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.