Tuesday, April 28, 2009

THE WHITNEYS and the 2009 LDSTORYMAKERS' Conference

I've been away for about ten days. Part of that time was spent enjoying my son's family--good grandma time which I'll blog about soon--but for two days I immersed myself in the company of other LDS authors at the 2009 LDStorymakers' Conference.

The conference is like a master's course in writing and marketing, taught by generous and successful LDS authors trying to both mentor others, while simultaneously holding the reins on ever-eroding standards in literature. The annual event culminates in the coveted Whitney Award Banquet where the year's outstanding authors and their titles are honored in various categories.

In short, if you want to write, attend next year. And if you want to read some outstanding books, you'd do well to choose from any of these:

The winner of the Whitney Award for the best novel of the year was "Traitor" by Sandra Grey."Traitor" follows a woman who joins the resistance in France only to be captured by the Nazis and interrogated by a conflicted German who must make a decision of life or death. Sandra Grey is the pen name of Norene Uchytil, who lives in St. Johns, Ariz.

The best novel by a new author was "Bound on Earth" by Angela Hallstrom. The novel follows a multigenerational Mormon family.

The best romance was "Spare Change" by Aubrey Mace.

The best mystery/suspense novel was "Fool Me Twice" by Stephanie Black.

The best youth fiction was "The 13th Reality" by James Dashner. His new book, "The Maze Runner," will be published by Random House this Oct. 6.

The best speculative fiction was "The Hero of Ages" by Brandon Sanderson. The book is the third in Sanderson's "Mistborn" series.

Lifetime achievement awards were presented to Orson Scott Card and Kerry Blair.

Let me say that as a first-time attendee I was overwhelmed by the quality and generosity of the presenters and authors. Kerry Blair is a mentor extraordinaire, and the overall spirit of the conference was supportive and refreshing--not what you'd expect in a media market.

The events are sponsored by the LDStorymakers group which is comprised of published LDS authors. Aspiring authors wishing to join an LDS writers' community may want to check out a wonderful group called Authors Incognito which can be found on the web.

Below are shots of some of the other LDStorymakers this Maryland Storymaker enjoyed meeting face-to-face for the first time.

Kathi Petersen, Stacy Anderson, Gail Sears, Anne Bradshaw, Carol Thayne, CS Bezas

Rebecca Talley and Julie Coulter Bellon

Saturday, April 18, 2009


All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go,(almost) . . . A kiss for luck and I'm on my way . . . (Oh, that's another song altogether. . .) You get the point. I'm leaving for Utah tomorrow. It's partly pleasure, partly business. The pleasure part includes time with my son and his family, and that means more good, grandma time!

The business part is the annual LDStorymakers Writing Conference and the Whitney Awards Gala held in Provo, Utah Friday and Saturday, April 24 and 25. Both are currently sold out, but dozens of LDS authors will be there meeting readers, signing and selling our latest books and posing for photos with fans. We love to meet our readers so please come by and have your personal copies signed by the authors. And if you don't already own a copy, buy one there.

If you are a budding author check back in and plan to be there next year. And why? The Writers' Conference hosts workshops for authors of all genres and experience levels, conducted by professionals in the fields of writing, editing, publishing and marketing. It's a two-day crash course with people who are in the trenches in this current marlet and economy. Lots of good advice.

I'll also use this week to lay the groundwork for the marketing of book three of my Free Men and Dreamers series, Dawn's Early Light, which is set for an October 2009 release. As we ramp up to summer there will be drawings, free book giveaways, and contests galore, so keep checking back in.

See you soon!


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Even during the height of my youthful political-action phase, I didn't march on D.C. or burn any thing. I was more the Parliamentary Procedure-type, attending conferences to improve things by working within the system. I made speeches, drafted proposals, met in caucuses and voted on things. Maybe it sounds dull, but I believe in the system. I also believe that sometimes the system needs tweaking. Now is such a time.

I attended the Tea Party in Frederick, Maryland. It wasn't a big media-catcher like the one is Annapolis or Boston or D.C., but it held special meaning for me. Historically, Frederick is an American treasure from the Colonial period through the Civil War. It was the home town of Francis Scott Key and reportedly the last stop he made before heading to Fort McHenry on a mission that ultimately led to the writing of the The Star Spangled Banner.

More importantly, Frederick is small town America, a close-knit but economically diverse community of hard-working family people who are proud and worried and mobilizing, just as citizens are doing all across the nation. Though the rain poured and the temperature settled in around a chilly forty degrees, the people came. When the anemic sound system failed and we couldn't hear the speakers, we waited in the rain for the words we could hear . . . and then we cheered, and chanted and marched.
There were grandparents out there advocating for their grand children's futures, and parents worried about the America their children will inherit. There were old people, young people and in-betweens who don't necessarily have all the answers, but who know for certain that the solutions currently being pursued violate all the principles their parents taught them about thrift and integrity.
It's hard to gauge the mood of America from the news any more. Heck, it's hard to gauge much of anything from the news these days. . . Most of us only know how current events are effecting us and our family. For me, this was a chance to listen to my peers and their stories, and to feel powerful again as a citizen and as a community.
We have a voice. We have power. Collectively, we are still the employers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


One of the privileges derived from writing a historical fiction series like Free Men and Dreamers is actually studying wonderful, oft forgotten, oft neglected American history. I've been blessed by the generosity of tireless museum curators who've shared the treasuries of their knowledge with me, and I been blessed by dedicated U.S. Park Service employees who are uncannily enamored with the sacred acreage over which they have stewardship.

I've trudged through colonial forts and battlegrounds, climbed the ramparts of Fort McHenry and Fort Monroe; visited Williamsburg and eaten at one of George Washington's favorite restaurants--Christiana Campbell's. I've sat in Christ's Church in Philadelphia and touched the nameplates of Founding Fathers/worshippers whose names are forever immortalized on the Declaration of Independence. I've been blessed to stand silently in Philadelphia's State House where the Constitution was framed, fought over, and signed.

I've stood at Benjamin Franklin's grave and pondered his great foresight; fallen in love with John Adams' steadfastness, Washington's selflessness, Madison's scrappy tenacity and Jefferson's vision. It's all so easy to do. . .

Today is Tax Day. And Tea Party Day. Ironically, my husband is actually in Boston, the place where the first Tea Party was held, and where the greatest modern-day stand against unfair taxation and government power brokering will likely be held. I wish I could be there. But instead I will attend a small gathering in my own community. I'll stand with my neighbors, none of us knowing exactly what's to be done, but knowing that whatever is done must be done by the voice of the people, firmly fixed to the sacred, inspired Constitution.

As individuals, we know too little about the North star of our government. Why is that, I wonder? If we can download a video, or even email a friend, we can read the Constitution online. I've long worried over the number of Constitutional questions that arise in elections these days, wondering about our individual "Constitutional IQ's" and our readiness to render a choice in defense of this landmark document.

It was the first, you know. There were other nations with governing guidelines, of course, but the infant United States broke ground when it established a written Constitution, creating the first codified law of government on the earth, and establishing a bench mark from which other nations have based their own.

If we don't understand the inspired intentions of the Founding Fathers, and if we don't have a grasp on the Constitution as it currently stands, can we confidently, prudently, and wisely decide its future as well as ours?

There are several good sites listed below that quiz you, providing explanations to the basic elements of our government and its beautiful Constitution. Take a few minutes and test yourself, then pass the link on to friends or your children to hone their own skills. It would make a great Family Home Evening activity.

A link is provided below to get a free copy of the Constitution, and may I suggest that every American should also buy a $3.00 copy of one of the most wonderful and inspiring dvd's I've ever seen"--A More Perfect Union. Here's the link: http://www.xmission.com/~nccs/constitution-week/a-more-perfect-union.html

Enjoy the quizzes:
1. The U.S. Constitution Test (Used by the Dept. of Immigration and Naturalization)

2. Constitutionfacts.com (This one provides scores and great explanations and could make a great family activity)

3. Conversations on the Constitution (This is a quiz sponsored by the American Bar Association explaining recent court rulings and how they affect us.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I love the oldies, you know, the stuff I bopped around to with a hairbrush in my hand when I was dreaming about Donnie and Bobby Sherman? Well . . . if you're under forty-five, you might not recognize the names, but you know what I mean.

I also love some country stuff, and I still love Barry Manilow's old songs, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; and of course, James Taylor and Lionel Ritchie. There's even a few current numbers that can make the hair raise on my arms. When Josh Groban, David Archuletta, and Il Divo are playing I just want to sit in a chair and immerse myself in their lovely tones.

But these two clips from Britain's Got Talent go straight to my heart and stir my soul. This is beauty that elevates. And not just because of their exquisite voices. They are you and me . . . ordinary people with dreams who thought they were okay, but who doubted their gifts. Then one day, they took a chance . . . they stuck their necks out, and how we are blessed for it!

I think of the parable of the talents. They who buried theirs lost all, and they who attempted to multiply theirs had an unbelievable increase. Let's all pull out our own gifts and dust them off and share them. Let's stick our doubting necks out and try, try, try. Let's bless one another with our voices, our pens, our pots and pans and in any other ways our hands can produce joy. Let's stir one anther's' souls . . . like Paul and Susan below.

Paul Potts on Britain's Got Talent show - Nessun Dorma

Monday, April 13, 2009

Susan Boyle - Singer - Britains Got Talent 2009

All I can say is, "Thank you Susan Boyle for always dreaming, and for reminding us to hold on to our dreams as well."


I wanted to post this today. Many of you have seen this remarkable clip and heard its powerful testimony of Christ already. It has absolutely taken the Internet by storm. But so often, the tenderness and the import of holy Easter season and its meaning becomes diluted as soon as the Monday alarm rings. In the necessary rush to return to work, as the traffic takes its toll on our spirits, and as the tedium of life begins anew, we forget. So let's pause for one more moment . . . really pause and set everything else aside for five uninterrupted minutes, and let the power of this message distill once more, and then let's remind ourselves that this really is about LOVE, that HE loved and loves us that much. And then I hope our whole day will go better, and that we'll be better, to honor this majestic and priceless gift of love.


Saturday, April 11, 2009


Easter is here . . . a time of hope and renewal. We need that these days. But when that feeling of peace wanes, when that bright light of hope begins to dim, a few seconds in front of this video clip makes my arms tingle and restores my optimism. Watch it. . . I bet you'll feel it too. . .

Mark Mabry, a visionary photographer, and his equally inspired musical and dramatic colleagues, created this exquisite photographic masterpiece illustrating poignant scenes from the life of Christ. (CLICK to View)

Sometimes I pontificate on here, railing against changes that are unraveling the essence of this world I love. Sometimes I release a little of that steam with humor. But I hope that underneath all of that is the underlying joy and hope I have that no matter what men or governments do, all will be well for those who follow Christ. My heart was filled last week by a two-day feast of hope, and now Easter is upon us. I hope we all try extra hard to gather and reflect this hope on to others as the weeks and months roll on. That's my Easter wish this year.


Friday, April 10, 2009


This story comes from "Richman's Ramblings" the blog of Larry Richman. I just stumbled upon it the other day, but I am already a big fan! Thanks for allowing me to post this, Larry!


In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews, and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days.The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the ACLU lawyer the judge banged his gavel declaring,"Case dismissed!"

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, "Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.

"The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, "But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant."

The lawyer said, "Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists."

The judge said, "The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day. Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned."

You gotta love a Judge that knows his scripture!(Yes, this is an urgan legend--not true.)


Wednesday, April 8, 2009


This story has been circulating around the Internet since it was written in 2000. It was written by Michael T. Powers, who is also an author with stories in 29 inspirational books including many in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and his own entitled: Heart Touchers "Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter." To preview his book or to join the thousands of world wide readers on his inspirational e-mail list, visit: http://www.HeartTouchers.com.


Each year my video production company is hired to go to Washington, D.C. with the eighth grade class from Clinton, Wisconsin where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave men raising the American flag at the top of Mount Surabachi on the Island of Iwo Jima, Japan during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, "What's your name and where are you guys from?

I told him that my name was Michael Powers and that we were from Clinton, Wisconsin.

"Hey, I'm a Cheesehead, too! Come gather around Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story."

James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, D.C. to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good-night to his dad, who had previously passed away, but whose image is part of the statue. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, D.C. but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night. When all had gathered around he reverently began to speak. Here are his words from that night:

"My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called Flags of Our Fathers which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game, a game called "War." But it didn't turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of twenty-one, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out; I say that because there are generals who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen years old. (He pointed to the statue)

You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken, and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph. A photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection, because he was scared. He was eighteen years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.
The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the "old man" because he was so old. He was already twenty-four. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, "Let's go kill the enemy" or "Let's die for our country." He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, "You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers."

The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, "You're a hero." He told reporters, "How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only twenty-seven of us walked off alive?"

So you take your class at school. 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only twenty-seven of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of thirty-two, ten years after this picture was taken.
The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky, a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, "Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night."

Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Kronkite's producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, "No, I'm sorry sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back."

My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually he was sitting right there at the table eating his Campbell's soup, but we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press. You see, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died, and when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.

When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, "I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. DID NOT come back."

So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time."

Suddenly the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero in his own eyes, but a hero nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Ask a question, you'll generally get an answer. Depending on whom you pose your question to, you may or may not like the answer you get.

Ask a friend, "Does my hair look okay?" and 95% of the time they will reply favorably, even if doing so requires them to suspend disbelief for a moment or two whilst the dig deep for something kind to say. But pose that question to a stylist and the answer may cost you severely--in time, self-esteem and moolah.

I remember the days when I'd hit the salon every six months or so for a trim. I'd ask the same opening question every time. "Do I have enough gray to start coloring my hair yet?" I'd ask because I always loved the answer. A resounding, "Oh, no! You barely have any gray at all." I tipped her extra just for that.

I don't know when I turned the corner. It could have been after Tom's heart attack, or after my dad's passing. All I know is that one day I sat in that chair and posed my favorite question for the last time. Why? Because this was her answer. "Oh yeah. . . we really need to do something about this. . ." Sorrow. . . And thus we upped our client/stylist relationship to a whole new level.

Now here's the funny thing. In this relationship, as in all relationships, there are rules of trust. The rule of hair? It isn't just yours anymore. Oh no. It's hers. She knows it, and you know it. My daughter-in-law's friend gave me highlights once when I was out of town. The next time I saw my stylist she noted, "Nice color. . ." in a voice that begged further explanation. I felt as if I had given the promised half of my Snickers bar to someone else. I also remember the time I was going to be on a three-week book tour. My hair was fine that day, but I knew I might need a touch-up near the end, so I asked her for my coloring formula. Bad idea. . . She raised one eyebrow at me and stalled, a look of betrayal on her face. I could hear her silent condemnation. "Cheater! Hair cheater!!!! Babbling explanations began pouring out of me.

She does give a great cut and color, though I wonder how she really views me, since her consummate choice of styles for me lies somewhere between Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" and "What's Love Got to Do With It?" periods. Sometimes I sit in her chair and my eyes begin to stray to some dazzling highlights the new girl in the shop is giving a client off in a corner. I know I shouldn't stray . . . that I will suffering remorse and pain for my wanderings, but sometimes, I still do. In a moment of weakness, I swing my chair slightly and peek above the top of my Better Homes and Gardens to catch just one more hungry glimpse and then. when my stylist has turned me over to the protective custody of the shampoo girl, I bribe her with a Rolo in return for the other operator's name and schedule.

Does it all sound a little crazy? Ask any woman if I'm telling the truth. Hey! It's a tough hair world out there.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Despite thick clouds and a killer head cold, this is still a perfect day. The Stock Market lost it's grip on my happiness and security, and CNN can't hold my peace of mind hostage today. And why, you ask? Because, as I predicted last Friday, my heart is still reverberating with messages of hope and peace after watching the Spring Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It may sound simplistic to some, but I know that God intended us to be happy despite adversity. Perhaps especially during it. And knowing that we have a Heavenly Father and a Savior who loves and knows us makes all society's nay saying and hand wringing mere annoyances.

Are things bad? Looks like it. But there is help. And there is a Plan. There always has been, and this weekend we saw portions critical for our time unfolded. Over thirty inspired voices offered hope by reciting the Lord's promises and by reminding us of ours.

For me, the counsel fell into a few simple categories:

1. Hard times are here and harder times may yet come, but we can endure happily if we get out of debt and curb our wants.

2. We will need to help one another, and that includes sharing the Gospel message of hope in Christ with others.

3. Take refuge in places of peace--the Lord's holy Temples, and in our homes.

I hope you'll enjoy the clip, posted below, on why Mormons build temples. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If I can't help you, I'll help you find the answer. Remember, joy is the goal.

Mormon Messages: Why Mormons Build Temples

Friday, April 3, 2009


Vince Lombardi is credited with saying, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." The same words have also been credited to General George Patton. Irregardless, the truth remains that if manly men of football and war know that fatigue can break our spirits and cause us to cower, we can admit it too.

We've all had those days when the laundry list of life overwhelms us and instead of beginning at the top and working through it, we slump in a chair and whimper, unable to organize our thoughts enough to even choose where to start.

I remember day five of a siege of illness that plagued our family. The laundry backed up with fetid linen--the refuse of the children's illness--the dishes were piled like Mount Vesuvius and you could have turned my stove top into a Science Fair contender. Still, meals needed to be prepared and well-intended classmates kept stuffing make-up work through the doorway, despite my complete disinterest in participles, dangling or otherwise. It had been days since I had had more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep, and REM was a distant memory.How did I handle it? I sat in a chair and stared at the greasy water marks running down the front of the sink cabinet, the residual by-product of the well-est of the children's attempts to do the dishes. . . and then, good soldier that I am, I cried.

Tom was out of town as I recall, but other help was available. It almost always is, but I was too stubborn or proud to ask. And so, determined to stay in the pocket, to march on, I wore myself to a frazzle. I'm two decades older now, and I'm still that way to a degree. I'm buried by obligations right now and pressed against a wall of deadlines, but experience and wisdom have taught me to recognize when it's time to accept proffered help. And help is coming in abundance this weekend.

It's Conference weekend for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will sit and listen to the voices of modern day apostles and prophets of God, and feel the Lord's peace. And next week? Some of the things I pushed back today will still be there, but they'll concern me less. I'll remember what few things really matter, and I'll be still and remember that God is ultimately in charge.

Sometimes we get ourselves into trouble. But sometimes stuff just happens. Stuff is happening to a lot of people these days, but help is still at the ready, if we will accept it. Comfort? Peace? Could you use some of that? Then push the debris back for a few hours, and come listen with me. Their counsel isn't just for Mormons. It's for anyone hungering for a pocket of quiet and hope in the storm.

(Links above for internet feed. Also available on Directv 374, Sat and Sun- 10-12 Mountain , 12-2 Eastern; 2-4 Mountain, 4-6 Eastern.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Bill O'Reilly of Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" offered some sage advice today while appearing as a guest on the Rachel Ray Show. It wasn't anything new . . . well, at least not to most parents, but in our race-around world, it bears repeating.

When asked for his best advice on parenting, O'Reilly, a former high school teacher, lamented the amount of time our kids, (and the rest of us) spend on electronic devices today. He fears we are losing the art of face-to-face interaction. His remedy? Corral them at the dinner table, and then pose what may be the best question of their day. "Tell me . . . what was the most important thing that happened to you today." And really care.

It brought back sweet memories of four loud, little Lewises all rambling over one another in their haste to divulge the day's mystique. As they grew older and their schedules became increasingly hectic--off to Seminary at 5:45 a.m., ball practice until 6:00 p.m.--we struggled to get all our assorted faces at the table at the same time. It increased our appreciation of the Sabbath when we pushed everything else away, and made us double our efforts to set aside more family time for games, family movie nights and FHE.

The idea of corralling our loved ones for family dinner may, in and of itself, require some creative rethinking, but the benefits of this eroding tradition are critical and well documented. Now imagine coupling family meals with this simple but profoundly introspective question. Such an investment could skyrocket a child's sagging self-esteem and lead to better understanding and communication all around.

O'Reilly noted that we should be prepared for repercussions. Older children may retreat at first, and the idea of sharing on such a personal level may not come easily, but if we are consistent, and better yet, if we start early and establish this pattern, a wonderful new closeness will develop that can only serve to bless our families.

But it shouldn't stop there. Imagine how spouses would respond to such a heartfelt, sincere investment in them. "Tell me, honey . . . what was the most important thing that happened to you today?"

I'm cringing here as I think of how the sacred dinner routine has changed for us since the kids left home. Too often we eat at the counter--he sits, I stand--as we peruse the day's mail. Sometimes we actually meet at the table, but it's too infrequent. We can do better. We can see the dinner table as a family place no matter our number and age, and we can pose this sweet question to our loved one and wait with complete interest for their reply. We can do this!

Let's try it out and leave a comment. I will too!