Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Highlights

My son was sealed to his sweet wife in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple in September. What an amazing experience to watch him pledge himself to his wife and the Lord for eternity. It's hard to even find the words to express my gratitude. Definitely a parent "payday."

I survived all the wedding preparations, including all the house projects we had to finish before the open house. I had no idea how much work was involved in preparing for a wedding, and this was for a son. I'm sure I have no idea what's involved in planning a wedding for a daughter (hopefully I won't find out for a while). I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was all over.

I lost 30 lbs before my son's wedding. I'd been struggling with this extra weight for a few years and was really happy to finally get rid of it. Now if only I can keep it off.

My daughter just finished her Associate's degree at Snow College. I'm really proud of her for sticking it out and for figuring out how to pay for it herself. She's grown tremendously. She was also the featured artist at Snow for a week.

Another daughter graduated from high school. She performed in two plays, The Curious Savage and The Clearing during her senior year and I was blown away by her talent and her ability to make me believe she was truly the characters she was playing. Both of these plays made me teary. She was awesome.

Another daughter was inducted into the National Art Honor Society and she has just been cast as a lead in her high school's production of Noises Off. She received her driver's license--I'm not sure that's necessarily a highlight :).

Another son received his Life Scout rank and is close to earning his Eagle. He also received his Duty to God for Deacon and is now a Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood.

Another son was baptized. His service was so sweet and we all felt the Spirit. His biggest accomplishment for 2009 is that his front teeth are finally growing in.

My other kids have been busy developing talents and working hard in school. While I love watching my kids perform and develop talents, my greatest joy comes from seeing them choose to keep the commandments. My most important goal is to have an eternal family and when I can see us, as a family, make progress toward that goal it makes me sooooo happy. In a world where it is so easy to make bad choices and temptation lurks around every corner, I am so grateful when each of us makes good choices. I don't want any empty chairs . . .

My youngest son has Down syndrome. I've been thrilled to see his progress this year. He has learned and developed so much. He has such a fun personality and makes us laugh all the time. I'm so grateful Heavenly Father chose me to be his mother. If I'd known then (when he was born) what I know now, I wouldn't have worried a bit about raising a child with DS. It's a great experience and I look forward to seeing him grow and develop even more this next year.

My LDS romance, Altared Plans, was published by Cedar Fort in June. It's loosely based on my courtship with my husband and I've loved receiving comments from readers who've enjoyed it. It's currently in a contest for the cover at LDS Publisher.

We've had our share of trials in 2009 but I'd rather focus on the good things and the progress we've made. Heavenly Father has blessed me so much and I'm so thankful for my wonderful family and for the gospel. No matter how bleak things may look, the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us hope and I'm grateful for that.

May we all have a wonderful 2010!

(PS If you've read any great books by LDS authors be sure to nominate them at www.whitneyawards.com. The deadline is December 31st).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Real Meaning of Christmas

Through the mouths of babes . . .



Merry Christmas.

Amidst all the excitement, may w all take a few moments to ponder the meaning of His birth so long ago and do our part to make the world a better place.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cover Contest


LDS Publisher is sponsoring a contest for the best covers of books by LDS authors. I was thrilled to see Altared Plans included as one of the finalists in the romance category because there are so many great covers out there.

Of course, I had nothing to do with the cover. Authors have virtually no say in cover design, but I love the cover because I think it communicates her disappointment and frustration at what happens in the first chapter. I also love the pink highlights and think the cover tells the reader exactly what is contained inside--a bride who doesn't get exactly what she thinks she'll get (she gets even better).

There are seven genres represented in the contest, each with five covers to consider. Go on over and vote for the ones you like the best, even if it isn't Altared Plans because the more votes, the better. You can also leave comments as to why you did or did not like certain covers.

LDS Publisher Cover Contest.

Thanks!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bomb Threat

Yesterday, my daughter was evacuated from the high school because of a bomb threat. A middle school, college, and courthouse were also evacuated and all the other schools in the district were placed on a soft lockdown.

An anonymous caller notified a 911 operator of the threat and said the bombs were set to go off within 4 hours. The school district, police department, sheriff's department, college, and other assorted agencies spent the afternoon sweeping the schools and courthouse. School was canceled and the courthouse was closed for the rest of the day. Each target was cleared by 4:00 in the afternoon.

It was a hoax. All of that manpower was a waste of time so someone could play a trick on the city. Kids' classes were disrupted, the college's finals were delayed, and parents experienced anxiety for several hours just so someone could get his kicks at everyone else's expense.

There's something wrong with that. Since when did a violent threat become funny? Since when did sending an entire city on a wild goose chase become enjoyable? This person needs to be caught and punished for all of the trauma he caused yesterday. He needs to be held accountable and pay restitution to all of the agencies that spent money because of his warped sense of humor.

I figured it was a hoax, but I'm very thankful the school district and community took it seriously enough to make sure my daughter was protected just in case.

I can only hope they apprehend this guy and prosecute him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dawn's Early Light by L.C. Lewis




This third volume of LC Lewis’s War of 1812 historical fiction epic, Free Men and Dreamers, covers the British offensive against Washington D.C.

Once Napoleon is subdued, and despite the commencement of peace negotiations, Britain unleashes her triumphant European conquerors on America. And their primary target? Washington.

While attentions turn to the defense of the Capital, mercenaries threaten the Winding Willows and White Oak plantations, forcing enemies to become allies, fighting side-by-side with freed slaves to defend their homes and families.

Mere miles away, the Capital’s defense now rests predominantly upon citizen soldiers and a most unlikely naval force—a rag-tag fleet called the Chesapeake flotilla—and the men who built it. But Britain’s house is also divided over the war, as the cost mounts in blood and money.

Experience the pain and passion of five families—American, slave and British—as they endure the three darkest days of American history—the week when Washington burned.


L.C. Lewis sent me a copy of her neweset book to review. While reading Dawn's Early Light, I was struck with the vast amount of knowledge the author has and how she wove that into the story so seamlessly. I love to read historical fiction because I can enjoy a fascinating story as well as "accidentally" learn important information. I learned many things about this time period and felt like I was experiencing it.

I liked that she included both sides, the American and the British, and how Lewis created a captivating story. I'm glad she included Joseph Smith and his family because it helped me to think about them in a different way.

I also found myself drawn to her amazing use of language. She introduced me to new words and images and much of her writing felt poetic.

I did have a hard time keeping track of all of the characters and was glad she included a "who's who" list for me to check. I did have to check back here and there to get back into the groove of particular threads.

This is a wonderful book, especially if you enjoy U.S. history. You can learn more about L.C. Lewis here and you can purchase a copy of Dawn's Early Light here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Reckoning by Tanya Parker Mills



RT: Welcome, Tanya. Tell me about your book, The Reckoning.

Tanya: It takes place in my own childhood in Baghdad, Iraq (and my father's undercover work in that country), as well as the approaching war. My book was self-published in September of 2008, was a finalist in two categories for the Whitney Award, and won the 2009 Indie Book Award for Multicultural Fiction.

RT: Wow, that’s fabulous. Go ahead and give me the blurb:

Tanya: When journalist Theresa Fuller is captured inside Iraq in August 2002, and imprisoned by Iraq's secret police, visions of her childhood in Baghdad begin to haunt her. Tormented by the relentless Colonel Badr, she only finds relief in her growing attraction to Tariq al-Awali, the Iraqi captain who took charge of her capture. Before American bombs begin to fall, Theresa must find a way to escape the cruelty of an oppressive regime and save those she cares for most.

RT: It sounds so intriguing! Who are your main characters?

Tanya: American journalist, Theresa Fuller; her Canadian cameraman, Peter; and their Iraqi captor, Captain Tariq al-Awali.

RT: That’s quite a cast of characters. In what ways do you think you are like them?

Tanya: I'm like Theresa in terms of sharing a childhood in Baghdad and having epilepsy...also her affinity for solitude; I'm not much like Peter; and, as for Tariq, I also have an appreciation for other cultures besides my own.

RT: In what ways are you different?

Tanya: I'm not questioning my faith in God, as Theresa does; I'm not superstitious like Peter; and I like to think I would never have worked for Iraq's secret police as Tariq did, regardless of the circumstances.

RT: What is your favorite scene in the book?

Tanya: Towards the end, when Tariq's grandfather stands up to the bad guy, Colonel Badr.

RT: After you wrote the book, how long did it take you to get it published?

Tanya: Five years...I came close to getting a traditional publisher once, but it fell through, so I finally decided to publish it myself.

RT: Where can we purchase a copy of your book?

Tanya: You can purchase The Reckoning at Amazon.com, and an eBook version is also available on Kindle. Unfortunately, it's not available in bookstores...yet.

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Tanya: You can get a lot of information off of my website at www.tanyaparkermills.com (including my photo, a link to my book trailer, a description of my book, The Reckoning, and an author bio). I also have a blog called Seized by Words which I try to update weekly.

RT: Great! Thanks so much for joining me today!

Monday, December 7, 2009

We Reap What We Sow

I am a firm believer in, "What goes around, comes around." I experienced this very thing over the weekend.

In the spirit of the season, remember that what we give of ourselves is much more powerful and meaningful than gifts we buy at the store.

Enjoy this video, it brought tears to my eyes.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Review of Altared Plans by Jennie Hansen

I was thrilled to receive this review from Jennie Hansen. She posted it on Meridian Magazine.

If you'd like to read it, here's the link to Meridian Magazine. It's the second review.

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season and enjoying all the festivities.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh That I Were Like Nephi

While studying the Book of Mormon, I was struck with the example of Nephi. Yes, I've always admired him and his faith in doing whatever the Lord commanded him, but this time I was struck even more by his lack of complaining. See, I'm a complainer. I have to voice my opinions about everything (just ask my kids) and I usually have to understand something before I'm willing to do it. I need an explanation because it has to make sense to me.

Laman and Lemuel wanted to know why they needed to leave Jerusalem, they wanted a rational explanation, not just that their dad had a vision. They wanted to understand the why of it. They wanted to know why they had to return for the brass plates and how they would retrieve them from Laban who was so much more powerful. They didn't understand how they could possibly defeat him. They wanted an explanation. They wanted it to make sense. They voiced their opinions about it. Yep, just like me.

Nephi didn't need an explanation. It didn't need to make sense to his mortal, finite mind. It was enough that God commanded it. He was willing to do whatever the Lord commanded, no explanation necessary.

Oh that I were like Nephi.

While I can and do put my faith in God, I like it so much better when things make sense to me. Like, why did my sister-in-law have to pass away before she could raise all of her children? She had a righteous desire to raise her family in the gospel. Why couldn't she? Just doesn't make sense to me.

As I've been reading and thinking about Nephi and his reaction to commandments versus Laman's and Lemuel's reactions, I've decided that I need to stop complaining so much and stop demanding explanations. I need to go and do. I need to exercise more faith and trust that it will all make sense someday.

I need to be like Nephi. I need to follow his example. I need to shake off Laman and Lemuel. I need to view things with my spiritual mind instead of my mortal, finite mind so that someday I can go and do just like Nephi.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Haunts Haven by Joan Sowards

When Callie Wilford inherits a century-old inn in southern Arizona, locals tell her of a ghost who "guards" the inn. But Callie doesn't believe in ghosts, and she plans to turn the inn into a bed and breakfast.

Then things start to happen - strange, spooky things - and she begins to wonder if there is some truth to the ghost stories.

If that weren't bad enough, Callie discovers a mysterious grave in the cellar. As she confronts the inn's tragic secrets, she also faces her lonely past and learns to embrace her heritage.

But it takes a handsome cowboy and a charming rancher to prove that Callie's long-guarded heart can love again.


If you like ghost stories and mysteries mixed with romance, you might enjoy this book. You can buy it from Amazon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Making Memories

When my older kids get together they sit around and play the "Remember When . . ." game. They remember things I've totally forgotten. They all feel a connection to our home and to the memories we've made here, which is a wonderful thing.

We've tried hard to create memories with our kids. Yesterday we decided it was just one of those occasions. We loaded everyone up into our ghetto van (peeling paint, rusted top, dents from where I ran into the fence post in the snow last winter) and traveled to town to go bowling. Some of our kids had never been bowling (which was quite obvious as we started to bowl). I've decided that bowling is the only sport (is it a sport?) in which you can participate even if you are old, fat, and completely out of shape. However, I also learned that you do need some small portion of coordination.

My 8-year-old almost had a perfect game of gutter balls. He didn't care, though. Each time he threw a ball and it hit the gutter he'd turn around with his sparkly blue eyes and a big smile. We clapped and cheered for him when the ball actually traveled down the entire lane and hit a few pins--you'd have thought he'd bowled a strike.

My 10-year-old was intent on learning the proper technique and kept practicing. She bowled a few spares, but also sent down her fair share of gutter balls. My 12-year-old bowled a little better and was proud of herself for hitting so many pins. My 14-year-old was thrilled when he bowled quite a few spares. His smile covered his face as he strutted back to the table. Scores after the second game were between 18 and 94. I don't think anyone will be inviting them to be on their bowling league, but they all enjoyed themselves immensely and we had quite a few laughs.

My older daughters bowled a little better than my younger kids, 123-135. I loved watching the dance after one of their balls hit a few pins or how they contorted their bodies in hopes of influencing the balls that had already left their hands. We yelled and clapped the loudest when they bowled gutter balls. They returned the favor for me when my silly ball went down the gutter even though I'd sent it down the lane perfectly set for a strike.

After bowling, we found a local pizzeria that brews its own rootbeer. I'm not a fan of soda drinks, but their rootbeer, and cream soda, is excellent. We stuffed ourselves with pizza.

Then we went in search of Christmas lights. Unfortunately, we were too early. Weird for us because we're always late for everything. I guess we'll have to return next week to admire all the lights.

We certainly weren't amazing bowlers, but we had so much fun. Most importantly, we made memories.

Friday, November 20, 2009

DirectTV

A few weeks ago, we decided to upgrade our satellite receiver to a DVR so we could more easily record shows we miss (we can never watch any TV shows when they air, we always have watch them later). This really applies to Smallville because now it airs on Fridays (Thursdays were so much better) and this season finally has Clark and Lois . . . well, I don't want to spoil anything. I would've been excited about this feature for American Idol but now that they have Ellen DeGeneres as a judge (since when is she at all qualified to judge musical talent? Oh, yeah I forgot about her album . . . what was the name again?) I'm not planning to watch it anymore. But, I digress.

I've been a DISH Network customer for over 12 years so I called DISH to set up an upgrade. They scheduled a technician to come between the hours of 12:00 and 5:00 (why can't they actually set appointments? After all, I have a life, too). So I completely arranged everything around the appointment window. At 5:00 no one had showed up nor had anyone called. Since we'd also scheduled a dinner date with our son for his birthday and planned to do some Christmas shopping, I was quite unhappy that at 5:00 nothing had been done to set up the new system. Long story short, I ended up cancelling the installation. Worried that DISH would not keep a second appointment, I started to shop around for other options.

I found DirectTV. I was pleased to see special pricing packages and especially excited to se they offer PBS Sprouts, a channel dedicated to preschoolers. DISH doesn't even offer Sprouts.

I set up an appointment, which DirectTV kept, and we now have DirectTV service. I was even more thrilled to find FitTV as one of the channels because it hosts workouts around the clock. No matter what time I need to workout, there's a show I can workout with. Even better, I found Gilad whose show Bodies in Motion was my favorite workout show over 15 years ago. He's from Israel so he has a fun accent and I love how he pronounces some words. I've been happily working out with him each day and I love it. I'm sore, but I love it.

DISH lost a 12 year customer for refusing to accommodate us after they stood us up. But, I'm happy about it because I love the programming on DirectTV. I've even found that the Hallmark channel plays my favorite show, Murder, She Wrote--can't imagine why I love that show :).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do You Like Westerns?

One of the nicest and most helpful women I know is Marsha Ward. She founded ANWA--American Night Writers Association--many years ago and has put her heart and soul into helping aspiring writers reach their goal of publication. She works tirelessly to help others. She has been very kind and gracious to me as I've learned the ropes of writing, publishing, and moderating Yahoo Groups. She's also a whiz at all things technical.

Besides all of this, she's an excellent author. I was amazed at her ability to pull me into the story and to paint such a vivid and realistic picture of the civil war era. Her books ooze authenticity and her characters are well-developed. She is the author of Ride to Raton, The Man from Shenandoah, and her newest novel Trail of Storms.



If you enjoy reading western novels, you'll want to check out Marsha's books. She's a master storyteller and you'll be sucked into her world from the first page.

To learn more about Marsha Ward visit her website.

If you are interested in joining ANWA, a fantastic group of writers (women only, sorry men) you can learn more here.

To buy Trail of Storms at Amazon go here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Of One Heart by Valerie Steimle



From the back cover:
In the LDS world (or the world of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) most adults are married with children. It has only been in the last ten years that being single in the church has become much more common. Unfortunately, marriages are failing everywhere and there are now one third of the adults at church who are single.

This book was written to help all those who are single, all those who have single friends and all those priesthood leaders with single members under their jurisdiction. I have written this book to help others understand what it is like to be single and included writings from other singles on how they feel about being single.


When I got married, my mother-in-law was single. My father-in-law had passed away 4 years earlier from an extended illness. She would remark how much she enjoyed being with her kids, but she was still lonely. Nothing could fill the void left by my father-in-law. Though she was encouraged to attend single adult activities, she didn't feel comfortable.

In the Church, it is difficult to be single when so much emphasis is placed on being married and having a family. Many sisters, and brothers, are single for various reasons. If you know any single LDS members this book would be a great gift.

We should all seek to help our single bothers and sisters feel the love of the Savior and realize they are just as important to this great work as those who are married.

You can find Valerie's wonderful book at Amazon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Contest and New Website

If you're interested in winning a $20.00 gift certificate to Amazon visit the Writing Fortress blog for rules on a simple contest that, of course, involves my book. Wouldn't a $20 gift certificate be nice? And helping me spread the word about my book (maybe then DB will carry it)? Thanks for checking it out!

I've been busy working on my website. It was static with no new information so I've set it up as a blog format to make it more interactive. I'll be posting articles on writing that, hopefully, will be useful to readers. I also have links to my books, a bio, and other pages. If you get a chance, I'd love to hear your feedback on www.rebeccatalley.com. I want it to be a user-friendly site that also provides helpful information for aspiring writers. I'd love to interact with readers and make my site useful as well as informational.

Thanks!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trailer for Heather Justesen's Book, "The Ball's in Her Court."

Heather Justesen has a brand new book out, The Ball's in Her Court. Here is the trailer she created for it and I wanted to share it with you. Look for her book in LDS Bookstores and Amazon in the next few weeks or so. I've read some great reviews and can't wait to read it myself.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Interview by Michele Ashman Bell

Michele Ashman Bell, a fantastic LDS author and one of the kindest people I know, interviewed me about my writing and my new book, Altared Plans.

Here's the link if you'd like to read it: Michele Ashman Bell. I'd love to read your reactions to the interview (you can tell me if I sound dorky).

Thanks!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Empty Chairs

I actually survived my son's wedding, the reception, and the open house. It feels wonderful being on this side of everything. It all turned out so well and I was really happy with everything except . . .

I was sad that my oldest daughter couldn't make it to the open house. She had to work in Provo and there was no way she could make it to Colorado for the festivities. I really missed her. It made me realize how desperately I want all of my kids to always be part of my eternal family and how even having one missing made a huge difference.

I can't remember which prophet it was who spoke about the empty chair, but I know that I don't want any empty chairs surrounding my eternal dinner table.

To me, the greatest joy I think I'll have in mortality will be when I can stand in the celestial room surrounded by all of my children. I can't think of anything that would bring me more happiness and peace than to have each one of my children embrace the gospel and live it fully.

Since my youngest is only 3 it may be some time before I can experience all of my children in the temple with me, but not having my daughter with us this last weekend reminded me how much I want it and how hard I'm willing to work to bring all of my children to the temple someday.

I am so thankful that families are eternal and that we can enjoy each other after this life. I so enjoy my family, including the newest member and her family as well. I am grateful we can all be sealed together. Of all the things that the gospel gives me, knowing that I can be with my family forever is the greatest part.

No empty chairs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

By Love or By Sea by Rachel Rager


By Love or By Sea
by
Rachel Rager


From the back cover:

When a mysterious and ragged sailor appears in the seaside town where Alice Lind Frank lives with her grandparents, Alice is shocked to learn that the sailor is her childhood love, Caleb, who she thought was lost at sea. She yearns to trust him again, but what about her plans to marry Clarence Hielott, the wealthy shipyard owner? When Clarence exposes the secrets of Caleb s past, Alice realizes that the boy she once knew is now a man with a dark history. Can she trust Caleb with her heart once again? And what will she do about Clarence? Find out in this thrilling and adventurous love story.

I'm excited to be part of Rachel's blog tour for her novel. I enjoyed reading this sweet love story. I also enjoyed being taken back in time and experiencing the adventure. By Love or By Sea is a fun story filled with interesting characters. From the slimy Clarence to the innocent Alice to the ruggedly handsome Caleb to the feisty Betsy Winters, readers can find an interesting character because Rager does a great job of characterization.

I loved the character of Betsy Winters and learning why she was so rude and mean in the beginning. I thought Rager created a believable character as well as developed a realistic storyline that unraveled at just the right pace. I loved how Alice, the main character, was spunky enough and determined enough to find out more about the town's meanest citizen. Sometimes, when we meet someone that's rude or mean we dismiss them, yet Rager shows through this story how people have their own personal stories and reasons for acting the way that they do, and if we'll simply take the time to care about someone we may discover a diamond in all that rough exterior.

This is an enjoyable book and I recommend it.

Learn more about Rachel Rager here and at her blog.

You can purchase a copy of By Love or By Sea at Amazon or Cedar Fort.

If you leave a comment here at my blog, or any of the other blogs hosting the blog tour, you'll be entered to win your very own copy. The more comments you leave the more chances you'll have to win!

Here is the lineup for the blog tour:

September 28 - Jaimey Grant
September 29 - Kaylee Baldwin
September 30 - Cindy Beck
October 1 - Kim Thompson
October 2 - Alison Palmer
October 3 - JoAnn Arnold
October 5 - Rebecca Talley
October 6 - Anna Arnett
October 7 - Heather Justensen
October 8 - Rachelle Christensen
October 9 - Joyce DiPastena

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Inspiring . . . Jason McElway

I become more and more convinced that people with special needs are much more limited by people's preconceived notions than by their disabilities.

Enjoy! (Make sure you have some tissues nearby).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

He's Married


What an incredible day filled with great happiness and joy. My son was sealed in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple on Friday to his sweet, beautiful bride. I have never seen him smile so big and be so happy. I was very grateful to witness his marriage and so thankful he was sealed in the temple.

Parenting isn't always easy. It's fraught with plenty of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, mistakes. Of course, happy times are sprinkled throughout as well. As parents, we sacrifice our time, talents, and energy in raising our children. We teach them, pray for them, and suffer with them. They occupy our thoughts, spend our money, and teach us patience. Every once in a while, we have a "parent payday." The first time I went through the temple with my son, the day he went into the MTC, and the day he returned home from serving an honorable mission were all "parent paydays." However, Friday was the biggest payday yet. To see him kneel across the altar, pledging his life, love, and eternity to his wonderful bride and make covenants with her and the Lord made me realize how truly blessed I am. How truly blessed we all are to have the gospel and the opportunity to seal our families together for all of eternity.

Friday overshadowed all the begging and pleading to turn in homework, to keep curfew, and to clean his room. Friday overshadowed the dirty underwear he'd leave in the bathroom regularly, the damage done to the cars when he was learning to drive, and the times he'd spring things on me with no warning. Friday overshadowed all of it. The potty training, the arguing while he was in middle school, the parent-teacher conferences when I learned he hadn't turned in assignments, and all the time I spent driving him back and forth for school activities. Friday trumped everything. It was a glorious day wherein I saw the fruits of my labor. Parenting certainly isn't easy, but it's definitely worth it, especially when you can sit in a sealing room holding the hand of your child, knowing that he's in the right place, at the right time, being sealed by the right authority.

In a world where morality is belittled and religion is mocked, where messages on every side urge us to to break commandments, where the world delights in ridiculing standards, it is no small feat for a young couple to enter the temple worthily and make covenants with the Lord. Friday, Satan had to admit defeat as my son and his new bride exited the temple, sealed for time and all eternity as husband and wife. Though Satan will continue to work on my son, as he will work on me and everyone else, he did not prevent this sealing. That is definitely cause for celebration.

Yes, Friday was a payday.












Monday, September 21, 2009

"Taking Chance" starring Kevin Bacon

We've signed up for Netflix so we've been able to watch some movies that we hadn't been aware were even available. One of those was Taking Chance with Kevin Bacon.

I was not prepared for the emotional depth of this movie. It's an HBO movie so I'm not sure it was ever in theaters, and I'd never heard of it. But, wow, what a powerful movie.

Bacon is a Marine Corps officer who has a desk job. He analyzes statistics and then presents reports. He's safe. He's not in battle. His life is not on the line. He goes home to his family every night. And it bothers him. So he obsessively checks the lists of soldiers killed in battle. He discovers that a kid from his hometown, who he doesn't personally know, has been killed in action in Iraq and his body needs an escort. Bacon's character volunteers to escort the fallen soldier back to his grieving family.

Thus begins a journey that not only changes Bacon's character, but anyone who watches the movie. I was touched by the respect given to this young man as his body traveled across country. I was touched by the care with which the military personnel prepared his body and made sure his uniform was perfect. It stirred within me a deep reverence for those who willingly put their lives on the line and face combat each day. This fallen soldier had a family, friends, a life, a past. He affected so many people in life and in death.

What makes this story even more powerful is that it's true. At the end of the movie when Bacon's character wonders what good he's done, another character tells him that he's Chance's witness. If he doesn't tell the world about Chance then Chance will be forgotten. He's the witness that Chance lived and gave his life to serve our country.

I'll warn you, make sure you have plenty of tissues because you'll need them. This is an emotionally wrenching movie, but definitely worth watching. I think I've been too detached from those serving in the military and haven't realized what the soldiers and their families have to endure. I'm sure I don't know the half of it, but Taking Chance has helped me think about those in the military, and their families, in a more profound and grateful way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Random Thoughts after Stake Conference

We attended stake conference this last weekend. Elder Spencer J. Condie was our visiting General Authority. He's a great speaker and has some extremely funny stories. I really enjoyed his talks.

I always enjoy the evening session for the adults because I don't have to wrangle kids and can actually listen to the messages.

Our stake president is a very inspired man. He shared a story about when Elder Condie arrived for the conference and they had some time before the meetings began. Elder Condie wanted to make a visit to someone in the stake and our stake president thought for a moment. He felt like it was important to visit a previous stake president who'd been ill. While they were there visiting, he quietly passed away. That's inspiration.

We are also preparing for a new temple presidency so members of the current temple presidency spoke at our conference. One of the sisters, who I just love, shared some stories about how serving in the temple presidency has blessed their lives, including seeing their non-member son-in-law finally embrace the gospel and join the Church. She then shared a story about her daughter whose unborn child was diagnosed as having either Turner's syndrome or Down syndrome. She said they all prayed that the baby wouldn't be born with either one of these syndromes and when the baby was born she did not have either one. She related what a blessing that was for their family. Of course, I had a different reaction to that story.

I realize that no one wants to have a child with a genetic abnormality. We all want healthy babies and there's nothing wrong with that. But, wonderfully amazing blessings also await families of children who are born with Turner's syndrome or Down syndrome. I cannot begin to explain how my son has blessed my life in ways he could never have blessed it otherwise. I cannot begin to explain the closeness that our family feels to each other and to my youngest son. I cannot begin to explain how his birth was a testament to me of Heavenly Father's plan for each one of us.

Yes, the world will look at my son differently and, most likely, treat him differently. But, for all of his challenges in mortality none of them will keep him out of the celestial kingdom. Mine will. In the eternal scheme of things, he is not the one that has a disability, it is me.

This sister's comments reinforced my extreme gratitude for my son. I am in awe that Heavenly Father would entrust such a child as this to me. I am thankful every day that He sent my son to me and only hope I can be the mother He wants me to be.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Route by Gale Sears

The Route
by
Gale Sears

From the back cover:

Zipping along life¹s highway . . .

Fifty makes you think. Thirty makes you morose, and forty makes you
panic, but fifty makes you think. Half a century, and what is my life?
Does it resemble anything I dreamed at sixteen, or expected at twenty,
or hoped at twenty-five? What am I doing here? . . . I thought of
climbing to the top of a high mountain in Tibet to consult a wise man,
but I like vacations where there ís indoor plumbing and vegetation.
Since I already attended church, I thought perhaps I could pay closer
attention. Maybe I¹d been missing a great fundamental truth. Well,
come to find out, I had been missing something. . . . (excerpt from The
Route)

Carol, a middle-aged wife and mother, is pondering the meaning
of life. On a trip to the grocery store to find some energizing dark
chocolate, she sees a sign asking for volunteers to deliver meals to
the elderly. When Carol decides to take a chance and help out, she¹s
in for a life-changing‹and route-altering‹experience.


I recently read this book and, wow, what a delightful, inspiring, and thought-provoking book. I LOVED it. The voice of the main character, Carol, is humorous and insightful. She discovers truths about herself while she freely gives service to the elderly people on her lunch route.

I grew up with my grandparents so I spent time with seniors. This book took me back to the time I spent with older people and made me feel nostalgic for that time in my life. Older people have so much wisdom and we seem, as a society, to forget that. The Route reminds us to value those who have lived life longer than we have.

I loved the characters and how Sears was able to make each one unique. I loved that she included death as part of the reality of living with, and serving, the elderly but didn't make that the focus of the story. Instead, the focus is on the individual characters and their personalities and their value to Carol, the main character, and to society in general.

I highly recommend this book. It's an easy read with lots of introspection and humor sprinkled throughout. Do yourself a favor and read it. You'll love it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Hello, Pants, Good to See You Again"

I seem to have fallen into the "wedding planning vat" and can't get out. I never knew how much there was to do in getting ready for a wedding, and this is my son--can't imagine when it's a daughter. Whew! Things seem to be coming along (if they'd stop making changes that'd help). I've been sewing dresses, calling to make plans, making reservations, finding addresses, figuring out the Open House, etc. It's a bit mind-boggling.

At this point, I've lost 29 lbs. I still have 7 lbs to go to meet my goal weight and think I may try for a few more after that just to cushion myself in case I gain some back. I've been able to pull clothes, even pants, out of my closet that I haven't seen in ages. My kids tell me not to wear them because they're all outdated now, but I reply that the fact that I can wear them again completely overshadows their fashionability.

After so many years trying to lose that baby weight, I'm really excited to have found a way that works for me. Since it isn't too radically different from how I was eating before, I think I can stick with it. Mostly, I've cut out the nightly bowls of ice cream, Oreos (we had two bags of Oreos the other day and I was sorely tempted to eat some but I refrained), brownies, and other junk food. I have replaced the junk food with sugar-free fudgesicles and ice cream bars so I don't feel deprived.

I exercise about 45 minutes a day to my DVDs, but have knocked that back to 30 minutes because I have so many things to do at the moment (sometimes I even count painting or other physical projects in place of my regular exercise).

I'm still hoping to reach my goal before my son's wedding, but since it's now less than 3 weeks away I'm not sure I can lose another 7 lbs. However, any more weight I can lose will be good and as long as I can fit into the dress my daughters talked me into buying I'll be happy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Altared Plans, Chapter 1, Part 5

Several hours later, Caitlyn awoke to her mom standing in the doorway with a tray in her hands. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you. I wanted to leave you a little something to eat.” She placed the tray on the nightstand next to the bed.

Caitlyn wiped at her swollen eyes and sat up. She cleared her throat, “I’m not hungry.”

“Maybe later.”

Caitlyn shrugged.

“How are you feeling?”

“Sad. Confused”

“I’m so, so sorry, sweetheart.”

Caitlyn nodded. She toppled back down on her bed and her mother snuggled up next to her.

“I can’t believe he dumped me for another girl. Why didn’t he tell me he didn’t want to get married?”

“Maybe he was afraid.”

“He fell in love with a girl on his mission. Who does that?”

“I don’t know.” Her mom brushed her hand against Caitlyn’s cheek.

“What will I do now?”

“Go back to BYU.”

“I can’t. I told everyone about the wedding. Every time I have to answer why I’m not married, I’ll have to relive the pain all over again. I can’t do that. My heart hurts too much.”

“People will understand.”

“Will they? I don’t even understand it.” Tears snaked down her cheeks.

“In time you’ll find someone else.”

“No way. I never want to be hurt like this again. I’m done with marriage. Forever.” She used her sleeve to wipe her eyes.

“You’re still—“

“I trusted him. I believed him when he said we’d get married. Even though we couldn’t see much of each other because I was at school when he got home from his mission, we talked on the phone and texted each other. He never said a word. When I came home to see him in October, he acted like we were still a couple. How could he change his mind like that? I don’t understand.”

“I don’t know, honey, but you life will go on. I promise.” Her mom stroked Caitlyn’s hair. “I called your apartment office and your contract hasn’t sold so you still have a place there.”

“Mom, I can’t go back. Not like this.”

“You can, Cait. You can pick yourself up and go back.”

“No. I can’t.”

“Even though this is something none of us expected, it will be a blessing.”

“Right.”

“Really. You’ll see. Heavenly Father knows better than we do. It’s far better that this happened now instead of after the marriage.”

Caitlyn said nothing.

“You still have more than a week before school starts again. Your dad said he’d take some time off work. We can all go to Provo and spend time together as a family before we drop you off.”

Caitlyn closed her eyes. She desperately wished she’d wake up in the Bahamas enjoying her honeymoon.

I hope you've enjoyed reading the first chapter of Altared Plans. I had a lot of fun writing it. If you're interested in reading the rest of the novel you can purchase it at Amazon, Seagull Books, and independent LDS bookstores. Thanks for your support!

P.S. I love the last line of the book.

P.S.S. I included some real events that happened when I met my husband at BYU. We met in the FHE group where I was serving as the "mom" and he was serving as the "dad." He tried to feed me one of his steers named Frank which completely freaked me out since I'm a certified city-girl (and he's a country boy). I met my future mother-in-law for the first time while I was dressed as a clown because I'd been volunteering at Special Olympics. I won't tell you any more secrets--you'll have to read the book :).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Altared Plans, Chapter 1, Part 4

Suddenly, Caitlyn couldn’t breathe. She felt like someone was gripping her neck so tight she couldn’t swallow. She eked out, “Is something wrong?”

The Haggertys both nodded.

Caitlyn clapped her hand to her mouth. Terrifying thoughts swirled in her mind. “What is it?”

Brother Haggerty began, “You know Justin came down here to spend time with Troy.”

Caitlyn nodded. Tears formed in her eyes while her imagination exploded.

“He . . . well . . .”

“Is he okay?” Caitlyn’s voice cracked.

“In a manner of speaking,” his mother said. She shook her head.

“Please, tell us what’s wrong,” Caitlyn’s mother said.

“We were supposed to meet for breakfast early this morning.” His dad kicked at the ground. “Justin didn’t show up on time. After almost half an hour, Troy came to the restaurant.”

“And?” Caitlyn’s head pounded.

“I don’t quite know how to tell you,” Justin’s dad said.

“Just say it.” Caitlyn wasn’t sure she wanted to hear what he had to say, but she needed to know.

His mother blurted out, “Justin is on a plane for New York.”

“A plane?”

“We rushed to LAX and tried to stop him. Really, we did. But, he wouldn’t listen to reason,” his dad said, anxiety evident in his voice.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying. Why would Justin fly to New York on the day of our wedding?” Her heart thumped in her ears. She felt her mother’s arm around her shoulder.

Justin’s mom let out a long sigh. “Caitlyn, Justin has gone to be with a girl he met while he was on his mission.”

“A girl he met on his mission?” Caitlyn blinked her eyes several times and her mother’s grip tightened.

“He’s not coming back. He said to tell you he’s sorry, but he couldn’t go through with the wedding when he’s . . .” her sentence trailed off.

“What?”

“In love with someone else,” his father said.

The words sliced through her. She dropped the garment bag to the ground in a heap. Her perfect life was unraveling right before her. Intense sadness grasped her heart and squeezed it so tight she thought she might die on the spot.

“I’m sorry, Caitlyn.” His mom embraced her for a few moments.

“We didn’t raise him to act this way. I don’t know what’s gotten into him. He has a lot of explaining to do,” his father said.

Caitlyn stared at the ground. She’d been left at the altar, or as close to that as possible at the temple. How could he? Why didn’t he say anything? He led her to believe he loved her and would marry her today. Now, she was standing in front of the temple, deserted. Her life was shattered. All of her planning, her dreaming, and her love, was for nothing. She’d been abandoned on what was supposed to be the happiest day of her life.

“We’ll take care of everything. We’ll go in and speak with someone in the temple and call the caterer. We’ll let the bishop know and we’ll make sure everyone gets the word before the reception was supposed to start. Don’t worry about anything,” Justin’s father said. “It’s the least we can do.”

Caitlyn could hear Justin’s mom crying.

“Thank you,” Caitlyn’s mom said. She whispered into Caitlyn’s ear, “Let’s get you back to the car.”

Caitlyn sat in the backseat. She wasn’t sure how she got there. She was numb, floating somewhere between dreaming and awakening.

“What kind of a young man does this?” her father said from the front seat.

“Robert, don’t make her feel any worse. We don’t need to discuss it right now,” her mom said. “Let her work through this.”

Lindsay reached over and caressed Caitlyn’s hand. Caitlyn rested her head against the seat and stared out the window as they drove the freeway back toward Santa Barbara.

Today had not turned out at all like she had planned. She’d played it over and over again in her mind. How could Justin have fallen in love with another girl while he was supposed to be serving the Lord, and while knowing that Caitlyn was home waiting for him? She wrapped her arms around herself, amazed at the physical pain she felt deep within her chest.

When they arrived home, Caitlyn went directly to her bedroom. She closed the door behind her and collapsed on her bed. She never wanted to leave her room. She’d cried so many tears on the way home, she didn’t have any left. Her heart was smashed into a million pieces and her dreams were crushed. What about their apartment, their house on the Mesa, their four children?

In the blink or an eye, or the takeoff of a plane, it was gone.

Read Part 5 of Chapter One.

You can purchase Altared Plans at independent LDS bookstores.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Altared Plans, Chapter 1, Part 3

“Cait, you’re being way too dramatic. Get a hold of yourself. We’ll work something out, and it will be fine.”

“Mom, this is my one and only wedding day. I wanted it to be perfect, and now my veil is missing.”

Her mother checked her watch. “We need to get inside the temple. Your endowment session will begin in less than an hour and you need to prepare. You don’t need your veil until you leave the temple after the ceremony. I’ll make some calls and see if someone can go to the house and find it and then bring it down here.” She cupped Caitlyn’s chin in her hand. “Your day will be perfect and you will be a beautiful bride.”

Caitlyn closed her eyes and contained her breathing. She opened her eyes and said, “Thanks, Mom. And, thanks for coming with me. I know it’s hard for you to go to the temple without Dad, but I’m so happy you’ll be with me.”

“Me, too. I wouldn’t miss my baby getting married for anything.” Her mom wiped at her eyes.

“Mom, don’t get me started. I’m emotional enough.”

Caitlyn and her mom embraced.

Lindsay approached them. “I’ll take Dad over to the visitor’s center. Maybe he’ll like it. Or not.”

Caitlyn and her mother walked to the entrance of the temple and opened the large door. Caitlyn noticed the sign that said, “Members Only,” and wished her Dad could accompany them. She stepped inside, toward the desk.

She and her mom waited behind another couple and their parents, while a different couple stood in the waiting area holding garment bags. It was a busy day for the temple. She held her bag tightly. “I wonder if Justin is here yet. I can’t wait to see him.”

“I assume they’re here.” Her mom reached over and adjusted Caitlyn’s necklace.

After a few minutes, the outside door opened and Caitlyn turned to see Justin’s parents. She grinned.

Justin’s father motioned for her to come out to him. She looked at her mom and they both exited the temple.

“Hello, Caitlyn,” he said in a strained voice. He seemed distracted. Caitlyn figured it was due to the impending events of the day.

“Hi.” She craned her neck to see if she could catch a glimpse of her way hot, soon-to-be groom. Excitement welled up inside.

“I . . . we . . . well . . .,” Justin’s dad stammered.

“Where’s Justin?” Caitlyn said with a smile.

Justin’s mom stepped forward. Her eyes were bloodshot. “We have some . . . bad news.”

Read Part 4 of Chapter One.You can purchase Altared Plans at Seagull Books.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Altared Plans, Chapter 1, Part 2

“Looks like the weather will cooperate,” her mom offered. Caitlyn recognized it as her mom’s usual attempt at peacemaking.

Caitlyn gazed out of the window of her parents’ silver Jaguar. “I sure miss California weather. I can’t wait until Justin and I both graduate and we can move back to Santa Barbara and start our family. We’ll have two boys and two girls.”

“Sounds like you have it all planned out,” her mom said. She laughed.

“What?”

“Not everything goes as planned, you know. You may end up with all boys or all girls.”

“Four children? Do you have any idea how expensive it is to raise kids these days? Especially in Santa Barbara. You need to be realistic,” her dad said.

“Don’t worry. I have it all figured out. Justin thinks I’m obsessed with planning everything, but that’s just his way of saying he appreciates me taking charge.” Caitlyn nodded her head.

“Where will you work?” her father asked.

“Me? I’m not going to work. I plan to stay home and raise the kids.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“I want to be at home and take care of our house and the kids while Justin works and eventually takes over his dad’s business.”

“You’re going to waste your education raising kids?” her dad said.

Her mom cut in, “We’ll be at the temple in less than fifteen minutes. Robert, you charged the video camera and brought extra batteries for the digital camera, correct?”

“The batteries are in the camera bag.”

“I want to make sure we get plenty of footage. Maybe you can record them while Lindsay takes photos.”

“What about the photographer?” her dad asked.

“He’ll get plenty of shots, but I want my own, especially of the family and everyone who will be waiting outside the temple.”

Caitlyn’s parents continued to discuss taking pictures. She was grateful that her mom had sidetracked her dad. She laid her head back against the seat and shut her eyes. In a few hours, she’d start eternity with the guy she’d loved since high school.

“I can see the temple,” Lindsay said.

Caitlyn bent down so she could see the temple from Lindsay’s window. “I’ve always thought it looked a little out of place. I mean, L.A. is city everywhere, and all you can see is pavement and then, boom, the temple sitting on that big grassy hill. It looks so heavenly.”

She smoothed her hair again and took several breaths to calm her nerves as she gazed at the white building set against the clear blue sky. This was it.

They pulled into the parking lot and Caitlyn’s heart felt like it might jump out of her throat. Since the temple was only open this one day during Christmas break, she had to go through the endowment session right before her wedding ceremony. She worried it might be too overwhelming, but it was the only option if they wanted to be married before winter semester at BYU.

Caitlyn walked around to the back of the car and opened the trunk. She rummaged through the contents. “Mom, I can’t find my veil.”

Her mom stepped over to the car. “I thought you said everything was in there.”

“I put it in here. I’m sure of it. Where did it go?”
“Could it be in with your dress?”

Caitlyn unzipped the garment bag and searched through it. “I don’t see it.” Her face heated. Stress clamped down on her chest. “I can’t have pictures without my veil.”

“Calm down. We’ll figure it out.”

“How can it not be here? This will ruin my wedding.”

Read Part 3 of Chapter One.

If you'd like to purchase Altared Plans click here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Altared Plans, Chapter One, Part 1

For the next several days, I'm going to post a few pages each day of the first chapter of my LDS romance, Altared Plans. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 1

Her wedding day. A day she’d never forget. A perfect day that would begin her perfect life with her perfect husband. It couldn’t be anything but perfect because that’s how she’d planned it.

Caitlyn grabbed her hand mirror. She tucked a wisp of her dark blond hair behind her ear as she examined her makeup for the hundredth time. The hum of the engine was the only sound in the car.

“You look beautiful,” her mom said as she turned from the front seat of the car to look at Caitlyn. “The temple isn’t too far away; are you getting nervous?”

“Kind of. But, I don’t know why. After all, I’ve been planning this day for so long and everything is falling into place.” A smile spread across her face, lighting up her eyes. “By this afternoon, I’ll be Caitlyn Haggerty.” She couldn’t help but feel the joy as it bubbled to the surface. Soon Justin would be her husband and she wanted nothing more than to spend her life, and all of eternity, loving him.

“I’m glad it all worked out for you,” her younger sister said with a shrug.
Caitlyn jerked her head back and gave Lindsay an incredulous look. “Did you think it wouldn’t?”

“I figured you’d meet another guy while you were at BYU. I didn’t think you’d actually wait for him.” Lindsay snatched a tube of lip gloss from Caitlyn’s makeup bag.

“Seriously?”

Lindsay shrugged again.

“No way. Justin is the only one for me. Has been since high school. I can’t imagine my life without him.” She paused. “And, after today, I won’t have to. We’ll be married and all my dreams will come true.” A vision of Justin’s smiling face with his sky-blue eyes and blond, wavy hair flashed across her mind.

“So,” Lindsay said as she applied the lip gloss, “where’s he been for the last few days?”

“Huh?” Caitlyn blinked her eyes a few times.

“He didn’t even come over for Christmas dinner.”

“Your point?”

“Shouldn’t your fiancé have eaten Christmas dinner with you?”

“He wanted to spend time with his family. He’s sweet like that. And then he went down to Newport Beach to see an old companion. You know, bachelor stuff.”

“Isn’t that kind of weird?”

“No. Not at all. We’ll have plenty of Christmases together. I think it’s fine he wanted to spend time with his family and with Troy.” It was fine. Just because they didn’t spend Christmas together like she’d hoped didn’t mean anything. They’d be sealed today and have the rest of their lives and eternity to be together. It wasn’t weird. Caitlyn assured herself that Lindsay was still a teenager and she didn’t understand such things.

“Whatever you say. I—“

“Let’s not talk about it anymore. It’s my wedding day and I only want happy thoughts.” She gazed at herself in the mirror and recalled their first date when Justin had tried to teach her to surf. She kept falling off the board into the cool ocean water, sometimes even slipping below the surface. She could almost taste the salt on her lips.

When he placed his arms around her to help steady her on the board, her skin tingled, and it wasn’t because she was cold. She closed her eyes and immersed herself in memories of Justin’s embrace.

“Cait . . . Cait . . . Cait?” Lindsay intruded on her daydream.

“Huh?”

“Mom asked if you double-checked everything before we left the house.”

Caitlyn did a mental tally of the contents of the trunk. “The garment bag with my dress and veil. My shoes—“

“You’re sure,” her mother asked.

“Yes. The photographer will be in the courtyard so he can capture us as soon as we come out of the temple, right?”

“That’s what he said when I called yesterday,” her mother answered.

“I think everything is all in place then,” Caitlyn said, happiness enveloping her.

“As long as Justin shows up.” Lindsay let out a laugh.

Caitlyn gave her a look. “Ha. Ha.”

“I still don’t agree with the rules about your Mormon temples. A father should be able to see his daughter’s wedding,” her dad said over his shoulder, his voice stern.

“Dad, we’ve already discussed this a thousand times.”

“I don’t understand why the Episcopal Church where your mom and I were married wasn’t an option. All Saints by the Sea is a beautiful building right near the ocean and all of our family could’ve attended.”

“Because I want to be sealed for eternity. I don’t want to marry Justin for this life—“

“Caitlyn—“

“Robert,” her mom interrupted. She squeezed his arm, “Please, not today. Cait’s made her decision and this is her day. Let’s not ruin it with another argument.”

“You’ll be able to see the ceremony,” her father said to her mother. “It isn’t right. A church shouldn’t separate families on a day like today.”

A few moments of silence followed. Her dad finally said, “I’m sorry, Caitie. You know how much I love you. I’m disappointed, that’s all. I’ve looked forward to your wedding day ever since I first held you in my arms.”

Caitlyn reached up and patted her dad’s shoulder. “I know, but this is the right thing for me to do. I’ll see you as soon as we come out. You’ll be the first one I hug.”

Read Part 2 of Chapter One

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy

I have never, ever agreed with Ted Kennedy's politics. In fact, I have never agreed with any of the Kennedys or their agendas. I wasn't born when JFK was assassinated and I've never been mesmerized by that or "Camelot." I think the press glamorized the Kennedy family, making them bigger-than-life, and never held them to the same moral compass as others have been held to.

I also found it ironic that Ted Kennedy was working so hard to pass healthcare legislation that would more than likely deny care to the elderly who suffer from a brain tumor. He was elderly when he was diagnosed and was receiving top-notch medical care that in the healthcare bill wouldn't be available to citizens under the same circumstances.

I have never supported his social agenda and believe that the bills he sponsored, co-sponsored, and many that he signed were, and still are, detrimental to our country.

Having said all of that, I do feel sadness for his family at his passing. No matter how we might disagree with someone else, he still has family and friends that love him and will miss him. And, we are all children of God.

I send my sympathies and hope his family will feel comforted as they mourn his passing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Conference Edition of the Ensign

At out last Stake Conference the stake president challenged us to read the entire General Conference edition of the Ensign before our next conference in September. I decided to take on the challenge.

What a wonderful experience. We watch all the sessions of conference but sometimes it's hard to really focus on the talks with all my kids and their chattering. Reading these talks has really helped me focus on the messages and feel the Spirit. I look forward to reading a message each day and I've found that I feel closer to the Spirit.

I'm constantly amazed at the messages and how they all seem to apply to me. It's hard to even describe how I feel now that I've been reading the messages. I know it's one of those, "Well, duh," kind of things, but for me reading the conference edition has changed my life.

This morning I read, "Be of Good Cheer," by President Monson. What a wonderful talk and so perfect for these tumultuous times. He shared a story about a woman who had to leave Prussia after WWII. Her husband was killed in the war and she had to take her small family 1000 miles for their protection. By the time she finally reached her destination, she'd buried each of her children, using only a tablespoon, or her hands, to dig the graves. She was at the point of starvation. Yet, instead of complaining, she bore a strong testimony of eternal families and how she looked forward to reuniting with her husband and her children. She was still full of love and good cheer. Wow. Could I be like that? I don't know. What an amazing woman and what tremendous faith. The next time I want to complain (which I do far too frequently), I'm going to remember her story.

I would encourage everyone to read and ponder the talks.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

End-of-the-Summer Giveaways

I also blog with some great Cedar Fort authors over at Writing Fortress. Right now we're sponsoring a big giveaway. If you're interested in winning a copy of my book, Altared Plans, or any of the other fantastic books go visit our blog, leave a comment, and you'll be entered to win. Who wouldn't want to win a free book? Check it out!!

I actually saw my book on the shelf at the BYU Bookstore--it gave me little happy chills all over. I went to a Seagull Bookstore and didn't see it so I asked the saleslady about it. She said they had two copies but had sold them, one of which she bought. She said there have been requests for it. Again, I had the happy little chills. Deseret Book is still deciding if it wants to carry it. I'm crossing my fingers DB will carry it, otherwise it'll be hard to sell very many copies.

I love, love, love writing, but the promotion part isn't quite as much fun. I always feel funny trying to promote my book because I feel like I'm saying, "Hey, I'm super cool and so is my book. You should spend your hard-earned money on it instead of something you really need, like food." Totally out of my comfort zone. Unfortunately, in this day and age of publishing, especially in the LDS market, authors are expected to do most, if not all, of the promotion. What's hard for me is that I don't have the power to put my book in the catalog or place it in the best spot on a shelf at the bookstore. I'm very limited. Thankfully, I've had some awesome people post amazing reviews on their blogs.

If you're interested, here are some links for some of the reviews:

My Life in a Laptop
Why Not? Because I Said So
Rachel Rager
Writing Fortress
Tristi's Picks
JoAnn Arnold

I'll post more reviews later. If you've bought my book: THANK YOU!! I hope you enjoyed it! Thanks for your support!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Weight Loss Goal

My name is Rebecca Talley and I'm a chocaholic.

I'm also an ice creamaholic.

In high school I was on the bigger side and was ridiculed for my "jello butt" (shhhh, don't tell my kids I just used the bu-word).

After my first baby, I dropped a lot of weight. I guess my metabolism changed when I started breastfeeding. I'd gain weight with each pregnancy and then it'd fall off after the birth until baby #8. I had to work at losing the weight after that birth. Baby #9 and the impending 40 age mark both seemed to do me in as far as weight. I never lost all the weight after #9, though I did lose the weight I gained with #10.

After #10 I still had the weight from #9 to lose and thought I would. I was sorely disappointed when I found that I had not only not lost the weight but had packed on 20 more lbs.

In January I decided to cut out chocolate, ice cream, Oreos, and other junk food and lost 8 lbs. But, then I drifted away from that resolve and gained 3 lbs back. In June, my oldest daughters and I decided to try the South Beach diet. On June 8 we started Phase I, also known as the strict phase. SB is essentially cutting out white sugar and white flour and replacing them with vegetables, lean meats, cheese, nonfat milk, beans, and fruits. It isn't very different from the way I'd been eating, sans the junk food.

To date, I've lost 16 lbs on the SB diet and 21 lbs total. My goal is to lose another 15 lbs, for a total of 36 lbs.

I have always exercised. I have many exercise DVDs and videos. My favorites are The Firm and Tae Bo. I'm pretty active chasing my kids around and constantly cleaning the house, but for me, turning 40 seemed to slow my metabolism to zero. The SB diet has seemed to kick up my metabolism and allow me to lose weight I've been hanging onto for years.

Today, I went back on Phase I which consists of vegetables, eggs, beans, lean meat, and cheese because my son is getting married in September and I want to lose as much weight as I can before then. I'm hoping to lose 2-3 lbs by next Monday.

Breakfast: scrambled eggs with cheese, water.
Lunch: salad with ranch dressing, water.
Snack: almonds, string cheese, water

I plan to post a before and after picture when I hit my goal because the before picture is just too embarrassing.

Here's to attaining weight loss goals to enjoy better health and activity.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story


Utah State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s ground-breaking new novel, Am I Not A Man: The Dred Scott Story is now available for preorder at a reduced price.

An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."

Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation.

Dred Scott's inspiring and compelling true story of adventure, courage, love, hatred, and friendship parallels the history of this nation from the long night of slavery to the narrow crack in the door that would ultimately lead to freedom and equality for all men.

You can order your sale-priced, signed and numbered limited edition copy of Am I Not a Man by visiting Valor Publishing Group before Labor Day. There are only 5,000 copies of this special edition being printed and once they’re gone, they’re gone … and the sale price ends on Labor Day. You can request that Mark personalize your inscription, and your book will be mailed to you before the stores even get their copies. For more information, visit Valor Publishing Group.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

An Outpouring of the Spirit

My oldest daughter has been friends with a young man since they began high school. He's become friends with my other kids (my 5-year-old plans to marry him at some point and tells everyone that they're "dating") and has spent time at our home. He's also friends with other LDS kids and the director of the performing arts group that he and my kids are in is a member of our ward.

We've been waiting for him to commit to baptism and I think he went through at least 13 missionaries before finally decided to get baptized. He made the decision after he heard the talks in sacrament meeting a few weeks ago (my oldest daughter was one of the speakers).

Sunday he was baptized. It was amazing. The Spirit was so strong. The director of the performing arts group (who is also one of our seminary teachers) spoke with such power and the Spirit bore witness of her words. My oldest daughter sang, "When I am Baptized," and I don't think I've ever heard her sing so sweetly and so full of the Spirit. Another young woman in the ward who he's dated also gave an incredible talk about the Holy Ghost and then the Primary kids in the audience were asked, spur of the moment, to sing, "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus," and one of my younger daughters was asked to sing the second verse as a solo. She did an excellent job.

At the end of the service, unbeknownst to him, all of his friends from the performing arts group, most of whom are not LDS, sang, "I Heard Him Come." It sounded as if angels were singing in a heavenly choir. I can hardly describe the way those kids sang and the feelings that welled up inside of me as I listened to them. Most of these kids live very different lives and most aren't religious, but they came together to support this young man and to show their love for him. We'd be lucky to have friends like these kids.

It was an emotional service and one that will stay with all of us who attended. The Spirit testified that it was right. All whose hearts were open felt that witness. The only word I can think to describe this baptism is: glorious.

Attending this service and witnessing the outpouring of the Spirit reminded me that we are all God's children and how He must rejoice when we come unto Him. How He loves each of us. How He wants all of us to experience the joy that comes from the gospel. And, most importantly, we never know who we might influence. If we stand in judgment of others and their lifestyle choices, we will not be able to influence them or show them the light of the gospel. We never know who is searching for the truth or when we can be an instrument in the Lord's hands unless we learn to listen to the Spirit and love those around us.

I'm truly thankful for this experience. It changed me and will ever be part of me.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Always Call Me Princess by David Ted Eyre

You Always Call Me Princess
by
David Ted Eyre

This tender, sweet, and true account is written by the father of a young woman with Down syndrome. He details his feelings when he first learned his daughter had Trisomy 21 and then chronicles her life until a momentous occasion during her senior year of high school when she was named the Homecoming Queen.

I was touched by his honest portrayal of his life and his genuine feelings about his daughter. I was also struck by the selfless actions of so many teenagers who voted for Shellie Eyre as Homecoming Queen. For the most part, teenagers are self-absorbed and self-centered, yet an entire student body looked beyond physical limitations and recognized the beauty within Shellie. What a testament to the valiant teenagers we have in the world, those who will see the heart of someone else, those who will give freely of their time to make someone else feel joy. I admire all of those who did so for Shellie. Some of the passages brought tears of gratitude and joy to my eyes.

In a world where 90% of all women who find that they are carrying a baby with Down syndrome choose to abort it, this account gave me hope that there are people, even teenagers, who won't judge another simply because he or she has an extra chromosome. I only hope my son will be surrounded by thoughtful and caring people and will have positive experiences similar to Shellie's.

This book was a quick read, though it could have benefited from some editing and knowledge of writing techniques. It's a touching story that's important to read not only to realize that even people with disabilities have gifts and talents, but also to restore faith in humanity.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Grandma Fears Her Future

My grandmother is in the hospital as a result of a minor stroke. She's an amazing woman who is still vibrant and mentally sharp. We discuss politics, religion, current affairs, and anything else that happens to pop into our conversation. She's an excellent conversationalist and I enjoy our visits.

The other day she expressed her fear of the new healthcare reform proposed by President Obama. She's afraid that with the new directives she won't receive any care and will be left to die. I wanted to reassure her that she'd receive whatever medical care she might require in the future, but I couldn't. The fact is, she won't.

According to this 1000+ page document, after age 65 citizens will receive end-of-life counseling on how to end their lives instead of receiving treatment for their ailments. For example, a man age 65 who needs a knee replacement and has worked all of his life paying into medicare and social security will be denied while a 20-something illegal immigrant who hurt his knee running the border will receive the knee replacement. How fair is that?

The new healthcare reform not only includes abortion but defines it as needed healthcare. What? How can an abortion be determined as healthcare? In most cases, it's birth control. Not only will our government be encouraging women to kill their innocent babies, they'll be forcing us as American citizens to fund the slaughter.

This healthcare reform will also prohibit private insurance. My husband has worked hard for over 20 years to provide for our family and to maintain benefits, including health insurance and now the government wants to take it away because somehow we don't deserve it anymore.

So, my grandmother is justified in her fear of what this healthcare reform will do to her, and to us as a nation. Our once superior healthcare will be replaced by mediocre care, and only if the government deems that you qualify. This reform will deny life to the unborn and the elderly.

And, the politicians will not be required to take part in the national healthcare--they'll have their own system. Isn't it ironic that Ted Kennedy who is pushing this reform is benefiting from the very care he'll be denying citizens his age as he fights a brain tumor?

Call your representatives, email them, mail them, but let them know that we not only value the life of the unborn, but we also care about our older citizens and that we do not want socialized medicine.

Here's a link to all the addresses of our government representatives: http://www.conservativeusa.org/mega-cong.htm . Perhaps, if we work together we can stop this legislation before it destroys our country, and our lives.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What's the Big Deal with Scouting?

A couple of weeks ago, my husband spent almost a full week at Philmont Scout Ranch in eastern New Mexico for a training with the General Young Men's Presidency. He was home for a few days and then headed to a local Scout camp with my son. He had previously spent 3 days (not including all of the set-up or planning) hiking with the older boys in our stake in a Zion's Camp type of experience to help priests develop a stronger testimony as well as a desire to serve a mission. He jumped through all sorts of hoops to make this camp a BSA approved camp.

He attended Wood Badge last year, attends Rountable Meetings each month, and serves as a Unit Commissioner. He's also trained to train other leaders.

I served on the Troop Committe for years, helped my first son earn his Eagle, and now have another son who's a Life Scout and should earn his Eagle by the end of the year.

We know Scouting. Truthfully, I find all the red-tape somewhat suffocating and think it's outrageous that professional Scouters earn a salary for a job that could be voluntary. All of us in the trenches, who actually spend the time with the boys, volunteer our time and money to support Scouting, yet professional Scouters are paid a salary. Somehow, that doesn't make sense to me.

However, I do believe in the Scouting program and I believe it helps boys learn many skills as well as satisfaction in achieving difficult goals. There is a direct correlation between boys who earn their Eagle and those who serve missions. If your son earns his Eagle it isn't a guarantee he'll serve a mission, but it's much more likely, especially if he also graduates from seminary. I'm really thankful that my husband and my oldest son both earned their Eagle ranks and look forward to my other son earning his.

Here's what gets under my skin about Scouting. All the complaining at the local level from the leaders. Why is it so hard for people to serve in Scouting? Why is it so hard to take boys on camping trips? Why is it so difficult to attend Roundtable meetings? A calling in Scouting doesn't last forever, but a leader's bad attitude can affect a young boy forever.

Yeah, there's red tape. Yeah, it's a headache sometimes. Yeah, BSA has some ridiculous rules. Yeah, it's hard getting a boy from Tenderfoot to Eagle. But, the effort is so worth it. Think of the boys' lives we can affect for the good simply by doing our callings in Scouting. Think of the impression we can leave on young men when we plan hikes, campouts, and badge opportunities. Think of the good we can do simply by having a good attutude and magnifying a call from the Lord. Boys learn their attitudes about Scouting from their leaders and they can tell in a heartbeat if their leaders are committed to Scouting or not.

The Lord isn't going to ask us if we loved Scouting, but He is going to ask us if we fulfilled, and magnified, our callings, including those in Scouting. He's going to ask us if we did our best to serve the young men in Scouts. What do we want to answer?

I say, quit our complaining and just do our calling in Scouting. We may find we really like it after all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Trail of Storms by Marsha Ward

Trail of Storms
By
Marsha Ward

Here's the back cover copy:

Jessie Bingham put heartbreak away to tend to her sister's needs, but when she settled for second best in love, she didn't foresee that James Owen would come back into her life.

The aftermath of the Civil War creates cruel circumstances for the Bingham family. A brutal attack on Jessie's sister, Hannah Fletcher, drives the extended family to flee to the West. They are soon joined by Heppie Bingham's beau George and his brother, Ned, who bring news that the Binghams are being pursued by cronies of Hannah's attacker. Even after they fight off that onslaught, poverty, bad weather, and Hannah's frightful secret plague their journey. Nursing her battered heart when she hears James Owen took a wife, Jessie accepts Ned's offer of marriage. But a stop on the trail holds surprises that launch Jessie into a bewildering tangle of values, emotions, and high adventure.


Marsha Ward has a talent for bringing you right into the story and making you feel like you're experiencing what the characters are experiencing. In this book, there are some downright nasty characters and Ward does an excellent job of making you want to beat them yourself. I was outraged by some of their actions and had to remind myself it wasn't actually happening to me.

Ward has such an authentic flair to her writing that I felt like I was reading something from an author back in the 1870s. She has a vast knowledge of this time period and place and it lends realism to this story.

Some ugly things happen in this book and there is some harsh/profane language so it may not be suitable for all readers, but Ward weaves an interesting and realistic tale of life after the Civil War and definitely makes an impression with Trail of Storms.

To learn more about Marsha Ward and her other books visit her website.