I shared a little here, here and here about trying to change, stay changed, rebuild, dream, discover and rediscover myself.  I guess it’s a central theme in my life right now.  With the school year over and summer in our laps, it’s been good to examine things a little more closely.

I’ve always dreamed of cutting fresh flowers for my bedroom, so this year I took some peonies to the large vase on my nightstand.  A bit of beauty, a reminder to me that dreams come true, that dreams can be small as well as big, and that there is much to admire and be grateful for.


I love this simple piece of artwork (purchased here).  It’s an integral part of having faith – not just faith that you’ll live through something, but that really awesome things are ahead.  Some days I struggle with this, and it’s not uncommon for a very deep breath to accompany my whispered reading of this quote.  I was reminded recently of an old favorite quote from Boyd K. Packer, “Find happiness in ordinary things, and keep your sense of humor.”  The peony, the vase, the quote, they are evidence of happiness in ordinary things.  So healthy for me.


I quit reading a while ago.  Aside from my scriptures and an occasional self-help style book, I’ve totally quit reading because I didn’t feel like I had the emotional reserves for it.  I couldn’t handle experiencing the highs or lows of another life in addition to my own.  Sounds dumb, but it’s true.  I have always loved reading biographies, found great solace and inspiration in them.  A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of John Quincy Adams and began reading it.  So far I’m enjoying it and it feels good to be reading again.

I must have needed some encouragement, because I also picked up my copy of Never Give In, a selection of Winston Churchill’s speeches, and have been reading them as well.  There’s so much to glean!  He wrote all of his own speeches.  One of his private secretaries during the wartime years said “In the case of his great wartime speeches, delivered in the House of Commons or broadcast to the nation, [Churchill] would invest approximately one hour of preparation for every minute of delivery.”  His grandson wrote of this, “Thus he would devote thirty hours of dictation, rehearsal and polishing to a half-hour speech.  Therein, no doubt, lies the explanation as to how they came to move the hearts of millions in the greatest war of history and why, even to this day, they have such emotive power.” (Never Give In, xxv)

What a reminder.  There is work to be done in all of our lives, work that isn’t glamorous or fun or easy, but doing it prepares us to face what lies ahead.  In his “Finest Hour” speech to the House of Commons on June 18, 1940 (just over 76 years ago now) he said, “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say ‘this was their finest hour!'”

This speech reminded me of a quote from Billy Graham:  “Courage is contaigous.  When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”

Reading biographies, for me, is witnessing brave men and women taking a stand.  It stiffens my own spine, reminds me that difficult times are a part of mortality, and helps me “brace myself to my duties.”  I feel like I’m gaining a friend and being empowered to become a better me.

Rebuilding.  I’m glad to be engaged in it.


The Christmas Ship

The Christmas Ship by Dean Morrissey has some of the most magical illustrations I’ve ever seen.  Rich in saturated color, we always linger over each page.

Sam Thatcher, the village toymaker, works in a run down shop.  It’s Christmas Eve and he’s working to finish all the toys.  Some of the village children, his friends, pay a visit, then scatter when the Mayor shows up to shut down Sam’s shop because he hasn’t made the required repairs.

Heavyhearted, Sam wonders what he’ll do when suddenly his old friend, Father Christmas pays him an unexpected visit.

There’s a storm brewing over the ocean and Father Christmas is running behind.  He asks Sam to make his deliveries for him in Sam’s town.  Surprised, Sam asks how he can do that without a sleigh and reindeer.  Father Christmas assures him that he’ll find a way and then he’s gone.

How does Sam do it?  Well, magic is afoot, and soon Sam’s toys come to life to serve as Elves.  Outside, Sam’s ship rises from the ocean to fly over housetops while Sam and the toys -and a stowaway- deliver the gifts.

Then the mayor’s name came up on the list.  The man who had treated Sam so unkindly that very evening.  Sam’s example of  giving in the true spirit of Christmas isn’t lost on his stowaway helper, or on the mayor, either.

There’s a softening of heart at the end of the book and the final thought is this:  “Once a spirit like that gets out… almost anything can happen.”

So true.  And this is definitely a book that will invite that spirit into your home.  Enjoy!

The Trees of the Dancing Goats

This gem of a story was another gift from a friend, and it makes me smile with joy each time I see it.  Patricia Polacco is a masterful storyteller, and her gift for weaving stories that mingle Jewish culture with Christian culture is marvelous.  I love everything about her work and this is no exception.

The Trees of the Dancing Goats is the story of a small farming community in Michigan, told from the perspective of Trisha, a jewish girl.  Her family is excitedly preparing for their Hanukkah festivities and she tells of the traditions her Grandma and Grandpa work hard to keep alive.

Her Grampa carved small wooden toys each year for the children and this year was no different.  When Trisha and her brother peeked at them, there were brightly colored dancing goats among the carvings.

Soon, however, disturbing news came which dampened the excitement for the upcoming holiday.   Most of the neighboring families contracted scarlet fever, and much of the community was bedridden.  Trisha’s friend Cherry and her family were among them, and Cherry cried with worry that Santa would forget them because they hadn’t got a Christmas tree.  Trisha’s family began their celebration and their Grampa handed them the first of their gifts with a troubled look on his face.  They began talking about their Christian neighbors and an idea came to them.

Excitedly they began their preparations, rushing out into the snow to cut small trees and decorate them with the wooden carvings.  They packed baskets of food and Trisha’s grandparents went out into the darkness to pay some Santa visits to their neighbors, sneaking into their homes to deliver trees and food.

I love the beauty of the story, and a surprise visit from Cherry and her family at the end of the book shows a lovely feeling of reciprocity and respect between friends of different faiths.   Patricia Polacco’s illustrations are vivid and full of character and this story she calls her “heart song” because it is written in memory of an incredible winter on her family’s farm outside of Union City, Michigan when she was a girl.  I love knowing the story is based in her own experience.

A great addition to your Christmas library!


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