Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The airwaves and Internet are filled with comments by those inflamed by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi's recent comments regarding a specific portion of her plan to balance the budget. Rightly so.

In her Sunday morning ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, Ms. Pelosi defended a plan to address the budget problem in part, by increasing funding for contraceptives and abortions. As quoted from that interview between Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Stephanopoulos:

"The family planning services reduce cost," Pelosi said, "One of the elements of this package is assistance to the states. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

"So no apologies for that?" (Stephanopoulos) asked her.

"No apologies. No," Pelosi said. "And this is a, to stimulate the economy, is an economic recovery package and as we put it forth we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy. Food stamps, unemployment insurance, some of the initiatives you just mentioned. Believe it or not, they're the right thing to do but they also stimulate the economy."

In essence, the idea is that we reduce the cost of services to children by reducing the number of children.

As appalling as that thinking is, I am at least energized by how outraged people are over it. Finally, a sign that the dying, or at least sleeping giant of American values is still capable of being revived! I hope everyone of us raises such a din of objection to this mode of thinking, (the same thinking that sent President Obama off the cameras and away from the limelight of a paparazzi-like press to covertly overturn the Mexico City bill, authorizing the funding of abortions and contraceptives in foreign countries), that we shake the halls of Congress and the White House. I hope they remember that they serve us at our pleasure, and see that we do not want our budget balanced at the expense of, nor the elimination of children.

Yes, children are costly. But they're not the problem. The problem is that we've lost our vision of the essential nature of the family and the home. Mothers and fathers were intended to bear the responsibility for their children. But look at how we've undermined these roles.

And it's not just government. Look at the media's perception of marriage and the family. How many current shows can you name that have stable married parents? Now ask yourself how many of those have parents who work as equal, responsible partners as heads of their homes? The current trend in media is to paint women as overbearing matriarchs who spend as much time parenting their husband as they do their kids. And look at the portrayal of fathers. Most are buffoons whose kids are brighter than they, or the really cool ones--the detectives and doctors and secret agents? They're generally divorced or unaware of they even have children. And how are they regarded? As sensitive, misunderstood, a work in progress. Great. . .

Now add to these aberrations of family life the media's obsession with break-ups, hook-ups and the ensuing custody battles over the poor children, and then ask yourself, "is it any wonder that the Hollywood royal duo who openly shun marriage despite their every-growing number of children, gets named the 'Couple of the Year'?"

Hollywood and the media may plead the fifth and say that this is just entertainment, and such programs don't shape youth's ideas regarding marriage and families. Oh really? Well, the network marketing people sure prepared a hundred items for launch into your neighborhood stores because they anticipated that little girls would watch Hannah Montana and High School Musical and they'd want to be just like them. Then they have to also know that images of weak, dysfunctional families leave their marks as well. Hollywood can't have it both ways. Imprinting is occurring, and we need to up the quality of the images we portray.

Perhaps government will recognize what many of us have always known--the correlation between strong families and a strong nation. Ms. Pelosi does realize that we have a crisis here. But her view is skewed, as if seen through a kaleidoscope. Madame Speaker, when the family fails, the burden of rearing the children does fall to government. So instead of blaming the children, please help America strengthen her families.

There is an old adage that says, "When man wants to change the world, he sends armies. When God wants to change the world, He sends a child. Children are our hope, not our burden. We need every one of them. We just need them to be reared by mothers and fathers leading stable homes.

Now that's an economic stimulus plan we can support.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


On my second day of book signings for Dark Sky at Dawn, book one of my historical fiction series, Free Men and Dreamers, a potential reader posed this question to me before deciding to buy the book. "You promise not to die before you finish the series?"

No joke.

I told him I certainly wasn't planning to. . . Of course, I reacted to the question in the jovial spirit in which it was intended, but I can't say the question never replayed in my mind each time I turned a manuscript in.

It's funny . . .the things that mark time. One of the annual time-markers for me is the re-packing of the Christmas ornaments. Engrossed in reminiscences of Christmases past while I unpack them, I am equally invested in introspective thoughts while putting each whimsical and cherished item away.

I've always considered the collection of boxes to be like time capsules--with new ornaments marking the arrival of each child, each new bride or groom, or exciting milestones in schooling, hobbies and careers.

But each time I put the beloved but odd collection--a mix of macaroni and paper plate wreaths and Studio 56 blown glass treasures--I wonder about the whats, the whos and hows of the coming year. Perhaps you've asked yourself similar questions that begin something like this:

When I next open this box. . .
* will all my loved ones be healthy?
* will any new members be joining our family?
* will anyone we love have passed away?
* will we be in a state of joy or worry?
* will we have work?
* will the world be a better or more worrisome place?

Sound familiar?

Through our own choices, we determine some of these answers, and we choose how we will react to the rest. After all, being happy, despite our circumstances is ultimately, a choice.

So as I packed up the outdoor lights and removed the garland from the front door, I pondered December 2009, and I asked myself these questions. Perhaps you did too.

Those of us over forty can always look back at what appeared to be "better days", but these days form the backdrop of our children's and grandchildren's childhoods. That is reason enough to make me want to open those boxes dozens more times with a positive outlook and joy for the world. I want to do the little things that make the world wonderful every moment I can--simple things like smiling more, saying "I love you" more, really listening and offering a hand more than advice.

Christmas is finally all put away, replaced by a string of heart lights and other Valentine-style regalia. That is except for my husband's old wooden sled, draped in lights and a big, red bow, perched expectantly on our front porch, awaiting the promise of a good, winter snow.

Promise. . . That's really what it's all about anyway, isn't it?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I was searching through my files the other day and I came across a page of notes I had typed up several years ago after watching a seminar on improving relationships. Noted LDS speaker John Lund, (no relation to Gerald), specializes in the field of Communications and Interpersonal Relationships. His books and tapes on these subjects are favorites and he is a frequent presenter at Education Week.

Whenever one of Brother Lund’s children marries he starts their new union off right by giving them the seven steps presented below. I was so impressed by his simple but profound exercises, cleverly titled "The Magnificent Seven", that I passed the advice along to each of my children through our family newsletter.

Knowing that financial stresses often take their toll on marriages, I thought now might be a good time to dust these tips off and recommit myself, and perhaps inspire others to recommit to working harder at showing love in our marriages. Try doing each step every day for a solid week with your spouse or intended. Evaluate and then continue to commit to doing the ones that work best for you.

The Magnificent Seven

1. 1 verbal “I Love You” with eye contact.
2. A 5 second kiss
3. 10 second expression of appreciation ( can be a phone call)
4. 15 minute “Honey-do” (can be “banked within 1 week only for a 1 ¾ hour “honey-do”.)
5. 2o second hug
6. 25 second written expression of appreciation
7. 30 Minute Talk Time (This is real, focused, concentrated Talk Time which can be broken up, i.e. 5 minutes when you first get home, 10 minutes at dinner, 15 minutes at bedtime).

Good luck!


Hang on to your U.S. Constitution and your Bill of Rights, because Hollywood has not yet finished weighing in on who shall and shall not be allowed to vote their conscience and exercise the political process without condemnation. Sadly, this latest swipe comes from a man who is beloved by most Americans, both for his tender characterizations and his pro-American projects such as last year's beautiful, historic epic, "John Adams".

Last Wednesday, at the season premier of "Big Love", HBO's series about a polygamist family, executive producer Tom Hanks, (by the way, did you know HE was the guy behind this series?), with lights blazing and cameras flashing, provided a two-fisted sucker-punch to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members.

Attempting to create a tie-in between his polygamist series and the Church, he said the following:

"The truth is this takes place in Utah, the truth is these people are some bizarre offshoot of the Mormon Church, and the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop. 8 happen," he told Tarts. "There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them. I do not like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper, any of the 50 states in America, but here's what happens now. A little bit of light can be shed, and people can see who's responsible, and that can motivate the next go around of our self correcting Constitution, and hopefully we can move forward instead of backwards. So let's have faith in not only the American, but Californian, constitutional process."

Wow. . . So his fictional series is now a political/civil rights vehicle? Sure. . .

With characteristic steadfastness and grace, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' spokesperson, Kim Farah, responded to a reporter by declaring, "Expressing an opinion in a free and democratic society is as American as it gets."

Even opponents of the Church cite the ludicrousness of Hanks' comments. Bill McKeever, a rep for the Mormonism Research Ministry, an organization specifically founded to examine and challenge the Church's doctrine, offered this rebuttal. "Personally, I find it un-American to tell people that they shouldn’t vote their conscience. Hanks said he doesn’t 'like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper.' Considering that just about every law discriminates in some form or another, makes this comment ridiculous. Hanks’ comment shows that he very much believes in discriminating against people with whom he disagrees. I may not agree with Mormon theology, but I certainly defend their right to express their opinion."

Desiring to remain true to my two-day-old pledge to increased civility, (see the previous post) I'll simply ask two questions.

1. Is Hanks hoping to improve the show's ratings by tapping into the "Prop 8" debate and jumping on the currently popular "Mormon-bashing" bandwagon?

2. If his critical study of the life of "John Adams", and his great love for America and the U.S. Constitution is truly the motivation for Tom Hanks statement, then for such a lover of the Constitution, where then is the compassion and concern over OUR rights?

If this episode bothers us, we need to remember that Hollywood knows they have a bigger political platform from which to ballyhoo and bully than most elected officials. And remember also, that we cast a new and stronger vote for them with every movie ticket and rental.

So where do we find uplifting entertainment whose stars won't turn around and attack our values off camera? Turn to the old films, shot in the days when virtue and morality were considered the pillars of patriotism. Search hard and you'll find LDS film-makers' projects and uplifting works by Christian movie-makers whose films you can invest in without supporting causes with which you disagree.

We built Hollywood and gave her her power. We can vote our displeasure at the box office.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The Presidential guard is changing today. Sitting less than fifty miles from the Capitol building, I am closer to the Inaugural than many of you, but I have felt far removed. In truth, I have purposely removed myself and my attentions from the events.

I didn't vote for President-elect Obama. Many of his policies go directly against my core beliefs, but he is going to be our president in a few hours, and I prayed for him this morning as I plan to do every morning.

Meridian Magazine featured an excellent editorial by Maureen Proctor, and it softened my heart further. There are many good ideals in Barack Obama. Here are a few of his recent words, spoken while volunteering at a teen crisis center: "don't underestimate the power of people who join together to accomplish amazing things."

“When all of our people are engaged and involved in making their community better, then we can do anything."

He said this is not a time for “idle hands.” Nor is it a time to stand back and cynically watch the nation falter. . . Everybody's going to have to pitch in," he said, adding that Americans are "ready to do that."

I like the tone of these words. Maybe all he needs now is for all of us to call down the powers and grace of heaven to guide him so that this positive vision is fulfilled.

The Meridian article also hit another wonderful point. Mark DeMoss, and Lanny Davis, two men of opposing political views have found enough common ground in their love of America and her core ideals that they have overcome divisiveness and become good friends. Together, they authored an article for the Washington Times entitled, "Civility Makes Strange Bedfellows” in which they call for a new civility in our public life. They've also formed a civility initiative which you can read about at The basic premise of the project is a threefold pledge which any person of conscience should be able to accept. The pledge includes these three promises:

I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
I will stand against incivility when I see it.

Perhaps just reading the pledge makes us each realize we need to tweak our attitude.

It doesn't mean we dilute our personal beliefs, or abandon long-standing values or positions. It's all about the manner in which we express our opinions and the tactics we employ to create change.

So today we'll have a new president. Living in a culturally diverse area, I can feel a change in people. Barack Obama embodies the hope that some cultural barriers are disappearing. That is a wonderful forward leap. People are generally more open and gregarious here in the Capital area. There is a sense of hope here.

So it stands to be seen whether Mr. Obama's vision fuels positive change or if it is mere rhetoric, but it behooves us all to provide a climate where the very best ideas can take root and flourish. Civility and hope are righteous principles. Let us all pray for our new president today and every day.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I spent last night in Washington DC. It is impossible not to note the buzz of Inaugural preparations--bunting and banners hung on buildings, clogged and diverted traffic patterns, the influx of people from every corner of the globe, their beautiful accents present in every restaurant and shop these days. Every hotel circumferencing the city for dozens of miles is filled as thousands arrive to watch the changing of the presidential guard. But only one arrival and one type of "changing" has occupied our minds--the "Long-ed" for birth of Brady Nicholaus Long, first born child of my daughter Amanda and her wonderful husband, Nick.

Born January 15th, at 7:05 p.m., Brady's birth was a miracle of science and of faith, though I'm not sure a differentiation is required. After all, even those miracles that come by the gifts of science are still gifts of faith--tender mercies of God whereby He bestows a mortal sliver of His knowledge and power to man through education, and then stands back and assists trained hands and minds to function in Godly manner. Are these wonders therefore, any less miraculous?

Amanda does not dwell on the medical challenges she has overcome to have little Brady. In fact, she prefers for people not to know about her past, because her present is so bright and joyful. But today, perhaps, it is all right, and perhaps even needful to briefly tell her story, to give thanks for the blessing of Brady's birth, and to give hope to others whose paths may seem too hard or even impassible.

Amanda faced two serious, even life-threatening medical concerns within six years of one another--Pseudo-Tumor Cerebri, a neurological threat; and kidney failure necessitating a transplant. Blessed to live in an area where several of the nation's best hospitals are located, with patience, faith and perfect obedience to her doctors, these threats became mere delays to her pursuing the goals she has always dreamed of--to be a wife and a mother.

Determined to prove to Amanda that he would stand beside her no matter what, Nick proposed to her a few days after she discovered she would need a kidney transplant. A few months later, they were married in the Washington DC temple, and seven months later, she received her new kidney. The following two and half years were miracles in themselves. Amanda felt better than ever, and confident that her body was ready for the delicate process required to prepare for a child, the doctors began weaning her off some of the meds. The pregnancy went perfectly, owed partly to Amanda's complete obedience to every request made by her medical team, partly to Nick's unwavering support, and fully to the blessings of Heaven.

The process of bringing Brady into the world began Tuesday evening, but despite the best efforts of skilled, caring doctors and nurses, little progress was made, and his expected birth date of Wednesday, January 14th passed without his appearance.

Things were beginning to happen on Thursday morning. Pop Pop had to leave for the airport for a scheduled business trip and I headed south to Washington DC and the hospital. I made it to within five miles of Georgetown University Hospital when a police car blocked the road sending the traffic off to parts utterly unknown to me. Cursing the Inaugural practices as the cause of my critical delay, and "brave" pioneer that I am . . . I drove back home to spend time with Map quest and to rethink my sarcastic disdain for peoples' attachments to their GPS units.

Hours later, after speaking to the Metro Police, the Transit Authority, and several hotel reservation representatives, I began again, armed with maps and directions for multiple routes. Traffic was dreadful but I arrived well before the decision was made to deliver Brady by C-Section.

The surgeon had a difficult task ahead, to navigate around the oddly-placed transplanted kidney, and other oddities resulting from her Pseudo-Tumor. The stress of awaiting word from the OR was broken by a loud baby cry. Brady was finally here and Mommy, Daddy and Brady are each doing wonderfully.

We feel so blessed and so grateful to Heavenly Father. I think we take for granted this process of birth. No matter that it happens a million times over, each health baby and mother is a miracle. We have four miracles now, and the other three came at great cost to their mom as well.

We should pay honor to all mommies and daddies. This is a tough world and we owe a great debt to those who birth and to those who conscientiously rear children.

To Tommy, Keira and Christian: Grandma loves you more every day, if that's possible. And now you have a new cousin! Hooray!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


There's a circle on the calendar block for January 14th and within it are written the words, "Brady's Birthday!!!!" My daughter, Amanda, is in the hospital right now, being induced with hubby Nick at her bedside. We're getting ready to leave for the hospital, to be there when the long-awaited moment arrives and little Brady Nicholaus makes his appearance. Things are not progressing as quickly as we had all hoped, proving once again that such miracles occur in the Lord's time.

We'll post the news once Brady is here. Little does he know how desperately his parents long to meet him and how many aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins are anxious to also behold his tiny face.

Thanks for all the prayers and well-wishes. As has been proven time and again, each healthy birth is a miracle. We hope to greet ours soon.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


You may have noticed that I leaped right past any recounting of Christmas's glories, directly immersing myself in the practical aspects of 2009 life. Well, that was partly because I was still snuggled in the perfect glow of the family holiday, with long-distance children still present and the warm blush of grandchildren's kisses on my cheeks. The last of my not-so-little chicks left this morning, and I'm waxing philosophical and tender at the moment. It was a wonderful holiday, and I'd like to share two lessons learned that also serve as my resolutions for the New Year.

The first comes from our Christmas Eve devotional. Our grandchildren, who were dressed as Mary and Joseph, went from person to person in our Christmas Eve circle, asking each individual if they could make room for them and their soon-to-arrive-child. One by one, the the guests swallowed and answered frailly "that there was no room". I noticed the catch in their voice and the hurt in their eyes as they struggled to respond in a manner true to the biblical account, and I was reminded of a talk by one of the Apostles counseling us that that same request is made to each of us--to make room for Jesus Christ in our lives. It was so hard to look into those precious, little two and five year-old eyes and say that there was no room, and then to see them kneel by the "manger" where their infant brother lay, swaddled and sweet. I watched as their eyes scanned ours, absorbing the poignancy of the story of the Christ child's birth as it touched each of us. I know what I was thinking--that I want my heart to sting with that same tender sorrow each time I do or say something that bans His spirit from making residence in my heart this year.

Secondly, I was reminded of the intimacy of Christ's investment in each of us. There is an oft overlooked, but majestic lesson, illustrated in the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Four days after their beloved brother's death, even faithful believers and followers like Mary and Martha doubted that the Master's miraculous power was sufficient to restore their sibling to life. Christ knew what was about to happen. He knew that in minutes their sorrow would turn to joy, but in that particular moment, in the moment of their grief and suffering, what did He do? He wept. Compassion overwhelmed Him and He shared in their pain. And then He performed the great miracle. He is in our lives just as wholly, sharing our anguish until the moment when He performs whatever miracle fits our need. And perhaps if I become really great at making room for Him and inviting Him in, I will be more apt to notice Him there, in my heart, healing it and bearing me up.

Lastly, we are about to receive another miracle child. Our only daughter, Amanda, is a kidney transplant recipient, and in a few days she will give birth to her first child, a little boy she and her husband Nick will name Brady Nicholas. I'll post the news and photos when the grand day arrives.

So that's the news at the Lewis house. I hope your New Year is off to a glorious start, and that you have many things to hope for on your own calendar.


Saturday, January 3, 2009


I'm going to begin running a little list in the corner entitled "A 52 WEEK FOOD STORAGE PLAN". Each week I'll list a item and by week 52, we could or should have a well-rounded jump on our food storage.

Also, here's another way to save our "Benjamins". Did you know that certain months are notoriously wonderful times to purchase certain items? It's true. According to AOL's financial gurus, the following is a good list of when to shop and save on particular categories of goods.

January: Buy Bedding | Cookware | Toys
February: Buy MP3 Players| Treadmills | Indoor Furniture
March: Buy Desktop Computers | Humidifiers | Winter Coats
April: Buy Spring Clothing | Digital Cameras
May: Buy Cordless Phones | Athletic Apparel
June: Buy Computers | Summer Sports Gear | Swimwear
July: Buy Computers | Indoor Furniture | Outdoor Furniture
August: Buy Air Conditioners | Lawn Mowers | Camping Equipment
September: Buy Gas Grills | Landscaping Equipment | Bikes
October: Buy Digital Cameras | Winter Coats
November: Buy Leaf Blower | Toys
December: Buy TVs | Bikes | Grills | Computers

Some of these deals are common sense--end of season closeouts and pre-season specials--but it still bears repeating that when we buy can have a huge impact on savings.