Friday, February 27, 2009


We had planned to have the entire family gather here this weekend for the blessing of Amanda and Nick's baby, Brady, but sickness kept our daughter-in-law, Krista, home in Utah with two sick babies. Sadness. . . So, our oldest grandson, Tommy IV, arrived yesterday with his daddy and uncle in tow, and we are now left to shower all our pent-up affections and attentions on one tiny, annoyed infant, and one very happy, over-entertained five-year-old.

Right out of the gate we leaped into a rousing game of Mickey Mouse Yahtzee which I had purchased a few hours earlier, desiring to have a game that would "challenge" my gifted grandson. After one round, he was bored. I anticipated this eventuality when, after rolling three Mickeys and two Daisies, he said, "That's a Full House!" "You know what a Full House is?" I asked. "Yes, Grandma. I play real Yahtzee at home with my mom." Needless to say, we put the Mickeys and the Daisies in the box and moved on.

We hooked up my birthday present, a Wii Fit game. We're not even going to go there. . . (That picture of Tommy holding a photo of Grandma in a bathing suit says plenty.)

Later, Tommy and Grandma went into the play room and pulled out a memory game. We played one round the real way, turning over pieces and matching them to our cards. When Grandma appeared to be winning, Tommy proposed a change in rules whereby he was guaranteed to be the victor. I chuckled over that because Tommy tends to change the rules frequently depending on the anticipated outcome. (In truth, if he felt I would be saddened by a loss, he would give me all his points plus a good, long hug.)

After that round ended, Tommy created a new game. It involved the memory cards and Matchbox cars and played somewhat like checkers. I didn't understand the purpose of the game or any of the rules, but it was designed specifically with that intention.

I think he's being groomed for a seat in Congress.

I'm supposed to be working to meet my goal of writing my next book in ninety days, but this is way more fun. I'll have to write twice as many words next week. But today, it appears I'm taking my turn prepping a future Senator.

Monday, February 23, 2009


When you're a long-distance grandma, you have to be creative. Even so, boxes of treasures don't always arrive intact, treats turn stale before crossing the Rockies, the web cam goes on the fritz and the phone calls. . . well let me share a few of my most favorite moments.

My grandson, at two and a half years, talked to Grandma primarily on the web cam which is attached to the computer. He developed cute names for his two grandmas. one he calls "Silly Duck". Me? For a time he called me "Puter Grandma".

CYBER-SITTING- I entertained Tommy on the computer for a few minutes one day while his parents scooted off to the kitchen to get something. He was scooting the mouse around and jammed his fingers. I saw his hurt and tried to soothe his sadness as best I could. Suddenly a finger is pressed against the webcam. "Kiss it!" he cried. I, of course died that I wasn't there in person, but with a cyber-smack of my lips and a voice thick with sorrow, I asked him if it was better, and he quickly answered that it was.

CYBER-LICKS-We've shared puppet shows, sung silly songs, read books and even played imaginary baseball over the computer with the kids. One day Tommy wanted to give me something in return. Holding his lollipop to the camera he made the ultimate love-offering. "Taste it! It's good, Grandma!" With a smile and a loud "slurp" I "tasted" his lollipop. And it was really great!

TELEPHONE TIME-My granddaughter, Keira, is now the at the age where reality is blurred by the phone and the camera. She will call and carry the phone around, taking me into her room to view her "Princess Dresses" and her blanket collections. "See this?" she'll ask, or "Do you like this one?" I'll oooh and aah over the unseen creations, asking her to tell me what they look like, or which one is her favorite.

The other day we spoke for two hours by phone. Sometimes Keira was on the line. Sometimes it was her 5-year-old brother, Tommy. Sometimes it was both. In one moment, Tommy put his phone on "speaker" and laid it down on the floor to go potty. Keira sang a 20-minute arrangement of an original song about monsters and then we heard Tommy's voice come over the phone. "Grandma, where is the other phone?" I replied, "Keira has it, sweetie." Tommy sighs. "Tell Daddy I need some wipies!" I relayed instructions for Keira to give her Daddy the message and soon my son was on the phone. "Did Tommy really tell you in Maryland to get me in Utah to bring him wipies?" Such is the magic of technology and grandmas.

The last story is for you, Shelly. After one and a half hours, Keira began telling me she had to take a bath. I began telling her thank you for our phone call and letting her know how much I enjoyed talking to her. Tommy got back on and I also began my goodbyes to him, whereupon Keira became quite indignant. "If you don't want to play with me, I don't want to play with you!" (I assume this is the "Tommy defense for when her big brother refuses her offers to play.) "I love playing with you, Keira," I replied sincerely. "If you don't want to play with me, I don't want to play with you!" she repeats. Again, I do my best to reassure her. Now her voice is registering hurt. "If you don't want to play tigers with me, I will play by myself!" (Your guess is as good as mine). I try with all my special grandma powers to convince her that nothing in the world is more important to me than playing with her, but it takes a minute of consolation from Daddy to make it seem true.

Sometimes, only a real flesh-and-blood hug can make it better.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Seminary out here is an early morning affair with exhausted, over-scheduled teens rising at 5:00 a.m. to be dressed for school and in their Seminary Class by 6 or 6:15 a.m. Most of them are sleep-eyed, admittedly arriving more out of obedience than out of burning desire each morning. But something wonderful happens during that 45 minutes. For some, the change is obvious. For others, it's more subtle, perhaps unrecognizable on the outside, but it's there--more hope, more security, more sense that they matter to God who is, Himself, more real to them, and therefore more accessible.

It's the best investment imaginable.

Last night we had our stake's Super Seminary Activity. I'm the producer of the event, and I have to say that it is by far, the most daunting non-family project I've ever undertaken hands down--book-signings included.

Perhaps it's because anyone who works with the youth knows what's on the line. We've been told that Seminary is the Ark for the youth of our day, yet knowing how busy and hyper-entertained they are, it's hard to hold their attention long enough to allow the Spirit to settle in, and then to help them recognize that gentle tug.

Well, Seminary teachers make headway every day. And last night, we did it again with our activity. It was really great! The kids were laughing and engaged, friendships were made and strengthened, and all while their knowledge of the Gospel and the scriptures was being heightened. And the success of the event? It was owed in large part to a young man who wasn't even there.

Last year I spent weeks creating a mega-activity with critical-thinking puzzles and cerebral Bible games. One of the participants, a senior, emailed soon thereafter, tactfully telling me I had over programmed the evening and that what the kids really needed was just to have fun using what they've learned. He even gave me suggestions for games. The criticism stung, especially after all my weeks of preparation. But I remembered what he said, and I applied his advice last night. And he was right.

I probably knew it before he even said it. The proof is in my own family. Those of my kids who had good friendships at Church also developed strong testimonies. And those who never found a friend in the Church floundered for a time. We can't discount the importance a friend makes. That security makes it easier to nourish and share the tender feelings of the heart. Where there is friendship there is also love, and the Spirit can do wonders with love.

So I have lots of files of games for the Old and New Testament. Some are brain-tinglers and some are just fun. They would work for Seminary or FHE. I'm going to make a gadget on this blog to post links for those. Maybe some of the ideas will spare you the work of re-inventing the wheel. Just let the Spirit guide.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


My trip to the Storehouse, mentioned in the post below, was enlightening in other ways as well. A senior missionary couple runs the Storehouse with the help of a senior service mission couple and other local volunteers. At lunch time, the sister missionary in co-charge cooked us a wonderful lunch, all from basic items that came from the storehouse shelves. And it was gourmet quality!

The point here is two-fold. First, the Lord asks that we help Him provide for the needs of his children not with cast-offs and crumbs, but with the best of what He has created. And secondly, when we know what to do with what He has provided, we can do very nicely on basics.

I've been blogging about food storage down in the right corner. Each week, I'm posting an item we should buy and add to our storage. In 52 weeks, if we follow the list, we should have a balanced, inexpensively-acquired supply of food storage that can be incorporated into our menu planning and therefore, easily-rotated. We don't need to store only vacuum-packed or freeze-dried food. We just need to rotate what we buy by incorporating it into our daily meals.

The reasons for having a food supply are many. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been doing this for decades, responding to the counsel of living Prophets who have warned us to lay in store for times of need. But any person who reads the papers or listens to the news can surely see the wisdom is storing extra food against times when storms prevent us from getting to the store, or as a hedge against inflation, a bridge between jobs or when extra bills upset the family budget. By having some storage, we can wait to purchase items when they are on sale because we can do without until the price comes down. And when reports of tainted foods are raised, we can fall back on food that was packed before the outbreak occurred.

Tom and I pull from our storage regularly for this or that. But we have relied on our food storage exclusively a few times when we were between jobs and what little cash we had was needed to meet the mortgage and utilities. I canned back then--a hundred quarts each of peaches, pears, applesauce each summer, and a freezer stocked with vegetables put up from a summer garden. We ate well, and because we had the foresight to also store five pounds of chocolate chips and nuts, there were delicious cookies and cakes to make the meal special. Instead of a poor man's diet, we were still dining. And I believe that made a major difference in my husband's attitude as he headed out the door to apply for work. He was down, but he was not out, because he knew he was still providing for his family from our previous abundance.

There is peace in preparation. I don't can the way I once did. We buy cases of what we enjoy now, and buy in bulk when things are on sale. But we don't need to have a Costco in our cellars. A few basic items, paired with the skill to prepare them, will be enough to weather the storms that threaten our families.

The Lord sets patterns. All we need to do is see them and follow. The Storehouse showed me yet another pattern of preparation, that storing simple foods and having the skill to prepare them will see us through.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I'm tired tonight, but it's a good tired. One of the best tireds ever. I spent the day volunteering at the Bishop's Storehouse here in Maryland, filling orders and re-stocking shelves. The people are wonderful, the work is satisfying and a feeling of peace washes over you like a warm blanket, making you feel safe and secure over this physical manifestation of the Lord's concern and love for each of us.

And it's not just the fully-stocked shelves that bring this feeling of peace. It's the people and the system--caring Relief Society Presidents who travel long distances to fill orders for families in their care, and Bishops who are watching over their flock, assessing and addressing their needs. There are volunteers and missionaries, so caught up in the spirit of this special place that they get giddy when it's time to carry another box in and fill in a space left by a patron's order.

It's a special place. Actually, it's a special spirit. And I suppose we all find a portion of that same spirit every time we share or help or just care. So tonight, my feet hurt and I'm tired. And so very content. It was a great day.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review of COUNTING THE COST, by Liz Adair

Liz Adair, fellow LDS author, friend and member of LDStorymakers, has written a beautiful new novel. I spent several days last week reading and relishing this book as I prepared to review it. A glimpse of one "workday" is posted below under the post titled, "Taking a Sick Day" where you can see for yourself what fun I had on this assignment.

Buy a copy or two. It delivers like Nicholas Sparks while it's cowboy setting and action will captivate those who generaly shun romance. It's got it all, and I loved every page. Enjoy!

Counting The Cost
By Liz Adair

Liz Adair’s bittersweet western drama, Counting the Cost, delivers a fresh take on an old theme—the struggles of lovers from two different worlds--that will pierce your heart regardless of gender or favored genre. Drawing from the lives of her ancestors, Adair melds adept historical research with rich literary wordsmithing and exquisitely developed characters, to transport her readers to the Depression-era New Mexico prairie. In this barren beauty, age-old values become the fulcrum upon which human virtue and frailty are balanced.

Counting the Cost delivers the emotional equivalent of a body-wrenching rodeo ride. Adair immediately lulls you, placing you in the saddle with exquisite descriptions of peaceful cowboy life, sprinkled with crisp humor. And then the gates open as human passions jerk her characters from their idyll, and choices determine the next pitch of the ride.

The book tackles difficult topics, but the author delicately handles each one with discretion and care while avoiding triviality or excuse. Sweet torture ensues as brief, tender glimpses into the spiritual discoveries of the book’s hero, Heck Benham, are discreetly woven throughout the story, like a secret, adding further dimension to an already rich character, and intensifying his moral wrestle. Heck’s loyalty and love for one woman challenges his inner compass, and like the cadence of an approaching drumbeat, these truths inevitably emerge: Choice matters. Character matters. Timing matters. And consequences fall due.

This reader went for the tissues several times and slammed the book shut a few as well, unprepared to face the foreshadowed events looming ahead. And then I reopened the book and read on, unable to set it aside until I knew the outcome, attesting to Liz Adair’s captivating writing.

A book with this power to engage makes a perfect gift for anyone, and a splendid personal treat.

Counting the Cost, published by Inglestone Publishing, is set for a March release, though pre-release copies are available at or from

Laurie LC Lewis

Friday, February 13, 2009


I'm a visual person. Tell me a story that plants a picture in my mind, and I'll remember it--well, I'll remember the gist of it--forever. That's why I fell in love with this particular excerpt from a talk given back in 2003. It planted a vivid, metaphorical image, that of a bride's cherished silver and the care she took to protect and preserve its beauty, as a marital standard. It keeps coming back to me, like a rubric, prompting evaluation and course corection. "How am I doing on this?" it prompts us to ask ourselves, reminding us that we need to honor and cherish our unions if we want good marriages.

You could base a thesis on the principles contained within. Given by F. Burton Howard, it remains one of my favorites, and it's especially perfect today. Tom, I hope you're reading today. This one's for you, honey! Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

By F. Burton Howard, emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy:

. . .I think eternal marriage cannot be achieved without a commitment to make it work. Most of what I know about this I have learned from my companion. We have been married for almost 47 years now. From the beginning she knew what kind of marriage she wanted.

We started as poor college students, but her vision for our marriage was exemplified by a set of silverware. As is common today, when we married she registered with a local department store. Instead of listing all the pots and pans and appliances we needed and hoped to receive, she chose another course. She asked for silverware. She chose a pattern and the number of place settings and listed knives, forks, and spoons on the wedding registry and nothing else. No towels, no toasters, no television—just knives, forks, and spoons.

The wedding came and went. Our friends and our parents’ friends gave gifts. We departed for a brief honeymoon and decided to open the presents when we returned. When we did so, we were shocked. There was not a single knife or fork in the lot. We joked about it and went on with our lives.

Two children came along while we were in law school. We had no money to spare. But when my wife worked as a part-time election judge or when someone gave her a few dollars for her birthday, she would quietly set it aside, and when she had enough she would go to town to buy a fork or a spoon. It took us several years to accumulate enough pieces to use them. When we finally had service for four, we began to invite some of our friends for dinner.

Before they came, we would have a little discussion in the kitchen. Which utensils would we use, the battered and mismatched stainless or the special silverware? In those early days I would often vote for the stainless. It was easier. You could just throw it in the dishwasher after the meal, and it took care of itself. The silver, on the other hand, was a lot of work. My wife had it hidden away under the bed where it could not be found easily by a burglar. She had insisted that I buy a tarnish-free cloth to wrap it in. Each piece was in a separate pocket, and it was no easy task to assemble all the pieces. When the silver was used, it had to be hand washed and dried so that it would not spot, and put back in the pockets so it would not tarnish, and wrapped up and carefully hidden again so it would not get stolen. If any tarnish was discovered, I was sent to buy silver polish, and together we carefully rubbed the stains away.

Over the years we added to the set, and I watched with amazement how she cared for the silver. My wife was never one to get angry easily. However, I remember the day when one of our children somehow got hold of one of the silver forks and wanted to use it to dig up the backyard. That attempt was met with a fiery glare and a warning not to even think about it. Ever!

I noticed that the silverware never went to the many ward dinners she cooked, or never accompanied the many meals she made and sent to others who were sick or needy. It never went on picnics and never went camping. In fact it never went anywhere; and, as time went by, it didn’t even come to the table very often. Some of our friends were weighed in the balance, found wanting, and didn’t even know it. They got the stainless when they came to dinner.

The time came when we were called to go on a mission. I arrived home one day and was told that I had to rent a safe-deposit box for the silver. She didn’t want to take it with us. She didn’t want to leave it behind. And she didn’t want to lose it.

For years I thought she was just a little bit eccentric, and then one day I realized that she had known for a long time something that I was just beginning to understand. If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.

Eternal marriage is just like that. We need to treat it just that way. I pray that we may see it for the priceless gift that it is, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This week I have a stake assignment pressing upon me like an anvil, a new manuscript that is barely developed enough to deserve the title, and eleven family members are arriving shortly for the blessing of little Brady. And then I got sick with teeth-chattering chills, a pounding headache and the Mike Tyson effect--muscles and joints that ached as if they had gone seven rounds in a very small ring with ole Smiley.

But it was luscious. Well, let me put it this way . . . it became luscious after I surrendered to my situation and accepted the fact that I was unable to sit at the computer, which also meant that some of my grand and glorious plans would now have to be less grand and more adequate. I fought it for a hour or two, accomplishing little other than raising the bar on self-pity. And then, accepting that the axis of the earth would not shift if I took a sick day--I did just that! And that's when the luscious part began.

I made some noodle soup, grabbed a water bottle and a great book, and snuggled under ALL the covers, even the heavy one that ladies in my stage of life can NEVER tolerate. Yes, I needed them all. I raised the head and feet of my adjustable bed,(bless Tom for recommending this indulgence), propped a few pillows on either side of me, and settled in to read my book.

My choice was Counting the Cost by Liz Adair, a bittersweet love story exquisitely crafted with characters you come to love so much that you find yourself crying out, "No, no! Don't do it!" before setting the book aside to avoid the inevitable. It was sweet torture to spend the day with these characters . . . guilt-free because, after all . . I was sick!

I love my body. Well, not really of course . . . but speaking metaphorically, bodies are sometimes like good mommies who know when you've pushed too hard, even when you won't admit it. Sometimes they simply say, "Now turn that computer off and take yourself straight to bed, young lady!" Ain't it grand?

I was much better the very next day, the work was still waiting for me and I'll manage. But how grateful I am for my sick day. I begged off all unwanted calls, let the dishes go for day, disregarded the laundry and the earth's axis did stay put.

Maybe I'll just start pencilling one in every now and then. Just for fun. In fact, maybe we all should.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


As prophesied by Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle of the Church, LDS authors are attempting to produce excellent literary works, fulfilling Whitney's vision that “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.”

More and more people are seeking value-based, uplifing media that is also crisp, intelligent and challenging, and LDS authors are answering that call. The Whitney Foundation and Committee was established to reward LDS authors for raising the bar and the 2008 Whitney finalists were announced yesterday:

SALT LAKE CITY, UT: The Whitney Awards committee today announced the finalists for the 2008 Whitney Awards, a program which honors the best novels by Latter-day Saint writers. Sponsored and endorsed by LDStorymakers,an LDS authors' guild, the Whitney Awards offer national recognition to authors whose books win in one of eight categories.

To be eligible for consideration, a book must have received at least five nominations from its fans. More than one hundred works by new and established authors in both the LDS and national markets met the preliminary criteria. Once a book is nominated, juries of authors and critics narrow the nominees down to five per category.

This year's nominees are listed below in alphabetical order by genre:

ROMANCE: Seeking Persephone, by Sarah Eden; Servant to a King, by Sariah Wilson; The Sound of Rain, by Anita Stansfield; Spare Change, by Aubrey Mace; Taking Chances, by Shannon Guymon.

MYSTERY/SUSPENSE: Above and Beyond, by Betsy Brannon Green; Do No Harm, by Gregg Luke; Fool Me Twice, by Stephanie Black; Freefall, by Traci Hunter Abramson; Royal Target, by Traci Hunter Abramson.

YOUTH FICTION: The 13th Reality, by James Dashner; Alcatraz vs. The Scrivner's Bones, by Brandon Sanderson; Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague (Book 3), by Brandon Mull; Far World: Water Keep, by J. Scott Savage; Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George.

SPECULATIVE: Ender in Exile, by Orson Scott Card; The Great and Terrible: From the End of Heaven, by Chris Stewart; The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, Book 3), by Brandon Sanderson; The Host, by Stephanie Meyer; The Wyrmling Horde: The Seventh Book of the Runelords, by David Farland.

HISTORICAL: Abinadi, by H.B. Moore; Isabelle Webb, Legend of the Jewel, by N.C. Allen; Master, by Toni Sorenson; The Ruby, by Jennie Hansen; Traitor, by Sandra Grey.

GENERAL FICTION: Bound on Earth, by Angela Hallstrom,;The Reckoning, by Tanya Parker Mills;Waiting For the Light to Change, by Annette Hawes; Fields of Home, by Rachel Ann Nunes; Keeping Keller, by Tracy Winegar.

BEST BOOK BY A NEW AUTHOR: Bound on Earth, by Angela Hallstrom; The Reckoning, by Tanya Parker Mills; Spare Change, by Aubrey Mace; Traitor, by Sandra Grey; Waiting For the Light to Change, by Annette Hawes.

NOVEL OF THE YEAR: Bound on Earth, by Angela Hallstrom; Fool Me Twice, by Stephanie Black; The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, Book 3), by Brandon Sanderson; Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George; Traitor, by Sandra Grey.

This ballot now goes out to members of the voting academy, a select group of LDS publishers; bookstore owners, managers, and employees; LDS authors; print and online magazine publishers; reviewers; and others working in the field of LDS literature.

Winners will be announced at a gala banquet on Saturday, April 25 at the Marriott Hotel in Provo, Utah. Tickets are now on sale at

Special Lifetime Achievement Awards will also be presented that night to two persons whose bodies of works and tireless efforts have made a significant impact on the field of LDS popular fiction. This year's honorees are Kerry Lynn Blair and Orson Scott Card.

If you're looking for great reading material for your dollar, you could do no better than to choose from this list of excellent books.

Thank you to those of you who nominated my Twilight's Last Gleaming. I know it sounds trite, but it really was an honor to even be considered amongst such fine authors and their outstanding works.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


There's an old movie whose premise has long fascinated me. For the life of me, I can't remember the title, or the actors, but I clearly remember the message.

Set in the 60's, it involved a French-born mother whose only daughter was preparing for her upcoming nuptials. Recognizing that her parents have what seems to be the perfect marriage, the bride-to-be asks her mother to share the secret of her success. Reluctantly, the mother reveals the Holy Grail of marital bliss. It is a book. And not any book. Certainly not a book you'd expect. It's title? "How To Train Your Dog".

Interestingly enough, the irreverent topic comes full circle. Amy Sutherland, renowned animal trainer, behaviorist and author, had a 2008 release of a book titled, What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers. In it, Sutherland explains how she used animal training techniques to improve her marriage and modify her husband's behavior.

As demeaning as the idea may sound on the surface, there are some great lessons to be harvested from this field, and both the movie and the book hit the point solidly. It is positive reinforcement that creates the desired change in a pet, and Sutherland notes that similar rewards of kindness, patience and affection improved her marriage.

Think about it. Compare the enthusiasm with which most people greet their pets at the end of a day to the anemic welcome home greeting most spouses receive. Now consider the appreciation poured out upon a pet for performing a task versus the attaboys our mates get when they complete an item on our honey-do lists? Do we rub their ears and wrap our arms around their neck before telling them how wonderful they are in that mushy voice reserved for Fido? Are we cringing yet?

If the topic seems ludicrous or disrespectful, well, it is. And that makes the point even more critical. Because no matter how uncomfortable it makes us to admit it, too often in too many homes, our pets are getting better treatment than we're giving our husbands or wives.

So the next time our husband replaces a light bulb, or after the next well-prepared meal your wife prepares, (or vice versa for that matter), share the puppy-love. A lot of spouses might consider the dog's treatment a step up.