Thursday, July 2, 2015

OUR NATION'S BIRTHDAY


As a teenager, the Fourth of July included parades since I played in the marching band. Later as a mother it still included parades where my daughters played and marched or carried flags. And what would the Fourth be without a picnic and fireworks? Many of my Fourths also included fishing and stories about family members who served in various branches of the military. Above all it was a family day, in essence a small piece of what the historic events of 1776 were all about, a time when father, mother, and their offspring could enjoy the fruits of the sacrifices made for them so long ago. 

It was a novel concept back then that people might govern themselves; that matters of religion, education, employment, and self defense rightly belong to the individual. In order to prevent the kind of tyranny they had so narrowly escaped, those founding fathers drew up a constitution that called for an overall government limited to certain responsibilities. The remaining rights were to be restricted to the states in order to keep government as close to the people as possible. Such long time emblems of tyranny as a monarchy, state religion, and the education of only the wealthy were rejected. Opportunity, equality, and freedom became the new mantra of our ancestors who offered their lives in exchange for a new way of doing things. Farmers and shopkeepers became soldiers who suffered and many died for this dream. In the intervening years many other good men and women have died on battlefields around the world where they fought to preserve freedom and the simple red, white, and blue flag under which the revolutionaries fought has grown to include fifty stars. 

With the passage of time, freedom grew to include those who came here against their will and those fleeing poverty and a lack of opportunity elsewhere.  On the way there have been injustices; the Mormons were ordered exterminated by a narrow-minded governor, some areas denied black people the right to vote, Western states were ordered to stop allowing women to vote, some Hispanic transient workers have been denied payment for their hard manual labor and deported instead, Chinese railroad workers were often treated badly, Japanese families were incarcerated. There are, and likely always will be, some low-minded people who will continue to persecute those they consider beneath them, but real Americans revel in the success of anyone who works for it. 

The past week has been troubling for many Americans whether they support non-traditional marriage or not. There is great concern over the usurpation of state rights by the Supreme Court and serious, justifiable concerns about freedom of religion, parental rights, children's rights, divorce laws, and the legality of other potential matrimonial combinations. Most of these concerns could and should have been worked out without the drastic interference of a few unelected individuals. This is what legislatures are for. The hateful, insulting rhetoric being flung about by both sides of the controversy certainly isn't helpful either. Social changes brought about by majority consensus have proved to work better than those forced on people by edict. It will be a challenge and likely involve many contentious years to work out this issue. It's easy to say this doesn't concern me, but in fact it concerns all of us, and we all need to be involved in working out solutions that are fair to all Americans. Let's not let this issue be the one that destroys "justice for all" or the "freedom to worship according to the dictates of our own consciences." 

I'll be cheering at a parade, eat yummy food, and fly the stars and stripes this Fourth. I hope you will too. America is still worth celebrating. And just one more thing, a slogan I learned as a teenager, "Don't go forth with a fifth on the Fourth, or you might not be around to go forth on the fifth."
 
 

Monday, June 29, 2015

QUESTIONS TO PONDER


Life is full of unanswered questions. I don't mean the big questions, the whys, whens, and wherefores of life, but the little what-happened-to-the-other-sock kind of questions. 

Why does a charge on my bank card get posted before I get home from the store, but a payment can take almost a week to be posted? 

Why do birthdays come in batches? My children, grandchildren, and siblings have 8 June birthdays plus one the end of May and one the first part of July.

What is there about washing the car or windows that causes rain?

Why do I remember where I put something two days after I needed it?

Why do I spot every spelling or grammar error in another writer's book, but miss the obvious ones in my own?

Why do the missionaries stop to introduce themselves when I've just crawled from beneath a pine tree where I've been trimming off dead branches and I'm covered with dirt and sap with my hair looking a fright?

Where do all the tissues come from that wind up in shreds in my dryer filter?

What law of averages results in at least four grandchildren having soccer games, piano recitals, dance revues, and birthday parties the same day?

Why is it that whether I put extra insulin in my pump or a smaller amount, it runs out when I'm getting ready to go to the temple for my Wednesday shift?

Why is a trip to the bathroom a signal for the phone to ring?

What causes the only shirt I own that matches my green pants to be in the laundry when I need it?

Why do I always spill something or get a nosebleed if I wear a white shirt?

Ah life! It's filled with questions, great and small. You can ponder the mysteries of
neuro-science, debate the intricacies of world trade agreements, even postulate on which came first; the chicken or the egg, but I just want to know how my car keys got in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

REMEMBERING MY DAD


 
 
Since Sunday is Father's Day, I'm devoting my blog to my father today. He was many things during his lifetime, but first of all he was my father. One of his attributes that helped to shape my life was that he was a story teller. The stories he told of homesteading, of his adventures in Canada, a run in with a pack of wolves, his devastation at the loss of loved ones, and his adventures and interactions with others fired my imagination.  

My father, Jed Smith, was born across the river from Shelley, Idaho in a tent with wooden sides and a canvas top. That was his home for the first six years of his life. The year he started school his father took up dry farm land on the edge of the lava rocks sixteen miles away. They built a small house and pens for their stock, dug a well, put in a windmill, and his mother planted a garden. Grandpa worked away from the homestead, leaving the running of the farm to his wife and the three children, who were all under eight at this time. He only made it home about once a month to bring groceries to his family. 
 
One night Daddy heard an awful racket near the shed where their sow had recently given birth to new little pigs. He ran out to investigate and his mother ran after him with her .38. They found a coyote trying to get the baby pigs. Grandma shot and killed the coyote. The next morning Daddy and his younger brother had the task of hauling the coyote carcass away and burying it. Rattlesnakes and coyotes were a constant threat. 

After three years the family proved up on the homestead, but the crickets wiped out their crop that year, so they moved back to Shelley, painted and fixed up a chicken coop and lived there for almost four years. Though Daddy was only ten years old, he went to work for his grandfather building roads across Idaho and Wyoming. The flu struck their small community and my father and his mother, being the only ones that didn't get the flu, became the caretakers for family and neighbors for miles around. They bathed the sick and cleaned up after them, cooked huge kettles of soup to feed as many people as possible, cared for their stock, and washed and dried bedding. 

When Daddy was thirteen, the family moved to Canada.  He, his brother, and a sister were baptized the night before they started to Canada. Grandpa wanted to wait, but Grandma said she wouldn’t go to Canada unless her kids were baptized before they left. They soon discovered the closest doctor was twenty miles away and that he was an old drunk no one trusted. People began bringing their medical problems to my grandmother and she became the local midwife. Daddy was called out many times during the night to harness the horses and drive his mother to a neighbor’s house where he would huddle in the barn while she delivered a baby. 

Daddy's years in Canada were filled with hard work and little schooling, though he dated the schoolteacher. As the oldest he was expected to help support the family which he did by working on other farms and ranches, driving cattle, cooking for a timber company, mining, refereeing boxing matches, riding broncos in rodeos, and delivering supplies for the Hudson Bay Company by dog sled. In his early twenties he was accepted into the Royal Mounted Police Academy. When he graduated, he didn't become a Mountie because he wasn't a Canadian citizen and his family was talking about returning to the States. Instead he went to work for the RCMP doing many of the same things as the Mounties, but without the red coat. He delivered supplies to far flung outposts, inoculated the Indian tribes against a small pox outbreak, and assisted in a few arrests. 

One Fall, Daddy was threshing grain when a new worker arrived in the field. He showed the man what to do and they worked together all morning. At Dinner and after the man had gone, he found the man was Edward, the Duke of Windsor, who at that time was next in line to be king of England. 

When the depression brought about the loss of the Canadian ranch, the family moved to Camrose for a year. They rented a house and traded their crop for a Whippet car and $600. They then drove back to Shelley, Idaho.  

Daddy had a fine singing voice and began singing with a dance band where he became acquainted with the band's female singer. They were married shortly after. The two didn’t have many years together. She died three days before Christmas in 1939, leaving Daddy alone with three little boys, the oldest of which was not quite five years old. His sisters helped him as much as they could with the boys, but many times he tied long ropes to their overalls so they could go from the house to the barn and back, but no farther, while he did chores.

One night he stopped at a dance in Blackfoot to pick up his brother. He noticed a young woman who was having difficulty discouraging a would-be suitor. He cut in while they were

dancing and wound up falling in love with her. They were married after a short courtship and in the following years added five more children to the family, including me. 

My Dad was a farmer, but he wasn't afraid to take on any job that enabled him to support our family. He ran the farm for several years at the state mental hospital, spent most winters sorting potatoes in potato cellars, and worked for the Forest Service in Montana a few years. He was still growing a garden when he passed away a few months before his one hundredth birthday. 

There was a special closeness between my father and me as I grew up. Daddy held me in front of him in the saddle before I could walk. When I had rheumatic fever, he taught a private Sunday School class for me every Sunday morning. He taught me to fish and to shoot. He and I tramped deep into the Bitterroot wilderness area to fish together and when my older brothers all left home, I became the one who ran the dairy and irrigated when he'd be gone for weeks at a time on fires or look-out duty for the forest service. We both had an insatiable desire to discover and learn and we spent hours talking about religion, politics, medicine, the world, nature, and anything else that stirred an interest in either of us. Whenever I gave a talk, was in a play, or did anything he considered noteworthy, not only was he there to cheer me on, but he made sure everyone else knew he considered me special. As the years have gone by, I've become more and more keenly aware of how fortunate I was to grow up with a father who loved me, who taught me, and who gave me wings to fly. I love you, Daddy. Happy Fathers' Day!

 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

SUMMER PROJECT


This spring my husband and I started an ambitious project to redo the blocks around our front flower garden and to put a block wall around the large flower garden in our back yard. It's taken longer than expected due to rain, out-of-town trips for two weddings and a funeral, and the discovery that I have a large ulcer. Finally, the past couple of weeks we've had beautiful weather, other than one bad night and a few nose bleeds, I've felt well. Granted my husband has done most of the heavy work and I've tried to keep him from uprooting too many flowers, but it's coming together. What do you think?

 




The project isn't finished, but we're working on it.

Earlier flowers were a little ragged due to the wild weather, but I think these are gorgeous!


 

In case you haven't noticed I have a soft spot for flowers and growing plants. We moved a lot (22 times that I remember!) as I was growing up, but my mother always planted a vegetable garden and lots of flowers wherever we lived. One summer we lived in the caretaker's house in the middle of a cemetery and I thought it was the most beautiful place in the world. Both of my sisters and all of my children plant flowers. It wouldn't be summer without flowers. 

Recently I read an interesting article about bees. Honey bees are dying off and it seems pesticides aren't to blame as first thought. The real culprit is the lack of summer flowers. Fewer people plant flowers than once did and there aren't enough to sustain the bees through the summer, so they starve to death, which in turn, reduces needed pollination for the growth of human food. Environmentalists should be proud of me; I'm doing my part!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

REVIEWERS AND READERS

I've blogged about reviews before, but I'm doing it again. Some people say they never read reviews. That's unfortunate because reviews serve several useful purposes. They're a means of discovering what is new in the book market. They save money by giving readers a glimpse of both the subject matter and the quality of a book so people can make an informed decision concerning purchasing the book. They alert readers to a favorite author's newest release, they serve as a heads up concerning objectionable language, the presence of explicit sex or violence, and alert buyers to the general price of the book and sometimes to where the book can be purchased and in which formats it's available. 

Reviews are generally written with readers in mind, but authors can benefit from thoughtful reviews as well. A review will usually point out areas where the novel excels and in which areas it could be improved. 

Many readers like to share their enjoyment of a book on sites such as face book, Amazon or their own blogs. This is great and a benefit to both readers and writers. Unfortunately there are trolls writing reviews as well as legitimate readers and reviewers. These people get some kind of sick pleasure out of trashing books or poking fun of them. On the other hand I know a reviewer who gives every book five stars and a glowing review no matter what, which isn't helpful either. 

Here are a few suggestions for readers reading reviews. First, be aware of the difference between reviewers who write for a legitimate publication and those who just slap comments on a social page. Professional reviewers may not be as kind as your mom, but will usually give a pretty fair idea of what to expect from a book you may be considering.  Keep a list of bloggers, social page writers, and friends you can depend on to give honest critiques of the books they read. Ignore the rest. 

And here's a little advice for writers. Don't argue with a review. No matter how awful and unfair you feel a review may be it's best to ignore a bad review except to use it to improve the next book if any of the criticism is valid. It's okay to use positive reviews to promote your book, but be sure to credit the review author and the publication. Don't assume your book didn't get reviewed because the reviewer didn't like it. Reviewers receive huge numbers of books and there are many reasons for not reviewing a particular  one; such as already reviewed book or books on that topic recently, reviewed too many books by that particular author in too short a time, doesn't fit the particular publication's policy criteria, etc. 

For nearly fourteen years I've been reviewing adult level LDS novels for Meridian Magazine, a job I love. From a personal point of view, I find LDS authors are getting better and better and I thoroughly enjoy reading most of the books sent to me for consideration. There are some books, even though written by an LDS author, I don't review such as horror, occult, sexually explicit, profanity laced, or books critical of LDS doctrine. I also don't review children's or young adult novels. I do review books from established LDS presses, new publishers, national press, and self publishers in paper format or kindle e-reader format. Both marketing managers and authors are welcome to send books to me for possible review. (Contact me by instant messenger to get my mailing address.)   

Thursday, May 7, 2015

THE REAL THING

A few weeks ago I posted pictures of my garden covered with snow. Today I don't have time to blog, but here are a few pictures of my spring garden, minus the snow.




Thursday, April 23, 2015

CHANGE OF PACE TIME


Sometimes when life is at its most hectic there are moments of sudden humor. These moments give us a chance to catch our breaths, ease tension, and restore balance. Such a moment occurred this morning.  

From the kitchen window I spotted an argument between a magpie and a dove. Just as their disagreement was heating up and turning physical, a robin zeroed in on the pair like a flying missile. Both the magpie and the dove lost no time deciding there was someplace else they needed to be. 

Early in my writing career, both a teacher and a published author gave me the same advice. They said when one scene after another is filled with suspense and tension, the grand finale will have a bigger impact if there is a tension breaker that allows the reader to laugh or at least be mildly distracted before hitting him/her with the big super crisis.  

I woke up this morning feeling like I've reached that brief change-of-direction moment in my writer life.  I have a full length novel, recently submitted to my publisher, and I just finished a novella and sent it to beta readers. While I wait to hear if the novel is accepted and wait for my beta readers to return my novella for whatever repairs it needs, I'm at that change of pace moment. 

Once I would have immediately started another story, but with two manuscripts in the works I think I need a break. I promised myself that when I reached this point I'd clean my carpets. Last week's mud storm has left me with windows in need of a good washing. My garden needs some serious work and I have a Relief Society lesson to prepare. Today I don't want to do any of those things.  

I feel a bit like my granddaughter after her brother's soccer game a few days ago.  When the game ended she gathered up her little folding chair and her blanket and started to walk with my husband and me instead of her mother. We were parked at opposite sides of the soccer field.
 
"Where are you going?" her mother asked her.

"To Papa's house."

"You need to go home and have dinner."

"Grandma has popsicles." She stepped closer to me.  

Ah! That's what I need, something different and fun before plunging into edits and rewrites.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

HELLO SPRING!


Spring has arrived!  A little birdie told me so:
 

 

The lilacs are in bloom.

 

My bleeding heart is lovely this year:

 

 

There are tulips and hyacinths around here someplace:

 

Time to relax in the sun:
 

The patio chairs are waiting:
 

Ahhh Spring!  There's nothing quite like it.

 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

NOT MY BEST DAY


This has been a day of small annoyances. Ever have one of those days? Nothing big, just a series of minor irritations. I could blame it on my blood glucose numbers which have been a little out of whack for a week or so--probably because of Easter plus my sweet tooth. I could blame it on not getting enough sleep the last couple of nights. Or it could be, some days I just feel grumpy. 

To start things off this morning I discovered I made a stupid error in my column on Meridian and my editor didn't catch it. I changed the title of one of the books I reviewed from Until Murder Do Us Part to Until Death Do Us Part. I went grocery shopping and the store didn't have the brands I wanted of a couple of items. My computer wouldn't save my WIP to my backup drive, so I had to e-mail it to myself to be certain I have a back-up. Late in the afternoon I decided I needed a break from writing (it wasn't going well). I accidently paid a bill twice a couple of months ago and the store sent me a refund check. Since I needed a new pair of jeans, I decided to use the check to buy the jeans, assuming that since the check came from that store it would be accepted there.  Besides I have almost enough points at that store to pay for the jeans. I figured wrong. Not only did they inform me I would have to take the check to my bank to cash it, but they couldn't even look up my points. It seems that store requires customers to print off their account data showing points from their home computers or use a smart phone to access the points at the store. I bought the jeans anyway, but resent having to make another trip to my bank to cash the check. 

After all that, I was late starting dinner.  Half way through preparations I realized I was fixing both rice and potatoes. Maybe I should just go to bed. Surely I can't mess that up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CRAZY


This month has been crazy.  There have been five family birthdays, a funeral, a wedding, a lesson to teach, and all the usual trivia of life. Plus I serve at the Oquirrh Mountain temple on Wednesdays, write a review column every other week, got my taxes ready, just sent off one book to my publisher, and I'm about a third of the way through a novella. 

My husband's sister passed away earlier this month after a series of strokes.  The funeral was in Sandy, but she was buried in Lorenzo, Idaho.  For those who never heard of Lorenzo, it's between Idaho Falls and Rexburg. It was great to see so much family, but sad to bid farewell in this life to a dear sister. Those of us who made the trek from Utah to Idaho for the burial stayed overnight in Idaho Falls where we had a spectacular view of the Snake River and the Idaho Falls temple. 

The following weekend we traveled to a different part of Idaho to my niece's wedding in the Twin Falls temple.  It was a beautiful occasion and the bride was gorgeous. Again we enjoyed visiting with family, but it was certainly a happier occasion.  We stayed with my brother and his daughter in the country.  From his windows we saw plenty of cows, a rock-chuck, pheasants, and mules. It was kind of sad to see a lone daffodil blooming beside the rubble that was once my parents' house next door.
 
 

On the way to my brother's house we stopped in Twin Falls where two of my high school friends met me for lunch. It was the first time the three of us had been together since high school which was a long time ago.  One other friend had planned to meet us, but had the wrong date and missed our reunion. 


I discovered it's a real challenge to keep my blood sugar level steady while traveling and eating out. Not only is it hard to count carbs, but eating at irregular times creates problems too. 

And the month isn't over.  There are still two birthdays and a play.  Our oldest granddaughter has a part in her school's musical and we don't want to miss it. I wonder if April will be any better.