Monday, March 31, 2008

Unexpected Reunion

Shirley Bahlmann
If you love your family or have ever wanted something very badly, you might be able to sympathize with how I felt when I realized I couldn't go see my new grandson in January because the roads between Utah and Colorado were too snowy. I thought it would be summer before I ever got to meet the little feller.
But then, last week when I was visiting family in southern Utah, we got a call from our Colorado kids. They were making an unexpected trip to Utah for a beloved friend's family funeral. They agreed on a detour to St. George. So for the first time in a long time, we had all our immediate family together, and I got a smile from that cute grandson, who now is truly cute because at four months old, he's past the squishy stage.
I just wanted to remind you that happily ever afters don't just happen in books. Yours may be just ahead of you, only moments away.
Sweet dreams.

Your Inner Writing Team

by Lee Ann Setzer

At the Storymakers conference, Carroll Morris gave a wonderful presentation about connecting with the voices in your head. Read my writeup here.

A Better Version of Me

A Better Version of Me

By Kimberly Jensen

Everyone always warned me that when my daughter turned 15 she would transform into a person I wouldn't recognize. These words of warnings came from parents of current teenage girls who seemed to sprout gray hairs right before my very eyes. I couldn't stop the gray hairs from coming, but my colorist does a fabulous job in camoflauging them, and I couldn't stop my daughter from turning 15 last December. I held tight to my belief that my sweet little girl would remain sweet, even post-puberty. Her birthday came and along with it came about 12 of her closest friends who roasted marshmallows in the snow and sipped hot chocolate in our backyard. It reminded me of just a few years ago when I was volunteering at the elementary school and my daughter was in her first year of junior high. She arrived home about an hour before I did and decided to surprise me at the school with a mug full of hot chocolate. I took the mug and smiled at my soon-t0-be 13 year old daughter. These small acts of kindness and "thinking of others" comes naturally, and often, to my daughter. But each time I am pleasantly surprised by her insightfulness. I have learned a lot from her, but often fall short. To her it comes naturally. To me, I have to think about it and be reminded often. I'm just thankful that in her, there is a better version of me.

Always Be Writing Something, Anything!

Doug Johnston

I went to the Colorado Independent Publishers Association ( convention in Denver this last weekend. I sat through two days of classes and really enjoyed it.
I met some great people.
They had speakers throughout the conference that were helping us, as publishers and as authors get our books sold. Here is some thoughts of what I picked up at the conference. These are my thoughts and not necessarily those people that were taking better notes than me.
1. You must blog. If you blog for 10 minutes a week, your blog can be successful.
2. You are selling yourself more than you are selling your book. If you can sell yourself you will be a top selling author.
3. Always have another book ready or close to being ready.
4. There are a lot of snake oil salesman waiting for your money.
5. Most authors are strange.

I am only going to tell you about number 3 right now. If you want to be an author, be an author. Always be writing something. Anything!

Chicken a La King

By Suzie Roberts
How does dinnertime at your home happen? Is it rushed and hectic? Is it stiff and rigid? Is it your time to discipline your kids and have a serious family meeting? I hope not. I hope your dinnertime is calm, fun and inviting. I hope you talk to your children and see how their day was. I hope you have fun and get to know each other. Often, this is the only time families sit and talk together. Make it happen! Studies show that children are less likely to do drugs, drink and have sex as teens if they have dinner with their families at least 5 days a week. It is where your children learn values, open communication with you.

Here are some ways to make this happen:
Plan ahead! Plan dinner so that when it is time to put it on the table, it's done and not stressful and rushed.
Work around schedules. If your son works until 7:00, eat at 7:30.
Make it fun. Play games, talk, and laugh at the table.
Work Together. Have kids help, or even make dinner.

Here is a quick and yummy recipe that you can make-ahead and freeze. When you have a crazy night and don't have time to make dinner, pull it out, heat it up and serve over rice.

Chicken a La King
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 cups cooked chicken, cut up
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
In skillet, melt butter, cook green pepper and onion until tender. Stir in soup and milk. Blend well. Stir in chicken and cheese. If freezing, place in a gallon size freezer bag and freeze. Otherwise, serve over rice, noodles, or puff pastry shells.

Memoir Writing Tips

Abel Keogh

A funny thing happens to writers when we overcome a challenging event in our lives such as the death of a loved one, an abusive relationship, horrible childhood, addiction, or other horrific event: We want to share our experience with the world by writing a book.

Our motivations are usually good. We want others to learn and befit from our experience and, hopefully, not make the same mistakes. Yet, unless you’re a famous actor, athlete or other well-known individual, most people outside your family and friends aren’t going to care about it.

Despite this, the literary world is full of wannabe authors who want to share their story. After going through the arduous process of finding a publisher for Room for Two, I know. Literary agents and publishers are inundated with personal story manuscripts every day.

If you have a personal story you want to share, here are three tips to things to help your story stand out and make agents, publishers, and readers take notice.

1. Ask Yourself: Why Would Others Care?

Your story can be very important to you but can have no emotional impact on others. There are lots of books out there about overcoming an addition, a disastrous marriage, or the loss of a spouse, child, or loved one. You need to be able to take stand back and objectively ask yourself what makes your particular story unique enough that other people would care enough to read about it.

Everyone will lose a loved one at some point in their lives. Million go through a divorce or become addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other substances. What makes your experience different from others? What did you learn and how did you learn it that makes your story interesting enough that someone would actually take the time to read it?

If you can find something in your experience that is truly unique and sets your experience apart from thousands and millions of others that have experienced something similar, then you’ll have a leg up on getting agents and publishers to notice your manuscript and readers actually care about it.

2. Resist the Temptation to be a “Wronged Hero”

When writing a very personal story, it’s easy to turn yourself into a “wronged hero.” You know, the flawless individual who experiences something bad and valiantly continues to the uphill struggle against people and society who just don’t understand what you’re going through to make life and the world right again.

Don’t do this. We’re all human. Whether its lapses in judgment, a bone-headed decision, or a simple mistakes – we all do things that we regret. After going through a very heart-wrenching experience our judgment is often emotionally clouded and we find ourselves doing and saying things we wouldn’t under normal circumstances.

If you portray yourself as the perfect person, readers will not only know you’re being phony but they’ll start to wonder if there’s parts of the story you’re being less than honest about as well. If you’re can’t write honestly about yourself, the good and bad decisions you’ve made, and put them in a framework for the reader to understand, then don’t waste your time writing about it. Readers should be able to understand the context in which a choice was made and even if they don’t agree with your evenutal decision.

3. Know How to Tell a Story

The way you tell your story counts. It’s not just the words you choose to use (thought that’s important) but where the story begins, where it ends, and what you put in between.

When sharing person stories, it’s tempting to include every person detail or side story we can think of that shows how cute our kids are or what a jokester Aunt Sarah is. Yet unless you’re writing to your immediate family and friends, those elements can be detracting. Instead, focus your story like a laser beam on the people, scenes, and dialogue that’s important to keep the story flowing and the reader’s interest peaked. My first draft of Room for Two was approximately 120,000 words. The version that made it to print is around 86,000. I was fortunate to find a good editor that pointed out the fluff and helped focus my writing on the real meat of my story.

Remember, writing is an art and it takes a creative mind to know the best way to draw a reader into your personal experience in such a way that care about you and want to read about it. If done right, you can have a wonderful book that can help and entertain thousands of others.

It's Startling

by Mary Stosich

He is our oldest son. The one that startled my life as “Mom.” (“Startled” was not a typo.) His startling not only began at birth but continued with fighting siblings, running away from home, arguing with parents, not keeping curfew and being the cause of sleepless nights and not a small amount of anxiety. Life continued with its kind and cruel passing of years. His startling continues still, but sweetly different.

This “little boy” of ours recently moved back into our town with his family. Now there are some startling twists just in that. He is now an oral/facial surgeon (I can’t spell the real title). That’s extremely startling considering the number of times I ever saw him bring home a book in high school. A few years ago I told his adorable wife that when they finished medical school, she and I would both know how it was possible. I give her the credit. And it’s also startling that those two are parents to five sons. So far, five sons.

Our entire family—all twenty-nine of us have just been together for five days. Don’t worry, I will spare you the details except for one. We had just prepared and cleaned up dinner. I was standing in the kitchen, maybe in a sort of daze when this particular son walked over to me.

Now I am not a small woman, but my 5’11” persona shrinks next to my towering boys. I felt his once chubby arms, now masculine and wonderfully overwhelming, wrap around me with a big squeeze. I heard the words. They are words that strengthen, motivate and bridge across the trials of living. “I love you Mom.” Although his expressions of love are not infrequent these days, this timely tenderness was startling mana from heaven. My soul, sweetly fed with precious light, was fully satisfied.

LDS in Italy

LDS in Italy

Post 4

The Ferrara branch no longer exists and I am no longer a traveling branch president. In March 2008 in a surprise move a new stake was formed in Northwest Italy. From the existing Venice/Italy stake two stakes and two districts were reorganized to create a New Stake. The Milan stake absorbed the Como district with the branches of Como, Varese, Busto D’Astizio and Lugano, Switzerland, and gave up two wards at Bergamo which together with Brescia Berona, Bussolengo, Trento, Bolzano, Modena, Mantova and Reggio Emilia make up the new Verona Italy Stake. For those not familiar with Italian geography Verona is the city that Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet was located. A lovely city traversed by the Reno River. The Trieste district, including Triest, Gorizia, Udine and Pordenone were annexed into the remaining towns of the old Venice stake of Vicenza, Padova, Mestre(Venice), Treviso and Bologna. There are two US servicemen units in this stake one at Aviano (Pordenone), which is the largest ward in the stake and a branch at Vicenza (most of the branch are deployed in either Afghanistan or Iraq). Even though the stake was divided to reduce the extension of the stake, the new Venice stake goes from Triest to Bologna which is a good three hour drive.

Since a stake has to have a minimum of five wards the branch of Ferrara with its 20 active members was suppressed and adsorbed into the Bologna branch to create the Bologna ward. Since Ferrara is about 45 minutes away from Bologna this means that the members there have to travel at least that far and some who lived in the province of Ferrara now travel more than an hour and twenty minutes to go to church. Unfortunately at Ferrara there were several elderly sister who are unable to make the trip and thus can go to church only occasionally. If blessings are according to sacrifice, these will be very blessed people as once again their faith is put to the test.

I of course was left without a job. I went from being a branch president to being suppressed during stake conference. Not even released just suppressed! I spent a wonderful year with the members of Ferrara. We had created a spirit of great unity in the branch mainly through our monthly branch luncheons. Every fourth Sunday the whole branch stayed after the meetings. Every person brought something to eat and something extra and we would spend the afternoon eating and talking together. Meanwhile we had the branch council meeting (which involved about half the branch), welfare meeting and priesthood executive meeting. Those not involved in the meeting cleaned up and then sat around talking of whatever. These luncheons became famous in the stake and stake leaders would “drop by” on the fourth Sunday of the month. We also reactivated several members who came regularly at least the fourth Sunday of the month, and it was the favorite Sunday for investigators too.. Much of the merit goes to the several members who worked in the restaurant business. We have one member, Leonardo Cataluddi, who teaches cooking in a restaurant school. His wife is just as good, and my wife, Fernanda, was known for her desserts. Our average attendance during the month was 18, which would jump to 26 or 18 on the fourth Sunday. This with many other memories will stay with me forever. Below is a photo of one of our luncheons.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


by Tracy Winegar

I am constantly asking myself if, as a mother, I am up to the challenge. I mean you think about how impressionable these little ones are, and you think about all of the things you have to shield them from, and the job seems staggering. Am I teaching them everything they need to know to be good, decent individuals, grow up fine and in good standing in the community and church? Have I provided them with the self confidence and the tools to stand up for what is right or find out what is right for themselves? Surely they know that I love them?
Occasionally an incident arises that provides me with an opportunity to instruct. Such as a recent episode with my ten year old daughter Brynlee. She wanted to know why there was a pregnant man on the news. Pretty touchy subject, that I felt I had done my best to give her the information requested and then some. However, the following story was not such a teaching moment.
My son Hayden, who is six, is obsessed with letters, and now that he understands they form words, he is obsessed with spelling. The other day, with pencil in hand, he asked me how to spell "tattoo". Imagine, if you will, the alarm bells ringing in my head. I'm already picturing the kid with graffiti confettied on his skin, as he wears a dirty wife-beater undershirt, a cigarette hanging loosely from his bottom lip. Perhaps a large red heart emblazoned with the word MOTHER on his shoulder? You know, my worst nightmare of what will hopefully never be.
I said to him, "Hayden, what do you want to know how to spell tattoo for?" His earnest reply was quite simply, "I don't know how to spell that word." How do you argue with that? So I said, "But what do you need the word for, Hayden?" "I told you, Mom, I don't know how to spell it!" and each word was enunciated as if he were speaking to someone who possessed a very simply mind. And that is where I gave up and told him he didn't need to know how to spell the word tattoo!

JoAnn's Blog

JoAnn Arnold

Just learning all about blogging. It's like starting first grade all over again. First comes "A" then "B", "C", etc. etc. (I think you get the picture). But If I can post this on my blog sight without any complications, such as having clicked the wrong button or something worse, I will have moved on to the next level - my own website. I bribed my brother to help me set up a webpage, and as he explained the whole process to me, it was like trying to understand algebra without knowing how to add and subtract. But there is hope for the future, (Hopefully). He only lives 5 minutes away. I think writing a book is easier, nonetheless. Which reminds me, I'm hoping that if or when you read my blog, you will run out and buy (or you could go to the library), one of my books. "Miracles for Michael", "Journey of the Promise", "Pages From the Past", and it's sequel, "The Silent Patriots". I have a manuscript at my publisher's, Cedar Fort, right now. I don't know its future, but as soon as I do, I'll let you know.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How many rewrites does it take

David J Stitt

When I write I am usually disappointed with my first draft. It is intriguing to me how difficult it is to write what I am really thinking so that another person can clearly understand it. I usually need to do three or four rewrites before it begins to resemble my thoughts. Additionally, a space of time between the rewrites allows a fresh look that shorter intervals cannot accomplish.

At this point, even though the writing seems relatively good, I know that it is still probably not, so I have learned to step outside of myself and look at the text from the point of view of someone who does not know me and, of greater importance, cannot read my mind.

As each revision creates more clarity and flow I begin to wonder why it is that I am unable to write the first draft closer to the final copy - why does my mind require all of those steps to come up with the end product? I think that part of the answer involves a limit to the amount of information my mind can process in one step. I know that there are a few who have the unique gift of being able to write the final copy on the first or second attempt. Such ability is amazing to me!

I have tried to imagine Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, or Moroni carving out the characters on the small or large plates of Nephi. I would love to be able to ask them how many times they rewrote the text before they transferred it to the plates.

By the way, this Blog took seven rewrites and additional polishing. Maybe in 20 years I’ll be able to do it in three.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Notes from the Classroom: Disruptive Students

Randal Chase

I've chosen to focus my blogs on classroom experiences since my books are intended to be aids to both teachers and students of Gospel Doctrine classes. After 32 years of experience teaching this class, rotating through the entire curriculum 8 times, it's possible I've experienced just about every possible scenario. My post this week refers to an experience in my CES class last week, which consists of 168 eager adults who come out on a Wednesday nights to study the gospel in greater depth than is possible in the 40 minutes afforded us in Gospel Doctrine classes.

Our subject was Abinadi and his teachings to King Noah and his priests. Among those teachings was the notion that we are not saved by obedience to law but rather by the loving grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ. True, we are expected to demonstrate our faith in Christ by our willingness to follow and obey Him, but in the end we can never do enough to "save ourselves" no matter how hard we try or how well we do. Combined with the teachings of King Benjamin about how unprofitable we are despite the best we can do, the lesson tried to make the point that the blessings we receive are not fully earned or deserved. We are much more greatly blessed than our behavior could ever merit.

As I made this point again in my closing testimony of Christ, an older gentlement sitting near the front of the class blurted out, "I don't believe that." No raised hand. No attempt to gain further clarification. Just a spirit of contention and a desire to put me in my place. I said as patiently as I could, "Brother you are not required to believe me, but neither you nor I are going home to our Father without the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," and tried to finish my testimony.

It's an age-old problem for teachers. How do you include class discussion and allow people to share their views and their feelings without turning it into a free-for-all of opinions. We must recognize each person's contribution but never allow false doctrine to go unchallenged or to waste the time of 167 others for the sake of 1 student who behaves disruptively. I meant to speak with him after class, but he very quickly exited. This was his first time attending our class, and I suppose it will be his last. I feel bad about that. But some students do not come to learn. They bring no scriptures, read no passages, and hear only what they want to hear. We must avoid being "teachers with itching ears" who are always more concerned with being loved and accepted than with teaching the truth. It's not a job for the faint-hearted or insecure.

Rated "M" for Mature

Kimberly Jensen

I was just finishing up the dishes today as I looked out the window and saw my 12-year-old son walking up the sidewalk with his head down and his hands in his pockets. "Uh-oh," I thought as I recognized his defeated look. He walked in the backdoor and sighed. "What's up bud?" I asked as he landed hard onto the couch in the family room. "My friends are going back to their house to play Halo," he said. I felt my body cringe. I have seen the reviews of this M-rated video game and am appalled that this type of violence is considered entertainment for young boys. I didn't apologize to my son for enforcing a rule of no M-games at our house or allowing them to play them at anyone else's home. I am constantly surprised that our society to let our youth be exposed to such senseless violence and call it entertainment. Maybe they don't know that "M" stands for mature audiences only, the same way the "R" stands for restricted. I think the "M" also stand for "My Mother Won't Let Me," and I am just fine with that.

Volkswagon Summer Post #8

Kimberly Jensen

The next morning my mom relieved me of babysitting my little brother. She said my dad was in need of my help instead. I was thrilled to be out of the garage and away from the strangers who rummaged through our personal belongings. I pulled my hair up into a pony tail and met my dad at the side of the house. He had his carpenter belt on and near his feet were board, nails, hammers and all sorts of other equipment I didn't know the names of. "Grab that board and hold it up while I hammer this other one in place," my dad said with a determined look on his face. "What are you building?" I asked. "A platform for the van. I'm going to pull out the middle seat and fit this right in there. That way you can lay down and be comfortable all the way to California," he said, as he hammered the first leg into place. "A platform? You mean we can hang out in the back and sleep laying down?" "Yep," he said as he measured the wood for the second leg. I thought the platform was a pretty cool idea. I could sleep the whole way there and possibly avoid any those embarassing songs and games my family insisted on singing. "Hey, is Jessie going?" I asked timidly. "She's trying to get the time off work. I've asked her to try harder." Jessie was my older sister. She had graduated the year before from high school and was hardly ever home. She was working at the local 7-11 and taking a few classes at the community college. I looked up to her, but I don't think she even knew I existed. I think she just saw me as a pesky younger sister who begged her for rides and borrowed her clothes when she wasn't home. Jessie had an eternal tan and wore the coolest jeans and highlighted her hair. Her natural curls bounced on her shoulders and her lips were never without shiny, pink lipgloss. I adored her and wanted to be just like her.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Evil -ly

By Christine Thackeray

So I went to the LDS Storymakers Conference last week and its effects are still sifting through my brain. One thing that was stressed was how we should avoid using words that end in "-ly" as much as possible. It is part of the "show not tell" theory.

Well, this weekend I also got to pick up my first book from CFI, "The Crayon Messages; A Visiting Teaching Adventure," hot off the presses- it was wonderful. But the next day on the ride home I read every word again and was pricked every time there was an -ly word. This sentence almost stabbed me clear through-

  • "You are new, and the ladies from the Mormon Church, who probably knew exactly what they were doing, strapped you with a totally incoherent visiting teaching companion and a bunch of inactives?"

Actually, the story is so incredibly good, I really think the reader will probably simply overlook my many silly faux pas rather easily. Wouldn't you agree?


Doug Johnston

Most people that read this blog are writers or authors. At least one wannabe is a writer, and not an author.
I wrote a weekly column for 289 weeks in a row. Never missed one. That ended in November when the newspaper was sold.
I have won a lot of awards for that column and I REALLY miss writing that column. Not because of the awards, but because I thought I could help people think.
I had a saying about my column that went like this: I make some people laugh, some cry, but all of them think.
I think as writers, authors and just people in this tangled mixed up world, that we need to ask ourselves one thing? Who are we and who is it that we are trying to reach with our writings?
If you can answer that one, and work at it everyday, you will be successful, both as a writer, author, parent, or friend.

Is The F-bomb Losing Its Bite?

Lisa McKendrick

Is it just me or is the f-bomb losing its bite? When I was in high school twenty-ish years ago, I remember how the word jarred me. I would come home at the end of a school day and feel weighed down from having heard so much of it. Graduation and heading off to BYU meant, among other things, freedom from a constant barrage of cursing. But whatever reprieve my freshman year gave me has long been over, and since then, let's just say I've heard a lot of cursing. The difference, however, is now the people spewing the obscenites are not just high school kids trying to sound tough, but moms in Wal Mart on the hunt for an illusive can of lima beans, and young-adult authors endeavoring to write what they consider "teen truth." And to all of this I find myself growing less and less repulsed, the barbs of that word stinging less against my thicker skin. This, in my opinion, is cause for alarm.

What has made me consider lately the declining umph of the f-bomb was watching the Jimmy Kimmel Show and seeing Sara Silverman--Kimmel's hugely funny but vulgar girlfriend--in a music video wherein she confesses what she's been doing with Matt Damon. The f-word is everywhere. I watched it and thought, Wow, this is on TV. Sure, they're bleeping it, but it's still there, and what's worse, it's funny. As a writer, one of my favorite things to do is write comedy. I like to think that my standards for what is funny are high, and that nothing cheeseball ends up in my books. Yes, the f-word can be funny, Silverman and Kimmel (he produced an equally vulgar yet hilarious retort to her video) proved that. But there are LOTS of ways to be funny, and I would argue, there are LOTS of other ways to write about teenage angst, or for that matter, express your frustration about having to hunt for an item in Wal Mart. I remember my linguistics professor, Royal Skousen, telling us that language is constantly changing, evolving in the words it uses and the meanings behind those words, so maybe what I see happening with the f-word is unavoidable. But still, there's this part of me that sees that word as society's litmus test, and that if we accept it as part of casual conversation or as something that we're willing to laugh at, then perhaps it won't be long before our skin is so thick that nothing in this *&%$ world offends us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spontaneous Acts of Service

By Sidne O'Reilly - The Twelve Week Challenge

Spontaneous Acts of Service are part of the 12 Week Challenge. Saturday I had a lovely demonstration of that in my own family.

I am blessed to have 4 of my 6 children living in the same city I live in. We all moved to Utah within a year of each other. Some of us moved from Arizona and Nevada. One daughter joined us from New Mexico. What a delight to have so many loved ones nearby. Since we all moved here we started a tradition of gathering to celebrate birthdays once a month. We thought for sure that by this time of year we could easily meet in the park and it would be fine. (There are 30+ of us altogether which makes quit a houseful.) The sun was shining overhead. It looked like it might be a perfect day. I had worn a long-sleeved sweatshirt, (my favorite with an embroidered message of “Grand kids, pieces of the heart.”), thinking that it turned a little cool I would be fine. What I didn’t factor in was the wind-chill. It was freezing! Even as I sat there cuddled up with a sweet Grandbaby swaddled in blankets, I froze. One of my daughters in law, Denise, saw my predicament and despite my protests had her daughter get another baby blanket out of the car to put around my shoulders. How grateful I was. The blanket didn’t just warm me on the outside, but warmed my heart as well. She is such a great example of spontaneous service.

Young mothers are sometimes a little overwhelmed with family responsibilities. Lessons at church on serving others can seem overwhelming it’s true. But what we don’t want to loose sight of are the small opportunities to serve another. They are all around us. A spontaneous act of service can be as small as a smile. All we have to do is be conscious of those around us as Denise was. The funny thing about service is that I’ll bet in some way Denise’s consideration for me warmed her too.
What small act of service can you do today? I’m cheering for you, Sidne

Nonfiction is Not Boring

By Rebecca Talley

I also attended the LDStorymakers conference this last weekend and it was fantastic. Everyone was so energized and excited about writing. When I talk about writing my family usually gives me the, "Oh, no, she's going off on the writing tangent again" look (oops did I use the quote marks wrong?). But, at the conference, everyone loved talking about writing. It was great.

It was fun to meet other Cedar Fort authors. Next time, I think we should have a table together so we can all hang out and get to know each other better. And, I was glad to see that Doug buttoned his shirt correctly.

One of the classes I really enjoyed was taught by Jaime Theler and Shirley Bahlmann. It was about writing nonfiction and they both reiterated that nonfiction is not boring. Have you ever talked to Jaime or Shirley? Boring does not come to mind. Both of these women are so energetic and entertaining and they both write nonfiction. They offered great suggestions and ideas to all of us that attended the class. Shirley made me laugh several times, especially when she mentioned a market for people who want to write about outhouses, and I can so identify with her because I am also very tall. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and could've listened to Shirley and Jaime for hours because nonfiction is not boring.

It's a Small Cedar Fort World

Emily Cushing

I made a fun little discovery last night. One of the other authors on our blog is quoted in my book One Heart, Many Voices and I didn’t even know it (and I don’t even know if she knows it!) Let me explain. One Heart, Many Voices is a daily inspirational calendar for the Relief Society sisters of the church. Each day features a different Relief Society sister from around the world. The page gives the sister’s favorite scripture or quote and its importance to her in her life. My good friend Cortney sent me the following submission which I included in the calendar:

December 19
"Help me to remember that my children are a special privilege and not a task. Help me to think of them as fun and laughter and not more responsibilities. And most of all help my heart to be their age so I may understand."
My mother-in-law shared this quote with me one day after I had a bad day. I love it because it reminds me...of what a great responsibility we as mothers have and I hope to always cherish it and never take it for granted.
Cortney, Age 28, Utah, USA

As the mother of four young children, this submission from Cortney really hit home when I read it. Especially the line that reads, “help my heart to be their age so I may understand”. I have tried to remember this advice when my two-year-old spills a bowl full of milk shortly after I have mopped the kitchen floor or when a little person climbs into my bed at night because he or she has had a scary dream. I appreciated this mother-in-law’s advice even though it wasn’t given to me.

Last night I found out that Cortney’s mother-in-law is our very own, Mary Stosich. I also discovered that Mary has written an inspirational book entitled Finding the Diamond Within: 10 Ways Every Woman Can Sparkle. I’m excited to read Mary’s book. If the advice she gave to Cortney is any indication of what can be found in her book, then I know I will truly be inspired.

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Writers

Check out this hilarious article at the IPPY online magazine. If you think up a clever ditty of your own, post a comment here and on my own blog,

Correction: Here's the right url:


Lyman Rose

Debt Stacking has been around for years and virtually anyone can do it.  All you have to do is to put your debts in payoff order.  Look at your debts and calculate how long, with your current payments, it will take you to pay off each one completely.  Then commit yourself to continue to pay the same amount toward your debts that you pay now.  Then, when you pay off that first debt, roll the amount that you were paying toward that debt into the next debt.  For example, if you have a credit card that will be paid off in 6 months and you are paying $55.00 a month toward it and you have a home equity loan that will be paid off in 3 years that has a $137.00 monthly payment; when you pay off the credit card you increase the home equity payment to $192.00.  This will pay of the home equity loan about 10 months early.

Do this with all of your debts and you will find yourself out of debt much sooner than you thought.  In the back of my book "Winning the War Against Debt" there is a CD that has the DEBT STACKER program on it.  This program will calculate the payoff and rollover for each of your debts.  You can see for yourself how much sooner you will be debt free.  Of course the real bonus is that when the debts are paid off, you will have the total that you were paying to support them free to use for investing etc.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Volkswagon Summer Post #7

Kimberly Jensen

I couldn't stop them from skating into the driveway. My mom has always been friendly to the neighborhood kids and was many of my friend's favorite mothers, but I always cringed when she opened her mouth, sure she was going to say something to the boys that would surely embarass me. "Hey boys, do you know my daughter," as I walked up the sidewalk, hoping to slip behind the tree and into the house without being noticed. "Hey," they said in unison. "Hey" I said back hoping that my mom would go back to her business and leave me alone. I wasn't so lucky. She took them for a tour of the garage sale, picking up items she thought young boys would be interested in such as; stereo speakers, old 8-track tapes, my brother's old tennis shoes. Thank goodness she didn't pick up anything of mine to show them. They politely declined my mother's sales tactics and scooted out of the driveway. Day one of my mother's garage sale was coming to a close and that meant just three more days until we left our annual vacation to the California Coast.

LDS in Italy

Post 3
Trafford R. Cole

LDS in Italy

Should you think that all is trial and hardship for the saints here, you should know that there are many opportunities for the members in Italy to grow in the Gospel. There is not one active member of my branch who does not have at least one, and sometimes several callings. For example one young adult is the branch librarian, the branch representative for the young adults stake activities and a relief society teacher. Our relief society president has had that calling for the last 17 years, and the Lord has not inspired anyone to change her calling – she is the spiritual dynamo of the branch. Since we only have five priesthood holders, each has multiple callings. My counselor is also the branch clerk, and the Young Men’s president is also the branch missionary leader. Of course, everyone is also a home teacher or visiting teacher too.

If service is the path to spiritual growth then members in Italy have every opportunity to grow. Just think if every Sunday we have three or four talks during the meeting, that means with 18 active members you will have a talk to give every other month and sometimes more. You need to be creative not to repeat yourself constantly.

This opportunity to serve is not just at my small branch. Every stake leader also serves in his local unit. Therefore at Padova, the first counselor in the bishopric is also a stake high counselor and has another branch an hour away to follow. This means that he participates at stake executive meetings and ward bishopric meetings too. In Italy you are either a member with all your heart and soul or you are inactive, but it difficult to sit on the fence.

If any of you feel underused by the Lord and want to come to Italy we have callings for you!

Monday, March 24, 2008

LDStorymakers Sightings!

Doug Johnston

When you get a lot of authors together it is hard to remember all of them that you met, but I am going to mention some of them and why they are so memorable to me.

Of our bloggers, there were 8 bloggers there. Janet Jensen, myself, Lee Ann Setzer, Shirley Bahlmann, Christine Thackeray, Rebecca Talley, Marcia Mickelson, and Terri Ferran. Not bad for one blogging group.

Other authors that I saw that I will mention are Jewell Adams, Kerry Blair, Laralee Evans, James Dashner, Crystal Liechty, Tamra Norton, Rachel Ann Nunes, Alison Palmer, Tristi Pinkston, Candise Salima, Jeff Savage, Deborah Talmage, Jame Theler, Marsha Ward, Robison Wells and Julie Wright.

The blogger that looks most like her photo. Marcia Mickelson. The blogger that looks least like her photo, Alison Palmer. She was one of the nicest and hardest working people at the conference. Janet Jensen and I got the most work done together of any author. She is one hard working author.

Most likely to be a radio host if his writing career ends, Robison Wells. This guy has an amazing radio voice, and did an amazing job this weekend.

My favorite person that I would like to sit down and have lunch with and talk about writings goes to MARSHA WARD... I really loved talking with her a few times!

And for Kerry Blair. She has a great book out, and knows EVERYONE. I had been promising to tell her the story of all stories and we didn't have time. See her blog if you really want to know what I look like...

It was amazing, the conference that is, not my photo.
Janet Jensen

I also attended the Storymakers Workshop and found every speaker and every workshop to be valuable. One of the most exciting classes focused on internet book promotion. If you are doing this, please share your strategies with all of us!

It was a pleasure to meet so many writers I had only "met" online and I was wowed by the quality of the books you have written.

Stepping-on-Foot Award

by Shirley Bahlmann

I recently returned from the Storymaker Conference in Salt Lake City. What a literary blast! I was energized by all the presenters, the committees, and the AWARDS!
There were several gift baskets and awards, one of the most notable given by Authors Incognito, an on-line group open to anyone who attends a Storymaker Conference. After their entertaining skit, they gave an award for the most rejections (which interestingly enough also coincided with the most published work) to (drum roll) Cindy Beck!
You may not know Cindy, but she is part of my writing class, so I clapped until my hands hurt. They held up the wondrous award and looked around the room, panning from one side to the other. My heart began beating faster. Where was Cindy? Why wasn't she jumping up and dancing on the table for joy? The presenter lowered his arm. Oh, no! Cindy's award was in danger of being un-presented! But I could take it to her. I could personally put it into her ink-stained hands and give her a "Hooray!" hug besides. So I stood up and hurried toward the front of the room, ready to say, "I'll take it!" but then I felt a lump under my shoe. I turned, horrified to see that I has just stepped on a young lady's foot. This made me feel especially bad since she was petite and had left her steel toed boots at home. I, on the other hand, am six feet tall and pushing more pounds than I care to mention.
I bent down, looked her in the eye, and said, "I am so sorry."
She took a breath, then gave me a trembly smile and said, "That's okay."
I knew it wasn't. But what else would she say? "Watch where you're going, you big lummox!" She didn't seem to be the type.
I turned back to see the presenter stepping down off the stage. The emcee moved to the microphone. I stood there awkwardly for a moment, my heart sinking, as Cindy's marvelous award disappeared into the crowd.
Beware award fever. It can strike anyone, anywhere, even if the award doesn't have your name on it. And you may forever carry an unwanted brand, something like "The Six Foot Tall Foot Stomper." That's gonna be a hard one to live down.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

You can eat this!

Suzie Roberts

I have picky kids. At one point, I could count on one hand what my son would eat. I was reading everything I could on getting your kids to eat and try new things, when I thought of a neighbor of mine who has 10 children. I asked her if she had any picky kids and if she had any insight for me. I will always remember these things. She said she would always make sure that one of the things on the plate was something that her picky child would eat. If they were having a main dish that she knew that child would not eat, she would make sure that she had rice with it because she new he would eat that. She also said this profound statement to her children at the dinner table one evening when some of them were complaining about dinner. She said "If you can eat your bugars, you can eat this!" Isn't it funny, the things children will put in their mouth, but you put vegetables in front of them and the turn up their noses!
My son is still picky, but he has learned to like many more things because I always offer new things instead of getting in a rut and feeding him only the same things that I know he likes. It took a lot of patience and prayer. One day when he was 7 years old he asked me, " Why did Heavenly Father make me a picky eater?" He was very serious and had tears in his eyes. I then learned that this was not his choice, and it wasn't something he wanted. I told him that we are all given obstacles in life and this was one of his trials that he would have to work to overcome. This seems like such a mole hill, but to him it is a mountain, just as any of our own trials.

Writers Conference and Whitneys

Doug Johnston

Eight of the bloggers at this site were at the LDStorymakers conference this weekend and a few of Cedar Forts authors that are not on the blog. I will write about it tomorrow. I had a great time. the only problem is now some of you know what I look like now. HMM Think Brad Pitt...NOT

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Gentleman Toweler

by Shirley Bahlmann
A lot of people wonder where authors get their ideas. Here's an example that worked for me.
I was at the LDStorymaker's Conference in Salt Lake City this past weekend. I wound up sitting by a door that author Candace Salima's husband, Alvin, opened to let me in. He saw me tippy-toeing around the corner after trying to get in behind the presenter's screen. (There was an actual door there, but no one opened it for me. They probably thought I was a crazy lady, tapping on the glass, yelling with blue lips, "Let me in!")
But Alvin is big, Alvin is brave, he knows me, and he STILL opened the door!
Alvin gave me one of his big, warm Samoan hugs to thaw me out. I appreciated that the room was warmer, but not by much. After a bit, Alvin got up and left the table. He came back a few minutes later with a white hotel towel. At first, I thought something had spilled. Then he walked over behind me and draped the towel over my shoulders. I looked up in complete surprise. "How did you know I was cold?" I asked.
"Because I'm hardly ever cold, and I thought it felt a bit chilly," he replied. "I tried to get you a blanket, but they didn't have one, so I hope you don't mind the towel."
"No," I said, snuggling into the soft, warm terry cloth shawl. My grandma never had it so good.
Now, how's that for character? Can you see how that event could be worked into a book in so many ways?
Thanks, Alvin, for the inspiration.
And the towel.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Improper Feeding of Boys

I guess you could say that I am in Continuing Ed. If I thought that raising my own children was an education, here is an enrichment course: Grandchildren 101. I am probably failing the chapter, “The Proper Feeding of Boys.”
Last night while my husband was out of town, I invited five grandsons (all from one family), ages 7 months to 9 years, to spend the night while their parents went out to dinner and a movie. My How to lose weight when you’re over 50 diet went out the door faster than our dog! Don’t blame me. I just can’t eat responsibly while going crazy.
We started with “Whirly Popped” kettle corn, progressed to Costco’s jumbo bag of teeth-stickin’ taffy-tootsie treats, and settled in with giant Popsicles. Then the boys begged for dinner! No wonder we Grannies develop those round, comfortable tummies!
I am not ruining my grandkids. They’ll brush their teeth and burn 8000 calories jumping from bunk bed to bunk bed. Closer to the truth—they are ruining me!
I think to myself, “You really should eat healthy with the grandkids.” But you know what? I’ve tried that. It’s not as fun. And fun is kind of what it’s all about. No, I am not cutting pineapple into flower shapes. Can I just leave that to the parents?
For breakfast I cheerfully asked, “Who wants a piping-hot bowl of oatmeal?”
Blank stares. No takers.
I pulled out the sugared cold cereal. The boys cheered!
In came my 23-year-old-still-live-at-home-son. He looked at the kitchen counter covered with Marshmallow Mateys and said, “What has happened to you Mom? We never ate that stuff growing up!”
Grandma-ing happened to me.
Now, where’s that diet book?

Caution: Bathroom humor ahead!

I arrived back from Cancun last Sunday after a wonderful vacation. I went in on Monday for outpatient surgery that, while wasn’t too serious, was quite painful. One of my stops required filling a prescription for pain pills. At my doctor’s suggestion, I also looked for a pre-packaged enema (just in case).

I asked the young pharmacy tech if she knew where the enemas were and she said “What flavor did you want?”

I wondered what the choices could possibly be, but chose to clarify, “For an enema?”

She looked embarrassed when she realized her mistake and quickly pointed me to the correct shelf location. I finished my transaction but thought several times throughout the day. “Things could always be worse. Enemas could come in flavors!”

That’s it with the bathroom humor! I’m off to the writer’s conference to meet, listen, and learn. Ciao!


Tomorrow and Saturday I am going to meet some of the hardest working authors in the LDS market. I will be attending a two day conference in Sandy, Utah and then giving out an award for the Whitney Awards on Saturday evening.

I will write more about this next week and tell of my experience.

Toilet Paper Roll Beauty

by Shirley Bahlmann
Why is it that people (women, mostly) generally want hair different than what they were born with? If it's curly, they wish it were straight, if it's straight, they want curly. I'm guilty, too.
I'm headed for the LDStorymaker Writing Conference, and I'm a straight-want-curly girl. It's true that I have rollers. (The baaa-d sheep-wool perms of the 80's have thankfully gone by the wayside, except for the photos in the family album that make my boys ask, "Which one is you, Mom?" I point me out. "No, Mom, which one is really you?") The rollers I have are small, and I wanted big, luscious waves instead of tight, kinky curls. I tried to go the conventional route, I really did. I looked on the curler shelf at my store. They had some big rollers, all right, but they were nested with a bunch of medium, small, and tiny rollers. I would have had to buy ten packs to get the curlers I wanted. Then what would I do with the other sizes?
In the 60's, I remember my big sister used to roll her hair on orange juice cans. That was a little bigger than I was looking for. My hair isn't as long as hers was. What to do? What to do?
Then, one day last week, I was in that special room where it's always calm and peaceful, and my eyes lit on the perfect sized roller... a toilet paper roll. I was so excited I nearly jumped off my seat.
Last Sunday, I gave the toilet paper rollers a test run. I pinned the cardboard tubes to my nearly-dry hair and walked around like a medusa with coiled snakes on her head. When I was reasonably dry, I took the toilet paper rolls out and went to church. One of the prettiest ladies in our ward saw me, did a double take, and said, "Oooo, I love your hair!"
"Thank you," I said.
Some beauty secrets are better left secret.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Editorial's Tip of the Week

Let me introduce my little “friend”: the scare quote. And to introduce him, let me bring out my other little friend: The Chicago Manual of Style.

Chicago decrees (and we always do what Chicago decrees) that scare quotes “are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense. . . . They imply, ‘This is not my term’ or ‘This is not how the term is usually applied.’”

Now take a look at the introduction to this post. Why is the word friend in quotes? Obviously there is some double meaning you’re missing here. Perhaps the scare quote and I are not in fact such good friends (good guess). Perhaps the scare quote and I are a little more than friends (weird guess). Or perhaps I am just using the scare quotes incorrectly (the right guess).

There are two instances when scare quotes are most often used incorrectly:
1) to emphasize a word
2) to show that a word is important

Even when using scare quotes correctly, do so sparingly or they quickly lose their force. Like all literary devices, they can add to your writing when used correctly or they can take away from your credibility when used incorrectly.

Editorial consensus: When in doubt, ditch the scare quotes.

Blabber Mouth

By Christine Thackeray

You know how you can tell you are really excited about something? You tell everyone you see even if they aren't interested. It just blurts out and you can't help it because you're so excited. You want to stop your mouth but your brain is so turned on by the thought that the flow of words is too powerful and sloshes from your lips in bright detail.

Well, I've been getting ready for this writer's conference and the more I shop and pack and copy out examples of my work, the more excited I have become. Yesterday my cleaning lady came (it's only because I sold a book and I want to stay married) and I couldn't shut my mouth. I even read her a snippet of my work to ask her if it was good enough to use. I wanted to slap my own hand for talking so much, but just kept going.

Then a friend arrived to put stuff in my garage for our YW garage sale and I started on her non-stop. When she left, the property manager drove up. I was going to stop, I really was but when she walked into the kitchen and saw all my stuff out, she asked what I was up to and I did it again. Telling her about the Whitney's and that there is a chance my first book will be out and all the cool stuff I'm going to learn.

Ahhh. I did it again, didn't I? Maybe I should just wear a sign that says stay away from me until after the conference. But then I'll have all the good stuff to share that I learned. OK, so it's endless.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Ego Is Old, Part Two

Last Friday at work, I was sitting at a meeting with close to twenty co-workers. We had an author there that was presenting to us, and he was doing a fine job. I was taking notes, really getting into what he was saying and then he said it.
He looked around the room, looking at each of us, and then he said "Back in 1948 he was on a military ship". Then he looked around the group again, and then he looked at me and said, "You and I are the only ones in the room that will remember 1948". OUCH...
Don't get me wrong, my mom was ten in 1948, so I am sure I didn't see 1948. I do know that for some reason I look really old.
It doesn't help that my wife, who is older than I, looks ten years younger than I do.
So, all of you people feeling old, remember, if you are 43 and people think you are 60, you still need to laugh about it.
I am a presenter at the Whitney Awards this weekend. I got a copy of the dialog between me and the other presenter. It has to do with HISTORICAL FICTION. So there are people older than people think I am...

What is Your Purpose?

Part of The Twelve Week Challenge is to find and begin fulfilling your individual purpose here on earth. I want to share with you today someone in my life who is fulfilling their current purpose in a very unique way. How do I know it is their purpose? Let me explain.

In a previous blog, I mentioned that I am a Grandmother of 27. If you have not had the pleasure of reaching the status of Grandparent, you might not understand yet that Grandchildren are magic. Take my word for it, they are. Last Friday was one of those special lifetime events I am privileged to share with you . The above picture is of my daughter and her family. Just to look at them you can tell they are exceptional as far as families run. Let me give you a little background.

Unfortunately my daughter was raised in a pet-less home. Having six children and a husband stretched my nurturing genes to the limit. I had no time or attention left to look after an animal. Jennie was my fifth of our six children. Somehow the fact that the children in our home were not allowed to have cats or dogs somehow escaped Jennie. Strays would follow her home, and she would do her due diligence to find their owner. When the owner didn’t show up, somehow the animals she found ended up staying with us. She had a special gift with animals. She was drawn to them and them to her. Somehow she was the only child I could not make the no pet rule stick. At a time of illness, Jennie requested a father’s blessing. In that blessing she was told that her earthly mission was very dear to Heavenly Father’s heart.

Years past and Jennie married a fine man. She and her husband lived on 2 1/2 acres where they raised draft horses, miniature horses, chickens, ducks, geese and a cow. Once she nursed an orphaned lamb round the clock. She even it took to the dental office where she worked so she could feed it every two hours. .As time went on, it became evident that Jennie would not be able to have her own children. She accepted this and felt that her mission might have to do with nurturing God’s animals. But this was not Heavenly Father’s plan. Opportunities to adopt came into her life in a most dramatic way. Jennie received about 3 minutes notice for the first child Heavenly Father sent to her. She never looked back. She instantly gave up her career to become a fulltime mom. Three other children came to her. I have watched Jennie blossom over the years as she learns the intricacies of parenting. Somehow Jennie received an extra dose of nurturing genes. Her love of animals remains strong. Along with her growing family she manages to care for a cat, a dog, a African Gray Parrot, various fish and a Monitor Lizard!

Last Friday as I mentioned was a day to celebrate. Gunner, their youngest child became officially theirs and ours.

Not everyone’s purpose is as obvious as Jennie’s. But I know that each of us has something special to do in this life. Something that is unique to us. Isn’t it time to start looking for or fulfilling yours?

Thank you for letting me share my “good news moment.” I’m cheering for you!
Living in Oklahoma has been such an eye opening experience for me. Just for starters are the tornadoes. I think I spend more time watching The Weather Channel than I spend watching anything else. Well, yesterday was one of those days where we are glued to the TV, watching the skies, and hoping that the severe weather will pass us once again. We slept to the tune of thunder all night (well, if you can say we slept), and woke this morning to a great fishing hole in our backyard. No, it usually does not look like this. There really is grass back there! Tis the season for tornadoes and losts of rain.

Age is Relative

By Rebecca Talley

My grandmother had many sayings, one of which was, "Age is only mind over matter, if you don't mind, it don't matter."

Since I'll be celebrating my birthday in two days, I've been thinking about age. I enjoyed Doug's post about his experience with his 8 year old daughter. We had a similar experience when we took our kids to the local recreation center to go swimming. My husband was holding our youngest child and he ran into an old classmate who asked if he was holding his grandchild. "No," my husband answered, "it's my son." I'm sure it's not that we look old enough to have grandkids (right?), it's that people our age have already raised their kids and are now empty nesters. We won't have an empty nest for almost another 20 years. That gives me pause.

Last Sunday, my son's best friend spoke in Sacrament Meeting because he just returned from his mission in the Ukraine. (My son will be home in less than 5 months, but who's counting?). This young man shared some of his mission experiences. He said, "We taught this very old couple. They must've been in their eighties, so they were very, very old." A couple sitting in front of us looked at each other and snickered because they are both close to that age. After the meeting, I leaned over and told them, "Age is relative."

Isn't it? When I was a teenager, I thought that 30 was so old that your life was over. When I hit 30, I remember thinking how it wasn't as old as I had once thought. Now, I look at people that are 30 and think, "Wow, they're so young."

50 isn't nearly as old as it used to be, either. I'm still a long way from reaching 50, but my sisters-in-law have already reached that milestone and they still seem rather young.

Age is only relative and is in the eye of the beholder. "If you don't mind, it don't matter."

Monday, March 17, 2008

LDStorymakers Conference

By Marcia Mickelson

On Wednesday I will be flying out to Salt Lake to attend the LDStorymakers Conference. I have wanted to attend this conference for several years and am so excited I finally am able to. Getting away by myself doesn't happen frequently, okay never happens. It's almost impossible to do with three little ones. My boys are 2, 5, and 8 and I have rarely been away from them for more than a day or two. In fact, it's only happened once about 5 years ago when what was supposed to be 2 days turned into almost 5 due to major snow storms in the Northeast, but that's a story for another day.

When I told them I was going away for five days this time, I didn't get the panicked reaction I was expecting. They actually took it well. What makes it a little more challenging is that this week is Spring Break, so all three kids will be home all day long, instead of just one. Grandma and Grandpa are being very kind to watch them for two whole days while my husband is away for work. They're very excited to go to their house because they have cable and we don't. They love Nickelodeon, and since they don't get it at our house, they love going there to watch their favorite shows. In fact, I'm worried they'll watch entirely too much television while I'm gone. I tried to set up a few play dates for them while I'm gone, so hopefully that will take them away from the TV for a little while. Thankfully, my husband will be back on Friday and then he'll have them all weekend.

This trip will be great because I'll be meeting a lot of people that I admire and know only in Blogland and I'll be catching up with a few friends and family in the area.

Anyone else here coming to the Conference? I know Rebecca and Doug said the would be there. I look forward to meeting you and anyone else who I happen to see there.

When Dr. Suess Came To Dinner

When the Cat In the Hat Came To Dinner

By Kimberly Jensen

The red and white striped paper hat stood two feet off of his head and bounced to the rhythm of the words as he spoke.
”I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am.”
He stirred the green eggs on his plate and said, “I do not like them with a fox, I do not like them in a box.”
He took a forkful of green eggs, held it over the plate and walked over to his sister, “Would you could you in the rain? Would you could you on a train?”
He walked the plate and fork over to his brother, “Would you could you with a goat, would you could you on a boat?”
This was not an unusual happening in our household. Bennett was playing the part of Sam I Am from his favorite Dr. Suess book. It has been Dr. Seuss week at school and Bennett enjoyed getting the rest of his family to play along.
He has requested the same dinner for the last five nights; green eggs and ham. Since I am rarely a consumer of ham, he has been satisfied with the green eggs only. Each night he gets the pan out of the cupboard, a spatula out of the drawer and two eggs out of the refrigerator. As he stands on the stool, balancing with one foot and a fork, he closes his eyes and repeats the lines from the famous orange-bound children’s book.
Again, this is not unusual at our house. It may be the first time Sam I Am has come to dinner but many characters have graced our dinner table over the last six years. We have had the honor to host; Tom and Jerry, Batman, Spiderman, The Pink Panther, Simba The Lion King and Darth Vader. Tom stayed the longest. In fact the famous mouse-chasing cartoon cat had dinner with us the entire year that Bennett was in second grade. That was also the same year my husband and I got called into the school to try to tame our son who would constantly leap into teacher’s laps, purr and lick his paws (I mean hands.)
So when Bennett shows up in character, we oblige and play along because we know that is how he is learning to relate to a foreign world that is full of words, gestures and body language he doesn’t understand. He copies the way cartoon characters communicate and then he tries it out himself.
He gets plenty of stares and giggles and sometimes rude comments and looks that say, “can’t you control that kid?” There are also times when his brother and sister would like to crawl under the closest rock to avoid his over-animated personality.
While some call autism a disability, I look at Bennett’s abilities and marvel at his genius. Bennett has figured our how to navigate our confusing social world and make the rest of us smile and wish we could steal the words and wisdom of Dr. Seuss and balance on a chair with one foot, holding a fork eating green eggs and ham and say, “I like it, I like it, Sam I am.”

When Dr. Suess Came To Dinner

When the Cat In the Hat Came To Dinner

By Kimberly Jensen

The red and white striped paper hat stood two feet off of his head and bounced to the rhythm of the words as he spoke.
”I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am.”
He stirred the green eggs on his plate and said, “I do not like them with a fox, I do not like them in a box.”
He took a forkful of green eggs, held it over the plate and walked over to his sister, “Would you could you in the rain? Would you could you on a train?”
He walked the plate and fork over to his brother, “Would you could you with a goat, would you could you on a boat?”
This was not an unusual happening in our household. Bennett was playing the part of Sam I Am from his favorite Dr. Suess book. It has been Dr. Seuss week at school and Bennett enjoyed getting the rest of his family to play along.
He has requested the same dinner for the last five nights; green eggs and ham. Since I am rarely a consumer of ham, he has been satisfied with the green eggs only. Each night he gets the pan out of the cupboard, a spatula out of the drawer and two eggs out of the refrigerator. As he stands on the stool, balancing with one foot and a fork, he closes his eyes and repeats the lines from the famous orange-bound children’s book.
Again, this is not unusual at our house. It may be the first time Sam I Am has come to dinner but many characters have graced our dinner table over the last six years. We have had the honor to host; Tom and Jerry, Batman, Spiderman, The Pink Panther, Simba The Lion King and Darth Vader. Tom stayed the longest. In fact the famous mouse-chasing cartoon cat had dinner with us the entire year that Bennett was in second grade. That was also the same year my husband and I got called into the school to try to tame our son who would constantly leap into teacher’s laps, purr and lick his paws (I mean hands.)
So when Bennett shows up in character, we oblige and play along because we know that is how he is learning to relate to a foreign world that is full of words, gestures and body language he doesn’t understand. He copies the way cartoon characters communicate and then he tries it out himself.
He gets plenty of stares and giggles and sometimes rude comments and looks that say, “can’t you control that kid?” There are also times when his brother and sister would like to crawl under the closest rock to avoid his over-animated personality.
While some call autism a disability, I look at Bennett’s abilities and marvel at his genius. Bennett has figured our how to navigate our confusing social world and make the rest of us smile and wish we could steal the words and wisdom of Dr. Seuss and balance on a chair with one foot, holding a fork eating green eggs and ham and say, “I like it, I like it, Sam I am.”

Volkwagon Summer Post #6

Friday morning had gone by without much incident. I was thankful that I was only asked to try on clothes for one of my mother's customers. My sister had run out of muffins by 10am and was in the kitchen for round two; Kool Aid and Chocolate Chip Cookies. She had the cookbook open and was using her finger to keep her place. She had flour on her cheeks and was wearing one of my mom's patchwork aprons. "You making any money?" I asked as I popped a few chocolate chips into my mouth. "Some. I plan on taking it to California with me and buying me some really cool sunglasses and a beach bag," Linda said as she measured the flour into a cup and poured it into the silver mixing bowl. "I don't have much I'm going to take, just some cash I earned while mowing lawns with Kirk." Kirk was my older brother who started up his own lawn mowing business when he turned sixteen. He had just graduate from high school and he and his buddy had bought their own truck and lawn maintenance equipment and had hired two employees, myself and my friend Theresa. Now I didn't know what minimum wage was and frankly I didn't care. I was just excited to be making some money. How hard could mowing lawns be? Well I found out soon after April began and his client list grew to nearly 20 a week. I spent every Saturday mowing acres and acres of grass. Theresa and I were in charge of the mowing, while my brother and his business partner were in charge of the trimming and clean up. Our reward was lunch, a Slurpee and $20 a day. I had collected my earnings and stored it away in my jewerly box. We were leaving for California the Monday following the garage sale and I had nealry $200 to take with me on the trip. I had never had that much money in my life, but I was sure my friends who had real jobs were making much more money on their paychecks. I grabbed a handful of chocolate chips and went back outside to the garage to check on my little brother who I had left sorting buttons in the fabric section. I dropped a few chocolate chips in the muffin tin that he was using to sort. "Choc chips, " he said and he tenderly picked one up with his two fingers and placed it into the side of his mouth. The afternoon had been slow and my mom had used the time to reposition her items and clean up from the early morning rummaging. I stepped out of the garage and sat down on the grass, picking up a nearby dandelion and rubbing it on my leg, turning it yellow. I heard the roll of skateboards on blacktop and looked up. It was Scott and Matt, two of the cutest guys in the Freshmen class. I tried to avoid looking up and hide behind a blade of grass, but I couldn't make myself small enough. They rolled into the driveway, flipped their skateboards into their hands and stopped directly in front of me. "Hey," they said, causing my heart to skip a beat. "Hey," I said self conciously, holding my had up to block the sun from my eyes.

My Sixteen Year Long Visiting Teaching Blessing

My first book is a fictionalized story about visiting teaching, but sixteen years ago I really did go visiting teaching and from it got a blessing that changed my life. The woman I was assigned to visit hardly ever came to church and hated making appointments. She had a small farm and never left it, but I found that on Saturdays she loved it if my boys would come to play with her son.

One sunny Saturday afternoon we were sitting in lawn chairs watching our boys on the backs of three geldings kicking their heels against the sides of the fat horses who were far more interested in eating than in walking forward. I gave her the lesson and then the conversation drifted to what we were facing in our lives. Renee sighed, "I've got to drown a puppy today."

"What?" I asked horrified.

"Yeah, the sheltie got in with Pearl our blue heeler and so now we have a worthless mutt. If I don't get rid of it today, I won't be able to sell the rest of litter as purebreds."

"I'll take it," I practically begged. With a new baby the thought of ending a new life was more than I could handle.

Renee shook her head, "You don't want this dog. Its worthless. You'll have to be up hours every night to feed it." But despite her best attempts to talk me out of it, I went home that day with a little ball of fur. She really wasn't a pretty dog either with the coloring of a sheltie except the white had the grey mottled look of a blue heeler so she always looked dirty.

My daughter Anna was a toddler at the time and fell in love with her new living doll. I don't think she let that poor creature touch the ground the entire first year of its existence. I'd often come outside to find the puppy dressed in doll clothes strapped to the stroller or stuck in a big cardboard box with cut out windows and filled with doll furniture. Thinking I'd free the dog from its torture, invaribly I'd find Tinker panting happily, wagging her tail and loving the attention.

A few years later we had a tornado hit our area in the middle of the night. At that time we had a barn and hoped the dog had taken shelter there. The next morning branches littered our backyard, the swingset was ripped out of the ground and twisted, and the trampoline was flung 50 feet away, sitting upside down. Then we heard Tinker wimpering loudly. The whole family went out in the backyard to look for her, moving debris and calling. Finally my husband got one of my sons to help him turn over the trampoline. The little bump in the middle had been Tinker. She was unhurt but from that day on was terrified of thunderstorms. If one was coming she would be in the same room with you. If it was intense, Tinker was in your lap or in one of the kid's bed.

For the last sixteen years Tinker has been a great dog. She never barked too much, would let toddlers pull on her tail or yank her fur, never peed in the house, has been great fun on family campouts and has only bitten one person who totally deserved it (and who I wish I could have bitten myself.)

Last week after seeing she wasn't feeling well for quite a while, she passed away from liver failure. I know everyone has heard that phrase, "All dogs go to heaven" (or seen the movie) but as I walked away from the vet's office empty-handed, I felt that she was up there, playing with my father and my little boy Thomas. I imagine on that day when it is my turn to pass through the veil, when I am greeted by family and friends, there will be one more waiting to greet me. A little funny looking dog wagging her tail. Until then I'll miss her, my sixteen year long visiting teaching blessing.

A Sixteen Year Old Gift From Visiting Teaching

By Christine Thackeray

My new book is a fictionalized story about visiting teaching, but about sixteen years ago I really went visiting teaching and came away with a treasure that changed my life. The woman I was assigned to visit rarely came to church and hesitated making appointments but she had a little farm and a son the same age as my young boys. This one Saturday I brought my kids over and while they sat on the backs of two geldings, kicking their heels against the sides of two fat unbrushed horses far more interested in eating than walking forward, we sat talking about life. The conversation turned slightly when Renee sighed and said to me, "I have to drown a puppy today."

I looked at her horrified, "Why?"

"The sheltie got in with Pearl while she was in heat and we got one mutt. If I keep her, I can't sell the rest of the litter as purebred," she answered matter-of-factly.

"I'll take her." I begged, with a new baby the thought of taking a life was more than I could handle.

Renee shook her head, "You don't want this worthless creature. You'd have to feed it every few hours and it's just a mutt." But despite Renee's protests I went home that day with a little bundle of fur.

From the first day we took her home, Tinker loved being cuddled. Anna was my toddler at the time and I don't think she let that dog touch the ground the whole first year. It wasn't uncommon to find the puppy dressed in baby clothes and buckled in the stroller or stuck in a cardboard box that had been outfitted with windows and doll furniture. But when I'd check on her, Tinker would be panting away with a huge grin on her face, tail wagging, just loving the attention.

A few years later we went on vacation. We lived in a rural area and decided to just leave a large supply of food and water in the garage and the door open. It was only for three days. After making sure Tinker was outside, we pulled away. When we got home, Tinker was no where. We called around and then opened the door to the house. One of the children had run into the house at the last minute and the dog had followed her and been stuck inside for the last three days. I was terrified at the mess I was sure to find but she hadn't had an accident anywhere. My love for her increased. In all the years we had her, Tinker has never peed on the carpet- ever.

One summer night a tornado whipped through our neighborhood. At the time we had a barn and we assumed the dog would take shelter there. The next morning the backyard looked like an explosion had hit it. The swingset had been ripped out of the ground and was upside down on the other end of the yard. Tree branches littered the entire acre and the trampoline was upside down about 50 feet from where it had been the night before. Suddenly we heard it, Tinker was crying, frantically. We ran outside and started throwing aside tree branches but couldn't find her. Finally, my husband got one of my sons to help him move the trampoline. It had landed on her. She was the bump in the middle. Tinker was unhurt but from then on, thunderstorms were her great fear. If the weather changed, she had to be in the room with you during the entire storm or she went crazy. If it was a really bad one, she had to be in your lap.

But she was a wonderful dog. She didn't bark too much, was as patient as Job with toddlers and only bit one person her whole life- a contractor who stole thousands of dollars from us and tried to come to our house when I wasn't there. Actually, that just made me like her more (I wish I could have bitten him.)

Well, last week after sixteen years of love, companionship and loyalty Tinker died of liver failure. It was fast but we knew she wasn't feeling well for quite a while. They say "all dogs go to heaven." I believe that Tinker is there waiting for us. When it is my turn to go to the other side of the veil and all my family is there with open arms to greet me, there will be a wagging tail there too. e'll miss her.

Happy Purim!

(My essay for Segullah is featured today on Come on over!)

It’s a crazy year for holidays. We have the earliest Easter since 1913, putting St. Patrick’s Day in the same week as Easter. But if you were wishing for one more holiday this week, Purim falls on March 21-22 (Friday and Saturday).

Purim celebrates the Feast of Esther. If you’re not picky about when you honor your Jewish holidays, it’s an engaging Bible story lesson anytime. It’s also a good example of a tradition that helps children understand scripture stories through active participation.

So, here’s how to celebrate Purim:

• Make or find some noise makers—percussion instruments and pots and pans work great, or you can make your own Purim gragger.

• Read or retell the Book of Esther. Every time you say “Haman” (the bad guy), your audience boos and makes a lot of noise. Every time you say “Mordecai” (the hero), they cheer and make a lot of noise.

• Next, act out the story of Esther. We made simple finger puppets. In our family, everyone likes to play every part, so we end up role-playing the whole story three or four times.

• If you’re feeling really ambitious, send gifts to your neighbors and the poor and/or make cookies in the shape of Haman’s three-cornered hat (hamantaschen). At this point, my Jewish friend Mike always reminds me that you’re supposed to drink until you can’t tell the difference between blessed be evil and cursed be good, but I don’t see that part in the Book of Esther. (Sorry, Mike!)

For child-oriented Purim games, recipes, and projects, try the Crayola website or

By the time you’ve done all this celebrating, you’ve also taught the story of Esther several times, and the children have participated in it each time. I still get chills thinking about my 4-year-old declaring, “If I die, I die.” It’s a powerful story, even 2500 years later.

LDS in Italy

A Lucky St. Patricks day to all.

I wish to continue my post on LDS life in Italy.

Post 2
LDS in Italy

I think that the one term that best describes the members in Italy, but also many members in Europe is solitude. Being a member in Italy is like swimming against the current. Just a few examples:

We have two older single men who have been in the church for twenty years now but have never found a mate. Both are active, both are great people, but both desire to find a mate who is equally active in the church. They attend all the conferences (actually one is president of single adults for the stake and he organizes the conferences) but neither has found a partner. They are brothers and sustain one another, but it becomes a very lonely life when you can't share the gospel with a mate and form a family. We have three single young adults women who are all talented, intelligent and single. One is now on a mission at Palmyra, New York, the other is finishing her master's degree in international tourism and the third is just beginning university. We also have a young adult male who just won a scholarship to study a year in Japan. All four are active, wonderful people, but none has found a mate. As a result, none of the youth of Ferrara have formed new families, many have dropped out along the way because of loneliness, no babies are being born and the branch is slowly dying.

Loneliness is not restricted to the young and single, we have many widows who are elderly and alone. They all have physical problems, but notwithstanding their ailments they all come to church faithfully because it is the highlight of the week for them. It is often the only time they have to converse and share the gospel with each other and feel part of a family. It would be easier if all lived in the city of Ferrara, but many live outside the city in the countryside, some twenty, thirty or even forty miles away, and don't drive. The relief society is very active telephonically and they call each other often to sustain their fellow sisters.

As a traveling branch president I am not very present in the everyday life of the sisters and would like to do more to help but live faraway and work long hours.

Anyone have suggestions?

Next time the formation of a new stake in Italy - stake number 6.

I would enjoy hearing any comments that you may have

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Ego Is Broken and Old!

No, that photo is not me.

This is part one of what I hope is a two part blog. But as my life has been going of late, it may be a ten part blog.

It all started about four months ago when I took my eight year old daughter to get a get well present for my mom (McKenna's grandma). My mom has been sick for a long time, and four months ago she was in the hospital for the fith time in 12 months. She got home that day, so we went to a closeout store in Salt Lake City to get her the gift.
McKenna found the perfect gift. It was a stuffed pink poodle, and since my mom has two poodles, we bought it.
After paying for our purchase, we were approching the exit, and there was a lady sitting at the exit and checking all receipts to make sure no one was stealing.
I didn't have a problem with what the lady was doing, I had a problem with what she said to me. She looked at the stuffed animal, at me and then my daughter, and said, "Sir, that is so nice of you to buy your granddaughter a stuffed animal". My daughter laughed so hard she had tears running down her face, and I, well I had tears in my eyes also, but not of laughter. By the time we got home, my daughter had called all of her brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and anyone else she could think of to tell the story.
That night, I had my daughter Chelsea dye my hair, and I shaved off my beard. Only last month, I turned 43.
What happened yesterday, will be post 2 in this series, after I figure out why this person said what he did.
Until then, I will get my walker out, take my Geritol and try to drive the speed limit on the freeway.

A Hard Copy

David J Stitt

I sometimes ask people, after they have given a talk or taught a lesson, for a copy of something that impacted me. With all of the challenges that life presents us, the tasks that deplete us of physical energy, the disappointments, the frustrations, the anger with ourselves over choices that we make, and sometimes the desire to throw in the towel, there is a state of renewing and healing that comes to us when the Holy Ghost uses His power to carry the message “unto” our hearts 2 Nephi 33:1. I feel a unique gratitude to the person who was an instrument in igniting hope, healing, and an aspiration to make a needed change in my life. Sometimes, as a result of this, a person comes to my mind and an idea of what I could do to help them. I have learned by sad experience the disappointment and pain that comes from not acting ASAP when a prompting comes to help someone. Hope and motivation are two of my favorite feelings; they are gifts of the Spirit. It is equally as thrilling to have taught or spoken and then be asked for a copy of something that was said. Both circumstances, giving or receiving something inspiring, bring a unique feeling of happiness.

I don’t know if there is a better example of “all” being “edified” (D&C 88:122) than giving or receiving a hard copy of that which was an instrument of edification. It is an oasis in the desert of all the oppositions in life.

Here is how the Lord put it:
... when all have spoken that all may be edified of all …
(Doctrine and Covenants 88:122)

Years ago I gave the same talk a number of times. I found that it hit home with a lot of people and there was tremendous interest in the subject. The subject was about resisting temptation. To my surprise I received more requests, by far, for copies of it than anything else I had spoken about. A friend suggested that I write a book and after considering it for some time I began. The process was long and difficult and there were multiple publishing attempts but now the result is the book “The Master Deceiver: Understanding Satan’s Lies and How to Resist Them.”

Its publishing has brought much joy and motivation to me and I hope that it might be of some help to many of you.

New Author

Ok, so I am a new author and new to this whole blog thing too. I do not write novels, but Young Women resource books and am currently working on a cookbook. Since Doug wants us all here to open up our personal information, here I am. After reading some of the posts on this blog all I can say is I hope to meet you all in person someday! You guys crack me up! Doug, did you really do that to your shirt and no one told you to fix it? Gosh, I am constantly asking my husband if there is anything in my teeth - and expect him to tell me if there was at any time. You'd think all those bright employees at CFI would have noticed something like that!
We are in the process of moving to Utah from Oklahoma. We are waiting a few more weeks to see if we get an offer on our house, and if not, we plan to just rent it out so we can get back closer to family. Someday I hope to shake hands with all of you. Until then have a great Easter weekend coming up. OH - and GO BYU COUGARS!!! In the NCAA Basketball Tournament!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Volkswagon Summer Post #5

But this weekend, my dad was not baking bread. He was staying out of mom's way. I think he felt the same way about the garage sale as I did. He couldn't wait to get it over with so he could have his garage back. He was up early on Friday and had already watered most of the quarter acre lawn that surrounded our house. He was meticulous about our lawn. He installed a sprinkler system that had to be turned on by hand with the large metal fork that looked more like a weapon than a tool for lawn maintenance. He wore his plaid, polyester pants, black sandals, white socks and a red golf shirt. His bald head sweated in the morning sun as he walked across the lawn to make sure none of his sprinkers had been broken by the neighborhood kids who used our lawn as the football field. I opened the screen door to our backyard and walked outside with my toast in hand and plopped down onto the yellow vinyl lounger we had inherited from my grandmother. "Good morning sunshine, what's up?" my dad said as he leaned over to pull a dandelion from his blessed green lawn. "Nothing," I replied as I stood up and followed him to the garden that was just starting to show shoots of green in even rows of cocoa-colored mud. "We should have a great crop this year. I'll have to make sure it gets watered while we are in California. I thought about asking Tim next store to come and keep up on the yard while we are gone," he said as he eyed the garden and looked fiercely for any wild weed that would dare invade his newest masterpiece. "About California. Do I really have to go? I mean most of my friends are getting jobs this summer and I was thinking...." I was interupted by my mom as she threw open the screen door. "Kim, I need you to come in and help this lady while I man the garage," she motioned me inside. "You've always loved our annual trip to California. You can get a job next year. Don't rush it," my dad said as he grabbed the hoe leaning up against the house and started stabbing the dirt. I followed my mom inside, knowing that there was no way I was getting out of the family trip, at least not this year. A woman was standing in the living room. "Oh, you are just my daughter's size, do you mind trying these on to make sure they'll fit before I buy them?" She held two skirts and two tops I had never seen before, obviously a donation to the garage sale from one of the neighbors. "I took the clothes and closed the locked the bathroom door and slipped on the skirt. The lace brushed my ankles and the shirt hung way below my waistband making me look like an undersized Pilgram. I walked out of the bathroom and walked into the living room where I had left the lady. She turned and her hands clapped together. "Oh it's perfect. Thank you sweetie. I'll take all of them." I turned and changed back into my shorts and brought the pile of clothes back out to the lady. It should have felt strange to try on clothes for complete strangers but it didn't. I had been doing it every summer since I could remember. I was just thankful that she didn't ask me to try on the underwear.

Pickles on the Floor - More Inspiring Ideas

I was walking down the hallway at work (alternative high school) today, and saw two pickle slices lying on the floor. Those two soggy green slices got me thinking.
If you read my earlier blog, you'll remember I wrote about how anything that takes you out of your routine is worth noting as a possible book idea. (Hey! I see you twirling your finger around your head by your ear!) Now, seriously, if you saw a book titled, "Pickles on the Floor" wouldn't you be curious? Wouldn't you pick it up at least to see what it was about? I would! So even though I don't know what "Pickles on the Floor" is about yet, it has come to me as a possible title, and I will tuck it away in my monstrous file folder of story ideas.
This method actually helped me write a YA novel that has had serious interest from two publishers. With a re-write, I have a chance at a 3rd even bigger publisher. It happened when I drove past a cemetery and saw an open grave. I remembered all the stories I'd heard about people falling into an open grave and not being able to climb out, so they had to wait for help. I began asking myself "what if...?" questions. What if someone fell in a grave a disappeared? Where would they go? What would happen to them? Would they ever get out? After I asked questions and played with lots of different answers, the ones I want settled into place, and I wrote the book.
So look for things out of the ordinary, ask yourself questions, and that creativity will grow from a trickle to a waterfall. How refreshing!
Shirley Bahlmann