Friday, January 29, 2010


I've enjoyed a bit of a wake up call this week.  All my life I've associated opportunity with goals.  Making that association has been rather crippling as I look back on things.  Goals have been connected with such adages as "shoot for the stars," so I've spent my time seeking pretty lofty opportunities.  Couple that with the adage, "opportunity only knocks once," and you have a formula for scarcity thinking.  I've always been a relatively positive person and always anticipated the appearance of the next opportunity.  Usually, they have come, sometimes in disguise, but always beneficial.  Trouble is, I've wasted a ton of time looking for the big opportunities and overlooking the little ones.

Let me give you a current example from my life.  I'm looking for a full time employment opportunity.  As I have yet to find one that has materialized for me, I'm rather strapped for cash.  I have often said that my unfinished basement is bogged down because when I have time I have no money and when I have money I have no time.  The other day, while taking a walk, I realized that doing so was a luxury, when compared with my past, when finding time was so difficult.  I realized that right now, I have the opportunity to walk without much time constraint.  That got me to thinking about this subject.  How many little opportunities have I overlooked, looking beyond the mark so to speak?  How many days have I wasted because I was so focused on the distant goal that I couldn't see right in front of me.  How many days of opportunity lie in that basement that don't cost money.  Things that could be done so that when money becomes available, they don't have to be done then.  Days and days worth I suspect.   I thought of another adage.  "Better to aim for the sky and hit the horizon than to aim for the horizon and hit the dirt in the foreground."  I'm not so sure about focusing all my attention on the distant goal, especially if it causes me to look past opportunities in the present.

My friend Dixon often says,  "The past is history, the future a mystery, today is a gift, that's why they call it the present."  I love that.  Since making this discovery I've come to realize that the present is rich with opportunity.  It reminded me of a song I'd not adequately considered.  "There are chances for work all around just now, opportunity right in our way, do not let them pass by saying sometime I'll try but go and do something today."  (Hymns, 223, Have I Done Any Good in the World Today.)  Tomorrow's opportunities may be wonderful and appealing, but there is no better opportunity than lies right before me, right now.  Ever.

There are constantly opportunities to serve others, to learn more, to improve something, to love someone.  These are the opportunities that matter.  We don't have to wait for something big or momentous to take blessed action, we can do it now!  I'm so impressed with the myriad souls who've dropped everything and gone to Haiti to help with the disaster there.  They must be opportunity seizers.  This isn't likely to be their first rodeo in the opportunity game.

One of the great troubles that comes of addiction is the decline into utter selfishness.  I spent so many years in addiction that I've missed out on so many simple pleasures, so many useful concepts and principles.  This is surely one.  Those who know me might point out that I've served long and well in my life and while on the surface that is very true, if I look back and examine my motivations, they are purely self serving ones.  I saw opportunity and service as a means to advance my own ends.  I seldom if ever saw it as a means to bless the lives of others.  Because of that I came think of opportunity as a scarce commodity in the market of life.  Looking beyond the perspective of self, I suddenly have discovered that opportunity is more abundant than anything else.

Every time I have such an epiphany I feel a little foolish for having gone so long with out realizing such a thing.  But that is mostly swallowed up in rejoicing that even this late in life, even after having become so lost and misguided, this earthly probation can be long enough for one such as I to get straightened out and come into the light.  What an ungrateful thing it is to overlook the profound blessing of opportunity.  It is much like the Atonement itself.  It is always available, but what good is the gift if I am unwilling to receive or even recognize it?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pen Pal Wanted

I've just watched a wonderful old movie starring Anne Bancroft called 84 Charing Cross Road also starring Anthony Hopkins.  It is a wonderful, true story, based on an epistolary memoir of the same name by Helene Hanff.  I've been fascinated lately with epistolary books and have enjoyed several including The Bachelor Brother's Bed and Breakfast books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Third Wish.  I've come to love that method of story telling as well as the simple, yet fine art of letter writing.

Letter writing is a dying art.  A loss which I am learning to lament.  I shall never forget reading some of Abigail Adams' letters in John Adams by David McCullough, and thinking what a joy it must have been to receive such a letter.  There was so much of warmth, good humor, cleverness and wisdom captured in those marvelous epistles.  How I'd love to write such letters and have a correspondent who would both appreciate and reciprocate with such ease and delight.

The upthrust of all this is that I've decided I just have to do it.  The biggest problem will be to find a like minded soul out in the world somewhere, who might like to embark upon such an adventure.  I went on line and Googled Pen Pal and found those sites to be mostly engaged in matching lonely persons to someone of the opposite sex.  I am not at all interested in getting into a romantic foray with some lonely woman, or man for that matter.  I am very happily married thank you very much.

So, I am taking applications if you will.  I'm hoping for a long term, mentally and emotionally taxing relationship with a total stranger.  People who cannot make such a commitment need not apply.  Applicants must write a letter of sufficient interest and quality as to spark my imagination and persuade me that I've found someone with whom I'll happily correspond.  You need not be like me anyway.  If you disagree with me that is fine, so long as our disagreements are not allowed to foul our friendship.  This of course requires an open minded individual who doesn't mind banter and isn't easily offended.

Email will be an acceptable medium, so long as the bulk of our correspondence is done, thoughtfully, deliberately and dependably.  Typical email and chat abbreviations and streamlining methods will not be tolerated.

I suppose I'd prefer someone from far away, in different circumstances to my own.  Someone who's life and culture do not mirror my own.  I'm afraid I must restrict applicants to English as I have not bothered to become proficient in any other language.  Scold me if you will.  Even so, I'll entertain a pen pal from just around the corner if their personality and presentation so inspire me.

I expect that the person I'm looking for has ideas of his or her own regarding what form such a friendship should take and I am open to negotiations.  Certainly, once the relationship is established further negotiations will be called for as the friendship or perhaps mere association develops.

If you dear reader, are not so inclined, but know of someone who might be please forward this along to them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Divisive Politics

This is Senator Harry Reid.  I just thought I'd point that out because most pictures I've seen of him lately depict him monstrously, flipping the bird, scowling, in one he even had horns.  I don't think the horns were because he's a Mormon either.  And clearly the depiction of his extended middle finger was not intended as an expression of the disgusting sign I loathe.  I was concerned that you might not recognize him with a smile and kindly look.  There isn't one of us, if we were photographed 1000's of times, that wouldn't produce some fodder for our opponents to mis-depict us.

I'm writing about this because Harry Reid probably has a higher percentage of opponents among his fellow Latter-day Saints that he has among any other group.  I've spoken to Mormon's who've even considered the merits of having him assassinated if you can imagine.  I didn't take their vitriol literally and I seriously doubt if any of them would actually act upon their wishes, but the fact that they even mentioned it troubles me big time.

I have a brother-in-law who lives just outside of Washington DC.  He has been in the Stake Presidency of his Stake and has served as a Bishop.  He has lived near the Capitol for many years.  He pointed out an interesting tidbit of fact - Harry Reid has a reputation for being one of the best Home Teachers in the Church.  Does that startle you?  It got me to thinking.  We have lots of folk in my ward who are not the least bit timid about expressing political views in Gospel Doctrine class or from the pulpit.  If Harry Reid lived in our ward he would undoubtedly be persecuted unmercifully, by such people.  Even when I agree with their politics I am very uncomfortable with them using church as their forum.  I am also very uncomfortable with the oppositionally defiant attitude of so many church members.  I'm constantly hearing them berate people of a liberal bent for listening to the liberal media.  If they'd just listen to themselves they'd hear canned conservative mantras that are equally spawned by conservative media.  The polarizing effect of this is damaging to both the country, the church and the individuals caught up in this contention.

Alma 2:5 - And it came to pass that the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with another.

If you cross reference the word contention in that verse you'll discover what we all know in the Kingdom, that contention is of the Devil and is to be avoided.  That the adjective wonderful was used to describe it in this context implies astonishment rather than pleasurable excitement.  The observer here, to my thinking is clearly dismayed.  He probably had friends on both sides of that issue, just like we might here.  He probably heard them not only disagreeing with one another, but calling each other names.  He probably heard them casting aspersions on one another's character and making unkind reference as the their parentage and know the drill.  Pretty soon rather than fellows of different persuasions, they've become enemies who are willing to kill one another.

Now I'm not suggesting compromise is the answer, sometimes we just have to take a stand and stand our ground.  But we are also commanded to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use or abuse us.  Further we are commanded to pray for them, not against them.  Conservatives, when was the last time you prayed for Harry Reid?  He is after all your brother in the Kingdom.  Or have you spitefully suggested he have his Temple Recommend revoked because he doesn't see things the way you do.

I might remind you that on July 20, 2009, Harry Reid introduced President Thomas S. Monson and Elder Dallin H. Oaks to President Barak Obama in the White House.  Those brethren presented a fine gift to the leader of our nation.  There was no vitriolic rhetoric, no oppositional rancor.  Do you think President Monson, or Elder Oaks agree with President Obama's views on everything?  Of course not.  Did that prevent them from having influence with him?  Absolutely not!  We are lead by example, but generally speaking, we are not following that example very well.

I believe we have got to learn to express our views in the positive manner in which the Church has shown us.  If we cannot, despite the efforts of our leaders, we will be marginalized more and more and our influence will be felt less and less.  When the church interacts with other religions, it is not in a spirit of compromise or opposition and look what that has accomplished.  So much collaborative humanitarian work has resulted in blessings across the globe.  The other day in the Deseret News I found an article in which Jewish Rabbi, David Rosen suggested that The Quorum of the 12 Apostles should be key players in Middle Eastern Peace talks!  Why would he even consider such a thing if they were as contentious as the general population of the church appears to be.

For many Harry Reid just might be the litmus test for whether or not you've chosen to follow the Prophet. Scroll back up and take another look.  What will you do when you see that face across the prayer circle in the Temple?  I've decided.  I will remain.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pornography Addiction Prevalent

I'm currently reading a book called He Restoreth My Soul by Donald L. Hilton Jr. MD.  I first heard him speak at and LDS Addiction Recovery Program Conference last summer.  He is brilliant, motivated and insighful in his approach to the subject of addiction recovery.  He is a faithful Latter-day Saint and a renown Neuro Surgeon.

Here are a couple of startling quotes from the book:  (He is speaking of addiction to pornography)
The current scenario of sending the young man on a mission after three to six months of 'white-knuckle' sobriety is only setting him up to intermittent struggling throughout his mission, and/or quick relapse upon return and re-introduction into the overwhelming media barrage he will surely face.
Understand that the majority of young men returning from missions are slipping quickly into addiction, and we must be ready to support them with 12 Step support groups specific to pornography addiction immediately upon return from their mission.
I quote these things not to alarm you but to give you a reality check.  The pernicious plague of pornography is present in the lives of our young men.  It is addictive and problematic, but it won't destroy us. 

Another quote:
While we have emphasized prevention in the past, and should continue to do so, we must also recognize that virtually all of our young men and many of our young women are already seriously exposed, and are therefore already in need of treatment.  By continuing to emphasize avoidance only, we shame the majority who are already caught in the addiction into secrecy and guilt.  We must extend a hand of healing and support to those trapped in secrecy, so there is a safe place for them to seek help.
It could destroy us, but it won't.  I say that having experienced recovery myself, after 45 years of addiction.  The answer is the same as it has always been.  Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  The gospel is, has been and ever will be the answer, the only answer.

Satan, has made horrible inroads into our society, indeed our very lives and homes.  His influence is part of the Plan of Salvation.  These kids and adults are not evil monsters, they've just been exposed to a deadly and potentially fatal disease.  It has become pandemic in society and most of society doesn't even recongnize the destruction and havoc it is causing.  Satan's influence through pornography can be overcome, by turning to the Lord.

I always wondered why the Lord told us the story of Zeniff, Noah and Limhi and their people.  That is until I discovered that their story shares a key to escaping this great bondage that is enveloping us.  Most of us, like Zeniff are zealous, even righteous, but we are also willful.  We want what we think we deserve, so we go out and take it.  That marked lack of humility always leads to bondage in one form or another,  In their case it was bondage to the Lamanites.  Gradually, pride leads us deeper and deeper into a trap of our own making.  Evenually, Zeniff's people, under the corrupt tutelage of Noah are utterly bound by their poor choices.  They didn't like their bondage any more than we do.  Ask any addict if they like being where they are.  Of course not.  And each has tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed until they are in the depths of despair.

Remember the people of Zeniff and their descendants did the same thing.  They tried and failed repeated times to deliver themselves from the bondage they'd gotten themselves into.  They suffered horrifying losses and returned from each battle weaker either spiritually or physically or both.  Finally humbled, Limhi instructs them regarding the means by which they can escape:
Mosiah 7:33 - But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.
And so, they did, and so did He.  That is the business God is in, delivering us.  Multitudes of Latter-day Saints are laboring in the bonds of addiction.  Most are laboring under the impression that they must deliver themselves and consequently are failing.  That, coupled with widespread secrecy in the matter, are doing great damage to lives and families.  It does not need to end like this.  Ultimately every Latter-day Saint, every person on earth, for that matter, must allow the Atonement of Jesus Christ to take effect their lives.  This principle applies, addict or not.  If addiction drives us to our knees and humbles us sufficiently to reach for that relationship with the Master, the end result will be Perfection in Christ.  Then opposition will have served it's purpose.
Ether 12:27 - And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Would prevention have been better?  Of course.  The reality though, is that for many many it is already too late for that.  The call to teach the gospel of faith and repentance is imperative.  Our brothers and sisters have a great need to know that they can indeed be forgiven, and in this case, more specifically, that they can be delivered from bondage.  Addicts cannot (I am unequivocal about this) deliver themselves and thank God it is true.  If it weren't, what need would we have for a Deliverer?
I am certain, that the Lord does not intend to allow this horrific plague to destroy His Church and Kingdom.  He will prevail and He will afflict His addicts until they let Him prevail in their individual lives.

If you or one you love is caught in this trap.  Go to your Bishop, seek the Deliverer, come out of bondage and rejoice in that liberty wherewith you are made free!  You are more than welcome to drop me a note.  I will strictly keep confidences and I'm sure I can help you find help.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Inanity of It All!

I have long contended that most television is empty and pointless.  A long time Johnny Carson fan, I don't see what's funny about these guys, or Letterman for that matter.  Maybe their ratings have dropped because watching their programs is such a waste of precious time.  Maybe their current furor is just about building ratings.  Letterman's scandal did that for him.  My advice, watch C-Span, it's just as inane, only funnier.

We've taken to watching television off a DVD rather than items that are publicly broadcast.  Without the commercials alone we save 1/3 of the time we'd spend watching broadcast TV.  Netflix is wonderful that way, inexpensive, controllable and a cornucopia of selections.  Occasionally, we Tivo something as well, though too often we forget to fast forward the commercials.  Not that I entirely hate commercials.  The best laughs on TV are the drug commercials, 50% of which are disclaimers that can be hilarious!  Another draw back to commercials are the news teasers, especially if they're for an event we recorded a couple of weeks ago.

News magazines, evening news programs, tabloid programs have all become ridiculous.  They tell you what they're going to tell you three to seven times, before they tell you.  Often what they finally report is a mere sentence more than they teased you with in the first place.  Then, the level of their priority has sunk so low I can't reach that far down in the muck.  When Tiger Wood's personal life trumps the debate on Public Health Care something is seriously fouled up.  I do like the teasers for one reason.  When they tease me, I can jump right on the internet and find out about something I might not have heard of before.

Not too long ago, one of the teasers pertained to an Amber Alert.  They made us wait a half hour to find out the details.  The culprit could have carried the victim another 30 or 40 miles before we were told any details about how we could help.  All for ratings = money.  I abandoned newspapers for television for the convenience.  I've abandoned television for the internet, for information, details, efficency and content.

Good bye, broadcast TV.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Growing Up in Himni, Utah - Episode 14

There were three Baritonists in the Himni High School Band. LeGrand Morris (Grandy), Michael Simper and myself. In the band room we sat on the back row, but in front of Rob Hanke, who played the Sousaphone and needed a bit of elbo room in the back corner opposite the drummers. Mitch Warner played the tenor sax and sat right in front of us.

Mr. Hess, our band teacher, had listed the student’s names in alphabetical order. He then assigned each a consecutive number, in that order. When it was time for roll call, he just called on us to count off in the appropriate sequence. As luck would have it, Morris, Parker, Simper and Warner stacked up right in a row. Our numbers were 27, 28, 29 and 30. We soon took to calling out our numbers in four part harmony. Grandy would sing his number and hold the note, then in succession, the others would add their number and harmonious note. Rob, not wanting to be left out, often added a deep bass sousaphone drone as foundation for our performance.
We were a “harmonious” group in more ways than one. We saw eye to eye on most things and were pretty much inseparable even when not in the band room. The previous summer, all of us except Michael had gone to Boy’s State together. Michael’s big brother Ronald had gone with us. Michael was a year younger. We talked often of Boy’s State, of the fun we’d had. Mitch and I were still corresponding with Rhonda and Wanda, twin girls we’d met while up there in Logan. Michael was desperate to have the same experience. It’s hard to say this about Michael, we liked him a lot, but he was a bit odd. I know what you’re thinking, but I mean even odder than the rest of us. He was even awkward around us, his best buddies. He always treated us with a kind of awe and respect, like he couldn’t believe we liked him and that our friendship was somehow tenuous.

Michael invented the “blip boid.” I think he intended it to be sort of a combination sign somewhere between “the bird” and a salute. To correctly execute the blip boid you had to hold your right arm out in front of yourself with the forearm in a vertical position. The hand was held in a relaxed posture with the index finger and thumb extended, but also somewhat relaxed. Once in this position you slowly elevated the hand while twisting it back and forth in a jerky, syncopated motion until you got it about half as high as you could reach, where you stopped until all responding blip boids had been completed. Michael insisted this be our club high sign. Trouble is, we didn’t have a club.

Maybe Michael thought going to Boy’s State was the final initiation that would make his membership in our club complete. It must not have occurred to him that we’d all be gone next year. Or, maybe he thought that he’d fall in with other Boy’s State alumni in our absence. Anyway, he mused about it a lot and was constantly seeking the mysterious key that would insure his invitation. One day, off the cuff, I mentioned that never in the history of Himni High had the newly elected Student Body President failed to be invited to Boy’s State. His insecurity prevailing, Michael asked, “So I run for Student Body President, but what if I lose?”
That was no problem, because never in the history of Himni High had the loser of the election for Student Body President not been elected Senior Class President…and never in history had the Senior Class President failed to be invited to Boy’s State either. It was a sure thing! Michael was elated!

“Would you guys be my Campaign Committee?”

Now Mitch and I, in particular, were into politics. We’d gone to Boy’s State after all, plus we’d gone to Model United Nations twice and were steeped in Mr. Parker’s (my dad) American Problems class. We were the quintessential campaign committee! We didn’t tell him that neither one of us got elected to anything more important than Dog Catcher at Boy’s State.

The next few weeks were spent developing strategy, painting posters and overcoming Michael’s Pip Squeak image. The latter was a challenge. We decided the jocks were out. Michael’s challenger was Ricky Hanley, a jock – who had money. Our attention turned to the shops. If we could turn out the vote in the Auto, Wood and Ag shops we could kick Ricky’s butt. There was a reasonable population in that end of the school. That group was typically disinterested in such things as school elections. The academics were already pretty much in the bag on account of the persistent rivalry between academics and sports. Yup, the shops were the key.
In those days there was a common phrase used by the greasers down in the shops. As an insult cum challenge they would often offer a surly “Eat My Shorts!” Quite often that, or more commonly, “EMS” was scrawled on the restroom walls. We appropriated “EMS” for ourselves – Elect Michael Simper!
It was a good strategy and it might have worked. We’ll never know, though, because Mitch and I panicked and stuffed the ballot box – and got caught.

Ricky Hanley was declared the winner and Mitch and I were hauled in on the carpet. The Disciplinary Council consisted of the Principal, Mr. Steckler, Coach Harker and Mrs. Celestia Hopewell. We were doomed. Mr. Steckler informed us of the charges and explained that if found guilty, we’d be suspended for a week and our diplomas would be held until we’d completed 100 hours of community service. The biggest implication, I thought, was that it took Mitch out of the running for Valedictorian. He and Emily Allen were in hot contention for the honor and I couldn’t bear to have him lose it this way.

The witness, Marci Merriwether was called and before she was even halfway through her deposition, Coach Harker declared, “I move we convict ‘em. It’s clear they done it!”

“Did,” Mrs. Hopewell sharply replied.

“Did what?” Coach Harker queried.

“The correct English is “did it”, sir, not “done it.”

There was ice between them
Mitch offered a subtle blip boid in my direction. I responded.

Coach Harker raged on at the vile act we’d committed. He always hated Mitch. Mitch could have been an All State Quarterback. He was smart enough, athletic enough, tall enough, and charismatic enough to have done the whole thing. He just had no interest in sports and that killed Coach Harker. His bitterness was showing like a girl’s slip.

Mr. Steckler finally got him settled down and turned the attention back to Marci. Meanwhile, I observed Mrs. Hopewell scratch a quick note which she passed to Coach Harker. When he held it up to read it, the light was such that, I could see the name Ted Traynor was scrawled on it. Ted was next year’s hope for a successful football season. I still can’t believe what came next. The coach mouthed the words, “You wouldn’t!” She responded with a most resolute glare
The exchange was interrupted by Mr. Steckler, who dismissed Marci. She gave us a nasty little sniff, letting us know she was getting her revenge for the Golden Emerods incident. The Principal called for a vote. “By a show of hands, who finds the defendants guilty?” All three hands went up. He was about to declare our sentence when Mrs. Hopewell interrupted, “Due to extenuating circumstances, I propose that we ease up on these boys a bit. They’ve been assets to our school. This is the first time they’ve appeared before this council. May I respectfully suggest that we limit their punishment to community service and leave this little affair off their academic records?”

Mr. Steckler smugly suggested her proposal be put to a vote. “All in favor of the lightened sentence, suggested by Mrs. Hopewell, please signify by raising your hand.” Mrs. Hopewell’s hand went right up and not so swiftly, so did Coach Harker’s!

Mr. Steckler’s jaw hit his chest. Mitch and I were pretty shocked too. We came away shaking our heads. After all, who’d have thought that the greatest lesson in politics of our high school career would have been taught by an English teacher!

You might be interested to know that, though Ricky Hanley was the new Student Body President, he didn’t get invited to Boy’s State. Neither did Wes Whickham, the Senior Class President. Michael Simper, however, was invited and was elected Senator, his campaign slogan – EMS!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review - Third Wish by Robert Fulghum

I was thrilled to discover that Robert Fulghum had written a novel.  I knew it would be unusual, creative, imaginative, outside the box and superlative in nature.  I was not wrong.  Fulghum never does anything half way.

You all know I have a great love for Robert Fulghum and his work.  I don't agree with it all, but his view of life and living is fresh and has influenced me greatly.  I must say that this tome intimidated me a bit.  It is enormous in size and scope.  Volume 1 is 502 pages and Volume 2 is 416.  Don't despair, many of the pages comprise wonderful original art that perfectly enhances Fulghum's storytelling.  Holding such substantial books casts the illusion that what is being said might be substantial as well.

I thrilled at the storytelling.  I was swept away by the travelogues.  I was charmed by the characters.  And I was dismayed by the message.  After all the serious chasing around Fulghum has done seeking a philosophical anchor he still hasn't hit on anything but existential, self indulging emptiness.  As a witness of life he is remarkable.  As a participant in life he is fun.  As sage or even mentor of living, he keeps on falling flat for me and that is a huge disappointment.  He seems to me to be like the thirsty man the Lord spoke of who dreamed that he drank, but when he awoke he was still thirsty.  This author is supreme in his wonderful gift.  He is superlative in his observation of the human condition.  But what he keeps delivering to me is a wonderfully crafted, ornate box with nothing inside.  He seems to think silliness is happiness.  He seems to think that education is wisdom.  He seems to think experience is a trophy.  He seems to think he can distract himself from despair by novelty.  He seems to believe that self indulging fondness is love.  He seems to think that a full life is a fulfilling one.  And he seems to strongly suspect that God is himself.   I don't.

I think the central theme in the book is Fulghum's quest to find himself.  So far he seems to be looking in all the wrong places.  I hope, for both our sakes, that he keeps looking.  Onward!

Now, please do not hesitate to read this wonderfully entertaining story.  It is really well written.  Lots of fun and worth your time.  If perchance you should decide not to pick it up, scroll down and I'll give you the briefest of synopsis's.

-The book can be encapsulated in words I once saw hanging from a secretary's desk: 

I've gone out to find myself.  If I should happen to return before I get back, would you please keep me here?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Movie Review - The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

If you're looking for good wholesome, educational, delightful entertainment, The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is a must see!  Sweetie and I loved the series of books written by Alexander McCall Smith and read or listened to every one.  Now they've spawned an HBO series that is in every way true to Smith's masterful work.  Flawlessly cast, wonderfully directed this charmer is classic story telling and refreshing in every way.

The stories are set in modern Botswana and depict the charm and life of a sweet and deliberate people.  I have never dreamed much of visiting Africa, but Smith has magnetized the place and drawn my heart and hopefully, one day, my person, to this magical place.

The lead character Mma Ramotswe, perfectly played by Jill Scott is a resolute, traditionally built Botswana woman, who is a masterful detective with the heart and insticts of a mother..  Mma Makutisi, her secretary is the funniest, sweetest perfectionist you'll ever meet.  She is played by Anika Noni Rose and will win your heart from the very first.  The director, Oscar winning, Anthony Minghella hit a grand slam with this cast including Lucian Msmati as the kind, patient JLB Matekoni, proprietor of Speedy Motors and frustrated suitor of Mma Ramotswe.  Also included is the flamboyant, meddling next door hairdresser, BK played by Desmond Dube. 

The first season is out on DVD, rent it and enjoy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Movie Review - Cranford

Set in the village of Cranford, England in 1840, this wonderful series is so wonderfully crafted.  Judy Densch leads a magnificent cast of warm and credible characters.
1840 was a different time and great care was taken to make it so in this charming mini series.  This is the period in which thousands of English converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and migrated to America.  Seeing how customs and morays governed their lives and compassion, goodness and charity guided their hearts, I felt I could better understand such women as Eliza R. Snow and Mary Fielding Smith.
There was a refinement and quality of character that is so lost among us today as to make me jealous.  Yet there were such formalized restrictions as to make me rejoice to live now and not then.
If you are a Latter-day Saint of English stock, I highly recommend you spend the time and get acquainted with your wonderful roots.  Surely there were many who came from poverty amongst the factories of Manchester or the wharves of Liverpool, but I think many many are of stock such as these, whose integrity out weighed convention and whose courage stood the test.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Book Review - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Set in post war England and the Island of Guernsey, this little gem is a brilliant examination of the German occupation of the Channel Islands.  Mary Ann Shaffer is the principal author who was assisted in the book's completion by her niece Annie Barrows.  Mary Ann had some health issues that prevented her from finishing it herself.

The story is told in a series of letters to and from most of the characters.  Each is brilliantly formed in character and content.  I have been fascinated with the mostly lost art of letter writing.  Shaffer has given wings to that wonderful means of expression and perhaps new life to it as well.  Good letter writing is a joy!  You could sense it in the feelings of both writer and reader.  The trouble with email is not in it's length, but in it's quality.  We don't take the time to really write in email these days, we simply blurb.  Read the book and tell me you don't feel the same way. 

I was amazed at the German occupation of the Channel Islands.  A little corner of history that never even occurred to me.  It was both fascinating and appalling.  Through all the hardship, the quality of character and courage that prevailed is utterly inspiring.  The best part is that these were very ordinary people.  In Guernsey, even the Germans suffered untold privation. 

This was a book I was loathe to hurry through.  It was a delight on every page and I didn't want it to come to an end.  I count it as one of my favorite books of all time.  It is deep with substance and yet breezy with charm and cheer. 

Of that post war period one character, Amelia wrote, "Sorrow has rushed over the world like the waters of the Deluge, and it will take time to recede.  But already, there are small islands of - hope?   Happiness?  Something like them, at any rate."

Another time Amelia wrote, "My worries travel about my head on their well worn path, and it is a relief to put them on paper."  It became abundantly clear that correspondence was critical therapy and was in it's very nature cathartic.

I love this style of writing and hope to employ it someday.  Each character told her story in first person and in such an intimate and personal way that I found it hard to believe I was reading fiction.  I'd give my eye teeth to be personally included in that round of conversation or one like it.  Anybody want to be my pen pal?
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