Tuesday, 31 July 2007

I Heard that Song Before - Mary Higgins Clark

I was excited to put this book on my Summer Reading Thing list. Mary Higgins Clark has always been one of my favorite authors.

The story centers around Kay Lansing who grew up in Englewood. She was the daughter of a landscaper who has now married the master of the house. The only thing that threatens their new-found happiness is murder. Two murders occurred that left her husband a person of interest. Now new evidence has come to light that puts her husband in jail and leaves Kay alone in the Carrington mansion. While trying to solve a twenty year old murder and a four year old murder, Kay finds herself in danger as she wonders who around her she can trust and who around her she should fear.

As always, Clark kept me guessing until the very end who is guilty. I love her stories and all the intricacies she weaves into them. I had a little trouble at first following who was speaking as the point of view changes from first to third person from chapter to chapter, but the story was riveting enough that I soon stopped noticing that. This was a fun read that is hard to put down once you pick it up.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Life of Pi - Yann Martel

I finally finished reading another book from my Summer Reading Thing list. Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a story about a 16-year old boy from India who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. The boy, Pi, tells his story of survival. As a young boy in India, Pi becomes interested in different religions and explores each one without deciding on any one in particular, but a combination of three. When he is a teenager his family decides to make the move to Canada to escape the political turmoil of India. As they sail across the ocean, the ship runs into trouble and sinks. Pi then tells how he ends up in a life boat with only a 450 pound Bengal Tiger as a companion. We watch Pi as he deals with despair and wanting to give up, and then his determination to survive.

When I started the book, I found it a little bit slow. The writing was quite poetic and beautiful to read but I found myself wanting something to happen. As the book progressed I started to enjoy it and when the shipwreck happened, I was hooked and couldn't wait to reach the end to find out how he gets off his life raft. I would definitely recommend this book. Life of Pi is the winner of "The Man Booker Prize."

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Tagged Again

No time for a real post today, we are all out enjoying the excessive heat and taking part in all the events for Magrath days. Here is another tag I filled out a few days ago. This one came from Amanda.

Four jobs I've had:

1. Housekeeper at a hospital - Even if I don't do it as often as I should, I'm really good at mopping floors now.

2. Retail sales - I sold sewing machines for several years and helped in the repair shop.

3. Seamstress - I worked as a seamstress for a bridal shop for a few months and spent years sewing bridal gowns and prom dresses for people.

4. Dayhome provider - I sent all my kids off to school and ended up watching all the neighbors kids.

Four places I have lived:

1. Rexburg, Idaho - Go Ricks College! (or BYUI or whatever)

2. Magrath, Alberta - my favorite place (see yesterdays blog)

3. Springville, Utah - one year in grade 4

4. Grassy Lake, Alberta - the list goes on but these were the first ones to come to mind.

Four favorite T.V. shows:

1. Criminal Minds - I love the whole profiling aspect of the show and the characters are great.

2. Survivor - yes, I got hooked on season one and haven't been able to give it up.

3. That's about it, I watch so little television these days, and don't feel like I am missing too much. I miss some of the older sitcoms though.

Four favorite foods:

1. Anything dairy. I agree with Amanda on this one.

2. Chocolate - although I am trying to cut back :(

3. Fresh fruit, especially pineapple and mangos

4. Japanese food (but not sushi)

Four websites I frequent:

1. - Both sides of my family maintain sites with It is a great way to keep up with what everyone is up to.

2. - LDS writers who write about writing and books.

3. - Tristi puts new things on her blog every day and sometimes more. It is always an interesting read.

4. - I love to do a little geneology when I have the time, which hasn't been a whole lot in the last few months.

Four places I'd rather be right now:

1. I love being home, I just wish there were a few more quiet moments. Doesn't happen much with all the kids home from school.

2. In the mountains.

3. On the beach.

4. In a library.

Four Movies I love:

1. Casablanca - this is my all-time favorite

2. The Lake House

3. Calamity Jane - or any other old musical

4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Four Bloggers I tag next:

Sorry guys :) Have fun

Tristi Pinkston



Julie Bellon

Friday, 27 July 2007


Every so often I re-examine where my life is and where I want it to go. During the last two years I have brought some extra income into our home by babysitting. Usually I have six extra children from early morning until dinner time. It means there is rarely a quiet moment in the house, my own kids don't get all the attention they think they need (and they are probably right), and my introverted self gets a little crazy having people around every day; all the time. I admit I've done my share of griping about the road my life has taken.

I started watching children because we needed the extra income but felt it was important that I still be home for my own kids. In that sense it works well. My kids know I am always here when they need me and I'm home when they come home from school. But every so often another job opportunity comes up.

The latest was this last week. I interviewed for a job right here in my little town. As my husband and I discussed all the pros and cons of taking or not taking this job I was amazed at how good the life I have now looks. Sure, I rarely leave the house (really hard with six kids under the age of five), the house is never as clean as I would like, and there is the constant noise. But I always come back to the idea that I love being home for my kids.

The other thing that came to the forefront of our conversations was the affect taking the job would have on my writing time. Right now I am usually able to get in at least an hour while all the kids lay down for a "quiet time" and then some time in the evening. I sure hate to give that up. With my husband's encouragement we decided that the decision about which job to take must be heavily influenced by the effect it will have on my writing. By taking this other job, I would lose that hour of writing time, and because of the nature of the job I would lose some evening time as well.

I'm just grateful that my husband is so supportive of me. In the end it always comes down to what I really want to do. But even more than that, it comes down to his absolute belief in my talents and abilities. I sure love that my biggest fan keeps pushing me on and when I do re-examine my priorities, he is standing there cheering for me, whatever decision I make.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Magrath Days - Part 3

The free beef-on-a-bun is like being invited to a giant family dinner. My family lines up early, as we do every year. We manage to be near the front of the quickly growing line, but soon notice something different from previous years. The smell of mouth-watering beef is absent. The news spreads with lightning speed. Our beef has been ordered from a neighboring town, but somehow the order has been messed up and the beef isn’t there. We are assured that it’s on its way, and, if we wait patiently, we will be fed. Hundreds of people are stunned into silence at the thought of waiting any longer for dinner.

Then the rumors start flying. “I hear that the meat shop did this on purpose.” (We have a long-standing, friendly rivalry with the neighboring town.) “They are going to feed the town council first and we will get some if there is any left.” “Well, I heard that they are getting the meat from the deer my car hit last night.”

Ten . . . twenty . . . thirty minutes. We keep waiting for people to start scattering to their own homes for real food instead of relying on the promise that dinner will arrive soon. The children quickly desert the line, choosing to wait on the playground. Adults mingle, renewing old acquaintances. Forty . . . fifty minutes. Still the rumors fly and the line grows. We have been promised a meal and we aren’t leaving without one.

The amazing thing is that there’s not a mean word spoken. Nobody blames the mayor for the problem. Instead, there is much laughter, joking, and visiting. And then the meat arrives. The half-expected cheer never comes, just quiet smiles of gratitude. This is a town that is too used to unexpected things life throws at them everyday to be upset about missing beef. As we go through the line and the mayor serves us, friendly ribbing is heard, and folks congratulate him for finally getting the meat there. I feel an enormous amount of pride to belong to a town that has learned to accept these sorts of things with grace and humor.

That is what draws us all to Magrath, the family feeling that can still be found after years of absence. Some choose to head to the big lights of the city, looking for more opportunity or more excitement. Others just want to move away from family to prove that they can do it on their own. Many return permanently to raise their own children in this safe and friendly community. But we all feel that pull once a year to celebrate the birth of the town that raised us. It is the weekend that my family grows from eight to eighteen hundred. It is my favourite weekend of the year.

Magrath Days - Part 2

Watching the parade is truly one of the highlights of the day. The R.C.M.P. always leads the way, followed by our award-winning high school band, The Spirit of Alberta, complete with bagpipes and a colour guard. They are followed by floats of every shape and size -- each family reunion has one, as does each class reunion. Churches and businesses in town are also represented. Candy is thrown to the children from almost every float. One of my children says, “This is almost as good as Halloween!” The best years are when the organizers decide that the parade just won’t be long enough the way it is. On those years the parade passes down Main Street, does a u-turn at the corner of the post office and the Trading Company and goes back the way it came. Those years we get to see the parade twice.

All afternoon there are activities to appeal to every age group. The talent show is a wonderful way to see some of the up and coming talent and become reacquainted with our old favourites. The highland dancers give a rousing performance, a reunited garage band brings back memories, and cloggers tap their way across the stage. We respond with lots of laughter and applause.

The softball tournament has been going since Thursday evening and tension is high as everyone wonders who will emerge the victor. The crack of the bat rings through the hot summer air as everyone cheers for their family. We know that whoever wins, everyone had a good time.

Then there are the lawnmower races, an event that must be seen. When the ride-on mowers are lined up and ready to go, the signal is given. Participants must maneuvre their machines around obstacles and beat the others back to the starting line. The dust flies as one tractor does a wheelie and another takes a corner on two wheels. We cheer for our favorite as if this were the Olympics.

Magrath Days - Part 1

“I can’t wait to leave this town.” Most high school students in Magrath utter that phrase at least once. Yet like so many of the people who live or grew up here, we gather every year to celebrate our community’s birthday.

Magrath is a little town situated between the coulees and grain fields of Southern Alberta. Tree-lined streets and flower beds in almost every yard have earned our town the title of The Garden City. Fifty-one weekends a year it is a quiet place, where friendly people wave at every car and going to the post office is a social event. But every summer, the little town of
Magrath dons its best party clothes and prepares for the weekend of July twenty-fourth.

There is a lot to be done before the big weekend. Phone calls and letters are exchanged to plan family and class reunions. Floats for the parade are created, numbers are prepared for the talent show and the evening program, families and friends practise for the annual softball tournament, and ride-on lawnmowers are tuned up for the big races. Beds are made ready for all the family and friends who are coming home.

The town crews put many hours into cleaning up the town, painting new lines on the roads, hanging flower baskets from the telephone poles and Canadian flags along Main Street. Families display flags in front of their homes and tend flower gardens with the greatest care. Everything must be just right.

Soon, the highly anticipated weekend arrives. Saturday morning people line the streets waiting for the parade to start. Some sit and enjoy watching the bustling folks around them. My sisters and I walk up and down the streets greeting familiar faces that we haven’t seen in months or years. The quiet town has been transformed.

Monday, 23 July 2007

My Favorite Weekend

This coming weekend is my favorite holiday of the year. Oh sure, Christmas rates tight up there, but the last weekend in July is definitely the one I look forward to the most. For much of the LDS church, the 24th of July is the weekend we honor our pioneer ancestors. Maybe the reason our town's annual celebration is held on this weekend is because Magrath was established by in 1899 by Mormon pioneers sent to Alberta by John Taylor to help with the irrigation system in the area. My own grandparents were among those pioneers.

Pioneers aren't focused on too often during our celebration anymore. The town has grown to have an eclectic mix of religions and backgrounds and we try to include everyone. But whether we are celebrating our pioneer heritage or the fact that we belong to one of the best communities around doesn't matter to me. I love this weekend because there is so much to do and everyone comes home. Over the next three days, I will post an article about "Magrath Days" I wrote for our local newspaper a few years ago. I hope you enjoy.
Meanwhile, most of my writing time this week will be spent visiting with family, old school chums, and neighbors as I enjoy the town I call home.

(The first picture is "The Spirit of Alberta" marching band during the parade and the second picture is my oldest daughter performing Scottish Higland dancing during an outdoor program last year. I can't wait for this year!)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Word Pictures

I have the opportunity to serve in our ward primary presidency. Most of the time I miss Relief Society. I love being with the sisters. That said, Primary is where it's at. I don't believe there is anywhere else in the church where the spirit is felt so readily as the Primary. I can't count the number of times I've wished I could take a picture or video recording of the priceless moments we experience every week.

Today one of our eleven year old boys came to me after church asking if he could give a five minute talk on faith for the sacrament meeting presentation in the fall. How many adults would volunteer for the same task? I'd love to capture on film all the little talks given by the sunbeams (or their mothers :) . And the music. That is when the room is at its most peaceful and our hearts are truly touched.

Being summer, we had a lot of visitors today, and most of them seemed to fall in the same age bracket. Our ten and eleven year old classes are combined because one of our teachers moved away, and we haven't been able to replace her. So the class is big anyway. When I took the visiting children to the classroom and looked in my jaw dropped. The good brother (he's in his late sixties) who teaches this class already had a roomful and with the extra I brought him, he ended up with 17 children. I looked at him and asked if he would need any help. He just smiled at me. "We are fine." Then he looked at each of the children. "These are choice spirits who are here to learn." I wish I could have taken a picture of this faithful brother and the eager faces of those children. He was fine and they did learn.

So here is where being a writer comes in handy. I couldn't capture on film the moment when the eighteen people in that room looked at me, eager to teach and learn. I couldn't record the excitement in the young voice that volunteered for a talk. But I can paint a word picture that will perfectly describe the day. The faces of the children and teacher will come readily to my mind every time I read about them. I can describe the feelings in the room when the children sing.

And that is what writing is all about. Capturing a moment. Portraying an emotion that is so real you feel as if you are experiencing it for the first time. And when you can get others to read it and understand that moment and feeling, then the writing becomes real. It becomes more than just words on a page.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes

Even though I am part way through several books on my Summer Reading Thing list, I wasn' t in the mood for any of them this afternoon and picked up the new book Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes. I finished it this evening and have to say that I loved it.

The story is about Jane, who is coming up on her 30th birthday and is still single. When she turns to the personal ads to find a date it ends up changing her life in ways she never expected. She meets Paul and his premature twins and agrees to become part of their lives. But don't think this is a happy ever after, formula romance. The story takes twists and turns that kept me flipping pages until I reached the end. Right until the last few pages, I couldn't predict who she would end up with. The book had a few cheesy parts as most romances do, but the last quarter of the book held me riveted, and I even had to go find the kleenex.

The worst part was the teaser for her next book at the very end. I want to read it now and it hasn't been published yet. But I will be first in line when it hits the shelves. Michele Holmes did a great job on her first novel and I hope there are many more to follow.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Striving for Perfection

I have been working on a book for eight months now. I finished writing the book at the end of the first month and have spent the rest of the time revising. It sat for a little over a month simmering while I worked on other projects. Then I polished the first chapter so I could enter it in the LDStorymakers first chapter contest. Since April I revise and rewrite on this book whenever I sit at the computer.

My husband read the first draft and encouraged me to keep going with the project. Since then he asks to read it again to see where it is now, but I keep putting him off. You see, it isn't perfect yet. And there lies the problem. Half of my brain knows that it never will be perfect. There will always be something I wish I could change. The other half of my brain keeps telling me I should keep plugging away at it until it is perfect.

In King Lear, William Shakespeare wrote, "Striving to better, oft we mar what's well." An important part of the writing process is knowing when to stop. I have a friend who writes and writes very well, but she doesn't submit very much because there is always something she feels the need to fix. Her stories go through so many changes, that often the final version bears no resemblance to the original. And still the revising continues.

So I've decided to lighten up on myself a little. My writing is continually improving but it will probably never be perfect in this life. I am going to start handing out the draft to readers before I "mar what's well." It may be better than I give myself credit for, but I will never know unless I let it leave my hands for a little while.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Goals and Success

I've been thinking over the last few days about goals. Somebody commented recently (sorry, I can't remember who) about meeting their writing goals. I was impressed that they actually had writing goals. I mean, I have goals, but they are huge things - publish a novel, sell more short stories, etc. The comment reminded me that goals need to be broken down and written down, and they need to be flexible.

Publishing a novel is a great thing to aim for, but what are all the steps to getting there? I can't just sit down one morning and say to myself, "Today, I am going to write a novel." I think that has been most of my problem lately. I get up every morning with the need to write, but it is such an abstract thing.

Og Mandino said, "The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting goals and achieving them. Even the most tedious chore will become endurable as you parade through each day convinced that every task, no matter how menial or boring, brings you closer to fulfilling your dreams."

So to be successful as a writer I need to set more concrete goals. They can be things like writing a certain number of words each day, making a daily entry on my blog, editing previous work for a certain amount of time. It always seems by breaking down the dream into smaller puzzle pieces, things start to fit together and pretty soon, the bigger picture starts to emerge.

So my achievable goal for today is that I am going to come up with a list of concrete little goals to hang near my computer and refer to every time I get distracted by the bigger picture. And like Mandino says, my success will be half won by the goals I set and achieve. What kind of smaller goals do you set for yourself to keep you going?

Monday, 16 July 2007


I was tagged two different times with the same thing, so here it is. The rules are that you’re supposed to remove the blog site at the top of the list below, move all the blog site names up one, and add yourself to the bottom.

A Writer's Ramblings
Musings from an LDS writing mom
LDS Writers Blogck (Connie S. Hall)
ANWA’s Founder & Friends
Write Bravely

What were you doing ten years ago? I was expecting my third child and newly separated from my husband. I had just moved back to Canada. Just trying to make it through each day.

What were you doing one year ago? Enjoying summer with my three children and husband. Recovering from another round of sewing prom dresses.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1-Smoothies, almost any kind with yogurt and fruit, 2-fresh cherries, 3-anything chocolate, 4-a handful of dried fruit, 5-herb tea

Five songs you know all the lyrics to: 1-I am a Child of God, 2-O Canada, 3-The Prayer (even the Italian), 4-Hush Little Baby, 5-Popcorn Popping

Things you would do if you were a millionaire: Pay off our bills and house, travel, finally do something to decorate my house.

Five bad habits: 1- overeating, 2- not exercising, 3-not believing in myself, 4-staying up too late, 5-getting distracted from the things I should do by the computer.

Five things you like to do: 1-write, 2-read, 3-sew or do needlework, 4-visit with family, 5-watch old movies

Things you will never wear again: 1-blue mascara, 2-leg warmers, 3-my wedding dress, 4-last years Halloween costume, 5-hair scrunchies

Five favorite toys: 1-my sewing machine, 2-the computer, 3-ice cream maker, 4-my bike, 5-my kids

Where will you be in ten years: Speaking at writing conferences and attending book signings for my books (positive thinking is the thing)

Five people to tag:
Mandi, My Life in a Laptop, Astle Busy Centre, Aneeka, and Lifelong Bookworm.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Sheep's_Clothing by Josi S. Kilpack

Sheep's_Clothing was one of my Summer Reading Thing choices. I read this book over the weekend and loved the story. It is great to read an LDS book about current topics. We are on the computer a lot in our house, so the subject of internet predators felt quite relevant for our family. It was interesting to me how the predator was portayed and how he worked his way into the life and mind of Jess. The point of view of the teenagers felt real. I can remember thinking and feeling similar things about friends and family when I was Jess's age.

I did find the first few chapters a little confusing as it switched point of view so often. But I soon got used to the writing style and enjoyed the book. It did seem that the problem was resolved too quickly and not enough attention paid to her experience being kidnapped. I think the point of the book was the danger of the internet for our children, and that was well addressed. And of course I loved that the book ended near Waterton Park because it is so close to home.I will recommend this book to others because I found it an enjoyable read.

Cold Water and Computers

We are still on our vacation and having a great time. My youngest daughter said, "This is a great vacation and it just keeps getting better. And we have only been away from home two days!" Of course this was said while we were in a candy store and Grandma was letting each child fill their own bag of candy.

Staying at Grandma and Grandpa's house without any water was an interesting experience. We took "showers" for church by taking a gallon container of water that had sat outside in the sun for several hours, poured just enough over our heads to wet us down, lathered up, and then rinsed off. The water was freezing and I think my kids have a new appreciation for a hot shower. I know I do.

I took the time away from the computer to read the new "Writer's Digest" magazine and catch up on some of the reading from my summer list. I keep saying I need some alone time to try and get a little writing in, but I don't get very far with a pen and paper. I find I can never write as fast as I think. It always amazes me to think of Jane Austin, Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens, penning their stories in poor light without the aid of spell check and a printer. It really is marvellous that they wrote what they did, when they did. And I think I should never complain about having to do second and third drafts when I have access to modern tools. So as great as vacation is, I am looking forward to getting home to my own hot shower and my computer.

Thursday, 5 July 2007


Tomorrow morning we are leaving for a week to visit with family in Montana and Idaho. It is supposed to be record breaking temperatures, so sitting in an air conditioned van could be a good thing. We will visit my mother first, which should be interesting. She and her husband live in the middle of nowhere on the side of a mountain. She called yesterday to ask if we are still coming. We are still welcome, but she told me they are having trouble with their well. They aren't sure if it is dried up or what the real problem is. It means roughing it for a few days. She suggested maybe we will float down the river for our Saturday bath. Should be interesting.

The most interesting part is traveling with the three kids for so many hours in an enclosed space. Of course, we will spend less time in the van than we did last summer when we traveled from Southern Alberta to southern Washington to see the ocean. My aunt offered us their portable dvd player and I have heard from many parents how easy it is to travel with children when a movie is playing. So far I always turn down the offer. My kids travel well most of the time. I pack things for them to do and we have several travel games they like to play like I Spy, The Alphabet Game, The License Plate Game, etc. Now that they are getting a little older, they like to read and do word puzzles.

We are looking forward to getting away for a few days and the kids are excited to see Yellowstone Park for the first time. But I am always looking for new ideas. Does anyone have any other ideas for games or activities to keep the family happy while traveling?

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Being an Introvert

In the June 2007 issue of Writer's Digest I read an article titled "Moth's Guide to Schmoozing" by Christine King. I was very excited to read this article as I felt it described me perfectly. As much as I enjoyed the conference in Utah, I wondered how the event would have changed if I had read the article first. I imagined that I could have walked into the room, comfortable with my own discomfort. Maybe, knowing that half the people in the room were feeling the same way, I would have spent more time approaching others and making new acquaintances. Maybe I could have convinced myself to be more confident about my own writing and more willing to talk about it to others.

I also discovered a website They even have a link to a test to see if you really are an introvert Online Meyers Briggs Test. I love how they say that being an introvert is okay, in fact, it is part of what makes us unique, and we can learn to sell ourselves and market our work. I suppose if we were all extroverts, there would be fewer books and works of art. Because creating is one of those solitary things, best done in the otherworlds of one's own mind.
Related Posts with Thumbnails