Dec 31, 2015

What Kind of Goal Maker Are You?

By Susan Allred

Several days ago, Marsha Ward discussed some of her writing goals for the upcoming year. As I read her blog, I got to thinking about what I will be doing in 2016.

I'm totally into goals. I have pages and pages of goals...or to-do lists...or both, strewn all over my house. It's a running joke in our family. My husband refuses to sit down with me when I'm bit by the goal-making bug for fear I will suck him into my frenzy. Instead, he rolls his eyes and exits the room as quickly as humanly possible, hoping I don't follow with pen and paper in hand.

At any given time, I have a list of financial goals, spiritual goals, educational goals, family goals, fitness goals, writing goals, etc. There are so many, I couldn't possibly hope to achieve them all in one year. But to me, it's more about organizing all my thoughts onto paper and focusing on what's truly important. Writing down desired outcomes helps me avoid the shiny penny syndrome which, admittedly, happens way more often than I'd care to admit.

This year, I'm opting to depart from my preferred methods, instead weeding through the cacophony of demands on my time to choose only three major goals. It's been nerve-wracking, but I've managed. I figure everything achieved beyond those goals will be icing on the metaphorical cake.

This year my goals are:
  1. Go to the temple six times.
  2. Hit goal weight.
  3. Submit my first book to be published.
These will be written on a piece of paper and they won't get lost in the clutter of daily life. They'll stand like sentinels on my wall – big and bold – reminding me of my priorities and where my time and energy should be focused.

As you step in to the new year, what do you hope 2016 will have in store for you? Are your goals lofty and scary? Or is the goal to simplify and enjoy life more? Do you even make goals at the beginning of the year?

I'd love to hear what you have hope to achieve this year. It's exciting to hear the different stages each person is at in their lives and to cheer them on along the way. May 2016 be filled with adventure, happiness, love and peace. Happy New Year!!

Dec 26, 2015

What I love about Christmas

By Cassie Shiels

I love Christmas time. I know it is the same for many people and I am sure their reasons are similar to my own. I love the lights, I like snow (most of the time) I love all the fun treats, I love the music and I love sharing the joy and excitement with my kids.

My favorite time during Christmas time is Christmas eve. That night when I was little we decided to make extra special. It's what we all look forward to the most. One year when we were small we decided that we wanted to do a special performance for my parents. It would be a present from all of us. So we found some funny song and preformed to it. The laughter and joy we saw on our parents faces made a tradition out of it, and for every year since then we have added to our night.

We now read Luke 2 and act out the Christmas nativity story and we perform our kids' program as we call it. It makes for a fun night that we plan and plot all year long. We may look goofy but the whole idea is to make our parents smile. We do something different every year, which is causing us to keep getting more and more creative. We are adding the grandkids in to perform with us and it just keeps getting better because of that.

Isn't that what Christmas time should be about more? Bringing a light, a smile, a gut full of joy and laughter?

I like all the presents and things too. We do put out cookies and hot cocoa for Santa and do all of those fun things too. But nothing is better for us then seeing our parents eyes light up.

We had a fun year this year and as usual we got our parents to laugh and smile, as we dressed up as elves and sang, "we are Santa's elves," in goofy costumes. It was awesome!

How was your Christmas?

What is your favorite part of Christmas time?

How do you find your smiles and laughter?

Dec 24, 2015

A Picture of Christmas

by Kari Diane Pike

Delicate sugar cookies covered in mounds of icing and piled with red and green sprinkles (How does a five-year-old figure out how to get it all stay on there?).
Chewy ginger molasses cookies drizzled with white chocolate.
Hand-dipped chocolates--strawberry cream, peppermint, butter rum, vanilla and chocolate covered cherries--nestled in white paper cups.
Lights glowing on a tree covered with thirty-something years worth of macaroni wreaths, hand print reindeer,  clothes pin ballerinas, and  collections of angels and nativities. 

The house is filled with the scent of cinnamon, oranges, and ginger. Even better, the sound of children's voices once again echoes throughout the house as all of our children and grandchildren come and go, filling the days with family activities.  I love seeing how our married children work with their spouses to blend family traditions and create their own. I also appreciate how they always manage to set aside time to fulfill my yearly desire to go caroling. I know it's not easy to drag all the little ones around, in and out of the car, over and over. 

Today we will make our yearly trek to the Phoenix Zoo and gather in the evening to eat more yummy food and share the story of the Savior's birth. I love watching the faces of our grandchildren as they discover the wonders of the earth He created just for them. A couple of weeks ago we had a video chat and talked a bit about the symbolism found in the traditions and decorations at Christmas time. Candy canes, wreaths, red and green decorations, bells, bows, gifts, angels, and even jolly old Saint Nick himself. 

The moment I saw this picture, my heart melted. My cousin gave me permission to share this photo of her children with you. The first thing I noticed was the look of wonder and joy on Adi's face. I couldn't stop thinking about Heavenly Father giving me the the gift of His Firstborn Son. 

Maybe these pictures speak to me because I know of some of the struggles that took place before they were taken. That's not my story to tell. What I can say is this: I know that God lives. I know that He sent His Son, a newborn babe, to live and love and die and live again just for me! Because of this wondrous gift, I know that no matter what happens, everything is going to turn out alright. Trials come and go, like sunrises and sunsets. And wrapped inside every challenge is a glorious gift--because He loves me.

This coming year, how am I going to show my love for Him? 

Dec 22, 2015

Making Goals for 2016

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

I've talked about Goals and Goal Setting before. In 2012 I suggested that our goals be obtainable, that is, that we have control over the outcomes, and in 2013, I wrote about three categories into which I had broke down my writing business-related goals for the past year. I noted that writing down the goals in an achievable fashion made them so much easier to accomplish, and that I had completed many of them and had a productive year.

I continued making goal lists in 2014 and 2015, expanding the categories and seeing a lot of forward progress and accomplishments.

For 2016, I have further refined my categories, and have a very ambitious writing and publishing program outlined for myself [Lots of prayers needed for keeping my nose to the grindstone!].

Here are the categories I've defined for 2016 and roughly what they include:

WRITE (works in progress and proposed projects)
WORK WITH OTHERS (cover designers, mostly, but also possibly audio book narrators)
PREPARE/FORMAT (mostly book bundles or new print editions, with some solo releases of previously bundled stories)
MAKE COVER FOR (upcoming releases)
PUBLISH (proposed schedule)
MARKET (expand frequency of mailings to Reader List, updating product interiors, re-doing keywords/categories)
PROMOTE (advertising and co-op sales)
INTERNET PRESENCE (blogging commitments and website upkeep)
EVENTS (what I plan to attend or where I'll present)
SERVICE (how I will give back this year)

I also outlined several business questions I have to address during the coming year.

Now, these goals still have nothing to do with my life outside of writing: my family, church commitments, educational pursuits, friends, and social events. Someday I probably will work them onto the list, but for now, my written goals still focus on the business side of my life.

What process or method do you use to set yearly goals? Does it work to help you achieve them? If not, what changes will you make for 2016?

Dec 19, 2015

Writing in December

By Cindy R. Williams

Christmas and writing. Tough when you put these two together for several different reasons.
How can a writer write when it is difficult to find the time to write:

1.  Christmas is a busy time for decorating, baking, buying gifts, making gifts, addressing cards, mailing, visiting friends . . .
2.  Then, there is the real reason for Christmas, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The only difficult thing about that, is making sure you keep the focus where it should be.

Answer:  Write a book about Christmas. Choose a POV and go. Just run with where ever it takes you.

Dec 15, 2015

Back to Non Fiction Writing

by Terri Wagner

Taking the technical and breaking it down to layman's terms is what excites me in writing. While I love, read, and appreciate fiction, my forte is non fiction. Why? Not really sure. But when I lay out a technical manual and start reading it, I start editing it in my head. Now why did you start with instructions and not explain what A, B, or C is? Why would you not begin with here is what should be included in your package? The main reason is that the engineers were writing the how to. On the surface that sounds about right. The persons in charge of creating the products ought to be the ones who tell us how to say put it together. However, most engineers will be the first to say I did not do well in English classes. And if you read their first drafts, you would believe them!

The advent of trade publications continued the confusion. The author of the article was generally the creator of the process. As a result you got a lot of information you did not need, or worse, missing information. This is because if you already know 2+2=4 you are probably not going to put that step in. And sometimes a layman following your directions needs to at least be reminded that a mathematical step has just been inserted. I saw this so very much when I worked for a trade publication.

The founder of the magazine was an engineer by trade, a writer by heart. He made a difference. His technical articles made sense to anyone who picked up the magazine, in the industry or not. His fellow engineers not so much. It reminds me a bit of common core math. If you memorize the multiplication table, you know over the years that 2x2=4. Common core math makes you draw two and then two more squares and add them up. Advantage: the memorizer. Drawing small squares will eventually take over the math problem. Although when it comes to math word problems, I could use a few artistic hints. Companies that hire "real" writers take a chance. Not everyone writes things down in sequential order. I do. I leave no step out even the most obvious. Because in reality it is not always quite so obvious.

When the technical got too technical, I had the advantage of calling the author and asking him to walk me through it. That never got old.

Bottom line: it would behoove any engineer to enlist the aide of a writer to assist him in providing technical information to both those in his field or those outside the field. It makes a difference.

Dec 12, 2015

Respecting other Artists

By Cassie Shiels

As writers we are creative people and there are various forms of creative people, the song writers, the crafters, the poets, the painters, the drawers, sculptors… etc. There are so many of us who are artists.  Usually we understand "our own kind" as it were, but sometimes just because it isn't our particular talent we don't quite understand others talents all the way.

Well I have suddenly gotten a new perspective and a growing respect and new understanding for Illustrators. I get the writers process from the initial ideas, through the many, many edits, to a product we think is finished, to more edits etc. But I never quite understood how long of a process it was for illustrators.

I recently published a new Children's book where I took on the hat of both author and illustrator. WHAT? Yeah I know. Craziness! But I knew I wanted this story to be published and I knew it needed pictures and I knew I had zero in the budget to higher and illustrator. So I went for it. And wow what a insight it was for me. It made me think that every Children's Author should try to illustrate at least one book so that they can see what I did.

The process of creating the pictures, tweaking them, the process of drawing them, coloring them, and converting them into a document to be published. It was a lot of work and it took double the time I expected. SO I am here to say hats off to Illustrators. I now get it a little better. I get why their prices are what they are. I can see how much work it is, and how the pictures can really help or hinder a story depending on what they are.

I am in no way saying I am any sort of a great artist, so I can only imagine those illustrators taking triple the time I did especially if they are painting the pictures. WOW.

I have chatted with some Illustration friends in the past and talked prices for various projects and I admit to hearing their number and my eyes bulging. I get it now friends, I get it. And they are worth it. They like us writers do so much for so little. And those who don't write don't know the countless hours we put into creating a book. The same I am sure goes for anyone who is a creative person who works on creative projects.  I may not understand all artists, but for right now I have to say to illustrators, I so respect you!

Dec 10, 2015

You Don't Get Rainbows Without a Few Storm Clouds

by Kari Diane Pike

How should I begin? Back story? The  "everything turned out okay" spoiler? Or somewhere in the middle? I already gave you the spoiler. I am alive and well. More importantly, I've had a few corners chipped off and polished - dramatically changing the lens through which I look at life.

Back up to late October -the day before my husband and I were scheduled to leave for our first trip as "empty-nesters." A doctor noticed my blood pressure was too high. When it continued to be high the next morning, I picked up a blood pressure prescription on our way out of town. And so it began.

Something didn't feel right. I didn't feel right. At first I thought it was just stress. My heart kept skipping beats and I had an uncomfortable tightness in my chest that came and went. Sometimes I would wake up in the night with a sharp pinching sensation in my chest. The Monday I started to pass out driving north on the freeway convinced me something was terribly wrong. I tried calling my cardiologist. I spoke to his triage nurse. She switched me over to scheduling. I got an answering machine. I left a message. They never returned my call.

The skipped heart beats and fluttering increased throughout the week. The pressure in my chest became more constant. I had several more fainting spells. By Friday afternoon, the pain in my chest had spread through to my back and down my left arm. My fingers started to tingle. I called (or my husband called) the triage hot line on our insurance card. She urged me to call 911. I didn't want that much attention. The hospital was close, so my husband drove me to the emergency room. A full cardiac workup showed everything to be normal, except for some minor pulmonary edema - hence the pinching sensation. When they suggested I follow up with my cardiologist and my primary care doctor, I questioned their reasoning. Didn't they just prove that everything was normal? I even asked if they thought I should talk to a PhD instead of an MD. At least I made them smile. One of the ER nurses called me at home the next day to check on me and to persuade me to make sure and get in to see my physicians. I asked her if she had any magic words that would get me in the door on such short notice. She laughed. And said no, but I should try anyway.

Fast forward through the next couple of weeks. The cardiologist's PA ordered a nuclear stress test. I talked my PCP into taking me off the new medication since that seemed to be the starting point. She went with that...and put me on a new blood pressure medication. I took it. It made me want to crawl out of my skin. She said I would get used to it. At least all the other negative reactions disappeared.

In the mean time, our BYU kids were coming home for the Thanksgiving holiday and we had planned an incredible schedule for the weekend with a family dinner, ordaining our youngest son with the Melchizedek priesthood (have I mentioned that Levi has his mission call and will be serving in the Moscow Russia mission?), taking two of our children through the temple for the first time and baptizing a grandson. 

Wednesday, my mom called and said that Dad was acting strange. He had fallen and hit his head a couple of days earlier. He said his head hurt whenever he tried to lie down, and he slept a lot. He fretted about a list of things he wanted Mom to do if he didn't wake up in the morning and even went off by himself to purchase Mom's birthday present (her birthday is in July) just in case he wasn't around by then. She took him to the emergency room where they found a couple of brain bleeds. Worrying about Dad made my morning discovery of a leaky kitchen faucet and flooded cabinet pretty trivial.
I woke up about 4:30 a.m Thanksgiving day gasping for air. I felt better sitting up, but I could feel my throat continue to swell. I prayed and felt impressed to take some Benedryl. I didn't want to ruin the day for everyone by spending another day in the ER. The Benedryl helped, but I still couldn't breathe lying down, so I had Doug take me to urgent care before everyone woke up. Drug allergies stink. On the upside, large doses of steroids gave me energy to spare. 

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner and the ordination took place that evening. Mom called after she drove back home - and discovered she had been burglarized. The patio doors had been kicked in. The police said Mom must have scared them off when she activated the garage door opener. They snatched her brand new laptop (a beautiful red one - only a few weeks old), and damaged a couple of cabinets, but left other valuables. It could have been much worse. 

Friday and Saturday flew by as we focused on family and the temple and the baptism. One friend, upon hearing about all the drama, said "surely there's a rainbow around the corner, right?" Her comment startled me because, despite all the challenges, I was so focused on how blessed I felt to watch my children making good choices and succeed in their lives that what I saw was a few storm clouds trying to obscure my view of a glorious rainbow. After giving it more thought, I realized that without the storm clouds, I wouldn't have been able to see the rainbows. 

There's another part to this story. You see, earlier in the year I had to give up something very precious to me. And my heart was breaking. I'd spent months trying to solve problems with my vocal chords that make speaking or singing difficult. Singing a simple hymn can be painful and exhausting. Singing has always been a huge part of my life - and I had waited years to have the time to sing in a vocal ensemble with my brother Paul. Singing was huge part of my identity! I offered heartfelt prayers begging to be healed. I shed a lot of tears. Those other challenges created opportunities to serve my family and shifted my focus outward. 

My stewardship as a seminary teacher (yet another blessing I had perceived as a challenge) has also played a huge role in shaping my perspective. I love how Heavenly Father gives me answers - even humorous ones - through scripture study. For example, after a particularly difficult day, I read Numbers 11 while prepping for a seminary lesson. Moses was feeling pretty burdened by those whiny children of Israel (because who wouldn't feel overwhelmed with somewhere around a million people demanding to be fed). He took his problems to the Lord  and said something to the effect of, 
Have I conceived all these people?...whence should I have flesh to give unto all the people?...I am not able to bear all this people alone...And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight.... Numbers 11: 12-15
Can't you just picture this? How many times have I said, "Okay, Lord, just kill me now, instead of by degrees, because [insert challenge here] is really hard!" That is how my thinking went when faced with the idea of not being able to sing anymore. But my thinking has changed. I've changed. I've gained a greater testimony of prayer and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I've learned that when I focus on the light of Christ, it shines through storm clouds and reveals breathtaking rainbows. The polishing that I receive during those storms helps me reflect that light so that I can share it with others and help serve them in their time of need.

The children of Israel failed to recognize and remember the great blessings the Lord gave them. That's another part I learned. Remember. It's one thing to recognize blessings. That's important. True gratitude involves remembering - remembering who I am, why I am here and who the Lord is and what He has done for me. I am grateful for answered prayers - even when those answers come in unexpected ways.

I pray that I will always remember the blessings the Lord has heaped upon me. He always nourishes me and strengthens me and helps me accomplish everything He asks me to do and become who He created me to be. Jesus Christ is my light. He prepared the way before me and He will lead me back home to my Father in Heaven.

Life is magnificent.

Dec 8, 2015

Trust Your Creative Voice

by Marsha Ward

Do you have days where you just want to crawl back into bed?

Me too!


I think because I'm getting over a nasty sinus infection, and because I got very little sleep last night, it's a case of both. I'll just have to go with that, and give you a writing tip.


The Creative Voice comes from the part of your brain that knows how to tell stories, as opposed to your Critical Voice, which keeps you out of danger by preventing you from writing, 'cause, you know, that's too dangerous!

If you detest outlining, here's a book that may just lift you up to the stars with elation: Writing Into The Dark: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline, by Dean Wesley Smith. Yes, I did write about this book before. But after reading it, I had a scare. I couldn't find it anywhere!

Fortunately, when I went to Amazon to order another copy (yes, that's how valuable I found the book to be), I discovered that since I had purchased the print copy, I could download the ebook free!


Two days ago, I looked at the bottom shelf of a bookcase from a different angle than usual, and discovered that my print copy had slipped off something and become lodged on the bottom shelf.


Now I'm re-reading the book, and I'm highlighting crucial points in bright pink, a practice I never allow myself, except, you know, in very important cases, this being one.

Okay, I'm done, and my bed looks better than ever.

But first, tell me: Do you have to outline before you write, or do you sit down and trust that your Creative Voice will lead you into a rip-snorting good tale?

Dec 5, 2015

Time to Step Up!

by Cindy R. Williams

      Life is changing fast, and I'm going to change too. I have watched many of my writing friends indie publish both ebooks and hard-copies. I decided to jump on the bandwagon. I have been writing for some years now and stacking up the stories, with ten now complete. I will send a few out to agents but some I want to experiment with and see what this new writing world is about.
 I own my own LLC already that I use to run my music studio, and sell my two books (CHASE MCKAY DIDN'T GET UP TODAY,
and an anthology which includes a few of my short stories titled, VALUE STORIES FOR A YOUNG WOMAN.)
With my LLC, I purchased a packet of 10 ISBN numbers, and have an account set up with Lightning Source-Ingram. I have CHASE MCKAY for sell on Amazon, Barnes, and my website,
      So . . . I have a start. My platform is out there and moving forward.
     This year though, I want to learn how to format books on Create Space and Kindle. I have two great books I am studying called:



      I have been doing research by gleaning "how to" information from my ANWA friends whom have successfully indie published.
      I will continue to post what I am learning on this journey. Maybe it will help you take the plunge and get your completed and polished WIP out to the world.
      Fast changes are a comin'.  This is exciting!

Dec 4, 2015

I Survived NaNoWriMo and Lived To Tell About It

For writers, November 1st is much like January 1st is for the rest of the world. November is our month of resolutions. Many of us dig deep, take a deep breath, and resolve to write an entire novel in just
one month.

I don't know about you, but NaNoWriMo is a process for me. This year, I spent weeks pouring over different story ideas I'd jotted down, trying to find just the right one for November. Then, I plotted out in my mind where I wanted my story to go. I only have a month, after all. Every minute is precious and I'm certainly not going to waste those valuable moments sitting at the computer wondering what to write next.

Then, I declare to the world I am doing NaNoWriMo, in hopes that by declaring my intentions, I will somehow solidify my resolve to spend inordinate amounts of time typing away on the keyboard while the rest of the world buzzes on around me.

Next, I make sure to have each of my favorite writing implements. You've gotta have a notebook and at least 37 pens. You know, in case the other 36 quit working. And a pencil in case it decides to rain inside the house, or we have a Spokane, Washington...300 miles away. Well, a person can never be too prepared.

Then there are the snacks. Bottles of water, veggies, fruits, and a stash of comfort foods for the really difficult scenes when a cucumber just won't do the job of filling the gaping hole I just ripped into my heart when I killed off one of my favorite characters. And don't forget the tissues. Oh, and a garbage can, for said tissues and food wrappers. And pages ripped out of the pad of paper because all sixteen variations of the story were decidedly stupid and I decided to start over.

On the first night of NaNoWriMo, I donned my favorite pair of sweats, put my hair up in a messy bun, and locked the office door. For hours, all the family could hear was the pitter-patter of excited fingers tapping away at the keyboard. I think I finished nearly 7,000 words that first day. Wahoo!

I fell into bed at three in the morning, only to be woken up by my five-year-old three hours later to start the day. He pulled me out of bed, dragged me to the kitchen, and insisted I actually feed him breakfast. Seriously? Didn't he realized I was up all night? The nerve of that little boy! I let him live only because he's so doggoned cute. And because murder is frowned upon in certain circles.

That night, I managed another couple thousand words before I found myself falling asleep at the keyboard, leaving several rows of unintelligible characters on the screen. Sweet little five-year-old Jake was kind enough to wake me at four thirty the next morning. He must've known I had work to do. By the time I sat down at the computer that night, my eyes were crossing, and I felt a cold coming on. I logged 12 words.

Then there was the wind-storm heard around the world. 189,000 houses without power. My husband, an employee at the local utility company, logged 100 overtime hours in a week. I got to see what it's like to be a single mom. I do not recommend it. I bow in the general direction of any woman who has to raise children on her own.

And whose idea was it to put NaNoWriMo in the same month as Thanksgiving? Don't they realize there's relatives, and baking, and cleaning, and vacations from school, and children running around, and chaos to be had by all? Someone clearly did not consult me when choosing NaNoWriMo.

For whatever reason, it seemed all of my efforts
to sit and write were thwarted by some unforeseen, and a few totally expected, but ignored-until-it-was-too-late, event. By the end of the month, I logged in a paltry 24,211 words. A far cry from the number I was shooting for, but it is still 24,211 words more than I had when I started. I am right where the story gets exciting, and I try to add a few hundred more words per day.

I may not have “won” NaNoWriMo this year, but I did break through my writer's block, gain several new writing buddies, finish nearly half of my story, and managed to avoid any scenarios that would necessitate the use of my pencil. In all, I'd consider the month a success!

Dec 1, 2015

Book of Mormon in a Month

by Terri Wagner

For some years now I take this challenge. I like the idea of reading the BOM in a month (any month with 30 days will do). Somehow reading the entire book in really one setting paints a picture of a family, a land, and lessons passed down. It's tough, because if you miss a day, you are seriously behind. Take the challenge. Share your thoughts on FB. Read 8 chapters a day. Simple right? Remember you can listen to the scriptures, read them online, in your hand and enjoy the experience. The FB page to check in with your progress and enjoy others is Read the Book of Mormon Challenge.

Nov 28, 2015

Fun ways to be thankful

I like to think of ways to make November all about being thankful and helping my kids even thought they are young to think about behind thankful too. So I am sharing some of the fun things I try to do to keep thankfulness the theme for November at our house. If you like any of theses feel free to give them a try, they would be good for some older kids too!
1. Make a paper turkey and write things we are thankful for on the feathers. You could do this in one night or slowly add feathers throughout the month.
2. Thankful tree same basic idea as the turkey but with leaves on the tree instead of feathers on the turkey.
3. Take up the challenge of sharing on social media something you are thankful for everyday of November.
4. Start a gratitude journal.
5. Play the I am thankful for… game. Kind of like I spy with my little eye.
etc. Theses are just some of the fun ways we have tried keeping the spirit of thanksgiving all month long. What else have you all tried?

Nov 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Kari Diane Pike

Gratitude - Dictionary definition: "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." 

"Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for blessings or benefits we have received. As we cultivate a grateful attitude, we are more likely to be happy and spiritually strong. We should regularly express our gratitude to God for the blessings He gives us and to others for the kind acts they do for us" ( 

Gratitude is more than saying thank you. Gratitude requires me to be humble, to notice things, and to be patient. Gratitude shows me how to appreciate each moment and live in the present. Gratitude reminds me to never take anyone for granted. Gratitude motivates me to look for ways to serve and lift others. Gratitude brings me closer to the Lord. 

Gratitude gives me the strength I need to get through the hard times and reminds me from whom all blessings flow all of the time. My gratitude list could fill volumes. Today I want to say how grateful I am for you - the person reading this blog - yes, YOU! You are phenomenal. I hope you know that. There's no one else just like you. You were created to be where you are at this specific time for a particular reason. Thank you for being who you are and for touching my life. I am better because you are here. 
Happy Thanksgiving.
Life is magnificent.

Nov 24, 2015

Helpful Writing Blogs

by Marsha Ward

I believe in life-long learning. Most of my learning, of necessity, deals with writing and the skills I need to forward my indie writing and publishing career.

I read a lot of helpful writing blogs so that I can learn new things. Then I  gauge how or whether to adopt them into my life.

One of the most useful sites for me is The Passive Voice, an aggregated blog with partial articles and links to the complete articles. The host of the site is an attorney with an interest in authors, self-publishing, and traditional publishing.

Sometimes I will link to a suggested article and start delving into other articles on the site. That is how I found this post by author Toby Neal about writing a multi-book love story in any genre. Since I face challenges in writing a saga involving my fictional Owen Family, I thought I should have a look. I came away enlightened.

When I find a blog that offers sound advice, I usually subscribe to it so a heads-up on new posts will arrive in my inbox. I finally decided reading through emails was better than trying to chase down each and every blog by finding my bookmark for it. If I'm on the wrong computer, I might be out of luck.

Some of the blogs I follow are listed on this page at my blog under Indie Writer Resources. I have a couple more I need to add, though, such as Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog, which I read every Thursday for her Business Musings. I usually focus on the Monday post at The Write Conversation, as it contains tips about effective blogging.

Go ahead, click on the page at my blog and try out a couple of new sites to increase your writing and/or business knowledge.

Then come back here and let us know what you learned in the comments.

Nov 21, 2015

Books That Help Me Write

by Cindy R. Williams

If your a writer, you have books on your shelf about writing. Some may be crisp and almost new, covered with a light layer of dust, others may be dog-eared and marked with tons of post-its.

Here are some books, just some--or this blog would be tooooooooo long--that I have on my shelf for reference.

Beginning Writer's Answer Book, edited by Jane Friedman.  The entire book is a list of questions about writing, followed by answers. Good stuff, here.

Thanks, But This Isn't For Us, A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected, by Jessica Page Morrell  To quote the book, "This book . . . written by a Demon of Harsh Reality and meant as a hefty dose of reality along with encouragement to keep trying, to keep learning. Because writing is a craft and it can be learned." It is just that. It tells it like it is, and sometimes a bit crudely.

Writing Tools--50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. This book has sections like NUTS AND BOLTS, with chapters like;  Begin sentences with subjects and verbs, Order words for emphasis, Activate your verbs, Be passive-aggressive, Watch those adverbs. Take it easy on the -ings, Feat not the long sentence, Cut big, then small.  It is a great study.

I saved my favorite, well worn book on writing, for last.  Stephen King On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft. Whether your a Stephen King fan or not, he knows how to tell a compelling story on paper that translates to the big screen. I had heard about the book from a number of accomplished writers so decided I better buy it. It lives up to its reputation. He shares his writing journey and knowledge with forthright honesty. Yes, he has a bit of challenge thinking of words to replace swear words, but the book is a goldmine in what works. Even the picture on the front cover gives me hope. You see Stephen King, writing by hand, rocking back in a rolling chair, feet on his desk, dog under his legs, papers, reference books, notebooks and memorabilia scattered all around. A wall with various clippings and pictures etc. The picture alone tells so much. He has a dedicated writing space. He must spend a great amount of time there if his dog likes to lay there. You can tell he has is deep in thought, and working hard in-spite of his lounging position. For an author as famous as he is, his writing place is normal. For an author as successful as he is, he still puts in the long hours.

Nov 19, 2015

Coming Together in the Midst of Disaster

It's been a crazy couple of weeks over here in Spokane, Washington.  And I'm sure some of it has trickled down through much of Washington and Idaho.

We had a major wind storm on Tuesdays, which resulted in more than 180,000 homes being without power.  Even now, more than two days later, around 100,000 people are still without electricity.  My husband, an employee for the utility company, came home this evening after working a 36-hour shift.  He was nearly comatose with exhaustion.  He told me of 200-foot trees with trunks too large for him to hug falling over, splitting homes in half. He spoke of streets where nearly a dozen power-poles were decimated, splintering into millions of pieces, leaving power lines strewn across lawns, cars, and debris-filled yards.  The linemen scrambled to keep people away from live wires while installing new poles, clearing streets, and repairing millions upon millions of dollars in damage.

While my husband was on task helping to fix the immediate needs of the community, I decided to roll up my sleeves and work on the individuals.  I was one of the lucky ones who witnessed her lights flickering only once, and lost a single shingle off her roof. My neighbor across the street lost nearly half his shingles, another 2 blocks down had a 100 year-old pine tree rupture half-way up the trunk and topple onto the street. Every single one of our schools lost power.  Entire sections of town were pitch-dark and eerily quiet.

I washed all the sheets on all our beds, ran to the store bright and early to stock our shelves for extra mouths to feed, filled the Suburban with gas to drive around town, then called my Relief Society President, the Bishop, and one of our Elders Quorum Presidency to see who needed help.

Next I got onto Facebook, messaged several friends, called nearby family, visited my neighbors, and texted anyone else I could think of.

I'd like to say that I was able to help dozens of families by offering them a warm place to stay, and a home-cooked meal.  I wish I could tell tales of wonderful deeds I'd done to touch the lives of those temporarily in need. But you know what? I do not have a single story to tell.  Instead, I can say I tried.  I was willing to help, but apparently 7:00 am the day after a storm is too long to wait.  Not a single person needed a warm place to stay.  They already had arrangements made, or were prepared in their own way.  No one needed a home cooked meal, or someplace to bring their kiddos to stave off boredom.

Our area was good. I was not the only person to chip in and offer assistance.  Our ward members all pitched in, called everyone on their home teaching and visiting teaching lists to make sure each family was cared for.

Although I do not have any heart-tugging humanitarian stories to announce, I am happy to report that there are also no heart-wrenching stories of people forgotten, or left to freeze and starve.

It warms my heart to see us come together in the midst of chaos, and to care for those who need it. All too often we read of the tragedies that befall us or of the evil of those around us.  But today I offer up happiness and relief.  Maybe last week's lesson on caring for the poor an needy was heeded after all.  Well done, Spokanites.

Nov 17, 2015

Is there a third alternative?

by Terri Wagner

Like everyone, I was appalled, horrified, and angry at what happened in Paris. For some reason I was especially bothered by the poor wheelchair victims. I have read several eye witness accounts of how they felt so powerless.

As information comes out, it seems at least one or two [of the terrorists] were pretend refugees, and one was, as they term it, a "home grown" terrorist.

I remember some years ago a documentary on France's growing Muslim population. One scene showed a major road where they gathered to pray, thus blocking all traffic, and there were places where the police did not bother to come. Apparently Sharia law was administered and French officials looked the other way.

Now it's our turn. Do we take in the refugees or do we protect our home? Will we be Paris in just a few years or even less time? Can the president force a governor to take in the refugees? How have other refugees worked out here? I also remember a documentary on a place in Tennessee where a group of Somalian refugees were placed. It has not worked out well. The Somalians are not fitting in or trying to, and the natives were getting restless. Could that happen again?

The First Presidency has asked us to assist the humanitarian crisis going on. And there is a crisis. So what do we do? Open our doors? I just keep wondering about what Stephen Covey always said, there is usually always a third alternative. So what would it be here? How can we both protect our home and yet reach out to help others? Would a history lesson help? What would history tell us about this area of the world other than Syrians have been around since Moses. It is really stretching my brain to come up with an equitable situation. Any ideas out there?

Nov 14, 2015

Continued learning

by Cassie Shiels

Our ANWA sister, Carol Anne Olsen Malone, posted an article the other day that changed how I see stories and movies. It was one of those things where you went "Oh" and now everything is different. I am writing differently, reading differently and looking at movies differently. Here is the article in case you want to check it out too.

There were a lot of great points in this article but the one that really has sat with me and changed me in the world of storytelling is the Yes/but as well as the No/and point. I find myself evaluating a scene and looking for it to be a yes/but or a no/and event. Of course every scene can't be this way but its starting to be super fun looking for the pattern. I am also trying to put these into my own writing and it is making a change for the good.

So the point to all of this is continue learning. Like a lot of us, I don't have all the money in the world to attend all the classes and conferences that I want, but sometimes a book or even a short article can truly improve our writing. So look for it where you can. I know that some things hit people differently. I have read many articles and I think good points but that's it. Those are good reminders but sometimes we get to read something that changes us forever more.

Tiny tidbits can increase our learning and improve our writing, so if you can't make it to a class or conference don't fret about not being able to learn the craft. There are other ways to learn.

Nov 12, 2015

Something to Write About

by Kari Diane Pike

I'm standing in our walk-in closet staring at the overflowing racks of clothes and I catch myself thinking: I have absolutely nothing to wear

My sapphire blue blouse is too dressy. The mint green top with the gray stripes is too summery for the recent cooler temperatures. My favorite go-to white, button down shirt is missing a button - and it needs ironing. Plus, I think the dryer is shrinking the rest of my clothes, because, what other reason could there be for them being so tight lately? 

Actually, I've really been sitting in front of my computer (in my comfy yoga pants and a tee shirt) for the past four hours, trying on idea after idea, searching for something to blog about today. Thoughts and ideas pop in and out of my brain, only to be flung across the room in frustration because, while they have some reason for taking up storage space in my overcrowded brain, they are missing something, or they don't fit the purpose of this blog (Insert picture here of piles of crumpled papers strewn across the floor, a roomful of regurgitating file cabinets and me pounding my head on the desk). I have absolutely nothing to write about. 

I even perused old journal entries looking for inspiration. I found stuff like this: 
July 25, 1977
It was really warm today - as usual about 105 degrees. I spent all morning cleaning the fridge and scrubbing the stove for Mom. Tommy [last name withheld to protect the guilty] came over so we were amid bedlam all day. We went swimming for awhile. I gave myself a manicure and it was my turn to give the family home evening lesson. We went to the Skone Shop for dinner and wandered around Metro Center. I also saw a poster that said: "You have to kiss a lot of toads before you find your Prince!" I often wonder where I am going to meet my eternal companion. And I hope I am ready for him when we do meet. 
 July 26, 1977
Today I spent in the kitchen once again. I made dinner and a couple of blueberry pies for Dad. Dad took me shopping for things for the Mexico trip tomorrow. I got everything except film - but don't I always remember to forget something? 
I was seventeen. I had  just graduated from high school. The previous summer a young man I met in Toulon, France proposed marriage to me. He was from Paris. I hadn't even been on a real date, but I felt so grown up and so in love with love. 

Fast forward thirty-eight years, one husband (I managed to find my prince without kissing any toads), nine children, nineteen grandchildren, twenty-something moves in four different states and nearly as many jobs as moves. My kids will tell you that they can keep track of events in our family not only by what house we lived in at the time, but by my "hobby-of-the-month." You know...the quilting phase, canning phase, let's make fake meat out of (horror) gluten phase, cross stitching, gardening, and the let's learn how to live off the grid phase. More and more often I catch myself repeating stories and saying the words I swore up and down I would never say: Well, you know, when I was your age..."

I can honestly say that one interest that has always remained a constant is writing. Most of my writing time as of late is spent studying and preparing lessons for early morning seminary. I love digging through the Old Testament and discovering those treasures of testimony of the Savior and His Atonement. Did you know that the word "Atonement" appears more times in the book of Leviticus than anywhere else in the scriptures? I found that fascinating. But what about you, the reader? When you visit this blog, what are you hoping to find?

I realize that my personal journals will be of no interest to anyone but a handful of my descendants, but I hope the things I share help someone else in their life's journey. I love "likening" the scriptures to my own life. I adore watching the faces of my seminary students when I ask them "What does [name an incident in the Old Testament] that happened over 4000 years ago have to do with what is happening in your life today?" Then I encourage them to write their thoughts down. The more they do, the more thoughts that will come. 

The scriptures are replete with examples of how the Lord instructs His servants and helps them in their journey. The book of Exodus tells us how the Lord prepared the way for the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea and journey across the desert. In 1 Nephi 17 of the Book of Mormon, Nephi is instructed how to build a ship not "after the manner of men," but after the manner the Lord had shown him, that would carry his family to the promised land. The book of Ether explains how the brother of Jared and his brethren built their barges "according to the instructions of the Lord." And the Lord brought them out of the depths of the sea and protected them as they passed through the waves and the wind and the floods. He gave them a source of light and because the brother of Jared had faith and obeyed so willingly, he was given knowledge of the Savior and saw Him face to face.

While studying Exodus 25 - 27  I thought about our temples today and the exactness with which they are built - the workmanship and placement of every detail, even down to the way the light fixtures are lined up and where the chairs are placed. Those things matter because the Lord gave directions and expects His servants to "make a sanctuary that [the Lord] may dwell among them." The Lord asked for the children of Israel to "bring me an offering; of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart..." The Lord asks me today to offer Him my willing heart - my broken heart and contrite spirit. I made covenants in the temple of my own free will and choice. In the temple, I receive instruction about how to live my life - how to construct my life, if you will, after the manner that will safely carry me through this mortal journey and back into His presence. 

Maybe I do have something to write about. 

Life is magnificent!

Nov 10, 2015

Outline Characters that Sizzle

by Marsha Ward

When I first started writing fiction, one of my favorite authors to read was Robert Newton Peck, who writes both for young people and adults. His characters are always so vivid, so alive, so sizzling! Some are the unforgettable Soup, in the book series with that character in the titles, and the father in a Day No Pigs Would Die.

Peck has also written several books on the writing process. If you can find Fiction is Folks, and Secrets of Successful Fiction, I highly recommend them. They are out of print, but still available from third-party sellers on Amazon.

Peck suggests that before you sit down to begin your short story or to write Chapter One of your novel, you first do homework on your characters, getting to know them inside and out.

His sage advice helped me develop characters that readers care about, so I'm passing it along. Here are Robert Newton Peck's suggestions for outlining a character.

Start with Character A, and answer these questions about him or her on a blank sheet of paper:
  1. What's his or her name?
  2. Where was he born and raised?
  3. What is her religion and ethnicity?
  4. Briefly describe him: fat, thin, tall, short, muscular, flabby, gray, bald?
  5. What does she believe in?
  6. Where has he failed or triumphed?
  7. Is she married, single, divorced, or shy?
  8. Most important of all, what kind of work does he do? And then, is he happy or discontented with it?
  9. What are her hobbies? Sports? TV?
  10. Is he neat or is he a slob? To establish this on paper, describe his desk, his closet, a drawer of his desk and the trunk of his car.
  11. Can your mind picture him making something? Using a simple tool, perhaps, to shape the hull of a model clipper ship?
  12. How do his hands behave? Relate them to tangible things that surround him.
  13. Is she musical? Is there one special instrument that she plays well or badly? Does she play it alone, for herself, or can she jam it up for an audience of friends or strangers?
  14. What was his school and schooling like? Who was the teacher he respected, and why?
  15. What are the events, items, pets, pals that she remembers for years?
  16. Other than memories, what are the tangible trinkets he saves and treasures from his past?
  17. Is she witty? If so, you cannot tell your reader that she is. Instead, you must let your dialogue show a reader exactly the witty remarks she makes.
  18. How does he drive his car, tie his tie, gargle? Does he pick his nose, cough often, snore?
  19. Read the editorial page of your newspaper and choose which opinions she agrees with or disputes. Does she argue bitterly, silently, or to anyone who has to listen?
  20. What is his goal? Whom does he dream about, yearn for, hate?
Repeat the exercise for each major character. Even though you won't need to know as much detail for minor characters, make sure you know them, too!

How do you get to know your characters?

Nov 7, 2015


by Cindy R. Williams

Yesterday was my birthday. Here's what I thought about it.

  • Old, but feel not so old, yet sometimes I feel like a hundred.
  • Looking in the mirror. Who is that grandma looking lady? She sure looks tired. Then later, Wow, I don't see any wrinkles. Looking good for in your fifties now. 
  • Glad that fifties are the new twenties . . . okay forties. 
  • How weird that I received more birthday wishes from people on Facebook--some I don't even know--than from birthday cards, calls or from live bodies in first person. 
  • Nice day not to worry about too much sugar, fat, carbs, red meat or too little exercise.
  • Day to ponder who I have become. Do I want to stay that person, or create a new and improved version?
  • How did I get that tummy?  (Like just this day I woke up and there it was. Yes, I am in denial here.)
  • Thankful that this tough year is over and having faith that this next year will be full of reached goals. 
  • Counting on one hand how many people are not speaking to me on this birthday, and realizing I am actually relieved that I don't have to speak to them. (Okay, too much info here, but three of them are crazy, one has few boundaries and is close being a stalker and the other one scares the living daylights out of me.)
  • Don't care about presents. Do care that my children remember my birthday and have at least a few fond memories of forgiving kindness to direct my way. 
  • Gift to self. A nap on my pretend cloud bed. A long story for another blog.
  • Next year I am going to rest when I'm tired. Not feel guilty to say no when needed. Scale down on the supermom stuff. Let my creativity go sky high. Act on inspiration and promptings. Smile tons more and find more humor and humanity in situations. Move into a castle.

Nov 5, 2015

Thank You, Lisa Mangum, For Scaring Me

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being a part of the Northwest ANWA Retreat in Rosario Beach, Washington. I arrived on Wednesday for the write-in so I could concentrate on the work-in-progress I'd been struggling with for eighteen months. It was also the first time I went to a conference intending to talk to an editor about my manuscript.
The ladies at the retreat.  10 Points if you can find Lisa!

But we didn't have just any editor. No. We had Lisa Mangum, the Acquisitions Editor for Shadow Mountain Publishing. This may not be a big deal for some writers, but in Mormon world, having the Acquisitions Editor for Shadow Mountain, the imprint for Deseret Books, on your doorstep is a big deal.

I'd spent weeks psyching myself up for a possible encounter with Lisa. I'd rehearsed at least a dozen scenarios in my head on how to present my book as the best thing ever and convince her that I had the next Fablehaven series. My first book, Unleashed, was nearly through the editing process and I was planning on finishing the first draft of the third book at the retreat.

The first time I saw Lisa, I swear angels sang from Heaven. I was expecting some lady in a black pantsuit, high heals, perfectly coiffed hair, and flawless makeup. But Lisa addressed our crowd of forty writers in a Rush t-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes, and absolutely no make-up. It was glorious! She's a real person!

The view from the beach
The next day, the writing gods smiled down upon me, and I walked into the conference building to find Lisa, all alone, staring out a window at the ocean. It couldn't possibly be that easy, could it?

I took a deep breath, smoothed down my shirt, and marched right up to her, thinking up some stupid excuse to interrupt her reverie.

She was nice, smiling politely and even remembering me from the 'getting to know you' session the night before. “You're the lady double majoring in Social Work and Addictions, aren't you?”

I grinned like an idiot and nodded my head.

“So, what are you writing?”

I have spoken in front of crowds of nearly 2,000 people, once ad-libbing for twenty minutes when they had an equipment malfunction. I've watched my three-month-old son be wheeled out of his hospital room to have open-heart surgery, had a child nearly die in my arms, and have made business presentations to international corporations. And yet, talking to Lisa Mangum scared me most.

One of our breathtaking sunsets! Aren't you jealous?
My heart skipped a beat, my mouth went dry, and I drew a blank. “It's not ready! I don't want to talk about it.”

She gave me a funny look. “Okay, then what have you been reading lately?”

Blank again! I swear I've read twenty books in the last six months, and I couldn't think of anything except the Twilight series I'd teased my sixteen year old son about reading...for the fourth time...and some e-book series I'd read nearly a year ago. “The Scarab Beetle Series? Text books?” I stare at her hoping she can answer my question for me.

Instead, she just smiled. We chatted for a few more minutes about nothing in particular, and then lunch was called. I missed my opportunity, and I spent the rest of the afternoon kicking myself for not having faith in myself or my book. Somewhere during that split second when Lisa asked me what I was writing and giving my answer, a little voice in my head screamed, “It's not good enough! She's not going to like it!” And I listened.

Saturday morning, I almost ducked out early because it was my daughter's birthday. But Lisa was talking one more time and I wanted to hear her words of wisdom.

She talked about how she once listened to that horrible little voice in the back of her head that said, “You're not good enough.” She listened to it for ten years. But something changed in her, and she realized that, not only was she good enough, but she had a book in her that was “like the best thing ever.”

She discussed how she began to write again, how scared she was to show her story to others, and how, after it was published, she realized that we all have a story inside us. We need to get that story out. We need to ignore that negative voice in the back of our heads, and write!

I left the ANWA retreat energized, motivated, and a true-blue Lisa Mangum fan-girl.

Since then, I've finished my third story, am 14,500 words into my fourth manuscript, and have decided to split my series into two trilogies. My goal is to have my book, Unleashed, ready to submit to publishers on January 1st. And you know what? I think I may just make it.

Thank you, Lisa Mangum, for scaring me and kicking me into motion. I would never have made that leap of faith with out you!

Nov 3, 2015

A Month of Gratitude is a Good Start

by Terri Wagner

I see these posts popping up on Facebook quite a bit. A challenge if you will of noting each day of November something you are grateful for. It's a terrific idea. I feel sure most of us can make the first say 15 days but after that it gets a bit harder. You become more reflective. One person last year decided at the end of November that they actually had no regrets because each failure, each disappointment, each cruel situation made them a better person. I have never understood that philosophy. I have regrets. Things I never did but wished I had, and things I did I wished I had not. I do not believe I am a better person for having lived through those times, just a different person. So am I grateful for bad experiences, perhaps especially those I brought on myself? No, honestly, I wish I had missed those experiences.

Mostly I sit in literal amazement that the foolish things I did did not in fact end worse. Once for no particular reason at all a friend and I switched driving positions going down the Interstate at over 70mph. We survived, but did not repeat the idiocy. It was years before I realized what we so easily escaped. Once in a misguided effort to protect a mom who had a child in her car with a busted out back window on a long bridge going 70mph I pulled behind her and kept a close distance so no one else could jump in front of me and cause an accident. She did not appreciate or understand my desire to keep her from being run down since she was going much slower. Was I wrong? I scared her instead of helping her. I regret that.

On the other hand, I have had some wonderful experiences I definitely would not trade out. Visiting Yorktown for the first was like a sacred experience. Feelings of gratitude for that ragtag band that stood so firm against the British and won the right to be a country. I still feel those things when I visit there. The time I was on a date with a car mechanic and he stopped to help a family in trouble. Our date was blown, our assistance made up for that. A time my friend and I managed to lock her still running car in the Blue Ridge campground, only to discover that car keys are only so many for a car and exact matches can turn up in unexpected places. There are so many times my guardian angel watched out for me. So there are many things I am glad I experienced.

But the really bad ones...nope I prefer to have skipped them. It is not a matter of learning the bitter from the sweet, more a matter of what I could have had had I listened vs. what I got because I did not obey. So am I grateful for bad! Am I grateful for good experiences...yes. Would I trade some of those bad betcha!

Oct 31, 2015


I always have. I love to dress up! I love to make up characters, and I admit it they are usually on the dark side this time of year. I can't help it. Why be a cute thing when you can be a monster! I know my crazy silliness.
When I was 12 or 13 I decided I wanted to be dead, as in wear a white dress, white wig, paint my face white. But I couldn't just leave it there.  I had to be someone. So I came up with Filvia Flay. And I painted her a tombstone to put up in my yard. She of course died in a tragic way, and her story even if it was only in my head made halloween even more fun. I am usually a vampire or frankenstines girlfriend, or an evil queen, you get the idea. I love to do crazy make up and funny things with my hair. Its just to much fun!Those who know me are usually a little shocked because I am not a wicked person, by any means, I just love looking wicked one day a year.
When I was in 7th grade I came up with my vampire queen who (spoiler: who is in my nanowrimo book this year) So even if you end up being some crazy thing for halloween you never know when that idea can sneak into your writing. It might be a few years, and there might be a few tweaks but these fun characters can add to your skills.
I will admit it, usually every october I think of a scary story but I haven't attempted writing one yet. I just don't know if I could handle it. Its not my kind of writing. This year I even thought up a whole murder mystery, ohhhh, maybe I will write it one day. We will just have to see.
With my tinny kids I have ventured into the nice characters, a fairy or a nice queen… But this year they are being witches and they might as well be escorted by their vampire mother!  Right? Lets just say I am excited we can all have epic makeup!
Happy Halloween! I hope you all enjoy it and have fun coming up with some creepy characters!

Oct 29, 2015

Pondering Charity

by Kari Diane Pike

One of my favorite children's hymns is "Love One Another." The topic of charity has been on my mind a great deal lately. Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said,
"Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down,...It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.”1
After I read this message, I followed a delightful scripture chain that gave me new insights into that divine attribute that the Savior exemplified so perfectly.

John 13: 34-35  "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

With the sound of children's voices singing those tender words echoing in my mind, I began to read 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 where the Apostle Paul expounds on charity. I don't think these passages have spoken to me so powerfully before. Charity - that pure love "exceeds and excels almost all else." Paul teaches me that I can have faith to move mountains, all knowledge and understanding of all mysteries - BUT - if I lack charity - none of that matters. Even the act of giving everything I own to "feed the poor" or "give my body to be burned"..."it profiteth me nothing."

Charity is more than spending hours preparing lessons or donating quilts to the homeless. Charity goes beyond fancy galas and fundraisers and Eagle Scout projects. Charity is more than taking a loaf of bread to a neighbor. Charity is the why - the motivation behind why I prepare the lesson, deliver the bread, ladle the soup or sew the quilt. Charity is the way I greet someone new and my decision to get to know them without judging their appearance. Charity is smiling at someone even though they are making choices I don't agree with. Charity is choosing to not be offended and to choose to be happy for others and with others in their success. Charity is helping others succeed and allowing them to choose their own path. Charity is to look for the best in myself and others and to encourage that best to come forward. Charity involves humility and faith and hope and most of all love. Charity requires self-mastery, temperance, and righteousness.

Romans 13:10 teaches that "love worketh no ill to his neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." The Lord told the Pharisee lawyer that the greatest commandment in the law (meaning the Law of Moses) was to "love the Lord thy God with all thine heart" and to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses - through His great love for us. Making and keeping my covenants and showing my love for Him - by loving others around me fulfills my part.

1 Nephi 11: 21-23 describes the love of God as the most desirable "fruit" of all and the most joyous to the soul.

Alma 32: 41-43 shows me how to develop charity. Look forward with faith. Be diligent. Be patient. "Look forward to the fruit." FOCUS ON ETERNITY!

Everything else may fail, but Christ's love endures forever. He will always love me and always be there for me. People will let me down. Science will continue to change its mind about what is true and what is not true. Seasons change. Disappointments come - and so does joy! Charity will always get me through tight spots and shine light on dark days and make joyful moments even brighter. Being kind and giving the benefit of the doubt may not always result in "butterflies and rainbows" but it will never be the wrong thing to do.

There are so many things I don't know. I can see but a small part of the "big picture." But I am learning that as long as I exercise faith and hope and practice charity I can be assured that everything will work out.

Life is magnificent.