Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thinking of Mom



In memory of Lorene Ethel Miller Craner
One of my earliest memories is sitting in my mother’s lap while she read to me. A favorite poem of mine was “Father William” by Lewis Carroll. My mother had a lovely voice and was very expressive. She always said it made me laugh when she read:

“You are old, father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white.
And yet you incessantly stand on your head;
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

My mother became a librarian and was an insatiable reader all of her life. She worked at the old Salt Lake City Public Library when I was in junior high school, and I would often go to work with her in the evenings. On the top floor of the library was a room where you could choose a record (yes, a vinyl 33 rpm record), sit at a desk, put on earphones, and a member of the library staff would play the record just for you. I completed a lot of homework there, listening to great music and gazing out over the historic old City County Building.

Education was very important to my parents, and they eventually made great sacrifices to finish their college degrees. Before Pearl Harbor and marriage, they each completed about a year and a half of college at Lewis and Clark State Normal school in Lewiston, Idaho, my mother’s hometown. Then my father enlisted in the Navy and became a pilot, stationed in the Pacific. The remainder of their courtship took place through letters and telegrams, and they decided to marry when my father could arrange a leave.

My mother traveled on a bus all the way from Lewiston, Idaho to Jacksonville, Florida, to marry my father. She later admitted to me that when she arrived in Jacksonville, she couldn’t quite remember what her fiance looked like, as she hadn’t seen him for months, so she made sure to be the last one off the bus, and there he was, a young man with blond hair, blue eyes and a dazzling smile, looking splendid in his Navy uniform. And, yes, she did remember him after all.

They found a Mormon bishop and were married that afternoon. When the local Mutual Improvement Association (MIA) leaders heard about the wedding, they turned that evening’s activity into an impromptu party for the newlyweds. That was my parents’ wedding reception, celebrated among kind strangers.

My father bought a box of chocolates for his new bride, and it was on her honeymoon that she discovered she was allergic to chocolate. Then he had to find a drugstore and buy a bottle of Calamine lotion to dab on her angry red hives.

When my father returned home from the war, a lovely baby girl, my oldest sister, was waiting to meet him. Then two more daughters were born, and my parents joined the ranks of Baby Boomer Parents.

When my oldest sister enrolled in college, my parents decided to go back to school, too. They each held down full time jobs while they attended the University of Utah and finished their Bachelor’s degrees. Our family life changed dramatically at that time, as the next daughter also began her studies at BYU, and I was the only child living at home. The dining room table was covered with books and papers, and someone was always studying or typing a paper on our trusty manual typewriter.

Once my parents took a class together. When the professor read their names on the roll, he asked if they were related. “Only by marriage,” quipped my mother.

My father took me aside a few weeks later and informed me that in class, my mother was an “apple polisher” (teacher’s pet), and he found that rather irritating. A few days later my mother took me aside and told me that if my father would only follow the instructions in the syllabus and complete the assignments as directed, he would do better in the class. As you might guess, she got an A at the end of the term, and he got a B. I was relieved when they didn’t take any more classes together.

I’m sure everyone remembers the momentous day when their parents sat them down and told them “the facts of life.” I was the third daughter but my mother, a shy person who could never bring herself to talk about intimacy between husbands and wives, handed me a library book on the subject instead. She did say that I could ask her questions after I read it, but I didn’t have the courage to follow up on her offer. I knew she would be mortified.

Then my parents each completed a master’s degree—my father’s in History and Political Science at the University of Utah and my mother’s in Library Science at Brigham Young University. This involved significant commitment and frequent commuting for both of them.

By that time I was in college, too, breaking with tradition to attend Utah State University in Logan, about ninety miles away from home. I married my college sweetheart the day after I finished my Bachelor’s Degree, and we honeymooned in Chicago, where he earned his law degree and I obtained my Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. I worked for many years with people of all ages who had disabilities, to improve their speech and language skills. It was a rewarding career.

My mother always wanted to write a book about her ancestors. The title was going to be The Cardwells of Virginia. An avid genealogist, she acquired boxes of photocopied documents, pictures, and handwritten notes in preparation to write the book. Those boxes live in my basement now; cancer ended her life at age 66, and her book was never written. My father passed away eight years later from a stroke.

I began to pursue a writing career as my husband and I became empty-nesters and our own three sons all left home to attend college. My first book came about when I met writer Shaunda Wenger of Nibley, Utah. She had a splendid proposal for a book: we would pair selections from great literature with original recipes, and then organize the material like a traditional cookbook.

The work was intense and challenging, and I often wished I could call my mother for help. She had been a reference librarian, and when I was searching for copyright information, great books that might have passages we could use, or a good recipe, I would close my eyes and think, “Mom, help!” And I did feel her support. I believe both of my parents were cheering me on from the other side.

The Book Lover’s Cookbook: Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature, and the Passages that Feature Them
, was published in 2003 by Ballantine, a division of Random House. I know my parents would have been proud, as they introduced me to great literature at a young age, proofed every paper I wrote for school assignments, and always encouraged me to discover the joy of reading. Many of the selections in our literary cookbook came from literature I was exposed to while I was growing up. Unknowingly, all my life I was being prepared to write a book about books.

Then I finally completed Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys, a novel published by Cedar Fort in 2007. The title comes from an old folk song my father used to play on the record player. Writing a book demands many different skills, and I am grateful that the seeds of my writing career were planted early by my parents.

As I wrote, I drew from my rich pioneer heritage on my father’s side, weaving family tales and lore I had heard all my life into my story. Many of my characters’ names were significant, as I borrowed them from our ancestors.

I’m sure that wherever my parents are, they took a moment to smile when they learned that in my book a clever border collie is named Eliza R. Snow (not an ancestor), after a famous Utah pioneer poet. As I reflected on my heritage, the solid values my parents taught me, and the careers I followed based on the gifts and talents I inherited from my them, I wrote the following dedication in my book:
“To my mother, who married a Mormon boy.”

Travel: When the unexpected happens

Sixth and final in Travel Series



The smiling, happy baby in the photo, taken March 9, is actually taking her first ambulance ride. She is our nine month-old granddaughter. Our oldest son, his wife and baby were travling in Ohio, headed for the Cleveland Airport, when they were caught in "the worst blizzard to hit the state in 30 years." They had just called friends who lived only 15 miles away to ask if they could spend the night rather than deal with the treacherous roads, when my son noticed that cars in front of him were slowing down.

He did the same. There had been a collision ahead. They were rolling to a stop when his wife unbuckled her seat belt to lean back and tend to the baby. Then, without warning, they were hit on the side, spun around, rear-ended, and hit again on the rear corner by two different drivers, both of whom were cited for improper speed for existing weather conditions.

The force of the collision from the back blew out the back window of their SUV, sending their luggage flying. My daughter-in-law's injuries were relatively minor, fortunately, but she'll never unbuckle her seatbelt in that kind of situation again, she assures me. She had a mild concussion and is in physical therapy for neck and back strain. My son was stiff and sore for a week. The baby suffered no ill effects, as she was in an approved car seat that was properly buckled. She was frightened by the loud, grinding noises,and the abrupt shifts as they were hit, but she was soon comforted.



With the wind chill factor, the temperature was estimated at -5 degrees, so they quickly put the baby in her snowsuit and grabbed their own coats and gloves. My daughter in law is very well-organized. She quickly found her digital camera and began snapping pictures of the damage to their vehicle and the other two that hit them. She even photographed a license plate, which provided more information quickly to their insurance company.



A highway patrolman, on his way to the earlier collision, stopped and asked all the involved travelers if they were all right, and then went on ahead to help with the first accident. Then my son called us to get some advice from his lawyer dad and his worried mom ("You must be checked at the hospital, even if you think you're OK now!") He is a medical student so he didn't need much convincing.

The car, only a year and a half old, was a total loss, and I learned that if a child's car seat has been in a collision, it must be replaced. There could be structural damage that is not visible from the outside. See the owner's manual for your infant and child's car seats if you have any questions. That is something to think about when buying a used car seat - learn its history if you can.

They were examined in the emergency room and released, but not before a kind woman who worked there, a stranger, offered to take them home for the night, as they no car. Fortunately, the friends who lived nearby were able to come to the hospital, pick them up, and collect their luggage. For the next two days they received TLC from their friends and then flew to Utah, which was the plan all along, as it was their Spring Break. We couldn't wait to see them ourselves to make sure they were all right, and Mom even scheduled massages for the sore kids.

My son was soon contacted by the insurance companies of the other drivers, who were interested in settling. Though he son was noncommittal on the phone, his father later advised him that he should not have spoken to them at all; he should have simply referred them to his own insurance company.

We learned some valuable lessons from our son's accident. Of course, you must assume not everybody on the road is attentive at any given time. They may be speeding. They simply may not know how to handle bad roads. The roads had not been plowed at all, which further added to bad traveling conditions.

Their esssential documents including registration and insurance verification, were easily accessible, in the glove compartment.

They had an SUV, and were able to replace it with another, and they will now be sure that the mesh net is secured over any loose bags in the cargo area when they drive. Fortunately, when they were hit, their bags flew out of the car, instead of hitting our kids. The insurance company has replaced the baby's car seat. Photos of the damage were immensely helpful for the overworked police, whose resources were badly stretched that day, and for the insurance companies. Though the car had to be replaced, the occupants are returning to good health.

We are so grateful for airbags, car seats, seat belts, digital cameras, cautious drivers, honest insurance companies, competent law enforcement officers and physicians, and for kind strangers who offered to care for a young family. And most of all, we're grateful that we still have this young family with us.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Local Writers Group Makes the Front Page!


Utah writers unite



Amber Smith, President, League of Utah Writers, reads through a sample of her writing as Marion Jensen, front, follows along during the group's monthly meeting at the Logan City Library in Logan, Utah, Wednesday, April 23, 2008. (Alan Murray/Herald Journal)

By Devin Felix
Published:
Monday, April 28, 2008 2:57 AM CDT
Putting your writing into the hands of other writers and asking them to criticize it is a harrowing experience, says Cache Valley author Marion Jensen.

“It’s like putting your 3-year-old up there and they say, ‘His nose is way too big. He’s just homely.’ And your first reaction is to say, ‘You, me, in the parking lot. Now,’” he said.

But if you can fight back the urge to beat up your critics, having others analyze your writing is one of the best ways to make it better, Jensen said.

For that reason, he is a member of the Cache Valley chapter of the League of Utah Writers, a group that meets monthly to read, critique and celebrate each other’s writing.
The group meets in the archive room of the Logan Public Library. With its shelves of books, chandeliers and mahogany table, the room seems a fitting place to sit and discuss the arrangement of words and the conveyance of ideas.

“The League is to support writers in all genres and stages of their writing,” said Amber Smith, the group’s president.

They come from different backgrounds and are in different stages of life. They are hospital employees, university professors, stay-at-home-moms. And they are all writers.

A few have published works already under their belts.

At Wednesday’s meeting, member Janet Kay Jensen spoke with pride of Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys, her new novel about a Mormon man in love with a woman who grew up in a polygamous community. The book is a finalist for several literary awards and has even gotten some coverage in the press in Australia, she said.

Marion Jensen has published two books under the pen name Matthew Buckley, Chickens in the Headlights and Bullies in the Headlights. At Wednesday’s meeting he passed out copies of chapter one from his latest, a children’s book called The Super Trio, in which twin boys from a family of super heroes on the cusp of their 10th birthday wait anxiously for their super powers to surface.

Group members followed along as Smith read aloud the first chapter of a fantasy novel she began that morning. Then they gave their thoughts, pointing out an ambiguous phrase, complimenting a strong image. Later, group member John Nelson distributes chapter 38 of his book, a thriller set in a world after a pandemic has wiped out much of the globe’s population.

They discuss the challenges of balancing writing with work and family. Tamara Copley used to looked forward to becoming a stay-at-home mom so she could have hours of free time to use for writing, she said.

Now that she has a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, she spends most of her time “chasing babies,” she said, which makes it tough to find time. But she finds the time because she’s a writer. Now she uses her kids as a test audience for her children’s books.

“I’ve heard it so many times, if you want to be a writer, just write,” Copley said.

The League of Utah Writers has chapters throughout the state. In addition to meetings of individual chapters the group hosts conventions. These meetings, which are attended by writers, publishers and literary agents, are a great way for writers to try to improve their craft and get noticed, Jensen said.

The League also provides opportunities for writers to interact with each other online. If a member has a question, someone on the group’s e-mail list is likely to have the answer.

Writing can be a lonely task, Smith said. It’s usually just one person alone at a keyboard. Having the input of other writers is crucial.

“We get a sense of reality bouncing our writing off each other,” Jensen said.

Ultimately, the group provides a chance for people who share an addiction to share their addiction.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Garrison Keillor on Erma Bombeck and Finding Your Voice



This is a wonderful clip from a keynote speech given by Garrison Keillor at the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Workshop. Click on the title and you'll be directed to the website.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Some remarks from Marilyn Brown


Marilyn Brown is an accomplished novelist and sponsors a contest for unpublished manuscripts. The financial award helps these writers in their quest for publication. I received an honorable mention for Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys.

She wasn't one of the judges in this year's contest that she sponsors, but when I sent her a copy of my book to say thanks, she read it and gave me some feedback which was spot-on.

When I replied to thank her she said "Anyone who takes 'criticism' so graciously is on their way to success! I mean that. I was so glad to read your letter and realize I was staring at a potential successful novelist in the 'script.' Your attitude and work ethic all scream 'perseverance' to me, and I believe that is what it takes!"

Anyway, she was so kind to take the time to read my book and offer some constructive suggestions. Now if I could just fix what I know are some of my weaknesses . . .. . I'm keeping her correspondence in the scrapbook I have made about my book . . . .

And it's so good to have examples like Marilyn Brown around.

Janet

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mormon Boys Runner-Up for Eric Hoffer Award in Commercial Fiction



I've known this for a week, that I had advanced from finalist to runner-up, but couldn't say anything. Now it's official and I am very pleased and grateful.

In the Top Ten


Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys is #9 today in Deseret Book's Fiction Best Seller List!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

OK, so I've been tagged . . .


. . . and then someone had to tell me what that meant. I'm supposed to reveal seven facts about myself. So here are seven facts about me:


1. I've seen Charlton Heston in person. He spoke to students at Utah State University about 20 years ago and arrived late, due to a Cache Valley blizzard. When he got to the podium he said, "well, did you expect me to part the snowdrifts or something?" and that was the beginning of a fascinating presentation. He wasn't "all about me." The clips he showed were all about what the director wanted to tell in the story, and how it was staged, what the characters were about, and all the dynamics that went into various films. What a class act he was.

2. My parents met at a debate meet in Idaho. My husband and I met as members of Utah State University's Debate Team. I was the State Champion Debater (with my excellent partner) in my senior year at Skyline High School.

3. My father worked for Evan Mecham, who was later elected and then removed from office as Arizona's governor, and my mother taught Utah history to Mark Hofmann when he was in junior high.

4. Technically, I received my B.S. and M.A. in the same calendar year, in two different states.

5. When my son's friend's family adopted a new baby, he was thrilled and asked, "Can't we do that, Mom?" I quickly responded with: "You know that puppy we've been promising you guys? We'll get it." And now our cocker-mix, Chevy, is 14 years old.

6. I've watched a lot of football because #2 son played at Logan High, and husband likes to go to the USU home games. I've found it useful to take a small radio and earphones with me because I don't think I'll ever understand the game, and frankly, well, it can get rather boring. See this essay for more details: http://janetkayjensen.blogspot.com/2007/11/john-grisham-150-boise-state-55.html

7. When our literary cookbook came out (The Book Lover's Cookbook), one of my best friends told an acquaintance, "Honey, she can't cook!"

8. OK, so I thought of one more fascinating fact: I collect Native American pottery storyteller figures, Victorian Father Christmas Figures, Nutcrackers, and Russian Nesting Dolls.

And now I am tagging:

JoLynne Lyon http:://mountainlyon.blogspot.com
Kammi Rencher www.atonofauthorsandawannabe.blogspot.com
Doug Johnston www.atonofauthorsandawannabe.blogspot.com
Marcia Mickelson www.marciamickelson.blogspot.com
Emily Jensen www.kemilyj.blogspot.com
Karlene Browning www.inksplasher.blogspot.com
Cami Checketts http://momquest.blogspot.com



And here's what they're supposed to do:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Mormon Boys" Gets Notice Down Under


Well. Last week CFI's publicist sent out emails about my book to a number of newspapers, thinking that the timing of the polygamous sect's news might increase interest in my novel.

Somehow one email landed in Australia, and the editor wrote back to me. Polygamy is quite rare in his country, he said, and his paper would be more interested in information than a review copy of my book. So I thought it over for a week and carefully formulated my reply. Only a few hours later it was a lead article in the Australian paper, with the headline: "Mormons aren't Polygamists and Polygamists aren't Mormons."

I am in shock, but very glad to have this exchange of information with the editor. Here is my entire email to him:


Thank you for your response. I am sure the subject of polygamy is foreign to you, so the publicist’s email must have been something of a puzzle.

A brief summary: During a period of about 40 years, early in its history, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (often called Mormons) did practice polygamy. Less than 10% of the members did so. The practice was seen as a way to accommodate the fact that there were more women than men who joined the church and participated in its western migration to the area now known as Utah. The LDS church officially discontinuied the practice in 1890, and at that point several splinter groups formed, believing that the church was in error for discontinuing polygamy. The LDS church does not practice polygamy now and excommunicates members who do.

The most notorious of the offshoot groups (at least in terms of recent news coverage) is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, (FLDS) led by Warren Jeffs. They lived in a small community in southern Utah which he led, and most people would describe the lifestyle as a cult led by a power-hungry man. Jeff was recently convicted on several counts in Utah, the most serious being named as an accomplice to rape, in the case of a 13-year old girl he forced to marry an older man. It is believed that this practice of marrying underage girls to older men is common within the sect, and is of course illegal as well as immoral. Jeffs is also facing charges in the neighboring state of Arizona. Before his arrest, he established a new compound near Eldorado, Texas, where he moved his “most faithful” followers and young children “who hadn’t been contaminated by worldly influences.”

Several weeks ago a 16-year old girl from the Texas compound phoned Texas authorities and told them she was married to an older man, subjected to marital rape and physical abuse, was the mother of an 8- month old baby, and was pregnant again. She requested assistance as she could not leave the compound with her baby. The compound was then entered by law enforcement officers, and more than 400 children and many of their mothers were removed to a different location where they could be questioned to determine if abuse has occurred within their families.

The girl who called for help has not yet been identified, and now the state of Texas has the daunting responsibility to determine the fate of these children, many of whom have given multiple names to authorities or have refused to name their parents at all. It is turning into a legal nightmare at this point, with so many young children and their parents facing separation due to a lifestyle which is not only illegal, but may have abused some of its weakest members, women and children.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5712603.html

The above URL chronicles some of the recent events in regard to this case and has some related articles.

My book, which was released in November, is about the relationship of two individuals from two opposing cultures – a girl raised in polygamy, in a large and harmonious family, and a boy raised in an LDS family - who meet at medical school. Though they have feelings for each other, they know that polygamy presents an impossible barrier to their future. She is expected to return home to take care of her people, and will eventually become a plural wife, and he cannot embrace that lifestyle. How they continue to develop in their practices after medical school, and how they reconcile their differences after a chance encounter gives them another opportunity to be together, is one major theme of the story.

One of my other purposes in writing the book was to clarify that Mormons are not polygamists and polygamists aren’t Mormons, and that abuse and mistreatment can be found in any culture. In the end, the families of both young people must learn about tolerance and acceptance, and discover that what they have in common is much more important than their differences.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about this current situation as I have described it, or my book, which does not seek to sensationalize polygamy, but to provide a compassionate look at individuals from both cultures. You are welcome to quote any of the above statements in your publication.


Best wishes,

Janet Kay Jensen

http://www.australia.to/story/0,25197,23040466-981,00,00.html

Friday, April 11, 2008

Foreign Travel



Fifth in a series for yourldsneighborhood.com

Foreign travel can be exciting and challenging. Researching your destinations and understanding all the laws and restrictions you may face when leaving the USA will help to make your world travels enriching and rewarding. Here is some advice to make your experience even better:

Language: Fortunately, many people in foreign countries speak English as a second language, but it’s always wise to bring a small dictionary containing important words and phrases.

Passports: Apply well in advance and visit this website for any questions you may have. http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html

Visas: Certain countries require visas before you may enter. Research the countries you plan to visit well in advance, also. The US embassy’s websites on various countries will help to prepare.

Medical: Discuss your travel plans with your health care provider. Certain vaccinations may be required, and as some require several installments a few weeks apart, do this with plenty of lead time. Your physician may recommend a general antibiotic to carry with you, or other medications travelers may find invaluable when confronted with new foods. Many physicians recommend taking a baby aspirin to avoid blood clots in the legs due to sitting for long periods of time. Carry enough medication for the time you will be gone, and keep the pills in their original prescription bottles.

Luggage: Your airline will have limits on number of checked bags and their weights. However: if you plan on flights between countries, these regulations may be different. In most cases, they allow less bags and less weight. Be prepared! We learned this the hard way, traveling on a budget airline between Finland and Sweden. If we hadn’t been with relatives who had lighter bags, we would have been in trouble. Put several tags on your bags, as they can be torn off in transit, and be sure to put identifying labels inside your bags, too.

Travel insurance: Our neighbors planned a two-week cruise of the Greek Islands. On the morning they were to leave, a blizzard prevented them from even reaching the airport. Travel insurance made it possible for the whole amount of the trip to be refunded. For a trip which involves major expense, it is definitely a consideration to investigate.

Money: Well in advance, call your bank and order currency for the various countries you will visit. And with the daily changes in exchange rates, you may find credit cards the way to go. Again, learn which credit cards are accepted in the countries you will visit.

Cell phones: Call your provider and make sure that your phone will work outside of the USA. Adding international service usually does not involve an extra fee, but must be arranged before your trip. We were especially grateful for international cell phone service when our rental car broke down outside of Cancun, Mexico, and we had to call the rental agency for help. We might still be on the road to Cancun, however, if our son hadn’t been fluent in Spanish, and convinced the rental agency that we did, indeed, need assistance.

Power: Purchase a good quality power adapter that has electrical plugs for the countries you will visit. Since most hotels have hair dryers (research your hotel in the Internet before you go), use the ones provided there. Evidently high-powered devices made in other countries may short out, even when used with an adaptor. I used a curling iron one morning in Finland and burned a sizeable lock of hair (in the front, of course). The smell of burning hair is most unpleasant, and disguising the missing chunk of hair can also be a challenge. I finished the trip without trying the curling iron again. Heavenly Father gave me straight hair, and I humbly accepted that.

Safety: Theft is a real concern when traveling, especially outside the USA. We look like tourists and make great targets. Use your hotel’s safe and carry your money on your person in a money belt or other pouch. Leave your valuable watches, jewelry and other items at home. It’s just common sense not to take the risk of losing something important that you really didn’t need to bring on your trip in the first place.

Identify your personal items: This might have helped my husband when he left his expensive bifocals on a plane that landed in Amsterdam. The airline’s customer service phone line took the weekend off, the website didn’t offer any help, and our brief layover in Amsterdam didn’t allow us any time to go to their lost and found department when we were on our way home. It’s always a good idea to take an extra pair of glasses. Keep all your glasses in a hard case and stick an address label inside, or tuck a business card in the case. You just might recover your lost item. Ditto with cameras, cell phones, iPods, etc.

What to see, what to do: This is where organized tours can be wonderful, especially if it’s your first trip to a new region. Your guide will have an itinerary planned, interpreters arranged, and all the arrangements made for travel, housing, tours, entertainment, and every other detail you may never even think about. For your first trip abroad, this may be the most safe and rewarding way to go. Tours and cruises offer varied itineraries. Research the companies and read passenger feedback on the Internet when making your choice. When arriving in a new city, taking a bus tour can be a wonderful introduction to a new and fascinating place. Most tours are offered in various languages.

Take lots of pictures, which is now simplified with digital cameras, rechargeable batteries, and memory cards.

Don’t overschedule: You can’t see every attraction in a new country or city. See the ones you can reasonable schedule, and allow the time to enjoy them thoroughly.

Walking: Bring comfortable walking shoes. You will spend a lot of time on your feet. You may find yourself standing in lines and also walking on unfamiliar surfaces, such as cobblestone, which can have some painful repercussions when your body isn’t used to them. Many countries don’t offer many accommodations to persons with disabilities, so be prepared to cope with that issue.

In an emergency, be sure you know how to contact the US Embassy in the country you’re visiting, and never forget that helpful members of the church can be found nearly everywhere you go. Your hotel personnel may be very knowledgeable when you need assistance, also.

Note: We haven’t done much international traveling, and have always had the advantage of being on a tour or cruise, or staying with someone familiar with the country and the language. You could say we’re not that adventurous. But the foreign travel we have done has been memorable and enriching and educational. When you go, plan well in advance, make sensible decisions, and have a wonderful trip!