You are not Alone

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Welcome to the official website of Kristen Smith Dayley, author of For all the Saints.

No matter where you live and serve, you are not alone. This inspirational collection of stories and experiences shows how the Lord uses the gospel to connect us with others and magnify our works into greatness. Filled with true-to-life moments that will benefit every member and every organization, it’s a moving and memorable read you’ll want to share with family and friends.

Available now! Find out more…

Something Significant in Small Increments of Time

Just the other day I got the question again: “How did you manage to write a book?”

The short answer is: “Very slowly.” After all, it took me the better part of eight years, with admitted stops and starts over that course of time. The more reflective answer takes me back to the realities of that effort, and the life milestones I marked over those years. I lost three babies and welcomed three children into my life as the days, weeks, and months passed by. In fact, I was living in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with my youngest two, a set of twins, while I was reviewing the final edits and proofs from my publisher.

Clock

All that aside, however, there was one thing that inspired me to push forward, regardless of obstacles. Early on in the project, I read the transcript of the interview that had been conducted with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. For those of you who do not know who Laurel is, she is a professor at Harvard University who won the Pulitzer Prize for History with her book, A Midwife’s Tale and coined the phrase “well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Laurel’s first publication was not Pulitzer-prize material, but it was a landmark for her and a number of other women. As part of a Relief Society fund-raising project, Laurel organized the research and writing of an area guidebook entitled A Beginner’s Boston.

“I did a ton of the work myself,” she said. “I remember how hard it was to write. I had three kids by that time. They were little and needed a lot of attention. I had been out of school for five or six years. I was just trying to keep my head above water. . . . I designated my children’s nap times to work on the writing that would go into it. It was just like pulling teeth. It was so hard. But I got so I could do it.”

Beginner’s Boston was a phenomenal, unexpected success and was touted by the Boston Globe as the first real guidebook to the city. But its impact on Laurel was the most lasting. “What I got out of it,” she reflected, “was a confidence in my ability to do a major thing in small increments of time.” With that new-found knowledge, Laurel went on to pursue a master’s degree, a doctorate, and has never stopped achieving since.

My father never accepted a complaint about how long something would take as a reason not to do it. “The time will pass anyway,” he’d simply respond.

Whenever I want to give up on a goal or a project because life is too busy or just too hard, I recall Laurel’s observation and remind myself that I too can accomplish something significant with even small snippets of time, stolen here and there, so long as I am consistent and persistent.

What have you always wanted to accomplish? Is there something you can do today that can move it forward? Don’t underestimate the power of small increments of time – they have the power to turn ordinary moments into an extraordinary life.

Happy Pioneer Day! How about celebrating with dinner cooked in an asbestos box?

Have you ever wondered how pioneer women found the time and energy to make dinner after trudging across the plains all day? The answer, in many cases, was the hay box, also known as fireless cookery.

Hay boxes

Hay boxes are the predecessor to today’s crockpots and slow cookers. The principle is simple – once a food has reached its boiling point, that temperature just needs to be maintained long enough to cook it properly. Pioneer women would begin preparing their evening meal in the morning, before the wagon trains left, by heating dinner over a fire and then placing the boiling, covered kettle, in an air-tight hinged box packed with hay to retain the heat. A hay-stuffed pillow was placed over the top of the cooking pot, the box was shut securely and then placed on the wagon, where the meal would continue to cook until it was time to set up camp again in the evening.

The hay box, or “hot box” was resurrected by the ladies of the Cambridge Ward Relief Society in the 1960s and provided a way to cook elegant meals for hundreds of guests at elaborate ward parties. One sister told of the sweet and sour pork she made for a ward luau using hot boxes, as well as haddock stuffed with cucumber-bread stuffing, baked in aluminum foil and then placed in an insulated container to cook the rest of the day.

By the 1960s, however, the sisters had decided to take advantage of modern technology. According to the book Mormon Cookery from New England, published in 1966, “The primitive ‘hay box’ has evoluted [sic] into the ‘asbestos box,’” which simply meant they improved the insulation in the cookers by lining the boxes with asbestos! (Don’t try this at home).

If you should be interested in hay box cooking, it is a wonderful way to expand your emergency preparedness skills, and instructions for constructing hay boxes out of almost any airtight container can be easily found on the internet. That being said, a mylar emergency blanket provides a safer way to line your box and shredded newspaper can be used in place of hay (in case you don’t live on a farm!). Once you have your cooker, you can use it to make everything from meats to oatmeal and sourdough breads. What would you try first?

Real-Life Superheroes

My five-year-old son loves superheroes. He can spend all day reading about Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and anyone else with a super-cool costume. One of the lessons of For All the Saints is that heroes are all around us, although their dress may be less flashy and involve less Spandex.

When I am asked to summarize the messages contained within the book, one of the most potent is as follows: Ordinary men and women can accomplish extraordinary things when they are partnered with the Lord.

For those of you curious to know what some of these superheroes look like, I have attached a photo recently given to me of some of the stallwart members who were the pillars of the Cambridge Branch in the early 1940s.

1940s Group Boston

  • Back row (from left to right): G. Roy Fugal, Rulon Robison, Bill Knecht, Ora Lee Knecht, A.G. Cranney, Larry Guild and Bri Decker
  • Middle row: Claire Robison (the original R.S. president who served in that capacity for 27 years!), Naomi Cranney, George Albert Smith II, Ruth Smith, S. Smitty Stevens
  • Front row: Anna Marie Decker, John N. Hinckley, Olive Fugal, and the indominatable Betty Hinckley

The other day, my five year was lecturing me on Wonder Woman’s parentage and gifts from the backseat of our minivan. Pausing for a moment, he asked, “Mom, isn’t it cool that we have a real-life superhero in our family?” Before I could respond, he quickly added so that there was no misunderstanding: “And it’s me!”

May we all see our own potential for bringing great things to pass through small and simple things (Alma 37:6) and our commitment to the Lord’s work.

Welcome!

I realize that it may be odd to welcome readers to a site that has been up for nearly five months. But for me, today is my first foray into the world of blogging. Between mothering four children (including infant twins), maintaining my household and law practice, and a few technical difficulties, I have not utilized this site the way I had initially planned.

But that stops today! When I was presented with the thousands of pages of oral histories that became the source material for For All the Saints, I found myself empathizing with Mormon, who could only include “the hundredth part” (3 Nephi 26:6) of the Nephite records within the leaves of the gold plates.

My hope is that this website will become an outlet for sharing many of the stories and lessons that I was not able to include in the book. I also hope it will become a resource for collecting more stories that evidence how the Lord builds his kingdom today. As Saints, we are well-versed in events that took place in Palmyra, Kirtland, Far West, Nauvoo, and the long trek west. But that only captures the smallest slice of our heritage! The Lord’s work did not stop when the Saints reached the Salt Lake Valley. On the contrary, his work rolls forward in all corners of the world today and there is much we can learn from each other as we each labor in our own corner of the vineyard.

As I stated at the end of the introduction to For All the Saints, it does not matter where we live – as we share testimony and insights, we come to recognize the common spiritual legacy and promises we share as men and women who faithfully seek to follow the Lord’s commands and build up his kingdom. I look forward to exploring this legacy with you.

All my best – Kristen