Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reading In The Rain

 (This was supposed to run Thursday, but I guess I didn't schedule it right. We were away on a short vacation so I didn't catch it sooner.)

"Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain." I don't remember a July with such lovely long rainstorms as we've had this past week or so.  July storms in my experience are usually more boom and flash than substance. It's been wonderful to have deep soaking rain during the hottest part of the summer.  It hardly seems fair that the rain I'm loving is creating havoc in other parts of the world. Some places are getting too much rain, causing flooding, and other places are so dry, water is restricted and horrible fires are destroying every dry morsel before them. 

Have you noticed that books are like rain?  Some are cool and refreshing.  They soak  in giving rise to knowledge, pleasure, and personal growth. Often they inspire the reader to be a better person, to stand up for beliefs and principles, to think deeper thoughts, and set loftier goals. Some are light sprinkles; they entertain for a moment, then are forgotten.  Then there are those like a severe drought, devoid of anything of worth. They appeal to those who care only about their own whims and pleasures.  They waste precious time and leave minds barren and discouraged.

We don't all have the same taste in reading material and that's a good thing, but within almost every genre lurks both refreshing rain and dismal drought. I've always read a wide range of genres and my favorites have varied from time to time, but always I enjoy books that uplift over those which leave me depressed.  (If I want to be depressed I just turn on the TV and watch world news!) In my weekly review column I try to give readers a preview of one uplifting new book each week. 

As a reviewer for an LDS magazine, I don't often get to pick which books I read, but I'm seldom disappointed with the books that fall within the parameters set for my column and which are sent to me by LDS publishers and authors.  I read books that appeal primarily to LDS adults and older teens.  They don't always have a direct reference to the Church, but they do portray values compatible with Church teachings.  Of course I don't review every book I receive, but I try to read all of them. My reasons for reviewing some and not others depends on a number of factors. It's not dependant entirely on the book being the best book, but on the overall impression it gave me, whether it's something fresh and new, whether I've recently reviewed a book that dealt with the same subject matter or was written by the same author, how well it was researched, and sometimes if the errors and format made reading the book more chore than pleasure. I don't review teen books unless there's a strong adult interest cross over and I don't review books that use crude language. Lately there has been a flurry of excellent novellas printed and I don't review those either except as part of my annual Christmas column.

Hmm!  What shall I read next?  Should it be a romantic suspense by one of my favorite authors who never disappoints me?  Or the new author with an intriguing world view premise?  There's nothing else quite like curling up with a good book while the rain beats a rhythmic tune on the window pane.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Wondrous July 24th

Today is my birthday, and though I'm not admitting to any age, I will admit it's a joy to have a day set aside to celebrate your showing up on the planet. The presents are nice too.

As a youngster, growing up in Lake Tahoe, California, it was fun having a summer birthday. There were trips to the beach, water skiing, hiking, horseback riding, and barbeques. I thought it couldn't get any better. Then, after becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, graduating from high school, and being accepted to Brigham Young University, I learned that in Utah my birthday is celebrated with a parade, rodeo, and fireworks! Well, the hoopla is not just for my birthday. You see, in Utah, July 24th 1847, is the date when the Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley after their long trek across the country. The parade contains the usual assortment of  flags, bands, horses, and floats, but often the floats contain pioneers, covered wagons, seagulls & crickets, temples, and an assortment of Bible and Book of Mormon characters. It's delightful.

I look forward to my birthday every year for a variety of reasons, and one of the highlights is being able to share the day with the Mormon pioneers. It is a grand celebration of the Latter-day Saint's veracity in trekking across the country in search of religious freedom. It makes for a very good day...and the fireworks are sparkles on the cake!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review: Rebel Princess

Periodically I am asked to review books on my blog. Most of the time it's something I enjoy, since I love to read. This time around, I absolutely loved the book I was asked to review. A middle-grade read, The Rebel Princess is a fun story for all ages. The author, Janice Sperry, has created a clever, new-age twist on fairy tales that will entertain anyone who has the chance to read it.

The main character is an anti-heroine, Raven, who is determined to never become a princess like her mother. Set on becoming as evil as possible, Raven barely tolerates her twin brother: Edgar; a wannabe best friend: Amy; and she absolutely shuns the new kid on the block: Eric Charming, convinced he is a total rat.

The storyline contains a great deal of tongue-in-cheek humor, and as Raven finds herself lost in the horrors of the Enchanted Forest, the plot-line thickens. Interesting characters, like the one Raven labels Princess Loathsome, also known as Pansy; a young girl named Ella, who seems destined to face a wicked step-mother; a confused dragon who finds himself wearing an orange tutu; and the Muffin Man who is tired of dwelling on Drury Lane, surface throughout Raven's quest to find her way back to reality. It doesn't help that she has to rely on people who formerly annoyed her: her twin brother, Edgar, Amy, the wannabe best friend, and Eric Charming to survive. 

The ending was as delightful as the entire story, and it left me hoping there will be future adventures for Raven and her friends. 

I give this book a huge thumbs-up recommendation and I plan to buy copies for my granddaughters, knowing they will enjoy this story as much as I did.

You can learn more about the author on her blogsite:
Janice Sperry Blog and her book is available on on this link: Buy Rebel Princess

Friday, July 18, 2014

Crisis to Crisis

I was once asked to describe my lifestyle.  At the time I thought that was a dumb question so I flippantly responded  "crisis to crisis." How true that turned out to be.

After losing both a brother and a sister to cancer and almost two years of fighting my way through two knee replacement surgeries, a pancreas surgery, followed by a fourth surgery to completely remove my  luck.  Or maybe this is the new normal. Four weeks ago my husband stood on a platform sawhorse to boost a sheet of plywood onto the roof of the shed he's building.  There was a sudden strong gust of wind that sent him and the plywood crashing to the cement below. Though no bones were broken his back, hip, and knee were seriously sprained. He's getting around on crutches now and will begin physical therapy next week. That put an end to most of the travel plans we had for this month and kept me so busy I didn't get much writing done.

And about the book I'm working on.  I finally reached the point where I could do between 500 and 1000 words a day and both of my computers died. Fortunately the chapters I've written are saved on a thumb drive.  I bought a new laptop, a DELL with all the bells and whistles, but I'm convinced the new Windows 8.1 was designed by a sadist! Also it connects to the internet just fine at Best Buy, but back home it won't run without an ethernet cable connection.  I really need my oldest grandson to come for a visit!

I've mentioned before that I'm a news junkie.  That's what comes of years of being a news reporter and editor; it never quite gets out of your blood.  However today's news  is so depressing and scary it makes my personal problems look like nothing in comparison.

I'm not a naturally pessimistic person so I keep telling myself to think of good and happy things.  Well, let's see.  My insulin pump saves me four to six shots a day.  That's definitely good. We're enjoying peppers, onions, potatoes, beets, and chard from our garden and they're very good. My flowers have been beautiful this summer.  I've had a good supply of excellent books to read and review this summer. I'll have a story called Santa Loves Me in my publisher's Christmas anthology called Christmas Treasures    which will be released in October. A grandson has kept our lawn mowed since his grandpa was injured. And though I'm a day late my new computer will let me post this blog. 

I found Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm a tiresome book when I was a kid, but I have to admit, if we really try we can find an up side to most discouraging events. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Law of the Harvest

My peach tree has out-done itself this year! Though I thinned it as much as I could stand to do it, the branches are draping all over themselves, heavy laden with delicious-looking fruit. We've watered the tree and fed it and made sure it had plenty of sun. Now to wait for those luscious peaches to ripen! But the birds are anxious too, and they are pecking away at them even though they are still hard as rocks. Will I manage to get the harvest I've anticipated or will the birds get the best of them before they are ready to pick?

If we harvest what we sow, it would stand to reason that living the commandments will bring us happiness; likewise, not keeping those commandments will deprive us of the peace and happiness we want to experience.

I have a friend who is terribly depressed - again. She has not been living the laws she believes in; she has not been keeping the commandments. I don't know why she can't figure out that wickedness never was happiness --- she has learned and lived with that truth all her life.We cannot expect to reap a harvest of beautiful peace-filled days with a clear conscience if we have not been living up to the covenants we've made.

The world has gone mad because we are being taught it's okay to do your own thing---whatever feels good. It's okay. But it's not okay and it won't be fine. We have to pay the price for our transgressions, whether they be of co-mission or omission.  She is learning that truth - all over again.

And I need to go tend to my peaches lest by omission of my duty to keep the birds away, I will not reap the harvest I'm so looking forward to!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fighting the Good Fight

From time to time most of us have probably heard snatches of the theme song from the Rocky Balboa movies inside our hearts and heads. Perhaps we've envisioned favorite scenes from these movies. The first two films in this particular series were released when I was a teenager. (Yes, gasp, I'm that old . . . sigh . . .)
They were so popular, that is possibly why I've occasionally borrowed strength from the storyline(s).

Many of us love underdog stories. We love it when the beleaguered protagonist manages to overcome tremendous obstacles to succeed. Cheering the hero on gives us hope that we will be able to do likewise when we face challenges of our own.

There have been numerous days when I have felt very much like the character, Rocky, after a fierce battle in the ring. My body and I have gone the rounds on many occasions, thanks in part to the Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis that I deal with on a daily basis. One lovely day, I actually resembled Rocky after a nasty fight when I experienced an extremely bad episode with hives. My face looked so awful, little children cried. Fortunately this adventure took place when I was out of town, so the only people who witnessed this event were close family members. They were so alarmed, they didn't mock me until much later, after I survived that hazardous incident.

Emotionally, there have been days when I have very much felt like I have hit the mat inside Rocky's turbulent ring. Heartbreaking trials, like the death of a loved one, rip you apart like nothing else. It is tempting to not move, to remain face-down on the mat and ignore the audience that is trying to cheer you on. After all, they're not the ones dealing with overwhelming pain. They don't understand how hard and horrible it is--or so we reason with ourselves as we delve into self-pity mode. We convince ourselves that if we stand back up, life is just going to knock us down again. Then that annoying little theme song resurfaces. We've all heard it. Dadada . . . dadada . . . dadada . . . dadada.

I will admit there are times when I've tried to block that silly song, but to no avail. Eventually, one of my toes takes on a life of its own and begins to tap in time to the silent music. When that happens, I know it's only a matter of time before the rest of my body will begin to join in. Suddenly, I'm up on my knees. Then I stagger to my feet . . . and often get hit so hard, I find myself back in a prone position on the mat, whimpering.

The process of rising to meet my challenger head on often takes a long time. But there is something inside of me that usually doesn't let me give up. Like Rocky, I slowly rise to my feet, and beg for more. "C'mon, Life! Is that that best you can do? Is that all you've got? Bring it! You heard me . . . c'mon . . . take your best shot! That didn't hurt . . . okay . . . maybe it did . . . but I'm not giving up! Do you hear me? I'm not going away! No matter how many times you knock me down, I'll get back up! Because that's the kind of person I am! I wasn't sent to this earth to fail!!! I will eventually win this match!

That is my hope in mortal mode--that I will continue to be as stubborn as Rocky. It is my prayer that I will always remember how important it is to never give up. Our Elder Brother is the supreme example of how to face difficult times. He has given us all of the hope in the world--but it is up to us how we fight our individual battles. May we always rise to the occasion. ;)  

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Even with all of the problems our country currently faces, I'm proud to be an American.  Those words have resonated with me ever since I attended a convention a few years back and the man seated behind me suddenly stood and began singing those words.  He was nearly down the aisle, striding toward the podium before I realized he was Lee Greenwood. It was an exhilarating experience, but I've always been glad I was born in the USA.  I take great pride in knowing someone in my family took part in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Spanish American War, both World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam, and Iraq. My family has been represented in all four branches of the military. I come from a long line of patriots who fought for freedom.

Even more important than military service is the way my family, like our country, is built from a conglomeration of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. My mother is a descendant of some of our country's earliest European settlers.  My father grew up in Canada and his grandmother was a runaway wife of an English nobleman. She joined the Mormon Church and was disowned by her husband. She then stole her children and fled to America.  Another of my great grandmothers, a native American, grew up on an Indian reservation in the eastern part of this country.  One of my brothers-in-law is part Shoshone and another is a descendant of the Trail of Tears Choctaws. My husband's great grandfather was a Danish fisherman, a descendant of the fierce Vikings.  One of our nieces married a Japanese-Hawaiian man, a nephew and his wife adopted three African children, our daughter-in-law's father is Puerto Rican and her mother, Hispanic, and another niece adopted five Russian children.  Our oldest grandson's wife is from Russia. Throw in a few kings, queens, pirates, outlaws, bootleggers, preachers, farmers, cowboys, a cobbler, an express rider, and a Mountie to complete the family picture.

When I hear of the limits on education, particularly for girls, in some countries, I want to weep.  I'm grateful for the public education and the choice of colleges I attended here in America.  I feel great gratitude for those who taught me to read and write. I'm thankful for the freedom to attend the church of my choice.  My life has been richly blessed with the family I grew up in and the family I parented as an equal partner with the man I chose to marry.  America is a land of great beauty and I appreciate my upbringing in the mountains and along the streams of the west, but many of the cities from Seattle to San Antonio from Salt Lake to Washington DC hold special places in my heart as well.  I love the freedom this country affords me to work and play, the choices it gives me, and the expectation of fairness.

Of course, there aren't always happy outcomes, even in the land of the free. Though this country's constitution is based on justice and freedom for all, I can think of many injustices that have occurred throughout our nation's history.  Many of those injustices touched my family.  The Trail of Tears was a horrible example of injustice as native families were forced off their rich tribal lands into a long march to barren Oklahoma land with many suffering and dying along the way.  One of my ancestors, a young man from Wales lacked the means to build a handcart to travel west in the 1850s so he indentured himself to raise the money for a later trip.  He disappeared and the rumor persists that because he was a dark skinned Welshman, he was sold south as a slave.  Just recently a family member who has risked his life numerous times to save others and who has been awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds he suffered in our nation's armed forces, was the victim of a court case based on a lie and the liar won.

Immigration, jobs, freedom of religion, medical care, racial animosity, war, bullying, education, politics, energy development, biased journalism, judicial activism, homosexual rights, and the list could continue of those issues that divide our country. Some of the solutions proposed by both the left and right are absurd.  (I heard one opinionated man propose a law that for every illegal alien who crosses our Southern border we deport a liberal democrat to wherever the illegal came from.)  We won't solve anything with absurd one-sided nonsense. We're not going to solve these problems by not getting involved.  We won't solve them by shifting responsibility to a bigger and more powerful central government anymore than we'll resolve these problems by tossing out the rule of law and becoming a bunch of vigilantes. On this Fourth of July, our nation's birthday, it might be well to remember this country has a constitution, one many of us believe was inspired by God.  It is our own unique set of laws by which this country is to be governed and by no other. Real solutions come through open discussion, compromise, respect for others, and turning to God.   

America isn't perfect.  Our history has its share of heroic events, dark tragedies, idealistic splendor, and cruel injustice.  It isn't enough to say "but it's better than any other country in spite of its faults."  It's up to us to be aware and be involved, to make it the best. Though I respect and admire all the many lands my family derived from and wish them well, even cheer for them in sporting events unless they're playing America, the USA is my native land and I'm proud to be an American.

It's customary on birthdays to wish the one celebrating a birthday many more birthdays.  On this birthday of America it is my fervent wish that all we Americans in our various shades of red, white, and blue get our act together and make sure we have many more birthdays to celebrate in the future. Let's ensure many more Fourth of July celebrations by standing up for what is right, getting involved, and appreciating what we have.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Preparing for the 4th of July

 I love the 4th of July and what it symbolizes for Americans. Independence Day, a day when a tenuously organized coalition of states, with little money or central powers, and only a rag-tag army for defense, declared a separation from England--at the time, one of the mightiest countries on earth.

When the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, John Adams wrote this historic letter to his wife: "I am apt to believe that this day will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as a day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."

For most Americans the 4th is a day when families get together and enjoy parades, picnics, and fireworks. It's also a time when we should be talking about the wonder that is America. What a grand idea for the grown-ups to find a copy of the Declaration of Independence, read through it, and share its meaning with the younger generation of patriots.

Certainly prepare for the 4th of July by making that favorite family potato salad and buying fireworks, but also remember to share stories of the courage of the Founders as they brought forth this wondrous document.
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."