Tuesday, December 29, 2015

At Seventeen....

Valerie J. Steimle

Seventeen is just the beginning of most everyone’s adult life. For some they see others as the world sees them. For others, they plow through and make their own way on their own terms. The world looks upon the outer shell of a person and judges success. Outer beauty doesn't matter; it's what is on the inside that counts.

This is what I taught my children when they were teenagers. Meaning, when you want to find a boy friend or girl friend, it doesn’t matter what you look like from what God gave you as a body, it’s what is inside that matters.  The same goes for what you see in others. Let’s face it, teenagers are shallow. What they see in beauty magazines is what they want in real life no matter what we sacrifice to get us looking that way.  The world shows us what is beautiful on the outside and teenagers want it.

We can tell how others feel about themselves by their countenance.  It is amazing how our thinking can be the window of our faces.  It can either help us or hurt us in what we feel to be important. For example, what is more important is how you place family, career and money in your life.  It is much more important to spend time with your family than spend too much time at the office over all.

If only the world would be more interested in how a person helped others instead of how beautiful their appearance.  This would set the example for the younger generation and we would have more good deeds done instead of those waiting for their “15 minutes” of fame.

 Everyone knows and likes to be with someone happy; someone who is excited and motivated to do good things in their life.  This person makes us feel good about ourselves.  The whole world seems to be a better place when we spend time with people who are happy and content with who they are and what their mission is in life.

When I was seventeen, a young singer by the name of Janis Ian recorded a song about being seventeen. It was so appropriate for where I was at that time in my life and explains exactly how many girls feel at this age, I’m posting the words here:

At Seventeen
“I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth
And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desp'rately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say "Come dance with me"
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems at seventeen
A brown eyed girl in hand-me-downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said, "Pity, please, the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve.
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
A guarantee of company
And haven…
At seventeen”
Janis Ian

The lyrics are somewhat depressing because there is no hope at the end.  Hope is what all people need to keep motivated during the trials and tribulations. From an email comes a prayer to those around us who need hope:
“May there be peace within you today.  May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are.  Let this knowledge settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.  It is there for each and every one of us.”

We can have hope and not follow what the world tells us.  Inner beauty is the most important and what we do with our time on earth and how we treat other people are the true indications of beauty.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas Eve!

by Suzanne Warr

If you celebrate Christmas, you and your household are probably in a fevered state, anticipating tomorrow morning.  All the planning, care, lists and running to and fro will be culminated in this one day.  Many of us can still feel an excited buzz when looking back on past Christmases, especially those when we were young.  A smile lifts our face and laughter sparkles in our eyes.

For those who look forward to and love Christmas morning, finding that someone prefers Christmas Eve can seem odd.  I know it hadn't occurred to me, as a kid.  After all, what could compare to the fun of discovering the stuff inside a stocking, or ripping open a present?  Now, as an adult, I think I enjoy Christmas Eve in a different way, but just as much.

Here's a great little film--Kipper's Christmas Eve--that our family loves.  He says it well:

Kipper is always chill, yet always enthused, much like the best kind of Christmas Eve.  I hope yours is lovely, and the rest of your Christmas weekend, as well!


Monday, December 21, 2015


Over a month ago I noticed something seemed to be amiss with my right breast.

11 years previously I'd had a lacto adenoma removed from my right breast while pregnant with my daughter. If you're not pregnant or nursing they call it a fibro adenoma. I was told that I might be susceptible to forming them and to keep a watch out. 

So, when I suspected something was up, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. As I expected, she ordered imaging to determine what was going on. There were really on three possibilities: adenoma/cyst, treatable cancer, or terminal cancer. 

I scheduled and waited three weeks for my date. 

I prayed. 

Not so much for it not to be cancer, though I certainly hoped it was not my time to leave this earth. My children are still young and I have much to teach them, and many moments in their lives I want to witness. Mostly, I prayed for peace while I waited and for the possibilities to not crowd my mind and keep me from experiencing the daily ups and downs of my life. I didn't want to be consumed with 'what ifs'. I also prayed for peace no matter what the test results turned out to be. 

God was kind. I was granted peace. 

Now, statistically speaking it was unlikely to be cancer. I carry few of the factors that put me on the high risk list. But it was possible. The three years I lived in Kansas I knew at least half a dozen women that were either going through breast cancer or were survivors. I've never known that many at one time, anywhere I've lived. And one side of my family tree is prone to cancer. Still, someone has to fall in that 15-20% of women who develop breast cancer. 

The day came, I went for my first mammogram. And as it was a diagnostic one, they wanted to use the 3D machine. Except, it wasn't working. They told me I could wait, or reschedule. I opted to wait. I happened to have the room closest to the 3D imaging room and could hear the technician on the phone trying to get the situation sorted. She mentioned more than one woman needed this technology to work. As the door to my room shut, I prayed again. This time that the machine would work, not just on my behalf, but on the behalf of the other women who needed answers like I did. 

The machine worked! And I said another prayer of gratitude. 

Mammograms weren't nearly as uncomfortable as I imagined they would be. Images, wait, more images, wait, onto the ultrasound. Two and a half hours later I sat in the nurse navigator's office. The issue turned out to be on the left side, not the right as I'd suspected. It looked to be a cyst. The recommendation was to do an ultrasound aspirated cyst removal. I scheduled it and two days later went in for the procedure. 

This part was more nerve-racking than waiting the previous three weeks. When I had the adenoma out before, I was over 7 months pregnant. They couldn't put me out to sleep but the blessed anesthesiologist made me feel really good. This time it was local anesthesia, not nearly as awesome. As soon as the doctor got in there, it was determined to be solid not liquid. Biopsy. And I got chipped. Now they insert a metal chip to mark the spot where they've removed the tissue. It is the size of a sesame seed. And no it doesn't set off metal detectors at the airport. It's there to show on further imaging. 

Results 3-4 days. More waiting. Turned out to be a very small fibro adenoma. In fact, so small that the biopsy removed half of it. Peace of mind. 

Trials, unexpected turns in our lives, can make us panic, frantic, crazy with worry. But when we turn to the Lord and ask for peace, he will grant it. It doesn't mean the trial is taken away or quickly or easily resolved every time. But while we wait on the Lord's timing, he can grant us peace. 

I am grateful for this gift. 

When have you been granted peace in a time of trial? Did you remember to be grateful for that blessing? 

May peace be granted to you. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015


This post was originally put on my other blog on September 13th, 2009. As I thought about what message I wanted to share on this blog so close to Christmas, I couldn't think of anything more appropriate than sharing my testimony of the Savior, Whose birth we are celebrating.

This summer, my daughter went to girls' camp. The stake leaders asked each ward to be a tribe, and to choose a name for their tribe that most fit their goals. Our ward chose to be "The Tribe of the Unashamed," taken from this quote:

"I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tinted visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, positions, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk with patience, am lifted up in prayer, and labor with power. My face is set, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided or delayed, will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table with the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, and paid up for the case of Christ. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me and when He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.” - Author Unknown, quoted by Elder Henry B. Eyring

When I first heard this quote, a thrill shot through me and enlivened me. We live in a time where it's so easy to ride the fence, to keep our beliefs a little quiet, not to call attention to ourselves. Peer pressure is stronger than ever before, and where we used to think of it as a teenage thing, it's something we face no matter what age we are. I was so glad that my daughter got to spend a whole week learning what it means to believe fully, whole-heartedly, and then to not be ashamed of those beliefs.

Today I had the opportunity to do some reading about the Prophet Joseph Smith. It absolutely never fails - the Spirit always testifies to me that he was truly a prophet of God, that the words he taught us are true, and that he died as a martyr to seal up his testimony of Heavenly Father's plan. I've had the chance to walk the streets of Nauvoo and sense what it would have been like to be there during Joseph's time, and felt the incredible power associated with a group of Saints, living together in harmony under the leadership of an inspired prophet. I dearly love the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I can't express enough how grateful I am to have the testimony of him that I have.

I'm so grateful to be led by a modern prophet today. Thomas S. Monson is a very familiar face to me, having held many key church positions throughout my lifetime. I know he comes to us at this time having been prepared by God for many years for this role, and I look at him with absolute faith and confidence that he will lead us in the ways God wants us led.

I am also deeply grateful for the knowledge I have that our Heavenly Father is truly watching over us with love and concern, and that He wants us to return to Him in His kingdom someday. I can't measure the gratitude I feel when I think about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the sacrifices made by both Father and Son to bring about that incredible blessing in our lives, if we will but just accept it. I have felt the comfort and the forgiveness and the assurance of the Lord in my life so many times, and I depend on it like nothing else.

I echo the sentiment expressed above: "The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, or be still." I also echo the scripture found in Romans 1:16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ."

How could I ever be ashamed of something I believe with all my heart?

Merry Christmas to you all, and may each of us use this time to become even more fully committed to those things we have said we will do. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Trip of a lifetime

If you've ever read my novels, you've probably noticed that I have a deep love for Ireland and Irish mythology. Every time I needed a new character to do something specific for my story, I would look through their mythology and find a creature that would do exactly that.

My dream for the last few years has been to travel to Ireland so I could see everything my books had talked about. I wanted to experience the Emerald Isle for myself. Partly so I could enjoy what I've grown to love, and partly to make sure that my research had steered me in the right direction for my novels.

This last August, Delta Airlines had an amazing sale using their air miles and I had the chance to do something I never thought I'd be able to do. We got to travel to England, and from there, we went to go to see Ireland and Scotland.

We left last week and started out in England. While my books have not been set there, I still got to go see some amazing things while I was there. The British Museum is full of artifacts that the British Empire stole from countries all over the world. Chinese, Japanese, German, and on and on. Every time I thought we were done, we'd find another whole wing of items. The Rosetta Stone is even in there.

But then we found out that one of the exhibits was about the Celtic culture. We bought our tickets and I went into devour everything I could learn about them. It was rich in history and had many items from that time. I was sad I couldn't take pictures while I was in there, so I tried to soak in as much as I could about the Celts and their history. MY history because these were my people. 

We also made at stop at King's Cross Station so I could get my photo with the cart going into Platform 9 3/4! 

The next morning we were off to Ireland. We took a train from London up to Holyhead, and then we took a ferry to Dublin from there. Amazing. Although I wasn't too fond of the up and down from the waves on the ferry. I got used to it about ten minutes from shore ... after a four hour trip.

We went right to the center of Dublin, and because we got there after all the sights had closed, we just walked around the streets to catch a glimpse of what we could. We found a memorial for those who had fought in wars, and a few cathedrals, and then we made our way back to our hotel.

I'd hoped to make to either the Blarney Castle or to a small forest near Kilkenny because they were both parts of my books, but we just didn't have enough time. The lady at the hotel warned us that while we could have gone to Blarney, it would have been cold, windy, and rainy. Not ideal when you want to climb 90 feet to the top of the castle...

We decided on a small place called Kilkenny. It was a 2 hour trip by bus, and then we stored our baggage at a hotel while we were there (Thanks to our concierge lady from the hotel in Dublin. She'd called in a favor.) 

Oh my goodness. It was the most amazing little place. The streets were cobbled in the pedestrian areas, and the stores were small and had the cool Celtic font the I love so much, and oh, there was a castle just hanging out in the middle of it.

We toured the castle and saw tapestries that were older than our country. It had been refurbished a few different times in it's history and was owned by a family until the 1920s when it was turned over to the city. 

Yeah, that's a castle. Just hanging out right there.

The dungeon
The whole castle. There used to be four walls, but Oliver Cromwell knocked one of them down.

My favorite little shop.

Afterward we went to lunch at a little pub that was in a home built in 1049. The owner was a woman who was charged with witchcraft, but she'd managed to escape before they burned her at the stake. The walls were a rough brick, and it was so cool to be eating in side a place that was so old. Plus, the Irish stew was to die for.

We'd planned to catch a bus back to Dublin so we could see Dublin Castle, St Patrick's Cathedral, and the leprechaun museum, but the bus didn't come for another five hours, so we were stuck in the most perfect little town ever. I didn't want to leave, so I counted it as a blessing that got to stay longer than we'd planned. 

Since we wouldn't get back in time to see anything in Dublin, we took the bus to the airport and went to our hotel. After dinner, we went right to sleep so we could get up at 4:30 in the morning to go catch a plane to Scotland. 

The plane actually took off at 7, but we still had to make the trip back to the airport from our hotel, and then walk back and forth to get from security to baggage claim and then to the plane. It was small and cramped, but otherwise it wasn't too bad. The ticket were also only 9 pounds, so we couldn't complain. 

We started out in Glasgow and walked around for a couple of hours, staring up at the architecture. It was amazing! It was colder than Ireland and we had to take our bags with us everywhere, so we didn't stay there for very long before hopping on the train over to Edinburgh.

They say that Edinburgh was built on seven hills. I'm pretty sure we walked up all of them. Okay, not really, but it felt like it. This was one place that showed up in my fourth Luck book so I wanted to get some research in. We also passed by the little shop where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Pretty cool!

After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we made our way over to Edinburgh Castle. Our plan was to go there and tour, and then head over to Holyrood Palace since both places were in my book. We missed the Holyrood Palace tour by eight minutes. Bummer.

BUT the Edinburgh Castle was amazing. Every wall was filled with the history of Scotland. We saw cannons, towers, dungeons, old bathrooms, bedrooms, a military memorial, and my favorite, the crown jewels. That part actually gave me some great ideas for this last luck book. So be watching for it!

Afterward, we talked to a lady about our family names and ended up staying there to talk for at least an hour. She was wonderful to talk to, but as we talked, it started raining outside. I'm not talking normal rain. I'm talking heavy, soak everything you own rain. We still made our way over to the palace (and just missed it) so we could at least get a picture, and then headed back to the hotel. We did try one souvenir shop, but we were too wet to actually want to buy anything. They tried to get us to buy an umbrella, but by that time there was no point. When we got back to the hotel, we had to empty out our bags, pockets, and everything else so we could use an iron and blow dryer to dry our clothes out. It was crazy! 

The next morning we headed back to England. The countryside was beautiful as we traveled the four hours back down to London. We took our stuff back to the same hotel we'd stayed at before and boarded a tour bus. We got to see Big Ben, the tower bridge, Tower of London, several cathedrals, and the London Eye. Sadly it was too dark to see Buckingham Palace, but I still enjoyed the tour. Afterward we walked over to Piccadilly Circus and toured the area. We found Hamley's toystore that had been there since 1760. Holy moly. We wandered through the streets again to find dinner and then made our way back to the hotel to collapse.

We only had one more morning, so we stored our things and took a train over to walk along the Thames River and to go see the tower of London. We didn't have a chance to go in, but we did stop at the gift shop, so that counts, right? We hopped back on the bus again, and toured through London, but had to get off before Buckingham Palace (sigh... we missed it twice) so we could get on a train and sprint back to the hotel to get our stuff so we get catch a train to the airport. 

While we sat there, we found out that the area we'd traveled through from Scotland to London was flooded. It was crazy! 

It was the most amazing trip we'd ever taken, and while we could have used another month or five to see everything we wanted to, I counted myself lucky that I could see the places that my characters had traveled in my books.  If you ever have a chance to go and research the places you write about, take it. Enjoy it. And soak in every ounce of history you possibly can. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

List of Strategies to Rewrite An Article

Valerie J. Steimle

If you are like me in writing blog posts and articles for online websites, then these little tidbits of information can really beef up your writing skills.  I can take any email or prior writing and morph it into something new and exciting... not bragging but this list if nine how-tos can really help when you are in a bind.  These ideas are actually a collection of information from different sources online so have at it and good writing....  

1. Write earlier. This teaches you what you already know and what you need to know. When I begged for more time on a story it was usually because I felt I needed more time to report, to understand the subject. "I need a couple more hours/days/weeks," I'd tell my editor. When I started drafting earlier, I began to see that the hole I needed to fill was already complete, but there are other gaps I wouldn't have recognized as quickly.

Revision doesn't mean more time, but rescheduling the time you have. Let's face it. Whatever time we have for a story most of us spend the bulk of reporting. After all, we're reporters. But there are ways to build in revision earlier in the process.

2. Hit the print button as early as possible. Computers are wonderful, but they give the illusion of perfection. To revise this column, I made a printout of the first draft, approximately 1,000 words written in less than an hour over two days. I began by crossing things out, penning in questions, examining the prose (which sentences held up, which need re-tooling, etc.)

3. Put it away. John Fowles, the British novelist ("French Lieutenant’s Woman"), described drafting as much as 60,000 words and then putting them in a desk drawer for a few months. Nice work, I can hear the journalists out there muttering, if you can get it.

Few working writers, especially those under daily or even weekly deadlines, have that freedom. But any attempt to put a story out of your mind will give your unconscious mind the chance to work on it.

As a Washington correspondent, there were days when the time between assignment and deadline was less than 4 to 5 hours. Even so, I tried to leave myself 10-15 minutes before deadline to print out the story, stick the printout in my back pocket and head out of the National Press Building for a quick walk.

I did my best not to think of my story, instead focusing my attention on the weather and the parade of lobbyists and tourists. Despite the distractions, by the time I made it two blocks to the Civil War monument in front of the U.S. Treasury building fresh questions about the story in my pocket began popping up like the tulips in front of the White House.

Had I really supported my lead? Should I move that quote higher up? Would that fact buried in the middle of the story make a more resonant ending? Did I need to make a quick call to check a fact or get one more piece of persuasive evidence? What could be discarded, what needed fleshing out?

4. Break revision into manageable tasks. Sometimes the sheer enormity of revisions overwhelms me. Make separate printouts — one for names and titles, another for verb constructions, a third to trim the fat from quotes.

5. Read aloud. Listen to your story and you can hear where it flags, where a quote runs on or echoes the previous phrase (The mayor said he's dissatisfied with the council's action. "I'm just not satisfied," Mayor Naughton said).

6. Diagnose, then treat. As you read, make quick notes ("cut," "move up?" "boring?" "stronger evidence?") Then go back and make the necessary changes.

7. Test your story against your focus. If it's about a young woman's fight against cerebral palsy, why does it begin with an anecdote about her grandfather's experiences in the California gold rush?

8. Find a first reader. Editors are our first readers--and our last line of defense. Show your draft to an editor--or a colleague. Ask them to tell you what works and what needs work. Ask for a movie of their reading. Better to turn in something to an editor that we know isn't perfect with an eye to finding the promise and the pitfalls in it and the path to a clear, concise, readable story than letting the whole world see our mistakes.

9. Develop patience. When I begin to write, the ideas often flow in a flood, leaving the landscape obscured by mountains of impenetrable mass, uprooted trees, houses and everything else in its path. Instead of a tidy piece of prose, what I have is a mess that makes my spirits droop. I wanted it to be so good and instead it seems so bad that I fear I can never get it to  the point where anybody else would want to read it. I have to keep telling myself it will come if I keep at it.