Monday, December 24, 2012


by Laurie Lewis, 2001

It was a blustery day in mid-December when the last stubborn shafts of autumn warmth retreated, paving the way for winter's arrival, and with winter, Christmas. Marta, the dark-eyed and equally talented daughter of a gifted Tailor, sat in her bed observing the changing of nature's guard through worried eyes. Her previously nimble hands lay weakly folded in her lap, their deftness stolen from her, along with her vitality by the same fevered thief that had taken her good husband, leaving her widowed with five, young children.

Pushing back the layers of fluffy comforters, she wrapped her thick robe around her and shuffled down the hall to examine what was once her workroom, a room locked against the inquisitive and sticky fingers of children. Limbless forms stood guard in the corners, keeping watch over shelves laden with fabric and trim. Bolts of satin and velvet, and piles of brightly colored gingham and silks were heaped on every shelf. Stacks of leather and a few furs lay bound, awaiting their transformation into jackets and purses and hats. Brightly painted tins held buttons and notions while spools of threads and trims sat on tabletops, waiting to adorn her creations.

Since it appeared that her hands would never have the strength or dexterity needed to sew the intricate, lovely designs of her past, she accepted that her career was over and had considered selling off the goods. Still, something in her had resisted. She knew that the bolts and notions were more than mere goods. They were the envisioned, but as yet unsewn and unseen clothes of her children's future years. Within each fold lay hats for winters she may never see, and and dresses for weddings she may never attend. Saddened, she sighed, recognizing that there were so many gifts she longed to give to her children . . . gifts her hands would never create. It would be Christmas with no gifts at all.

A thought crossed her mind. Her oldest daughter, Janie, was fourteen, and Conner, her only son, was barely five. Between these children, three other daughters had been born--Katie, Jenna and Lily--each of whom had learned basic simple stitches from watching their mother mend by the fire. Marta knew that with some practice, they could become her hands! And she quickly set about to prepare a surprise.

After calling to the children, she gathered them into her workroom and opened the door. The wonder-filled eyes spied the brightly colored cloths and their fingers wriggled with the desire to touch and sample everything. Marta smiled at their reaction, wondering now if she had been wrong to deny their rambunctious hands the pleasure of touching and handling the beautiful fabrics.

From the pocket of her robe she withdrew five slips of paper, each bearing the name of one of the children. After each child drew a name, they were told to gather fabric, notions and trim and set about to create a gift to present to their selected recipient. They squealed with delight as they dashed about the room, touching and feeling every bolt and button. One by one they spirited their selections away to their rooms to set about their tasks. Janie, already a fine seamstress for her age, was making Lily a ruffled frock. Katie, not quite as certain of her talents, settled in to sew a furry muff for Jenna. Each child in turn considered their talents and fashioned their best gift to give.

On Christmas morning, each of the children exchanged their gifts. Marta watched through tearful eyes as their precious offerings were given and received. When all the hugs were given and the thank yous said, the girls each scampered off to their rooms, returning with other boxes tied in brightly colored ribbons for Marta. Tears wet her face and pride filled her heart. She drew them close and whispered "I love yous" to each giver until the fatigue swept upon her again and the children left to allow her to rest. Just as sleep fell upon her, a tiny knock sounded at the door.

Connor entered his mother's room, sullen and sad. In his hands was a small leather bag he had made for her. The stitches were uneven and the seams were puckered, but it had been fashioned by his own hands. He had been about to wrap it in bright green paper when he saw the tufted pillow Katie had made. Worried, he compared his gift to the satin robe Janie had sewn, and had found his own offering wanting. When he had determined that every gift was superior to his, he had decided not to give his own.

Marta patted the cover beside her and Connor jumped up and into the bed. After asking to see the little bag, Connor reluctantly handed it to his mother. Turning it over and over, she commented on its workmanship and beauty. Tenderly touching a crimson stain she recognized as a drop of blood when a needle pricked her son's finger. Her eyes began to sting as she asked Conner questions about his design and craftsmanship. In reply, Connor pointed out each error, unfolding the story of his distractions and sewing disasters until they both laughed and cried. Soon, his once burdened heart was filled with pride as he began to see his masterpiece through the eyes of his adoring mother.

"I didn't think it was good enough," he confessed through watery eyes now sparkling with relief. "My hands are like yours. They don't work as well as my sisters'. But the bag looks a lot better since I gave it to you."

As Marta drew him in close and hugged him firmly, her heart stung at the thought that he had almost forsaken his gift because in comparison to others' work, it had appeared less. Her finger tenderly touched the crimson spot again. "It's a magic bag, Connor. It seems to become more beautiful with every passing minute."

"Things don't have to be fancy to be beautiful?"

"No they don't, Connor. Love makes them perfect."

"Maybe love will help you, Mommy."

Marta smiled, envisioning the simple garments her hands could yet fashion. "I believe it already has, Connor."

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Who doesn't love and even need a few good Christmas stories to warm their heart and remind us how small and simple acts of Christmas magic can renew souls and change lives? This is one of my favorites. Enjoy!


by Anonymous (But I'd love to find out!)

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous, cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in thosedays. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes,"I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobby." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) and wrote, "To Bobby, >From Santa Claus" on it -- Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house,explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going." I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes.

That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous.

Santa was alive and well and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Story: "ONCE IS NEVER ENOUGH"


Christmas Story 2007
by Laurie LC Lewis

John laid the Bible carefully on the end table and ruffled his young son’s head. He smiled as Ann bent low to place their toddler daughter near enough to receive a good night kiss.

“How about we say prayers with Mommy and Sarah tonight, Jacob?” John suggested as he tenderly showed Jacob how to fold his arms. With eyes misting and his heart stirred by the too frequently neglected expression, the man found it hard to begin, finding his voice more easily as his son snuggled closer.

After the amen was uttered, Ann rose and guided the children to bed, leaving John to marvel at the simple turn of events that had precipitated the change in their family that night. He scanned the table where the critical shopping lists now lay, tossed inconsequentially upon the return home, their errands left incomplete. Odd, since just a few hours earlier he and his wife had sat there with their carefully balanced checkbook, newspaper ads and their list spread between them, strategically making the decisions about whom and what to shop for.

They had divided the errands between them— his wife and Sarah setting off in one direction while he and Jacob headed in another, beneath dangling snowflakes the size of garbage can lids, past inflatable snow people and their revolving, musical village. Twice, his rambunctious five year-old had dashed off to explore the colorful display, each time earning a stern rebuke from his father. His father’s reproach only unsettled the child further until the man finally relented, allowing his son a few moments to survey the dazzling display that showcased the gems of the season—the must-have toys which were set upon blocks of rotating, plastic “ice”, beneath which the names of stores and price tags were displayed.

With hands clenching his carefully-crafted list of errands, he stared at the scene, taking in the sounds of three dozen children, each one pointing out desired items while voicing their requests aloud. Soon he heard his own son’s voice joining in the cacophony, crying out request after request for each and every item on display, and for a moment . . . for just a regrettable moment, as the crowds jostled him and the music and voices raised all around, he voiced his thoughts. “I hate Christmas. . .”

The bitterness of the words chilled his heart as soon as they passed his lips. Hungry to find Ann, to have her reset his anchor, he lifted Jacob into his arms and whispered, “Let’s hurry and find Mommy.”

Clutching his son close, he dashed off to the first store on his wife’s list. As he approached the location he saw a crowd gathered around the store’s window and he marveled at the attitudes of the people coming away from the area, speaking in soft tones, their faces as bright and soft as their smiles. Curious, he drew near and to his amazement, little Sarah was the cause of all the excitement.

On tiny toddler knees with her nose pressed to the glass, she knelt before a Nativity scene, babbling as she pointed from one character to another. “Beebee!” she cried out with excitement. “Nicey beebee!”

“Yes,” her mother whispered hoarsely. “He is a very nicy baby, Sarah. He’s a very special baby too. His name is Jesus.”

“Jesus. . .” replied Sarah with reverence equal to her mother’s. “Nicey Jesus. . .”

With a trembling finger, Ann pointed to Mary. “And this is his mommy. Her name is Mary. She didn’t have a nice crib or a soft blankie for her baby, so she had to wrap him with pieces of cloth and lay him in this soft hay. The animals kept him warm and,” she pointed out various figurines, “angels sang to him . . . and shepherds and Wise Men came to visit him.”

Sarah slid her finger along the glass until it too pointed to Mary. “Pretty mommy. . . pretty beebee.”

John stooped down, gently placing Jacob beside Sarah and sliding an arm around his wife’s shoulder. Other children were now drawing close to the scene. Gazing at them, Ann wiped a tear from her eye and smiled as she explained the moment to John. “I was standing in line at the kiosk over there, struggling with Sarah who was crying and squirming. I was at my wits end when she suddenly became still and quiet. When I checked to see why, I noticed that she was staring at this store window whispering, ‘Beebee . . . beebee. . .’ After I paid the vendor, I put her down and she ran right over here. This is what she’s been doing ever since. It’s like she gets it, you know?” she sniffed. “It’s as if this little child understands what’s most important about Christmas.”

“I know this story, don’t I, Daddy?” asked Jacob with a furrowed brow. “Didn’t you tell it to me once?”

Sliding his list into his pocket, John squeezed his wife’s hand and raised her to her feet. Each bent down and picked up one of their children, placing kisses on their cheeks. “Once is not enough for the telling of the Christmas story, Jacob. Let’s go home and read it again, tonight, because once is never enough.”

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


My favorite Christmas Eve movie is The Nativity Story, a magnificent telling of the Christmsas Story that somehow remains under the radar despite a stellar cast and production team.

From Moviefone: Australian-born Whale Rider sensation and Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes stars opposite Oscar Isaac in Lords of Dogtown director Catherine Hardwicke's dramatic account of the Annunciation, and the arduous journey of Mary and Joseph to give birth to baby Jesus. House of Sand and Fog's Shohreh Aghdashloo co-stars in a film with a screenplay by The Rookie and Finding Forrester scribe Mike Rich. Filmed in the village of Matera, Italy (a locale that has remained virtually untouched by modern progress and also served as the backdrop for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ), and Quarzazate, Morocco, former production designer Hardwicke's film strives for authenticity in telling the Bible's most treasured tale.

I had just completed teaching the OT in Seminary when I first saw it, and I was dazzled by the historical accuracy depicted in the period and the characters. This movie is absolutely beautiful, melding cultural elements into the story that add depth to Mary's singular position, and to Joseph's spiritual dilemma. We witness the pain of Mary's parents as the town that loves thenm reacts to her pregnancy, and the fear that motivates Caesar Augustus to go to great lengths to destroy this new king. We rejoice with the three Wise Men who read the signs in the heavens marvel as they set off in search of the prophesied king.

Sometimes, the story of the birth of Christ can be too great, too marvelous to wrap our minds around, but The Nativity Story displays the miraculous in very human terms, and it leaves us changed. Christian devotees will be spellbound, and history lovers will be too. Spectacular way to personally experience the birth of Jesus Christ.

Youtube has a link to view the movie in it's entirety, but here's the purchase link. This film and its cast deserve to be viewed on your big screen. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Easy Christmas Morning Menu that Pleases

Christmas morning can be a daunting time for a mom, especially if you want to get something hearty and nutritious into your family before they tear into pies and cookies. It's especially difficult if you are also cooking a Christmas dinner the same day.

Years ago I found this delicious breakfast casserole recipe. The family loves it, and because it's assembled the day before, you can pop it in the oven before opening gifts and it's ready just as you finish up. We top the nutritious egg casserole off with some less nutritious but splendid and easy sweet rolls also made the evening before. These are staples of a Lewis-family holiday, and they have become as traditional as our tree.

I hope they make your Christmas morning special and peaceful!

Breakfast Casserole
This is the most delicious Put-It-Together-The-Night-Before recipe I've ever found. Perfect for a busy but special morning event.

1 pound spicy pork sausage 1/4 cup onion 2 1/2 cup hash brown 5 large eggs 2 cups shredded cheese 1 3/4 cups milk 1 cup Bisquick 1/4 t. salt 1/4 t. pepper

Cook and crumble sausage and onion together until sausage crumbles. Stir in the hash browns and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain on paper towels, then place in a 9X13 baking dish. Mix together the eggs, cheese, and the next four ingredients. Pour over the pork mixture. Chill overnight or at least 8 hours. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes in 350 degree oven, then remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Category: Breakfast
Servings: 8

Sweet Rolls

Yummy and evil!!!

Frozen bread dough
2 sticks butter
Brown sugar
powdered sugar
few tablespoons milk

Thaw 3 loaves of frozen bread dough until it is easy to work. Roll into a rectangle 12 inches wide by ½” thick. Spread with butter, then sprinkle cinnamon all over. Next, sprinkle a layer of brown sugar over the top. Roll up jelly roll style. Cut into 1 to 1½ inch slices. Arrange in a greased pan or pns. Let rise 2-3 times. Bake in 350 degree oven for 18-22 minutes, (until no longer doughy in center.) Frost when cool. (Frosting- Melt on low 1 stick butter. Add +-1 lb powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1-2 tsp. milk. I double this.)

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes
Category: Breakfast Servings: 12

Saturday, December 8, 2012



Tanya Parker Mills


            Superb writing and complex, heartrending characters combine to make A Night on Moon Hill my pick read of 2012. Author Tanya Park Mills has built an award-winning career by pulling topics and characters out of obscure corners and into the light, and in this most recent book she educates her readers while daring them to leave the next page unturned.

            Dr. Daphne Lessing is an accomplished though prickly novelist and University professor. She loves writing while merely tolerating people. Some call her narcissistic. She’s not sure what she is. She knows there is something odd about her inability to connect with people, her obsession with order, and her unwillingness to be touched, but she’s knows narcissism does not sum it up.

            She had only ever connected with one person--an equally odd boy from her high school swim team who, like her, found solace and joy in the exhaustion of swimming, and in writing. Her parents are gone now, and Daphne is alone. She likes it that way. Discipline now holds her world together, but that’s about to change drastically.

From the back of the book:

            Swimming is Daphne's one refuge until the night she finds a body in her pool.

University professor and renowned author Daphne Lessing has never felt at ease in society. But a disturbing occurrence in her once calm and controlled existence suddenly unearths events from her past and thrusts an unusual child into her life.       

            Ten-year-old Eric has Asperger's syndrome and is obsessed with fishing and angels. Soon, Daphne finds herself attached to him and faced with a choice: Does she leave him and return to her solitary, ordered life, trusting others to do right by him, or does she allow this bright child to draw her into the world she has tried to shun? And what about the man that came into Daphne's life with Eric? Will she be able to shut him out as well?

             Mills opens the book with a wrenching first scene that comes out of nowhere, and the ride begins as an intricate tale of lives altered by invisible disabilities unfolds. The author draws upon personal experience to flesh out her complex, conflicted, but intensely human characters. Her personal understanding of Asperger’s takes the reader into the minds of those affected by the syndrome. Those touched by similar disabilities will find the book fascinating on that level alone, but all readers will appreciate the struggle of flawed characters attempting to rise above the past, to pierce self-imposed limits to be more, to do better, to live larger.

The catastrophic event that launches the story may pose a challenge to some readers. For that reason I’d advise parents to read the book first before handing it off to a teen, but Mills handles the circumstance with grace, and leaves the final judgment to the reader.

Mills commands language, crafting scenes with scalpel-like precision. Every page is delicious. This is great storytelling that will enlighten and intrigue. This is not a message book. A Night on Moon Hill is a tender drama wrapped around a satisfying mystery with the intensity of a spine-tingling suspense novel. In short, this book delivers.

Monday, December 3, 2012


A responsible, compassionate accountant wanted his clients to give his clients a true picture of how the looming fiscal cliff would affect them. This is what he explained to them.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Here's a fun gift opportunity either for yourself or for a reader on your Christmas list. I'm trying to advance a new Facebook author page and to encourage old and new friends to follow me over to my new digs, I'm holding a drawing open only to followers of that new page.

Yes, it's an overt bribe, but this package is worth over $100, so it's a pretty good one, right?

I'm giving away a complete 5-volume set of my highly praised "Free Men and Dreamers" series. Three of these books garnered national praise, and I believe the collection provides one of the most comprehensive glimpses of key moments in American history, all wrapped in a tender story about this first American-born generation.

The drawing opens today. Just be or become a follower of that page by "liking" it, then drop down and post a comment right there that says you "liked" the page. You can visit and post once a day. For each comment posted by December 15th you will earn one entry.

The winner will be chosen after midnight on the 16th. They can designate to whom they want the books personalized. I will autograph each volume and personally inscribe a message to the recipient to make these a truly personal gift. Then, as per the winner's request, I will gift wrap and ship the books within the continental U.S.

For old Facebook friends, follow me on both! I thank you for all the support you've given my work over the years, but I'll be posting books news primarily on this new page form now on. For new Facebook friends, welcome! I'm looking forward to chatting. I hope you'll enjoy reading about my progress on my new piece, "The Rabbits of Alsace Farm."

Visit my website for a glimpse.

Good luck in the drawing!  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Many thanks to Kay Curtis, Diva behind Cedar Fort's "Books and Things" catalog for sharing this clever, cute Christmas idea.

"Books and Things" advertises great books, art, music, and other great LDS-themed products, but Kay always tucks something free and fun into each edition. Sometimes it's an FHE idea. Sometimes it's a recipe. This month's edition will feature a lovely and meaningful Family Preparedness gifting idea based on the 12 Days of Christmas, and Kay is letting me share it a bit early.

The set includes a poem sheet that explains the plan, and twelve poemed tags for each item. Here's a sample of the cute tags and poems that accompany each of the twelve items, but visit "Books and Things" online catalog to download the entire set.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


(I share this excerpt from a talk given by Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during the October 2010 General Conference. It's one of my favorites. Happy Thanksgiving. I hope it adds to your holiday.)

I share with you an account of one family which was able to find blessings in the midst of serious challenges. This is an account I read many years ago and have kept because of the message it conveys. It was written by Gordon Green and appeared in an American magazine over 50 years ago.

Gordon tells how he grew up on a farm in Canada, where he and his siblings had to hurry home from school while the other children played ball and went swimming. Their father, however, had the capacity to help them understand that their work amounted to something. This was especially true after harvesttime when the family celebrated Thanksgiving, for on that day their father gave them a great gift. He took an inventory of everything they had.

On Thanksgiving morning he would take them to the cellar with its barrels of apples, bins of beets, carrots packed in sand, and mountains of sacked potatoes as well as peas, corn, string beans, jellies, strawberries, and other preserves which filled their shelves. He had the children count everything carefully. Then they went out to the barn and figured how many tons of hay there were and how many bushels of grain in the granary. They counted the cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and geese. Their father said he wanted to see how they stood, but they knew he really wanted them to realize on that feast day how richly God had blessed them and had smiled upon all their hours of work. Finally, when they sat down to the feast their mother had prepared, the blessings were something they felt.

Gordon indicated, however, that the Thanksgiving he remembered most thankfully was the year they seemed to have nothing for which to be grateful. The year started off well: they had leftover hay, lots of seed, four litters of pigs, and their father had a little money set aside so that someday he could afford to buy a hay loader—a wonderful machine most farmers just dreamed of owning. It was also the year that electricity came to their town—although not to them because they couldn’t afford it.

One night when Gordon’s mother was doing her big wash, his father stepped in and took his turn over the washboard and asked his wife to rest and do her knitting. He said, “You spend more time doing the wash than sleeping. Do you think we should break down and get electricity?” Although elated at the prospect, she shed a tear or two as she thought of the hay loader that wouldn’t be bought.

So the electrical line went up their lane that year. Although it was nothing fancy, they acquired a washing machine that worked all day by itself and brilliant lightbulbs that dangled from each ceiling. There were no more lamps to fill with oil, no more wicks to cut, no more sooty chimneys to wash. The lamps went quietly off to the attic.

The coming of electricity to their farm was almost the last good thing that happened to them that year. Just as their crops were starting to come through the ground, the rains started. When the water finally receded, there wasn’t a plant left anywhere. They planted again, but more rains beat the crops into the earth. Their potatoes rotted in the mud. They sold a couple of cows and all the pigs and other livestock they had intended to keep, getting very low prices for them because everybody else had to do the same thing. All they harvested that year was a patch of turnips which had somehow weathered the storms.

Then it was Thanksgiving again. Their mother said, “Maybe we’d better forget it this year. We haven’t even got a goose left.”

On Thanksgiving morning, however, Gordon’s father showed up with a jackrabbit and asked his wife to cook it. Grudgingly she started the job, indicating it would take a long time to cook that tough old thing. When it was finally on the table with some of the turnips that had survived, the children refused to eat. Gordon’s mother cried, and then his father did a strange thing. He went up to the attic, got an oil lamp, took it back to the table, and lighted it. He told the children to turn out the electric lights. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. They wondered how they had ever seen anything without the bright lights made possible by electricity.

The food was blessed, and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly. Wrote Gordon:

“In the humble dimness of the old lamp we were beginning to see clearly again. … “It [was] a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey and the turnips were the mildest we could recall. … “… [Our] home … , for all its want, was so rich [to] us.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


These tender messages from those who attended the first Thanksgiving are provided by PILGRIM HALL MUSEUM. Other lovely letters, and information is available at their web site as well.

This evocative painting, titled "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth," was painted by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850-1936), in Honesdale, PA, or New York, in 1914.


There are 2 (and only 2) primary sources for the events of autumn 1621 in Plymouth : Edward Winslow writing in Mourt's Relation and William Bradford writing in Of Plymouth Plantation.

Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation :

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.

"In modern spelling"our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation :In the original 17th century spelling:

"They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health & strenght, and had all things in good plenty; fFor as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, & bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no want. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besids venison, &c. Besids, they had about a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports."

In modern spelling:

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

NOTE : The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth in December of 1620. No further ships arrived in Plymouth until immediately after that "First Thanksgiving" - the Fortune arrived in November of 1621.

One of the passengers on the Fortune, William Hilton, wrote a letter home that November. Although he was not present at that "First Thanksgiving," he does mention turkeys.

4 MARRIED WOMEN : Eleanor Billington, Mary Brewster, Elizabeth Hopkins, Susanna White Winslow.5 ADOLESCENT GIRLS : Mary Chilton (14), Constance Hopkins (13 or 14), Priscilla Mullins (19), Elizabeth Tilley (14 or15) and Dorothy, the Carver's unnamed maidservant, perhaps 18 or 19.9 ADOLESCENT BOYS : Francis & John Billington, John Cooke, John Crackston, Samuel Fuller (2d), Giles Hopkins, William Latham, Joseph Rogers, Henry Samson.13 YOUNG CHILDREN : Bartholomew, Mary & Remember Allerton, Love & Wrestling Brewster, Humility Cooper, Samuel Eaton, Damaris & Oceanus Hopkins, Desire Minter, Richard More, Resolved & Peregrine White.22 MEN : John Alden, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, William Bradford, William Brewster, Peter Brown, Francis Cooke, Edward Doty, Francis Eaton, [first name unknown] Ely, Samuel Fuller, Richard Gardiner, John Goodman, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland, Edward Lester, George Soule, Myles Standish, William Trevor, Richard Warren, Edward Winslow, Gilbert Winslow.
ALDEN : John
ALLERTON : Isaac with children Bartholomew, Mary, Remember; the Allerton servant William Latham
BILLINGTON : John & Eleanor with sons Francis, John Jr.
BRADFORD : William
BREWSTER : William & Mary with sons Love, Wrestling; their ward Richard More
CARVER: The Carver ward Desire Minter; the Carver servant John Howland; the Carver maidservant Dorothy.
COOKE : Francis with son John
EATON : Francis with son Samuel
ELY: Unknown adult man
FULLER : Samuel with nephew Samuel 2d
GARDINER : Richard
HOPKINS : Stephen & Elizabeth with Giles, Constance, Damaris, Oceanus; their servants Edward Doty and Edward Leister.
MULLINS : Priscilla
ROGERS : Joseph
TILLEY : Elizabeth
TILLEY: Tilley wards Humility Cooper and Henry Samson
WARREN : Richard
WINSLOW : Edward & Susanna with her sons Resolved White & Peregrine White; Winslow servant George Soule
WINSLOW : Gilbert
Note : In Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford lists the Mayflower passengers and also tells us who died during the first winter of 1620/1621 and spring of 1621. No other ships arrived in Plymouth until after the "First Thanksgiving" celebration. The Pilgrims at the "First Thanksgiving" are all the Mayflower survivors.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation. The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.  

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.  

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, November 17, 2012


(A friend of a friend sent this email describing what life is like for her family during these bombings in Israel. It gives a startling, personal glimpse into how quickly things have intensified over there.)

Much has happened in the past two days. Unfortunately, everything points to longer, more intense fighting over an expanding area.

It's after 11 pm on Friday so my brain isn't as working as well I would like, but I will try to list the most important points. Even as a I write a military transport helicopter is flying low over the house. This is very unusual on a Sabbath eve, and even more disturbing since we are not in the south where the missile firing and fighting is.

This morning started normally with rocket fire into Israel. School has already been cancelled for anyone within 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the border with Gaza. On one hand it meant children weren't travelling out in the open. On the other, it meant that most of them were home in houses / apartments without accessible bomb shelters.

At about 10 a.m. a ceasefire went into effect while the Prime Minister of Egypt made a solidarity visit to Gaza. During the 2 hours he was in Gaza Israel did not attack any targets inside of the Gaza Strip. In return, Hamas was not supposed to shell Israel. Israel made no attacks during those two hours; Hamas' interpretation of "cease" was more flexible. During the PM's visit more than 100 rockets and missiles were fired from Gaza into Israel - all aimed at civilian targets. In addition, during the visit there was a continuous firefight along the Israel-Gaza border between Israeli and Hamas soldiers.

 Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. That was in 1979 and I was a kibbutz volunteer in the northern Negev when that happened. A couple of years later Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood for his efforts. Jordan is the only other Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. In any event, technically Egypt is an ally of Israel. Once the Arab Spring happened and the Mubarak regime fell, everything changed. The treaty still exists on paper, but on the ground things are very different. The Muslim Brotherhood is now in power, and many of the leaders have been calling from day one to end the treaty with us. Egypt has also - against the terms of the treaty - moved soldiers and tanks into northern Sinai, on Israel's southern border "in order to fight against Beduin smugglers" who con trol the area. Beduin smugglers do control the area, and they also work hand-in-glove with Al-Qaida training camps in Sinai. Both groups are rivals of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has also received massive financial and military aid from the US. Their army is well-equipped and well-trained. Both the Egyptian President (the head of government) and the Prime Minister (a more ceremonial position) are members of the Muslim Brotherhood and both hate Israel.

This morning the prime minister visited Gaza. He toured a hospital and some of the sites which Israel has hit in the past three days. Then he gave a press conference which chilled me to the bones. I watched in live in Arabic with simultaneous translation into Hebrew. The president is young and clean-cut and charismatic.

During his speech he referred several times to the "Muslim nation / people", referring to the entire Arab world (in other worlds, a caliphate). Each time was in reference to the Muslim Nation coming to Palestine to protect it against the terrorist Zionists and their murderous attacks against innocent Palestinians. In addition, he called upon each country with a Muslim leader to supply men and resources to fight against the Zionist state in order to "restore" Palestine and to return it to its proper capital of Jerusalem. He also promised that Egypt would do everything in their power to help the people in Gaza fight against Israel. Remember, this is a legal ally of Israel, even if it meant negating the treaty.

 The Egyptian PM did three things in this speech which I consider to have dangerous implications not only for Israel, but for the world:

1) He inferred that Egypt was at the head of what will become a greater Arab political entity (what centuries ago was the caliphate);

2) He called on all Arab and Islamic countries to fight in a jihad against Israel;

3) He stated officially that Egypt would provide men and resources to help Hamas fight Israel (including equipment supplied by the US), and at the same time junk their peace treaty with Israel.

 At one point during his speech he held up a bloody hand, stating that this was blood from the son of a Shahid (a martyr - or in other words, a terrorist who had been killed), and that this child's blood would be the symbol for the fight against Israel. If this was indeed blood, it means that he deliberately painted himself with blood.

 A couple of hours later President Morsi of Egypt also gave a speech, repeating much of what his PM had said, also promising to send physical support to help the Palestinians in Gaza fight "the aggressor". For the first time since this operation began, a missile was fired into Israel from Sinai, which belongs to Egypt.

Earlier this evening Iran issued an official statement in which they also promised to send money, arms and possibly men to help the Gazans in their "noble struggle against the Zionist aggressors."

Tunisia and Turkey (also a former ally) did the same. The only thing between Israel and Turkey is Syria. All the Syrian towns along Israel's border are now under the control of al-Qaida.

Nasralla, the head of Hisballa in southern Lebanon, has also held a mass rally calling for Israel to be wiped out.

The initial call-up of 14,000 Israeli reserve soldiers went up to 30,000 this morning, and up to 75,000 this evening. In short, things are not looking good.

 There has been a break of a few hours since I started this letter. It is now 2 in the morning on Saturday. Military helicopters are flying over my house, heading east. East means the Golan Heights and the Syrian border.

 I have to be at church in a few hours (we meet on Saturday here in Israel), so I need to try and get some sleep. I'll try to write more before I leave.

Ann, Israel

  • It is now 3:30 in the morning on Saturday, the sabbath. Half an hour ago the army called to give my son Bryan his emergency call up. He doesn't live at home, but in Eilat, so they will get hold of him there. In a few hours he will be back in uniform. I don't even want to think about what awaits him. I just know that I will never forget the look in his eyes when he came back from Lebanon.

    We would appreciate your prayers.

  • Wednesday, November 14, 2012


    This is one of my very favorite annual blog posts, and many thanks again to Kathy Habel at "I'M A READER, NOT A WRITER," for again sponsoring it.

    This hop was set up to thank readers who've purchased my books, visited my blog, read my posts, and commented throughout the year. I'm grateful to all the new readers and followers who hop by. It hasn't been a productive writing year, but rather a year of discovery as my family has battled the problem of Mom's dementia, but that in turn, has become the catalyst of my new novel--"The Rabbits of Alsace Farm."

    I'm going to be featuring one character each week. This week, if you visit my web site, you can meet the matriarch of the book.

    But business first.

    My prize for this hop is an autographed copy of any of my books, personalized for any reader of your choosing, so this would make a nice Christmas gift. I'll even throw in a lovely family book about America so you can surprise two loved ones this holiday. And if you've read all my books, I'll be delighted to choose a book for you written by one of my talented friends.

    Here's how you enter:

    1. Please help me launch my new author page on Facebook by "LIKING" of following me there. I previously did everything--family news, books news, silly news--from the same page, but I'm separating my professional posts.

    That's it! Now please have a fabulous Thanksgiving, and visit all these other wonderful hops!

    Monday, November 12, 2012


    I need this hop . . . really need it! I'm cleaning up and tossing out, so the winner of this hop will get to tell me their favorite genre or genres and I'll supply two books from my personal reading shelf that I think they'll enjoy.

    Many thanks to the sponsor of this hop, Kathy of  I'M A READER, NOT A WRITER, for sponsoring this chance to clean out my shelf!

    Entering is easy. I just set up a new Facebook page for fans of my books, and I need to get the word out. So all you need to do is:

    1. Be or become a follower of this blog,

    2. And "LIKE" that new page. That's it!

    Now visit these other stupendous stops on the hop!

    Thursday, November 8, 2012


    It might be said that local help sent to Nassau County, New York residents—some of the hardest hit victims of Hurricane Sandy—came as the result of one couple being in the right place at the right time, and prepared for “such a time as this.”

    President Kevin Calderwood and his wife Sydnee are residents of Reston, Virginia currently serving a three-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the New York, New York South Mission, which covers this devastated area which includes such hard hit villages as Lynbrook, Rockaway, Broad Channel, and Freeport. President Calderwood is the president of that mission, supervising two hundred missionaries from various parts of the world who rode out the hurricane. As soon as it was safe to venture out, President Calderwood and the president of another mission of three hundred missionaries mobilized their young men and women into work teams to relieve suffering and assist in the clean-up efforts.

    Flooding left buildings dark and cold, a dangerous set of circumstances made more so by plunging temps and reports of another storm heading for the coast. Seeing the level of need, and the difficulty agencies were having addressing those needs, gave President Calderwood an idea. Fifteen years earlier, when he served as the ecclesiastical leader for the Church’s Oakton Virginia Stake, a district of nine congregations, President Calderwood and his wife supported a Church-based program called Gifts of the Heart, which collected donations of clothing, household goods, toys, etc, which were made available to others in need. The program continues to be a giant success in Oakton under the leadership of a new stake President, Scott Wheatley, who is also a close friend of the Calderwoods.

    On the evening of Friday, November 2, President Calderwood contacted President Wheatley describing the critical needs in Nassau County, and the concerns he had for the army of five hundred missionaries who were dispersed and displaced in dangerous circumstances as they served the people of the Rockaway Penninsula.

    President Wheatley immediately called for an emergency run of Oakton Stake’s Gifts of the Heart program, then he contacted the presidents of surrounding stakes including Washington, DC; Annapolis, MD;  Baltimore, MD; McLean, VA; Mount Vernon, VA;  Frederick, MD;  Ashburn, VA; and Annandale, VA; inviting them to organize their own drives to collect warm clothes, shoes, coats, and other critical items, including $25 gift cards to buy food for the missionaries. What happened next was nearly miraculous.

    Through emails, and announcements from LDS pulpits, the invitation was passed to congregants who in turn passed the word to neighbors. The response greatly exceeded all expectations as families in each of these areas filled bags, and eventually filled church buildings with goods to be loaded Monday night and shipped to New York by Tuesday. When the size of donations was reported, President Wheatley knew they would need more trucks than the two contracted to carry the goods to New York. When Paxton Van Lines owner Kevin Paxton heard about the need, he offered trucks, drivers, and boxes to assist in the relief effort. Five trucks were needed Monday night, and more trucks are being sent over the following days to other locations as more donations pour in.

    The Frederick Stake—which consists of eight wards or congregations across Frederick County, and parts of Carroll, Howard, and Montgomery Counties—received hundreds of bags of clothing and raised over $9000 in donations. A few dozen workers sorted and packed two pick-up trucks and a medium trailer, all of which were filled to capacity when they left for Oakton Monday night. The men who drove the loads were astonished to see cars and trucks in lines that spanned blocks as they waited their turn to deliver goods. Another semi-truck will ship the remainder of Frederick’s donations in a few days.

    Laurie Turner, Assistant Public Affairs Director for D.C. Metropolitan Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints estimated that between four and five hundred volunteers were on hand in Oakton to receive, sort, pack, and load the combined donations. It was also reported that over $50,000 dollars was collected that night, and more money and donations were collected the following week.

    A high school student volunteering at the Frederick chapel on 199 North Place was astonished by the constant arrival of donations. Said she, “It’s like the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.”

    Tuesday, October 23, 2012


    Many thanks to Kathy at "I'M A READER, NOT A WRITER"; AND Rhiannon at "THE DIARY OF A BOOKWORM," for co-hosting this mega-hop.
    If you're a new visitor, thanks for stopping by, and if you're a regular, I hope you'll like the news this week. I share insight into my new manuscript, The Rabbits of Alsace Farm, and news about a new blog I'll be launching soon.
    Rabbits deals with two individuals caught up in one woman's slide into the rabbit hole of dementia. Tayte Donnelly and Noah Bradhurst believe they are irreparably broken, and for good reason. They've never had a successful relationship with anyone, incuding their parents. But when their lives connect with Agnes Devreaux Keller, they discover gifts they never knew they possessed, and if they can avoid repeating mistakes from their trouled pasts, they may be able to not only help Agnes, but save themselves as well.
    This project is very personal to me. Visit my web site and read more bout the book and the web sit I'm setting up to help families dealing with this devastating disorder. 
    And now, let me tell you about my prize--a $25.00 Amazon gift card, and here's how you win. You can enter multiple times, but each entry must be posted separately to be counted.
    1. Be or become a follower of this blog.
    2. Follow me on Facebook
    3. Pop by my website and read about "Rabbits of Alsace Farms" then report that you visited.
    4. Follow me on Twitter.  
    5. Friend me on Goodreads.
    Now please visit all these other wonderful blogs.


    Saturday, October 13, 2012


    I've been helping set up for a big, church yard sale we call a Give-and-Get, and I've been enjoying the treasury of books flowing in. Parents may balance the budget by cutting out new books for themselves, but they'll stretch the budget to provide something educational for their families, and as a result, some wonderful, slightly-used, non-fiction books are available for cheap or free.

    I picked up a great book on castles last night. I don't write medieval romance, but you never know when knowing the ins and outs of castle construction may come in handy. I might have a character travel to Europe and be held captive in a castle somewhere. Lots of possibilities. Best of all, each time I learn something new, fascinating new ideas and story lines fill my brain. It's awesome!

    Great research can be conducted online, and at libraries, of course, but when you're stuck, when you need an idea to break the mental log jam, sometimes thumbing through a few books will present a myriad of never-before-considered ideas.

    So make a list of topics about which you could use a few good research books. I keep a few on military weapons, lots of historical reference books,  several on colonial life, emerging religions in America, and medical books that detail treatments available during certain periods. I'd like to get my fingers on some books that illustrate historical fashions. It would save me countless research hours to have that info at my disposal.

    So make your list, and hit the yard sales. Amazon is also a good choice for used books, but be frugal. Consider how many of your published books you'll have to sell to recoup your research investment. I say, go yard-selling first.

    Here's a delightful video based on Macauley's "Castle." Are you inspired now?

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012


    I fell in love anew with Christopher Columbus while researching Free Men and Dreamers. I say anew because this great explorer enjoyed at least an annual love fest in classes during my grade school years. We colored dittoed renderings of the Nina. Pinta, and Santa Maria, studied his life and wrote reports about his amazing discoveries, we recited the poem, "IN 1492."  A cardstock print of Columbus hung in the front of our room along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Are any of them still hanging in classrooms?

    Did you know Columbus set sail with a desire to spread Christianity to people who had never heard of the Christ? Did you know he wrote a book about the spiritual whisperings he felt were guiding him? Did you know he returned to Spain in chains?

    Like most of our traditional heroes, the luster of Columbus's accomplishments is dimming. No one was aware of the dangerous germs the Europeans carried in their systems, nor of the consequences contact with native peoples would have on them. Disease spread to a people without immunity, and many died. It was tragic, and unforeseeable. Also tragic is the idea that political correctness has reduced the heroic accomplishments celebrated in my day to a study of their failings. They are measured against modern sensibilities rather than being judged against the information available to them in their day. One by one, they fall.

    So let's stop the clock for a second and revel in Cristobal Colombo's accomplishments. I'm posting a link to a short quiz, and I'm offering two shelf-worn but autographed books as an incentive to take it.

    We'll do this on the honor system. Take the quiz, and report your score. The person with the highest score will win the books. Contest closes out at midnight on the 11th.

    Ready, set, go.


    Monday, October 8, 2012


    If you've read this one before, forgive me. I just love it so much, and in honor of Columbus Day, I had to dust it off again. For a history lover, this is nerd-humor heaven! I'm told this is a true story. If it is, I need to find this attorney because he is now my idol. If it's not, three cheers for the creative genius who came up with this!

    A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer three months to track down. After sending the information to the FHA, he received the following reply.

    (Actual reply from FHA):
    "Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral property back to1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin."

    Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows:
    (Actual response):
    "Your letter regarding title in Case No.189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 206 years covered by the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the United States from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application.

    For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France , which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into the possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Queen Isabella. The good Queen Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to finance Columbus 's expedition.

    Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made that part of the world called Louisiana. God, therefore, would be the owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of time, the world as we know it, and the FHA. I hope you find God's original claim to be satisfactory.

    Now, may we have our loan?"

    The loan was immediately approved.

    Saturday, October 6, 2012


    Anyone who has ever wondered what Mormonism is really about has a great opportunity to hear these principles that way the members do. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is holding its Semi-annual Worldwide Conference this weekend. Church beliefs, history, principles, and point of view will be on full display during two days on addresses.

    Here's the schedule:
    Session Times
    Saturday morning session10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. MDT
    Saturday afternoon session2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. MDT
    General priesthood session6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. MDT
    Sunday morning session10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. MDT
    Sunday afternoon session2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. MDT

    In the following post you can watch an address by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland about how conference can impact individuals. Let me share my personal love of conference. It reinvigorates me, lifts me, strengthens me, inspires me, and fills me with hope when the weight of the world begins to press in. I feel my Savior's love more personally, and my love for Him pushes the world back for a time. I find answers to my problems, both personal and in regards to my family's needs, and how best to serve my neighbors. Most of all, I am reminded of the counsel God gave Moses: "to be still and know that I am God." We have work to do, but we are not alone, and we can do little if anything without Him. Let Him strengthen and lift you too. Come and listen to a modern prophet's voice.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012


    I'm about to wax both political and religious now, so take that as fair warning. Today is an important day. The debates begin tonight and finally voters will get a chance to hear from the two candidates without media spin and editorial wizardry distorting their words.

    I've read some blogs and Facebook posts that mock the hype some people place on this election. They say this isn't a do or die day, that the future of America will never hinge on the outcome of any single election. I hope they'll agree to let me disagree.

    I think we do stand at a pivotal point. Never before have we been in so much debt, been threatened in so many quarters, had so few allies, and been so divided as a people all at the same time. Never has the rock of a free press, designed and protected to serve as the guardian of liberty, seemed so purchased and manipulated. It's as if it's lost not only its mission statement, but its soul.

    Here are a few examples. I hope you'll take the time to watch and really listen. It's shocking, and absurd.


    Here's another clip manipulated to completely distort Romney's policy point and paint him an idiot.

    My blood hits the boiling point when I see this effort to deceive voters by some of the very people crying out against voter ID because it might disenfranchise them. What's that about?

    History is riddled with moments when one battle, one man, one vote, changed the course of America. Scripture also records moments when nations' survivals rested upon the willingness of a single leader to step forward, and of a single voice to bring the cause of freedom back to remembrance. Likewise just as many accounts are written of civilizations that fell from grace, met decay, were conquered and defeated because of a lost opportunity to pull it back from the brink.

    I think we're there.

    Watch tonight. Listen. Then become engaged in the cause of America.

    Saturday, September 29, 2012


    I'm breezing through a new manuscript right now. I can't wait to rush to the computer in the morning, I hate that groggy feeling at night that signals the end of productive writing time. I think about the characters all day, running their dialogues around in my head. When I can't get to the keyboard I use my phone's digital recorder and speak ideas into or conversations into it, and I text myself messages, like "don't forget to have Agnes use the gas leaf blower to. . . ."  (You'll have to wait to read that funny scene.)

    I love it when writing comes together like this--with all the pistons firing, the ideas flowing so fast I can scarcely type them before a new one barges in. I've thought about getting the old "Dragon Speak" software out so I can dictate the story. I honestly think I could tell it a one long sitting, That's how clear it is to me right now.

    I haven't had this clarity in a long time, and the reason is, my mind was complicated with so many other issues. The difference now? I'm writing about events currently occurring in my sometimes crazy world. Every day yields living research, and every day a new hilarious, frustrating, tender story unfolds.

    The new book had gone through several titles already--Ricochet, Moon River, The Dragons of Alsace Farm. Right now I'm settling on The Rabbits of Alsace Farm, a far cry from a title about dragons, but both fit the story, and this one highlights a more tender aspect of the story.

    Intrigued? OOhhhh. I hope so.

    The story is coming together so seamlessly, and so fast, but in truth, it has been about a decade in the making, and portions of the writing date back to things I literally wrote a decade ago. It's basically a quilted manuscript, and here's why. I started a sequel to my first novel, Unspoken,  soon after it was released, but it wasn't picked up. The main theme wrapped around two young men who were each broken in their own way and vying for the same young woman. I have always loved the minor character, and the settings, but the manuscript sat on a shelf for ten years, as did the parts I loved.

    About three years ago my mother began showing serious indications of dementia, and last January she was medically diagnosed. Since then, the family has been on a roller coaster ride of emotions from worry and stress, to sorrow and parenthood. Some days are very hard. Some are priceless.

    Enter a very compassionate, mildly disabled  married couple willing to live with Mom and be her helper in exchange for the right to live on the farm and raise some animals and crops. This arrangement is now a model that might one day bless the lives of others in my mother's situation.

    The book isn't biographical about Mom and her friends, but the scenario touched me and I saw the good that could come from offering a a glimpse into the complicated world of supporting a parent with dementia.

    But I needed a character in a situaiton similar to my mother. And who could characterize the goodness and vulnerability of this couple? I pulled those beloved characters from my old manuscript. Like I said, it's coming together seamlessly.

    I'll be posting on here about the book, and also about Mom and her caregivers from time to time. I hope you'll follow along. So many families will have parents who begin the slide into the terrible rabbit hole of dementia, (she how the title fits in?) and I hope my experiences will help others support their loved one with humor and grace.

    All the best.


    Wednesday, September 26, 2012


    Readers love characters they can identify with, but they also want heroes who are fallible, redemptive, and larger than life. So as a writer develops characters, we try to create a person who is generally imperfect, while being perfect in his own way. I recently attended the funeral of such a man. Here is what I learned from him.
    This man was very successful in his profession, a loving husband, father, and teacher who loved working with the youth. His career could have absorbed him, as it was dotted with stellar accomplishments, but it did not. And even though he designed many beautiful structures around the nation, the two things he was lauded for at his funeral were the amazing tree houses he designed for his extended family, and the local community center he designed for his hometown that could never have afforded to hire him.

     His smile and confidence were infectious. He laughed loud and spoke softly when each was needed. He was a great listener, not a hearer, but a real listener, and the beautiful home he and his family lived in was known to always have it door opened wide for anyone who needed them.

    His love for his family and the youth of the Church was both his hallmark and the bane of his leaders at time. He was raised by parents who were soldiers in the Gospel. No matter what was happening in their lives, they were at their meetings, fulfilling their callings, doing the Lord's work, lifting others, solving problems, and planning activities to bless the general Church. As their son lay dying, the mother knitted by his bedside to give the man's wife a reprieve, but when the wife returned, she wiped he tears and returned to her mission assignment each day.

    Leaders who worked with this man soon discovered that he had a different plan. He accepted callings and assignments, and performed them beautifully, but he bypassed many meetings, firesides, etc., filled his own well, taught himself whatever principle was being taught at some meeting in far less time, so he could then attend a soccer game, a science fair, a choral concert, or a Pinewood Derby final. If there was a choice between an assigned, calendared meeting and a chance to support people, there was no questions where he would be.

    When I attended classes this man taught, the Spirit was strong, the youth were compassionate and energetic, the lessons were tender and spot-on. He sent them out for the day with a challenge to be better. What more could one ask? Some questioned why he didn't show up at meetings to help  teachers struggling with difficult classes, noting that his experiences could benefit more students than just his own class or quorum. Some referred thought he cuold be a better team player. 

    No one says that anymore. Everyone now understands the true gift this man possessed. His talent was more than time-management skills, or his vibrant testimony, or his generosity, or his love of family. His real gift was his ability to follow the Spirit.

    He had a very limited time on this earth to be with his family, to set them on a good course, to make their financial future secure, to teach his sons to be men, and his daughter what to look for in a man. His time was short to whisper confidence in the ears of as many youth as possible, and to instill a love deep enough in his wife's heart to carry her through the lonely years ahead. He heard the Spirit whisper what his life mission was, and despite the disapproval of others, he followed it with exactness.

     My take-away from this was three-fold. First, we are not cookie-cutter people. The Gospel is true, and the principles are unimpeachable, but we will need the Spirit to know how to apply them in our own lives. Our missions in life are as individual and different as we are, and sometimes fulfilling them may require us to step out of the herd, to buck the norm, even at the risk of being called cocky or a renegade. We will need the Spirit with us to know what, when, for how long, and how far we are to go.

    My second take-away is about judging. We need to trust each other, and have the Spirit with us to know when a friend is acting in accordance with a separate, personal spiritual directive than ours, and when he is lost and needs help. That is not an easy or light matter, but I think if the people who fret over the choices of others would go to them, brother to brother, sister to sister, and speak with them spirit to spirit, instead of indicting them from afar, the Lord will give us them our answer and our own confirmation.

     Thirdly, keep our eyes on the Prophets and principles. After reading President Hinckley's biography I realized the difference between principles of the Gospel and Church culture. The Hinckley's were stalwart on doctrinal issues, but their family choices frequently bucked Church culture, and they taught their children that they trusted their choices, so long as they were adhering to Gospel principles. Likewise, this man lived the principles. He never shaved truth, justified his actions, bucked responsibility, or rebelled against any doctrine, , but choices about how he spent his time were sacred and personal, and he never apologized for following the promptings he received.

    One thing I notice more and more at General Conference are references about the need for us to live by the Spirit. The Brethren seem to be telling us over and over that this will be the single most critical factor in safely navigating through these times. Perhaps that's why this man's life and passing touched me so deeply. Let's make sure we are asking for this gift daily. Let's check ourselves from time to time, asking when was the last time we felt the Spirit really guiding us. If it's been a while, let's pray to have it more abundantly, and be sure we're doing the things that invite the Spirit into our homes, and hearts. Let's listen to each other, not just hear, but really listen, to know when we need to pray for each other.