Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Things I've Learned

Over the course of my writing years, I've learned not to underestimate my ability to screw things up. I learned the hard way that not all jeans are Levis, not all paper tissues are Kleenex, not all temples have an angel on top, poring over a letter is not the same spelling as pouring water, and not all plasterboard is Sheetrock. A letter, a comma, so many little things change a meaning, imply a different nuance, and make the difference between a "good" story and a polished story. 

I've learned too that computers are both a writer's blessing and curse. Having started my writing career on a manual Smith Corona and moved up to an electric then a data processer and eventually a series of ever more complex computers, I know firsthand that a lot more gets written using a computer than I could ever hope to accomplish with a typewriter. I'm not sorry to no longer need carbon paper, type erasers, or correction paper. Still computers are the cause of much more wasted time than the old Smith Corona ever was. It simplifies research, yet entices its user to play games and read endless trivia. Facebook monopolizes hours of time that could be better spent actually writing---though it's a great networking tool, an excellent way to stay in touch with friends, family, and readers.

No matter how talented a writer may be, he/she needs to constantly brush up on word usage, grammar, do research, learn new computer techniques and programs, and pay attention to little things like regular backups, a surge protector, and adherence to publisher guidelines. If attention isn't given to these peripheral matters, disaster can wipe out the most beautiful and perfect words.

The struggling artist who lives in an unheated attic and lives on bread and whiskey is as much a thing of the past as my old Smith-Corona. Today's writer who isolates him or herself from life doesn't relate to today's reader. Today whether a book is set on the American frontier, a New York penthouse, or in outer space, readers want to relate to the characters in a personal way.

With the flurry the past few weeks of getting my newest book ready to go to press, I read over the dedication and acknowledgements I wrote six months ago and decided I still mean them. There really are many people besides the author who play a part in moving a concept from inside one person's head to actual words on paper, neatly tucked between a front cover and a back cover. There are the people employed by the publisher who edit, proof read, write a cover blurb, choose a title, design a cover, create a promotion program, and handle the details of production. There are friends, critique groups, and fans who cheer the writer on, read drafts, help with research, etc. And not least of all, there's the writer's family. These are the people who believe in us, pick up the slack in the housework, feed us, and who think being wife, husband, mommy, daddy, grandma, grandpa is our greatest achievement. They think it's great we write books, but take greater pride in our ability to kick a soccer ball, bake brownies, or remember birthdays.

It's disappointing to screw up a spelling or confuse a brand name with a generic name. It feels like the sky is falling when we mess up properly saving our precious prose. But the one place I hope I never fail is in letting my family and friends know I love and appreciate them.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter!

I got a cute e-mail the other day:
All I need to know I learned from the Easter Bunny!
1. Don't put all your eggs in one basket
2. Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.
3. There's no such thing as too much candy.
4. All work and no play can make you a basket case.
5. A cute tail attracts a lot of attention.
6. Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.
7. Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.
8. Some body parts should be floppy.
9. Keep your paws off other people's jelly beans.
10. Good things come in small, sugar-coated packages.
11. The grass is always greener in someone else's basket.
12. To show your true colors, you have to come out of the shell.
13. The best things in life are still sweet and gooey.

Those are cute - and some even are true. But the most sublime language ever written comes with Easter:

"He is not here, for he is risen."
"For God So loved the World..."
"He is risen! He is risen! Shout it out with joyful voice!"
"Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!"
"God loved us, so He sent His Son."

I love the hymns that are so full of wondrous doctrine and truth. But the Primary songs are particularly dear to me. One favorite says: "How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness? He sent his Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness. How could the Father show the world the pathway we should go? He sent his Son to walk with men on earth that we may know. How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death? He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath."

I love Easter for all those reasons, and especially because of that one incredible truth the angel spoke from the empty tomb: "He is not here, for He is risen."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


As I try to gather my thoughts together to write this blog, my mind keeps wandering to my family and friends. Many of them are suffering from all types of struggles and afflictions.

Although I recognize that trials of heartache, illness, and devastation is worldwide-- especially in these latter days-- it seems within our own circle of loved ones adversity affects each of us in one form or another in quite an abundance.

As I ponder this thought of why adversity is so prevalent, I am reminded of two quotes from this last General Conference, both given by President Uchtdorf. The first is, “Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.” The second quote is, “Answers don’t always come when we are on our knees, but when we are on our feet.”

The Parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind…

When the Priest and the Levite saw the man who had been robbed and wounded laying by the roadside, they passed him by. They even crossed to the other side to avoid him. Yet, the Samaritan who was thought to be an enemy of the man, was the one who made the greatest sacrifices and helped him in his time of need. He gave comfort to the afflicted.

As for Pres. Uchtdorf’s second part of the quote, “… afflict the comfortable.” I suppose this can be taken in many ways depending on where the listener of the talk is in their life. One of my thoughts was that I believe many of us, myself included, can become too complacent in our lives if we are not careful. Should/Could we do more to help the afflicted? It’s an individual evaluation, I suppose. It’s a question I should ask myself frequently so that I don’t become too complacent and find myself not doing enough to “Comfort the afflicted.”

As for the second quote I mentioned, I believe it is a good reminder that some of our greatest blessings come when we are in the service of others. I know that when I am having a difficult time, the best way to forget myself is find ways to be of service to others

I need to thank all the Good Samaritans in my life, and believe me, there have been many. In times of my own affliction, it was such a blessing to have Samaritans to help me bear my burdens. I need to keep in mind all they have done and try to do likewise for others.


The Sea of Galilee during the day and night.

An old olive tree on the Mount of Olives

The Mt. of the Beatitudes and the Jordan River

The lilies of the field and Nazareth--the boyhood home of Jesus

My husband and I have just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When we first boarded the plane and then the bus with 86 other adventurers we thought of it as a tour, but it wasn't long before we experienced a special feeling which permeated different locations. We realized that we were feeling the promise of the Holy Land.

The experience also changed my preconceived notions about the topography--granted we were there during spring, but I'd never thought of the country of Christ's sojourn as anything but craggy and dry. I was so mistaken. There were crops, fruit trees, fields, forests, and wild flowers.

Our spiritual educator on the trip brought the scriptures and messages of faith into our minds and hearts. How amazing to sit on the Mt. of the Beatitudes and have a lesson on the great truths taught in the Sermon on the Mt. How thrilling to sit on a boat, at night, on the Sea of Galilee and think of the Lord walking on the water to rescue his apostles from the storm. How life changing to sit in the Garden of Gethsemane and ponder the Savior's nearness.

Amidst the turmoil that is sweeping the earth at this time, our pilgrimage brought us prospective and peace. Truly we saw beyond this moment and into eternity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American Customer Service vs. British Maternity Services

I haven't blogged about the differences between Britain and America for a while - probably because it's such a minefield - but wanted to put down some of my thoughts about what is better each side of the Atlantic. Nothing to do with books or writing, of course - normal service will be resumed shortly.

It's a long list. British chocolate is better but American meat is better. Tesco and Sainsbury's have budget brands, but Wal-Mart has a bigger variety of stock. American roads are better and petrol is cheaper, but British roads are (apparently) safer - I have no idea why you're twice as likely to die in a road accident in the US than the UK.

Today, though, I'm going to just focus on one thing from each country.

America is better at serving the consumer. It's not just friendly and smiling "servers" who want you to have a nice day, and shop assistants who bag your groceries for you. The thing I'm most jealous of is the drive-through. OK, so we have drive-throughs at McDonald's and KFC (American brands, note) but America has drive through banks - wow! And post offices! When I have a parcel to post I have to drive to the post office and hope that one of the six parking spaces outside is free, then get out of the car and trudge through the rain (it's always raining) when all I need to do is put my pre-paid parcel on the counter.

And if I have some cheques to pay into the bank or need to get some cash out of the hole in the wall I have to pay 60p to park for an hour in the council car park even though my errand only takes five minutes. It's very frustrating.

So what does Britain do better? Maternity services, I have recently learned. A British friend who had her first baby in America told me her experience, so I was able to compare and contrast with mine.

During my pregnancies I was cared for entirely by my community midwife who called on me at home with increasing frequency as I got closer to my due date. She delivered my babies too and I was able to use gas-and-air (entonox) for pain relief and choose any position I found comfortable for the delivery. (Yeah, right. Comfortable?!?)

When I had my first baby I was in hospital with her for a few days because she had some feeding problems, but she was in a little wheeled cradle by my side the whole time. Despite the fact that she was tagged at birth on her wrist and ankle, I was not allowed to be apart from her - I even had to trundle her along with me when I went to the loo. When I had Ceri (my third) I went home an hour after giving birth, but then she was supposed to be a home delivery anyway.

My friend giving birth in America (admittedly 14 years ago - things may have changed since) was attended by a male doctor (argh!) and a flock of gowned and masked nurses, and required to lie flat on her back with her feet in stirrups. (Entonox isn't available in the US and apparently 70% of American women have an epidural - a major medical procedure.) Her son was then taken to the nursery with all the other babies. Her mother-in-law put her under pressure to have him circumcised. In the UK, circumcision of an infant is illegal unless it's for religious reasons or deemed medically necessary.

Having said all this, I buy grocieries and go to the post office rather more often than I have babies, so I think America wins hands down.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Half Empty or Half Full?

Greetings. I'm posting a couple of days early for a reason: I will be out of town on my assigned day (Monday). And since I'll be leaving this morning, I'm going to cheat and paste in a post from my personal blog (Crane-ium). ;)

I'm sure we've all heard the adage: "It's important to see the cup half full." Some people see it half-empty on a frequent basis. Personality types are often determined by how we see that elusive cup. Sometimes it depends on the day. I've spent much of my life trying to see the cup half full. But there are days, like this entire past month, when that cup has been looking a tad bit on the empty side. True, I'm still wading through the grief that goes along with losing a good friend. One day I'm fine and figure I've moved on---the next day, not so much. It becomes a balancing act between forcing a smile and ignoring inner pain. One of the lifelines that helps me survive this process is having a sense of humor. A good laugh goes a long way toward easing turmoil. I've also learned that service is a great way to heal. Doing something for someone else chips away at the icebergs that sometimes erupt within our hearts.

We live in a challenging time. (Understatement of the year!) I suspect it has always been thus. There have always been wars and rumors of war. People have always struggled from day to day to make a living. I also think parenting has always been an adventure (think of how our first parents must have felt when one son killed the other--I'm just sayin'). I seriously doubt when we compare notes on the other side, we'll point fingers and say, "Oh, yeah, well you lived during an era of complete and utter peace. There were no trials, no disappointments, no heartaches." There might be one exception to this train of thought, and that would involve those lucky types who will dwell during the millennium, and I think even then, there may be a challenge or two to test their mettle.

Life is a test. My paternal grandmother used to tell me that this world is a giant classroom and we never know when we'll get hit with a pop quiz. Truer words were never spoken. I also think one of the most significant lessons we'll ever grasp during this mortal education is the importance of having a good attitude. This is often difficult when we're covered in something like boils (See the book of Job), swallowed by a whale (See the book of Jonah, or Pinocchio), or driving in Utah (see list of least friendly places to drive).

This attitude extends to how we treat each other. Are we nice to the poor clerk at the store who is paid minimum wage to endure the wrath of miffed bargain shoppers? Do we smile while waiting in the never-ending line at the post office? Are we overly-critical of others who don't measure up to our expectations? Do we take our very bad day out on the people who should mean the most to us?

Since we're all very different, we think in varying ways. We believe in all kinds of things, but there is one item we should consider: We are supposed to look on the bright side whenever possible and play nice with others. If you ever doubt this philosophy, review the Sermon on the Mount.

Bottom line, when this life is but a memory, the thing that will matter most is how we played the game. Were we fair, honest, obedient? Did we try to help others? Were we kind in our dealings with those around us? Did we bring joy into the world . . . or did others tip toe around us because our cup was half-empty and our attitude reflected this mindset? Something to ponder daily. Do we see the cup half-empty or half-full? This question may have eternal significance someday. Definitely a compelling point to consider.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It Was a Hard Winter

Spring seems to be arriving in small increments this year; a few hours one week, a few more the next. There's so much snow in the mountains this year, and more storms predicted, that there's a serious danger of flooding. Storms that hit Utah seem to arrive from the Pacific, soak Washington and Oregon, dump on Idaho, add to Utah's snow pack, then hurl across the Midwestern states into the Eastern states in the form of hail and tornados. I've never known a winter that I've become more tired of than this one.

With complaints about the snow and cold, it would be easy to overlook how green the lawns have become after each storm, how the early flowers are blooming in spite of the cold, and the green haze indicating new life in the trees. Of course the return of pollen allergies reminds some of us that in spite of the snow, spring is here.

Spring and Easter are linked for most of us and it's not hard to draw a few parallels between real life and the seasons. So many people I know have faced some tough things recently and I too have had my share. I lost a sister to cancer eight months ago. A dear friend just learned she has stage 4 cancer. An older friend and her husband have had to make room for their daughter, her unemployed husband, and their eight children in their home. Among my family and friends these past few months there have been a broken nose, a broken finger, job losses, severe cataracts, relocations, deaths and major illnesses of loved ones, insufficient feed for livestock, hospitalizations, and the list goes on. The world faces seemingly endless natural disasters and the pain of war. I remind myself that these things are winter, and spring is arriving in small increments.

Michelle Bell and I each welcomed a granddaughter this past week into our families. There aren't many things that can compete with a new baby for the spirit of hope and new beginnings that typify Spring and the Easter season. I was able to listen to all four sessions of conference which was certainly uplifting . The flowers in my garden are bursting forth in glorious color. A special friend has joined the ranks of those of us serving at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. I just finished the first edit on my next book. I have dear friends who bless me with encouragement and a family who support me in all I do. This is Spring.

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the weariness of winter, we lose sight of the subtle signs of spring. We wonder why we have to endure hardships and difficult times. In reality just as the storms of winter provide the essential moisture that makes spring possible, the difficult times in our lifes prepare us to grow and blossom into the best we can be. Overcoming the challenges in our lives strengthens us and gives us greater appreciation for goodness, beauty, and the association of loved ones. Our Savior passed through the darkest winter to give us the promise of the most glorious spring.

When we feel we've spent too much time in a snowbound cabin, it's time to remind ourselves that the Lord needs strong people in the last days and without adversity and testing we won't be strong enough to face the challenges that will come. He strengthens those with the greatest desire to serve him. Without the snow of winter, there is only drought when the days grow warm, then the flowers wither and die. Spring is here; it really is, even if we have to shovel away a little snow to find it. Just as this hard winter will eventually yield lush grass and wonderful tree growth, we can let the difficulties in our lives make us stronger, more compassionate, and more prepared to blossom into people worthy of His spring.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carpe Diem

Maybe it's age, or maybe it's life lessons and past regrets, but the phrase "Carpe Diem" has become my new mantra. Fears and phobias I've had in the past have dissapated since I've entered my fifties. Maybe it's the knowledge that I'm on the down hill slope of my life and will not always have opportunities like I have now, that is creating this verve for life and living.
Now, don't be thinking I'm going out to buy a Harley and ride across the country, or that I'm taking up sky diving or hang-gliding. I'm a repsonsible mother of four, grandmother of two and have an aversion to activities that could kill me, so I'm talking about things that can enrich and enhance my life and even bless the lives of others.
An example of this would be the time my friend, who works for Jet Blue, called me to tell me there was $10.00 airfare each way to New York City. The way the deal worked though was that you had to leave on Tuesday and return on Wednesday. I had 45 minutes to decide. I would be in NYC for about 12 hours before I'd have to leave. That was enough time to visit my daughter who lives there, watch her dance class, take her to lunch, shop a little, enjoy the city in the spring, and then head home. It was exhausting, but one of the most fun and memorable things I've ever done. Another thing (I know I talk about this a ton and I'm sorry) but getting certified to teach Zumba at 50. When most women my age are retiring from the fitness industry, I started a whole new phase of my career. Has it paid off? I went from teaching two step classes a week, to teaching 14 Zumba classes in a week - 4 in one day sometimes. It totally wears me out, but I love it.
Little things like buying a pair of shoes that are bright lime green and go with absolutely nothing in my closet, but are so dang cute I had to have them, to going to my hairdresser and telling her to "surprise me", or even showing up on my son and daughter-in-law's doorstep to give them the afternoon off, are little moments in my week that allow me the freedom to put aside the predictability of life and look at each day filled with opportunity and possibility.
From the movie "Dead Poets Society" comes the quote, "Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary."
Don't let today be ordinary. Forget the laundry. Forget the housework. It's not going anywhere. Do something extraordinary!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sharpening the Saw

There's an old story about a man who was trying to cut down a tree. He was working long and hard and not getting very far. A traveler came along and could see what a hard time the woodsman was having. After watching the woodsman labor for a short time, it became apparent the poor man was using a very dull saw.

The traveler asked how long it had been since the worker had sharpened his saw. "Oh, I don't have time for that. I'm too busy sawing."

Reading one article per day from your favorite writer's magazine, or one chapter a day in a how-to-book will sharpen your saw, hone your writing skills, and make your writing much better - and probably go faster too.

It's a little like priming the old-fashioned pumps. You had to pour a little water into the pump to get it working, then a clear stream of refreshing liquid poured forth. We have to pour a little expert advice into our brain to spark the natural creativity that's there; then that wonderful, clear prose can pour forth to refresh our readers.

When I started writing, I was in a terrible rush to finish the re-write on the book Covenant had accepted. When this concept was suggested, I couldn't bear to stop writing to read "how to do it" - instead, I just plowed on through the manuscript as if I knew what I was doing. (I didn't.)

Now fifteen years and twelve books later, after taking a couple of years off from writing, I picked up an old story to finish. But upon reading it, I decided my saw was definitely not sharp enough after all that time. I began reading articles that I had saved from old writer's magazines before I tossed them (I was cleaning out my writer's closet.) I discovered some absolute gems there - suggestions that I immediately incorporated that made the story so much better. So now on my list of things to do everyday is "Read one article on writing." As long as I'm writing, I might as well take advantage of all the great advice from master craftsmen that's available. And hopefully, this will be the best book ever!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Conference Tradition

One of my fondest memories as a child of General Conference was watching the Sunday sessions on TV with my dad and sisters.

Each time the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would sing one of their musical numbers, we’d all race to see who could pick my mom out of the choir members. She sang second alto and we’d be thrilled if we spotted her. How excited we’d get if the camera man would show a close up!

Years have come and gone, and now my mother has passed. I still love to listen to the choir during conference. I desperately long to see my mother sitting there singing with the choir, but I realize the sweet spirit that can be felt any time a hymn is sung at a meeting.

One thing that has not changed, is my tradition of watching the Sunday sessions of General Conference with my Dad. To this day, I may have my own family now, but we all know that Sunday sessions are saved to watch with Grandpa. The tradition continues.

As I sat and listened on Sunday afternoon, I glanced over at my eighty two year old father who was intently listening to the speaker. My heart was full. I was grateful for the blessing of having him around to watch conference with.

I certainly love General Conference for all the reasons that everyone else does-- for the learning, the growth, for the messages of inspiration and the words of encouragement, of course I could go on and on.

But I am also very grateful for what it means to me personally and the connection I feel with my family. It’s a time when we come together in one purpose, we feel just so close. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Is the Book always Better?

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I'm reading "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief" at the moment, and thoroughly enjoying it, even though it is evidently written for twelve-year-old boys. It's not something I had previously come across, and I probably wouldn't have bought it had I not seen the film first.

I enjoyed the film, but the book is better. (The book is very, very different actually, and if I were Rick Riordan I would be very annoyed at the liberties Hollywood took with my creation, from making the hero 17 rather than 12, to doing away with several major characters including the chief baddie, and in the process completely rewriting the plot.)

I'm actually struggling to think of any films where the movie version is better than the book. At least, where the book came first. Books issued as a "companion" to a movie, part of the merchandising, are generally fairly hurriedly and poorly written, and slavishly follow the action of the film when part of the beauty of books is being able to look into the heads of the various characters.

So if the book is always better than the film, what's the point of making a movie of it at all? If it's ultimately going to disappoint fans of the book, why do filmmakers bother? Why not stick to original ideas which work as movies but might not work as books?

1. Money. The bottom line. The filmmakers know there will be a market for a movie if the book has already sold five million copies. And having a novel which can relatively easily be adapted to a screenplay is a gift. If I like a book, I will generally want to see the film, if only out of curiosity. (Oh, and the authors get some of that money too, so I'm not complaining.)

2. Not everyone is an avid reader. The movie can open the book - and the world of reading - to a whole new audience.

3. A movie can add a new dimension to a book. I found with the Harry Potter books that seeing the films really helped me to visualise things like the scale of Hogwarts, or exactly what a hippogryff looks like. In addition, music and stunning photography can really add to the atmosphere.

4. In a few rare cases, the film can bring new material to the book. One example of this is in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. In the book, written from Bella's point of view, we never see the wolves and vampires chasing Victoria along the boundary line because Bella isn't there to witness it. In the movie it is a spectacular scene and the boundary is shown to be a river. Stephenie Meyer was closely involved in the production of the films and I can't help thinking that she might have relished this opportunity to add some meat to the bones of this part of the story.

5. Some books which should have popular and wide appeal, don't. Pride and Prejudice, for example, is one of the great classics of English literature but some people can be put off by old-fashioned language, or their lack of understanding of this period of history. I think both the BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, and the Keira Knightly version, were excellent, and could help dispel any such concerns and give us a better understand of life in the early nineteenth century and thus a new appreciation for the book.

Do you agree? Is it good that Hollywood makes movies of so many popular books? Can you think of any where the film is better than the book?

(Any LDS Production Companies out there - I think my third book, Easterfield, is the one most suited to a movie, and I'm happy to write the screenplay for you.)

(Mr. Spielberg, talk to me about the rights for Emon and the Emperor early next year.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Conference . . . in General

I love it when Conference weekend rolls around! It's more than the fact that I have a weekend off from all of the normal meetings that go along with my current calling (YW President). Though I also love lounging around in comfort at home with cool nibblies (my definition of tasty snacks) as I savor each talk, it's more than that, too.

I take lots of notes. Tons of notes. Someday when I'm dead and gone, my children will grimace when faced with the task of sorting through their mother's notes. I suspect they'll all get filed in the infamous "g" container and hauled off to the local dump. =)

For me, it's comforting to record bits and pieces of wisdom and peace that I glean from each talk. I write down impressions that come to mind, and scriptures that are shared. The latter item mentioned has become a bit more involved since most of the speakers no longer share the references. But I use a few key words to find those scriptures in the topical guide of my trusty quad.

I use tiny notebooks to record my infamous notes. Not only are they easy to haul around, but I can fit two or three in my scripture bag for later perusal. I'm planning on keeping this current notebook in my purse. There are days when I need those words of comfort and advice. Times when I need reminded of the peace I felt when a certain scripture was shared. I like having those items handy when I need them the most.

Here are some of the favorite thoughts I've gleaned this past week. This includes the talks given during the General YW broadcast:

"Make the Savior the center of our lives."

"Everyone is our neighbor!"

"Do a Samaritan-like act this week!"

"We do not run alone in this great race of life."

"Children are the key to helping us become like our Savior."

"The way we treat others reflects our devotion to the Savior."

"No pain we suffer is wasted."

"Angels sustain us during difficult times."

"LDS women are incredible!"

"Have I done any good in the world today?"

"We are often sent wake-up calls."

"The husband is the head of the family--the wife is the heart."

"Fear should not displace faith."

"Desires dictate our lives."

Etc. and so forth. As you can see, this is already quite a lengthy list and I barely scratched the surface of what I recorded. =) I also have a new favorite scripture: Hebrews 12:11. I didn't even have it marked in my set of scriptures---until yesterday. This scripture talks about trials, and the fact that we don't enjoy those challenges when they surface in our lives, but we always gain from those experiences.

Wow---I can't even put into words the insights I've gleaned from all of these inspired talks. As Elder Jeffery Holland stated yesterday, these messages are for us. They will help us survive the trying days ahead. They will bring comfort and peace, and nudges concerning the areas where we need improvement. Armed with their power, we can thrive during these interesting latter days.