Books and Movies I’ve Loved

My son who is currently a student at Brigham Young University is in the process of applying to film school. One of his requirements is to list ten books/music/movies/TV shows that have had some effect on his life. Naturally, I began to come up with my own list of such that has had a major effect on me. In fact, it became an obsession—that’s just how my brain works.

You can really get to know a person by learning about the factors that have influenced them most. It’s an icebreaker, a little window into their personality, and with authors, it can give you a clue as to what informs their own creative expression.

Without further ado, here are ten things I came up with that have been the most significant creative influencers for me, not in any particular order. I bet I could easily come up with ten or twenty more.

The Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I already loved reading when I hit fourth grade, but it was my teacher’s practice that year of reading aloud a chapter a day from novels that really set me on fire for reading, and eventually, writing. Her reading of Little House on the Prairie was my first introduction to Laura and her stories of mid-19th century pioneer life. I devoured the rest of the series, several times, and many of her descriptions of things like small prairie towns, textiles used for women’s clothing, and commonly eaten foods have informed my own western stories.

Native American potteryBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown – I’ve been through this tome twice, and for me it remains the single most knowledgeable and powerful description of the tragedy of the American Indian.

The Jackrabbit Factor by Leslie Householder – This quick read was my first introduction to the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking. I’ve read many things since which have completely changed my perspective on our own potential, and goals and how to achieve them, but this was what started me on the path.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – Been through this one twice too. (I’d rather read a good book twice than a mediocre one once.) I loved Lewis’ humorous and thought-provoking take on human nature, temptation, and how to recognize and guard against evil.

The 5000 Year Leap and The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution both by W. Cleon Brass bookendsSkousen – I include these together because I studied them simultaneously as part of a course. These gave me a real in-depth understanding of the U.S. Founding Fathers and the principles they studied which shaped their ideas on freedom and government, and I gained new appreciation and awe for the Constitution.

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury – A good, simple-to-understand explanation of the principles of sound economics, a subject I feel is very important to learn about currently, but which I always had trouble understanding before.

The music of Johann Strauss Jr. – When I was a girl, my father bought a collection (of LPs, remember those?) of all Johann Strauss music…and I was in heaven! It was my first real introduction to classical music, and to this day my heart thrills to hear “The Beautiful Blue Danube,” “Tales of the Vienna Woods,” “The Emperor Waltz,” and so many other majestic and beautiful pieces.

Dances With Wolves – In my humble opinion, the greatest movie ever made. No other film since 1990 has ever captured my imagination like this one. As a lifelong fan of the Old West, this film made me feel, for the first time, that I was truly there and could feel the spirit of it.

Antique store picture & bottlesLonesome Dove – Where Dances With Wolves gave me the Native American view of the Old West as it was, this 1988 miniseries did the same for the cowboys’ view. Its characters are so memorable, our family has quoted them for years.

The Harry Potter movie series – How did that get in here, right? Okay, it’s true I’ve never been a big fan of fantasy, but my reason for including this is quite different than my other entries. For two summers in a row, my two sons and I have watched all eight movies. We call it a marathon, even though we only watched one movie a week. It’s the memories of that activity with my boys that I so treasure, and will my whole life as they grow up and move on in life. What fun that was, and you know what? I loved the movies too, and J.K. Rowlings’ brilliant concept.

Well, there it is, 10 things, and I didn’t even get to Who Moved My Cheese? or Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, or the movie Glory or…

But I’ve got more reading, listening, and watching to do. Bye for now.


On Challenges: Obstacles or Stepping Stones


I get a little tired of hearing the words ‘adversity’, ‘trials’, ‘challenges’, and the like. The Christian world, since the beginning of the Christian era, has largely portrayed life as something that is supposed to be unpleasant, difficult, and generally rotten. God is not pleased unless we’re suffering. It doesn’t give one much hope.

We all certainly do have our share of challenges of every sort, but I propose that the way we perceive them makes a huge difference in our outlook.

For instance, what do you think of when you hear the word ‘problem’? Does it sound fun? Probably not. Yet in math books, math …situations… are referred to as problems. Although they may, indeed, not be fun for everyone, they are a means of learning and improving, and not a bad thing, especially if you’ve learned the processes and algorithms to work them out. With the proper knowledge and training, the ‘problems’ needn’t be unpleasant.

In my writing I’m often presented with ‘challenges’, another word often associated with unpleasantness. My challenges involve working out plot problems, characterization, point of view, and problems with prose. I’m here to tell you that I…freakin’…love those challenges. They are what make writing fun for me. The more challenging the problems are, the more fun I’m having. It’s why I do what I do. If I had no challenges in my writing, I wouldn’t want to do it.

I don’t see life’s challenges as something we’re supposed to just endure or slog through with weighted boots. I see them as something that, though sometimes horrific and scary, are really stepping stones to bring us to a higher place. God is NOT pleased with our suffering. He’s pleased with our triumph over difficulties. He’s cheering us on because he can see the big picture, the tremendous growth, our ultimate achievement of our goals, and, well, pleasantness.

Think of the mountain climber who voluntarily makes a difficult climb to the tippy-top of a mountain. The trial of the climb was made easier because of the reward–the amazing view at the top and the sense of accomplishment at having reached it. I don’t imagine God saying, “I want you to suffer through this climb because it’s good for you.” I imagine him saying, “Ah, this is nuthin’. Wait till you see this view. You are gonna love it. Come on, what are you waiting for? Let’s get bookin’!”

It’s all in the perspective. Obstacles aren’t supposed to look like walls of stone holding us back. They’re supposed to look like something to climb on top of to get a better view. And who wouldn’t want that?




The Gardener’s Psalm

Here is my Easter treat for you, The Gardener’s Psalm, written and performed by my husband David Davis. Enjoy!

The Old Truck

I’d like to welcome guest poster David Davis to the Eagle’s Quill today, someone who appreciates old things and the lessons we can learn from them.  Thank you, David.

How do you make life less complicated? Answer: Slow down. I drive a 1972 Chevy Cheyenne pickup for several reasons. I like classic everything. I like steel in my vehicle. I like American-made products from when I was a kid. I like the smell, the look, the patina, the driver’s-side door that’s a little hard to open, and the worn paint on the door frame where someone before me drove with their arm resting out the open window. I like the heater; you don’t have to wait too long to get warm. I like everything about my old truck. The turn indicator – or as it is often referred to as – the blinker, is slow and methodical in letting the folks behind me know what my intentions are…”Oh, he must be turning,” left or right, and maybe I just forgot to cancel my intentions and I leave it on for miles…sometimes by mistake and sometimes on purpose –just to get a rise out of the people behind me.

The answer to the question I posed above was, “slow down”. My truck helps me remember to do just that. It forces me to be more deliberate in my choices. It reminds me to slow down and think before I act or react. Here’s how I see it: The blinker has a slow pace, maybe alternating on and off every second. Slow, steady, deliberate pace. It is unequivocal in its message or my message. The window frame with the well-worn arm mark…for the past 40-odd years, someone, including myself, has driven the truck with the window rolled down. You know what that means? It means they and I are getting to smell the world – good and bad – fresh air, sounds, a little wind on the side of your face. In the summer, it is glorious. Even though the truck came equipped with A/C, I like the window down better. It has a crank, giving me options for open or closed…depending on how I feel that day. Usually, it is open. I can wave hello to a neighbor and shout, “How ya doin'” to a passerby. I can get a rootbeer float at the local Sonic.

It has a split rear window. If I had a big dog, he could ride in the bed of the truck and stick his head in every now and again to check on my driving, or just give me a lick on the ear…I gotta get a big dog too. The tailgate is tricky sometimes, but once down, I can load my whole house in the bed of my truck and haul the stuff anywhere I want. I can help a friend move or go get a new fridge at the department store. When I was a kid, riding in the back of a truck was a rite of passage. Today it is illegal or unwise or unsafe…don’t know why. I can’t remember it ever being a concern when I was a kid.

My truck is getting old. Someday I’ll have to retire it and get another one. But that’s okay too. Everything deserves to rest after a long and well-fought life on this here planet, trucks included. A wonderful song from the 1960s by Simon and Garfunkel entitled “Feeling Groovy” bears the line, “Slow down, you move too fast. You gotta make the morning last. Just kicking down the cobblestones, lookin’ for fun and feeling groovy.” I think I’ll get in my truck and go feel some groovy…slow down. God bless my friends and family. Now go have a “slowed-down day”. Love y’all.

'72 Chevy Cheyenne

The Greatness Just Below the Surface

George Frideric HandelThe composer lay down his baton at the conclusion of what he believed would be his last performance. At 56, he’d already suffered a stroke which temporarily paralyzed his right arm. His life had been marked by an endless string of financial failures from which even his formidable talent had been unable to rescue him. In 1741, in England, that usually meant confinement to debtors’ prison.

But then, two seemingly small events converged which would change his life. He received a libretto from a friend based on the life of Christ, and a commission from a charity to compose music for a benefit performance. He worked feverishly, hardly eating or sleeping but rapturously lost in a creative ecstasy, known only to masters such as himself. In only three weeks, his masterpiece was complete. His name—George Frideric Handel. The masterpiece—his celebrated oratorio Messiah, a triumph of musical genius that still enjoys a place of honor amongst Christmas and Easter performances over 250 years later. The house in London where he composed the work is now a museum dedicated to him. And ironically, the first charity performances of Messiah provided funds for dozens of people to be released from debtors’ prison.

History is replete with the triumphs of men and women that were preceded by what appeared to be their darkest hour. I have often wondered why the adversary tries so hard to discourage us in our righteous endeavors. Surely he must know that God’s power is monumentally greater than his. Surely he knows he cannot succeed. Or does he?

No, the adversary actually does not know the big picture. He believes that our darkest hours really can be our end result, not a temporary darkness that precedes a breaking dawn of hope and success. Only God knows what great blessings are in store for us. Only He sees the richest blessings yet hidden from our view. His plans cannot be thwarted, but He needs us to trust Him and know that all will be well, that we must not give up on the threshold of what could be our finest hour.

Classical pianist/comedian Victor Borge (1909-2000) told a favorite joke about his grandfather who had invented his own soft drink by mixing four ingredients and calling it 4-Up. It did not succeed so he added an ingredient and called it 5-Up. Still no one would buy it, so he added one more and named it 6-Up. It was a complete failure. His grandfather gave up and died penniless and heartbroken. “Little did he know how close he came,” concluded Borge, to the audience’s laughter. There is a valuable lesson for us all in Handel’s experience and Borge’s joke. During our darkest hours, we cannot see the unbounded success waiting only feet or seconds away. No matter what your present path looks like, stay on it and follow it where it leads. Don’t miss the beautiful view just ahead of you because of rocks along the way.