Friday, July 31, 2009

Projects and Incentives

I'm in complete agreement with Jennie on the projects. Some people are starters. Some are finishers. And some of us fall somewhere in between. This year as a goal, I planned to get all of my 50 plus years of pictures organized. I was thrilled to complete the photograph portion of this early in the year. Then came the slides. Years and years worth of slides. They aren't as easy because you have to have a projector or other cumbersome mechanism to actually see who those little figures are in the pictures. So that portion of my goal slipped to the bottom of my to-do list!

Of course, when you have plenty of incentive, getting to the task becomes easier: a son and daughters urging you to get them organized and digitized so they won't have to do it after you're gone. Plus they'd like to be able to show them to their kids and have them for their family histories. They'd really like them today, please! Who knows? I might be gone tomorrow since I am getting up there in years!

I bought a little $99 gadget that plugged into your computer and you could scan negatives and slides yourself. It was a very time-consuming project and I hated the software that came with it. I gave it to my daughter to scan her negatives. Then I mailed off a couple of thousand negatives and photos to be scanned by Scancafe. The easy way out.

Then another incentive: 15% off on all slides to be scanned! Okay!! Coupled with the fact that I was putting my office back together after totally clearing it out and painting the ceiling, and all of the slides were in boxes in the middle of my floor, I decided it was time to tackle this most formidable task.

Unfortunately, through the years, pictures have been removed from their original boxes and put into slide shows in carousels or slide trays for ease in projecting them on the screen. I didn't want to just dump everything into a box and send it in a helter-skelter fashion. I wanted some cohesion and organization to the DVD's that will be returned to me with my digitized pictures. So I now have little stacks of slides covering the 11 1/2 foot long built-in buffet in my dining room, and all over my dining room table.

I just get the year 1965 organized, then open another slide carousel and discover 100 more slides my husband extracted years ago to do a special show. Now I have to go through this 100 and integrate it with the 150 that I already organized!! AGGHH!!

In all honesty, I have to confess that I started this process about three years ago. I set up a little card table in my study and began sorting - putting little stacks according to year, or subject, and it became so cumbersome and time-consuming, and other things took precedent (like another re-write of Maggie II) that those little squares sat there with blank pieces of paper covering them to keep off the dust for at least three years! Then came the ceiling project or they would probably still be there!!

But I've now pre-paid for the scanning (I estimated 3400 and sent in my order!) so I'm under deadline to finish this project as quickly as possible and get them mailed. That and the fact that I have to clean up the current slides under consideration by dinnertime each afternoon so we can eat!

Some of us need more incentive than others to complete projects. I've certainly had my share this month! But it is the most glorious feeling in the world to be organized - to have a clean study - to have an entire sparkling clean house!! I'm on top of the world!

Or at least I will be when I finish up these last 1500 slides. On second thought, I think I'll pay the $4.95 per carousel and just let them handle the 800 slides in carousels from our 1976 trip to Italy. That should save me a couple of days! Now I just have several hundred to go and we can sit down to the dining room table!

Then they will downloaded into my Shutterfly account on line and I will be able to do whatever I want with them. I'll also have DVD's to make copies for my kids and siblings. More projects.

A few additional projects on my to-do list this year:
-15 boxes of family history to organize and get on the computer.
-Photo albums to make for my grandchildren from the photos I've organized. (They need them, not me!)
-My Mom's life history to finish with 150 photographs inserted in the text.
-My life history to write. A zillion photographs to insert - on second thought - attach the DVD! (And just maybe I'll put this one off for a few bit until I have finished the others!)

And the list goes on. As you can see, I have so much to do I can't possibly die for another 20 years. In that case, I'll live to be as old as Mom before she died. And I won't be leaving all my projects unfinished like she did - I forgot to mention all the scrapbooks and slides she left for me to organize! Why did we ever make our photos into slides instead of just photos!!!

But how wonderful it will be to have it all done - a family history treasure chronicling my kids growing up years, the places we went, the things we did, the places we lived. Do finished projects get better than that??

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Do Not Run Faster

If at first you don't succeed, try try again. Never give up, never give in. Winners never quit, and quitters never win. Keep your eye on the prize!

I know all these cheerleader terms of encouragement. I've been pushed along the way by parents, teachers, and my own self-inflicted goading. I've been surrounded by a goodly quantity of A personalities, and I've know what it tastes like having given myself a big dose of self-loathing if I didn't reach a goal for which I'd set my cap.

I have now reached an age where I often say phooey to a task I've set for myself. It's not that I'm lazy or unreliable, it's just that I've learned in my fifty some years of life that while accomplishment and crossing the finish line are important, sometimes saying no to a task, or being satisfied coming in twenty-fifth in a race is jolly good. In fact, it's liberating.

We wear ourselves out trying to please all of the people all of the time. I just don't do it anymore. I do the needful stuff, the important stuff, the genuinely loving stuff, but as for showing up for every this or that...nope...I don't. I even admit to taking a walk in the mountains instead of signing up to do centerpieces for a church barbecue. I'm older now. I've done my share of decorating, and I know there are others (younger others) who will gladly step into my shoe's of service.

I also have learned the serenity which comes from living one day at a time, and how much I look like a dog chasing my tail when I try to do too much.

I love the quote from Abraham Lincoln, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Yes! Just for today I will be happy. Happiness is from within--it is not a matter of externals.

Today I wish you serenity and happiness.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Recently I changed jobs. It was a difficult step for me. I did this only because I wanted evenings and weekends with my family, otherwise I would have never left the job I sincerely loved.

After 11 ½ years of working at the Jordan River Temple I have transferred to the Printing Division for the Church. I have to insert here that it’s a way cool place--I work for the food services there. I must say I am really impressed with the ladies I work with. They work incredibly hard. Each day after my shift ends, I practically crawl out to my car from exhaustion, with tears of joy that I have survived yet another shift. My goal is to one day learn to keep up with them while actually carrying my share of the workload.

At my first job I had a lot of seniority and a job I could do in my sleep. I knew the names of the employees, their families, their grandkids, and many of the hundreds of workers that came through the line. Now, I am at the bottom of the food chain, I have no clue what any of the workers last names are that I work with except one—mine—and there are only five of us total.

I have cut more pineapples than I could ever count in my day, but yesterday I started to cut one and sent it flying across the room to land at my boss’s feet. (This exaggeration is not way off) and I am acting like a clod—as though I have never done this kind of thing before. Yeah, I know—it’ll take time to get into a routine and to learn their system, but I think it’s been quite a lesson in humility.

The employees work every bit as hard at the Temple but I finally learned the job there. It’s my hope it won’t take me 11 ½ years to learn it here. Right now I am feeling out of sorts and maybe a little alone in my new adventure. I have said many prayers this week in hopes of being able to learn, adjust, understand…cope with changes that have been hard for me. J

I did find a saying on the Church’s website under the topic of humility. It doesn’t say who wrote it. But, I really liked it. If I haven’t put everyone to sleep thus far with this blog, I’m hoping this saying will be of value to someone like it was to me.

Yes, this week really has been a lesson in humility, but I am grateful for the experience. I realize even more the value of the friendships I have made, I look forward to new acquaintances and hopefully making new friends and having new adventures, and above all, I am so grateful for the opportunity that has come my way to be with my family.

And now for that saying…

To be humble is to recognize gratefully our dependence on the Lord—to understand that we have constant need for His support. Humility is an acknowledgment that our talents and abilities are gifts from God. It is not a sign of weakness, timidity, or fear; it is an indication that we know where our true strength lies. We can be both humble and fearless. We can be both humble and courageous.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Adventures in America - including that speeding ticket

by Anna Jones Buttimore

Five years ago, I spent three weeks travelling round America. By popular demand, this is a segment from the journal I kept of that time.

Gwenllian (7), Angharad (2) and I left Manchester on 29th March 2003 for the 8½ hour flight to Chicago. The novelty of “big aeroplane” kept Angharad happy for the first hour, then there was food to eat, goodies from the airline, TV in the seat and a baby two rows in front to entertain. Unfortunately the flight arrived ten minutes late, and with all the extra security checks and Chicago being such a big airport we missed our connection to Phoenix Sky Harbor (what a fabulous name for an airport). But we managed to get onto the next flight and finally arrived in Phoenix, tired and a bit ragged at the edges.

We were met by Kerry Blair who was as sweet and fun and clever as I’d expected her to be after three years corresponding by email. Kerry is a fellow Covenant author although somewhat more prolific (not to mention talented) than I am. After putting down my three suitcases and greeting her, the first thing I did was to offend her by insisting that I needed a trolley. I later learned that what I called a trolley, she called a cart, and she was under the impression that she'd driven all the way to the airport to collect me - and I was very late - only to have me insist on using public transport.

We spent what was left of that night in Mesa at the home of Kerry’s brother Greg and his wife Chris. Their home was my first experience of American houses and I was stunned by the large plot, open interior, high ceiling and newness of it all. Heck, they even had a formal lounge and a family room! During my three week holiday I saw a good many American homes and discovered that theirs was actually pretty typical. British builders generally squeeze as many tiny homes as possible onto whatever land they can find (on our crowded island, land is at a premium) and it amazed me just what architects can come up with when given a decent amount of space. One of the (many) things I enjoyed doing in America was admiring the houses.

The next day we visited Phoenix Zoo. The Zoo features prominently in Kerry’s first novel, which is my favourite book, so I was keen to see it and ride on the zoo train just like the hero and heroine in her story. We saw many exotic animals, including several only found in Arizona, but that ride on the train stands out in my memory for the many other unusual things we saw. Whilst our fellow passengers were exclaiming over tigers, monkeys and elephants, I found myself pointing out pretzel stands, drinking fountains, cacti and various other novelties I had never seen before.

The following day we drove to Las Vegas in Kerry’s mother’s Cadillac. It was the biggest car I’d ever seen, and made me realise why the roads in the US are so wide – they have to be to fit the cars on them! I took a turn at driving it and within a few minutes had been pulled over by a traffic cop for doing 85.

I was terrified. Kerry had warned me that it was both a large fine, and a long detour to pay it. And the cop had a gun - something else I had never seen before. So I meekly handed over my bilingual European Union driving licence, and the cop wandered off to study it. When he came back, it was to the passenger side of the car. Kerry explained apologetically that I was visiting from Wales.

The cop carefully explained to Kerry that he was letting me off with a warning and would she please convey this information to me and ask me not to do it again.. Kerry commented when he was safely out of earshot that she suspected he didn’t realise I spoke English. Or it might have been that he didn’t want to write out the paperwork for my address, which at the time was "Lluesty, Tanygrisiau, Criccieth, Gwynedd, Cymru."

Ah, such good times! I'm off on holiday again on Saturday, this time back to Wales, where I will be staying in a house called Hafod, which is next door to my old house, Lluesty. They also have traffic cops in Wales, but they don't carry guns, they drive Minis, and the fine is only £60 and you get two weeks to pay it. But then, neither do they have pretzels, drinking fountains or cacti. Or Taco Bell. Or all-you-can-eat buffets and free refills, or people who say "Have a nice day", or... well, you get the picture.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"The Same Kind of Toilet Paper!"

Life is sometimes interesting when one is an LDS author, living in a small town. Picture Mayberry with attitude. That pretty well sums up where I live.

When I married Kennon, I married an entire small town. Bennington should really be renamed: Craneville, since nearly everyone who lives here is a Crane. Half of our ward roster is made up of Cranes. There's an entire page in the local phone book dedicated to my husband's family. That's a bit intimidating. ;)

I've tried to make the best of things, and I've made sure that all of our sons possess pedigree charts, since they are tied into numerous families in Bear Lake (besides the fruitful Crane clan) and dating is sometimes a challenge for them. Since we would like our line to be a thriving tree, not a wreath, marrying outside of the valley is quite possibly the best choice for them.

When I made my first attempts at writing, I only told two very close friends about what I was doing. There were reasons for this.

A) I had no wish to let everyone know each time I received a rejection letter. (Yes, I know, this is a pride thing.)

B) I had no wish to let everyone know each time I received a rejection letter. (Don't make fun.)

Even when one of my manuscripts was finally selected for publication, I still didn't tell anyone. It didn't seem real to me. So I made my two friends (both residents of Bennington---one was a Crane by birth) promise that they wouldn't tell anyone about the future publication of my book. I didn't want word out until I held that book in my hands. Then it would seem real. Then we would tell people.

You can imagine my dismay when I attended a poetry guild meeting shortly after that and one of the members announced to every one there that one of my books was about to be published. (None of them even knew I had been writing books. They only knew about my poor attempts at writing poetry.) I know my jaw hit the floor. My first thought was, "Shelley is soooo dead!" (I knew she was the guilty party, since she was good friends with the woman who made the announcement.)

Instead of congratulations, you could've heard a pin drop. Then one woman (also a Crane by birth) wailed loudly, "SHE STOLE MY DREAM!!!" She said other things that weren't necessarily complimentary, and then the other guild members did their best to calm her down and smooth her feathers. I sat there in shock, before quietly leaving. To my credit, I toughed things out with that same poetry guild for quite a while before throwing in the towel. Good times.

After my first book hit the market and did reasonably well, there were a number of rumors that hit the valley. I was asked interesting questions like, "So . . . when are you going to build your mansion on the hill?" or "Will you be traveling to Europe every year now?" People were of the mistaken notion that I was rolling in the green stuff now that I was a published author. I still remember very well what I spent my first check on: braces for son # 2. It was a good investment, and it took 90% of the money I made that first year. (I'll let you guess where the other 10% went.)

Things would happen like the time Kennon and I met with our insurance agent (also a resident of Mayberry\Bennington) and he tried to talk us into taking out a bigger policy to protect all of our assets. "That way you won't lose the fortune that Cheri is making with her books should someone choose to sue you if you are in a car accident." Ah! You should've seen the shocked look on his face when we informed him that if we had to live on what I made as an author, we would be living below the poverty level. =D True story.

One has to love writing to endure these kind of adventures. And there are wonderful rewards. Like hearing that something you've written has touched someone in a positive way. To me, that's what it's all about. This makes up for those times like the day I was grocery shopping in a local store and a lady cried out, "Cheri Crane buys the same kind of toilet paper that I do!" (Yep, I have no pride now. Sigh . . .)

Thursday, July 23, 2009


It seems to me that most people can be divided into two groups; starters and finishers. Yes, I’m aware there is another category often termed the “do nothings,” but I’m not going there today. I’m talking about busy people, people who see tasks to perform, people who set out to do things, people who are not adverse to hard work.

My husband is a starter. There are so many things he sees that need doing. He draws plans on graph paper, he makes dozens of trips to Home Depot and Lowes, he reads the online specs on appliances and tools, he sends for patterns, he buys lumber, screws, nails, tools, switch covers, paint, seeds, etc. The problem is there’s still a wall and half to be finished in the basement, one basement room lacks a ceiling, there’s a hole where a bench should be on our deck, wall chips have been spackled but not painted, the fence has been pressure washed, but the painting is only half complete, two barrels meant to hold strawberry plants sit empty. He buys a few items at a time for a project then makes many trips to purchase the other items as he needs them. It’s not that he doesn’t work hard or set great goals. He just has too many projects going at once and he starts new projects before the current one is finished.

I’m a finisher. If I start a project, I want it finished before I tackle the next one. I have a hard time setting down a book I’m reading and I read only one book at a time. I wipe down cupboards and sweep the floor before I consider the dishes done. I hate being interrupted when I’m writing, weeding my garden, or even doing a Sudoku puzzle. Whatever task I set for myself, I want to finish it before I start something else. I make detailed shopping lists and check off each item on the list as I shop, so I won’t have to go back to the store. Unfinished projects annoy me until I get them finished. My problem is getting started. I put off projects until a better time. I plan to begin when I have a large block of time, or when the weather is better. I can’t write until the bed is made, dishes done, and the floor is clean. I find excuses not to begin.

My husband and I probably accomplish more together than we would separately because he pushes me to begin projects I’ve put off and I nag him to finish ones he’s started. We’re neither one entirely successful, but together we do manage to get a lot done.

I’ve been writing most of my life and I’ve met many writers. As I’ve talked with them, I find writers also fall into these categories. There are those who plan to write a book someday, but who never actually start. And there are those who start one manuscript after another, but never finish one and see it through to publication. Then there are those who have to force themselves to get that first chapter down on paper, then stick with it until they reach that satisfying moment when they can say, “It’s done and sent off to a would-be publisher.” The last category, a combination of finisher and starter, has the most success.

People frequently ask me where I get my ideas and my writer friends tell me they also hear that question a lot. For me, ideas aren’t hard to find; almost any chance conversation, news story, conversation, or something I see will start the ideas flowing. Sitting down and actually putting those first words on paper are the hard part. For others, starting comes as easily as ideas pop into their heads, but they get another idea and start another story, then another and finishing becomes the problem.

This is where anyone who is serious about becoming a published author needs to take stock; ask yourself whether you’re a starter or a finisher. Once you’ve determined this, it’s time to find a strategy for overcoming your weakness and capitalizing on your strength. Even if a finisher spends all day staring at a blank screen, it is a beginning. Starters need to jot down those brilliant ideas for another book and stick them in a drawerto be written later. The solution may be as simple as joining a support or critique group and using the other members to keep you on task. Some writers function best by setting goals such as start on such and such a day and time, write two hours, two pages, or whatever each day, or select a designated nagger such as a spouse or editor to report to on a regular basis. If you’re a starter you must find a way to finish or your efforts are in vain. If you’re a strong finisher, then discipline yourself to begin.

The important thing to remember is books that are never started remain idle dreams. Books never finished don’t get published.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Simple Summer Favorites

I do so love the different seasons. Really. Every time we go into a new season, I think of all the reasons why that one is my favorite. Then, just when I get tired of it, it's time for another one. Well, it's really, really hot right now where I live, but I'm still loving summer. I decided to make a list of ten of my favorite things about it:

1. popsicles
2. the farmer's market and fruit stands
3. our family garden and fresh veggies
4. my sister's pool
5. watching my husband swim in my sister's pool- he's like a fish.
6. green lawns
7. the smell of freshly-mowed green lawns
8. bar-b-ques
9. my little boy wearing only shorts and his tan tummy
10. my big girls and their tan shoulders, looking like I used to

(Ok, so number 10 is a little bittersweet. Give them a few years and a couple pregnancies and then they'll be envious of their own daughters).

But how about you? Do you like summer? What are some of your favorite things?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Writing a New York Times Best-selling Novel, or, When Do I Get To Have A Dream That Turns Into A Bestselling Novel? by Michele Ashman Bell

It hasn't happened yet. Every night I go to bed and think, "Will I have the dream tonight? The one where I wake up and have a brilliant idea that becomes a best-selling novel series that turns into box office hits starring hunky male leads and smolderingly beautiful female leads?"

Yea, right.

I may be a fiction author but I do live in the real world. These "success" stories are far and few between. Yes, they do happen, no question about it. But until you have that career-boosting dream, there are a few things you can do to make it happen the good old fashioned way, with hard work and imagination.

So, what exactly goes into a best-selling novel?

I've researched this question and have come up with a few ideas. Please feel free to add more. Believe me, I'm open to all the help I can get.

#1: Plot should be the driving force of your story. Characters and background are secondary. A good plot will pull the reader in and not let go of them until the last word of the last page.

#2: Have passion for your characters. Write characters that readers can love, at their best or at their worst. Make them human, give them flaws, let them show their humorous side as well as their neurotic side. They will be irresistible to readers.

#3: Find a way to appeal to the reader's wildest dreams and fantasies. People read to escape. If your character is dull and boring and they do ordinary things, readers are going to be disappointed. Write about the impossible that becomes possible. Let the reader escape into the wonderful world you've created.

#4: Keep the tension high all the way to the end. Make the reader crazy if you have to. Readers actually want to bite off all their nails, hold their breath, groan in agony and stay up all night reading. Hold them off, clear to the end, then . . . . give them the ultimate, satisfying ending.

#5: Have your background information so believable it becomes a character. When you decide on a setting for your story don't forget to look at what's right in front of your nose. You may be able to use material from your own life or surroundings that will add a deep level of authenticity that only you can offer.

#6: Use the details of place and time as tools to create your characters. Make characters an extension of their world; how they dress, how they speak, what they eat and all other ways they interact with their surroundings. Books become magical when the reader believes that characters and their world are real.

#7: Be unique. Everyone one of us comes to the table with a set of experiences, interests and abilities. Taking advantage of our own personal uniqueness will allow us to write stories that no one else can write. Embrace it. You really do have qualities that will set your story apart from everyone elses.

Perhaps what we can learn from this is that we don't really need a dream. Maybe where we get our ideas isn't as important as what we do when we get an idea. We really can make magic happen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Time Is Flying--So Are We Having Fun Yet?

This morning I took my Toyota Corolla to a mechanic. “It’s overheating,” I told him.Well, a few hours later I received the sad, though not completely surprising news, that at 295,000 miles my 17-year-old car is ready to be retired and putter comfortably around town – but no further. I was hoping to eke a few more months out of it until I can replace it but I’ll deal with it.

We’re all dealing with tough situations of one kind of another. And I feel comforted that getting older, I’m smarter than I was when I was younger. Smarter and tougher. I’ve made it through some tough times and learned some things, like how much of a pound bag of Peanut M&Ms I can eat before getting sick of them, or how much sleep I can get without feeling even more exhausted. And though I haven’t learned exactly how long it takes to get over heartbreak or discouragement, I know time is a healer, or at least a “numb-er.” I can look at painful situations from my younger years and shrug; I know they happened but it seems more like a book I read than something that I lived. And yet I can still take comfort that I lived it and learned and gained strength from those experiences.

I turned 50 a few months ago and I’m still trying to figure my life out, without becoming too utterly self-absorbed, so I hope you’ll forgive this attempt to pull some ideas together. Last semester one of my students, a young mother who was coming back to school, said she was 30 but still felt 19. I think I still feel 25 or so. If I had to choose, that was a good time. I was in school, active in my BYU branch, busy with school and dating, enjoying my roommates.

It just strikes me as strange that the 25 years since then seems to have completely evaporated, particularly the last 15 or so. Suddenly my car is old. My food storage is all out of date. The new nonfiction books I bought meaning to read and get informed are suddenly old and no longer relevant. Boxes of stuff that I meant to sort and toss are now mildewing, so I can skip the sort part completely. Articles I kept because they were interesting are now pathetically out-of-date. Where did those years go? I feel baffled, like when I was trying to find the $100 I decided to tuck away in a book so I’d have it when I needed it. Why did I think I would remember what book I put it in when I have 10-plus shelves of books, not counting the books I’ve since put in storage just to have space to move through my house. That’s like the time I decided to use the name of one of my cats as a password thinking I’d remember it because he was such a great cat and it was a great name. Well, all 12 of them are great cats and have, I think, great names. I finally had to give up and create a new password–my rule, no more cats’ names.

And my sweet my cats are all getting “up there,” meaning in years not in proximity to heaven although that too. I love older cats. Kittens are cute but older cats have “presence,” maturity, that wisdom and personality that come with age. I’ve heard of cats living to the ripe old age of 35 (Cat Fancy magazine reported the oldest living ones). Personally I’ve only known of cats getting to age 20, which means only four or five more years with my old guys, which makes me sad because they’ve been a part of my life for those “lost” 15 years that seem to have disappeared. But as with all lost things, it doesn’t do any good to mourn them for an overly long period of time. Some mourning is understandable but after a while it’s served its purpose.

I think I’m making my way through the grief/denial stages of those lost years, trying to look ahead and make plans for the future. I tell myself my goal is to make the next 25-50 years as interesting as the last, although I don’t know quite how – yet. But we live in an age where if we don’t have great role models nearby – and I do – the Internet and the news occasionally points out people who are busy with the business of living. Reading about Frank McCourt’s death reminds me that he wrote his first book – or at least published it – in his 60s. The book Defying Gravity describes a 70-year-old flight attendant; she was able to achieve her dream job when the airlines relaxed their rules for age. Some of you are familiar with Lucille Johnson, who came late to her career in counseling but was able to help many, many people and then her new career led to many public speaking engagements.

For the last few years I’ve thought about returning to school for a Ph.D. or changing careers, but so far nothing has really jumped out at me. So I’m still looking. In the meantime, I just take each day and do what there is to be done – or at least put it on my list. I have faith in the future.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Consequences, or One Thing Leads to Another

Everyone knows when you make a choice, you have to experience the consequences that come with that choice. But often we don't look far enough ahead to realize what all those little decisions and their consequences will entail.

In the summer, kids from Utah schools come to California to sell things - last year we bought Clark Pest Control. This year it was home alarm systems. We thought that would be a pretty good investment so that we wouldn't have to have a house sitter every time we left home for a couple of days. So we had it installed. Cost: $100 and small monthly fee for security services. That was the first decision in the series which led to the following consequences:

2. As he was installing it, the fellow drilled into a wire and rendered one whole side of our house powerless. So they called an electrician to come and restore power. (The alarm company paid for it.)

3. When the electrician came, he shook his head at our 35 year old breaker box and wiring. He did restore our power and said he'd be glad to replace the breaker box. We'd already considered that would be a good thing to do (at Christmas, I can't have the Christmas lights, the microwave, the oven, and the kitchen lights on at the same time or I blow the fuse!)

4. So we agreed. He came and replaced the breaker box (and gave us a couple of new outlets in the front and back and redid the wiring in the garage that was not up to code.) Cost: $3500 but he gave us a $500 discount because my husband is a veteran.

5. But the new breaker box was smaller than the old one so we had about 8 inches all around that had to be re-stuccoed. We called a member in our ward who is an out of work contractor to fill in the hole and apply new stucco. Cost: $250.

6. Since he was out of work and we had been talking about scraping the popcorn from our ceilings and getting a bit of an updated look to our 35 year old home, we asked him to do it while he was waiting for word on his new job. Silly, naive me. I thought he just took care of it. I thought when he had it all scraped off he would apply the new finish and be done. Little did I know when I agreed to this that I would have to paint all the ceilings!!! (I don't let my husband paint - I don't know if he is just naturally careless with paint splatters or if he did it on purpose so I wouldn't let him paint - another story!!) Cost: $150 per square foot- plus paint, brushes, rollers, drop cloths, etc which came to $225 (and it will be more as I've only painted four rooms and the hall and will need more for our big bedroom and the remaining two rooms!!)

7. This should probably be back up the line somewhere, but before he can mask the room and hang all his plastic to protect the walls, windows, etc, I have to remove all the furnishing, paintings, wall hangings, etc from the room. Cost: sweat and tears and aching muscles!

8. Then when he is finished and takes down his draped plastic which is COVERED with the plaster that he sprays on the ceiling, I get to vacuum up all the mess that he left (though he is careful to minimize it) and then put up my own drapes to keep my ceiling splatters from messing up my forest green wall in the living room, my royal blue wall in the front bedroom, the adobe and royal blue that matches the Armenia carpet in the dining room, all my beautiful wood cabinets, etc. You get the picture. Then I paint. Cost: Splattered glasses, paint in my hair and face, exhaustion and aching muscles!!!

9. When I have finished the ceiling and the cutting in around the walls and cleaned up my paint mess, I have to clean absolutely everything before replacing it. Chandeliers, lights, ceiling fans, bric-a-brac, books, books cases, and on and on. Cost: hours and hours of time.

The moral to the story: when you make a decision, be sure to look far enough down the road to be certain you want to suffer the far-reaching consequences. The bright spot in all this: I may shed a pound or two - and my house will be spotless from top to bottom! Now back to my painting!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

You Reap What You Sow

Early this spring I planted radishes in the garden. I planted radishes once when I was a youngster, and I remember being thrilled with the rapidity at which the plants pushed their little green heads above the ground. What I didn't remember from my earlier experience was how many radishes grow from those small seeds.

In my spring garden, I planted two long rows of radishes, and in a short space of time the radishes did their thing. I thinned the rows for awhile, then life got busy and I neglected my farm duties. I wasn't too concerned because the sprinklers automatically watered and the sun shone down every day. The plants grew...and grew.

At first it was lovely to walk out to the garden and snatch up a half dozen radishes for the salad, or to slice up a few for bread, butter, and radish sandwiches. But what do you do when you have 50 radishes ready to harvest? There's no such thing as radish stew, or radish cake, or radish jelly, and after a while your stomach revolts at the thought of digesting another red orb.

So, today, as much as it saddened me, I pulled up the remaining plants (which were 3 feet tall and had flowering tops) and tossed them in the garbage. I hate waste, but I couldn't stand the thought of eating another of those peppery little veggies. As I shut the lid of the garbage can, I tried to be philosophical. "I will learn from this mistake," I told myself. "All mistakes can serve as a lesson." So true. Next time (if there is a next time) I will plant a quarter row of radishes, and I'll be sure to thin them and watch over them.

Mistakes...we all make them, right? So here's the life lesson. Don't beat yourself up for planting too many radishes. Hmm. Maybe I'll try zucchini.

You Reap what

You Reap what

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Snappy Title Goes Here

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I'm about a third of the way through writing - rewriting - again - a novel I put together eons ago called Kept in Trust. It's the story of a cop who, on an exchange placement in rural North Wales, finds himself having to protect a tough and guarded single mother whose brother is involved with some nasty drug dealing types. When I started it, the crux of the story was that he helped this poor, abused, lonely young woman learn to trust people, believe in herself, and even believe in something else - naturally he was a Mormon and she joined the church by the end of the book. And he also bought a valuable painting from her, without her realising, which he "Kept in Trust" for her. Hence the title, you see. It was all about trust.

The book has changed a great deal. The hero used to be Michael Boyd, from Norwich, England, and he was LDS. Now he's called Ryan Tench, from New York New York, and he's not. The heroine is not quite as pig-headed as she used to be, and her daughter turned into a son before turning back into a daughter again, and is on her(his) fifth name. At one stage in the development she was kidnapped. Now she isn't kidnapped. The process of developing a novel, you see, means it goes through a lot of changes, and this is BEFORE any editors get their hands on it.

That's all part of being a good writer, I think. If something doesn't work, you have to be quite ruthless about hitting the delete key and starting again, as painful as that sometimes is. If you read my blogs regularly, you may remember that I actually gave up on this particular book altogether about four months ago. That's part of being a good writer too. If your entire book is rubbish, you have to be prepared to let it go. Do you see the irony here? I'm trying to pretend I'm a good writer by admitting that I know that what I write is rubbish.

Here's another problem for you to solve: I have effectively removed the the theme of trust from this story. My heroine is no longer reticent about having a hunky New York Cop protect her from the drug pushers trying to kill her and her multi-monikered daughter/son/daughter (let's face it, that wouldn't be convincing) and he no longer buys the painting. So the title no longer fits. I need a new title.

If, like most people, you start a book at the beginning, then the title may be the very first thing you write, followed by the words "Chapter One" and, if you're me, nothing else for several hours. A good title is important. It grabs the attention of the bookshop browser, gives the simplest and briefest description of what might lie between the covers, and will be what you type futilely into search engines for months trying to find out whether anyone has reviewed, recommended, or even bought your book. It's going to be with you for life.

I am completely stuck for what to call this book now. All and any ideas are welcome! Having said that, my first book was originally called In the Shadow of the Mountain, but the contract for it calls it Hearts in Hiding (which, as you'll know, is actually by the wonderful Betsy Green) and the final title was Haven. My second book was submitted with the working title of Haven 2 and the publishers chose A World Away. My current book was always called Easterfield.

So, if you have a title which you think might fit, or you've always wanted to buy a book called _____, please let me know!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Telling Stories

Even though generalities can be dangerous things, I think I can safely make the claim that most people love stories, either hearing them or telling them (or watching them). People have been telling stories for thousands of years, right? At the risk of oversimplifying, before TV and movies, people listened to radio programs, and before radio, people found their entertainment in books and plays and before that....well, you get the idea.

So when the subject of storytelling came up recently, I jumped on the bandwagon. I don't have the gift of fiction the way many of my friends do but I do enjoy stories of people that I can identify as true. (Among academics there's a huge discussion about how much fiction you can find in nonfiction, which is true, and that's kind of fun to see how we all remember the same stories in our families differently, but that's a subject for another time and place.)

My mother talked a lot more about her childhood than my dad did. His childhood was spent divided between a boys home in Utah and his grandparents' farm along with his numerous uncles (who became his brothers when his grandparents adopted him, which I found hilarious). I'd like to spend more time on his history but this particular blog is about family stories in general so I'll save his story for another time and place.

One of my favorite stories growing up was hearing how my mom's house burned down at Christmas. They had just come home from shopping or a Christmas program or who knows what and they saw the smoke and fire and realized it was there house. The best part of the story, for me as a young girl, was hearing that their presents were saved from the fire because they were on layaway. (I was young, what other excuse can I give?) All the kids had to spend Christmas farmed out among neighbors. That couldn't have been fun on Christmas. But the pathos of the story certainly captured my imagination.

I also loved my mom's story that she used to write plays and perform them in her backyard and charge a safety pin for admission. It just was fun to learn that my mom was so creative.
Then there was the boy she worked with in a drugstore who used to kiss her in the backroom (sadly, she thought that meant something, but it didn't).

Another story I loved, from my maternal grandmother this time, was how all the kids in her family (this would have been around 1910-1915) had the whooping cough and the parents had to drag the mattresses out to the front yard, where it was cool, so they could sleep at night. (My father's mother died when he was six so sadly I have no stories from her and since my father's father had almost no contact with our family for most of our lives I have virtually no stories from him. So I try to get as much from my dad as I can, although as I said, he grew up with his grandparents and in a boys home during the Depression, so obviously there's a story there.)

Which reminds me that I need to make more of an effort to get more of my father's few memories of his father. And that is the point of my blog. That we have stories in our families that deserve our efforts, both for ourselves and for those of our friends we share our stories with. I've loved the family stories shared by my friends here on the V-Formation blog. In fact, I've gone back through others' posts on this blog a few times reading and rediscovering stories, and it's felt almost scriptural at times as I've learned, and remembered lessons learned before but forgotten, from my friends' experiences.

And that, after all, is one of the great purposes of sharing stories, to feel connected to each other and be reminded of some of the important lessons of this life experience we're all sharing. To share and show love, to have and share faith, to overcome and learn from hard times, and be grateful for all that we receive, enjoy, and grow from. Thanks, my friends.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


My little sister arrived in this life without any hair. When she finally got some, it was so wispy and white, it was hard to see. Our dad kept both her hair and mine in short Dutch cuts, but hers broke, spiked, and stood out at odd angles, which was strange because I was the one who chewed on my hair if it got long enough to put in my mouth. When she was six and lost a few teeth we teased her about being our little jack-o-lantern. We both dreamed of long, glorious golden curls like our cousin who had ringlets that fell in immaculate order to her waist. We hated our straight, pale, spider-web hair. In our make-believe games we always had long gorgeous manes of curly hair.

When my sister was in the first grade she was given a part in the school play as a ballerina though she’d never had a single dancing lesson. I don’t remember whether she danced, sang, or had lines to speak; I only remember how in awe I was of how beautiful she looked in that pink ruffled tutu and with her straw-like hair in curls. She was the prettiest girl in the school.

As teenagers we used to spend a lot of time swimming in a large canal (the farmers in the area boasted that it was large enough to turn a bus around in it). The canal ran through our farm and at a place where various head gates allowed water to run into smaller ditches and canals a large pool formed. That was where we and most of the local kids congregated to swim. My hair was long then and an elastic band kept it in a pony tail and out of my eyes while I swam. My sister’s hair wasn’t long enough for a pony tail and when it was wet it fell around her face in unflattering strings. A friend with a convertible often took us and a few friends to the drive-in movie after a long hot day of thinning beets that culminated in a plunge in the canal. Later when my sister would see her reflection in the mirror before we crawled into bed, the sight of her wind-dried hair filled her with despair.

She was the first to invest in a curling iron. I was sure the thing would burn her hair or leave it kinked and nasty looking. But after I saw the lovely curls she painstakingly created, I decided I needed a curling iron too. Though she’s younger than I am, she was far more adventurous than I was when it came to experimenting with make-up, perms and new hairstyles, or fashions. Her hair darkened to blonde before mine did and suddenly she had great hairstyles and I was left with plain and boring.

As a busy young mother and avid swimmer, my sister’s hairstyles tended in later years toward the practical with her blonde hair kept in short, boyish styles though she continued to seek professional cuts and styles.

One morning two weeks ago my sister announced that she’d just gotten the best haircut she’d ever had. That afternoon she got a telephone call that changed everything.

Today she is back to no hair. The heavy chemo treatment for her acute leukemia caused it to fall out in thick clumps and a nurse just finished shaving off what was left so that it won’t annoy her any longer.

Hair seems like a silly thing to think or write about when she is so terribly ill and there’s so much more than her hair at stake. Yet hair symbolizes in a way the relationship between us. We share so many memories that are unlike those shared with anyone else, we argued and competed yet knew no one else would ever stand up for us the way the other would, we admired and applauded each other’s achievements, we cried together over disappointments small and large, we grieved together over lost loved ones, and we knew each other’s secrets.

With my sister I learned to swim, to stand up for myself, to give-in gracefully, the thrill of a good book shared, to shop but always save enough for a hamburger and fries, the scariest experiences can be borne if they’re shared, kittens are for cuddling, New Year’s Eve babysitters should demand double pay, flowers make life beautiful, and friends are to be treasured. She taught me that a sister is a necessity and if the biological ones aren’t available, then make sisters out of friends and daughters.

It may seem odd, but when I look at her today, I don’t see blotched, red and swollen skin, a bald head, and a profusion of tubes. I see a little girl in a pink ballerina dress with a pile of golden curls atop her head, I see a giggling mermaid, I see a "jack-o-lantern" smile. I see my sister.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sometimes the simplest times are the best

This 4th of July, my family and I spent time with my sister who lives a block away from me. They recently moved to Ogden from Salt Lake, and the best bonus of all is her backyard pool. My husband has been cleaning and caring for it in a most dedicated fashion, because my sis and brother-in-law are not really what they call, "Pool People," but we definitely are. They said they'd not fill it in if we would help maintain it.

Done and done.

So we all hung out on the 4th, doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING MORE than swimming, sitting under the umbrellas, eating and visiting. We didn't go anywhere, buy anything other than food for the grill and some simple fireworks that we lit later in the street. (My favorite are the pagodas that spin and then pop up at the end. Sweet!)

My 4-year-old was even low-maintenance because with his water wing contraption keeps him afloat so well that he can toodle all over the pool and we don't have to worry about him drowning. Ok, we need to teach him to swim, but for now, it's awesome. The only downside to the day was that two of the five siblings and their families weren't able to make it. And my dad's recovering from some surgery so we let my parents miss this one. Other than these missing loved ones, the day was absolutely divine.

I found myself hoping my sister never, ever moves because when we're all old and gray with one foot in the grave, maybe, I still want to be able to go over to her house and hang out with the people I love. And to have no agenda?! Such bliss, I tell you! It was the best 4th I can think of; I loved every minute of it.

It's a good lesson for me. Simple is good. Makes me want to go through my house and create a minimalist palate. I know myself too well, though. Wouldn't be long before I'd have things cluttered about again. Then I'd just have to go through again a purge. Purge, collect, repeat. One eternal round, or something.

At any rate, I hope everyone who celebrates the 4th of July had a wonderful time, and my wishes to all that we make time to enjoy loved ones first and foremost.

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 4th Ponderings

What a fun, crazy weekend! I'm sure most of you can say the same thing. I suspect most of us were out celebrating the birth of our nation, enjoying family traditions and food. This year, we decided to make up some fun things to eat. We created shish-kebabs.

We grilled them outside and they cooked up in a hurry.

We also made up a favorite triple-layer jello salad.

And to top everything off, we made homemade huckleberry ice cream. Jealous? ;)

Later we went into town and listened to a live band that was performing at the park. After that, we enjoyed the fireworks display that was launched from M-Hill in Montpelier. I forgot to bring in my camera, so I didn't get any cool shots that night.

All weekend I've been thinking about past 4th of July festivities and I realized that one of my favorite celebrations took place in Nauvoo, Illinois a couple of years ago. We had journeyed back to see all of the historical LDS sites that summer and happened to be in Nauvoo on the 4th of July. We started that day by taking a fun wagon ride around this beautiful city.

After that, we watched the 4th of July parade. It was smaller than our usual hometown parade, but it was still great to see. Most of the entries were compliments of the LDS missionaries who were serving in the area.

Above you'll see some of the actors & actresses from the Nauvoo Pageant.

And here is the famed Nauvoo Brass Band.

After the parade, we walked around a local craft fair and found all kinds of neat things, including some of the best home-made fudge ever. Then we traveled to nearby Carthage, Illinois and toured Carthage Jail. This was the second time that I've seen this heart-rending landmark. It tears at my heart whenever I think about what Joseph and Hyrum Smith suffered inside this jail. But there is a difference now. Since the completion of the new Nauvoo Temple, there is a feeling of peace in the area. That is what I experienced during most of the time we spent in Carthage. There is a sense of closure now that wasn't there before.

We left Carthage, and drove across the Mississippi River into nearby Keokuk. There we were privileged to watch as a huge barge traveled through a river lock and dam.

We returned to Nauvoo, grabbed a quick bite of lunch, then watched a rehearsal of the Nauvoo Pageant. We were leaving Nauvoo the next day to head to Adam-Ondi-Ahman and Liberty Jail, and since the pageant wasn't being performed the night of the 4th for obvious reasons, we were told to watch the afternoon rehearsal. It was an enjoyable performance, enacted below the temple.

My favorite part of the entire day took place that night. We gathered in front of the lighted Nauvoo Temple and watched the fireworks display that was launched across the Mississippi River.

I've always loved celebrating the 4th of July. My maternal grandfather was born on July 4th, so it was a traditional family gathering each year. We ate wonderful food, spent time visiting with everyone, and thoroughly enjoyed the fireworks at night. Flags were flown and waved as we remembered those who sacrificed so much to make this nation free. I found it ironic that on July 4, 2007, we also reflected on the sacrifices made by Joseph and his beloved brother, Hyrum as we visited the Nauvoo area. All of these sacrifices pale in comparison to the price our Savior paid for all of us. Things of worth seem to require a tremendous cost. I pray we'll always be grateful for those who were willing to lay down their lives on our behalf. Honoring their memory will help us keep the perspective we'll need to survive the days ahead.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Beloved Country!

I love America! I am passionate about my country, about what our flag stands for, about the history that created this most special place. I literally weep when I think about my ancestors who left beautiful places that they loved in England and Wales to come here, to participate in Zion and leave behind all they held dear, hoping, wishing, praying for something better, but not knowing for sure.
With all due respect to Anna, (I love your country) there are so many reasons that America is special: we have some of the most incredible scenery on earth; we have the greatest system of government devised by God, not man; we have opportunities not available to so many in other countries, most notably our special kinds of freedom.
But there is one other thing that makes America so special to me: I cannot separate America from the gospel. They are bound together by God himself, as he protected this country from being settled until he was ready for special groups of people to come here, fleeing religious persecution, and establish an atmosphere of government that would nurture the gospel when it was restored.
I haven't done a lot of traveling: England, Wales, Armenia, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Italy, Greece, Germany, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico, but each time I return home, my testimony is strengthened, my conviction deepened, that I am privileged, most incredibly blessed to have been born at this time, in this dispensation, in this place, into a home where the gospel was available. What greater blessing could God bestow upon me that this!
As I celebrate this Independence Day, I'll remember Francis Scott Key as he waited, enduring the bombings of the fort, to see if they had surrendered to the incredible night-long barrage of cannon fire from the British ships. The description of those heroic men and boys who took up the flag to keep it waving over the fort through the night, surrendering their lives to the cannons rather than surrendering their flag to their enemy brings grateful tears to my eyes and an ache to my heart. I can't hear or sing the Star Spangled Banner without crying. Even as I write, I can't see the computer for the tears streaming down my face.
I'll remember George Washington's men at Valley Forge, suffering freezing temperatures and lack of food, clothing and ammunition, sacrificing comfort, home, families and lives for the chance of freedom. I'll think of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, knowing with that stroke of the pen they were very possibly signing their death warrants - which happened for many of them. Most lost everythingl But they gave us everything by their sacrifice.
I'll remember all our wonderful men and women willing to sacrifice their lives today to keep us free, and to bring a semblance of precious freedom to others in the world living under tyranny. I'm so grateful to them for their patriotism, their willingness to give their all, if necessary, for freedom. What a beautiful word! FREEDOM!
And I'll continue praying for our precious country which is today in jeopardy of being destroyed from within. God has always held my beloved America in his hands - I pray that He will continue to do so! Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I’m sure most of us had to write that fifth grade English assignment to commit to paper the name and background of a person who’d caught our eleven-year-old attention, a person who was larger-than-life, a person who had qualities we admired.

It’s been so many years since 5th grade, I’m a bit fuzzy on the person I chose—it was my dad, my mom, Helen Keller, or Abraham Lincoln. I think it might have been Abraham Lincoln because I clearly remember how taken I was when Mrs. Panatoni (my 5th grade teacher) read us a book about Lincoln as a young man. I liked that Lincoln was a poor backwoods yokel, I liked that he was honest and hard working, and I really liked that he loved a good book and spent many hours reading by candlelight.

I myself spent many hours reading by sunlight, 60 watt bulb, or flashlight.

Through the written word, Lincoln’s world, wisdom, and sense of justice expanded. His soul was basically a good soul made more compassionate by the precious words he devoured as a young man. He would go on to study and practice law, serve as an Illinois state legislator, and eventually become the 16th President of the United States.

As we approach the 4th of July, I’m a bit sad that our political leaders seem to have lost the ideals of grace and grit that make up a great leader. Our country’s Founding Fathers were not perfect men, but they perfectly understood the principles upon which this great nation should be built: democracy, checks and balances, small federal government, and state’s rights. It is a system in which the innate desire for individual freedom has freest reign; a system to which oppressed people around the world have looked for a pattern.

How tragic if this great country loses the sense of itself as a beacon of freedom, if, because of complacency, the citizens of the United States of America forfeit their basic inalienable rights, and certainly tragic if our elected leaders delude themselves into thinking that they are above the desires of the majority.

As I celebrate my country on the 4th of July, I will recommit to voting, contacting my Senators and Representatives in the House on vital issues, attending town meetings and rallies, and reading books and literature that will keep me informed.

I’m reading a great book right now entitled, The 5000 Year Leap. I think my hero, Abraham Lincoln, would have liked it.

Maurice Is Missing

It’s been a tradition for quite some time that every six months when the Temple closes for two weeks of cleaning, I spend one of those weeks at my dad’s trying to “spring clean” his entire house.

Though I do try to thoroughly clean his house from top to bottom, I love this time spent with my dad. If the truth were known, there is more playing and visiting going on than there is cleaning. But I do try to have the cleaning done by the time I leave at the end of the week...

During the summer shut down of the Temple, in the evenings, we go out on his back porch. We sit on the swing and watch the sun set. We sit and talk of anything and everything. It’s during those talks that I have learned much of my dad's youth as he reminisced about his antics growing up in the Heber Valley. (He really was a playful, funny kid—though I have to say, I love the way my grandparents expected him to work hard and earn his way in life. He learned valuable lessons at a young age) I have heard him talk of his friends, parents and siblings, his mission, school, meeting my mom, falling in love, and the crazy stories behind of the births of their daughters as each of us were born. I learned how my dad gained a testimony and what message he would like to leave behind for his family… “Keep the faith. No matter what, just stay strong and keep the faith.” I also know the reasons behind why he would leave that particular message.

During the winter evenings, my dad heats up the car until it’s toasty warm, and we drive through his small town and the neighboring towns looking for houses lit up by Christmas lights. Again, having those wonderful talks of ours. It always ends with coming home and sharing a cup of hot chocolate and buttered toast or cookies.

During the day, to take a break from cleaning, we go for ice cream and we always go up to check on mom. Of course, most know my mother has passed away, so this means a trip to the cemetery. What we’re really doing is checking her grave. We stop off to change the flowers, or clean off her headstone, and just generally check to make sure all is well.

Since my mom’s passing six years ago, several of my dad’s friends have also passed away. With each one gone, this has made things a little more lonely, a little more difficult, for my dad to remain in the small town with out my mom. However, the people of that town have been so incredible, he can’t really see himself ever leaving and has already made plans to stay until he too passes from this mortal existence and is buried beside my mom. (We have both concluded it has to be the most beautiful little country cemetery either of us has ever seen)

This past week, I had the opportunity to go and spend some time with my dad. We did all the things we traditionally do including going to the cemetery. As we drove away from my mothers grave we started looking at all the other graves in that cemetery. We looked for some of their closest friends that have passed and soon got caught up in finding all the early settlers of the towns. We found headstones that were so weathered we could bearly make out some of the dates but some were born and had passed away in the mid to early 1800’s. Soon my dad was filling me in on the history of the town and many generations later, their families are still living where they had first settled.

We never found Maurice. He’s one of my dad’s best friend’s. It was hard for my dad to see Maurice go as he was the very first man to befriend my parents when they moved to that town. I loved Maurice as well. Either Maurice is missing or his headstone hasn’t been set yet. The cemetery is filled with Maurice’s ancestors but where in the world is Maurice? My dad and I decided we’ll keep going back until we find him. I know I will value my time with my dad searching for Maurice.

I love my time with my dad. He’s turning 81 this year. He misses my mother something fierce. It breaks my heart to think of him alone, yet the people of that town really watch out for him. That is something I am most grateful for. Still, I look forward to my visits with my dad. I see him every chance I can. I love that I have had such a wonderful opportunity to learn so much of his life in such a way and I cherish every moment that I have with him. I don’t know how many chances like this I will have so I feel like I have to grab every moment I can and hang on tight with both hands. I never want to look back and wish I had taken more time.