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.”