Friday, August 31, 2012


As always, we thank our sponsors for putting together another great book hop. Kathy at I'M A READER, NOT A WRITER, and BURIED IN BOOKS are our generous sponsors this round.

This hop is book-ended between the two political conventions, so I'm going patriotic. The winner gets a two-book set of American reads, one for the kids, and one for the folks, but each is suitable for your entire family.

My prize for the kids is a great educational title, "AMERICA: The Making Of A Nation." Click the link to read more about it. I bought copies for my grandchildren, and I'm sharing this copy with my winner's family.

Prize number two is a "readers' choice" selection from my five-volume Free Men and Dreamers series. Volume two will soon be out of print, so this offering will soon be available only as an ebook. I'm proud to say three of the five volumes were finalists in national awards. The series covers the events of the War of 1812, whose bicentennial is being celebrated now.

On to the the business at hand. You may enter multiple times, but each entry must be posted separately to be counted. The contest ends at midnight on 9/7/2012. And here's how you enter:

1. Be or become a follower of this blog.

2. Find the link in the sidebar and follow the blog by email

3. Friend me on Facebook

4. Follow me on Twitter.

5. Follow me on Goodreads.

Now please visit all these other great book blogs:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Test of Fire: Election 2012

I've been avoiding getting too political during this election cycle, but I found this piece pretty compelling. It doesn't choose sides, but it does present issues in a powerful way.

I don't think my feelings about freedom and liberty--that they are spiritual principles as well as political ones--will surprise my readers. My books are filled with these messages, and so is this clip, prepared by the Catholic Church.

Take from it what you will, vote your conscience this November, but vote. Don't stay home and forfeit this right.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jefferson on Religion

Much has been said, and argued, regarding Jefferson's views on God and religion. Whether left or right, Christian, Deist, or Atheist, any person of any perspective can pull two quotes from Jefferson's thousands of comments, construct a straight line of thought, and attempt to sum up his perspective.

The confusion would probably delight our third president, since he refused to have his view of deity confined to any of the theological boxes of his day. In fact, I think Mr. Jefferson summed up his position best, and providentially foresaw the argument his very individual opinions would eventually raise, in this letter, written April 21, 1803, to Dr. Benjamin Rush:

My views...are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from the anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others...

Last night, while going through some old research notes I used while writing "Free Men and Dreamers," I came across a Jeffersonian quote about Jesus's teaching--a gem I had planned to use and simply forgot until after the book went to print. It set me off on a new research path, just for fun, and I thought I'd pass along some of the quotes I dug up. I found some online, but most, if not all are available in America's God and Country, by William Federer. It's a great reference book of the Founders' religious quotes, which, in my opinion, provided the basis for their opinions on all else. I think every family ought to have a copy of it on their shelf. In any case, you read his words and define the theological position for yourself. Here goes. Enjoy.

These words are engraved on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. They are taken from Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia," circa 1781:
God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be though secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.
In this June 17, 1804 letter to Henry Fry, Thomas Jefferson displays his concerns about man's interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invented...
Mr. Jefferson waxes eloquent on the relationship between God, man, and government. I personally love the last paragraph.

In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General Government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercise suited to it; but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of state and church authorities by the several religious societies.

I shall now enter on the duties to which my fellow-citizens have again called me, and shall proceed in the spirit of those principles which they have approved...

I shall need, therefore, all the indulgence I have heretofore experienced...I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessities and comforts of life, who has covered our infancy with His Providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power, and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils and prosper their measures, that whatever they do shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship and approbation of all nations.

Clearly, the topic of God and religion of was of great import to Mr. Jefferson, as they consumed a great portion of his personal communications. This statement, made in an 1813 letter to John Adams is especially tender on the topic.

        In extracting the pure principles which Jesus taught, we should have to strip off the artificial    vestments in which they have been muffled...there will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.

Much has been said of Jefferson's version of the Bible, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Said Jefferson of the book, "We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus. There will be remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man."

In an 1816 letter to Charles Thomson he further states:

A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian; that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.

Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.

The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them.
Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christians.

Let me conclude with that quote I failed to include in my books:

This excerpt from a letter sent by Jefferson to Jared Sparks on  4 Nov  1820 is the missed quote, the one that i love so much. Really consider what he is saying.

"I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man."
If the freedom of religion guaranteed to us by law in theory can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it.

Amazing, right?

He didn't attach himself to any of the churches of his day. His views of Christ and Christian living were unique for his day. He loved the teachings of Jesus while eschewing anyone who re-scripted them. Was he a Christian? You tell me. My opinion is set.

Monday, August 20, 2012


I've never enjoyed the distorted perspective provided by carnival mirrors. Most film clips that include such a glimpse also include knife-wielding psychopaths in hot pursuit of some terrified innocent. Just thinking about it creeps me out.

My personal experiences in front of those things have been equally unnerving. Fun for a moment, these mirrors disturb the norm, displaying fat views, elongated and crooked views, and rendering one's face unrecognizable. Their humor comes from disorienting the viewer who can walk away at will.

But what if you can't? What if who you see and who you are is a toss-up every day? What if some days, you look in the mirror and see a 78-year-old woman whose clearest memories are rooted in sixty-year-old experiences? This is Mom's world. This is the carnival mirror known as dementia.

I spent last Thursday with her, attending to her bills. Her budget is a working crisis nestled in a life in perpetual crisis. She lives on a decrepit 17-acre farm with about 60 residents--a motley assortment of goats, chickens, geese, two mules, a pregnant mini-horse and ancient gelding. These are her children. Her children have now become her parents.

Not every day is bad or hard. Some days, days when things are rolling along according to her routine, she does great. She's funny, kind, generous, and caring. Some people look at us on our weekly "dates" and smile as mother and daughter make the rounds at WalMart, the pharmacy, and the park. She retells her favorite old stories from childhood, I tell her stupid jokes, and we generally wind up oohhing and ahhing over the spread at Mom's favorite Chinese Buffet.

Bad days don't have to be whole days. A single event or question can throw her off her game, or trigger an unpleasant memory that will consume her and throw her into a burst of anger. I've come to realize that anger is generally an expression of fear, and so we start un-threading the day to discover the source of that fear.

Some people grow impatient with Mom--people in line at the grocery who slump across their carts as they watch her struggle to write a check, forgetting the date, asking the clerk to repeat the total several times, looking to me for reassurance.

Some stare at her severe make-up and black polyester wigs. She's a beautiful woman, even at 78, but her look has undergone some curious cosmetic enhancements. She now draws thick, Groucho Marx-style eyebrows in black eyeliner which we replace regularly, along with a few tubes of difficult to find bright orange lipstick. She can't discern a clean shirt from a soiled one any more, but she becomes insulted and indignant with I point stains out to her, so I have learned to flatter her into changing, with comments like, "It's such a pretty day. Let's dress up. Go put on that pink shirt."

Some people take advantage of her. A thief stole replacement checks from her mailbox, requiring us to close her account and open a new one. Even though we chose the exact same check pattern and style, the confusion of making the change overwhelmed her. We sat in a customer service rep's office to make Mom comfortable. She later told my brother she was in an attorney's office, and that they took a lot of pictures of her. I realized later that she had been quite upset by the many security cameras placed inside the bank. To her, she was being photographed like a convict.

Some people pity her, and us. The bank personnel were overcome with empathy as she begged them not to close her account. They tried a dozen ways to explain how this was for her good, but in the end I realized another painful thing--we'll need to assume legal control of Mom's affairs soon.

It's a hard road, a road most of us will be on someday, either as the caregiver, or the patient. It's hard to prepare for this time, for the interruption it creates in the lives of all concerned. Two good books on the subject are "The Thirty-Six-Hour Day" which is a good guide for caregivers, and "Still Alice," a novel written form the perspective of the dementia victim. Both were recommended by good friends. One is also going through this journey with her mother. Talking and sharing helps.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


After a run of book reviews let's have some fun and do another giveaway hop. Many thanks to Kathy at "I'M A READER NOT A WRITER" for organizing another great hop, and to THE ELIOTT REVIEW for co-sponsoring. 

We're keeping this one really simple. I'm giving away an autographed copy of my women's novel "Awakening Avery," a story about a recently widowed woman author who retreats from life after her husband's passing. With her muse gone, she can't write, and fears her career is as a dead as her husband. 

With the encouragement of her oldest son, she seeks a healing place for her family in a familiar setting--the beauty and peace of Florida's gulf coast where she hopes to regroup and shore up her struggling family. But her plan hits a few glitches along the way. 

She secures her "healing place by the sea" by swapping her Baltimore condo with a widower's grand home and Anna Maria Island, but the serene seaside view from Gabriel Carson's home becomes complicated when his two very spoiled daughters connect with Avery's visiting son. Add a few quirky new friends, some family complications, a new job, a looming deadline, and a flood of anxious emails from Gabriel, and Avery's world may never be the same. But if she can awaken and see the opportunities opening before her, she may find that life still holds endless possibilities.

You can read more about the book and its reviews by clicking on the cover. Now, on to the real fun….

TO ENTER: (Each entry must be posted separately to be counted.)

1. Mandatory entry:  Become a follower of this blog.
2. Follow me by email
3. Follow me by email via this link
4. Friend me on Facebook.
5. Follow me on Twitter.

That's it! Now enjoy all these other great stops on the hop. Curl up with a great book and have a great rest of the summer!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I was asked to put a spiritual presentation together for a casual, round table-type discussion we call "Conversations Amongst Sisters," and I was assigned to base my "Conversations" program on two 33-year-old talks. Both were completely unfamiliar to me. One will now be a treasured favorite forever. It's President Packer's 1980 October Conference talk titled, "A Circle of Sisters." His wisdom and insight were prophetic, and his words have been like a balm to my tired mommy-wife-grandmother soul.

For anyone who thinks women are under-appreciated or under-valued by LDS men, read these words of a stunningly humble, in-touch, in-tune, LDS man and leader, and remember that they were delivered more than three decades ago, before the Women's Movement had reached its apex, and before the terms marriage and family became political hot-buttons. I can't imagine any mother who would reach the bottom of this quote and not feel honored to bear the calling of "woman." Thank you, President Packer. You made my day, even thirty years after delivering this talk.

I'm working on a book about families today, and this little quote is inspiring me. I hope it lifts your spirits as well, be you a mother, a father, or a child of parents who fought the good fight for you.

We now move cautiously
into the darkening mists of the future.
We hear the ominous rumbling
of the gathering storm.
The narrow places of the past
have been a preliminary
and a preparatory testing.
The issue of this dispensation
now is revealed before us.
It touches the life of every sister.
We do not tremble in fear—
for you hold in your gentle hands
the light of righteousness.
It blesses the brethren
and nourishes our children.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Life is always busy, and the pace has increased exponentially of late. Besides concurrently working on three manuscripts there are family demands, and in the end, some corners must be cut to make 36 hours fit into 24. So I appreciate any recipe that's easy and pleases my family, and better yet if it also feeds a hungry crowd, freezes well, and cooks itself.  This recipe will take you about twelve seconds to prepare and it will make enough to feed a small army or freeze for about ten emergency dinners.

Nearly everyone loves the decadence of pulled pork, and with the endless opportunities to dress it up or down, it never gets boring.

I buy big when pork loins go on sale for $1.99 a pound. Then I pull out all my crock pots and a few cans of root beer and go to town.

That's really the recipe. Stuff big hunks of raw pork loin into your crock pots, cover with root beer, put the lids on, set them on high, and go to bed. By the next afternoon the pork will be tender. Pull it from the pot, shred it, and cover it with your favorite BBQ sauce. You can return it to the pot and let the sauce really permeate every fiber, but a good douse of Sweet Baby Rays on top works for me.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I love history--learning about it, cherishing it, making it through making new memories. It's ironic almost that after spending years immersed in researching other people's memories and experiences I find myself sorrowing that someone I love is burrowing deeper and into their past, unable to retain much that is recent, or make new history. This is the agony of dementia. This is my mother's world.

She is slipping away from us, one day at a time. Her recall of the past is clear and crisp, but what we did yesterday, or even five minutes ago is a frightening fog that leaves her anxious and at times, apprehensive, argumentative, and angry.

It's a bitter irony that her life is being lived in reverse, so-to-speak. She clings to the old, the ancient memories, retelling stories, reliving events, both sweet and bitter, switching back and forth between joy and despondency depending on what event flashes into her mind. When a thought or understanding from the present does manage to snap into place, she clings to it with a death-grip, repeating it over and over within a few minutes, as if that current bit of relevance is a life line to the present. We cling to it with her.

Each day is different. On a good day--a day where her routine is uninterrupted--she is funny and sweet, charming and innocent, childlike in her careful exploration of her world. On a day when change injects itself into her routine, be it through a new element or a new person, requiring an adjustment to her rigid world, she fights or retreats. We never know what will trigger what reaction.

It's been hard to pull back from Mom and her concerns enough to work on my manuscripts and then I realized that perhaps it would be good for both of us if I simply wrote my current perspective. So that's what I'm doing. I'm setting the other projects aside and writing a story that includes a character with dementia. It shows the trials and the surprises that go along with loving someone in this delicate mental bubble.

So that's where I'm at right now. It feels right. It's helping me cope by providing a place where I can dump my frustration, and it helps me spend time seeing things from her perspective. I hope it will help someone else who finds themselves in this crucible of caring for a mother/child. I'll tell you how things are going. If you have a loved one with dementia, I'd love to hear your experiences as well.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


One Woman's Life-Altering Visit With God


Joanna Oblander

This book opens powerfully on the night the author finally reaches the decision to end her painful downward-spiraling life. In her own words she says, "my heart admitted defeat." After a sincere effort to justify her decision to God, she resolves that on the next day she will lovingly send her family on their way and then she will commit suicide. The scenario held my rapt attention. 

The miraculous events that pull the author from the brink are deeply personal and atypical. Ms. Oblander shares several poignant life events that transcend the veil, illustrating how each helped her better understand who she was before birth, who she was meant to become on earth, and what she committed to do while here.

Her story is woven with threads from a variety of themes--from the inspiration and vision that led her to search for foreign children she had promised to find and merge into her family; her battle with health issues; the spiritual anchors of family and faith in God that sustained her through illness and depression; and the connection between physical, spiritual, and mental health. 

Her life story would be compelling even if she had not shared the details of her heavenly manifestations. Mothers, and all women, will identify with her overwhelming struggle--to be a perfect parent, a supportive wife, a valiant faithful daughter of God--and the burden those great expectations can heap upon a person who tries to muscle through perfection without fully internalizing the peace and power of the Atonement. Ms. Oblander delivers a tender witness to this battle and to her commitment to follow the Spirit and the personal revelation she received.

Two particularly compelling scenes in the book describe a miraculous vision she received early in her marriage, and a conversation with Deity she had on her darkest night. The manifestations open her vision to who and what we each are. This portion of the book is powerful in content, however, from time to time her efforts to share the lessons she has learned from her incredible experiences come off as instructional, but many readers will pick up this book for that reason--to receive her insight on sacred themes rarely discussed in a doctrinal forum.

The book shifts gears midway from a book primarily about Godly manifestations and faith, to one about chiropractic and holistic medicine. Each is valuable and holds an important place in the author's story, but after a candid and tender discussion of miraculous spiritual experiences, Oblander's switch in themes felt jarring and again, persuasive in tone. 

That Ms. Oblander is sharing such divine and deeply personal experiences will capture readers hungry to catch her "glimpse of Heaven." It may prove uncomfortable to readers who eschew the public disclosure of such personal manifestations, and could be challenging to those who might be inclined to substitute Oblander's personal experiences for doctrinal positions.

Spiritually-anchored readers will appreciate the beauty, insights, and honesty of Oblander's story. A Glimpse of Heaven demonstrates Joanna Oblander's gift for writing. It is masterfully written injecting additional power to her pains and joys. Her faith and love of God testify to God's universal and unimpeachable love which shines throughout the book. The opening chapters send a message of hope to people struggling with depression and feelings of inadequacy. Still, I would hesitate to recommend this book to people who are not doctrinally-grounded. The experiences Ms. Oblander shares are personal and unique to her. However, those who can accept that caveat will appreciate her glimpse of the divine, and will find insights they can apply in their own lives. 

"A Glimpse Of Heaven" is published by Sweetwater Books and is available on Amazon,  Barnes and Nobles. 100 pages.