Monday, October 3, 2016


Several months ago I made a decision that I needed to write more consistently on this blog. If you’ve been following the blog, you know the reasons for that, and I sincerely believed it would be good for me to be able to write here and share my challenges. It’s an added bonus when I feel like candidly sharing my own struggles might help those who take the time to read what I write. I can look back over the months and know that it HAS been helpful—at least to me. And I’ve received some wonderful comments and emails from some of you that have lifted my spirits. So, what is this thing about human nature that makes it so difficult to do the very thing that we know will help us feel better? For WEEKS I have thought every day that I need to write something for the blog and get my daughter to post it (due to my enormous lack of computer knowledge) and every day I have felt a little more uncomfortable over the fact that another day has passed without that goal being accomplished. It’s not really that difficult for me to sit down at the computer and write something the length of a reasonable blog post. And it’s not like I can’t think of something to write about. I’ve found some great quotes since I last wrote here that would be worth sharing. I’ve seen some wonderful inspirational things on Youtube and I’ve thought about putting a link or two here and talking about what I learned. I could do that, and I probably will in time. But today I’m more caught up in examining the reason why we as human beings tend to procrastinate. Perhaps I’m being presumptuous to say that it’s so common among the majority of us humans; maybe I’m in a minority. It just seems so difficult to get myself to do simple tasks that I know will make me feel better if I do them.

Eat a salad. Get that bill mailed. Email that person that you love sharing letters with. Remove some dust from your living area. Throw out the food in your fridge that stopped being edible long ago. Do that load of laundry so you have clean pajamas. Doing a load of underwear before you actually run out would be good. Etc. Etc. Etc. 

Already as I’m writing I’m wondering why I’ve put this off so long. It’s not that big of a deal. Is it? Well, I don’t know what YOUR reasons might be for procrastinating (assuming that at least one person reading this is a procrastinator) but I’ve been giving a great deal of thought as to my own. And most of it comes back to that depression thing which was confessed here many months ago, and I have since written about multiple times. Sometimes depression is present without any obvious reasons, and I believe that’s when medical intervention is perhaps necessary. For me, I struggle with physical pain and illness every day. And even though I’ve been known to do some amazing writing in spite of it, motivating myself to do anything before it’s urgent is more often than not just plain hard. I can also say there’s been more than a fair amount of crisis with some loved ones lately. And when someone you love is struggling, or even suffering, it’s difficult to look past the draining effects of such challenges and feel capable of doing anything at all. STILL would I not be better off to sit down here with you and share my feelings as opposed to avoiding them? Perhaps I could have felt my own burdens lifted by writing about them here. Perhaps I could have offered some validation or perspective for someone else. As trivial as it sounds, I think of comparing it to taking the time to cut up some vegetables in order to eat a salad instead of something less healthy. It’s not THAT big of a deal, and the results are obviously good. So, why is it so difficult to get past this vague sensation of stagnancy that feels like an enormous ball and chain that slows me down and holds me back?

I don’t have any obvious answers or insights beyond that. Maybe you do. I just keep making to-do lists so my foggy brain can keep track of what’s important, and I force myself to do what needs to be done. But I would like to cross more things off that list before they become urgent, as opposed to having it feel like such a burden. That’s my hope for today: to be more motivated and productive this week, and to form some better habits about doing so as a way of life. There, I’ve written a blog post. Task completed. Now, that wasn’t so hard! I would love to know if ANYONE out there relates to it in any way. Or is it just me? 

Given my recent stagnancy in this area, I also had the thought that perhaps it’s a good time to do some simple Q&A right here. I often get emails with questions, and back in the day when I was able to do more public speaking, I was bombarded with questions. So, if you have any questions you would like to have answered here, email me at

With your question include how you would like yourself identified when I post the answers. Such as: Buffy from Sunnydale. Or: Mary Margaret from Storybrooke. Or you can use an online handle like: stormtrooper47. Or: wanttogotohogwarts89. Okay, just getting silly now.

I hope you’re all having a good week. Here in Utah Valley, I am enjoying the autumn weather. This is my favorite time of year, and in spite of my daily struggles, I take some moments every day to soak in the cooling temperatures and the color of the leaves changing. May God bless you all, and with any luck I’ll be back here posting again very soon. It’s a worthy goal. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

69 DOWN, 1 TO GO

Many years ago, when my children were younger, there was a time when I had two children in elementary school, one in junior high, and one in a high school. And then an infant was added to the mix. Now, I know families come in all sizes; some have certainly had more children to care for than I did, and some have had less. But since this is my blog, I only have my own experience to write about.

During the majority of years that I was raising children, I was also writing one novel after another. Even though I “worked” at home, I still had more than a full-time job on top of mothering and being in charge of a household. And I must declare that I still “worked” all those years, even though it took me many years to get published and actually receive income from my efforts. 

But the point is this: children. They’re great, aren’t they? And they are challenging! It’s true what they say, that being a parent is absolutely the most fulfilling thing you can do in this life, and absolutely the most difficult. I remember clearly a point in my life, as summer vacation was drawing to a close, that I was so overwhelmed by school preparations that I could hardly see straight. Getting multiple children ready for school with clothes, supplies, adjusting bedtimes, etc.—and then there’s the actual registration that’s necessary for children in the upper grades—was indeed overwhelming. And then I considered that with school starting there was always a trade off. At the time with a houseful of children—and often their friends—summer was noisy and chaotic, which made it difficult to get much writing done. Some of my children had difficulty getting along with each other, particularly during different stages. Therefore I looked forward to the end of summer vacation and returning to a more structured schedule and having them out of the house for some ours every day. But the trade off was that having children in school means homework, projects, parent-teacher conferences, meetings about extracurricular activities, etc. etc., not to mention the more personal matters that come up of their hurt feelings or social dramas that came into play. 

At one point it occurred to me that for each child I had brought into the world, there were fourteen school years. Preschool, kindergarten, and twelve grades in order to achieve high school graduation. Multiply fourteen school years with five children and that’s seventy school years—many of them occurring simultaneously of course. My children are spread out in years, so the oldest had barely finished his junior year in high school when the youngest was born. The youngest is now at exactly that same stage, and the transitions of life amaze me and at times can feel a little alarming. 

Now, coming to the present, my baby girl, my youngest child, is about to begin her senior year of high school. Of those seventy school years I once calculated that I had to get through, I’m now down to one left. One. To say I have mixed emotions is an understatement. The thought of being done with getting my children through school—at least the schooling that takes place prior to their becoming adults and mostly (supposedly) forging ahead from that point on their own. 

As I send my little girl out the door for her first day of school, knowing that it will be an extremely busy school year given all of the many school-related things she’s involved in, I feel myself stepping over a threshold that is the beginning of the end. I realistically expect to actually have a chance to spend time with my daughter a little bit on Sundays and during Christmas break. She’s a very busy girl who is engaged in doing very good things. I’m proud of her and from the sidelines I observe her life like a merry-go-round that keeps zooming past me while I wave at her as she glides by, offering a smile and words of encouragement. By the time this school year ends, she will technically be an adult, and a whole new season of life will officially be upon me as a mother.

I’m not one of those mothers that is heart broken over the prospect of an empty nest. I’ve been raising kids for nearly thirty-five years and it’s been an exhausting and often traumatic endeavor. I like having my kids be adults, able to care for themselves and move forward with their own lives. Still, this is a big step with a lot of change on the horizon. I’ve been the mother of adult children long enough to know that mothering never ends. It’s typical to not hear from my children for a long time, and then they need advice, or love, or encouragement, or money, or a place to live temporarily, and they pop up. I love my children dearly—and their spouses, and those beautiful grandchildren—and I strive to offer them unconditional love always, support and encouragement when needed, and never to enable them. I know they need to have their own journey and work their way through as adults. But as my baby girl is now on the verge of adulthood, I find myself struggling somewhat with the transition. I’ve certainly paid my dues as a mother, and I look forward to a time when I will be free of the complications of being responsible for a minor child. But a mother never stops loving their children, and a mother of adult children knows well enough that you never cease to be concerned and often caught up in challenges when they occur. 

It’s been a crazy, marvelous, exhausting, magnificent, overwhelming, exquisite journey of raising five children and observing them as they need me less and less. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. They start out needing you for everything, and they go forward needing you for nothing (most of the time) and they generally have absolutely no idea how much you’ve given, and loved, and sacrificed for their best interests. 

So, here’s to moving forward. Sixty-nine school years down, one to go. And it’s going to be a wild year! But not to worry, with college and a mission in my daughter’s sights, it will still be a good, long while before I can really step out of the active mother role and just sit back in my rocking chair and take it easy. Oh, gosh! What a journey!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Life is definitely a battle. The battles take on many forms as we contend with cruelty, abuse, financial disasters, death, divorce, disappointment, heartbreak, natural disasters, accidents, etc. etc. blah, blah, blah. The list is endless, and so is the possibility of crumbling under the pressure.

As we struggle to survive all the world throws at us, we often get so battle-weary that I think we can start to lose sight of what’s really important. And if we START to lose sight and don’t realize what’s happening, before we know it, we’ve completely lost sight, and then we can start behaving in ways that we’d never imagined, and we might not even realize we’re doing it. 

It’s a natural human response that when we’ve been hurt, or when something frightens us, we become defensive. It’s a protective mechanism. But I consider myself an observer of human nature and the human condition, and I’ve been observing something that I’m finding increasingly alarming. I believe at the heart of it there is confusion and hurt and fear, but more and more it seems to be manifesting in anger. I learned years ago (and have put this concept into some of my stories) that anger is a secondary emotion; there is always something beneath it. We get angry with a child who runs out in the street or runs with scissors in their hand—because it scared the bajeebies out of us. We get angry with people when they have hurt or betrayed or disappointed us. If we look beneath our angry feelings and reactions with humility and self-honesty, we will usually be able to find the REAL emotion beneath it, and then we can address it appropriately and work on solving problems effectively.

Given that preamble of psycho-babble, I’ll get to the point that’s on my mind. We who are conscious of striving to be good people and stand up for our morals and values are keenly aware that the world is becoming more and more confusing and difficult in regard to our morals and values. Disagreement on what’s right and wrong is everywhere, and social media has made it so easy to express our views in a way that distances us from the consequences of how those words can never be taken back. But the problem isn’t only manifested through social media; I see it leaking into conversations and discussions among social groups, church groups, etc. And what I see happening is something I find more and more disturbing. 

Let me try and explain by asking this question: Why do good people with good intentions often seem unable to discern the difference between standing up for their own personal beliefs and values, and behaving in a way that is self-righteous, condemning, and judgmental? I ask every person who reads this to consider that question long and hard before I follow with another hard question: Are we inadvertently hurting others by making assumptions and jumping to conclusions, as opposed to simply striving to offer love and understanding? I defer to the adage that we should first seek to understand before we seek to be understood. Trying to “bear your testimony” to someone who already knows the gospel backward and forward doesn’t come across as loving and concerned; it comes across as “I’m trying to convince you that you’re wrong because I don’t like the way you see things, or the way you’re living your life.” Hence, we sound judgmental, and if we really look inside ourselves with careful examination, I think we’ll find that our discomfort likely IS coming out in a form of judgment.

Only God has the right to judge! Why? Because only God has the ABILITY to judge fairly! ONLY God knows the heart and mind and intentions of every individual; only God knows the personality, the body chemistry, the challenges and experiences of each life, and how those things have been impacted by what life has thrown at a person. How can I possibly begin to think that I know how to see life through the eyes of a Muslim, or a Baptist who was raised with strong anti-Mormon beliefs? How can I know how it feels to struggle with same-sex attraction and be treated cruelly because of it? How can I know what it’s like to have someone I love commit a heinous crime? Or be the victim of one? And even IF a person HAS experienced these things, how can that person still say that they understand how ANOTHER person experiences it? For example: I know of a person who has had a lifelong struggle with same-sex attraction and has made some choices that are regretted. With strong religious convictions, this person eventually chose a path of adhering to the requirements of that religion in order to be an active member with full privileges. This path has given him great fulfillment and joy in the long run, and it has strengthened his relationship with God. I am SO happy for him in having come to this place of peace in having conquered this struggle. HOWEVER, I have also been aware of this person (I believe unintentionally) saying things that are very hurtful in a passive-aggressive way regarding others who are a part of the LGBTQ community. There is an underlying message in this person’s attitude that implies all people who have these kind of struggles should follow the same path this person successfully followed, and if they don’t, they are not acceptable to him or to God. I admire this person for his strength and conviction. But that does not mean that his reasons for this challenge in his life are the same as anyone else’s. And it doesn’t mean that his strengths and weakness are the same as any other person, anywhere, ever. We are all completely unique. Some people are strong enough to take on that challenge and choose the path of adhering to religious doctrine. Others feel and believe they must choose another path. And you know what? It’s none of our business! Even if we are a close friend or family member of someone with such struggles, every person has their agency, and we have ONE job! ONE! To love! I’m not talking about loving someone blindly in a way that enables bad behavior that hurts other people. I’m talking about having the confidence to stand in your own value system, with your own convictions, and still be able to love others without condition and with complete respect. 

Bottom line is this: I believe that as a people we get so caught up in the battle between good and evil, and our own perception of it, that we forget the REAL battle is between love and hate. By example, during His mortal ministry, Jesus taught love, love, love. He commanded us to love one another as He has loved us. Well, hello? He loves us unconditionally! Unconditionally! He never spoke to sinners with anything but love and kindness and compassion. Yes, He told them to go and sin no more, but He is GOD! He has that right! He earned that right! The only people that Jesus outwardly rebuked were the hypocrites and the self-righteous. I believe that without even realizing it, we are those among the crowd surrounding the woman taken in adultery, those that Jesus called out by saying that he who was without sin should cast the first stone. He was the only one without sin, and he did not cast a stone. He spoke to this woman respectfully and with kindness. 

So, as I see it, there is a big human lesson here, and it’s BIG! While we stand in our own fear and discomfort regarding the current issues of the world, whether it be gay marriage, abortion, terrorism, gun control, or . . . whatever . . . we are allowing our fear and discomfort to come out of our mouths (or through our keyboards as we hide behind the distance of social media) in a way that is coming across as very UN-Christian. I’m looking around at people who are so deeply hurt by the carelessness of this kind of behavior, from well-intentioned, good people, and I see a storm brewing that has the power to undermine a “Christian” society from its very core. Terrorism is an act of hate, and we have little to no control over it. But the way we treat those we come in contact with, whether in person or online, is something we have complete control over, and we should pause, think, and consider WWJD! What would Jesus do? If you’re the Christian you claim to be, or want to be, you know the answer to that. 

So, I have some specific challenges. Go study what it says about beams and motes in the New Testament and take it very seriously. And then study Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon and take that very seriously. And then study the parable of the ten virgins and take that very seriously. Ask yourself if you’re one of those people who gives Christians a bad reputation. And if you’re a Mormon, ask yourself if you’re one of those people that helps perpetuate the world’s belief that Mormons are NOT Christian. If we don’t act like Christians, how can we teach the world that we are? 

And here’s some food for thought: If a Muslim family moved into your predominantly Mormon neighborhood, how would they be treated? If an anti-Mormon Baptist family moved in, how would THEY be treated? Would they quickly be convinced that they’d been right all along? Or would they come to see that Mormons really do behave like Christians, because they’re kind and accepting and loving even if they disagree with your beliefs? And what if a gay couple moved in? Could they be accepted in your neighborhood? Could they come to church and not be ostracized? If they had children would those children be treated with kindness or cruelty? 

I am aware of a number of people who grew up in the LDS Church, and they struggle with varying degrees of the LGBTQ label. I know of more than one of these people who would like to be able to continue to attend church, even though they’ve chosen a lifestyle contrary to the Church’s doctrine and policy. I find it interesting that while they may disagree with certain policies, there is often a respect for the fact that a religious sect has the right to decide their own rules. If a Mormon isn’t living up to certain expected standards, they cannot serve in a church calling or attend the temple. Anyone who grows up in the Church knows that. And other religions have their own versions of the same application. But what if these people just want to come to church and be part of that community? What if they want and need the love and support of that community? And being LGBTQ does NOT mean a lack of belief in God, or even a lack of testimony in the Savior. In fact, I’ve seen a great reliance on, and gratitude for, the Atonement of Jesus Christ from people who have such struggles. Can we not embrace such people for sharing that common ground? 

A woman shared her story with me who was struggling with her own sexual identity, and trying to come to terms with it in regard to the Church she had been raised in. She hadn’t been to church for a long time and missed it, so she decided to give it another chance, longing for the love and belonging she had felt in the past by attending church meetings and interacting with those who shared her faith. As she sat in the classes, she was astonished to hear comments that seemed to justify that it was okay to ostracize people who didn’t share their beliefs or lifestyle. There was also an attitude presented that seemed to imply that all of the people with struggles were “out there somewhere” when this woman knew that she was far from the only person in the room who was struggling. She fought to keep from crying through the meeting, and left feeling completely judged and excluded, and no one knew. She never went back. This breaks my heart, and it makes me wonder what Jesus was really trying to teach us when he talked about having oil in your lamp at the time when He comes again. I’m guessing that oil is not comprised of the ways we seek to make ourselves feel more comfortable and distanced from the struggles of others. It’s my belief that the oil is pure love, Christlike love. In the parable He states to those who didn’t have the oil in their lamps, “I never knew you.” I think He means that we never knew Him, because we were so caught up in the wrong battles that we forgot how to love, to love others as He loves us. 

May we love our fellow human beings, may we become a truly Christlike people and prove it through our words and our actions. May we remember that the only battle that really matters is the battle between love and hate, and every hour of every day we choose which side we’re on. More than ever, what the world needs now is love. Just love. 

Friday, July 8, 2016


An antidote is defined as the substance that counteracts a disease or poison. Life is full of all kinds of disease and poison; some of it being literal, and much of it being metaphorical. If you’re reading this blog post and you’ve read what I’ve written here previously, you know that I’ve struggled a great deal with many challenges that have been depressing and difficult—as we all do in some way. Getting through each day can be a strain, sometimes more than others, but one thing I’ve learned through the years is that gratitude truly does counteract the intensity of hardship and struggle. As it says in one of the songs from the movie White Christmas (one of my all-time favorites during the season) “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep.” Counting blessings doesn’t necessarily help me sleep, given my messed up body chemistry, but it always helps me get some perspective.

I believe part of why assessing how blessed we are is beneficial stems back to the fact that we are humbled enough to acknowledge that all we have comes from God. When we take the time and make the effort to consider how much God has given us, and how much that’s good in our lives, we cannot help but realize that He is IN our lives, and therefore we are not alone. The other powerful facet of gratitude is simply to help us keep perspective. Being grateful for all that’s good doesn’t magically erase all of the challenges, and it’s important to be realistic about what we are up against. But consciously stepping into the paradigm of assessing and appreciating what’s good offers perspective and grants strength and comfort. I know it to be true, because I’ve practiced it for many years.

A very long time ago I became aware of the concept of a gratitude journal. I’ve heard it come up from many different sources, with different suggestions of how to do it. I think what works best is an individual preference. While I’ve done well at this here and there, I’m often not good at following through on just writing down what I’m grateful for, but I’m pretty good at mentally recounting those things. However, I’ve read studies of how the act of writing something down shifts the way our brain perceives it, so I’m offering a challenge for you to get yourself a notebook or journal dedicated to a gratitude list that you can add to regularly—and therefore refer to it when you need a boost—or perhaps at least designate a file on your electronic device where you can quickly jot down the things that are good in your life when they come to mind. 

Since I know that we all have our own individual struggles, I’m proposing that we begin a list right here. I’ll start by listing some of the things I think about every day that help me remember how blessed I am. I invite anyone reading this to add to the list. Write as many things as you want, or just one. Leave as many comment posts as you feel inclined. Perhaps together we can generate some positive force of energy that might ripple out into our lives and the lives of those around us that will help us feel stronger as a community in facing our challenges.

I’m EXTREMELY grateful to all of you who read this blog, which makes my efforts actually worth something. I’m especially grateful to those of you who have left personal and touching comments here on the blog, or who have commented on my Facebook pages about it, or who have emailed me with support and encouragement. Your efforts mean so much to me. Although I have not always been able to respond to your comments, I want you to know that they don’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. Thank you!

This is a big one for me in the overall summary of something I think is so easily taken for granted. I’m grateful for peace and prosperity, safety and protection. Even with financial struggles, accidents, etc. we cannot deny that we are a remarkably prosperous people—those of us who live in the first world, as they define it. If you have a computer, a roof over your head, enough to eat, and feel relatively safe, you have much to be grateful for. These are things we often don’t think about; we just lives our lives and take for granted that this is the way it is. But it isn’t this way for so many people in the world.

I’m grateful to live in THIS time and in THIS place. I’ve written historical novels and sometimes going to previous time periods where life seemed less complicated feels so appealing. The present can often feel so daunting and overwhelming—because it is—and the world can be a scary place. However, we have so many blessings in being those who were born here and now. 

Expounding on the last one: I’m SO grateful for indoor plumbing, electricity, central air, and all of the electronic devices and appliances that go along with that. What would I ever do without them? I’m so grateful!

Sometimes when I’m feeling especially down over the pain I’m in, or the lack of sleep I suffer from, I will close my eyes and mentally list all that I have that makes it easier to endure these challenges. I’m grateful for my comfortable bed, my lovely bedroom, the supplements and medications that help ease my symptoms, the TV and DVR and computer that make it so easy to access information and entertainment that helps keep me distracted when I literally can’t do anything else. 

I’m grateful for access to good food. This is a big one for me. Since I can’t eat gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, or corn, I often feel hungry and crave things I can’t have, and my choices are so limited on what I CAN have. Since I don’t feel well, it’s difficult to cook for myself, and it takes a lot more effort than the way I used to cook. HOWEVER, I live in a time and place when there are so many good things available to me, and I have come to truly appreciate a good, safe meal. I also have to add how grateful I am to think that my children have never gone hungry. I’ve always had something to feed them. My father knew real hunger in his childhood, during the depression, and so many people in the world DO know true hunger. And most of us can’t even imagine what that’s like. How can we not be grateful for that? 

I’m grateful for all the parts of my body that are free of pain and functioning properly. When pain and illness are a part of my daily life, it’s easy to only focus on what hurts. Pain has a way of screaming very loudly for attention. But I often remind myself—and take the time to express my gratitude to God—for everything that works just fine and doesn’t hurt. If you add up all the body parts and body systems, the percentage is hugely in my favor. It could always be so much worse! 

And speaking of my body, I have to acknowledge how grateful I am for the way it has held together through so much difficulty. Sometimes I can feel like my body has betrayed me and let me down, but in actuality, my body has survived cancer and a life-threatening disease. It has kept me going when I needed it to in spite of being deprived of so much of what it needed through many long years of not knowing what was going on. It has given me five beautiful and amazing children. I can look in the mirror after a shower and see a lot of scars and ugliness; I can focus on the extra pounds and flabbiness of the descending end of middle age, and the evidence of having incubated those babies. Or I can see much evidence of survival and strength. I can love my five-baby belly because it was stretched to unreasonable limits and it deserves to be flabby for its efforts. I can look at the scars that exist where my breasts used to be and see the battle scars which prove I was blessed enough to survive the attack of one of the great beasts of our time. Thank you, Body! You’re awesome! Just hang in with me until my life’s work is done, and then you can rest. 

I’m grateful for my gift of writing. It’s been a blessing and a curse, but it’s part of who I am, and I’m so grateful for the joy and fulfillment it’s given me, as well as the way it has helped our family financially through many challenges. You might read this one and think: But I’m not a writer, or an artist, or an athlete, or whatever. But EVERY person has SOMETHING unique about what they do and how they do it. Find it, embrace it, let it help you be your best self.

I’m grateful for TRUE friends; the kind that see the real you and never judge or criticize, even when they disagree with you. What a vast difference there is, and how clearly I’ve come to see it! The value of true friendship is remarkably priceless!

I’m grateful for a beautiful family! No one is more aware of the weaknesses of my family members than I am. We are all so grossly imperfect and in some ways dysfunctional. But we love each other, and we respect each other’s differences, and I’m grateful for every one of them—my grown up babies, and the new little grandbabies, and the husband who has been with me for the long haul. It’s been a rough road, as family usually is, but there is nothing more valuable or worthwhile than the commitment and dedication we have the opportunity to offer to those we love most. 

I’m grateful for this computer I’m writing on. Geez! I remember my old typewriters, and the computers of more than thirty years ago, the dinosaurs that were so temperamental and challenging. For a writer, this technology is over the top! Charles Dickens and others like him would have been blown away by the very idea of not having to dip a quill into ink after every sentence or two. 

I’m going to stop here. I could go on and on, but now it’s time for you to add to the list. Humor me and take a minute to comment. Let my gratitude feed yours, and let your gratitude feed mine, and let’s focus on all the good we have and allow it counteract the challenges and scariness of the world.

I’m grateful for you! Love you all!

Friday, June 24, 2016


In my last post I promised to write about the beginnings of THE HORSTBERG SAGA, and hopefully along the way it will answer some of the frequently asked questions that have come to me through the years. 

I began writing when I was sixteen. My sister and I cowrote a novel which I doubt will ever see the light of day. It was practice. But it did awaken in me a very strong conviction that writing fiction was my calling in life. I certainly had no idea how far that conviction would take me, nor how intensely difficult the journey would be. I can look back now and see that the first seeds of Horstberg were planted in my mind during those high school years. There was a song I loved and a novel I’d read that both intrigued me, as if there were just some tiny elements in them that were leading me to something more that I needed to figure out. A few years later when my first child was an infant, the story began to take shape and I started writing. I was a terrible writer back then, which I define to mean that the storytelling was a gift and the story was coming to my mind very clearly, but I didn’t have the writing skills to transfer what I could see and hear in my mind into anything remotely readable. But being young and insecure in a world where having the hobby of being a romance novelist did not fit into any category of normality, I stopped writing completely for about three years. I had written a detailed outline of the first Horstberg book (although at the time I believed it to be the ONLY one; no saga was intended initially) and I stuffed it away somewhere and focused on trying to find other avenues of creativity that would soothe me. I taught dance and ran my own dance studio for two years. I did counted cross stitch and a lot of sewing. I tried to learn cake decorating and did a lot of crafty things; the things that all the other women I knew were doing. When my second child was moving toward a year old, I experienced what I have come to call “A Horstberg Day.” There are only a handful of people in my life who know what that means, but if they hear that phrase, they know EXACTLY what it means. 

I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday, which I have come to learn means that it was undoubtedly a spiritual moment, and it had enormous emotional impact. I recall being near the front window of the little house we were renting, and glancing outside to see that the trees across the street were almost completely bare of leaves, and there was a flock of crows playing among the branches. The sky was heavy and dark with the threat of that first storm when autumn converges into winter. The wind was blowing and the last leaves of autumn were being tugged off the trees. I felt drawn to go outside as if I’d been hypnotized. I remember sitting on my porch and just taking in the atmosphere as if it could fill me up, the way water soaks into a dry sponge. I thought to myself that this was the kind of day that Abbi had become lost on the mountain above the valley of Horstberg, and Cameron had saved her life. It was exactly this kind of day! And then I felt it flood back into me. The plot, the characters, the absolute love of storytelling that was a part of my deepest self all flooded back into me. I knew in an instant that I had been giving into a form of peer pressure that had been squelching a gift God had given me that I needed to acknowledge and use, even if it caused an upset in my life. It felt as if I needed to write or die; I believe I would completely shrivel up inside and die of unhappiness if I didn’t fight for the right to be a storyteller. My entire life changed in that Horstberg moment; Horstberg was the means by which my gift was brought back to me and I finally, fully accepted it into my being and committed myself to this life riddled with overwhelming challenges and opposition, and remarkable creative experiences and miracles.

Of course I’ve written many, many book besides the five novels that now comprise the Horstberg Saga, but Horstberg is most precious to me. The corporation I have through which I do my business transactions is called Key to the Kingdom Productions. For me, Horstberg represents the kingdom (given the castle and the duke in the story it’s kind of really a kingdom) but metaphorically for me it’s the place I go in my mind where my characters and stories exist, and the key that takes me there is this God-given gift that has always left me in awe. I often feel like being a storyteller has been both a blessing and a curse, but I think that’s the way all truly good things must feel to anyone who experiences them. I have truly invested blood, sweat, and tears into these books. I have sacrificed and fought and struggled to get them written the way I believe in my deepest self they were meant to be written, and I have fought even harder to make them available to the public. None of this turned out the way I expected. Publishing has changed a great deal, and the story has met a great deal of resistance which differs depending on what group of people you talk to. There are the stuffy Mormons who make up what some of us in the business refer to as the Self-appointed Morality Patrol who believe that some of my historical fiction is horrible because people don’t always make the best choices and human intimacy and the associated feelings are actually acknowledged. I have been accused of writing pornography and “detailed sexual acts.” If you’ve read the books, or you do in the future, I hope you will see that these people have no idea of the definition of these accusations. I stand by what I’ve written and know that it was done with God’s blessing, the way it was intended to be written. I can’t put work out into the world that will make a positive difference if it’s written in a way that’s unrealistic, stuffy, or contrived. These characters are not Mormons and it’s ridiculous to assume they would behave as if they were. I’ve also come up against enormous roadblocks over the course of many years in trying to get these stories published. I can’t count how many times I was told (through the medium of rejection letters) that the story was good, the writing was good, but it was just too . . . different, and it didn’t fit into any particular slot. Well . . . hello . . . my whole point was NOT to fit into a slot, but to create something that rose above other fiction because it IS different. 

Now they are finally published and available, but there were no huge advances (as I often dreamed of) and they mostly sit on amazon and remain unnoticed. My heart hurts over thinking of them remaining so obscure when my heart is so invested. But I’m holding to the belief that all the love and hard work I poured into them will pay off.

More than thirty years since my “Horstberg Day” experience, I always anticipate those kind of days in the autumn when the sky has a certain, indescribable look, and there’s an unmistakable feeling in the air that winter is pushing its way through. I think of Abbi and Cameron (as well as their posterity and loved ones) and how much a part of my lives they have been. Their journey is so closely integrated into my own life’s journey, and I love them dearly for all that they taught me as they each came to understand who they really are and what God had intended for them to do with their lives. 

I think I need to go check in with them and see how they’re doing. There are some scenes that will never grow old, and I hear them calling to me. 

Love you all! Anita 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


t’s been way too many weeks since I last posted, and nearly every day during that time I’ve tried to talk myself into doing it, knowing it would help me feel better. But it’s pathetic being too depressed to even be able to write down some thoughts about depression. I’m starting to pull myself together and force myself to do just a little bit every day that will help me feel productive. And while I certainly have some thoughts to share about my recent experiences and what I continue to learn, I feel more compelled today to take a completely different avenue in what I want to share. 

For those of you who are not yet familiar with Horstberg, it is a fictional country in the heart of Bavaria, and it began germinating in my creative brain almost forty years ago. Of everything I’ve written—or will likely ever write—Horstberg is most dear to me. The journey experienced by these characters and the things they learn (all amidst some pretty intense plotlines) is as real to me as anything else in my life. As of a year or so ago, all five volumes of this series—which I have worked on amidst other projects for decades—were finally available to readers both in electronic and print form through The books have an average of 4.8 star ratings, and it’s wonderful to know they are out there. The problem is that without marketing funds available, it seems not very many people know they’re out there, so they aren’t selling nearly as well as I had hoped—which is depressing. (Reference to overall blog theme here.) 

Nevertheless, I still have high hopes for the Horstberg Saga; I believe it’s a story that’s powerful enough and unique enough to break past barriers, and I keep hoping and praying that it will. As a writer, I’ve found an interesting conundrum in the reality of finally seeing a story like this in print. It’s like when an artist signs a painting, frames it, and hangs it in a gallery. It’s done, over, finis. After sharing years and years of a complicated journey with these characters, they no longer need me—like kids who have gotten married and they now have their own homes. I can check in with them, but my part in their story is done. Still, I have a remarkable string of memories related to my time in Horstberg, and the journey will always be dear to me.

Long before I ever considered writing for the LDS market, it was my dream to write powerful historical romantic suspenseful novels for a world market. If you’ve read and enjoyed “The Gable Faces East,” “Gables Against the Sky,” “Towers of Brierley,” and the “Buchanan Saga,” then you’ll know what I mean when I say that these books are different from those that I’ve written for the LDS market, even though not all of the other books necessarily have LDS content. My goal was always to write books that would be much more clean than what was out there, and that my characters would have a strong moral compass, and that sin and crime would always result in appropriate consequences. Many readers get that and understand it; others have judged these books (and me) very harshly, and hate mail has flowed forth. I still stand by them as being a far more clean and appropriate option, but I respect those who might prefer not to read them. (But please don’t write me hate mail about it.) For this and other reasons, I’ve released these books under the pen name Elizabeth D. Michaels, mostly just to differentiate the genre. I wish I could go back and put my pen name on those other books; perhaps it could have avoided some of the hating and cruel judgment that took place. 

Anyway, back to Horstberg. Given that it IS a fictional country, not unlike Genovia in the Princess Diary movies, I was able to create my own laws and social dynamics for the country, even though I did my best to make it historically accurate to how things worked in Bavaria at the time. I would call the story a realistic fairy tale. There’s a castle and a royal family and happy endings, and there’s murder and treason and tyranny and all kinds of other drama along the way. But woven into this larger-than-life story that is capable of transporting a reader to another place and time, there are real social and emotional issues the characters go through that are timeless and full of life lessons. 

I miss the magic of Horstberg, of being able to go there and see what needed revisions or adjustments. I can still go back and read my favorite scenes, and maybe one day enough time will have passed that I can just read it from start to finish again and actually enjoy it. (The editing process has a way of making you sick of stories even when you love them.) I envy readers who have the opportunity to start at the beginning and not know what’s going to happen, or even if they DO know, or they figure it out, they can enjoy the journey of getting there through the eyes of these remarkable characters. 

For some reason I’m feeling very nostalgic about Horstberg, so in response to questions that readers have posed to me in regard to the project, I’m going to write a little about how it began and evolved through the next blog post....or two or three; we’ll see how it goes. 

If you’ve not yet had the privilege of visiting Horstberg, I’m happy to say that there’s now a website with all the information you need in one place. Spoiler alert: Don’t read the backliners (what’s usually on the back of a book) for volumes two through five until you’ve finished reading the first book! 

I’d love to hear your comments if you feel inclined to share here, or you can email me at

I hope that all of you who take the time to read what I write here will be richly blessed in your lives, and that you’re finding joy in the midst of summer.

God bless you all, Anita

P.S. My daughter Anna (amazing artist AND amazing daughter) did all of the cover art for these books. Go to the website just to see her beautiful paintings if nothing else. To see more of her work, you can go to

Monday, May 16, 2016


As a part of the healing journey that I began discussing in my last entry, I found myself drawn strongly to the scripture in the New Testament about beams and motes. 

Before I get into that, let me point out a principle I learned from the Doctrine and Covenants, which over time and with much experimenting I have found to be true. It states in section nine, verse nine—as part of the guidelines of correct decision making—that if something is not right you will have a “stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong.” A light bulb went off in my head one day that made me realize that the opposite is also true, specifically, if something sticks in your head and you CANNOT forget it, then you need to pay attention to the thought and follow where it leads. This concept has never failed me.

So . . . I couldn’t stop thinking about beams and motes. And since I’d been praying for guidance on how to overcome all of my emotional baggage and become my best self, I had to follow up on my thinking, doing some studying and pondering and praying, and see what I might learn. A powerful lesson followed that did not disappoint me, but it has been difficult to apply in my life. The scripture to which I refer is found in Matthew chapter seven. After Jesus states one of his most famous edicts: “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” He asks this powerful question: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” 

Okay. I love it when scripture is so full of depth about the human condition, and it is completely in alignment with accurate psychology of appropriate human behavior. The analogy is impossible to NOT understand. We all know what a beam is. As far as a piece of wood goes, even a small beam is pretty enormous when you imagine it sticking out of your eye. To metaphorically state that a beam is blocking your vision doesn’t leave any dispute over the meaning. A mote, on the other hand, is a speck, a tiny sliver at most. The comparison between a beam and a mote is huge. It’s like the difference between a leaf and a tree, a breeze and a tornado, a sticky note and a library. But does this not describe human nature so well? Are we not all guilty of being so preoccupied with the faults and imperfections of the OTHER person that we are oblivious to our own idiocies? And Jesus’s use of the word “hypocrite” is sobering. In all of my studying of the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus, I’ve always been fascinated with the fact that He never speaks unkindly or without love to the sinners or the beggars or the diseased. Even to the woman taken in adultery, and the woman at the well who was living in sin, He was kind and loving and He taught them with respect and humility. The only people that Jesus openly rebuked were the hypocrites and the self-righteous. In acknowledging wholeheartedly that Jesus is my greatest and best exemplar, the last thing I want is to be in THAT category. Which is why I began asking in prayer to be shown the beams in my eyes, so that I could do as the scriptures were teaching here and remove them so that I could see myself clearly before I started thinking I knew what was wrong in my relationships, or the people with whom I shared them. 

I’m not going to get personal enough here on the World Wide Web to go into detail about what I discovered. My beams are mine, and some of them definitely tie into that “wound” I discussed in my last entry. The point is that I know what my beams are, and I have worked very hard to remove them from my vision, to overcome them, and to be a better person, and more accurately self-aware. I’ve found that a truly accurate self-awareness is key to finding true joy in this life, and it’s essential to having any kind of truly healthy relationship in any aspect of life. This concept is further expounded on in Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon. Whether you’re a Mormon or not, the powerful teaching here is undeniable. “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” 

To summarize my view of this concept: If we humbly and with faith ask God for His help, He will show us our weaknesses and help us turn them into strengths. Hence, He will show us the beams and every little mote in our eyes and help remove them so that we can see ourselves and our lives clearly in order to make them better. 

So, after diligently assessing my beams and motes and working hard to remove them in order to improve my vision, I was confronted with the next part of the equation. Jesus said that we could then see clearly to cast out the mote from the eyes of our brother (obviously meant to imply any person, male or female, with whom we share relationships). Okay . . . well . . . it didn’t take much thought to realize that most people have no interest in having you tell them about the mote in their eye. Even if you have complete confidence that you are seeing the situation clearly, that doesn’t mean the other person believes that you do, or that they even care. I’m still struggling over this part of the equation, especially in light of what I wrote about previously—the fact that I have trouble using my voice to appropriately express what my deepest instincts are telling me. 

While I’m still working to iron out my own enormous imperfections, I’m also trying to find my footing in my foundling discoveries of being able to apply all I’m learning to make my life and my relationships better. Many people have gradually slipped out of my life (even before I made these discoveries) and I’m actually glad for it. In looking back I can now see how many friendships I had were not based in emotionally healthy dynamics, and friendship should be based in truth and absolute trust or it isn’t truly friendship. Many relationship are for life (or forever) and it’s difficult to feel myself changing dramatically while people around me remain the same and it’s clearly evident they’re not interested in the ways I’ve changed and the reasons for it. In fact, I’ve found that by learning to communicate in a more forthright and appropriate way, some people respect me more and relationships have improved; with others it’s the opposite, and some people are clearly uncomfortable with the new me. Overall my life is still the same; I’m still me, and the most important characteristic of me is that I have a sincere desire to be loving and charitable toward others, and to live my life in a way that would be pleasing to God. The biggest change that’s taken place inside of me is that I know I need to be more loving and charitable toward myself. The charge to “love thy neighbor as thyself” is a two-edged morsel of wisdom. Some people love themselves at the expense of others (usually unaware that they’re even doing it) and other people love others at the expense of themselves (also unaware). In order to achieve balance, we must be charitable toward others and ourselves and genuinely see that we are all children of God, all struggling, all weak, all with varying degrees of beams and motes that block our vision. It’s my hope that with some effort we can all learn to see more clearly, and learn to live our lives accordingly. It’s certainly an ongoing process. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016


In my last entry, I finished it up with a lengthy quote from the book “Hungry” by Dr. Robin L. Smith. So, you don’t have to go look it up, I’m going to copy it again here. You can skip past it if you read the last entry recently, although repetitive reading of such deep and powerful words usually can’t hurt.

“It’s a real challenge to find people in our lives who are willing to speak the truth. Not to overstep their bounds, but also not to collude by going along with situations that are destructive without compassionately reflecting what they see. Are you willing to speak the truth in that way—to yourself and those you love? Speaking truth with tenderness and compassion is the only real way to create genuine and intimate connections with ourselves and others. Unfortunately, most of us are not taught to responsibly or respectfully speak the truth. In fact, we are taught exact opposite. Most of us learn to nurse our lies the way you would an evening cocktail you’ve craved all day long. . . . 

“‘You shall know the truth and it shall set you free.’ I remind people that the promise of those words isn’t that the truth will make us happy (although sometimes it does). The promise is that truth will make us free. Truth is freedom. Truth is love. Truth allows us to grow and heal. Light and darkness are needed for growth. We need both day and night, waking and sleep, work and play, speaking and silence, giving and receiving. Truth abides in all.

“When we know ourselves, trust ourselves, and surround ourselves with loving, healthy, and honest support, we are able to create the life we are worthy of living. There is something almost intoxicating about being in the presence of compassionate truth-seeking and -speaking people. It’s an incubator for growth, healing, and wholeness.” 

To help you understand the impact of this principle to me, allow me to share a great discovery about myself that I was guided to a few years ago, and the timing of being led to this book exactly when I needed the strength and validation it gave me.

I came to understand years ago that the trials of life are often meant to teach us lessons about ourselves so that we can become better people if we choose to seek out the lesson and apply it. Through years of physical suffering and other intense life challenges, I have actively looked to God to show me the lessons He would have me learn so that I could be able to put certain trials behind me. I’ve certainly learned a great deal, and I will continue to strive to become better, whether the trials relent or not. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not a simple equation of learning equals deliverance. It’s more that a continued trust in God equals peace no matter what’s happening. But that’s a different conversation. 

Anyway, as I was diligently asking to be shown what God might want me to learn, I had a number of different experiences. One of them I will refer to as discovering “The Wound.” I had heard the concept that each person has “a wound” deep inside that is the core of their personal issues, their unhappiness, their struggles with life and relationships; that in many cases, most problems in a person’s life are symptoms of “the wound,” and that many or most of their problems are tentacles that branch off of “the wound.” I kept thinking about the idea, as if it were clinging to my brain by some power beyond my own; it was as if God were trying to tell me that if I could figure out my own personal “wound” I could truly start to unravel the great mystery of me and why I am the way I am—for better or worse. 

I was astonished with a startling reminder that God really is there, He really is listening, and He really cares about me as an individual when the answer came to me (after much time and prayer and pondering) with clarity and strength. The truth filled my every cell, and it was shocking by the way it shook me emotionally to the core. Evidence of the truthfulness of this personal revelation came in the way that I could look back through my life and see how my “wound” had impacted my decisions, my relationships, my career, and certainly the way I saw myself—which was greatly distorted due to the nature of the “wound” and how it had tainted my view on the world around me and my place in it. This process took many months; in fact I really don’t know how long, but it seems like a very long time. And in truth I’m still learning how to deal with it, but I’ve learned a great deal about what it means and what I need to do to overcome it. Knowing and doing are dramatically different, however, and changing half a century of seeing life through the wrong lens is no easy undertaking.

Getting back to the point, I realized that my “wound” was the absence of my voice. I had been robbed of my voice. Of course, that needs some explanation in order to make any sense at all. I can physically speak, obviously. And it seems strange that a writer and public speaker would be a person who had trouble using her voice. Truthfully, to become a writer and public speaker was a long, hard battle that was all a part of trying to claim my voice; I just didn’t consciously realize exactly what was happening while I was in the heat of that battle. 

To put it simply, I was raised in a home where I was not allowed to express my own thoughts and feelings, therefore I was raised to subconsciously believe I did not have a voice. I show no disrespect to my parents in making this statement. They were both good-hearted and amazing people, who have now passed on, and I absolutely know I was loved and cared for and they did the best they knew in raising their children. The problem was that when it came to raising children I believe they were mostly just reacting subconsciously according to the way they’d been raised, and so it had gone for many generations. In my upbringing I learned no problem-solving skills, no communication skills, and since both of my parents had their own brand of insecurity and poor self-esteem, I learned that by example as well as by behavior. These behaviors were perpetuated by other family members, and of course I was drawn to people who subconsciously validated my lack of voice. Hence, a young gullible, naive, insecure woman entered adulthood with a complete inability to speak up. People with stronger personalities seemed to be drawn to me because I wouldn’t contradict them, no matter what my instincts were telling me. As the Spirit brought clearly to my remembrance dozens—perhaps hundreds—of encounters in my life where I had remained quiet when something inside of me was screaming in protest, I realized how much I had ALLOWED myself to be mistreated and misunderstood. That was it. That was my big “wound.” I had been robbed of my voice. 

Of course, you can’t fix something if you don’t know about it. But once you know about it, you have to take responsibility and do something about it. Well . . . you could go into denial and shove it down deeper, but that’s certainly not going to help if you’re sincerely striving to become a better person. In acknowledging and identifying the “wound” I was confronted with an onslaught of grief. I couldn’t regret what I couldn’t go back and change, but I was horrified to look at how messed up my life was as a result of my “wound,” and I had to grieve for the possibilities of what might have been different. Of course, we’re all wounded, and we all just eventually have to grow up and get over it. I had to forgive all the people who had unintentionally hurt me. I could only think of maybe two or three people in my entire life who might have actually intended to hurt me, having a conscious recognition of my weaknesses. The rest was all truly unintentional. But it was my responsibility to forgive everyone. And perhaps most importantly, to forgive myself. 

I’m still learning how to find my voice and use it, how to acknowledge when my feelings and instincts are alerting me to the need to speak. Or—as I have learned—the need to stay silent. Sometimes remaining silent is the most powerful choice, but it’s important to acknowledge that it’s a conscious choice, to understand that silence is the right thing, not the weak thing; that silence is sometimes a courageous choice, not a cowardly one. 

The “wound” is still healing, and it requires much nurturing and a vast retraining of the deepest parts of my psyche. But I’m working on it. Hence I go back to the quote at the beginning of this entry. I am seeking people and situations in my life where I can speak truth and stand in truth and allow truth to be my foundation. I’ve been told—and I believe—that the truth will set me free. I’m moving forward with that belief.

Here’s to the truth, the real truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Anita