Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tis the Season to Receive

It's Christmas time. That means there's a lot of running about shopping and trying to find the perfect gifts to give our family and friends. It's all part of the holiday season.

There is an adage that says "It is more blessed to give than receive". I think most of us believe this is true. But if we are giving, doesn't that mean someone is receiving? Where is the adage for that?

We've probably all had an experience where we've given a gift, the recipient opened it, but did not receive it. Maybe it wasn't what they were expecting, or there were more presents to open and  yours was tossed aside in the eagerness to get more. Whatever the reason, it is very disheartening to have gone to the effort of selecting a gift only to have it mean nothing to the recipient.

That doesn't seem right. If it is truly important to give, and I believe it is, isn't it just as important to receive? Somebody has to get the gifts that are being given.

I'm going to pick on my husband. He's the one who taught me the importance of receiving because he's so bad at it. I never knew getting a gift could be such an ordeal until I met him. For many years I worried about what to get him for Christmas, birthday, Father's Day, Anniversary, and other special occasions. For every celebration I would choose what I thought he would like and anticipate his happiness and gratitude.

Still waiting. He's returned everything, and I do mean everything, I've ever gotten him.

A few years ago I finally gave up. I told him he wasn't getting anything for Christmas. I was tired of having to return all the gifts I'd bought. I thought he would object. He didn't. I'd finally figured out what he wanted. Nothing.

Yes, this sounds colder than a January morning with wind chill but it works for him. My feelings aren't hurt and he's happy money hasn't been wasted.

But it doesn't seem right. And so I've thought a lot lately about the importance of receiving.

About twenty years ago my Grandma Minnie paid me a compliment of some sort and I tried to act like whatever it was I'd said or done, was nothing.

"Just be gracious and accept my words," she said.

Wow. For such a simple statement it had profound meaning for me. I'd always thought I needed to apologize  or brush off compliments as if they were nothing. Wasn't that what was meant by humility? I've learned they aren't 'nothing' to the person saying it. It's offensive to think they don't mean it.

So, I've tried to be more gracious - and receive compliments. Or advice. Or suggestions, or counsel, or reprimands or other comments and ideas. I don't think I've hurt any feelings by doing so and I hope I have been sincere in my appreciation.

Why is it so difficult to receive? Why do we feel guilty about 'getting'? What are we missing out on by not graciously accepting gifts or whatever we are given? It seems we are comfortable if we have to work or pay for things but most of us are not comfortable just taking things. It's as if doing so puts us at beggar status.

But aren't we all beggars? That's what King Benjamin taught. All we have comes from God and we can't obtain His choicest gifts unless we learn to 'receive'. He asks us to receive His words, His covenants, His laws, His prophets, His counsel, His gospel, His love. And if we accept, we can receive even more. His plan of happiness requires receiving. That should allay any concerns we have about receiving not being as noble as giving. After all, He's waiting to receive us.

What about receiving love? Here's another adage: Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay, Love isn't Love 'til you give it away. We all desire love in our lives but I don't think love reaches its potential unless its received. Once again, it is just as blessed, and beneficial, to receive as it is to give. And hugs? They don't work without one giving and one receiving and both of them squeezing. And the list goes on.

This Christmas I hope you're blessed to give and receive.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Lights

Several years ago, somewhere between ten and fifteen, I was driving down the road on the late afternoon of a drizzly February day. Everything around me was gray: the road, the sky, the homes, my mood. I felt weary from a busy day and the gloomy atmosphere only added to my fatigue.

Then, in the midst of the gray, I came upon a beautiful sight - a home still brightly lit with Christmas lights. The contrast of the color to the dismal day was so striking I slowed my car to take it in. My first thought was "It's February. Enough already." my second thought was that they were lazy and hadn't taken the lights down yet. My third thought rang true. They had enjoyed the holiday season so much they didn't want to see it end. They were holding on to it by keeping up the lights.

I was jealous. The holidays had not been like that for me. It had been chaos from October on. So many events were on my calendar. I tried to create the perfect holiday atmosphere for my small children. We had parties and concerts and performances and presents. The list went on and on. By the time Christmas morning came I was miserable. I didn't enjoy the magic of Santa or the delight of opening gifts. I was too worn out from taking care of everything. For weeks after just thinking of Christmas made me physically sick.

Looking at the brightly lit house reminded me that something was wrong with the way I was celebrating Christmas.

For some reason I could not get the sight of that house out of my mind. Months passed but randomly my thoughts would jump to the color and the lights and the joy I felt from that simple display. It was a nudge to do things differently. I didn't know how.

As Fall came again and the holidays approached I felt a familiar tension. I loathed the idea of preparing for Christmas. I knew it was wrong but it had been so draining for so many years. When my husband suggested a family trip at the beginning of December I thought I was going to have to check into a mental institution.

It was the best thing that could have happened to Christmas.

We had to miss several parties which meant I didn't have to get presents or wrap them for great-nieces/nephews I didn't know. Instead our family had an awesome time in sunny California. It felt good. By the time we got home there was a big gap before family parties, which I did enjoy, and the one concert we now got to attend. The preparations for the holiday were much simpler. On Christmas Eve instead of a big dinner, we ordered pizza. And everyone was happy. Especially me. Christmas morning I felt the magic.

All because one family kept their lights up until February.

From that Christmas I learned I didn't have to do 'everything'. We opted out of gift giving at two family parties and eventually both of these parties were cancelled because I wasn't the only one feeling like the holidays were too busy. I bought neighbor treats instead of making them - and it was okay. We cut out some of the other activities I had assumed were so necessary to 'make the season bright'. I was better prepared for the parties and concerts that mattered because they were the ones I got to focus on. Christmas became fun. Now I love the season and the lights and the music. I'm still not punctual with the Christmas letter but that's one thing that doesn't have to be done by 12/25 - and I'm okay with that.

I still think about the February house. It not only helped me find a way to really have the Christmas Spirit, it got me pondering about light. Since then I've taken more notice of how lights penetrates darkness, of how we are drawn to light, and how it extends warmth and helps things grow.

 It seems very fitting that the Light of the World is celebrated with colorful lights on the holiday commemorating His birth. His light penetrates even the darkest of times. We are drawn to Him because He gives us direction and hope. His light warms our souls and helps us grow. His light en'lightens' us. It reduces our burdens and lifts us up. His light lasts longer than a 'season'. It is never ending.

I love Christmas Lights!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I know it's cliche to count blessings on Thanksgiving but it seems appropriate. Blessings can never be appreciated enough.

A few weeks ago I taught a lesson in YW on the importance of gratitude. This is one of those simple principles that seems to get overlooked yet has equal power with faith and prayer. In fact, the Lord said His wrath is kindled when we don't acknowledge His hand in all things. Gratitude reminds us of our dependence on God and helps us recognize what He's done for us. Sometimes we get caught up in the 'look what I did's' without remembering all we have can be traced back to Heavenly Father.

In that spirit...I'm going to count a few blessings.

I am grateful for the family I was born into. It was not an easy family. We had severe trials. It was difficult every day. Growing up I was very disappointed in my parents for their flaws and often wondered why Heavenly Father sent me to that home. As an adult I have more compassion for my parents - just because you're a grown up doesn't mean you have all the answers. I have been able to see the good I learned in spite of everything else. I know I am who I am because of who I was. I learned tolerance, persistence, fortitude, hard work, faith, and what not to do. I learned to love nature, people of diverse backgrounds and appearance, patriotism and passion for the right to vote. I developed an understanding of the arts, classical music and listened to, but never loved, opera. I can now honestly say, I am glad my mom and dad are my mom and dad.

I am grateful for my brothers and sisters. They are amazing people. In spite of difficulties that they could use as an excuse to be 'menaces' to society, they have graduated from college and/or become successful professionals. They are all awesome parents and good family members. They do many good things to help their communities. I think they are the greatest.

I am grateful for the family I married into. The Claysons and the families stemming from them are incredible. They have a strong family core and enjoy getting together often. We travel together, hang out together, holiday together, facebook together, celebrate together. I cannot imagine associating with better people. My in-laws have always shown me love, which I gratefully soak up. My brother and sister in laws have been my mentors for parenting and marriage. My nieces and nephews are astounding in the faithful way they live their lives. I am always in awe of all these family members and feel blessed to be a part of them.

I am grateful - SO grateful - for my children. Being a mother is my absolute favorite thing in the world. I have to admit, I approached this role with trepidation. Could I do it? I was plagued with doubts. And I wasn't even sure I could survive labor. It all worked out. It hasn't been easy. My children have often been the teachers when it should have been me. But we have learned and grown together. We have explored our 'world' with field trips and books and movies and games and time. We have had 'moments' of good and 'moments' of sad and even experienced contention. Shocker! I wouldn't trade any of it. I look at my children and can hardly believe they are mine. What incredible souls! They are good to me - even though I fall short of their expectations. They surprise me with their insights, their talents, their interests, their desires. I still feel doubts about my ability to do them any good but I love them and I am trying my best every day to mother them the way they need and the Lord expects.

I am grateful for my body. That may sound strange or egotistical. Believe me, it's not ego. One look at me would destroy that theory. But my body has been my companion for 46 years. it has taken me places and done things that I treasure. I have eyes to see, ears that hear, skin that loves to touch things [not sharp, sticky or itchy things] I can move about easily [except for my aching knee -grrrr] I can speak [can't sing] I can write, I can talk, I can cry, I can laugh, I can eat, I can work, I can relax, I can sleep, I can read, I store memories, I learn, I grow. I even heal when I am sick or injured. I enjoy the taste of chocolate and many good foods. My heart beats, my lungs breath, my stomach and other organs digest and utilize food without any effort on my part.  My body is amazing. It is a gift and even though I have mistreated it with junk food, it takes good care of me.

I'm grateful for the world and nature. This is a beautiful planet to be on. Isn't it amazing how all our needs are met here? we can grow our food, have the material to build homes, cars, buildings, boats, airplanes and all sorts of amazing things. We have a diversity of animals, plants, critters, and climates. It is populated with people with all kinds of gifts, talents, and skills. I have traveled many places and always been impressed by the people I met. [Not everyone is positively impressing but all leave an impression] Earth is a great place to call home.

I am grateful to know God is real. He lives, He's our Father. He loves and cares for us every minute of existence. We are His work and glory. I'm grateful He gave us scriptures, latter-day prophets, and the Holy Ghost so that we might know Him. I'm thankful He provided a plan with a Savior that brings us back to Him - to a place even more glorious than earth. I'm grateful Jesus Christ was willing to be the Savior.

I am grateful for the example of people who choose to count blessings even in the midst of great trials. Their faith strengthens and humbles me.

I could go on and on. There is so much to be grateful for and these are probably the most obvious. I know my life is greatly blessed. So I just had to shout it out on Thanksgiving.

And I'm thankful for Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday because it is just about who you are with. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


A few weeks ago my husband and I visited Chicago - it was mostly a business trip. I love big cities. They are so different from my home turf and have so much going on. I love to get the feel of the place, look at the people, see what they take pride in. I have to admit, Chicago was a surprise. I thought it would be a run down gangster city but it was beautiful. So clean and well laid out. A river ran through the middle of the city and there were pristine beaches along Lake Michigan. I hardly saw any beggars - which have been common in every other city I've been in. The people seemed happy and were friendly every where we went. We walked a lot and felt safe in each part of town we went to.

As we explored the city, I drove my husband crazy by stopping every few feet to take a picture of some object or building or other things that seemed to capture the essence of the city - the Chocolate Cafe', the architecture of the water towers, the ritzy stores, Portillos, Hard Rock Cafe', the skyscrapers, the beach, and so on. Chicago is known for its abundance of unique architecture. This is do in part to having the city burn down in the late 1800's and be rebuilt. I think credit also goes to Frank Lloyd Wright, a renowned architect, who lived there. we got to see the famed house he designed.

I got caught up in the smallest details of these sights, honing my camera in on specific spots of buildings and not just the entire thing. The details were what caught my interest because they are what make the city unique and are the things I wanted to remember when I got home. I tried to capture every little thing and paid careful attention to anything that seemed to say 'this is Chicago'.

As my husband and I were eating chili dogs at Downtown Dogs [in Chicago it is okay to eat hot dogs! apparently it is something they are known for just like Italian Beef, Deep Dish Pizza, and having two baseball teams] my hubby posed the question: What is Utah known for? Of course the immediate response it 'the Mormons and Temple Square, or skiing, or the 2002 Olympics'. But aside from that, we wondered what makes our cities and state stand out - what is our claim to fame? Maybe it would be Lion House rolls or saltwater taffy. Fry sauce would definitely be on the list. Other than that we couldn't come up with much. Even though we love it here we couldn't think of things to brag about.

That's when I wondered if I had ever looked at Salt Lake or Ogden or Provo or my hometown with as much scrutiny as I had Chicago. What details of my home state had I missed because they were so ever present I hardly noticed them?

During this same trip I spoke with a man from a New York City company my husband had been associated with. He lives in downtown Manhattan. I told him all the things that thrilled me about NYC. He nodded then raved about the view of the mountains from downtown Ogden. We both laughed that we got excited over things the other saw every day - and hardly noticed because they're just there.

It's so easy to ignore the obvious. The details of our lives blend in with the surroundings instead of standing out and being noticed. Since I've been home I've tried to be more aware of the details that make up my town and home and the people I love here. When we first moved here over twenty years ago and I thought our stay would be short, I used to love to explore different streets and parks. I liked the old buildings on Main St - they had character. I'm not sure when I began taking them for granted - probably when I got so busy keeping an eye on my kids instead of what was around us.

Details are small things that make the ordinary things become extraordinary. I don't know if I will ever visit Chicago again but going there awakened me to a sense that there are many things to discover all around us, every day and every where. And a camera isn't necessary to see them. All we have to do is open our eyes and minds - and see.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

The temperatures have dropped; there is a dusting of snow on the hills. Fall took its time this year but it came and now winter is on its way. Just like last year, and the year before and the year before that.

I'm glad Fall was a bit slower this year. It seems like the last few years Mother Nature has looked at the calendar and on September 1st marched right into cold, crisp weather. I like the changing of the seasons and I love the fall. More than January 1st, Fall feels like a new beginning with a school year just starting and all the 'new' things that go with it: clothes, notebooks, teachers, classes, etc. It's exciting to anticipate what lies ahead in the next months.

But it's also a sign that time marches on whether I want it to or not.

In high school I was in the play 'Fiddler on the Roof'. I was one of the townspeople. I wanted to be the second daughter who got to marry the school teacher but I couldn't/can't sing and Fiddler is a musical. Actually, I can sing but it isn't pretty to hear it. So, I was part of the town and really into my part. One of the best known songs from this play is 'Sunrise, Sunset'. It is sung during the oldest daughter's wedding by the parents as they reflect on how time has past without them hardly realizing it. They've gone day by day in their lives and their children have grown before their eyes. I remember thinking as we practiced that song over and over in preparation to perform it how true the lyrics were.

'Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly through the years. One season following another laden with happiness and tears.'

I was a senior at the time and thought I was so experienced in life and seasons. It's true I did have some experience - especially with the happiness and tears - but I really had no idea how fast seasons could change until I became a mother.

That is why I like Fall to come slowly. Each new school year propels my children further into their future and farther out of mine. This is a good thing, I know. It's the purpose for having them: raise them and let them go on to make their own contribution to the world. But it's also a sad thing. For me. I feel like I anticipated being a mother for years and although I will never stop being a mother, the time for my children being little flew by way too fast. When my kids were small I used to look forward to their independence and the time when they were in school so I could have more time for myself. The time for myself thing never has seemed to happen which I really don't mind. I am grateful to get more sleep.

The seasons have brought change. My two oldest, both girls, are now in college and on their own. Where did the time go? I'm proud of them. They are good people and doing good things. But I miss the times when I could carry them in my arms or snuggle in blankets to read a book or watch a TV show. I still have two boys at home but when I ask for more than a hug they roll their eyes. They do like to play games or watch 'Psych' with me so I'll take what I can get. I've loved the years and seasons with all of them. Life has been much more meaningful with them. I'm sad the time has gone quickly but I look forward to what the seasons bring for them in the years ahead.

Today, thanks to Standard Daylight time, I got to see the sunrise. Tonight, I will watch the sunset. Another day will have past moving me and my family forward. The holidays are approaching along with the season and I can't slow it down.

So, I will enjoy it -each sunrise, sunset and season of the year. And be grateful I have family to share the time with.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From Here to There

A few weeks ago my 7th grade son ran through the door after school barely stopping to drop his backpack and say hello.

"I have to build a boat," he said and rushed downstairs to our 'toy storage' to dig up his legos and lego table.
He brought them upstairs to his room, closed the door and proceeded to build. He didn't stop for his usual 'break' after school, wasn't worried about eating, friends, or watching TV. He had a purpose and he was excited.

The boat, I eventually found out, was for a science project. From the moment he found out about it in class to the time he got home he had been planning how he was going to build it. Of course it wasn't just for looks - the boat had to float too. I kid you not when I say he invested at least 50 hours in this project. He built the base, then tweeked it a bit, then tested it and tweeked some more. Our bathtub stayed filled for several days because he would run in and test floatation then go back and work some more. [he's the youngest so it was safe to leave water in the tub]

It was so fun to watch him. School is hard for him so to see him get excited about a school project was 'WOW'! Even when he had things just right he would work on it some more. Every free minute he was in his room adding to and grooming his boat.

When the day came to turn in the project I gave my son a ride to school. This was not a project he could take on the bus. It might get bumped or something. He had prepared a special box to take it in. He did not want anyone or anything to mess with his boat. He had worked hard and he was proud of what he'd done. I was proud too. Not because of what it looked like [it was a bunch of legos with styrofoam on the bottom] but because he'd applied himself, been creative, worked hard, and done this all on his own.

Well, out of sight, out of mind. I forgot about the boat because other things took my attention. About a week later it showed up in my laundry room [lots of things get dumped here because it is next to the garage door]. It wasn't in the same shape it was when I last saw it. Pieces were missing and the box was damp. I meant to ask my son about it but got distracted again - and it wasn't laundry day so I didn't need the space. But a few days later my son brought it and set it down in front of me.

"Here's my boat," he said.

"I saw it. How did it go? Did your teacher like it?" I asked, fully expecting he did the best in the class.

"It didn't float."

"What? I saw it. It did float." I was crushed. how could his boat not float?

He shrugged. "She put a pop can on it and it sunk. I thought I tested for heavy stuff but it still didn't work."

I didn't know what to say. He'd worked so hard, put heart and soul into that project and it didn't work. He looked so dejected. I felt awful.

Well, I thought on it for awhile. I did give him a hug and tell him I was sorry but I knew that wasn't enough. He'd worked hard. I worried he would not want to work hard in the future because this project had ended in 'failure'. I couldn't stand that. There was more to building the boat than the finished project. He had a great time builiding it and that's what I wanted him to remember.

So, I pulled him aside and told him that. I acknowledged his disappointment but reminded him of his excitement of having a project he felt he would be good at. We talked about what he'd learned from trying different ideas and seeing how they worked, how fun it was to have a purpose - a goal, for his time and efforts. It was a good talk. It didn't heal how bad he felt but I think he could see that part of the fun in building the boat was the process of doing it. The end result was not the most important thing.

A few years ago, we visited Nauvoo, Illinois. One of the things that impressed me as we walked around the homes and experienced activites/responsibilities the people did  to survive was the time it took to do things. It took two years for flax to be ready to use and days to build rope, make candles, make rugs, make shoes, even bake food. It was a way of life for them. They didn't mind the process because they knew what the results would be - and that the process was necessary for the correct result.

I guess it is human nature to focus on results instead of the process but we couldn't get to the end without the beginning, middle, and everything in between that gets us to the end. The process is where we learn and grow. The process has a lot to do with the final product.

In our fast paced world it is easy to forget the importance of 'the process'. So many things are instant from communication to food but the best things in life take time. I could list those 'things' but I won't. The thing I have learned, or am trying to learn, is it is okay for things to take time.

I have struggled with this because sometimes, in the middle of something I'm working on like losing weight, writing a book, raising kids, preparing church lessons, or other goals and responsibilities, I want to know everything will turn out all right before I'm done. I want to be assured that my investment of time and effort will produce the desired results. I want to know if it's worth it before I've even finished because if it isn't I want to do something else [not the raising kids part - I'll stick with that forever. I love being a mom]

It isn't even that I want things done faster, I'm willing to put in the time if I know things will turn out all right in the end. But I'm finding that doesn't happen. If I want to see how things are going to 'end' I have to keep going through the process.

I guess I should make a point. I think what I'm trying to say is sometimes things take time and we don't always know how it will all turn out but that's okay because the process is as important as the end result.

My 7th grader has recovered from his sinking ship. Today he got to touch a heart and lungs at school. Now he wants to be a brain surgeon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I was going to but...

In the nightstand next to my bed I have a letter from my cousin Jan. It's 3 pages front and back, hand written in her happy scrawl. She wrote it on the side of the freeway in Montana as she was traveling from one speech therapy job to another. She actually stopped to make time to write to me. I had written her because her brother Kee, also my cousin, had recently died from throat cancer. He lived in New Mexico and although they had not lived in the same home for over thirty years they were very close. Her family, my aunt, uncle, and cousins, are not religious but are very good people. They didn't talk much about how Kee's death affected them so Jan wrote about it. She is a talented writer, so good at expressing honest thought. I got to read the essay/article she wrote about dealing with his diagnosis and accepting his loss. It was very clever, going from her current point of view to reflecting on memories with Kee. I loved it. It was the only memorial we got for him because this family doesn't do funerals, only memorials, and that was held almost a year later at a family reunion and for only immediate family.

In her letter to me, Jan really opened up. She talked about why things happen and family dynamics and people and God and a whole bunch of other things. I read it over and over. She gave me much to think about. I planned on writing her back. I kept thinking of what I might say. I thought about it for more than two years, pulling it out from time to time, enjoying her words and thinking about what I would say when I finally got around to writing her back.

It's too late now. Jan died in a hiking accident on Sunday afternoon. I'm sad beyond words but as much as I feel her loss I am more upset with myself because I didn't take time to write her back. True, we have exchanged Christmas cards/letters and I have kept up on her through her parents. But I was going to write her and never did.

If I have one natural talent it is procrastination. My life is full of "I was going to but..." and then I have an excuse. I was going to visit so and so, I was going to write to so and so, I was going to take something to someone, I was going to tell someone how much they mean, I was going to write a book of advice for my adult daughters,  I was going to lose weight, I was going to exercise more regularly, I was going to finish writing my current work in progress, I could go on and on. I have plenty of 'I was going to's'.

Ironically, this is what I fasted about this past Sunday -  getting past the excuses and fears and actually getting things done. I doubt Jan's death had anything to do with that other than timing but it is certainly a big wake up call. I have such a weakness when it comes to self imposed deadlines and being determined to the end. I've done my own self analysis and recognize what contributes to this but I feel like excusing myself because of things in the past is just that - excuses.

I guess this blog, like most of my posts, is mostly a letter to myself. I have so much to learn. As much as I feel my cousin's loss, the loss is made greater by what I lost out on when she was here by not returning her letter and building a closer relationship. She was the happiest, most alive person I've ever known, making every place she entered better by her presence. And I missed out on that because I was going to write and didn't.

I hereby resolve to have more 'got it done's.'

Monday, October 11, 2010

Failure is not fatal

I had one of those 'a-ha' or 'wow' moments today. My husband and I have been participating in a fitness/weight loss challenge. We're both oversized and undertall. Anyway, it's a 12 week challenge and as part of the challenge we get to have personal training every other week.

I'm good at the aerobic stuff - I'm from the era of Jane Fonda, after all. But the strength training is a bit of a mystery to me - all those machines and what do you do with them? Our trainer, Bill, is showing us how its done. I've enjoyed it.

Until today.

This was our second session with Bill. He informed us the last two weeks were to see how consistent we'd be and get the body ready for more. Today he pushed us - and I mean push!

He showed us some of the hammer equipment [whatever that means] and during one of the repetitions where he'd kept adding weight to my machine and making me work harder he said something that caused an explosion of light bulbs to go off.

"we're trying to get you to the point of failure."


In weight lifting failure is a good thing. who knew??? Failure is the point where you have done all you can, given all you've got, and can't possibly do any more. This is why spotters are used - sometimes they help you get just one more rep. Then the next time you work out, the goal is to beat your last point of failure. wow.

I got to the point of failure today and I was really proud. It felt powerful to see what I could do that I never would have guessed I was capable of. I am already feeling it in the muscles, and I will be sore as heck tomorrow. [I might not be able to get out of bed - darnit] But it felt great. I would cheer for myself but my arms are to tired to lift.

Most of the time we associate failure with failure - rejection, loss, not taking first place. After today I will never look at failure as an end again. Failure is now the point where I've done all I can, given all I've got and don't have the strength to do more. It is the point where I'll step back, take a break, evaluate what I've done and after a bit of rest, it is the point I will try to best. It may take several tries. I might not beat failure the first time but it can and will be beat. The key is to keep trying and never quit.

There are so many ways this can be applied to life. I'll let you apply it your own way to your own situation. I know I needed the lesson because I often feel like I fall short. Now I have a new measuring stick - and failure will never be fatal again. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

What About Me?

A week ago I was going to blog a 'whine'. I kept putting it off hoping I could resolve the issue on my own and wondering why the situation was so bothersome to me. I'm glad I waited to do my venting. It got resolved during General Conference.

Here's how it started. I went to the Relief Society Broadcast. It was great. I enjoyed it. Except for one tiny little thing that got bigger the more I thought about it. The RS leaders travel the world and meet all kinds of wonderful and courageous women. I can't think of a broadcast where we aren't told about the good works being done or the sacrifices being made by women every where. This time there were stories of women in Africa and South America. Their circumstances are much different than mine. Their lives are inspiring. BUT - I thought as I listened to what they go through - what about me? I live in Utah and have since I was seven. I don't walk hours to do visiting teaching or take days to go to the temple. I have decent health, my children are immunized, well fed, attend safe schools, sleep in beds in their own rooms. I have electricity, a washer, dryer, dishwasher, indoor plumbing, a car, TV, iPod, books, etc. We have a garden but my life doesn't depend on it. I'm an average, middle-aged, overweight mother with challenges completely different than the women I heard about at the conference. The messages of the speakers were applicable in all walks of life but I got so stuck on that one thing - those women were different than me. I will most likely never have to make the kind of sacrifices they do. Therefore, no one will ever talk about me as an example of inspiration at an RS broadcast or any kind of church talk.

The more I thought about it the more I felt sorry for myself. Should I move so I can stand out more? What could I do for some noble sacrifice? Most of my life, since I live in Utah, I've heard this same message. Everyone outside of Utah is a better church member because they face greater difficulties. I bought into that. Then I went to Ricks College. I was the only Utah Mormon in my apartment and the only one who regularly attended all three Sunday meetings and optional Firesides. That surprised me. I thought my roomies would be stronger than me. Then I served a stateside mission with great expectation of seeing how the 'other half' lived. I won't go into details but it was disappointing. I was just as good, if not better, than the 'outside of Utah Mormons' - not that I was in competition or that my experience represented everyone. However, I had lived feeling 'less than' because I believed I wasn't as good as those who had to work harder at being a Latter-day Saint.

Because of that, I never planned on living in Utah as an adult. But I do. And I love it. I love where I live, I love the members and I have many opportunities to associate with people of other faiths. I thought I was over my Utah issues until last Saturday when they hit me again. I have no idea why my emotions were so vulnerable. I was not premenstrual and had had plenty of chocolate. But, like I said, I spent several days feeling sorry for myself, like I would never matter because I was so ordinary and a nobody who lived in a somewhat small town, in a small state on a big continent on planet earth.

So I wanted to whine. I wanted to vent. I wanted to feel like I did matter, even if my life is simple and my circle of influence is small. I've tried to do the best I can with what I have.

About midweek I got a simple answer to my prayers. "Count your blessings, not your talents". [When I prayed, 'talents' was my way of summing up what I thought I lacked by way of offerings]

Wow! When I did that my whole perspective changed. I realized Heavenly Father knew where I was and what I was doing and He placed me here. My cup runneth over with blessings. My pitcher runneth over. Heck, my swimming pool couldn't hold my blessings. Actually, I don't have a poo,l but if I did it would run over. I have been blessed with more than I can even say. I might not ever live in Africa but what I am doing is known of the Lord and this is my life.

I also felt like before I went off on an emotional outburst on a blog, I should wait for General Conference. So I did. Did you get to listen? Did you hear the first talk after Pres. Monson's opening remarks? It was Elder Holland and his entire talk was about the value of individuals in the church. Almost word for word he said some of the things I'd shared with Heavenly Father about the service I'd tried to give in my ward and town and wondering if that was as important to Him as the women who walked in dust for hours to do visiting teaching.

It is. An Apostle of the Lord said so.

Another leader also said sometimes we focus on what we lack instead of what we have. Guilty! It's not that I need more things. I just need more validation. I'm that insecure. But don't we all wonder how the Lord feels about our lives? As an adult I've noticed accolades are quite infrequent and in the church, if you do a good job, it most often is because the Spirit did most of the work. Its hard to need praise but know it isn't really me that should be praised. I'm just the instrument. Does that make sense?

I now realize what really bothered me, hurt me, when I heard those RS talks, was wondering if I matter. It was a needy moment. I know the RS leaders meant no harm in their messages and in truth it didn't harm me but helped me be ready to receive the message at General Conference that I do matter and all the little things I do may never make the news or stand out in anyway, but they are what I should be doing in my realm of stewardship.

I write this now in hopes that someone else out there in cyberworld may need the same reassurance I did and will know where to get it. I'm a bit ashamed that I'm so needy and spent several days feeling sorry for myself. But I'm not sorry for where the search led me or the answers I received. It isn't the first time I've gotten answers at General Conference, I hope it won't be the last. But I do know, in between times, that answers are always available from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They have always been there for me, even though my feet aren't dusty and my church is only two miles away. I wish I had musical or poetic talent to thank them appropriately, but words are all I have. So, as they say in the Book of Mormon, 'blessed be the name of our God.'

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a bird

I live near a bird refuge. It's awesome. at any time during the year there are a variety of beautiful birds to be found in the area. Sandhill cranes, swans, herons, doves, canadian geese, woodpeckers, bluejays, wrens, peregrine falcons, hawks, bald eagles, and a whole assortment of winged creatures I don't know the names for. of course there are the typical ducks, seagulls, starlings, magpies and crows but its the more 'exotic' birds that literally stop me in my tracks, or car as is more often the case, and watch.

My favorite is the White Pelican. I fell in love with pelicans when i worked in Pelican Alaska. It had no pelicans. I don't know how the small inlet town received its name. it did have an huge flock of bald eagles. Anyway, I love pelicans. Each year about this time, as they are migrating [it looks like they're going north to me instead of south] they gather in a huge cluster and play in the wind currents. it looks a bit like a funnel of birds. It always surprises me because usually birds fly in a V formation as if pointed in the direction of their destination. Not the pelicans - they play. This funnel of birds does move forward but very slowly. They circle around in perfect unison. in one direction they are brilliant white and when they turn you can see the black on the tips of their wings. it is graceful and beautiful to watch - like a dance. i really do stop and watch. It amazes me how synchronized the birds are and how unhurried they seem. They just enjoy playing in the unseen currents of the wind.

A few days ago I happened upon one of these pelican funnels. It was so captivating to watch their movements that I wished I had the ability to fly. I guess I wasn't the only one feeling envious of their fun. A hawk flew next to them and it kept pace with the slow progress by flying around them. His brown color looked like a splotch of mud compared to the stark white feathers. I wished he would get out of the way. He didn't. He stayed with the flock. Then I wondered - did he wish he could fly like they did? Did he want them to invite him into their fun? Hawks generally fly alone, not in groups. They always seems intense with their piercing eyes, sharp claws and beaks. Was he jealous of those big white birds? In that setting his movements seemed awkward and his color dark. But I have seen hawks fly and they are graceful too. They are swift and purposeful, observant and patient. When the sun hits their wings they beam with gold. Why would a creature like that want to be anything else?

I don't know if the hawk was envious of the pelicans or not. He may have been only a pest. But I learned something from that little episode. When they were side by side, the pelicans out shined the hawk - but only in that moment and only in my perception. The hawk was still an incredible creature and if I hadn't been contrasting it to the pelicans, if I had seen it soaring alone, I would have focused on its beauty.

 Each of has our own kind of beauty and grace. we do things our own way - and that's okay. But sometimes, when we are standing too close to another's form of beauty, we can't see our own and wish we were different. Their movement, color, purpose or whatever seems so much better than our own.

We can't all be pelicans. We have to be what we are. Nature seems so comfortable with itself. Humans are always trying to change things. I'm not sure what it is we are looking for or what we want to be that makes us unsatisfied. Maybe it is because we are spiritual beings and earth isn't really home. Maybe it is a form of distraction from Satan to get us distracted from what's really important. Maybe it is because we're always comparing ourselves to others, as if that is a true measure of how we are doing. We ought to do ourselves a favor and be comfortable with our own form of flight.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Important dates, significant people

Yesterday I took my daughters to college. one went north, one went south. i spent the whole day in the car and when I was alone in it, I had some emotional moments. My babies are gone! They have grown into beautiful young women and I'm glad they get to go to school but I will miss them. They have played such a significant role in my life. At least for me, parenting is more for me than for them. I know they're not gone forever but there's that element of it never being the same. They have been my closest friends for years [they wouldn't say the same about me but that's okay] We've done lunch, shopping, field trips, activities, worked, played, debated, had long talks, had disagreements, endured some tough growing pains and had lots of fun. I'm sure I've grown and learned more than they have. I am so grateful I could be there mother.

There have been other 'big' days this weekend too. My husband turned 47 - eek! I don't feel us aging but we are. We have been married 21 years. We embody the adage opposites attract. we're like static cling - and sometimes there's a lot of static. He is an early riser, I like to sleep late. He likes TV, I like books. He works, I play [actually, I work very hard but I like what i do, he just treats his job like work - which isn't a bad thing] He sees the world in black and white; I see color. He's serious, I'm playful. He likes to save money, I like to see it get put to good use. He has an incredible singing voice, I've always wanted one. He reads the headline news, I read the comics. He is practical, I'm imaginative. He is steady, I am hormonal. He is good at everything a man should be good at: sports, hunting, fishing, camping,  math, car repair, house maintenance, yard maintenance, leaving things around for his wife to pick up. I have never been quite sure where I fit - except that I love being a mother and taking care of our home. somehow we've managed to make things work. I wouldn't want to be with anyone else and feel so grateful the Lord led us to each other.

Yesterday, the 23rd, was the 23rd baptismal anniversary for Jackson Sonneborn. I taught him the gospel. He has taught me many things about life, particularly the importance of long lasting friendships. I met Jack my first day in York Pennsylvania. It was Thanksgiving. Somehow he was able to chew food and smoke a pipe at the same time. He'd been married a year to Sylvia and it was obvious he adored her. It was the second marriage for both of them and they had found their ideal match. But, Sylvia was a member of the LDS church - Jack was not. The Bishop who married them counseled Jack to support Sylvia in her church responsibilities. Jack loved Sylvia so he took that counsel to the limit. He attended church with her every week having prepared for it by reading both the Sunday School and Priesthood lessons. He was shocked to find out members didn't do the same. He listened to the missionaries so many times he could give them the lessons. He just wasn't ready yet. When I came along the area had just been turned over to sisters. He liked us and he listened. We committed him to baptism. the only trouble was we committed him in March and he wanted to be baptized August 23rd because that was the day he met Sylvia. I was being released from my mission on August 21. I was crushed. Well, things worked out so I could stay an extra few days and be there for the big day. It was wonderful and he and Sylvia have been close friends - because of their efforts - ever since. They still live in Pennsylvania and are serving as Family History missionaries now. They are in their late 60's and both have had some health problems but they continue to give generously of their time and talents. they are honorary members of my family and have endeared themselves to my children. What a blessing they have been.

This past weekend also marked a year since my friend Anne Peterson Creager passed away. I have thought of her every day and continue to learn from her short life. She had just turned 33 when she died and left behind a loving and best friend husband and three little girls which took miracles to get here. Anne had metastatic melanoma. it was her second battle with it. the first time they told her she was cured and didn't give her any instructions to continue to be checked. she moved to a different state and it was forgotten except for the scar on her arm. Then, while skiing almost 3 years ago, she fell. it wasn't a bad fall but her chest hurt for more than a week. when she finally got it checked and had an xray it showed a large tumor in her chest. During surgery they discovered the tumor was far larger than the xray showed and it was attached to her heart. Later scans revealed tumors in several places in her body. Anne's cheerful response to this was, "At least it isn't in my brain." She endured horrific chemo treatments only available in Colorado which required time away from her daughters and much sacrifice from family members for travel and extended stays. Her husband had recently graduated from dental school and was trying to build his clientelle. In order to help him keep his business several other dentists donated their time to care for his clients so he, Ward, could take care of Anne. Amazing people.

Anne tried every thing she could to stay with her precious family. Without the chemo her days were numbered. With it she gained 18 months. She was so optomistic and the doctors worked so hard with her that I thought she just might beat the odds. Thankfully she only had one week of  'the end'. She had some kind of brain accident and was in and out of consciousness for a few days before she passed. the way she spent her coherent hours is evidence of the kind of person she is/was. She focused on the blessings and miracles they'd experienced during the trial and how Heavenly Father's plan made it possible for she, her husband and girls to be a forever family. She emphasized to her daughters that the choice she and their father had made to marry in the temple meant she would always be their mother even if she weren't around and some one else raised them. I'm sure it comforted Anne to know her daughters would always be hers, even if she couldn't see them their whole lives through.

I knew Anne longer sick than I knew her healthy. We shared a love of writing and were in the same writing group. She was the sweetest, gentlest, happiest, faithful person I've known - a true handmaid of the Lord. This was a completely rotten ordeal but she never wavered in her trust in the Lord. In her final blog she expressed feeling peace. I know this is because she submitted to the Lord's will and believed He could make this horrible thing work for good. if you would like to see her blog, family photos, and follow the courageous battle go to wardandannecreager.blogspot.com  It's called 'This home is built on love and dreams"

I know I learned a lot from this. I learned this life is not about this life. It's a small part of an eternal life. we've lived before, we'll live again. we'll always be alive - in different realms. if mortality were all this tragic event would really be tragic. instead it is only a test. not that that makes it any less difficult. it just helps it be bearable.

Anne and I also shared a love for the musical 'Wicked' and Kristen Chenowith's portrayal of Galinda [the first 'a' is silent][that's a quote from the play] So in conclusion to this long blog on important people and dates I am going to include the lyrics of a song from the play. It's called "For Good" and I'd like to dedicate to all the people who have and continue to affect my life for good.

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
and now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend:

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you:

Because I knew you:
I have been changed for good

Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better?
And because I knew you:
Because I knew you:
I have been changed for good.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Life is an Open [face]Book

Last night I went to a ward party - a picnic at the park. It took me ten minutes to get from the food line to my seat because I kept getting stopped to ask about an upcoming trip and other things happening in our family. It surprised me how much people knew about what our family was doing. I finally decided to ask how they knew about such and such. The answer: "Oh, your kids wrote about it on facebook."

I don't do facebook. It takes time I need for other things. I think it has some great perks. for instance, I like looking over my children's shoulders at their photos and those of family and friends they are 'friends' with. They know more about my brothers and sisters than I do. But I am not comfortable putting my life on display. It would be nice to check in and see what's up with acquaintances from the past but the present needs my attention now. and, for the most part, i have kept in contact with people from the past that I want to keep in my life.

Technology has such an interesting way of keeping us in touch without touching and informed about things we don't really need to know. But its fascinating how easy it is to do it. I remember the days of pica and elite type setting with only one choice of fonts. [Back then a font was a place to be baptized.] We had 'White out' for mistakes and typewriters instead of printers and computers. Calculators were exciting.

I may not enjoy all that the lateset technology has to offer but I have my favorite 'aps'. I like watching my TV shows on the computer while i clean the kitchen - less commercials and i can work and watch at the same time. I love my iPod even though I am still learning to access its full  potential. I am much better at correspondence thanks to email and love the ease of typing vs. handwriting. I like finding information at the touch of my fingers instead of going to the library, looking things up in the card catalog, searching for the books, searching the books for the needed information and lugging the whole stack around. I like having a printer in my home. I really enjoy the ease of storing and sorting photos. I am years behind on my hard photos and up to date on my digital ones.

I prefer the book of my life to be open only to those I choose to let read it - not the world at large. Although, someday if I am famous, I may change my mind on that. :) In the meantime, my kids have been told to be a bit more discreet about what they reveal on facebook.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You know you're a homeowner if...

You know you're a homeowner if you are willing to shell out more for new windows than you've ever paid for a vacation and be okay with it. of course, rebates and tax credits do help. and the thought of actually seeing out the windows instead of looking at condensation that's built up for YEARS. here comes the sun!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weed and Write

Today I got to weed the garden. Usually my husband does it but he had a long 'to do' list and I had a short one [shock!] So I offered to help - anything to get out of the house. I planned on listening to my iPod but didn't remember to get it until I had already donned the crocks and gloves and gathered all the tools. I had to settle for using my imagination.

Like Anne Shirley, I have a great imagination. It has saved me from boredom many times and distracted me when I was supposed to be paying attention even more often. Usually my thoughts wander one of three directions: the story I am currently working on, some other random plot that's running around in my head, or symbolism. The last is due to my high school English and Creative Writing teacher who taught her classes to look for symbolism in everything.

Today my thoughts went to symbolism. How could they not when I stood in a garden - the mecca of symbolism. The scriptures speak of sowing what we reap, Alma teaches of faith growing like a seed, and the infamous Jacob 5 describes the necessity of grafting and pruning.

As I hoed and shoveled and raked in an early morning rain, I likened my efforts to life and writing. I had some very profound thoughts :) - at least i thought so at the time. I'll try to do them justice.

A garden has dirt, a.k.a. soil, and seeds, plants and weeds. Success depends on quality of seeds, nutrients, and care. Before seeds are planted the soil needs to be prepared. This may involve compost, tilling, raking, fertilizer, nitrogen, and outlining what will be planted, how many rows, and when the ideal time for germination will be. At the beginning and end of each growing season, my husband treats the soil and takes care of it so it will be able to produce food for us the next year. He rotates where he plants seeds so the soil can replenish. He often consults with his father, who kept a garden for nearly 50 years.

Undoubtedly, not all the plants will grow. There are forces of nature like bugs and weeds that weaken the plants. There are also people like me who don't always know the difference between plants and weeds and hack down both.  ["what happened to the chives?" "Chives? So that's why I thought i smelled onions when I was weeding over there."][fyi - chives look like tall grass]

Writing a story is like planting a garden. It starts with a fertile [get it?] imagination and an idea. the idea is a seed that grows over time with plotting [see how much symbolism there is in a garden?] and careful planning and outlining [see above paragraph for the analogy]. Even the most carefully attended plots need a bit of pruning and revising, even some restructuring for ideal growth. Sometimes situations will come up when the skill of someone more experienced is needed. It's nice to have other gardeners to talk to and learn from their expertise. Inevitably there will be things that need to be weeded out. that can be the toughest part, trying to figure out what really is a weed - what can be left in, what needs to be taken out. Even then there will be parts that bug some people. Not every one will like what you plant in your garden. At the end of the season, the harvest can be shared. Sometimes your product will sell and other times, the only people who enjoy the fruits of your labor are close friends and family.

Is that a corny analogy or what?

Now, for life. I've been reading a book by Wendy Ulrich called "Weakness is Not a Sin". It is a great book, I highly recommend it. I couldn't help thinking of some of her insights as I was weeding. As the title implies, she focuses on distinguishing between weakness and sin. She states that many people confuse having weaknesses with being weak instead of realizing they are an important part of life, even necessary to help us achieve our potential. They humble us and help us to rely on the Lord. Sin, on the other hand, may be caused by weakness, but leads us away from Christ.

Weeds are like weaknesses. They will always be part of a garden. We could feel like a failure as a gardener because we can't keep the weeds away or realize that weeding gets us in the garden where we constantly see what needs to be tended to. Like weeds, weaknesses often pop up just when we thought we were getting stronger. Again, we could feel defeated or be thankful the Lord is showing us other places that need attention.

Bugs are like sins. They are destructive. If not controlled or removed the crops may become diseased. It is important to get rid of them quickly before the damage is irreverible. Of course, almost all sins can be forgiven so we should never give up. Gardening is a lifetime process.

Well, those are my insights. I had more but I keep getting interupted and lose my train of thought. But I've said enough. I love symbolism. It's all around us, all the time. Thanks to my afore mentioned teacher I find messages in almost everything.

It's time for me to get back to weeding - my life, that is.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


A few weeks ago I blogged about forwards, dedications and other personal author tidbits that are printed with books. As I was browsing some of my favorite blogs, I wandered onto Writers in Heels and found that Janette Rallison/Sierra St. James had a contest about that same time to guess which movie set she would have snuck onto - and it was Battlestar Galactica! She has a picture of her with the real live Richard Hatch, a.k.a. Apollo. I am soooooooooo jealous and he still looks good. I don't know if this link will work but if you want to check it out, you can see who Ms. Rallison dedicated one of her books to. [I tried downloading the photo but I have to make it a jpeg and I'm too lazy]

Incidentally, today I watched one of my Galactica DVD's. Technology and television have changed since 1978 but I still like the show.


Dumb and Dumber Addendum

Friday night my 19 year old daughter called her father in a panic.

"You've got to come help me RIGHT NOW!" she said.

"What's the problem? are you okay?" he asked.

"I'm fine but I locked the keys in the truck while it was still running," she cried.

There's dumb, there's dumber, and then there's dumberer. Like mother, like father, like daughter. sigh...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dumb and Dumber

Friday morning I had to drive Scott to Ogden to pick up the scooter [yes, scooter. also known as mo-ped] that we had repaired. When we drive distances [we consider Ogden a distance - that's how small Brigham is] we take his commuter car to save on gas. I don't like this car. it is very compact even for a compact car AND it is a stick shift. which means I have to concentrate when I drive. This interfers with my day dreaming. But, I needed to run some errands down there and thought it would all work out great. the repair shop opened at 9 and I assumed the main store I needed to go to also opened at 9. it didn't. so I had to kill time for an hour. Fortunately for me one of my favorite places was open - Deseret Book. They had just marked down their Lion House Bakery products which felt like a bonus to me - books and bakery, woo-hoo! I picked up cinnamon rolls because they didn't have raisins. my kids don't like raisins in their rolls, so I justified it as an opportunity I couldn't pass up. They also had brownies. mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. mint and regular. one of my sons loves mint brownies, so I got them too. I also picked up a few books.

Soon 10:00 came and I ran to the store I needed most to get too and made a return and got distracted by being in a big department store all by myself. About 10:25 I glanced at my watch and suddenly remembered I had an appointment at 11 in Brigham. I had purchases to make but thought if i hurried I might still make it in time. It was 10:40 when I got out of the store and almost 10:50 by the time I got on the freeway. I got behind every slow car possible. the three lanes become two near the county line and, although the speed limit is 75 every one drove 70 or less!!! and it is difficult to pass on the freeway because of the diesels heading to the Port of Entry, plus only two lanes, slow traffic and the stick shift. I called my appointment to let her know what was going on. She was fine but I was frazzled. getting off the freeway I had to wait for a train [after following behind another slow car on a single lane] By the time I got to my appointment [almost 15 minutes late] I was mad at myself for being an airhead, frustrated at the cars that moved so slow and completely wound up.

I also had another problem - what to do with the brownies and cinnamon rolls. I couldn't leave them in the car because they'd be ruined in the heat. My appointment would take about 1 1/2 hours. I hurriedly shoved them into the shopping bag, grabbed the bag and jumped out of the car, locking it as I leapt.

And forgetting to remove the keys from the ignition.

In my worries to protect the treats I forgot to get the keys. This would not have happened if I had been driving the truck. It doesn't have automatic anything and I am used to the getting out of the car routine. but with my mind racing everywhere I totally forgot the keys - until the door shut.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to swear. I called my daughter who was leaving in half an hour for the weekend and begged her to leave her packing to bring me a spare. which she did.

 Oh, the appointment was for a massage. I wasn't going to admit that because it sounds so frivolous but the irony of getting so worked up and stressed out right before is kind of funny. and while it is a bit self indulgent, it has been one of the best things I've ever done for my health. I originally went in for help with all kinds of neck and back trouble. It has healed that and cured other ailments too. It produces a natural cleansing and releases toxins from the muscles. I like non-traditional medical treatments [not the freaky things just herbs, oils, massages, etc]

Anyway... locking the keys in the car was dumb but it ended up okay. Then things got dumber.

My neighbor needed a ride to a doctor appointment. My husband was home but needed the truck for something so I had to use the stick shift again. I went to the doctor, took the neighbor home and as I came to our driveway from a different direction than I normally do, saw my son and his friends in the midst of a water fight and decided to park behind the truck - which had returned before I did - so the boys would have more room to play. No big deal right?

About 9:30 pm - many hours later, two of our children returned from Youth Conference and needed to go pick up their camping gear from one of their leaders. Scott nicely volunteered. Moments later he came back in the house.

"Would you like to see what I just did?" he said.

No. I could tell it was bad news.

Did I mention the stick shift is dark blue? and can't be seen well at night? especially by someone not wearing his glasses?

Yep, Scott backed the truck into the compact car. The truck is fine, the door of the car is not.

Who could have guessed Scott would take the truck when he usually takes his little car?  I'm not sure how this story will end. will the car keep the dent or will we spend $1000 to get it repaired?

This is my version of Dumb and Dumber.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Forwards, Afterwards, and Acknowledgements

Not long ago I read 'The Actor and the Housewife' by Shannon Hale. I still haven't quite decided what I thought of it - kind of quirky, clever, a bit slow in parts but well written. My favorite part of the book came in a little paragraph of author's notes. It said something like "beware of what you say around authors. we are always listening and you never know what may end up in a story". That is, of course, paraphrasing but I laughed when I read it. I thought I was the only person who saved little tid-bits from life to put in stories. I'm finding out many of us authors think alike - that's why it's so fun to be around them. And fiction is created out of real life. In every story I've written there has been an element of true experience and many things I've garnered over the years from roommates, friends, someone I saw in the store. Occassionally I even see people who look just like my fictional characters and think, "wow, they're real!"
Forwards, afterwards, dedications, and acknowledgements are a way for the reader to see the personal side of the author. One of my favorites is found in Janette Rallison's book 'Masquerade'. at least I think that's the one. She dedicates the book to Apollo from Battlestar Galactica [the original series, not the current inferior version] I LOVED Battlestar Galactica and had a major crush on Apollo. If nothing else were written in the book i would have enjoyed it just because of that dedication. [the book became one of my favorites] I felt like I had a kindred spirit in the author.
In Stephanie Grace Whitson's forwards we share her love of family, her reasons for writing, her husband's cancer diagnosis, her faith as she endures his illness, her sorrow at his death, and rejoice when she remarries and blends her family with another one. It's only a few sentences of a personal glimpse in someone's "real' life, but it makes a connection.
My favorite acknowledgements right now, are in Josi Kilpack's novels - because I am mentioned in them. :)! It may be the only way my name ever gets in print. Okay, it's not just because of my name - it is nice to be acknowledged. We are in the same writing group [thanks to Josi's invitation] It has been a great experience and I have learned so much. It has definetely helped me hone my skills. We help each other and our stories are stronger because we work out the 'bugs' before it ever goes to an editor or print. We share ideas and insights. We support and encourage. We even give therapy as needed. :)
WHEN I publish I will need an entire chapter to thank all the people who've influenced and helped me. Life is full of miracles and I am astonished at how things come together. The Author of miracles has been the greatest help of all. I hope my writing reflects faith in Him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Our Alaskan Cruise

if i were better at blogging i could put captions beneath each picture but some photos, like the two just above, don't really need any description at all. they speak volumes all on their own.
my normally tight-wad, exceedingly frugal, can't pry a dollar with a crowbar, husband got this idea awhile back about taking our kids to Alaska. In my dreams, I thought. But when Scott gets an idea in his head he carries it out. of course he found all sorts of ways to make it cheap [he should write a book on traveling inexpensively, he's good at it. like traveling during non peak times, using AmEx credit card for sky miles, bidding on priceline for rental cars and hotels. we've gone some fun places because he's figured out some great tricks]
The first week of June we sailed for Alaska. This was actually the fourth time Scott and I have been there. I worked at a cold storage in Pelican, AK for the summer when i was 19. Scott went fishing with his father, brother and brother in law, and we have been on two other cruises [one was a gift from Scott's parents, the other with his brother, uncle and their wives]. Alaska is a place that gets in your heart. it is beautiful and unique. I would go back again.
other than a few bouts of sea sickness [which were mild until we went fishing - Kell spent 5 hours on the fishing boat leaning over the side :/] we had a fun trip. we hiked the mountain top in Juneau and rode the tram, oo'd and ah'd at Hubbard Glacier, fished and caught! in Sitka, and cheered for the lumberjacks in Ketchikan. we enjoyed great food. i love the 'no cleaning, cooking, nagging the kids to do their jobs' time. Scott and the kids participated in ping-pong tourneys - scott won every time. [his ego couldn't handle losing] when we got back to Seattle we spent the day in the city center and drove around some areas where Scott served on his mission. we came home exhausted and happy. it was a great experience. I'm so glad we got to do it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I'd rather be Writing

The first time I consciously remember knowing I wanted to be a writer was in 7th grade. my homeroom teacher asked each person in the room what they wanted to be when they grew up then wrote it down. I'm not sure what the purpose was - maybe that was the beginning of  the SEOP's my kids have now.

 I was one of the last to answer [I was so focused on myself - because I was 12 years old - that i didn't pay attention to what the other kids said] When Mr. Harris finally got to me I confidentally said, "A writer."

 At that point in my life I had lived in Utah about 5 years and no longer correctly pronounced my 'T's'. They sounded more like 'D's'.

"A rider?" my teacher asked.

I started to say 'No' then stopped myself. I did want to be a rider too - a jockey. my love of books was equaled only by my love for horses. unfortunately, the only horses I owned were Breyer statues and, although my size was right, I was the wrong gender to be a jockey.

"No. A writer," I said, making sure to emphasize the 'T'.

I really don't know where the idea to write came from but I devoured books. I was an uncoordinated, untalented, imaginative child. The only thing I was really good at [besides testing my mother's patience and tormenting my younger sister] was reading. I probably read a book a day. Most of them were Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and Little House on the Prairie but I expanded into books that took me all over the world, to different cultures, different times and places, even different realities. It was an escape and entertaining.

Maybe it was the combination of receiving my first journal and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder that spurred the idea of writing my own stories. In my journal was reality; in my stories was my effort to understand that reality. My family was very imperfect. We would be called dysfunctional in today's terminology. [I love them all and have learned some insightful things in my adult years that have helped me come to terms with some of the things that went on.] In my stories I could take a fictional character and put them in situations like the ones I faced and let him/her deal with it. Usually the character was much braver, wiser, prettier, smarter, and more lovable than I felt I was and came out triumphant in every difficulty. Sometimes I wouldn't finish stories because I didn't know how to. But putting down the words helped me sort out life.

I took a Creative Writing class my senior year of high school and thought I would major in English in college so I could focus on writing. It didn't happen. I didn't click with any of my English professors [they are so picky about writing style! :) ] I fell in love with another major and eventually graduated in it. In the ensuing years I had no time to read anything frivolous, let alone write. my dream was pushed to the background as life took Its own direction.

I still found myself doing character profiles when I was in a crowd, or coming up with story plots for people. It wasn't until I'd been married a few years that I came up with one idea I thought would really make a good story. I had the whole thing worked in my mind. I'm sorry to say it stayed in my head for several more years as I 'thickened' the plot. I toyed with the idea of writing it down but I was busy being a mom and had kind of given up on the writer idea. I prayed about it off and on because I really wanted to do it but taking the time seemed so frivolous, especially if it never got published. I finally came to the conclusion to forget about it because I had only come up with one plot and if I truly wanted to be a writer I needed to have more than one idea.

That night I had a dream. when I woke up my first thought was, "that would make a great plot." I thought of it all day and came up with a story. And that was all. A week later it happened again - a dream with a good plot. And then it happened again. This time it really got my attention [remember it took the Nephites 3 times to hear the Lord, too] I realized I'd been getting some pretty blatant inspiration. I wrote the ideas down. Since then I have continued to have dreams with good plots [yes, i do enjoy sleeping and dreaming]. I haven't kept track of all of them because I'm trying to focus on the projects I have at hand.

My story isn't done yet. I did start writing but the guilt for doing something that seemed dreamy and anti-productive compared to family history, scrapbooking, quilting, or even house cleaning kept winning out. even with the dreams and really feeling I'd received them in answer to prayer, I still had doubts.

Then I met Josi Kilpack. She lives near me and had a book signing at our local bookstore. a few weeks later she hosted a book talk. I nearly didn't go but on the postcard for the event it said she would answer questions about writing. I went. She was awesome and saw right through to what was troubling me.

"There are a lot of choices out there for your time," she said, "BUT, if you need to do it to be fulfilled, do it."

Ah-ha!!! as Oprah would said say. That was the key. Writing never left me because I needed to do it to be fulfilled.

I attended my first Writer's Conference that year. It was put on by LDStorymakers, of which Josi is a part. There were about 70+ attendees. I made a good friend - Stacy Henri. I was awed to be in the presence of many of my favorite authors including Josi, Janette Rallison, and Rachel Nunes. More than anything I felt like I'd found 'my people'. I was surrounded by others who thought like I did and saw life as many plots all put together. It was so incredible. I came away with a huge headache and tons of information on how to write.

A year later I attended the conference again and that summer Josi invited me [after I'd been begging all over northern Utah for a writing group] to join her writing critique group. It included Ronda Hinrichsen, Jody Durfee, Ann Creager [who has since passed away - story for another time] and N.C. [Nancy] Allen. It has been a great experience to rub shoulders with them and hone my talent with their help.
Two weeks ago, I attended my fourth conference in 5 years. [this time there was about 470 in attendance - wow] I submitted two chapters in the First Chapter contest - one in romance and one in general fiction. I cannot put into words [even as a writer] the thrill it was to get a 2nd place award in general fiction and a $50 prize. [200ish entered the contest but I don't know how many were in each of the five categories] For the first time in my life i felt like I could really do something. [no, i am not trying to sound pathetic] I knew I had made progress in the last five years and this helped me feel it and has given me confidence to believe there may actually someday be a published book with my name on it.

Because I'm a whimsical person, it is hard for me to sit down and make myself write so that is my next emphasis. I do try to write every day but moods and life tend to get in the way. Having my writing group helps me produce and improve. I don't know what I'd do without them. They are patient and positive with me. this whole process feels like a set of mini-miracles that have led me to where I am. I really want to entertain, educate and inspire with writing.

 In fact, I think I will go work on a chapter right now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

You Got that Right

My youngest, known as Pete for this blog, has had syntax 'problems' his entire life - meaning his sentence structure can be very interesting. It's not a bad thing. I like his unique understanding of our difficult American English language. For instance, he calls Lucky Charms were Chucky Worms. His hearing is good, his processing is the challenge. He can seem like an airhead, not to be harsh, because he's off in another world, but he is better able to understand things if he is on the move. so he is the one kid we don't harrass for moving around during 'supposed to be reverent' family times.

This is a long introduction for a funny Pete story but I had to explain him so the story is understood.

A couple of days ago we got his soccer game schedule. As we were looking at it I mentioned he had a game every Wednesday for the next two months. He thought about that for a minute then said, "I guess it's a good thing I'm not twelve yet."
I asked why.
He said, "Because when I'm twelve I have to go to those meetings every Wednesday night. What's it called...Relief Society?"

He needs to spend more time with his dad.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter, Happy Conference

When I was a young girl one of my favorite things to do was rearrange my room. I don't know why. But I was frequently found moving my bed, shelf and dresser into different positions. It took hours and must have driven my mother crazy [except for the fact that it was the only time i dusted]. One of the joys of blogging is I can 'rearrange' my blog wallpaper easily and whenever i want. It is far less sweaty and just as satisfying.

this is my favorite time of year. not because of spring, or Easter, or longer hours of daylight. I love it because of General Conference. My reasons are kind of selfish. as a mom i do a lot of giving to others. its great and i love it but often i find myself more expended than renewed because of the demands of nurturing my family. Then General Conference comes along and for two days i can sit in the comfort of my home [usually] and listen to leaders of the Church as they speak to my soul. I feel uplifted, strengthened, redirected, validated and purposeful. I am always thrilled when something that i have been thinking about is one of the topics. I am awed by the power of the spirit to carry the message to my heart. i feel so blessed for this opportunity and write it in big letters on our calendar. I want my family to know that weekend will be focused on Conference because I need it.

I hope you got to enjoy it too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thanks, Melissa!

My friend Melissa has been back in town for a few days and she helped doctor up my blog so it looks much better and I have a better idea of what i'm doing. Thanks, Melissa.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How long is 'awhile'?

It has been months since I posted but, in all fairness, those months are some of the busiest of the year. I have been writing blogs in my head. Whenever something noteworthy happens I think about how I'll blog it. Like most things in my life, it stays a thought instead of an action. Here are some of the blog ideas I had:
Swine Flu: got it. this was way back when the epidemic was thriving. my symptoms were so vague I didn't know I had it until I started to cough. other than that it was extreme fatigue, chills but not fever, and very achy. it lasted two weeks. My husband and I shared this illness literally at the same time. Within minutes of each other we would get the same symptoms. it became laughable and is the most insync we've been our entire relationship. :)It was not the horrible illness the news made it out to be, although I admit I know several who had it worse than we did. The good news is - I don't have to get the shot!
The Annual Easter Egg Hunt: aka "Where did I hide those Christmas presents?" every year i search for the best hiding spots and every year I find them - and forget them. This is how Christmas lasts all year at our house. every now and then someone will say, "what's this?" and I will say, "Oh, that's where I put it. Merry Christmas." it's kind of like finding Easter candy on the 4th of July.
Counting Blessings: Thanksgiving should be an all year event too. I'm grateful for wonderful [most of the time] children, a husband who's a great provider, eyes that see, ears that hear, a body that moves with ease [most of the time] a home, my appliances, indoor plumbing, clean water, my bed and fluffy pillow, my furnace, chocolate, blue skies, white snow, green grass, multi-colored plants, sunshine, rain, books - the good kind, friends, my writing group, writing, relatives [really. i love them all - on both sides of the family] scriptures, church, opportunities, traveling, time. I could go on and on but I think you get the idea. My life is BLESSED!

there are other things I could add but this week I have been sick again and thinking is like pulling cotton threw a straw. This time it is a yucky cold. I have used up an entire box of Kleenex and the wads are every where. My kids like it when i'm this way because I am dozey and they can manipulate me very easily.
I am excited for the month of March because my favorite color is green and I get to decorate my house with it. Plus the leprachauns come visit and we get to search for a pot of gold! [it's usually made of chocolate]
we have a new computer so I am learning new functions and very soon may add photos to this blog. I can't wait. I will feel so smart.
Hopefully the luck of the Irish will be with me enough that I blog more this month.