Saturday, March 27, 2010

Souls Of Valor

Today I'm delighted to review a newly released book published by Granite Publishing, "Souls of Valor." This book touches my heart for a myriad of reasons, including the fact that it was written by my baby sister, Trudi Jackson. =) I happen to know the work she put into this novel and she has done a great job of capturing a challenging time during the era that includes World War I and the Flu Epidemic of 1918.

There are two main characters: Elizabeth Randall, and Alex Cannigan. Elizabeth is a young woman from Boston who travels west to a small Idaho community known as Grays Lake. A schoolteacher, she will face the challenge of teaching students in a one-room schoolhouse. While she struggles to adapt to this foreign environment, the other main character, Alex Cannigan, is recovering in an army hospital from wounds he received while fighting in the war. Elizabeth's doctor brother links the two of them as pen pals, hoping to draw Alex out of a state of depression.

Initially, Elizabeth and Alex clash. Elizabeth is a newly baptized member of the LDS Church, and she is full of hope for the future. Alex is jaded by the war and the destruction he has witnessed. A passionate debate ensues as they share what is in their hearts. In time they become friends, but as their relationship develops, a flu pandemic turns Elizabeth's world upside down. The tables are turned as it falls to Alex to help Elizabeth regain her fervor for life.

Filled with intrigue, historic flavor, and a touch of romance, this is a book that most will enjoy. And if you order it now, you will get a great deal. Priced at $16.95, you can currently purchase it for $10.95 if you order it from Granite Publishing now. Click on this link: "Souls of Valor" to learn more details.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuning Out the Myriad Voices

Have you noticed in today's world, that finding silence is quite a challenge? We live in an age where a variety of technological gadgets are plentiful. New inventions are constantly being touted and we suddenly find that we can't live without the Plutonium Bangheadagainstthewallous, or the FracturousEardrummonumentalstereophonic. Etc. ;)

I know I'm seldom without my cell phone. People can reach me wherever I chance to be. Surround-sound TV sets with HD technology bring I-Max sight and sound into our living and family rooms. Computers now fit in the palm of our hands. We twitter, lose face on book, send text messages and blog, not to mention e-mail.

My question is, when do we take time to ponder life's mysteries? With all of this noise taking place and following us wherever we chance to roam, when and where do we draw the line on behalf of serene calm?

Maybe I'm different than most (and I've been told that my entire life . . . I'm not sure it was ever a compliment now that I think about it, but I digress) but I crave silence. I like time alone to think and ponder. I do my best writing when the house is silent, which explains my early morning writing sessions. That time of day, most people are still asleep. I'll wake up around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and have the best ideas ever for a new scene for whatever book I'm working on. I've learned that if I ignore the ideas when they surface, rolling over in bed to pull the pillow over my face, that inspiration fades by light of day.

I suppose this craving for peace and quiet is why I love going to the temple. What an opportunity for spiritual solitude. If people speak at all, it's done in whispers, encouraging a reverent oasis. Cell phones are to be shut off and preferably left in the car. I always leave that sacred place feeling edified.

At home, when I'm the only one there, I very rarely turn on any kind of techno-gadget, with the exception of the computer. And that is when I get the most work done, whether it's with regard to a manuscript, a blog post, polishing recently taken photos for a future DVD, or to prepare a lesson for YW---the realm where I'm currently serving.

There are also times when I crave what I call a "water moment." I grew up around impressive bodies of water, and this may be why when I start feeling bogged down by life, I'll climb inside my car and go for a little jaunt. In the area where I live, I don't have to travel too far to find a quiet place of beauty near a lake, a waterfall, or a small creek where I can sit and contemplate all that is troubling me. I always come away feeling refreshed.

I suspect finding quiet times is important in today's noisy world. We are constantly bombarded by music, ring-tones, twittering, etc. I think there is a portion of ourselves that is screaming out for silence. So today, I challenge all of you to find moments of peace. Your inner self will thank you someday. ;)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Socks for the Homeless

LDS Author Tristi Pinkston is sponsoring a worthy endeavor to gather sock for the homeless. It is a project tied to her latest book, "Secret Sisters," which is being released on March 16th.

Check out the details on this blog post:

Secret Sisters

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Little Foggy on the Grand Canyon

Wow, the past week flew by. True, we had a few adventures, including a major surgery for my mother-in-law last Monday (March 1st). She got out of the hospital yesterday and is currently recovering at my abode.

Two days after the surgery took place, Kennon and I headed south, on our way to Arizona. We had planned this trip earlier, before we learned that my m-i-l was going under the knife, and when things seemed to work out okay for Kennon's mother, we followed through on our original plan.

We wanted to get away from the winter weather that thrives in our neck of the woods for lo these many months, and I wanted to see a dear friend who lives in Arizona. So we headed out on Wednesday night (March 3rd.)

We met up with some good friends in Brigham City for dinner later that night. (Great to see you, Shelley Clan!) Then we drove down to Provo, where we stayed the night. The next morning, we left Provo, on our way to Las Vegas.

As we traveled along, we received text messages from family and friends, verifying that the weather was turning nasty up in Idaho. We snickered and sent them a picture I captured with my camera phone of the beautiful blue sky we were enjoying. They were jealous. But we shouldn't have bragged. As we approached Cedar City, we hit a blizzard of huge proportions. So within minutes we went from this:

To this lovely state of things:

And it didn't let up until we reached St. George. We pulled into a rest stop and were stunned by the accumulation of snow in that location.

In St. George, we saw a huge shift in the weather. It changed from a horrid snowy mess to almost blue sky. (My arthritis loved this game. For those who don't get what I'm saying, changes in weather conditions tends to aggravate arthritis joy. I felt somewhat like a yo-yo. Good times!)

Vegas was sooo warm! We loved it! Hated the graphic porn trash that seemed evident everywhere, but loved the warm temperature. (Vegas is no longer family friendly, something I had heard a couple of years ago. The last time Kennon and I ventured this direction, Las Vegas was still catering to families. My how times have changed.)

We stayed in the Excalibur motel and after checking in, we went to see some positive attractions that are still available in sin city. We started with the Mandalay Bay Aquarium, where we saw a plethora of fishies and other assorted water creatures.

We also walked around the famed "strip" and savored places like M & M World [okay, I was the one who savored M & M World. Kennon tolerated it. ;)]

and Bellagio where we enjoyed the dancing fountains.

The next morning, we left Las Vegas and drove over Hoover Dam and waved at Lake Mead.

This is where we entered Arizona! Way cool!

We linked up with Kerry & Gary in Chino Valley and had a wonderful time exploring nearby Prescott. Here Kerry is showing me that snow really does exist in Arizona.

After enjoying a collection of historic buildings in Prescott, and a handful of fun antique stores, we headed to The Palace, a fun historic restaurant located on the famed "Whiskey Row." The food was wonderful, the atmosphere was charming, and the conversation was lively.

We met up the next day and headed out for a fun sight-seeing adventure. Kerry and Gary were great tour guides. First we travled down to Black Canyon City, stopping to see the famed saguaro cactus. We learned that this particular cactus only grows in one section of Arizona, and they are only found in the state of Arizona, and in Mexico.

Next we headed to Verde Valley to what is known as Montezuma's Castle. There we saw really neat Indian ruins located in the cliffs. This is where the Sinagua tribe once lived.

After we spent quite a bit of time exploring this beautiful valley, we grabbed a bite of lunch, and then journeyed to a wonderful ghost town called Jerome. It was once a mining community. The mine closed years ago and it's a fun place to visit, complete with historic sites and touristy shops filled with treasures. It reminds me of a combination of Lava (Idaho), Jackson (Wyoming), and Park City (Utah).

All too soon, it was time to leave Kerry and Gary in Chino Valley. (Love you guys--and thanks again for EVERYTHING!!!) And off we ventured toward the infamous Grand Canyon. This was a place that neither of us had ever seen before and we were excited. Kerry had warned that northern Arizona can be hit with wintry storms this time of year, and she was right. We had only spent about 20 minutes admiring the "deep hole" as Kerry calls it, when disaster struck. A winter storm descended, and the canyon filled with fog so thick it could have been cut. ;) Nice.

So we went from seeing impressive views like this:

To this:

Je suis sure! Or in other words, less than cool!!! Murphy's Law hit us with a fury. Sigh . . . But it was still beautiful, and as we journeyed home, we continued to see wonderful things like this:

And this:

Bottom line, I fell in love with Arizona this past week. What a scenic, beautiful state. And I am extremely grateful for the chance we had to journey down that way. I'm already plotting for future adventures down the road. ;)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book Review

I've been asked to review a book that is being released on April 1st of 2010. As you can see from the picture above, it is a work by the late, W. Cleon Skousen entitled, "The Cleansing of America," published by Valor Publishing.

To be honest, I had never heard of this author. (Don't make fun. Just because everyone else I've talked to knew all about him, that doesn't mean I'm lacking in the gray cell department.) To atone for my lack of knowledge, I did a little research. I learned the following:

1) Cleon was born in Canada in 1913, and grew up in Canada, Mexico, and California. His parents were United States citizens, but they had been asked to help settle an LDS colony in the Alberta area of Canada. The Skousen family lived on a dry farm in that location. When he was older, Cleon spent time in Mexico, helping an ill grandmother who was part of the Mormon colony in Colonia, Juarez.

2) He served an LDS mission to Great Britain in 1930.

3) He attended San Bernadino Jr. College in California. He later attended George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C. and graduated in 1940 with a Juris Doctor (JD) law degree.

4) He served as an United States government aid in Washington D.C.

5) He married Jewel Pitcher in 1936. They had 8 children.

6) He served as an FBI agent for 16 years.

7) He was asked to join the Brigham Young University faculty in 1951 where he served as head of the Student Alumni organization. He also taught religion courses at this same university from 1967 until his retirement in 1978.

8) He served as police chief of Salt Lake City for four years.

9) His first book was published in 1958, "The Naked Communist." He went on to publish numerous other books and several of his speeches were recorded. Most of these are still available on this website.

10) In 1972, he organized "The Freeman Institute," a non-profit educational foundation, which held seminars to teach youth about the Constitution of the United States.

11) Cleon lived to be almost 93 years old. He passed away 11 days shy of this achievement in 2006.

Cleon Skousen left an unpublished manuscript with his family, instructing them to seek its publication when the time was right. This is the book entitled: "The Cleansing of America." Based on years of research, this book lists the prophecies made about the latter-days, and Brother Skousen's opinion of what will take place as a result.

It is an interesting work, and I believe it will inspire many to seek out and study the prophecies for themselves. It is obvious that Brother Skousen has put tremendous effort into this final book. Borrowing from the preface: "The Cleansing of America," is the culmination of several years of research, writing, and speaking on the subject of prophecy and the latter days relative to the United States."

I would add one cautionary bit of advice: If you're like me at all, some of the things predicted for the future sound downright scary. However, I firmly believe that we will be watched over and protected, according to the heed we give important standards and commandments. I also believe that if we'll observe the counsel given to us by our prophet, and other general authorities, as well as our inspired local priesthood leaders, we will be guided in knowing how best to prepare for the days ahead. Remember always that faith and fear cannot reside within the same heart.