Saturday, May 30, 2015

Succinct Writing Challenge

By Lacey Gunter

I know most of you MMWs and friends write something other than picture books. But no matter what genre you write in, being able to write succinctly is a valuable skill to have.  This skill is especially useful for writing pitches and queries.  So here are a few reduction writing challenges to get you thinking about how to get to the heart of what you need to say.

Challenge 1:
With the novel you are working on (or a much beloved novel, if you're not very far in the writing process):

1. Rewrite the novel using no more than a single page per chapter.

2. Summarize the novel using no more than a single paragraph per chapter. Try to keep the paragraphs within 5-10 sentences.

3.  Summarize the novel using no more than a single sentence per chapter.

4. Summarize the novel using a single word theme for every chapter.

Challenge 2:
Rewrite the novel you are working on (or a much beloved novel, if you're not very far in the writing process) as a picture book for children.  Decide what ideas can be expressed through the pictures and what ideas actually need to be stated in words. Try to use words and ideas that a child could understand and keep the word count under 1000 words. Do your best to make it interesting enough to keep a young child's attention.

Challenge 3:
Pick a scene from your book and try to rewrite it using the same number of sentences, but with only 3-5 words maximum per sentence.

Try one out. You might just come up with the perfect twitter pitch or the latest and greatest picture book. You never know!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Elizabeth Bennets

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Poster - a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Last night I dreamed I was watching Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version with Colin Firth of course) but something was different. I discovered that BBC had filmed two versions of the movie, and the only difference was that in the version I was watching, Elizabeth Bennet was much more sedate, much more proper. Essentially she was a lot more like Jane.

Recently the ladies of my book club and I were talking about the characters of Jane Austen. My good friend Elissa pointed out that the popularity of Pride and Prejudice over the other Austen novels was probably largely because Elizabeth Bennet most closely suits our modern notions of what a heroine should be—outspoken, vibrant, unwilling to marry just to suit society.*

This had never occurred to me, but I realized that she was probably right. Who else can compare to Elizabeth? The Dashwood sisters? No, Marianne is too histrionic, Elinor too reserved. Emma? A busybody. Who’s not even very good at being a busybody. Catherine Morland—amusing, but in real life wouldn’t you just kind of want to smack her upside the head and tell her to stop reading Stephen King novels?** Anne Elliot is such a shrinking violet that I had to look up her name because I couldn’t remember it. And Fanny Price is very, very moral—which is sort of out of favor these days too (she’s also a shrinking violet).***

I have now, I’m sure, completely insulted your favorite Austen novel and/or heroine. Trust me, I realize that they all have more depth than just the one character trait I pointed out. And I have liked many of them for various reasons (and I really need to give at least one of them another chance). But, as we discussed at my book club, most of their characters—while holding up very well in the society they would have lived in—have major traits that conflict with modern ideas about leading ladies.

And that, my friends, was a major sidetrack from the original point of this blog post. So now let’s get back to the dream.

Watching the new Elizabeth Bennet in my dream, I realized that I still liked her this way, although she didn’t have quite as much sparkle. Her backbone still came through, but her personality was not as big. I would love to see this movie version in actual person, not just in my dreams.****

Well, okay, I’m not going to get that wish, but it did occur to me: What if I took a character I was working with and completely revised one or two of her/his strongest characteristics? Turn down the humor dial, crank up the grumpiness knob (I envision character traits on a really old staticky radio). How would it change the story and how people reacted to them—both characters within the novel and also readers without?

So that’s my advice/suggestion for the fortnight.***** Are you stuck in a story? Are you bored with it? Or is it just fine, but maybe it needs a bit more sparkle? Turn those character knobs, people. Just for fun.

(Alternately, you could just go on an Austen binge. But that probably won’t help with your writing.)

* Okay, let’s be honest, the popularity of P&P also probably has a large bit to do with a certain Colin Firth.
** Or, you know, Ann Radcliffe. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.
*** Fanny Price is, in fact, so morally upright that when they made Mansfield Park into a movie (the 1999 version), they decided to dispense with her strict morals and have her make a decision that the original character would never have made. Just so the rest of us can feel better about our bad decisions, I suppose?
**** Do you think it’s too much to ask to create a time machine, go back to when it was first filmed, and ask BBC to do two versions instead of just one? I bet if Peter Jackson had directed it, he’d be willing. 
***** Fortnight! Austen would be proud.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Two Suprisingly Simple Keys to Finally GETTING THINGS DONE

First, I wish you all a very blessed Memorial Day- we here at MMW salute the men and women who put their lives in danger for our freedom, and especially those who have lost their lives for this cause. May God watch over those who serve and the families of those who have served.

Back at the end of March I mentioned that I was busy trying to get my mind organized, and guess what? It's actually happening!

Some incredible things have been occurring around here. First, you know The Pile of papers you have on your kitchen counter/desk/table? The Pile, containing bills you've already paid, flyers from the kids' schools, junk mail, coupons you might want to use, kids' artwork, greeting cards, etc.? Well, mine has disappeared. It hightailed it out of there a few weeks ago and hasn't been back since. And no, it didn't migrate to one of the other piles of paper in my office or stuffed in corner somewhere- as a matter of fact, those are gone too.

They're ALL GONE!

And the best part is that this doesn't feel like a passing phase- you know how you start some newfangled "program" and you stick with it for a few weeks or months and then you just kind of gradually slide back into your old habits? I don't think this is that because it hasn't felt like work. To be honest, I've barely noticed I'm doing it. Once I set up my system it just kind of started...happening. My system replaced The Pile and now when stuff comes in I know exactly where it goes and I put it there. Because I would really like to know where it is when I need it (and not spend fifty million hours searching through The Pile).

Flyer about an event I might want to attend next month? I write a note on my calendar with a *T* and put the flyer in my Tickler file (12 folders labeled by month for things I will need at another time during the year).

Notice about a project for one of my kids? I put it in their project support cubby. Same with son's Scout stuff.

Bills go in bills folder.

Relief Society lesson schedule goes in my Relief Society support cubby.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. Hallelujah.

If any of those things trigger an "I need to..." thought in my head, then I add it to my Next Actions list.

Oh man, is that list important.

If you would like to enjoy this same sense of freedom inside your head, I suggest reading "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" by David Allen. Today I wanted to share with you the first two keys to this awesome system. Here's what Allen says about the first very important key to this freedom: Capture.

"Do you understand yet why getting all your stuff out of your head and in front of you makes you feel better? Because you automatically renegotiate your agreements with yourself when you look at them, think about them, and either act on them that very moment or say, 'No, not now.' Here's the problem: it's impossible to renegotiate agreements with yourself that you can't remember you made! 
"The fact that you can't remember an agreement you made with yourself doesn't mean that you're not holding yourself liable for it. Ask any psychologist how much of a sense of past and future that part of your psyche has, the part that was storing the list you dumped: zero. It's all present tense in there. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you should do something, if you file it only in your short-term memory, that part of you thinks you should be doing it all the time. And that means that as soon as you've given yourself two things to do, and filed them only in your head, you've created instant and automatic stress and failure, because you can't do them both at once, and that (apparently significant) part of your psyche will continue to hold you accountable. 
"But what are all those things in your in-tray? Agreements you've made or at least implicitly accepted with yourself- things you somehow have told yourself you should deal with in some way. Your negative feelings are simply the result of breaking those agreements- they're the symptoms of disintegrated self-trust. If you tell yourself to draft a strategic plan, when you don't do it, you feel bad. Tell yourself to get organized, and if you fail to, welcome to guilt and frustration. Resolve to spend more time with your kids and then don't- voila! anxious and overwhelmed."

So once you've captured the stuff, you've implicitly promised yourself you're going to do something with it. Like when your mother-in-law digs up some plants from her garden for you to plant in yours. You agree to take them, which means there needs to be a next action- planting them in YOUR garden. Otherwise, every time you pass by them still sitting cockeyed in those flimsy little black plastic pots on your porch they will drive. you. crazy. (I know this from experience.)

Doing something means you must employ Key #2: Decide on a Next Action (and capture it- write it down).

"You'll invariably feel a relieving of pressure about anything you have a commitment to change or do, when you decide on the very next physical action required to move it forward. Nothing, essentially, will change in the world. But shifting your focus to something that your mind perceives as a doable task will create a real increase in positive energy, direction, and motivation. If you have truly captured all the things that have your attention...decide on the single very next action to take on every one of them. Notice what happens to your energy." 

Here's a perfect example from my life:

Just the other day, I noticed that a flyer had somehow escaped my capture process and had ended up on the white board calendar in the kitchen, held hostage there by a magnet. As it flapped in the slight breeze from the open front door one morning, I realized it was bugging me because I hadn't made any decisions about it. The flyer was for an ice cream social yearbook signing party at my kids' school. My son wanted to attend the party. I had already put the event on the calendar, but the flyer wanted me to DO something, and it was going to be there flapping in the wind until I DID it.

What the heck did it want me to do?

Well, when I read it I discovered that there were two things:

1. Sign up to volunteer to help out at the party. Seeing as I would have 3 other little ones to deal with at home (I was planning on having a neighbor take him to the party) this was a no-go.

2. Bring something for the ice cream- the assigned item for the 5th graders was cherries.

I made myself think for a moment. A decision must be made: Do I want to contribute cherries? Sure, I could do cherries. I decided I would do cherries and wrote it under "Errands" on my Next Actions list. While I was at it I put "Call Shari about taking T to party" under my "Phone Calls" heading.

I took another look at the flyer and noticed that it only needed to be returned if I was volunteering, so I tossed it into the trash. Ta-da! Flyer dealt with. Done.

A few days later my husband had to run out to the store for a few things for a project he was doing and asked if I needed him to pick up anything while he was out. "Why yes!" I said. "Here's the list." I jotted down everything under "Errands" that could be picked up at the store he was going to, including cherries, and handed it to him. When he got home I placed the cherries in my son's backpack and that was that. It was off my brain.

It is decidedly lovely to get things off your brain. Especially if they're as trivial as cherries for an elementary ice cream social. Yet, when we let stuff hover around in there- dumb, unimportant stuff (our brains can't differentiate the dumb and unimportant from the essential and important)- our minds don't function so well. That stuff shows up at the most inconvenient times- when we're trying to write, when we're trying to sleep, when we're trying to spend time having FUN with our kids. 

So today, my dear Mormon Mommy Writers, I would like to encourage you to CAPTURE all that stuff floating around in your head and in your environment (flyers and whatnot) and make a NEXT ACTIONS list based on decisions you make regarding those things- what needs to happen next? Those two simple things will start to relieve a lot of pressure in your head.

And then go read "Getting Things Done." Because it's awesome.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Slow Down

With a title like that, you probably think this post is going to be about the lazy days of summer, or how we need to relax, or maybe even how we shouldn't drive so fast. No. It's not any of those things. First of all, the lazy days of summer are anything but lazy, and while we need to take time for ourselves, these last days are anything but a time to relax--we actually need to be stepping up our game. And lastly, if you are driving in front of me, SPEED UP. Okay, just a little whining... my route to work takes me down a road that is one of the few roads to get out of where I live, to any road that crosses the river going east.  The speed limit is 40, but the road is frequented by a couple of particular demographics who can't make it past 35. THEN the limit changes to 50. STILL 35. SO, SPEED UP. Okay. rant over.

What I would like to blather on about at this moment is judging, and how we need to SLOW DOWN.

Multiple things going on today are on my mind, but I'll just talk about one:

Oh yes, "ModestyGate".  The first nano-second that I saw this picture, I thought, "What the hell, Lindsey." I had been bombarded with "news" discussing the almost-nothing dresses other celebrities  had worn to this function, and my brain just assumed this was another. Then I slowed it down for a second. This is Lindsey freaking Stirling--hang out with apostles to have firesides for youth Lindsey Stirling.  So I look some more. The dress is lined. Of course it is. Now I have to turn around and try to jump back across the chasm from the conclusion I'd just arrived at. Thankfully, I didn't drag anyone along with me in my judginess.

So, lots of judging on this dress from folks. Is it "immodest"...nope. Would I wear it? No, but certainly not for modesty reasons. I like stuff that covers my arms to the elbows (again, not for modesty but for pride).

More importantly, when we judge, and put it out there publicly, we commit sins worse than the perceived immodesty, or "leading our girls astray" or whatever you want to label it (and people have... and much worse).  First, a very sweet and talented young lady, who is genuinely doing her best to be a good example of Christ's church for the world, has been bombarded with a mountain of judgy-judginess. She expressed a little of her sadness in an Instagram post. As I read it, I feel sad that she was attacked by people who rabidly adored her until one nanosecond after they saw that picture:
She says:
I've received a lot of hate over the last 2 days and I'm sorry for anyone that I've disappointed. The dress I wore to the awards was fully lined with tan fabric. But after looking at the pictures, I see that you actually can't tell that it's lined. In hind sight it wasn't the best choice because modesty is important to me.

However, more importantly it makes me so sad that people are so quick to judge. Especially all the "Christians". I make mistakes, and I am definitely not perfect, but I really am trying my best. I tried on racks of dresses before I found one that actually covered me and I want to thank the designer and my stylist for making a dress that could make me feel beautiful and still keep me completely covered from head to toe.

For those who say I've changed, I still believe in Christ and although I'm not perfect, I strive to share his love and positivity with those I meet.
I worry that having so much vitriol thrown at her may harm young Lindsey's testimony--or at least her desire to want to be around Mormons.  Judging each other is something we are REALLY, REALLY good at in the Church. SO, I say, SLOW DOWN.

What do we do when we come across:
  • That sister that smells like cigarette smoke
  • The woman who comes to church in pants
  • The man (or woman) covered in tattoos
  • The couple getting a divorce
  • The man with the ankle electronic monitoring device
  • The teen girl who wears shorter skirts
  • The teen boy with hair pulled in a ponytail
  • Or wearing a t-shirt and jeans to church
  • Insert your own here....
(All of the above are people I've come across in my own church experiences. Some have been chased away by judging/gossiping/etc., and some have been embraced and loved and brought closer to our Savior.)

Are any of these people less deserving of our love and support? Do we think that a single one of them is not painfully aware of their "flaws," or that we are doing anything but hurting them if we point them out, discuss them, and try to "help" them overcome them?

SLOW DOWN. We really need to look past the "thing" and to the person underneath. There's not a single thing we need to be concerned about, according to our Savior, then loving them. If "Love your neighbor as yourself" is second on the list of commandments, then "Make others conform to your idea of what a good Mormon should look, sound, smell, and act like" is not third, or fifth, or 690 hundred millionth (that number is courtesy of my son Simon. It's his favorite number). It's actually sort of on the list of "thou shalt nots." On my mission people would say, "No seas Fariseo" --don't be a Pharisee. There's an article in LDS Living that addresses this:

It says it better than I can.

Secondly, do we realize how we might be harming the missionary effort by being so openly, publicly judgemental? Aside from people who might assume (sometimes rightly so) that they would not be welcome in our congregations because they don't fit the Mormon Mold, we also are being decidedly, blatantly, UN-Christian when we sit and point fingers and discuss the faults and mistakes of others. We can't profess to follow Christ and model the behavior of his enemies.

If we SLOW DOWN, we can look past the outward and into the soul and heart, the inward vessel, of the people we may be prone to judge. We can listen to them, understand their intentions, their thoughts, their trials, and THEN we can get a glimpse of them as the Savior would see them. That is what we are charged to do.  

If we love them as the Savior would, lift them, strengthen them, then THEY will change what needs changing. That part is not our job.

Our job, our ONLY job, is to LOVE THEM ALL.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Writing Teaches Important Work Skills

By Nikki Wilson

I've recently been asked at work how many words per minute I type. I didn't even blink and replied that last time I checked I typed 72 wpm. So for fun, I took some online typing tests...and then I took them again...and again...and again. My highest score was only 54 wpm??!! What in the world is going on? Then I realized, I don't really type at work, and for the past year I've been editing my books, not writing new ones and I haven't even worked on edits since the beginning of April. So what does this mean? It means I can tell my husband and my kids that I need to be writing more often to keep up my valuable marketable skill of typing.

It also means I may need to join in on Camp Nanowrimo in July. Well, I better go work on my next book idea because I need to get to typing SOMETHING!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

That post where I captured something in my bathtub...

by Kasey Tross

Really, now that you've seen this picture, I doubt you even need to read the rest of this post, because chances are good that you know EXACTLY why every writer needs bath crayons*, and more importantly, why you are either going to put bath crayons on your shopping list or go steal some out of your kids' bathroom, like, right now.

It's all about CAPTURE!

For some reason, my muse really likes to visit me in the shower. (Creepy, right? Totally stalkery.) I've figured out that it's because when I'm in the shower, I don't really have to think about what I'm doing- I'm pretty good at washing my hair, I've been doing it all by myself for quite some time now- and I'm surrounded by white walls- no children or messes or 'gee-I-think-I-should-hang-that-picture-over-there' thoughts- so my mind is free to wander. And when a writer's mind wanders, it's usually into The Forest of Awesome Ideas. But when you're buck naked and soaking wet it's not particularly convenient to grab a pen and paper (I've soaked through a couple of notebooks that way) or to use a voice recorder (turns out they're not exactly waterproof) to capture said Awesome Ideas.

So.....(insert drumroll here)....BATH CRAYONS!!!

Seriously, why has it taken me so long to figure this out? Just jot down your notes right there in the shower and then snap a pic when you're done. BAM! Awesome Ideas captured.

The point is this: Sometimes we get crazy good ideas in some crazy inconvenient places & times. But it shouldn't mean we have to lose them! We're creative people- we must think outside the box and find ways to capture those ideas. Don't let them get away! Voice recorders are perfect for when we're driving in the car; a pad of paper next to the bed for those late-night-only-half-awake scribblings; use sidewalk chalk when we're playing outside with the kids; whiteboard in the kitchen for when we're cooking dinner. Let the ideas come when they come...but don't forget to GRAB 'EM! QUICK!

*And it's not just for when your 11-year-old son uses them to draw a big spider on your shower in an attempt to creep you out or when you draw a giant hawk coming down to eat the spider or when he draws a hunter shooting the hawk or when you draw a bear sneaking up from behind to attack the hunter or...well, you get the idea.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

You, my friend, have potential!

By Lacey Gunter

Tonight I was fortunate enough attend the keynote address for the Children's Book Festival at Provo City Library, given by Katherine Applegate. She is the author of the Newbery Medal winning book The One and Only Ivan.

In addition to being a wonderful author, I thought she was an enjoyable speaker. She had a warm and gracious disposition that easily drew the audience in. She of course discussed the ups and downs of being a writer.

First she talked about the long road she traveled in writing before finally finding her true literary voice and encouraged any would be writers to not use age as a barrier. She also talked about the long and difficult road to completing her award wining book. It went through several different forms and countless edits. She even showed us a slip of paper she had written at one point debating whether she should abandon the project.  Lucky for us she did not. She said writing and editing a book often feels like getting a high school English paper back all marked up in red ink.

Despite all this, what shined through the most was her infectious passion for her story.  She made me want to seek out every bit of information on it. It never ceases to amaze me how authors can be dragged through Hades and back trying to create a story and still be so passionate about it on the other side.

After all that, she ended with the insisted statement, "You, my friend, have potential." Great inspiration!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

She Was Good at Apologies

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

In 2008, I attended the funeral of my husband’s grandmother, Helen. I had met her only a few times, but the hubby’s childhood was full of stories of summers at her house in California. There he spent hours in the ocean (he’s still a beach lover), ate Red Vines, and played games in which she cheated (so that he would win).

I remember after the hubby and I were married, as we opened our wedding gifts, we kept finding more and more boxes from Helen and Jesse, her husband; they were wonderfully generous. Of course, I also know her son fairly well, and I must say he makes an excellent father-in-law. So I knew that Helen was a lovely woman.

Sitting through her memorial service, however, was a bit daunting. Her children’s tributes involved statements like, “She was always singing,” “She was never angry,” “She always made us feel important and loved,” always always good, never never bad. She sounded like an absolute angel, and I was half surprised this was her funeral instead of her translation party (translation = being taken up to meet God without dying because you’re just that awesome).

Contrast that with my own mother’s memorial service about three and half years before. When I spoke, I said approximately, “Mom left me four gigantic bins of yarn. It’s going to take me to the end of time to finish those projects. I love that she taught me to crochet, and pretty much to try out all sorts of crafts. I love that she encouraged me to create beauty. Even though she wasn’t very good at other things in our relationship.”* And that seemed to be the theme of the way my siblings and I talked about her—complicated relationships, some rather rough patches, mingled with the good stuff.

I could not help comparing Helen’s memorial, my mother’s memorial, and my own future one. At the time of Helen’s funeral, the hubby and I had been married about three years** and we had a year-old child. And it was already quite clear that I was definitely not going to be particularly good at the following:

1. Keeping my temper
2. Keeping the house clean and/or regularly cooking delicious meals
3. Most of the traditionally motherly type stuff
4. Playing with my children for more than five minutes in a row.
5. Did I mention the temper thing?

Many years have passed since then, and two more children have been added to the mix. And when I think about the far-flung future, I am even more certain that my children will not be able to pay me the glowing tribute that Helen received.

And I’m coming to grips with that.

Here’s what I hope they will be able to say about me: She was good at apologies. She asked forgiveness when she made a mistake, and she kept trying to do better. Sometimes she lost her temper and snapped at us, but she came back afterward and gave us hugs and said she was sorry. She genuinely tried to make amends. We learned about repairing relationships and repenting from her.

And if they can say that, I hope it will be enough.***
After I wrote this post, the 7yo gave me
this card for Mother's Day. Happy
smiling commenced (even if the "always"
and "never" were just conveniently used for
their first letters).

* I’m totally not kidding about the yarn, by the way. So. Much. Yarn. But it’s my fault, because before she died I told her I’d take and finish her projects. I’m sure she’s up there somewhere in heaven crocheting bookmarks out of clouds for all the angels. And also laughing that I still have three bins of yarn, ten years later.
** Yes, if you’re doing the math, Mom died four months before I got married.
*** Although it would also be nice if they could say that I vacuumed more than once a month too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Avengening Expectations

By Nikki Wilson

I have a confession to make. I didn't thoroughly enjoy the first Avengers movie. I know, I know...get a rope! I actually admitted it on Facebook at one point and it was most definitely a public verbal lynching. But that's ok. I didn't say I hated it, it just didn't fulfill my expectations. I'll tell you why. To me there was a lot of action. Not that I don't like action, but it seemed like one action sequence after another. Also, it felt like the movie had been made to satisfy fans who wanted to know who would win a fight between Thor and Iron Man and Captain America, etc. Not that I wasn't curious about that, but the movie just felt like it was lacking something.

Image result for Avengers

In the movies leading up to the first Avengers movie, most of the plot lines tugged my heart strings, and tickled my funny bone, and ignited curiosity. This is what I wanted from the first Avengers movie but didn't feel that I got. Though many people said they were completely satisfied with the movie and that I was just being too critical. And maybe they were right. I have been known to be overly critical of movies and books, so I accepted that as the reason why I didn't enjoy the first Avengers movie as much as I wanted to. But last week I saw the new Avengers: Age of Ultron and I suddenly knew what I was missing from the first movie.

The new Avengers movie is AMAZING. I hate to give someone high expectations that may not be met like happened to me on the first movie, but I truly think there is something in this movie for everyone. Why is that? Because this time the movie gave us many different beats.

If you haven't read "Million Dollar Outlines" by David Farland you may not know what I'm talking about. David Farland talks about how a writer takes their readers on a journey that actually releases seratonin into the body giving the reader (or movie watcher) instant rewards and satisfaction from the journey. (He actually describes it much better than I'm doing, so read the book!!) But one of the tools a writer has to take readers on this journey can be called emotional beats. Think about it like a song, if you play the same notes over and over again, the listener gets bored. But if you mix high notes with low notes and many variations with the notes in between as well you stimulate the listener and hold their attention. The same can be said with emotions. If a movie or book hammers it's audience with the same emotion over and over they become desensitized to that emotion. That's why the best movies and books have a variety of different plotlines and emotions to choose from.

Image result for avengers age of ultronAvengers: Age of Ultron is a good example of how this is done. Don't get me wrong, there is still plenty of action in this movie, but there are also many emotional beats embedded inside the the action to slow down or speed up the pace of the movie. The humor beats were perfectly timed, and the romantic plot line added a different dimension as did another plot line where our heartstrings were strummed in another way. All in all, Avengers: Age of Ultron was everything I was hoping for. (Though, I will say there were parts when I realized the Avengers were just fighting a mechanical version of Raymond Reddington from the Blacklist TV show! LOL! But then again, I love the Blacklist, so I didn't mind it too much.)

Now I realize that everyone is different in their tastes and in what they consider an emotional beat. Emotions are very subjective, that's why there are so many different genres to choose from so people can pick the emotions they like best. But even then, the best stories are those that have many different emotions present allowing for a wider audience, and a happier one.

(There! So now you can go see the new Avengers movie and say it's for research! Your welcome!)

Monday, May 11, 2015

A question that might change the rest of your day.

Lately, a lot of things have been happening that have made me realize how fragile life really is:

1. I spent some time with some amazing homeless women.
2. A neighbor down the street committed suicide.
3. A dear brother in our ward passed away from cancer, leaving behind a wife and teenage children.

Whenever I see people suffering, I can't help but think, That could be me.

What I didn't have extended family, if I didn't have the church, if I didn't have my husband? Could I be homeless like those brave women?

What if someone I love and care about took their own life? Could my life be torn apart by the grief and guilt?

What if 10 years down the road my husband gets cancer and passes away? Could I be the heartbroken widow with four kids?

Thinking about these things has certainly made me grateful for the tender blessings in my life, and also very mindful of how fragile they are. This quotation came to mind:

The first time I saw this was probably at least a year ago, but it is something that has stuck with me. Yet it was never really troubling to me because my prayers are full of gratitude. I try to always tell God how thankful I am for what He's given me. But then I wondered- do I try to always show God how thankful I am for what He's given me?

Part of what sparked that question was this post by Jason F. Wright about Mothers Day. He said, "What good is it to spend $20 billion on Mother's Day and drop our dirty clothes on the floor Monday morning?" His point was that gratitude is about more than just flowery words- it's about action. 

So my question is this: 

What if you woke up tomorrow with 
only the things you had shown God
 that you cherish today? 

Would it be obvious to someone looking in on your life from the outside that you cherish your children? Or would they assume that what you truly cherish is your smartphone?

Would it be obvious that you cherish your husband? Or does it seem to matter more that he left his dirty socks on the floor again?

What about the gospel? Would it be clear that your testimony of the gospel is something you can't live without? Does it receive enough of your attention that it's apparent it's one of your cherished possessions?

And because we're writers- what about your writing talent? Could someone peek into your life and see how you cherish that talent by the way you use it?

Being grateful is about so much more than the words "I thank thee." It's about what we cherish, what we treasure: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Today in our Relief Society lesson, I read what President Kimball said about the scriptures: "The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for 'unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.' (Luke 12:48) Access to these things means responsibility for them." 

This is true of the scriptures and of every other good thing in our lives:

The Lord is not trifling with us when He gives us our families- access to our family means responsibility for them. 

The Lord is not trifling with us when He gives us our talents- access to our talents means responsibility for them. 

So today, I would ask you to take a close look at your life, at the way you spend your time- are you doing more than just telling God thank you? Are you showing Him with your actions that you cherish these gifts?

Granted, our lives are full of blessings, and there aren't enough hours in the day to cherish every single one the way that we would want to in order to show our gratitude, but still- 

What if you woke up tomorrow with 
only the things you had shown God 
that you cherish today?

Just something to think about.


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