Saturday, December 27, 2008









Another Christmas, another nutcracker added to my collection. My daughter, Lezlie, gave me the Mouse King. Isn't he cute?






One thing we got plenty of here for Christmas was snow. We had blizzard conditions all day and by the time the storm finally blew itself out, the official weather station said we got 20 inches of the white stuff. It's beautiful, but it has been a real challenge to get walks and driveways cleared and to travel anywhere. That's okay, I also got a bit of a cold and don't mind curling up in front of the fireplace and trying to work out a few Sudoku puzzles.



Here's our grandchildren, some in their new Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve and some who think they're too old to wear their new pj's home from Grandma's house. Of course there's a bit of silliness going on too, but what do you expect from ten children between three and seventeen?
We had a wonderful evening together. The little ones put on the nativity pageant, then the oldest read the story from Luke, followed by the next two oldest playing their guitars while the others sang a Christmas lullaby.

I also got a surprise idea for a Christmas story, one best told from one of my sons-in-law's point of view. If it works out, I'll let you know before next Christmas.

And if I don't get a chance to post again before next Thursday, Happy New Year to all of you.



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

LOVE THOSE NUTCRACKERS












Nuts, or tree nuts if you will, are one of my favorite treats and have been a part of my Christmas celebrations as long as I can remember. Christmas wasn’t the only time I got to feast on nuts as a child. Daddy used to bring home a paper bag with a pound or two of mixed nuts from winter trips to town. Mama would spread papers on the floor and the nuts would be poured onto the paper, then armed with the usual U-shaped metal crackers, my brothers and sisters and I would dive in. Being one of the younger and smaller children, I had difficulty managing the nut cracker, and too often got stuck with peanuts while my older brothers wielded the crackers and gorged on walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. I’ll admit I resorted to borrowing Daddy’s hammer on occasion to make certain I got my share of the good nuts.

Once when I was very young, my parents took me to visit someone, I have no idea now who the person was other than that he herded sheep, but this person had a marvelous nutcracker. It was made of metal, looked like a battered soldier, and had a lever on the back that when operated opened and closed the soldier’s mouth. When a nut was placed between the soldier’s ragged steel teeth and the lever employed, voila! The nut cracked. I was in love! I dreamed of having a nutcracker like that.

Sometime later I happened on a story about a little girl named Clara who received a soldier nutcracker as a gift, which her brother promptly broke. I could relate to that, having two younger brothers and three older ones. The man who gave Clara the nutcracker repaired it on Christmas Eve while she slept. Also while she slept, she was attacked by mice. The soldier nutcracker came to life and, along with sugarplum-filled adventures, saved her from the mice and became her hero. The story was a great fairytale, but I was more interested in the nutcracker’s practical application, getting those pesky hard shells off of nuts.

I was an adult with children of my own when I finally saw Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet. It was a thrilling performance, but the part of me that was once a little girl who loved eating nuts, still loves the doll-like nutcrackers more than the fairy tale or the ballet. Long ago I began acquiring nutcracker dolls whenever I got a chance. Mine aren’t the expensive collectors’ nutcrackers, but they’re of invaluable worth to me and are an essential part of my Christmas decorations.

My first nutcracker was a reward for spending so much money on other things at a local furniture store. He’s not much good for cracking nuts, but I like him. He's the one in the blue coat. The Canadian Mountie is a souvenir from a wonderful trip to Victoria with my husband, our daughter, Mary Jo, and her husband, Rich.


My second nutcracker came from ZCMI the year I decided to buy myself a gift. He's the tall one in the red coat on the bookcase shown below.

When family and friends discovered my fondness for nutcrackers, I was inundated with the dolls. Suddenly everyone knew what to get me for Christmas. I received tall nutcrackers, short ones, characters from the ballet on a music box, and even nutcrackers for the twelve days of Christmas.





My daughter Lezlie made a special nutcracker for me to commemorate 9-11 and to honor the brave firemen who lost their lives trying to save others that day.


My grandson, Brandon’s favorite nutcracker is the one wearing Army fatigues he calls the “daddy one.”
All of my grandchildren love the big nutcracker and try to entice each other to put their fingers in his mouth. Fortunately none have gotten hurt. Even this nutcracker will only crack soft shell nuts.


I’ve never been too sure what nutcrackers have to do with Christmas except for the fairytale/ballet which is set at Christmastime and that in earlier times, children, like I once was, received nuts in our Christmas stockings. But gradually, I’ve developed my own reason for decking my home with nutcrackers each Christmas. Just as the Christ Child was a gift of love to God’s children, my nutcrackers represent the love family and friends have given me. They’re bright and colorful and make delightful decorations, but sometimes I think about that old sheepherder and wonder what became of his marvelous nutcracker. As much as I love all my nutcrackers, not a one of them will crack a decent nut.













Friday, December 12, 2008

NEW BOOK IN JANUARY











I was going to wait until after Christmas to post a picture of my new book cover since it won't be available until January 5, but I couldn't wait. It's a pretty bold and exciting cover. High Country isn't a western in the usual sense. Yes, it takes place mostly on a ranch and there are horses, but it's a contemporary story that begins in California when Laura and her cousin Bruce inherit their elderly great aunt's house and all the boxes and clutter she's collected over nearly a century of living. One of those boxes contains a few shocking documents; Laura's late father's will leaving her a half share in an Idaho ranch, a baptism certificate, and a marriage certificate with Laura's name on it.



Wednesday my oldest grandson became an Eagle Scout. I hope you don't mind my bragging a little, but I'm awfully proud of him. Yes, that's a real eagle.






I only have a handful of Christmas cards left to send out. I wish I could send Christmas greetings to all my friends and family, but since that isn't possible, I'm wishing you all a Merry Christmas with a little help from my grandson, Brandon who is checking out the nutcracker's bite.




Merry Christmas to all and to all a good bite.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

LDS PUBLISHER CONTEST


There's a fun new Christmas Story contest on LDS Publisher's blog. All you have to do is write a short Christmas story, less than 2000 words, and submit it to LDS Publisher. Various books, including one of mine, will be the prizes. There's a category for published authors and one for unpublished. Check out the details here. All of this coming week entries will be posted on LDS Publisher's blog and the following week readers will get a chance to vote on their favorites.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stories of Scrooges, angels, and miracles abound at Christmastime. Tales of a Grinch who sees the error of his way and makes a complete about face are plentiful too. But it’s the little moments of compassion that touch me the most.A few years ago I was working at the desk of a major library when a young man came to the desk with a book he was desperate to check out for a class he was taking at the University. Unfortunately he had fines on his card that had exceeded the limit I could override and allow him to take the book. He had no money and we were at a standstill. A stranger waiting in line stepped up and paid the fine. “I try to do one good deed for a stranger every Christmas season,” she said, brushing off the young man’s thanks. I love that concept. What a wonderful Christmas it would be if we all did just one kind thing for a stranger this holiday season. To read more on this topic click here.

For me each Christmas season includes a lot of book signings and the opportunity to meet old friends and new who are shopping for books to give for Christmas. This Saturday, December 6, I'll be at the Redwood Seagull Book Store (1700 South) at 11 a.m, then at the West Jordan Seagull Book at one o'clock. The West Jordan store has some fun things planned including giving customers copies of favorite Christmas recipes, including one from me. Michele Bell, one of the co-authors of The Spirit of Christmas will be signing with me at both stores. Come on in and say hello.









Along with putting up our tree, decorating the house, and doing a ton of Christmas shopping this past week, I managed to get new glasses. They're smaller than my old ones and take some adjusting.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I don't know what it is about book signing pictures that makes them turn out pretty awful, but at least we had fun while this one was being taken on a customer's cell phone. Left to right, me, the customer, Betsy Green, Michele Bell, and Nancy Allen. The three of us were signing our new Christmas book, the Spirit of Christmas, and Nancy joined us at the Orem store.

Monday, November 24, 2008

This n' That

No book signings this past weekend, but I'm gearing up for the two days after Thanksgiving. I'll be headed south the day after Thanksgiving to three different Seagull stores, Provo East Bay from 11-12, Provo 12:30 to 1:30, and Orem North from 2 to 3 p.m. And I won't be alone. Betsy Brannon Green and Michele Bell will be signing with me. The three of us will be signing our new Christmas book The Spirit of Christmas as well as our most recent individual books, that's The Ruby for me. The next day I'll be in Ogden from 11-noon.

Though I didn't visit any book stores this past weekend, it was a hectic busy weekend helping my daughter and her family move into their new home. The movers arrived with their furniture right on schedule and we began unpacking and deciding where things should go. One of the hardest things for me was throwing away the stacks and stacks of packing paper. (The moving company will collect it to receycle) When I was a child I would have been thrilled to have those huge sheets of plain white paper to write or draw on. Money was a scarce commodity for my family back then and paper for kids' artistic pursuits wasn't high on the family priority list. We had to make do with grocery bags, the backs of letters arriving in the mail or school papers that had been graded and returned, and every other piece of paper no longer needed but sporting a few inches of usable space. These past few days have also included a hair cut and an eye exam--one of those things booked months ahead.

Our house seems quiet now, but it won't be for long. Thanksgiving is just two days away and four of our children and their families will be here for dinner. That means lots of cleaning, shopping, cooking and getting ready. My house will be full of noise, laughter, and good smells again. Here's wishing all of you a wonderful holiday filled with family, a yummy dinner, and quiet moments to reflect on your many blessings.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Bookstore

The new bookstore called Provident Books in Pleasant Grove, Utah is a new kind of bookstore. It's a combination toy store, candy emporium, and book store. It's a place where readers can find not only the top sellers from the larger LDS publishers, but can find those harder-to-find books from small publishers and self-publishers. See those odd looking things at the top of the picture? They're kind of like skateboards, but with a place to sit. Kids were zipping around the store on them while I was signing books Saturday and having a blast. For more about the new store go to Tristi Pinkston's blog. In the picture are Karlene Browning, Asst. Mngr, and I'm flanked by two of my favorite authors, Tristi Pinkston and Nancy Allen. Karlene says future author visits will include invitations to book clubs to sit down with an author, round table discussions, and other more intimate opportunities for authors and readers to interact.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shopping Extravaganza

This blog has nothing to do with politics, the state of the nation, or anything controversial. It doesn't even have anything to do with my cute grandkids or my views on writing. The only bomb shell dropping is the news that there's a fantastic sale going on on E-Bay. Dozens of writers and readers have contributed books, jewelery, editing services, photo sessions, clothes, figurines, and many, many other items to be auctioned off to support the Whitney Awards program. Whitneys you ask? What is that? It's a recognition program designed to award LDS writers for outstanding achievment. Nominations are made by readers. Go here to nominate your favorite LDS novel for an award. You can nominate more than one book, but only nominate a particular book once. It takes five nominations from at least five different people to put an author in the running for an award. Sadly, like everything else the program takes money and this year's sponsors decided to hold an auction to raise funds to run the program. Click on the Whitney icon beside this blog to see what is available and to bid.

A complete set of my Bracelet series is one of the offerings, along with a little bracelet featuring the jewels from the series (not real ones of course). That's four books and so far the highest bid is just $30.00.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What about Tomorrow?

One of my daughters and her husband are buying a house. They signed the papers just yesterday. It's an exciting time for them, a little scary too in today's economic climate. My daughter has been shopping for blinds and curtains, purchasing tile sealer, talking to the various utilities and doing the thousand and one things buying a new house entails. Rushing to the new house with the newly acquired keys in hand they met a sad sight--a broken window, a stolen garage door opener, and muddy tracks across the carpet.

Thousands of people went door-to-door collecting signatures to put a cause they believe strongly in on the ballot. They made phone calls, they donated money, they formed a huge coalition of many faiths in support of time-tested traditional marriage. The people of the state passed the measure. The losers never really lost anything except the right to push their agenda on innocent school children and to force those who morally oppose homosexual relationships to recognize a lifestyle morally repugnant to them as worthy of God's sanction. With the passage of Prop. 8, gays can still call their relationships anything they want--except marriage--they lose no civil rights, they can still hold jobs, live where they like, designate whoever they wish as their heirs, care for each other in sickness and health, own property jointly, and designate each other as having power of attorney in the event one partner is incapacitated. Still they are holding parades, blocking traffic, egging houses, seeking out activists judges to overrule the will of the majority, and being generally hateful and rude to those who stood strong for their beliefs. Yet they claim they are the ones being disrespected.

In recent years a general disrespect for both public and private property and opinions has grown. Causes have superceded faith in God. Mean-spirited spoilers are everywhere. This year's election campaigns were rife with some of the most vile accusations spilling from the fingertips of bloggers and campaigners hiding their personal agendas behind anonymity. Nearly half of the electorate opposed Barack Obama as President of the United States, yet no one is holding protest parades in objection to his legitimate win. There is a general acceptance that the will of the majority is to be accepted. Many non-supporters have taken a wait and see position, others are quietly accepting the will of the majority, and others are finding positive possibilities in an outcome they didn't choose.

Are we headed into an era where theft and vandalism will rise, even become acceptable? Are we looking at future political campaigns that are longer and meaner? Are we moving toward a climate of intolerance toward religous freedom? Is there still hope and a belief that there is more goodness than evil among us? I choose to believe there are still men and women of integrity who honestly want what is best for our country, who will put our nation and God before their personal desires, and who respect the rights of others.

Monday, November 3, 2008

TIME TO VOTE

Photo by Chuck Little

No matter who wins the presidential election tomorrow, there are going to be a lot of disappointed people. The race for President is too close for the winner to claim a mandate which means he is going to start his term with almost half of the nation disliking him or at least discounting his ability. This hasn’t been a pleasant election. It’s been too long and too decisive. The media has taken sides. Sound bytes and political posturing haven’t reliably represented anyone. The polls have been a major annoyance. Blogs have been filled with spiteful meanness. There have been strange reasons for becoming politically involved and a plethora of ridiculous promises the president alone can’t deliver

Change has been the buzz word with little attention paid to what kind of change is being promised and who can deliver it. The President doesn’t have as much power as most people think he does. Congress holds the purse strings and if the economy is where you’re looking for change congressional candidates are the ones that should receive our scrutiny. If the moral fiber is the change you want, you won’t get it with a further slide toward candidates who espouse an “anything goes” philosophy. If you’re concerned about protection from terrorism, then take a good look at every race; if you’re not, then welcome to the head-in-the-sand society. None of the rest of our freedoms will matter if we cease to be a sovereign nation. If you’re just sick of politics and want it all to go away or have no intention of voting, you just might get your wish; the change you’ll get will be a loss of choice.

The challenge will begin as we come to terms with the results of tomorrow’s actions. We can blindly support our new President and whatever changes Congress pushes our way. We can pout and sulk and refuse to acknowledge him. We can shrug our shoulders and go along with whatever our politically activist media tells us is good for us. Or we can get involved; we can let our congressmen, senators, president, governors, commissioners, mayors, and school boards know when they get it right and when they don’t. Our freedom and who we are as a nation doesn't begin and end in Washington, D.C. A republican form of government doesn’t mean we elect representatives, then bow out of the picture until the next campaign rolls around. Our representatives can’t represent us unless we let them know our views. It’s time to stop allowing a few vocal activists, parties, bloggers, newspapers, unions, or other groups to drown out our voices and make our decisions.

Whoever wins the election tomorrow deserves to be given a chance. We have a responsibility to respect the office whether we endorse the occupant or not. Respect doesn’t mean becoming a nation of yes men, but it does mean granting those with whom we disagree the right to express their views, courteous language, and the same consideration we expect to be granted to us. Let’s start by making our voices heard at the polls tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Cake Saver



















We have a lot of fall birthdays, in fact, today is my husband's. Others were two of our daughters' and our two youngest grandsons. I even have one coming up soon. Since my husband is gluten intolerant, the only way he gets a birthday cake is for me to make it. It came out of the bundt pan beautifully and after it cooled I reached for a special cake plate to put it on. The children's cakes came in boxes and were beautifully decorated, but my husband's cake was decorated more simply since I'm not very artistic and as usual was running short on time, but as I looked at that stemmed cake plate with its protective dome, it took me back in time. A glass cake saver on a pedestal was something my mother always wanted. Her mother had one and Mama didn't know what happened to it after her mother died. Being only ten at the time, she'd had little say in what happened to her mother's belongings. She often spoke of how pretty a cake always looked on a proper cake plate. I don't know if I and my siblings were a little dense or if we just never happened to find one to give her. My father gave her a nice practical tin one and one of my sisters gave her a lovely plate on a pedestal but with no lid or dome.


I'm not sure when my mother's dream became mine, but for years, I too longed for a graceful cake saver, but it always seemed there were other things I needed more. They were also a little hard to find. One day while visiting my daughter, Mary Jo, on an Army base where her husband was stationed, I mentioned to her how my mother had wanted a cake plate like her mothers and that somehow I had developed the same longing. Sometime after I returned home my daughter and another sargeant's wife who had become her close friend were talking about their families and my daughter mentioned that she was thinking of looking for a cake plate for me for Christmas and why. Her friend said she wanted to find a CD her daughter wanted, one she listened to every time she was at Mary Jo's house. Knowing her friend wouldn't find the CD locally since it was the sound track for an LDS movie, Mary Jo called me and asked me to get one for her to surprise her friend. I did, and the next time I went to visit, I was the one to receive a surprise---a cake saver, just as I imagined my grandmother's must have looked. It wasn't a gift from my daughter, but from her friend.


That cake saver has become a kind of link to my mother and my grandmother, but also to my daughter, and to the friends who have enriched both my life and my daughter's. Pretty cakes in boxes are nice; I love them in fact, but I'm glad for the occasional excuse to place a cake on that plate and gently set the domed lid over it. The memories it invokes, in my mind anyway, make even my clumsy decorating efforts appear elegant.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Signing in Bountiful

I know this is short notice and I apologize. I'll be signing my new books The Ruby and The Spirit of Christmas at the Bountiful Barnes and Noble tomorrow, October 24, between twelve and two. The address is 340 South 500 West in Bountiful. The signing is sponsored by the Davis Education Foundation to raise funds for education in Davis County. It's a big Book Fair with lots of authors. Please come if you can.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Three Things

This past week has been filled with so much rushing about and hurrying to get things done, but three things stand out. Thursday night I spoke at the Murray Library to a delightful group. They were fun and asked great questions. Along with signing my new release, The Ruby, it was my first opportunity to sign copies of The Spirit of Christmas which I co-wrote with Betsy Brannan Green and Michele Ashman Bell. You can find both books in bookstores now.

Friday was my youngest grandson's third birthday. Three is a wonderful age, so full of enthusiasm and energy. He's been playing "air" guitar for almost six months so we gave him a small guitar. Talk about enthusiasm! It was glued to his little fingers the rest of the evening and even sat beside his plate while he ate icecream and cake.

The third fun thing was Saturday morning when my three younger daughters and their husbands went to the temple to do a big stack of family sealings. My oldest daughter, my husband, and I volunteered to watch the seven youngest grandkids. We went to the park, played in our back yard, watched cartoons, and ate snacks; nothing unusual but it was so fun to watch the seven cousins (between 3 and 9) interact and enjoy each other.

I often think of President Hinckley's comment about life being a train ride with starts and stops, cinders and smoke in our eyes, derailments, rushing and waiting, with a few panoramic vista's thrown in here and there. It's those unexpected vistas that make life precious. I'm glad I had the opportunity to enjoy three of those vista's this past week. They do indeed make life precious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The V-formation


This morning as I walked from my car to the temple I noticed tulip bulbs scattered across the flower beds and a woman was tossing pansy starts at random among the bulbs. I remembered that I have bulbs to plant tomorrow and that I set out my pansies last week. Just seeing all those bulbs filled me with anticipation for next spring. I stepped through the door and glanced back over my shoulder just as a large formation of geese flew over. For just a brief moment they were picture-postcard perfect framed just above the fountain and the vibrant fall flowers. For me the geese herald the end of summer and the beginning of true fall with winter coming closer.


I've always had a soft spot for geese. My mother had a small flock of geese when I was a child. I loved to watch them walk, their noisy honking, the way they rid the garden of grasshoppers and other such pests, the way they stayed together, and their soft downy color. The gander was another story, I was a bit afraid of old KC, who ruled his flock with dictatorial imperialism. I would rather tangle with a territorial cattle dog than old KC. My little brother once collected a frightening number of bruises from the old gander who pinched him mercilessly for straying too close. The new little goslings are as cute as baby chicks or ducks and slightly more adventurous.


Goose eggs are impressive with one big enough to make an omelet for two or maybe three. And in my early years Thanksgiving and Christmas meant roast goose rather than turkey. Our pillows were soft with goose down.


With all of this experience with geese, I suppose it's rather fitting that I should now find myself a member of a group of bloggers who call ourselves the V-formation. This group of writers chose the name because of our admiration for a flock of geese flying overhead. They form a broad V and take turns flying point. While the lead bird bucks the wind, the others flap their wings and honk encouragement. That's sort of the idea behind this group of writers. Sometimes one, then another, faces a serious plot problem, is caught up in the rush and push of deadlines, or is meeting multiple demands. Sometimes it's personal illness or problems that feel like strong headwinds. On those occasions the rest of us cheer the one flying point on. We also honk for each other's achievements, new books released, or a new grandchild. Consider this an invitation to visit our V-formation. Please leave comments, ask questions, and suggest topics you would like any of our panel to discuss.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I love conference weekends and I'm sorry to see this one end. The speakers always seem to know just what we need to hear. Except for the announcement of five new temples, nothing really new was said, but I was touched by the gentle reminder that we as a people believe in preparation; spiritual preperation, educational preparation, and financial preparation. There was no "haven't you been listening; we've been telling you for years to avoid unnecessary debt, dress modestly and respectfully, and live within your means." There was understanding and sympathy for those who face hard times along with a call to simplify our lives, reduce our wants, and place our emphasis on loving each other and the Lord. I think it was that sense of love and concern that touched me most deeply.

For me and other writers, conference weekends always mean book signings and they're some of the most fun signings of all. It was wonderful to meet people I only knew from online communications, people I've known but haven't seen for a long time, dear friends, and strangers who are now friends. It was my first chance to see my new book, The Ruby. I don't have my copies yet making it really fun to walk into stores and see it sitting front and center. My four-year-old grandson created a few fun moments for me too. Brandon has an imaginary friend he calls Happy Ghost who goes everywhere he goes so he was very interested in a Halloween decoration I have out on the buffet. It's a ghost sitting in a pumpkin with a pumpkin lid hat. When someone taps on the hat, the ghost spits out candy corns, M & M's or whatever candy I've filled it with. When I got ready to leave for my first signing, he told me not to forget my "happy ghost," so I took my little ghost along and he was a big hit--pun unintended.

One question I'm frequently asked at signings is how long it took me to write the book. I have a hard time with that question because I really don't know. It seems like over the past fifteen years I've always been writing one, working on the edit of another, and promoting and signing a third, all at the same time. This past couple of years it seems those various segments have piled one on top of the other until I found myself with four books in the publishing queue. Then suddenly for the last six months I haven't been writing a new one because I've been so busy with the editing end, then learning my temple responsibilities. Ideas are beginning to stir again and I think I've reached that magical point where I can concentrate on starting a new book. High Country and Shudder will both be back to contemporary stories and will come out in January and August of 2009. What do you think? Should I go with another historical for 2010?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reaching Higher

Saturday's LDS Women's conference provided much to think about. Julie Beck encouraged women to reach higher and do better. It seems that every time Sister Beck speaks some people take offense, but I found her remarks thoughtful and appropriate. In spite of what some critics say I don't think she was telling us to run faster or take on more projects. The message I received is one of encouragement to be the best we can be, to put spiritual goals ahead of worldly goals, choose to spend our time doing that which has the most lasting meaning, to appreciate beauty more, put in the time and effort to build better family relationships, and take time to refresh our own souls. I felt she understands the rushed, multi-tasking world we live in and chose to encourage us to reach higher and do better in those areas that matter most eternally.

Perhaps because of my own calling to work in the temple, I was particularly touched by Sister Allred's talk concerning temples and the importance of building temples, worshipping in temples, and honoring the covenants we make there. Barbara Thompson is a dear friend; we lived in the same ward for years, and she taught my daughters in Young Woman. I was thrilled with her message concerning the privilege which we have of being women, of being LDS women, and of belonging to Relief Society. President Uchtdorf rounded out the conference with a timely speech, encouraging women not to undervalue themselves or their efforts.



Perhaps it was the messages given at the conference or perhaps the fact that more than a year has passed since my family was last all together in one place, but I found myself feeling a little introspective as we got together for a "birthday party" honoring all of our August, September, October birthdays. We've gotten pretty good at quarterly birthday parties--no presents, just lots of food and fun. Talk turned to how much all of the grandchildren have grown, changes in our lives, and a bit of silliness. I found it a little difficult to think our oldest grandson is a senior this year and busy making plans for a mission and college. My daughters and I glanced out the window and saw that the teenage boys had discovered a little blue car in their much younger counsins' backyard that had been theirs when they were little. Perhaps they were feeling a little nostaligic for the past too because the twelve-year-old climbed in first and nearly got stuck trying to get back out. The fourteen-year-old said, "no way." He's the tallest of the three and has the lankiest build. The seventeen-year-old couldn't resist. He squeezed himself inside, then came the problem of getting out.






videoBy the time he got out we were all laughing and instead of looking back we started making plans for our next family vacation. I think maybe that was the overall message I gained from the Women's conference; the past is full of pleasant memories, but it's the future I need to look forward to. There are more truths to learn, more service to perform, golden days with family ahead, and a few more books to write. The future is for reaching higher and doing more.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Whew! After being gone a week, there's been so much catching up to do, I've really been busy. Then too I managed to catch a cold as soon as I got back. I tackled laundrey first, but the weeds in my garden seemed to think they had a free rein to go wild while I was gone, so I'll be doing yard work tomorrow. I also came back to a couple hundred e-mails. Two days were spent at the temple. (I'm "on line" now which means I'm no longer a trainee). It's been fun to discover how many of my dear friends come to the temple. Unfortunately I don't have time to visit while there, but I love seeing you. Having my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson staying with us for a while consumes a lot of time too, but in a fun way.


Just one more week until The Ruby will be on bookstore shelves. I'll be doing a lot of signings too on conference weekend and on up to Christmas. I hope you'll come see me. The Ruby isn't my only book coming out next month. The Spirit of Christmas, co-authored by Michele Bell and Betsy Green will come out a week later.



A group of writers who became close friends formed a small group some years ago and have been a source of inspiration and support to each other ever since. We named ourselves after the V-formation made famous by wild geese who fly tremendous distances by taking turns being on the point and honking wildly to offer the leader support. If a goose is injured and unable to fly another goose will stay with it to offer support and comfort until it can fly again. Recently we decided to start a group blog named after our group. The first blog was posted today by Nancy Campbell Allen. I'll be next with a post tomorrow. Take a peek and tell us what you think.

Friday, September 19, 2008

HOME AGAIN!

We returned yesterday from the Washington DC area. We went there to help our daughter and son-in-law get ready for their move back to Utah and to bring our grandson back with us on the plane. While there we did a little sight-seeing. These first two pictures were taken at the Mary Serratt house where Mary's husband ran a tavern and she ran a boarding house. She was the first woman found guilty and executed in America. There's plenty of evidence to suggest she was a conspirator in Abraham Lincoln's death, but there are discrepencies too, which were not fully explored at the time. Defendants weren't even allowed to speak in their defense at that trial. Since this year is a year of female firsts with Hillary Clinton being the first real female contender for President and Sarah Pallin the first female Republican contender for VP, I found something sad in Mary's dubious honor as a "first" female.
George and Martha Washington had no children together, but Martha had children from an earlier marriage. This statue at Mount Vernon shows the first president and his wife with two of her grandchildren. Mount Vernon is more than a grand mansion; it's practically a village with all of the shops, housing, and businesses attached to the plantation. I especially liked the view from the back porch of the Potomoc River. My grandson posed with the Washington family statues. Though Washington was a slaveholder, he housed his slaves in comfortable quarters, kept families together, then freed them in his will. He even kept a nice house for the slaves of visitors so that his slaves wouldn't be inconvenienced.

Much is said about the devestation New York faced when the Twin Towers were hit by terrorists on nine-eleven. We even hear about the heroes who fought back and were lost in Pennsylvania, but not as much attention seems to be given to the passengers on the flight that struck the Pentagon or those who were at work in that busy military complex that day. We visited the recently completed memorial at the Pentagon and were deeply touched. Not all who lost their lives that day were military officers. There were children and families aboard the plane as well as the soldiers in the Pentagon of all ranks who were spending their lives defending freedom and liberty. In the background behind the memorial benches can be seen the Airforce memorial.
Our son-in-law, a hero of this generation, was injured by enemy action in Iraq and has spent two years recuperating. We're thrilled he's coming home, but hurt for the pain and memories he'll carry with him for the remainder of his life. Their little family will also carry with them painful memories of separation and fear, but they'll also have warm and wonderful memories of their two years in Washington and the generosity of the many Americans who arranged outings and special events for the wounded and their families. I want to thank you, all my friends, who have sent him good wishes, cheered me when I was down, and expressed your love and support for our family and our country.


Friday, September 5, 2008

First Chapter Posted


Over on the Six LDS Writers and a Frog Blog, David Woolley expressed how difficult he finds plugging his own book to be. He went on to very cleverly paint an intriguing picture of Day of Remembrance. I share his sentiments about self-advertising, only I don't know any cute and clever way to overcome my reluctance to urge people to go out and buy The Ruby. Those of you who have been following this series are aware that the first book, The Bracelet, told the story of a young Regency era woman who sought to overcome betrayal and fear by stealing gems that she used to make up a priceless bracelet, only to discover her greatest treasure and source of protection didn't lie in glittering jewels. The second book, The Emerald, told the story of an emigrant fleeing injustice with her two small children, the discovery of a fortune in jewels, and the sacrifices she must make to reach the Rocky Mountain stronghold of the Saints. The Topaz picks up the story of one gem and a woman who didn't go West. The Ruby will finish the story as viewed by the daughter of one of the mobsters who attacked and murdered the Nauvoo Saints. Charlie Mae begins the story as an eleven-year-old child, a little girl who lives a hard life, and becomes a woman on a mule-drawn freight train headed for the California gold fields. This is a story of personal strength and a will to find a better life. It's a story of courage, back-breaking work, compassion, and more than one kind of love.
If you'd like to read the first chapter of The Ruby, it is now posted on my web page at http://www.jennielhansen.com/ The book is scheduled to be released early in October and will be available at most LDS bookstores, some mainstream bookstores, and is available for advance orders through Deseret Book.

Monday, September 1, 2008

More About the Wedding








Pictures of the happy couple are below since I don't seem to be very good, or maybe I'm too tired, to get them in the right order. The first are of Ralph and Jean reciting their vows, then of them dancing. They were born to dance together. The wedding was beautiful followed by a catered dinner. Many friends and family members were there to support and congratulate them.


The drive home today started out in the rain, then the rain turned to snow. Lost Trail pass was beautiful, but a little worrisome in the snow, but we arrived home safely.

Montana Wedding









We had a beautiful drive to Montana on Friday, then on Saturday we visited the houses we once lived in then took a tour of the Daly Mansion, Marcus Daly's (Mining, timber, and horse racing giant) fabulous mansion built in the late 1800's or early 1900's. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but it was sort of an old wish come true. When we were children we frequently passed the mansion and dreamed of seeing the inside which is just as fabulous as we once imagined.



Thursday, August 28, 2008

Summer Book Trek


The Summer Book Trek is coming to an end. It's officially over this weekend and since I'll be out of town I'm doing my wrap-up post now. The trek has been fun and I enjoyed reading the reviews by other participants. LDS Publisher has asked all of us who participated in the trek to answer a few questions, so here's her questions and my answers.


1. How many fiction books by LDS authors did you read? 24


2. Did you read more than you would have read if you hadn't participated in this book trek? no


3. Did the reviews posted by other participants influence which titles you read? How? Their reviews didn't influence which titles I read, but I was interested to discover what other readers liked and disliked in the books they reviewed.


4. Did the Whitney awards influence which titles you read? How? Not the previous winners; I've already read all of those, but knowing the next awards are coming up, I was conscious of which books I felt merited being nominated.


5. Did the many, many virtual blog tours that happened this summer influence which titles you read? How? I'm a little reluctant to answer this one because I really didn't like the blog tours. I read so many on the same books, I was sick of the books before I got to read them.


6. Did you finish all the books you had planned to read? If not why? No, I didn't finish them all, some because I never actually got the books, some because I didn't like them well enough to finish, and some I'm still working on.


7. Did you discover any new authors whom you now love? Yes, but I'm not going to name names. I also rediscovered an old favorite, but I didn't find time to review On a Whim by Lisa McKendrick mostly because it's YA and I don't usually review YA.


8. Did you nominate any of the books you read for Whitney awards? Sure did! I found quite a few potential Whitney winners.


9. Would you beinterested in another LDS themed reading challenge either this winter, or next summer? Yes, definitely.