Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! -NB

In the spirit of the new year, that game you play with skittles or M&Ms and Truth or Dare, I have a list I stole from another blog. I made a few changes because the original list was very travel heavy and I think there is more to life than that. Copy it, share your list with me and others. Any details, you will have to ask me, but I'm pretty open so I will probably answer any questions.

Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to: leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art/craft from scratch.
15. Adopted a child. (Fostering after mine are older)
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Lived in a foreign country.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23.Taken a sick day when you’re not (physically) ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a marathon.
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Been so in love it hurts.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Seen an Amish community. From the freeway, does that count?
36. Learned a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Had a profound spiritual experience.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.
41. Sung Karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Given someone CPR.
50. Programmed a computer.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkelling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theatre.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Been so frightened you shook, and did it anyway.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Taught someone to read.
80. Published a book.
81. Eliminated a bad habit.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Forgiven when you didn't really want to.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox. twice
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee. wasp

I stole the list from here

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Natasha's Dance

I have had this curiosity about Russian history for a while now. I haven't read much because most books I run across are modern history, about the Revolution in 1917 or the Soviet era. This book looked more interesting because it is a "cultural" history of Russia. Ever since I read The Secret History of Moscow I've wondered about the culture, the images and allusions that I knew I was missing as I read that book.
I learned a lot. I learned that the reason all Russian history books seem to start with Peter the Great is because the type of history we are used to did begin with him. The two hundred years before were rather confused and before then the Mongols ruled. Before that I'm not sure. There were certain specific dates that popped up, like the Slavic Rus kingdom converting to Christianity in 962, but there does not seem to be much record of Russian ancient history. Or maybe it is just there isn't much interest in Russia of what happened in those years.
One of the reasons for that could be the historian dilemma of what to do with hundreds of years of people not doing anything exciting like huge wars and cultural shifts and kings and royalty. Peter the Great made his nobility come to Petersburg and start acting like Europeans. Before that they lived in a similar style to the peasants. The cultural gap between the landholders and the serfs was not that great until the upper classes decided to follow a more Western way of life. So it is easier to describe the history, and the culture after 1703 because the things historians like to talk about were more evident then.
I liked the book. It discussed some Russian characteristics that have become quite famous: the Russian Church, the drinking, the stoic acceptance of fate, the impassivity and lack of action. The conflicted soul of Russians who struggle to find the balance between East and West. The plight of the serf and the guilt of those who noticed it. All of these were explained with a clarity and sympathy I liked.
The last part of the book was less enjoyable, but I think that is mainly because the "cultural" aspects of the 20th century have become more esoteric, intended only for the intellectuals who can understand them. The Soviet reaction to art is telling. They wanted to control all aspects of life, so making rules for art is understandable. But after letting the avant-guarde leftists take over cinema and visual arts, they realized the people didn't watch, read or look at the art that was being produced. Stalin himself commented that we need to make things beautiful, what is wrong with making things beautiful? All of the famous artists and directors, the ones in charge of culture, were making things that regular people did not understand or like. So in the typical Stalinist way, they were all declared enemies of the people and sent to Siberia and a new crop of artists, who could make things Stalin liked was installed. Which ended the section on Soviet art because when a dictator is calling the shots no one will make real art, beautiful or esoteric.
The book mostly made me sad for the millions of people in Russia who lived their lives as illiterate serfs, unable to improve or see themselves as more than cogs in a machine. The Soviet ideas and lack of respect for the individual came directly out of their past of serfs, peasants and barbarity. I use that word not to say the Russians as a people are or were barbarians, but that when people live on the very edges of survival for hundreds of years their souls are deadened and they lose hope.

Natasha's Dance. Dr Orlando Figes. Metropolitan Books. 2002

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Song in Stone

It's a funny thing that in order to talk about faith in a non-depressing way you either need to write a genre book, appealing to a specific religion; a vague book, talking about faith, but never mentioning in what; or setting your book in a different world (fantasy) or time (both fantasy & science fiction). A Song in Stone takes your standard "Knights Templar have all the secrets to the universe" genre and adds a time travel twist to it. Ian Graham is a normal modern man, rarely thinking of faith, religion or anything beyond his own life. When he is thrust into the role of an initiate Knight his whole existence is one of miracles, faith and belief.
While the book was well-written and tightly paced, I felt short-changed by the lack of thought by the main character about his plight. Writing time-travel books is tricky, explanations tend to high-light plot holes instead of resolving them. But explaining by not explaining is even worse. Vague pronouncements about Ian being "chosen" and two parts of a whole are window dressing for a character who has a profoundly moving experience, but isn't moved.
What good are visions of loved ones reaffirming faith if a change of heart does not come with it?
Perhaps it is the religious person in me, but I feel that the ponderings and meditations of the main character should lead to some sort of change. There is some superficial acceptance of his predicament, allowing him to continue the plot to its conclusion but the lack of a deep conversion leaves that conclusion weak and unsatisfying.

A Song in Stone. Walter Hunt. Wizards of the Coast. 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008


A friend has been telling me for months that I needed to read these books. I had to wait until the library got a new copy of Magyk before I could start. It turned out to be good timing because these were the perfect type of book to read around the holidays; easy, light, entertaining.
They reminded me a lot of David Eddings' books. There were some plot holes and sometimes you knew what was coming way ahead of time but the characters felt like real people. The enjoyment of reading was like visiting some quirky but kind friends for a while.
We listened to Magyk while driving to Salt Lake for Thanksgiving and the boys liked it so I figured I would keep reading the rest of them. There are a few irritating details. Everything that has to do with magic is in bold, which gets on your nerves after a while. And the ghosts show up and help the plot along when it gets stuck.
On the other hand the author is not afraid to kill people off and make the bad guys really bad, not just vaguely threatening. A good series for older children, and light reading for adults. The biggest complaint I have is that I thought the fourth book, Queste, was the last one, but it very obviously was not. I hate having to wait for the end of a series. It was also only half an ending, sort of like the middle Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I hate that. Just make the book longer and put the real ending in.
Oh well, by the time we have read all four of the book out loud to the kids for bed time the fifth one will probably be out.

Magyk, Flyte, Physik, Queste. Angie Sage. HarperTrophy. 2006-2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Present

I wrote this story on a dare to myself, I wanted to see if I could write a Christmas story. It was harder than I thought it would be, but here is the result. Merry Christmas.

Who is Poor?

When I was fifteen I started running away from home. Oh, I didn’t find bus stations and abandoned buildings, I found a job (at Dairy Queen no less), the debate team, and books. It wasn’t that anything was “wrong” at home, but the aura of anxiety got to me. I was the oldest girl and always felt a sense of responsibility to make things at home better. So I worked. I hated to ask my parents for money for anything. At the same time I developed a well honed obliviousness to everything else that was happening. That is why the couch took me by surprise.

We were always “lower-middle-class.” But it never seemed to be important until the year we got the couch. My Dad is a welder and very good at it. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how good you are at something if there are no jobs to be had. Because he tended to work on big projects; refineries, mines, water treatment plants, etc there were on times and off times. I just accepted it as part of how life was. One Christmas would be really good, the other not so much.

Then one year we were the ward’s Christmas project. I remember them carrying in the couch, and chair and food. We received a kitchen table, with benches, suitable for a family with many kids. We got baskets of fancy food from Smith’s; stuff I have never seen before and not eaten since. Though all the presents were nice, the biggest memory was of thinking, “Why are we getting all this stuff? We aren’t poor.” Honestly, I don’t know if we were or not. My Dad was out of work, but I never felt the kind of gut-wrenching poverty that is used to drum up support for the Food Bank and such. Perhaps my parent were good at handling it, or maybe I was just not there enough to notice.

I will admit that we may have looked poor, especially if you looked at the furnishings in our house. The old pink couch, I don’t know where it came from, had definitely seen better days. But it was comfortable and we were used to it. We joked that Dad wouldn’t be able to have his customary “resting his eyes” after dinner in a new couch. The new stuff looked out of place and uncomfortable, not capable of mixing with the rest of our old, used and battle scarred furniture.

For years it has bothered me that we received all those things. The memory of past embarrassments tends to linger, even when I can no longer remember details of my baby sister’s birth. We were grateful, but not desperate. I always wanted to take care of myself, and the idea that anyone else thought they needed to do it bothered me

We had a home, a car (a blue VW bug with an eight-ball on the stick-shift), food (ever had tuna fish in white sauce over toast?), clothes (I still feel weird buying clothes new). All our needs were met, and even some of our wants. I know that there are those worse off than me.

Go forward 10 years. David is getting his Masters; we are living on my temping and his student loans. I am pregnant with our first baby, due just before Christmas. When we saw the couch and chair frames on sale at the DI for $27.50 we though we were set. After getting them home we discovered the sad truth about upholstery. Getting the cushions for those frames was WAAAAY out of our league. But we did have quilts, a lot of quilts, so on the frames they went. Those weren’t the most comfortable seating arrangements, but very colorful.

We needed help that winter. Paying bills took more money that we had; we had to borrow money from the ward. Tending our little boy who wouldn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time wore us down. We sat at our card table and cried from the sheer misery of no sleep, no help. A sweet sister in our ward came over to let us sleep. We received packages from the ward that Christmas too. This time I didn’t need to wonder if I was poor, I knew I was. Those monthly WIC checks and mandatory meetings made sure I remembered each time I went to the grocery store. They say that there isn’t much of a social stigma associated with welfare. I don’t know about Them, but I felt it. It took a lot of control not to protest the temporary nature of our state assistance, that I wouldn’t be a drag on the common good for the rest of my life.

Even though we struggled with finances it didn’t seem like a hardship because I knew it was temporary. School would only last two years. We were going to get a job managing apartments when I got used to having a baby to tend. Then David would get a great job out of school and we would be set for life, right? We were a bit unsteady, but not down. We felt guilty receiving the ward’s generosity because I was sure there were people worse off than us, people with less hope and more burdens.

Now forward 5 more years. We are not poor. My husband is a successful audiologist in Las Vegas. I am expecting our 4th child and looking forward to the coming holiday season. We have a nice home, with a wonderful open living room and nothing in it. I love to watch my children run around in such a large indoor space and nothing to run into or fall over.

The middle of November was my 20th week of pregnancy, so I went in for the exciting ultrasound that tells the baby’s sex and how they are doing. The Doctor first has good news, “Two heads!” I’m having twins. Then she grows quiet. I can see the screen. There is no heartbeat. They were moving just a day ago, but now both of my babies are dead. David takes me to the hospital to deliver them. There are complications and I have to stay for several days. The ward tends my other children, brings us dinner, and cleans my house. I come home and sit in that wonderful, open room and cry, missing my babies. The first few days after, I cried and I prayed. I came closer to the Lord through those weeks than I ever had been or have been since.

That Christmas I learned that poor is not a physical thing. It is a lack that brings you down. I had lacked money and not felt poor, I had lacked sleep and time and knew it was only temporary, but now I lacked my children and I was bereft. Again we received from our ward. I was slow to regain my strength and energy. The Young Women came in to clean our house and bring us treats near Christmas. I was so grateful. I was poor and they fed me and the ward took me in and loved me until I could get back up. Through all the kind words and deeds, it was the help of the Savior that really made the difference. My spirit needed help, not just my body and there is only one place to go for that kind of help. There was no guilt that I was taking resources from someone else, this resource was infinite. I knew that there were people worse off than me, but I needed help as much as any.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Moroni 1-6

This week's reading was very short, six chapters, but only a page and a half. Which was a good thing because I was originally going to teach next week, but the other teacher needed to go to SL suddenly. I was a little worried because its so short and at first I really couldn't think of a lot to say. But a bit of prayer and the first time we have had a large group and I made it.
As we start, in Moroni 1, Moroni is alone, and according to the date at the bottom of the page, has been, for twenty years. Many of us have known loneliness, but very rarely do we experience the depth of solitude that he had. Every other person he encountered would be his enemy. He must have felt a kinship with the prophet Ether, as he wrote Ether's last words, "Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God. Amen." Ether 15:34
We know he did wander for years. In those years he must have given these last chapters a lot of thought. These things written are what he was kept on Earth longer to write. We went through the next few chapters and talked about the importance of the ordinances, and the blessing of having the details. So often in the scriptures the information is vague, whether by intent or because of stylistic reasons, or even because there just isn't room. These precious chapters tell us how ordinations, the sacrament and blessings should be done. It also gives us a link to those ancient Saints, to know if they were to come to our meetings they would recognize many of the things we do.
As we moved to Chapter 6 we read a few quotes from President Hinckley and talked about why we come to church. Moab has a lot of people who are on the church's roles but do not want any contact. It is sad, because as Moro 6:4-5 says,
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
5 And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.

The names are not taken so the people can be hounded, pestered, or for some vague nefarious purpose that is hidden deep within the secret areas of the temple. We keep church records so everyone is remembered. So everyone can be "nourished" and loved, and reminded of the covenants they have made, and the blessing they receive by keeping them. Those who home or visit teach out of obligation, to mark off on their calendar that they did it each year are not fulfilling their calling. We are to love each other and by reminding each other of Christ, who (is) the author and the finisher of (our) faith, strengthen each other.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “Any convert whose faith grows cold is a tragedy. Any member who falls into inactivity is a matter for serious concern. The Lord left the ninety and nine to find the lost sheep. His concern for the dropout was so serious that He made it the theme of one of His great lessons. We must constantly keep Church officers and the membership aware of the tremendous obligation to fellowship in a very real and warm and wonderful way those who come into the Church as converts, and to reach out with love to those who for one reason or another step into the shadows of inactivity” (in Church News, 8 Apr. 1989, 6).

I repeated those words, tragedy, and serious concern. How much effort should we make to prevent tragedies? What can we do to prevent them?

Elder Carl B. Pratt told of the feelings his family experienced as they visited different wards in the Church. Share the following excerpt with class members:

“Some wards our children loved to visit because they quickly found friends among the youth, and we all received a warm and hearty welcome. But there were other wards to which our children returned with less enthusiasm, and there was a noticeable absence of the warm and hearty welcome.

“We then began to observe that in some wards we visited … , if we had been investigators or new members, we would not have felt very welcome. …

“These experiences … made us conscious of the need we all have to improve what we call our fellowshipping skills. …

“Brothers and sisters, we have the richest blessings that God can give to His children. We have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We ought to be the most open, friendly, happy, kind, considerate, thoughtful, loving people in the whole world. …

“Will nonmembers, new converts, and visitors to our chapels recognize us as His disciples by the warmth of our greeting, by the ease of our smiles, by the kindness and genuine concern that shine in our eyes?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 12; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 11–12).

Read those last two paragraphs again. When was the last time you greeted someone you didn't know before the meeting began? When was the last time you sat next to someone sitting alone in Sunday School? What is the atmosphere of your ward? Would a visitor feel welcome in your chapel? "Moro 6:3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end." How often do we serve him, by loving his sheep we come in contact with every day?

I got the picture of Moroni here

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Firstborn Son-NB

My oldest turned 10 today. Double digits, I can't believe it. I think I have learned as much as he has in the last decade. My husband often talk about how the oldest child in the family sort of sets the tone for the other children to follow. In my family, I was the oldest. I was also a mellow child, not prone to athletics or breaking things, but deeply involved with books. So we didn't have any stitches or broken bones, and few broken windows. My husband often talks about how he followed his oldest brother's lead and would follow him anywhere, and do things just because that was how Raymond did them. One complication to our lives is that Ryan has Asperger's Syndrome. Not too badly, but enough that our family dynamics are a bit different than most. We also have very smart kids and an incredibly bookish mother, so maybe that was inevitable.
Today on RadioWest, a program on NPR, they broadcast an interview with an adult with Asperger's and he explained very clearly how he sees the world. Having that sort of perspective is very helpful to us as parents, to see how Ryan is thinking and feeling.
In the discussion boards a mother of several Autistic children posted a summary of Asperger's that I am going to copy here, as well as a link to the radio program. This is just a summary of her experiences, not a clinical discussion, but it seems to fit our son. So if you have an hour when your ears aren't doing anything, you could listen in.
RadioWest: 12-18-2008
Here goes.

Autism is a neurological condition rather than a physiological or a (wish I knew the word) "foreign invasion" condition. This means that it is not a virus or germ. It is not a matter of muscle, bone, or other structural problems. It is a condition of the brain and nervous system. You might say that "the parts are fine, but the network is down."

People understand physical conditions more than mental ones. There is a wonderful book called "The Out-of-Sync Child." It describes people who have difficulty with the basic senses like touch, sight, hearing, balance, and body awareness. The difficulties are because the nervous system is not properly conducting the business of receiving input, processing the information, and producing output. Often the senses won't communicate with each other very well. The hand doesn't handle what the eye sees with very much grace. etc. These issues are called Sensory Processing Disorders.

Almost all autistics have SPDs, but it is possible to have SPDs without being autistic. It is my belief that autism is the exact same phenomenon as SPDs but it extends into the realm of mental processes as well as physical ones. There are many inputs that we take in mentally as well as physically. These include verbal language, body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, implied meanings that are beyond the literal meanings of the words used, and probably many other mental processes that allow us to give meaning to what we see, to appreciate patterns, to do abstract calculations, and ultimately to have emotional responses to all the facts before us. Autism will probably not be well understood by science until we are better able to catalog these mental process like we have the physical senses.

The world around us provides far more information than we can handle. Our brain somehow develops the ability to filter and sort that input and turn that information into generalities that we can effectively use. Autism seems to be a variation from the norm in this process. Those variations can be advantages or disadvantages depending on what particular process is involved and how it is altered. This concept is the key to how autistics can be different from each other and yet have something in common. It might be analogous to the differences between a broken arm and a broken leg. There is something identical in the idea of a broken bone, but something very different between using crutches and using a sling.

Autism is often called a "spectrum" condition. This simply means that its severity can be thought of as a matter of degree. It is not like chicken pox where you either have it or you don't. It is more like eyesight where you can be blind or you may slightly squint or you may be at any point in between. It used to be that only the most severe cases were identified as autism. Once it was better understood, then milder cases were recognized. There is often a public fear of expanding the definition of autism because of the costs associated with severe cases. But this would be like refusing to recognize 20/40 vision as an eyesight deficiency for fear of needing to provide services associated with the blind. A pair of glasses is often just fine for most eyesight problems. Simpler accommodations can resolve many difficulties faced by milder autistics.

Those with Classic Autism seem to not think in language. Some don't learn to talk until after they learn to read. Most think visually. After they learn about the words they see, then they are able to figure out that the sounds we are making match up to those words and have meaning. When they do learn to talk, it still seems to be like a foreign language to them and they will learn it with varying degrees of fluency. The best explanation of this is in a book called "Thinking in Pictures" by Temple Grandin. She is a professor at Colorado State University. She is a classic autistic who had such a scientific talent that she eventually figured us out. It turns out that we are as mysterious to them as they are to us. She wrote the book explaining autism to us. It turned the scientific community upside down on the matter of autism.

Asperger's is the most clearly defined "sub-category" of autism. There really should be at least a dozen such sub-categories, but our understanding is still too primitive to define them.

The distinguishing characteristic of Asperger people, is that they develop basic linguistic skills just fine, often better than the rest of us. However, they miss out on non-verbal communication. Facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice have no meaning to them. (Remember, however, that this is all a matter of degree. Some miss more than others.) If you start looking away and checking your watch while in a conversation with them, they will just assume that you were curious about the time and noticed other interesting things around you while talking to them. Their vocabulary and verbal skills may appear to be better than average, but on closer examination, there is much that is missing. They don't use idioms very well if at all. They understand and meaning of words very literally.

Unfortunately, the non-verbal area is where all of the social clues are. They don't always lack the desire or the capacity to be social. They lack the ability to "see" what the rest of us expect them to do. Very often, Asperger people will get along much better with people who are significantly older or younger than they are. In these situations, the relationship is more clearly defined. It is obvious who takes the lead and is in charge of the conversation. They do poorly with peers because the relationship there is not pre-defined. It is negotiated in non-verbal ways. When an adult takes kids out to the playground, it is obvious who will determine the teams. When kids go out to play, who decides who will be the team captains to choose sides? It always seems to work out, but how? Most people "sense" who among them are the leaders. Asperger people can't make sense of it at all. For those of you who watch the TV show "Lost." Think of Jack and Charlie. Jack doesn't want to be the leader and Charlie would love to take charge of even one excursion. But the people ignore Charlie and always turn to Jack for leadership. Why? That relationship is all done in non-verbal ways. Asperger people are left out of the process and feel left out. But more than that, they often become angry at the fact that everyone seems to know what's going on and they don't. It feels like being shunned on purpose.

Common traits of autistics and aspies:

They absorb lots of facts, but do little to synthesize those facts into generalities.

They much prefer concrete thoughts to abstract thoughts.

They have difficulty "switching" between modes of thinking. ie, they may get stuck in "receiving input" mode (which makes them very knowledgeable) but they may need to be prompted to use that information to solve problems (which is why these "brains" can seem strangely helpless at times.)

They may have difficulty moving information from one part of their brain to another. As a result, they may actually just freeze up when a response is required, but they can give that answer after the need for it is passed.

They may be "ungraceful" in physical endeavors. This can include messing up in sports, but it can also result in walking with heavy steps, clunking things down on the table, etc.

Even when they are verbal, language does not seem to be attached to their emotions. They have emotions, but they rarely talk about "how they feel." When they do, it is often when they are pushed to extremes and blurt out that they are mad. Usually when they talk in anger, a transcript of the conversation will show that they talk about what should happen and what should be done (actions) and not about how they feel or whether other people like them or not.

They vary widely in their personalities. Some are extroverted and others are painfully shy -- to the point of an anxiety disorder.

To make sense of the world, they will either reject rules as silly and worthless, or they will follow rules very rigidly.

They will be quite uneven in development. They will often be noticeably better than average at some things and considerably worse than average at other things. It's kind of an all or nothing thing with them.

I hope this helps.

Warning-Christmas Letter -NB

I figure not everyone I know gets a letter, so here it is for those who are fortunate enough to have concealed your address from me.
This is what happened to us this year, generally. With some adjustments for being presented in a public place.

Oh no! It’s December again! Wasn’t it just July? How can it be the end of the year, I’ve still got so much to do!? Yep, if, like us, you have wasted a good portion of the year staring at a computer screen or watching imaginary people do imaginary things, welcome to the year end wrap up of stuff we did manage to accomplish. If you don’t feel a sense of what you might have done, please go to the end of the letter, where the signatures are, thank you.

We have been in Moab for almost three years! This little town suits us so much, we hope to be here to see the new tree we planted grow and our grandchildren play in it.

D., in addition to running a business that is mostly in the black, is also the Elder’s Quorum president and a great Dad. He reads to the boys almost every night and shows them the stars and planets in his telescope.

K. has just gotten a calling to be in the Nursery third hour, as well as teaching Gospel Doctrine every third Sunday. She still reads, blogs, cooks and takes naps whenever possible. She actually has been tackling all the projects which never seem to get done and aspires to finish at least three of them before the end of the year.

R. is nearly 10 and in the 4th grade. He just earned his Bear badge in Cub Scouts and loves Wii, computer games, history and jumping on the trampoline. He plays the piano every chance he gets, the louder and faster the better.

J. is 8 and was baptized last February. He just earned his Wolf badge from Cub Scouts and loves scouting. He also is taking piano lessons, though we have promised him he can switch when we find someone who teaches something else. He always wants to help and learn whatever Mom and Dad are doing.

E. is 6 and in 1st grade. She loves her teacher and often gets to be the special helper because she reads so well. She is also our social butterfly and has an active social life that her mother has a hard time keeping track of.

M. is 3 and a cheery part of our family. She has a vivid imagination and Mom often gets scolded for answering a question that was directed to her toys and dolls. She has also become an authority on many things, with “told you” being one of her most common phrases.

B. is a happy, active 2 year old. She runs everywhere, calling for M. at the top of her lungs. Being the youngest she has learned to make herself heard. Her favorite thing is to love her dolls and share Maggie’s imaginations.

Our little circus is growing and expanding and learning new tricks. We hope your shows, of whatever type they may be, are also learning and growing. We love you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Pioneer Lady's Country Kitchen

Being a mother has taught me amazing new skills, one of which is cooking. I always liked to cook before I was married. In college I would occasionally make huge pots of chili and invite everyone nearby to eat. I even did a Thanksgiving dinner once, roast turkey and all. But if it were not for my family I would not know my own possibilities.
I like to cook, mostly, but I get bored with the same old recipes so I also like cookbooks. I generally find them at garage sales and thrift stores because the old ones are much more interesting (scary). They give you a view into what regular women were doing for their families 50 years ago or more. They also don't have trendy ingredients like chevre (have you ever smelled goat cheese?, or goats?) or pesto or pomegranates or whatever the cool ingredient is this week.
This one I found just after my neighbor gave me four packages of deer meat. The venison recipe I found inside was wonderful. My kids ate it! (Until my second son, the picky one, found out it was deer meat, then he didn't like it any more.)
The format of this one made it a bit more interesting than just a list of foods. It was arranged from March to Feb. with the types of foods a farm family would eat around the year. Some meals were described, and the work it took to get them to the table. I like the idea of providing your own food. I have a garden and I'm learning to can. But I am way to lazy to even think of being a real farmer's wife. Which is good because my husband has no intention of ever being a farmer.
One of the interesting things was a recipe for sun-cooked peach preserves. You take the peach halves and instead of sticking them in a jar with sugar-water, you roll them in powdered sugar, fill the pit with more powdered sugar, then set them in the sun, under glass, for two days. Then you pack them in your canning jar. It makes me hope they come out sort of like candied ginger, only with peaches. Doesn't that sound good, especially if they come from your own tree and are nice and ripe? We have lots of sun here so when our peach tree starts producing I'll have to try it.

The Pioneer Lady's Country Kitchen: A Seasonal Treasury of Time-Honored American Recipes. Jane Watson Hopping. Villard Books. 1988

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I am a Mother

When I was in 4th or 5th grade I read A Wrinkle in Time. I don't remember a lot about it but the character of the mother really stuck with me. She was a scientist and she had a family. Even at 11 I knew that I loved science and that I wanted to be a mother. Ever since then I have been trying to reconcile the intellectual part of me with the maternal part.

This book is a wonderful examination of the conflict that comes because everyone in the world tells women that they should have a career, do something "important", and everything inside tells women that they need to have a family and focus on building their home.

I respect Jane Clayson Johnson because not only did she have to make that choice, she had to give up an established career to raise her family. And she isn't done. So many books are written by women who are reaping the rewards of family; they have grandchildren, missionaries, weddings and aren't still cleaning up crayons and juice spills.

Though I have made my choice, and am happy with it, I still find myself doing what she describes in the book, saying, "I'm just a mother." When in Las Vegas I made a resolution that when anyone asked me about my children I would be positive. It is so easy, not mention expected, to run down your family and the work they require. It gave me some good experiences, but I have lapsed and need to remember to do this more.

One area that I hadn't thought about was what we are teaching our daughters. Never are they encouraged to think they will be mothers in the future. With the good goal of not limiting their choices, we have inadvertently left out the most rewarding thing they can choose to do. I am grateful that it is a choice now, but it is so often left off the menu completely.

If I were rich I would give every woman I know a copy of this book. We need to be reminded of the worth of the work we do and support each other. When asked, we need to be able to respond proudly, firmly and happily, "I am a mother."

I am a Mother. Jane Clayson Johnson. Deseret Book. 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ether 1-6

I began this lesson with a question, "How does your faith affect how you deal with crisis?" These chapters show a group of people in an extreme crisis, they have to leave everything behind and journey to a new land. Their leaders, Jared and his brother, demonstrate a method I hope to emulate in my own life.

The first thing I noticed was, how did Jared know that the Lord was going to confound the languages? The Biblical account is very short, only 9 verses. This account implies that all the people were involved in the project, because they had one language and were one people. Yet we know from the scriptures that a. not everyone was in on the project, because the people of Jared weren't and b. the Lord must have warned the people because "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets," Amos 3: 7. In our class discussion we brought up the possibility that the brother of Jared was a prophet and his brother was the secular leader. This explains why Jared is the named person in the accounts, and why Jared went to his brother to ask a blessing for the people as a whole.

In the verses Ether 1:33-43 I see a pattern of anticipation/reaction/acceptance. They anticipated the dispersion of peoples and asked for mercy. When they realized that even though their language would not be confounded, they would still be required to leave, they asked for guidance and help in the journey. How often do we ask to be saved from a trial? When we are not given the help we asked for, are we able to accept and instead ask for guidance and help in the trials facing us?

In chapter 2 The Jaredites are driven/guided "into that quarter where there never had man been" v.5 and then v.7
And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.
Have you ever been hiking with small children? The Lord was with them constantly as he was with the people of Moses, not letting them rest because he knew what blessings were ahead of them.

Despite verse 7 we see in verse 13 they rested for four years. This is the place where we have the remarkable verse 14:
And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.
A good counterpoint to this verse is Chapter 3 verses 2-5 where the brother of Jared prays to the Lord to touch the stones and light the boats. These verses are a model of humility and faith in asking of the Lord.

In 2:17-19 we see the brother of Jared fulfilled the commandments of the Lord, even though he could see some problems with the instructions he had been given. The Lord had shown him the way to build the barges, and he did it exactly as he had been commanded. Then, after they were built, he went to the Lord and asked, "And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish."v.19. The Lord responds to his question in two ways. First, in Verse 20, he answers the question and gives him a solution: he instructs him how to make air holes. But in verses 23-25 he answers the way we more normally get answers from the Lord, "Figure it out yourself."

Chapter 3 is one of the most amazing stories in the scriptures. Not just because the brother of Jared saw the Lord, but because of the fulfillment of faith it demonstrates. In verse 13 we are told, "And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you" His faith was so strong that he was redeemed. This is the ultimate goal and purpose of our faith in Christ, to be redeemed and brought back into his presence. Then in verse 19 we see another result of faith fulfilled,
And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.
After the trial of his faith, he no longer had faith, but knowledge. Verses 14-16 tell of the kind of knowledge we receive as our faith increases, knowledge of Jesus Christ and his gospel. The brother of Jared's faith was so strong that his knowledge grew to visions of the entire world and everyone on it.

In Chapter 4 and 5 we have commentary by Mormon about faith and knowledge. The contrast of increased knowledge by faith and obedience and decreased knowledge by unbelief is described. In Ether 4: 13-14 we have an invitation
13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it
hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
Then verse 15 seemed to sum it up for me:
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.
We have to responsibility to "rend the veil of unbelief." The Lord will invite, guide, direct, encourage and warn but he will never force us. We have to choose to believe, ask for his help, and by this act of faith we increase our knowledge and our ability to have faith in even more things, and so on, until redemption and perfect knowledge.

I hope this makes sense. This was one lesson I had difficulty bringing together. A lot of ideas, but not as much of a cohesive whole as I have had for other lessons. In three weeks I get to do the end of the Book of Mormon lesson, then on to the Doctrine and Covenants.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Three Men in a Boat

I have heard about this book from various sources and idly contemplated reading it, but my wonderful brother-in-law lent me a copy and now I have to get one of my own. The best comparison I can think of is Charles Dickens as a stand-up comedian. This is a very Victorian book, wordy and round-about. Yet it is one of the funniest books I have read. The quote on the back cover seems to sum it up:

It would be dangerous to read this book in any place - say a full railway compartment - where the reader was not at perfect liberty to laugh as loudly and as long as he chose.
This was from a review at the time it was originally published. I laughed out loud at several places, and followed David around as he did "honey-do's" and read to him as well.

It is difficult to find a place I want to quote that does not go on for several pages, so to save my typing I have opened the book at random and found a great couple of lines about tow-lines. The book is about a river/camping expedition and for part of the time the men are towing their boat up the Thames by walking up a path holding a rope that is attached to the boat. Imagining someone trying to do that on the Colorado is a funny image.

I do not wish to be insulting, but I firmly believe that if you took an average tow-line, and stretched it out straight across the middle of a field, and then turned your back on it for thirty seconds, that, when you looked round again, you would find that it had got itself altogether in a heap in the middle of the field, and had twisted itself up, and tied itself into knots, and lost its two ends, and become all loops; and it would take a good half-hour, sitting down there on the grass and swearing all the while, to disentangle it again.
That is my opinion of tow-lines in general, of course, there may be honorable exceptions; I do not say that there are not. There may be tow-lines that are a credit to their profession - conscientious, respectable tow-lines - tow-lines that do not imagine they are crochet-work, and try to knit themselves up into antimacassars the instant they are left to themselves. I say there may be such tow-lines; I sincerely hope there are. But I have not met with them.
I could go on, but then I would simply be copying the whole book onto the blog and what would the point of that be? So go out to your local library and read this book. Wait until January. It will be a nice summer interlude in winter, and will cheer those winter doldrums.

Three Men in a Boat. Jerome K. Jerome. Alan Sutton. 1889

Friday, December 5, 2008

Insurance manual

It is not very exciting, but I wanted credit for reading the darn thing. Because we are self-employed and live in a rural area, insurance has been difficult to get and keep. Honestly, the main reason I didn't vote for John McCain was that he said he wanted to deregulate the insurance industry. They already are marginally dishonest and mess up people's lives, can you imagine how bad it would be if there were no regulation?
There were a few interesting tidbits hidden within the rules and regs. I am not covered in the event of a terrorist attack. It goes along with the acts of war clause. So who pays the medical bills of people injured through no fault of their own? The government? Or should they sue the terrorists? Please refer back to the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
They also deny coverage for something called Chronic Organic Brain Syndrome. I can understand this, it sounds very made up. I have had this problem since I was born. My brain has been chronically organic and there seems to be no cure. Or perhaps it is an unhealthy obsession with the Borg from Star Trek?

Utah Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool Enrollee Agreement. 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Echoes From Eternity

Have you ever wanted to find out more about something, but couldn't find a good source for it? One of the little old ladies I visit teach lent me this book so I read it, with a bit of a skeptical eye. It is about Near Death Experiences, NDEs. I do believe in them, I think they happen, but analysing them seems a bit self-fulfilling.

This is an LDS book, written for an LDS author. The author tries to prove his openness to other religions, but the point is, this book was published by an LDS imprint and is very Utah-centric.
It was interesting, there are some very cool stories in it. Of course a lot of times these stories feel like either something that should be told around the campfire or are so personal maybe they shouldn't be in an open format at all. I know if I had this kind of experience I wouldn't put it out where anyone could see it, pearls before swine and all that.

After reading it I wanted to know what non-Christians, particularly ones not from North America or even Europe saw in NDEs. I figured if the data is unbiased people from other cultures should have them in similar rates to the people in Utah who were interviewed for this book. So I did what everyone in the 21st century does when you want more information, I googled non-christian NDEs. And found an amazing amount of crap. Most of the first articles were Evangelical sites showing how from the few non Christian accounts they have, that all non-Christians were possessed and saw demonic visions. I won't give specifics, but I was offended on behalf of all the people so labelled.

I had to give up and just accept something the author points out, all NDEs are different. There are some trends, but even those are not overwhelming. Maybe, just maybe, the Lord knows each of his children and when they have this kind of experience, it is tailored to their individual needs, understanding and expectations. The one thing that was demonstrated in every one of the stories told is that the Lord loves his children.

Echoes From Eternity. Arvin. S. Gibson. Horizon Publishers. 1998

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Girls's Guide to Witchcraft

I've read so many heavy histories lately that I decided I wanted something lighter from the library. This was a bit of a mistake because I am still in analytical mode. You should never read chick lit when your brain is actually working.

I have a lot of questions about this genre. There are a lot of stereotypes in the few books I have read. They almost feel like a grown up version of Mad Libs. (insert male name) is dreamy with wonderful (insert body part) but he doesn't know (female name) is alive. So, in spite of her previous bad experience with (different boy name) she will (complicated scheme) to make him notice her.

The heroine is always slightly neurotic with a weakness for chocolate. There is usually a best friend who is either a. happily married (causing jealousy and overhigh expectations) or b. similarly lovelorn, but is handling it in a completely different manner, for contrast. I have also notice the high percentage of gay male friends, to help the fashion-helpless girl to change and attract the sought male. Do gay guys get tired of this fashion-forward but frivolous and shallow stereotype? I would think it causes extreme pressure when dressing to go out.

I read these books with the same attitude I use when reading a YA book, entertaining, but I haven't ever really felt that way. Even when I was single I didn't judge a man by the way he filled out his jeans and the first kiss. At 25 I didn't feel myself a failure because I wasn't married and didn't even have a boyfriend (most of the time). Am I out of the mainstream or are these books exaggerations for the sake of comedy? I know that most of my personality and habits are a bit on the unusual side; I'm female and read science fiction, I voluntarily have five children, we don't watch television, just videos, and I don't do idle female chit-chat very well. My sphere of friends is pretty small so I honestly don't know if maybe a lot of women find these books realistic, but funnier than real life? Give me some input here. What are your opinions of "chick lit" type books.

All that being said, I did just check the sequel out the library this morning. They are very funny, if nothing else.

Girl's Guide to Witchcraft. Mindy Klasky. Red Dress Ink. 2006

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Guns of August

I've found that Pulitzer Prize winning histories usually deserve all the praise they get. I worry sometimes about the lens that the author uses to view the past. Most have some sort of bias, due to being human, and a lot of books, especially lately, have a very definite agenda beyond explaining a moment in history. One solution to this problem is to read books from a different historical moment. Whatever agenda someone might have had when they wrote the book is mostly irrelevant after a few years. I really enjoy books that seem to go right for the meat of the topic and don't try to preach to the reader or make comparisons with current events. This book fit my criteria perfectly because it was written in 1962 and won the Pulitzer Prize then was reissued 25 years later as a classic.

A reviewer stated, "It is her conviction that the deadlock of the terrible month of August determined the future course of the war and the terms of the peace, the shape of the inter-war period and the conditions of the Second Round." I think she makes her case and it dovetails nicely with Churchill's comments in the opening of his history, as he recounts the end of WWI and how it directly led to WWII.

To open the book, she describes the funeral of King Edward VII of England in 1910. I'm reminded of this bit from Mary Poppins: The majesty of the Old World was on display. Since he was related to half of Europe through his mother, Queen Victoria, the procession was unequaled in pomp, circumstance and royalty. In a few short years a number of attending monarchs would be at war, dead or dethroned.

This opening also allows for a quick description of the personalities who would become so very important in a few short years. I especially liked her description of William II of Germany, the Kaiser, "The flashing, inconstant, always freshly inspired Kaiser has a different goal every hour, and practices diplomacy as an exercise in perpetual motion." and later, "Envy of the older nations gnawed at him. . . The same sentiments ran through his whole nation, which suffered, like their emperor, from a terrible need for recognition. Pulsing with energy and ambition, conscious of strength, fed upon Nietzsche and Treitschke, they felt entitled to rule, and felt cheated that the world did not acknowledge their title."

The circumstances that led to open war were not so much mistakes, as inevitable results from Germany and France's decision made years before that war was inevitable. The military directors of both countries had developed elaborate plans of what to do in the event of war, and on both sides the conclusion drawn was get them before they can get us. With the two main belligerents acting under the assumption of future war it would have been nearly impossible to avoid. This must have been a reflection of current events to the author, who was writing at the height of the Cold War. Perhaps we should give more credit to the politicians of those days that there never was a great war between Russia and the United States.

One reason for that moderate restraint in modern times could be the structure of the US military. The President is Commander in Chief and has never shrunk from that role. In every country involved in the beginning of WWI, France, Germany, as well as England and Belgium, the military leaders overwhelmed, ignored and stonewalled the political leaders who wanted to change or postpone the coming offensive. Truman's accomplishment in restraining and finally firing MacArthur becomes a bit more impressive after reading how the heads of every other army ran over the political leaders.

The author manages to describe the intensity of those days with an understated humor that eases the understanding of such a complex topic. In describing British efforts in the Boer War she writes, " Since Britain's record against an untrained opponent lacking modern weapons had on the whole not been brilliant" and describing Henry Wilson, "that marvelous incapacity to admit error that was to make him ultimately a Field Marshall."

Of course errors weren't only British. The sheer number of mistakes makes the mind boggle, especially the scale of some of them. The Russians had few transports, and lacking telegraph wire, transmitted instructions by wireless (radio) in the clear because few officers had access to code manuals. The Germans began to rely on knowing where the Russians were every evening as the broadcasts came in.

The sides were even in aggressiveness and world opinion at the beginning of the war was evenly disgusted with both of them, but as Germany invaded neutral Belgium she began a campaign of terror that horrified the world. Burned and looted villages were the norm for a marauding army, but the systematic and sanctioned destruction of towns and villages retaliation of guerrilla activity by killing hundreds of civilians and the burning of a world famous library in Louvain hardened most who heard of it against the invading "Huns."

The demanding necessity of invasion forced the troops to their very limit. "In the coming battle many Germans prisoners were taken asleep, unable to go another step." The supply trains could not keep up, the men marched forty km for days on end, trying to outmaneuver the opposing army. The casualty rates for this first month were horrifying, 300,000 dead in the Battle of the Frontiers alone. Britain, France and Germany lost the majority of their young men in this war. One young man graduated in a class of 28 in the spring of 1914 and fell ill so he could not go to war. By winter he was the only one left alive. Though the absolute number of casualties were greater in WWII, WWI witnessed the shattering of the Victorian/Edwardian ethos of honor and morality. The social changes brought about by the war brought about a disillusion with the ideal that has continued and worsened through modern times.

The Guns of August. Barbara W. Tuchman. Macmillan. 1988.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Silly Songs with Larry

If you have never heard of Veggie Tales, but did have access to a radio in the 80s you should watch this.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I love remaindered books, especially when they are as good as this one was. Not only was this book well written, but I learned an amazing amount of stuff.

Truman came from Jackson, Missouri. His family had been there since before the Civil War and suffered a lot during the war. I knew that there had been a lot of violence in Kansas but I didn't know that the violence in Kansas was in part because of gangs from pro-slavery Missouri came over the border. Then gangs from Kansas retaliated. I had heard the expression "Bloody Kansas" (look it up) but I didn't know that there was an evacuation order for Jackson County, Missouri. The Union was in control of the state and they made everyone in that county leave, with only a few hours notice. Truman's grandmother had many nasty things to say about the Union soldiers and Abraham Lincoln. When, as president, he offered to let her stay in the Lincoln bedroom, she said she would rather sleep on the floor.

He was an amazingly honest man. though he got his political career because of the "bosses" of Kansas City, he refused to play the crony game. He didn't take bribes and refused to change his decisions because of pressure from the guys who thought they were in charge. Oddly, this made him more popular with the gangs and he was respected for his integrity. When he went to the Senate it caused a bit of trouble and he was accused of being corrupt, but he refused to repudiate his old friends.

He didn't get along with Roosevelt and was not in his confidences. Though most people knew he had a good chance of being president being in with Roosevelt wasn't one of the criteria for VP. R. was very ill in 1944 and this knowledge was kept from the public because of the election. Truman had been happy being a senator, and having a moderately useless job like that of Vice-president bothered him. He wasn't happy about the way he became president but he enjoyed having the ability to be in charge and do things the way he thought they should be done.

The thing that impressed me the most about the strength of his character was the way he handled the Korean War. Because of how the Russians had taken over Eastern Europe after WWII, there was a great fear that they would use similar tactics all over the globe. When fighting began in Korea, Americans really worried that if it wasn't stopped, China, and by extension Russia, would take over all of Asia.

As MacArthur became almost insanely aggressive, Truman worked very hard to hold the line; US troops were not to go into China, and, despite MacArthur's urging, they were not going to use the atomic bomb to make a no-man's-land between China and Korea. Though the war resulted in North and South Korea being divided exactly as it had started out, it was Truman's will that kept it from becoming either a huge war with China or letting nuclear weapons become just another tool of war. He felt that this was his greatest achievement while in office.

On a personal note. he didn't marry until he was thirty because he felt he needed to be successful before he could ask his sweetheart to marry him. But she stayed faithful through all the years he was trying, a remarkably patient woman. He wrote letters to her almost every day while they were apart. She was his best friend and he missed her terribly when they were separated. In fact, one of the funniest parts was the little paragraph describing how an embarrassed Mrs. Truman had to ask the staff secretary to get a replacement bed because the old antique one they had been sleeping in had broken "some time during the night." Its nice to know at least one president this century was completely faithful to his wife.

This book gave me some hope about our country. Yes, Harry Truman was a product of a different age, but I think that a lot of people go into politics for the same reasons he did, to help people and get things done the right way. It is statistically impossible for all of them to have been corrupted by the process. I know that there are men of integrity in politics today, I just wish it was easier to identify them.

Truman. David McCullogh. Simon & Schuster. 1992

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alcatraz Vs. the Scrivener's Bones

I realized that I have fallen behind a bit. Though I don't write about all the books I read, I do like to write about ones I really liked, or learned something from. This one falls more in the first category than the second. It is a sequel to Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians, which I talked about before. In fact, if I've talked to you at all about books you know how I feel about Brandon Sanderson. We love his books, and this one was no exception. It was the third of the the books David got me for my birthday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We are currently reading it to my boys for their bedtime book and they enjoy it as well. You have to be able to handle a sarcastic teenager first person voice though. If that drives you nuts, then don't bother reading the book. It has been a great way to reach Ryan about unreliable narrators though.

I seem to read a lot of YA fiction. So much adult fiction takes itself so seriously. I read for entertainment. I don't read depressing novels for the same reason I don't go see dramas and depressing movies, except by accident. I still can get choked up if I think about Life is Beautiful too much. That one had me teary eyed for days. So as a remedy for serious, sad fiction, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Alcatraz vs the Scrivener's Bones. Brandon Sanderson. Scholastic. 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008


No this isn't a general post, but a memoir by someone who loves books more than I do. I like books, and buy them and read them as much as I can, but I do have other interests. Larry McMurtry, other the other hand, has lived a life completely obsessed by them. It is funny how short this book is. It is like a lot of little anecdotes about his life buying and selling books, only vaguely chronological. Sort of like a mumbling grandpa trying to tell you what is important in life, but who keeps falling asleep after a few sentences.
I have been thinking about writing a formal essay type things about why and how I read, but the only quiet time I get is late at night, when I should be sleeping. This is not the time my brain works best. Since it is now getting cold and we have no furnace, my fingers don't work very well either. But I have read about 150 books in the last year since I started posting. I didn't post about every book I read, and some of the posts were about other things, or more than one book at a time, so I figure it evens out.
I found a cool site that helps you organize your library and connect with other people who have the same books. They have a 250 books in a year challenge. I figure if I count every book I read in a year, even the re-reads and ones I don't admit to reading on this blog (I do have some pride), I can make it.

Books. Larry McMurtry. Simon & Schuster. 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Closing the Ring

My brain seems to want serious food lately, so I've gone back to the Churchill volumes on WWII. Every time I read these I am amazed at the lack of knowledge I have on the subject. It is so depressing. Especially now that I am honestly trying harder to not read all the time and be more useful in other ways; there are just so many books I want to read and things I want to learn.

This book covers the time from mid-1943 to just before D-Day, June 6, 1944. The amount of planning it took to launch that invasion is incredible. The fact that two different governments, with two separate military bureaucracies, managed to do such a good job is absolutely astounding. And during all this build-up phase they were invading Italy, negotiating with the Russia and and busy with all sorts of things. I was sadly amused to notice that during this time the Greeks had what amounted to a civil war on top of being invaded by the Germans. There were three different factions claiming to be the REAL government in exile. It got so bad an entire battalion of Greek infantry refused to obey any Allied orders unless one group was recognized and a Greek destroyer mutinied. The peaceful resolutions of these difficulties showed a lot of patience on the Allied commanders' part, I thought.

One reason I like reading histories is the applicability to our own times. I read the following quote right around the time of the election, and it seemed to sum up the problems I have with both GW Bush and Obama:

What holds us together is the prosecution of the war. No Socialist or Liberal or Labour man has been in any way asked to give up his convictions. That would be indecent and improper. We are held together by something outside, which rivets all our attention. The principle that we work on is, "Everything for the war, whether controversial or not, and nothing controversial that is not bona fide needed for the war. That is our position." We must also be careful that a pretext is not made of war needs to introduce far-reaching social or political changes by a side-wind.

We have been asked to be on a war footing for a long while, but except for a relatively small number, those sacrifices have been changes in the way we regard our freedoms. The war has been an excuse, not the cause, for a number of non-necessary controversial changes. I now worry that correcting those will also be an excuse, not the reason, for another round of forced changes. That's enough on politics for now. It is one of those things you either say very little or way too much.

Closing the Ring. Winston Churchill. Houghton Mifflin. 1951

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

All Quiet on the Western Front

I must admit, it has been awhile since I read this book, but I was thinking about it today. It was probably the second book I ever read that made me cry. I remember sitting in a friend's house, bawling my eyes out and hoping no one would come in until I got myself under control.

Though I have read other war accounts, both fictional and non, I think no other can equal this one for its grace and beauty as it describes the horror of a war. Grace and beauty aren't the normal adjectives people use for war books, but I think that is why this one is so effective. Gore does make a point, but it also desensitizes the reader. This is where most modern books, and almost ever movie get it wrong, in my opinion. We need less desensitizing and anger and more love, compassion and beauty.

For a more personal look at the "War to End All Wars" (doesn't that phrase make you want to weep in its innocence and hope?) look at this blog. These are the personal letters a British soldier sent home to his family. His grandson has been posting them in chronological order, matching 90 years to the day as much as possible. It is a wonderful project. It makes me wish I had more access to my Grandfather's records of his time in WWII. We don't give these men enough credit for coming home and leading such quiet, unremarkable lives. The struggles of the current veterans show what an amazing accomplishment it is. One day a year to honor them seems insufficient.

All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque.


A lot of blogs I read have been posting about things they are thankful for. I am also thankful for many things, but I am writing today to talk about the opposite. I have a list for all of you who are commited to the idea of buying me or my family presents in the coming month or two. Because I can never remember anything when I talk to you on the phone, I took the easy way out and made a wishlist on amazon. Please don't take this as written in stone, but as gentle suggestions to ease the shopping process. If you think that I would be interested in your own desires for Christmas, please feel free to reciprocate. Thanks

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dealing With Dragons

I picked up the first of these novels at the library free-book-for-joining-the-summer-reading-program table. My husband read it and liked it so I read it too. These are definitely YA-edging into children's books, but very funny anyway. The irritation an intelligent, non-simpering princess would have with the conventions and expectations of her peers are described in hilarious detail. Having experienced some of that myself, I could relate.
I checked some of the others out of the library. They are short, quick, fun read. Though reading them all at once gets bit boring. There are very few authors you can read several books at a time and not be annoyed by.
Jen, I think Rachel would really like them or any preteen to teenage girl. I think my six year old would like them but they don't have pictures so she isn't interested. I'm working her up to those. We are reading the Magic Treehouse books and Geronimo Stilton right now. She likes GS because certain words are emphasized with color and funny fonts. She reads all of those and the italics and chapter headings. She doesn't think she can read chapter books because she is only in first grade so I am gently showing her how good a reader she is. Peer pressure for a smart girl is difficult, see the above books.

Dealing With Dragons. Patricia Wrede. Scholastic. 1992

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Poisoned Pedigree

I've never read much LDS fiction, for two reasons; one, the library doesn't have much and two, it tends to be too sentimental for my tastes. I prefer histories to historical fiction, a real biography to a fictionalized account. But I saw this at the library and thought I would give it a shot.

It was nice to read a book written from my cultural point of view. To have people react to situations as I would. When a main character is in trouble and her first reaction is to pray it felt like a breath of fresh air. No cursing, no drinking, no excusing sin and wrong choices, no attempt to show wickedness as happiness. It was refreshing to read a book and not spend any time mentally arguing with it. This is one reason I don't read a lot of regular fiction, I spend too much of my time thinking about how much the main characters would benefit from a visit with the missionaries.
From this books rating on Deseret Book I guess I lucked out and got a very good example of LDS mystery for my first experiment. I have avoided the historical LDS books, but maybe I will look into the LDS books in other genres. There is getting to be quite a few YA fantasy novels coming out of Deseret's non-church imprint, Shadow Mountain. The head children's librarian at our library is the RS president in another ward and I think she is partial to them.
I probably will not get in the habit of reading this author though. The library only has one other, and honestly, it was too short. I like great big books because it takes me more than an hour or two to finish them. Though if you have them at your house, could I borrow some?
Poisoned Pedigree. G.G. Vandagriff. Deseret Book. 2002

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

3 Ne 22-26

My turn for the Gospel Doctrine lesson again. And oddly enough again the lesson was primarily from the bible: Isaiah 54 and Malachi 3 & 4.
The thing about these passages that really struck me was the blessings and promises in the passages from the Bible. When you recommend a book you usually think that reading that particular book would be good for the person you are recommending it to. In these sections we have scriptures that the Lord recommended. Why would these passages be so important that he gave them to the people? In fact, they already had Is. 54, so he was giving to them again.

The Nephites had been through a terrible few years. Their entire society had collapsed. There was no government, wars had been rampant, then earthquakes and other disasters had killed a huge number of people. Despite the hope and joy of having the Saviour appear to them, they had to be worried and afraid of the future. So, before he left, the Saviour reminds them of the promises He has made and comforts them.
In Chapter 22, there are many promises of the blessings of the Millennium. The Lord reminds the people that

8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer
. This is also the chapter with the wonderful promise,

13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace
of thy children.
14 In righteousness shalt thou be established; thou shalt be far from oppression for thou shalt not fear, and from terror for it shall not come near thee.
In Chap. 23 He then reminds the people of the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite, and how those prophecies were fulfilled.

9 Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?
10 And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled.

When you think of a group of people, standing in the ruins of their city, with who knows how many dead, this reminder of the reality of the Resurrection must have been very comforting.
Then Chapters 24 & 25 are the ones from Malachi. The promise of tithing, and of the Lord's consideration of those who remember him and serve him are some of the most beautiful blessings in the scriptures:
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my
house; and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open
you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be
room enough to receive it.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the fields,
saith the Lord of Hosts.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed, for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of Hosts.

16 Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord
hearkened and heard; and a book of remembrance was written before him for
them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
The promise of Elijah's coming is one of the most quoted in modern day scripture:

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great
and dreadful day of the Lord;
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Here we have some incredible promises, along with the reminder and commandment to search the scriptures. Christ was about to leave the people. He had been with them for three days and then appeared off and on afterwards, but they were going to be on their own, like all other people are. They had a huge job ahead of them. All of the structures of their society were gone. No government, many cities gone, a lot of the cities that were left were destroyed. In these dismal circumstances he could not solve their problems, or stay with them and physically help them, but he leaves the promises of the scriptures. By looking, and searching and pondering the scriptures he could be with them everyday.
In these pages we have His words to us. So many people are afraid today, but the solution to our fears is the same one offered to the Nephites, remember the promises of God. He is mindful of his people and he will not forget us.
It was a beautiful lesson and I was grateful for the chance to teach it. I always feel that I learn a lot more than any of the people in the class. I take it a lot more seriously than they do.