Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Summer Book Trek Wrap-up

It has been a busy summer of reading. My list grew as I became involved in blog tours and read reviews on other blogs. As always, I enjoy a reading challenge and found myself reading a variety of genres and styles. It's a good thing I read quickly as my reading list is always growing. Here are some questions from LDS Publisher about the book trek.

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


2. Did you read more than you would have read if you hadn't participated in this book trek?

3. Did the reviews posted by other participants influence which titles you read? How?
-Yes. I love getting suggestions from other readers.

4. Did the Whitney awards influence which titles you read? How?
-No. I had already read all the Whitney nominees.

5. Did the many, many virtual blog tours that happened this summer influence which titles you read? How?
-The virtual blog tour influenced me because I was involved in many of them and ended up reading books I might not have picked up otherwise.

6. Did you finish all the books you had planned to read? If not, why?
-No. I didn't get to the Red Dragon Codex because I am waiting for my youngest daughter to read it and she isn't quite as fast as I am.

7. Did you discover any new authors whom you now love?
-Yes. I'm really looking forward to more by Janet Jensen and Stephanie Black.

8. Did you nominate any of the books you read for Whitney awards?

9. Would you be interested in another LDS themed reading challenge either this winter, or next summer?
-I love any reading challenge.

Monday, 25 August 2008

When to Give Up

I read a sad post from another blog friend today. She has been writing since high school but has struggled without support and friends in her area, struggled with rejections and felt alone in her uphill battle to be a writer. She is, as she puts it, "throwing in the towel." This saddened me because it could be me. Every so often I re-examine my goals and priorities and wonder if the writing life is really the life I want to pursue.

I certainly can't judge her decision. Everyone has their limit. I wonder where mine is. Like all women, there are so many things I have to keep up with and so much expected of me, it seems impossible to do the things I have to do let alone the things I want to do. Usually I find I can do so much better. But that's good, it gives me direction and something to focus on.

Today I've been thinking about the writing aspect of my life. Ever since I could hold a pencil I've written. I used to ask my mother to tell me how to spell the words so I could write them down. I probably drove her nuts. Once I learned to read and write, I used up scraps of paper and notebooks writing silly stories and poems down. I didn't I shared them with many people. Not many showed any interest. I had one great-grandmother who encouraged me to write and develop those talents and I still treasure her words today.

In junior high I wrote the required stories for English class but most of my personal writing was poetry - stuff filled with the standard teenage angst. High school was more of the same. As an adult, life took over and the creative writing I had always thrived on was put away.

I remember deciding to write something when my two oldest children were very young. I sat at the table and stared at the lined paper in front of me. That is really all I did. Sure, I wrote a few things down. Then scribbled them out. I wrote a few more things and finally threw the paper away. It seemed I had let the talent lie dormant for too long.

In the last ten years I have felt a renewed energy to write. I still don't know if the time is right, but I do it anyway. Maybe I'll never be published anywhere other than our local newspaper. Maybe I'll end up with a box of novel manuscripts under my bed. Maybe someday I'll actually be able to find my book in the bookstore. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I find myself wishing I could live closer to the center of the LDS writing community and belong to active writing groups and attend all the conferences available in Utah, but I love my home and will have to learn to be an LDS writer on my own. Sometimes the pressures of daily life are overwhelming, I feel isolated and lonely, and sometimes I think about "throwing in the towel." Maybe someday that will be the right thing to do. But when I give any serious thought to the direction my life is taking, even looking at other options, the same phrase keeps running through my head. "You are supposed to write. Just write." So I do.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Highland Games

Today we woke up at 5:00 a.m. My husband, my oldest daughter, and I headed out the door to High River. I couldn't convince the other two kids that a day of bagpipes and kilts could be any fun. We've been to dance competitions before, but never to an actual highland games.

When we arrived, we heard the bagpipes before we even entered the gates. Men in kilts and little girls in dance costumes with buns in their hair were everywhere. The dance competition got underway soon after we arrived so I spent most of the morning watching the highland fling, the sword dance, the flora, and the lilt.

We also spent time watching the heavy events. Men in kilts throwing large stones, cabers (logs) and even little kids got their turn at this. There was also a sheep dog demonstration and a cannon demonstration - all of this accompanied by the constant drone of bagpipes (which my daughter and I love but we are still trying to convert my husband to).

The highlight of the day was watching my daughter be awarded a silver medal in the sword dance, and a bronze medal in the lilt. She is already planning to return next year. So am I. Right now I am just tired though. 5:00 is just way too early.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Olympics and Writing

Like much of the world, I've been catching some of the Olympics over the last week and marveling at the strength and dedication of the athletes. These people have spent years of their lives training and working and perfecting their skills. Injuries and set-backs happen, but the athletes persevere. They are there to win but what really impresses me are those who may not win but end up beating their own personal records. It's about growing and getting better.

Closer to home, I watch my oldest daughter, who is a highland dancer. She's been dancing since grade one and is now entering grade ten. Whenever we talk about extra-curricular activities at the beginning of a school year, she makes it clear that quiting highland dance is not an option. She will take it no matter what else has to go. Her skills grow every year and she has set a goal to test for and receive her teacher's certification when she is old enough. But highland dance is not easy for her. She has knee and ankle problems that often make the dancing painful and this week as she is preparing for competition, the pain has prevented dancing altogether. Yet despite the pain, she loves to dance. She loves beating her own personal best.

My own sport is writing. I know, I won't lose much weight that way. It's a mental sport. And just like any athlete who works hard to perfect their skills, I work hard to improve my writing. Today I received a rejection in the mail. As always, it set me back a little. But my coach (husband) pushes me on and won't let me quit. When I wonder if the time and expense invested are worth it, I remember the athletes who physically push themselves to the limit to be better. They have no guarantee of winning a medal and my daughter isn't guaranteed a medal at her competitions. Yet they all continue because they love what they do. Somehow it is part of who they are. Writing is the same for me.

As I read the words I labor over, I can see the improvement in them. I'm reaching and passing my own personal bests, and maybe someday I'll even get published. For me, that would be better than any medal. Until then, I continue training and competing in the writing world. There is no guarantee that I'll ever reach my goal but I'll never know unless I keep trying, and anyway, writing is part of who I am.

Monday, 18 August 2008

It Worked for Me

Josi Kilpack blogged about a chore routine that works for their family and has invited everyone else to blog about what works for them. So here is what has worked for me. This isn't really a chore for me, but it sure affects my mood and the moods of everyone else in the house.

Growing up as the oldest of six kids, my parents often left me in charge of everyone when they went out. I was "The Babysitter". My responsibilities included getting everyone dinner, making sure that dinner was cleaned up, getting everyone to bed on time and making sure no body did any bodily harm to anyone else.

It never worked. My brother (16 months younger than me) didn't like the idea of having a babysitter. My sisters didn't want me to boss them around, and I'm sure I was plenty bossy. The two littlest just followed the example of everyone else. I'm sure if my mother had a cell phone, I would have called her so often it would have driven them crazy. Instead, I begged, cried, bribed, tricked and screamed at my siblings. It never worked though. Usually one of them would hear the car pull into the driveway and warn the others. The smart ones would jump into bed and pretend to be asleep. Or they would wait until Mom and Dad came in the door and claim some strange inability to sleep.

Meanwhile, I would go to bed angry and frustrated. I hated being the bossy older sister. It bothered me that they would all gang up on me and the feelings seemed to carry into regular play as well. In fact, for some of my siblings the feelings have carried on into adulthood.

When my own children grew old enough to leave alone, I decided to try something different. I told the kids that they were old enough not to have a babysitter. (I first tried this for short periods when my oldest daughter was eleven.) Each child is in charge of their own behavior. They are not to tattle on their siblings unless the behavior was dangerous or hurt someone. I put the oldest in charge of the youngest as far as knowing where she was and making sure she was safe.

Since there was no competition and no one being bossy they seem to get to bed on time and clean up after themselves quite well. They know to look out for each other but not to try to control each other. This works for me. I come home to find them all asleep, the kitchen clean and a peaceful home.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Surprise Packages by Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Morris

"Fifteen years after meeting at Education Week at Brigham Young University, Juneau, Deenie, and Erin face new challenges. Deenie, now living in Gainesville, Florida, begins to question everything she has believed about herself as she sees her actions through others' eyes. Juneau's feelings of guilt come to a head when a secret from her childhood and the mystery of her great-grandmother, Letitia, combine to force her to confront her past. And Erin, whose painful divorce has made her cynical about love and marriage, must decide if she can take a risk when she has a second chance for love.

"Staying in touch through phone calls, e-mails, and periodic vacations together, the friends offer one another support, sometimes in the form of blunt feedback. But as they anticipate reaching their goal to become Crusty Old Broads, life takes a turn that puts their twenty-five-year pact in doubt."

Surprise Packages is the third book and final book in The Company of Good Women series. I was at a disadvantage as I started this book, since I hadn't read the first two books, Almost Sisters and Three Tickets to Peoria. Despite this handicap, I quickly became involved in the character's lives. The book is written in short vignettes and a series of emails sent between the three women.

I did find it difficult to keep the numerous characters straight as the story jumped from Erin to Juneau to Deenie. Despite that, the variety of problems and triumphs the characters encountered were interesting and made the story more real. Each of the 'Crusty Old Broads' grows through the course of the story, relying on their friendship for strength and support. It made me want a group of 'Broads' to call my own.

The authors took an interesting approach in writing this book, each author writing from a different character's point of view. They say: "The Company of Good Women is the story of three women in three different parts of the country and their quest to become Crusty Old Broads—written by three women from three different parts of the country who are self-professed Crusty Old Broads!" In the end I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to others, but only after suggesting they start with book one.

You can purchase this book here or visit the authors here.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Preparedness Principles by Barbara Salsbury

“With “Preparedness Principles” you are going to learn the solutions for practical, personal preparedness right where you are…in your own home.

The Goal: To teach you how to be more secure in dealing with future emergencies.

The Purpose: To provide the “know-how” for setting up a realistic, organized program of personal preparedness: suited to your circumstances, environment and budget.

The Attitude: Begin with what you have…where you are, on your budget. One step at a time. No need for doomsday, the world is not falling apart. You don’t need to stockpile arms nor head for the hills. You can be prepared in your own home.

The Experience: Barbara Salsbury has lived what she teaches. For the Salsburys being prepared has lessened the impact of many crisis. Barbara shares her invaluable insight.

The Motto: If you are prepared you can cope! Or to put it another way, you will be shown how to make most crisis more bearable!”

Preparedness Principles: The Complete Personal Preparedness Resource Guide is a book I’ve looked forward to reviewing. There have been many instances in my life when whatever level of preparedness we’ve had has helped get us through a variety of difficult circumstances. Before reading this book, I already had a firm belief in the importance of being prepared. As with a lot of people, I lacked some of the practical knowledge required to put a real plan into place.

So many people believe they will never need to use their emergency supplies and fail to even have the most basic supplies. Others don’t do anything about it because they have an all or nothing attitude. Salsbury says: “Preparedness is not an all-or-nothing thing. Something is much better than nothing, even if the something is just a little bit of something.” This book is a great place to learn how to start gathering that little bit of something.

Upon receiving this book, I was first impressed with the size and amount of information packed into it. Just reading the table of contents left me feeling a little overwhelmed. But Barbara Salsbury presents the information in an easy to read format. Her writing style is entertaining and informative.

As I read through the different sections I was impressed with how thorough the book is. The author writes about food storage, what to do in a natural disaster, and having a family plan should family members be separated during a disaster. The book is divided into five sections: 1) Essential Elements, 2)Principles for Surviving Worst Case Scenarios, 3) Principles of Provident Living, 4) Principles for Dealing with Disasters, and 5) Principles for Emergency Evacuations. The book also includes a large appendix section with detailed instructions for many of the ideas suggested in the book.

Every principle is accompanied with ideas on how to put it into practice. There are charts throughout the book and many experiences shared by those who have had to put emergency preparedness to the test. There is so much information in this book, but it is vital information everyone should learn.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “Preparedness is being in control during out of control situations.” This book will help families take control. It’s a book every family should have and would make a great Christmas present.

Preparedness Principles can be purchased here and you can also visit Barbara Salsbury’s website for more information.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Caught in the Headlights by Barry K. Phillips

“We’ve all had those ‘deer in the headlight’ moments when we realize we’ve been chasing the wrong things. Caught in the Headlights is a frank, insightful look at 10 key goals most of us think we want – only to discover our eyes are on the wrong prize. Barry K. Phillips not only entertains, but also examines common values and us to the goals we should seek, what to do differently now that we know better.

From goals such as happiness, self-esteem, protecting our pride, or the perfect physique, Phillips takes a closer look at those aims prized by society and explores how we can pursue higher goals. A thoughtful, funny, and at times profound look into the real reasons we all have for the things we do, this book will entertain, enlighten, and inspire.”

Each of the ten chapters is accompanied by a comic to introduce the principle, a section on lessons learned and a poem to summarize. The writing is easy to read and Mr. Phillips uses humor throughout to make his point. He takes values society has told us are important and turned them upside down to discover what is really of worth.

I most enjoyed the chapters on Control and Success. From the chapter on Control, he writes:

“Combining worthy pursuits with a keen sense of discernment brings about or causes serendipity. It’s not just happenstance. These two elements in play bring about a state of mind where a person’s own awareness allows him to find something better than what he was looking for, a good thing he could not have planned but was aware enough to notice.”

And from the chapter on Success:

“Balance, perspective, service, and doing the most with what you’ve been given in all areas of your life is what success is all about. Success measured on those terms is harder to find but well worth the pursuit. My lesson learned was not that I didn’t want success, just that my definition was all wrong in the beginning.”

In this little 116 page book, there are so many gems of wisdom that I am looking forward to a second and a third reading. I recommend this book as an entertaining and enlightening read, especially to those looking for a new perspective on life.

This book can be purchased from Cedar Fort or from Barry K. Phillips website.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

¡Feliz cumpleaƱos!

Today I woke up to find myself inevitably a year older. Funny how that happens. We age gradually all year, but presto, on that auspicious day we're magically older and of course wiser.

We spent the day at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. Several people told me the kids wouldn't like it, but my kids love stuff like that. Thousands of mineral and rock samples were displayed and the kids took the time to look at every one and of course they patronized the museum gift shop when they were done.

The State Capitol was our next stop and we learned about the S.S. Arizona and a little about the state. The kids are enjoying the experience of high heat, different plants, and having a pool in the backyard. It's hard getting them out of the pool so we can do anything else.

It's interesting seeing new things and I'm glad my family likes to do the museums and the tours I like to do. I guess that's the best birthday present is spending time with my family do things we like to do.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Still on Vacation

Our vacation has gone well to this point. We spent last weekend at a family reunion in Springville. It was so nice to get together with family and see everyone. There are many new members of the family added through marriage and new babies. We definitely don't get together often enough.

This reunion was for all the descendants of my paternal grandma and grandpa. My sister made the observation that every member of the family is active in the LDS church. My grandparents were pretty amazing people to raise a family who are all strong in their beliefs and who find such joy in each other's company. It was funny whenever one of the little ones cried and every mother jumped because they all sound so much the same. This reunion just ended and I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Now we hanging out in South Jordan so my kids can spend some time with their grandparents. They've gone up to temple square today while Rick and I did a little shopping of our own. We really aren't consumers though. We did a lot of looking around but didn't buy much.

Tomorrow we are on our way to Arizona so my kids can experience real heat. That should be interesting. I'm looking forward to showing them the interesting plant life in Arizona, the Grand Canyon, and best of all my mother's side of the family.
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