Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Marriage Day

Mid-May to its conclusion is a roller coaster ride of emotions for me. First, there's Mother's Day--a day for which I have never felt appropriately qualified. Of course, I know I'm not alone in these feelings of inadequacy. The responsibilities that come with being a mom are daunting and most of us feel as though we fall short. Over the years I've learned to lighten up. It's an important job, but it can be accomplished with less stress, less perfection, and a big dollop of humor. Hey! We're doing the best we can, right? That's become my motto, "I'm doing the best I can." And, I realize the great blessing of being "Mom" to our amazing daughter who fills my life with laughter and joy. When we share time together, it's always a cornucopia of wisdom and zany fun. I thank the Lord for her everyday. But, Mother's Day is also a pensive time for me. Our son, Shawn, passed away four years ago just a few days from Mother's day. So, thoughts of him are understandably present.

Then comes Memorial Day. On this day I think about my dear son, as well as honor those men and women of the military who have paid the ultimate sacrifice of love. The day is awash with poignant feelings.I cherish this wonderful country and thank heaven that I am a citizen of the United States of America.
My emotions are tender as I see the American flags wave, listen to the soulful tunes of the bagpipers, and listen to the brass band playing Sousa marches.

Finally, at the end of May, comes my anniversary. This is always a good day--a great day! Marrying this man was the best decision of my life. It has been a wonderful adventure, and I'm so grateful to have had someone sitting next to me in the roller coaster. Together we make it through the emotional chaos of May, and onward through the other ups and downs of life which are sure to come. Perhaps that's one of the keys of life--find a friend to help you not only make it through, but to find joy in the journey.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Never Forget

From the earliest time I can remember, Memorial Day has been an important time for our family. We lived fairly close to my father's family and so we would start the weekend by helping my widowed grandmother decorate the graves of her husband and only daughter. Since my paternal grandfather had served in World War I (my father was born late in life to his parents, so we are directly tied to an older generation) I felt a certain amount of pride in seeing the small American flag that was placed by my grandfather's grave marker.

Most years we were reminded that it was my paternal grandfather who initiated the effort to beautify the Lewisville Cemetery. When a baby girl born to my grandparents died shortly after her birth, my heartbroken grandfather took one look at the barren pioneer cemetery and decided it needed some work. Weeds and brush were cleared from the area. Grass, pine trees, and beautiful flowering crab trees were planted. To this day, that small cemetery is one of the prettiest around, thanks in part to my grandfather's determination to make his daughter's final resting place a haven on earth.

Each year, after decorating the graves of family members on my father's side of the family tree, our clan then headed to Star Valley, Wyoming, to help my mother's family do the same thing. My maternal grandmother made up beautiful baskets of flowers, using varied blooms from her flower beds, and the local nursery. We then traveled to the Thayne Cemetery to honor the memory of those who had gone on before us. Included among those family members is one of my mother's brothers, who died in a tragic accident when he was seven years old.

As we worked together to place colorful flowers on each grave, stories were shared about our ancestors. It was a time of remembering and strengthening family ties as we gathered with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents to pay homage to the varied members of our family, like the courageous great-grandmother who left her home in Scotland and came to America with her daughter, seeking religious freedom. We were reminded of the great-uncle who rode with the Pony Express, and how he fought off thieves who tried to rob him. A distant cousin sacrificed his life serving his country in the military--an aunt bravely faced a turbulent battle with cancer, a loving grandmother passed quietly from this life after setting an example of quiet courage in facing life trials.

After stories were shared and the beautiful flower arrangements were in place, we then returned to our grandparent's home for a delicious picnic lunch. It was a weekend filled with tradition that I looked forward to each spring.

Shortly before my maternal grandmother passed away, my mother made a promise that she would see to it that the family graves would continue to be decorated each Memorial Day. She has kept that promise. Year after year we have made the journey we simply call, the Memorial Day Jaunt, or Loop. We travel to Lewisville, Idaho and begin by decorating the graves on my dad's side of the family. My father's grave lies near those of his parents, sister, and brother. His grandparents and aunts and uncles are also buried in this same small cemetery. We spend several minutes cleaning, decorating, and remembering beloved family members. Then we journey on to Wyoming to tackle this same task with my mother's family. It is an important tradition, and one I hope will continue.

When we remember those who have gone on before, it helps to shape our own lives. As we reflect on their sacrifices and example, though not perfect, it often inspires us to persevere and continually strive to bring honor to our family name. Though our trials differ from theirs, we remember their determination and courage, and perhaps learn from their mistakes.

These stories and traditions are crucial to pass onto future generations. It saddens me when I see a tendency for Memorial Day to become nothing more than a time of frivolous fun. When ancestors are forgotten and family stories fade from memory, we lose an important heritage. May we each make an effort to remember those who have paved the way for us--knowing their sacrifices have made it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014


On a beautiful day like today there are so many things to distract me from writing. The deck seems particularly inviting. 
And I need to check on the plants I planted in barrels along the east fence.

There's a peek-a-boo look at the wild rose along the back fence.

And all those bright red petunias are taking hold at the top of the rock garden. It seems so good to be gardening again, though I've discovered there are similarities between writing and gardening.  From the first early seeds of a story, I love watching it grow.
Just as there are all kinds of interruptions to my gardening, there are interruptions to my writing.  sometimes a visitor shows up.

Sometimes I get so carried away with the grand vista, I don't pay enough attention to the details.

Other times something amazes me.

There are close-ups.
And sometimes something is left dangling.

I guess I'll write awhile, then I'll garden awhile, then I'll go pick up a grandson from school.  Why can't more days be like this!

Friday, May 16, 2014


Our little corner of the Mojave Desert has become the dumping grounds for Los Angeles County's garbage. The latest incident is the proposed relocation of a serial rapist to live in our neighborhoods. This 61-year-old man is known as the Pillowcase Rapist. You may remember headlines about him several years ago.

He's been in prison, but because some liberal federal judges said California's prison system is over-crowded leading to "inhumane conditions" for prisoners, they have ordered - with stiff penalties to the State of California for non-compliance - the release of hundreds of thousands of prisoners. Does that make sense to you?

These people have committed crimes against humanity, yet because they are forced to live four in a room - while receiving free medical and dental care, free entertainment and education, and free room and board - they are living in inhumane conditions! Give me a break! They are being punished for their crimes - not rewarded with all that free stuff for good behavior. They deserved to have their freedom taken away and they deserved to suffer the consequences of their acts.

Now these liberal judges are forcing California to open prison doors and release thousands of criminals to go right back to burglary, rape, murder and generally doing bad things to their fellow citizens.

The women of our valley have banded together to fight back. They have been demonstrating on street corners, gathering thousands of signatures to send to Governor Brown, and now a couple of Los Angeles talk show hosts are joining in to make these small voices heard across Southern California.

I added my tiny little voice. If some judge thinks it's a good idea to release a monster that preys on women and children, then let that judge take this convicted criminal into his home or his neighborhood. If it is a good idea for us, it must be a better idea for the judge who seems to think Hubbart has been rehabilitated during his years behind bars.

We succeeded last year in blocking the judge from releasing him in this northern part of Los Angeles county. Now he's trying it again and we are standing our ground. We don't want that garbage, especially if it is alive and still able to commit atrocities again our citizens.

It's important to get involved in our community's problems. So important that it might even save our lives.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Being Positive in a Negative World

We live during a challenging time. (Something I'm sure most people have believed during every era of the world's history.) In our day, we don't have to worry about running from dinosaurs, booking passage on the Ark, surviving the Black Plague, or the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. but we face our own set of trials. That is part of why we're here--to prove ourselves during entertaining moments.

That being said, I believe that one of our biggest obstacles is overcoming negativity. Part of the problem is it's everywhere--on the news, the internet, even in our interactions with each other. This day of instant communication is wonderful--for the most part--but it seems to be a two-edged sword. People often say whatever is on their mind and share it in a very public fashion. It makes keeping in touch easier and fun--but at times it can also be a source of discord.

I've noticed that on the news channels, for instance, 98% of the stories shared are quite depressing. There are so many murders, deaths, and heart-wrenching tales it makes you want to sit in a corner and cry. It also leaves you with the impression that only bad things are taking place. It totally makes my day when stations attempt to share at least one positive news event. It's a nice reminder that despite all of the negative items occurring, there are still good people in the world, and happy times taking place.

There are many heart-warming events being shared in public formats online. I enjoy it when people share touching stories, cool pictures, and clean, funny jokes or adventures. I don't appreciate doom and gloom comments, slams against other people, or negative rants.

I've said this before, but we've become a generation of critics. It seems that no matter what anyone does, someone is right there to offer a critique, and usually in a very public fashion. These are not self-esteem boosts. And despite what the adversary would have us believe, it doesn't serve a noble purpose to tear people down.

We are all human, and we all make mistakes. We say and do silly things on occasion. It's wonderful when others give us the benefit of the doubt and an encouraging pat on the back--not a shove into the mud.

During this crazy time we live in, there are a lot of trials taking place. Natural disasters are happening with increased frequency. The economy is anything but stable. Consumer goods are constantly going up in price while wages fail to match. There are a lot of health concerns, physical trials, and people being mean to each other. In short, most of us aren't smiling as much as we once did.

Years ago, when I was a young, silly, high school sophomore, two older girls approached me and made the comment, "You are always smiling. I'll bet you can't go five minutes without smiling." They were right. I tried really hard to frown during those five minutes, and couldn't do it. They laughed and moved on, but their observation stayed with me for many years. What they didn't know was that year was one of the most difficult I had ever faced in my young life. There weren't many reasons to smile. For starters, my father's health was a mess, and my home-life was anything but normal. Also, my maternal grandmother passed away earlier that year. I was her oldest granddaughter and we had been very close--losing her devastated me. One of my closest friends was diagnosed with lupus a couple of months later and she had been critically ill for weeks, since both kidneys were shutting down. She spent much of that year in a hospital in Salt Lake as a result. And on top of everything else, one night when I was walking across the park from my home, I was attacked. Though we never did find out who was responsible for that horrible event (the police did their best, but there wasn't enough evidence to figure things out) I did manage to get away unscathed, for the most part. To this day if I am approached from behind, I jump ten feet into the air, so there were lingering effects, and I was terrified to go anywhere by myself at night for a long time, but aside from all of that and few bruises, I escaped unharmed.

Looking back, I can see how watched over I really was. But at the time I didn't understand that concept. I actually felt quite picked on. So . . . why was I able to find reasons to smile after enduring such a tough year? It boiled down to one thing: that was also the year I gained my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A year-long quest led me to the spiritual glue that would hold me in place despite the emotional typhoon that was my life. That inner peace made all the difference in the world. Understanding that I was a child of God and that He loved me was huge. Realizing that all of the hard, horrible trials actually served a purpose was life changing. Knowing that despite everything, truth and beauty still existed inspired me to be a better person, and to strive to do good things with my life.

It began with smiling. Each day I would take a deep breath and, at times, force a smile. Though my life continued to be anything but normal, I could face each day as it came with the knowledge that my actions mattered. The choices I made were important, and it was crucial to do my best to help those around me, to follow the example set by our Elder Brother. He did His best to point the way to finding joy during times of trial. He taught us important lessons, like losing ourselves in service to other people is the best way to find true happiness.

So in this day of hurrying, frowning, meanness, and discord, I have a suggestion--reach out to others in a positive fashion. Do something nice for someone else--even if it's simply offering a sincere smile. Will it make a difference? I believe it will. We may not see in this lifetime the end result of our small acts of service, but they will inspire a ripple effect. (If you're wondering what that is, throw a small rock into a lake or pond sometime and watch what happens.) One small act of service can do more good than you will ever know. And just think--if everyone did one small act of service every day--it could eventually change the world. We can make lemons into lemonade, just as my mother taught me years ago. And to my way of thinking, lemonade is far more tasty than the bitterness of negativity soup.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


This time last year I was recovering from my second knee replacement surgery.  Naturally I didn't get much yard work done.  The summer before my knees were so bad I could barely walk and working in my flower beds just didn't happen.  Today I finished weeding my flower beds, all of them, and though I'm stiff and achy, I think they look pretty good. Naturally I'll be finding weeds and grass I missed all summer, but it feels pretty darn good to finally have them looking more like flower beds than weed patches.



For the past three and a half months my cousin and her husband have lived with us while he was undergoing cancer treatment.  Last week they were able to return to their home in Alaska.  We miss them, but are glad he's well enough for them to pick up their life in their own home and community.  Right after they left here, a son-in-law came to stay for a few days following radiation treatment.  He's doing really well, but a person stays radioactive for awhile following this treatment and can't be around pets or children.  We loved having him here, but his wife and kids are happy to have him back home.  After nearly four months of having our guest room occupied, our house feels kind of quiet now.  I'm stronger and feeling much better and the house is quiet, do you suppose I'll get more writing done?  I don't know; I've really enjoyed working outside in the yard the past few days. 

I blogged last about conferences and conventions.  For those who haven't heard the results of LDStorymakers Whitney Awards, here is my Meridian column in which I listed all of the winners. 

Wednesday, April 30 2014

Whitney Awards Gala

Blaine Yorgason was the recipient of the Whitney Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday night at the award ceremony concluding the LDStorymakers convention held in Layton, Utah. Rachel Ann Nunes received the Outstanding Achievement Award.

Blaine Yorgason- Lifetime Achievement Award

Yorgason wrote his first book, Charlie's Monument, in 1980. It has since been made into a popular film. He is the author of 83 books which total over four million copies. He has been a teacher and has held a wide variety of positions in the Church. Currently he is a temple worker at the St. George Temple. He and his wife are the parents of seven children.

Rachel Ann Nunes - Outstanding Achievement Award

Nunes has been a popular LDS author since the mid nineties. Her 37 books have been published with several LDS publishers and she has also self-published. She was instrumental in beginning LDStorymakers, the guild for LDS authors. She and her husband are the parents of seven children and live in Utah.

Top writing awards went to Julianne Donaldson for Blackmoore (Best Novel of 2013) , Brandon Sanderson for Steelheart (Best Youth Novel of 2013), and Kasie West for Pivot Point (Best Novel by a New Author).

Adult category winners this year are Sarah Dunster for Mile 21 (Best General Fiction), H.B. Moore for Esther the Queen (Best Historical Fiction), Julianne Donaldson for Blackmoore (Best Romance), Traci Hunter Abramson for Deep Cover (Best Mystery/Suspense), and Jeffrey S. Savage for Dark Memories (Best Speculative Fiction).

Youth category winners are Julie Berry for All the Truth That's in Me (Best General Youth Fiction), Brandon Sanderson for Steelheart (Best Speculative Youth Fiction, and Jennifer A. Nielsen for The Runaway King (Best Middle Grade Fiction).

I was a finalist in the Historical category, but not the top winner.  I'll include a picture taken by Heather Zahn Gardner (Heather Gardner Photography), showing a group of finalists posing for the loser's cheesecake consolation prize.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

An Essay in Pictures

 For three years we have had very little rain - almost not enough to measure. Then we were blessed with two inches - apparently just at the right time because California's famous poppies bloomed this year! Amazing what two inches of rain can do in the desert!!
 This just two miles from our home in the western portion of Antelope Valley.
 The hill you see in the background is the poppy reserve and on great years it shines bright orange from across the valley. This is just a good year - not a great year!
 A close up of these fragile little beauties. When the sun doesn't shine, they don't open. When the wind blows, they close up tight!
 Some uneducated, unthinking people drove across the poppy field - can't imagine what they were thinking! We want all these poppies to live, die, go to seed and propagate themselves, not be crushed to death!
 This was a perfectly beautiful day! Warm sunshine, no wind, and a fragrant perfume from the flowers that was intoxicating!
 I think the wind must have blown the seeds up against this little embankment and they caught there as they are so abundant!
Me, my youngest daughter, and in the foreground her good friend and former mission companion. We picnicked on the edge of the poppy field in the yellow flowers. Both grandkids ran off to chase butterflies or something just as Glenn took our picture.