Monday, December 28, 2009

Nearing the New Year

Here's hoping your Christmas and holiday celebrations were wonderful. George and I had a great time with friends and family, although our son was ill and that was sad. We took food and presents to him the day after Christmas and had a great time. I'm all for extending holidays. I've been known to make birthday festivities last for a week.

Now we're creeping up on the end of 2009, and anticipating the opening of 2010. Although I'm dismayed with the direction our country has been shoved during this past year, I will not give up hope. I will continue to study the Constitution, attend Tea Parties, and speak out against anything or anyone that takes us closer to a socialist form of government.

My next novel, (the working title of which is) The Silence of God, will be coming out in spring 2010. It should be interesting to see the reaction, as the story takes place in 1917 Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution.

I wish serenity for everyone in 2010; the wisdom to stop amid the challenges and take a breath, the joy of sharing your laughter with a good friend, and the satisfaction of serving others.

Life is good.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Signing Updates

I will be signing books at the Confetti Bookstore in Spanish Fork, Friday Dec. 18 from 1-3 pm, and at the Orem Costco that same day from 4-6 pm.

Please stop by if you're in the area!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review of Dawn's Early Light

Dawn’s Early Light is the third book in L.C. Lewis’ historical fiction series, Free Men and Dreamers. It is set in 1814 when America is fighting for its life against superior British forces. The book is a superlative example of excellent research and good storytelling; weaving the story of a fledgling country with the lives of backwoods’ patriots, Freedmen and slaves, and men in the British parliament standing on both sides of the “American” issue.

Ms. Lewis has a deft hand in bringing to life the dry events of history. I appreciated her even handedness in offering both sides of an issue for the reader to ponder. She did this masterfully by involving us in the lives of the characters, thereby allowing us to wrestle with the conundrums through their experiences.

It was also intriguing how the author flecked the story with aspects of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s family. Though Joseph was only nine years old at the time of these occurrences, he and his family would surely have been caught up in the events shaping the groundwork of America—the bedrock upon which the gospel would come forth. I would like to have seen more of this aspect woven throughout.

On occasion the book could have used a bit of competent editing. Some scenes were ponderous and slowed the pace of the story. This was especially true at the end of the book with the story of the fallen British soldier and the capture of Dr. Beanes. The ending also became a bit muddled, as we were given several disparate scenes in rapid succession. There is a set up for a sequel, and I believe these final stories were in preparation for that event.

Overall, Dawn’s Early Light is a fascinating look into an important era of American history, and Ms. Lewis handles the subject matter with skill and talent.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Welcome to December!

Did it seem like November flew by faster than a turkey with a fox on its tail? Whew! I suppose I didn't see the days disappear because I had my nose to the grindstone trying to finish my Russian novel.'s done! I sent it off to the publisher two nights ago, and I'm beginning to feel like a human being again, instead of a human doing.

I'm now trying to catch up with the laundry, grocery shopping (poor George had to eat cereal many a day), and just general house cleaning. I'm not complaining. It feels great to get up and move about.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was great! Everyone pitched in and brought something yummy to eat, for which George was very grateful. Mashed potatoes and gravy had to taste scrumptious after weeks of soggy Special K.

And now it's December and the magical spirit of Christmas is upon us! I love Christmas! Nat King Cole singing, The Christmas Song. Yep, that always starts it off for me. I love the lights and the music. I love the excitement and the sharing. It's not about big gifts, except for one--the gift of the birth of the Christ Child.

May you be surrounded by the gracious spirit of the season as you go about trimming the tree, hanging the lights, and humming those delightful Christmas tunes. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Thanksgiving is possibly my favorite holiday--at least one of the top three: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. I love all the yummy food that is a big part of the celebration, but more importantly I love getting together with family, and thinking about the things for which I'm truly grateful. If I were to make a list, it would be looooong.

I hope you have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving. You, my family and friends are right up there on the top of my gratitude list.

"Thou that hast giv'n so much to me, give one thing more, a grateful heart"
-George Herbert-

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Autumn Leaves

It's fall and I raked up a bunch of leaves in our back yard. It was a beautiful day and my body loved (and needed) the workout. After two hours of raking I had three huge piles of pale yellow, ochre, ruddy red, and brown leaves. It was lovely. As I stood admiring my work a thought struck me. What am I going to do with all these leaves?

I couldn't burn them, because now-a-days you have to have a permit, a special metal container, and a fire extinguisher near by. Besides Al Gore might give me dirty looks for contributing to the (bogus) green house effect.

I couldn't put them into bags and take them to the dump, because I would get a black mark for contributing to the land-fill problem.

I couldn't start a compost heap, because my neighbors would complain about the stink, and then ask me if I had the audacity of becoming a tree hugger person in the middle of suburbia.

So, I left them. Yep...they're sitting out there in the backyard; three huge piles of leaves enjoying the sunshine and waiting for the snow to cover them up. I figure the snow will dematerialize them during the winter and, come spring, my husband will just mow them into oblivion.

I guess I could just go back out and scatter the leaves around again. I mean, it's what Mother Nature did in the first place. Who am I to try and improve on her brilliance?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

"A nation of well informed men (and women) who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is the region of ignorance that tyranny begins."

--Benjamin Franklin--

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

This week my sister is watching our two great nieces, ages ten and seven as their mom and dad are on assignment. You see, my niece and nephew are officers in the Air Force and will be away from home for weeks of special training. My niece will be away from her little girls for two weeks. She'll return home for a month and then be deployed to Afghanistan...for 6 months. Her amazing and capable husband will hold down the fort alone until she returns.

The family approaches this deployment stoically and with positive military grit. These little girls have lived in several US cities, Turkey, and most recently Okinawa. All deployments, until this one, they have gone together as a family. This time my niece goes alone, and into a very dangerous part of the world.

I'm trying to be brave and positive about the whole thing, but I haven't been trained in military grit and dedication, and I get emotional if I spend too much time thinking about the sacrifice. And then, of course, if you multiply their sacrifice several thousand times, you get an idea what these brave patriots put on the line to defend this country, and to help down trodden people around the world.

So, I'm asking you to say a prayer for our brave troops. And if you could add in a personal word of protection for my niece, and strength to her sweet family, it would be appreciated.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A personal note

I'm visiting my sister in Lake Tahoe for a few days. Today, four years ago, our sweet mom passed away, and we will go and stand near her graveside and share thoughts and happy memories. It is a beautiful day with bright blue skies, the pungent smell of pine, and not one bit of sorrow. Oh, we miss our funny, optimistic mom, but we know she's busy in a glorious place.

Some people may think that that kind of simple faith is delusional, but I have had too many confirmations of a loving presence and guide to be a sophist on the subject.

All morning I've been singing my mom's favorite hymn, Scatter Sunshine, and several times I think I've heard her humming harmony to my soprano.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
--George Bernard Shaw--

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

Freedom is a tricky thing. Some great thinker (either Cicero, or Voltaire, or Thomas Jefferson) said that "freedom without self-control is anarchy." I say, freedom without self-control is a scary proposition.

If some persons in a society don't exhibit self-control, what's to be done? We can't let them run amok and threaten the peace and safety of the other members of the group, right? What we do is institute laws--rules and restrictions to curb excessive behavior. The best laws are those that are not excessive or restrictive, allow for personal freedom, and at the same time protect the members.

Like I said, freedom is a tricky thing. Perhaps one way we could support the ideals of freedom is by exercising a bit more self-control.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

"The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves."
--William Hazlitt--

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously."

--Hubert Humphrey--
I love that!

Haven't you ever had to sit and listen to somebody yammer on about this or that, and seriously wanted to amend the First Amendment...Freedom of Speech except for this yokel who is so irritating that he should have electrician's tape stuck over his mouth at all times except to eat and brush his teeth.

I was at a business party with my hubby one time, and was snagged by this fellow who went on and on about Medieval weaponry. I gave him his First Amendment rights for about twenty minutes and then I exercised a personal right, and...walked away.

My dad used to say, "Gale, you don't have to believe everything you hear." So true, and, I might add, you don't have to be bothered or worried by everything you hear. Shift through the rhetoric and take seriously the things that are true. And, if something is just plain silly, exercise your First and a Half Amendment rights, and...walk away. Ah, freedom!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

I want to share this thought provoking quote with you. The words belong to George Washington, the first President of the United States. He offered these sentiments in his farewell speech when leaving office. I think they're amazing words to ponder.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens...Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

--George Washington--
And in his reference to religion, I think Washington was inclusive of all spiritual sects which believe in a Creator, in right and wrong, in man's responsibility, and in an afterlife. These elements bring pretty much the whole world together, and make us stewards of the freedoms we are fortunate to possess.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

"A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned--this is the sum of good government."
--Thomas Jefferson--

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

I figure if I'm going to write a series of posts about freedom, entitled, Let Freedom Ring, then I'd better start with a bit of background of why that phrase rings familiar in American heads and hearts.

All we have to do is sing a few stanzas of the song, My Country 'Tis of Thee, written by Samuel Francis Smith, and feelings about freedom begin to surface.

My country 'tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty,
of thee I sing.
Land where my father's died,
land of the Pilgrim's pride,
from every mountain side,
let freedom ring!
When someone rings a bell, it's usually to get your attention.Wake up! Listen! I have a message! Perhaps Samuel Smith had such sentiments in mind when he penned those words. Maybe he saw himself standing on a mountain side, ringing a bell, and proclaiming the virtues of freedom. Maybe he saw us all as bell ringers for freedom.
In silence people tend to sleep, to drift, to forget. I think we've seen that over the past several decades; Americans sort of snoozing through the political process and forgetting what an amazing legacy was left to us by our founding fathers. Perhaps it's time to wake up!
If we're going to let freedom ring from every mountain side, then each of us will need to pick up a bell and make some noise! And what a wondrous noise it will be.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

Elections for Congress are looming, and I believe some of our Representatives are nervous--as they should be. People in America are waking up and speaking out, and I'm thrilled with the cacophony of voices filling the air. For the most part they're good voices; they are voices who are finally questioning where our country is headed, and how different it looks from the America of our Founding Fathers. These are voices who are asking about state's rights and basic freedoms.

Freedom. It's such a vital component of who we are as Americans.

Hmm. I think I'll do a month long posting about freedom...perhaps not every day like I did with service, but let's say we get together two or three times a week and think about this most wondrous of topics.

Let Freedom Ring! (I don't know exactly what that means), but let's find out!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 30**The End and the Beginning

Today is the final day of my month long posting on service. It has been a pleasure to offer thoughts on such a good subject. I hope you've enjoyed it. And I hope it may have prompted you to continue incorporating a tad of service in your walk through life. And remember, service does not need to be grand to be meaningful.

I will leave you with a poem about service. It's actually a hymn I found in a 19th century hymn book.

Have I Done Any Good
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad,
and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has any one's burden been lighter today
because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help, was I there?
Then wake up and do something more
than dream of your mansion above,
doing good is a pleasure,
a joy beyond measure,
a blessing of duty and love.
A true sentiment.
Please leave a comment and you may win a free copy of my book, The Route.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 29**Be Brave and Serve

Tomorrow will be the final day of this month long tour about service. Hopefully you've pondered a bit about the topic as I shared quotes, thoughts, and feelings. It's been a chance for me to discover what people of merit have said about the subject, and to evaluate my own life focus.

(sidebar) Did you know there were graduate programs in Philanthropy? Yep. Click here to check it out.

(another sidebar) Think all billionaires are greedy louts? See what computer genius, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda think about service and volunteering at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Today we're going to get down to the nitty gritty about service opportunities.

If you google the word volunteer, you'll come up with over a million sites to wander through. If that seems a little mind googling to you, narrow the search to the words: volunteer and the name of your state. Keep narrowing the search until you arrive at someplace close-to-home.

Following are some search sites which will also match you to volunteer opportunities in your area:

You can also go to specific sites for: Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, United Way, and many many others.

Match your search to your area of interest or expertise. Example--if you go to one of the .org search sites above, they'll ask for a zip code and an area of interest. Say you're a computer person...type in mentoring, and the site will most likely take you to community centers or Boys and Girls Clubs in your area that need computer people to help teach young people, or the elderly, computer skills.

You can do the same for construction, medical, musical, language, reading...the list goes on and on. Do you love the outdoors? Your local state park's service site will offer volunteer opportunities to help in the parks. Love animals? Numerous chances exist to serve our four legged and feathered friends. You can even serve internationally if you want to go father afield.

If you want to stay closer to home, look around your neighborhood. Is there a nearby school, or hospital, or assisted living center that could use some extra help? Perhaps it's as simple as looking out your window and seeing a neighbor with needs. Sometimes it's looking within the walls of your own home.

Go on! Check out some service opportunities. Perhaps there's one custom fit to you!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 28**Service and Soup

Okay, I comments are being posted late today, but I've been busy. True, Sunday is suppose to be a day of rest, but opportunities to serve sort of came up and hit me over the head (gently, of course). Although I'm tired, it's actually made for a very nice day.

Now I have my feet up, and after I finish this blog, which will be very short this evening, I'm eating a little dinner, and then maybe reading a book. Life is good.

I think my soup has finished cooking, so I will sign off for tonight and leave you with a wonderful quote.

"It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving."

--Mother Teresa--

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 27** Love and Service

"Love cannot remain by itself--it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service."

That's a quote from Mother Teresa, and it perfectly corresponds with the way she lived her life. Those weren't just words to her; she saw the suffering around her in India and decided to reach out and care for the poorest of the poor. Her service taught us so much about love. And when she died, the world honored her for her life of grace. Kings and presidents presented flowers of respect to this little woman who died with only a sweater and two pair of sandals as her worldly possessions.

Why? Why was the world interested in her simple life?

Perhaps because we long to see sainthood in action. We long to be reminded what the best of the human spirit looks like. At times, each good person stops and says, "What am I doing on this planet? Is running around in this hamster wheel really getting me anywhere? What's really important?" It's at these times that we look for guides. We look for people who have found a different path through life. People who bring goodness and light into dark places. People who build and lift.

None of us can live the life of Mother Teresa. That was her life, her calling. But, we can be inspired by her life to do a little something more regarding our service to just means putting love into action.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 26**E=MC2 and Service

"Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

--Albert Einstein--

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 25**Service and Sacrifice

This morning I was watching a You Tube video of the combined Military Academy Choirs singing the national anthem. I had to run for the tissue box. It was very appropriate and meaningful for them to sing about the flag, and freedom, and sacrifice. They sang with simplicity and true hearts. For them it was all about the song and its meaning. It took my breath away.

I'm very sentimental about these young men and women who love America with such passion that they're willing to put their lives on the line. They serve with honor in the most dangerous places on earth. They serve with dignity and compassion. Yes, compassion. You and I have seen the pictures of tough American soldiers interacting with village children or cradling a wounded infant in their arms. And no, those pictures aren't staged.

Interesting that we call it military service. "What branch of the service are you in?" Isn't that how we ask a military patriot if they're Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marine? And they answer, "I serve in the Navy."

Service is love, and the greatest love is manifest by those who would lay down their life for a friend. It's a principle those young service men and women, who sang the national anthem with such commitment, understand with perfect clarity.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 24**Now and When?

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

--Anne Frank--

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 23**Sour Cream and Service

"Little acts of kindness can add up to a lifetime of happiness."

I'm putting quote marks around that little sentiment even though I don't know who actually wrote it. I took it from the lid of the Daisy sour cream carton. I figure the marketing people came up with this endearing idea to place uplifting messages on their sour cream cartons to brighten people's day.

I can imagine the business meeting:

CEO: Hey, Fred (the marketing executive). Let's put some happy thoughts on the lids of our Daisy sour cream cartons.

Fred: Great idea!

CEO: Get advertising on it right away.

Fred: Will do. Janice (ad lady). Have your team come up with happy thoughts, okay?

Janice: Happy thoughts? Great idea! Love it!

Fred: Any ideas off the top of your head?

Janice: Sure. How about "Little acts of kindness can add up to a lifetime of happiness"?

Fred: Perfect. Let's run with it.

And there you have it--thoughts about service along with my sour cream. Now every time I dip into the tub for sour cream on my baked potato I can be reminded about the joy of doing little acts of kindness for others. It certainly is making me smile.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 22**Actions and Results

On day 13, I wrote about the touching story told in the book, Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. The story is one of friendship between the spider Charlotte and the pig Wilbur, and the connection they share because of the threads in Charlotte's web.

I suppose I'm thinking about it again today because of this quote I found by Herman Melville. "We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results."

I love the image. Delicate silken strands running between myself and every other person, and whatever I send out along that strand, eventually coming back to me.

Sometimes we have the misfortune to be the recipient of negative vibrations from someone else's strand. I've come to realize that I can't worry about that. I really only have control over what I send out. Charlotte chose to send out friendship, service, and hope along her strand, and because of it, good things happened in Wilbur's life.

As I think about the thousands of precious strands that connect me with others, I find I want to be a Charlotte.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 21**Christ and Buddha

It's Sunday again. Sunday is a good day to reflect on service because every true faith teaches service as one of its main principles. Jesus taught service in every aspect of his life. One can't help but see this thread of goodness in the story of the Good Samaritan, or in the edict to share one's coat and cloak with another in need.

The first great truth of the Buddha is that, life is suffering, and the way for one to purify their life is to serve others. Enlightenment.

I think this might be a good day to ponder concepts of truth which have survived for thousands of years. And perhaps to put those principles into practice.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 20**The Service of 9/11

I'm always pensive on September 11th. The events of that day stunned my spirit, and as the anniversary of the day arrives every year I find myself pondering the events and praying for this country I love.

The images that were most riveting were those of the brave policemen and fire fighters who ran toward the terror to save human life; people on the street holding each other; complete strangers caring for a wounded hero. Service was in its purest form that day. Service that overcomes fear and selfishness. Service that uplifts and sanctifies.

Our hearts grew larger that day. Our souls grew brighter. In a day of utter darkness, service was a beacon of light.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 19**Me and You

Do you sometimes think that life is giving you a raw deal? Maybe things aren't going the way you planned. I know this sounds like a conundrum, but the best thing to do when suffering a bout of self pity, is to forget yourself and serve others. I know it sounds nuts, but it works.

There's a wise saying I read somewhere that goes, "Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive."

I wouldn't suggest this to you if I hadn't tried it myself and found great peace and fulfillment when I've moved beyond my troubles to reach out, in healthy ways, to someone in need. So, if you're having a down day, look up, and find someone to lift. You'll lift yourself at the same time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 18**Meals and Memories

My book, The Route, is a fictionalized account of my experiences delivering meals-on-wheels to an interesting, feisty, and funny group of seniors. Each Thursday I'd drop off meals and spend a few minutes with people whose lives were filled with stories and wisdom. In the process, I assure you, I got back much more than I gave.

That's the magical thing about service--you plant a little seed and all of a sudden you have an apple tree of abundance. Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

I found this to be true. What a joy in my life that I met, and grew to love the wonderful folks on my route.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 17**East and West

"He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own."


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 16**Happiness and Service

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

--Albert Schweitzer--

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 15***Work and Service

Today is Labor Day where we celebrate the American worker by taking a day off to play and be with our families. I love that juxtaposition.

You may be wondering why I'm writing about work on my series of blogs concerned with service. This is my approach. Often we think of work as drudgery...something we slog through from day to day just to earn a paycheck. We're not aware of the service we're providing, nor do we appreciate the service other workers provide us. Perhaps if we turn our vision ever so slightly we can see work in a different way.

I get up in the morning and go down to breakfast. Thank you people in the factory who boxed the cereal that I'm eating. Thanks Mr. farmer who raised the cows that produced the milk. Thanks to the truck drivers that drive stuff all over the country. Thanks to the checker at the grocery store, the person who dry cleans my clothes, the bank teller, the road workers, the girl who cuts my hair, the police officers, the military men and women. The list of people to thank for their service is long.

Now, pat yourself on the back for the service you provide to others, and go out and enjoy your Labor Day by playing!

Oh, and don't forget to thank the girl who scoops your ice cream cone.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 14**Bells and whistles

It's a beautiful day today: blue sky, puffy white clouds, just the right temperature. It's the kind of day where I want to take a walk and whistle a happy little tune as I'm strolling.

Do you feel sometimes like a day is a gift and somehow you need to say thank you? Well, it's that kind of day for me. Along with all the tough things I've had to face in my life, there have been tons of amazingly good things; things that have lifted my soul and made me know I was loved.

It's Sunday again (as it is every seven days) and the church bells are ringing. Perhaps the best way to say thank you for sky, and clouds, and the ability to stroll is to sit for a few minutes in meditation in church and get a little inspiration from Heaven. It's truly a marvelous place to get insight into the reason for being on the planet, and it's interesting how often the message from the pulpit concerns service. It's also a great place to add drops to your cup.

So, I'm heading off to the Big Service Station to refuel and say thank you. Hear me whistling as I go?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 13**The Spider and the Pig

I just reread, Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White. It's a lovely story about Wilbur the pig and his friendship with Charlotte the spider. In this little book are big doses of truth about life. Contained within 184 pages are thoughts about the ebb and flow of time, gentle warnings about being judgemental, and sentiments about service; all told in a style of whimsy and delight.

I wanted to share a little bit of the book with you because it tells a perfect truth about friendship and service. I won't spoil the story for you if you haven't read it, but Charlotte has saved Wilbur's life in a miraculous way, and Wilbur wonders why.

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all the trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."


Friday, September 4, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 12**Service and a Simple Soul

"Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

--Dr. Martin Luther King--

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 11**You and Not You

"It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others."

--Andrew J. Holmes--

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 10**You and You

Most of the time service is about others, but once in a while you have to take care of yourself. Yep. It has nothing to do with being selfish, but about being able to share. Remember that 'cup of love' theory we talked about last time? Well, it's pretty hard to give drops away to others if your store of drops is depleted.

Stephen Covey, in his book, 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, calls it "sharpening the saw." A lumberjack has a hard time cutting trees with a dull saw. Covey suggests taking some time for yourself to get the saw blade sharp. If you do that, you'll be much more efficient. The same goes for service. If you take some time to fill your cup with drops, then you'll have more to give away. Makes sense, huh?

So, accept compliments, pal around with friends who make you laugh, take a walk in the mountains, eat chocolate, or graciously allow others to serve you. You'll be healthier and happier.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 9**Love and Caring

I heard this analogy about love and caring many years ago, and I want to share it with you. The person who shared it with me called it the ‘cup of love’ theory.

When we’re born we have a little cup in our hearts filled with liquid. When something good happens to us, drops go into the cup. When something bad happens, drops are taken out of the cup. When our cups get low on drops we become sad, cranky, or mean. We don’t share drops with others for fear there won’t be enough left to keep us going.

We’ve all come across people whose cups are low on liquid: surly store clerks, sour folks at the bus stop, or pushy people at the market check-out. Doesn’t their offensive behavior annoy you? Me too, and I find myself wishing that they’d just drop off the planet. Not nice, I know, especially since I’ve had my share of cranky days.

Anyway… this is a time to put the theory into practice. First, stop and think that maybe this person is having a really terrible day, or month, or life, and their cup is really low on drops. Just thinking that thought, changes everything. Now, take a few drops out of your cup and give it to the person: a soft tone of voice, a smile, an offer to help them with something. You’ll be amazed the change that usually follows in the person’s demeanor. Even a few drops will make a difference.

Trust me…now that you know the theory, you’ll find yourself applying it just to see what happens. Enjoy the results!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 8**Work and Love

“Work without love is slavery.”

--Mother Teresa--

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 7**Sunday Services

My nephew, Brian sent me some notable thoughts about service, and I thought Sunday would be a lovely day to share them as they're taken from the Christian New Testament.

In the book of John, chapter thirteen, we find a tender story of the Savior and his disciples. Jesus knows that his ministry is about to end and he desires to impress on his followers one of the principle doctrines of the kingdom--service. He therefore instructs each of his disciples, in turn, to sit and allow him to wash their feet.

Feet washing in ancient times was done as a sign of respect. The guest's sandals were removed and the dirty feet were washed in a bowl of clean water. The task was usually performed by a member of the family or a servant.

Jesus knelt on the floor and washed not one pair of feet, but twelve. When his disciple, Peter began to protest that the Lord was too grand a person to wash his feet, Jesus gently reminded him, "You call me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."

Peter learned that no one is so grand or important that they are above serving others, and that true service is not done for show or aggrandizement, but is offered in humility and anonymity. It's a good lesson for Sunday...and every day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 6**Push and Shove

There's a lot of anger and angst in the world. I shiver when I watch the news and see all the violence and hatred. It makes me feel meek and weak. How can I possibly make a difference against all that mess?

Do you feel that way at times?

Mother Teresa said, "If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

We belong to each other in the world, in our communities, and in our families. Most of us can't do anything about bringing peace to the world, but we sure can do something loving in our communities and our families.

So, don't be overwhelmed. Pick out someone in your neighborhood or family who needs some love and attention and make their day better. It may seem like a small thing, but I think any act of service pushes back the ugliness and darkness.

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 5**You and Me

Marian Wright Edelman (1939- ) is an American activist for children. I am simply going to quote her this morning and leave her words for us to ponder

"A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back (and I would add, Mother Teresa)--but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 4**Scrooge and Marley

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is one of my all time favorites. Every Christmas season I look forward to watching the movie (in one of its many forms), or reading the book. It’s a timeless tale of service featuring delightful ghosts, magical travels through time, and, of course, the wonderfully reprehensible character of Ebenezer Scrooge.

One of my favorite scenes is where Scrooge is haunted by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. The ghoul is weighed down with strong boxes, accounting books, and heavy chains. “These are the chains I forged in life,” Marley informs Scrooge, and warns that the burdens allotted for Ebenezer to wear upon his death are many times more ponderous.

Miserly Mr. Scrooge repudiates Marley’s warning by assuring him that he was always a good man of business.

“Business!” Marley wails. “Mankind was my business! Their common welfare was my business!”

That scene scared the stuffing out of me when I was little. It obviously scared Ebenezer too, for he agrees to allow other spooky spirits to visit him in hopes of undoing his fate.

In the end it all turns out well, with Mr. Scrooge changing from a selfish man, into a man who reaches out to others, and in the reaching discovering an interesting benefit—he’s happy. I love the final scenes where the once grumpy Ebenezer can’t stop giggling for joy as he contemplates different ways to serve others.

I suppose the moral of A Christmas Carol is, if you don’t want your sleep disturbed by a parcel of pesky poltergeist, be on the look-out for a Bob Cratchit or Tiny Tim who might need your generosity.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 3**Mother Teresa and me

Mother Teresa is one of my touchstones, and although she has passed away, I speak of her in the present tense, because her words and her example are living things. Her wise thoughts concerning service will be scattered lovingly throughout these posts, and we can all be assured that this little mighty woman practiced what she preached.

"The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace." Mother Teresa

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 2**Cloud and Sunshine

Are you feeling cranky today, tired, unappreciated? Take a deep breath, look around, and find someone to serve. James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan said, “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

Here are the words to a hymn by Lanta Wilson Smith, entitled Scatter Sunshine.

In a world where sorrow ever will be known,
Where are found the needy and the sad and lone,
How much joy and comfort you can all bestow,
If you scatter sunshine everywhere you go.

Slightest actions often meet the sorest needs,
For the world wants daily little kindly deeds.
Oh what care and sorrow you may help remove,
With your songs and courage, sympathy and love.

So, put on your sunscreen and go brighten your day by cheering someone else.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 1**Salamanders and Sea Stars

I imagine that many of you are familiar with the story of the little boy and the sea stars. For those who are not, the premise is that this little boy is walking on an ocean beach and comes upon hundreds of stranded sea stars. Fearing for their lives, he begins to pick them up, and throw them back into the ocean. An older gentleman watches the little boy’s efforts and comments on the futility, suggesting that there are so many stranded sea stars that all his toil really doesn’t matter. The little boy ponders the gentleman’s words for a moment, and then throws another sea star into the water. “Well, it matters to that one,” he responds.

I was four years old when I had a similar experience. My saving efforts involved salamanders. My family lived in Placerville, California and we had a small creek next to our house. After a rain the salamanders would migrate out of the creek and settle onto the rural roadway where they would inevitably be squished by the neighborhood cars. It was traumatic for me, so I’d spend a good deal of my playtime picking up salamanders and throwing them back into the water. My two older sisters complained that it was gross and stupid and pleaded with my mom to make me stop. To her credit, she ignored them, and left me to my salamander saving.

The moral of these stories is that service need not be a huge deal to be significant. Edmund Burke, the eighteenth century Irish statesman and philosopher said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

Perhaps today we can go out and do a little something. Save a sea star or a salamander, or lift one person who is sad.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Service Stations

How many of you remember ‘Service Stations’? Raise your hands. Well, I remember them well. They were places where you went to get fuel for your car, and the experience was very different from the one we have today. You didn’t jump out of your vehicle, swipe your credit card, and start pumping the gas yourself…oh, no. You would pull into the station, roll down your window, and wait for the young man to come up and ask what you needed. These champions of service were always dressed in spiffy uniforms, and they not only filled your car’s gas tank with fuel, but checked tire pressure and oil levels, and washed your windows. It was wonderful. As a woman, I always felt pampered. I like being pampered once in awhile. I like it when a man opens a door for me. It’s not that I can’t open a door for myself or pump my own petrol; it just takes away a tiny bit of the burden of having to slog through this world by myself. And, it connects me to someone else. I like that. It feels good to be served and to serve.

Today I’m talking about service for a reason. Beginning tomorrow, and continuing everyday for a month, I will offer anecdotes, quotes, and observations concerning service. I will, at times, be asking for your insight and input. This concentration on service will correspond with a blog tour that’s being done to promote my newest book, The Route; a novel based on my experiences delivering meals-on-wheels to a group of wondrous and wacky older folks, and the life changing lessons I learned from these encounters.

I’m looking forward to the month of daily blogs on service. I have titled the endeavor, Stops at the Service Station, and I hope you’ll join me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Route

My book, The Route, is a fictionalized account of the years I spent delivering meals-on-wheels to a wonderful and wacky group of seniors. Sometimes the loaded food baskets were a bit heavy, many of the home situations were difficult, and some of the older folks were cranky, but I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything. It taught me to value the lives of the seniors, and presented me with the opportunity to evaluate my own choices, and where I was headed on life's highway. It also taught me the great joy of service.

The Buddah instructed that to reach Nirvana (heaven) one had to become selfless and serve others. In fact, the word Nirvana means "the putting out of fire." The fire is the fire of selfishness.

It didn't seem possible that the simple act of dropping off a meal and chatting for five minutes at each stop would make a difference, but it did, especially in my life. The folks I served had made it through a myriad of life experiences and struggles, and most had come through with more resilience, compassion, and humility.

I grew to love Mary, with her down-to-earth sense of humor, Tom with his fascinating stories of growing up in China, and Bea with her quiet kindness. I even grew to love crusty ole Viola with her acerbic tongue and unreasonable demands. Service and love can accomplish amazing things.

I had a great time writing, The Route, because it gave me the opportunity to go back and remember all the wonderful characters and life changing lessons. It was also a way of saying thank you to the amazing older folks who let me share a part of their lives.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I’m sure most of us had to write that fifth grade English assignment to commit to paper the name and background of a person who’d caught our eleven-year-old attention, a person who was larger-than-life, a person who had qualities we admired.

It’s been so many years since 5th grade, I’m a bit fuzzy on the person I chose—it was my dad, my mom, Helen Keller, or Abraham Lincoln. I think it might have been Abraham Lincoln because I clearly remember how taken I was when Mrs. Panatoni (my 5th grade teacher) read us a book about Lincoln as a young man. I liked that Lincoln was a poor backwoods yokel, I liked that he was honest and hard working, and I really liked that he loved a good book and spent many hours reading by candlelight.

I myself spent many hours reading by sunlight, 60 watt bulb, or flashlight.

Through the written word, Lincoln’s world, wisdom, and sense of justice expanded. His soul was basically a good soul made more compassionate by the precious words he devoured as a young man. He would go on to study and practice law, serve as an Illinois state legislator, and eventually become the 16th President of the United States.

As we approach the 4th of July, I’m a bit sad that our political leaders seem to have lost the ideals of grace and grit that make up a great leader. Our country’s Founding Fathers were not perfect men, but they perfectly understood the principles upon which this great nation should be built: democracy, checks and balances, small federal government, and state’s rights. It is a system in which the innate desire for individual freedom has freest reign; a system to which oppressed people around the world have looked for a pattern.

How tragic if this great country loses the sense of itself as a beacon of freedom, if, because of complacency, the citizens of the United States of America forfeit their basic inalienable rights, and certainly tragic if our elected leaders delude themselves into thinking that they are above the desires of the majority.

As I celebrate my country on the 4th of July, I will recommit to voting, contacting my Senators and Representatives in the House on vital issues, attending town meetings and rallies, and reading books and literature that will keep me informed.

I’m reading a great book right now entitled, The 5000 Year Leap. I think my hero, Abraham Lincoln, would have liked it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sister Time

I've been derelict in my blog writing, but I have a good excuse. My sister was visiting from California and I put all my focus on her and having fun. Not that writing blogs isn't fun, it's just that the thrall of technology must once in awhile be broken for adventures in the real world: walks in the mountains, sitting on the back porch and eating ice cream, reminiscing about childhood tomfoolery, going out to lunch, shopping for shoes, doing genealogy, going to movies, riding ATVs; the list goes on and on. Real things in the real world that stick to your soul. It's an amazing place, the real world, with dazzling noise, wacky people, and wondrous smells. And what about periwinkle? I was mesmerized by that color in my box of Crayola crayons.

My sister left for home yesterday, and I will miss her. I'll talk to her on the phone and send her letters...I'll even email her, but it won't be the same. I won't be able to see her face when she cracks up over something I've said and I won't be able to feel how much she loves me through a hug.

Yep. There's a lot to be said for technology, but it can't hold a candle to the real world.

I think I'll go out and prune my rose bushes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sleep, Anyone?

I'm tired today. I was going to blame it on allergies, but I think it's actually because I only slept about five hours last night. My dog was snoring, my hubby was away on a business trip, and I'd eaten radishes from the garden late in the afternoon. These things, combined with having many decisions to make about book marketing, caused a whopping insomnia.

I know that all of my sleep depriving mongrels are insignificant when compared to the worry monsters that other people have to face, but try telling that to your active brain at 2 am. Oh! I did try telling that to my active brain at 2 am. It didn't even get me a drooping eyelid.

I thought about my grandmother's cure...warm milk toast. Yuck! I thought about my grandpa's cure...a shot of Bourbon. (sorry, Mormon girl). I thought about my mom's cure...a soothing hot bath. That sounded nice, but who wants to get up at 2 am and run bath water?

Through all this frustration, my dog continued snoring.

Sometime around 3 am, I drifted off, which is a nice way of saying I crashed through sheer exhaustion. So, today, I'm tired. I'm slogging my way through laundry, dishes, writing, lunch with friends, and blogs. Please excuse the meandering thoughts. Hopefully, I'll be more coherent next time.

I'd love some of your thoughts about sleep helps. I'll make a file and peruse it the next time the insomnia monster strikes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Brave or Dumb?

I caught a bat, once, with my bare hands. My dog and I were home alone, tucked in bed, reading a book. Well, I was reading, my dog was—I don’t know, occupied with doggie thoughts. Suffice it to say, we were minding our own business when this little brown bat flies into the room. My blood temperature went to 32 degrees in six seconds flat. And my dog? She did nothing except watch—her head going back and forth, up and down like one of those bobble head dogs on a dashboard. She looked like Ted from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” I knew I was on my own.

I’d been washing the windows that day and the screens were propped against the wall. I slid out of bed, grabbed one of the wobbly units, and took a swing at the flying fur ball.

You’re laughing, aren’t you? You’re probably thinking I’d forgotten about sonar, or radar, or whatever super power it is that bats possess, and…you’d be right. Hey! I was in panic mode. I’d like to see what you would have done in the same situation.

I took another four swings and the bat disappeared. I thought I’d scared it out into the front room, but as I looked at the screen, I saw sharp little claws clinging to the wire mesh—claws, and wings, and teeth! I stared at it, and it stared back. I clamped my hand over it. Yes, that’s what I did. I clamped my hand over it. Hey! I was in panic mode. I’d like to see what you would have done in the same situation.

I prayed that it wouldn’t swivel its tiny head around and bite me with those needle-like teeth. I walked slowly to the front door talking to the manic mammal in soothing tones…“Don’t bite me. Don’t bite me. Don’t bite me, okay? I’m not going to hurt you, okay? I’m just going to put you outside. Everything’s fine. If you bite me though, I might just stomp you to death out of panic and terror. I wouldn’t mean to, but it’s better not to find out, okay?”

By this time I’d reached the front door. Luckily, we have the kind of front door knob that’s not a knob, but a handle. I pushed it down with my foot, and the door opened! I maneuvered my way out onto the porch and released the critter into the dark night. Such a relief! My dog ambled to my side, sniffing the night air, and thinking to share in the rescue credit. Huh! I did it! I did it all by myself! Me, all by myself. In your face. Take that! It was then I actually thought about what I’d done, and my body started trembling. I looked down at my hand and realized holding onto a frightened frantic bat was probably not such a good idea. Ya think? I tossed the window screen, raced to the bathroom, and washed my hands with every kind of bar soap, liquid soap, and bath gel I could find.

The moral of the story? Sometimes we do things without thinking, and sometimes those things come off as brave or noble, and other times…not so much.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tomato or Tamato?

The English language is brutal. Of course, I don't know Japanese or Mongolian, so they may be bad too. It's just that I get tied in knots over words like immigration and emigration. As I read over my last blog I hollered, "Hey! is that the right word? Is that the right spelling?" I guess either one will do as they both mean a movement or migration of some sort, but does one more accurately describe people and the other a flock of birds?

Life is complicated enough without having to worry about every word that flies out of our mouths, or finds its way from our heads, to our pens, to the paper, and don't even get me started on punctuation. What's with semi colons, anyway? Sounds like a mini disease that would interest a gastro enterologist. On the other hand, I guess it would be really tough if I had to deal with that mystical picture writing the Japanese have to conquer, right? So, I should just cowboy up and count my blessings.

As an author, words are my stock in trade, so I suppose I should be praising the little lettered creatures, but, in all honesty, they often snarl and bite, and all I want to do is get after them with a rolled up newspaper.

I feel better now that I've vented. Ahhh, deep cleansing breath.

I'd love to hear about your word peeves. Share them with me, and we can grumble together.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Who Has the Marshmallows?

The first word on a blank page is a scary proposition. It means you’re going to start writing down thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and those very personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions might be considered by the reading public to be rubbish. It’s taking a chance to make an idea concrete by writing it down—yep, scary. But I’ve decided to do it anyway. Not that I think I have anything earth shattering or profound to impart, but I do have a quirky sense of humor and some great stories from my childhood. Actually, I have some pretty funny stuff that happened just yesterday. I also have some very weird and wonderful friends and family members I can talk about, though I promise to change their names to protect their anonymity. Then again, if I compliment them in some way, I will be forthcoming with accurate identities.

I call my blog, Stories Around the Kamp Fire, because, one, I love a good story; two, I love the out of doors; and three, I love campfires (safely contained in a fire pit, of course). I have to state that emphatically, because I have a nephew who is a commander with the US Forest Service.

The reason I spell, camp fire—Kamp fire, is not to be cutsie, but to pay homage to my maiden name which is, Kamp. My crazy Danish Great Grandpa emigrated over the pond from Denmark in the late 1800’s, and changed his last name at Ellis Island from Kampf to Kamp. So, there you have it.

If you opt to join me around the Kamp fire every once in awhile; I’ll be delighted. I will make one tiny request. Please don’t be overly critical of my grammar and punctuation. I’ll do the best I can with knowledge stored from Mrs. Panatoni’s 5th grade English lessons, and the few creative writing classes I managed in college, but I’m only human. I do promise to proofread, and to take advantage of the wonders of modern technology in using spell checker, thus saving the English wonder kids from too much teeth gnashing. If something is glaringly unEnglish, point it out, and I’ll put in my notebook of self-improvement.

The first word of my maiden blog is down and the last word is fast approaching. Thanks for joining me on this storytelling adventure.

“And they lived happily ever after.”