Friday, May 30, 2008

The Slower Pleasures of Life

by David G. Woolley

You can save on gas if you drive slower. No rabbit starts. No skidding stops. No kidding. I got 30 freeway miles to the gallon going sixty in my Ford Explorer. And 23 city miles per gallon by avoiding all those pedal-to-the-metal accelerations and breaking decelerations. I also noticed my neighbor put in some flowers and a bench swing. I was in too much of a hurry to notice him reading a book in his garden before I slowed down and drove less.

Our fascination with speed and distance didn't start with the model T. Ancient Mesoamericans tracked their travel in days. An odd measurement for our odometer-obsessed sensibilities unless, of course, you're traveling with a large group of family, friends, goats, and chickens. When moving at the speed of a lama who cares how many steps it is to Nephiha. All you want to know is: "How long have we been on the road and when the heck are we getting there?" Did you know the ancient City of Zarahemla was located about 23 days north of the City of Nephi? The begrudged Lamanite and Nehite enemies were separated by a mere 175 miles. Thankfully 80 of those miles were difficult-to-travel mountain wilderness or the Book of Mormon would have been cover-to-cover warfare.

We have this guy, BYU Professor Larry Howell, to thank for reconstructing a Mormon Pioneer measurement curiosity. Its an odometer. Every time the wagon wheel goes around it turns the gears forward by a single tooth. Did you know there are 360 wagon-wheel lengths in a mile? The only thing missing was an easy-to-read digital display. Poor William Clayton. Brigham Young assigned the Mormon pioneer inventor to the tedious task of counting the number of teeth traveled each day. Brother Clayton translated his count into a fairly accurate 1,032 miles between Nauvoo and Utah. We may not have understood his 1847 journal entry if he wrote, "We traveled 371,520 gear teeth to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake."

In the days before relatively less expensive cars, paved roads and cheap gas, travel was a novelty. There was less obsession about getting the kids somewhere and more imagination. Yesterday the backyard was a space landing on Mars. Today its a frontier ghost town complete with an O.K. corral. The lone family car was for the wage earner to get to the job site. There was no such thing as running an errand. If you didn't get it on your weekly grocery run you didn't need it. Before the dawn of accessible transportation we stayed closer to home, made up games to entertain ourselves and enjoyed a stroll around the block on a warm summer evening.

My friends obsess over the cost of getting around. But if the economics of travel keeps them closer to home is that such a bad thing? Who knows? Maybe a little drive across town to visit family may become what it once was: A trip. Slowing down will save some money at the gas pump, but it may also help you find something you've been missing.

Life's slower pleasures.

Join author David G. Woolley at his Top of the Morning Blog or his Promised Land Website

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dianne Odell

by David G. Woolley

I didn't know Dianne. She lived, until this week, at her parent's residence in Jackson Tennessee, 80 miles northeast of Memphis. She was 61 years old. Dianne spent 59 of those years laying on her back inside this 750 pound iron lung where she had control over one thing: the television clicker. She used her elbow to change the channel. Polio was the culprit. It infected her when she was three, just two years before a vaccine was approved to fight the paralytic disease.

When I saw the photo of Dianne I said, "That's too bad."

When the power at Dianne's residence went out and the stand by generator failed, not even her family's desperate efforts to operate the iron lung using a manual lever were enough to save her life. She passed quietly on a blustery Tennessee Wednesday afternoon, May 28th. Cause of death: power outage due to bad weather.

When I read about her story and how a power failure ended her life, I said, "What terrible luck for anyone to suffer."

But Dianne wasn't just anyone. She didn't let her circumstances dampen her enthusiasm for life. She earned a high school diploma while laying inside her iron cell and she wrote a delightful children's book titled "Blinky" about a wishing star. Her pen and paper? A voice activated word processor. I wonder if the wishes she made on that blinky star are finally being realized.

A lot of people helped Dianne the least of which were her parents who, for 59 years, bathed her, fed her and kept her company. There were other actors in this drama, friends like Frank Mcmeen who helped raise money for Dianne's equipment and nursing assistance. He said, "Dianne was one of the kindest and most considerate people you could meet. She was always concerned about others and their well-being."

You may think that Dianne was lucky to have family and friends who were willing to care for her. Voice activated word processing and elbow television clicker control don't prepare meals, change clothes, or do dental and doctor visits. There were a lot of caregivers. But if you're wondering who the lucky ones were, look to Dianne's parents, to her sister and brother-in-law, to friends like Frank. Dianne gave them the chance to care, the opportunity to give, and the hope of being found with a charity-filled soul. It was Dianne's luck that they embraced the chance.

If Dianne left any legacy, it is likely found peacefully entrenched in the hearts and souls of those who cared for her. Look close enough at her circle of family and friends and you may just find the one thing that has the power to save us all.

The pure love of Christ.

Join author David G. Woolley at his Top of the Morning Blog or his Promised Land Website

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tough Times? Tetherball Anyone?

by David G. Woolley

Fads and fashions. I've never understood them entirely. Maybe its because they come and go so fast. Blink and you miss it. I never noticed when bell bottoms shrunk, tie-dye became a polo shirt or when the skateboard came, then went, then came again. Fads are cyclical. I'm still waiting for the hula-hoop to come full circle. When it does, I'm breaking out the record collection. Gonna play the pointer sisters' "We are Family!"

I never owned a pair of Batman pajamas, Big Bird bed sheets or a transformer action figure with teleporting capabilities. I wasn't deprived. In Iowa we had tetherball. There was some nasty weather there last week. Seventeen tornadoes, seven deaths. I got an email from some friends. They're okay, but the hog farm got vaporized.

Our smallish Iowa city tested the emergency warning system at noon. Everyday. We set our clocks by the siren. It was a heads up reminder for mom and dad that tornado season had arrived, but then it was nearly always tornado season in Iowa. For us kids it meant lunch. Toast strips dipped in tomato soup.

We tracked a lot of mud inside after one particularly nasty afternoon storm. From the roof of our backyard shed I swear I saw a funnel cloud. Mom shook a can of orange Shasta at us while telling us that, "Where have you been? Its bad outside. You're going to clean up this mess and learn to be more responsible or else."

"Or else what?" I asked.

She popped the tab on the can and spewed pressurized soda across the ceiling and over both of us. We laughed.

The sirens were loud, blaring, four-foot-wide, yellow horns placed strategically all over the city. I know. I used to map their location with the help of a trusty Schwinn bicycle. There was one near the entrance to the Pine Cone Forest, home of the largest evergreen trees this side of the Redwood National Park. Forty fire-breathing monsters with scaly skin and claws hid in dark shadows behind the thickest tree trunks. They ate pine cones and kids.

There was another siren on the bike path at the top of Big Hill. It was the steepest stretch of one lane asphalt in the whole world. If you did big hill with bad breaks you were gonna end up in the skunk river.

The Mighty Skunk. I found a lot of golf balls in that river. Nearly cleaned out my dad's spare change. He was the golfer. I was the caddy. He paid me fifty cents for every ball. Dad died of cancer last year. Nasty, terrible disease. We placed golf balls in floral arrangements at the funeral.

One stormy summer evening the sirens woke me up and I swear when I looked out the window I saw a man dressed in black running down the street carrying a bulging black sack on his back. There was something squirming inside. I thought he'd stolen my sister and I went back to sleep without telling anyone. Dad carted us to the basement a few minutes later where we waited out the worst of the storm. My sister was there. I didn't ask her how she escaped.

The media has reported a lot of disasters this month. Tornadoes all over the country, even in places that never have tornadoes. Have you ever heard of one in Los Angeles? There was a cyclone in Myanmar. It sucked up enough seawater to flood the entire coast. Myanmar doesn't have a lot of beach front property, but there was enough to wreck havoc on the lives of hundreds of thousands. There have been some major earthquakes the least of which are gas prices. I'm still reeling from the aftershocks. Oil goes up eight bucks a barrel and its a modest increase? They say its a sign of the times. Increasing numbers of natural disasters. Decreasing amounts of human kindness. Exactly how do you measure the amount of human kindness? By weight or by volume? And then there's that Economic slowdown. That's the disaster that scares nearly everyone.

I've slowed down to 55. Got 30 miles per gallon in my Ford Explorer last weekend. Amazing what a little less pedal will do to the wallet. My friend's mom, Phyllis, used to drive her yellow station wagon on the freeway to soccer games at 55. That was when gas sold for cents on the gallon. He spent twice as much time in the car with his mom than any of the rest of us. We used to tease him until we found out the drives turned them into really good friends. Maybe an economic slowdown has some advantages.

An official in my church, Boyd K. Packer, gave a talk a few Sundays ago. He told the congregation that things were likely going to get tough. He won't be the last spiritual adviser to raise that kind of warning. He used the word frugality and he quoted the verse: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without." It worried a lot of people. Could they afford the Caribbean Cruise? Should they eat out less? What about saving some money for a rainy day? And then there's that nagging debt.

The warning sirens don't worry me too much. Mom and dad taught me well. I know how to play tetherball.
Join author David G. Woolley at his Top of the Morning Blog or his Promised Land Website

Sunday, May 4, 2008

writing workshop open to all, springville, ut

You’re Invited to:

6 – 7 - 8 Writer’s Conference

(if you sign up, tell them Janet Jensen sent you!)

When: 6 7 8! (June 7, 2008)

Where: Cedar Fort, Inc.
2373 W 700 S
Springville, UT 84663

What: Writers Conference

Motivational speaker and author Eloise Owens will headline the writing conference. She is the author of Get Off The Beach and has spoken to close to a million people in her career. I saw her in 2006 at the Utah Press Convention, and when my boss said I could bring in anyone I wanted to, I thought of her first.

Schedule of Events:

10 am -10:15 Welcome by Doug Johnston, Publicist, Cedar Fort.

10:15–10:30 Jeffery Marsh, acquisitions editor for Cedar Fort and BYU professor, tells what he wants in manuscripts, book submissions, and so forth.

10:30 - 11:00 Abel Keogh, author of A Room For Two, will teach each of you the importance of websites and blogs, even if you don’t have a book yet!

11:00 - 11:30 Janet Kay Jensen, author of Don’t You Marry The Mormon Boys, will teach on publicizing yourself and your books. Janet is very good at self-promotion and will teach each of you how to do the same.

11:30am - 12:15pm Doug Johnston, Publicist and former newspaper owner, will show writers what they need to know about being an author from a Publicists point of view.

12:15 - 1:00 Lunch

1:00 - 4:00 Eloise Owens will be the keynote speaker. Ms. Owens will make you think, make you better, and make you money through your writing. Like I said above, Ms. Owens is great. You will remember her for years to come and be a better author and self-promoter after listening to her.

During the conference, you can sit down with Jeffery Marsh. Bring him your manuscripts, book ideas, or questions. You will be allowed 15 minutes to talk with him about your ideas. Please call 801-489-4084 and tell the receptionist you want to be added for a time slot. There are a limited number of slots, so call today.

The cost for the conference is $25. You will receive Eloise Owen’s book Get Off The Beach and lunch.

To sign up, please do the following:
If paying by credit/debit card, call 801-489-4084 and tell them you are signing up for the 6 7 8 conference.

If you are paying by check, please make payment to
Cedar Fort
Attn 6 7 8
2373 W 700 S
Springville, Ut 84663

We are limited to 200 seats, so RSVP as soon as possible.

NOTE: After you sign up, you can make some money too. For every person that signs up and mentions they heard about it from you, you will get $5 back from us at the conference. They MUST mention you when they sign up for you to get the money.

If you have any questions, you can email me at or you can call me at 801-489-4084.

I look forward to this wonderful day full of learning!

Doug Johnston

Doug Johnston
Public Relations Director
Cedar Fort Inc.
(801) 489-4084
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