Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Some call them goals. Some call them resolutions. Some don't make any and avoid the topic altogether. I like setting goals for the New Year - or making resolutions - so that I can keep track of what I wanted to accomplish in the new year. Unfortunately, I don't always accomplish all I strive to do, but if I didn't set goals, would I accomplish anything? Last year at this time I read an article about a woman who had stopped setting goals, but made a list of things she had never done and wanted to do in the new year. I loved that idea and in addition to setting some goals, I made a list of places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to do. Among those listed: spend a couple of days on the coast. We did. We had a marvelous time! The California coast (and golf) are exceptional for bonding with hubby. I wanted to visit the Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks - it was small but an incredible gem. I had a fun outing with my sisters in Palm Springs. This coming year we have chosen another venue - Salt Lake City. Two of my sisters live in Idaho and one in Michigan so it is a little more central for everyone than California. More bonding time - special sister time. I'm grateful for my "little sisters." Isn't it funny how the difference in years melts away as we get older. Hubby and I drove the 22 hours to South Dakota to visit our middle daughter and her family who moved there in June. We've been terribly spoiled to have them close enough to watch the kids grow up for the last nine years, but they were delighted to get back to colder country. One more item checked off my to-do list for 2012. We truly do love road trips so the drive didn't seem as long as it sounds. We managed to make both Tuacahn and the Shakespeare Festival with our dear friends from our mission in July, and enjoyed a family reunion with both sides of our family. More good bonding time! Friends and family are SO important to stay in touch with! One of my goals was to submit Too Many Ghosts: A Dominique and Duchess Mystery to Covenant. I managed to accomplish that, then even managed to take out the 100 pages they asked me to remove. Still waiting to hear if they want it. I'm currently working on the sequel and my goal is to submit it by Easter. Smaller daily resolutions included typing my old journal entries from the 1960's and 70's - talk about interesting! I'm so glad I have been a journal keeper as I had forgotten all the fun things our family did! Also spent a lot of time on family history and entering one piece of paper per day on the computer to get rid of the boxes of records I have. That one wasn't as successful and will continue on my goal list this next year and the next. Of course, I probably have about ten years of papers to enter!! :) So - in retrospect - yes. I will be making resolutions or setting goals or whatever you want to call it because at the end of the year, I love checking off what I accomplished that may never have happened if I hadn't had the goal before me daily! Happy New Year - and happy resolutioning!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Jonathan Hawaii Napela

I just delivered my sixth book of historical fiction to my editor. After pressing the send key, I put on my coat, mittens, and boots and went for a long walk in the snowy night. It was time to reflect on the year's work of research and writing, and to express my gratitude for being able to write about such an amazing human being.

Jonathan Hawaii Napela was born into an alii (royal) Maui family in the early 1800's, not long after Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian Islands. He was educated at the Lahainaluna School by some of the first Protestant Missionaries. He became a district court judge and married Cathrine (Kitty) Richardson in 1843. Kitty Richardson was said to be one of the most beautiful women in the islands.

When Mormon Missionaries came to the islands in 1850, Jonathan Napela was one of the first converts under the hand of twenty-three year old, George Q. Cannon. The two men became great friends and Napela assisted Cannon in translating the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian. The Hawaiian saint spent many years teaching the gospel to his Hawaiian countrymen.

In 1873 his wife Kitty was diagnosed with leprosy and sent to the island of Molokai for isolation. Although Jonathan did not have the disease, he petitioned the Board of Health for permission to go to the leper colony as his wife's kokua (helper). Jonathan would later contract the disease and pass away in 1879. Kitty would follow her dear husband two weeks later.

It is a remarkable story of accomplishment, faith, and love, and I feel truly honored to have been given the chance to write it out.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reflecting on Books at Christmastime

One item very near the top of any list I might draw up of things for which I'm grateful is my ability to read.  Along with that I'm grateful for the unlimited resources available to me from which to draw my passion for the printed word.  I love bookstores, libraries, my Kindle, the internet, newspapers, friends and family who share books, and my own scribbles. 

Somehow I got the idea that recuperating would involve a lot of time to read.  Boy was I wrong. Granted I did read a lot while recuperating from my September knee replacement surgery, but the pancreatectomy left me too sick to read at first, then shaky and uninterested, then too busy learning to deal with diabetes, doctor visits, and fatigue.  I must be getting better because in the last three days I've read The Ensign cover to cover, two and a half books, and all of the unpublished authors' entries in the LDSPublishers Christmas Story Contest. 

When my sister who is two years older than me started school, she came home each day and we played school.  She taught me whatever she'd learned that day.  An older brother was having trouble learning to read so his teacher assigned him to read aloud to someone each day for a half hour.  My busy mother decided he should read to me.  Between my sister's daily tutoring and my brother's laborious sounding out each word as he read, I learned to read several years before I was allowed to go to school.   

My mother had a number of children's books which I spent hours poring over as they ignited my imagination. One of the great tragedies of my childhood was the flood that swept through our home destroying all of my mother's books when I was eight. 

Some of the most appreciated Christmas gifts I received as I grew up were books.  As I became old enough to babysit, some of that precious money went for books.  When I was twelve I could buy a Trixie Beldon novel for fifty cents, my entire earnings for tending three small children for six hours--including washing the family's supper dishes.  During the school year I had access to books, but summers were different.  Few towns allowed children from the outlying farms to have library cards.  I will always feel gratitude for an elderly man who was our neighbor in Montana.  He marched into the Hamilton library and signed a paper to sponsor me and my siblings so we could have library cards.  A high school teacher in a little Idaho town arranged a state library card for me so that I could check out books by mail from the state library in Boise. I so appreciated that gesture. 

It will be Christmas in just a few days and you can be sure there will be books among the many surprises under the tree.  It has been exciting to watch one of my daughters experience the publication of her first book and share her pleasure in successful book signings.  And I look forward to reading my favorite Christmas story; you know the one I mean . . . the one that begins "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. . . And Joseph also went up from Galilee, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem . . .To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."
Merry Christmas one and all.



Monday, December 17, 2012

Caroling for Christmas

I apologize for not blogging much lately. I've been recovering from a minor medical procedure--but I'm pretty much on the mend now. In fact I'm beginning to feel better than I have in quite some time. This is good. As such, I take laptop in hand to bring a holiday blog post your way. =D

In light of recent events. I thought it might be appropriate to dust off a Christmas memory from several years ago. It was a time in our family when things seemed a bit bleak. Although we had experienced a lot of tender mercies, our family was still grieving over the loss of our father. As many of you know, he suffered from a rare medical condition, and during a moment when he was very much not himself, he took his own life.

As a result, moments like the holiday season were often painful reminders of who was missing in our clan.  Healing had begun, but our hearts were still very tender. And that year, my brother, who had served a valiant mission in Canada, had returned home. We wanted that Christmas to be a special time, and yet it was still a challenge to feel the Christmas Spirit.

That year, while my mother searched for a job as a dental assistant, she had accepted employment as a CNA at a local nursing home. The lonely plight of some of the residents of that facility inspired her to come up with a plan to help us all feel better.

The afternoon of Christmas Eve, we gathered together to make Christmas cookies. At first we thought we were making them for our family to enjoy. Then our mother explained that we would be taking them in to the nursing home residents. She went on to say that we would also be singing Christmas carols to these people. For a moment, we all looked at each other in shock. Singing had always been something special in our family. For years we had performed together on various programs with our father, who had possessed a beautiful, deep bass voice. Since his death, the music inside of us had withered.

A few months after his death, I had attempted singing on a Christmas program, thinking I could handle it. This was a bad choice. Ignoring a quiet prompting that warned it was too soon to try something like this, I agreed to perform on the program for a Christmas dinner. I managed to get halfway through the number, then was hit with a wave of overwhelming grief that prevented me from finishing the performance. It was a horrible experience and I hadn't been able to sing since that night. I'll admit that I silently balked at the idea of singing Christmas carols in public. But when my mother handed me a guitar as everyone else gathered plates of Christmas cookies, I didn't have the heart to say, "NO!"

We loaded up in a couple of cars and drove across town to the nursing home. On the way, I offered a silent prayer for help, uncertain that I could come through on my mother's request. When we arrived, I still felt extremely nervous, but obediently clutched my guitar and followed behind everyone else inside the building.

We began by handing out the Christmas cookies to the staff and the nursing home residents. That act alone brought smiles to lonely, suffering faces, and their reaction softened my heart. I could see that most of these people hadn't received Christmas visitors. Their joy over our arrival melted through the icy grief that had engulfed my heart. My mother signaled that it was time for a Christmas carol, and I bravely shouldered my guitar.

At first I thought that I would simply accompany my sisters, brother, and mother. But as the familiar words rang out, I found myself joining in with a soft harmony. As I sang with my family that night, a soothing peace nestled in my heart. We advanced from room to room, making certain that everyone received Christmas cookies, and one or two heartfelt carols. Tremendous healing took place that night as we witnessed a Christmas miracle we hadn't anticipated. And when we returned home, our hearts warmed from the glow of that small act of service, Christmas didn't seem quite so painful. A quiet feeling of joy replaced the grief, helping us to know that eventually, all would be well.

I've never forgotten the happiness I felt that night. It was a reminder that when we reach out to help others, our own sorrow fades. It's the best way I know to experience the true joy of Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Washed Clean

I'm always amazed and delighted at the talent and inspiration of our general authorities and felt President Boyd K. Packer's poem was very appropriate to share at this time of year as a blog post. In ancient times the cry "Unclean! would warn of lepers near. "Unclean! Unclean!" the words rang out; Then all drew back in fear. Lest by the touch of lepers' hands They, too, would lepers be. There was no cure in ancient times, Just hopeless agony. No soap, no balm, no medicine could stay disease or pain. There was no salve, no cleansing bath to make them well again. But there was One, the record shows, Whose touch could make them pure; Could ease their awful suffering, Their rotting flesh restore. His coming long had been foretold. Signs would precede His birth. A Son of God to Woman born, With power to cleanse the earth. The day He made ten lepers whole, The day He made them clean, Well symbolized His ministry And what His life would mean. However great that miracle, This was not why He came. He came to rescue every soul from death, from sin, from shame. For greater miracles, He said, His servants yet would do, To rescue every living soul, Not just heal up the few. Though we're redeemed from mortal death, We still can't enter in, Unless we're clean, cleansed every whit, From every mortal sin. What must be done to make us clean, We cannot do alone. The law, to be a law, requires A pure one must atone. He taught that justice will be stayed till mercy's claim be heard. If we repent and are baptized and live by every word. That is the never-ending gift that came that Christmas Day When Mary first held close her son and shepherds came to pray. If we could only understand all we have heard and seen, We'd know there is no great gift that those two words - "Washed clean!" President Boyd. K. Packer Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Love Christmas!!!

I make no bones about it. I love Christmas! I love the music (I could listen to Christmas carols all year long and frequently play them in mid-summer.) I love the lights and decorations. I love the smells that come from greenery brought into the house and emanate from the kitchen the whole blessed season. I love the feeling in the air...the excitement, the anticipation, the friendliness, and yes, even the love. There is definitely more love at this time of year. People thinking about other people, remembering some they haven't thought much of all year. People going out of their way to drop off a little remembrance that says, "I was thinking of you. I love you." I love selecting gifts for people! The only thing I really hate is packaging them up and mailing them but Amazon now does a wonderful job of sending them on and if you are a Prime member, shipping is free! Does it get better than that? They even have a wish list. I just accessed my college granddaughter's list and picked out two things on there, had Amazon send them on with a gift card and she will be one happy camper this Christmas! I love the decorations in the stores and the Christmas music playing, filling the air with happy sounds of Christmas. And I love getting Christmas cards from friends all over the world catching us up to date on their families. I love doing the 12 days of Christmas for people in our retirement center in our ward. We started doing it for six families or individuals around 1995 and it grew to 10 families before we went on our mission to Armenia in 2001. We turned it over to the Relief Society at that time, and now it has blossomed to about 25 families. A huge undertaking I'm happy we aren't doing alone! I love turning off all the lights except the Christmas tree and sitting by the fire listening to soft Christmas music curled up next to hubby. Sweet moments! And on the other hand, I love it when all the family descends and it is pandemonium with grandkids opening presents amid squeals of delight. Incredibly wonderful times! I love the Christmas programs at church, playing the Christmas hymns on the organ, organizing special musical numbers for Sacrament meeting so we can hear Christmas music the congregation doesn't normally sing. And I love the Christmas story, contemplating the birth of our Savior, Mary's wonder, the shepherds and wise men, the angels, and tender Joseph watching over his family. Maybe that's why I keep adding to my collection of nativity sets which represent in so many different mediums the miraculous, wonderful, happy, glorious story of The Birth of the Babe.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hillary Clinton-Saul Alinsky

In 1969 a Wellesley undergraduate by the name of Hillary Rodham submitted her 92-page senior thesis on the theories of Saul Alinsky. The title of Hillary's thesis was "There Is Only the Fight: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model."

Alinsky was born in Chicago in 1909 and his entire life, until his death in 1972, was devoted to organizing revolution in America to destroy a system he regarded as oppressive and unjust. His book, Rules for Radicals, became the bible for "Progressives." On many occasions, Hillary Rodham Clinton has referred to herself as a "Progressive." And Michelle and Barak Obama embrace the "Progressive Movement."

In the Alinsky manual for organizing new trainees to the radical agenda, members were told to get over the idea that community organizing was done for any idealistic reason, such as betterment of a community's social ills, but existed only to gain a base from which to wrest power. The Alinsky manual instructs, "We are not virtuous by not wanting power. We are really cowards for not wanting power, because power is good and powerlessness is evil."

In the dedicatory page of his book, Rules for Radicals, Alinsky reveals insight into the radical mind by praising Lucifer as the first rebel: "Lest we forget, an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins--or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom--Lucifer."

 Just something to consider.

My comments were taken from the booklet by David Horowitz entitled Barack Obama's Rules for Revolution. If you want to do further study, look up the Freedom Center or go to

Friday, November 16, 2012


At our local authors' annual presentation at our public library, I was asked to take a couple of minutes and comment on what is the best thing you can do to a manuscript before you submit it to a publishing house. This was my answer: 1. We’ll start with the assumption that you have already read your manuscript to your alpha readers. Alpha readers are your critique group that reads each chapter as you write it and they give their suggestions for improvement and catch inadvertent errors. 2. Then we assume that you have already gone over it with an eye to too many adverbs – those descriptive “LY” words we love to use to impact our writing. Quickly, sleepily, beautifully, suddenly. Most of them can come out and make the story better, flow more smoothly. Editors are not fond of adverbs. 3. Then we assume you have already done a word search for words like “was” and “were” and “then” and “that” and “is”……all of these are weak non-descriptive verbs. Replace them with action verbs and your writing takes on a new vibrancy. Some sentences will need to be revised: “She was going to call him” can read “She planned to call him”: or : She needed to call him.” Get rid of lazy weak verbs. Nine times out of ten you can revise the sentence with an action verb but there are a few times nothing really does the job better than “was”. 4. Then we are assuming that you have given the completed polished work to your beta readers – beta readers are friends, teachers, avid readers, and people who can spot errors in grammar, continuity, typographical errors - and you have made any corrections needed from this group. New writers are always concerned about someone stealing their ideas so they don’t want to share their stories with anyone. You don’t have to worry about that. Experts say there are only 8 basic story ideas in the world and everything else is a variation on one of those. And we have great copyright laws. 5. You’ve edited and polished until you are sick of your story, but there is one final thing you must do before you send your baby off to be birthed by an editor: You must read it aloud all in one sitting -- if that is physically possible. An amazing thing happens when you do that – a sentence that seemed perfect before will suddenly stop your flow. If you tweak it – change a word or two and read it again, it now flows beautifully. This will probably happen dozens of times as you read. And only by reading it out loud can you discover this magical ebb and flow of your words that will raise your manuscript up a notch or two and have an editor read to the end instead of circular filing it. Anything that brings you out of the dream you have woven as you read it aloud is an immediate flag that something needs to be fixed. Don’t submit anything that is not the very best that you can do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Amazon's Author Reviews, and Why Argos Do It Better

Amazon recently made a controversial decision and took down thousands of reviews because they were written by authors. You can read more about the fallout here, but essentially this was done because of all the crony-ism  You know how that works - an indie author has maybe ten other indie author friends, often thanks to Facebook. Author 1 brings out a new book, and asks the other authors to post a five star Amazon review of his work. In return he will do the same for each book brought out by authors 2-10, and as a result each author will have nine glowing reviews on their Amazon page. And if that doesn't work there are, apparently, people out there who will pay you up to £7 to post a five-star review of their book or product on Amazon.

It's not difficult to review a book you've never read. At book club on Sunday one of our members talked about how her twelve-year-old son had been praised for his book reports, yet she knew he rarely read a book. When questioned he told her that he read the first page and the back cover blurb and that was enough to write a report which could convince his teacher that he'd read the whole thing. So those Amazon reviews might be a long the lines of "A lovely story, well written and highly recommended", but with no specifics at all.

Clearly, this sort of practice destroys the integrity of Amazon's review system and dupes readers into paying for a book which genuine reviews might have led them to avoid. I think Amazon were in a difficult position and I can understand how they have come to this decision.

But the problem is that I am a reader as well as a writer. Most writers are. And I might want to post a review of a Charles Dickens book without for a moment expecting the late Mr Dickens to return the favour. I might also read a superb book which I very much want to recommend now only to my friends, but to all the customers of Amazon who may be browsing and thinking about buying it. I'd really like my reviews to appear on the page, if Amazon don't mind very much.

The official reason Amazon gave for their decision (as opposed to saying that the review system couldn't be trusted because of crony-ism) was that authors are in direct competition with each other, and might post a bad review of another author's book in order to direct readers to their instead. But this argument doesn't hold water for two reasons. First, authors really are not in competition in the same way that, say, car manufacturers are. Most people only buy one car every four or five years, so Ford would have an interest in planting a few poor reviews of Vauxhall's vehicles. Buy readers may buy many books each year so there really is no reason in dissuading someone from buying a particular book, because with most indie books costing only £1 or so, readers can easily buy both. In addition, there are so many alternatives to choose from that posting a bad review of a "rival" author's book isn't necessarily going to result in the reader buying yours instead. After all, they have several million others to choose from.

I wonder if Amazon considered any alternative to a blanket ban on author reviews? One solution would have been more moderation of reviews, but there are so many of them this was probably dismissed as impossible to implement. Another might have been to use the review system employed by Argos. When you reserve something online to buy from Argos you get an email a couple of weeks later asking whether you would like to review it. The email includes a link to use, and this is the only way you can post a review. In other words, if you haven't bought the product from Argos, you can't review it on the Argos website.

People rely on Argos reviews. I know I do. My youngest child has been asking for a particular toy for several months, but the Argos reviews are highly critical so I haven't bought it from her and probably never will. I'll try to find her an alternative, because I know that people who have actually bought and used the toy are not happy with it.

If Amazon were to implement this system then all those indie authors would actually have to buy the book from Amazon before they are able to post a review. And the number of fake reviews might fall considerably as a result.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Snowy Forecast

I've been trying really hard to think of something to blog about and not succeeding too well. Lots of people are blogging about the election, but that's just too depressing.  I could tell you about my two upcoming surgeries, but that's depressing too and leads back to the election and the huge increase in price and reduction in coverage I'm facing thanks to Obamacare.  I guess that leaves the weather. 

I thought about illustrating this blog with a cute picture of my little granddaughter, Jennifer, playing in the leaves, but she wouldn't go near the pile of leaves.  She barely touches one at a time with her toe.

  But I did get a pretty good shot of our spectacular firebush with little Jen checking out individual leaves.  According to the weatherman this beautiful fall weather is leaving us this week to be replaced with snow.  We need the snow!  Another dry winter will limit the West's water next summer, damage trees, and create a number of unpleasant problems.  A good snowfall not only improves our water situation, but brings in lots of skiers who spend money and fill our tax coffers.  Still I hate driving on icy roads, worrying about my family driving on icy roads, and just plain being cold.

Perhaps I should stick to blogging about my next book.  It has a title now, Where the River Once Flowed. My editor and I are almost finished with the edit; I don't have a cover yet, but it is due for release in February.  If you read The Heirs of Southbridge, you'll remember when Clayton decided to return East to attend school and visit the plantation where he was born, his younger brother opted to go further west.  This new book features three major characters, one of which is the younger brother, Travis.

This month is a month when American's thoughts generally turn to giving thanks and this month's Wish List contest is focusing on gratitude, though any comment on any of my blogs, as long as it's tasteful, will count as an entry in the contest.  The winner will receive an LDS novel of his/her choice from my bookshelves. (US only unless postage is sent by winner to cover shipping cost)  Admittedly I'm disappointed in many aspects of this recent election, but I'm thankful to be an American.  I'm grateful to live in a country where I can express my dissatisfaction and not fear punishment.  I'm grateful to live in a country where there is still hope for a course correction when rights are trampled on.  I'm grateful for all of the hardworking individuals who built this country.  I'm grateful for all those who died to ensure this land's liberty and I'm thankful I can worship God and seek His blessings upon all who sincerely endeavor to protect this country from a loss of liberty. I'm grateful, too, that every four years we get another chance to try to get it right.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Holidays Fast Approaching!

Is it cheating to share a recipe for a blog? I'm so very tired of all the election mud-slinging and lies that have flooded the nation that I'm ready for a total change of pace. I love the holidays because of all the special foods we prepare, consume, and share. I always make mounds and mounds of caramel corn and deliver it to friends and neighbors, and sweet breads, cakes and cookies. Recipes we never seem to take time to make during the rest of the year are brought out, dusted off and whipped up with family standing by the oven eagerly awaiting the familiar taste treat. My English grandmother was an incredible cook. All her older brothers and sisters were born in England, but she was fortunate to be born in America after her parents came to the "promised land." She spent hours in our kitchen on holidays preparing all the wonderful treats her family had enjoyed in Derbyshire. She was famous for her bread pudding and it became one of my favorite treats. I love eating at a buffet to this day because they usually serve it as one of the dessert options. But I just found a recipe that is a must-try this Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Bread Pudding. I'll share it here before I send it along to my son-in-law who shares my love of that tasty delicacy. He served his mission in England so apparently developed a taste there for this easy to make dessert. Pumpkin Bread Pudding 4 cups white bread, cut into cubes l cup granulated sugar 4 eggs 3 egg yolks 1 1/2 cups milk 1/4 tsp salt 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 1 Tbsp rum or brandy flavoring 3/4 cups canned pumpkin puree 1/4 tsp nutmeg 1 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp cloves, ground 1 TBSP butter; cold, cut into pieces Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Dry bread cubes on cookie sheet in oven 10 to 15 minutes. Place bread cubes in pan. In large mixing bowl, whisk together all pudding ingredients except butter. Pour mixture over bread cubes. Let sit 10 minutes until bread is fully soaked. Dab butter over top. Bake 40 to 50 min. Pudding should be set in center, but not dry. Bon Appetit! And don't forget to vote tomorrow!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Book I Recommend to Everyone

At the last meeting of my lovely book club we had a planned visit from a journalist from The Richard and Judy Book Club, a TV phenomenon doing in the UK what Oprah did for reading in the US. She talked to us generally about why we so enjoyed our book club, and asked each of us in turn which one book we would recommend to others. We were recorded for a podcast, so somewhere out there on the world wide web is a soundbyte of me explaining why everyone should read ...

The Chrysalids
John Wyndham

Now that was a really difficult decision. I love so many books! But The Chrysalids had a memorably powerful impression on me as a teenager, and an even stronger effect when I re-read it as an adult and finally understood that it's about the dangers of religious extremism and the aftermath of nuclear war.

I'm not saying that it was the best book I ever read, or even my very favourite, but it was the one which I felt was most profound, moving and timely as well as being superbly written. Sometimes you have to take all these extra things into account when choosing just one book. It's not always just about entertainment value.

If you had to recommend a book which everyone should read, which has the power to change society, which would you choose, and why?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weathering the Storm

Sometimes it seems like life is one impressive storm after another. This week, as a huge storm (I've heard it called: Frankenstorm) approaches the eastern coast of our country, residents are doing the best that they can to batten down the hatches. Boards have been fastened over windows, services like subways, trains, and flights have been cancelled, businesses and schools have closed, and many people have been evacuated in preparation.

As I watched the news last night, various scenes flashed across the TV screen. One showed people inside of a store frantically shoving items like bottled water, canned goods, etc. into shopping carts. Another featured a stubborn resident who was refusing to leave the area, claiming he had nowhere to go and he wanted to protect his home. As such, he was busy loading up bags with sand from a nearby beach. Only time will tell if this was a wise decision.

A year after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, my husband and I spent two weeks in the area on a business trip. We saw firsthand some of the damage that can take place when a storm of this magnitude descends. Some images will always haunt me, like the flattened homes, others with numbers revealing how many were found dead and alive, and a cemetery with empty tombs--everything had washed out to sea.

It helped to see the determination to rebuild. Everywhere we looked, despite the overwhelming devastation that had taken place, people were stubbornly piecing their homes and businesses back together. Most had done this before, and they told us they would do so again if another storm came through.

Before our trip to New Orleans, I wondered why anyone would want to live in a place that is prone to massive storms. After spending two weeks exploring the area, I could see why. I fell in love with New Orleans and all it had to offer. It is a beautiful city, full of history, art, music, romance, and excellent cuisine. A seafood fan, I consumed some of the best shrimp, oysters, etc. that I've ever had the pleasure to sample during our stay in 'Nawlins. The Cajun spices appealed, although I did draw the line over the deep-fried blue crabs. Spiders are not my friends and in my opinion, those small crabs resembled deep-friend tarantulas. Just sayin' . . .

Regardless, I came away from Louisiana with a deep respect for those who have the courage to live in a storm-prone state. Their sense of culture, tradition, and endurance impressed me greatly. I have often thought of their resilience as I have faced storms in my own life.

We all experience storms during our adventure of a lifetime. Some are more like light mists that barely douse our lives. Others are of such scary magnitude, we want to run screaming the other way. I think what matters most is how we decide to confront these challenges. Do we run in a panicked circle exclaiming the sky is falling, or do we simply do our best to secure our foundation and weather the storm? It has been my experience that we often don't know how we'll react until the storm is on the horizon. That's when we discover our mettle, as my grandmother would call it--and often realize that we can shine the brightest when all around is dark.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Decision Time

Tuesday I took advantage of the call to vote early.  I'm glad I did.  That first week in November is going to be a medically rough one for me and this is one election I didn't want to miss, yet I left the polling place feeling a little sad.  It wasn't just that a group of seniors were eating their lunch a few feet from the polling place and the little voting station where I marked my electronic ballot was parked in front of the only access to the coat closet and people kept pushing me aside to reach their coats, or that the voting machine seemed to have a dying battery causing it to take long, long pauses before accepting the choices I pushed.  It just didn't feel the same. 

To me election day has always been a special day, a sort of national holiday where Americans join together to express our pride in being Americans.  There is a kind of prestige in wearing a sticker proclaiming "I voted!"  I like standing in line with friends and neighbors in a sort of camaraderie that proclaims "we're Americans and we know our duty!" 

I've had an interest in politics since I was a child and first spotted an "I like Ike" sign on the back of an old Hudson parked on our small town's Main street.  I've voted in every election since I was old enough to vote.  I've attended mass meetings and caucuses, held voting district and legislative district offices, been a delegate, worked as a page for the legislature, and as a reporter I got to meet many presidents, governors, and big name politicians.  I've worked on the campaigns of winners and losers.  However, this year I think the campaign has been too long and too negative.  I don't like the horrible ads sponsored by PACs and outside groups.  I'm glad it's winding down, but I feel more jittery and nervous about the results than usual.  It just seems there is so much at stake this time. 

In my early teens I had the opportunity to serve at a banquet where the governor of Idaho was the guest of honor.  I was thrilled to be assigned his table.  I noticed there was no butter on the table and hurried to remedy the situation.  Just as I approached his table with a tray of butter, a lady approached him from the other side.  He abruptly stood, bumped my tray, and the butter slid down the front of his suit. 

When Ronald Reagan was his party's nominee for President he visited Utah and I had the privilege of walking with him down that long hall at the Salt Palace and conducting him to the private banquet room where he was expected.  My husband and children were to meet me there and they arrived while we were strolling down that hall, he took the time to shake hands with each of them and laugh and talk with my family for a few minutes before we continued on.

Chosen as a delegate to a conference in Washington DC I was impressed by the charming, able young governor from a Southern state who emceed the main meetings.  Not many years later Bill Clinton was elected President. 

Most people don't follow politics as closely as I do and that's all right.  In this country you only have to be over eighteen and a citizen to vote, but it helps a great deal to be informed.  That includes taking most political ads with a grain of salt and ignoring the big mud slams of the last few weeks of a campaign.  And with all of the national hype, a voter might think picking the right presidential, senatorial, and representative are all that matter.  Important as these offices are, remember the positions closest to home often impact us the most.  Choose wisely and be sure to vote!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Isn't it About "Time?"

The other day someone asked me how things were going. I smiled and answered, "Well, I'm never bored." The reply to that response was: "Aren't you glad?" I've thought about that conversation this past week, and have decided that I am glad I'm not bored. It seems like every day there are so many things that I can try to accomplish--it's like a never-ending list.

I usually try to write in the early morning hours, since that is when my creative juices seem to flow. Then I dive in on the daily adventure which is often a combination of household chores, errands, etc.Though I manage to cross several items off these daily lists, I never quite finish up everything. There are moments when I sigh and wish there were three of me . . . but then again, perhaps there would be three times the amount of things to do. ;)

I do make an effort to attend most family events, since I believe those are the really important items in this life. And since my husband and I both belong to rather large family trees, it seems like there are always weddings, funerals, baptisms, graduations, and new babies to welcome into this mortal world, not to mention reunions, family camping adventures, holidays to celebrate, birthdays to commemorate, and so on.

Then there are crazy days like a Friday I experienced a couple of weeks ago. In that one day I helped my mother pick up the cases of canned food she wanted at the local case lot sale, sang at the local senior center for their weekly entertainment slot, endured a less-than-fun mammogram, entertained my mother-in-law who surprised us with a quick visit for part of the weekend, and cleaned out my abode for the arrival of family members from my side who were coming to hang out during Conference weekend. I'll admit, by the end of that day I fell sound asleep the moment my head hit the pillow. 

It seems like I experience erratic days like that at least once a week. But you know what, there are no regrets. I suspect when my allotted time is over on this mortal sphere, I will experience a tiny bit of satisfaction from knowing that I did my best to make the most out of each day. I may not have always succeeded . . . and there is the glitch I currently endure with having to slow down a bit here and there compliments of my less than cooperative body . . . but for the most part, I have tried to live this adventure of a lifetime with a bit of gusto. 

So, yes, I'm rarely bored, but this is a good thing. Though sometimes I long for a day when I can sit and vegetate, if I ever reach a point in my life when that is all I can do, I will probably not enjoy it much. But maybe even then, I will follow my mother's example, and come up with creative things to do to keep myself entertained. Isn't that part of why we're here--to see how we'll use the time we have been given during this probationary time? The good news is the belief that I have that this life is just the beginning. I believe that we'll have an eternity to continue polishing those talents, friendships, and interests that we've developed on earth. And if that is the case, I suspect I will never be bored--and that is a reason to celebrate. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Malala Yousufzai

There is a name that will forever denote courage for me. The name is that of a fourteen year old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai. For years this young girl has been speaking out against the cruel dictates of the Taliban in her country--a group of insane radicals who will go to any length to impose their evil demagoguery on the population.

One of the things these radicals detest is girls getting an education. Years ago they closed down the school that Malala attended, and she spoke out. This brave young woman not only spoke out in her own community, but in the larger arena of the country of Pakistan. Many began to take notice. Of course, the Taliban also took notice and began issuing death threats against Malala and her family. Malala continued to speak out.

Several days ago, a group of masked and armed Taliban boarded Malala's school bus, and shot the young woman, once in the neck and once in the head.

Through nothing short of a miracle, Malala is still alive, though in critical condition.

Her courage makes me weep. I pray for her. I pray for the world to wake up and realize that there is evil in the world.

Dear Lord, give me the courage to follow Malala's example. Give me the courage to find my voice and speak up.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Art of Time Transitions

The past month or so I've really fallen down in the blogging department.  It's almost unbelievable how much time is consumed by the recuperating process.  Though my surgery went well and I'm healing pretty quickly considering I had a complete knee replacement, long hours of my days are consumed by physical therapy, ice treatments, and just plain feeling tired.  I'm not complaining; I know I'm way ahead of the usual healing curve for this type of surgery, but sometimes I feel like I've missed a lot. 

When I entered the hospital on September 17, almost a month ago, the days were hot and felt more like August than September.  I'm home now and suddenly it's October and I go around looking for a sweater to wear or an afghan to keep me from shivering.  Time seems to have taken a giant leap forward when I wasn't watching closely enough.  Sometimes I get that same feeling when I'm reading.  There's that whoa!  What happened?  How did I get from there to here? moment.   Unlike with real life, those moments leave me frantically thumbing backwards through the book to see what I missed. 

Time transitions including jumps in time are not easy to manage, but are often necessary to avoid tedious pages with little to do with the main story taking up space and time.  Getting characters from one point to another or one time to another can be challenging.  In my present work in progress (due out in February) the story covers a span of ten years and I've worried a great deal over whether or not readers will be able to follow the progression of time as I mean for them to do.  Only time and my readers will tell me whether or not I succeeded.  

Recently I read two books with significant time jumps.  One, by a well known author, left me thumbing backwards to see if I missed something several times.  The other by a friend, who doesn't claim to be a writer, but who wishes to record several family stories in a novel format for a Christmas gift moved flawlessly between the present and World War II.  I've no answer to why some writers struggle with moving between times while others do it almost instinctively.  I just know I like to be able to keep time in neat compartments when I read.  I like to know when the past is the past, when children are no longer children, when the action jumps ahead a few years, and when the action is already past.   

There are little clues that are helpful in this matter such as placing a time or date notation at the beginning of chapters, switching to different fonts to denote the different time periods, placing asterisks at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next or just skipping a space to alert the reader to a change in time, place, or point of view.  A few well chosen words can also prove helpful.

I sometimes wonder whether readers or other writers find books with long time progressions or jumps in time sometimes difficult to follow.  I'd love to discover which books you think are examples of dealing with this problem poorly or well.  I've received both kudos and complaints about my own books in the area of longish time progressions and would like to know what works and what doesn't. Though I've never written a book that presents two or more totally different time periods, I've read a number of them and haven't found many to my liking.  Currently there are at least two series underway by well-known and well-liked authors that tell two stories, one contemporary and one historical side-by-side.  I wonder what readers think of this method of storytelling.  Please share your views in the comments section. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Philosophy

With all the news about welfare, I loved this article with H. B. Zachry's philosophy of life: "I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon if I can. I seek opportunity - not security. I will refuse to be a kept citizen, to be humbled and dulled by having my state and nation look after me. I want to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed - never to be numbered among those weak and timid souls who have known neither victory or defeat. I know that happiness can come only from the inside through hard constructive work and sincere positive thinking. I know that I can get a measure of inner satisfaction from any job if I intelligently plan and courageously execute it. I know that if I put forth every iota of strength that I possess - physical, mental, spiritual - toward the accomplishment of a worthwhile task ere I fall exhausted by the wayside, the Unseen Hand will reach out and pull me through. Yes, I want to live dangerously, plan by procedures on the basis of calculated risks, to resolve the problems of everyday living into a measure of inner peace. I know if I know how to do all this, I will know how to live and, if I know how to live, I will know how to die." H. B. Zachry I'm printing this for my Laurel's on beautiful cardstock to give to them to post on their wall, and to my children and grandchildren. This was a wise man and I want to share his incredible philosophy and continue to use it in my life. Definitely a formula for happiness.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What do you do..............

.........when you can't see? I've been trying to think of things I can do with very blurry vision and have discovered the list is limited. I planned to listen to some old tapes I had - but I couldn't see well enough to get them in the machine! On Thursday I had a lens replacement - would you believe the new lens he put in my eye is guaranteed for 500 years. I think it may outlast me a bit. Friday I expected to be able to sort of resume my routine after the surgeon checked my eye and removed the patch I'd worn all day Thursday. But the vision in my right eye was very blurry - which left me sort of nauseous and not wanting to do too much more than lay around. Saturday surely I could get back to my normal life. Or at least find something to do that didn't require a lot of energy or movement, (can't bend, can't lift, can't have any kind of pressure on the eye.) How do you live normally without doing those things?? I have to bend over to sort the laundry. Did manage to get that accomplished by squatting which my knees DO NOT like. I'm not planning a knee replacement like Jennie, but am babying them so they last a little longer! Couldn't read papers that were stacking up. Managed to get through the mail but the fuzzy vision brings a bit of a headache so I quit reading. Thought I should do my blog but couldn't type well enough - too many errors! Watching TV didn't work - left eye has to work too hard and right eye is too fuzzy. I can talk on the phone, walk around the house - don't dare try anything outside - my depth perception is non-existent at this point. I can SO empathize with those who have vision problems. My legally blind friend Margaret is so upbeat and happy and she can't even see people's faces. She recognizes them by their voice. She has a walker and gets around that way - if she bumps into something, she just steps back a bit and starts again. I put her food in front of her, her fork in her hand, and tell her where her glass is. Then watch very carefully that she doesn't knock it over as she reaches for it. I applaud those who make the best of their circumstances without complaining and with a smile on their face. They are my super heroes, as is my wonderful hubby who has been pampering me this week and waiting on me hand and foot. It's revealing to walk in another's shoes for awhile, but I can't wait to get to normal!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Knees Have It

Since I often post my blog Wednesday night instead of Thursday, readers may think I'm late today.  Actaully for once I'm on time. 
I have a new hero.  She smiles, she's cheerful, she gets the job done,  and it's a job I couldn't be paid enough to do.  I have no idea what her job title is, but what she does is make all the arrangements between hospitals, insurance companies, patients, medical suppliers, rehab facilities, etc. for a very busy surgeon.   I've gotten to know her because I'm having knee replacement surgery on Monday.  I've about gone crazy making the arrangements I've needed to make, but she has smoothed the impossible, gotten through a maze of telephone push button answering systems, tracked down records, and steered me through the process.  She's superwoman in my book. Thanks Lisa!

I seriously dislike phone systems where an automated voice tells me to push buttons and gives me nine options, none of which quite fit what I'm calling about.  After I've been transferred a minimum of four times, I get another machine that tells me to leave my name and number and someone will call me back--but they never do.  Argh! 

It's probably best if I don't even get started on all the new regulations that have just gone into affect for medical providers and insurance companies!  And there's more to come.

Outside of the medical end of my upcoming surgery, it's been comically sad trying to get ready the things I'll need to take with me to the hospital.  My hospital stay will be followed by a week or two at a rehab center. I think I've spent the most time trying to decide what to load on my Kindle, copying material I might need from my desk top to my laptop or onto a USB drive, and trying to get a couple of reviews written ahead for incase I feel too rotten to read or write reviews for awhile.  Funny what us writer-types consider important at such times!  My laptop is old and slow; I'm not looking forward to using it for a few weeks.

If I don't blog or answer emails for awhile, be patient.  I'll be back as soon as possible, hopefully with a new bounce in my step, or at least a step that doesn't hurt.

Friday, September 7, 2012


You work so very hard writing a book - finding just the right words, making sure that sentence makes sense. You want it to flow. You want the reader to get so caught up in this world you've created that they don't want to leave it. How many hours, days, months do you devote to this baby you're creating? You live and breathe and dream it! Then you submit it and hold your breath hoping an editor will also fall in love with your story. What if they don't like it? What if they aren't willing to take a chance that readers will like it enough to make it worth their while publishing it? So many questions rattle around in your head, over and over in the weeks - or months - it takes to hear from the publisher. Maybe it wasn't as good as I thought? Maybe I've lost my touch and I can't write anymore? Maybe I just haven't got what it takes to be an author. Finally get you get that phone call - or e-mail. They do want it!! But - and here's the caveat: It is way too long. Things are tough in the publishing world right now and they need you to cut 100 pages from this work you've put your heart and soul into for the past year. 100 pages! That's a 4th of the book! Pare it down from 124,500 words to 90,000 words. You pour over the reader's evaluation sheets. One hated it - nothing redeeming in the whole work. One really liked it - one was totally neutral. What didn't they like? Guess that should be the first thing to go. Scenes, pages, whole sections deleted! Have you ever had to thin peaches? You must take those tiny babies from the tree that are clustered too close to one another to leave room for the remaining ones to grow big. I hate pulling those baby peaches off the tree. It makes me feel like I'm committing homicide! And that's exactly how I feel taking out all those thousands of words that I worked so hard to get just right. All the research, all the hours at the computer, gone with a single swipe of the delete key. Granted, it should make the story better, sharper, more concise, just like thinning all those baby peaches will leave the tree with fewer peaches that will grow big and juicy and be more wonderful than they could be otherwise. But I still feel like I'm committing homicide when I delete all those parts of the story I worked so hard to create. Back to the edits and killing my babies.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reason? Or Just a Rut?

Most of us are most comfortable moving at an even pace through life.  We tend to get up each morning about the same time and head for bed at about the same time each night.  We talk to pretty much the same people day after day, check the same news sources, prefer a certain chair, and early on we establish a set protocol for getting ourselves ready to face each day, then follow a set pattern of beginning our work, checking our mail, getting the kids off to school, exercising for a certain period of time, eating meals, watching the same television shows, catching up on face book, or accomplishing whatever tasks have become part of our daily routine.  We're creatures of habit.

 A certain amount of routine saves time and brings order to our lives; but sometimes we're just in a rut.  Long ago a teacher advised a group of us to "live until we die." At first that appears to be a nonsense statement, but in truth, it is quite telling.  What is the point of reducing life to a boring repetition of mundane tasks?  We're alive, but are we living? Each day should bring a new discovery, a different perspective, a new realization.  The scriptures tell us God meant for us to have joy.  There may be peace in following a rut, but not much joy.

When I was about fifteen I lived in a house with a circular traffic pattern.  There was a kitchen, then a dining room, followed by a living room, which opened on my parents' bedroom.  Another door from the bedroom led to a tiny hall where we could go upstairs, exit the back door, or return to the kitchen.  The floors were all linoleum and every few days my mother would mop the kitchen, then the dining room, the living-room, the bedroom, the hall, then carry her mop bucket out the back door to dump it. One day I noticed she started with the bedroom and did the circle in reverse.  When I asked her why, she said she just got tired of doing it the same way all of the time and needed a change, besides she noticed spots that needed more attention by viewing them from a different angle. I've thought about that many times over the years and have come to the conclusion she was right.  Change is good.  Change doesn't always have to be the big life changing events.  Even small changes redirect our perspective and require us to think.

I recommend taking a walk with a small child. There's something about walking with a small child that invites a different view of life as the child notices and is excited about every ant or small creature that crosses the sidewalk or path.  Toddlers investigate flowers, weeds and the neighbor's cat. They notice birds.  The world is new and ready to be explored when a child takes an adult's hand and begins a trek down a path so familiar to the adult that he/she no longer actually sees it.

It's all right to enjoy a particular routine, to be comfortable with an established pattern of life, but it is also a good thing to shake up that routine a little bit from time to time.  Take a different street, try a new shampoo, learn a new dance step, read a different genre or try a new author, get an e-reader, taste a food you hated as a child, run instead of walk somewhere, be early for church, go to a different temple, or just do anything that's a little different from the usual pattern.  You can make the big drastic changes, experiment with the things you've always dreamed of doing.  That's good too, but in the little changes we learn about ourselves and are reminded of the reasons we do things one way instead of another.  We pay closer attention to the things that matter to us.  It's in deviating from a habitual pattern that we discover if there's a reason for the pattern we follow, or if we're just in a rut.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The "Eyes" Have it! (Or will get it)

I was driving us somewhere a couple of weeks ago - we were in my car and if Glenn drives he has to adjust the seat, then I have to readjust the seat when I get in next time, so sometimes he just slides into the passenger seat to make it easier. I've had blurry vision for awhile - even got new glasses after just a year with my old ones but it didn't help my far vision. Unfortunately, things are so blurry that I can't read streets signs until I'm right on them. That hasn't been a problem because when I'm in town, I know the streets. When I drive to the temple, it's easy - take the 14 to I-5, then the 405 and exit on Santa Monica Blvd. Turn left at the temple, another left and I'm there. (1 1/2 hours later on a day when traffic is moving!) I can see cars and other objects just fine, even if they are just slightly out of focus, sort of like driving with a dirty windshield. But I had to take a friend to Los Angeles to a hospital in an area I wasn't familiar with, and that's when I decided I might have a slight problem with my vision. Flash back to the trip with my husband - he asked what the street coming up was. I couldn't see it. He could NOT believe I couldn't see it. My far vision has always been superb - I could see things long before he could. All the way home, he kept testing me - can you see that? Can you read that? No. So he made me call my eye doctor immediately and make an appointment. I knew I had cataracts - my doctor had been watching them for a couple of years, but he said they shouldn't be a problem yet. "What is a problem?" I ask. :When it interferes with your life style." "Uh, it is interfering." "Could your husband drive you?" That was too funny! I drive everywhere - all the time! (I'm in the car so much I can get through numerous books on CD every month!) "Then I guess we'd better fix it," the doctor said. That fix will entail a tiny slit in my eye. He will lift the flap up, scoop out the cloudy lens with a tiny vacuum, making sure that he gets all of it, then he will slip a synthetic lens into that space - made by Alcon in Texas. He will drop the flap back over the new lens and it will not even require stitches to heal. I'll sit around all day with a patch on my eye and go in the next morning for him to check his handiwork. Voila - I should be able to see clearly again. I bring this up because I think it happens way too often in our lives. Something gets a tiny bit off-kilter or out of focus and it is such a tiny problem that we adjust to it. It gets worse only in very small increments and we continue to adjust. A child's behavior, a politician's lies, the material we watch on TV. A PG-13 movie that really should have received an R-rating. (I don't watch R movies so I'm very unhappy when they slip something in that shouldn't be there!) Things change so gradually that we don't really notice. We adapt. Socialism comes one tiny change - one executive order at a time. One more program to enslave the populace and make them more dependent on the government. It is definitely time to wake up to the fact that things aren't the way they should be and do something about it. It took my husband to spur me on to the doctor and new vision - (I hope! - I'll report in September after the surgery.) I think I'd better go down to my congressman's office and volunteer my help to stop the progression of socialism in our government. My new vision could help save my life or someone else's. My volunteering might help in our fight to save America. Things are already getting more focused!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Hubby George and I were working on our budget the other night. We were figuring out what money was coming in, what was needed to run the household, what bills we had to pay, and if there was enough left over to take an end of summer road trip. We were conscientious about not stretching ourselves too thin. We wanted to take care of our charitable donations and have some to put into savings. It was an evening of numbers that made my head ache, but, in the end, the effort was well worth it. We felt great that we managed to take care of the necessities and still have a bit for our trip.

I bring this up as a contrast to how our government cannot seem to figure out this common sense approach to finance--you don't spend more than you take in. I ran across an article that I'm going to share with you about how the U.S Government spends "our" money.

A warning before you read: this might give you a headache.

U.S Tax Revenue     $2,170,000,000,000
Federal Budget         $3,820,000,000,000
New Debt                  $1,650,000,000,000
Oustanding debt    $142,710,000,000,000
Recent budget cut     $38,500,000,000

What do you say we take away 8 zeros and pretend this is our household budget?

Annual Family income     $21,700
Money the family spent    $38,200
New debt on credit card   $16,500
Outstanding balance on credit card  $142,710
Total budget cuts    $385

Take two asprin and call your Congressman.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Life is Getting Too Crazy When . . .

I apologize for not posting anything for a few weeks. In my defense (and I'm sure many of you feel the same way) August has been a blur of activity. This past weekend would be a great example of what I'm talking about. In our clan we've survived two funerals, one reunion, and a wedding . . . all in a three day span. And that doesn't include a wedding that took place on my side of the family tree, something we were unable to attend because of everything going on in my husband's family.

So while I was doing quite a balancing act preparing food to take to Kennon's cousins who lost their father this past week, and wrapping a wedding gift . . . and other assorted tasks, I couldn't find the sympathy card for Kennon's cousins. I searched everywhere I could think of . . . then came back to the kitchen table where I was certain I had left it. There sat the wedding gift all nicely wrapped . . . with a card attached . . . and a sick feeling descended. On a nearby counter I spied a wedding card. Groaning, I carefully removed the card attached to the wedding gift, and wallah (Or however you spell that word. At this point in time I don't care.) there was the missing sympathy card. Oy! Most uncool! In my haste, I hadn't noticed which card I was signing. There under the large sentence that said something like, "Our sympathy is with you on this tragic occasion," I had written: "CONGRATULATIONS!" and signed our names with much love and caring. Then I had attached it to the wedding gift.

Wow! That would have been all sorts of awkward. We're laughing about it now, but that was truly a near miss of epic proportion. Sadly, I had to throw away the sympathy card, since there was no way to salvage it. I mean, one doesn't send a message of "CONGRATULATIONS" to people who have lost a loved one. It just isn't done.

This experience did make me realize that I possibly need to slow down a tiny bit, and as a dear cousin is always telling me, "Just breathe!" So what if in one day I had to attend a viewing for a funeral, a wedding reception, and a hot dog roast at a nearby park for a family reunion on Kennon's side of the family. In between all of that, I need to learn to relax and focus on getting my brain cells to work to avoid future embarrassment.

I doubt life will slow down much . . . at all. I'm already looking at everything on the docket for this week and cringing. But I will strive to make time for a little bit of R & R so things don't get so cluttered. Good luck to me I say, but that is my goal. How do the rest of you handle multi-tasking moments? Has anyone else ever sent a sympathy card to a wedding?

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Since the dozen or so writers who joined forces to form this blog site began posting our rambling thoughts, I've tried very hard to post a blog whenever my turn came around.  I nearly missed it this time and this won't be much of a blog I fear.  I'm tired and just a bit blue.  The tired part comes because I've been at the temple the past two days and my bad knees have made the days long and painful.  The blue part is because, you see, today is my little sister's birthday.  She died two years ago and she's been on my mind a lot today. I miss her. Though we fought and competed when we were kids; we were best friends too, and the best friends part of our relationship won out as we grew older.

My computer isn't playing nice tonight.  It keeps dropping the to address on every email I attempt to answer, forcing me to look the addresses up and enter them letter by letter. In addition to answering letters, I've been catching up on a couple of contests I'm involved with.  Go to my blog to check out a bunch of fun contests with book and book-related prizes to bring some sizzle to the end of summer.

I'm half asleep and can't think of anything intelligent (or otherwise) to say.  I promise I'll do better next time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Punctuation is Important!!

My husband dropped this little article on my desk this morning and thought I'd enjoy reading it. Little did he know it would end up being reproduced many times over. My Laurel lesson on Sunday will include it and I thought writers everywhere---as well as job seekers everywhere---should know about this! Tech Industry CEO Kyle Wiens at Harvard Business Review, July 20, 2012 wrote the following: "If you think an apostrophe was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building . . . Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies, iFixit or Dozuki, takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.) if job hopefuls can't distinguish between "to" and "too," their applications go into the bin . . . Grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn't make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can't tell the difference between their, there, and they're . . . If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use "it's," then that's not a learning curve I'm comfortable with. So even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write. Grammar signifies more than just a person's ability to remember high school English. I've found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test will also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing---like stocking shelves or labeling parts." Love this man! Granted, we can all make mistakes when we are dashing of a quick e-mail to someone, but those mistakes stand out like a red stain on a white dress! (Especially to writers who are tuned in to that sort of thing.) But what about budding writers who haven't yet discovered how crucially important grammar is to an editor - and to a reader? I'm not sure how we get the word out to our kids to pay attention in English class, but if their livelihood depends on it, I guess we'd better make an all out effort!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Reading

As much as I loved hiking and fishing as a kid, I used to regret the arrival of summer in one way,  not because of the long hours I spent irrigating, weeding, and doing various farm chores, but because in the summer I lost access to the school library. You probably thought I was going to say because of those dreaded summer reading lists.  The truth is I never had a school teacher who gave me a summer reading list. Perhaps that was because I lived in a number of remote rural areas that lacked libraries, but I always read whatever I could get my hands on and I'll always be grateful to the Idaho State Library for mailing books to me every summer as long as I lived in that state and to the school teacher who introduced me to their great program for providing books by mail. I'm grateful too to the neighbor in Montana who signed for me to get a library card in a county where a year residency was required or the signature of a long time resident.

Today it is much easier to get a library card or buy books.  For most of us in America acquiring a library card is easy and there are numerous book stores, both brick and mortar as well as electronic, within easy reach.  Both Deseret Book and Seagull Book have mail order options for customers.  Outside of the Mountain West finding LDS books is a little harder though with the arrival of Kindle and Nook even those outside of the USA can easily and economically buy LDS books. There's another option too, which many readers underestimate.  Many authors offer their own and sometimes each other's books as contest prizes or in exchange for reviews.  Many of these contests are linked.

I've always loved curling up in a shady spot with a good book in the summer. Reviewing new LDS fiction for Meridian Magazine gives me the perfect excuse to do that, but by August the introduction of new fiction seems to slow down until the LDS Booksellers Convention introduces various publishers' new fall lines and as readers shift their focus from books to back-to-school clothing and supplies. This year attention is on the Olympics and squeezing in the last summer hikes, camping trips and boating before summer's end. There might even be more impetus to squeeze in outdoor activities than usual since our weather this year has left us unsure which season to expect when we wake up each morning. However, I suspect there are still a lot of people planning to read this month since many are still leaving on vacations and need a book to read in-flight, on the beach, or just because it's too hot to do anything else. 

Over on LDS Publisher there's a reading contest going on with two books being awarded to winners each day during the month of August. Those entering are asked to start with a list of books he or she plans to read this month. That's a little hard for me to do since most of the books I read are sent to me by publishers or authors to consider for reviews on Meridian and I don't know what they're going to send me. I just finished reading The Most Important Catch by Jaclyn M. Hawkes and have one more to-be-read book, Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson on my Kindle. Traci Abramson and Gregg Luke have new books I'm anxious to get my hands on and a couple of independent authors have notified me they're sending me books, but most of the time I don't know what I'll be reading. That's one of the nice things about this contest, books can be added or deleted as the month goes along. Extra points are awarded for reading any of the sponsors' books or books by any LDS author. I'm a sponsor, but I'm also entering the contest as a reader.  Actually I find the instructions for reporting books read a bit confusing, but hopefully I'll figure it out.  Here's my list, but expect it to grow:

The Most Important Catch by Jaclyn M. Hawkes

Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson

Code Word by Traci Hunter Abramson

Deadly Undertaking by Gregg Luke

Friday, July 27, 2012

Family Reunions

We just returned from our Gardner family reunion in Idaho. We always parlay that into a fun time on the road there. We stopped in St. George, met our former mission president and his wife and saw Aladdin at Tuacahn. What a production! Even a flying carpet out over the audience and projection onto a giant spray of water and 3-D glasses, not to mention the great music and story. Fun! I was surprised they'd never been there when they only live two hours away. The next day they followed us to Mountain Meadow Massacre site - again - they live in Utah so they'd never seen it. :) Then on to Cedar City to wander through Betty's Antiques on the south end of town. Great stuff! Bought my son some old books for Christmas - one was published in 1893. We took in Les Miz at the Shakespeare Festival - love that show and the whole festival. We try to go every year and take in a couple of shows, but since we had to be in Idaho Friday morning, we only had time for the matinee this trip. (I'm still singing the songs from that play a week later!) We got on the road immediately after the performance and drove as far as Lehi. Our granddaughter is staying near that exit and met us the next morning for breakfast. Her family ws just transferred from Las Vegas to South Dakota (Ellsworth AFB at Rapid City) so she was feeling a little lonely. Our destination was Lava Hot Spring outside of Pocatello, Idaho and we made it from California before any of the Idaho family arrived except Glenn's oldest sister who was hosting the reunion this year. Two of our kids were able to come and we floated down the river in tubes with the little ones. The three-year-old liked it while we were floating - didn't like it much when we were dumped at the waterfalls, but Violet - seven this week - loved every minute! She wanted to go back again and again. "That was the mostest fun I've every had in my life!" Violet and I were in a double tube and got dumped at the first waterfall. I'm underwater, under the tube trying to get to the surface and worrying that she is underwater and not able to get up. But I don't think she even got her hair wet - that time. The next time we all went under again and I lost my tube. Just not agile enough to jump and grasp it before it floated out of reach in the fast water. (I hated for my son to see how uncoordinated I am. I'd like to perpetuate the myth that I'm still able to do all the things I could do at 40, but I think the truth is coming out.) After a fun day in the sun and water, we stayed with my sister in Pocatello for the night so it actually was a double reunion - both sides of the family. Saturday we met at the Gardner family homestead on the Snake River in Blackfoot for brunch and business. It was great to see all grand-nieces and nephews that I try to keep up with on facebook. (side note here: I'm actually glad Covenant asked us to join facebook - otherwise I'd never know what half the family is doing!) It's really wonderful to see the growth of the family, to watch the generations as they mature and expand their families. It is so important to stay connected, even if we had to drive a thousand miles and back to do it. More activities that afternoon, then we stayed with my sister in Idaho Falls. Not enough time! We left Sunday morning for California and the long trip back. Thank heaven for audio books. The next Gardner reunion will be our responsibility so I was happy to see Jennie's report on May Ranch. Definitely going to look into that for our group. I feel sad that some don't want to stay connected. Family is truly the most important thing in the world. We need to stay in touch. After all, who else should we love as much as family?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Out of turn Again

Here I go, posting out of turn again. I have a speaking engagement tonight and I'm leaving on vacation tomorrow, so naturally instead of thinking about my talk or packing, I've been wasting time on Face Book. I did a candy survey to see how many kinds of candy out of a choice of 100 different kinds I've tried.  I got a score of 75.  Obviously I have a sweet tooth. I learned all kinds of interesting tidbits; I just can't remember any of them right now.  I saw a cute picture of my granddaughter, Gracie, checked out the wedding decorations my young friend Kristie did for a recent wedding, and saw the bruises on a great nephew's leg where he got zapped by an electrical accident.  My phone and my Kindle are both plugged into their chargers so I guess I'm getting ready in a way.

Stalling is probably the word for what I'm doing; you see I'm a bit nervous about tonight.  Speaking doesn't usually worry me too much if I'm talking to book people; we share a common language and love.  Tonight's talk has nothing to do with reading or writing. I've been asked to talk on a subject I dearly love, but have a difficult time expressing my feelings about because it touches my emotions so strongly.  You see, I've been asked to talk about temples and temple service.  I've served in the temple for four years now and since I'm basically a storyteller, there are plenty of stories I'd love to share; unfortunately most are too sacred to speak of outside the Lord's House.  It's a difficult task for me to speak on a topic that touches my emotions, one where I have to be careful not to overstep what is appropriate, and one where I want so much for my audience to share the deep love and reverence I feel for these beautiful places.

I'm both excited and nervous about our vacation/reunion.  I've had some serious health problems the past couple of months (pancreatitis) and when I talked to my doctor about going on this trip he said, "You'll be fine as long as you're within a couple of hours of a hospital emergency room, should you have another attack."  I didn't find that comment too encouraging, especially as we'll be at a ranch along the Salmon River where ambulance service means a helicopter.  There will be three RNs and two paramedics in our group, so I'm not really worried.  Besides I've felt much better the past few days. Still it niggles at the back of my mind and I'm giving running the river a pass this time around.   My husband thinks I should skip fishing too, but I can't do that!  He's not a fisherman and the only time I get to fish is when I'm with my son-in-law, Rich.

I suppose I really should get off the computer, take a shower, and decide what to wear.  I should look over my notes one more time as well.  I'm afraid there's a little bit of Scarlet O'Hara in me when it comes to this talk; I'd rather think about it later.  The funny thing is once I start talking it will be hard to stay within my allotted time and when it's over I'll be glad I did it.  Go figure.