Thursday, September 30, 2010

All in the Family: Violet Mae Warner Heffner

The oldest daughter of George Pierce and Mary Rose Fry Warner, Violet was less than two years old when the Warner family moved from West Foxburg, Pennsylvania, to Elwood, Indiana, traveling by Conestoga wagon to follow the gas boom that had hit in Madison County, Indiana. She and her older brother, Victor Walter, were joined by two more brothers, Herbert Wayne and Frank Earl, and two sisters, An Nora De Lange and Mary Rose, to complete the family.

(Vic lived in Elwood, where he passed away in 1963. Herbert lived and died in Tipton in 1966, and I actually grew up knowing some of Grandma’s nieces and nephews, Wanda Ball, Virginia Rogers, and George Herbert Warner among them)

Violet played the violin as a girl and graduated from Elwood High School where she and Lewis first met. They were married a few years later on her birthday, August 14th. They lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary at a special open house hosted by their two daughters, Leona and Helen.

Violet was a good German cook who could make everything from Weiner schnitzel (breaded tenderloin) to fried cow’s tongue. She would skin and cook freshly killed rabbit, make turtle soup, and fry a variety of fish. Her best cooking though was fresh baked apple pie with fruit picked from the trees that grew in the backyard of 218 W. Tyler.

She was confirmed a member of the St. Stephen's Episcopalian Church in Elwood on February 28, 1909 at by Robert B. Foote and was married by Matthew Palmer Bowie of the same church.

Violet had a couple of interesting jobs which likely took a toll on her health. She worked at the tin plate in Elwood and at a marshmallow factory in Indianapolis where the older girls were born. She miscarried several children and her last daughter, Ethel Louise, was stillborn. The baby is buried in Hancock’s Chapel where the family lived after Violet’s doctor suggested she move from the smog of the city.

Violet loved to do crossword puzzles. She read Shakespeare and poetry. She and Lewis would travel to Florida occasionally to visit relatives who lived in Lutz. She had a parakeet, “Pretty Bird,” and Whiskers, the dog who moved up from Helen’s house.

A minute before Violet passed away, she tipped her ear heavenward and said, “Oh, what a beautiful song.” She died at home at 3:24 p.m. on Friday September 26, 1969. She was buried at 1:30 p.m. in the  I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Alexandria.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writing Wisdom -- A.E. Cannon

First, let me say, I love this photo of Ann and her dog. It so fits her fun-loving personality!

Ann Cannon, aka A.E.Cannon, is a woman of many writing talents. She is a columnist for the Deseret News, as well as author extraordinaire of books for children and young adults. She is a great workshop presenter, and greets everyone she meets as they were her friend.

I had the opportunity to attend a wrokshop Ann gave several years ago on Plotting, the part of writing that Ann claims is the most difficult for her. If you've read any of her books, you'd never believe it. Maybe that's because she's never let us read any of those projects she abandoned along the way. "There are legitimate reasons to abandon a project," she says.. "Mostly we abandon though because we're stuck."

She reminds authors that all stories must have a beginning, middle, and an end, and that each part depends upon each other. In quoting "The Truth About Fiction" by Steve Shone, Ann says, "There are only six plots. They all fall into the three types of conflict: mam versus man, man versus world, or man versus himself. There are only two possible outcoms: the protagonist wins, or he loses. That's it."

She sayas that "the drama of losing is so sweet because losing is another kind of winning. What looks like a loss, might really be a win."

If writing fiction is so easy, then why aren't more people good at it? "It all depends on what you bring to the story. The specific details, setting, or the author's voice can make the difference between selling and not selling."

"We can start with a story, or we can start with a character," she says, "but no matter where we start, the trick is to balance them both."

She talked about something she learned from Shannon Hales: "All character and no plot is boring. All plot and no character fails. Both character and plot equals balance."

"E.M Forest teaches 'incidents alter character.' Elizabeth George says 'the problem exists because of an alteration in the status quo.' I say have your characters take steps to deal with their problems, but don't solve them too quickly unless that solution creates an even bigger problem or the story will be over too soon," Ann explains. "You can love your characters and want to protect them, but it can't be too easy on them. Let them fail; it increases empathy and allows them to grow."

"As you plot, ask yourself what could happen next? Don't answer the questions too quickly, and know that your editors will ask you questions about your characters as if they really do exist," Ann says.

She enoucourages writers to "give yourself permission to be crappy on those drafts. Be a little outrageous." That's where you'll find your true story.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Been There, Done That – Strait Talk

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Nashville, Tennessee, with Marie Osmond to work at her booth at Fan Fair. One of the extra perks of that trip was attending a series of concerts by my favorite country singers, and an evening spent backstage at the Grand ole Opry!

Marie was co-hosting a music awards show, and the group of us tagged along to enjoy the atmosphere, even though we didn’t see anything of the actual show.

When we arrived in Marie’s oversized “green room,” we found the room “decorated” with used whiskey bottles, beer cans, and empty snack packages on every surface. There were no chairs, and the place smelled like a brewery.

“Who was in this room?” Marie asked the person in charge of getting the celebrities where they were supposed to be.

“Bocephus, himself,” the woman said. “Hank Williams, Jr.”

Figures, I thought.

We tried to move a few of the items into a nearby garbage can, but our efforts didn’t seem to do us much good.

“I’ll send someone in for all that,” the woman said.

“We’ll just wait outside,” one of the other girls with me said.

Marie said she needed to go change into her wardrobe for the show, so the woman took her away, and the rest of us went into the waiting area not far from backstage.

Somehow I ended up holding Marie’s son, Stephen, who was fast asleep. I think he was around two years old. (See, I told you it was a long time ago!) I was sort of rocking him and bouncing him, surprised the child could sleep through the noise and confusion of being backstage during a show. I guess he was used to it after being with his mother constantly on the road.

After several minutes, I heard a sweet-voiced lady say, “What’s you name, honey?”

At first I didn’t know she was talking to me because she was somewhere over my right shoulder. When the woman repeated her question, I turned around to look. I recognized her right away, and I was certain she couldn’t be talking to me.

“Me?” I asked. “Oh, I’m nobody.” I wasn’t a celebrity, and all I was doing was rocking Marie’s baby, so I knew this woman didn’t care to meet me.

“Now, honey, everybody’s somebody,” she said. “I’m June Carter Cash, now who are you?”
I had known she was June Carter Cash without her telling me, and I was stunned that she thought she had to, but I managed to spit out my name. “Umm, I’m. . . I’m Lu Ann Brobst.”

“Well, Lu Ann Brobst,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you.” She stuck out her hand and I gave her mine for a shake. “You have a good time here tonight, okay?”

“Thank you,” I said. “I will.”

She cocked her head and looked at Stephen. “Cute baby,” she said, and before I could say anything more she was gone on stage.

The other girls who were with me sort of huddle around a minute, all of us surprised at home nice June Carter Cash had been to me. A few minutes later, the others had spread back out, sort of making the rounds, trying to see who else they could see.

Soon I realized someone else was standing halfway behind be, head cocked, looking at little Stephen sleeping.

“Why, that’s Marie Osmond’s little boy!” the cowboy drawled.

“Yes, it is,” I said as I turned around and looked right into the face, and hat, of George Strait.

Now, I was thrilled to meet June Carter Cash because she’s a legend, but I was ecstatic to meet George Strait because I was a HUGE fan!

He tipped his hat and introduced himself to me. I gave him my name and shook his hand, trying hard not to wake Stephen in the process. I know I tried to say something that sounded intelligent, but I doubt I was able to succeed.

He reached out and brushed his hand again Stephen’s hair, and said, “See you around,” then he was gone.

It’s a good thing for me, that wasn’t the only time I met George Strait. The next couple of times, I was able to actually say something that made sense, proving that once I got over my stage fright at meeting a big name celebrity, I actually could talk strait!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Habitually Yours

I’ve fought a lifelong battle of the bulge, meaning that most of my life have carried more weight than I should. I’ve tried diets; I’ve had times of my life when I’ve been fairly thin, but somehow those periods have been short-lived. Someone has said something about my weight—something non-supportive of the new, thinner me—and I’ve found myself quickly climb right back up to where I was before, maybe even adding a few new pounds above and beyond where I started.

I started reading Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything the other night, and although I haven’t gotten far, it made me start thinking about my eating habits. Do I eat because I’m hungry, or do I eat because it’s time to? Do I eat just enough to satisfy my hunger, or do I eat a set amount because that’s what I’ve trained myself to do? Do I eat in certain situations just because that’s what I do, rather than waiting until I’m really hungry?

Dr. Phil McGraw talks in his book The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom about the need to change your environment, to remove those triggers that set us into mindless eating.

We’ve all developed eating habits when we were very young children, and unless we become conscious of them, those habits will rule our lives for years. As I was eating pizza last night, I stopped to think about my childhood pizza habit. I clearly remember my mother putting three pieces of pizza onto my plate. After I ate them, I could get one more piece as a second helping.

Second helping? Count it more like a FOURTH helping, since I’d already had three helpings before.

As I ate the final piece—number four—last night, I realized I was more than full—I was STUFFED! So, why did I do it? Why did I eat four large pieces—all much larger than the four my mother used to feed me by the way. Because taking four pieces of pizza was my habit!

Breaking habits is not easy, but if we can do so, we can certainly change our outcomes. We are the ones responsible for what we do. Men decide their habits. Their habits decide their future.

If I stop eating the amount of food I’ve trained myself to take, and start eating just enough to satiate my hunger, I should lose weight. It’s a natural cause and effect, my body’s natural system of checks and balances.

What other checks and balances do we have in our lives? Are their other habits we acquire that put us on a path of ill-health—physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally?

Those bad habits can only be truly gone when we replace them with positive ones. It takes faith, effort, and conscious thought to do so, and we may find ourselves working on the same bad habit again and again.

If we try to change too many bad habits to good ones, all at the same time, we will likely fail. Take inventory of yourself. What would you most like to change? Is it your weight? The way you treat other people? The study habits you have failed to develop?

When it comes to a bad habit, maybe you’ve been guilty of thinking or saying, “That’s just the way I am.” No, that’s just the way you allow yourself to be. It will take a conscious effort to change that path that leads you astray into one that brings you peace. And the good thing is, we are not alone.

The Savior promised: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you” (3 Nephi 18:20). With the Lord’s help, you can change.

This can be true when it comes to making our lives in general better than we through possible. It applies when it comes to our habits regarding educational and occupational choices. And it can apply when it comes to choosing our diet and controlling our weight, too.

Make a decision, then form a habit that leads you toward the real end goal, not the one that was set years ago.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home Cooking – Simply Delicious

This week’s recipe came by request from one of my best lifelong friends, Debbie Kerr Downey. She says she remembers my mom’s meatloaf and used to have the recipe, but says, “I had it once but lost it.”

Since my mother’s meatloaf recipe is a favorite around my house as well, I’m happy to share this incredibly simple, yet delicious recipe. We’ve tried others, adding all sorts of veggies, juices, and who-knows-what to the mixture, but this one still wins the “we-can’t-get-enough” Olympics when it comes to my boys and food.

Here’s what you need:
        2 pounds fresh ground beef (I’ve tried this with meat that has been frozen and thawed and it just doesn’t work as well.)
       Crackers (my mom used saltines; I use Ritz, my favorite!)

Set the oven to preheat to 350. Place the ground beef into a large mixing bowl. Crush a tube of crackers into fine pieces and mix into the meat by hand. Add two whole eggs and continue to fold the mixture. Add a splash of milk and a good-sized pinch of salt. Cover the meat with ketchup and mix again throughly.

Put the mixture into a 9x12 baking dish and form it into a loaf. Squirt a ketchup design over the top of the loaf and place in hot oven. Bake for an hour, or until inside of meat is completely cooked.

As a meal, I often toss in potatoes to bake at the same time, and once the meatloaf goes in I’ll prepare macaroni and cheese to bake at the same time, only for 45 minutes instead of the full hour.

It takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to make the whole thing, and the boys devour it in less than five minutes, but I guess that’s a good sign. And the best part for me is that the whole meal is so simple!                                                                                                                                      

Friday, September 24, 2010

Week in Review: Reading YA

As I mentioned last week, my students have been recommending books to me like crazy, and I'm mid-book at reading two more from their list, but this week I discovered three more YA books on my own. ACtually, two of them are from two series which I've been reading and one suggestion came from Annette Lyon who asked me if I'd ever heard of the author. I hadn't, but I read the book and enjoyed it so I went on the research trail only to discover she and I were both at last year's Storymaker's conference, and she had heard of me! Cool! So, that's where I'll start today.

The Healing Spell -- Kimberley Griffiths Little
In a story that reminded me of Wilson Rawl's The Summer of the Monkeys, Little totally captivated me as she introduced twelve-year-old Livie, a girl from the bayou who carries a heavy secret. Only Livie knows the truth about why her momma is a coma, and Livie believes she's the only one who can bring her momma a cure by visiting the traiteur for a healing spell that Livie can only pray will work. The strong use of character and voice are reminiscent of books by Kimberly Willis Holt (My Louisiana Sky) and Carol Lynch Williams (Glimpse). In a world where all too many YA books are edgy, The Healing Spell is a refreshing breath of life and hope in the all-too dismal world. One thing I didn't like was the cover art. The girl in the boat looked more like she was eighteen rather than Livie's preteen years, and honestly, she should have been standing up in the boat to remain true to the story. I'm not sure I can 'sell' the book to my class based on the cover alone, but I know the story is one that they will love.

Linger -- Maggie Stiefvater
In the second book of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, we continue the story of Sam and Grace. The high fever Sam was given in the last book has helped him remain human instead of turning into a wolf, but now Grace is suffering from unusual symptoms that may somehow relate to a wolf bite she had as a child. In the meantime, other new wolves are introduced to the series as well. Although I've enjoyed the two books so far, I am disappointed in the emphasis these books give to teenage sexual activity and the mature language that is used throughout. Does every editor in New York truly believe that all high-school-aged students do anymore is have sex? I know that's not so because I have read several books--two this week--that contain no sex, but it just seems there are way too many books that do, and it's hard for me to recommend those books or their authors to my junior high crowd who are hungry for books.

The Missing: Sabotaged -- MArgaret Peterson Haddix
When I started this series I had such high hopes. Found was an incredible book that hooked me from the start and carried me along until I couldn't wait to find out what happened. Unfortunately, book two, Sent, was incredibly boring. It just didn't seem to take me anywhere at all. Because I typically love books by Haddix, I decided to give this series one more try and read Sabotaged. Although it was better than book two, it still didn't have the thrill the first book promised for the series and it took me much longer to read than it honestly should have. The biggest problem was keeping the real people and their tracers clear. The word tracer alone became annoying and the population of the story doubled every time a new character was introduced. At time, Haddix seemed to try too hard to weave in the research she had done about Virginia Dare, John White, and the Roanoke colony. Once the climax of the story was reached and the resolution explained, the book continued to drag on and on. It's really too bad because usually books by this author are a big hit with my students. I hate to even recommend the first one though because I'm sure they will be as disappointed with the next two as I was.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

All in the Family – Lewis Orvil Heffner

The oldest child of John Arthur and Meribah (Molly) Webb Heffner, Lewis spent a great deal of his life on the road. After his parents divorced (sometime after the 1900 federal census), his mother could not care for her three children, so she placed them in the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Orphan’s Home in Anderson, Indiana.

Lewis ran away from the orphanage, joined up with his best friend Leon Erlich, then headed to Florida where they worked as circus carnies. Lewis always maintained his love of the carnival life and most of his life, he would be waiting at the Alexandria Fair Grounds early on Sunday morning when the carnival arrived to set up for the 4-H fair.

Like his forefathers, Lewis was a carpenter and woodworker. He worked at building houses and crafted many beautiful items which he sold to earn an additional living. These craft items included baskets, candlesticks, spinning wheels, message centers, and a picture frame with built-it flower vase. Several of the pieces he crafted were of his own design.

Lewis Violet Mae Warner were married in a big evening wedding at Mary Rose Fry Warner’s (Violet’s mother) home. The Episcopalian priest engaged to officiate, Matthew Palmer Bowie of St. Stephen's Church in Elwood, was described as “very persnickety” and when offered a drink after the wedding, he said, “I do not partake!” 

As a young married man during the 1920s depression, Lewis often traveled to Hoopston, Illinois, and Cincinnati, Ohio, for work. He sent postcards with his own photo to Violet, his high school sweetheart turned wife. Once he worked as a manager at the S.S. Kresgie Store in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he got his picture in the newspaper for capturing a shoplifter.

He and Violet lived in Elwood at first then moved to Indianapolis for a several years where both daughters Leona Mae and Helen Marie were born.

Lewis went on a search for his younger siblings, Ethel Rose and Herbert Arthur who had been taken from the orphanage by horse and buggy to Hancock’s Chapel to live with the Charlie Wolf family. Once Lewis located his brother and sister, and after Violet’s doctor suggested she leave the big city and move to the country, Lewis and Violet took the girl’s to the crossroads known as Hancock.

They lived in a small house across the road from Wennings General Store and a few feet away from Hancock’s Chapel, the church they attended and where their stillborn daughter Ethel Louise is buried.

Eventually Lewis moved the family back to Elwood near Violet’s mother then to 218 W. Tyler Street in Alexandria. He remodeled the house, adding a new stairwell to the upstairs attic which he transformed into three separate sleeping areas, putting in new hardwood flooring which the girls helped polish by holding sock hops with their friends, and adding a tiny, but efficient bathroom area off the main floor bedroom. He also had a wood shop and garage, as well as a chicken coop in the back.

Lewis was a regular attendant of the Friends Church on Tyler Street and read nothing but the dialogue in Zane Grey western novels. He raised lots of flowers, rhubarb, and at least three different types of apples.

Don’s dog Whiskers wandered up to the Heffner house one day and decided to stay, becoming Lewis’s buddy as he worked in the shop. Lewis used to smoke a pipe, and Lu Ann remembers he smoked her favorite aroma, Cherry.

After having several heart attacks, Lewis died at 7:30 p.m. in St. John's Hospital, Anderson, on July 9, 1963. He was buried at 1:30 p.m. in I.O.O.F. Cemetery, Alexandria.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Writing Wisdom – Jennifer Holm

Author Jennifer Holm loves finding those “weird little connections between now and then” and bringing them to life in her historical fiction. “It’s those messy, awkward moments that get the story started,” she says. “But some things are so tragic you can’t put them into a book.

Holm uses her fiction to give voice to a family as she shows how they are affected by time, place, and history. “Tell stories about regular people, those you won’t see in history books, but give your own spin to those crazy moments.”

Of course, when writing historical fiction, you must remain historically accurate. She suggests you immerse yourself in details and read books from the time period. “Your story comes first. Then make it historical fiction,” she says.

Holm also warns anyone who wants to be an author to, “Assume you’ll be rejected, but submit anyway. A rejection is not anything against you, and it may not be anything against your writing. Acceptance is often about timing!”

She goes on to mention the reasons for rejection might include: they bought a similar story already, too many unsolicited manuscripts arrived in the same week, it was just chance that someone got accepted and you got rejected, or “maybe your editor just found out she is pregnant and doesn’t want to take on a new project that would be due the same time she is.”

Holm says we should “treat each manuscript submission as simply postage” toward the numbers game. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose, but we must continue submitting or we automatically lose.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Been There, Done That -- Joe Montana

In case you ever wondered, the Law of Attraction does work. I’ve used in many times in my life, but never so much as it’s been successful in my quest to find celebrities. Of course, now in retrospect to my paparazzi days, I see this as true. During the time, and many years before I’d even heard of The Secret, I was using it in a regular way. If I’d only known!

Once when I was traveling from my home state of Indiana back to my adopted state of Utah, I found myself sitting in the airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, waiting on my connecting flight and with nothing much to do. So, writer that I am, I started thinking about unfinished book projects I had waiting for me once I got home.

One of these projects was a book proposal for a book about how to meet celebrities. All of my experiences had proven to me that meeting famous people could be accomplished easily enough, if you knew a few simple strategies about what to do. I thought I would be able to sell a publisher on the idea, and so I was outlining a few of the things I had learned about what to do.

If I only had a couple great quotes from celebrities to accompany the article, I thought.

Right then, I noticed a tall, blond man walking toward me. He was surrounded by a group of women, all holding out magazines and pens. This was a scene I’d been part of many times before. This guy was someone famous, and those women were asking for his autograph.

But who was he? I had no clue.

Then he sat down beside me!

This was too weird. I wanted a celebrity, and now here one was, sitting right beside me and I didn’t have an idea in heaven who he might be. How could I interview him without knowing his name?

I eavesdropped into the women’s conversation, but that didn’t give me an idea either. I knew they were holding out magazines and I could see the guy’s photo on the front cover, but I still had no clue. I did catch a glimpse of the cover—Sports Illustrated. I’d never read an issue of that magazine, so that explained why I didn’t know who he was, but here was my celebrity—someone who might be able to give me a quote for my book, if I only knew a name!

This was back in the day when you could leave your suitcase alone for a few minutes in an airport terminal, so, while the man was still engaged in conversation, I slipped over to the nearby newsstand. I scanned the magazine covers until I found the Sports Illustrated. Joe Montana. The guy’s name was Joe Montana. I thought I’d actually heard of him. He was on his way to Kansas City, and so was I to meet my connecting flight.

I walked back to where I had left my carry-on and took my seat. Mr. Montana was now alone, all the women having gotten their autographs. He looked up and said hello to me as I resumed my seat.

“Hi,” I said, then I sat there a few minutes trying to think of exactly what I wanted to say.

Joe was flipping through a magazine of his own, trying to be inconspicuous, I suppose.

Finally, I worked up my nerve and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Montana?”

He turned toward me with a genuine smile.

“I’m a freelance writer,” I continued, “and I’m working on a book proposal on a book about how people should act when they meet a celebrity. Do you mind if I ask you a question to be quoted in my book?”

“I’d be happy to,” he said.

“When you are out in public, how do you feel about fans coming up to you to ask for autographs?”

He gave a big sigh then said, “When I’m in situations like this, I don’t mind at all. . .as long as they don’t make me miss my plane.” He chuckled then continued, “But when I’m out with my family, like for dinner or something, I wish they would let me have my space, you know what I mean?”

I knew exactly what he meant. I’d spent enough time on the road following the Osmonds to know when fans were appreciated and when they were tolerated.

“I understand exactly,” I said. “Thanks.”

“No problem. Good luck with you book,” he said as he turned back to his magazine.

I wrote his quote on the back of my ticket receipt and continued thinking about the book I was proposing.

“Celebrities can really be nice, if you approach them at the right time and in the right way. This chapter will teach you how.”

Yep, that would be a good start to the chapter on what to do once you find your favorite celebrity. Soon, we were called to board the place, on our way to Kansas City, where I had no idea I’d run into a second celebrity.

Find out that story on Wednesday’s blog.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Open a New Window

Do you ever feel like life is passing you by? Like you’re not where you wanted to be when you started? Have you made some bad choices along the way—ones that didn’t turn out like you expected them to or perhaps were intentional, but which you now regret?

It happens to the best of us. We think we know what’s best for ourselves at the time, but later realize either that the choices we made got us nowhere or that perhaps they weren’t such great choices after all.

Where does that leave us? Are we stuck now forever, hoping that if we just keep traveling down that same path, somehow the road we’re on will lead us to a better outcome?

The simple truth is, that’s not going to happen. Change will not happen unless you change!

How do we make that happen? In the words of Auntie Mame, “Open a new window. Open a new door. Travel a new highway that’s never been traveled before.”

This kind of change in direction is especially important if you’ve found yourself drawn into a lifestyle or situation that puts your spirit into jeopardy. All too often those who have pulled away from their church have done so because they’ve made a mistake, one they fear others will see as a mark against them. Then rather than repenting and correcting that mistake, their pride keeps them on the road of least resistance, the path that lets them sin and sin again, never having to face the hard part or seeking forgiveness.

Even though the individual might acknowledge they are no longer at all close to where they intended to be, the way back seems harsh and difficult—too difficult to face. They hold the errant belief that where they are is where they must stay because “God doesn’t want a sinner like me.”

But that is what God does want, with a little additional effort on our part. God does want a sinner. . . to repent, to change, and follow the new pathway He has set, the one that leads us all to a better place.

And the good thing, God never consults your past to determine your future. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what road you’ve gone down, where you were headed, He is ready to welcome you onto the right path.

As we read in Alma in the Book of Mormon, “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.”

Elder Neil A. Andersen says, “For most, repentance is more a journey than a one-time event. It is not easy. To change is difficult. It requires running into the wind, swimming upstream.”

The work may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end.

How sad it must be to reach the final days of your life and find yourself filled with regret. If only I’d spent more time with my kids. If only I’d accomplished more of the goals I had set for myself when I was young. If only I’d allowed myself to repent and come closer to God.

Now is the time. If you have something in your life that isn’t taking you closer to the place you want to be, then start the change.

In the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. When there has been wrongdoing and then there has come repentance, followed by forgiveness, then literally the offender who was lost is found, and he who was dead is made alive.”

“Simply travel a new highway. Dance to a new rhythm. Whistle a new song,” and soon you’ll find yourself headed exactly where you want to be, and this time the outcome will be great.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Home Cooking: Helen’s Homemade Pizza

As Chan, Zach and I were wandering the aisles of the grocery store this week, I kept asking, “What do you guys want to eat?”

For quite awhile the answer was the usual, “I don’t know,” then all of a sudden Chan said, “Can’t you make that pizza you make?”

“You mean my mother’s pizza?”

Yeah, that’s the one. I’ll go get the stuff for it.”

Before I could respond, he was gone. I continued with my shopping and moments later, Chan was back.

“Is this everything?” His arms were loaded with a boxed pizza crust, pepperoni packages, shredded cheese, and hamburger.

“You’ve got it all,” I said.

Last night, we made the pizza. The fun thing about this process is that the boys are old enough and usually willing to help, which means less prep time for me to try to do it alone, and dinner is on the table quicker than it might otherwise be. As a matter of fact, with this pizza we can be done in less time that it takes to deliver at Dominos!

The boys dug out two large, rimmed cookie sheets and sprayed them with Pam, while I made the crust thanks to Chef Boyardee. Letting the dough rise on the stove during the preheat, I started cooking the hamburger. I don’t know why it started, but my mother used hamburger in her pizzas. Maybe she did it because the meat was cheap, maybe just because we loved it, but that became a staple in my mother’s pizza recipe.

I browned a pound of it, then asked Kent to drain the fat while I spread the dough onto both 9x12" pans. Chan poured and spread the sauce then held up the tiny packet of Parmesan cheese. “This is it? This is it?” he said. “You’re supposed to add this and actually make a cheese pizza?”

“Yeah, that’s what the recipe on the box says, but you know better,” I said. “Kent, get the extra Pamesan from the cabinet. Zach, pull out the shredded cheese from the fridge. Be sure to get both kinds.”

Then comes the part that takes real crafting—placing the pepperoni on one of the crusts so that not a single inch of dough will ever be eaten without a full slice of pepperoni. The other pizza gets a layer of hamburger, and if there are leftover pepperonis from the package one pizza number one is complete, they go on top of the hamburger.

Then we cover the whole thing in cheese! We like sharp cheddar, but we will also use a pizza blend of cheddar and mozzarella if the mood strikes.

Into the over they go, following the boxed directions, and twenty minutes later, we are eating. One other probably strange trick I learned from my mother is to cut the pizza with a pair of scissors, just like cutting a bolt of fabric.

This is a pizza I like both hot from the oven and cold the next day for lunch, but I fully understand that cold pizza is an acquired taste, so I won’t be offended if you don’t like it that way. ou won’t be alone.

Here’s the complete recipe:

1 Box Chef Boyardee box mix for two pizzas
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 large package of sliced pepperoni
1 large package Pizza Blend shredded cheese
1 large package Sharp Cheddar shredded cheese
extra Parmesan cheese, to taste

Follow the boxed directions for the crust. Sprinkle browned and drained ground beef over the prepared base for one pizza. Place pepperoni on the second one. Cover well with shredded cheese. Place both pizzas into the oven for 10 minutes at 425. Rotate top to bottom and bake another ten minutes until done. Cut clices and serve hot.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week in Review: Undiscovered Movies

A few months ago one of my sons’ favorite haunts, Hollywood Video, was going out of business. As a result, the store managers were sponsoring a liquidation sale, with discounts on DVDs that cut pretty deep. Never one to pass up a good movie or a bargain, Chan and I went to the store, ready to browse the shelves and bring home anything that sounded remotely interesting. As a result, I ended up with lots of movies that I’d never heard of, and some that I’m still wondering why I hadn’t seen them the first time around in the theater because they turned out to be my kind of film. Today I’m going to tell you about four of the movies that were all new to me.

 Hollywood Ending—I’ve never really thought much about being a Woody Allen fan. All that scandal that came about in his life with Mia Farrow and Soon-Yi Previn sort of turned me off, if you know what I mean. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t respect Mr. Allen for his obvious talent to write for both stage and screen, so when I happened upon Hollywood Ending I thought it deserved a chance, one I’m glad I took. The movie was hysterical! Of course, because my husband works in the film industry, we know so many people who fit into a film such as this. The crazy director, his former wife who is now involved with the producer who is the only one who can save the director’s career—it’s all too, too—HOLLYWOOD! Because my husband used to work on Everwood, I’ve also developed this odd affinity for watching Treat Williams always get his comeuppance in the end, and Tia Lioni gave a great performance as usual. If you watch this one, be prepared to laugh right out loud.

Elvis Has Left the Building—Where was I when this movie came out? I loved John Corbett in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I’m sure if I’d known he was in another film so closely following that one I would have seen it. The marketing department must not have done a very good job! He’s just as cute and adorable in this one as he was in the previous film, so that alone makes it worth watching. Kim Basinger was also good, but starting even in 2004 to look a little old. And Annie Potts! She was just as funny as ever. The premise is hysterical—every place Kim Basinger goes she seems to be responsible for the death of yet another Elvis impersonator. When she thinks that John Corbett is just another member of the Elvis club, she knows she has to stay away from him, because he’s too cute and sweet for her to ever want to see him die. Come on, you know she's going to get him in the end, but the events along the way make the journey worth it, and the small role played by Angie Dickenson was a great bonus.

On Edge—Okay, so it’s rated R and slightly irreverent, but if you lived through the Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding debacle of the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, then you’ll find the subtle humor of this rags-to-riches story of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who wants to win the trophy. The story about the tubby skater also plays for some great humor, as does the interview portion with a much-in-costume real Olympic Gold-Medalist, Scott Hamilton. Also, keep an eye out for another skating legend, Tai Babilonia, and Jason Alexander also delivers his lines in a way that will keep you laughing.  There is good reason the movie’s tag line is, “Spinal Tap on Ice.”

Beau Jest—As in, surely you do? For some reason, I didn’t realize this was a Mormon movie. Okay, maybe it’s not, maybe it’s just filmed by a Mormon crew who came out of Utah and moved to Chicago to do their work. There’s only one problem, they brought along a cast of hokey wanna-be actors who got their years experience performing in a roadshow, and the DP (Director of Photography) seems to have an affinity for videotape rather than the real thing. Unfortunately, it shows. Even my 10-year-old pointed it out and knew the reason why this movie turned out just looking like a rehearsal rather than a real movie. I hate to slam it too bad because some of my friends actually worked on the crew, and honestly, I think they did the best they could do with the money I know they likely didn’t have. But it seems to me, they might have tried to at least cast a girl in the lead role who had a little talent—the love interest guy was fairly good, although his nemesis was almost as bad as the girl at acting. Then of course, it was hard to believe this cute little LDS  ingenue was a Jewish girl who would do anything to pull the wool over her parent’s eyes when it comes to who she is dating. The best performance in the whole thing was played by Lainie Kazan, in a reprisal of her role as the mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but even as actress as talented as she can only do what she can do with the part she’s been given

Thursday, September 16, 2010

All in the Family – Winona Myra Alice Lake Brobst

My grandmother, Winona Myra Alice Lake Brobst is the oldest child of Robert Lee Lake and Fannie Isadora Stevens Pyle Lake, but she was younger than Fannie’s sons with her first husband, Joshua (Jack) Pyle, Robert’s relative.

The story goes that Robert had moved from Kentucky to help his cousin, Jack, on their farm. After Jack died, Robert and Fannie married and had two children of their own, Winona and Florence Ethel, plus raised the three sons she had with Jack. (Bert Franklin, D’Earle, and Ben Harold Pyle)

For a short time in the first three years of her life, Winona lived in Houghton, South Dakota, where her sister Ethel was born. A great storm ruined her papa’s crops, convincing him they needed to return to Indiana.

In her own journal Winona records, “A way back in the days when gas derricks were popping up in the middle west like mushrooms, I was born on the family farmstead in central Indiana.(Point Isabelle, Indiana) I was a very imaginative child; never played with dolls, but preferred doing creative work, either with needle and thread, or hammer and saw. In my idle hours during summer, I swayed back and forth in the rope swing, pretending all the great persons I had ever heard of were my friends. In long winter evenings, I listened avidly to the philosophical discussions of kinsmen, many of whom had degrees trailing after their names like the tail of a kite or a comet.”
“When I was nine, we went to the city to live. (She likely means Elwood, Indiana) My health had never permitted me to enter school, but I entered that winter. I romped on the commons and went to school with the other children on the block. When twelve, I wrote my first novel, if it could be called such. (Okay, anybody see anything familiar here between me and my grandmother?) Later, I enjoyed academic training in English, journalism, analysis of the novel, drama, psychology, mathematics, and speech. In eight years I completed the twelve years of grammar and high school and won the first scholarship ever awarded our school.”

Winona graduated from Elwood High where she attended with former presidential candidate Wendell L. Wilkie who was a great friend of her sister, Ethel.

She knew how to play the piano and was addicted to correspondence courses, especially psychology, philosophy, and religion. “I have read very little recent fiction, only collections of best short stories by various editors. I have been interested in home economics, gardening, and poultry raising. In fact, I not only studied correspondence courses in each but have had years of experience in these lines of endeavor.”

She wrote poetry and published a poem about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 in the Chicago Tribune.

“I have worked in an office, and when the linemen were called to the army during the World War, I patrolled the lines on many a dark, stormy night in those troublous times.”

Winona stayed one semester with her son Gene in Lafayette so she could attend classes with him at Purdue University. She was so enamored with education, she thought she might like to be a teacher. She and Gene also traveled the U.S., and she said, “I have traveled from Canada down into Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but know the middle west best.”

Winona loved to crochet and made afghans of various patterns. She was an excellent cook and baked pies and cobblers from the fruits Grandpa Brobst grew. She canned homegrown items and made jams and jellies. At Christmas she made chocolate covered cream candies and fruit cakes with dark rum soaked into them that I remember as the best Fruit Cake I’ve ever had. Every day she would prepare a lunch for Pearl to take to work. The fare was always a Canadian Bacon sandwich and a thermos of coffee.

She and Pearl are the parents to three sons: Loren Allen, Robert Ellsworth, and Ervin Eugene Brobst.

About her own life, she stated, “I have known joy, sorrow, heartache, disappointment; illness unto death almost. I have assisted at births, I have helped to lay out the dead. I think I have run the gamut of human emotions; yet withal, I seem to know so little.”

Winona died in 1980 at the age of 92. She was member of the First Christian Church.

(The child in the photo is Eugene's oldest son, Travis William Brobst. This was taken in the middle room of the Roe house where Winona spent much of her time.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Rick Walton

If you are a writer from Utah, then it is likely you already know the extraordinary talents of children's author, Rick Walton. I first met Rick at a local chapter meeting of the League of Utah Writer's, and I've always found him to be one of the most supportive and nurturing authors I've ever met. Filled with great ideas and always willing to help others as they perfect their craft, Rick is a popular speaker at conference and workshop events. And overall, he's just a nice guy! He has an incredible website, filled with lots of resources for teachers and writers, as well as fun stuff just for kids. I attended one of Rick's day-long workshops for picture book authors (okay, so we all know I can't write anything as short as a picture book), and I learned a lot that has helped me in all of my writing.

Rick first asked us to consider: "What makes a bad manuscript?" Preachy, telling, point of view shifts, the all-wise adult, boring words, irrelevant info, condescending tone, and digressions all made the list.

Then we considered, "What makes a good manuscript?" Limited focus and time, the kids solve the problem, the main character is someone the kids can relate to, humor, and the problem draws us to the character.

The problem with too many adults who want to write a book for children--especially a picture book--is they are so interested in delivering a message that they forget to focus on the story. With a picture book, you have limited time, so you must use the best words. Stay in the narrative stream and teach in terms of positives, not lecturing about what children should not do.

"Establish the rules, tone, and format of the book, then don't throw your readers for a loop," Rick says. Talking animals and story in verse are much harder to sell, so you probably want to avoid those when you just start out. "Prose gives a lot more flexibility."

He encourages authors to write text that suggests illustrations, but don't tell your illustrator what to do. Give them the freedom to use their own craft.

"Avoid those topics that have been overdone," he says. "Ask yourself, 'Can a child relate to my main character?'"

When it comes to working with your editor, if you have no real reason to say no, then learn to say yes. They have been there many times before and know the market and audience as well as anyone. Only 30% of authors even make back their advances on these books.

"The picture book market is very competitive," he adds. "Great quality and a nice story isn't enough. Your manuscript must rise above the others." It takes around two years to publish a picture book. You want the best illustrators the editor can find, you writers need to be patient, and keep on writing in the meantime.

A key element for a successful picture book is, "Does this book make a good read aloud?" Parents and teachers rely on picture books to use with their children. If it's not a fun an interesting book to read, wy would they want to buy a copy?

As much as we as authors might not want to hear it, a positive rejection letter is a good thing. It means we are on the right track. If it's personalized, that is even better. Find something new to send to that same editor as soon as your next manuscript is ready.

Rick does say we should write for reasons other than making lots of money. "Do it because you love writing."

And that's good advice for us all in this crazy business called publishing.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Been There, Done That: Mr. T

Last week I wrote about my unfavorable encounter with Bill Cosby. At least two of those who commented told about their own negative experiences with Mr. T. Since I too had a brief encounter with Mr. T, I thought I’d write about him this week.

As you may know, Mr. T hails from Chicago, Illinois, and that is where I had my first not-so-close encounter with the supposed tough guy actor who made his fame on the 1980s television series, The A-Team.

Because of all my adventures along the Osmond trail, I happened to be hanging out with Anita Lang when the entire Osmond family was performing in Chicago. Alan had decided he wanted to have Mr. T as part of the talent for an upcoming 4th of July at the Stadium of Fire in Provo, Utah.

However, Mr. T was having any of it, so Alan came up with a great idea. “Let’s give him some tickets to the concert tonight. Once he sees our show, maybe he will feel better about talking to me and we can get him to buy in to coming to Utah to perform.”

Before we knew what was happening, Anita had an envelope with complementary tickets to the Osmond show to be held that night at the Rosemont Theater, and we were on our way for a double-header assignment downtown (I’ll tell about the other part on Wednesday’s blog)

Mr. T and his people knew we were coming, and once our first errand was done, we headed toward his penthouse apartment, ready to deliver his tickets and the message inside from Alan Osmond. We had been given specific instructions to deliver the envelope directly into the hands of Mr. T.

There was only one problem, something we found out from his personal assistant who answered the door for us. Mr. T would no come to the door because Mr. T is afraid of people.

What? That’s what the man told us. Legendary tough-guy, Mr. T was afraid of two young women and groups of people in general. How would he ever make it coming to a concert? And Stadium of Fire? Fifty-thousand people would obviously be more than he could stand.

With no other choice but to leave the tickets with his assistant, Anita and I hurried back to the Rosemont, ready to deliver the news. Would Mr. T come? What would he do if anyone recognized him? What would Alan do if he didn’t?

A few hours later, Anita was backstage with Marie. I was comfortable in my seat down near the stage, and the opening music for the show had just begun. The lights flashed around the theater, a drum roll, and Donny and Marie were on-stage. The show had begun, with a no show for the seats reserved for Mr. T.

But wait, a few minutes later something in the balcony caught my attention and I glanced up. There he was—Mr. T—along with a bodyguard, moving along the back row of seats clear up in the balcony. Then he disappeared for a minute. When I saw him again, I realized he had slipped into the glass-encased sound booth. All the better to protect him from the possibility of meeting an adoring fan.

The show went on. Donny and Marie performed. Alan and the Osmond Brothers, too. Somehow during the show, Alan got a minute of time to speak to the elusive star and arrangements were made. Mr. T would come to perform at Stadium of Fire, but somehow they would need to keep all the people away.

I don’t know how they did it, but it seemed when he came to Provo, Mr. T got exactly what he wanted. As I recall, he was even distant with the Osmond Boys, and they shared the stage!

So, the next time you see a tough guy or think a celebrity is just not very nice, maybe you can think about Mr. T and realize, maybe, in reality, that person is more afraid of you than rude. After all, giving him the benefit of the doubt is at least worth a try.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Problem Solving

I remember back in the days, before I was a wife and mother, when the hardest problems I had to solve included how much longer I could sleep after the alarm clock rang, what outfit I was going to wear to work, and how long it would take me to commute there. I lived on my own, and any difficulties that came my way were almost always of my own doing.

As a new wife I soon learned that I would be expected to be a sounding board for my husband as he worked through solving his own problems. He wanted to bounce ideas off me, asking for my opinion before he decided what to do. It was great to feel needed, but I have to admit, most often I felt myself burdened down with worry over situations where I had no control, and it wore me out. If I went to him to discuss my own problems, he wanted to jump right in and fix it, although that isn’t what I wanted at all. I just needed him to listen, but that isn’t what a man is wired to do.

Once children entered into the picture, the problems seemed to become non-stop. All of our boys are adopted; only one of them at the toddler age. Each of them carried their own set of baggage when they came to live with us. My husband and I have had many trials just learning how to interact with them in a way they might hopefully listen to anything we try to teach. That problem alone has become at times monumental.

As I consider the idea of problem solving, I’m coming to learn that there is no way every problem can be solved. That is especially true when you want to jump in and solve a problem that is really someone else’s problem to solve. Right this very moment, my youngest is sitting next to me whining about what kind of snack he should have. Unfortunately for him, this is not my problem to solve. No matter what suggestion I make, it’s not what he wanted, so there is no way I can give him a solution which will find him satisfied.

Dr. Mike Murdock once said: “You will only be remembered for two things: the problems you solve, or the ones you create.”

As a wife, mother, teacher and adult, I go about solving lots of problems every day. Some of the are minor; some perhaps more great. Perhaps I’ll someday be remembered for those solutions, but maybe not. Solving problems for points only comes in those math class assignments most of us grew to hate. Life doesn’t keep a tally.

If I could build a better mousetrap, find a cure for the common cold, or bring about world peace, then maybe my problem solving actions would make a bigger splash, but for right now, I’m content just solving a few of those little problems and letting the others fade away. If it’s not my problem to solve then I must be content to let others fret over the reasons why.

That brings me to the second part of Dr. Murdock’s statement—“the ones you create.”

The world is filled with people creating problems. All you have to do is turn on the television during any news program to see the evidence. Wars exist on everything from terror to obesity. Violence erupts over both abortion clinics and TV stations that promote shows about people with too many children such as the recent hostage situation at the Discovery Channel. Arguments ensue over both love and marriage. We live in a raging battlefield.

Even in our own lives we often bring on our problems by the choices we make. When we fail to listen to that still small voice, the conscience which is alive within each of us from the moment of birth, we put ourselves onto the path we must take. When our outcomes are not what we had expected, it’s usually because we made the choice to move just a little bit to the side of the road.

Like the train who took the wrong switch path and ended up in New York instead of Florida, one little mistake, one small error can make a drastic change in our final destination. That’s why it’s so important to actually make choices, and not just follow the path of least resistance or the one someone else tells us to take. 

The decision for each of us is whether we want to be held responsible for making problems, or for being the one who is able to come up with the right solutions. And that’s a problem worth solving when it leads us to a better life.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Home Cooking: The Best Banana Bread EVER!

“Are they dead yet?”

I knew exactly what my boys were talking about when they asked this question. We had three bananas that we had been carefully watching as the skins got darker and darker. My boys know that once the bananas have turned really dark—what they refer to as ‘dead’—the pulp inside is super-sweet and that’s the best kind to make into Sue’s Banana Bread recipe.

“Yes, they’re dead,” I told them.

“Then make banana bread!” was the immediate reply. It was the end of a long day, up early, off to teach school, lots of errands run that afternoon, dinner fixed, and now at 7:30 they wanted me to make banana bread.

After some searching, Zach and I managed to find all the ingredients—why did someone hide the vanilla and baking powder in the top shelf of the snacks cabinet?—and locate the bread pan—no, that’s a cake pan. I stirred everything together, sprayed PAM on the bread pan, and used one of the bananas to finish the mixture, but before I could get the pan into the over to bake, Chan and Kent stopped me.

“What about the other two bananas?” they asked. “Can’t you make MORE banana bread?”

“I’m not sure we have enough butter or pudding to make two more batches,” I said, knowing I was too tired to put them together anyway.

“Sure we do,” Kent said, as he was off to the pantry to find the pudding boxes, Zach trailing along behind him.

“I’m tired,” I said to Chan who was still standing in the kitchen.

“We’ll help,” he said.

He came to the table where I was sitting and retrieved the mixing bowl, rinsed it out at the sink, and was ready to begin. Zach and Kent were back at this time, and Zach had already helped me make the first batter so he knew what to do. I called out measurements for a double batch and the boys put them all together.

Once the two new pans were filled, they put all three of them into the oven to bake. An hour later I thought, They will never eat all three of these loaves but before bedtime an entire loaf was already gone. By the time I got home from school they next day, loaf #2 two was gone, and last night I noticed #3 was also missing.

When I sent them to the grocery store, guess what they came home with? More pudding and bananas, and now we’re waiting on this bunch of bananas to die.
So, what’s the secret recipe for the best banana bread ever? Here you go:

1 c. mashed really, really ripe banana
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
½ t. baking power
½ t. vanilla
2 c. flour
3 T milk
½ melted margarine
3 oz. package of Instant Coconut Cream Pudding

Mix it all together, adding melted margarine and bananas last. Spray buttery PAM on a loaf pan and pour in the batter. Bake at 350∘ for 1 hour or until done. Poke the center of the bread to check, If a knife comes out clean, it’s ready. You can also use Banana pudding mix, but my boys LOVE the coconut cream the best.

I shared this recipe with the ladies in our church for a cookbook, and I’ve had many of them now tell me they use Sue’s recipe now instead of their mother’s–it’s THAT good!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Week in Review: More Great Reads

I'm starting out this school year with a student teacher, so I'm actually having some free time to read and to write, but because I tend to read about 20 books at a time, I've only finished two more this week. I'll tell you about those in a minute.

But first, I want to share something fun that allows my students to buy into making reading recommendations to both of us and feeling validated when we read them. I made a spot on the chalkboard and wrote: Books Mrs. Staheli and Ms. Powell Should Read. Then I numbered a list 1-20 and asked our students to start their list. As they have added books and the two of us have set to reading them, we initial the books we finish and star the books we've both read. Right now our list has 16 books. I've read six of them, plus two books from one listed as a series. Ms. Powell has finished one of them.

Because I know someone will ask, here's the list so far:
1. The Rangers Apprentice (I'm currently reading book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan)
2. The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: Wolf Brother (Sitting on my desk)
3. The Icemark Chronicles (I've read The Cry of the Icemark and Blade of Fire. Still need to read #3)
4. The Alliance (I read this one years ago)
5. Shakespeare's Secret (Both of us finished it this week)
6. Goose Girl (I've already read this one)
7. Fallen (I'm currently reading this one)
8. Levan Thumps and the Gateway to Foo (I've read this one already)
9. The Hunger Games (I started this once before and abandoned it. Guess I'll have to read it this time.)
10. Tunnels (I own it, but haven't read it yet)
11. Forbidden Sea (I hadn't even heard of this one.)
12. Where the Red Fern Grows (I read this aloud to a class and CRIED!)
13. Having Hope (Read this least year)
14. Just Listen (I own this one too, but haven't read it yet)
15. The Sister Pact (Hadn't heard of this one either)
16. At First Sight (Or this one. How did I miss a Nicholas Sparks novel?)

So, what did I read this week?

Shakespeare's Secret -- Elise Broach
This is a book recommended this week by one of our students. Ms. Powell picked up a copy from the city library and read it quickly, then she loaned it to me. I already owned a copy, but of course I couldn't find it at first in that crazy room filled with books at my house that is supposed to be a library. Anyway, once I found it, I read the book in a day as well, and both of us really liked it. The premise revolves around a possible link between Queen Elizabeth and Edward deVere, who some scholars believe to be the true Shakespeare, and a missing diamond taken from a necklace. Fans of Blue Ballitt's Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 will likely enjoy this book.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child
Donalyn Miller
This book was recommended to me by the other English teachers here at Payson Jr. High, and as I read it I felt validated. Not only does Donalyn use the same mentor references as I did in my own book and newspaper columns (Janet Allen, Nancy Atwell, Chris Crowe, etc.) but she also teaches her elementary classes in much the same way as I do those in juinior high, and our results are just the same--high test scores, improved writing, and an instilled love for lifelong reading in our students. Our students leave our class as READERS. The vast majority of them cannont get enough of a good book; those who entered as non-readers, or apathetic readers, discover a new joy, a favorite book, a genre or an author they now enjoy, and often come back to both os us, sometimes years later, asking for a recommendation for a book to read. (I now teach children of my former students, and these parents always report about books to me when they come in for parent teacher conferences! Once their teacher, always their teacher.) The point of the book is, if we want our children to become readers they have to read. This does not mean book reports or worksheets, it means giving them time to engage in texts that will mean something to them and letting them read for pleasure in school. I could lecture about this point all day, and give you example upon example of when I've found it to be true,  but I'll let this book speak for itself and just affirm that what she has to say is true.

Oh, and speaking of readers, I just looked at the chalkboard. My students have added four more books to the list, so I'll go ahead and share those here with you.

17. The Mysterious Benedict Society (I've heard lots of good kid reviews)
18. The Missing: Found (Loved this. Now on Book #3 of the series)
19. The Rescue (Who is my secret Nicholas Sparks fan? Haven't read this one either.)
20. When You Reach Me (Hadn't heard of this one)

I'd better close this blog before the list grows again!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

All in the Family: Pearl Brobst

Pearl Brobst was born December 26, 1885, in Kokomo, Indiana, the second son to David and Mary Ann Blakely Brobst. His older brother was William Ellsworth, who I think my mother referred to as Uncle Worth. His younger siblings were Audison, who was killed during WW I and buried in France, and Olen, who played the piano by ear and traveled across the country with his own dance band. 

Prior to Olen’s birth, the family lived in Kokomo, then moved to Elwood sometime between 1889 and 1902. I never knew much about Pearl’s early life, so anything here from those who are older that I am would certainly be appreciated.

According to Eugene and from his mother’s “Light of the World (Red) Bible, on October 10, 1906, Pearl and Winona took the Interurban Electric Railway from Elwood to the Madison Country Courthouse in Anderson to get their marriage license. While there, someone asked, "Do you want to get married right away?" Winona replied, "I guess so" and they were led to another room where they were married by William O. Lee, either a judge or justice of the peace. The marriage was witnessed by A.K. Deets.

Returning to Elwood and to her home, Winona bid Pearl goodnight at the door, as though on a date. Pearl made some comment about the tow of them now being married and that perhaps he could stay the night. Thinking about it, Winona guessed he probably could. This was the first her parents knew about the marriage.

Pearl and Winona were the parents of three sons: Loren Allen, Robert Ellsworth, and Ervin Eugene Brobst.s

Pearl adored Winona, who called him Pearlie, and wanted to give her a wonderful life. He bought the three story house at 1016 Roe Avenue as a showplace for her, and he helped with the housework, something men didn’t usually do during this era. He loved to garden. He planted vegetables, various berries, grapevines, and fruit and nut trees. He even let her travel the country and go to Lafayette to attend classes at Purdue University with her youngest son, Eugene.

Pearl held several interesting jobs during his lifetime. Before street lamps were electric, he had the job of going through town each night and lighting the natural gas that came from the lamps.

He worked for awhile at Leeson’s Grocery in Elwood on the main north-and-south street. It was in operation until the 1980's, when it was bought out and other business ventures have occupied the two story building since that time. The building is still in very good shape and has weathered the storms of time very well. Leeson’s also owned a large department store which stood where Cox’s Supermarket stands today. It had groceries, clothing, merchandise and all the items that were common in those days. An elevator  for customers was available for customers to reach the second floor. I’m not sure if Pearl also worked here, but it is possible once he moved to Alexandria.

For awhile, the entire Brobst family lived at the power plant sub-station at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue while Pearl worked there. My dad and Uncle Eugene used to tell me stories of the boys climbing the towers at the substation, something that is expressly marked today as being forbidden.

Pearl retired from Johns-Manville, maybe as late as 1960, where he was a foreman. He died at home on November 17, 1961, after an extended illness.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Writing Wisdom – Matt Whitaker

You may not know Matt Whitaker by name, but it is possible you’ve seen his movies, Matt is a screenwriter and director who got his start in Provo, Utah. As a matter of fact, I worked on a LDS Motion Picture Studio film with him many, many years ago. The movie he is most likely to be recognized for nationally as screenwriter is for Saints and Soldiers, the story of four American soldiers and one Brit fighting in Europe during World War II struggle to return to Allied territory after being separated from U.S. forces during the historic Malmedy Massacre. Local audiences will also know his work from The Work and the Glory II & III.
Matt’s current project is Truth and Treason which explores the complex bond that forms between the brilliant young resistance fighter, Helmuth Hübener and Erich Muessener, the Gestapo agent intent on hunting him down. This film examines the human struggle for freedom and confirms the impact of one courageous voice. They are in pre-production in Budapest, and Haley Joel Osment is slated to play the Helmuth role.

Being a screenwriter is not always what people expect it will be. “I didn’t even see Saints and Soldiers until the entire film was finished and I went to the screening, and I wrote the script!” Whitaker says. “And no one has ever asked me where I went to film school, or if I have a degree. When it comes to making movies its all about who you know, what you can do, and how well you get along with other people.”

Matt finds his specialty as film adaptation of books. “Adapting is the process of identifying and focusing the story,” he says. “You need to keep everything visual, which means sometimes you add something new.”

Whitaker suggests you need to read the book a number of times. “Get to know the character, get a copy that you can tear out the pages to organize them into the plot the way it needs to bein the movie.”

He divides the plots into three or four parts: storyline A is the main plot, the one with the most movement and where you’ll find the protagonist. The subplots are B, D, and possibly D. They weave together around the spine of the main plt, where the protagonist finds his/her deep desire and uses sufficient effort to restore the balance of life.

Anyone who has studied film either formally or on their own by being an avid watcher will recognize the three act structure: Act One sets up the story, introduces characters, and establishes the problem the character must solve at the climax; Act Two shows what the protagonist is willing to do to solve the problem; and Act Three builds to a climax and provides a resolution that is emotionally satisfying to the audience.

As when writing fiction, don’t allow your characters to run into a cul-de-sac! Subplots need a relationship and effect on the main story. They must lead the characters somewhere else in the main story. If they do not, then cut them out.

Another trick for all types of writing, hide the exposition. Spread it out so the audience doesn’t know they are hearing it, and don’t let your characters talk about something they both already know.

Remember that film can’t support as many characters as a book. Define the function of each, then decide if you really need them. Find the sub-text in every scene. What does a character mean, as opposed to what they say. Give those characters each a unique voice, and look for the overall theme.

Whitaker also reminds us, “There should be lots of white in a screenplay. Find the most concise and meaningful way to express a moment of action. The script is the blueprint. Try to make it into its own form of literature.”

Monday, September 06, 2010

Been There, Done That – Bill Cosby

Lest you think that every celebrity encounter I’ve ever had was a pleasant experience, I thought I’d share a story that still leaves me shaking my head, trying to decide how I feel about this particular celebrity. Bill Cosby is often listed among America’s most respected and great celebrities, but when it comes to those I’ve met, I’d have to rank him among the top of the list for most rude.

My friend Mary LeBeuf and I had seen Mr. Cosby at a concert at Brigham Young University and really enjoyed his show. He was funny and personable toward the crowd, and from what we’d seen of him on television, that’s exactly how we expected him to be in person.

“Hey, let’s go see him at the airport tomorrow morning,” Mary suggested.

I was game, after all, going to the airport to see celebrities was part of our everyday life, why should this time be any different? We found out where he was headed and what time his plane would be leaving, and hit the sack because we’d be out the door very early the next morning.

We were on the road by six a.m. Although Mr. Cosby’s plane was not scheduled to leave until around nine, we wanted to be there early so we could catch him for an autograph before he boarded the plane. It took us nearly an hour to get to the airport, park our car, and find the correct gate on the call board, and once we arrived at the gate we found we were the only people there, so we sat down to wait.

This was the first plane scheduled to depart from the gate this particular morning, so it was already parked where we could see it from the window. Mary and I each had our autograph books ready, and it was a good thing because almost immediately we recognized the man walking toward us as Bill Cosby.

Mr. Cosby wore a pair of grey sweats and carried no luggage. He held his head down, so I’m sure he didn’t see us at first. Mary and I were already experienced at approaching celebrities so we knew how to act as we walked toward him. We caught sight of a woman—an airline employees—as she came from the hall that attached to the gate and moved toward the check-in podium, but she didn’t see to pay any attention to any of us. Absolutely no one else was in the terminal except for us and Mr. Cosby.

He had just arrived in the seating area when we approached him, autograph books and pens held ready. “Excuse us, Mr. Cosby,” I said. “May we have your autograph?”

He looked up at us sharply, and growled out,” I don’t give autographs.” Then he moved quickly to the woman at the podium. “I’d like to be taken aboard the plane now.”

She looked up at him, recognized his face and was quick to comply. “Come with me, Mr. Cosby.”

We heard he remind him that the plane didn’t leave for another two hours and that he might be more comfortable in the waiting area, but he didn’t seem to care as he walked into the tunnel that led to the plane. Mary and I just stood there, our mouths hanging open in shock at how rude he had sounded when he refused to sign our autograph books.

Before we could leave the airline employee was back. “Girls,” she said. At first we thought we were in trouble, but she continued quickly. “I saw what happened. Mr. Cosby is on the plane, signing autographs right now for the crew. Give me your books, and I ‘ll see what I can do.”

At this point I wasn’t sure I really wanted his autograph anymore, but like Mary, I handed the book over to her.

Less than five minutes later she was back, a huge smile on her face. She handed over the books, still open to the correct page, and sure enough, there was his autograph. There was no personalization, but that was okay. Many celebrities only write their own name.

We thanked the woman for helping us out—after all, an autograph was what we came for—but every since that day, I’m just not too sure how much I really like Mr. Bill Cosby.

Oh, by the way, here's the autograph:

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Wisdom Keys: Do Something Different

Day in, day out, your life is always the same. You know you’re stuck in a rut, but you don’t know what to do to get yourself out. Whatever happened to all those big dreams you had? Where did the plans for success, fortune, and travel all disappear? Worse yet, will you be able to get them all back? And if you do, will you ever achieve any of those dreams, or will you soon find yourself right back in that same old rut?

Some people attribute the maxim, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” to Albert Einstein. It doesn’t really matter who said it first, because the idea is still sound. Yet how often do we find ourselves doing the same thing over and over, hoping that some how things will change, our life will be different, or we will end up with a different outcome?

Unfortunately, making those changes that bring us the life we want are more difficult than we might imagine. The ruts we build are often deep, and getting out of them may take a lot of effort, more than we’ve developed the muscles to climb.

I’ve often heard my students say, Next year things will be different. Next year I’ll get straight A’s. Next year I have perfect attendance. Next year, next year, next year.” But next year comes, and guess what? Things soon slip back into being exactly the same.

Changing behaviors is work, especially those we lead us to an easy way out. Water always runs in the path of least resistance, and unless we keep a diligent watch, so do our reactions to a rocky path. Our reactions become complacent, and pretty soon, we’re right back where we started from, moving along at the bottom of that rut.

If we can’t bring ourselves up and out of the rut, what can we do about reaching those dreams? The answer is really simple, even if the work we must to do reach our goals are not: When you want something you never had, you have got to do something you have never done.

You want to be successful? Then you’ve got to look at yourself as though you were already a success. You’ve got to dress the part, believe you are, and associate with those who already are. If that means you must find new friends, change your job, or save to buy better quality clothes, you do it. If you don’t envision yourself as being who you want to be, you’ll never find yourself there, somewhere at the top.

You want to accumulate a fortune? Then you’ve got to stop spending money like a fool. Wealthy people invest in themselves, in their future, and don’t try to impress the neighbors before they have the means to do so. Learn to pay yourself first, setting aside 10% of your income in a place where it can grow and work for you. Give the second 10% to you church, returning back to God what he gave you in the first place, planting your seed for tomorrow’s harvest. Then stop thinking that the people who throw around their money, seeking pleasure in fancy cars, expensive homes, and other devices are the place you want to go. Use your money to become debt free, then learn the value of true charity. You will be wealthier in both money and spirit than you ever thought you could be.

You think you want to travel? Then travel with a purpose. Offer your knowledge to others who need to learn. Offer your muscles to those who need help. Offer your time to those who are alone. Find someone, someplace, or some cause that needs you and go there willingly. And while you’re there keep your eyes open. Opportunity abounds for those who seek. You will learn more about the people and the area by providing service to them than you ever would by spending outrageous sums of money just to travel around the world.

You’ll never find something different unless you are willing to do something different. Don’t let that rut you’ve fallen into keep you on the path to insanity. Start today to make that change, and you’ll find that all your tomorrows are incredible surprises, just waiting to be discovered.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Home Cooking: Family Favorite

When I was growing up our extended family used to get together quite often for meals. Sometimes these gatherings were for summer picnics, others for holiday meals. It seemed like every Sunday we had either Bob or Sue or Don and their families over for dinner. Mother seemed to do much of the cooking those early years, but as she aged Jan, Sue, and Sandra pitched in with their own specialties to add to the meal, and eventually they did most of the cooking. But that didn’t matter. Mom still had her hand in making at least one dish, one that was always a family favorite and something at least one grandkid would request—Grandma’s homemade Macaroni and Cheese!

Yep, good old mac & cheese. It got to the point that this dish was so popular, and there were so many grandkids, that Mom would have to make at least two dishes to even come close to satisfying the demand. Was that possible?

There really is no great secret to making my mother’s mac & cheese. I do it all the time with just as much success at my house. I’ve learned to bake mine in at least a 9x12 glass pan because my sons love it, and at least two of them get really upset if they can’t have third servings with a little bit left over for a late night snack.

So, here’s how easy it is to make my mother’s homemade macaroni and cheese.

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. I often put in a few potatoes to bake at the same time, and maybe a meatloaf as well.

Boil a large pot of water, adding salt to it to keep the pot from boiling over. Okay, the tough part here is knowing how much salt to add, I guess. It’s more than a pinch, less than a handful, and that’s as specific as I can get. There needs to be about a dime size of salt on the bottom of the pan when you get the water started. Add too much salt and you won’t be able to eat the macaroni because it will be too salty.

My trick for making this at home is to add 1 cup of uncooked macaroni for each person I plan to feed. Obviously if I’m taking this dish to a party, I just boil enough to make what I need for a baking dish.

While the macaroni is cooking (stir it occasionally), get out your baking dish. Mom used a deep, square piece of Corningware for hers in later years, but when I was young she used a set of blue baking dishes she had. As I recall, Connie has those dishes now and taught her own daughter, Madison, how to make this much-requested dish.

Coat the inside of the baking dish with margarine. If you’re still operating in the I-must-do-everything-myself stage, I hope you’ve already grated a big chunk of sharp cheddar cheese. If you’re like me, you need a pre-shredded bag of your favorite brand. (We once discovered too late in the game that we only had a bag of taco-flavored cheese at home. It was interesting, but likely not one we’d ever do again.) Sprinkle a solid coating in the bottom and along the sides of the buttered pan. The butter should help it stick to the sides.

Check the macaroni. If it’s really tender, then it’s ready. Drain the water as much as possible, using a strainer to get the majority of water off the macaroni. Then pour the macaroni onto the bed of cheese. If you’re making a deep dish then only put half the macaroni in, add a center layer of cheese and add the rest.

Once the macaroni layer is done, add a little salt to the top of the dish if needed for taste (you can check this by eating a single piece of macaroni). Pour 1 cup of milk over the dish, spreading the milk around as you do so. Then top the whole thing off with your remaining cheese. Be sure to cover all the macaroni so nothing burns. (Although Chan does like the edges of his macaroni crispy!) Sprinkle black pepper on the top if your entire family likes it. If not, people can add it once the food is on their plate.

Put the dish into the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

Once it’s done, serve it hot. If you’ve got leftovers, you can choose if you want it hot or cold.

One word of warning, if your family is anything like mine, this will become a family favorite and you’ll be making it regularly for Sunday dinner and bringing it to family gatherings. It’s a good thing macaroni and cheese is so easy to make!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Week in Review: Great Reads

Since it’s been a hectic week now that I’m back teaching school, I didn’t have time to make it to a movie. I did, however and as always, find time to read. So, I thought I’d share with you some books I’ve recently finished. Maybe you’ll find something here you would also like to read.

Before I forget, if you live in the Spanish Fork area, I’d love to have you join me on Wednesday, September 15th at 6:30 p.m. at the library. I’ll be doing book talks for the adult patrons, and it might be a great chance for you to discover a book or series, or just to meet some other avid readers from our community. Hope to see you there!

Apple Turnover Mystery – Joanne Fluke. This
series is one of my very favorite cozy mysteries. The main character, Hannah
Swenson, owns the local bakery and has an uncanny way of always being the one
to discover the body of someone recently murdered. Hannah is a natural sleuth
and uses her bakery specialties, knowledge of the community, and sense of intuition
to solve the case, even though her policeman brother-in-law sometimes wishes
she would leave that part up to him. If you love to bake, you’ll also love
these books which are always jam-packed with actual recipes for cookies, cakes
and other confectionaries that sound way too many calories or sugar grams for
my diet!

Hush, Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick. Since this book
came out I’ve had a lot of locals ask me if I read it yet, and what did I
think. I’d read an absolutely scathing review by a well-known nationally
published YA author, so of course, I HAD to read the book at that point to see
what all the fuss was about. I picked up the novel expecting to be absolutely
scandalized, and found. . . next to nothing. Okay, so there was a little inappropriate
language, maybe some hinted indication of sex, but nothing compared to some of
the other well-known and widely read YA novels that recently passed around our
community as a “must read.” Maybe I’m becoming desensitized and these glimpses
of impropriety don’t faze me anymore. Honestly the book I’ve reading right now
to review for a national magazine has content much worse than this. Perhaps the
entire industry is leading teenagers down a path toward vulgarity in both
language and sex. One listen to the radio and a look at MTV sort of proves
this. In any case, I actually liked Hush, Hush well enough that I’ve put the
forthcoming sequel on hold at the public library.

Readicide – Kelly Gallagher. This book is a must
read for teachers and administrators, language arts of not. The author tells of
a terrible tragedy that has befallen our country, one that I have cried about
for years. We are developing an alliterate nation—a nation of people who can
read, but who DON’T. The reason? Our teachers are committing readicide—killing the
love of reading by dissecting literature into such small parts that the
students never learn to engage, never learn to read simply because they love
reading. Why do we do this? Because of state and national mandates testing.
Everything in school becomes about the test. Are the scores high enough? Can we
reach 100% proficiency by the target date of 2014 as mandated in No Child Left Behind?Anyone who understands that you can’t compare apples to oranges already knows
that the goal