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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Birthright and The Kings Heir by Loralee Evans

Last time we looked at one way historical fiction can be used to help us understand the Book of Mormon better by discussing the Out of Jerusalem series by H.B. Moore.

Is this the only way to express an understanding of the Book of Mormon? Absolutely not. Remember, Heavenly Father inspires His children to write and provide the avenues most needed by His children, and inspires His children to find those most appropriate for them. For me, what works best is a slightly different approach. Today, we’ll look at an example of this method by discussing The King’s Heir and The Birthright by Loralee Evans.

These two books employ a different method of helping us understand the material in the Book of Mormon. It takes the events and times and uses them as a background for an interwoven fictional tale. The main characters do not necessarily appear anywhere in the scriptures, or perhaps only hold a small mention. It’s an attempt to show the lives of everyday people, who would have been involved in the events, not necessarily center stage to them. These tales have a little more freedom than those that are trying to adhere to only those things recorded in the scriptures, such as the Out of Jerusalem series. This option is employed to give a different viewpoint altogether.

The Birthright tells the story of a Lamanite girl named Miriam and her Nephite friend Jacob as they experience and get caught up in the war chapters of the Book of Mormon contained in Alma. You get a rich view of everyday life, details about little things like how the people ate, slept and lived as well as a feel for what it would have been like to live as a part of these historical events. The King’s Heir, though published second, is actually a prequel to The Birthright. In it you get to back up and find out all the juicy details that lead up to a sweet girl with dark skin, bright blue eyes and a great capacity for love and goodness.

Loralee Evans proves herself to be a detailed but imaginative person, artfully weaving fiction and faith to create a captivating story that opens the reader’s eyes just a little bit more. True, it is a fictional story. Some things can only be assumed and hypothesized, but as far as we are currently able to understand things, these types of writers in general, and Loralee specifically, spend a great deal of time look at all those minute details and scholarly information. This allows them to paint a more personable image for those of us whose tiny minds never manage to absorb the information on how the Nephite’s would have planted and harvested their fields from an actual archeological study.

Just as with any other fiction book, if it is done well the reader is caught up and transported to the sights, sounds, and sensations of the time and place described in a more real and captivating way than most nonfiction books can manage.

I like this approach slightly better than the strict historical fiction accounts. It teases my mind a little bit more to call out what I know about the scripture accounts and keep it in context as another story plays out. It intrigues me a bit better because I don’t already know exactly how everything will turn out. ;)

As mentioned before, everyone does not learn in the same manner, take a moment to think about some of the experiences you’ve had in your own life that have made the scriptures really “pop” and come alive for you. If you feel like it, tell me about them.

No matter which route leads to better understanding for you personally, I for one count it a great blessing that Heavenly Father inspires, and continues to inspire, all kinds of artisans to open our minds, eyes, and hearts to the things of His gospel. I love the scriptures, but finding ways to expand my experience with them is a huge blessing for me.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Weird Writing Quirks

Ok, I’m in the thick of deadline mania at the moment. Makes you even wonder why I’m blogging, right? Well, here’s the deal I was trying to concentrate on the creative issues at hand and found my mind wandering instead to the other things I have to keep at hand while I’m trying to be creative.

Right now, I’m suffering from a terrible case of hand-to-mouth disease. I just went on a frantic scavenger hunt through my kitchen trying to find something to fulfill the munchy craving that always hits when I’m on deadline or in the middle of a more creative streak. What did I find? Well, if you could see me now (don’t please, I didn’t shower today) you’d see this weird little row of pastel objects lining the top of my laptop keyboard. Yep, I have a row of flavored mini-marshmallows lined up like good little soldiers ready to sacrifice themselves in the name of creativity. The bag of marshmallows sits to the side of me so I can restock my neat little row whenever I need to.

Now, go ahead, ask me if I even like flavored mini-marshmallows. Um, not so much. But hey, they were open, handy, and had less calories than the bag of M&M’s I really wanted to line up on my keyboard. If my husband catches me, I’m going to get some very strange looks and a lot of backlash teasing. But I know you understand.

Here’s a few of my other quirks.

Music- must have, especially if the kids are in school. (Only 6 more days! Yeah!) The faster I have to work, the faster the music needs to be.

Miscellaneous, half-toppling stacks and piles made of anything that happens to wander onto my desk as well as those things I’m currently working with for my project. I can’t stand not having something I “might” need at the tip of my fingers when I’m working. My desk currently has some very precarious piles of papers and books, one marshmallow shooter holding them in place (my son saw the marshmallows out), a stack of headache, sinus and allergy medications, one water bottle, a half-dog-chewed prized McDonald’s toy, the cordless phone, my scriptures (the case is here, too. . . somewhere), a vase of Wal-Mart clearance roses I bought yesterday to give me something to look at besides my piles of papers (I also told myself the manuscript had to be done before the flowers died or I’d have to look at them dead until I did finish), a stack of coupons I never got around to clipping, and a printer that is buried beneath the piles of papers but I can still get to the finished printing job so it’s no big deal.

Just behind the marshmallows on my laptop are a pencil sharpened at both ends and a pen that has been chew halfway down to the writing end. (I promise I didn’t start it, but hey since it was already ruined it’s legal to chew on it in frustration, right?)

When I need to work, really work, I must finally detach myself from every distraction, sort of. I have to take my minicomputer (no internet access) to a very public place. Preferably one where I have to be, but don’t want to be involved in: gymnastics lessons, dentist appointments, family reunions, enrichment meetings (Gasp! Did I really say that?). See, in these types of situations it becomes a matter of life or death that I actually work, looking very productive and busy or I will have to socialize. Socializing is a fate worse than death in my opinion. If I don’t have any have-tos of that nature then the next best bet is a restaurant or public library. Not in one of those quite back cubbies, right up front and center where I have to keep busy in my public performance as a dedicated starving artist. Hey, it works for me

Some days I have to take a nap or a drive to get my subconscious to relax and actually think again.

Some days I can only think straight first thing in the morning.

Other days I can’t think straight until I’ve exercised, read my scriptures, and showered.

Some days I stare at the computer all day and have absolutely no idea if I’ve actually accomplished anything at the end of the day.

Some days I need to be inspired by a good book before my own creative juices flow uninhibited by self doubts.

Some days those same books simply depress me.

I have to schedule times when I have “permission” to check my email or surf for information I need or I will compulsively check my mail every hour minutes and become hopelessly lost following interesting (but not pertinent) research trails.

Notice, nowhere on the list do I actually have to do the housework. But, I will feel guilty about it, letting thoughts of it distract me enough to build a list of things I will definitely take care of tomorrow. Like the dishes that have been sitting there since, um, I think the day before yesterday. Could be longer. I’m a big fan of disposable dinnerware.

There are those famous writers we all hear about that can only write after sharpening so many pencils, or with a certain color of ink, or in a certain place, etc. Huh, does that mean if I’m ever famous someone is going to come along and say, “That’s it! The key to greatness is munching on flavored mini-marshmallows while you write.”

I sincerely hope not.

So, it’s your turn. Tell me some of your weirdest writing moments or rituals and give me one more reason to compulsively check my blog instead of writing my next chapter. My editors will love you for it!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Out of Jerusalem series by H. B. Moore

What are the things that help you understand the Book of Mormon best? Of course, the best way is to immerse yourself in the words of the scriptures, then spend time in prayer, letting the words and the feelings flow over you until they become a part of your very being. Gradually, the language and messages become clearer, more personal, closer to hearing your Heavenly Father’s voice as if He were talking just to you. The wonderful part comes from knowing this is true.

There are other ways, as well. I think it is a huge blessing to realize how intimately Heavenly Father understands each of His children. He realizes that the methods that are easy for one are not necessarily the talents of others. He provides for every condition, talent and temperament of those who are truly trying to seek Him. Think for a moment about all the different experiences He provides, opening the door for the Spirit to touch our hearts in the most appropriate ways.

I am particularly grateful for books. I love everything about being part of the gospel. I cherish are the books written from a gospel perspective. Still, there is the part of me that freely admits that nonfiction is not always the best way for me to understand things. Ok, I know I write nonfiction, but it’s not always the way to my heart when I truly need to feel something. That’s the special place gospel based fiction has for me. Fiction or nonfiction, there is something for everyone.

There is a popular series out that you have probably heard of: Out of Jerusalem by H. B. Moore. If you’re yearning to feel closer to those early Book of Mormon heros, here is one place to look. I bow in reverence to Ms. Moore’s ability to stay so keenly close to the scriptures and the simple stories they tell, while expanding them with full, rich characters and settings that can help you feel what it must really have meant for Nephi to say, “I will go and do”.

The Out of Jerusalem series begins with the book Of Goodly Parents and takes the reader from the very beginning scenes of the Book of Mormon in a way that is very fulfilling. Not better than the scriptures, just different. Ms. Moore takes what we know and what we believe then colors in all the empty gaps between with vivid detail and human emotion. That’s what makes this series so popular. For many it is a blessing that can help them reach a goal of becoming closer to the gospel and understanding the scriptures.

It’s not the particular route I prefer, however. I love the poetry and fluidness with which H. B. Moore writes. She is an excellent storyteller that leaves readers much satisfied. Me, I have a different approach when I pick up her books. I become impatient following a storyline that I already know how it turns out. J Seems silly, I know. But when I read Out of Jerusalem, I’m looking for something else; I’m looking specifically at the colors and filled in gaps. I’m looking at the easy ways the writer places in a description of a well, or riding on a camel for days. I’m specifically looking for the things that couldn’t be included on the brass plates. I’m looking at the emotions and setting. I’m not disappointed. But I still find myself skipping pages when the story comes forward following exactly the original information available within the Book of Mormon. I know, it’s weird. H. B. Moore can be honored and credited for how strictly she portrays the true message of the scriptures, but I skip that part! I appreciate what she is able to accomplish in that area, but I keep her books on my shelves for the human experience they portray.

The Out of Jerusalem series is loved by so many, in fact, that the last book, Land of Inheritance, won the 2007 Whitney Award for Best Historical Fiction.

Return to the Neighborhood.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Chat with Lael, Carroll, and Nancy

Well, the Surprise Packages blog tour is winding down, so I brought in the three authors, Lael Littke, Carroll Hofeling Morris and Nancy Anderson, for another engagement. Yeah, I reviewed the book already, but this time you get a peek into the kinds of things that go through my tiny brain as I’m reading a new book and a peek at what kinds of answers these three awesome ladies gave my random notions. Happy Reading!

If you were to have a “theme” color of ink that represented your own creativity and writing style what would it be?

Lael: A soft pea-green.

Carroll: Celery green or a cheery yellow.

Nancy: Any color you can find in a garden.

You have mentioned before that chocolate plays an important part in your writing sessions, so name your favorite type.

Lael: Peanut M&Ms. Are you sending some?

Carroll: Add some peanut butter cups!

Nancy: Right now my default chocolate choice is a mini Snickers bar, preferable frozen.

One of the greatest messages of The Company of Good Women surmises that the defining characteristic of a COB is an ability to “pull up her socks and go on". While this is certainly true, I think your readers can tell you’ve each done your share of “sock pulling”, so describe for us please, your favorite pair of socks.

Lael: Don't have a pic. Maybe I can take one. But they are knee high orange and black socks that I always wear at Halloween parties. They look very witchy.

Carroll: Mine are very Arizona, with saguaros and pictographs. But to be honest, in SE Arizona, I go sockless most of year, which necessitates pedicures and painted toenails.

Nancy: Micro fiber sleep socks! My feet are always cold. Even in the summer. My favorite pair is a friendly spring green and just baggy enough they feel like foot sweaters instead of socks.

Describe the moment when each of your characters finally “came alive” for you.

Lael: When she tripped over the dog and burned the corn chowder on the first page of the first book. I thought, "I know this woman!"

Carroll: The Erin character didn’t jell until I realized she was a convert who had an absent father.

Nancy: Deenie was alive and kicking from the get go. But the minute she insisted on making lists for everything I knew exactly how she was.

Tell us about your favorite scene that got thrown out, or didn’t make it through revisions and edits.

Lael: Nicole and Beto's wedding. DB wouldn't let me have a returned missionary (Nicole) marry a Catholic.

Carroll: For me, it’s not a scene so much as the details, interactions and minor characters who had to be cut from a scene in order to be within my allotted words. I feel a lot of juice got pressed out in that process.

Nancy: I'm with Carroll on that. But I also regret the loss of all the intricate and deeply developed story lines for the secondary characters that had to be cut.

Where is your absolute favorite place to write— alone and together.

Lael: My favorite place to write is my own cluttered little office with one of my cats on my lap.

Carroll: I’ll always go for a timeshare where I can look out the window to the beach and ocean, but I also like writing on my laptop while sitting in an overstuffed chair in my living room with my feet up on an ottoman. Doesn’t see so much like work!

Nancy: In my office. I have a bird feeder station that attracts everything from hummingbirds in season to finches to scrub jays and it’s right outside of my window. The finches nest in the ivy around the window so I have a constant stream of feathered friends to keep me company when I write.

Long-hand, short-hand, typewriter or computer? Which mode allows you to be the most productive?

Lael: Oh, computer by all means. I had too many years of typewriter!

Carroll: Let’s, see. I have tendonitis and don’t know short-hand, so the first two are out. Corrections were a pain on the typewriter, although retyping a chapter always led to tightening and revising, which was good. That leaves—ta-da!—the computer.

Nancy: Computer! It’s the spell check!

What is the one lesson your character learned during the trilogy that you wish she would teach you how to master?

Lael: How to get rid of obsessive guilt.

Carroll: Not to be so hard on myself.

Nancy: How to give my whole heart to God.

Writing a book is tough business. Writing a book with more than one author just multiplies the complexity. I bow in honor of your greatness for accomplishing this, but…. Fess up ladies, what was your biggest pet-peeve, or frustration, while writing a series with each other?

Lael: That we couldn't get together more often. We live in three different states, and somebody has to fly in whether we meet in Utah, Arizona, or California.

Carroll: Technology. When we first started out, technology was the biggest frustration. Nancy and Lael had older PCs (Lael’s only accepted old floppies!) and I had a Mac. When they upgraded and we began sharing files via thumb drives, life got a lot easier. Getting MacLink Plus, which makes virtually any kind of text file readable on a Mac, was another big help.

Nancy: Keeping pace with two more experienced writers.

Thanks for sharing ladies, it was fun! (I promise to bring chocolate to the next Storymakers conference)

Other interviews from the Surprise Packages blog tour can be found at these links.







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Monday, August 18, 2008

Unsung Lullaby by Josi S. Kilpack

I would have to say that Josi S. Kilpack’s Unsung Lullaby is my favorite book by her to date. Josi has a no-holds-barred kind of way of addressing some pretty tough issues that face the modern Latter-day Saint. That sensitive but up front style is probably what makes this particular title my favorite. It’s a subject I’m very familiar with.

The back cover captures the whole sentiment of the situation in a nutshell, “But after all the doctors, all the money, and all the prayers, all she had to show for it was a heart full of unsung lullabies.” How I felt for Josi’s Maddie. I found myself totally engrossed in walking this very difficult path with her.

No, I have not had to face the heartbreak of infertility, but many of my friends have. I have watched and listened to their struggles, I’ve tried to cheer and support them as they chose their individual paths searching for answers and solutions. I held hands and wept with others for the tiny babies that were unable to survive. I’ve also mourned with friends when insensitive and hurtful remarks were directed at them from “friends” and leaders both inside and outside of the church. If nothing else, Unsung Lullaby really drives home the message of “judge not, that ye be not judged”. You do not, and can not, know the thoughts, feelings, and desires within someone else’s heart, no matter how well you think you know them. Christ has implored us to love and care for one another, not to show our ignorance by telling others how they should be living the gospel or why certain blessings are being denied them at this place and time.

That’s the most important message for me in Unsung Lullaby. No matter what our path is, no matter what our trials, we are to love and support each other and leave the rest to God. Unsung Lullaby is also very realistic. Infertility isn’t the only challenge facing Matt and Maddie, the main characters in the book. Rather, it is in addition to the problems of every day life and the realities of what “family” can mean in a variety of circumstances. Unsung Lullaby challenges the notion of what’s worth fighting for. I like the balance of realism and sensitivity to the spirit that is present on the pages of this book. I love the way Josi shows many sides of the same story so that no matter what your experiences with infertility and teen pregnancies may be, you can find yourself within the pages of Unsung Lullaby.

Josi does not assume, nor does she try to overtly press her readers into believing that there is only one answer and method available to those who know this kind of pain. She makes it clear that any process or goal of procreation is an act of faith in the Lord and a joint partnership with Him to find the best answers for your particular situation. It is not something that the woman, or family, need to feel alone in. Though, this is often the case. When you’re arms are empty, it is a very lonely place to be. Sadly, having a well meaning friend say, “I know how you feel” often only serves to make things worse. Even if our circumstances are very similar, we can not know another’s heart. That’s another reason I feel Unsung Lullaby is such a great literary blessing: it offers a safe haven, a world outside of your own to either understand a friend’s heartache better, or explore your own without judgment or bias.

In the coming months I’ll touch on a few other titles by Josi Kilpack, including her newest title, due out in September: Her Good Name. Josi is definitely an author worth reading and watching for great things.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Mist of Quarry Harbor by Liz Adair

Shame on me. I finally got my curriculum outline and should be hard at work on my next project, but what did I do yesterday? I read a book.

I'd picked up The Mist of Quarry Harbor by Liz Adair a while ago and never had a chance to read it. It turns out I just needed a good procrastination excuse. All it took was a very tight book deadline to mull over and suddenly I wanted nothing more than to read a good book.

I chose The Mist of Quarry Harbor for its mysterious cover. I have to admit, a boat in the middle of nowhere was a very appealing idea at the moment. Plus, I liked the back cover blurb because I could completely relate.

“The sheets were damp and cold as Cassie climbed into bed. She shivered, aching with loneliness. . . . Cassie lay listening to the creaking timbers of the old hotel, and tears slid down her face.

It doesn’t matter what answers I find, she thought. Nothing will ever be the same.

“It was in that twilight between wakefulness and sleep that she wondered how she could find any answers when she didn’t even know the questions.”

My choice did not disappoint me at all.

The Mist of Quarry Harbor was a quick, engrossing read that I thoroughly enjoyed escaping my own life through. After all, I was certainly better off than the main character in Ms. Adair's tale of intrigue. I was at first a bit skeptical, however. The Mist of Quarry Harbor begins very heavily based in romance and I'm afraid I'm totally romance impaired. I just don't get it. I found myself immediately suspicious of all the motives behind the mush. I don't know if a “normal” woman would have been or not, but I certainly have a problem with men who seem so focused on wooing women. They just make me suspicious, so I had a hard time relating to the Cassie’s choices. Oh, I do have moments when I'd like to be adored, but I much prefer feeling safe and understood. I'm just weird that way.

Even with a choice that I tell myself I never would have made, I couldn't help falling in love with the overall story. No, romance may not be my downfall but I have made my own fair share of bad choices. I’ve found myself in enough places I never would have chosen to be in that it was an easy transition to empathy for the characters and story. I loved it even more when the mush toned down and the intrigue settled in full force.

Liz Adair is a very talented storyteller. She manages to keep and hold your attention, whether you think the story is your “thing” or not. There are twists and turns that aren't always easily understood and some that are just plain obvious. It's a good mixture.

Sadly, despite all of the pitfalls experienced by the character in Quarry Harbor, I'm wondering how to convince my husband to sell our home and buy a boat to live on. I'm in love with her beautiful and poetic descriptions of all the settings in the book. I already have a soft spot for Arizona as it is, but Quarry Harbor in Washington left me hungry for that type of peaceful experience. Just as soon as I can figure out how to get over my tendency toward motion sickness.

I think I would definitely have to classify The Mist of Quarry Harbor as a women's romantic suspense title. Most men would probably see right through the “love interest” as well. I think most guys would probably roll their eyes and agree with me that any guy who acted like that wanted something and it had very little to do with noble qualities they may or may not possess. Still, if you had your hubby skip those first few mushy chapters, I think even they would appreciate the story of adventure, sailing, cops, robbers, and mistaken identities.

Now I have to get back to work on my own latest “masterpiece”, but you can bet I’m keeping one eye peeled for Liz’s next title.

Liz Adair writes the “Service” column for yourLDSneighborhood. If you need a lift, visit her blog at http://sezlizadair.blogspot.com/

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Book Lover’s Cookbook by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen

I was excited to see this fun cookbook become available in a paperback version. Though hardbound is more durable, I could only wistfully check it out of the library from time to time rather than afford the hardbound price. When I discovered the release of the less expensive version it was in my hand very quickly.

Have you ever wanted to curl up in a comfortable chair and read a cookbook from beginning to end? Well, this is one time you definitely will want to. Really, I’m not that weird. The Book Lover’s Cookbook by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen is a little different than reading that red and white checked cookbook you got at your bridal shower and think you can’t get rid of. Take a plate of your favorite reading munchies, get comfortable and get ready to be inspired.

The Book Lover’s Cookbook is part recipe book and part a walk down a literary memory lane. Within its covers you’ll find passages from a wide variety of books, quotes from different authors and, oh by the way, recipes that have been derived and inspired by those books. It’s a veritable feast of both words and food. Some of the recipes are a bit to complicated or extravagant for my basic and easily distracted personality but there is enough variety to satisfy anyone’s tummy rumblings. You’ll find recipes for every meal and course imaginable, many of which will become favorites.

To give you a “taste” (ha! I crack myself up sometimes) of the types of yummy recipes you’ll find in The Book Lover’s Cookbook, here are a few of my personal favorites:

Stack of Pancakes— from The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

A Real Man’s Quiche— from Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche by Bruce Feirstein

Macaroni and Cheese—from A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

New Road Chicken Pies (a.k.a. Turnovers)—from Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now by Maya Angleou

Mother’s Chocolate Pecan Pie – from Errands by Judith Guest


Sugar and Spice Cake—from Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

I have to confess, however, that I failed miserably when I tried making “Pooh’s Honey Kisses”, but I don’t think that was really a recipe problem. I’m just sadly lacking in candy-making genes. (Really. I can’t even make Rice Crispy Treats and I only get No-bake cookies right about half the time.)

As you can tell by my list, my tastes lean toward simple and traditional, but you’ll find more distinguished dishes as well. For example:

Good Times Roasted Garlic Chicken with Mushroom and Black Olive Stuffing—from Even the Stars Look Lonesome by Maya Angelou

(Stuffed Pig Stomach with) Oyster Filling—from “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll

Tianjin Dumplings—from Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

Emma’s Curried Shrimp with Snow Peas and Apples—from The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney

Matanni’s Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Soup—from Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio


Turkish Delight— from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Are you hungry yet? It doesn’t matter if that hunger is for food or the written word, go get a copy of The Book Lover’s Cookbook by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen and you can make it all better. ;)

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Preparedness Principles by Barbara Salsbury

I just cleaned off several books from my reference shelf and replaced them with Preparedness Principles by Barbara Salsbury. I found that Preparedness Principles covers a lot of the same material I’d gone to other books for, but in a more concise manner. Barbara Salsbury has a no nonsense way of saying, “Here’s what you need to know and here’s what you need to do” for a variety of difficult situations we may be faced with. The fun part is, you get to use this reference for little things and big things, plus you don’t really mind picking it up for no good reason at all. It’s interesting bathroom material that makes you say, “huh, I never thought of that before” and happening to “think” about it might be more important than you ever “thought”.

Preparedness Principles stresses assessing your own situation and preparing for those things you are most likely to face, but it also cautions not to feel you are immune to difficulties. Covered topics include food storage, disaster preparedness, financial security, basic survival principles as well as how to do all those everyday things we don’t think about until we can’t do them, like: washing your clothes and finding clean water or a bathroom when there isn’t one.

There is realistic information about those “staple” foods many LDS people use as their food storage, never touching it and ignoring what they really eat on a daily basis. Ms. Salsbury discusses where to start with this “bare bones” type of food storage and how much you need, but she doesn’t leave it at that. She also tells you exactly what you can expect from that type of storage and where to begin supplementing it. Preparedness Principles offers reasonable and realistic plans and motivators for all of our basic survival needs as well as practical advice on how, when and where to begin. Plus, she includes basic recipes for basic items and a substitution reference that rivals my Fanny Farmer and Amish cookbooks.

It also covers practical storage tips, like what is safe to store food in and what is not, and what to do with all those bugs and other nasties that seem to appear overnight and ruin your hard work. Preparedness Principles also includes basic outlines for building practical storage options within your own home and placing storage items in all of those fun “creative” places you can ever imagine.

I loved that in her discussion about alternative heat sources, she provides gentle suggestions that warmth and heat are comfort items serving as more than a means to survival. I appreciate her suggestions to not only have a supply of firewood on hand (if you choose a wood burning stove) but to also tuck away a few “morale boosters” in the form of familiar scents that can be released through the heat. (Think homemade potpourri and air fresheners concepts.) This is just one aspect of other such suggestions throughout the book. Ms. Salsbury is very mindful of the stress any emergency situation can bring and tries to provide helpful items to think about making available for these times. Heaven forbid you evacuate your home without the favorite binky, blanky, or bear.

For every facet of preparing for things that are beyond our control by storing away security in many forms, Barbara Salsbury makes planning for an uncertain future easy to understand and manageable. Now, if she could only infuse a little motivation into the book that would seep from the pages, through my fingers and into my brain so I could put all of her good advice to use I’d be in good shape. But I guess that’s another plus in this book’s favor. Ms. Salsbury doesn’t give the impression that you must do everything in the book and do it now; she walks with you on whatever level you’re at to make the most of what you can do. Perhaps it’s one Family Home Evening a month or one Saturday a month when you can choose a section and just see what you can do with it.

Any way it goes, I have put away a few of those thicker reference books that I never referred to and replaced it with one book, Preparedness Principles by Barbara Salsbury. She seems to understand me better than a lot of those other extremists.

Want a taste of what Barbara Salsbury can do for you? I’ve found her blog and website to also be a great place to turn for quick food for thought.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Surprise Packages by Anderson, Littke, and Morris

For those of you who have been anxiously waiting for the third and final installment of The Company of Good Women series, it’s here! Surprise Packages by Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke, and Carroll Hofeling Morris is now available and you won’t be disappointed. Surprise Packages is a little like going to a family reunion. There are those few awkward moments at the beginning, where you’re trying to fit everybody’s names, faces and places together, but once you’ve figured it out the next hours fly by as your caught up in each other’s lives.

Surprise Packages contains a few of those awkward moments in the first handful of pages as the authors tried to reacquaint you with the characters. Every once in a while I’d stumble over a sentence or two that said something current about a character then followed it up with an, “Oh by the way, in case you forgot or didn’t know this is what has happened to them already and where they’re coming from” moment. But once everybody is done saying, “Hi, remember me?” you’ll settle down for a long and rewarding talk with women who are just like the rest of us— struggling and learning their way through life in the best ways they know how.

Willadene (written by Nancy), Erin (written by Carroll), and Juneau (written by Lael) are coming to the last years of their Crusty Old Broads pact. It was interesting and enlightening for me to see them make this final leg of their journey and begin evaluating their lives in terms of accomplished COBhood. They reflect and move forward, piecing together the good, and the not-so-good parts of their lives. These women accept each other as they are and in turn make you feel safe to journey with them from whatever point you happen to be at in your life, without ever feeling preached to or condemned for your own inadequacies. If you treat them as the dear friends the authors are trying to offer you, you’ll find wisdom you can turn to for some of life’s answers that worry us all.

I especially appreciate the philosophy behind this title. Through the character’s own introspection and insights, Surprise Packages explores the way decisions, actions, and inactions, affect the future we are trying to create. They point out that the best way to make any decision is to look toward the future we are aiming for and see how it would affect our course. But even then it’s not always easy to see what will come out of the box when we get further down the road. We can try our best to put the things that matter most to us in the box, wrap and tie it with all the love and knowledge born of our experiences, but ultimately when that package is re-opened, the contents are up to the Lord. Sometimes He lays out our contributions in a nice order and assembles the pieces into great blessings. Sometimes He places a box inside our box and offers us an additional choice, “I know you wanted this, but what would you think of choosing this instead?” And sometimes, it’s just a plain surprise what the elements of our lives can be mixed up to become. All-in-all the greatest message of Surprise Packages is to remember we’re not wrapping our lives up for ourselves only, but the rather, the best choice is to create a life that is as beautiful as we can make it, then hand our wrapped box over to God. He alone can create the sweetest and most valuable surprises from our lives.

After reading Surprise Packages, I would encourage each of you to spend a few minutes to ponder the “Discovery Questions” on the very last page. Take some quiet time and see how you would answer each question; write down what you have learned, what has inspired you, where you have found room for gentle growth. Write it down and perhaps someday someone will be calling you a Crusty (or crazy, your pick) Old Broad, as well.

Thank you Nancy, Lael and Carroll for a very satisfying end to a long journey in The Company of Good Women. I can’t think of better fictional mentors than you have shared with us. It was an awesome journey and the surprises found in Surprise Packages are both comforting and inspiring.

These three lovely ladies will stop by my blog again toward the end of their virtual book tour to answer a few questions. I’m cooking up some goodies, I promise. We’ll enjoy their company on August 22nd. See you then!

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