Sunday, November 15, 2020

We Never Know

Roland at the bus station before we said goodbye

Six hours is way too long. I hate long drives, and even more than the drive, I hate making it longer by stopping.

“I need to go to the bathroom.”

“You can hold it.” I call back.

“I’m hungry.”

“There are plenty of old cheerios and fries jammed in those seats back there.”

“Is that the gas light?”

“No...maybe...we can make it.”

So it was a surprise when the sudden desire to pull over for the man who looked like a vagrant walking along the highway came over me. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised; Anyone who reads my blog knows I don’t mind meeting new people under the strangest of circumstances, but the problem with people on the highway is a problem that fits best in a jr. high math class:

If a van is traveling the highway at 75 mph and passes a vagrant walking at 2 mph how long does the driver have to notice the vagrant and decide to pull over before he is so far down the road that the driver feels it’s too late?

That is exactly what has happened to me many times. I flinch and the slightest hesitancy at 75 mph makes it too late (probably not really but that is how I feel, which makes me hesitate again and then it's really too late; well, probably not really but that is how I feel, which makes me hesitate again and then it’s really really too late. Well, probably not really but that is how...you get the idea.)

And what causes us to flinch? Many things: We have all heard of stories of people getting picked up and then them finding bodies on the side of the road a short time later. In addition, at this time we were in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our leadership had instructed us to avoid one another; what better reason is there than that? And of course, number three, I don’t want to get involved (I wrote on this earlier, so reference that here.) And don’t get me wrong, your safety is a valid reason to debate, but I can attest that I felt a real clear impression to pick him up.

The difference this time was I didn’t hesitate. It likely helped that I had recently gone through a similar situation and Jeanine had been nothing but supportive (she really is amazing). I quickly followed the impression and pulled off the road only 100 or so feet in front of the traveler, which, if you are still following the math problem, means I have lightning fast reflexes.

A short, skinny man carrying a small plastic bag and a longboard got in the front seat. We were traveling, so our front seat was covered with snacks, garbage, diaper bag, etc. We pushed what we could to the side and tried to pass the longboard back so he could jam in.

“Thanks for picking me up. I can give you money for gas,” He offers as he gets situated.

“That’s okay. What’s your name?”

“Ronald.”

“Where you off to?”

“Las Vegas.” His voice was soft and had a sort of accent, and the two made him very hard to understand.

“We can take you to St. George, but you will have to get the rest of the way from there. Why are you going to Las Vegas?”

“I live there. Is it far?”

“Las Vegas?” He nods. “It’s still at least a three hour drive.”

He looks perplexed. “That’s far. But you can’t take me there?”

“No, we are only going to St. George.”

“Okay, I’ll walk from St. George.”

“That’s a long walk. I’m not sure you want to do that.”

He looks concerned, as if to say, ‘what other choice do I have?’ but just says “I mean I will get there tonight?”

“Not if you walk you won’t.”

We are rolling down the road by this point and we offer him something to eat and a water. He graciously takes both. Finishes the whole water quickly, we offer him another, he again finishes quickly, so we offer another, again with the same result. It’s clear he is very thirsty and has nothing to eat or drink in sometime. “How long have you been walking?”

“About 2 hours. You sure I couldn’t get a bike or something in St. George, so I could ride it to Vegas”

“That would still be a long ride. What are you doing in Utah?”

“They drove me up last night to help them move a big chair, but then I lost my friend at the gas station. Could you get me close to Vegas?”

“I’m sorry I need to stop in St. George. So, you like to longboard?”

“No. You can have that. I don’t know how to use it. I just found it on the side of the road.” He goes on to show me what was in the little bag he was carrying, other things he had found on the side of the road. An old political flyer, a paper license plate, a metal hunk of a broken car.

As we spoke a picture of what was going on began to become clear. This was not a homeless vagrant as we had guessed. While he was hard to understand, the more I learned the more I realized this was an adult, who was very much a child. He lived in a group home, didn’t know his phone number, could tell us the basic location but not the address. And no matter what I said I could tell that deep down all he could think about was how could he get home tonight.

It was like you losing your 8 year old at the gas station, them not knowing what to do and then they start walking home, when they are 300 miles away. Why didn’t people stop and help him, after all if you saw a young child in need walking along the highway wouldn’t you stop? But he didn’t ask, and he didn’t look like an 8 year old. He looked like a vagrant, someone who knew what they were doing walking down a highway, if such a thing exists.

We were lucky. The Salt Lake express was running from St. George to Las Vegas, we got him a ticket and made sure he got on the bus. The bus line was super helpful and let him stay with them until our amazingly generous friend, Jason Segedy, (who was willing to pick up a total stranger at midnight at the drop of a hat) picked him up and took him back to his group home.

I wonder what would have happened to our friend Ronald had we not picked him up. It was hot, very hot, he had no water, no food, night was coming. Even picking him up, it took us a lot of conversation, hard to understand conversation, to realize what he really needed and that giving him a ride part way and then dropping him off would likely just put him back into the same situation. I hope that if we had missed him that someone else would have picked him up. That they would have taken the time to figure out what was going on and what he really needed. But if you had been the car behind me would you have stopped?

Now I don’t doubt that if you would have known the situation, essentially a child, hundreds of miles from his home, lost and just hoping to get back, that you would have acted. But that’s it, we never know. We need to make split second decisions when traveling at the breakneck pace that society sets for us, whether to stop and put our own lives on hold to help others, or to stay in the fast lane. And if we don’t watch, listen, and be prepared to set aside our priorities we will leave Ronald and so many others like him lost on the side of the road.



Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Rain Circle - The other view point.

 

The Rain Circle - The other view point.

While walking up in the high parts of Puno, me and my mission companion (I was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) got into sharing stories from different parts of our lives. One story that really became a focal point for me was the story he told me about the “rain circle”.

As a young child his mother had warned him about rain circles, rain circles you see are rainbows but rather than the arch shape you typically see with rainbows, rain circles form a perfect circle. The rain circle will typically form around the sun. However once spotted, they then will fall down and encircle the viewer, though this may seem like a beautiful and serendipitous encounter it has a most heinous outcome. The viewer once encircled will encounter death. You can always tell when someone has been killed by a rain circle because they will have a certain coloration in their skin, just a little remnant left behind by the rain circle. There is however one way to protect yourself from a rain circle. Once the viewer has spotted the rain circle they must pee a circle around themselves and stay within confines of the circle until the rain circle has passed. The pee circle you see protects you from the rain circle. Treding even a foot beyond the pee circle while in the presence of a rain circle could mean eminent death.

My companion went on to state that once he and his friend were once walking out in the countryside when they spotted the rain circle. They of course were well aware of the legend so naturally they peed out a circle and stayed safely inside until the rain circle had passed.

I walked on and was waiting for some kind of punch line to the story, but looked over at my companion and realized he wasn’t telling a joke, he was serious. I then started to giggle. He turned and looked hurt by my laughing and stated, “What is so funny”. I then said, with much amusement, “Not only is there no such thing as a rain circle, but even if it did exist which it doesn’t, it most certainly wouldn’t kill you!” I laughed and I laughed and I laughed some more, to which my mission companion shot back at me, “My mother wouldn’t lie to me about that kind of thing”. I laughed some more and I protested at the ridiculousness of his notion and he protested back. It wasn’t long before it was clear we were in two different camps when it came to rain circles and there simply would be no compromise. I wiped my tears away, my laugh is ridiculously large and breathy, and we both decided to leave the issue behind us.

Though we didn’t agree on rain circles we grew to be close friends, we shared many a laugh together, but as fate would have it after 6 weeks he was summoned to go serve on an Island out in the middle of Lake Titicaca. I stayed in my area with a new Elder that was assigned to work with me. A few days after he arrived we were walking through the same remote part of town up in the highlands where my old companion had first told me the story of the rain circle; when my new companion blurted “Hey look, a rain circle”. I in awe said “What?” Sure enough I looked up to see none other than a rainbow but in a perfectly formed circle.

This served as a lesson for me, I simply don’t know everything there is to know. “The world is wide” I tell myself. If I hear something that is beyond crazy I try to think, I don’t know everything and maybe there is truth to this. A few weeks after spotting the rain circle, I was told of the story about Kharisiri; a person who steals fat from people for evil purposes. Once the fat has been taken, usually without the victim knowing, it will leave the victim feeling sick and no western medicine can help. The only cure is to walk with a lamb to a holy spot in the mountains, which can only be found by someone who has made the journey before. Once there you have to then sacrifice the lamb and perform a ritual and then start the journey home. If you make it back successfully you, or the loved one you made the journey for, will be cured. Those who don’t do this, will have a slow, gradual but painful death.

When I heard this story I so wanted to say “Wow there are people stealing fat from people! People would pay good money for that in America, and to think they do it free of charge here.” But I thought back to the rain circle and kept an open mind and said instead: “Wow I had no idea that happened.” The teller then went on to tell me about their personal story, an encounter with a Kharisiri, which was truly a captivating story and one I never would have heard if I would have gone with my original gut comment.

Recently, I have thought back to the story of the rain circle. Our nation seems unrecognizably divided, the two sides thinking that the other side is utterly incomprehensible. Each side dehumanizes the other. The story of the rain circle however reminds me to accept the lived experiences of others. I often think that if I were to have lived the life that the other person had lived, that I would probably see the logic in their point of view. I still think disagreements are healthy but all sides can benefit from a bit of humility and an ounce of compassion. For there may come a day where you too might look up and say, “O gosh there is a rain circle”.

Lastly you might be wondering what I did when I saw the rain circle? Well, naturally I did as anyone would do when encountered with a rain circle, well anyone who survives to tell the tale that is.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Real Pandemic



I can’t help but notice while COVID has substantial risk to our country it is not the pandemic that worries me the most, nor is it the one that is most common among Americans today. The problem with this other pandemic is not only that it is much more pervasive but those who have it rarely recognize it, it’s highly contagious, and it attacks the fabric that holds our society together, the ability to live peaceably with others.

What is this pandemic? To introduce it I bring in a concept that is a very popular topic among those who are loyal to our current president but before I do I must be careful to note that this pandemic equally affects all parties and political creeds. Early in Trump's presidency his supporters started touting the idea that pundits and die-hards on the left had come down with Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). The idea that Trump was the embodiment of evil, that everything in their life that was bad came because of him. TDS blinded them from noticing or admitting if he did anything right. It allowed them to categorize and minimize his supporters. That they were dumb, uneducated, backwoods folks who don’t know what’s best for them. This also allowed them to turn a blind eye to the reality that there must be something real, something worth paying attention to in the moment that elected him. Something they needed to learn from and change.

In my humble opinion TDS is real. I believe far too many people have it to one degree or another, but that is not the pandemic I am writing about. And part of the reason is BDS or Biden Derangement Syndrome is just as real. There are just as many on the right who can’t accept any discussion or recognition to anything good that this man has done. They envision him as a socialist baby killer who can’t wait to destroy the economy by taking from the hard working and giving it to the lazy. They equally begin to believe that any rational decent person couldn’t vote for Biden.

If I said right now that I am endorsing Biden and you cringe you have BDS. If everytime you see a yard sign that says Trump Pence you negatively judge the person who owns the home you have TDS and if you hear a business owner is supporting Biden and you think you’ll take your business elsewhere you have BDS. I hope you get the idea. The truth is that the decision about who to support for President is nuanced. There are so many factors that impact it. Yet we often try to trivialize it down to one issue or topic.

As an example, I am a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, while not every member is Pro-Life, I think it is safe to say that a majority of active members feel that protecting the unborn is an important issue, I for sure do. But it pains me when I see members of my church who support Biden get attacked online because of his stance on one issue. In doing this they turn a blind eye to many other issues. And I feel the same for those who get attacked for supporting Trump. But he’s an immoral bully, they say. 

What do I do if I have a I don’t want to vote for a canidate who will increase access to abortion or a immoral bully? If I belive Biden will increse access to abortion and that Trump is an immoral bully than I have to pick one, vote for someone that has zero chance of winning or not vote. Those are my options. And I only list this as one example. There are hundreds if not thousands of nuanced decisions that go into a voting decision. My point is I know smart, moral, and well thought out men and women who will be voting for Biden and Trump. If you don’t, you have blinders on and need to cure yourself of TDS or BDS. How? I’ll get to that in a second, but first:

I still have not told you the real pandemic. Biden and Trump in time will dissipate and will become like Mitt and Obama or old. Whatever your feelings for or against them may change (has your views of Romney changed?) and their importance will diminish as the spotlight moves onto someone else. This is not about Trump and Biden. The pandemic is perhaps best called PDS, Political Derangement Syndrome. The disease that makes us think that our political views are the only ones worth having. That allows us to instantly judge, in a negative light those who don’t think or believe as we do. This to me is far more pervasive than racism, sexism or any other ism, but has all the same impacts. I saw it with the Black Lives Matter movement, on both sides. People lost jobs over things their relatives said on facebook. Like all political movements there were a huge amount of things that went into the BLM movement, any honest person no matter their political views probably agreed and supported some of them and disagreed with others. Therefore it’s perfectly rational for people to either support or not support the movement. The problem is we pick which side of the political world we sit on then we only look at the negative issues and the most extreme supporters of the other side all while turning a blind eye to the fact that our side, whatever it may be, has those same problems.

The problem with this is obvious. The worst and most dangerous enemies are always from within. Internal division, the endless desire to focus on what divides us over what unites us is far more likely to destroy our nation and our economy than is China, Coronavirus, Hurricanes or a Nuclear Bomb. So how do we cure it? 

  1. Accept that you are wrong at times. Politicians and policies we love aren't always as good as we thought. And sometimes ones we thought would be horrible end up not that bad.

  2. Make sure you have close friends who disagree with you. Most people, the more we get to know them the more we like them. If you have a black lives matter and Biden poster in your front yard, invite the neighbor with the Trump and All Lives matter poster in theirs. And don’t talk about politics. Find out that you have far more in common and that they are really good people. People worth loving, people worth listening to, not to belittle and unfriend on social media or more importantly in life.

  3. Talk politics with those who disagree with you, not to persuade but to listen. I know I just said don’t talk politics with the neighbor you disagree with. And not to disagree but to understand. You will be surprised when you ask, Why are you voting for Biden? They won’t say because he kills babies and wants to destroy our economy. They likely have reasons that if you really listen, not just superficially long enough to see a weakness and attack, that they have really worthwhile reasons.

This year is very interesting for me. The man I respect most politically, my father, and I will likely be voting for different candidates. I think we agree on 90% of political issues, but we predict different outcomes based on the votes. Is he right? Maybe, I for sure can’t say with any certainty that I am. But I feel good that the vote I am making is right. Likewise there is a decent chance my wife and I vote differently this year. There was a time in my life that this would really bother me. That it would lead to endless arguments, endless focus on how we see things differently. But this year I am very at peace with both my decision and theirs. And at peace is a great place to be.

If we want more of it we need to fight this pandemic.


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Give me the *&%*# Hammer and how we can learn from construction workers.

 

Construction Workers

This week my Mother is having some construction work done at her home, and I happen to be there, also working from home. I have forgotten how angry and full of vitriol some construction sites can be. As the concrete pumper truck begn to flow so did the swear words. Now don't get me wrong I have worked on concrete jobs and they are stressful. Once the truck starts pouring there is no turning back. 

They yelled, they cussed, they called each other totally inappropriate names. And as a team they got together and did an amazing job.  As the job was complete they laughed together, told jokes and were clearly once again the best of friends. 

My point is not that we all need to expand our vocabulary by the extensive use of swear words so we can get more accomplished. No, I would just assume go without the anger and swearwords, but what we could learn is the lesson they teach on forgiveness and not taking offense. In the ultra PC world we live in, and in many court rooms what I saw and heard in the yard would be nothing short of a hostile work enviroment. But whatever you call it, the individuals were slow to take offense, and within a few hours had forgiven each other of any hard feelings, if there ever even were any. 

Is it too much to belive in a world that takes the best from both worlds? One where we work hard to not get angry and swear at work, but when we do or when we encoutner those who struggle with this, we don't take offense, claim harrassment or file a lawsuit?  




Sunday, July 26, 2020

Are you Present?

In Pennsylvania, May 23 will be '143 Day' in tribute to Mr. Rogers ...
Fred Rogers, doing what he always did, smiling, listening and being present.

When we hear that a member of congress has voted present we often mark it as cowardness. Likewise, we have a tendency to call those who show up only physically retired in place. For valid reasons we disparage the idea of being physically present but in every other way are absent.

Mister Rogers who physically has been absent from this earth for 13 years is making his presence very much known. This has come as books, documentaries and popular films have all been produced about his life. Rogers didn’t mean much to me as a child. I mean, I enjoyed his program like I enjoyed almost anything on TV. True, it probably was more beneficial watching Mr. Rogers talk about how to get through a tough day instead of witnessing one by seeing an affair and murder come to light on days of our lives on the other station. But can I say I always looked forward to Mr. Rogers? Or remember a hard time in my life when I needed to think of Daniel Tiger to get me through it? No.

However, I have watched both, Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks and the documentary on Fred Rogers life, Won’t you be my Neighbor, as well as begun reading The Good Neighbor and I can say Fred Rogers is having a profound impact on my adult life.

In April 1967, Misterogers Neibhorhood, (They changed the name to Mister Rogers Neighborhood later). The show had been on the air for a year and they decided to do a meet-the host event in Boston. They knew Rogers was popular and planned for 500. Over 5,000 showed up, the line wrapped around the studio and down the street to Soldiers field. But despite the crowd Rogers insisted that he kneel and speak with each child individually.

The thing that stands out to me as I read about Fred Rogers is he had learned how to be present. Wherever he was, whomever he was with, once he chose to be there he was fully there. His eyes were there, his ears were there, his mind was there, and his spirit was there. The rest of the world became non-existent.

With this skill came a peace that he carried with him continually. A peace that is increasingly rare as this skill is becoming lost to the world. Our cell phones allow us the opportunity to remove ourselves from where we are at any second and put portions of ourselves somewhere else. Being distant while present, half engaged and half aware has become a way of life, a part of who we are. We rush from one place to another, always late, always in a hurry and then get there only to be more focused on the next appointment than the task at hand.

There is alot spoken and written on being at the right place at the right time. However, the person in the wrong place but fully present will outperform his peer whose body is in the right place, but is not fully present.

You want to have a great marriage? Be fully present when you are with your spouse. You want to be a great parent? Don’t have a phone in your hand, or work on your mind when you listen to your children tell about their day. Want to be more successful at work? Be fully there when you are there. Don’t have your mind worried about Donald Trump, your favorite sports team, black lives matter, or what you are going to have for lunch.

You want to be a person who has great character and understands why they are on earth? Be there for yourself and your God. Too often when we find ourselves with even a second of silence, or boredom we quickly reach for the phone and see what in the news, on facebook, the stock market or the number of coronavirus cases. Because in not being able to be fully present with others, we are losing the ability to be fully present with ourselves. Moments that should be for reflection, prayer and self improvement, when we give ourselves and our God our full attention, when we process what we did right and what we did wrong are handed over to a screen to see an acquaintance's views on politics, or pictures of what someone else ate for dinner.

Paul gave a wonderful analogy about the importance of us as members of the Church to work together. That we are all part of the body of Christ. He said, “For the body is not one member but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; … If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the member every one them in the body as it hath pleased them?” (1 Corithians 12: 14-18)

Paul used this analogy because the idea of walking out the door without our ears was so ridiculous, but that is exactly what so many are doing every day. It’s driving with headphones on and reading a text. We try to listen to meetings while our eyes look at something else, and our brain does a third thing.

Christ well understood our tendency to disengage. He taught in parables in part because he knew that to understand them would only be accomplished by those who choose to engage, to be fully present. He said, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)

But? You say, “I have too much to do. I have to check emails while in meetings, I have to check facebook before I sleep, I have to be reading work assignments at the dinner table.” We all feel too busy to slow down. That we have too much. That if we give our wife or kids our full selves then we will get behind on our work or be passed up for that next promotion.

That is why Mr. Rogers is so important for me today. Did he, giving his full attention to each child, taking time to be present with whatever one he was with, limit his ability to achieve? His ability to influence? His success? No, the Lord magnified him in incredible ways that are still influencing people like myself over a decade after he is gone.

But as I think about Mr. Rogers I realize why he is having so much impact on the world. It’s because he is a reflection of someone who had this exact same skill. A man who could be fully present when he ran into a total stranger getting water at a well. Who gave his full attention and energy when he ran into lowly fishermen. A man who while only living into his early thirties continues to have a larger impact on earth than any other man. A young man from Galilee who we would all do well to find time to be fully present with.


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Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Romance of Writing - Aspen Hadley


World Changer! Aspen Hadley #WaitByTheGate #ChooseLight – Shannon ...
Aspen Hadley- Author

Loose papers, three-ring binders, and pencils lay strewn across the kitchen table. “Aspen, what are you up to?” Her mother asked.

“This summer I'm going to write a novel.”

“What about?”

“I’m not for sure yet, but my heroine is going to be named Tara and she will fall madly in love with Mark. It’s a romance.”

That 8th grader handwriting out her first novel during summer break with her cousin was Aspen Hadley. Storytelling was something she always loved. But it would be a few more years before she would finish her first novel. First came alot of life. She took creative writing classes whenever she could fit them in as she continued through high school and a few years later, at age 21, married her sweetheart.

But even while starting a family with young kids storytelling was never far from her life. She wrote stories about her life and sent them to her family through letters or emails. After a while, she began to publish the stories on a blog, and her family and friends encouraged her to write a novel. It took a while to percolate, but she finally decided she would do it. She wanted to see her name on a book. It took six months to write the story of two bickering neighbors who over time begin to understand and learn to live with one another. Once she had written her great American novel, she decided she better get some feedback, so she found some people she didn’t know who loved to read and reached out. She didn’t want them to be biased. All four said the same thing:“You’re a good writer but don’t care for the story.”

Not one of them liked it. She was devastated. Clearly, this book writing thing was not for her. She decided that story would never see the light of day and debated if her writing ever would either. While writing took a back seat, life continued to do what life does. She had a surprise number 4 child and her brother passed away from cancer. Shortly after these events, she thought she might be brave enough to try writing again, and put down on paper the beginnings of a story she titled, Simply Kate, about a young widow with her son and next door to her aunt in the mountains of Colorado. Kate is making that awkward step of reentering the dating scene. The story goes through the struggles that would be unique to anyone finding themselves single later in life and being a mother.

It felt good to be writing again, but life continued to happen, so writing took a back seat to living and raising her children. But five years later and the youngest was off to kindergarten. She wanted a creative outlet, now that some free time had found her. One day, while reading through old files on her computer she ran into Simply Kate. She had almost forgotten it existed. She read through and surprised herself with how much she enjoyed it. She decided to finish it. She spent the next several months getting the book drafted and then sent it to three beta readers. This time she chose people she knew but also knew would be brutally honest with her. Doing both those she knew and those she does not, she was surprised to find that those who knew her actually gave her more feedback. All three loved the book. When it came to writing, she instinctively knew, even back in eighth grade, what she was meant to write: romance. They suggested some edits and she went through the book again, but clearly this novel had potential. So what next?

Aspen often feels like the least educated person in the world, having not gone to college, but she loves to read and from that has learned how to learn. So, she hit the books, or rather the internet. She studied how to do a query and synopsis. She read that you had to put together a marketing plan. Something she didn’t know existed, let alone how to do. But she found examples and learned. Then she went for it, submitting her work to three publishers, Shadow Mountain, Covenant, and Cedar Fort.

Then the waiting. She wasn’t naive, after doing her research, she knew that the world of fiction is a sea of authors, and that most get rejection after rejection before they land a book contract. “I was standing at my kitchen table folding laundry, I was waiting for an email on something else, so I checked my phone and there it was. An email from Cedar Fort Publishing, accepting my book,” she recalls. She danced, she sang and ran around the table. She quickly called her husband, but he was in a meeting. “Get out of the meeting I have big news.” She wanted to scream, but ultimately it was her 16-year-old daughter getting home from school who got to be the first to hear.

“They sent me a contract, and I was like I don’t know if this is good or not, but I’ll take it.” The process to go from an accepted manuscript to an actual book took longer than she had envisioned. First, they reviewed and did a developmental edit. “They sent me back the file and I could accept or reject their edits. Or as was often the case I understood their point and edited into my voice.” Then came the copy edit with the commas and capitalization. “On that one, I was like accept, accept, accept.” They asked her to go through similar books on Amazon and pick covers she liked and covers she hated. Then they sent her three to pick from. And then the title. They went through lots of options and eventually settled on “Simply Starstruck.” “Now when I write, I don’t worry about the title because I know that will get worked out later,” she says.

A year later the book was done. “I remember getting my box with 20 author copies and just crying. I don’t cry much so my kids wondered what was wrong with me. I assured them they were happy tears.” Shortly thereafter the book started appearing on shelves in Deseret Book, Barnes and Noble, and even Target. “I made my kids pose at the store with my books. It was so exciting.”

From there she just kept on writing. Gathering ideas for her second book she decided to write on a Facebook group asking for weird and bad blind dates people had been on. “I got like 700 comments. They were so funny and great.” From those she selected 12 and got more details, ultimately six ended up in her second book, “Blind Dates, Bridesmaids and Other Disasters.” People regularly comment that the unbelievable blind dates in the book can’t be true stories but as she states in the book, they are 100% real.

She stayed with Cedar Fort as she has been very satisfied with their work. Her third book comes out this fall but the title hasn’t been released yet. People always wonder about how much an author makes. Has her writing allowed her to start paying cash for beach homes? “Writing is only what you put into it. I love doing it and seeing my books on the shelf. I'm blessed in that it doesn’t have to cover my living. If it did, I would have to put out much more than a book a year and I would have to do way more marketing and events. But I get some extra money and every year I do a trip with some of my friends and I can pay for it myself now and that is nice.”

It was great to learn more about Aspen’s journey as an author. I have read both her books and if you like romantic comedies, I recommend you pick them up. As noted the third book will be out this fall and she is almost done with the manuscript on the fourth, so look forward to seeing that the following year. If you liked this I hope you will take the time to subscribe to my blog. As I plan to do more author interviews and journeys.


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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Lessons from COVID and preparing for the next...

Human security in Africa: Assessment and capacity-building to ...
Digging with a mask after war impacts took out this African towns water supply. Disaster often increases the need for work, unfortunately not our ability to pay for it.

For many of us COVID-19 was a wake up call. Not necessarily about our handwashing techniques, the use of masks, or how teleworking may dominate our future, but a wake up call to how fragile our economy and even our political system is. There are many examples of the scriptures about a people who do not believe they could be destroyed:

“We will not believe thy words if thou shouldst prophesy that this great city should be destroyed in one day.” Alma 9:4- People of Ammonihah to Alma.

“And it came to pass that the jews did mock him because of the thing which he testified of them;'' 1 Nephi 1:19- Speaking of Lehi’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Of course there are many more, Noah, Jeremiah, Samuel the Lamanite… the list goes on and on.

And perhaps you could add us. But hopefully COVID has opened our eyes a little. I firmly believe that COVID’s greatest mission may be a simple warning. A way to show us that we need to be prepared for things. Because I strongly believe COVID-19 is not the greatest challenge I, or our society, will face in my lifetime. We need to be prepared for worse.

So, how do we prepare:

  1. I have always been a supporter of The Church of Jesus Christ stance that you should have a 1-year supply of food. And I did...did being the key word. My storage had dwindled some and the number of people and the amount of food they consumed had increased. I was far from a true year supply of food. We need to take the council prophets have given us for years seriously and get a true 1-year food supply.
  2. Our supplies should carry more than just food. Okay for some weird reason toilet paper this time was the big one. But if you can’t live without it then you should store some, but it showed us a broader point. There are things that aren’t food that we may not be able to get in disasters and we should store those too.
  3. Pay off debts and have some money saved. This has been the council for years and we would do well to follow it.
  4. Live on far less than you make. We have grown accustomed to lifestyles that are not sustainable, the food we eat, the homes we live in, the cars we drive, the boxes of stuff from Amazon, and the electronics that provide endless entertainment. Learning to take a step back and realizing that we can go without them and then doing it will be great preparation. It is far better and honestly easier for us to do it now, when it’s a choice and we can see what works and doesn’t, than wait until we are forced by circumstances. Another thing that can help this one is:
  5. Find fulfillment through self improvement, service and spending time with family instead of things and increased lifestyle. Many of us, if not all of us will go through a time in the near future when our lifestyle as measured by the world will be significantly reduced. We can prepare today by changing what we value. The best things in life are truly free. If you find your entertainment through service there will always be entertaining things for you to do. But if you only get it from Hollywood and high end dining, you may struggle. In fact, if you really want to find happiness in a disaster the number one thing you can learn to find joy and fulfillment in is...
  6. Hard work, learn to do it now. No matter how bad things get there will always be work to do. It may not be the work you want to do, and you may not get the salary you want but there will be work, much of it manual work. This has been a huge eye opener to me. I am not good at, nor do I do enough manual labor. I need to prepare by spending more time on the weekends in my yard weeding, trimming, digging, planting, building, painting, and harvesting. As well as, (Hopefully Jeanine doesn't see this, she might hold me to it) in the house cleaning, washing, cooking and picking up. It’s the type of work that is excellent for my mind, my body, and my ability to care for myself in hard times.
Bottom line is when we think of preparing for a potential disaster we often think of food storage and paying off debt and saving money. And that is good, we need those things. But in addition we need to change our lifestyle as well. We need to eat less and better, spend less and wiser, and work more and harder. Think about it, no matter how bad things get, the people who learn to live on little, find joy in things money can’t buy and are willing to work hard, will get by far better than the guy with 100 buckets of wheat who has never made a loaf a bread, hates hard work, and isn’t healthy enough to do it anyway. I firmly believe if we lived in the way the Lord would have us it would be sustainable as a way of life, through good and even the worst times. If COVID gets these lessons into my mind enough that I actually follow through with them then I will look back, as hard and horrible as it was, and be grateful for what it taught me.

If you liked this article please consider subscribing to my blog by entering your email below. Why subscribe? You can then get emails when I write my amazing articles and it really helps me. When I go to publish books or articles my number of subscribers is a big deal to them, so taking the time to subscribe means alot to me.

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