Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Before the Wall Came Down

Hofbrauhaus: not an easy place to get a drink water
My trip to Europe when I was sixteen was a pivotal point in my life. I'll never forget my experiences there. My parents took thirteen students and me to Europe. Dad, a high school German teacher, really wanted to give us a broad spectrum of experiences. We went to the Hofbrauhaus  and to Dachau. We climbed Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland and swam in the Black Sea. (Coldest freakin' shower on the planet--the water must have been mined from Antarctica.)
When we were there, no graffiti.

One of the most impacting areas we visited was East Germany. I will never forget the feeling we all felt when the soldiers came through the train with their machine guns and bomb-sniffing dogs. We all hoped that for once, Bobby would shut his terminally funny mouth just long enough not to get shot.

It was the Fourth of July and a toasty day. We hung out in West Berlin for a bit watching the clock figures in the square and headed for Checkpoint Charlie. At that time the Wall was firmly in place. Upon visiting East Berlin, they didn't let you out unless you'd spent at least 6.5 Marks. Stupidly, most of us bought ice cream. We'd been jonesing for great ice cream, which this goop turned out not to be. Within minutes we were excruciatingly, horribly, barfing sick.
It wasn't green but we definitely were.

No matter. The parental units forged onward like battleships at full steam. We really weren't arguing much about moving on, though. Everywhere our group went, a guard with machine gun and dog followed. When one cop's beat ended, another took over. They followed us everywhere. Later we all agreed that the feeling of oppression the whole time we were in the East was so thick you could cut it with a chainsaw. Maybe.
Amazing they left anything in Egypt.

The parents wanted to take us to the Pergamon museum. It's an amazing place full of Egyptian artifacts artfully swiped from the tombs. Whole friezes remain intact in that museum. I couldn't have cared less. By that time I was ready to find a nice out-of-the-way corner in which to empty the contents of my wildly protesting stomach. If I'd found an open vase, it would have served.
Truly breathtaking.

Mom and Dad finally took pity on us (possibly because of the poisonous glances of the curator) and released us to make our way to the border. We took off like Olympic sprinters at the starting gun and didn't stop until we got to the checkpoint. Gretchen, however, hadn't faired so well. She stopped fifteen blocks back with Dad and Mom to hurl her insides out in an alley.

We waited and waited and finally my friend David started taking pictures of the checkpoint. Suddenly a couple of uniformed buffoons came out yelling at him. Even with our sketchy German we understood that they were bellowing swear words and threatening dismemberment. They grabbed him and hauled him protesting into the building. The rest of us just stood there with our eyeballs popping. The minutes ticked past and they weren't letting him go. Someone said, "Heidi, go get your dad."
The wall was, of course, UP.

I'd have baulked at hauling my carcass clear back there except that we were kind of partial to almost all the kids on the trip, David especially. For Itchy and Scratchy, two whiny badger princesses, I'd have walked slowly and enjoyed the day. For David I flew the whole fifteen blocks back. I could barely get out the words, "They took David and they won't give him back," before Dad took off like a streaking cannonball. I'd never before seen him run so fast.

It turned out that they held David for two nail-biting hours and then deported him, telling him never to come back. They took his camera but then gave it back complete with film. We found out later they'd traded film of New York for it. Too bad they swiped the rest of his cool pictures.

During the trip to the border, Bobby the Joker had been strangely silent. I thought he was simply as green as I was. But when we got to the free side of the border, he spit out his 6.5 Marks. I think he still has that money.
Back then the exhibits were inside.

Maybe 200 yards from the Wall crouched the Museum of the Wall. It featured all the ways people had tried (or successfully managed) to cross the Great Barrier. We had spent an enthralling hour browsing through the various schemes when we heard a racket outside. We ran out and found a couple of American soldiers in a military car. They'd drive up and flip a U next to the checkpoint and yell through a bullhorn, "Hey you Commie Pinkos, today's our birthday!" They did this several times. We jumped up and down cheering until they came around and talked to us. Cool guys!
Yep. This guy.

Over dinner that night we all agreed that we NEVER wanted to be stuck in such a situation again. The mental miasma that lay over us didn't dissipate until Bobby laid us in the aisles laughing with more tales of his whacked out home life.

There was another museum which I talk about in the post: I Once Touched a Rembrandt.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ah Vienna

Vienna Ratshaus (civic buildings)
I'm writing about Vienna in my book LETTERS FOR STEPS today. It's been an age since I was there. The images have faded to a gilt-edged dream. How I'd love to go back and see those sights again and take the Hubs and children to see them.
This is much brighter and cleaner than ours was.

We stayed in a youth hostel for the three or so days we were there. We'd just been to my great uncle's vineyard on the Rhine, where he gave the students two bottles of the most delicious wine they'd ever had (children there grow up drinking the stuff). My parents and I stuck to the most amazing grape juice we'd ever had in our lives, but the students saved their bottles of fourteen-types-of-grapes ambrosia for Vienna. We came back from buying breakfast for the group to find the guys running around the hostel in their underpants and singing loudly about dead dogs in the middle of the road. Dad was not pleased.
Wouldn't want to have to clean it, but oh the size!

I remember Schonbrunn Palace (there are umlauts but my keyboard refuses to be German). We had thirteen students with us (plus me and my parental units) and we walked through those gymnasium-sized ballrooms with our mouths dropping to our chests--except for two girls. Those incredibly strange girls (I'll call them Itchy and Scratchy) sat on the steps outside and read romances the whole time I was inside pretending I was at a ball in a gorgeous white dress. Nothing seemed to draw them out of their little boxes.
Ornate to the hilt!

We went to THE SILVER FLUTE at the Vienna Opera House. Again I wished I was dripping with jewels and furs like the rest of the patrons instead of my ratty jeans and windbreaker. We bought tickets for standing room only, which they are very serious about. There were, luckily, handrails you could hold onto for the three hours of incomprehensible bellowing (Can you tell opera is not my thing if I can't understand the story?) so you didn't faint. I tried to sit down once and one of the usher came and sternly told us, "Aufstehen, bitte." (Stand up, please)
 By the last third of it I was ready to die. We'd spent the whole rest of the day running for streetcars and walking everywhere. I remember leaning over and telling my friend, "Kill me now. Wait. Another screech like that will do the trick."

Sorry, no pictures of the statuary. The horses were great, though.
We went to see the Lipizaner Stallions doing dressage at the Spanish Riding School. It was grandly elegant--in places too elegant. We managed to get seats behind some statuary at the end of the huge indoor arena. I had to watch those amazing white horses do their curvettes and leaps from beneath some statue guy's butt cheeks.

My father, the German teacher, insisted that each of us have chances to buy things using their German language. He'd send us out two-by-two like animals in Noah's ark to fend for ourselves in the markets of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. We got very good at pointing and asking, "Wieviel costet das?" (How much does that cost?) Itchy and Scratchy refused to do anything ever except ask for a Coke.
Finally in Vienna Dad had had it with them. (The rest of us had already decided they were hyena fodder long before.) He sent those girls out with Gretchen, the fourth year student who spoke pretty good German, to buy breakfast, telling them not to come back without it. Gretchen was supposed to fake a sudden case of laryngitis so the other two would have to do the speaking.
The long, hungry hours passed and I finally decided to go buy myself something to tide me over until lunch in a few minutes. I found Itchy and Scratchy in the baekerei bawling their eyes out as Gretchen, miraculously cured, tried to coach them through buying a couple of dozen brotchen (best rolls on the planet). They clamored for me to save them, but I simply grinned and bought my own roll. They deserved what they got.
The Vienna Opera Ball--I'd give my firstborn child to dance there!

It was there at the youth hostel that we finally encountered a real laundromat. Most of the time we washed things in the sink. Everybody else had crammed their stuff in washers together so we could make our train on time. A nursing student from Australia told me I could wash my stuff with hers. Unfortunately, my new red Frankfurt University T-shirt turned all her whites pink. I was glad we were on the way out of there because the swearing could be heard clear to Munich.
The Prater--one of the biggest Ferris wheels in Europe. Rivals the London Eye

My snarky comments should not derail you from the fact that the trip to Europe was one of the best experiences of my life on a variety of levels. I did a pile of growing up there, learned about people and places, broadened my horizons, fell in like, and gained fabulous friends for life. Shakespeare's words from Henry 5's Crispin's Day soliloquy stand out in my head: We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. Thanks, Dad and Mom, for an experience we'll never forget.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Joseph the Prophet


I haven't been posting much as I am singing in the musical, JOSEPH THE PROPHET. My husband is singing in it, and two of my daughters are playing cello and violin in the orchestra.We've spent lots of time getting the mechanics of the thing set. The numbers roil around in my head until they pour out at odd moments. I watch the conductor like a stooping hawk. I count out the long rests and pay attention to my pitch and breath support. I try to catch my cues from my mates, the orchestra, and from the conductor's face and gestures. The music swells and my voice billows out in a fortississimo swell. It's difficult not getting too caught up in the craft of it unless I immerse myself in the meanings of the words.

The music is poignant enough. But the story.... This man went to his death for the things he believed. He lost children to the brutality of mobs. He was wrongly imprisoned, tarred and feathered, beaten and starved.

If he hadn't known that what he'd seen and experienced was real and gripping, it would have been such a relief to simply lay down the mantle of responsibility and walk away, taking his beloved wife and children with him. He could have gone back to being a simple farmer in the backwoods of New York, plowing his land, dragging away the stumps, planting and harvesting.

But he didn't. And his legacy stands today, sealed with his blood and the blood of those who believed in him and stood by him through challenges of all kinds.

I count my own ancestors among those who knew him personally. They knew he was a prophet to such an extent that they sailed across the ocean, leaving a successful vineyard. They made homes in Nauvoo, Illinois and then traveled the plains in a covered wagon. One of my several greats grandfathers was a scout for him, and one of the first 100 white men to enter the Salt Lake Valley. Another was a printer, who paid with his life for his printing press.

So now the legacy passes to me. How will I let what I have learned affect me? How will I carry my forebears' lives and actions forward? I can thank them for what they did, with my heart and my actions. I can be the person I'm meant to be, purposefully, deliberately. I can be more. I can try every day to make them, and Joseph, proud.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hope's Watch Book Blitz

Donna K. Weaver keeps a tight ship. I enjoy her books like a great cruise. All aboard for a fantastic voyage!

About HOPE’S WATCH: Elle Reinhardt loves people and has a gift for turning groups of strangers into friends. When she talks her best friend Lyn into taking a month-long Pacific cruise, Elle is in her element, gathering fellow passengers to her. But things go horribly wrong when a ship excursion ends in death and disaster at the hands of modern-day pirates.

Filled with her own emotional wounds from the experience, Elle tries desperately to buoy up the grieving loved ones as they wait for news on those lost at sea. Malcolm Armstrong, friend of one of the missing men, arrives to act as family spokesman. Elle knows it’s unreasonable, but she resents his presence. When Mal offers the strength she so desperately needs, will she be able to let go of her animosity and accept his support?

This ebook-exclusive short story includes special excerpts from both A Change of Plans and Torn Canvas.

Buy Links:

A CHANGE OF PLANS will be on sale during the Book Blitz!

About Donna: Donna is a Navy brat who joined the Army and has lived in Asia and Europe. Because she sailed the Pacific three times as a child, she loves cruising and wishes she could accrue enough vacation time to do more of it with her husband. At age fifty, she decided to study karate and earned her black belt in Shorei Kempo.

After doing city council minutes for twenty years, she decided to write something a little longer and with a lot more emotion--and kissing. She is the author of A CHANGE OF PLANS and the forthcoming TORN CANVAS.

Social Media Links:
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/donnakweaver/

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This or That:

Leslie Storey
TV or Movies?
Movies for sure. Love to go to the theater.

Macy Jaskiewicz
Hot or Cold?
That depends. I’ve lived in the tropics, so I know how much humidity impacts both.

Wendy Knight
Black or White?
That depends upon if I’m wearing it or looking at it.

Cindy Whitney
Night owl, or early bird?
Early bird. I’ve always loved getting up before everyone and enjoying the sunrise. Now that I’m older, my body just wakes early—regardless of how late I go to bed.

Mindy Holt
Print or Ebook?
There’s a third choice: audiobook. I’m so busy anymore that’s where I do most of my reading.

Elle Strauss
Chocolate or Vanilla?

Lindzee Armstrong
Horror or Romance?
Romance, but I’ve always like my romance to be part of the story rather than the whole story.

Bonnie Gwyn Johnson
Skittles or M&Ms?
Oooo... that one’s tough. I like Skittles because they’re chewy but M&Ms because they’re chocolate.

Robin Ambrose
Summer or Winter?
Summer. I like four seasons but I wish winter only lasted for December.

M.R. Buttars
City or Country?
I love the country but I like my city amenities. If the former is close, I can be happy with the latter.

Donna Hosie
Harry Potter or Twilight?
I enjoyed the Twilight series but Harry helped me embrace my inner nerd. I spent five years as a moderator on a Harry Potter forum and survived the release of the last book. I was even interviewed on a local TV station (KSL) the day before the release of Deathly Hallows.

Julie Daines
Gum or Breath Mints?
It used to be gum, but my dental work got mad at me, so now it’s breath mints. *sigh*

Sheena-kay Graham
Cats or Dogs?
Dogs, though I love quirky and independent cats. I married a man who is allergic to cats. Most of our children are allergic, and one of my granddaughters is so allergic that when she’s around them or their hair for an hour or two her eyes swell shut.

Medeia Sharif
Text or Talk?
We text a lot in our family. I got to be a big fan when we went to Disneyland with three teenaged boys. We have parkhopper passes, and there’s no way you could hear for a phone call. Texting made it possible to communicate and meet when it was time.

Top Five Lists:

Heidi @ Murphy’s Law
Favorite Authors
(these are not ranked and I could add many more—I read lots of genres)
  • Anne McCaffrey--beats Brandon Sanderson by a bit. I'm actually more of a Dave Farland fan than Brandon Sanderson.
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Sarah Eden
  • Larry Correia
  • Patricia Briggs

Lisa Swinton
Favorite Books (these are not ranked and I could add many more—I read lots of genres)
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Blue Sword
  • Dragonflight
  • Starship Troopers
  • Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Tee @ Kaidans Seduction
Favorite Literary Characters
  • Harry Potter
  • Nick Sabine
  • Mercy Thompson
  • Masterharper Robinton
  • Kaladin


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Emma: A Latter-day Tale Review

 I love Jane Austen and have read all her books plus many of her letters. She's a brilliant writer absolutely a marvel of her time and forever afterwards. The fan fiction doesn't always stack up. In fact, Jane's wordplay is rapier-sharp and tends to slice most "copies" to ribbons.
Rebecca H. Jamison's EMMA: A LATTER-DAY TALE is not one of these weak copies. I enjoyed this book to the hilt.

Jamison seamlessly weaves Austen's story into modern day. I enjoyed trying to figure out how she'd change places like Box Hill and people like Mr. Elton's simpering wife to fit in with today's problems and technologies. Ski trips and hiking fill the bill nicely. I can totally see Emma shushing down the slopes in her signature snowplow.

 I was happily surprised. The story was effortless and fresh. I empathized with Emma's angst about measuring up to the amazing Jane/Jena. I loved that Emma was flawed but lovable and well-meaning. She tracked well as a motherless girl trying to make her way through the boulder fields of society. I have my own mountain of regrets and half-finished projects to dig through and finish.

If you love Jane Austen, you'll love this modern version of Jane's beloved story Emma.

Put on your invisible visiting bonnet and long gloves and get the book here.

Cartels and Combinations Review

I've been reading up a storm lately. One of the latest books I read was an offering by the name of CARTELS AND COMBINATIONS by Mike McPheters. I have to say I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

The book is about a Mexican family who comes to America to work in the fruit orchards of Idaho. The family splits and one son goes back to Mexico to become a drug lord and the other goes to college and becomes a prosecutor. In a bid to extricate his sons from jail, a rival drug kingpin abducts the prosecutor's daughter. The outcome will surprise you. I found the twist as delicious as a ripe peach.

I'm the sort of person who shies away from listening to the news too much these days, because it's always full of the horrible, depressing, depraved things people do to each other in the name of money, sex, fame, power, or a combination of the four. I don't enjoy reading prison/slasher/violence-for-the-sake-of-violence books.

But I picked up this one and could barely put it down. My life is interwoven with the whole drug trafficking thing, basically because I live close to the border. A man just next door to one of our old houses was shot dead in a drug deal-gone-bad. Some people behind us in another house ran a drug house and chop shop until the authorities carted them off to prison. Another house across the street used to be a dealer's house until he got shot by his son. It's difficult to have a good night's sleep with the helicopters rumbling overhead. It's also hard to have a sanguine outlook on life.

This book offered some hope and some information about what we can do to battle the evil which rocks our world. Through most of the book I kept asking the question, "Yes, but how do we stop this from happening?" I think Mr. McPheters answered it. He does ask some difficult questions that I couldn't quite answer, though. How much are we willing to do? How much can we do without endangering our families? How much can we afford not to do?

Get this book from here and sit back and enjoy the ride, maybe with a ripe peach or an apple. Check out Mike's Agent Bishop books as well.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Goodnight Kiss Giveaway

When Chase sees Clare during her brief Christmas visit to their hometown, he knows it's his chance to make things right between them. Considering he all but ignored her while on his mission, it's a tough task. 
After having her heart broken by him before, Clare is wary of a holiday romance. But a long-awaited goodnight kiss might change her mind.

Check out these blogs, featuring GOODNIGHT KISS this week:

And prizes!

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Three Kings Day Burn

Today it's Letdown Day, better known as Three Kings Day.

Normally it's celebrated as the day that the Three Kings came to visit the Christ Child in Nazareth. For us, it's usually the day we Burn the Man. We did it early this year because the kids were going back home early. Normally it would be tonight.

To Burn the Man, we make a man out of (most often) a brown paper bag stuffed with other paper. Then we attach (or tuck inside) pieces of paper loaded with the faults and shortcomings we wish to abandon in the coming year. B builds a fire in the fire pit and we go out and toss the Man on the fire and stand there watching our bad habits go up in smoke.

Instead, it's time to take down the tinder-dry tree we've been barely able to enjoy from all the busyness, and tuck away all the decorations. It's time to sweep up the needles and bits of wrapping paper which have clung to shoes and gotten tracked around. The groaning table with all its now-stale goodies is being steadfastly ignored because it contributed to too much tonnage. 
We've had one of two yearly calls from our missionary in Russia. We've seen that he looks healthy and is in good spirits and still seems to be frostbite-free. 
The kids have gone home to Texas, taking their children with them. No more playing board games until 1 or 2am. No more figuring out meals for eleven or trying to decide what to do to entertain them all. The well-chewed doorstops are now safely back on the doors. The sticks can go back to being sticks instead of whacking swords.
The groaning school kids went back to Seminary and school today, dragging their backpacks behind them. 
Today the silence is potent. I keep looking over my shoulder to see if someone is getting into something and hiding under the table to eat it. There's probably still part of a chewed candy cane under there somewhere that'll need to be chipped off with a chisel.
Now I have the chance to contemplate the mistakes I made and the things I wish I'd done better. I have the time to sit back and think about the things I've let slip through my fingers in pursuit of others not-so-worthwhile. It can be a bit of a burning sensation sometimes when I remember the Christmas cards and presents I haven't sent yet, or the people I've not visited. When I think of the times I made fun of my son or badmouthed my daughter I get the mental hives. Those things were on that little slip of paper.
So now I need to make right what I can and lay aside what I can't. After all, it's already gone up in flames. More than that, Christ has already paid for the pain and mistakes I've made. Now I need to finish the process.
Happy Three Kings Day.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Field is White Review

Today I'm reviewing THE FIELD IS WHITE by Darryl Harris. I believe it's the first in the Light and Truth series.

First of all, I picked this book up and then immediately turned to put it back. The cover is simply dreadful. It looks like a really bad road show setup for a comedy--which it definitely is not. It's a shame that the author didn't consult someone knowledgeable about the cover. The book would have greatly benefited by a fantastic cover.

The other thing the book needed is a little light editing, which is interesting since it was written by a twelve-magazine publisher.

The pluses far outweigh the minuses. This is a work of fiction, but is about real people and situations. I enjoyed this book because the early English Saints came alive for me. I previously hadn't had much knowledge of those early converts to the LDS church and the spectacular things they did. Imagine converting five hundred people to your new church in one mission!

Wilford Woodruff was an amazing person. The story of his conversion begins with my husband's ancestor, Zerah Pulsipher, another outstanding man with an amazing story. How I would have loved to hear about the gospel from their lips. 

I found it incredible that people entrenched in their own beliefs could in one day lay those ideas aside and adopt a whole new way of thinking, a completely new life. Many lost livelihoods, family members, inheritances, homes and sometimes even lives to adopt a church which bucked the common order. This book lays out how the Lord prepared the people of that time and made them ready for harvest like wheat in the fields. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in such a religious pressure cooker. This book helps.

The main story deals with Bobby and Hannah Harris, and Daniel and Elisabeth Browett, forebears of the author. We follow them from their own various religions into the United Brethren (a church I had heard very little of before), and into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bobby, especially, had his life mapped out for him, with religion standing a distant last in his plans for being Heavyweight Boxing Champion of Britain. We've all got friends or relatives (or ourselves) who drive themselves to succeed, to the exclusion of all else.

I liked Wilford Woodruff's take on missionary work. He said, "Missionary work is more effective when we cling to those things that have been revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Use the Book of Mormon, and declare everything that has been restored in the latter-days such as the priesthood, temples, and the nature of God.
The message of the Restoration centers on the idea that it is not common ground we seek in sharing the gospel. There is nothing common about our message. The way we answer questions about our faith ought to be by finding the quickest and most direct route to the Sacred Grove, meaning the story of how God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph. That is our ground. It is sacred ground. It is where testimonies are born and the greatest truths of Heaven are unveiled.
We have not built upon the theological rubble of the past. All that we have has come by direct revelation in the latter days."

The book is full of interesting information. For instance, I'd never heard of the Diggers and Levelers. I have heard of the Shakers, however. One section of the book lays out the history of the Christian religion in a somewhat more understandable, simple way.

It looks as though I'm going to have to get the rest of the series to find out how it all worked out for the two main couples.

Check out THIS PLACE for THE FIELD IS WHITE and other great finds.