Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas - Come and Gone

I love Christmas! I love everything about it - the planning, the shopping for gifts for everyone in the family. What fun I would have if I had unlimited resources to buy for everyone! We watched a cute movie on the BYU Channel the other night - the Christmas Angel. We talked about how incredible it would be to go around helping people anonymously - paying for missed house payments, medical bills, helping with whatever needs they had. I'd love to play Santa Claus every day of the year.

I love the Christmas carols - the traditional songs. I don't like the crazy songs - Gramma and the reindeer, missing teeth, etc. I could play Christmas music all year. Who doesn't love the Hallelujah Chorus and Carol of the Bells and Silver Bells and the beautiful hymns we get to sing on Sunday in church!

I love setting up my nativity sets at the Creche Festival showing how different countries celebrate Christmas with their version of the nativity. Then bringing them home and decorating my house with them - book shelves, end tables, coffee table - every flat surface gets a nativity set.  I'm so grateful to my international traveling kids who bring me back beautiful depictions of the birth of the Christ child from nations across the world.

I love my blue and silver Christmas tree. There is such peace sitting in the soft glow of lights and pondering the magnificent gift our loving Father sent in his Beloved Son to live and die for us. What a miracle in our lives that is!

I love making mounds of caramel corn, then delivering it to neighbors and friends to tell them we are thinking of them at Christmas. I love receiving Christmas cards from friends scattered across the world and reliving so many fond memories of our times together. I don't even mind writing in all those cards!!

I love planning special music for sacrament meetings in December to help everyone remember the meaning of Christmas. What power there is in music to bring the Spirit to a meeting! The messages seem so much more uplifting at this time of year.

And I love the day after Christmas when all the kids and grand kids have gone home and the house is quiet once again. The chaos is over. Wrapping paper and boxes are put away for another year. Peace and order are restored. We can sit quietly and bask in the glow of loving family, a loving Father in Heaven and our Savior who makes all this happiness possible.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Finding the Joy in Christmas

This time of year I find myself reflecting on the events leading up to the birth of our Savior. I read passages from the New Testament that share what transpired. I marvel at the great faith that Mary and Joseph exhibited. In my mind I picture the shepherds and their reaction to the appearance of an angel who told them about the birth of Jesus Christ. Their initial reaction was fear, which gradually transformed to great joy as they sought out the tiny Christ Child.

Wise men faithfully watched for a predicted sign, and then led by the Spirit and a marvelous star, they journeyed to bring gifts and to show their devotion to their Savior.

As I reread about these sacred events, I ponder how I would have reacted. Would I have had the courage and faith to be with the shepherds and wisemen, or would I have blocked my heart to the spirit of the time? Would I have rationalized away the great miracle and gone on with my daily tasks, oblivious to what was taking place?

Fast forward a "few" (okay, over 2000) years to our day. There are still shepherds and wise men among us who daily worship our Savior. They are the ones who bravely stand up for all that is right and good in this world. They are the ones who reach out to help those who are struggling or less fortunate. Through their acts of kindness they are showing their devotion to Jesus Christ. In following His example, they are reflecting a way of life that will bring true happiness and eternal joy.

So during this busy/crazy time of year when we're all rushing about preparing for the Christmas season, may we each take a moment to ponder what we're really celebrating. Reflect on the numerous ways our lives are blessed by the birth of our Elder Brother. Do those things that help us capture the true spirit of the season. Reach out to those around you who may be struggling. Offer a smile or a thoughtful word to someone who may need it. Be kinder and more patient with those who cause frustration. Keep in mind that most of us are on the same path, trying to find our way. Instead of pushing and shoving as we hurry forward, take the time to aid those whose footsteps falter. In short, the best gifts we can give to Jesus will be those that come from the heart. As we reach out to the people around us, we are reaching out to our Savior. (See Matthew 25:34-40)


Monday, November 23, 2015

Small & Simple Saves the Day

An experience came to mind recently, something I believe I’ve shared before, but I sense it’s something I need to touch on once again. Years ago, in the days following my father’s death, my husband & I helped my mother and my younger siblings pack and prepare to move. In the midst of the confusion, a plant that had been in our family for years was stashed inside of an open truck. By the time we arrived at our destination, this poor plant looked like it had been through a war. Its leaves were shredded, and it drooped horribly, but my mother didn’t have the heart to throw it away. Instead, she gave it to me, hoping I could nurse it back to health.

My husband and I lived about two hours away from where the rest of my family would be residing for a while. After we helped get everyone settled, we returned to our home with our infant son. The plant I had been given was placed in a corner and pretty much forgotten.
This plant was at least as old as I was. It had been given to my parents when I was very young. A dracaena palm tree, it tended to grow quite lush and tall. When I inherited the plant, it was shorter from a recent pruning, and in a dilapidated state compliments of the move. It resembled what I felt like on the inside of my heart.

I kept it in a distant corner, where I didn’t have to look at it very often. I watered it when I watered my other plants, but I didn’t give it any special attention. Then one day, an observant friend looked at that plant, and then at me. “Why aren’t you giving that plant a chance to access any light?” she asked. Though I had given it water, no light could shine on its leaves, the very thing that would help it thrive. It had tried to survive, but now it was dying—the leaves had yellowed, and I wasn’t sure I could save it.That’s when it dawned on me that I had been secretly hoping the reminder of my dad’s demise would fade away. I felt a bit ashamed of myself. Had I been wallowing in self-pity so much that I was neglecting things of importance? 

Struck by the symbolism of that small tree, I pulled it out of the corner and trimmed off the dead leaves. I found a new place for it in the bright sunshine and gave it the attention it required. Within a couple of weeks, it began showing new signs of life and started to flourish. Giving it the nourishment it needed gave it the strength to survive its traumatic ordeal. I was so touched by all of this that I wrote a poem about it:

It was kept in a darkened corner
Where light and warmth could not penetrate
A reminder of all that had gone before
Slowly, green faded into yellow
Then brown
At times it was pruned
But nurturing was limited
Gradually it slipped into partiality
Until one day
A chance beam of light
Dared glimmer on the withered leaves
Struggling through a forest of night
Reaching through leaves, stem, and decaying roots
It had been forgotten--this beacon from the past
Stored for a time
When strength could absorb
The offering of light
Awakening joy--pain--happiness--and sorrow
New life passing from roots to stem to leaves
Rebirth from the darkened past
Brought it forth into light
Where brown embraced yellow
Then green
Leaves reaching now beyond the rooted pain
Of mortal existence
Toward the hope of light
And truth
Green with the knowledge
Of warmer days.
Cheri J. Crane

As you may have guessed, this small tree was symbolic of the healing journey I endured following my father’s suicide. It still exists, taller now than it has been in years. It is a reminder  that despite the heartaches of this life, we can go forward and flourish, with the right nourishment. It is indeed those small and simple things that help us to endure challenging days: prayer, studying the scriptures, church and temple attendance, all of those items that nurture our spirit. When we neglect those things, we tend to wither. And currently, we live in a time when we each need to be as strong as we can possibly be as the adversary steps up his assault on all that is good. We can survive anything, as long as the gospel light shines within our hearts. It is that light that gives us the hope to face each day, knowing it will all be worth it in the end.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Review of Jennie's New Book

Julie Bellon reviewed my new book By The  River for Meridian Magazine today.  I thought I would share it with all of you:
Jennie Hansen fans have been anxiously awaiting her new release and By the River does not disappoint. Kira Paxton is a woman small of stature, but big in heart. She wants to fall in love, be independent from her smothering family, and live a full life. All of those dreams are set on a collision course, however, after she makes the grisly discovery of a young woman’s body near her running trail. 
Her screams bring Ford Kettering to the scene of the crime and from that moment on he tries to help Kira heal from her horrifying experience. She could fall in love with him, but when the young victim’s identity is released, Ford is listed as a person of interest because he was her high school teacher.  The budding relationship between Ford and Kira is a strong pull throughout the story, and readers will enjoy experiencing it with them through all the ups and downs.  Readers will also relate to Kira’s family problems as she tries to transition from the role of sheltered daughter to independent woman and the difficulties that come along with that.  When Kira’s condo is vandalized and an attempt is made on her life, she clings to independence, but also allows those around her to help keep her safe. From all appearances, Kira has become a loose end to the killer and, despite everyone’s best efforts, he is drawing closer. She will have to use all her wits to stay alive through this story that has more twists than a switchback road with hairpin turns at every corner.
By the River has all the shivers and thrills you’d expect from a Jennie Hansen suspense novel.  The reader is kept guessing until the very end who the killer is and if Kira will survive not only physically, but emotionally. Ford is a relatable character, fighting for his own innocence and for what he might have with Kira. He definitely lives up to the slogan, “Ford Tough.” The other “character” that is a standout is Jasper the dog. Jasper is a scene-stealer who will win your heart with his fondness for shoes, canals, and mischief of any kind, but who also proves dogs can be a man–or woman’s–best friend. This is a quick read because readers will not be able to put it down–and you’ll never look at running trails quite the same way again.
Jennie is an accomplished writer with over two dozen published novels to her name.  She writes in several different genres including romantic suspense, mystery, historical, and western and most of her titles can be found in LDS bookstores or on Kindle. 
By the River by Jennie Hansen published by Covenant Communications, softcover, $14.99, available on Kindle $10.49
Julie Coulter Bellon is the author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels. Julie offers writing and publishing tips as well as her take on life on her blog You can also find out about all her upcoming projects at her website

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

So Much To Be Grateful For!

At the beginning of the year in my journal I entered something that I was grateful for that day. I never had to stop and think what my blessing had been - there were usually so many that I could record several.

In September I found a lump in my breast and was immediately rush through mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds and ultimately surgery to remove the offending tumor. I was grateful I found it. I was grateful they removed it so quickly. I am grateful they were able to remove it all. I am everlastingly grateful it had not spread to my lymph nodes!

And I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers I've had. I know they have been a major blessing to me through this. I have been calm and felt peace through the whole experience and as I have decided against chemo which my oncologist recommended, (though bless his heart he did not insist!!) and also against the pill - the magic bullet that was supposed to seek out and destroy any mutated cells that could turn cancerous. I feel I can pump up my immune system and let good food and other things I'm doing take care of those nasty little maverick cells.

My prognosis was a 35% chance of recurring cancer in 5-10 years if I don't have chemo and the pill. By the same token - I have a 66% chance of not having cancer recur. I choose to continue feeling really good and improve my diet and health so keep feeling this good. My husband wanted me to have the chemo - he wanted to have me around as long as he is here. But he admitted that he would not have chemo if they found cancer in him. (Double standard here??) :) 

I'm so grateful for the information everyone is sharing as to what they have done and what works for them. I'm grateful there are many out there that believe as I do - that chemo can kill every bit as soon as cancer! And it sounds to me as if it is more painful than the cancer itself!

I'm grateful for every day that I have been given on this earth and especially for a loving supportive family. And I'm grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who hears and answers prayers. Does it get better than that??

Monday, October 26, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude

I've been thinking a lot about a distant ancestor of mine lately. Her name is Elizabeth, and she's one of my heroes. (Heroines?) When she was in her teens, her parents decided to journey to a new country, seeking religious freedom.So they boarded a ship along with others who shared similar beliefs and braved sailing across the ocean. Along the way, there were a few adventures--like the time a nasty storm threatened all of their lives, and Elizabeth's future husband was swept off the ship. Luckily, John managed to grab hold of a lanyard rope that were hanging off the back of the ship, and eventually someone noticed and pulled him to safety. We often refer to Grandpa John as the first water skier of the family, but I digress.

Finally, after weeks at sea, this little band of courageous men and women arrived in the harbor of what would become the famed Plymouth colony. They left the ship (The Mayflower) in December of the year 1620. It was a difficult time. They began this arduous journey with 102 fellow passengers. One died during the voyage, four more died while exploring a harbor (Provincetown), and one was born in that same harbor. Ninety-nine people settled the Plymouth Colony in 1620. It was a severe winter and supplies were limited. Nearly half of the residents perished due to disease and lack of food and medicine, not to mention the meager shelters that were shared during those first months. Among those who died were Elizabeth's parents, John and Joan Tilley. By the time another ship (The Fortune) arrived during December of 1621, only 52  residents had managed to survive.

A nearby tribe of Wampanoags saved the day. Taking pity on the surviving settlers, these friendly Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant crops in the area. They planted corn, barley, and peas using fish (herring) to fertilize the tender plants. They became expert hunters and fishers, eating a majority of their meals from the sea, learning newfound skills from their native brothers. To celebrate their survival and to thank their God, and the Wampanoags who had helped them, they decided to hold a feast. This first Thanksgiving took place in the fall of 1621 and the following paragraph, written by Edward Winslow, one of the surviving Pilgrims, captures the excitement of this event:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our Governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors . . . many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed upon our Governour . . . And although it be not alwayes so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodnesse of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie."
("Plymouth Colony; Its History & People 1620-1691," Eugene Aubrey Stratton, pp. 24-25)

Though the hardships weren't over for this tiny colony, they still appreciated the great blessings that had been bestowed upon them, and they were quick to express gratitude. Their example is one we need during this current time of challenges. Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives and the trials we're enduring, that we forget the tremendous blessings that are also taking place. And it makes me very sad to venture into stores and notice that Halloween tends to merge into Christmas. Thanksgiving is often overlooked. To me, Thanksgiving is a holiday that needs more of the limelight. I think it's important to remember what it signifies and to reflect on those who paved the way for us to enjoy precious freedoms.

Elizabeth Tilley was one of those brave Pilgrims who managed to survive. She was in attendance at the first Thanksgiving, along with her future spouse, John Howland. They eventually married and had a massive posterity. Our family line descends through their daughter, Hope. I find that name inspiring and appropriate. It's a reminder to me that despite darkened times, there is always hope. Always!!!

Monday, October 12, 2015


The first weekend of October was a time of spiritual refreshment for me and many others. It was Conference weekend for the LDS Church. Some were fortunate enough to attend these inspiring sessions in person. Most of us viewed the proceedings in the comfort of our homes via TV or radio or Internet broadcasts. I was part of that latter group. A handful of family members gathered at my home to watch the four sessions on TV. We listened carefully as leaders in our church delivered heartfelt words of encouragement and counsel.

I've made it a habit to take notes during these talks, to record thoughts that pop into my head, and to write down the main ideas that surface for me. Later on I usually go back and highlight the things that touched my heart the most. Here are a few of the things I recorded during this most recent Conference: (this includes the General Women's Broadcast)

"Do more than just exist!"

"Don't give up! Believe in good things to come!"

"Our divine nature is a gift from our Heavenly Father."

"Pray to avoid temptation. Avoid those things that will drag us down."

"This is the time to prepare to meet God. Remember most of our blessings will take place in the '3rd act'."

"Remember the love our Father in heaven and Savior has for each one of us."

"Our trials may well qualify us for eternal blessings."

"Love one another. See the beauty in each other."

"In the midst of despair, have valiant hearts!"

"Our Savior sanctified the world. He has marked the path and  led the way. Follow Him."

"Serve each other with love and compassion."

"Family is the very heart of salvation."

"In the strength of the Lord we can do all things."

"Focus on the miracles and wonders of life to find happiness despite trials."

"Faith leads to hope--both will lead to confidence that one day, all things will make sense."

"Notice the good things. Avoid self-pity."

"Serve others--forget our sorrow in helping others."

"Don't chase after shadows!"

"Simplify! Focus on what's important!"

"Have a willing heart and a desire to believe."

"If we will be obedient, we can stay the course through troubled water."

"Gospel truths offer comfort and assurance during trials."

"We find true joy in living a Christ-centered life."

"If you do your best, it will all work out."

"The Holy Ghost makes a perfect traveling companion."

"Count blessings instead of challenges."

"Live faithful. All blessings will be restored."

"Be willing to forgive. Seek the good in others. Do not be offended, nor offend others."

"Choices matter."

"Never deliberately fly into a thunderstorm."

"We marry potential--not perfection."

"Maternal love is divine."

"We have only to ask for the Savior's help."

"Let your light shine--we can light the way for others."

"Bring hope to the hopeless. Help those in need."

"Radiate the light of Christ."

"Fear and faith can't exist at the same time."

"The Lord will qualify who He calls."

"To effectively serve others, see them through Heavenly Father's eyes."

"Comfort those who are struggling."

"We need women of discernment. Make important things happen because of faith."

"It's not always easy or convenient to stand up for Christ."

"We need a constant influence of truth."

"Ponderize--write a favorite scripture on your heart and mind."

"Don't just go through the motions."

"Trust the whisperings of the Spirit."

"Healing takes place on both sides of the veil."

"The light of Jesus Christ will shine through the darkness."

"Be faithful despite challenges. We all go through tests."

"When you cannot do what you've always done, focus on what is most important."

"Physical weakness can enhance spiritual strength."

"Cast out negative feelings of anger and spite . . . forgive all men."

These are just a few of the thoughts and notes I jotted down. I plan to reflect on them quite often in the days ahead. Let's face it--we live in a challenging time. What a comfort it is to know that we have inspired men and women at the helm to help us find our way.

Monday, September 28, 2015

And Let It Begin With Me . . .

Last week I witnessed something wonderful, quite by chance. It was one of those days when my body tries to show me who's boss (compliments of an arthritis flare) and I needed to take a brief time out to recuperate. So I relaxed on the couch and turned on the TV. I then sat transfixed as I witnessed a historical moment. Most of us know that Pope Francis was visiting the United States this past week. I happened to tune in just in time to watch his visit to the Twin Towers Memorial and Museum.

Representatives from several different religions had gathered together to welcome the Pope, and to share sincere pleas for peace and understanding among religions and races. It was one of the most touching things I had watched all week. At the end of this inspiring program, a group of students from varied backgrounds, joined in singing the song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." It was all I could do to keep my emotions intact. The news commentators who were narrating this event were visibly touched. One of them remarked that this was quite  possibly the most important gathering during the Pope's historical visit to our country.

I've found myself reflecting on that event quite often the past weekend. It was an amazing effort to push aside differences and reach out in a way that seldom happens these days. I have pondered all of the good that could be accomplished if we all put aside our judgmental prejudices to help each other. What an amazing world it would be!

These days the news stories are filled with such negativity and violence. It was a refreshing change to see such an inspiring gathering where people were making a huge plea for peace.

We can make a difference in our own realms. It could be as simple as having patience while waiting in a long line in a store, and not yelling at the clerk over something silly that is usually out of his or her control. We can be more tolerant as we drive on busy highways or slow country roads. Instead of erupting in rage over an imagined infraction, swallow some pride and be the one who makes an effort to be kind and understanding.

When you see someone struggling, take a few minutes out of your busy life to offer assistance. It could be something simple, like holding open a door, or helping an overwhelmed young mother with her children. If someone says something rude to you, smile in return. (I know, this is a hard thing, but it truly is the simple efforts that will make a difference.) Count to ten before blowing a gasket. Do something thoughtful for someone else without expecting anything in return. So on and so forth. In short, ponder the popular saying, "What would Jesus do?"

And in quiet moments, reflect on the lyrics to this song:

Let There Be Peace on Earth 
(Jill Jackson/Mark Miller

 Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step i take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

More on Adversity

I'll follow Cheri's topic with some insights of my own since I'm undergoing another of those "bumps-in-the-road" that are supposed to be for our good and development. I've been diagnosed with breast cancer and will have a mastectomy next week. I wanted to keep it a secret and not tell anyone and just go about my life and get it over with and heal, but my husband gave me a blessing the night after I discovered the huge lump and said it would be for the good of others. When he told my bishop about it, my bishop counseled me to tell everyone so it would remind them to make sure they were okay. And, he said, you need to let people pray for you.

I have had an incredible outpouring of love and prayers from people. That makes me very happy. What makes me even more happy is that several people have said they immediately scheduled a long-overdue mammogram. My doctor's wife is a breast cancer survivor and has two mammograms per year, but for some reason, she didn't have one last year - or yet this year. When she read my facebook post, she realized it had been awhile and scheduled one. My doctor said he has had several people we both know call and make appointments since my post. So apparently it is working!

A friend called me to say "It's not fair! You of all people should not be having this problem! You have spent your life helping people." That shocked me. It also made me sad. Why would she deprive me of a "refining fire" experience? I'm sure it was just a knee-jerk reaction - a denial that bad things can and do happen to good people all the time! No one is immune.

I love Neal A. Maxwell and have been reading his insights into adversity. I'll never forget when he was in the hospital dying of cancer and suffering horrible pain, he said later he had come to know the Holy Ghost intimately as that was his only companion and comfort through the long dark hours of pain-filled nights.

I especially liked this quote: "God said He would structure mortality to be a proving and testing experience (see Abraham 3:25; Mosiah 23:21). Clearly He has kept His promise and has carried out His divine intent. Therefore adversity must be part of the pattern rather than always an aberration. Therefore even our fiery trials, as Pete said, should not be thought of as being "some strange thing" (1 Peter 4:12). Hence throughout the varying lengths of our lives there is rolling relevance contained in the counsel to endure it well." (Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book)

So many of you have had excruciating trials that leave me awed and amazed. My hope is that I can follow your worthy example and come out on the other side of this surgery and it's aftermath with the grace and courage you have shown. Thanks for your wonderful examples.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finding Happiness Depsite Adversity

Recently I had to speak on this particular subject. I decided since I had already established some ground work on this, I would morph it into a blog post. =) {No, this is not cheating . . . this is creative use of time and energy.} =D

Let's face it, we all have really bad days. Like the time I was playing city league volleyball, slipped on some melted snow someone had unfortunately tracked into the gym, and fell, smacking the back of my head on the gym floor. I was told later on that it resonated throughout the gym, sounding like a gunshot. Nice. I have no memory of that sound, since I was unconscious for a few minutes. When I came back around, the team sponsored by the local hospital, and made up of mostly nurses, had surrounded me, and were frantically waving fingers, asking how many they were holding up. This was slightly confusing and I wasn't sure what to answer. When they finally asked if I knew my name, I passed with flying colors. I was helped to my feet and dragged over to the bleachers to sit by my husband. He had heard the loud noise earlier, but hadn't realized that incident had involved his wife until someone else pointed out what had happened. I sat there for a while under intense scrutiny, and after we all decided I was going to live, Kennon took me home where I spent a few days recuperating from a slight concussion. I had a headache from hades for about a week. It was not a good time.

I've had a few head injuries in my life. This tendency began when I was thrown from my grandfather's horse at the tender age of 3. (He had taken me with him that day to go gather his dairy cows.) My grandfather had slipped down from his horse to open a gate. The horse jumped, startling me, and I squealed. This spooked the horse and I went flying. My head connected with a large rock, and I was knocked unconscious. I've been told by my mother that my grandfather sobbed as he carried my limp body to the house, certain I was dead. They were all relieved when I finally opened my eyes and knew my name. Evidently this is an important step in verifying that one's fetchies are still about them. (A quaint saying that indicates one still has one's wits about them.)

Then there was the time my family was involved in a car accident. I was about 10 years old at the time. My brother and I were riding in the back of our truck inside a camper shell. (We thought we were really cool, since our younger sisters had to ride up front with our parents.) We had been camping and were getting ready to head home. As my father pulled out of the campground turnoff, he was struck by a car. He hadn't been able to see it coming because of the campground sign that blocked his vision. Regardless, we were hit by a Volkswagen bug and were rather knocked askew. A cast iron skillet came loose from its mooring, and it clunked me upside my head. Once again I found myself sprawled out with a slight head injury. Not my idea of a good time.

The list goes on and on. There have been numerous head wounds, and yes, I will more than likely be one of those entertaining types in the nursing home someday as a result. ;) I was told a few years ago that I have a bit of scar tissue on my brain. (They had been looking for a brain tumor at the time.) While it was a relief to know that I didn't have a tumor, it was a little disconcerting to know that scar tissue has taken up residence where brain cells should exist. =D I endured that battery of tests when physicians were trying to discern why I was having seizures. This tendency surfaced during my college years. I would attend class on campus, and come to in the infirmary where I was told that I had passed out and had experienced a slight seizure. Character building moments.

In time we would be directed to a specialist in Salt Lake City who ran her own battery of tests and came up with the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. (Seizures can take place with an out of control diabetic.) I was relieved to know that I didn't have a form of epilepsy, compliments of my numerous head bonks, but I quickly caught on that the diagnosis of diabetes was pretty much a life sentence.

Dealing with a chronic illness is a challenge. It's something I live with every day as I face the highs and lows of bouncing blood sugar levels and the fun that goes along with that. But it is possible to live a fairly normal life despite this bit of adversity. Through this, and other challenges I have learned the following formula that is key to surviving bad moments in life:

1. Attitude is everything. The more positive you can be, the better. I know a lot of complications can go along with being a Type 1 diabetic, and I've chosen not to dwell on those. Instead, I focus on good things and do the best I can to control what I can.

2. Serve others. When I'm hurting for whatever reason, I've found that that more I do for other people, the better I feel. One example, a good friend who was also a Type 1 diabetic, helped me run a diabetic support group for people in our neck of the woods for several years. Through helping others, we discovered a lot of joy and hope for ourselves along the way.

3. Pray . . . a lot. I've found so much peace and comfort through personal prayer. I'm also a firm believer that there are a lot of blessings our Father in heaven desires us to have, but sometimes we have to ask for those items first in humble prayer.

4. Laughter is truly the best medicine. A couple of years ago, my husband and I spent some time with two of my closest friends from my high school days, We met in what used to be my father's drugstore. It's now a pizzeria, but they kept the soda fountain intact. Anyway . . . we ate awesome food, reflected on past exploits, and laughed so hard we nearly fell out of the booth. We literally closed the place down and when we were eventually kicked out by the patient people who were running the place, I was impressed by how much better I felt.

5. Keep busy. That's one of the few things I remember being said at my father's funeral. It was good advice. When I'm having a bad day, I've found that if I can busy myself with a multitude of tasks, I tend to feel a bit better, and time moves on.

6. Surround yourself with upbeat people. I've heard it said that misery loves company. This is true. I avoid pity parties whenever possible.

7. On the other hand, there are times when we need to "vent." I do this on a regular basis with a good friend. We get together and walk, which is another way to release stress--physical activity. When we exercise, it releases natural endorphins, which enhance our mood. This is good.

8. Know that tomorrow will be better. On dark days, that knowledge is crucial. I try to remind myself that we're in mortal mode for a reason, and that some of what we're here to learn, takes place compliments of trials. There are some trials that are so heart-rending, sometimes we have to break things down into small increments of time to survive. After my father's death, my mother said that one of the ways she coped was to take life in small pieces. "Right now, I just have to get out of bed. Now I just have to get into the shower. And now I just have to get dressed  . . ." so on and so forth. Eventually she was able to handle life in bigger pieces--but it helped to take it in smaller chunks for a while.

9. Never give up. Ever. Despite the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, I once climbed a mountain not far from my home by following my mother's example of taking the climb in small increments--one step at a time. Eventually I reached the top and the view was definitely worth it.

10. Realize that we are never alone. We are constantly watched over and protected in more ways than we can possible imagine. I have felt that strength on numerous occasions and I know it to be true. We are never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Not only is our Father and our Elder Brother aware of our pain, but the veil is very thin and we are often helped by loved ones on the other side who are cheering us onward and upward.

Well, it's probably time I cease rambling . . . for now. Hopefully some of this makes sense and offers hope to any out there who may be struggling. It's something we all experience from time to time. I suspect it will all make sense when this life is through. And hopefully, despite my numerous head bonks, I'll have enough fetchies about me to appreciate that information. ;)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Letter to My Children

Did I tell you the importance of teaching your own the vital things of life? Of making sure you pass on to the next generation all the good you have discovered - all the good you have learned? And teaching them what to avoid so they won't be hurt as you have been.

Did I tell you to laugh, to dance, to sing? There is a lot in life that is hard, but take it as it comes and find the good....then make time to sing, to read, to pray.

Did I tell you to be creative - to explore the seed within you? Find your creative spirit and let it grow!

And did I tell you the joy and challenge of being a woman? The joy of having a child...knowing and sharing a new life. The joy of making a home...the center but not the limit for the lives of those you love. The joy of exploring a third dimension....a world of your own, discovering and fulfilling your own capabilities.

Did I tell you these things as we went along the way? If I did, I am humbly grateful. If I did not, it is never too late to learn them - to choose for yourself to integrate them into your life.

Did I tell you to search for truth and good? When you find it, and it has meaning, accept it and make it your own. If it does not, discard it. Your life is yours to build as you choose.

And did I tell you? I hope it will be a good life. Mine has been.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Falling To the End of Summer

There is a definite zing in the air in this mountain valley--letting us know that summer is on the decline, and fall is just around the corner. Temperatures have dropped into the mid to upper 30's at night, causing those of us who braved planting a garden a bit of stress. Such is life in our neck of the woods. ;)

The huckleberries came on early, and I'm hearing that the chokecherries are not far behind. These are signs that the frantic pace of the past three months will soon be replaced by the equally crazy months of autumn. Some of us will be canning various items from our gardens/farmer's markets. Some will be gathering firewood for the cold months ahead. Others will be prepping for hunting season. Still others are trying desperately to cram in a few more summertime activities before school starts again.

To me, this time of year signals a fresh start. I know for most people, the beginning of a new year offers a blank page for life. Others herald spring as a time of rejuvenation, renewal, etc. Myself, I have always considered fall to be a time for a changing perspective. I suppose that tendency started during my grade school years. Each fall as we began a new school year, we prepared by purchasing new shoes, clothes, and school supplies. There was an excitement in the air as the first day of the school year approached. It was a new beginning--a magical time of endless possibilities.

Each fall it seemed like there were intriguing challenges, unique things to learn, and social skills to master. It was a chance to improve upon the year before, and to verify that we were retaining items already learned. (Sometimes.)

I love all of the seasons, but I do possess an especially warm spot in my heart for fall--a time for sweaters, fun fall camping adventures, welcoming fires, and cold noses. (Mostly at night.) Leaves magically turn impressive colors. Life seems to slow down before the holiday rush. Hot chocolate appeals, as well as pumpkin pie spice, and beautiful sunflowers.

This year we will be welcoming our newest member of the family about mid October. That will also make fall a favorite time of year. =) Little Spud Crane will be welcomed into the family with open arms. =D As one of his grandmothers, I can hardly wait.

So, don't be too sad as summer winds down. Though I love the summer months, to my way of thinking, there is always something fun to anticipate as time marches on. I doubt there's anything any of us can do to stop it from pressing on, so make the best of the last of the nice, warm days, and savor the season that is coming.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Yay! I have two releases scheduled within the next six months.  My novel By the River is scheduled for November and the compilation of three love stories which will include my novella Rescuing Bailey is set for January. The other two writers who are joining me in this endeavor are Aubrey Mace and K. C. Grant.

Having just read a couple of romance novels, attended two family weddings, celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary, will attend a party for a brother's fiftieth anniversary this weekend, and finished the edit of Rescuing Bailey, I've been thinking about weddings more than usual. Then recently I sat at lunch with a group of friends and the conversation turned to weddings.  No, not more of that wedding stuff. One of my friends remarked, "Something goes wrong at every wedding no matter how hard everyone tries to make it perfect." Her comments brought on a flurry of stories of personal disasters.

One said her mother took over her wedding and wouldn't let her have any invitations to send to her friends. Her mother insisted it was her party and she was paying for it, so she was only going to invite her (the mother's) friends. The bride knew very few of the guests at her reception.

At one wedding the bride's mother wanted to make the wedding cake. She arrived late for the wedding with undecorated cake layers and a big bowl of icing. She said she just hadn't had time to finish it.

When I got married my parents and most of my family didn't make it to the wedding or open house afterward because a blizzard caused the highway patrol to close the road and they couldn't get through. I didn't have a cake because my mother made it and was planning to bring it with them. So my one brother who lived in the same city I did rushed out to buy cookies and lemonade.

At my older sister's wedding, mothers of both the bride and groom sat with a broken leg propped on a chair in front of them.

A large ceramic vase full of flowers was positioned too close to the father of the groom at a recent wedding reception. As he turned to embrace a guest, the vase went flying to shatter all over the area where the reception line had formed.

We followed the snowplow from our house to a brother's wedding in Montana that was four hours late due to the roads being impassable. (My family really should learn to avoid winter weddings.)

We survived the weddings of all five of our children and that of a grandson. Each one was an adventure. Working at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, I see a lot of brides which is fun. I often see and meet their mothers, attendants, and other family and friends. I can truthfully say most bridal parties laugh off the forgotten recommends, missing rings, impatient photographers, squashed bouquets, awkward attempts at humor by well-meaning guests, and ignore some of the more absurd attendants' dresses. Most couples see only each other and the beautiful ceremony.

Someone once said those who focus on the details and mishaps of the wedding will never be as  happy as those who enter into marriage only seeing each other. Those who are unaware or laugh off the mishaps are destined for a much happier marriage than those who bemoan the quirks that "ruined" their marriage. This is as true in novels as in real life; the best romances are those that focus on the relationship instead of on exotic settings, fabulous wardrobes, or detailed graphics. After all it's Three Little Words that really matter and that's to be the title of our compilation.  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Good Advice!

I'm still cleaning out files and came across this Postscript from a Real Simple Rewards magazine from 2006. It was good advice then - still good today:

The best reason to take your time is that this time is the only time you'll ever have. You must take it, or it will be taken from you. It is telling that the phrase "taking your time" is synonymous with slowing down. If we want to live life fully, we do best to slow down. I don't suggest that we turn back the clock, trying to retrieve a bygone era when life was slower. We couldn't, even if we wanted to. But I don't believe we should want to. We should revel in our electronically super charged, unbounded world. But, to make the most out of this new world, to avoid feeling overbooked, overstretched, and about to snap, to make modern life become better than life has ever been, a person must learn how to do what matters most first. Otherwise, you will bulldoze over life's best moments. You won't notice the little charms that adorn each day, nor will you ever transform the mundane into the extraordinary."  Excerpted from Crazybusy by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

Discovering what matters most is definitely the key. So here's to taking our time, deciding on priorities, noticing the little charms that make life enjoyable, and savoring those extraordinary moments instead of rushing through them!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Several people have asked if I've been having health problems again since it has been three weeks since my last blog. Actually I'm doing fine; life has just been a little crazy. My husband and I decided it was time to do some major work on our kitchen; granite counter tops, new flooring, shutters, back splash, cupboard hardware. It's been exciting and still is; we're not finished yet. It's time consuming too.  I'll post pictures when it's finished.

In the middle of our renovation project I got the edit back for By the River, my next book which is scheduled to be released in November. Even though it didn't require a lot of rewriting, it still took a great deal of time to go through it thoroughly, but I got it turned in. (By the way, I'll be participating in Salt Lake County Library's Local Authors Event on November 7 and I'm hoping By the River will be available by then).

Along with preparing and teaching a Relief Society lesson, attending a grandson's soccer games, a holiday, and all of the usual trivia of life, these two projects have consumed time I might have otherwise spent blogging. And guess what! The edit for the novella I wrote for one of those compilations of three novellas arrived this afternoon!  

My novella edit for Rescuing Bailey is due August 13th and our kitchen project is supposed to be finished around the first of September. August is shaping up to be a lot like July so if my blogs are few and far between for a little while it's not permanent, I'm not sick, and I promise to do better in the fall.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Tale of Three Cats.

This is how I remember these events and my memory may be a little faulty, but we'll go with this version anyway:

When my daughter and her family moved to Las Vegas, the cat belonging to her husband's boss had kittens. He brought one home - the cutest little black and white kitten you ever saw. They named him Dobie. Dobie needed a friend. The kids picked out a cuddly gray one at the animal shelter so everyone was happy, most of all Shadow who now had a loving family and the family had two delightfully playful kittens they adored. They put in a cat door so the kittens could go in and out by themselves.

A neighborhood cat decided he liked the food better at their house than at his own home, so he came daily through the cat door to dine and lounge around with his feline friends. This was an unusual cat - it had six toes on each paw, funny round short ears and short curly hair. They named him Padfoot because of his very large feet. Padfoot's family moved, leaving him behind, and Padfoot was happy to stay with his new friends.

When my daughter took him to the vet to have his shots, the vet was amazed. This was a very unusual and rather rare cat - a Rex. The extra toes, funny ears and curly hair revealed his identity. Thus, the family now had three cats that grew up during the four years they were in Las Vegas. The cats became hunters. They brought all sorts of wonderful presents to their owners like birds that were still alive, mice that were still able to run around the house, and other delightful (shudder!) gifts that made the girls scream and sent the son scrambling to catch and dispose of the creatures that belonged outside, not inside.

The cats went with them to South Dakota. Much different climate. Snow! The cat door had to be adjusted with a tunnel so the snow didn't blow directly into the house when blizzards arrived. The cats didn't like that as much, but loved basking in the sun on the picnic table on the deck. They still delivered dreadful presents when spring and summer came.

Then in two years another move. This time across the country to South Carolina. The cats went along in carriers - but they couldn't be left in hot cars so there was no sightseeing along the way. Just get to their new home so the cats wouldn't suffer. But the nights in the motels were an endless nightmare. No sleep. Cats awake all night. Noisy, jumping on the beds. Not all motels will take animals so they were not able to stay in the nicer ones they preferred. A totally miserable trip for everyone, cats included.

But the worst was yet to come. They stayed in a hotel for 3 weeks while house-hunting and the cats continued their nighttime routine. After three nights of no sleep, a boarding house needed to be found for the felines. $600 for three weeks! Expensive pets.

Fast forward one year. South Carolina was hot, humid, muggy, lots of bugs. Rain nearly every day. The family hated it. The cats hated it. A new job back in California solved that problem, but the cats presented one additional problem - how to transport them from coast to coast and be able to sleep at night, in a decent motel, and still stop and see a few things along the way. They would ship the cats to California via plane. Gramma would meet the plane and keep the cats till the family arrived in California. The cats would be happier. The family would be able to visit the presidential libraries and sleep at night!

They bought two carriers: two of the cats get along very well. They could travel together. Dobie gets along with no one. Dobie got his own carrier. But when they delivered the cats and carriers to the airline to be shipped, the lady at the desk says Dobie's carrier is not big enough. They've already spent a LOT of money on these carriers, so my daughter asks what can they do? "Go to Wal-Mart and buy a dog carrier", she said. "They are only about $75 to $100." Good Grief!

So the cats returned home, throwing up all the way. Good thing they didn't fly. It would not have been pleasant to cross country in the mess in their carriers.

Needless to say, the trip from South Carolina to California was another nightmare - long travel days to get here as quickly as possible, no stopping and leaving the cats in hot cars to sight-see.

I was waiting at their new home (for which we had searched and searched until we found what we thought they'd like, forwarded pictures, and got their approval.) Suddenly the door flew open and three cats bounded into the house before any humans appeared. Release from captivity! Freedom is a wonderful thing, for all species. Now the cats are happy, the family is happy, and we are happy to have our kids closer.

I'm glad we no longer have pets. My husband's favorite saying is: Retirement begins when the last child leaves home and the dog dies. In this case, the cats. My last cat lived 13 years. These are only seven years old. So about the time their youngest daughter leaves home in five or six years.................

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Tiny Taste of Heaven

Last week our entire clan was able to get together for a few days of fun and relaxation. The last time we were able to get everyone together was a little over a year ago. This is due in part to everyone's schedules and current locations. For instance, our youngest son and his wife now live in Pennsylvania while he attends med school, so family gatherings are a rare and precious occasion. After everyone arrived and we had visited, partaken of luscious grilled hamburgers, etc. not to mention spent a bit of time playing favorite games, I felt a deep sense of happy peace. The thought came to mind, "This must be what it will be like in heaven someday, when everyone is all together." I'm not sure why that particular image settled inside my heart, but it did and I've reflected on it since.

To me, the family is the most important unit in existence. The love shared by family members is crucial, and how wonderful it is when negativity, judgement, and criticism are replaced by respect, patience, and devotion. I don't think any family can be perfect in this mortal realm, but I do believe we get a tiny glimpse of heaven when we spend time together in a good and positive way.

It saddens me to see some of the horrible news stories depicting families that are are torn apart by selfish acts of abuse, bitterness, and cruelty. There are days when I can't bring myself to watch the news because of the horrific scenes that are often displayed. 

We do live in a troubled time, but there are a lot of good things taking place as well. Though some families are struggling, there are many more who are pulling together in love, eager to help each other to succeed despite tremendous obstacles. 

I believe that's part of why we're here--and why families are so important. We weren't meant to exist alone. We are social creatures who need each other to survive. When we support and love each other, great things can take place and the world becomes a better place. 

It was sad to see everyone in our clan depart, one by one last week. However, there is an eternal bond between us that makes our time apart bearable. We know these temporary separations are just that, temporary. Someday, we'll be together again--how grateful I am for the knowledge that families are truly meant to be together forever. That belief is the light in the darkness that often seems to prevail during these interesting latter days. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Today's Challenges

I have always loved Neal A. Maxwell. I think I have every one of the books he wrote and have read all his conference talks many times. On 1 September, 1974, he gave a fireside at BYU entitled But For A Small Moment, which is also the title of one of his books. He talks about challenges:

"So much is about to happen in which you will be involved and concerning which you will have some great influence. It is because you will face some remarkable challenges in your time; it is because the Church has ceased to be in the eyes of men a mere cultural oddity in the Mountain West and is now, therefore, a global church--a light which can no longer be hid; it is because you have a rendezvous with destiny that will involve some soul stretching and some pain that I have chosen to speak to you tonight about the implications of two things we accept sometimes quite casually. These realities are that God loves us and, loving us, has placed us here to cope with challenges which he will place before us.

I'm not sure we can always understand the implications of his love, because his love will call us at time to do things we may wonder about, and we may be confronted with circumstances we would rather not face. I believe with all my heart that because God loves us there are some particularized challenges that he will deliver to each of us. He will customize the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like. And this will require us to accept with all our hearts - particularly your generation - the truth that there is divine design in each of our lives and that you have rendezvous to keep, individually and collectively.

God knows even now what the future holds for each of us. In one of his revelations these startling words appear, as with so many revelations that are too big, I suppose, for us to manage fully: "In the presence of God, . . .all things . . . are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord." (D&C 130:7) The future "you" is before him now. He knows what it is he wishes to bring to pass in your life. He knows the kind of remodeling in your life and mine that he wishes to achieve. Now, this will require us to believe in that divine design and at times to accept the truth which came to Joseph Smith wherein he was reminded that his suffering would be "but a small moment" (D&C121:7)."

There is so much more wonderful stuff there - the talk is many pages long but I was struck by a couple of things as I read the first page. The word challenges jumped out at me because today we are facing some mountainous challenges in protecting not only our personal freedoms, but our religious freedoms. I'm afraid we have some "tough challenges" ahead and I don't think it will be an easy thing to get out of our comfort zones and make a stand. But I do not doubt that we will have to do that.

The other thing that really struck me was: "He will customize the curriculum for each of us in order to teach us the things we most need to know."  I believe that he knows what I can do and am capable of becoming - with His help. I also know that my own vision of that probably falls far short of His vision for me. My next thought was: which of the challenges that I most fear are the ones that He has prepared for me? Is there something I'm supposed to do in this new war we are fighting for our very freedoms?

This has given me much food for thought. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would see in my lifetime our precious freedoms being taken away, one by one, and feel so terribly helpless to prevent it. But I feel so strongly that this is a fight we must make here and now. Will I have the courage, the knowledge to do what might be my role? 

Just some disconcerting, very unsettling thoughts Elder Maxwell stirred up for me today.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


As a teenager, the Fourth of July included parades since I played in the marching band. Later as a mother it still included parades where my daughters played and marched or carried flags. And what would the Fourth be without a picnic and fireworks? Many of my Fourths also included fishing and stories about family members who served in various branches of the military. Above all it was a family day, in essence a small piece of what the historic events of 1776 were all about, a time when father, mother, and their offspring could enjoy the fruits of the sacrifices made for them so long ago. 

It was a novel concept back then that people might govern themselves; that matters of religion, education, employment, and self defense rightly belong to the individual. In order to prevent the kind of tyranny they had so narrowly escaped, those founding fathers drew up a constitution that called for an overall government limited to certain responsibilities. The remaining rights were to be restricted to the states in order to keep government as close to the people as possible. Such long time emblems of tyranny as a monarchy, state religion, and the education of only the wealthy were rejected. Opportunity, equality, and freedom became the new mantra of our ancestors who offered their lives in exchange for a new way of doing things. Farmers and shopkeepers became soldiers who suffered and many died for this dream. In the intervening years many other good men and women have died on battlefields around the world where they fought to preserve freedom and the simple red, white, and blue flag under which the revolutionaries fought has grown to include fifty stars. 

With the passage of time, freedom grew to include those who came here against their will and those fleeing poverty and a lack of opportunity elsewhere.  On the way there have been injustices; the Mormons were ordered exterminated by a narrow-minded governor, some areas denied black people the right to vote, Western states were ordered to stop allowing women to vote, some Hispanic transient workers have been denied payment for their hard manual labor and deported instead, Chinese railroad workers were often treated badly, Japanese families were incarcerated. There are, and likely always will be, some low-minded people who will continue to persecute those they consider beneath them, but real Americans revel in the success of anyone who works for it. 

The past week has been troubling for many Americans whether they support non-traditional marriage or not. There is great concern over the usurpation of state rights by the Supreme Court and serious, justifiable concerns about freedom of religion, parental rights, children's rights, divorce laws, and the legality of other potential matrimonial combinations. Most of these concerns could and should have been worked out without the drastic interference of a few unelected individuals. This is what legislatures are for. The hateful, insulting rhetoric being flung about by both sides of the controversy certainly isn't helpful either. Social changes brought about by majority consensus have proved to work better than those forced on people by edict. It will be a challenge and likely involve many contentious years to work out this issue. It's easy to say this doesn't concern me, but in fact it concerns all of us, and we all need to be involved in working out solutions that are fair to all Americans. Let's not let this issue be the one that destroys "justice for all" or the "freedom to worship according to the dictates of our own consciences." 

I'll be cheering at a parade, eat yummy food, and fly the stars and stripes this Fourth. I hope you will too. America is still worth celebrating. And just one more thing, a slogan I learned as a teenager, "Don't go forth with a fifth on the Fourth, or you might not be around to go forth on the fifth."