Saturday, August 30, 2008


I'll be leaving on a jet plane for Utah on Labor Day. And what a "labor day" it will be . . . (well, at least the day after)as my oldest son and his wife will be heading off to the hospital on Tuesday to deliver their third child! (Pinch the grandma!)

I strode through the store aisles today, looking for last minute "grandma" type goodies and toys to tuck into my bag to entertain my new grandson's siblings. A few things! That was it! But I left with my bill totalling about seven times what I had expected to spend. The theme of my purchases? Food Storage. Yes, I am food storage junkie.

Two people live in my house--Tom and me, plus the elders downstairs who are our ocassional dinner guests, and yet we have two refrigerators and two freezers, and all four are full! Our basement looks like the Civil Defense shelter for the free world, and on top of that, every "BOGOF" offer calls to me like a temptress, seemingly whispering, "You never know. . . If you get shut in during a blizzard, you might crave Double Stuffed Oreos!

In truth, I live in the mission field, surrounded by neighbors who don't see the worrisome signs and who don't want to think about depressing topics like inflation, natural disaster or worse. I don't see it that way. For me, my storage is my peace . . . my personal sling and five-stone set of proven defenses that I can use to hold the Philistines of disaster at bay.

I think of children, my friends and my neighbors each time I place an extra can in the pantry . . . one for us and one for you and one for the little boy who lives down the lane. . . I realize that I'm counting on Elijah's and Brigham's miracles . . . that the barrel of meal will not waste and the cruse will not fail. I must do more than count on miracles alone. I need to teach and inspire and share all the added good news that we need not fear if we prepare. Therein lies the peace.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happily Out of Step

Acknowledging both my strange fascination with Irish accents, (I'll explain another day. . .), and my love of history, my dear friend invited me to ride to the historic city of Annapolis, Maryland for some supper and to attend the monthly concert of an Irish singer known for his beautiful Celtic ballads.

Supper was glorious, and afterwards we killed some time before the show by walking around the quaint, capital city, laid out like a wagon wheel from it's hub, the State House. I could have strolled the rest of the night away along that harbor, reveling in the beauty of the lights on the Severn River and soaking up the smells of the waterfront.

Perhaps I should have. Instead, we hurried upstairs to get a good seat for the balladeer's show. The singer seemed nice enough, taking time to greet his audience. We quickly realized he knew most of the crowd . . . his "regulars", at least a large number of whom were fellow performers, thesbians at the Rennaissance Festival.

He began his show by thanking us for coming to his "Country Western Show". Hmmm. . . we thought. This was unexpected. His first few numbers were lively, classic cowboy songs, beloved melodies from a fifty-something's childhood that my husband downloads onto his Iphone. They were sweet and performed in beautiful voice. Between the songs the entertainer would tell a joke or or story, but with each passing ditty, his humor grew more baudy until, encouraged by the crowd, it became detestable.

I wonder what appeal such humor holds for adults who clearly are old enough to have moved beyond the old "National Geographics in the bathroom" phase. Like emotional three-year-olds possessing valid ID's, they drank and hooted over the singer's crude performance while we, crushed into the very front corner, awaited an opportunity to make our exit, only to be heckled on our retreat.

I don't get it. I really don't. I know I haven't been to a live concert since my Donny Osmond days, but is this what adults think is entertaining? Is this indicative of our American maturity and taste? If it is, then I'm honored to be happily out of step.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Credit for an entertaining, enlightening piece of historical fiction is given to the author and their publisher, but the careful reader and the author both know there are others to whom great debts of gratitude are owed.

A one line acknowledgment will appear in book three of my historical fiction series, FREE MEN AND DREAMERS. It will mention the invaluable assistance of a dedicated volunteer historian and respected author named Scott Baker for sharing his singular expertise on the topic of American prisoners of war during the War of 1812. Some people will shrug the comment off. Some will question the relevancy of including it at all. Perhaps the foremost authority on the topic, Scott Baker is now gone at age fifty-eight. I was informed of his passing when I contacted the Ohio Society of the War of 1812 to reach him. He had passed away in July, and like the historian himself, Scott's research and life's work is also buried, but within nine heavily secured computers that may or may not ever yield up his secrets.

It is Scott and other historians who provide the facts that most historical novelists rely on. They dig through dusty attics and basements to recover letters; or comb through archives, microfilm, and other public records discovering contents that describe our past. While we take glimpses of their work and expand it into grand stories, they dedicate decades, sometime even lifetimes to perfect the illumination of a single sliver of history, to disect a specific topic in order to reveal it from every angle.

While some, like Scott, are volunteers, others are employed by universities and work from hefty endowments, but many are dedicated, underpaid Park Service employees. I have been greatly blessed by many of these individuals' labor and expertise. I just wanted to again say thank you . . . in Scott's honor.

A Season of Joy

I spent Saturday baby shopping with my daughter. This will be her first baby, due in January. It's a surreal experience watching her prepare, and listening to her discuss the coming little one. We bought some maternity clothes and glided through several stores, fingering cute baby things and oogling cribs, strollers and car seats. We couldn't find exactly what she wanted in the stores.

"Order it online," I suggested. "You've got plenty of time."

She looked aghast at me. "Plenty of time? I ony have four and half months left!"

I chuckled,trying to remember how urgent everything seemed when my first baby was due. Later last night I read her blog. It was filled with updates on the baby and lots of worriesome questions. "Have we prepared enough? Have we prayed enough? Have we prepared a good home to bring this little Spirit into? Are we ready?"

"Yes," I typed back my reply. "By the posing of the questions I know that you and Nick are ready . . . ready for anything and everything, because you care and love so much."

This baby will be a miracle baby for so many wondrous reasons, but I remind everyone that every baby is, after all, a miracle.

She sat looking at the Ensign yesterday, musing over the article about single adults and recalling how sad she and her friends got as each semester rolled past, presenting no great love into their lives. She is whimsical about it now. With two brothers still rowing along the dating pool, she now understands about time and seasons. Things come when they will, and where they will, and we must do our faithful best until they arrive. Graduated, reluctantly returning home from Utah State, she found her husband right here in her home town, nearly two thousand miles from where she went to school. Good surprises do just that! They come unexpectedly, appearing out of nowhere when you least expect them . . . sometimes.

But some are very expected, and very planned for, and very prepared for. Like babies.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Help for the Hearing Impaired

I have a friend who served a mission for the deaf. When he returned home, he began an interpreting business to assist the hearing impaired by providing interpreting services for their business, scholastic, medical and legal needs. He wrote to me a few days ago, explaining new technology that is making these services more affordable and accessible. Here is his letter:

Hello- Here is the newest project I have been focused on at work. I'm sure I've mentioned it to you! :) It's our call center for my Sign Language interpreters. We can provide interpreters anywhere in the country now over the internet using a web cam or a video phone. Really amazing technology. People are crazy about it, so far we have put them in pharmacies, public schools, real estate offices, medical settings ( Dr offices), and a group of hospitals in Missouri. We've upgraded our video phones too - amazing clarity. I can even log in and work from home, - In a pinch. I thought you might enjoy the video (its only 8 minutes) showing the call center and the concept. Also if you could please help me getting this link out to as many people as possible. Forward to anyone you know who may have a need for an interpreter. Even if its only once in a while - with the Video Phone on a desk - or even a webcam - then they have access to an interpreter 24/7, plus its much cheaper than having one come out in person. Even if you think people wont have a need - they are always fascinated with the technology - plus they may know someone who could use the service. Places we have installed phones have had write up done in the newspapers and actually seen increased business from Deaf clients and hearing friends and family of Deaf people.

Please let me know what you think of the video and Thanks for helping me out.

David (the video)

PS - I'd be happy to call people directly if you can give me contact information. Thanks again for your help, word of mouth is the best kind of promotion for us. (its Free!).

David I. Stephenson CI & CT.
Maryland Interpreting Services Inc.
(877) 788 - 8454 (888) FAX - 3515

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Country Living

Back in 1983, Tom and I chose our building lot based on two things. Number one, thinking ahead to mad dashes to church and Early Morning Seminary, we told the realtor we needed to live within five minutes of the LDS chapel. And secondly, when we walked to the top of the knoll, we saw a small hard of deer standing in the back field. Sold!

So we live on a five acre tract of heaven on a quiet little street in a small Maryland town that resembles Mayberry. (No, this isn't a photo of my back yard, but I liked the bridge.) We love it here. In fifty minutes or so, depending on traffic, we can be downtown at Baltimore's lively Inner Harbor for a catch-of-the-day seafood supper, or we can head to historical treasures like Washington or Arlington or Alexandria, Virginia. Within that same hour, if we turn our attentions north, we can stand where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg address or with a slight tilt to the west we can visit the site of the bloodiest single conflict in the Civil War--Antietam. Tilting east and offering an additional thirty minutes travel time, we can reach historic Philadelphia and sit in Christ Church where Washington, Franklin, and other Founders worshipped, and see Constitution Hall where our liberties were framed.

People fly around the earth to see what I can take in in an afternoon. And I love all these places and revere them as hallowed ground. My soul can physically feel something sacred there.

There is another place that I also love. I visit it nearly as infrequently as these other places for pleasure, though I spend substantial amounts of time there laboring over it--our beautiful back yard. It's not professionally manicured like some places, but we've toiled to make it our little spot of heaven--flower beds, decking, a pool and even an arched bridge my daughter requested from her dad so she could stand there on her wedding day and have her picture taken. We mow and weed and repair and plant and sweat and ache until we are too tied to . . . to just sit . . . and relax.

I've thought about that a lot recently. I spend dozens of hours a week cooped up in my office peering out at the world through a tiny window, when all that beauty is just a few steps further away. Perhaps a little less weeding and a little more sitting would be all right. Unless of course, I fretted about the undone work until I squandered my peace away.

Sitting and staring at beauty is also sacred sometimes. I need to enjoy a few more hours of summer's beauty. Fall will come and bring her hush to the work. I love fall for that reason, and winter too, who calls the world to hibernate just so we can sit and rest. Spring will burst upon us soon enough, calling for the start of mowers' engines and coaxing weeds where I forbade them the previous year. So for now I will try and sit and savor summer, and then, we'll rest.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"THE OLD GRAY MARE" and other disturbing truths

I can color the gray, take Tylenol for the joint aches and I can arm myself with some pretty cool songs, stories and games, but the truth is, after a few hours of serious play time with the grand kids, it's apparent. . . the old gray mare really ain't what she used to be many long years ago. . .

I remember the games I played with my kids when they were young. Especially my oldest son, Tom who, having no siblings old enough to provide any suitable entertainment, turned to Mom to be Wonder Woman to his Super Man. We'd tie receiving blankets around our necks and "fly" around the house, vanquishing evil and devouring all manner of healthy treats to maintain our super powers. Sometimes I'd try to pull a spiritual sneaky--inviting him to be Moses with a magic staff that would turn into a snake and scare the bad guys away! That worked great for a while until he discovered that no one else thought being Moses was "cool".

Tom and I are in Utah visiting that son's family right now, and to celebrate our grandson's fifth birthday, Tommy IV wanted a "Spy Party". My daughter-in-law, Krista, and I went searching the stores for spy-type items for the gift bags. Following the party, after enduring the noise created by thirty-four whistle-blowers, we realized a great truth--whistles are of the devil.

Two days after the party, Tommy wanted to actually BE a spy. So we went downstairs to play and I discovered another truth--I can no longer be his horsey, or wrestle or crawl around like GI Jo--without the aid of analgesics.

My son stayed home from work today, inviting us all to go and play at the Splash Park. (Can you hear the sound of my tentative swallow?) "Can I go like this?" I ask as I display my Lane Bryant ensemble. "Go put your suit on. It's a great day outside!" he replies with typical boyish enthusiasm. My smile saddens as I try to explain to him that for the good of all humanity, I'll pass on donning the swim suit.

While he and the kids were out, I tried climbing upon the platform bed attached to their two-level playhouse (my daughter-in-law created all this amazing stuff), so I could straighten the covers. I rolled flat out onto the floor. I'll probably be in traction by evening, but I have to say I should have earned at least a 6.9 on the Olympic Diving Scale. More analgesics.

Enough said?

I am a great story teller and I can sing about 59 silly songs. I'm still pretty good at make believe and I now actually look forward to the next installment of Dora or Franklin, so I've still got some tricks up my sleeve, but I'm not that same flying mommy of days past.

Luckily, my grand children's mommy is. She plays like a teenager with them, but she's expecting right now so she can't wrestle like she usually does. But once that baby is born she'll be back in full form and grandma will be able to return to her rocker and wait with my book and my remote for the quiet shift to begin.

My daughter Amanda and her husband Nick are expecting their first baby in a few months. I know they, and my unmarried sons, look at my husband and me and wonder if we'll still have any steam left when their children are ready to play horsey and super heroes with us.

We think about it a lot too. In truth, each of our kids grew up in a slightly modified family. Tommy enjoyed the world of childhood magic and pretend the longest and probably had the best and greatest percentage of my undivided attention, while our youngest child, Josh, grew up the fastest, leaving mom's side earliest to chase after his siblings. Amanda and Adam, the middle children, probably each had a successively shorter childhood as they too followed Tom's lead.

Likewise, I'm sure each grandchild will know us differently. I hope we'll be able to play hard with all our grandchildren. We might be easier to catch in a game of tag by then, and we might have to modify our entertainment somewhat. And of course, we'll be keeping our bottle of Tylenol a little closer each year.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Moment to Pause

Today I sent off the manuscript for Book Three of the Free Men and Dreamers Series. It will not bring d├ętente to any corner of the world, nor will it cause any other radical change in anyone else life, but to me it means . . . peace for a while.

You know what I mean. Most of us sprint through life, making sacrifices of time and juggling priorities to successfully tackle and master a goal. And then when it is done, we relax. Or in some cases, we crash and burn.

The peace. . . we all need these brief and blessed interruptions to the demands on our lives. There are many kinds of peace. Today I plan on enjoying that physical and mental release that comes from a meeting a deadline . . . like that silent pause that occurs when a monumental task is accomplished; the last day of school or the day we launch the meeting or activity for which we have prepared; or the last medical appointment in a long series of fearful visits; or the day we pay the last payment of tuition or other bills that strangle our budget and steal our peace.

Sometimes we rest and then we rise and go on again. But sometimes we crash, and we pause too long before we begin again. This is dangerous. Rest is like a drug. Good in the proper dosage, but too much can be debiliatating, even crippling and it forces some other burdened person to now take your load upon his own tired back. I love rest, but I also believe in the wisdom of the hymn "Choose the Right" when it says, "There is peace in righteous doing, there is safety for the soul."

So today I'll celebrate my peace by flopping on the sofa for a few minutes and let that sense of accomplishment wash over me. I'll kiss my husband with a real kiss, not one of those hit-and-run smacks that he's been getting on the fly at the doorway lately. And then I'll crank up a good CD and dig out of my cluttered house. Best of all, I'll hit the skies tomorrow and celebrate my grandson's fifth birthday. It's a brief, last-minute treat my husband and I tossed together, and it couldn't come at a better time.

Hugs from grandbabies! Now that's real peace!

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Wanna save $10,000 this year? Guess what it takes? Only $27.40 a day!

Sounds crazy at first, but do the math. That little bit each day adds up to $10,000!

That gave me a great, new fiduciary perspective. How many days have thirty dollars just evaporated on items I can't even remember? How many times have I spent that amount of money on a whim? Or on a "bargain"? I can walk through the toy department and drop that on my grandchildren in a heart beat.

I'm going to start looking at everything differently. For example, a $30.00 blouse is now 1/365 of $10,000! And the difference between a $10.00 entree at the Cracker Barrel and a $30.00 entree at The Outback is half a day's progress towards a small fortune! Tom thinks we should actually try to "pay" ourselves $27.40 a day!

I guess it all goes back to the old adage that the people who accumulate wealth are the ones who actually understand the value of a penny. I think a lot of us have under-appreciated the cumulative power of "small change". But times are changing, and if $27.40 can become $10,000, than maybe there's more hope and security than we realized in all our loose change!