Dec 31, 2013

Happy New Year

by Terri Wagner

Usually people take time to discuss what they did over the year, what worked, what didn't. I think I'll forgo all this this New Year's Eve. Suffice it to say, I owe Heavenly Father big time. I have a steady, great job. My dad is home and doing better.

I'm a bit bummed Bama didn't make it yet again to the BCS but three years in a row has only been done once. The state of Alabama however is collectively rooting for Auburn to keep that crystal ball right here in the state. And yes if asked we definitely take football that seriously. LOL. Feel sorry for those that don't have the passion.

So this year my only resolution is to read and study the words of Isaiah. That's a big goal so it's my only one. He was quite a writer. And his words are important enough for the Savior to mention them to the Jews and the Nephities.

Have a wonderful New Year's Eve, and may all your football teams win.

Dec 30, 2013

A New Years to Remember

By Claire Enos

Well 2013 has been quite the year: 
Gained a few friends, 
           Lost a few, 
Had my first kiss.............................And my first boyfriend, 
My first (and hopefully only) Heartbreak. 

I rang in 2013 with Family and Laughter (and sleep!!) 
I rang in 2014 with Friends, Dancing, and Laughter!!! 

May 2014 have much less drama and a whole lot more
And                            Friends GALORE. 

Here's to the New Year!! 
*holds up wine glass of sparkling cider, and takes a sip* 

My best friend Nikki and our friend Virgle and me at the New
Year's Eve Dance!

My cousin Sharon dancing at the New
Year's Eve Dance!

Me all dressed up for the New Year's
Eve Dance!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post, even if it was late! I love New Year's! Have a GREAT 2014!!


Dec 28, 2013

Spiritual Hunger and Thirst

Daily Scripture Study

The other morning, my little granddaughter asked me why I read my scriptures every day. I told her "Because I want to show Heavenly Father I love Him."
That was a fine answer for a three-year-old. But I began to ponder the question further. Why do I read every day? 

These are some of the answers I came up with. What about you? Add to my list.
1.         To keep the Spirit with me for the day.
2.         To increase my gospel knowledge.
3.         To feel the peace that comes from reading the scriptures.
4.         To gain a testimony of the prophets, past and living.
5.         To add wisdom to my life.
6.         To give me thoughts to ponder throughout the day.
7.         To help me remember gratitude.
"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." John 6:35
Bottom line: I read because I don't want to be hungry and thirsty.           

Dec 27, 2013

Setting Goals for the New Year

by Marsha Ward

I'm not usually a goal-setter with serious intent. But sometime before last year, I came across someone's plan that I decided to adapt for myself in 2013. Hers included many, many categories: Life, Health, Family, Work, etc. I decided to focus principally on my writing and associated activities. I came up with three categories within that broad realm: THINGS I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH IN (year), EVENTS I WILL ATTEND AND/OR PRESENT AT, and THINGS I COMMITTED TO DO.

Actually setting down these goals for 2013 in a viewable form enabled me to do far more than I had expected as I reviewed the goals and worked toward them, so I have continued my progress by making a list for 2014.

The first bunch of goals for the coming year have mostly to do with the act of writing or furthering my writing business, and list the works I will write or finish, the books and ebooks I will re-publish, and other such things as possibly working on audio books.

The second grouping lists the conferences I will attend, and although I'm cutting back drastically in 2014, gives some alternatives in case finances loosen up.

The third batch lists my commitments: things I must write, my newsletter, blog schedule, and something else I must do for an organization.

Perhaps during the next year I will get the process of carrying out my goals down pat, and can include other areas of my life in my goals for 2015.

What process do you use to set and carry out long-term goals?

Dec 26, 2013


by Kari Diane Pike

Christmas morning brought new firsts for our family. With no one home under the age of 16, we slept until 7:30 am. While our three youngest children still lined up youngest to oldest at the top of the stairs, they also lined up tallest to shortest.

The unwrapping of gifts revealed ties, books, irons, clothes and chocolate, but nary a toy - and we finished in 15 minutes. We even ate breakfast before 10:00 am. I felt a little bit lost.

Fortunately, late afternoon brought little fists rapping at the front door, more ripping through paper and giggles and shrieks of delight. I shouldn't have worried so much about not being able to spend money on more and bigger gifts for the grandchildren. I noticed that they all pulled on the tshirts I decorated the moment they unwrapped them. I heard their laughter echo through the house and saw their eyes sparkle when I asked if they wanted to decorate cookies. I nuzzled the downy head of my three-month-old grandson and drank in his sweet scent. We played games, started a 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, made toffee (Thank you, Christy!), sang Christmas carols, and watched cheesy Christmas movies. Oh, and we made our annual trek to the Phoenix zoo.

What a difference from the week before when all I could think about was how inadequate I felt and how miserable Christmas was going to be because all of our Christmas baubles and trimmings and stockings remained packed in boxes in a vast storage unit somewhere in Utah. My mother and one of my dearest friends were battling cancer, and when the news came that a dear friend and mentor had passed away, I  wanted to cancel Christmas altogether. How could I celebrate when others around me faced such horrible challenges?

Driving down Higley Road, after a trip to take my husband his forgotten cell phone (yet another irritation), I turned on the radio just in time to hear "what can I give Him, poor that I am?" What can I give Him? The words echoed in my mind. I felt poor in every way possible - spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally. What can I give Him - poor that I am? A prayer formed in my heart and ever so quietly, the answer filled my soul.

Be happy.

Just be happy. Be grateful for life and enjoy the experience - bumps and mountains and cinders and all. Christ gave us everything -- even His own life so that I could live and love and learn and return to live with my Father in Heaven. The best way to be happy is to serve others and spread the happiness - like lighting a candle and then turning to my neighbor to light his. With each new candle, the light grows brighter and brighter.

"Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10

So, instead of stressing about not having enough time to bake and decorate before Christmas, I learned that it's much more fun to share cooking experiences with my children and grandchildren. Playing at the park creates memories and strengthens bonds much stronger than even the most expensive toy.  I can take that joy and light with me to help strengthen my friends and loved ones as they go through their trials.

So as the new year approaches, my list of resolutions has been reduced to one word:


Merry, merry Christmas, and may you create a magnificent new year!


Dec 25, 2013

T'was the Night Before Christmas in Arizona

by H. Linn Murphy

T'was the night before Christmas
In Arizona--no snow.
The reindeer were striking.
Through the cactus--no go.

They put up their noses
And folded their hoofs
Even though Santa promised
They'd only use roofs.

"The runners are useless
They'll stick in the sand.
You'll have to use wheels, man, 
And apply 'em by hand."

Then the reindeer departed
To graze in St. David
While Santa must struggle
With his sleigh so deprav-ed.

"What will I do
For propulsion," he asked
Of a slow desert tortoise
Which was out for a bask.

"There are plenty of critters
Just lyin' around.
You might look in the cactus
or a hole in the ground.

At last he was ready
To his team gave a cheer
Though he'd snagged his red suit
On some prickly pear.

His coursers stood ready
What a motley gang.
There were quail and rabbits
And a coyote who sprang.

"On Peckly, On Scraggly, 
On Fleabag and Fluffy
Go Road Pizza, Spot,
Chupacabra, and Scruffy."

To the top of the cactus
To the top of the roof
Came the prancing of narry
A fat reindeer hoof.

They flew through the cactus,
The stickers, and sand.
Santa took off his fur coat
On his sleigh burned his hand.

They went to each stucco-
Encrusted old shack
And Santa soon emptied
His bulging black sack.

By the time he hit our house
He was only in shorts
He was dripping with sweat
His face gaunt with warts. (must have been those toads we have)

I handed him water
He gasped out his thanks.
I watered his animals
From our livestock tanks.

While I was working
He filled up our socks.
With snake anti-venom
And pretty quartz rocks.

A roof fan for Mama
Some koolcote for Harry
And for me some nice grape juice (since I don't drink tequila)
Would make Christmas merry.

He hitched up his shorts
And turned with a wink
And hopped out the window (no fireplace)
Before I could think.

And laying the whip 
In the air o'er his sleigh
He raced to the next place
To make someone's day.

I heard him declare
As he drove out of shot
"Man this place is an oven!
It is certainly hot."

The quail how they chittered
The coyote did bark
The rabbits all squealed
But the sleigh hit its mark

I heard him exclaim as
The cactus he hit
"Oh for cryin' out loud,
There's a hole in my suit!

Dec 21, 2013

Showing Emotions in Your Writing

by Cindy R. Williams

"Gerald lay propped in the snow. He stared at the flames. A lump lodged in his throat, about the same size as the hole that had just been ripped out of his heart.



What have you done?"
The Crystal Code - The Billionaire Series by Richard Newsome

Writing emotions, true emotions so that you connect with your readers. Words that make your reader feel, and even agonize over what the character is going through. Writing with that ability is surely a worthy goal.

The opening exert hit me hard when I read it. I felt Gerald's pain, the tragedy of the situation. I mean, "A lump lodged in his throat, about the size of the hole that had just been ripped out of his heart." Wow! How did Mr. Newsome come up with that? How do other writers do it? I racked my brain to think of how describe what my character is feeling, how to put it in words, how to make it feel real to readers. I think I spend more time on trying to show feelings in my writing than I do on any other aspect.

Once I get words that seem to say what I mean, I often have a meandering paragraph, nothing so succinct as the "lump lodges in his throat, about the size of the hole ripped out of the heart" thing. So now there are two issues. Find the right words and be able to say it succinctly.

Is there a trick? Is there a gimmick, a tool, a method to writing emotions so well? If there is and you know it, will you please share it with me?

In the meantime, I will continue to rack my brain, and rattle around in my emotions as I strive to find words that show what my characters are feeling without losing my reader in my ramblings.


Dec 20, 2013

Ten Scents

By Beckie Carlson

I used to be an avid reader. I hesitate saying that I am currently an avid reader because the only books I have read recently are text books. Text books, although very useful for gaining knowledge, holding up lopsided tables and smashing bugs, are rather lacking in the 'reading for pleasure' aspect I look for in the books I read. Now that I am officially done with school (for a month) I am going to dive into a few books that will be mostly brain candy, frivolous, and totally enjoyable. I have been collecting a stack of books and book titles for just such a break from school. I just need to remember where I put them....

While thinking about reading, and books, and all things literary, I came across a Facebook post where someone was 'required' to share the top ten books that impacted their life in some way. I wasn't tagged or otherwise 'required' to share the same list, but I thought it was a cool idea. Thus, I shall hereby list the top ten books that made me laugh, made me cry, or in some way 'moved' me, in no particular order.

1. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. This is one of those books that I saw from across the book store. It spoke to me, beckoning me closer. Maybe it was because it was dark purple with silver vines all over it. Maybe it was the cryptic title. Maybe it was the amazing innards that could sense I was a person who would appreciate the twisted tales of familiar characters in not so familiar settings. It is beautiful and very disturbing at the same time. I highly recommend it. 

2. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares. Although the ending of this book made me want to find the author and punch her in the face when I finished reading it, I really loved it. It is an amazing story of love and loss and life and struggle and.....remembering who you are when all around you have forgotten. This is the kind of book that sticks in your brain and influences the way you see the world. I may have to read it again soon.

3. The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I know, you saw the movie...and the movie was actually really close to the book. But seriously, you must read the book. It was beautiful and amazing in how it was woven together. Niffenegger has taken control of time. She commands it and shapes it in such a way as to make you question where you are in it.

4. The Incarnates of Immortality by Piers Anthony. Hey! I remember him, you say....yes, a well known author back in the day. This is a whole series of books about the 'offices' of immortals. Time, Death, Mother Earth, Fate, etc. I can't pick which one is my favorite, as they all have amazing tales to tell. These books shaped how I think about the world in many ways. One of my favorite parts is where the main character wears rose colored glasses that show him how things really are in the world. A lesson to be learned in these books....maybe more than one.

5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. The story that is in this amazing book is one that everyone should know. It is the story of one man's small mistake and the lifetime he spent to repay his debt. He shows us the example of love, caring, character, and losing oneself to help others. This book is more than a book, it is an experience. It teaches how to be selfless and to see beyond the outward appearance of people, into their very souls.

6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It's an oldie, but a goodie. I read it originally because it was going to be required reading for my kids in high school when we lived in Alabama. I was amazed at the material it covered and wondered why on earth anyone would want teenagers to read it. I still wonder that...but I found a beautiful lesson in it's pages. It is a story very like the story of Cain and Abel. They did what they did, because they could. Choices. Adults only please.....

7. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland. A beautifully written story of a painting and the journey it takes in and out of people's lives. Vreeland does an amazing job of intertwining lives throughout time.

8. The Passion of Atemesia by Susan Vreeland. What can I say? I like this author! This book is about a woman painter who lived when it was taboo to be a woman painter.She is tried as a witch and has her fingers broken. It is a painful story of struggle to do what one loves.

9. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. This is the story of Michelangelo and the struggles he went through to be able to do what he wanted. I wish my second choice talent was amazing as his! While reading this book my hands seriously ached to touch marble. I was convinced I would also be able to see the figure hidden within the rock as he did.

10. Serendipity of the Spirit by Richard M. Eyre. The book is good, but the part I read over and over is the tale of three princes that set out on a quest and end up finding themselves. This book taught me how to embrace the twists and turns that come in life and to look for the good and the learning opportunities in every situation. If you only read the story in the book, it is worth it.

Anyone that has been to my house knows that I love books. I have bookcases in every room overflowing with books of all kinds. I rarely pass a bookstore without finding a book I can't live without. Lately, when I go in a bookstore I feel a pain in my soul. I look at all the books on the shelves and wonder why mine isn't there. I have to finish and get them out. All the stories that are stuffed into this little brain of mine are getting restless. I love writing....I need to do it to feed my soul. Nobody else may like it, read it, or even use it to line a bird's cage, but it's what I need to do.
So, here's to getting my butt in gear and getting some writing done. Starting tomorrow....cause I said so.

Photo credit:

Dec 19, 2013

Rudolph's Story

 By Susan Knight

While a newspaper reporter, I was lucky enough to be indulged by my editor when I asked if I could research and write the story of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Following is a slightly condensed account of that article.
One of the most beloved childhood Christmas songs of all times is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Unlike other popular songs and carols, the story of Rudolph is a modern, 20th century account that started off as a poem written by Robert L. May in 1939.
May, 34 at the time, worked for Montgomery Ward in Chicago as a copywriter. The chain needed a promotional gimmick as a giveaway for their customers during Christmas. The store usually gave away coloring books to the children, but the company decided to create its own giveaway that year.
May was tapped to come up with something pleasing to the children.
It so happens, at that time, May’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. His only daughter, four-year-old Barbara, worried about her mother’s health and wondered why her mother wasn't like everybody else’s mother.
May penned the story of a reindeer who was different from all the other reindeer. Drawing on his own experiences of being a shy child, Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Ugly Duckling,” and the same rhyming method of Clement C. Moore in “The Night Before Christmas,” he wrote the reindeer story in rhyming couplets. He used his daughter’s like or dislike of the poem as an assessment of what other children might like.
The story begins with a young reindeer that was taunted by his peers because he was "different."
“Ha ha! Look at Rudolph! His nose is a sight!
It’s red as a beet! Twice as big! Twice as bright!”
But Rudolph, though lonesome, was always good and obeyed his parents. As Christmas approached, he was anxious to see what Santa would bring him because he knew he had been good. As it happened, Santa had a crisis. It was so foggy he couldn’t see a thing as he traveled the world on Christmas Eve.
“Without any stars or a moon as our compass,
This extra-dark night is quite likely to swamp us.
To keep from a smash-up, we’ll have to fly slow.     
  To see where we’re going, we’ll have to fly low.”

In the story, Santa was worried he wouldn’t be able to deliver the toys while the children were still asleep because of the extra time it was taking him because of the fog. He had trouble seeing inside the homes as well, until he came upon one home where he was met with a glowing red light.
From something that lay at the head of the bed.
The lamp wasn’t burning; the light came, instead,
And there lay – but wait now – what would you suppose?
 The glowing, you’ve guessed it, was Rudolph’s red nose!           
Santa gently wakened Rudolph and asked if he would guide his sleigh. We all know how the story ends.
   That Rudolph, the ugliest deer of them all,
             Rudolph the Red-Nose, bashful and small,              
     The funny-faced fellow they always called names,
   And practically never allowed in their games,  
Was now to be envied by all, far and near.
For no greater honor can come to a deer
Than riding with Santa and guiding his sleigh,
The Number One job, on the Number One day!
May’s daughter loved the story and wanted her father to recite it over and over.
It’s funny that the reindeer’s name wasn’t always "Rudolph." Wanting an alliterative name to go with "red-nosed reindeer," May first tried "Rollo" but his boss didn’t like it. Then he used "Reginald," but that name was deemed "too British." They all finally agreed on "Rudolph."
May’s boss, thinking the public would perceive a reindeer with a red nose as a drunk, didn't like the story. May asked Denver Gillen, from Montgomery Ward’s art department, to sketch the reindeer and the sketches sold the story, which was well-received. People could relate to the underdog, er, deer.
Montgomery Ward gave away 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in 1939.
By 1946, a total of six million copies of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” had been published and May started thinking about all the royalties that could be garnered by licensing his idea.
Since Montgomery Ward owned the copyright to the book, May didn't receive any royalties from his idea. When his wife died, at about the same time the story of Rudolph was first published, May was deeply in debt because of her medical bills. He needed money.
  After some persuasion by May, Sewell Avery, Montgomery Ward’s corporate president, turned the copyright over to him in 1947, and the story was printed commercially as a book, and was also shown as a nine-minute cartoon in movie theaters.     
According to Stanley A. Frankel in “The Story Behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” printed in the “Good Housekeeping” magazine in December 1989, May remarried in 1941 to Virginia Newton and they had three children. May’s new brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and music to the popular “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” that we are all familiar with.
Marks must have known German because he changed Moore’s original reindeer Donder’s name to Donner, which in German means "thunder," since Blitzen means "lightening." Later, versions of the Moore poem listed the reindeer as "Donner."
The tune was recorded in 1949 by Gene Autry, the singing cowboy. Autry introduced the song at Madison Square Garden in New York City that year. The tune sold two million copies in 1949 and went on to be one of the best selling Christmas songs of all time, second only to Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”
 Rudolph was definitely a hero in both the story and the song. The original account relates Santa as proclaiming to Rudolph and all those within earshot:
"By you last night’s journey was actually bossed.
Without you, I’m certain, we’d all have been lost!
I hope you’ll continue to keep us from grief,
On future dark trips, as commander-in-chief."
This is the book I had in the 1950s
May died in 1976, comfortable in the knowledge that the legend of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had gone down in his-to-ry as one of the most beloved characters and one of the most popular Christmas songs in the world.
You're welcome!

Dec 14, 2013

An Influence for Good

When I was in college at Utah State and just newly married, I worried about my cooking skills. They were mediocre, to say the least. Sometimes we shared recipes in Relief Society, for which I was very grateful.
We had a Stake Relief Society President, Sister Miner, who was round and jolly and loved the young sisters she shepherded. She knew that many of us were just beginning our married lives and didn't have a lot of expertise in cooking, so once a quarter she would hold a class on a Saturday morning to demonstrate omelets, bread making, or whatever we had questions about.
I vaguely remember attending many of her culinary events, but one stands out in my mind with crystal clarity. This Saturday she was demonstrating candy making. We learning about nougat centers and dipping chocolates--even cherry chocolates. She showed us how to make marshmallows with a variety of flavors.
But the best came last. She cooked a simple English toffee recipe that only took about 10 minutes to complete and was to-die-for delicious. I went home to try it and was glad I'd watched the demonstration because as the candy cooked, it needed to begin to 'smoke' before it came off the high heat.

 I was nervous about my first try, but it turned out great, and I was the hit of our Friday night social that week.

I have made the candy every Christmas since, and family and friends have raved about it. I decided to post it on my Connections blog last year and was amazed at the number of hits it got. I couldn't believe it when the numbers reached 20,000. I thought that was astounding. But that wasn't the end. Soon the numbers climbed to 50,000, and then 80,000, and finally 90,000.

 Here's the link:

Now many people all over the world are enjoying sweet Sister Miner's cooking expertise. I could not have imagined that from a single Saturday morning class something like this could happen. I wish everyone who tries her candy could bask in the warmth of her friendly manner and be influenced by her sweet testimony of the Savior.
I love her for teaching me how to cook, but I love her more for the testimony she shared. Many have felt her influence for good. I hope she's watching all this from Heaven because I send her my love.

Dec 13, 2013

Jesus the Christ: a book that influenced my life

by Marsha Ward

Many years ago, while I was serving a proselytizing mission for the LDS Church, I read Jesus the Christ, by James E. Talmage, for the first time. Over the intervening years, I have dipped into it again and again, but now I am undertaking a complete read for the second time.

I have no doubt that this endeavor will take much time, perhaps up to a year, but I look forward to it, for this is the book that helped cement my abiding faith in my Lord, Jesus Christ as divine, as my Lord and Savior, and my Redeemer.

Talmage, who was an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, complete the text in April, 1915, and revisions were finished later that year. The text was based on a series of lectures he had given in 1904 and 1905, after which the leaders of the Church asked him to write the material in book form. Other commitments prevented him beginning the work on a book until the next decade, but once he could begin, the work went forward in a room in the Salt Lake Temple, where he wrote each chapter in longhand, then submitted it to the church leaders for approval.

Although this book is now almost one hundred years old, its scholarship and merit as the defining work by modern man testifying that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the holy Jehovah and Redeemer of this world, has stood the test of time.

Talmage writes in a deep and intense English, of such precision and correctness that each word resonates in the soul of the prayerful reader. In fact, prayer is a great help as an accompaniment to reading the work, especially for our younger generation that does not have the benefit of instruction in grammar and generally lacks in a generous vocabulary.

For me, it is a joy to immerse myself in the elegant English phrases, challenging me to better myself and my grasp of English as much as it challenges me to increase my faith in Jesus the Christ.

I will never, ever forget the perfect vision this book brought to my mind of my Lord and Master in the depth of despair at Gethsemane, of the vicious indignities he stoically bore during the time of his trial, and the overwhelming grief I felt at the foot of his cross, so vivid as though I had actually sat there, beholding the events in real time.

It changed my life forever.

This tome testified not only of the divinity of Jesus Christ, but of the power of words, of testimony, and of conviction. It solidified my belief and faith in my Savior, which has remained unshakeable throughout my life.

I encourage those who have never ventured into this classic work to dip into it, to savor the deep conviction of Talmage in his subject matter, and to be converted to the knowledge of the divine work of Jesus the Christ, the immortal Son of God, and his atoning sacrifice for mankind, for me, and for you.