Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When the Wind Blows

Do you remember the old story about the man who applied for a job working for a farmer, who gave as his qualification for the job that he could sleep when the wind blew? The point was that he always prepared for the possibility of a storm by securing the stock and barn every night, therefore when a storm arose, he didn't have to jump out of bed and run around doing anything to save the animals or barn. He was prepared.

If there's one thing I've learned for sure in this life, it is that there are a lot of unexpected storms. I'm not just referring to the kind of snow storm much of the West received earlier this week. I mean the unexpected illnesses, accidents and injuries, death of a loved one, job loss, a late freeze, a car that breaks down, a demanding calling, a family member or friend who needs help, and that list doesn't even begin to list natural disasters such as flood, volcano ash, tornados, tsunamis, or hurricanes. There are lesser personal disasters, too, that run the gamut from a broken tooth, a worn out washing machine, theft, or a rejected manuscript. Any or all of these things can raise havoc in our lives.

How do we prepare for these unexpected storms? Physical preparation is the easiest, though is often neglected. There's good old food storage, but there's also making certain we have adequate insurance, a cash reserve for dealing with emergencies, and taking steps to be strong and healthy. A little forethought will carry most people safely through most storms, though not all. That is why we must be spiritually prepared as well. Tough times can drain our spiritual reserves as quickly as our physical.

When my husband and I were younger and our children were arriving, my husband became deeply concerned about keeping the gas tank of our car topped off. I've often thought of that time and compared it to my spiritual tank. I never know when there will come a demand for spiritual strength and when it does, I don't want to be caught with an empty tank. I've always considered prayer, scripture study, bearing of one's testimony, accepting callings, and choosing uplifting entertainment part of spiritual preparation. Now I'm convinced the most important step to being spiritually prepared is temple attendance.

It's no accident that temples are being built far and wide, faster than most of us can keep track of them. This world needs the spiritual strength available only within those sacred walls. During this time of physical uncertainties and spiritual trials, I urge everyone to secure your homes, prepare reserves, look after your health, establish a Plan B, and keep your spiritual tanks filled.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Heather Moore's Women of the Book of Mormon

It's an honor to review this book, not only because I enjoyed reading it, but I've already quoted from it in presentations and lessons. This book is a collection of 12 chapters on the women who are mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Here are some of the highlights that I appreciated:

* Heather is a reliable source on the history of the Book of Mormon, not only scripturally but from a historical standpoint as well. She delves into the customs of the day, presents viable scenarios and situations that likely occurred for these women of whom so little is written.

* The book is meticulously documented in quotations/source material. Very well done.

* Heather does not throw criticism upon the customs of the day, even subtly. She is a good example of a non-judgmental historian who looks back on flawed societies and recognizes that it was what it was. She doesn't allow modern sensibilities to cast aspersions on situations that a contemporary reader might find frustrating.

* Alternatively, the author is still willing to give a "fallen" woman the benefit of the doubt, or at least a sense of compassion. Speaking of Isabel, the harlot mentioned in Alma 39:3, she says, "What desperation and misery drove a woman to the life of a harlot? Perhaps there was little or no choice in the sense that Isabel may have been born or sold into this diabolical practice."

* Eve is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and as such receives a chapter of her own in this book. The analysis is a beautiful tribute to our first mother, and ties the Book of Mormon to the Bible in a significant and complete way.

* Practical application. In reference to the story of the Queen of King Lamoni's Father, the author says, "In our lives, by delaying our emotional reactions and waiting for all of the facts to come in, we might discover that we had viewed the situation wrong from the beginning. When we wait, pause, or even turn to prayer for guidance and direction, we find that the correct response will often make itself manifest." Each chapter has words of wisdom that tie the scriptural account to an application to modern life.

* The presentation of the book itself is absolutely beautiful. The narrative is coupled with stunning paintings by a variety of artists.

As I mentioned, I've already quoted from this book in a presentation at a women's conference in Idaho and in my calling as Gospel Doctrine teacher. I love that Heather is a contemporary of mine, that she's a woman and is so well-read. She's an amazingly talented writer and storyteller, and this first nonfiction effort on her part is extremely well done. As a fellow author of historical fiction, I appreciate the efforts that have gone into the research used not only in her Book of Mormon novels, but in this book as well.

This book makes a wonderful gift for not only women, but men, too! I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Having Strength to Mourn

It's hard for me to follow Gale's post because I haven't had much experience with the death of close loved ones. When my mother died, it was a shock but I had felt for much of my life that it would be a blessing when it did come because it would give her many answers I felt she needed. When my favorite aunt took her own life, I felt death would give her release and healing. When I learned that one of my best friends and college roommates in college had been killed on Christmas Eve by a drunk driver, I felt like I'd been slammed to the floor and the breath knocked out of me. But it would have been much harder if we'd still been roommates and as close as we'd been 20 years ago.

I did have many animals growing up and had many funeral services for them and shed many tears. And I'm grateful that God gives us animals, in part because I think it helps us practice mourning and understanding the role death plays in our lives. It is when something, or someone, we love dies that we realize God is serious, that our life here is only temporary and only a small part of our larger existence since we really don't belong here. It also helps us to realize that we truly are dependent upon God and upon the sacrifice of His son for all the good things we have in life that we value and would not want to live with, even could not imagine a life without.

Even having answers doesn't take away the pain although perhaps it diminishes it by a few ounces. And that may remind us that God, who knows everything and is perfect in his faith and strength, still felt pain at his son's pain. For those who lose children, they may be standing on particularly holy ground because they share a unique bond with our Father in Heaven, knowing the kind of loss that breaks hearts and has shaken the faith of many, and yet is permitted by our Father who wants only our eternal happiness.

My love and prayers are with you, Gale.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

For Shawn

My husband lost his parents at a young age--he was eight when his father died and sixteen when his mother followed. A dear next door neighbor became a surrogate mother hen, keeping my husband and his younger sister under her loving watchful care. She became "Grandma" Ruby, and it was she who greeted me into the family.

When our first child, Shawn, came into our lives, Grandma Ruby wrote him a special letter. I would like to share it with you.

My Dear Shawn Lucien,

How very happy we are to welcome you into our warm family circle, for you have been wanted and needed for a long time.
Shawn, do you realize--well, one day you will, how blessed you were to be chosen to come into such a special home with parents and family who have waited so patiently for your safe arrival--and will love and cherish you your whole life through! Shawn, your Mom and Dad are pretty special people, as you shall learn each day--however, you must also learn to be a bit patient with them for they will make mistakes, not knowingly or intentionally, but because they love you and think they are doing the right thing--and you in turn, will also make your mistakes, but you'll always have parents who will try to understand, love you, and help you. So, go to them with your growing problems for it is a compliment to have our children ask our opinions. Yes, they will worry, and you'll also need to be disciplined, but heed their advice and accept their love, they're also new.
Shawn, eat your cereal and milk, don't keep your Mom and Dad up too many nights--and grown into a fine, strong, healthy lad.
You also have Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins who welcome you and you'll have so much fun with.
And this Grandma Ruby can hardly wait to become acquainted with you!
Grandma Ruby
I know you're a handsome lad!

Our dear son, Shawn, passed away last week, and this writing was extremely difficult to do, but I wanted to pay tribute to a wonderful man.

Shawn, we love you.
Mom and Dad

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Tough Job

Permit me a moment or two to talk politics. (From the Greek Poly, meaning Many, and Tics, meaning blood sucking parasites.) We have just had a general election, in case you didn't notice, and now have a shiny new Government charged with the very difficult task of running a country in enormous debt courtesy of the previous administration. I'm very pleased with the outcome. We don't vote for the Prime Minister, but I did vote for his party, and I'm even quite pleased that we now have a power sharing coalition government. Not only does it mean that the two parties will temper each others excesses and extremes, but Nick Clegg is a good looking guy and I felt so sorry for him only getting fifty seats.

We're prepared for a bit of austerity. We know that the Government has a really tough job ahead, trying to rebuild Britain. I don't envy them the task, any more than I envy nurses, teachers or anyone who does a job I know I couldn't do.

I have been doing my day job for twelve years. It's no longer challenging, although it is fun and varied. I could do it standing on my head, and I'm quite comfortable that I am exactly suited to my choice of career as an office administrator. Writing is another matter. I always thought it was relatively easy. I sit at a computer, and I type out a story using lots of big descriptive words. Then someone publishes it and gives me money.

I realised this past weekend that it isn't easy at all. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable, but I've decided, on a whim, that the book I am writing at the moment (a fantasy called Emon and the Empire) is to be my Magnum Opus and thus it needs to be as good, as intelligent, as gripping and as perfect as it can be. I was writing it on my laptop over the weekend and sitting next to me was a young man from our Ward who was visiting my husband. He watched me for a while, then said "Is this one you've finished and are going through?"

I replied that actually I was only about a third of the way through it, and wondered why he would have that idea. Then I realised that for the past hour I had just been reading through the chapter I had written the previous week, tweaking it, improving it, deleting from it, but I hadn't actually written any new material yet. He'd yet to see me actually write anything.

Easterfield, my last published book, was a joy to write. It fell out of my fingertips with hardly any thought or effort on my part. But Emon needs to be the very best I can do, and that means thinking about every word, drafting and redrafting chapter summaries and plot outlines, checking for character continuity, and then going back and checking what I just wrote against what I wrote three weeks ago, and basically putting in more effort than I have ever done before. It's not an easy job, but I want to do the very best I can this time and, like anything in life, that means hard work. I hadn't realised until now that writing is hard work. At least, it is if you're doing it properly. Very few of us are so naturally gifted that we can turn out witty, brilliant yet moving prose with little thought. Do you think even Terry Pratchett agonises over each paragraph?

The simple fact with writing, too, is that you don't get paid according to the work you do. Well, unless you're Sir Terry Pratchett. If I counted all the hours I spent writing a book, and then divided my royalties between them, I'd probably find I earn about $1 an hour.

But I'd still rather write than run the country, or nurse sick people, or teach unruly children. I admire people who do those near impossible jobs because I know I couldn't. But at least now I have realised that one of the jobs I do can also be a difficult one.

Monday, May 17, 2010


The other day I heard someone exclaim that they don't like change. I'm sure my jaw hung open over that comment. Life is change. It has been my experience that nothing ever stays the same; I suspect it's part of the mortal experience.

I learned this lesson while quite young---we moved 8 times while I was growing up. This makes for entertaining moments whenever I'm asked about my hometown. Lately I've found that it's easier to express that I've lived all over Southeastern Idaho, and parts of Utah. I consider Ashton, Idaho my hometown, since that's where I graduated from high school.

I have lived in the following places: Roberts, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Annis, Menan, Ashton, & Montpelier (all of which exist in Idaho), and my family dwelled for a time in Bountiful, Utah when I was in the fourth grade. Now if you were counting, you probably came up with seven moves. Since we moved back to Menan from Bountiful at the end of my fourth grade year, I consider that 8 moves . . . and that doesn't include the move from Montpelier to Bennington after I was married. ;)

Some of the moves were easier than others. I was about three years old when my parents left Pocatello, following my father's graduation from college. (He was a pharmacist.) That is when we moved to Annis. From there it was to Idaho Falls, after my dad completed his internship. Eventually my parents built a home in nearby Menan, and we lived there for a few years. Dad worked for Skaggs Drug in Idaho Falls during this time, then was promoted into management, and transferred to Utah. When he decided he didn't care for managing a large drugstore, we moved back to Menan, to the home my parents had built in that location. Then it was on to Ashton where my father had a chance to manage a small hometown drugstore. So on and so forth.

These moves were true character building moments---especially those that took place when I was approaching teenagehood. That age is difficult enough without the added challenge of repeatedly starting over and being labeled, "the new kid." And yet, I look back and I can see that the challenges that went along with each move helped shape me into who I am today. I learned to adapt to change, since things were rarely the same in my life. So by the time I went to college, I was used to life throwing twists my way. I was homesick for one day. Then I embraced college life and enjoyed every aspect.

One of my closest friends struggled with this experience. A friend of mine since high school, she had lived in the same place her entire life. She fought homesickness throughout our freshman year, and went home every weekend, until the time I hid her car keys. Our other roommates had conspired with me, and we kidnapped my friend, taking her to Jackson, Wyoming that Saturday. We then dragged her to a couple of college adventures that night and the next day. By the end of Sunday night, she was lecturing us for not doing something similar earlier that year. She had thoroughly enjoyed herself, overcoming the homesickness as we had helped her see the fun she was missing each weekend. Too bad there were only a couple of weeks left in what would be a final semester for her.

It has been my experience that life is often like a rollercoaster ride. There are numerous up and downs, and lots of scary stuff in the middle. ;) And yet, if you open your eyes and embrace the ride, there is a thrill not found on the complacent merry-g0-round. Ponder that analogy briefly. ;)

Through the years I have dealt with chronic illness (I've been a Type 1 diabetic since I was 19 and tested positive for lupus a few years after that), deaths of loved ones (a childhood friend passed away when we were in the 5th grade---since then I have lost grandparents, a parent, aunts, uncles, etc.), financial distress, worry over children, etc.

On the plus side, I have earned a college degree, married a wonderful man, given birth to 3 awesome sons, had 9 books published so far, and I held my beautiful first grandchild (a cute little girl) in my arms just minutes after her birth. This positive list goes on and on. There is so much of life that I have loved and savored, and I plan to savor more. I'm sure I'll be one of those who will leave this life kicking and screaming because I haven't sampled everything life has to offer. =D

Life is change. Those two words could be synonymous. If it wasn't that way, life would be stagnant. Reflect upon ponds of water that contain still water. They usually don't smell very nice after a while. This is the direct opposite of a refreshing stream that hurries forward continually. Movement\change is crucial to promoting growth. Not all growth is good\and\or\fun, I will admit, but without it, we would not progress. And how sad would it be someday to stand before our Maker and reveal that we spent our entire time in mortal mode hiding under the bed?!

Here's to enjoying the journey, making the climb, and cherishing each moment as it comes. Face the violent rainstorms with courage---even though the thunder makes us cringe, and the lightening often inspires us to run and hide. The new growth that will take place as a result is something to be appreciated, not feared. (Remind me I said all of this the next time thunderclouds appear in my sky.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Critics or book reviewers for newspapers, magazines, and some online review sites receive a lot of books to read for consideration for reviews. Reviewing books is usually a fun job and as a reviewer for Meridian Magazine, I get to read some really great books. Unfortunately I also get to read some boring, dull books, some mediocre books, some poorly written books, and some books that make me wonder where was the author's editor? Over the years I've noticed a problem I don't often see addressed by workshops or helpful writers' blogs. So bear with me while I make some observations on the thin line between fact and fiction in novel writing.

Some facts are essential of course. Historic events must occur in a novel at the exact time they occurred in history. Minor flirting with time to suit a novel's storyline is excusable; major historic events can't be altered. I read a book once where a coast to coast railroad played a major role in the story, but it was set in 1852. I didn't finish the book. Great care must be taken in fictionalizing a famous or scriptural character's life. LDS fiction writers must be scrupulously careful when they mix a doctrinal element into their books to ensure that the concept being used is doctrinally correct by Church standards and not "the Gospel according to Me" sort of thing. However, this isn't the fiction/fact line I'm most concerned about at the moment. What I'm really referring to are the books where the author is obsessed with something in his/her own life or a story that happened to someone else but the writer decides it would make a good novel.

If I mention in a review that a key point in a novel is implausible, I often hear an indignant, "but that's the way it really happened." If that's the way it happened, why is the author billing his/her work as fiction? Fiction means the writer gets to make up the story; it's okay, even preferable to make a good story better when writing fiction. "Stranger than fiction" isn't a meaningless cliché. In real life things happen that in a novel just aren't believable. It's okay to use a real life experience as a base for a chapter or even the entire book, but the writer must separate him/herself from the story and concentrate on telling a great story rather than relaying facts or sticking zealously to the way the event played out in real life.

The quasi autobiography/novel doesn't often fly well for several reasons; the author tries too hard to stick to the actual events, the author is too emotionally involved to see the story's flaws, the story isn't as powerful to the reader as the experience was to the writer, or the story is undertaken by an inexperienced writer who mistakenly believes writing about one's self is easy and doesn't require spending time on research. This type of story doesn't often turn out well.

Writers, including me, are often asked where we get our ideas. Here again, there needs to be a careful line between fact and fiction. I've mentioned before that most writers play the "what if" game. Many novels begin with a news story. Some event such as the huge oil spill in the Gulf sets the "what if" game in motion for dozens of writers and here's where the novelist is separated from the journalist. The journalist has a responsibility to unearth facts and tell the story as close to those facts as possible. The novelist has no such restrictions. One novelist might build his plot around an eco-terrorist group who set up the explosion to discredit the petroleum industry and cause the suspension of offshore oil drilling. They feel certain no one will suspect environmentalists of jeopardizing wildlife and pristine beaches. They justify their action by reasoning that the sacrifice of one environmental setting will offset the many other such areas that will be saved. Another writer might focus on the heroic actions of a man who loses his life while expediting the rescue of others from the crumbling platform. A romance writer could place a brilliant female engineer on the crew struggling to close off the massive leak and let her fall in love with an oil company executive with whom she must work closely. A Science fiction writer could devise a plot around a mysterious substance injected by aliens into the hoses that snake across the ocean floor to carry oil to the surface. At first the disaster appears to be of an environmental nature, but as the oil reaches shore, it is discovered it carries a deadly, highly contagious disease meant to spread through birds and sea life to wipe out human life. Even comedy writers might wonder "what if" an overzealous and ditzy hairdresser decided, through fair means or foul, to collect a ton of hair to donate to the cause of making huge ink blotters to absorb the oil floating toward the Louisiana coast.

All of these "what ifs" started from the same facts, but the various fiction writers are only constrained by the need for factual accuracy concerning how the oil disperses, the damage potential of the spill, and natural, biological, and scientific laws. Some may need to take a look at US and international law concerning oil production. The fiction writers can move the oil spill to another location, change the principal people and companies involved, make the spill larger or smaller, or do any number of things to the story until the reader forgets they all started with a real event. A life is a real event, but like most vacation photos, few people want to sit through a detailed, chronological, mustn't leave anything out, replay of someone else's amazing trip. A novel that feels suspiciously like watching someone else's two hundred vacation slides isn't good fiction.

Good fiction writers need to learn how to balance fact and fiction while leaving straight factual reporting to journalists and biographers. The best novelists place their emphasis on telling a good story, whether it happened that way or not.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Confidence and Tender Mercies

My daughter has a cute little sign posted in her kitchen that makes me smile every time I see it. It says "I know the Lord will not give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't have so much confidence in me."

Don't we all feel that way! When the next crisis comes before the last one has been completely dealt with, and when they just seem to pile up faster than we can handle them, it's no wonder we want to scream "Stop the world! I want to get off!"

When everyone around us seems to be drowning with problems, dealing with tragedies on every hand, and simply having more on their plate than they can handle, what can we do? We want to help, but more often than not, there is no way we can aid. We don't have the power.

Except to pray for them. That we can always do. A sweet sister I visit has been tending her granddaughter since she was born. The granddaughter is now 8 years old and was just diagnosed with leukemia and cycstic fibrosis. All of that is hard enough to deal with, but this sweet sister has been forbidden by her daughter-in-law to visit her granddaughter at the hospital. It's so heartbreaking, but what can I do? I cried with her, hugged her, and put their names on the temple roll. But in the end, only the Lord can really help her.

Thank heaven for the tender mercies that slip into our lives when they are most needed. Sometimes they are so subtle, we don't even notice them. One sister bore her testimony last Sunday and told about being late and needing a light to stay green (one that was notoriously long every day) so she could arrive on time. She just kept praying as she approached it, and lo and behold - she made it through. She immediately said Thank You, acknowledging another tender mercy. Then she listed a bunch of little things, small blessings, that had come to her when she needed them and said that she didn't used to realize that's what they were - the Lord answering her prayers (those that we toss to heaven when we are so desperate we don't know where to turn!)

This week it has been interesting to see those tender mercies turn up in your lives. When things seem at their darkest, that's when the Lord reminds us that He is near, that He knows our needs, and that He is, indeed, in charge. If we can remember to lay our burdens at His feet every night, it's amazing how much lighter they are the next morning.

I'm always amazed at the confidence He has in me, but then, I guess He knows me better than I know myself. He did tell me there is nothing that we can't do together. I just need to remember that, and hope I can convince my friend of that, so she can get through her latest crisis.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I'm going to follow on talking about moms, because most moms are cool, and because I don't think we (oops) they get enough credit for taking on the hardest job on the planet. Along with the sweet little bald newborns comes: colic, fevers, teething, pucking, pooping, mewling, croup, crying, pooping (did I already mention that?) drooling, gas...the list goes on and on. Of course, dads experience all these treasured events too, but, come on, really, who takes on the lion's share, especially when it comes to pucking and pooping?

On the flip side, moms usually get to experience those wondrous "first time" events when dad is off at work--the first roll from back to front, the first chuckle, the first coo, the first tooth, and the first wobbly steps. I'm getting a little teary here. That's also part of being a mom; we have a lot of emotion when it comes to our kids. We cheer their accomplishments, suffer with them during their hard times, and get angry when they do something stupid. We love them, that's why.

And, for those moms just starting out on this never ends. My kids have been out of the house for years, yet I still cheer their accomplishments, suffer with them during their hard times, and...well, you get the picture.

Being a mom is a hard job, and sometimes we grouse, but ask us if we'd trade it for a posh corner office and a huge salary, and the answer would, of course.

My Tribute

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln that said,
“All that I am and all that I hope to be I owe to my angel mother.” What a beautiful thought.

Without my mother being here to remind me of all I hope to be, which is to be just like her, I can only hope that all that I am is someone she can be proud of.

As I sit here today, thinking about my own mother, I think of all that she accomplished in her life. I have an endless list of ways I would like to be more like her, but the very first thought that comes to my mind in connection with my mother is her unwavering faith and the strength of her testimony.

She taught us from the time we were little to always kneel in prayer. It was a way to show respect. When she became bedridden near the end of her life on this earth, she could hardly move. Yet, twice a day she would roll herself over and tuck her knees up under her to humbly pray in her kneeling position. It was important for her show her love and reverence to our Father in Heaven. I will never forget that vision of my ailing mother. It brings a whole new insight to the Primary song the children sing,

“I see my mother kneeling with our family each day. I hear the words she whispers as she bows her head to pray. Her plea to our Father quiets all my fears and I am thankful love is spoken here.”

I went through the Temple for the first time on my mother’s birthday. I am grateful for the blessings that special day has brought into my life. Now I am a mother and a grandmother. There is no greater joy that I know of than sharing family times together.

So, on this lovely weekend that is upon us, I feel a bit emotional that I don’t have my mother here to share it with. But I am so very grateful for the rewards of motherhood. Both in the example of my own mother— for all that I hope to be— and in the blessings I receive through my children and my grandson. May I be to them all that my own mother is to me.


After a month in America I think I can blog about nothing else. I had so much fun it's hard to think about anything else, to be honest. There are many things (and people) I loved and miss - corn dogs, mexican food, mile markers, big washing machines, phones which locate people, Disney - but I think I am going to focus on what I learned. Well, not everything, obviously, but there were a few revelations.

Having watched a fair amount of American TV, I had previously been a little concerned about how many American teenagers seemed to live in their parents' basement. What cruel parents, I thought, back when my only experience of a basement was the cellar in my old home in Wales where steep and slippery slate steps led down to a tiny room with a low beamed ceiling, cobwebs everywhere and a dirt floor.

Who knew there could be a whole other home down there - and a well decorated one with natural light and a bathroom and everything? So now I get basements. I even wish I had one for my teenager to live in.

Americans all think Brits have bad teeth, and Brits all think that Americans all have unnaturally shiny white teeth. The mystery of where this idea came about was solved when I bought some American whitening toothpaste. The instructions included the line "If accidentally swallowed seek immediate advice at a Poison Control Center" (sic). My British whitening toothpaste says nothing of the kind - apparently it's perfectly safe to swallow it. A little research later, and it seems that the FDA has approved the use of bleaches and ingredients far stronger than those the UK goverment will permit in toothpaste. Result - American teeth are whiter. But I reject the notion that all Brits have bad teeth. As I may have said before, both my teeth are in perfectly servicable condition.

Cold Drinks
While I was in America, several people commented that drinks in the US were served cold, and they understood that Brits liked their soft drinks served at room temperature. Not true! But I think this idea grew up because most British people don't have the facility to keep drinks cold. British homes are far smaller than most American homes simply because we are a small overcrowded country and don't have the space to build big houses, so, like most of my countrymen we have a small fridge which fits under the kitchen counter in our little kitchen. It isn't big enough to keep even one two-litre bottle of fizzy pop in, and it doesn't have the facilty to make ice. Hence until we bought our "spare" fridge (which has to live in the utility room) we had to drink all our drinks warm too. We didn't like it that way. (We're very lucky to have a utility room. Most British homes have the washing machine in the kitchen too, under the counter, and no clothes dryer at all.)

Americans are far more political than we Brits. You may (possibly) have heard that we're having a General Election tomorrow and may have a shiny new government, and a new PM, by Friday. I found out about this election only a month ago, in Utah, and had to be told about it by an American. Ironic. We have a law which only allows politicians to campaign for a month, you see, so the election date is announced exactly one month before it happens. I suspect that's because it is considered terribly bad form to talk about politics or express any kind of political opinion unless (or perhaps especially if) you're a politician. And yet in America everyone quite freely makes their political leanings public knowledge.

You have a better quality and standard of life than we do. More space, more opportunities, more choice - but you do pay for it. Exchange rate notwithstanding, we were horrified at the price of food in the shops. Soon after we arrived Roderic drove me to a supermarket to buy a pizza, a loaf of bread and some mixed salad, and gave me a $10 note to pay for it. At home, that would have worked out like this:

  • Pizza - 79p for a Sainsbury's basics pizza ($1.19)

  • Mixed leaf bagged salad - £1.50 at Sainsbury's ($2.25)

  • Loaf of bread - 49p (74 cents)

  • Total - £3.03 ($4.18)

I still have the receipt, and can tell you that I wasn't able to do all of it. The pizzas alone were almost $10. I ended up buying French Bread pizza at $4.99 and we had to make do without salad. Most things cost about twice what they do here. I'm sure it wasn't that expensive last time we were over. Have prices risen a lot in the last three years?

Anyway, we had a wonderful time, and can't wait to come back. Thanks to everyone for making us feel so welcome. The full account is at

Finally, the funniest thing that happened was that two people asked me (in English) what language we were speaking...

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Four Letter Word

There are several four-letter words in the English vocabulary. Some of those are considered inappropriate. ;) The four-letter word I'm thinking of today is on the other end of the spectrum: HOPE.

A couple of years ago, we did a fun craft at girls camp and we each made a handy tote bag, utilizing inspiring quotes, bright ribbon, and paints. My bag proudly shares this saying: "With hope, each of us can live a life with peace, faith, and love."

It can be difficult to cling to hope when challenges descend, especially when some trials extend through several years. Those are the moments when we sometimes wonder if our prayers are being heard. What I've been learning lately is that our prayers are always heard, but they are often answered in ways we don't envision. And always, our Father, who sees the entire picture, helps us through, despite our fearing doubts.

Recently we've witnessed some miraculous events in our family. Without divulging details, may it suffice to say that a couple of the challenges have been heart-wrenching. There were days when we wondered if we would survive. And yet we did, sometimes by taking life one day at a time.

When walking a darkened path, it is scary to take a leap of faith. To hope for brighter days when
there is no apparent light. And yet it is during these murky moments when we can prove our mettle. And as the scriptures state, it is often after the trial of our faith that we gain the answers we seek.

So today I am grateful for the knowledge that even when all seems lost, we are not alone. I am overwhelmed by the tender mercies that are extended daily from heaven, especially when we're drowning in dark despair. Though the path ahead may often seem unclear, guidance, comfort, and the peace of heaven can be ours when we use hope as our shield against life's storms.