Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memorial Day

Monday morning, my husband, sister, great nephew, and myself were at the cemetery honoring not only those who had fallen in service to America, but also our son who passed away 3 years ago on May 12. It was a day filled with emotion. The bagpipe band was playing Amazing Grace, 100 flags were dancing in the light breeze, and the cemetery was filled with flowers. I spent time sharing my feelings with my dear boy--remembering funny and cherished experiences, missing him, and wondering what activities kept him busy on the other side.  How grateful I am for a testimony of a wondrous life after this one.

I thought of my dear nieces and nephews who have served and are serving in the military. They have sacrificed much for their country, and they have done it willingly and with love. As any mother or auntie in the world, we wish they didn't have to go to war, but we realize that there are evil leaders and men of ill will who must be thwarted in their mad designs.

I pondered my life; its purpose and importance. Was I doing my share to serve others, to teach the vital lessons of America and its inspired constitution, and to work on my own spiritual health?

The day became one of gratitude, reflection, and pondering.  A true Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Soul's Room

I'm a bit short of both inspiration and time today, so forgive me if I use this opportunity to put up a poem I wrote a few years ago. I rarely write poetry, and have to be in the mood. This one is a conversion story, of sorts, but not mine because I never smoked and hardly ever drank.

The air is stale with smoke and ale
And the dust of all that’s old.
A threadbare chair squats, broken, there
By the hearth so icy cold.

Trembling, I took a golden book
And settled in the dust to read.
The warm words flowed, new strength bestowed,
The spirit knew my bitter need.

The Saviour came, He spoke my name
Cast heavenly light into the gloom.
Cleansed every part, restored my heart.
A Temple pure he made my room.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Never Forget

Years ago I remember gathering as a family at my paternal grandparents' abode in Idaho to prepare flowery bouquets that were then taken to a nearby cemetery over Memorial weekend. The beautiful flower arrangements were distributed among the family graves in this location. Stories were shared about these people--most of whom I had never met, like my father's sister who passed away the day she was born. I was shown the headstones of pioneer ancestors who had helped settle the area and reminded of the great sacrifices they had made to establish our family. Each year it was pointed out that my paternal grandfather had joined the cemetery board after the death of his infant daughter and how he had helped initiate the beautification of this particular cemetery, planting grass, pine trees, and flowering crab trees once the sagebrush was removed.This effort helped my grieving grandparents deal with the loss of their only daughter. Stories like these helped me gain an appreciation of who these people were and filled me with a determination to live up to their example.

When this yearly ritual was completed in Idaho, my family journeyed to Star Valley, Wyoming to do a similar thing with my mother's family. Once again we gathered at the grandparents' house to organize flowery bouquets that were then taken to another beautiful small town cemetery. We always began by decorating the tiny grave of my mother's brother who died in a tragic accident when he was seven years old. Other bouquets of flowers were then placed near the headstones of aunts and uncles, and ancestral grandparents who are buried in this location. Stories were once again shared about sacrifices made, and the courage these people possessed.

I remember asking about the small American flag that was attached to the side of one relative's grave and being informed that this member of our family had served bravely in the armed forces, fighting for our country. Shortly after this information was shared, I was taken to a special ceremony at this same cemetery where a larger flag was raised, a speech was delivered about the importance of remembering the sacrifices made by those who offered their lives to keep our nation free. And I will never forget the haunting melody of "Taps" as it was played on the trumpet by a talented musician. 

Decorating graves over Memorial weekend has been a huge tradition on both sides of my family. My mother promised her mother that this would always take place each year--and each year, she has faithfully come through, despite ugly weather, health challenges, etc. As a child, I enjoyed meeting up with extended family members during this traditional holiday weekend. I loved hearing the stories about my ancestors, and I have passed these same stories on to my own children in an attempt to keep the family flame burning.

Memorial Day took on an even deeper meaning when my own father passed away several years ago. I don't think I will ever forget how hard that first Memorial weekend was as we somberly gathered around Dad's grave. The pain of that time was eased by extended family members who met up with us in Star Valley, sharing love, delicious food, and fond memories of our father.

This year as I took my mother on our annual "Memorial Loop", as we call it, we journeyed to Lewisville, Idaho to decorate the graves of my father, and his family. There we met up with cousins on that side who had come to do the same thing. It was wonderful to see them, and to spend a short heartfelt time together as we remembered those who paved the way for us.

Then it was on to Star Valley, Wyoming, where we met up with part of my mother's family and enjoyed renewing family bonds. Once again we journeyed to the cemetery where loved one are buried and set out flowers to commemorate their memory.

One thing I noticed this year . . . there weren't as many people decorating graves. We were told this by the man who owns the place where we stayed in Star Valley. He commented that during this era of busyness, people don't seem as interested in celebrating Memorial weekend in the traditional manner.

To me, this is a sad trend. I know most people celebrate this weekend--but for some it is merely the start of the summer. It's a time to go boating, fishing, camping, barbequing, etc. Those things are fine, and we've often done that ourselves . . . after paying homage to those who have gone before.

I think it's important to spend time remembering where we've come from--it helps us focus on where we need to go--a reminder that someday there will be an accounting of what we've done with our family names. Passing on family stories and examples of sacrifice and courage is important. It helps us to become less selfish as we focus on our ancestors and honor their memory during this special time of year. Taking the time to remember them is crucial--proof that we appreciate all that they have done on our behalf.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


This isn't a good blog writing day: I seem to be coming down with a cold.  I hope it's just a matter of being time to go back on my allergy meds, but my husband and several grandkids are just getting over nasty colds so . . . 

Anyway I considered writing about the loss of life and property in Moore, Oklahoma, and how we never know when tragedy might strike.  However all I can think of is the importance of being prepared with 72 hour kits, establish a contact place outside of your area where you can meet up with loved ones or leave messages, and the importance of making sure the people you love know you care about them.  I've been impressed with the courage and bravery so many have shown, I've wiped away tears for reunions and losses, and I've wondered why zoning laws don't require safe rooms in houses and public buildings along tornado alley.  But the fact is, I don't feel like writing at all. 

I'll admit it's unusual for me to not want to write.  This feeling is different from writer's block, a malady that strikes all writers sooner or later for varying lengths of time.  With Writer's block we may want to write, might even be in the middle of a project we want very much to finish, but feel stumped, don't know where to go, sometimes feel overwhelmed, the words just won't come.  But in this case there are thoughts in my head, things I could write about the tornado, about my sadness for the death of President Monson's wife, my disgust for the political scandals that were hid from the public before the election and the extremist views and comments from both the right and left that are only making a bad situation worse, all the cute and funny moments my grandchildren have brought into my life, and the kind action of my daughters who undertook a shopping expedition for me.  (I now have a pair of pants that fit!) I could even write about my therapy experience.  Who would have thought learning to bend and straighten a knee could be so exhausting and painful!   

What I really want to do is crawl in bed.  I had a strenuous workout today so I'll probably run the ice machine on my knee first, then swallow a few pills.  I'll try to do better next time I blog.  Good night all.

Friday, May 17, 2013


The latest Reader's Digest has an article featuring a new book by life coach J. P. Hansen, The Bliss List. There's an exercise entitled "Bliss: List What you Love." #1 is Identify Your Passions. As I thought about this, I wasn't surprised to realize I would be in a totally 'blissful' state if I could spend every afternoon doing family history. Or maybe even all day long every day!! Then on the 22 hour drive home from South Dakota, I listened to an audio book by Stephen Covey, "Focus: Achieving Your Highest Priorities." I scribbled a few things that came to mind as I drove across those endlessly beautiful miles of rolling green hills dotted with sheep - lots of little white lambs frolicking about and black calves following their mothers, and even buffalo and hundreds of antelope. What did I want to focus most on? What were my highest priorities? You will not be surprised at my list. I want to finish my Mom's life story this year. I had 91 pictures set aside and labeled as to where they went in the story she and I worked on for the better part of 10 years before we left on our mission to Armenia...and never finished when we returned. I have dipped into that cache of pictures many times for relatives who wanted copies - now I have to start all over again organizing. But I will finish this year - it will be my Christmas present to my three sisters. Next on my list was typing all my old journals into the computer. I have been a daily journalist for over 35 years and didn't begin typing them on the computer until Armenia when the beautiful journal I had taken filled up. Thus I have about 25 years worth of journals to type. Worth the effort? Absolutely. If they are digitized, they will take up much less space and if anyone is interested enough to read them, it will be easier. I don't really want anyone to read them, but I was being obedient to a prophet when I began and it became a habit. Can't tell you how often they have been indispensable in retrieving forgotten information! Next on my list of things to focus on (and that make me blissfully happy when I'm doing it) was to get as many of our pictures as possible into Shutterfly albums this year. I've had them all scanned and organized by year. What fun gifts for my kids for birthdays and Christmas to see their life stories in their own books! After those blissfully fun goals, next on my list was sorting all the family history papers, scanning them into the computer and tossing the ones that aren't important. This will not be as fun, but I have to tell you, it will be far more enjoyable than trying to please evaluators who wish I would write the story the way they would write it instead of the way I envisioned it. No more editors except for spelling and punctuation!! I invite you to check with me periodically to see if I am actually accomplishing my goals and achieving that state of blissful happiness that is promised when I do!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Home Sweet Home

I took a walk in the mountains this morning. I was surrounded by the glory of nature: aspen trees crowned with small pale green leaves, yellow wild flowers, a hawk catching thermals, and a squirrel surprised by my passing. There was blue sky and a soft breeze, and I felt one with nature.

Now, there are naysayers who asperse the title of human, and contend that we are the brutes of the planet, or (a little more kindly) the ignorant contributors to the earth's demise. I do not agree. I take a more lofty position when it comes to people. I believe the majority of us not only appreciate the planet, but care about, wonder at, and celebrate its beauty. I think of all the artists who have painted nature's image, the authors who have struggled to put a sunset into words, the scientists who thrill at some aspect of the earth's diversity. (I always get a chuckle when I'm watching the science channel, and there's a story about a person who's an expert on giant toad migration, or fungus).

And, though there may be the occasional callous CEO who sees only the profit margin of his or her company, most people are conscious of the responsibility we share to take care of our "home." So, get out into nature and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Writing: The (not so) Lonely Endeavour

The lot of a writer is one of long hours hunched over a keyboard in a dimly lit room with nothing but a cat for company. Shut away from the real world we pull faces and make hand gestures as our characters do, mutter dialogue to ourselves, and live in a strange environment peopled entirely by creatures of our own imagination. Alone we face the frustrations of edit after edit, and the crushing disappointment of rejection after rejection of our precious offspring. It's little wonder that many of us seem to be a little eccentric, if not downright mad.

As least, that's how it used to be. These days writing is no longer the lonely and solitary profession.

  • Today a dear friend and fellow author is coming to my house to work on her next novel, Race for Eden, and do some pre-publication work on her sci-fi dystopian New Earth: Beginnings. She's coming partly because I have a spare desk and she won't be tempted to do housework in my house (although I've told her she'd be welcome to), but also for the company. And once in a while she can ask me, "What's that word that means..?" or "How would you describe the smell of..?" Hellen and I have, in fact, written a book together, and writing in the company of others is a lot of fun.
  • Over in the USA a lot of wonderful writers, including many of the contributors to this blog, are reflecting on all they learned at the LDS Storymakers Conference which was held in Utah over the last weekend, and culminated in the Whitney Awards Gala. I dream of going to that conference and rubbing shoulders with those talented and illustrious authors one day, but I think it's about as likely as me winning a Whitney.
  • Years ago when my first novel was printed my editor put me in touch with a fellow author I admired, Kerry Blair, and she in turn "virtually" introduced me to several other LDS authors, most of whom I have now met in person. For many years we emailed each other frequently with messages of support and encouragement. We congratulated each other on books accepted and published and commiserated on rejections. We cooed over baby photos and offered prayers in times of illness and despair. Most of all, though, we shared the experience of writing, its rewards and its difficulties, and we were there for each other. At a time when I was indeed feeling lonely and isolated as an LDS writer out in the wilderness of the mission field, these women were truly a godsend. Now we blog together.
  • Hardly a day goes by without me receiving an invitation via Facebook to a book launch party; probably because around half my Facebook friends are writers. I also belong to many writers groups on Facebook where I find discussions on editing, naming characters and every and any aspect of this strange craft of ours. I even started my own group for Indie authors who would give feedback on each others' work prior to publication.
  • I belong to two writers' groups (Writebulb and Rayleigh WINOS) and thus two Saturdays a month are spent writing flash fiction, undertaking challenges and setting goals with other writers. It's a really wonderful opportunity. One Writebulb member pointed out "We learn far more in two hours than we could at any creative writing class".
  • Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month - November) sees groups of writers meeting together in libraries for "sprints" on their laptops, badges popping up all over Facebook, and a real sense of solidarity as thousands of writers struggle to write 50,000 words in just one month. I've only done it once, and I failed due to poor planning (got 20,000 words in and realised I had no idea where the book was going and needed to do some major research) but I'm going to try again in this year.
Writing may once have meant working in glorious solitude, but it doesn't have to any more. We authors can support and encourage one another, get together and share our experiences and goals, either online or in person. Even if, at the end of the day, we like to retreat to our dimly-lit attic room with our laptops to immerse ourselves once more in the worlds we create.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Greatest Adventure

Once an aspiring newspaper reporter asked me what was the most exciting thing I'd done in my life. To me the answer was a no brainer--being a mother.  I don't think she believed me, but it's the truth. Flying on a refueling mission, scaling the Snake River Canyon wall, donning fire gear and going inside a burning house, rafting on the "River of No Return", hiking in Montana's wilderness area, sinking in quicksand up to my shoulders, being part of a traveling theater group, are just a few of the exciting adventures in my life but raising five children of my own and three foster children has brought me more excitement, tears, laughter, and personal satisfaction than anything else I've done. 

A few days ago I finished reading Covenant Motherhood by Stephanie Dibb Sorensen.  More than any other book I've read about motherhood this one touched me and expressed many of my own feelings and discoveries about motherhood.  She compares the essential elements of mothering children to the key concepts Jesus taught and lived while here in mortality:  creation, teacher, succorer, provider, cleaner, defender and protector, one who loves, sacrifices, forgives, shares, and saves.  With realistic short sketches from her own life as a young mother she points out the challenges, discouraging moments, and the triumphs that face mothers and relates them to mothers' eternal relationship with God as they walk closely in the Savior's footprints. 

When I was a young mother I really didn't like Mother's Day.  No way could I measure up to the saintly examples extolled in the talks or poems given that day.  The perfect mothers lauded that day made me feel inferior and like a failure.  Fortunately Mother's Day talks have become more realistic through the years and I've gained a better understanding of what being a mother means.  I'm not perfect and I didn't raise perfect children.  What matters is how much I love them and how grateful I am to be their mother.  I'm thankful too for the memories we share and that they've all grown up to be responsible adults.  Along with the fine people they are, they've given me five more responsible adult children to love, and a baker's dozen nearly perfect grandchildren.  

In the Art of Motherhood, which I've talked about before, I had the opportunity to tell of the miraculous arrivals of my two youngest grandchildren. (The two-year-old has been very concerned about Grandma's big owie and became nearly hysterical when she saw my leg in the CPM machine.  She's convinced it's an alligator because it opens and closes like the actions for a familiar nursery song about an alligator that snaps monkeys out of a tree.)  I often call these two little girls our miracle babies, but in truth I consider all of my children and grandchildren "miracles."  Nothing could possibly bring me more happiness than being their mother and grandmother.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


I have driven a long way to be with my three sisters. Once a year for the last several years we have gotten together (with husbands) in Palm Springs. This year we decided to do something different - sans husbands. Unfortunately, after my trip was planned, and one sister had made her reservations to fly from Michigan to join us, the youngest decided she had to have knee surgery - it couldn't be put off. So three of us are doing fun things for the weekend, then on Monday we will join her, fresh from the hospital, to fix lunch, watch a movie, help her with her rehab exercises and just have a fun time reminiscing. We are all so different. I'm 5 years older than one, 7 years older than the next, and 9 years older than the youngest, but it's funny how age difference disappears as you age. We are all grandmothers, and this year I will be the first to have a grandchild marry. (when we finish our sister's retreat, I'm on my way to South Dakota to help plan the wedding!) We don't look anything alike. One is taller than the rest and her hair is red (now.) Another is pencil thin stemming from drinking turpentine when she was 18 months old. Her hair is rich dark brown (her daughter keeps it that color.) Another is pleasantly plump and has blonde streaked short hair. I couldn't stand the thought of the time, effort and expense of coloring my hair, so I'm almost white. We make an interesting quartet. Our interests are all very different. The Michigan sister discovered quilting and has done several masterpieces. Another is totally devoted to grandchildren and spends copious amounts of time in that glorious cause. The youngest just retired last year and is enjoying her first year of being able to choose what she does with her time, but is involved with all her grandchildren who live nearby. I had lunch with my two favorite cousins yesterday and we were talking about the passions that govern our lives. They both named family history as their passion, and indeed, it is. I guess that would have to be listed along with grandchildren and doing things with hubby as my passions. Interesting that family seems to take precedence in our lives. After all, it is the most important thing we can devote our lives and our passion to - and the most rewarding. May our families continue that tradition down through the generations.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Through the Years

Here's a photo of me, my sisters, and my cousins, taken in the mid 1950's. I'm the little tyke on the right hand side. My sisters are the two on the left. My cousins are in the middle.Don't you just love the girl's Capri pants? I think mine are so stylish with the little bow ties.

My sisters and I are holding apples, and, if you look carefully, you can see that I've already taken a bite out of mine. Perhaps that was my philosophy from early on, "Don't let any good thing pass you by."

Through the years, I've been offered my share of  "good things:" love of a mom and dad, enough food to eat, a modest but comfortable home (my sisters and I shared a small bedroom, but we liked it), pets, a safe town where I could roam, friends, schooling, and scope for my imagination.

As the years flowed, I was caught up in the waves of change and adversity. Sometimes the changes were exciting: making new friends, advancing to a new school, or moving to a new house. Sometimes the changes were sad: the death of pets, the divorce of parents, and the moving to a new house.

As I reached adulthood, the vicissitudes of life were much more intense, perhaps because I did not have the buffer of parents to stand between me and the crash of the wave. I had a good husband, but for the majority of challenges, we faced them together--head on into the storm.

I look intently at my face in this photo and think, "Oh little one, you have no idea what's coming." But here's the interesting's okay. Even though I've spent a lifetime navigating the rough and smooth seas, I'm still okay. I still get that little gleam in my eye; I still giggle when my picture's taken, and I still hurry to take that first bite of apple.