Archive for March, 2011

27
Mar

Want to Win a Prize from Tuscany?

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

Enter the Magical Mystery Tour!

My new mystery, Foggy with A Chance of Murder, is scheduled for release at the end of April.  It’s been a while since I’ve publish a mystery (although another Alex and Briggie is also in the works), so to get in the mood, I’m taking my readers on a tour through past mysteries by way of a trivia contest for each book.

Answer these questions about Tangled Roots!

1.  What are the names and species of Gladys Harrison’s

pets?

2.  When do Alex and Briggie first suspect that there is

something more going on than just compiling Holly’s gen-

ogram ?

3.  What does Francie’s T-Shirt  say?

4.  What is Uncle Joey’s profession?

5.  What does Briggie say when she confronts the villain

with her deer rifle at the end of the book?

If you can answer these questions, go to http://ggvandagriff.com/contact and enter the answers.  This will put you “in the hat” to win a little bit of Tuscany!  Winner will be announced here at the end of the month!

Good luck!

17
Mar

Heroes

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Essays, Spiritual Musings

 

When we think of this word, I imagine most of us think of the firemen who lost their lives saving others in 9/ll. If we are of an historical frame of mind, we may think of the prototype—Odysseus in Homer’s, The Odyssey. Or we may think of a president we admire, a person who has mentored us, the founder of an orphanage in an underdeveloped country, an astronaut, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, Winston Churchill, or General Eisenhower. These people are all undoubtedly heroes. When we study their lives, we are influenced by their courage, their optimism which refused to lie down in the face of great odds, their ability to rally people and change their hearts—giving them courage.

I have a personal hero who dedicated the best part of his life to me and my survival. He came into my life unexpectedly and didn’t look like a hero at all. In fact, he was not even a member of the church and was somewhat tipsy at the time. But, he listened to a little voice which, oddly enough, told him that I was the woman he was going to marry. He came right over, and in a manner which I have since found to be totally antithetical to his character, introduced himself and laid all his life’s innermost secrets at my feet. I was a bit overwhelmed, thought him way too intense as well as far more handsome than anyone had a right to be (I had an innate sense of distrust toward handsome men), but used the opening to bear my testimony of the Gospel. He asked me to church. I declined. (The only church he knew of was a Presbyterian Spanish-speaking church, which may explain my reluctance.) However, since I lived in a distant city and had returned there, he began a letter-writing campaign and I learned that he was 1.) possessed of a quirky sense of humor, 2.) a devoted correspondent, 3.) trustworthy and completely honest, 4.) a poet, 5.) to be relied on in any crisis, 6.) a wonderful artist, 7.) for some unknown reason completely intent on my happiness. His presence was not intrusive, like that of a stalker, he was just making himself known and, after about six months, his letters became a fixture in my life.

Then he started calling. Every day. Several times a day. Then, seven months after our first meeting, he flew to Washington, D.C. from Chicago for our first date. It lasted all weekend. Oddly enough, I had broken a date with the man I was planning to marry to go out of town and check internship locations for the next year, just to meet this friend who had intrigued me. (That was the end of the other relationship!) My visitor went home, and in an action he had thus avoided in his long dating life, wrote a letter declaring his love. I fell apart. This could not be. When he asked innocently, "Why?", I told him it was because he was not a member of my church. His reply was, "You don’t know that I’m not going to join!" And that he did. Ten minutes into the first discussion, he gained a never wavering testimony of the First Vision. I was the first LDS person he had ever met.

What neither of us knew at the time of our marriage was that I carried the genes of a very serious illness. This man, my husband, David Vandagriff, was destined for a heroism that would try him to his very core (see I Need Thee Every Hour: Learning to Apply the Atonement in our Daily Lives, Covenant Communications). In the years before and during my illness, he served as a bishop twice and the member of a Stake Presidency with huge geographical bondaries. No one who has seen me ill, and then seen me well in the past five years (the woman he married) can believe that he had the compassion, the generosity, the strength, and the courage to descend into the bi-polar Valley of the Shadow of Death with me, many, many times, always gently pulling me back to some semblance of safety. This is not what he signed up for. He was married to a woman he didn’t know. This is how he describes it: The depression began to change her. The illness did not appear suddenly. G.G. was the sun in my life, and the onset of her illness was like an extended sunset. First, the color of the sun changes, turning slowly to red as it drops lower in the sky. Then, the horizon begins to take slices from that sun, one after another, and the sun grows smaller an smaller until it disappears from sight. In the sky, there is a glow, a memory of the sun, but soon that glow begins to fade. Shadows collect in ravines and behind rocks. Those shadows grow and spread, slowly covering the landscpe. Soon the world is dark, then black, and a long night begins. (I Need Thee Every Hour: Applying the Atonement in our Daily Lives,( Covenant Communications, 2010, p. 44)

That darkness lasted twenty-five years. Certainly, long enough for him to forget that little whisper, "That is the girl you’re going to marry"–the girl with the long brown hair in the ugly bridesmaid dress. It took him to places he never thought he’d go—psych wards, emergency rooms, therapist’s offices. He had to practice law, provide for his family financially and emotionally as I was sick most of my children’s years at home.

During those twenty-five years, he evolved from a happy man to a man of many sorrows and acquainted with grief. It was an Abrahamic trial. But, he did not overcome this trial on his own. After years of endurance, and times when he would have given up, but for timely intervention from the Lord and his helpers here on earth, David and I were both finally witnesses to my miraculous healing. I came back to him, not the woman who had left, but a woman much stronger and closer to my Savior in every way, having fought "tooth and nail" to stay alive.

But, the Lord gave me a hero, because he knew that’s what I needed. David didn’t see himself as heroic material. He definitely would have opted out if the choice had been given him before marriage. But he believed in covenants. He believed that if he did his part, the Lord would perform his—he would enable David to go on. And David did go on.

And we both learned that heroism comes, not from what we do ourselves, but for what we allow our partner and Elder Brother in suffering to do for us. Though there is an element of heroism in both our stories, for us there is one overarching Hero—our Savior, Jesus Christ.

7
Mar

“For One Sweet Grape, Who Will the Vine Destroy?”

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

Recently I watched a BYU Devotional by Elder Russel M. Nelson on integrity. (See: http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7102&x=59&y=3) It had a profound effect upon me, especially since I was targeted by a scam this week on Craig’s List.

The heart surgeon turned Apostle of the Lord began by using a powerful image of a heart’s valve that regulates the blood flow between the left atrium and the left ventricle, insuring that our bodies are being properly oxygenated by our blood.  The valve works by cords which open and shut the valve.  If it doesn’t shut properly,  “the high pressure exerted by the heart is then impelled directly back to the lungs.  If that were to go on very long it would result in failure of both the heart and lungs.” (“Integrity of Heart,” Russell M. Nelson, Devotional Address at Brigham Young University on February 23, 1993.)

Elder Nelson likened the cords of the heart to virtues in the thirteenth article of faith: chastity, benevolence, honesty, etc.  If just one of these cords snap, it endangers all the other cords.  For example, the scammer who targeted me did not have honesty.  One can easily see how the lack of honesty would impair the ability to function with integrity.  Integrity means that you are an “all around good person.”  Honesty is paramount to integrity.  So are the other virtues mentioned in the thirteenth article of faith.  Once one snaps, the others will not last long.  Our death may not be physical in this metaphor, but it is surely spiritual.

A powerful quote from Job was very sobering: “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit . . . til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”  This applies even when our income or our very lives may be at stake.

As a writer, I have a strong responsibility to have integrity in my work.  If I were to lower my standards in order to meet the trends of the day, it might increase my sales, but it would kill me spiritually.  Because of the covenants I have made in the temple, I would be under grave condemnation from the Lord if I were to break those covenants by doing or saying anything “ungodly.”  This is a mighty challenge for all LDS people, no matter what their profession.

Because I am a writer, I usually think that Shakespeare has the perfect metaphor.  Elder Nelson must share this predilection for he shares the following quote from the poem The Rape of Lucrece, as Tarquinius is contemplating the conquest of a woman in lust:

“What win I if I gain the thing I seek?

A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.

Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week?

Or sells eternity to get a toy?

For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?”

(The Rape of Lucrece (1594), lines 21115)

We can so easily slip without realizing it, if we are not constantly engaged in those things which strengthen our integrity: prayer, repentance, scripture study, repentance, good works, repentance, and most of all charity, the crowning virtue.  A charitable person would never be lacking in integrity.

As I redouble my watchfulness of myself in this area, I am sure I will see many ways that I need to improve.  It would have been so easy to take just a sip of champagne at Cosimo’s birthday party.  I am sure they bought it just for me.  It would have been so easy not to return the extra stamp the post office gave me.  Are my books as pure in spirit as they are in word?

I try to review my behavior before I partake of the sacrament each week.  I find that that deadline, that covenant does more than anything else to keep me in line.  And like every mortal, I have a long way to go from where I am to where I am not (in the embrace of the Savior).  I only pray that the atonement is adequately merciful in my case and in that of all my brothers and sisters who truly want Celestial lives, but are living in a Telestial world.

1
Mar

The Joy of Being Buffy Haglund’s Sister

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

My sister is visiting, and as usual we are having so much fun together that all the ills of mortality have fallen down into a deep well far out of sight. She is invariably cheery and makes the best of every situation.  This is a quality that I deeply admire.

The amount of time we spend giggling and comparing our separate versions of the past (she is six years my junior) is great for the soul.  There is something about laughing out loud with Buffy that is healing and exhilarating at the same time.  We both love to eat, so we spent two hours in the grocery store yesterday.  However, when we went to prepare dinner, we found we’d not planned with our heads.  We had: Baked Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Grape Tomatoes.  My husband was very nice about it, probably glad that we were allowing him to eat with us at all.

Today I gave her a makeover.  She is already gorgeous, so after the makeover she was a knockout.  I told her that she’d better not steal my husband!  Neither of us is rolling in the dough at the moment, but we had fun using her Christmas gift cards and shopping the sales.

We love all the same TV shows and movies and could watch them for hours, trying to figure out what’s going on in the cop shows and whether we or the producers have missed the crucial part of the equation that makes the episode understandable.

To come:

A do it yourself spa  day with massages, facials, and pedicures.

Making lunch for friends

Visiting Talbot’s in Murray

Reading and discussing my novel  (Buffy is very straightforward about this)

Cleaning and organizing my office

Don’t you wish you had Buffy for a sister?