Friday, September 28, 2007

Tammy's Reunion

Today is a somber day at my house. My sister-in-law, Tammy, succumbed to cancer last night. It was certainly not the outcome that we'd hoped and prayed for, but there is comfort knowing that she is no longer in pain and is now free of suffering.

As I've contemplated her passing, I've thought much of the Plan of Salvation. Though we cannot recall our time in the pre-existence, I imagine we had relationships very similar to the ones we enjoy in mortality. I would even guess that we nurtured relationships with our own mortal families. As we looked forward to our turn to obtain a physical tabernacle, I would think we also felt a bit sad at the thought of leaving people behind in the pre-existence. We probably knew that mortality is a step in our eternal progression and that we'd have wonderful opportunities for great joy and peace as we traversed through our mortal lives. We were probably also told that if we made the right choices we would be reunited with our loved ones from the pre-existence here in mortality. I'm sure, for a time, we missed those whose turn at mortality came before ours, but found comfort knowing we'd have the opportunity to see them again.

And so it is now. We live here in mortality, building and maintaining relationships, trying to make the choices that will unite us for eternity. Some must leave mortality sooner than others. Some, it may seem, leave before their work is done or before we think they should leave. It's hard to say goodbye. We do not have the memories of the pre-existence and must rely on faith. We must believe that there really is a plan, that Heavenly Father is in control, and that, if we live worthy, we will be reunited with our loved ones.

Just as we experience the incredible joy at the birth of a child, I'm sure those who've passed through the veil before us, experience a similar joy when we leave mortality and enter into paradise. Though we are sad and will miss Tammy, I can't help but imagine the reunion that's going on right now. Her father, grandparents, and others are circled about her, embracing her, loving her, and welcoming her home. They have probably all been anticipating her arrival, anxious to see her. What a reunion, indeed.

And isn't that the essence of the whole plan? To be reunited with those we love.

Tammy will always be part of our family and we will always love her and remember her with great affection. She has left a legacy of faith and courage. She has taught me so many things. I'm am so thankful I had the opportunity to know and love her.

Someday, we will all see her again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Book Tag

I've answered some of these questions in my last post, but I will play along because it's fun. I love to read how everyone else answers these questions.

My Reading: When I was a kid, I was an advanced reader. Back then, the teachers weren't quite sure how to address my needs. They sent me to the next grade for reading, but that didn't seem to help much. Somewhere along the line, I lost interest in reading. I also lost my mother and my world changed dramatically. I lived with my grandparents. My grandfather spent his retirement watching soap operas and reruns of Roseanne. My grandmother read all the time, but it was the National Enquirer, Star, Globe, and Weekly World Report (I tried unsuccessfully to convince her that a baby cannot be born with a ring on its finger, that a baby's birth weight couldn't be 30 pounds, and that spaceships hadn't found where God lives). Weekly World Report did convince me that people actually bought and read outlandish fiction (some of those people, like my grandmother, even believed the fiction to be true). As a result, we didn't read much. I read my assignments for school and college, but never read for pleasure until my sister gave me the first Ariana book by Rachel Ann Nunes. After I read that book, I realized that I enjoyed reading and dove into it head first. I now read every day and buy as many books as I can.

Total Number of Books Owned: This is hard. As I wrote in an earlier post, we turned our original living room into a library, with shelves from the floor to the ceiling, to house all of our books. I'd love to have one of those huge libraries where you need a ladder to reach the top shelves, but for now I can reach the top shelves in my library. We have so many books and on Saturday, after my son's soccer game, I let my kids go to the thrift store and pick out more books. While there, I happened to find Peace Like A River by Leif Enger which Josi Kilpack had reviewed so I snatched it from the shelf. I'll count all my books one of these days, but not today.

Last Book I bought: I did buy Peace Like A River but it was at the thrift store. The last book I bought retail was Ghost of a Chance by Kerry Lynn Blair. I'm reading it right now and truly enjoy the humor and the story. I'm a Blairfanatic (is that a word?).

Last Book I Read: The First 2000 Years by Cleon Skousen. He has an amazing store of knowledge about ancient times and prophets. I learned a lot while reading this book as a companion to the Old Testament. I'm now on the next book in the series.

Five Meaningful Books: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli spoke to me because the main character is so different from what's "cool" and despite the ridicule from the other kids, she's happy, kind, and thoughtful. Teaching by the Spirit by Gene R. Cook made me think differently about teaching and speaking in Sacrament Meeting. Raising Up a Family Unto the Lord by Gene R. Cook taught me principles about raising a family that I hadn't considered before. Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson helped me to see how important it is to not only believe in Christ, but to believe Christ when he tells us to come unto Him and that through Him we can be with Heavenly Father again. Of course, the scriptures would be included. I would also add the series I'm currently reading by Cleon Skousen because these books have made me see and understand things I didn't before. His books have helped me to remember and truly digest the stories in the Old Testament.

I tag: Karlene Browning, Patricia Wiles, David Woolley, and Terrie Bittner.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What I Read

Candace Salima has suggested we write about what we read and why.

A few years ago, after adding a larger living room to our house, we decided to rearrange some of the other rooms. Since we had books stashed in kids' rooms, in the basement, in our bedroom, in a bookcase in the living room, in boxes in the garage, and under couches and beds, we decided to build shelves and make our original living into our library and house all of the books in one place. Of course, I fantasized that the books would be organized similar to real libraries--silly me--at least most of the books are in a central location.

My kids love books. One of their favorite "rewards" is to go to the thrift store and fill a bag with "previously loved" books. I love books, too. I buy books through the book clubs at my kids' school, from Amazon, at bookstores, at Walmart, and wherever I can find books I want to read. I love to go to the bookstore and just "smell" all the books. I love to handle them in my hands and touch the pages. I recently walked through a bookstore in Denver, CO that's 3 stories high and filled with so many books my eyes popped out of my head. Yes, we love books.

Since my library is filled with picture books (I've read at least a million picture books through the years), easy readers, chapter books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels, that's what I read a lot. I loved Princess Academy (Shannon Hale) and Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli).

We do have a section in the library dedicated to my husband's passion--LDS doctrinal books--but I don't select books from that section as often as I should. However, I am currently reading The Third Thousand Years (Cleon Skousen) as an accompaniment to my Old Testament study and have found this series to be quite enlightening and helpful as I attempt to digest the stories of the ancient prophets. But, I still gravitate toward fiction.

I also have shelves for my adult fiction choices which tend to be LDS fiction. I'm currently reading Ghost of a Chance (Kerry Lynn Blair) and am loving it. I love the voice of the main character, Samantha Shade. Blair's humor is woven throughout the story and it makes me want to meet the author in person because she must be one funny woman. I am enjoying this book very much.

I read LDS fiction because I do not want to wade through trash and profanity to try to find the story. I want to be entertained. I want to learn. I want to see characters with my values. I want to feel the spiritual growth of the characters. I want to think about something differently. I generally feel "safe" in choosing an LDS fiction book. I have come to expect certain standards from the publishers of LDS books and I know what I'm getting. I don't have to worry that I'll be spiritually offended.

I believe the quality of LDS fiction has increased greatly and we will continue to see more growth from LDS authors. I love to read books by people I "know" and admire. I also want to see the market grow and flourish.

I read LDS fiction for many reasons, but the main reason is because I enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Sister, My Friend

Tristi Pinkston so generously dubbed me a "Wonder Woman" on her blog. I don't think I'm such a wonder woman, just an average gal with a few (okay, a lot of) kids, trying to make the most of the life I've been blessed with. And, I have been blessed with an abundant life filled with many wonder women.

Today, though, I'd like to dedicate this "Wonder Woman" award to my sister-in-law, Tammy. A little more than a year ago, Tammy felt as though she had pneumonia. Tests showed it wasn't pneumonia, but instead an infection that the doctors believed was Valley Fever, a common lung infection in Mesa, AZ. When she did not improve on antibiotics, the doctor ordered additional tests which indicated a tumor that had not been noticed previously. When all was said and done, Tammy was diagnosed with a stage 4 lung cancer.

We were all devastated. She was only 47, still had 2 teenage daughters at home, and was looking forward to enjoying her granddaughter. In a second, all of that changed.

She began chemotherapy and targeted radiation. The doctor told her it was terminal, but she chose to undergo treatment in an effort to beat the cancer and live to raise her family.

Tammy is one of the most thoughtful and considerate people I know. She never misses a birthday and is always the first to sent a thank you card for anything and everything. She has such a fun sense of humor. She loves to play games and thinks she is the foremost authority on Boggle. She has faithfully served in Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. She has always strived to keep the commandments. In addition to her daughters still at home, she and her husband have raised two young men who both served honorable missions. Her oldest son has been married in the temple and is now a father.

After the doctors told her there was nothing more to do for her, she told my husband, "I don't want to live forever, I only want to live long enough to raise my kids." A righteous desire by any standards.

She is now in the very last stages and barring a miraculous intervention, she will succumb to this disease. Because the cancer has invaded many parts of her body, she is in constant, excruciating pain. She takes morphine to help relieve some of the pain, but the result is that she has a hard time focusing and, for the most part, is too "doped up" to have much of a conversation. Yet, after my husband called her recently, she called back to apologize because she didn't want to hurt his feelings for not being able to have a coherent conversation. She was more concerned about his feelings than her own pain. That's Tammy.

She has never blamed God or asked, "Why me?" She has gracefully and faithfully endured this trial. She has a strong testimony of faith in God and in a plan, that though she may not understand it, she still believes it. She has shown me what it means to endure to the end and to do so with courage and never-wavering faith.

She is truly a "Wonder Woman" to me and I will forever be grateful for all that she's taught me through the years and that she's been my sister.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's My Computer

I was in the Honor Society in high school and was also inducted into the National Honor Society when I attended BYU. I can carry on a reasonably intelligent conversation and I can balance my checkbook. I'm smart, really, I am.

I have to constantly remind myself of the above every single time I deal with a computer. As soon as I have to do something other than word processing, my brain slips out of my head and I'm left brainless, or so my computer would have me believe. It's not me, I'm sure of it, it's my computer. It even calls itself Darth Vader. And, believe me, the name fits.

My husband will say, "You must have told the computer to do that." When I insist I did not, he gently tells me that a computer can't think on its own, it has to be told what to do. Well, I submit that I may have the very first computer that has its own brain because Darth absolutely thinks for himself and his sole purpose is to drive me insane. It's a very sinister plot, I assure you.

And, it's not just the hardware, I believe Darth is in cahoots with all the software as well. I guess a more logical explanation may be that there's a computer gremlin that lives in my house and it only comes out to wreak havoc when I'm not looking, but that's a ridiculous idea. No, I'm much more convinced that Darth is a living, breathing entity that wants nothing more than to make my life miserable. You know, it's like the car in that Stephen King movie.

For example, I set recently set up my website. I created the entire site on Publisher. I liked it. But, when it came time to publish it to the internet it was murdered. Who did it, you ask? Darth, that's who. He's been plotting against me ever since I first plugged him in and he's murdered more than my website, I can tell you.

So I recreated an entirely new website with Yahoo's Sitebuilder. It didn't take too long and I liked it even better than the first one. It was easy to publish because Yahoo is the host. It's simple to update and I can manage it on my own. But, that made Darth mad because he doesn't want me to be happy. No, he wants to torture me.

On my contact page I installed a comment form so people could easily make comments. Once someone made a comment, it was sent to my email address. Seems logical and simple, right? Well, what email address did it pick? Not my Yahoo address for my website. Not my personal Yahoo address that I've been using for years. No, it picked some obsolete email address that was input somehow, some way. How did such an old, outdated email address get inserted? Darth, of course. Isn't it obvious that he's out to get me? He did not want anyone to contact me because he is determined to ruin my life.

So, I am smart. Really, I am. It's my computer that causes all of these problems. Darth is alive and out to get me. If I suddenly disappear one day, be sure to check inside my computer because chances are, Darth has sucked me inside and is keeping me a prisoner to torment me forever.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Big Announcement

I have exciting news. Cedar Fort will publish my LDS Young Adult novel, tenatively titled Heaven Scent, in March 2008 (working date). I'm thrilled.

I've had magazine stories published and even sold another one a couple of weeks ago. I also had a children's picture book published in 2003, Grasshopper Pie. I'm very thankful I've had these opportunities to see my words in print, but I've always wanted to be published in the LDS novel market and now I will have that chance. Woo hoo!

I need to do some revisions and have a deadline for those next month. Writing a novel is grueling work, but it's also such great fun to write about characters who've lived in my head and about a story I've seen unfolding in my mind and I'm so excited to be able to share it. (I'm doing the happy dance).

I also published my website. It's Stop by for a visit and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Respect for our Country

While discussing the war in Iraq, my daughter commented that most of her classmates do not support the war and do not support George W. Bush. They claim he lied and has ulterior motives for involving the United States in the war. Most of her teachers do not support the war or the President. These people all feel justified in not supporting our troops and not showing respect to our country because of the war.

We discussed patriotism and she mentioned that during one class each day at her high school, they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. She said that only she and a few other students recite the Pledge. The rest of the students either mock it or ignore it. How disgraceful.

One of the things that makes our country great is the fact that we have the freedom to make our own choices. Who bought that freedom for us? Who paid the ultimate price so that each one of us is free to make choices? What does it mean to be a United States citizen?

Whether the war in Iraq is justified or not is irrelevant when it comes to showing support and respect for our country and those who've fought for our freedom or are currently fighting for others' freedom. What is relevant, and quite apparent in my daughter's class, is the total disregard for our nation. The lack of respect for our flag and what it symbolizes is appalling. The war in Iraq, the Vietnam war, or any other war does not give license for apathy or opposition to the very foundation of our country.

While we speak of the ills that plague our society, we must include the rising generation's disregard for those things we've held sacred. How would a veteran, who served in a war to secure or protect our freedom, all the while believing that those of us at home were not only supportive, but grateful for his/her service, feel if he/she walked into a classroom of teenagers who refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance? He/she would realize that many of today's youth think nothing of the sacrifices made in their behalf.

Whether we support the war or not, those who are putting their lives on the line deserve our respect, our admiriation, and our gratitude. They deserve to be remembered. They deserve to come home to a grateful country. And when they do not come home, they deserve to be respected. Go here for an emotional and beautiful tribute to today's soldiers:

**Everybody should see this. Please watch. Lizzie Palmer, who put this YouTube program together, is 15 years old. There have been over 3,000,000 hits as of this morning. In case you missed it, here it is.**

While we may disagree when it comes to politics, we must be diligent in not only showing respect for our country ourselves, but in teaching our children to do the same. Disagreement over political issues does not discount what our flag represents and what it means to be an American.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I thought I would follow up my last blog with another one on writing.

When you go to college, attend a vocational school, or learn by participating in the "school of hard knocks," you can usually find the type of work for which you've trained. If you graduate with a degree in Elementary Education, chances are good you'll find employment as a teacher. If you attend medical school and last through the years of study and residency, you'll probably become the doctor you've dreamed of being. If you learn how to program a computer, you have a better than average chance of working in the computer field. For the most part, training leads to success in the field of your choice.

With writing, especially creative writing, it's a completely different scenario. Yes, you can study and then procure a job as a technical writer, but if you love to write fiction, there are very few, if any, advertisements that say, "Creative Writer Wanted, Publication Guaranteed." True, there is a market for writers who want to write-for-hire, usually in the educational field, but these jobs typically require a degree in education, science, math, etc., that will qualify you to write the proposed project. Even with specific training, it can be difficult to secure a write-for-hire job.

For those of us who want to write novels and short stories, there is no ready-made market clamoring to buy our masterpieces. We must make the market and we must create a desire for our works. We can't simply reply to an ad for an author and expect to be hired. It just doesn't work that way.

Even after studying writing, taking classes, attending conferences, networking, reading what's being published, writing every day, and generally immersing yourself in writing, there's no guarantee that publication will be at the end of the road.

So why do we do it? Why do we submit ourselves to rejection and criticism? When is it time to cut our losses and take up brain surgery? When do we finally admit we're not good enough to be published? When do we decide it's far better to have clean laundry than to write one more thing that won't be published? When do we give up and throw in the towel? NEVER.

NEVER SURRENDER. NEVER QUIT. Any worthwhile dream is worth pursuing, even it takes a while to realize that dream. A published writer is simply a writer who never gave up. We must never give up our dream because surrender is not in our vocabulary. Persistence is our vocabulary word of our lives.

And, persistence pays off. I've been able to publish stories in several children's magazines, with other stories accepted and waiting to be published. I've also had a children's picture book published. The biggest accomplishment for me, thus far, will be the publication of . . . . you'll just have to check back for my big announcement.