Thursday, January 29, 2015


I didn't write a blog this morning, but I'm inviting readers to read my column on Meridian. I tried something new, using four new novels I particularly enjoyed reading, to stress the importance of creating characters with the faults and foibles that make characters feel like real people. In each of the four books I reviewed, the flawed main character goes through a growth process, making him or her a better, stronger person. I would love having you add comments on this topic.  So here's the deal:  Everyone who comments by midnight Feb. 1, 2015, on the V-formation blog, on Notes from Jennie, on my Meridian column, or on Facebook will get their name in a drawing for my copy of one of these four books: Deadly Secrets by Frank Richardson, Wedding Cake by Josi Killpack, Lady Emma's Campaign by Jennifer Moore, or Danger Ahead by Betsy Brannon Green.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gotta Love The Classics!

In the spirit of my last blog post about continuing education and improving myself, I'm following the 15 minutes per day reading schedule of the Harvard Classics. Of course, this never is simply 15 minutes. Each reading ends up being 30 minutes or more as I want to read about the authors, when and where they lived and why they wrote what they did. It has been an interesting journey from Grimm's Fairy Tales, Robert Burns' poetry, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Odysseus and the sirens, Dante and Beatrice in Paradise to Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat and much more!

My favorite thus far has been a selection from the classic plays of French literature - Corneille's Polyeucte - which, of course, was totally unfamiliar to me. It was about an Armenian Christian and his Roman general father-in-law and wife. The Armenian connection caught me right away, but it was so beautifully written and the story so compelling that I read the whole thing - far more than a 30 minute reading! But SO worth it!

I have read many of the selections in the Harvard Classics in years past and particularly enjoyed I Promessi Sposi about the Black Plague but have never followed the reading schedule. This year I'm determined to follow it. My reading today is from Thomas A Kempis's Imitation of Christ.

He lived between 1329-1441 and his comments are so very appropriate for us today, This is from Chapter III Of The Good, Peaceable Man:

"First keep thyself in peace, and then shalt thou be able to be a peacemaker towards others. A peaceable man doth more good than a well-learned. A passionate man turneth even good into evil and easily believeth evil; a good peaceable man converteth all things into good. He who dwelleth in peace is suspicious of none, but he who is discontented and restless is tossed with many suspicions, and is neither quiet himself nor suffereth others to be quiet. He often saith what he ought not to say, and omitteth what it were more expedient for him to do. He considereth to what duties others are bound, and neglecteth those to which he is bound himself. Therefore be zealous first over thyself, and then mayest thou righteously be zealous concerning thy neighbor."

This would certainly solve the world's ills if each of us determined we would be "good, peaceable men and women" and concern ourselves with being peacemakers and turning all things into good! I will try to do this and hope I can make a difference. Gotta love these classics!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


It's not my turn to post, but I'm doing it anyway.  You may not agree with me, but this is a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately.
After six years as a newspaper editor I have a strong commitment to freedom of the press.  Still recent events have me thinking not only about the journalism instruction I received that became a part of me and the values important to me, but of some of the cliché sayings my parents used to teach me on how to make right choices. Many of those old clichés have direct bearing on some of today's problems.

First off I'm as horrified as anyone by the needless massacre of the "Charlie" publication staff in Paris.  Murder is pretty hard to justify.  Still deliberately antagonizing fanatics as that staff did with their caricatures of Mohammad reminds me of a saying of my parents:  "Just because you can, doesn't make it right." Add to that "If you stick your head in a bee's nest, you'll get stung" and "If you tease the cat, you'll get scratched."
Along with a firm commitment to freedom of speech, I also believe in respecting other's religious views. Almost everyone knows the Muslim world opposes drawings, photos, or any kind of artistic depiction of their prophet. To draw caricatures of him is to insult and offend those of his faith.  Isn't this a lot like "poking a sleeping dog?" Or as my dad would say, "Be careful poking sticks at someone else's sacred cows." 

I don't like it when someone ridicules my religious beliefs and in a world where there's great emphasis on tolerance and acceptance of differences, I often find those yelling the loudest are the biggest bigots and show the greatest intolerance. I'll stand up for my beliefs and allow you the same privilege, but I don't condone either of us restricting or insulting the other for our beliefs. Freedom of speech doesn't mean it's all right to yell "fire" in a crowded building.  Neither does it mean you can trample on the religious beliefs of others or toss aside good sense.  In my view the magazine staff was wrong to publish a caricature they knew was offensive to adherents of Islam and to continue to "throw gasoline on the flames," by continuing to do so, but just as"two wrongs don't make a right" there is nothing right about the response of radical Islamists to this offense.  I suspect most Muslims are like me, the offensive drawings would cause personal hurt, maybe even anger, but they wouldn't make it worse by perpetrating a greater wrong. They would simply walk away and pity the offender for his ignorance. 

There are times journalists must publish something hurtful in their pursuit of truth and justice.  In this case poking fun of a religious leader served no purpose other than to insult.  The Islamic fanatics who murdered those who offended them accomplished nothing other than to enrich "Charlie's" coffers by creating a greater demand for the publication and costing further lives.  My mother would say "Some people don't have the good sense God gave a goose."

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I suspect the most common wish for most people as a new year rolls around is to lose weight. Losing weight generally means having better health, more energy, looking more attractive, and it gives our self esteem a positive boost. With each new year people vow to attend a gym regularly, take up an active sport, and eat less.  These fine resolutions seldom survive through the end of January.

 A year ago I lost 54 pounds. I don't recommend losing weight the way I did however.  Along with losing pounds I lost my pancreas and gall bladder and became a severe diabetic. A serious illness is not the best way to lose weight. Now it's a matter of working to continue to have new years to worry about.  For all of you, who like me, are striving to lose weight or keep from gaining weight, here are a few suggestions.

Start when you first wake up in the morning.  Sit on the edge of your bed and swing your feet out straight, then down, and up again for twenty swings. (Easy huh?)

Plan ten to twenty minutes of vigorous exercise each day at a set time like right after you crawl out of the bathroom first thing after getting out of bed. (How's that for a convoluted sentence?)This can be riding a stationary bike, walking up and down stairs, riding a bike, running, gardening, shoveling snow, etc.

Walk more, take the stairs instead of the elevator, tackle a major house cleaning project each day such as vacuuming, washing windows, or shopping (online doesn't count). Those people, like writers, who spend long hours sitting at the computer should plan on getting out of the chair and walking around the house or yard at least five minutes every hour.

Play something that involves movement such as taking the kids sledding, tramping around the zoo, play some sport, swim. Find an activity you enjoy and your chances of keeping it up improve.

Include two kinds of activities in your lifestyle.  Remember exercises that involve repetitive use of the long muscles of arms or legs strengthen the cardio vascular system while weight lifting exercise tightens and builds muscles.  (Working out with those small weights two or three times a week miraculously reduces belly fat.)

The one exercise we need to do less of is the one that bends the elbow of the arm attached to our forks.  Seriously people, chips, soda, processed foods, and second helpings have to go. As a diabetic I have to count every carb that goes into my mouth.  Reading labels and avoiding or reducing the carbs (found in starchy and sweet foods) is not easy, but it can be done.  An occasional treat is okay as long as occasional means once a week or once a month, NOT once a day.

Joining a gym or a weight reduction club or group is helpful for many people, but too expensive for others.  They're worth the price for those with a serious weight problem, but not absolutely necessary for the rest of us. Some people do better and stick to their plan better if boosted by a group, but for those with strong self-motivation or limited time you can lose that weight or keep off weight you've worked to lose by small changes in your lifestyle and a determined mind set.

It's easy to put off keeping those pounds in check until a better time.  Unfortunately I learned the hard way there isn't a better time.  It has to be now.  Besides I gave away my fat clothes and have had a difficult time finding a new wardrobe.  I don't want to go through buying new fat clothes.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Random thoughts and quotes that grabbed me

While Belle Spafford was General Relief Society president. I drove to Salt Lake City from Texas with an 6 month old baby to General Relief Society Conference (in the day that they held them!) I went to sit at the feet of one of the wisest women I knew. Sister Spafford had enlightening things to say:

"This is a wonderful world for women! The richness, the hope, the promise of life today are exciting beyond belief. Nonetheless, we need stout hearts and strong characters; we need knowledge and training; we need organized effort to meet the future - a future pregnant with unborn events, big with possibilities, stupendous in its demands, and challenging in its problems."

That 6 month old baby is now 40 years old, but everything Sister Spafford said is still true. This is an amazing time to be alive in this wonderful world!!There are so many advantages, so much technology, so much more opportunity now than 40 years ago. But with all of it, Elder Russel M. Nelson advises:

"A wise woman renews herself. In proper season, she develops her talents and continues her education. She musters the discipline to reach her goals. She dispels darkness and opens windows of truth to light her way." In this new year, it is fitting to look at developing new talents and continuing education planning, hoping that doing those things will dispel darkness and bring additional light!

In keeping with the theme of light, Susa Young Gates said: "The greatest need of the human heart is encouragement. Let me whisper this secret in your ear: Every time you try to encourage someone else, your own soul will be flooded with a light and glow of peace and good cheer. Try it next time when the gloom is heavy and the load as barren." Wisdom is good throughout the ages - this quote was given  about 120 years ago!

And one final quote: "The Lord wants us to be filled with hope - not just because it points us to a brighter tomorrow, but because it changes the quality of our lives today. Hopeless may be the saddest word in our language. Despair is the enemy of our souls. It can paralyze us, halt our progress, and cause us to lose our way. But hope awakens us like a light shining in the darkness. We can endure all things when our hope is centered in One who will never fail us - our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world." Dwan J. Young

Hope, the promise of life more abundant, renewal, encouragement, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. All bring light into our lives, dispelling the hopelessness and helplessness that can overcome us by reading today's headlines. Thank heaven for the gospel of Jesus Christ! Thank heaven for the wisdom that reminds us of all we have, all we are, and all we can be. Have a wonderful New Year!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Risk and the Quiet Life

My husband George retired not long ago. I am a writer, but I have slowed down the pace of putting pencil to paper, and we are no longer raising children. So, what to do with ourselves? We do our share of volunteer work, church work, yard work. And though we've never been golf people, we do like to travel and see stuff. We have both worked very hard for some 45 years and this should be the time for a quieter life. So, why are we risking that leisure for an eighteen month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? The apparent answer is that we love the Lord and have testimonies of the bright message of the gospel. We want to share that truth with others. But, to be honest, it's a bit scary. Change is scary. It's a risk.

When I went off to college, my mom gave me this "thought for the day." I have used it many times in my life and now I wish to share it with you.


To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
BUT, risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their certitudes they are a slave, they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who RISKS is free.

Life is an adventure. Take a step into the unknown. Risk.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Write a Good One!

So here we are at the start of a brand new year. yay. I know, I seem less than enthused thus far. In my defense, I've been fighting a nasty stomach bug for about a week now. Good times. ;) But today is better, so far toast is my friend this morning, and things are looking up. And it is a brand new year!!! I'm finally coming out of an illness-induced brain fog (the other day I panicked because I couldn't find my phone. I was looking for it while I was talking on said phone . . . that's how well I felt that day, but I digress) and life goes on.

My husband helped me put away the Christmas decor, since he could see I was not quite able to do so on my own this past week. While it's somewhat sad that the Christmas season passed by so fast, I find that by the first of the year, I'm usually ready to put stuff away and embrace the new year.

I did read an impressive thought for the day during my week of not doing much. It went something like this:

"Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one!" (Brad Paisley)

I quite like that take on the new year, because it's true. We have a brand new year in which to have adventures, make decisions, learn, grow, and hopefully become better people. That's what a new year always means to me. It's a chance to wipe the slate clean, and start fresh. A lot of people set up a list of goals or resolutions that they want to accomplish . . . and sometimes they feel discouraged when partway through the year, they realize that they've slipped back into old habits, or haven't succeeded in doing what they wanted. Maybe we sometimes expect too much of ourselves, and this can lead to a bit of negative self-esteem.

Last night a good friend asked me what my goals are for this new year. Compliments of my week of feeling less than well, I may be looking at things differently this year. For a few days, my goals included surviving until the next day. (It was a nasty bug, ok, emphasis on nasty!) So this year, I'm thinking of taking life one day at a time, and merely doing the best that I can on that one day to add to the 365 page book that I'm composing in 2015. True, I was off to a shaky start, but what a way to hook the reader: "There I was, at death's doorstep, about to crawl my way to the mortuary . . ." ;)

I think if we fill those pages with spiritual insights, humor, acts of service, fun times with family and friends, that is what will matter most at the conclusion of the year. Maybe throw in a few wild adventures here and there, blaze a couple of new trails, etc. that's good stuff too. That might be better than stating: "I personally will lose (blah blah) amount of weight, exercise every day, never let caffeine pass through these lips, etc. and so forth. Those items are important, I'm sure, but that's not the kind of stuff I want to fill up my 365 pages. Nor will my posterity enjoy reading this kind of a historical document: "Today I lost 2 oz, stayed away from E-Bay, and ran 4 miles." I think they would enjoy hearing items like, "Today I discovered a new trail in yonder hills, and though my spouse may have pushed the speed a bit while climbing said mountain on the RZR, we survived, and had a glorious picnic while enjoying the view." (See attached pictures for documentation.)

Okay, maybe I'm still in a bit of brain fog, but it seems like we would do better embracing each day as it comes, and make the most of the time we have. Perhaps I'm still reveling in the once in a lifetime cruise we went on with my husband's family about 3 years ago. We left after the beginning of the new year, and had an awesome time seeing areas of the world most of us hadn't enjoyed before. We explored, laughed, and loved spending time together. Shortly after we returned home, we discovered that my husband's younger sister had developed brain tumors, and we lost her a year later. We will never regret the time we spent together on that cruise. It is a treasured moment--something still documented on one wall in our home. It is a reminder to make each year of our lives "a good one!"

I suspect, when this life is over, there will not be many questions regarding how much we exercised (though that is something I do anyway--part of being a Type 1 diabetic) or dieted, but we will be asked how we spent our time. What did we write on the pages of our lives? Were we kind? Thoughtful? Considerate? Did we go out of our way to help others? What did we learn? Is the book of our life something others will want to read, or will it be politely stacked with items that will be sorted through once the more exciting volumes are perused? Just something to think about as we begin 2015.