Monday, March 30, 2015

Mommy POWER!

by Kasey Tross

This week's post kind of snuck up on me, but it's because I'm very involved in another project right now: organizing my mind.

If that sounds like a daunting task to you, you should know that it IS a daunting task- but I do have help. That help is coming in the form of Mind Organization for Moms, a program created by a group called Power of Moms.

First, let me rewind and tell you about this group. Power of Moms is a very cool site/organization whose main purpose is to provide training and support for those of us doing the hardest and most important job in the world: motherhood! I had first heard of this site through Shawni Pothier's blog, 71 Toes. I think she's a cool lady, and I like a lot of her ideas and philosophies when it comes to motherhood, so when this group name popped up again on my radar, I took notice. It popped up in the form of a big discount being offered on a program they have called the "Power of Moms Learning Circle."

The Learning Circle is a curriculum designed for groups of moms- basically, you gather your best mommy friends and each person buys the curriculum. Then, you meet once a month to discuss the article for the month- kind of like a book club/support group/moms night out. We've been doing ours now for 6 months and I LOVE it. We gather one evening each month and we share our struggles and our successes and everything in between. I have learned so much from the program and, most importantly, from the ladies in my circle. They are amazing!

Lest I start sounding like a commercial, I should point out that the Power of Moms site offers a ton of free resources for moms as well. My favorites are the blog posts and podcasts- whenever I read or listen to one, I always feel like I've gained some insight and had some feelings validated, and I come away feeling refreshed and ready to tackle this big job I do every day with greater enthusiasm and determination.

So anyway, right now I'm up to my eyeballs in this mind organization program, which is based off the book, "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" by David Allen. At the moment it all seems extremely complicated to me, but the M.O.M. program assures me that once I get through this hard part of setting myself up for success, it will all be downhill from here.

Speaking of power and success and downhills, I completed my THIRD 10k on Saturday! And I did it a heckuva lot faster than I thought I would! And it was FUN even! I think I was smiling the whole time, despite the fact it was in the 30's with below freezing wind chills. Of course, today my knees are totally on strike and my right hip has given me its official resignation, but just give me a few days- maybe a week- and I'm sure I'll have talked them all into running with me again.

(to read about my experience doing my first 10k, click here)

Sunday, March 29, 2015


By Beckie Carlson

One of my favorite parts of working where I do is the commute. You would expect me to say it is short or pretty or filled with awesome drive-thru restaurants, but that is not why. I do have to admit that it does have some beauty, the sunrise out here on the edge of civilization is pretty amazing. These days I have to work hard to position the visor so my retinas don’t get charred, but it is pretty. I drive amongst a bunch of drones that don’t annoy or fill me with joy. The drive isn’t long. But, the best part is who I drive with.
A big reason I stay at my school is I can drive my boys to school every day. They attend the school on the same big campus. I can go visit them at lunch if I really want to embarrass them. I can also keep an eye on alien attacks or herds of wild dogs from my classroom window. It’s pretty convenient.
There are two ways to get to school. One way is new, clean, and long. The other is dirty, dusty, and quick (cuz you can ….go faster….). The boys and I decided we would forgo the nice new roads in favor of saving an average seven minutes of driving each day. Yes, we actually timed it and figured that out.
Going the back way, we have experienced a sort of prophetic phenomena. After going down a fairly long straight road from our house, we make a 90 degree turn to the right. As soon as we turn, we can see the Gilbert temple off in the distance. It is quite a distance away, so the first time we saw it we were kind of shocked. It stands, as a beacon to us across the wild desert. After driving for a few minutes, the temple seems to disappear, as though it was never really in sight. We search and squint and strain our eyes and necks to see it, but it is not to be seen. Just before we have to make our next turn, there’s the temple, peeking out from behind some trees.
The rational explanation for the temple coming and going from sight is obviously a change in the height of the road we are on, but the spiritual application is better. I told my boys that seeing the temple is like the Spirit or inspiration. At times, we are right on track and we can see everything clearly. Other times, we may still be moving forward, but the goal is not quite as clearly in sight. This is where our faith steps in and we have to just keep on driving. The temple doesn’t move, our Heavenly Father doesn’t move, but sometimes….we go up and down on our path to them. Good times, bad times, trials, choices….all of these things are going to be on our road. Our job is to keep on driving. Keep on looking for our end goal. Keep on having faith that it will all work out for our good.
And of course, every now and then, play Bohemian Rhapsody at full volume.
Cause I said so.

Photo credit:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Power of a Little Kindness--Mercy

Today I am going to be attending a memorial service for a sweet and lovely lady I've been able to interact with on occasion. She's my sister-in-law's mother, and so we would sit and chat at gatherings with their family. Over the past almost twenty years, I've just become so fond of this woman--by the same token, her daughter is much the same, although not to the same degree (sorry, Michelle, but you know it's true, and it's not an insult to you, it's a compliment to your Mom, because you know how much I love you). 

Why do I like being around her so much? It's very simple, really. 

She is kind. 

She is funny, and smart, and talented, and many other things, but just by the simple kindness of her nature, she drew me to her when I had a chance to chat. We never had deep conversations about the meaning of the world, but she was just like a breath of fresh air in the often frenetic and stressful atmosphere of large family gatherings like ours usually were. 

She is nothing like me. 

I'm not cruel by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm sort of soft-hearted, for certain things. But I'm judgmental, I don't give people the benefit of the doubt, and man, oh  man, do I get annoyed with people. I've been told, recently, that even if I smile and try to "be nice," my annoyance comes off of me in invisible waves.  "Nice" and "kind" are not the same thing. 

Being nice is outward, it's the shell, and it's often not genuine, or at least not heartfelt. 

Being kind, that's inward. It's a state of mind and heart. It involves Christlike love. 

When I think of kindness, I often think of mercy. The definition actually kind of shocked me and made sense at the same time:  "compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm."

It does make sense, in our daily interactions, don't we ALL have the power to harm each other? With a look, or even a thought, since our thoughts determine our actions? So, we all have the power to show compassion or forgiveness (or the determination to forgive before any slight even occurs). 

Mercy--giving others the benefit of the doubt--makes it easier to "be nice" because we are already "being kind." 

Thinking about how much mercy we are being afforded by our Heavenly Father and our Savior should make it easier to show mercy to those around us. 

When I was in the MTC, a particular Elder annoyed me so incredibly I though I was going to die. I also thought I did a great job of hiding it, until one day when that Elder shared this verse in our group scripture study: 

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

 17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

 18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

 19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

He pointed out that he was in need of friendship, and that he had put up his petition in vain to some in our group. He looked me in the eyes when he said it, and it hit me--I had been placing it all on him. HE was so annoying. HE was bothering me. Whatever coldness or sarcasm I threw his way, depleting his emotional and spiritual "substance," was clearly because he had brought upon himself his misery. 

I was so wrong. I later begged for forgiveness and tried to understand where he was coming from, to just offer kindness, and mercy, and friendship. Our relationship changed and we were both the better for it. 

To this day, when I sing "Lord, I Would Follow Thee" and come to this verse, I think of sweet, goofy Elder Baggett and how he taught me about mercy and kindness: 

"Who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly?  In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see. Who am I to judge another? Lord, I would follow thee."  

I know I am so far less than perfect. I desperately need mercy from the Lord and from my fellow travelers on this journey. I also, just as urgently need to show a little more mercy to those around me. Thank goodness for the Atonement and the ability to trip and fall and get up and try again, as often as we need to until we learn the lesson. 


Friday, March 27, 2015

Grateful Beyond Words

I'm so grateful to God for life this week.  Two big events took my peace and kept me fearful for a bit, even though I prayed fairly unceasingly during the waiting periods.  I was not in control of either situation, and I realized how weak my faith can be.  By the grace of God, I'm still His.  He never left me alone.

Situation one:  I've had blood in my urine for a month.   Not enough to see, but enough to need a cat scan to look at my kidneys and my bladder.  I had the cat scan and waited a week before the doc called me at 7:30 in the morning and said the CT did show something abnormal, and could I come in that afternoon for a cystoscopy?  I wanted to yell, can I come in right now?!?

From 7:30 until 1:30, I worried.  I prayed and worried.  I called my husband, who came home from work to go to the doc with me.  Once he was home, we tried not to imagine the worst, but of course, we did.  I texted my best friend, my daughter, and my sister to ask for prayer.  My sister told me later that while she waited for the final word from me, she wondered if she would be able to donate to me one of her kidneys.  I cried when she told me this.

During those waiting, morning hours, I wiped up the kitchen and folded laundry and scrolled mindlessly though facebook, anything to occupy my mind.  Every time my mind would consider the fact that I might hear fatal news, I rolled that into the prayer, Be still and know that I am God.  Be still and know that I am God.  Be still, be still, be still.

We arrived at the doctor's office early, and I flipped though an old TIME magazine, reading parts of articles, comprehending nothing.   The nurse called me back, and my husband came with me.  I would be on my back in stirrups for the cystoscopy, but I wanted him in the room.  Once I was gowned and ready, we waited another fifteen minutes. It seemed like an hour.

The doc came in and explained that the CT showed my kidneys were fine, but it appeared there was a mass on my bladder.  The cystoscopy would give him a better look.  Within a minute, the scope was in and we saw my bladder on the small screen to my left.  He pointed out different aspects of my bladder - all healthy tissues.  No mass.  He smiled and said, "Your bladder is fine.  I suspect it was empty during the CT and it folded in on itself, which bladders sometimes do." 

I stared at him. "The bladder is fine?  The kidneys are fine?"

"Both fine," he said.  "The urethra is a bit irritated.  We'll give you some cream for that, and I'm 99% sure the bleeding will stop.  It's nice to get good news once in a while, isn't it?"

I took a deep breath and looked at my husband.  He had tears in his eyes.

Situation two: Exactly a week after the fearful morning/good news cystoscopy, our youngest son was in a car accident.

Front of the car
Back of the car

He was rear-ended by a young woman who plowed into him at a stop light.  He swerved, went off the road, and hit a tree.  He was crunched from both ends. The air bag knocked him with such force, his glasses broke, and his seat was flattened into a reclining position.  With such impact from both ends, his 6'3" frame could have been broken in many places.

He emerged with only a bloody elbow and bruises from the air bag.  Unbelievable.  (No one else was hurt.)

Our daughter-in-law called us (we are two hours away) and kept us updated.  Until he was seen in the ER and cleared from head or internal injuries, I was back in worry/prayer mode.  A few hours later, we talked to our son.  He was sore, but assured us he was OK.  The accident was not his fault, insurance would kick in, he already had an appointment to get new glasses.

I breathed deeply, and my husband and I looked at each other, again, with tears in our eyes.

People get terrible medical news every day.  People are injured or killed in car accidents every day.  I don't know why we were spared the worst of things these past two weeks.  I know God is good all the time, whether we are ill or well, safe or harmed.  Life is random and crazy.  God is not.

He's in control all the time.  He's loving all the time.  He wants the best for us all the time.

A time will come when life will not serve me the best outcome.  I pray I will remain true to whom I know God to be.  All the time.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How to Write When You Don't Have Time

by Katy White

After the title of this post, I'm so, so tempted to just say this:

Write anyway.

Instead, I'll leave you with a couple of quotes from famous writers who say the same thing, but better.

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” 

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”  (In other words, write anyway!)

And if that's not the inspiration or validation you were looking for today, there's always this...

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nicole Kidman wanted a date with Jimmy Fallon - HE HAD NO IDEA and he BLEW IT.

Here's the Jimmy Fallon interview where he finds out that Nicole Kidman was interested in him when he was working at SNL.  She went over to his apartment one day and he served cheese and crackers, barely talked to her and eventually turned on a video game. 

This video is such a treat to watch.  Have fun.  And remember - sometimes we have access to more than we think in this life and are only limited because we put limits on what we think is possible for us.   So watch this thing and then go and reach for something you think you'll never get or that you think you don't never know....

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Not You, It's Me (Because There's No Accounting for Taste)

by Kasey Tross

There's a serious, sometimes debilitating issue that seems to bring down a lot of writers, and that flaw is this: They think that if their writing is good, and their story is good, then they will not have too much trouble landing an agent and getting a publishing deal. But the fact of the matter is, unless you happen to have dumb luck on your side, that's usually just not the case.

We've all seen the lists of now-famous authors who faced rejections numbering in the high double digits- sometimes even triple digits- and we remind ourselves that we must persevere. But do we ever think about why it is that those rejections piled up one after the other for these highly talented authors? I think we like to tell ourselves that it was because those agents who rejected Stephen King and J.K. Rowling were total morons, literary imbeciles, and completely incompetent (and probably lazy and ugly too).

But what if they weren't? What if they were perfectly competent, intelligent, good agents (and even hardworking and attractive as well)? What if the reason those rejections piled up was simply because the agents just weren't super excited about Carrie and Harry? 

We've all had those experiences where a good friend tells us, "Omigosh, you HAVE to go see This Great Movie. It's the best movie EVER!!!" And so then we go see This Great Movie, and while we enjoy it, to us it's not "the best movie EVER!!!" Or, even worse, we go see This Great Movie and we just don't really like it all that much. The simple fact is that everyone has different taste.

To illustrate my point, I conducted a highly scientific poll. (I used Facebook and everything.) I posted a message that said that The Voice is currently my favorite show on television (yes, even more than Downton Abbey!) and I asked my friends to give their opinions by comment: type "yes" if it was their favorite show too, "ok" if they liked it but wasn't a favorite, and "no" if it did not interest them/they didn't watch it. Here were the results:

No: 19
Ok: 18
Yes: 5

Keep in mind that I have lots of things in common with these people- many of them are LDS, I went to high school with a lot of them, we have socioeconomic similarities, age similarities, etc. They are intelligent, kind, fun, wonderful people. Yet, even with all of that, I found only 5 other people who were as excited about this show as I am. Does this mean it's not a good show? No! If it wasn't any good it wouldn't be on the air. Enough people like it that it continues on, and has for awhile. But if any one of those in the disinterested 88% were the ones deciding what would air, The Voice probably wouldn't be around.

Now think of your novel (which should be one of your favorite books ever)- how likely is it that the first agent you query (who probably has less in common with you than my Facebook friends have with me) will love it as much as you do- enough to put their name on it with you and work to convince others to buy it? The second? The third? The twenty-seventh? You're aiming for that 12%- that 5 out of 42 (and if we're being realistic, that number is probably even lower).

The bottom line is this: So much of what we do when we query is just luck. We put our best work forward and then we cross our fingers and pray and hope that it hits the right mark. When the rejections come rolling in, we have to remember that usually it's not us, it's them. And it's not "them" in the sense that they're idiots, it's that they're just not super excited about our work. And it's not because our work is bad, it's because it's not their taste. And that's okay.

The important thing to remember is that the more you query, the closer you are to finding that one agent who gets you, gets your work, and gets excited about it. There will be someone who feels it!

It's because of this realization that I was not at all devastated (or even disappointed really) when I received a "no, thank you" from the agent I pitched to at the writing conference last year. I knew going into it that the chance of this one agent at this one conference just happening to be The One who would be excited about my novel was highly unlikely. It was about as likely as me accurately guessing the birthdate of a total stranger.

So the next time you read a rejection letter in your inbox, ignore those voices in your head that start dogging on you, those voices that say, "Wow, your work must really stink." Instead say, "It's not me, it's them. And there are plenty more agents out there. And eventually, I'll find The One." And then go write your next query.

Don't Forget: While much of the querying process is luck, there are certainly things you can do to improve your chances of landing an agent:

- Know what kinds of work agents represent- don't pitch an adult sci-fi novel to an agent who deals mostly in YA romance. (And ALWAYS follow and agent's submission guidelines!)

- Get to know agents by following them on Twitter and Goodreads and see what genres they're interested in. 

- Find books that are similar to yours and check the acknowledgments page to see who the author's agent was (you can even mention that book in your query). 

Doing these things will help you hone in on your target and make it much more likely that you'll hit your mark with fewer queries. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A match made in Heaven....

By Lacey Gunter

In western cultures we love to romanticize the idea of a soul mate; that supposed person who is the other half of our whole. All the while, we women seem to never be satisfied with the half we make up.  We have the hardest time looking in the mirror without zeroing in on exactly what isn't great about our bodies, always obsessing about our physical flaws.

I find great irony in this situation, although, probably not in the way you would think. You see, our souls, or our spirits, have already been matched up with what Heaven believes will be the perfect fit, our utterly amazing physical bodies.

Who knows whether there is really another person out there that is the only perfectly right person for you? But there can be no question about which body God wanted your spirit to reside with. Yet, often, that match garners little or no enthusiasm.

The union between our bodies and our spirits is much like a marriage, albeit an arranged marriage.  Marriages thrive when both partners possess love and respect for each other. So what kind of partner is your spirit being in this relationship?  Are you abusive and unkind? Do you put your partner down for its shortcomings? Are you always pointing out the negative and failing to notice and give credit for the things that are wonderful, unique and special about your partner?

If we want this union between our physical bodies and our souls to flourish, women, we need to stop hating on our physical bodies. We need to cultivate a deep and abiding love and respect for the truly remarkable creation that they are. So give your body a hug. And when you look in the mirror next time, thank your body for all the many things it's doing right today.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

To Review or Not to Review? (I Still Haven’t Decided)

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

This week I finished a book that I wasn’t certain I was going to enjoy. It was a kindle freebie many moons ago, and I picked it up (because, hey, free!). Then it languished until a week or so ago, when I finally started it.

I really rather enjoyed it. Yes, there were quirks I did not love (I thought the author’s figurative language simply didn’t work in many instances; I also didn’t find the main character’s personality entirely consistent). But I found the story to be overall enjoyable and tense enough to make me nervous reading it at night (it was a thriller). My biggest beef was the ending, which I found abrupt and far too unfinished, even for being the first in the series. This ending probably knocked half a star off my enjoyment level.

Still, I figured that I could give a fairly honest, fairly positive review. I used to write scathing reviews of books I didn’t like, but now I don’t bother with a review at all unless I can honestly say that I enjoyed it well enough to merit at least 3 stars out of 5.* In my opinion, that’s pretty reasonable. Three stars says, “Hey, I liked this. I didn’t love it, but if this is a genre you enjoy, this book is worth a look.” So I clicked over to Amazon to write a review.

And then I saw the ratings.

Out of about 150 reviews, there was only one 1-star review. Every single other review was either 4 or 5 stars. This is incredibly unusual, and it made me suspicious. Out of curiosity, I clicked the 1-star review. Which is when I discovered that the 1-star reviewer had received bucketloads of comments (almost all deleted by Amazon) from either the author or the author’s friends—all because he had given a 1-star review.

Note to authors: Bullying your readers is NOT COOL, even if they don’t like your book.

In skimming through some of the other reviews, I found that the author had told someone else who didn’t like his first book that they should give the second book a try anyway—it was even better. While that might be true, I was really uncomfortable with the tone going on here: like my book or be pressured into liking my book.

Now I’m sitting on what I would have considered a positive review, torn between posting and not posting it. I’d rather not get into a fight with the author of a book I enjoyed, you know? And I’d also rather not have an indie author out there gunning for me when one day I am published. I’m a bit angry at this author’s handling of negative reviews, too. Sure, indie publishing is hard, and negative reviews can hurt; but dishonestly positive reviews feel, well, dishonest.

So I guess I’ll figure it out. Or maybe I’ll just let it all slip because I’ve got better things to do with my time. Who knows?

In the meantime, have you ever faced a situation like this (either as the reviewer or as the receiver of a negative review)? If so, how did you handle it?

* Actually, I will still write reviews of books I hated if the author is either a) dead or b) so rich and famous that my negative review is just a drop in the bucket. But they’re usually not scathing anymore.**
** Unless the book is named Wuthering Heights or Romeo and Juliet. Then all bets are off.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Because we're all in this together. Everyday.

Hello all, it's C.J. Schneider here.  Today I'd like to introduce you all to my dear friend Virginia Oviatt.  Virginia is a woman of many talents.  She competes in triathlons, she cooks, she manages twin babies, she sews flowers onto headbands, she fights lions with her bare get the picture.  She blogs at:

Because We're All in This Together.  Everyday. - by Virginia Oviatt

The parable of the Good Samaritan gets me every time.  I see myself so clearly- not in the the man left for dead (although somedays I may look it), not in the thieves who robbed and beat him (at least I try to not be that person). I am not even in the Priest or the Levite who avoid and ignore the hurt man. No, I am a character untold in the story but I am in there just the same. I am the Martha, busy with to her own children, so tired she cannot see straight, fighting  to get the laundry done, struggling to make sure there is fruit in the house, rushing to an appointment or lesson 10 minutes late. I am the one in the story who doesn't cross to the other side of the road. I, taking care of my own little brood, arms over flowing with babies, listening to the constant chatter of my little girl, trying to watch the never ending slap stick of my 8 year old, wanting to but never quite finding enough ways to  support and cheer on my hubs, I cross in the same place as the man. Failing to see him with my cognizant eyes, I take my daughter's hand to help her step over him and we trudge forward on our journey.

Last week I attempted my first large solo grocery trip with my 5 month old twins in tow. With one strapped to my back and the other snuggled in on my front, I had 2 hands free to load and push a very full cart. As I made my way through the store, the responses I got from other shoppers ranged from smiles, the woman cheering me on, whispering she can tell I'm doing an amazing job. There were countless strangers repeating the same tired phrase- "you've sure got your hands full" and the one man who went out of his way to ask "what would you do if you had 3?!?!"  But I was doing well with just my two. As I got to check out and just as I began to doubt, wondering how I would lift all my groceries out of the cart, bag and lift them back in again with my sweet babies clearly acting as obstructions, the customer service women left their station. Without asking what I needed said "we see you've got your hands full, let us unload and pack your groceries for you."
Later they helped me out to the van while I bounced and shooshed my little boys. In a store not generally noted for its customer service, They saw me and they knew what they could do.
From the drivers seat of my vehicle I called out how proud I was of the three of us. We did it! But without the help of these thoughtful women, I'm not sure I would have felt the same. They made the difference from it being a trip we just squeaked through to an experience of success I can look back to in those moments when motherhood successes seem far and out of reach.

I have a dear friend who recently threw her back out; On a Wednesday.
Wednesday night she bought the groceries we would need to make freezer meals.
Thursday morning she stood in my kitchen with her sore back chopping onions and filling bags. That afternoon she took my older two kids sledding.
Friday she came to visit and stopping in later to return something, noticed I was on my way out the door. I was late, trying to furiously get babies into snow suits so we could pick up my little girl from kindergarten. Her offer to stay to help meant that I didn't need to pack babies with me and could enjoy some 1:1 time with my sweet Lady.
Friday night with my husband away, she picked up the same daughter from a dance class and watched her until for me so I'd  have less running around with my two monkeys.
Monday, back still hurting, she came to pick up my older kids for an hour of physical activity after school.

Like me, This sweet friend has laundry, the need for fruit in her house. She has her own kids and her own projects. Though her back was hurting so she could hardly stand straight, she didn't cross on the other side of the road. She saw me and she knew exactly what She could do to help. 4 days out of 6 she checked in with me, included me in her day, served me, let me know she saw me and was there.

At our Relief Society March 17 party, the question was posed "who is an example to you of One who possesses Christlike attributes?"  I thought of my friend. I like to think I'm a person who enjoys giving service. I generally try to be kind and if I'm told what needs to be done, I'm your girl. But she has shown me what Brene Brown meant when she said "compassion is not a virtue- it's a commitment. It's not something we have or don't have. It's something we practice."
She has shown me what it means to practice constant watchcare. To be a Shepard, not just to the lost and lonely but to one of the 99 who just needs a boost, a little extra help to make sure she doesn't get too tired, too overwhelmed, too crazy. Like the ladies at Superstore, she allowed me to feel like more than just getting by, to feel I am handling my life with a little grace.

And so I'm committing to practice. To have my eyes open. To see and to do. Because the real challenge of the Good Samaritan is not in serving those you despise in the rare occasion you find them with a flat tire. It's in seeking and seeing opportunities to chip in, to lighten the load of others. It's in making kindness a part of everything; what we do; who we are; everyday.
Because we're all in this together. Everyday.

- Virginia Oviatt

Top 9 Signs Your Kids Might Actually Be Leprechauns

Top 9 Signs Your Kids Might Actually Be Leprechauns: How else could you explain all the funny hats?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Slamming Doors, Lemons, Wrenches, Storms, and Other Confusing Things

On Saturday morning, my bishop (pastor) called me.

As you fellow Mormons know, that is rarely a good thing.

He asked if he could come over that evening to speak with me. About a calling. (A calling is an unpaid job in the church- pretty much every Mormon has one.)

That’s when I knew for sure I was in trouble. You see, I hold two callings: one in public affairs and one as a music leader for the children in my ward (congregation). I knew I wasn’t going to get a third calling, because everyone (especially the bishop) knows I’m too busy with the callings I already have. Which meant I was going to lose a calling. And it wasn’t going to be the public affairs, because that’s at the stake (regional) level, and that’s the stake president’s jurisdiction. Which meant it was my music calling.


My music calling is the bestest calling in the church. I get to be creative, I get to teach, I get to sing, and I get to PLAY with the most wonderful, sweet, amazing children, who have such a strong spirit about them. So when the bishop said he wanted to speak with me?


But alas. It was true. My days as a music leader are now over. I was called to serve in the Relief Society (women’s organization) presidency.

Don’t get me wrong- I do love the Relief Society. It is an extraordinary organization that strengthens and uplifts women in so many ways, and it is a privilege to get to serve with them.

But will I ever get to bring in a screaming monkey toy and yell “INCOMING!” as I shoot it across the room?

Probably not. So it will be an adjustment.

Anyway, as I have been struggling with this sudden change (found out Saturday night, my last day with the kids was Sunday- *sniff sniff*) I have been having to hold onto my faith- my belief that this is the Lord’s work and that I am following His plan. Fittingly, the Sacrament hymn (which came right after the announcement of my release and new calling in Sacrament meeting) was, “Thy Will, O Lord, Be Done.” The very last part of the last line of that song is this: "And pray for strength, that we may say,
As he, 'Thy will, O Lord, be done.’”

So, why am I sharing all this? Well, I think we all have wrenches thrown into our lives at one time or another- those things that happen that throw us for a loop and leave us stunned and saying, “What just happened?” But there is one essential truth to remember which I think is described perfectly in this quotation (which is by someone of a different faith but I happily accept truth wherever I find it):

"Trials are a part of our experience...As surely as the stars are fashioned by His hands, and their orbits fixed by Him, so surely are our trials allotted to us. He has ordained their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us. Good men must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they will be disappointed, for none of their predecessors have been without them." - Alistair Begg

My situation might not necessarily be considered a “trial”, but I think this applies to any change: those things that we face might surprise us, but they don’t surprise Him.

I heard a story recently of a woman who had spent hours and hours helping her son finish a big school project. The night before the project was due, the woman was checking the weather for the next day and saw that some nasty storms would be in their area in the morning. Before going to bed, she carefully wrapped her son’s project, ensuring that it would be protected and ready to go the next morning.

The next morning her son woke up distraught, saying, “Mom! It’s pouring down rain outside! My project will be ruined!” His mother calmed him down and said, “Son, it’s okay! I knew the storms were coming and I took care of it. Your project will be fine. I got this.”

This lady went on to say that so often in our lives, when the storms come, we go to God in a panic and say, “What is this? I’m not ready for this!” Yet we don’t remember or realize that He knows about every storm, and He has prepared us for them- He wouldn’t let us go through it unless we were ready.

He’s got this.

So why this change at this time for me? I don’t know. And I don’t have to know. I just have to trust. Who knows? Maybe I can use all that creative energy I had been using to plan lessons for those kids to write my book instead... ;-)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Reigning Men
By Beckie Carlson

For some reason, I’ve been noticing the passing of time more lately than usual. I feel myself growing older, I see my kids maturing before my eyes, and the past is stretching further and further behind me. I feel like I’m coming up on one of those hills you can see for miles and miles….but when you are at the top you can’t really tell how you got up there. How did I get here?

I’m a pretty capable person, always have been. My mom would tell you tales of me getting my wisdom teeth out or having jaw surgery and being a super hero. That’s her version. Mind over matter was my mantra and it worked. If I want something done, I usually just do it myself. Even when Brad was around, I would usually end up doing it. I would either get tired of waiting or just jump in feet first.

I decided to start my garden this week. It is spring break at my house, so it made sense. I have a wonderful garden area on the side of my house. The garden is actually one of the big selling points of this house. I wanted a bigger living room and  a garden spot. It has taken me almost two years from moving in, but I am finally attacking the garden. The area is a four foot raised bed, sprinkler fed, and almost completely full of dirt. It wasn’t quite full enough.
Step one, get more dirt, aka soil, to fill the garden. It kind of amazes me that we actually pay for dirt. Of course, we pay for water……Anyway. I was a good girl and measured the area before going to Home Depot to get soil. I needed approximately 80 cubic feet of soil. (I know this because I can do 5th grade math….) I got out my calculator and did a price check and even talked to a nice ‘gardener type guy’ before settling on the soil I needed.

26 bags of soil doesn’t seem like a whole lot until you lift the third bag. At that point, the, “what the h*** am I thinking” starts to set in and it becomes a real effort to not run at full (wimp) speed to the parking lot and drive straight to the craft store where things are WAY lighter. Having my son with me helped me be strong and stick to my guns. (He was inside on the lawn furniture playing games on his phone due to his allergies, but still…)

Quick thinking got me a rental truck and a forklift (and driver) to load up all those bags. Yay for me!
As I drove away triumphantly in my big hourly truck, I realized I still had to unload the truck. If I counted optimistically, I had me, a pregnant 25 year old, a two year old, 13 year old, 15 year old strapping young man, and a 20 year old…who may or may not be home. This was not looking good.
I admit that the thought went through my mind like this, “This is one of those days I wish I was married.” Yes, it’s true. I wish I had a man at home or even at the store doing this all for me. I was tired and I had just gotten started.

No sooner had I uttered these mental words, then the thought came into my mind clear as a bell. “Call the elders.” Of course! The missionaries are always looking for service projects. I don’t have home teachers that come so, I’m totally allowed to use them. I called them up and they came right over. Not only did our two elders come, but they brought two others they just happened to be giving a ride to. It took them all of five minutes to unload my truck. I gave them water and they were on their way.
I am so grateful for this tiny little miracle. Knowing me, I would have tried to get all those bags out the truck by myself and would most likely have thrown my back out. That would have ended my fun spring break and really messed up our plans.

The Lord has taken my main man, but he has not left me alone. I am so grateful for the men in my life that are there for me when I need heavy stuff moved, computers fixed, advice, hugs, priesthood blessings, protection, and even company on a given evening. I sometimes worry that I have taken too long, been single too long, left my kids without a father figure for too long, but I’m doing the best I can and I know my Father in Heaven is mindful of me.

Cause I said so.
Photo credit:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Mighty Change of Heart

This is not the blog post I intended to write today.

I've read a few articles talking about people leaving the Church, and people coming back, and I had a lot of deep thoughts to share about it. But, other people have discussed these articles and have done a much better job than I.  

Hopefully what I have to share is more uplifting than what I would've said about that anyway. 

As I was writing about one of the articles, which was the point of view of a woman who had left the Church, and had returned to full activity, I was reminded of my own experiences with being inactive and more importantly, my experience in returning to my faith. That made me think about the lesson I taught in Relief Society this past Sunday, from the teaching of Ezra Taft Benson, titled "Principles of True Repentance." Here's the link:

The lesson affected me, as most lessons do. This one brought back the memory of my own return to my faith. 

The ultra-super-short version of my journey to inactivity goes like this: 
I was a return missionary. I got lazy in my ongoing conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was complacent. I had a boyfriend, I thought we were getting married. We weren't. I think I thought he was my reward for being good, and I got bitter. (It's funny, when we don't feel like doing the work of living the Gospel, we can find the most convincing reasons, which just sound stupid later).  

I worked law enforcement, where many/most of my coworkers medicated with alcohol to relax/de-stress from the traumatic jobs we did. I stopped caring, and started partying. 

I was never "anti-Mormon"... I actually said, "I fully believe in the Gospel, I just don't believe that I am worth the trouble." I had a LOT of fun, but not very much happiness--and they are different.  

Jesus found me and brought me back. That part of the story is interesting only to me, but it involves a vacation to a good friend's house in Utah, an unexpected Saturday morning session of General Conference wherein each and every song and talk was aimed DIRECTLY at my heart, and long discussions with my friend and her husband about my relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior and how that relates to my happiness. 

I will be forever grateful to Kristine for those conversations and for the example that she was for me that helped me to return. Somehow her friendship and her ability to speak to me without awakening my rebellious devil inner child, rescued me. 

THOUGHT ONE:  There is no point of no return. No one is too far gone.  Exhibit A: Me. Also, Alma the Younger, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni, Saul/Paul, Zeezrom, King Lamoni and his whole Lamanite kingdom..... 

The Savior WILL find you. He's already paid your price, and He is standing right there outside your metaphorical door, knocking, and He'll keep knocking, with bloody knuckles and tired feet, right up until Judgment Day. 

So, as I was working my way through MIRACLE OF FORGIVENESS by Spencer W. Kimball, referred to hereafter as "The Manual," there was a part about forgiving to be forgiven. I've had my share of hurts perpetuated by others, and I realized that I needed to very conscientiously and deliberately go through a process of forgiving them. In doing so, hurts were healed and I felt my Savior's love bind up places in my heart I didn't know were broken. 

THOUGHT TWO: The Atonement is the thing that makes everything okay. It's not just for repentance, it is also for forgiveness. Accessing the Atonement is HOW we can forgive even those things that are so horrific that we feel we can never be whole again.

As I worked my way through the repentance process, I came back again and again to the idea of the "change of heart," as spoken of in Alma. I felt peace in stages, I felt the Spirit testify that I was on the right path, but "The Manual" teaches that we don't just check things off a list and then we're good with the Lord. President Kimball said that the true feeling that we've been forgiven will come in the Lord's time. I was willing to wait and keep doing the work. I knew it would be a long haul.

So when the moment came upon me suddenly that I felt "forgiven" it was--amazing isn't strong enough of a word. The experience is too sacred to share, but what I can tell you is that I felt the "change of heart" in a literal sense. 

Change of heart--one way to think of it is that your heart is changed.... hard places made soft, little stains and rips and tears mended and cleaned, until your heart is as "as good as new." 

Change of heart--a metaphorical heart transplant. This is what I felt--like the Savior took out my beaten up and abused heart, and placed His own perfect heart in its place. Truly mighty.

THOUGHT THREE: What am I doing with the Savior's heart? 
“I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma 5:14.)
 “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26.)

If the Savior loved me enough to give me HIS heart, somehow, through that wondrous and infinite Atonement, then shouldn't I love Him enough to keep it as unmarred as I can? 

Something that fell out of my mouth while I was teaching, which means it indubitably did NOT come from me, is this:

Life is messy. Us screwing up IS the plan. We have to make mistakes in order to learn. It's intended. We don't have to beat ourselves up, because it IS the plan. It was already accounted for. Our Savior took care of it, whether we repent or not. It's already covered. All that He asks is that we take the ugly, broken-down fail of a pile of crap that is our smallmediumlargeginormous mistake, APPLY the Atonement, and with His help, turn it into something beautiful and glorious. Here's the proof:

 I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them 

(that's Ether 12:27, by the way)

For those who have strayed just a bit away; for those who have jumped off the train and wonder how to get back; and even for those who have no interest in returning--please know that there's always a way back through the Savior, from however far. There's nowhere too far for Him to reach. 

I love my Savior. The plan is truly THE PLAN OF HAPPINESS. 

(PS I have lots more thoughts but.... this is a blog, not a book.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Insecurity Blankets

By Nikki Wilson

It’s been awhile since I’ve written on the blog. I have lots of really good excuses, I promise, but the fact of the matter is that I miss it. I miss writing about my thoughts and insecurities. Because when I write about them I gain a perspective I don’t have when I just try to live with them. 

How cool to be in the same category of ANYTHING as Sarah Eden?
Last weekend I attended the American Night WritersAssociation’s writing conference. I’ve told you on numerous occasions how much I love this conference. Every time I go, it’s like coming home. It’s a hotel full of “my people”. Also, there is such a great spirit present at this conference and I always feel a great confirmation that I should be there and that writing is what I’m supposed to do. At the conference I always become a little less introverted and a little more extroverted. I speak without thinking as much as I normally would and I introduce myself to new people more than normal as well. While at the conference I feel great and I’m on a high (that’s purely natural, I swear!)

But then I come home and insecurity blankets all my thoughts. I think things like, I shouldn’t have said that, or maybe that person was annoyed by me but was too nice to say anything. Above all, insecurities about my writing abilities don’t just blanket me, they smother me. I think things like, I’ll never be as good as THAT person, or I’ll never be a presenter at a writer conference, I’ll always be the attendee because I’ll never learn enough to be that good. But one thing we learned at the conference this year, (Thanks to Regina Sirois) is that we can’t compare our accomplishments to the accomplishments of others. And I am trying to get better at that. And I’ve been praying for help to leave my insecurities behind and allow myself to believe in my divine potential as a daughter of God. 

The other day I was feeling too sick to go to Stake Conference (I have a sinus infection an ear infection). So I stayed home and cued up a session from last General Conference. The talk that really spoke to me was by Elder Jorg Glebingat called, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence”. I really recommend that you read it. He talks about 6 ways we can increase our spiritual confidence. I plan on printing them up and working on them each day to help dispel my personal and spiritual insecurities. But it got me thinking that a lot of the ways he says we can gain spiritual confidence are also close to the ways I can gain confidence in myself as a writer. So these are my 6 steps to writing confidence:

1.       Take responsibility for my time to write. Stop blaming others or my circumstances, stop justifying, and stop making excuse for why I’m not writing/editing as much as I should.

2.       Don’t neglect my physical well-being. I can’t just hole up in my room waiting for words to come. I need to move and exercise and take care of myself. Usually words start coming when I’m physically engaged in something even if it’s just going for a walk.

3.       Embrace the thoughts and words that come into my mind. Many times I don’t write some of my thoughts because I think I will be judged by them or I’m afraid to offend someone.  (This is where blog writing comes in. I tell you guys some of my biggest insecurities and you don’t judge me. Thank you for that!)

4.       Become really, really good at editing thoroughly and quickly. I’m still trying to learn this one. Often I know what’s wrong with my stories, but the amount of work it takes to fix it often overwhelms me and I quit. But if I learn to accept this task as a part of my life as a writer, I will stop fearing it and soon learn to excel at it.

5.       Become really, really good at forgiving myself and my deficiencies. Writing is a process that takes time. I need to be understanding of my learning process and be patient. It helps me to picture myself talking to my daughter who also writes and telling her how talented she is and to be patient with herself. I can feel how much I believe that and believe in her. Then I can try to carry those thoughts and emotions over to myself.

Yes, those are super cool agents laughing at my agony! LOL
6.       Accept trials, setbacks, and rejection as part of my writing experience. At the ANWA conference this year they had an Antagonist Gala. I went as every book’s antagonist…rejection letters. Of course I have a good supply of those on my email. But when I went to find them I realized I hadn’t queried an agent in 5 years! Those other rejection letters had paralyzed me. I convinced myself it was because my writing wasn’t good enough yet, that’s why I hadn’t tried, but the truth is, I couldn’t get past the rejection. I didn’t want to accept the rejection as part of my experience. Because I didn’t want to experience it ever again. But that’s just not possible in this business and I need to learn to embrace the rejections as a part of the process. (I’ll have you know I thought I had, but in looking back I realized I was just kidding myself.)

These are my six steps to writing confidence. Though prayer isn't on the list, it's a given for me. If you have any other steps you think would help, please add them in the comments. I hope that by remembering these I can become a better writer and a better person.


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