had an enjoyable conference weekend. They replied, “I guess it’s time for me to be called to repentance again. I’m going to be told what I need to do to improve and better myself and be told all the things I am doing wrong.” Wow. Though I think it was mostly said in jest, I was saddened to think that conference would ever be looked on in this manner.

This conference was a highlight in our family. The Gilchrist men have a tradition that has been going on since my husband turned twelve. It has followed through all the brothers and is now continuing on through the grandsons. With every Priesthood session of conference the men all attend together then after the session, the patriarch of the family treats all the men to dinner. My youngest son is the latest to join the ranks of the Gilchrist men. This Priesthood session was his first and what an exciting time it was for him. He came home that night to tell me all he had learned during the meeting and then all he had for dinner. It’s a tradition he is determined to carry on with his own sons.

At the close of conference yesterday, I noticed on the news, saints from Africa and Spain spoke of the joy and love they felt being in the very room with all of our church leaders. They both spoke of feeling the spirit and how strong it could be felt. It was gratifying to note that evangelical college students from California attended the afternoon session of conference and spoke of it being a blessing to attend that conference session. They were the first students from their school to attend.

I know the areas I need to improve. I know the areas I fall short. As Pres. Hinckley asked of us to, “Try a little harder to be a little better” conference inspires me to want to do just that. Most of all, I walked away from conference with a feeling that our Father in Heaven may have billions of children, but I am indeed one of them. There is such a feeling of love and gratitude that conference provokes in me. I am always left feeling so uplifted by the experience. I feel spiritually charged and anxious to set goals to find ways to better myself.

Conference ended with the Tabernacle Choir singing “God Be With You ‘til We Meet Again.” It was a song I have heard my mother sing with them hundreds of times. It touched a tender place in my heart. Just as all of General Conference has done over the last two days.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Perils of Publishing

by Anna Jones Buttimore

This may come as a surprise, but I don’t only write novels. This year, in fact, I will be a contributor to both The World Wide Ward Cookbook and Famous Family Nights. I also had an article published in LDS Living magazine a few years ago. However, the publications I am most often seen in are dull periodicals issued by the various branches of the British legal profession.

My day job, you see – the one that actually pays the mortgage - involves regularly writing articles to advise British lawyers on subjects such as stress and alcoholism.Recently the two worlds collided when the Law Society Gazette published an article about solicitors who are also authors. Most of them were much more prolific and successful than me and yet they too still needed to keep the day job in order to pay the mortgage. There were two points raised in the article that made me start nodding furiously to myself and mentally muttering “Amen”.

First, a quote by Sean Longley, a London lawyer and author, who said, “You are built up to the idea that [getting a book published] is great and magical and life-changing, and it’s not. It just becomes something that you have done.”I have rarely read anything so true (with acknowledgements and apologies to Holy Scripture). Holding your book in your hands is a wonderful moment, but people don’t bow and scrape as I walk past, and I still have to trudge though the rain to collect the children from school. Once the “Oh, you wrote a book, how clever!” comments have run their course, everyone politely forgets that they have a genius in their midst, and no one really wants to hear about what I’m working on at the moment.

Another author mentioned in the piece commented “Staying published is as hard, if not harder, than getting published in the first place.” Further nodding and muttering on my part. Covenant just turned down my latest masterpiece, the once I designed specifically to appeal to their audience (exotic location, romance, comedy and intrigue) and before that it took me six years to get a publisher for Easterfield.

Anyway, I have had something else published very recently. A Letter to the Editor of the Law Society Gazette, congratulating him on such a pertinent and excellent article.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Just Kidding

Some holidays arrive and I don't realize the significance until something happens to remind me that it is a special day. Today was one such day. I had just returned home from helping my oldest son teach a cooking class for a group of Relief Society sisters and I jaunted out to pick up the mail. Included in that postal treasure pile was the weekly edition of a local newspaper entitled, "The News-Examiner." As I brought it into the house, I was stunned by the following headline: "COUNTY DECLARES BANKRUPTCY!" I was floored. I knew the local economy was struggling, but to read that our county courthouse was going to be sold on an auction block was staggering.

I read the entire article to my son and we gaped at each other, alarmed by what we were learning. Then I read the following paragraph:

"A county employee was in tears as she talked about her $750,000.00 mortgage, child support, car payments, and the Caribbean cruise she had just signed up for."

Wait a minute . . . who in the grand metropolis of Bear Lake lives in a $750,000.00 home?! Unless you count the celebrities who have extremely fancy cabins above Bear Lake---and I don't believe for one second that they work at the county courthouse. I wondered if the reporter had his\her facts straight.

I glanced through the rest of the paper and saw the following article: "Sorry, They Were Hoaxes." It was all a sham . . . our newspaper's way of playing an April Fool's joke on the entire community. And I sponged for it. (This is a secret.) My son enjoyed a good laugh at my expense, since I had been waxing eloquently about how awful it was that this had happened to our county.

As I read through the tongue-in-cheek apology, I learned that there had been two misleading stories, the one about the county's fictional financial woes, and another about a pack of 50 wild wolves that had supposedly devoured an entire herd of sheep on the other side of the valley. I didn't see it until after I read the "hoax" article.

The reporter who obviously enjoyed pulling these two pranks said in his\her defense:

"It was bad judgment to say the least, and great fun at the most . . . For those of you who spotted the hoax right away, we hope you enjoyed the fun. For those who fell for the hoax, we apologize."

Uh, huh. Sigh . . . Actually, it was pretty funny and rather gutsy of this newspaper to run these articles. I can just imagine the letters to the editor that will show up next week. ;)

I like April Fool's Day. I've even been guilty of pulling a few pranks through the years. I'll never top what my father did one year. Long story short: There was a beautiful Gunnie Sax dress in a store that used to exist here in Bear Lake. My dad had been living in the area for a couple of months, waiting for me to graduate from high school . . . and for our house to sell in Ashton. He had secured employment as the hospital pharmacist for Bear Lake Memorial, and our entire family was moving to Montpelier. While looking things over in Bear Lake, my mother and I entered a dress shop and found this gorgeous dress. The top was cream-colored with gauzy lace, and the skirt was a perfect match. I tried it on and fell in love. But it was a little pricey, so we left it there.

When my father found out how much I liked that Gunnie Sax dress, he said he would buy it for me and bring it up so I could wear it for graduation. I remember being so excited, I could hardly wait. Then the big day finally came and my dad arrived in Ashton with a beautifully wrapped box. He handed it to me with a big grin on his face.

"Is this the Gunnie Sax dress?" I asked, excitement filling my bosom.

"Yes, it is," my dad replied, encouraging me to hurry and open the package.

I did, and I know my jaw hit the floor. Inside the fancy box were a couple of gunny sacks (coarse material used to house grain). My entire family erupted with laughter and then the zinger line was shared: "APRIL FOOLS!!!"

Yeah . . . it was a joke. I must have looked so crestfallen, my dad didn't have the heart to prolong my agony. He was still grinning when he handed me the box that contained the dress I had longed for. My family has laughed over that memory for years. It was possibly the best prank ever played in our family.

This leads me to my question of the day: what is the best April Fool's prank you've experienced, or created?

P.S. I'll be sure to leave today's newspaper where my husband can see it upon his return home from work today. I may even have the video camera running to record his reaction. =D Could be interesting.