Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Trip to New York

I had to go to New York yesterday to present the annual budget to the ownership group for the hotel I work at. Developing the budget is always a highly stressful time of year. You prepare the budget. The corporate offices review the budget and then tell you to do it over again. You repeat this process (not unlike lather, rinse, repeat) several times. Once corporate gives you their blessing you're ready to go have a little face time with the owners to see if they will accept the budget.

Four of us from my hotel flew out of SLC International airport on Monday morning at o'dark thirty. Actually, we tried to but the plane sat on the tarmac for an hour as they performed a complete de-icing. We then flew to Denver, and then on to La Guardia airport in NY. It was pretty much a full day affair. Once we got to our hotel, we went and ate at a nice little diner across the street. We came back and brain stormed for about an hour to prep for Tuesday morning's meeting.

Our meeting with the owners' representative lasted all of about 90 minutes. I spoke for about 5 minutes. Mostly they were interested in top line revenue, so our Director of Sales did most of the talking. It was undoubtedly the most painless budget presentation that I've ever done. We finished by 10:00 a.m. and our flight didn't leave until 5:30 p.m. That's when the boondoggle started. Our hotel spent several thousand dollars to get us there, and it seemed a waste to spend all that money for a 90 minute meeting that easily could've taken place via e-mail and perhaps a phone call. So here's my pictures of the boondoggle. If they're going to be that short and painless in the future, I'm hoping that next year's presentation is in Jamaica.

Here we are walking somewhere near Broadway.

Our first stop was the Empire State Building.
This is just inside the Empire State Building. The woman sitting at the desk gave me directions to find Ray's Pizza. I heard a lot about the many incarnations of Ray's Pizza on the Food Network. She's sitting at the Information Desk, so when she said that Ray's had the "best pizza in New York," I knew she had to be telling the truth. You can't lie if you're working at the information desk. Anyway, I have much love for that woman.

Here's a picture looking at Lower Manhattan from the 86th floor observatory of the Empire State Building. There is a bit of a gap in the center right of the buildings. I think that is where the World Trade Center used to be. If someone could confirm or deny that suspicion, that would be cool. There are a few islands in the middle of the Hudson river. Though you can't really see it in this picture, on the center island is the Statue of Liberty. If I had known I was going on a boondoggle I would've taken a better camera. These pictures where simply taken with my phone.

The next two pictures are also from the 86th floor looking in different directions.

And finally, a picture looking up at the top of the Empire State Building.

For the record, I am extremely afraid of heights, but when you get the chance to go up the Empire State Building, you've got to take it right?

We did find Ray's Pizza, thanks to the nice lady at the information desk. There are several different Ray's Pizza in New York all claiming that they were the first. This one said that it was the "Original Famous Ray's Pizza" but I'm not sure if it really was or not. Regardless, the pizza (bought by the slice) was amazing.

This is near Times Square. I saw the ball that will drop on New Year's Eve.

Just by chance we drove around Broadway and the Rockefeller Center. They lit the Christmas tree last night, so we saw it just hours before it was lit. There were barricades and police everywhere. It's a very big deal there. We were lucky to get past it before the streets shut down.

Anyway, I went there on a business trip and basically had a one day vacation.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Gift to You -Book Review

Lori Nawyn, “My Gift to You”

From the back of the book:

Trish Ingram works hard to maintain the perfect suburban household—or, at least, the appearance of one. By managing her outer world with lavish attention and rigid control, she’s able to ignore and conceal the darkness of her inner world, which is plagued by traumatic childhood memories of loss. Her terminally ill sister-in-law, Jamie, sees through the fa├žade and reaches out in love to Trish, inspiring her to seek a more meaningful life and a more authentic self. But the childhood scars run deep, and despite Trish’s best efforts, she’s unable to be the wife and mother her family needs.

Devastated by the departure of her husband and daughter, Trish faces the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime. She desires to move forward in faith, but this desire alone cannot mend her family's shattered trust. The hollow realm of denial and fear has been her safe haven. To confront pain and transcend the shadows of her past will require a level of courage she’s not sure she possesses. This gripping story of familial love and conflict tenderly reminds us that forgiveness—of self, and others—is both a difficult choice and a precious gift.

Why I wrote the book:

“My Gift to You” is about forgiving ourselves, despite what we perceive as our shortcomings.
When we judge ourselves as less than acceptable for any reason, small mistakes can cripple us with discouragement. It becomes easy to lose sight of our potential, as well as precious opportunities for growth.

I was an only child with ample time to ponder the intricacies of human behavior. At a young age, I became fascinated by the fact that while several people in my life were happy, upbeat, and in possession of inner peace in most if not all circumstances, some seemed inherently unhappy no matter what happened—good or bad. Money and possessions didn’t seem to have a bearing, and I wondered what did.

Though I’d been baptized when I was eight, my family didn’t attend church. If I wanted to go, I had to attend on my own. It took me a while to grasp gospel concepts, and I found that most of the time I was among those who were unhappy. About twenty years ago I decided to stop asking Why me? and instead start asking What if?

One by one, I replaced negative emotions with those of a positive nature. Instead of wondering why I couldn't make everyone around me happy—and becoming despondent because nothing I did seemed to change them or their opinions—I started asking things like, "What if happiness really is a choice? What if it can be my choice, no matter what anyone else thinks or feels?"

Instead of commiserating over why my extended family couldn't accept me for who I was and what I believed in, I asked myself, "What if I could choose my own thoughts and emotions based on what I know in my heart is right and true?" In short, "What if I accept myself for who I am?"

And, "What if I forgive—knowing that forgiveness doesn't mean acceptance?"
When I began writing “My Gift to You,” I decided I wanted my main character, Trish, to discover something important about herself: I wanted her to discover her own inner strengths and worth—much like I had when I began to unravel my own life.

Some of the things I hope the book will lead the reader to consider:

What does charity mean? Why is it important we extend it to ourselves?

What can happen when we base our worth on what the world values? On what should we base our worth?

Why are women so hard on themselves? What defines true success?

What can result when we judge ourselves to be less than others? Why is important we have a clear sense of self and purpose?

Are cruelty and shallowness signs of strength, or weakness? Why can cruelty be the result of fear?


Lori Nawyn's award-winning writing has appeared in regional and national publications including Outside Bozeman, Segullah, Deseret News, CraziBeautiful Women, and Latter-Day Woman. She is also a columnist for her local paper and a former member of Utah Press Women. One of her short stories was published in the anthology Stolen Christmas. Her first novel, My Gift to You, was released in October 2010.

Lori is currently writing her next novel, Day, about a mother’s relationship with her son. She works as a freelance artist and is the illustrator of the award-winning children's picture book What Are You Thinking? which was released in July 2010 by ThoughtsAlive Publishing. She and her fireman husband live in northern Utah where they enjoy spending time with their four children and two granddaughters, plus an assortment of dogs, rabbits, and chickens.

Finally, here is a trailer for the book. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who knows more about religion than an agnostic?

A very interesting survey was released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. They surveyed over 3,400 people to see how well they understood various religions. Not surprisingly, members of the LDS church (Mormons), and Jews scored well. Perhaps what was surprising was how well atheists and agnostics scored. Thirty-two questions were asked. On average, LDS members and Jews scored 20 points. Protestants scored 16, and Catholics got 15 correct. Atheists and agnostics however averaged a whopping 21 points.

I found that interesting. Continuing to read the article from Fox News,article I realized why:

Not surprisingly, those who said they attended worship at least once a week and considered religion important in their lives often performed better on the overall survey. However, level of education was the best predictor of religious knowledge.

It reminded me of the passage in 2 Nephi 9:28-29,
28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

So the highly educated tend to scorn God and his counsels, but they score very high on these sorts of surveys.

One more quote from the article:
On questions about Christianity, Mormons scored the highest, with an average of about eight correct answers out of 12...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Defensive Tactics

Paul Stephens has it all--a wonderful job at the FBI, a new girlfriend, and a great apartment. Even when Jimmy, a friend from his past, unexpectedly ends up on his couch, Paul has no worries. But when arresting a corrupt judge puts his girlfriend's life in danger, Paul and Jimmy will do anything to save her. How far will Paul go to protect the ones he loves? Filled with suspense and action, Defensive Tactics shows just how much the bonds of friendship can endure.

Defensive Tactics is a LDS based suspense thriller. It is the debut novel by Steve Westover.

The book had several well placed hooks at the end of chapters that compelled me to turn the page and keep reading. Steve’s book has it all. Good and bad FBI agents, good and bad cops, bad judges mingling with mobsters, and likeable protagonists.

Interwoven into the suspense/thriller motif is a character struggling with his faith. Even the “true to the faith” characters make judgment calls that bring their ethics into question as they strive to accomplish the greater good by breaking a few rules. The story was very enjoyable, and devoid of overt sexuality and profane language that is very prevalent in much of today’s literature.

The book did contain a few point of view (POV) shifts that many writers would disapprove of; but since I frequently disapprove of writers that have conniptions over POV shifts, I don’t consider it a huge deal.

Defensive Tactics is a solid novel by an up and coming writer. I have no doubts Steve’s writing will get even better as he continues to hone his craft. You can purchase a copy of Defensive Tactics by clicking here.

Note: I did receive a free copy of the book so I could review it. However, the free book in no way influenced my write up.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How the Red Sea, er, Nile was parted

According to this article, there is a scientific explanation for the parting of the Red Sea, except it had to happen at the Nile.

It's a very interesting article. However, after having read it, I find it easier to believe that Jehovah controlled the powers of nature to split the Red Sea. I'm waiting to see the scientific explanation that shows how Christ walked on water...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Elder Quentin L. Cook the blogger

This is possibly the first blog post by an apostle, so I think that makes it note worthy. You can find it here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weber County Fair

Wendy, Colby, and I went to the Weber County Fair yesterday. If you brought a can of food for the Utah food bank, you got in for $1.

This is a picture of a capuchin monkey. In the lower left hand of a cage is a ring tailed lemur. The lemur looked just like King Julian from the Penguins of Madagascar cartoons.

Here's Colby trying to ride the bull. I think that his left hand is supposed to be waving in the air and not desperately trying to hold onto the back of the bull. He actually does really well on mechanical bulls.

The sand castles I made at the beach never looked this good.

Here's the rest of the sand art creation. It's still a work in progress.

One-year-old white tiger. they also had a Bengal tiger, a mountain lion, and several other cool animals.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pioneer Day

The significance of Pioneer Days in Utah.
The first company of Mormon pioneers, led by Brigham Young, officially entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on 24 July 1847. For Latter-day Saints, this event has come to signal the founding of a new homeland for the purpose of establishing their earthly Zion.

In all of United States history, few people have suffered for their religious convictions as did the early Latter-day Saints. Because of the rapid growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what many contemporary religionists viewed as the heretical doctrine of living prophets and modern revelation, many outsiders viewed Latter-day Saints with suspicion and contempt. During the first two decades of the Church's existence, Latter-day Saints repeatedly experienced the cycle of migration, settlement (including purchasing the lands they settled in), and expulsion. Within the span of 17 years, the fast-growing body of Latter-day Saints moved en masse from the Finger Lakes region of western New York State (1830-1831), to Kirtland, Ohio (1831-1838), Jackson County, Missouri (1831-1839) and Commerce/Nauvoo, Illinois (1839-1848), where their prophet, Joseph Smith, was murdered by a mob. In the dead of winter 1846, the Latter-day Saints once again abandoned their homes and began the long, hard trek to the Rocky Mountains, where they would at last find welcome refuge.

Extermination Order

Following eight years of convergence and settlement by thousands of Latter-day Saint converts in northern Missouri, tensions with neighboring communities reached a climax. On 27 October 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs signed one of the most heinous documents in American history, his Mormon "extermination order," declaring, "The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated, or driven from the State, if necessary for the public peace" (quoted in History of the Church, 3:175). This military directive called for the forced mid-winter exodus from Missouri of approximately 10,000 men, women and children from their own farms, homes, and lands. On 25 June 1976, Missouri Governor Christopher S. Bond issued an executive order rescinding the Extermination Order, noting its legal invalidity and formally apologizing in behalf of the state of Missouri for the suffering it had caused the Latter-day Saints. By the fall of 1845, preparations for the exodus were well under way; the proposed departure date would be, in the words of Brigham Young, "as soon as the grass grows" (quoted in Wallace Stegner, The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail, [1964], 38) in the following spring. But the mobs wouldn't rest. On 4 February 1846, in the heart of a Midwestern winter so cold and bitter the Mississippi River froze over; the Latter-day Saints were driven from their homes and lands down a street which came to be known as the "Street of Tears" and into the unknown mystery of the western frontier. Arrival in the Salt Lake Valley had a special meaning to each emigrant. For many it signified the end of their arduous journey. They had endured to the end of the Mormon Trail, and their participation in that memorable trek gave metaphor and meaning to life itself. Even for those who were not Latter-day Saints, the first glimpse of this broad, open valley after such hardship provided a deeply emotional moment. The trek from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley was 1,297 miles. Many of the pioneers made the trek on foot while pushing handcarts that held their few meager belongings.
1 in 6 perished along the route. Despite the trials and hardships of the forced trek, the Latter Day Saints remained upbeat. In the evenings they would gather together and frequently sang hymns. Come, Come, Ye Saints became their anthem on their journey to the Salt Lake Valley.

Come, come, ye saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
Tis better far for us to strive our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell -
All is well! All is well!

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward if we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tell-
All is well! All is well!

We'll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away, in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the saints, will be blessed.
We'll make the air, with music ring, Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we'll tell -
All is well! All is well!

And should we die before our journey's through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again to see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell-
All is well! All is well!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Colin and Becca wedding pics

On Friday, May 14th, 2010 Colin and Becca sealed their love for each other eternally by getting married in the Bountiful Temple. It was a beautiful ceremony. Here are some pictures from the reception, which was held at Becca's parents' home.

Colin and Becca

Colin's siblings, Colby, Rhys, Becca and Colin, and Aubrey

Becca, Natalia (Rhys' wife), and Rhys having fun

Colin and Becca cutting the cake. Wendy made the cake.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The, liberal agenda

I received this via e-mail this morning:

"This clip is about as blatant as a Liberal can get. What she said was The Truth, accidentally, and notice that when she realized what she revealed to the public and the news media, it stopped her dead in her own tracks for a long moment. BUT -- it was too late.

Just hope the country wakes up in the 2010 elections!!!... She leaked out: Obama's Scary Agenda."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Want to live longer?

I found this article on-line this morning and thought I'd share.

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's been known that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a longer life expectancy, but even researchers are surprised at how much longer Church members live than the general population.

Researchers at UCLA are constantly reviewing data from a 25-year-long survey that followed actively-practicing LDS Church members in California starting in late 1979.

Professors James Enstrom and Lester Breslow found that members who don't smoke, attend church weekly, have 12 years of education and are married had the lowest total death rates and the longest life expectancies ever documented.

"The life expectancy for the males was 84 years, and for the females it was 86 years," Enstrom said.

That's more than five years longer for women and nearly 10 years longer for man than the national average.

Enstrom says Church members have been hearing this for a long time, but the rest of the world hasn't as much.

"None of this had ever been done in a scientific journal until I started working on it in the ‘70s," he said.

Enstrom says he expected a lack of cigarette smoking to be the biggest reason for the longer life expectancy, but he says that would only add a few years to someone's life.

Both authors believe the findings suggest a model for substantial disease prevention in the general population.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Transform Your Loss

I was recently asked if I would read and then write a review of Ligia B. Houben's new book, Transform Your Loss - Your Guide to Strength and Hope.

As the title suggests the book deals with how to cope with loss in any of its many forms. She has degrees in Psychology and Religious Studies from the University of Miami. She did graduate studies in Gerontology and Loss and Healing. As a certified thanatologist and a certified grief counselor, she is very qualified to discuss the issues of loss and how to overcome.

The book starts off with Ligia explaining the various types of losses that people suffer: loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of health, divorce, etc. A large portion of the book retells the stories of those that have suffered a loss and how they learned to cope and overcome.

Ligia includes practical exercises for the reader to complete.

There is much to like about Transform Your Loss. I enjoyed reading real experiences from real people. It gives the feeling of being in a large group therapy meeting and could encourage those struggling to actually go and find a group meeting for strength and support.

The book was originally written in Spanish. Additionally, it is self published. If I have any areas to cite that I didn't like, it was the utter lack of editing. typos, and misplaced words that can be found every few pages. If I was reading the book to help me I might overlook the frequent misuses of the English language. However, reading it as a critique the frequent errors were a challenge.

If you would like more information about the author or the book please go here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Write what you know

The subject of today’s missive is the old axiom, “Write what you know.” Every writer has probably heard this phrase hundreds of time. In fact, if you Google the phrase you will find hundreds of people that have written on the subject before me. So why discuss something that is so basic and so obvious to every writer? Because it really is THAT important.

You may ask, “But I write fantasy, or science fiction, or whatever. I’ve never lived on another world with dragons, elves, or possibly spaceships and extraterrestrials. I can’t be held to the same standard right?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes, you must write what you know, ALWAYS, regardless of genre.”

In Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings many of the themes he wrote about are unmistakable. J.R.R. Tolkien fought in WWI, and wrote much of the manuscript during WWII. Having elves, dwarves, and humans fighting alongside each other taught several lessons on tolerance, as these races typically didn’t like or trust each other. Obviously, there are significant religious undertones as well, with Gandalf being a Christ like figure, complete with a death and resurrection. Despite writing about different races that we’ve never met, elves, dwarves, orcs, dragons, etc., Tolkien wrote what he knew as there was deep symbolism behind his writing that he understood very well.

I recently wrote a book review where I have firsthand experience about the themes the author discussed. Though the trials and conflicts that she described did not happen the same way that mine did, I could feel the truth of her words. Small details, like a surgeon will want to wait a few days after a person has had a heart attack to perform open heart surgery were very realistic.

I wrote a story that included two young men sparring with wooden practice swords. One combatant strikes the other on the arm and breaks it. Later on in my life, I unfortunately shattered my elbow and completely sheared off the radial head.

About a month after this experience I went back and rewrote that scene so that the person’s elbow got shattered in the sparring match. I know a lot about that. I know what the rehab is like. I know that when you squeeze your hand into a fist and the bone next to your elbow juts out hard against your skin that you should be very worried. I know what it feels like to shatter an elbow. Long story short, I have never sparred with another person with wooden practice swords. However, back in my youth I got into a few fights and know what those are like and I also know what a broken elbow is like. I wrote about that.

I attended a writers’ conference a few years ago and listened to a presenter say, “Your experience is the lens that you see life through…learn to write from your inner core of strength…Write from your places of pain. Write about a difficult and emotionally painful experience. Write everything, and then write how you got through it. Put your fear and joy into your writing…You need to be willing to say, ‘I don’t care if others laugh at my pain.’ When you put honesty into your writing the reader will sense it. When you write with honesty your words have power.”

A while back I read a book that had a fair amount of conflict and suffering in it, most books do. However, at the end of the book, I was left with the distinct impression that the author had lived a relatively charmed life. I envied the author in that regard. However, it made the book difficult to read, and even more difficult to believe. There were clearly good guys and bad guys in the story. The good guys were always happy, in fact, sometimes downright giddy in the middle of conflict. The protagonist discovered his father had been murdered in a brutal way. He also knew that his life would be forfeit if he were caught, so he was running for his life. While running he had flashbacks to pleasant childhood memories with a friend. He subsequently hid in a rock for the night where by all accounts, he had about the best night’s sleep he ever had. I was left scratching my head.

Here’s the thing, and it’s important, so please keep reading. The author was actually very good in many aspects of writing. There were times when I marveled at the author’s ability to string words together. Unfortunately, the writer just didn’t understand suffering or grief.

Write what you know. If you have lived a pleasant life devoid of anguish, go find someone that has. Listen to his or her stories and understand their emotions, feel them. Alternatively, write non-fiction.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Heroes - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego

From a April 2004 General Conference talk by Elder Dennis E. Simmons

Centuries ago, Daniel and his young associates were suddenly thrust from security into the world—a world foreign and intimidating. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow down and worship a golden image set up by the king, a furious Nebuchadnezzar told them that if they would not worship as commanded, they would immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”

The three young men quickly and confidently responded, “If it be so [if you cast us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand.” That sounds like my eighth-grade kind of faith. But then they demonstrated that they fully understood what faith is. They continued, “But if not, … we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” That is a statement of true faith.

They knew that they could trust God—even if things didn’t turn out the way they hoped. They knew that faith is more than mental assent, more than an acknowledgment that God lives. Faith is total trust in Him.

Faith is believing that although we do not understand all things, He does. Faith is knowing that although our power is limited, His is not. Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego knew they could always rely on Him because they knew His plan, and they knew that He does not change. They knew, as we know, that mortality is not an accident of nature. It is a brief segment of the great plan of our loving Father in Heaven to make it possible for us, His sons and daughters, to achieve the same blessings He enjoys, if we are willing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Thorn

Today, I have the pleasure of being part of Daron Fraley’s virtual blog tour. His book, The Thorn has just been published by Valor Publishing Group.

Typically, when doing a blog tour I give you my two cents about the book. However, I’m going to depart from that and give you a chance to get to know the author a little better. There are several other writers that are a part of this blog tour that will tell you about the book and what they think of it. A complete list of those on the tour can be found here. To find reviews that have already been given describing the book please go here, here, or here.

Now that we’ve gotten the formalities out of the way let’s get to know Daron a little better shall we?

ME - When the reader finishes the last chapter, what do you hope is going through their mind?

DARON - My hope is that the reader will feel the emotions which I attempt to portray in the final scene. But so that I don't give away the ending of the book, I will leave it at that. After the reader has finished, perhaps a few days or so, I hope the reader will still be thinking about the characters and looking forward to seeing more of their story in the next volume of the series.

ME - Is there a part of the book that you like most?

DARON - That is a really tough question. I am not sure I could pick just one place in the book. But, I do have a few favorite chapters. Those are usually the ones with the strongest chapter endings which drive the story forward. And I do hope that the last chapter grabs the imagination of my readers.

ME - I read on your website that you spent some time in France and honed your cooking skills there. Your book has frequent scenes where the consumption of food is front and center. How good of a cook are you? What is your favorite meal?

DARON - Ha! You made me laugh with that question. Yes, I suppose food is a frequent theme in the book. I hadn't noticed that before, but since you point it out...

I will try to be modest here. OK, maybe I won't. I make a mean pumpkin pie, from scratch. I cook the pumpkin. I make the crust. My family is quite pleased with my Garlic Chicken Alfredo, Stuffed Pork Loin with Peppercorn Sauce, Pot Roast, Chicken Avocado Pitas, Apple Pie, Stir Fry, Chimichangas, Gravy (chicken or beef). At Thanksgiving, I do the turkey, the stuffing, the pies, and the gravy. My wife does everything else. She is a great cook, but her specialty is desserts. I can cook most things quite well, but I have had a few flops. Borscht was my most notorious disaster. The family still talks about it.

I am proud to be a Gourmand.

ME - With six children, when do you find time to write?

DARON - I don't deal well with the noise, so my best writing happens between 10 p.m. and midnight.

ME - Are you able to write in a noisy environment or how do you seclude yourself to get the creative juices flowing?

DARON - I refer you to the previous answer. Wow. Teenagers are terribly noisy, aren't they? We try to have family prayer, then I tell them it is quiet time, and I shut the door. It takes me a little bit of time to get going, and I get my jump-start by reading.

ME - What is the next project you are working on?

DARON - I am currently working on "Heaven's Garden" book two of "The Chronicles of Gan". There will be pain. Suffering. Suffering is instructive, is it not? I am an evil author. Muhahahaha.

ME - Any words of wisdom you have to share with other aspiring writers?

DARON - Yeah. WRITE. And never give up. Also, read all you can. There is nothing wrong with writing purely for pleasure. But if you have a desire to be published, prepare yourself to work hard at it. If you think writing a novel is hard, just wait until you have to edit the novel a dozen times. Don't let the promise of dedication and work dissuade you, however. It is worth it!

Dan, thank you for taking the time to have this chat!

Thank you Daron for giving us a chance to get to know you better, best of luck with the book.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Thorn you can get it here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Heroes; 3 Nephi 1

4 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.
5 But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
6 And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.
7 And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.
8 But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.
9 Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.

(3 Nephi 1: 4-9)

The scriptures are full of experiences where the believers were willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives if need be, in order to worship as they saw fit.

The passage of scripture above is just one instance of this, but it happens to be one of my favorites. From what I glean from the scriptures, Samuel the Lamanite, made a one-time visit to preach repentance to the Nephites. As he called the people to repentance, he discussed the sign that would be given of the Savior’s impending birth:
1 And now it came to pass that Samuel, the Lamanite, did prophesy a great many more things which cannot be written.
2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.
3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
4 Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
5 And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.

Five years later, the non-believers began to rejoice because they believed the time had come and gone, and there wasn’t any sign. They put a date on their calendar to kill the believers if the sign didn’t arrive. We know that the Mayans had a calendar that far outlasted their civilization. In fact, it’s still good for about another two years. I’ve frequently suspected that the day they were going to kill the believers was exactly five years to the date from when Samuel gave his prophecy.

What extraordinary faith the believers must’ve had. How easy it would’ve been for them to say, “You know, we really didn’t know this Samuel guy so well. Perhaps we can say we’re still believers but save our lives by denying his prophecy.”

Clearly, their faith wasn’t built on Samuel though. It was built on the Savior. They had been taught that salvation came through Him and no one else. It was that firm belief/knowledge that helped them face this ultimate test of their faith.

I’m looking forward to this weekend’s conference and the chance it will give me to listen to the words of prophets, general authorities, and other inspired church leaders. I too hope to have the faith necessary to see me through life’s challenges.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Cleansing of America

When Tristi asked for volunteers to review Cleon Skousen’s latest book I jumped at the chance, in large part because my wife is a huge fan. One chapter into the book and I realized that I was now a fan too.

Brother Skousen lays out seven lectures in a logical and sequential fashion describing where this country has been, and using scriptures, shows where it is headed. One of the things I really appreciated was the questions he posed at the end of each chapter. The questions forced me to remember what I had just read and made sure that I had a clear understanding of what was just discussed before proceeding to the next chapter.

There are several instances in his treatise where Brother Skousen points out that he is giving his “opinion” on given subjects. However, interspersed in his opinion are passages of scriptures that support why he views things as he does.

The Cleansing of America helped answer several questions I had about the destiny of this country and things building up to the second coming of Christ. For example, I had heard that the time would come when the church would call its missionaries home. Brother Skousen points out the scriptures that support this belief. He also eloquently explains why they will be called back and what it means for the world and this country.

His lectures are full of footnotes citing his sources. I found myself so interested in the subject matter that I looked up those footnotes and then Googled certain footnotes to see what else I could discover.

Now that I have finished The Cleansing of America I will be going through my wife’s collection of other Cleon Skousen books.

If you are already a fan of Cleon Skousen then this book is a must have to complete your collection. If you’re not a fan yet, do yourself a favor, buy a copy of this book and then wonder like I did why you didn’t become a fan sooner.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Caterpillar's Flight

From Laura’s bio, “Laura Lester Fournier - Author, Motivational Speaker, Minister…Laura Lester Fournier is the internationally known author of a series of spoken word CD's. She has just released her fifth project, "The Caterpillar's Flight." Her book, CD's, and message are making their way around the world and spreading a transformational tone of peace, forgiveness, unconditional love, and grace.”

Since the top of my blog states that I’m sharing some of my religious views I need to make the disclaimer that Laura and I are not of the same faith. There are principles and concepts she teaches in her book that I have heard several times in Sunday School classes. However, other views of hers would not be taught at my church. By making that statement I am in no way trying to discount or diminish her words or beliefs. I am merely stating that in some aspects they differ from my own. I think that is okay, and I’m sure from what I have gleaned from her book that she’s okay with it too.

The chapters of her book are titled:
The Journey
True Love
The Butterfly Effect
and finally, Parting Thoughts

The book is a culmination of life lessons learned spanning several decades. She teaches of the interconnectedness we share, i.e. as I find peace, forgiveness, true love, and grace, not only does it bless my life but it blesses yours as well. Conversely, the love you feel in your life not only blesses you, but me too. We are connected, we are one. Accordingly, the best thing that I can do for future generations is to live my life in such a way that my children will be receivers of my good attributes which can have a transformational effect on society around us.

Though the goal is for world peace and harmony it doesn’t begin on a macro scale. Rather it begins on the micro scale by my learning how to find peace and forgiveness in my heart that I can then send out to the universe.

Laura graciously shares with the reader the times in her life where she was sexually abused early on in life. She shares stories of being bullied at school for years. These life experiences had a profound impact on her life. Her environment tried to cruelly place labels on her, “You’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re worthless, etc.” She shows how she overcame these horrific experiences to find the peace and forgiveness she desperately needed in her own life.

One of my favorite stories in the book talks of how she was being bullied by a group of girls at a new school she had just been moved to. During this ordeal a girl knocked her to the ground and then challenged her to get back up and hit her. Laura’s response was, “but why would I want to?” We do not have to send out hate to others even when we receive it. We do not need to become slaves to the labels others want to pin on us. We can exercise our agency to rise above. We can send out love for hate or fear. We can send out forgiveness to others, which not only benefits those we forgive but perhaps more importantly, helps free us from the need to carry such heavy burdens weighing us down.

In chapter six Laura states,
Despite the fact that the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, it still has its caterpillar essence within. It could not be a butterfly, if it had not been a caterpillar.

Each day, one way or another – we find our wings. We must continue to remind ourselves that no matter what has happened in our lives, we can aspire to great heights. When we look upon our challenges as opportunities to evolve, then we honor our experiences in the way God intended. It is a choice to either live our lives battered and flattened by pain, or heal and use these situations as a platform from which to dive into the wonder-filled possibilities.

You can go here if you’d like to purchase a copy of The Caterpillar’s Flight.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'll Know You By Heart

Last Tuesday evening some friends of mine at Valor Publishing Group were holding a massive book launch. I thought that I’d stop by just to lend some morale support. Tristi Pinkston was signing copies of her latest book, Secret Sisters. She’s been the nice gentle boost I’ve needed from time to time in my writing endeavors. Also, Daron Fraley was there. I had recently read the book he was promoting, The Thorn. I will be doing a book review on The Thorn in early April. I had never met Daron and this seemed like a good opportunity to do that.

The last thing that I was planning on doing was buying any books for me. I’m already committed to doing four book reviews. My plate is full. The book launch was cool. There was music, food, and several authors. What’s not to like about an event like that?

As I walked along the long table full of authors and books I saw Kimberly Job sitting at the end of the table with Tristi. I said “hi” to her as I spoke with Tristi and then decided that even though I wasn’t there to buy any books for me, my wife, Wendy, might like something new to read. Kimberly’s new romance/suspense novel is called I’ll Know You By Heart.

As I read the back cover of the book, I hesitated. The story line struck a familiar, uncomfortable chord and I wondered if it would hit too close to home for Wendy. However, when I got home she asked how to book signing was, and I replied, “It went well, um, here’s a book I got for you.”

Wendy started reading the book on Wednesday and by Thursday morning she told me how much she enjoyed it. She finished the book in one day. I had taken Thursday off from work, as it was the first day of March Madness and I knew weeks before that BYU would be playing their opening round that day.

After BYU’s dramatic double overtime win, I casually picked up the book and thought that I’d read just the first chapter. Romance novels aren’t really my thing, but I’m a firm believer that a person should try to read outside of the genre they write in. I think that doing so makes one a better writer in whatever genre they’re focused on.

Long story short, after the first chapter I had to read the next. I didn’t finish reading it in just one day like Wendy did. The book was competing with the single greatest sporting event ever created for my attention. However, when I woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m., I knew I wasn’t going to get back to sleep until I finished reading it. Yeah, the book is that good.

It is critically important that a writer writes what they know, regardless of genre. Kimberly understands her subject matter very well. It’s just a small scene in the book, but one of the minor characters suffers a heart attack. Kimberly somehow knows enough about heart attacks to know that a vascular surgeon won’t operate on a patient who has just suffered a heart attack because the heart is too weak at that time. It is always preferable for the patient to wait a few days to let the heart regain a little bit of strength before performing open-heart surgery. Like I said, it’s just a small scene, but it was very accurate. There were several scenes in her book which were equally on point. Scenes like that give her writing credibility and power.

I think that I will get the chance to see Kimberly again in about a month at a writers’ conference I believe we’re both registered for. I hope so anyway. I look forward to comparing notes with her about where she drew her plot from.

Despite feeling my testosterone slip away like a boat leaving a safe harbor, I have to admit that if other romance novels are this good, I just might read another.

Before my maleness completely fades into obscurity I think that I’ll go turn March Madness on again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What, do you think I'm stupid?

Rep. Kevin Garn, a top leader in the Utah House of Representatives recently disclosed that 25 years ago he sat naked in a hot tub with a former employee. He was 28 at the time and she was 15. Subsequently, in 2002, he paid her $150,000 to keep it quiet. He is now claiming that “nothing happened” while they sat naked in the hot tub. I’m guessing Mr. Garn that you also believe Bill Clinton really “didn’t inhale.”

Why is it that so many politicians believe their constituents are so stupid that they will believe whatever they say? When you run for office you are asking for my trust. You are asking me to trust that you will work in my best interests. Mr. Garn, let me make one thing very clear, I DO NOT TRUST YOU. I am a republican, I am one of your constituents, and we share other things in common which might make you think that my vote is yours. It isn’t, and that ought to worry you.

The victim in this incident, Sheryl Maher, claims that you are not telling the truth. You need to better define what “nothing happened,” means. Lest we forget, Bill Clinton testified, “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Of course his definition didn’t cover fellatios.

There’s one thing that I’m very sure of Mr. Garn. Something did happen in that hot tub. Inappropriate actions also happened before and most likely after that incident. According to Ms. Maher, alcohol was involved. Did you give alcohol to an underage minor? Do you consider that to be “nothing?” She says there was touching involved. She intimates that you like massage. You state, “we did not have any sexual contact…” Are you speaking solely of that time in the hot tub or does that comment mean, ”Never at any time, was there ever any sexual contact?” Just so you know, I define “sexual contact” as any contact between the two of you that had any sexual connotation behind it. She could’ve been fully clothed working as your employee in the Pegasus Record shop and you not-so-innocently brush up against her body.

As you can see Mr. Garn there are several crimes, some felonious I believe, involved here.

You further erode my trust when you skirt Federal Election law by paying money to keep her quiet. According to The Deseret News , “Federal law defines a reportable expenditure as "a purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money or anything of value made to influence a federal election."

Even if the expenditure is not paid by the campaign directly, but instead by the candidate or a supporter, laws still generally require disclosure of the spending. Laws also require a declaration of the money spent as a contribution to the campaign.
While not commenting specifically about Garn, Federal Election Commission spokesman Christian Hilland said Friday, "Essentially, whenever a campaign spends money — whether it's permissible or not permissible — it is required to be reported on their FEC report."’

Though you didn’t return calls seeking comment, your wife, Tanya, states that the payment was made subsequent to the 2002 election. However, you did run for office after 2002 right? And that hush money definitely affected those elections right?

In my opinion sir, you are a pig. You are desperately hoping that we, your constituents, will simply believe that the hot tub was a one-time fluke, that nothing preceded it, nothing followed it, and nothing happened while you were both naked in it. How stupid do you think I am?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Triumphs and Tragedies

Triumphs and Tragedies – Twenty-five aspects of the life of a Liverpool Sailor is the latest book by Peter Wright.

In Triumphs and Tragedies, Peter shares with us 25 different slices of his life, each compelling, and each with a lesson to be learned. Peter was born in July 1926 near Liverpool, England. His first slice of life starts, “When I was ten, my father drowned in the cold grey waters of the North Sea. His death bankrupted the family and left me, the third-born, feebly struggling in an attempt to establish my identity, and some kind of self-value. During the next forty years, I occasionally allowed my spirit to travel eastward to his murky burial place ninety feet beneath the surface. And there I lingered, deliberating death’s mute cloak that blocks out all reason, invites recrimination, and often cruelly foils closure. I asked his spirit, not why he had ignored me, but rather, what had I done to deserve his disdain.”

Peter’s writing is not just tight and concise, but also very emotionally moving. He has the heart of a poet and gets maximum impact from each word. Reading his book I was reminded of the words of Mark Twain, “If I had had more time, I would’ve written a shorter book.”

After his father’s death, Peter was sent to a Catholic boarding school. His mother had hoped that he would become the first English pope. Her dreams were not realized however as Peter opted to follow in his father’s footsteps and set out to sea in the Merchant Navy.

Wanderlust took Peter to many different ports of call across the world. Social drinking turned into Alcoholism. “One night while at anchor off the port of Boma, eighty miles up the Congo River, I was handed a gourd filled with tombo, native gin distilled from coconuts. I overcame the appalling smell and discovered that two or three gulps transformed me from a shy, retiring boy into a real sailor.” By the top of the next page he writes, “My days started at with a Johnny Walker. At another drink got me to work. I had a bottle in my desk. Lunch went from 11:30 until 1:30, and at 4 p.m. I decided to go home early…Like a sailor without a compass on a ship without a rudder, I was heading for shoal water.”

Friends encouraged him to go to AA, and at the encouragement of his wife, he entered into rehab. The journey from alcoholic to sobriety was long and arduous, but with the help of family and friends, and God, he has since remained sober for many years. He has now learned to accept life on its terms and to live “one day at a time.”

After finishing Peter’s compelling autobiography I asked him a few questions:

Me - When the reader finishes the last chapter what do you hope is going through their mind?

Peter - After putting down my book I hope that they are thinking "What a great collection of stories. I've got to tell my friends." I imagine too that they are are wondering if thet are all true. "Pari Evans" is a figment of my imagination, but The first part of that story actually did happen.

Me - I suspect that you're a fan of poetry, are you? If so, who is your favorite poet? Why?

Peter - I worried about and finally revered Francis Thompson,s The Hound of Heaven, an epic piece about his own redemption from addiction to opium. I found it a bastion of support during my own drinking days. Otherwise I have no wit for modern poetry. Kipling makes me chuckle.

Me - What made these 25 vignettes so compelling to you that they were included in the book?

Peter - All of these stories are significant milestones. There are other's yet untold. Most are nostalgic. All, for whatever reason, beg to be told. Somewhere in each, I have a message.

Me - Why should anyone part with their hard earned cash and precious time to read your book? Sell it to us!

Peter - I tell prospecive buyers that "T & T" is a bedtime book.The stories are short. All are quite gripping in their own way. All except one is true. Thery carve out the life and times of a Liverpool Sailor; taking on life a day at a time and enjoying every one.

Me - What is the next project you are working on?

Peter - Something quite different. I've started a novel I'm calling "The Gentle Art of the Healer" It's a love story highlighting the interesting life Gloria and I led from 1983 until 2009. She was a wonderful psychotherapist. I hope to show her off for what she was - A Giver of Love and spiritual treasures.

Me - Any advice or words of wisdom you have to share with other aspiring writers?

Peter - For beginning writers like myself, I urge them to learn to love the English language. Use it simply and boldly. Write every day and Please don't give up. Write about what you know.

Thank you Peter for giving us a brief glimpse into your soul.

If you’re interested, you can buy a copy of Triumphs and Tragedies by clicking here .

Monday, March 1, 2010

My favorite time of year

Some people like Christmas, others prefer Halloween or perhaps Thanksgiving. Trust me, I am a fan of all those, but nothing warms the cockles of my heart quite like March Madness. It is the single greatest sporting event in the world. Coming on the heels of the Olympics you might consider that statement heresy. I loved the Olympics, but I am not alone in my love of the purest of all tournaments.

Apparently urologists are big fans of the tournament also.

My family takes this most magical of events very seriously. Bragging rights for the entire year are on the line. How do you pick your teams? I used to read every article I could find, visit the websites of Vegas bookmakers to see who they like (no I don't gamble on the tournament, but they don't lose money on these tournaments and therefore can be a source of valuable information). I have found on-line models that run complex algorithms that boldly declare they are right over 95% of the time.

Year after year, I still lose to my children. Some of them compare mascots and decide which mascot could beat up the other mascot. Yes, I lose to them too. However, they also will occasionally try to find an edge to win the all important tournament.

Here is a picture of Rhys speaking with his consultant.

Here's a picture of him and his consultant after he realized the consultant gave him bad information. Word to the wise, if your consultant is willing to be paid in bananas you might want to go elsewhere.

My daughter, Aubrey, took a more direct approach, believing she just needed the right motivation to get her husband, Curtis, to give her the right answers.

This is my youngest son Colby, back when he was my little Shaolin warrior.

Last year he couldn't find a Buddha to seek enlightenment from so he made do with what he had.

How will you be picking your teams this year?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Name the soup

I've seen several blogs devoted to recipes and the like. The problem with these, for me, is when I cook I almost never use a recipe. I'm a guy. I view recipes about the same way I view asking others for directions...

On Saturdays I like to experiment with whatever I can find in the refrigerator. Usually I have no idea what I'm making as I start the creation process. Thoughts and ideas just come as I'm cooking. I knew that I had a fair amount of produce in the fridge. Sandwich or soup I pondered? However, when I saw the box of Campbells Butternut Squash soup on the shelf I had to go with soup.

Since I measure nothing, here's my best guess as to what I cooked and how I made it:

Cook three strips of bacon in a pan (It's hard to go wrong with a recipe that starts with bacon.)

While the bacon is cooking,
Julienne half a green pepper and half a red pepper. Then chop down to bite size bits.
Chop three green onions
Slice up a handful of mushrooms (hand sizes may vary)
Chop up a large handful of cilantro

Remove the crispy bacon and set aside.

Add the produce to the pan of bacon grease and cook for about 5-10 minutes.
Add a tablespoon of minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
Re-add the bacon and then pour in the box (18 oz) of butternut squash soup.
Let all of this cook together until the soup is nice and happy.

I thought that I was done at this point. When I tasted the concoction it screamed, "curry and cumin please." I added a few shakes of both of those and knew instantly that was the right call.

As I'm writing this it dawns on me that I should have taken a picture of the soup for you to see. Oops, too late. It tasted pretty good though. Here's a picture of the empty bowl...

I have no idea what to call this soup so please feel free to add a comment and offer a suggestion. One final thought, if I was serving this for guests I might have added some half and half to lighten the color. However, the green and red peppers contrasted with the butternut squash was aesthetically pleasing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pre-order The Cleansing of America; W. Cleon Skousen

I received a copy of a new W. Cleon Skousen book that can be pre-ordered now through Valor Publishing. I read the first chapter last night and was very impressed with his well researched and thought out explanation for where the country is right now, where we have been, and according to scriptural prophecy, where we are headed.

I will be doing a full critique of the book in the near future, but I thought that I would share this information right away. If you're a huge Cleon Skousen fan you can go here and order the book now. There is a 10% discount if you order before April 1, 2010.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Query critique contest

Elana Johnson is running an amazing contest on her blog. She's the author of the e-book From the Query to the Call.

By entering her contest, you'll have a chance to win a query critique by one of these top five literary agents!

1. Kate Testerman-Shafer of KT Literary (critique will be posted on her blog, Ask Daphne)
2. Michelle Andelman of Lynn C. Franklin Associates
3. Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency
4. Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency
5. Joanna Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation

She's also giving out other very cool prizes as well. So go to Elana's blog to check it out!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Take no offense

I was serving my mission in Montreal when my companion and I knocked on the door of a woman. We gave one of our standard door approaches when she said that she was a member of the church. She went on to explain that she had been baptized about ten years ago but had gone inactive shortly afterward. The Branch President's wife said something that offended her. I didn't know who was the Branch President ten years ago, but as she explained the situation I knew exactly who she spoke of.

The woman that offended her was about the nicest person you could ever meet. She always had a warm heart and kind words for others. She also lacked the ability to process thoughts before words would stream out of her mouth. She had a heart of gold but I could see where she would say things that could be construed as offensive if you didn't really know her well. She would never knowingly offend anyone and if she knew that this other woman had stayed away from church for a decade because of something she said, she would be the first one knocking on her door to apologize.

My companion and I were now confronted with a situation where a daughter of God had cut herself off from the blessings she could've received because of what someone else said. What's more, she had a thirteen year old daughter who hadn't been raised in the church. As we spoke with her she said that she had been fairly miserable for the last ten years and knew that she would continue like that until she came back to church.

We worked with this sister for a while and both she and her daughter became excited to come back to church. She was a little fearful that first week back. Guess who was the first person to throw her arms around her and welcome her back? Yes, it was the sister who had unintentionally offended her so many years back.

In 2nd Nephi chapter 2 it states, "In the grand division of all God's creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon."

We have each been granted the gift of agency, the ability to choose what we will do and how we will respond to the actions of others. When we allow the actions or words of another to dictate how we will live our lives we are choosing to be acted upon.

Let me share a story from my own life. Almost two decades ago I encountered a very unhappy man. He was very unhappy before I ever met him. He took an instant dislike to me and my family. Shortly after, the police knocked on our door regularly with some unsubstantiated claim. Over the course of two years we had incurred almost $50K in legal bills defending ourselves from frivolous lawsuits. It wasn't until the authorities threatened to bring him up on charges of false reporting that he slowed down.

This was an intense and difficult time for me. For longer than I would like to admit I stewed in bitterness and anger over the non-stop onslaught of false accusations and financial ruin that was being inflicted on me.

I need to say right here that I am grateful to a loving Father in Heaven that stood by me through these trials and waited patiently for me to fully turn to him for help. It was a process and not a single epiphany for me, but eventually over time I saw more and more clearly that what I considered to be my justified anger, wasn't hurting my adversary at all. More importantly, I began to see that it wasn't helping me. Just the opposite was true. I became short tempered and impatient with others. My bitterness had a negative impact on my life that affected those around me. I finally realized that I needed to choose a better path. I needed to choose to act and not to be acted upon. I couldn't control what my adversary would do next but I could control how I responded to it.

I had to find a better place for myself. I had to turn to the Savior to find the peace that only He could bring me.

In his book, As a Man Thinketh, James Allen states:
"Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought.

A man becomes calm in the measure that he understands himself as a thought-evolved being, for such knowledge necessitates the understanding of others as the result of thought. As he develops a right understanding, and sees more and more clearly the internal relations of things by the action of cause and effect, he ceases to fuss and fume and worry and grieve, and remains poised, steadfast, serene.

The calm man, having learned how to govern himself, knows how to adapt himself to others; and they, in turn, reverence his spiritual strength, and feel that they can learn of him and rely upon him. The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good.

The strong calm man is always loved and revered. He is like a shade-giving tree in a thirsty land, or a sheltering rock in a storm. Who does not love a tranquil heart, a sweet-tempered, balanced life? It does not matter whether it rains or shines, or what changes come to those possessing these blessings, for they are always sweet, serene, and calm. That exquisite poise of character which we call serenity is the last lesson culture; it is the flowering of life, the fruitage of the soul. It is as precious as wisdom, more to be desired than gold - yea, than even fine gold. How insignificant mere money-seeking looks in comparison with a serene life - a life that dwells in the ocean of Truth, beneath the waves, beyond the reach of tempests, in the Eternal Calm!"

When it comes to offenses that we receive, either intentional or unintentional we have two paths we can choose. We can choose to act and use our agency to not become offended, or we can choose to be acted upon and allow our agency to be controlled by someone else's words or actions.

Discussing the choices we make in life and the different paths they will take us down Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

So what do we do if we find ourselves stewing in our own broth of bitterness and anger? How do we find that serenity that we seek that sometimes can feel elusive?

Perhaps I can give some thoughts by sharing another experience I had growing up.
I was born and raised in Southern California. My favorite thing to do on the weekends was to go surfing with my oldest brother. Yeah, I know that I don't look much like a surfer anymore. My late teens and early twenties is what I like to refer to as my Greek god phase of life. I have since moved into a more Asian deity phase of life. Anyway, I had recently acquired a custom made surfboard. The surfboard maker, without my consent, had placed a rubber tip on the nose of my board. In effect, he had turned my sleek surfboard into an emasculated sissy-stick.

There was a huge swell pounding the Southern California coast. My oldest brother and I eagerly strapped our boards to the top of his car and drove down to Huntington Beach anticipating an epic day of shredding waves.

We had been surfing for about an hour and as was always the case we had become separated from each other. This was no big deal because even though I couldn't see him, I always knew that he was somewhere close by. As I sat on my surfboard I saw the entire horizon rise up and knew that wave had my name written all over it. I paddled furiously to get into position and then pointed my board towards the shore and dug my arms deeply into the water to gain the necessary momentum to catch the wave. The monster wave lifted me up and as I rose to the crest it began its descent down the face of the wave. I pushed hard on my surfboard to pop to my feet when the inexplicable happened. I don't know if it was fatigue or what but as I pushed on my board my hands slipped off the front. Momentum carried my body forward in front of my board and my body twisted so just as my head sunk beneath the surface of the water, I was facing my board as it slid down the wave and walloped me right below my right eye.

Pain exploded in my head and my only thought was, "This is it. I'm going to lose consciousness and die." I got churned up by the spin cycle of mother nature's washing machine but eventually my head broke the surface of the water. I quickly put my hand briefly to my face and as I pulled it away it was stained crimson. I was still alive but I was in serious trouble.

I saw another surfer about twenty feet away and I called out to him for help. The look of horror on his face confirmed my fears. However, he made no move to paddle in my direction. It was then that I realized that I was in the kill zone. That spot where the waves break and where you really wouldn't want to be in a big swell. Then I remembered my oldest brother and I called out at the top of my voice to him. He was my oldest brother and I knew that if he heard my cries for help that he would paddle right into the kill zone to rescue me because I knew he loved me.

After getting pounded by a few more waves I finally worked my way back to shore. My brother materialized shortly afterward and got me quickly to the nearest hospital. He told me that he hadn't heard my plea for help but did feel an intense need to find me.

An interesting side note to this story is that the rubber tip on my board saved my life. Without it, my surfboard would've buried itself deep into my skull and I wouldn't be here today. I called the surfboard maker to thank him for putting it on. He told me that no longer added them because too many people complained about having a sissy-stick.

I bear you my testimony that we have a loving Father in Heaven who is very aware of us. And even though we can't see Him, we can call out to Him in our times of need. He loves us unconditionally and will surely paddle right into our spiritual kill zones to rescue us.

As we pray for the help we need to overcome offense and bitterness, we can also pray sincerely for those that are afflicting us. As I have done that in the past the Lord has graciously allowed me to see others as He sees them, not as one deserving of my anger, but rather as a child of God that is possibly lost and needing help too.

It helps me to remember that once the Savior of mankind was reviled, hit, and spat upon by those that should've been worshiping Him. Rather than choosing to be offended He said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

I pray my brothers and sisters that we can all learn to seek that peace and serenity that comes only from the Lord by choosing not to become offended.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mormon Mishaps book review

At the end of this post I will tell you how to win a $20 Gift Card to Barnes and Noble so keep reading!

Being at church can be a very funny experience. At unintended moments fast and testimony meeting can be hilarious. Like the time a sister, "stood to bear her testimony. Holding a Kleenex to damp eyes and struggling with her feelings, she said, 'I don't do this very often because I'm such a big boob. ' After she sat down, a member of the bishopric stepped to the pulpit. Offering what he thought was consolation he said, 'That's okay; we like big boobs.'"

In Mormon Mishaps and Mischief you can read about that story and:

• The preschooler who was afraid of being eaten by "Sunbeans"
• Establishing Zion in Cougar stadium
• Doing battle with the "Laman Knights"

D. N. Giles and C. L. Beck have pulled together over 200 anecdotes that had my family laughing from one page to the next. Mormon Mishaps and Mischief would make a great Valentine's Day gift, Birthday gift, or simply a key acquisition to your LDS or humor book collection.

Giles/Beck will have a giveaway for a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble for one lucky tour commenter. How do you enter to win? Each time you leave a comment here telling me about what you did, I will enter your name in the drawing.

1. For your first entry, you can become a follower on my blog, and leave me a comment. If you’re already a follower leave me a comment telling me.

2. Post about my blog and this contest on Twitter or Facebook.

3. Blog about this contest and link back to my blog or the Mishaps website or humor blog.

4. Leave a positive review on Amazon, Deseret Book, Goodreads, or any other book-reviewing site – then leave me a link.

You may enter as many times as you like for the prize drawing. Just remember to always leave a comment here so I can keep track of all that is going on. You need to do this soon, because the drawing closes on Feb 19 and they will announce the winner on Monday, Feb 22.

You might want to check out the other stops on this blog tour, and maybe enter the drawing on their blog as well.

Feb 5th Rachelle Christensen
Feb 6th Ronda Hinrichsen
Feb 9th Connie Hall
Feb 10th Cathy Witbeck
Feb 12th Danyelle Fergusen