Thursday, July 30, 2009


Tell me July isn't really over! I feel as if some time-traveling thief stole at least two weeks of this month right out from under my pressed-to-the-grindstone nose. But what I remember of this month was glorious, so even if it was mysteriously reduced by half, I received two-months worth of happiness from it.

First of all, Angela, my editor on Dawn's Early Light, and I were joined at our cyber hips from May through the middle of July, completing the edit on the manuscript. All that remains is to place the maps and photos, and then it's off for printing. This really is a very special book--not because I wrote it, but because it describes a painful, neglected, almost forgotten American story from which we triumphed with the Almighty's help. Most compelling is how old enemies became loyal allies, reminding us that we do have the ability to come together and make peace. Of course there is a wonderful love story and family drama woven in amongst this great American history. I hope these story lines only add to the sense of urgency and sacrifice that drove the first generation of Americans on to defend what their fathers had begun. I hope you'll pick up a copy in October when Dawn's Early Light hits the shelves.

I had barely completed the final track changes on Dawn's Early Light when it was time to grab my suitcase and head off for our family's summer vacation. We began by taking our youngest son through the Salt Lake temple. It was the first time all our children and their spouses were in the temple together. Honestly, if our grandchildren weren't being babysat elsewhere, they'd've had to pry me out, it was an exquisite experience that reminded me that I cry a lot more easily these days.

After basking in the joy of "forever" happiness, we settled in for some "now" happiness. We spent the week splashing, boating, eating, playing games, eating, playing sports, eating. . . (I assume you see a theme emerging here. . .

Our family is competitive--the boys begin a dieting competition that runs from Christmas to vacation with the winner earning not only a slim torso but a nice prize. The guys caved in about three weeks before vacation this year, so they took their competitiveness out to the ball courts and game boards. As a result, our vacation was busy and lots of fun, and I have the sunburn and sore muscles to prove it!

We also attended a free Olympic skiing demonstration at Olympic Park in Park City, and a rodeo/fireworks display at Kamas. It was baby Brady's first rodeo, and as you can see, the drama was intense, so much so that the little feller sought security in a chew on his daddy's popcorn cup.

The family flew or drove off to various destinations soon thereafter. Tom had to work in L.A., but I remained behind to watch our son's children while he and his wife took off on a relaxing cruise. If you've been following my Face book page, you've read about some of the fashion faux pas committed during grandma's tenure with the children. To my dismay, I discovered that the "Princess Leia" hairdo I inflicted upon my own daughter when she was little, was no longer acceptable to my diva grand daughter. Finally, when allowed to add as many clips, bows and other doo-dads as she desired, we came up with a style-compromise. Here is my little ballerina after all our work had fallen out. I think I like this style best anyway!

Our five-year-old grandson, Tommy, decided to create a style sensation all his own. Notice the socks he selected to wear to school with his plaid shorts? What can I say? You have to be way cool to pull this look off!

Babysitting is always a sobering reminder of how much work is involved in child care. Hats off to mommies for all their hard work. Especially when the glamour is thin. I've felt more like a waste-control expert than a nurturer this week--diapers, food smears, wiping almost-completely-potty-trained bums and dodging showers of spewed baby food. I've dubbed baby Christian "The Eliminator" because he somehow produces more volume in waste than he consumes in food. It's an amazing anomaly.

So yes, it's been a busy, satisfying, mach-seven July, but what a wonderful month. Interestingly enough, open houses for the Oquirrh Mountain temple are going on right now. My son and daughter-in-law took their children on a temple tour, and upon exiting, Tommy, our Santa-socked grandson turned to his mother and said, "Mom, my Holy Ghost feels happy. Is your Holy Ghost happy too?" "Yes," she replied, tenderly, "My Holy Ghost feels very happy."

That's what it's all about--the patriotism that protects this choice and promised land, the work, the occasional drudgery and sacrifice--all to get to the temple so we can secure the promises the Lord has waiting for us there, and to enjoy the hope those blessings bring us here on earth.

Our vacation began and ended with experiences at the Lord's House. I was lucky to have my second son, Adam's fiance, Brittany, here to help for a few days before she returned to her home in Ohio to complete last-minute preparations for her wedding to Adam. So, yes, next month we'll all be together in a temple again, in Ohio.

And that's why my Holy Ghost feels happy too.

Monday, July 27, 2009



Our First American Colony

I apologize for not posting last week. We were on vacation with our entire family, and despite well-intentioned plans to post this article last Monday, when push came to shove, I chose family fun over writing. I'm sliding back into work now, but let's pay a visit to Jamestown first.

America's 400th birthday party was celebrated for 18 months between 2006 and 2007, but how many of us even noted it? How many of us knew to where, or why Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip flew to the United States in May of 2007? Sad. While Thanksgiving conjures images of Pilgrims and Massachusetts, many of us forget that Virginia was actually the cradle of America.

Still, a legendary mystique surrounds Jamestown like no other colony, except perhaps an even older colony, that of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. And rightly so. Jamestown deserves our respect and awe. This first foothold in the New World was America's birth as well as a turning point for Europe and all other nations as well, and it all began because one hundred and four settlers defied nature, natives and disease a decade and a half before the landing at Plymouth Rock.

It is somewhat disappointing that people's interest in this pivotal settlement is based more on Disney's romantic speculation over the perceived love triangle between Pocahontas, Captain John Smith, and John Rolfe than for the historical and patriotic significance this little island and these people represent for Americans. Here is a fascinating link to one man's research regarding the "real" Pocahontas.)

For me, the Pocahontas story is one more example of the "power of one" person to do good. Without this young woman's aid, the colonists would never have survived the "season of starving", and who knows what impact one more failed colony would have had on American history. It's a fascinating thing to consider, among many others.

Tom and I took our children to visit Jamestown back in the early nineties when archaeologists still believed the majority of the original fort had been compromised by erosion and now lay underwater. It was a very disappointing trip for me. Admittedly, we were off-season when many of the exhibits were closed except for the glassblowing exhibit. I wanted my children to be excited by this glimpse of America's beginnings, but the small-print explanatory placards, "sketches" of the original fort, and dull monuments bored them stiff. The acreage was under preservation and therefore dense, providing some sense of the fear such primitive environs could have raised in the settlers, but sadly, the forty or so deer we saw hiding in the forest proved to be the children's most exciting memory of Jamestown back then.

Not so anymore. An amazing archaeological find a decade and a half ago has changed everything at Jamestown, and it happened just a breath before the 400th anniversary of the settlement's founding when essential landmarks proved that the majority of Jamestown's original foundations were in deed on land and recoverable. The information this find unleashed allows visitors to see items excavated from the actual ruins of the original city that is itself, rebuilt and ready for modern exploration by our families. Imagine getting a 400 year-old glimpse of the lives and lifestyles of the first Americans. It's phenomenal!

There are more "touristy"exhibits as well--recreations of the three ships that brought the colonists to Virginia, craftsmen, artisans, characters in period dress who tell true colonists' stories in the vernacular of the day. It's no wonder that along with neighboring Williamsburg and Yorktown, Jamestown, the third gem along Virginia's Colonial Parkway makes this stretch of land a phenomenal necessity for families desiring to instill patriotism and gratitude in their children.

I'm still saddened by the lack of remembrance, or perhaps ignorance, over our nation's beginnings. We assume an a la carte mentality--picking and choosing what we will hold on to . . . what we care to remember. In a few years we will mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the burning of Washington D.C., and the Battle of Baltimore from which emerged our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, and more importantly, our national identity as Americans. I wonder if anyone but historians will notice.

This has been my personal quest as an author . . . to illuminate these spectacular, sometimes painful chapters of our history in my Free Men and Dreamers series, for these are the events that finally forged us as one nation under God, a more perfect union, Americans all.

If you love history, please pick up one of my books and join me sometime.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Like other tradespeople, authors help each other out. Since I don't need a new toilet or vinyl siding, fellow author, Liz Adair, offered to read and review my books: Dark Sky at Dawn and Twilight's Last Gleaming.

The review was so lovely I'm considering buying my own books. (Just kidding, but you go ahead and feel free to do so if you're so inclined. Thanks, and happy reading.)

Thanks, Liz!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


The title of this post comes from a scripture in the Book of Mormon, II Nephi 1:13. Most LDS people will recognize it, but regardless of your religious persuasion, the sentiments are timely and critical. Americans have been complacent for too long, and now it is time to awaken.

If you know much about American history and the tumultuous birth of this nation, it's hard to deny the hand of the Lord was in it--that we survived the Revolution at all, and that a passel of minds, such as those of our Founding Fathers, came to be on America's stage at the same time with such unprecedented vision.

Our forefathers freely acknowledged God's hand in America's formation. Said George Washington, "The man must be bad indeed, who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf."Said Patrick Henry, "The American Revolution was the grand operation, which seemed to be assigned by the Deity to the men of this age in our country."These words from the Book of Mormon chill me now. Speaking of America, it calls this land "a land of promise," and "that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord." And then the responsibility of this great blessing is spelled out. "Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom [the Lord]shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity."This land was set apart to be a special land of freedom and hope, and we who are blessed to live here are supposed to be stewards over these freedoms. But most of us fell asleep at our posts, and we're in serious trouble. . .

After years of lazy, selfish slumber, current events aroused our curiosity, and we awoke like angry bears to find that much had happened while we were in poliical hibernation. And now we don't know how to turn things around, or who to trust anymore.

I try to pray for the president every day, but he and his socialism don't offer answers that fit the vision the Founders envisioned for America. I also pray for our military and I'm grateful for them every day, but while their monumental sacrifice holds our foreign enemies at bay, we have plenty here at home as well, and I think we need much bigger help to win these battles we're facing now.

It's time to stop, drop and pray for this country like we've never prayed before.

But even prayer won't be enough. We need to change our hearts--to be people willing and able to hear the answers when they come, and willing to become what He asks us to be. And we need to be civil. We need to be righteous. We need to be Christlike.

We won't need to fear what foreign enemies can do to us if we tear ourselves apart and divide us as we are doing. Congress seems to be running in fast forward, our courts appear to be approaching a dangerous precipice, our taxes will soon rise so high people will flee the land for $greener$ pastures, and what will be left of the promise that once characterized this land?

The problems are becoming too diverse for man's wisdom. We need God. We need to pray. And we need to start today.

Monday, July 13, 2009



If people know anything about Yorktown, they consider it the final, major battle of the Revolution, and it was. But only because the loss of this battle set up the "perfect storm" of circumstances that forced Britain's hand. Some call it good fortune, some call it good strategy. General Washington knew that despite a bit of both of those elements, it was the hand of Providence that set the stage, making Yorktown more than merely a single American victory.

This village, and the surrounding battlefield, is an exquisite, essential slice of American history. Ironically, mere miles separate Yorktown—the place where America’s independence was essentially procured—from Jamestown--the first established American settlement--making this corridor both the beginning of American colonization and the beginning of America’s independence. Add Williamsburg to mix, and there’s no question as to why this corridor is a must-see stop for every American.

The Yorktown historical experience is very different from a visit to Williamsburg. It’s a quieter, more reflective experience, yet still packed with much to do, covering a wide variety of interests. My last visit to Yorktown was four years ago during a research trip to investigate a curious lead for Twilight’s Last Gleaming. We were in the company of friends, one loved it, as I did, one was more like my sweet husband—plenty entertained by the Visitors’ Center, but not too excited about traipsing through the battlefield. So prepare to see everything and adapt your schedule to fit your interests.

Start at the Visitors’ Center. Learn about the principles in the war, understand their motives, their living conditions. Did you know Britain was actually involved in a world war at the time, simultaneously engaged in battles with France and Spain? There are wonderful exhibits—items from General Washington’s camp, a glimpse of shipboard life for the British and French soldiers who crossed the Atlantic, maps, films, munitions, an encampment, etc. Reenactments and live demonstrations are available at specific times.

Now tour the battlefield on foot or by car. The terrain is either in historical grade or it’s been restored, with gun placements, bunkers and encampments marked. It’s an awe-inspiring thing just to stand where these patriots stood and to know they were fighting for the very liberty we currently enjoy. We toured the battlefield by car. There are pullouts and stops where you can get out and walk around. Much of the area is woods with key locations identified by placards that explain the significance of the site. This tour provides a wonderful opportunity to empathize with the soldiers’ experiences, but it can prove long for some, so I’d suggest you pump up the tour by reading excerpts from the brochures obtainable at the Visitors” Center now, or print out some of the background info available at the included links and read them during this drive.

Now drive over to the historic village of Yorktown, once an important tobacco port and critical naval defensive position. Stroll along pristine Main Street which sit up on a hill. and see this row of original period homes, restored like shiny pennies. This was my favorite part of the trip. After all, the importance of liberty is its impact on lives, and here on Main Street one can step back into time and consider what it must have been like to have tens of thousands of soldiers, and hundreds of cannons, pounding so close to your home. Most of the homes are available for tours. Many require a fee, but it’s well worth the charge to stroll through and observe what life in 1781 was like. Visit the docks and see the ships, then visit the Yorktown Victory Monument that required one hundred and three years to reach completion. It’s a must-see photo stop.

Lastly, stroll the waterfront area. This was once the more “seedy” part of town where sailors and merchants imbibed spirits and engaged in raucous behavior. Also restored, it’s now a quaint row of shops, restaurants and galleries—a perfect place to have lunch or buy a memento, or a refreshing spot to watch the ships on the harbor. Absolutely beautiful. Or better yet, buy a ticket and sail the harbor on a tour ship. I'm also attaching this link to beautiful bed-and-breakfasts to make your trip especially unique.

Here are a few spectacular links to great Yorktown history. If you can’t get there with the family this summer, perhaps spend an evening reading about this battle and the amazing, providential elements that combined to secure our freedom. It would make a worthwhile Family Night and an investment in your children’s appreciation of this great land.

Next week . . . Jamestown.

Saturday, July 11, 2009



by John M. Tippets

In my own experience, the drama of real-life almost always trumps fiction, and such is certainly the case in John M. Tippets’ wrenching saga, Hearts of Courage. Tippets is the son of a survivor of the famed Gillam plane crash, so named for noted Alaskan bush pilot, Harold “thrill-’em, spill-’em, no kill-’em” Gillam, who piloted this ill-fated Alaska-bound flight. The story is drawn heavily, and with harrowing understatement, from Joseph Tippets’ journaling about the crash that left him and five others stranded in Alaska’s freezing extremities in January of 1943.

It opens with John Tippets’ fascinating glimpse into Alaska’s defensive importance during WWII, setting up the background for the flight and its passengers—five valiant men and one courageous young woman—most of whom were attached to the aeronautics industry, federal and civilian. The author has compiled exhaustive records and historic photographs detailing the crash and the victims’ month-long ordeal in the desolate, frozen Alaskan terrain. That portion of the story is chilling. But even more compelling is the author’s switch into his father’s voice through the vehicle of Joseph’s journal, allowing us to be intimate, “on-set” witnesses of the groups’ struggles and triumphs. From this point on, Hearts of Courage becomes an illustration of the majesty of the human spirit.

It is courage and character under fire as we read how the principles exercised their strengths and abilities for the welfare of the group—both defying death and in the face of death—putting the interests of others above their own. It is a story of faith and reliance on the Lord through petitions to heaven, and daily group readings from Tippets’ salvaged Bible, and a book of sermonettes titled Unto the Hills, from which Tippets read to the group.

But it is also the story of Tippets’ family’s faith; that despite numerous calls for Alta to face the inevitability of her husband’s death, she knew otherwise, and she never gave up. And neither did his failing mother, who only relaxed her vigil, slipping into death, when her son’s rescue was confirmed. Joseph Tippets recounts how he instinctively drew upon these sources, and upon oft-told stories of the unwavering courage, despite their own sufferings, exhibited by the Mormon pioneers who grace his and Alta’s family lines.

The human cost of the experience is understated in the tender mention of Alta’s miscarriage during that fated month, the deaths of two of the group, the tears of frustration and elation of the survivors. One of the most poignant moments came when Tippet’s hope of survival began to wane. With frozen fingers, he scrawled a final note to Alta and their children—little Johnnie, the author, and Alta’s unborn child who he feared he would never see.

Eyes tear at the dedication of the military—Canadian and American—over devoted employers and co-workers, religious leaders, congregants, friends and neighbors who exhausted themselves in the search for the victims, and in the care of their families. So, yes, Hearts of Courage is also a story of great love—of family, of God and of country—and a reminder of what we each can become as we succor one another.

At one hundred and thirty-six written pages, it is a quick read, but its impact is lasting and satisfying, despite gender or age.
Hearts of Courage, by John Tippets, is available at Amazon, Deseret Book, Ensign Book, other LDS and Alaskana book retailers.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I was sharing my thoughts about this economy with a friend yesterday, and both of us know people who've already been affected by cutbacks, job losses, rate hikes, price increases and slumps in their investments. It's affected each of us in some way.

But I keep thinking about our parents and/or grandparents, depending on your age--that generation Tom Brokaw dubbed, "The Greatest Generation That Ever Lived." They didn't rise from a generation of wealth and prosperity. They rose from The Great Depression, they had known hunger, homelessness, joblessness and fear. And yet they allowed those lessons to make them better-- more frugal, more generous, more grateful, more patriotic.

Some might have expected that the excruciatingly lean years might have made them jaded about their government, fearful about starting a family, angry at God. Instead, they longed for a home filled with children, and they raced to answer the call of duty in defense of their own freedoms as well as those of other nations. They began by flooding the churches and wearying the Lord with their prayers. And He answered. He heard them . . . and He answered.

So what will we allow our circumstances to make of us? As always, there are important lessons to be learned from the past.

What would happen if we banked our movie ticket money and took a walk with our spouse and children instead? Our daughter and son-in-law are doing this regularly, and she loves the time it gives them to talk and laugh and fall back in love daily.

What if we grabbed our families, dusted off that old concept and dressed in our, "Sunday best" and said, "Hey, we're starting a new family tradition every Sunday morning. It's called attending church together."

What if we sat down to home cooked meals again? Maybe they won't be as creative or swell as restaurant food, but what if Dad or Mom prayed over them, thanking God and asking Him to bless them? Maybe they'd actually seem like the greatest meals and the greatest moments ever.

What if we sat down and really talked about those old-time virtues like honesty, integrity, service, holding one another accountable, with love and forgiveness?

And what if we visited an old fort, read the inscription on some monuments, studied something about our country, and spent the patriotic holidays being patriotic. What if we learned about the Constitution and found candidates who believed and were pledged to upholding it!

And what if we and the kids washed an old tin can out and set it on the counter, tossing our coins in it as we learned to save and work together for what we want? During some especially difficult times, we did this. It was our Fast Offering can--the money we set aside to help those less fortunate. As the children watched that can fill up, they felt they were participating in something important, and they knew that if we were still in a position to help others, then we were really okay.

So what will we let these times make of us? We could become an incredible generation. We need an incredible generation, right now.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Things are nuts over here. It's all wonderful stuff . . but even wonderful stuff can seem overwhelming.

Our second son, Adam, is getting married in Ohio, during August, to a girl who makes his eyes crinkle with joy. That absolutely thrills us.

We're getting our entire family together for the big Looney Lew vacation in two weeks--our second favorite week of the entire year, so what's not to love about that?

And then we're hosting a reception here in Maryland for about a million of Adam's closest friends and relatives. Still good, right? So why am I feeling buried?

It's the Currier and Ives Syndrome.

You know how you imagine Christmas--the house decked out in evergreen regalia and the children dressed in satin, with a perfectly-roasted goose on a table set by Martha Stewart herself? Never gonna happen. And yet I frequently aim for such picture perfection, landing somewhere nearer reality, only to find myself feeling disappointed.

Mother's Day? Same deal. For years I dreamed of the perfect day, being lauded and lavished upon. Then, after wrestling kids in church, cooking the meal, doing the dishes and collapsing on the sofa as I watched the runs in my stocking race one another up to my thigh, I declared the day-set-aside-to-honor-mothers a big fat lie, and I ate a cake and went to bed.

A wise friend and I had a talk one day, discovering that these feelings were almost universal. Pooling our exceptional wisdom, we rooted out the problem and got to the source--those Currier and Ives cards depicting perfect holidays! How we wanted that! But was it worth the pain and stress to achieve it? We concluded that it probably wasn't.

That left us with one choice--we needed to alter our expectations--to distill them down to the most essential elements. And what we discovered was that the only thing we really longed for was peace. That was what those perfect cards represented to us--peace, warmth, love. . .

So we gave up on satin-clad children and roasted geese, choosing a quiet telling of the Christmas story instead. And Mother's Day? We settled for a bucket of Kentucky Fried, purchased the night before. It was something Dad could reheat and the children cheered with delight. I got my day off, everyone was happy, and peace was achieved.

My mind is consumed with perfection again--the perfect family firesides during vacation, the perfect menu for the reception here. . . When the details begin to crush in on me, a voice whispers, "Peace and happiness, remember? All the people involved love each other."

Ahhhh. . . that's right. . .

I knew a wonderful woman who loved to sing, though her voice was shrill, trill and off-pitch. The members of the choir would hear a sequence of off-notes, we'd smile and carry on, wondering if she knew how she sounded. One day I sat beside her in choir. She was planning on singing a solo in church. I worried for her, and my expression must have revealed that.

"I know I don't have a great voice," she explained. "But the way I see it, if I can't sing here in church for the people I love, and who love me, where can I sing?"

I had an Epiphany that day. Reproved and humbled, I realized that she was absolutely right, about a lot more than mere music. She sang her solo, and she never sounded better than on that day.

After all, who's to say what perfection actually is?

Sunday, July 5, 2009



(I'm dedicating the next six weeks' posts to various sites in and around Williamsburg, starting with the historical colonial village itself.)

Let me begin by saying that the best way to approach any visit to an historical site is by preparing to have an "experience"--plan to leave your world and your ecpectations behind and immerse yourself in the one you are visiting. It's easy to do in Williamburg.

The colonial setting, with historical reproductions and restorations of original buildings, will take your breath away. You'll easily imagine, (or at least ask yourself) what was it like to live here . . . in this time and in this place? Now you're on your way. . .

Tour every magnificent architectural specimen--the Governor's Palace, the Court House, the homes, the gardens, shops--you'll think you remember all that great colonial history you learned in Social Studies, but you have no idea how much the guides will teach you about this cradle of America. You'll marvel over the beauty and ingenuity apparent, and the blending of elegant British architecture and English garden mazes interspersed with the rudimentary thatched colonial abodes with their functional vegetable patches.

Some of the park's employees have spent years learning about their characters, understanding their role in history, and perfecting their presentation. Walk up to a colonially-garbed actor and they will respond in character--speaking to you in the dialect of the day and about the issues of "their day". Go to the Revolutionary City portion of the town and hear spirited debate about the British and the burden of taxation. Visit the courthouse and join the debate occurring on the steps as justice is meted out and colonists voice the first cries for rebellion. Imagine Jefferson, Madison and Washington, all Virginians and contemporaries, strolling the streets and popping into Christiana Campbell's place to dine.

You must eat at Christiana Campbell's Tavern! It was George Washington's favorite eatery in Williamsburg, and a place of great historical significance. This respite served as a gathering point where some of the first discussions over a split with England occurred, while Christiana served the organizers seafood delicacies, pot pie and pots of tea. This is a true "experience" you won't want to miss! You'll stroll through the garden, passing under arbors of wisteria boughs while listening to the baas of sheep in the pen to the right. Even the wait is worthwhile, sitting on her front porch, watching the goings on at the Capitol or at the Presbyterian Meeting House. Some will say the food is pricey, but you receive so much more than a good meal. Your servers are in character in dress, manner and dialogue. They'll tell you tales of "the general's" most recent visit, a strolling musician will play and sing for you and you'll be spellbound as you gaze around at the ambiance, knowing who sat here and what was discussed. This tavern also is the setting of many several scenes in "John Adam's" and "A More Perfect Union". Gotta eat here!

Visit the artisans shops, (be amazed at the ingenuity of the craftsman), and the gift stores, (let your children see the few simple toys the colonial children enjoyed). Grab a tri-corner hat and join in the political rhetoric going on in the Revolutionary City. Two-hour interactive programs involve you and your family in great American events like the debate over the signing of the Declaration of Independence. You're not just studying history--you're living it! Can you think of a better way to get your children to love their country, its past and its future?

There are skits and re-enactments going on all along the streets, and treats that take you back to the basics of life.

Summer is the best time for the full program, but December in Williamsburg is spectacular as well. On the Sunday of the first full weekend in December, the city hosts the Grand Illumination, the official start of the holiday season. Based loosely on the old British tradition of placing candles in windows to welcome the arrival of special guests or to herald an occasion of note, the simple candle-lighting has now grown to a full lighting extravaganza, drawing an average of 25,000 people. Click on the photo to the right to see a beautiful photo-essay by Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph. What a great way to begin the Christmas season.

So plan a trip to Williamsburg. Next week we'll tour another spot on Virginia's historic triangle!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Few people understand the individuals and the sacrifice required to establish America better than two-time Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of 1776 and John Adams, David McCullough.

He visited BYU on 27 September, 2005, and delivered this magnificent forum assembly address. It is one of the most tender, touching essays on the Founding Fathers, George Washington and the Continental Army you'll ever read.

When stripped of all the folklore and hoopla, and distilled to the simplest truths, we realize that they were not so different than we. Brave? Bold? Yes, but also family men and women who knew they were risking everything for the sacred cause of the nation.

They were not the first, nor were they the last. It's our cause now . . . Need a little courage and inspiration? Click on the portrait of General George Washington and read David McCullough's words.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


The prize is a spectacular book titled:

The Declaration of Independence,
A Museum in a Book"

You have to see this beautiful volume to appreciate it. From Deborah Hopkinson, reviewer for "Children's BookPage":

". . . In addition to its lavish illustrations, the book includes replicas of actual diaries, private journals and artifacts related to the drama of independence. Reach into a pocket on page five, for instance, and you can pull out a walking map of Philadelphia in 1756. A replica of a list of patriots killed and wounded at Concord peeks out from behind a period illustration of the famous battle. And, of course, there's also a full-size replica of the Declaration itself.
This informative, attractive book [is] a unique, fascinating and interactive resource that truly makes American history come alive."

To enter, follow this link to my "books" web page, read the "Prologue" to "
Dark Sky at Dawn" and email the answer to this question:

1. From what great battle had Jonathan Edward Pearson just returned?

Would you like a second entry? Can you also answer this question? (You might need to do a little research.)

2. What significant event had happened there?

Email each of your answers to with the heading "CONTEST" in the subject line, by midnight, July 31st. The drawing will take place August 1st.

Increase your chances even more! Become a "follower" of this blog and win a second entry!