Oct 31, 2013

More Powerful Than Monsters

by Kari Diane Pike

Twenty-one children have lived in my home throughout the past 35 years: five daughters and four sons to whom I gave birth, four foster daughters and eventually three of their children, and a variety of nieces and nephews. You'd think I'd catch on a little faster, but last week, the first clue that I was in for a challenge while tending three great-nephews came during a rowdy game of tag.

Three-year-old Tristan exploded from his hiding place behind the cushions and leaped off the back of the couch, his bare feet slapping on the tile floor as he landed and raced around the kitchen island. "My Kari! My Kari! You're it! You have to catch me!"

Six-year-old Tommy danced around me like a boxer waiting for his opponent to strike the first blow. His blue eyes dared me to chase him. "Can't catch me! Can't catch me! I'm super fast!"

Two-year-old Landon didn't say a word. He didn't have to. His impish grin as he turned away said it all.

"Oh yeah? Watch out, 'cause I'm gonna getcha!" I raised my arms above my head and roared. Then I chased after Tristan. He let out a screech and took off toward Landon, who giggled and ducked and ran the opposite direction. I turned my attention toward Tommy. I tried to growl, but the challenging look on his sweet, freckled face made me laugh. I ran to catch him just as Tristan scurried behind Tommy. Tommy grabbed his brother by the arm and shoved him at me.

"Tristan! Distract her!" Tommy tore off down the hallway as I caught Tristan just before he slammed into wall next to me. Let's just say that the game was delayed (being a fifty-something-year-old grandma who birthed nine babies gives a whole new meaning to that old cliche about what happens when you laugh too hard).

Tommy had revealed the unspoken pact that children, particularly siblings, have with each other from birth: "You distract our poor, unsuspecting parents and I'll go in for the kill." Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but I think that most parents have moments when they feel ganged up on like that. Anyway, now that Tommy had let the proverbial cat out of the bag, I was on to them. Besides, I am happy to report that my spidey-mom senses, or in this case great-auntie senses, are still intact. Once again I recognized that prickly feeling up my spine and hair standing on my neck that made me listen -- and hear silence.

"Tristan! Where are you? No Tristan, you are not allowed to scale the shelves to the top of the closet to get the forbidden game controller. I know you have on your Spider-Man costume and that you have super climbing powers, but the answer is still no."

After dinner and baths, I snuggled on my bed with those three little boys who were dressed for the night in their teenage cousin's old soccer and choir tees. Halfway through the second story, Tristan and Landon's bodies jerked as their tired muscles released the last of the day's pent up energy. I drank in the irony of the innocence in those sweet faces. Tommy cleared his throat, reminding me that we hadn't finished the story.

"Aunt Kari, how do I get tired so that I can go to sleep too?"

"You don't have to go to sleep, Tommy. Just close your eyes and rest."

"But when I close my eyes, the monsters come."

"I'm sorry you see monsters. That's scary. Try to think about happy things."

"I try to think about happy things, but then the monsters come and scare the happy things away and kill everything."

"Hmmmm...I guess it's a good thing that monsters are make-believe."

"What? Well, yeah, but they're scary."

"They are scary. But guess what! Since monsters are make-believe and you're real, you have more powers than the monsters do."

"What? I have powers?" Tommy sat straight up, his eyes bugged out and his mouth dropped open. "Nuh-uh. I don't have powers." A giggle worked its way up from Tommy's belly and he cupped his hand over his mouth to suppress it. He even rolled his eyes -- yet another innate ability children come with.

"Sure you do, Tommy. You are real. Heavenly Father made you. He gave you special powers. Monsters aren't real, so they don't have real powers. You have the power to make all the monsters go away."

A little crease formed between Tommy's eyebrows. "Where are my powers? Why can't I see them? How can I see them?" He held out his arms and pretended to shoot webs out his hands like Spider-Man.

"They're right there inside your heart."

The furrow in his brow deepened. "Does Tristan have powers too?"

"Sure. Heavenly Father made Tristan and Landon and Mommy and Daddy and everybody. We are all Heavenly Father's children and He gave all of us special powers so that we can be stronger than all of the monsters."

"Huh? How do I find my powers? How do I learn how to use them?"

"Well, you can find your powers by saying your prayers and asking Heavenly Father to help you be strong. Then you practice using them by being kind to others. You try your best to help your family and your friends. You go to church and learn about those powers. Your powers get stronger and stronger when you practice them."

"So, my powers get stronger when I grow?"

"Yep. You'll learn what your special powers are when you practice being kind and making good choices. You will get stronger and stronger. If you want, we can say prayers right now and you can ask Heavenly Father to help you be stronger than the monsters and make them go away so you can sleep."

Tommy climbed out of bed and knelt beside me.

"Aunt Kari, I don't know what to say to Heavenly Father."

"What makes you happy? What are you thankful for?" Tommy told me about all the things that make him happy. "Tell Heavenly Father what you just told me. Tell Him thank you for all those wonderful things."
Then we talked about Tommy's monsters. And Tommy asked Heavenly Father to help him be stronger than the monsters. After our "Amen", I tucked Tommy under the covers next to his sleeping brothers. He fell asleep in less than a minute.

Just a couple of mornings later, I woke up feeling like I was sitting on the edge of a deep ravine and the sides were caving in under me. I recognized that impending doom feeling and the deep hole of depression and discouragement it can lead to. I was tempted to hide from my monsters by staying under the covers. Then I remembered my conversation with Tommy. I knelt beside my bed and I began to pray. I prayed as hard as I have ever prayed before. I felt a spark of hope. I sang a hymn. I read my scriptures. I prayed some more. That spark ignited and I felt its warmth and peace fill my soul.

The challenges of the day were still before me, but I was able to focus on what was most important. Yes, my mother has another cancer. But she can be cured. She is going to be sicker than she has ever been before, but we can be there for her and help her. Yes, I have family members and friends who struggle with their own monsters, but we can use our powers together to fight for truth and righteousness. We are children of a Heavenly Father who loves us and we love him. He sent His only begotten Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. With the Savior beside us, we can have the strength to do hard things.

Thank you, Tommy, for teaching me that even a great Aunt still has the power to make the monsters go away.


Oct 30, 2013

Running the Torch

By H. Linn Murphy

When I drop my kids off at Seminary I go running or walking in the park next to the Stake Center. It's cool, then, and I can read while I walk or have conversations in my head or go over story ideas or compose or just plain talk to God.

There are several people there who are regulars and I wave and say 'hi' as we pass. One of them is a Ukrainian Grandma named Valya. I know her name because I've been stalking her for months. Not in a creepy way, but she interests me. She walks every single day whether it's blisteringly hot or achingly cold. In a skirt. She's got to be pushing eighty. And she walks fast.

I stopped once to ask her where she came from. Then I told her my son was in Russia on a mission. She clapped her hands and hugged me. "Ah! Good! Good!" she crowed in her broken English.

I thought that was the end of things with her--that she'd forget what I said and we'd just be waving buddies. Now and then I'd stop and tell her something about him, though. I told her when it snowed on him in September and that he loved it there where he was in Siberia ('cause it wasn't winter yet). He loves the people.

One day she was walking with her other Russian friend and a little American lady. I ran up and said 'hi' and she turned to her black friend and said, "Her son is on a mission in Russia."

You could have knocked me over with a paper clip. She remembered! Not only that but she hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks. The hug-fest began in earnest.

Since then I've helped hook them up when they were separated, walked short distances with them, and even changed my route to meet up with them.

You see, I have an ulterior motive. I want to have Valya ready for my son to baptize when he gets home from his mission. The thought of that possibility makes me squirm in my seat.

I took off on my run today with a continuing conversation with God in my head. I ran past Valya in her little black skirt as she cruised around the corner towards me, that huge grin on her wrinkled-prune face. And then I started thinking about her and praying for a missionary experience.

I argued in my head that I didn't know if she was ready yet. And then it occurred to me that if she wasn't and I still broached the subject, there was no harm done. It's not like we were bosom buddies and she'd key my car or something. No fear. Stop being such a wuss.

I saw her up ahead and she'd changed directions as she does when she's trying to hook up with her other granny friend. So then the ideas started to form in my head and burgeoned into a full-fledged working plan. If Heavenly Father felt she was ready, He would make it so I would catch up with her and let the light break over her life. It was a great plan, especially since I was running and she wasn't. I was sure to catch up to her. How could I not?

I'd tell her that God must love her because He sent me to her side. She would give me that jack-o-lantern grin of hers and we would launch into an amazingly cool talk about religion and she would embrace all I had to tell her. It would be great.

I sped up going around the turn.

She was walking incredibly fast. Eighty-something? Please.

I sped up more and seemed to be gaining on her.

I could see that the sun was just about to break over the mountains, and would just as I got to her side. How poetic! Both lights would illuminate her world at once.

Now I was running full out, the adrenalin pounding through my veins.

"I'm going to do this!" I thought. "I'm going to be a torch-bearer. There's no good reason to stay my hand because it's a gift."

Now it was the Spirit pounding through my blood as well as adrenalin. I felt great--alive and pumping with the truth.

Valya's form coalesced just as the sun's rays burst over the mountains, filling the sky with light.

I opened my mouth to call her name.

From out of the sun glare stepped...her friend.

Valya linked arms with her and turned to go back towards me.

All I could do was smile and wave as I halfheartedly ran past them.

What just happened?

I felt like someone sneaked up and popped my balloon. I couldn't have turned around with her. It would have been too obvious. I was at the end of my run and out of time. I had kids to get to school. I stood there for a few seconds trying to get my bearings.

The let-down was tremendous. "Why?" I asked God. "This was happening."

"She wasn't ready. And I don't want you to wreck this. You can't cavalierly blow it off as a 'try'. She's special. There'll be time," He said.

I wiped my eyes and picked up
my pace again, my feet pounding the turf of the walkway. I thought about how hard it had been to psych myself up for the venture. It was funny, really, how deflated I felt now.

Someday she'll open her arms and heart. And then I'll give her that gift. But not today.
Read the continuing story in my next post.

Oct 28, 2013

How to Grow Your Heart - Volunteer

By Stacy Johnson

Last year I coached a cheer squad of older girls about to go into high school and middle school. They were a fantastic group of girls with a great amount of skill in tumbling, dance and cheer. I had a fabulous assistant coach who knew more about cheer than I did and we made a great team. I pretty much stepped back and let her make our squad even more fabulous. As I did that, I had time to look around and see what was going on with the other teams and I started paying particular attention to one of our other squads.

This year, that same team was in need of a coach and I stepped up to take the position. I had never coached a team like this and except for being friends with the girls, had never really worked with them one on one. Little did I know how much this season would increase the size of my heart and my capacity to love.

Watch this video.

www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=729973683684331&set=vb.248537068606047&type=3&theater Show message history

McKenzie struggled with her somersault for weeks. We kept telling her she could do it and she finally did and was able to do them in the routine! Valerie doesn't speak much but after her first practice, she did the "touchdown" cheer for her bus driver over and over till she got to school. Catherine might be a little boy crazy but she was the first to tell someone they did a good job and was a friend to all the girls on the team. Morgan was our rockstar cart-wheeler who was so humble about the whole thing . She was quiet but yet vocal with her opinion when she wanted to be heard. Ayleen, while she sat in her wheelchair the entire time memorized every cheer and move to go along with it after just a few days of practicing with us. And Chy unconditionally loved every girl on the team and was quick with a hug and a smile when things got rough and when the tears came, she was the first to try and soothe them away.

Really, what I learned about these girls is that they are typical teenagers. They love having their picture taken, they are particular about their hair and makeup, most of them are a little boy crazy, they want to be a part of the same things their peers are doing (case in point, most of them went to the homecoming dance). They have unique talents and abilities and they all desire to be respected by their peers.

What they do have that is sometimes not typical in teenagers, is an ability to see beyond another's disabilities, a desire to make sure everyone feels loved and a sincerity that is refreshing. These girls are my heroes and I think my heart doubled if not tripled in size by working with them.

Oct 26, 2013


by Cindy R. Williams

Birthday's are a matter of age. Well, of course they are but, the direction I am going here is that how we celebrate them depends upon the age.

If it's your first birthday ever, you may get your very own small cake to grab, smash and throw.

In the Mormon Society, an eighth birthday, is extra special because you have the opportunity to be baptized.

Many birthday's while you are in grade school are celebrated with gatherings of rowdy play mates, games, swimming, jumping, cake and ice cream and of course presents.

Celebrating birthday's in your twenties, even thirties is often a get-together with friends and family for cake and ice cream, or possibly out to lunch or dinner. Maybe even dinner and a movie.

Then there's the dreaded "Over the Hill" parties for when you hit your big "Four O" or "Five-O".

How about the celebrations that mark the years of "I am 24 . . . again," or "I am now 30 plus. Plus what you say? I'm not telling, so leave it alone."

I am coming up on one of the 30+ birthday's. I don't really want any kind of a gathering, lunch or dinner. I don't even want presents. What I would like is a day of peace and quiet. One that I can putter around, turn off the phone, write a little if I want to, take a bubbly bath and then curl up for a nice long nap. Now that sounds wonderful.

Here's a HAPPY BIRTHDAY to each of you on your next birthday. I hope you have the birthday celebration that makes you happy!

Oct 25, 2013

Feeling Poetic....

By Beckie Carlson

Thursday Night

Thursday night and and it feels like forever
since we have touched
since we have talked.
Thursday night and it feels like a mountain
of things left unsaid
of days spent unshared.
Thursday night and it feels like a bottle
so empty and hollow
so full of regret.
Thursday night and it feels like nothing
can change how it is
can change how it went.
Thursday night and it feels like a dream
the life I once lived
the life I had you.

Cause I said so.
Photo credit: www.sodahead.com

Oct 24, 2013

Autumn Amen

By Susan Knight

I know it's a late post. I couldn't think of anything to write. So I figured I'd let you have a visual feast of my favorite season. I am blessed that I lived in Pennsylvania where I learned to love autumn. I now live in Utah where I am reminded always of the "Creator" of beauty in nature. I have been spending more time outside, taking pictures, than inside writing. October is my favorite month.

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Chester County, Pennsylvania
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
Albert Camus
Alpine Loop, highest point, Utah
“Fall has always been my favorite season.
The time when everything bursts with its last beauty,
as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” 
Lauren DeStefano, Wither
Alpine Loop, Utah
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 
George Elliot
Chester County, Pennsylvania
“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile.” 
William Cullen Bryant
Fall in Central Pennsylvania
“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
Humbert Wolfe
Alpine Loop, Utah. This one looks like an oil painting, but it is a photograph.
“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks
Susan Knight

Oct 23, 2013

5 Things I Learned in School This Week

by Bunny Miner

No, I'm not taking any classes, I started as an aide in a special ed classroom.  Oh my gosh, I LOVE THESE KIDS!  They are just so sweet and only want to be recognized and acknowledged for what they can do.  I have kids in wheelchairs, kids who are visually challenged, kids with downs and various other awesome kinds of kids who teach me everyday.  I feel so blessed to be part of their lives!

Here's what I learned this week:

1.  Never stick your head (or nose as the saying goes) where it doesn't belong.  Yesterday I managed to get my hair pulled by 4 different kiddos!  My new record.  So, pretty much know that when you do stick some body part where it doesn't belong, that karma will come around and bite you, somewhere!

2.  Always wash your hands after you sneeze (or stick a finger up your nose--preferrable your own if you have to do it at all!).  We've had 4 kiddos get sick with the same nastiness in the past 2 days and anticipate even more tomorrow.  School isn't as fun when you have more adults in the room than you have students!  So keep things clean and life goes more smoothly.  Do what you know you're supposed to do and stay away from the things you know you shouldn't do.  'Sickness' spreads so keep yours to yourself.  Or better yet, repent and give it to Christ who actually paid for it already.

3.  If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  Or maybe just answer your teacher/aide when they ask you a question!  It's pretty easy to tell when these kiddos are mad at you.  They're really good at the silent treatment!  Maybe if we all kept what we were thinking to ourselves, the world would be a better place!  Unless, of course, you're happy then by all means have a huge smile on your face or clap your hands or give someone a hug!

4.  Eyes really are a window into your soul or at least into what's going on in your head!  I have a lot of non-verbal kids and at first glance you may think that they don't have much to say but boy, let me tell you, are you wrong!  By looking at someones eyes you can tell so many things.  You can tell if they're 'off'.  If they're tired or sick or just generally not 'themselves'.  With this little clue, you can help improve someone's day.  Taking the time to do something nice, say hello or just give a smile can turn those eyes from dull to sparkling in, as they say, a blink of an eye!

5.  Music is a universal language.  I can't dance or sing but hey, how many of us really can?  My kids have taught me to let the music in me to shine forth and enjoy each minute of every day.  And why not, if you really think about it, life is too short to sweat the small stuff and perhaps, even the big stuff!

I hope some of the lessons I've learned from my special friends can brighten your day or someone that you pass it along to!

Oct 22, 2013

Who Knew Sentences Could Be So Complicated

by Terri Wagner

It’s grammar time! So here goes. Basic sentence structure gets creamed in today’s writing. And if you follow the rules as we all understand them, you will end up with very simple sentences,

So what’s that basic structure: A noun and a verb. Or as they say, subject and predicate. That is news to me, how about you?

I guess they use subject instead of noun because a pronoun can also be a subject but is closely related to a noun. Ok my head is aching already. Can anything else be a subject? Why yes…you can have invisible subjects. For example, Call the plumber, please. The implied, invisible subject is tada “you.” And we are just on the subject of a sentence. Yikes.

The predicate (or verb) expresses the subject’s or state of being. It can be action as in “He ran away,” or state of being as in “You are here.” Got that? Good, let’s move on.

Subjects can be modified by adjectives, be plural with the “and,” or as we have already discussed invisible. They can be clauses that “contain” the subject. And they can be independent clauses joined by a conjunctive words. I’m already confused how about you?

Predicates can be modified by other verbs but not by adjectives. Yes, there can be plural verbs, and they can also be contained in a clause. They do not have to follow the subject thus rendering them oddly placed in a sentence. Got that?

Finally, there is the truest way to figure out sentence composition…the diagram. It’s something they are coming back to doing in school these days. I took English 101 in college like every good Freshman does. My final was to diagram the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. I aced it. Couldn’t fathom how to do it today. For kicks, here’s a place you can find the Preamble Diagram

A simple sentence composition is an art with some scientific rules thrown in for good measure. I suspect we can use a brush up on something we may think we know very well.

Good luck. I may stick with “He ran. It was a sight to see.” At least I would know I was grammatically correct!!!

Oct 21, 2013

Why I Write

By Claire Enos

I am sure I've mentioned things that people have said to me in the past. Not just the good, but that bad: the parts where they ask why I'm even going into English in college when it won't be useful to me in the future. Well, the other day I was sitting in Spanish class, waiting for class to start, and I was staring at something (can't remember what) but it sparked a bunch of questions in my mind and I decided to write this in my notebook:

I don't write because I have so much experience or because I have a ton I can write about. I mean, lets be honest, I'm not exactly wise or older. I'm barely 22, and I have barely any writing or life experience compared to my friends and family who write. I write because I enjoy it. I write because it is my life. I write because I am curious. I like making up stories based on situations. I like taking things out of proportion and reordering them to create a whole different story. I like doing the research. What makes a person a good writer isn't whether or not they know what they are doing or have a ton of experience to write on; It's knowing what makes a good story, knowing that some things make sense and some don't, having an imagination, being curious and doing the research. You could be the best writer in the world, and if your story isn't interesting no one will read it. That is why I write: To tell a story, to do the research, to satisfy my curiosity.

They say "curiosity killed the cat." I like to remind them that "satisfaction brought him back."

Life is full of experience, but if you don't have the guts to follow through with your curiosity and write something worth reading, you won't make it far.


PS: Friday was my 22nd birthday, and this is one of the pictures from my party. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Oct 19, 2013

Your Story

by Christy Monson

I was up early one morning to see the sun rise over the Grand Tetons, the view from our summer home. The sight was breath-taking. I couldn't help but think of this quote I've attached to the picture. I have several stories I could tell that fit perfectly with this scene. We all have them, you know. But that would detract from your own stories which are much more meaningful to you than mine would be.

What story would you attach to this picture?

Oct 17, 2013

The Power of Love

by Kari Pike

I wish I could come up with a brilliant title and an even more fascinating first sentence so that you could feel what I am feeling right now. I could blame my inability to express these tender feelings on my inadequacy as a writer, but it goes much deeper than that. Sometimes it isn't possible to say in words what one feels deep inside as the Holy Spirit teaches and enlightens and testifies of truth.

The need for love is universal. As human beings, we crave to be accepted and loved for who we are. It has been humbling to witness the power of love as I've spent time with two different families in crisis. When I observe these families and the unique ways they approach their challenges, I do a great deal of pondering on the power of love. You see, one family makes most of their decisions based on fears about the actions of other people. The other family makes most of their choices based on a desire to serve and be there for each other. The first family panics, runs around in circles and lets things happen to them. The second family tries to stay calm, prays for direction and then takes action. They are proactive in solving their problems and they work together. The first family does not have the gospel in their lives. They struggle to understand the purpose to their lives. There's a lot of drama and heartache and hurt feelings. The second family has a testimony of Christ. They know why they are here and where they are going. They feel the healing love and grace of the Savior working in their lives, and that feeling empowers them.

I looked up "love" in the topical guide of my scriptures. I wanted to gain a better understanding of Christ's motivation to do all He has done and continues to do for us. Moses taught in Deuteronomy 6:5 that we are commanded to "love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." The Savior himself taught in Matthew 22:37 that the first and great commandment is to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Then Jesus continues and teaches us that the second commandment is to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Verse 40 in that same chapter explains that "on these commandments hang all the law and the prophets." What does that mean?

The Savior explained to the Pharisees that God is the God of the living and that to "love [God] with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12: 13-37). Paul later explains in Romans 13: 8- 10 that "he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law" and "love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." If we love God and love our neighbor, we will have no trouble keeping the rest of the commandments because we will have no desire to bring pain or sorrow to others.

To love with all your heart denotes commitment -- commitment to do the best we can with what we understand -- commitment to use all our strength, whatever that may be, to serve God and our neighbors. To develop and exercise this kind of love is how we "render unto God the things that are God's." This life is not about being the wealthiest, the smartest, or the most beautiful. This life is all about serving God and loving Him through loving and serving the people around us. It's all about the ministering. Everything Christ did, He did because of His love for us. Love is powerful. Love gives us life, spiritually and physically.

A friend once pointed out to me that the greatest gift we can receive and develop is the ability to love others and to to help them feel that love. Stop for a moment and think about the people who have come and gone in your life. I'll guess that the ones you think of first are probably those who have inspired you and left you with a feeling of being loved and cherished. I know I enjoy being around  people like that because they leave me feeling more confident and empowered. They bolster and lift me. I want to be the kind of person who inspires greatness in others...because we are all children of God and great in His sight.

The Savior healed and continues to heal us because He loves us. The only way we can return that love is by sharing it with others. I know it sounds cliche, but love really does make the world go round.

Oct 16, 2013

And When She Hath Found It

by H. Linn Murphy

I have not been diligent at keeping a journal. I used to be. I have several tomes which not only boast of my entire life via word, but includes pressed flowers, ticket stubs, name tags, hospital birthing room bracelets, and various other mementos which can be flattened.

The other day, while cleaning, I thought about how I mostly use blog posts and emails as my journal. It occurred to me that not only are computers highly fallible, but I don't have a record right there in front of me. Also, there are things I put in a journal that I wouldn't necessarily share with the world at large. And the crowning plus is that my Patriarchal Blessing is in my journal.

I dusted off my old journals and read the last post I posted. 2010 in that journal. Surely the current journal had to have something from at least this year. So I decided to hunt it down. "It's easy," I told myself. "It's right there in the bookcase near my computer."

But it wasn't. Seriously, I checked.

I was horrified. Not only was my journal hopelessly out-of-date, but now I couldn't even find it or my Blessing. Pathetic for a writer, I know, especially since I'm now working on my Personal Progress (We really didn't have much of a program for it when I was that age).

A frantic odyssey began which would span two weeks and several dust rags. I actually (not literally) tore the house apart and put it back together cleaner than before. My kids were vowing that Dad wouldn't like the fact that I was actually moving things around (Set in their ways much?). I found, in the interim, several other items I'd been missing. I looked almost everywhere. There were still boxes under my bed I didn't breach, but I was positive the book wouldn't be in there.

All the while, the scripture in Luke 15: 8-9 came to mind about the woman who loses a silver piece. Through this whole thing I had a running commentary with God about how this was a righteous cause and He should help me out.

Still no journal.

Finally the morning of Sunday conference dawned. I had clothes in the washer that needed to be hung. I figured I could just go hang them up and be done with them in time for conference to start. But that didn't happen.

I heard a little voice say, "If you don't work on Sunday, you'll be blessed." It was a simple little message. I could have ignored it easily. Nobody likes sour laundry. But I've been working on listening to the Spirit, so I put the laundry out in the back yard and shut the door.

Conference started soon and I took notes and generally had a great time. When the musical number came on, I got up to get a snack and looked over at my desk bookcase. I had previously emptied that bookcase probably five different times trying to find the journal to no avail. But this time I glanced over in passing.

There it was right in plain sight.

I sat down right after Conference and wrote in my book, vowing to be much better at keeping it up-to-date. We'll see if I make my goal. I'm going to have to make it more of a priority than I have in years, but it's a worthy goal. It's my personal record. What if Nephi or Peter or Mormon had decided they were too busy to keep a record? Our whole Church would not be here today.

You can't tell me that God doesn't have a Plan in place for us. He has a perspective on things far wider than any of us do. He knows how things should proceed. We may think we have ideas about how our lives should proceed, but often those ideas don't jive with where the Lord knows we need to go.

I went to school and graduated in advertising art/ illustration/ general studies. For years I was a freelance artist getting the occasional gig. I'd done murals for the U of A Genetics department and for many private citizens. I'd taught art at five different schools, Cub Advancement days and Scout Merit badge days, and done book and magazine covers and comic strips. I'd written and illustrated my own children's book. I'd done countless portraits and awards. I was fairly certain what my path should be.

Then I found words.

Suddenly it wasn't so clear that my ending should be in art. I still freelance in art, but now I feel called to write books that I wouldn't be ashamed to have my parents read. I want to touch lives, fill hearts, and bring hope. Certainly my portraits of Christ can do that, but I think my words will have a wider audience. It stands for me to be malleable enough to be formed by God and His Son into the vessel they need.

Oct 14, 2013

I Rarely Feel Feminine

By Stacy Johnson

I grew up riding my bike all over the neighborhood.  My best friend was Mark and he had a red dirt bike with awesome shocks. Sometimes he would trade me for my white and yellow banana seat girl bike so I could feel awesome too.

We could walk over to Pioneer Park in downtown Mesa and spy on our teenage neighbor as he made out with his girlfriend and then we’d go play tag on the old train. Spinning on the old merry go round until one of us would get thrown off was the best. 

I played soccer, softball, four square and dodgeball with my friends at the elementary school behind my house. The annual track and field day in the spring was my favorite and I usually came home with several blue ribbons for my efforts.

On Sunday, my mom would dress me up in frilly dresses and make me wear nylons to church. I always felt so awkward. She would say that someday I would be so happy to “dress like a girl.” I wondered then how long that would take.

My mom made me take a bath on Saturday night whether I needed it or not. That changed in junior high school when the girl who was sitting next to me in science class announced as I sat down for class one morning, “you seriously need to wear more deodorant, you are totally gagging me with your smell.” Her hair was piled into a high ponytail, her glossy lips accentuating a disgusting look on her face while her dozens of bangle bracelets made a tinkling noise as she pulled her hand up to plug her nose. I heeded her advice.

I wore a skirt to school the first few days of 7th grade at the insistence of my mother until the one time I fell down playing catch while diving for a football during our lunch period and everyone saw my underwear. I went back to my jeans and t-shirt wardrobe the next day and from then on.

Now I’m a mom. My kids play football, basketball, run cross country and track and I even have a few cheerleaders. I spend my days washing dishes, folding laundry, and making dinner until it is time to dash over to the school to watch their activities. There have been several times in my marriage when my hair was shorter than my husband’s and I rarely wear makeup. I love to exercise and am most comfortable in my wardrobe full of spandex (with long enough shirts to cover my rear), tennis shoes and sweatshirts.

Weirdly enough, I always felt feminine when I was pregnant. I loved my huge belly and was a huge fan of the maternity clothes that allowed me to show it off rather than hiding me under a tent dress. I wore frilly shirts and cute leggings. Sometimes I would put on makeup if I was having a good day. I was sexy and proud of what my amazing body could do.

My baby making days are over and while there are times when I miss my sexy baby belly, what I miss most is the feeling of being feminine. I have had several friends try to make me over by taking me shopping and helping me pick out cuter and more feminine attire but in the end, I always end up returning most of them. Give me a cute pair of jeans with a little lycra stretch, a t-shirt that says “Coyote Pride” or “Cheer Mom”, and a matching pair of WalMart flip flops and I’m good to go.

I got a set of fake nails the other day and I love the clicking noise they make on my keyboard. They are an awesome shade of Waitress Red and ever since I saw a quote on pinterest that said, “Maxi skirts are just yoga pants with no crotch” I have been a huge fan. Yesterday at church, someone mentioned how pretty my hands looked  and last week I wore a delicately embroidered sweater instead of a t-shirt with a pair of jeans and two separate people told me I looked fabulous. I’ll admit it was a little embarrassing because that jut never happens to me.

I suppose I have always had a little bit of feminine inside of me and that’s why I was pregnant so much of my adult life, ha ha. Maybe it is deep inside of me and I need to try a little harder because I’m lazy. I suppose it could be a combination of both. I wonder how I’ll be 40 years from now if it took me just over 40 years to get here?

Oct 12, 2013

Bugs and Birthdays!

by Cindy R. Williams

Bugs and birthdays --what do they have in common?

Nothing rational that I can think of, but never the less, today's blog is bugs and birthdays.

Let's talk birthday's first.

Here's the thing. Today is my mother's 84 birthday. She is 84 years young. I mean it. She walks three to four miles each morning as the sun rises. She walks a set of stairs to and from her Beach House several times daily. (She lives upstairs in a four room Victorian-like condo with several gables, located on my sister's property.) She drives, she lunches with her three children, and grand children weekly. She does service projects with and for the family often. She is the "fun" grandma, not a couch potato. I have to push it to keep up with her. In a word, she is "incredible!"

So, here's to you  mother!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Now about bugs . . . little creepy, crawly things that skee-daddle their way into all kinds of places.

I like a clean critter free house. Maybe you do too, so here are some remedies that won't cause you or your family members any side effects.

Spiders:  Make a spray with coconut oil and white vinegar. Spray them and their web.

Ants:  Place whole bay leaves on counters, in drawers, sugar bowls etc.

Ants in dog food: Draw a chalk circle around the food.

Fire ants:  Mix, wet cat food with boric acid and jelly.

Silver Fish:  Diatomaceous Earth, Food Grade (buy at garden centers and nurseries)

Rodents:  Oil of peppermint

Cock Roaches:  Hot sauce and water; spray area. Diatomaceous Earth also works.

Mosquitoes:  Dryer Sheets

Bed Bugs:  To prevent them, place dryer sheets in between mattresses and also under fitted sheets.

Wasps:  2" soda in 2 litter bottle - they fly in and are trapped.

Gofers:  Okay, so they aren't bugs, but here's a good trick. Drop laxatives into their holes.

So there you have it. A blog about birthdays and bugs.

Oct 11, 2013

He who must not be named

By Beckie Carlson

I've been thinking a lot about Harry Potter lately. That Rowling chick has some pretty deep wisdom in her writing. Amazing what a single mom waiting tables can scribble down on a few napkins. At least that is the version I've been told. Remember, I'm pretty gullible so, don't judge me.
At the risk of being expelled for mentioning things in the forbidden section of the library, I've been thinking about the Horcrux idea. In the books, Lord V splits his soul and attaches parts of it to objects in order to insure his immortality. A very clever idea, although lacking in some judgment. Who wouldn't want to live forever? Just tonight my son asked me a "would you rather" question about that very topic. "Would you rather win the lottery or live to be 200 years old?" or something like that. It was easy. I chose to live longer. After I answered, I thought about why I had answered the way I did. My first thought was I would be able to be with my children longer.Then I thought about money and how fleeting it is, and unimportant...unless you don't have any....it is. Then I thought about the fact that I don't play the lottery because I don't believe in something for nothing. Then I thought about how wrinkly I would be at the age of 200. I might have made the wrong choice.
What if falling in love were like a Horcrux action? What if, every time someone fell in love, a piece of their heart became permanently attached to the person they fell in love with. Even if they later fell out of love with that person, the person they once loved kept that piece of their heart. How would that affect a person and their ability to love? In the HP books, Lord V became more evil and selfish and less and less human. Would it get harder for a person to love when parts of their heart were missing? Like big holes in a drainer....try as you might, you can't keep the water in. Is that how it would be?
I've heard it said, probably in a movie, that when your heart gets broken it grows back bigger. I have really questioned that lately. My heart has been broken, several times. Sometimes by someone else and sometimes I've done it to myself. It doesn't feel stronger, it feels cracked. It's like grandmas favorite glass bowl she makes jello in, only with a wide crack down the side where that jello slowly leaks out and stains the table cloth. Try as I might, I can't seem to keep it in.
So what does a person do when they have split their heart and lost pieces of it? Some might hide their heart away in a drawer in the back of their closet, afraid it will fall to pieces and nothing would be left. Others might try to hold it together with the duct tape of friendship and laughter, only to see it pulling and straining and wobbling. Others might fill that bowl as full of jello as they can and try to pass it around before it empties out.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe a broken heart does grow back bigger and stronger and more able to love and be loved. Maybe a broken heart is required before a person can every truly love. Maybe the cracks and fissures and missing pieces are the places where love comes in, not goes out.
I really don't have an answer for you. All I know is that we all want love, in one form or another. Its what we crave, need, and search for whether we will admit it or not... Cause I said so.

Photo credit: www.muslimmatters.org

Oct 9, 2013

To Blog or Not to Blog...

by Bunny Miner

Well, I've been a guest blogger here for a couple of months now.  I'm sure you've all noticed that I'm a newbie at it and haven't really even had very insightful blog posts but with my time here running down (I think this is a 6 month gig...) and my publication date getting closer, I have to decide if I'm going to blog on my own website when the time comes.

I know, we're all encouraged to blog about ourselves and our books and our writing lives but honestly, who cares about what I do?  Wouldn't my time be better spent just writing and working on my craft?  I usually don't have a problem tooting my own horn because I think I'm pretty awesome (just ask my kids, they'll tell you that I often remind them that they have a great mother) but I just keep coming back to the fact that I can't see why people would care about what I'm doing.

My target audience is 3-6, 8 if I'm going to stretch it.  I think it's pretty safe to say they don't care about me.  Their parents will be buying my book (I hope!) but the thought never occurred to me as a sleep deprived mother of babies and toddlers to sit down at the computer for my 2 free minutes and research the author of a book I read to my kids.

That being said, I'm sure there's a good reason to blog.  So, what are your reasons to blog if you're a writer?  Is it to get more people to read and buy your books?  If so, what do you blog about?  WIP's?  How you came to write your first book?  What?  And how do you keep that topic going?  Eventually you have to branch out to other topics.  So, how do you pick your topics?  Do you just come up with random tidbits each day?  Is it always about writing or do you sprinkle everyday life in there as well?  Then, how often do you post?  How do you find time to do that AND your writing?

In case you didn't notice, I'm digging here.  I know I have to start blogging on my own website (which still isn't done, btw!) but I'm trying to figure out how to be organized about it.  Organization is NOT my strong suit but with 4 kids, one about to get married, one about to go on a mission, one in competitive gymnastics (which really takes over most of my free time) and one in a play on the other side of a town 2 towns over from mine, I have to get organized!  I also work full-time, take care of my disabled father (who is fine, btw, his surgery from a few posts ago was just cataract surgery) and have a husband who likes attention too!  Phew, I made myself tired just thinking about all that.  When I add all the writing responsebilites on top of that, I get overwhelmed!  So, I'm asking for help and I hope you'll all be forthcoming in how you handle things because I'm sure your lives are just as busy and crazy as mine!  Help a sister out, friends.  Let me know how you blog and keep everything in your life running on schedule.

The time is now yours!  Comment, comment, comment!

Thanks in advance!

(Notice I actually got this post up on time this week! And I'm not even home. I'm on vacation...maybe that's the answer, more vacations!  Actually, the wonderful Marsha Ward sent out reminders, GREAT IDEA!)

Oct 8, 2013

My How Things Can Change or Have They?

by Terri Wagner

When I joined the church at the tender age of 17 and went off to college, I hated it when the talks or conversations were about the end of times. After all, I was young, lots of dreams, places to go, people to see, that sort of thing. It was the 70s, and then it was overpopulation, global freezing, dying polar bears, Jimmy Carter's economy, lack of morals, women's lib, crumbling public schools, you name it, we had it including the dreaded and disgusting rock and roll!!! And always the threat of nuclear destruction from the Soviet Union.

Every day someone would discuss the end times as if it were right around the corner. I used to worry about having food storage because I was in college and had non-member parents. They laughed uproariously when I timidly suggested we needed to have something on hand (that has changed just so you know). Continental drift was a major discussion for late night pizza/study sessions, and that included all the dire upheavals the world would experience as we one day would just slam into each other. Course as I always pointed out that would pretty end the overpopulation situation, LOL.

We could not have known about the coming 20 odd years of peace and prosperity courtesy of Ronald Reagan and a responsible Congress. I just knew that world was a pretty cool place, and I wanted my chance to experience everything I could. We didn't call it a bucket list back then, but in a way that is what it was. I had lots of things on that list. And I was afraid I would not have the time to do them. Sooner more than later, the end times would happen, and the earth as I knew it would pass away.

Fast forward now about 30 years from then. We now have hmmm global warming, dying polar bears, totally messed up public school system, the new yet old economic turndown, an almost complete breakdown of the family, rock and rock changed to rap, and well yes women's lib (now they want the priesthood), and you get the picture...and still the threat of nuclear destruction.

And I'm older and some of those bucket list things have been done and checked off and remember with great joy and delight. But I'm not done yet. And somehow I don't think the world is finished yet either. We have work to do. President Monson has made it clear. I'm glad. I'm still not ready for the end of the end!

I'm not Polyanna but I'm not Cassandra either. I just happen to like the world I came to and am not quite ready to leave yet. When the end time comes, maybe then, I'll be ok with it. Until then let me start working on that list and add some things as well.

Oct 7, 2013

Sugar and Spice

By Claire Enos

"Sugar and spice and everything nice that's what girls are made of."

Lately we've all heard a lot of talk as women in a group from the LDS Church decided to wait outside the doors at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, demanding to be let into the Priesthood meeting Saturday night. Earlier tonight, it was covered on the news here in Idaho, and I've seen articles all over facebook, for and against women having the priesthood (which is what these women stand for). I have friends who are for women having the priesthood, and I'm not discounting their feelings in any way. After all, we are all entitled to our own opinions, right?

This post isn't about that whole debacle (though I probably will be posting one on my personal blog sometime soon, if you somehow inexplicably would like my opinion on that matter). It's about the inherent attributes we, as women and daughters of a Heavenly King, all share.

I know I'm young, but in the short years I've been around I've come to realize that there's something special about every young woman I've met who knows who she is. She has a glow about her, and she's nice and sweet. She's not bitter or harsh. She is more than just her name, or her family, or even her religion. She is a Daughter of God, and she knows it. She knows how to act. She might make mistakes, but she knows that they can be forgiven, and she can turn things around, and she works toward that.

None of us are perfect, however I know deep down inside we all have these attributes, or we can if we are willing to accept who we are and work on becoming that person.

Why is all this important?

Because, I think it's important for every woman on Earth to know that she is Special. She is one of a kind. She is wanted and needed. She has a purpose (after all, she wouldn't be here if she didn't). We don't need "equality." Not in the worldly sense of the word, anyway. We are already equal, we are already important to the Plan. We can't live without men, and men can't live without us.

Well, for having no idea what I was going to write about, I think I did a pretty darn good job. I hope I haven't bored you all to tears, or that I don't seem too high and mighty. Because, believe me, I have a LOT to learn in this life, and I plan to make good use of the time I have left in life to learn all I can.


Oct 5, 2013

Pears, A Tradition of love

by Christy Monson

I remember as a child washing, paring, and slicing fruit to dry in a shelved, screened-in chest my grandmother had made. It was rickety but serviceable as we placed it, loaded with pears, in the sun to dry the fall's harvest. When the fruit was dry, we layered the dehydrated snacks into covered tin cans and placed them in a cupboard in the basement. During the winter, I used to love to creep into the old wooden cabinet in the unfinished rock cellar to enjoy the sweets.

Through the years our family has continued this fall ritual, washing, paring and slicing summer's goodness to enjoy through the winter months. What began with my grandmother has been carried on by my mother, and now it's my turn to spearhead this tradition. Children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren wait to enjoy the results.
This practice has come to mean much more than just preserving the fruit of the vine. Tradition and love go into every slice of sweetness.
I just sent this picture to my children. Their grandmother is dying of cancer, yet here she is still arranging the pear slices on the drying trays--truly a gift of love.

The grandchildren and great grandchildren live all over the United States. I went to the post office yesterday to mail everyone's package of pears. The little families wait for this time of year just like they anticipate Christmas. The love that comes with each parcel means much more than the fruit itself.
Family tradition? Yes. A Love gift? Yes. Nurturing family members? Absolutely.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action. Mother Teresa

Take a few minutes today and think of the traditions of love you are building in your family. 

I'm sure my grandmother had no idea the custom she was starting with her homemade screened in chest filled with sliced pears. It was a gift of love and continues to be so.

What gifts of love are you giving them?
Mother reading to the great grandchildren when she was well

Oct 4, 2013

"Can" I do it?

by Marsha Ward

I live in an area where apples grow in massive quantities when we have a good crop year--like we did this summer. Many of the property owners hereabouts are absentees; these little cottages are their second homes, yet they have apple trees on the property which were planted years ago, and those trees continue to bear, year after year.

Tree by the Car Wash (the creek)

Most of the absentee owners not only like you to pick the fruit, but often beg you to do so in order that the tree limbs don't get over-burdened and split off. One branch mishap occurred just across the road from me a month ago.

Tree before it lost a limb due to excess weight of apples. Nearly fell on a car parked nearby!

My daughter visited me last week, and took home a HUGE box full of apples she had picked. I have a smaller portion here. However, all around me, I see fruit going to waste. 

I hate that.

I decided I could do my small bit to prevent waste, so last week I purchased a water-bath canner, jars and lids, and utensils. My intention is to [gulp] make applesauce and apple butter, and bottle it for the coming winter.

I know. I have a novel to write.

There are plenty of trees from which to pick apples. That isn't the problem.

This tree is right across the road, and the apples are now red, ripe, and very delicious. 

The neighbor across the road would be most happy if I would go over and pick the apples. The neighbor next to them invites me to pick anytime from her trees. And she has a lot of trees!

My only problems are time, strength, and endurance.

And yet, I'm going to make an attempt, because I can't stand to see the waste.

Can I can? We shall see!

Oct 3, 2013

Gratitude or Attitude?

By Kari Pike

I need to practice finding more humor in the challenges life throws out there. I realized the other day that my blog posts of late have been pretty heavy. So, I started taking "gratitude walks." (Inspired by my friend Jenny Christensen and the book she has written about her battle with cancer.) Each morning, after my bike ride, I walk around the block a few times and ponder on the abundance with which I have been blessed. I try to hold a conversation with Heavenly Father and thank Him for everything He has blessed me with - praying with gratitude and asking for nothing. The first couple of days, I found myself slipping into the asking mode within the first couple of minutes. Being grateful and not asking for anything turned out to be hard work!

But, you know that scripture that teaches us that what we sow, we reap? Well, it applies to the power of gratitude. By day three, I made my bike ride part of the gratitude journey. I had such a sweet experience. With the cooler temperatures in the morning, I started my ride later than usual. The sun was higher in the sky, adding light where before I had only seen shadows. I expressed gratitude for a new perspective. I saw the same houses, the same bridges, the same trees and canal. But they were different. I noticed architectural details I had missed before. The grass and the trees looked greener. Instead of just a ribbon of murky, dark water, I could see life in the canal: carp, turtles, ducks, and insects. I came across a school of carp (they are fish..so I assume you call a large group of carp a school) sunning themselves just under the surface of the water. They took turns rising just high enough that their dorsal fin stuck out of the water and made them look like they were pretending to be sharks. I could just imagine the "teacher" fish instructing the rest of the school on how to act as fierce as their large salt-water cousins so they could intimidate the local fishermen.

I have been immensely blessed by the power of gratitude. My daily challenges remain, but now I see them in a different light. I have the same twenty-four hours in the day, but I can see more clearly how to use my time. Focusing on the resources and blessings available to me gives me hope. Hope motivates me to try harder to be better, to do the best I can with what I have, and to trust in the Lord.

I am grateful for wise friends who teach me how to be and do better. I am grateful for this magnificent world that the Lord created for us. I am grateful for life and knowing that someday I can return to live with my Heavenly Father and thank Him in person. Now how cool is that going to be!

just for smiles:

2-year-old at lunch: "Gimme more!"

Dad: "Can you say a nice word?"

2-year-old: "Nice word!"

Dad: [face palm]

oh..and I'm super grateful for two-year-olds and sticky hugs and yes, even scorpions...but that's a story for another day.


Oct 2, 2013

Leveraging the Cat

by H. Linn Murphy

It's taken me years to get up the guts to query agents and tout my book. Mostly it's because I generally polish my manuscripts exhaustively for stupid mistakes so I don't look like the authors of a couple of books I just read.

When you as an author birth a book out into the cold hard world, you are not only offering a product for sale, but you represent yourself as an author. Why send your baby from your literary womb half-formed, especially if you know better?

Some time ago I acquired a book from an acquaintance. The author was a stellar person and had worked hard on his book. The back of it proclaimed that it had been edited. I could find no evidence to support such a claim. The manuscript was so riddled with errors that I stopped reading it somewhere in the first chapter. I'm normally a forgiving reader if the story line is good enough, but I simply couldn't finish it.

The problem isn't usually spelling errors, although some people seem not to own a spell check program. It's more of a usage thing. The other day I read this phrase: "She leveraged the cat out the window." I nearly expired, laughing.

True, the word 'leverage' means literally to use a lever. But the character in question wasn't using a lever to launch the cat. It sounded like the cat was the victim of a hostile buy-out. Much better if the author had said: "She catapulted the cat out the window." That would have been something I'd have brought popcorn to watch.

Phrases which don't match up are like continuity errors in movies. (My family likes to spot those. Some of our favorites are in the movie RETURN TO ME.) They launch the reader out of the story and cause them to think about the phrase instead of the story.

Another snippet I read recently is: (She) pulled the splayed dress from around her neck. I don't know about another reader, but the word splayed shoves me into a whole other visual.

Try this one out: Smoke flumed around the spatula.

I'm gone.