#66 - Progress Meter

I've added a progress meter to my blog to keep myself accountable for my January writing goal of 30,000 words by the 31st. I wanted to put it in the sidebar, but I can't figure out how to do so without it being either too small to read, or so big you can hardly see any of it. So, there it is, in huge living color above my blog posts. You don't get more accountable than that.

As you can see, the meter shows not only my word count, but my mood. At the moment, the icon is showing me watching TV, although in truth, I'm surfing the 'net. When I start writing tomorrow, hopefully you'll see the icon guy hard at work.

#65 - Starting Anew

The new year is always a good time to look at our lives and re-asses goals, ambitions, and plans for the future. At the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I planned to sit down every January 1st and make a video of ourselves talking about the past year and our goals going forward into the future. We did that for a few years and it's fun to look back on those videos and watch ourselves grow and progress. Unfortunately, it has been several years since we did that. Maybe even as many as 8 years. I feel really badly about that, but the only time is now, and we are going to sit down this year with our kids and talk about our year and about our goals for 2009.

One of my goals is to finish the first draft of the book I started writing a decade or so ago. Tristi Pinkston is challenging writers everywhere to join her book-in-a-month challenge for the month of January. Rather than challenging us just to write a new book like NaNoWriMo does, she is aiming this challenge at any writing goals, whether they be finishing a first draft, editing a finished book, sending out query letters, or whatever our goals are as we move forward in our writing careers.

NaNo really moved my first draft forward in a way it never would have happened without the challenge, so I've decided to take up Tristi's challenge and see if I can get this first draft finished in the next month. My official goal is to write 30,000 new words in the coming month.

I'll be updating this blog over the next few weeks with reports on my progress, so stop in often to keep me accountable and cheer me on! :)

#64 - The Christmas Spirit

I have to confess I haven't felt much of the Christmas Spirit this holiday season. I don't think I've ever been more unprepared for Christmas as I was this year, and as I look back on this week, I don't think I really felt like it was the special time of year it's supposed to be. Thursday seemed like a pretty average day, except we happened to spend it opening a lot of presents.

I spent all of Christmas Eve shopping and wrapping presents, and I really regret not having everything ready ahead of time so I could spend the day with my family, reading the Christmas story, and feeling the spirit and awe that is what makes Christmas special.

I hope it's not entirely too late for us this year. My kids had a "Night Before Christmas" play they wanted to perform for us on Christmas Eve, and I'm going to see if they'll do it for us tomorrow instead. Maybe we can still cozy up around the Christmas tree and read from the book of Luke and fill the special stocking we have for Jesus with things we are going to do for Him this year.

We also have a Christmas celebration on Tuesday with my family, and it will be the first time in a lot of years when all of my family has been together at once. Now that only one of my brothers is in the military, it's a little easier to find a way to all be together, and I'm excited for that reunion.

So, although Christmas may officially be over, our Christmas will continue for a few more days, and hopefully I can feel a full measure of the Christmas Spirit by this time next week.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and I wish you all the best with the coming new year.

#63 - Twilight Spoof

I truly mean no offense to those faithful readers of mine who liked the Twilight movie. I haven't seen it yet, so I honestly can't say if I will like it or not. Based on the trailers I've seen, I have my doubts, but I know a lot of Twilight fans loved it.

However, I just saw this link on Tristi Pinkston's blog, and I thought it was absolutely hilarious. Thank you for the link, Tristi!

So, watch the spoof, and tell me what you think. Should I see Twilight? Should I skip it? Should I try to get DH to go with me so we can "experience" Twilight together, or should I avoid it so he doesn't think I'm crazy for liking such a book? I just ask that your comments be nice, either way. :)

#62 - Abinadi

Having read the Out of Jerusalem series by H.B. Moore, I knew I would love her newest book, Abinadi. And I wasn't disappointed.

Before reading Abinadi, I never wondered what the Prophet's life might have been like before the events that occur in the Book of Mormon. Moore not only asks those questions, but she answers them. She takes research and knowledge about the peoples living in Mesoamerica at the time of Abinadi, and combines that with a healthy dose of imagination, weaving a story that is both believable and engaging.

The story begins with Abinadi as a young man, a believer of the true gospel in a time when King Noah rules in wickedness. Abinadi falls in love with a young woman named Raquel, but his hopes for a marriage seem unatainable. As the daughter of one of King Noah's priests, she is expected to marry a member of the King's court.

Another young man soon enters the scene: Alma, a new priest in King Noah's court, whose father had been an advisor to King Zeniff. He remembers a time when King Zeniff ruled in righteousness, and feels his conscience prick him as he lives the lifestyle that comes with being one of King Noah's priests.

The story is filled with action and intrigue, and it kept me on the edge of my seat until the last page. But the thing I loved most about this book was the way the characters came to life on the page. The story of Abinadi has so much more meaning when we see him as a real person, as full of hopes and loves and fears as any one of us.

Abinadi is the first book in a series Moore is doing on the Book of Mormon prophets. I look forward to reading her next book, Alma the Elder, with the continuation of Alma's story as he carries the work of Abinadi forward.

I highly recommend Abinadi, and all of Moore's books. Don't miss the chance to study the lives of these great prophets in a way you never have before.

You can read more reviews and get information on Moore's upcoming books at her blog: My Writer's Lair

#61 - NaNo Update

As many of you know, I'm not doing an official NaNo challenge this year. I have another book I /have/ to finish. But I'm trying to use NaNo as a motivator in finishing that book.

And I've written over 18,000 words!

I don't know if I'll win NaNo this year, but if I can write "The End" on a book I've been working on for a decade, even if I don't finish it until Christmas, I'll definitely count myself as a winner.

Right now, my total novel is over 38,000 words. That doesn't count the scenes I've written but haven't added back in to this "final first" draft.

I'll report back in later in the month to let you know how I'm coming along. Maybe I'll make a major push over this last week to see what I can really do. I would have to write 4500 words per day to make it. Hmmm. Technically, I know I could do it, but realistically . . . I'll do my best. :D

#60 - My First Blog Award

So, can you believe I received a blog award for the first time and I haven't posted about it yet??? That just shows you how much I'm working on my book! (Or reading while eating big marshmallows. Between the two, my time is completely monopolized.)

So . . . Drumroll . . .

Elana "Hearts" my blog!!

Thank you Elana! I "heart" your blog too! :)

So, my first role as, um . . . whatever I am now, is to award five more people with this prestigious award.

It was difficult to choose. So many great blogs, so few awards to give out! But, choose I must, and so, the envelope please...

First of all, no awards ceremony would be complete without an award being given to Janette Rallison's Blog. Janette is an awesome author and you should check her books out, too! You can often find Janette at her blog, lamenting over things like what to call her next blockbuster book. :D I "Heart" your blog Janette! :)

Another blog that I just "Heart" is Queen of the Clan. Danyelle is a fellow writer, and a fellow queen of her castle. She blogs about a mix of topics - life, laughter, love, and how to make a thankful tree, specifically. :D

Next, maybe No One Suspects The Butterfly, but I would suspect Heather of being a person who can write a great blog! She has a lot of insights and I love to read it. I "Heart" your blog, Heather!

My favorite Girl in a Whirl, Ali, can write a pretty mean blog, too. I "Heart" your blog, Ali! You always have such great insights.

And, last but certainly not least, I "Heart" a Green-Eyed Frog. Wait, that didn't come out right. But, anyway, Kim has posted some amazing photos she's taken with a macro camera lens. I love checking it out to see what new pic she's put up.

So, that about wraps it up, I think. I'd like to thank my internet service provider, blogger.com, and, most of all, my dear hubby for working so hard so I can afford to stay at home. Otherwise, I never could have put in the time and effort it took to win this award.

Thank you everyone! :D

#59 - Call to Action

I don't often stand up and shout from the rooftops about anything, but this is an issue I feel so strongly about, I couldn't stay silent.

President elect Obama has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law in his first 100 days in office. I feel we all need to do everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen.

FOCA would establish the right to abortion as a fundamental right (like the right to free speech) and wipe away every restriction on abortion nationwide, including partial birth abortions. (For those who are unfamiliar with partial birth abortion, it is a procedure done late in the pregnancy term, when the baby could have lived viably outside the womb. The abortion is performed part-way through the birthing process.)

It will eradicate state and federal abortion laws that the majority of Americans support and prevent states from enacting similar protective measures in the future.

Twice, President elect Obama has voted against saving the lives of babies who lived through attempted abortions. We can't let his views on abortion become laws!

Please read the expert analysis by Americans United for Life (AUL) and sign the Fight FOCA petition

#58 - Never Delete Anything

I've learned a really important lesson this past week as I've been rushing to finish my first draft. Luckily, I didn't have to learn it the hard way - I learned it the awesome, amazing, fun way!

Like I've said, I've been working on this book for a decade. That's a long time. My writing has really (and, I do mean really) improved over that time period. So I have scenes from my book that I wrote yesterday, and scenes I wrote ten years ago. One of my characters used to be Julie, a young girl living with her parents in Idaho, who meets a boy named Todd at the beginning of the novel. Now, she's Kristen, living in an apartment in Chicago with her dad, dating a guy named Zach.

The funny thing is, it's still the same story. My characters have just grown and changed as much as I have.

So, the other day I was writing a scene, and I went back and found a similar scene from my original work. I didn't have much hope that it'd be salvageable, but it totally was! It's way better than what I was about to write. I kept saying things like, "I am so good!" At one point, I was almost singing, "I'm too sexy for my shirt!" LOL. You think I'm joking, but I'm not. I'm really that vain. It evens out the times I want to throw my whole novel on the dung heap, spit on it, and walk away.

Anyway, back to my story. I only had to twist and turn a few events, a line here and there, and sometimes only a word or two in places. And it's an awesome scene! I can't wait for my critique group to read it. :)

So, when you cut that chapter out of your novel, DON'T DELETE IT!! Put it in a file and save it for a rainy day.

I actually used a program called Page Four a couple years ago, and I took my entire novel out of Word Docs and put it into scenes in Page Four. So, instead of having a file called "Chapter 1" I have files in there named "Angela's Party" and "Out of Gas" I find it sooooooooo helpful!

Whether you use Page Four or Word or whatever, I'd highly suggest using this method, at least until you've written your whole first draft and you're just in the editing stages. It's just so much easier than wading through "Chapter Three" thinking, "I know I wrote that part about the blind date in here somewhere, but I don't know where it is!" Or, worse yet, opening your "Novel In Progress" file and having to scan through the whole thing to find what you're looking for.

Maybe it wouldn't be helpful for normal writers under normal writing circumstances, though. But for anyone who's on their fourth half-draft of a decade-old novel, do the Page Four thing. :D

And, just so you know, I've now written 2654 words in November. For being 1/4 of the way through a 50,000-word challenge, it doesn't seem like much, but I do feel like I've gotten a lot done in general, fixing up broken scenes like the one I mentioned above.

#57 - Minor Update

I just had to share my joy with someone. I wrote over 1400 words today and really fleshed out a chapter that I wrote, probably 5 years ago, and I'm so happy with it! So, I'm not feeling so tortoise-y anymore. :)

Here's to continued success over the next 22 days!

#56 - Fulfilling a Dream

It has been my dream since I was a little girl to be a published author.

Last year, I took part in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. Not only that, but I won. I managed to write 50,000 words in 30 days. (26 days, really, since I didn't write on Sundays) You have to write an average of 2000 words per day in order to win.

Here we are, one year later, and I haven't actually finished the first draft of that book, despite the immense head-start I got that month. On top of that, I haven't actually finished the first draft of the book I started writing a decade ago, either!

I have a critique group I'm working with now and that's helping me get back on track, if for no other reason than the need to get 6 pages ready to be critiqued every 2 weeks. But also, the feedback they give me is so helpful and it is generating ideas of what I need to do to wrap up this first draft and write THE END.

As I was thinking about the upcoming NaNo challenge, I knew I couldn't start a new book. I'm not going to work on any other writing project until this book is done! (I'm working on the decade-old manuscript at the moment) But, the thought occurred to me that I could use NaNo to propel my books from "Work in Progress" to "First Draft". If I were to write 50,000 new words, I could probably finish both the books I'm working on.

On October 31st, I made up a spreadsheet and got all ready to go for the next day. November 1st came, and I hit the ground running.

And, They're Off . . . . . . (imagine turtles waddling away from a start line)

(That's how I feel right now!)

Here's what I've done so far:
On Day 1, I wrote 69 words.
Day 2, 247.
Day 3, 146.

So, I haven't gotten off to a very fast start here, as you can see.

It's more difficult to build up a word count when you have to work with previously written material. But, I'm not giving up. Even if I don't write 50,000 words, I'm determined to write at least enough words to finish my first draft of this book.


#55 - Check This Out

My friend Melanie started a blog recently and invited me to be a contributor. I've decided to do just that, so if you want to read my thoughts on spiritual things, go check it out.

We Seek After These Things

#54 - Change

My iGoogle page just changed in the blink of an eye. One minute it looked one way. I clicked on a link and then it looked another way. I liked it the old way.

So, did I hit the wrong button and my settings got changed? If so, I just have to find that same magic button and change it back. Or, did Google just decide to change the way their page looks, wrote new code, and implemented it recently?

The point is, I liked the way things were and I want them back that way. I don't like when things change.

Is it possible that I will come to like this new way? Maybe like it better than before? I'd have to say yes. Anything is possible.

Of course, this applies to things that are way more important than my iGoogle page. Ward boundary changes, for example. That's something that affects my life more directly. But, it still pales in comparison to moving to a new state where you know no one. Moving to a country where you don't know the language. All of those things, in turn, pale in comparison to the death of a loved one.

But, big or small, the only constant in life is change. How do you deal with it? How do you roll with the punches? If you could go back, or change things back to the way they were, would you do it? Or maybe, more importantly, /should/ you do it?

I have a source who shall remain anonymous who says that there are two kinds of people: Those who wallow in the misery of their circumstances, and those who do everything they can to change their circumstances. But I say, isn't there another kind of person? Are there people who learn to find joy in their circumstances, whatever they are? If so, how do they do it? Has anyone found a secret?

With all that said, though, I'd really like to get my iGoogle back to the way it was. LOL. Does anyone who uses it know what's going on? Was the format of your iGoogle page changed today as well?

#53 - $700,000,000,000

"As far as this $700 billion bailout is concerned, they keep saying 'we have to act now, we have to act now.' It's like a bad TV offer. Just ten easy payments of $70 billion each, operators are standing by, but you have to act now!" –Jay Leno

I want to spout off on my opinions, but I do have to give a big disclaimer here - I haven't watched the news much in the past, and I don't really know a lot about politics or economics. So, why am I writing this post? I guess I just wanted to rant a little bit. :) With that said...

I've been watching the news the past couple weeks about the economic disaster we're in right now, and, frankly, I'm astounded. Did you know our country is in debt $9.6 trillion dollars?

I also read an article that says the deficit for 2009 is almost 1/2 a trillion dollars. And that number doesn't include tens of billions of dollars in Iraqi war costs. It also, obviously, doesn't include the $700 billion bailout. So, the debt is going to be - what? $11 trillion this time next year? Something is wrong with this picture.

Today's generation has an entitlement mentality. We want what we want and we want it when we want it. I know, that's hard to make out, but I liked saying it that way. And since I wanted to, I did it. I'm entitled to that right as the blog owner. :D

So, the government wants to buy something, they buy it. They don't have to worry about where the money's coming from. They just say, "Put it on our tab." Now, in the olden days, if you went to a store and had them put something "on your tab" and you went in day after day after day, racking up your tab and never paying a penny back, they'd come to the point where they'd refuse to put anything else on your tab! What happens when everybody realizes they're never going to get paid back? Wait, maybe they already have. That might explain why the dollar is losing value faster than the government can say, "Here's 700 billion dollars!"

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and something occurred to me. I remember hearing a lot about WWII, and how everyone in the country was expected to sacrifice to help fund the war and keep supplies going to the troops. Here's a good article I found that talks about it. Sugar rationing, recycling, scrap drives, etc. were some of the means the government used to fund the war. Here's a quote from the article: "While life during the war meant daily sacrifice, few complained because they knew it was the men and women in uniform who were making the greater sacrifice."

Now, fast-forward to the war on terror. What have we been called on to sacrifice in order to support our troops in the middle east? How have the American people banded together to make sure they have the supplies they need? Oh, that's right. We don't have to sacrifice anything because the government just uses its big, giant credit card with no credit limit on it to pay for the war so we don't have to sacrifice anything. In fact, they've been cutting taxes to help stimulate the economy. What financial adviser would tell you to cut your income and increase your spending at the same time? It makes absolutely no economic sense whatsoever.

When the economy slows down, the government goes to great lengths to stimulate it. Lower taxes! Lower interest rates! They want the American people to spend money, so that there will be more revenue, jobs will be created, the government will collect more taxes. When people slow down on their spending, the government "stimulates the economy" again. We've got to get those Americans to buy more stuff! Let's lower the interest rates and get them buying more houses and cars and boats... And here we are, with tons of people foreclosing on their houses because they spent more than they could afford. Maybe the whole "get people to spend as much money as we possibly can" mentality is part of the problem.

There's this whole idea that if you cut taxes to stimulate the economy, then businesses will make more money, there will be more jobs, people will make more money and spend more money, and in the end, the government will get more taxes because of all this. Does it work??? That would be a big no. Just look at the rate at which the debt is rising for the answer to that question.

Here is a pretty cool article about who and what caused the economic crisis we're in right now. I'd recommend scrolling down to the bottom of the page. There's a little section called "The Real Deal" that lists the problems that led up to this mess and I found it interesting. I certainly don't know what the answers are, but I'm pretty sure of what they aren't. And if I hear another politician telling me we need to go into debt to "stimulate the economy," I'm going to lose my lunch.

As far as what we can do as citizens to help our own financial situations, and in turn help America, I wanted to recommend a book I read a few years ago - Debt-Free on Any Income. It has a debt-payoff system that accelerates over time to help you pay off all your debt, including your house, in a very short time (we're talking, 10 years short). The thing I really loved about it is it comes with a CD-ROM you put in your computer and it helps you track all your debt payoff, income, spending, etc.

So, there you have it. This is my $.02 worth. Although I think I deserve more than $.02 when the government can throw around $700,000,000,000! :D

#52 - Gender Wars

Disclaimer: This post is referring to the traditional roles of husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker. Single parents, two-income families, etc. are a different matter that I'm not going to try to account for here.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. There are so many women out there who think their husbands have it easy because they don't have to stay home with the kids all day every day. They get to go to work for 8 hours, and then come home and put their feet up while their wife still has to make dinner, clean up, get the kids to bed, etc.

While I do believe it's true that most men don't understand how challenging it is to be in that role, I don't agree that they have it easier than us.

First of all, it really is a stereotype that when a man comes home, he just watches sports, plays video games, or whatever and doesn't pitch in to do any work. Even if they don't generally help clean the house or whatever, a lot of men are still doing a lot of stuff when they get home. Most of them are expected to fix things that break, mow the lawn, etc. There are a lot of them out there who coach their kids' soccer games and help with homework.

But, even if he did just rest in the evening while his wife continued to work, does that mean she worked more than him that day?

Let's be honest with each other here. Think about the time your husband is gone at work. Are you /really/ working that whole time? How much time do you spend reading books, hanging out at playdates, talking on the phone, watching TV, blogging, surfing the 'net, etc.?

Most of our guys go out there and work when they're at work. They're not hanging out at the water cooler shootin' the breeze. A lot of them do very physically challenging jobs. Many of them are doing very mentally challenging work. They have to deal with co-workers, bosses, meetings, paperwork, and all kinds of stress.

And, speaking of stress, how much pressure they must feel to know that their family is counting on them all the time. They have to keep productivity up if they want to keep their jobs. They have to worry about whether they're going to get a raise, how they're going to fund their children's college tuition, what they need to have saved up in case they lose their job. They have to be constantly striving to do better, improve their skills, etc. in order to get a raise or a promotion that will help them support their families better.

I'm not really trying to get on a soapbox here, because this particular box is way too high for me. I'm at least as guilty or more so than most of the people reading this. The biggest reason I'm saying all this is because I feel guilty. I spend way too much time on the internet, reading books, etc. After a load of laundry or washing a sink full of dishes, my back hurts and I feel tired and stressed. So I go and sit down for a little while. I'll grab a sandwich or something and sit at the computer to read blogs because I might as well be doing something while I'm eating. Of course, long after the last crumbs have settled on the plate, I'm still hunched over my computer, typing replies and laughing at my friends' jokes.

Maybe some of you really do work most of the day and your husbands really are lazy; just doing the minimum at work and sitting on the couch after they get home. But I can tell you that's definitely not the case over here, and I doubt if it's the case in most of the rest of your lives either.

My husband works /hard/. He is under constant stress at work, trying to solve difficult problems and get things to work. He is often asked by coworkers and his boss to help them solve problems as well. When there are deadlines at work, he has to work extra hours - sometimes a lot of extra hours. This isn't a 9-5 and then you're done. He has to get the work done before he's done.

It's true that a woman's work is never done. When you've just emptied the dishwasher and the last spoon is in the drawer, the kids come and make a sandwich and it starts all over again. You vacuum and the next time you turn around, there are more crumbs on the floor. It's frustrating that nothing you do ever stays done. But is a man's work ever done either? Yes, he finished that project and closed the file. He never has to do that one again. But there's a new one waiting. It's true that housework is mundane. But is that really worse than always having to come up with new solutions, always having to figure out new problems?

There's always a huge uproar if a man says that the money is /his/ money because he's the one who made it and the check is in his name. But I hear a lot of women say that they do a little job here and there, sell Avon, baby-sit, or whatever, so they can have their own money. Isn't that just as bad?

And in my house, my husband doesn't sit down and relax when he gets home from work. He always has projects he's working on. Right now, he's moving his office to the basement, helping me move my office and library to the basement, and cleaning out the garage so I can park in it again. Yes, when he gets home, I still have to make dinner, clean up, help the kids with homework and chores and baths and bed. But a lot of the time he's at work, I'm avoiding doing what I should be. Is it really fair to read blogs while he's working, and then expect him to help me make dinner or vacuum when he gets home?

Oprah, Dr. Phil, et al. do these shows where they make the husband take over for the wife for the day. She gets to go to the spa for the day because she just really deserves a break because of all the hard work she's done. The husband is shown as a bumbling mess because he can't keep everything together, get the kids everywhere on time, make dinner, change diapers, etc. At the end, he admits that he really didn't understand before just how hard it was to do her job.

I'm probably going to get blasted for this, but I really think if we switched places for the day, we'd learn our lesson just as much as our husbands would learn theirs. What if the husband was sent to the golf course for the day while the wife had to do his job? She'd be just as overwhelmed and just as humbled as he would be in her place. But that's just so not PC to say.

#51c - The Final Tag

My Sister-in-Law Adrianne also tagged me a couple of days ago. This is going to be my last tag for a while. :)

4 Goals you have for the next 5 years...
1. Finish the rough drafts of the books I'm working on
2. Get my house in order
3. Learn Spanish, at least semi-fluently
4. Get published

4 Places I WILL visit someday...
1. New England, but specifically, New York
2. Hawaii
3. Mexico
4. The Caribbean

4 of My Favorite Foods...
1. Sweet & Sour Chicken over white rice
2. My mom's Waffle Brownies
3. Baked potato piled with cottage cheese, ham, peas, green peppers...etc.
4. Tortellini

4 Jobs I've had (that you might not remember)...
1. Small icing decorator
2. Hostess
3. Newspaper delivery girl
4. Coder (categorizing responses to phone and mail surveys)

2 Places I've lived
1. Utah County
2. Salt Lake County
That isn't just two of the places I've lived. It's the only two. It doesn't get more boring than that, does it? :)

2 Places I'd like to live
1. Boston
2. Washington state coast

4 things I'd do with my spare time (if I had any)
1. Read books (Let's be honest - I already read enough books, but if I had more spare time, I'd read more books) :)
2. Write music
3. Paint / draw / sculpt
4. Decorate the house

The only person I'm going to tag is Elana, because she's never been tagged. Now she's really going to wish she hadn't told me her blog address. :)

#51b - Another Tag

Okay, I got tagged two more times in the last couple days. I don't know how much stuff all of you /really/ wanted to know about me, but I'm going to go ahead and reply and you can read, skim, or skip at will. :)

This one was posted on my friend Joy's blog, inviting all readers to respond:

Welcome to the 2008 edition of getting to know your friends. Copy then change all the answers so they apply to you, then post on your blog. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little things about your friends that you might not have known!

1. What time did you get up this morning? 6:55 - in just enough time to get the kids off to school.
2. Diamonds or pearls? Can I answer 'Sapphires'? My wedding ring is a combination of diamonds and sapphires. I think diamonds are a little boring alone and I'm not in love with pearls, either.
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? I can't remember the name; it was too long ago. It was a movie about a person living in an apartment that used to be inhabited by a person who died, but they show up as a ghost and fall in love... Help me out with the name, anyone? It was a good movie.
4. What is your favorite TV show? Everybody Loves Raymond
5. What do you usually have for breakfast? Fruit smoothie
6. What is your middle name? Louise
7. What food do you dislike? Seafood
8. What is your favorite CD at moment? Mindy Gledhill, Feather in the Wind
9. What kind of car do you drive? Honda Odyssey
10. Favorite sandwich? Crispy Chicken
11. What characteristic do you despise? Arrogance
12. Favorite item of clothing? Wrap dress
13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? New Zealand
14. Favorite brand of clothing? I don't look at the brand
15. Where would you retire to? I'd be happy staying here
16. What was your most recent memorable birthday? This year - My husband gave me a great early gift to enjoy on our cruise, and then he gave me another great gift on my birthday when we got back. Two great gifts sandwiching a cruise... I don't know if I could beat that. :)
17. Favorite sport to watch? I don't like watching sports.
18. Furthest place you expect someone to look at this from? Malaysia
19. Person you expect to send it blog back first? ?
20. When is your birthday? May 24
21. Are you a morning person or a night person? Night, although I wish I was morning
22. What is your shoe size? 7 1/2-ish
23. Pets? Nope
24. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Our basement is done!!
25. What did you want to be when you were little? A writer
26. How are you today? A little blah
27. What is your favorite candy? Any chocolate-cookie combination
28. What is your favorite flower? Iris
29. What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to? Dec. 24 :)
30. What is your full name? If I told you, I'd have to kill you
31. What are you listening to right now? Mindy Gledhill
32. What was the last thing you ate? A handful of marshmallows and some brownie crumbs
33. Do you wish on stars? Of course
34. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Forest green
35. How is the weather right now? Mild
36. Who was the first person you talked to on the phone today? Nobody yet
37. Favorite soft drink? Root beer
38. Favorite restaurant? Prestwich Farms
39. Real hair color? Dark brown
40. What was your favorite toy as a child? Cabbage Patch Kids
41. Summer or winter? Winter
42. Hugs or kisses? Hugs
43. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate
44. Coffee or tea? Hot chocolate :D
45. Do you want your friends to email you back? Sure
46. When is the last time your cried? Saturday
47. What is under your bed? Shoes and Christmas wrapping paper & supplies
48. What did you do last night? Watch Stargate Atlantis while eating Longboards
49. What are you afraid of losing? A child
50. Salty or sweet? Sweet
51. How many keys on your key ring? 5
52. How many years at your current job? 9 years as a SAHM
53. Favorite day of the week? Thursday
54. How many towns have you lived in? 5
55. Do you make friends easily? No, but when I do make a good friend, it's for life

Now, I tag all of you in turn. I'd love to find out more about you.

#51 - Me

My friend Kim tagged me on her blog, Green-eyed Frog

I'm supposed to list 6 unspectacular quirks about myself. Hmmm.

1 - I clean everything in reverse order. For instance, I like to deep-clean the counter top /before/ clearing everything off of it. Yes, it's quite a trick. :D I just hate trying to find places to put everything. My style of cleaning would be best described as "moving the mess."

2 - I'm not dyslexic when it comes to reading, but I get left/right, and east/west mixed up most of the time. So if I'm ever in the car with you and I'm supposed to turn right, just tell me to turn left and we'll be good. (Thanks for pointing me in the right direction so many times last night, Stacy and Elana!)

3 - I almost always put my make-up on in the car. (When I do wear make-up, which is usually only to church and on dates.) I just get in such a rush that I can't fit it in before leaving. When I'm the one driving, I wait for stoplights and such. Of course, when I'm not driving, it's still good to wait for stoplights. Have /you/ tried putting lipstick on at 30 mph? And forget about mascara! :)

4 - I go to an OD instead of an MD. (He's awesome and I would totally recommend him to everyone except he's always booked out for 3 months at a time, so I really don't want to share him with you.) I also gave birth to 3 out of 4 of my kids at home with a highly trained, awesome midwife, Suzanne. I also use a lot of alternative kinds of health care methods. It's not that I don't believe in modern medicine at all. I use it when I feel like it's called for. I just don't believe doctors know quite everything.

5 - I hate wearing shoes. I'm constantly kicking them off. And then, of course, I have to search around to find them the next time I need to wear shoes.

6 - I was trying not to use any book-related quirks, but my brain is tired, so I'm giving in. My last one is that there are piles of books all over my house. That's always true anyway, but right now, it's especially bad. I'm in the process of moving all of my bookshelves out of the bedroom and down to my new office in the basement. I'm trying to organize my books as I go, so there are literally piles of books all over the floor downstairs. I can't wait to be done with this project!

Here are the terms and conditions for those of you I'm tagging:
Link the person who tagged you
Mention the rules on your blog.
List 6 unspectacular quirks about you.
Tag 6 other bloggers by linking them.

Those lucky friends of mine who get to respond to this tag are:

Melanie, Heather, Ali, Danyelle, Nichole, and Julie

#50 - Phonics

Heather's comment to my last post reminded me of something I meant to bring up in said post.

There is a wonderful book I'm using to teach my 5-year-old to read and I just want to recommend it to everyone.

It's called Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I love it so much because it's completely phonics-based, and it introduces concepts very slowly and seamlessly. Every lesson seems so easy because it's almost exactly like the lesson before, but just barely different enough to learn something new. Each lesson is mostly review, in other words. My daughter is constantly wanting to skip lessons because it's so easy.

When Heather brought up the 'l' in walk, etc. it made me think of a tactic that is used in the "100 Easy Lessons" book.

The child sounds out the word (wwwww-aaaaa-lllll-kkkk) (remember, the a will sound like the a in apple) and the parent says, "Yes, we sound it out ww-aa-ll-kk, but we say it 'walk'. It's a funny word." So every time the child goes to say that word, the parent says, "Remember, this is a funny word."

The reason I was going to include it with my last post is because there are a lot of "funny words" in the English language!!!

I do have to give one disclaimer for the book, however. I tried to teach my oldest child to read with the same book and it was a disaster. She did learn to read pretty well, through the first half of the book, but even then it was a struggle. It was more a personality problem between the two of us in general than it was anything to do with the reading program itself, but it's proof that no one method is best for everyone.

With that said, though, if your child is at the age where they're ready to start reading and you want to give them a head start, or if they're having a hard time learning to read in school, go and get a copy of this book. I think it's wonderful. You can see some sample pages by following the link above and clicking on the picture of the book on Amazon's site.

#49 - The English Language

Every time one of my kids learns to read and write, I realize all over again how crazy the English language is. Why can't we just spell things the way they sound?

For instance, take the word 'of.' Why is it spelled o-f anyway? Shouldn't it be u-v?

My 5-year-old decided to write and illustrate her own book the other day. It's amazingly cute, if I do say so myself. :) Here is a sample page from her book:

"Wuns upon u tim thar wus a pepil and tha wr pikeing bares blubares and pikeing flower."

A couple of those things she actually got right because she asked me "How do you spell flower?" and because she already knew them, like i-n-g says ing. But look at the words overall. Why shouldn't "once" be spelled w-u-n-s? Or "they" spelled t-h-a?

Other examples throughout the book are "soccer" spelled s-o-k-r, "person" spelled p-r-s-i-n, and "team" spelled t-e-m.

It's not just "i before e except after c...." The fact is, there are more exceptions than there are rules in the English language.

Of course, once I got through the younger grades, everything just made sense and became intuitive. But I'm sure glad I didn't have to learn English as a second language!

My kids just started at a school that teaches Spanish from Kindergarten, so it's fun to watch the kids come home with new Spanish words and songs every day. I've been trying to learn Spanish for about a decade now, and it's not coming along very fast.

But as I think about how much harder it would be to have to learn English, my task in learning Spanish doesn't seem so hard anymore. I'm also feeling some renewed motivation to keep going in my studies as I think about how soon the kids are going to pass me by in their Spanish. I better do what I can with my head start. :D

#48b - Writing Scripture, Part 2

I just realized a few minutes ago that I wasn't being fair in my comparison of the Book of Mormon to the other 2 books I listed. Breaking Dawn is only one volume in a 4-volume series, and there are 3 books in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Both of those books are just one piece of a larger body of work. So I'm going to correct my numbers here to give a more accurate comparison.

There are approximately 560,000 words in the 4 books in the Twilight Saga. It took Meyer about 5 years to write them all. And there are about 561,000 words in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and it took Tolkien 12 years to write it. Of course, all of these numbers are just estimates, but since the same method was used to calculate each of them, I think it's a useful comparison.

So, both of those books are about 2 1/2 times larger than the Book of Mormon is when put into perspective.

Another example I just thought of is Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling wrote the 7 books in that series in about 17 years and together, they are approximately 1 million words. Okay, so THAT is a big book. :D Rowling was about 47 when the last Harry Potter book was published, and was also a college graduate.

Like I said, nothing is impossible and there is no absolute scientific proof one way or the other that is going to say if the book is an historical record or a work of fiction. Joseph could have just been an amazing writer, up there with the likes of the best fiction writers of the 20th century.

But the other thing we have to consider is that these writers didn't just take up a pen one day and decide to write a book and get it right their first try. They worked and practiced the craft for a long time before coming up with the story and writing it. Rowling said she wrote almost consistently from the age of 6. That means she practiced the craft of writing stories for 20 years before starting to write Harry Potter.

Tolkien, in turn, wrote scholarly publications, as well as other kinds of articles. He also practiced his craft by writing editions and translations of Middle English works, he studied languages, and he practiced the art of storytelling for years before actually publishing any works of fiction.

Just by virtue of graduating with a degree in English, Meyer had to have practiced the art of writing as well. A lot.

And I do have to sneak in one more correction here on the subject of education. I had said in my last post that he had the education of a modern-day 4th grader. I was thinking about it and it didn't sound right, so I looked it up. He actually had only 3 years of formal schooling. That would make him more like the level of an early-1800's 4th grader if anything, which is a much different thing altogether. He was mostly schooled at home and spent most of his time working in the fields.

If we look at The Book of Mormon as a work of fiction, it is an amazing one. It is an epic saga unlike anything that has ever been attempted before. Characters and storylines flow into each other and cover a huge amount of time. There are no plot holes. Different characters write in different styles. Some of the stories are told in 1st person. ("I, Nephi, having been born" and "I, Moroni, after having made an end" and "I am called Mormon" for example) and others are told in 3rd person ("And it came to pass that Alma and his brethren" and "Now Ammon said unto him" and "Then Jared said unto his brother") During the chapters that are in 3rd person, Moroni interjects his thoughts here and there. During the chapters that are in 1st person, he doesn't. When Mormon is abridging the plates, there are places where he quotes the person he is writing about ("Alma began to deliver the word of God . . . saying, I, Alma"), but when he's done quoting, he goes back to 3rd person. Nowhere does it vary. That is a lot to keep track of.

If we look at The Book of Mormon as a work of non-fiction, it is also amazing. (We do have to look at it as a work of non-fiction even if we think Joseph Smith wrote it instead of translating it, because he marketed it as such and it is set in real places and a real time period in the past.) There are so many details in the book that would have taken a lot of research to get right. What is the terrain around Jerusalem like? How would middle-eastern people have acted? How do you prune olive trees?

If we look at the Book of Mormon as a piece of falsified scripture, it is also pretty darn amazing. It's one thing to study the Bible voraciously, but it's quite another thing to write in that language in a way that mimics real scripture.

But, on top of all that, if Joseph Smith did write the Book of Mormon, he would have had to do all three. He had to have been amazingly good at mimicking scriptural language, as well as being a master at fiction-writing, and he had to have also been very good at writing non-fiction as well.

Considering the time frame he wrote it in, his writing experience, the scope of the work, his accuracy in details that it takes modern-day writers tons of research to get right and a group of editors to perfect, I just personally think it is extremely hard to believe that he was that good. Like I said, though, not impossible.

#48 - Writing Scripture

I was talking to someone the other day about the validity of the Book of Mormon and whether Joseph Smith could have written it or not. It really got me thinking about the subject and I wanted to share some of my thoughts here.

Personally, I think it is virtually impossible that he could have written that book out of his own imagination and with his personal knowledge base. I admit that nothing is *impossible*, but seriously, in my opinion, the chances that he wrote the book are, like, less than .1%

I estimate the Book of Mormon to be roughly 254,000 words. (I counted the words on 3 random pages and averaged them out, then multiplied that by the number of pages in the book.) 254,000 words is a very large book.

To put it in perspective, I used the same method to estimate the number of words in "Breaking Dawn" by Stephanie Meyer and there are about 170,000 words in that book.

To use another example, there are probably about 187,000 words in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings. (That estimate is based on a number someone posted on the internet by a person who estimated it using the same method I employed above.)

As far as Breaking Dawn goes, I think it's safe to say that The Book of Mormon has a LOT more substance to it. To be fair, though, I admit that The Lord of the Rings is significantly more substantial than Breaking Dawn.

Historical sources estimate that it took Joseph Smith 80 days to "write" The Book of Mormon.

It took Stephanie Meyer about 1 year to write Breaking Dawn.

Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings in roughly 4 years.

Stephanie Meyer was 35 years old and had a bachelor's degree in English literature when Breaking Dawn was published.

Tolkien was 62 and was a major scholar of the English language, specializing in Old and Middle English and twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford.

Joseph Smith was a 25-year-old farm boy with the formal education level of a current-day 4th grader when The Book of Mormon was published. It's true that he was much more bright and introspective than the average bear, but it is too much of a stretch for my mind to make to believe he could have written that book from his own personal knowledge and education.

If Joseph Smith did write The Book of Mormon, he was the most brilliant writer in the history of the world. And it just so happened that he was also a religious fanatic who wanted to deceive the whole world into thinking he had seen angels and translated a book from a set of gold plates. What a coincidence that one person would be both of those things.

On top of that, I just want to talk about the structure, story, POV, etc. in the Book of Mormon from a writer's perspective. I've tried to write a book and it is HARD. There is so much to keep straight. I find myself often trying to remember how old one of my characters is, or what name I had given to their mother, and a hundred other details. What was the name of the town they grew up in, again? Who was that person they met in chapter 2? And that's with a story that only has a dozen or so prominent characters, and the whole story being told from the same point of view.

The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, features so great a number of characters, I couldn't even begin to estimate how many there are. And the stories are told from so many different peoples' points of view. And never do the different characters vary in form throughout their section of the book. When Mormon is abridging parts of the book or summarizing them, he often says, "And thus we see . . ." and goes on to give the moral of the story. Never does Nephi or Alma or any of the other characters do such a thing. What book have you read recently that didn't break POV at least once?

And, there is the fact that Joseph would have had to know a lot of things about Middle Eastern life and cultures. How many books do you think there were in the Palmyra City Library in 1825 about the methods used to graft in branches on wild and tame olive trees? It is different than the care of any kind of tree Joseph could have known about in upper state New York, yet he described exactly how it is done in Jacob 5.

Authors who write about another culture do a LOT of research in order to get all their facts straight. If there had been a professor in Joseph's home town who taught him all of these kinds of things, or if he spent countless hours at a university library, I think someone would have known about it.

Meyer and Tolkien had editors and publishers they worked with to help them correct mistakes in their books. I don't know about Tolkien, but I know Meyer sends her manuscripts out to readers, who help her figure out some of the things she needs to change to make the story make sense, flow better, etc. Joseph Smith had none of that.

Sorry to ramble on for so long, but I've been thinking a lot about this. Especially now, as I'm trying to get back into writing the book I'm working on and struggling with it. I have a lot of reasons to believe the church is true, but I'm not trying to bear my testimony here. :) I just wanted to comment on some of my thoughts about The Book of Mormon from a writer's perspective.

If any of you have thoughts about what I've written (as opposed to bashing on the church) I'd love to hear your perspectives.

#47 - Instant Oatmeal

Why is everyone in such a hurry? It wasn't that long ago that the oatmeal that came out of a box and only took 5 minutes to cook was "Instant Oatmeal." Now, you can make a bowl of mush that was probably once actually oats in less than a minute in the microwave. And even then, people stand next to it, wishing it would be done already so they can eat and run.

The other day, I was hurtling down the freeway at 70 mph, next to a bunch of other people who were also hurtling down the freeway at 70 mph, and the insanity of it all just hit me. Maybe the reason life speeds up when we grow older is because /we/ speed up. As a kid, we did a lot of walking. Then, it turned to bikes, and finally, to cars, and, not long after, to flying at speeds well in excess of the speed limit.

Everything we've invented to make our lives easier is actually making them harder. Stop and think about it - we invent washing machines, and then we counter-invent owning hundreds of items of clothing and washing them after 1 wear with no regard to whether they're actually dirty or not. We invent cars, and then we counter-invent working an hour's drive away from our homes. We invent computers, and then we counter-invent so many programs to run on them that everything is constantly crashing, and we're constantly having to upgrade them. We invent the internet, only to counter-invent billions of websites, blogs, email programs, etc. that can literally keep us chained to our desks for 24 hours a day. And all of these things take us away from actually spending time with our families, friends, etc.

I just wish everything would slow down a little bit. We need to take time to breathe, enjoy the moment, treasure life.

A little boy was run over and killed yesterday in Saratoga Springs while his mother was standing there, waving good-bye to her other children at the bus stop. I've been thinking a lot lately about the subject above, but this tragedy really hit me and made me determined to slow down and treasure life. It isn't going to last forever.

While your oatmeal is cooking for 30 seconds in the microwave, turn around and talk to your kids instead of standing there, impatiently waiting for it to be done so you can rush off to the next thing. Better yet, get one of those tubs of old-fashioned rolled oats and take 5 whole minutes to savor life.

# 46 - Life-Sucking Projects

There are times when my whole life gets sucked into a project like a snail in a vortex.

Right now, we're finishing our basement. All of my writing and most of my reading time has disappeared into the ether of the project. (I did manage to read Breaking Dawn, though, so I guess if the snail is determined enough...) :)

We hired a company to come in and do all the work, and the project is getting done in an amazing amount of time because we have big crews of people coming in and out of our house all day. So, why is it sucking all of my time away? I guess partly because the crews are getting things done so fast. It's made us have to make a lot of decisions fast, and that takes a lot of time.

But it's also sucking up a lot of mental and emotional energy. I'm constantly thinking about what phase of the project we're in and how much longer it's going to take and chewing over the decisions we have to make in the back of my head.

It's amazing how easily my energy gets sapped when other things are going on. It's not like I've been doing all that much stuff to get the basement done. Granted, up until the work started, we had to do a lot of work getting everything out of the basement. But for the last couple of weeks, that's been completely behind us, and I still feel drained all the time.

I need to practice some good meditation exercises or something - psych myself up and get back into a normal rhythm of life. I need to learn to let these kind of things take care of themselves and not let them suck my life up so easily.

#45 - Faith

We talked about faith in Relief Society yesterday and then later in the evening, I came across some of my old things my kids had pulled off the shelf. Among them were a series of poems I wrote years ago when I was in Young Women's. Each poem was on one of the Young Women values.

As I read through them, two things struck me. One is that they're not necessarily great poetry. But the other is that I like them still. So I thought, what the hey, why don't I post them on my blog? :D

So, over the next I-don't-know-how-long, I'll be posting my poems at random intervals. Watch for future installments. :)


I walk through a storm,
Blinded by rain.
Thunder rolls by,
Shaking the Earth.
Lightning strikes,
Coursing through air,
Sending brilliant light
For one split second.

Alone and lost
I stumble through
The blinding rain
And wonder -
Where do I turn?
I look around;
There's somewhere to go -
A way to my Home.

I fall to my knees.
Which way do I go?
Where do I turn?
No answer,
Only cold despair.
He must surely have
Deserted me.

Then I see a light
Far off in the East
Faintly, at first,
A candle.
It brightens
I cannot look upon it
As its brilliance
Grows stronger.

I move toward it.
Closer, closer.
The light surrounds me
Until I am overtaken
By a power
Much greater than any
I had ever felt

So strong I search
To find the source.
I feel his arms
Around me
And hear the comforting words
Welcome Home,
My daughter.


One thing that strikes me about the poem on Faith is that it's written in a totally different style than the rest. All my other poems rhyme and are written in a pretty classic iambic pentameter style. They seem more childish, but also more normal. I'm not really sure why I wrote Faith differently. I wish I'd changed it up a little bit with the rest of the poems as well. Or that I'd written all of them the same. ;) Oh, well. It is what it is.

Maybe I'll write a new series of poems on the values and publish those on here someday as well. I'm still not a great poet, though, so I don't know if I could do any better. :) We'll see. If nothing else, it would be a good exercise in improving my poetry-writing abilities. If I write something I feel is significantly better, I'll post it.

#44 - I have regrets

I didn't want to have any regrets when I looked back on raising my kids. I've heard people refer to their oldest child as their "practice baby" or something like that, and it made me so sad! I wanted to be a great mom to all my kids.

So I read tons of books and talked to people and prepared myself in every way I could. But I look back now and I have so many regrets! I tried to do my best with what I knew at the time, but the truth is, I didn't do as well as I could have, even after taking the fact that I didn't know as much as I do now into consideration.

My oldest child is so afraid of the water. She's also afraid of a lot of other things, like sliding down slides, and forget about ever getting her to go on a roller-coaster. Yeah, that'll never happen. Maybe when she's fully grown, but I even have my doubts about that.

Okay, so I have my baby in the mommy-baby swimming class at the local rec center. The first few days, she was so scared to go under water. She's only 2 1/2 and when my oldest was that age, I never in a million years would have pushed her to do something she was scared to do. But the teacher seemed confident that it would be good for them to practice going under even if they were scared about it. So I tried a couple of times, and she came up sputtering and crying, and I was so sad. But then she would wipe her face off and be okay. She clung to me and said she didn't want to do it again, but when her older siblings asked her if she had fun at swimming lessons, she said yes.

On the fourth day, she actually said yes when I asked if she was ready to dive under water. So I did it and she cried and sputtered a little and didn't want to do it again, but a minute later when I asked if she would do it one more time, she said okay.

Fast-forward to today (which was only the 5th day, by the way) and she was jumping into the water off the side of the pool over and over, begging to do it again "just one more time" every time she jumped in. We would practice kicking our feet and she'd do it for one minute and then beg to jump off the side again. Every time she jumped in, I caught her, but I'd let her face go under. And she kept begging to do it again.

So now I feel terrible about my oldest child. If I'd pushed her just a little bit and told her she was okay instead of acting just as scared as she was, would she be scared of the water now? I did take her to the pool a lot when she was 2 and 3, etc. so I thought I'd done everything I could. I thought if I let her go at her own pace, she'd get better at it as time went on.

But, I'm a logical person and I like to look at things from all sides. So I have to ask myself, if I had done what I'm doing with my baby and she was still afraid now, would I regret pushing her just as I regret not pushing her now? Would I think her fears were my fault?

Maybe there's no way to get out of regretting our parenting and second-guessing our methods. There are probably some people whose kids are just awesome and they don't really have any problems, and those people probably think it was all because of their awesome parenting, instead of thinking it was just dumb luck, which is what it probably was. :D

I just look at my sweet big girl, who's still more afraid of the water than my baby after only 5 days of swimming lessons, and I feel so terrible. I don't want her to be so fearful. But it's easy to see things differently in retrospect. There are probably things I'm doing even now that "seem like a good idea at the time" but that I'll look back on with regrets in the future.

How do you get around regrets? How do you deal with knowing that you could have done better? How do you look at any problems and challenges your kids are going through, knowing that you could have helped if you'd only done things differently?

# 43 - The Cause of Colic

I've discovered the cause of colic.

The bad news is, there is no cure. But, if one understands the cause, it can make the problem a little better, at least.

See, the thing that causes colic is homesickness. A baby is born, and they're filled with hope for their new life on earth. They're excited about having a body. And then, after a few weeks goes by and the reality of how long and hard this life is actually going to be sinks in, they get homesick.

I wrote a poem the other day about that homesickness and I'm going to share it here.


I'm not crying because I'm hungry
Or cold or wet or overstimulated.

No, right now I'm just crying
Because I miss heaven.

Don't get me wrong -
I love you and daddy and my home here.

But I miss my old friends
Who I just said good-bye to.

You see, I lived in heaven
For a very long time

And it was beautiful and lovely
And there was no pain.

I knew this life
Would be hard.

I knew there would be pain
And sadness and fear.

But now that I'm here,
I'm a little scared.

Pain is more painful
Than I expected.

They told me this life would be
Like the blink of an eye

Compared to my life in heaven
And all of the eternities.

But so far, I've been stuck for weeks
In this infant body

And the end
Is nowhere in sight.

So if I'm crying
And you can't seem to fix it

No matter how hard you try,
No matter how hard I cry,

Just hold me in your arms
And tell me it'll all be okay

And let me cry and mourn
For my home back in heaven.


#42 - The Power of the Mind

The mind is an amazingly powerful thing.

Last night, I had a lot of things on my mind and I kept going over and over them. Several times, I got up, turned the light on, and wrote some things down to try and get them off my mind so I could sleep, but my brain just wouldn't turn off.

After a while, I had an idea. I decided to imagine that I was inside a bubble and all the thoughts I was having were outside. When they would try to come into my mind, they would bounce off the bubble. In other words, I wouldn't let any thoughts linger in my mind or dwell on them. This was just a way to visualize it. Then I started to realize that my thoughts about keeping thoughts out of the bubble were distracting me, so I tried to banish them outside the bubble, too, which was a little more difficult, but it worked. Soon, I was asleep.

This idea came from a similar idea I got from someone during a conversation years ago. We were talking about how negative images would replay over and over in our minds, such as a person falling into a manhole. No matter how hard we tried to get the person to step over the manhole, they would keep falling inside. I don't know if anyone out there has had this problem or if I'm just weird, but I find myself getting these repetitive kinds of thoughts a lot.

The person I was talking to told me that they would imagine that image floating away off to the edges of their mind, and finally it would go away and their mind was free to imagine something else.

I was thinking about that this morning after my sleep method last night, and I think it can be applied to just about everything in life.

I've suffered from depression all my life, and I've always heard about how you have to have positive self-talk and all that. It's not that I didn't believe in it, I just didn't know how to DO it. But over the years, I've come to realize that the thing that makes me the most depressed is when I go over and over the thing that is depressing me. If I start thinking about something else, the depression will lift - at least for the time being, as short as that may be.

So, the experiment I'm going to try is banishing those thoughts outside my "bubble". There is an element of wanting to hold onto the hurt to prove just how much the person or situation has hurt me. Not consciously, of course, but it does happen. So I don't know how easily banishing those thoughts will be. But I'm going to try it. If I find myself not being able to reflect those negative thoughts, I'll have to think of what kind of ways I can visualize the act of letting go of that need to justify my pain by holding onto it.

I also want to apply these ideas to my writing. When I think what I'm writing is no good, I can just put that thought outside the bubble or send it flying off in a balloon.

This whole idea is bringing a quote to mind that I just love. I think it applies beautifully and demonstrates just how important our thoughts are in shaping our lives.

Sow a thought and you reap an action;
sow an act and you reap a habit;
sow a habit and you reap a character;
sow a character and you reap a destiny.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

#41 - Book Review

I want to write a book review, but I'm only on page 27.

The book is The Holy Secret by James L. Ferrell

First of all, I have to out myself as an Arbinger Institute junkie. I've been trying to process their writings since Bonds That Make Us Free was just a bound manuscript called, "Bonds of Anger, Bonds of Love." They've also written another book called The Anatomy of Peace, which is also great.

James L. Ferrell is the managing director of the Institute, and is also the author of The Peacegiver, one of my all-time favorite books. I actually have two copies on the shelf - one to lend out to friends and family, and the other to keep in case I don't get the extra back. :)

So, when I saw "The Holy Secret" in the bookstore, I bought it without a second thought. Now, only 27 pages into the book, insights are opening up all over the place. For instance, does anybody not know the scriptures, "I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents..." or "My father dwelt in a tent"? I've had those two pretty much memorized since I was a teenager. But just now, I saw them in whole new ways.

The very beginning of the book didn't draw me right in, and I kept going, just holding on to hope that Ferrell wouldn't let me down. So when you start reading, don't put it down if the story doesn't immediately grab you.

Of course, coming from a person who's only read 27 pages, you can take all of this with a grain of salt. But you can't ignore my advice to read "The Peacegiver," "The Anatomy of Peace," and "Bonds That Make Us Free". Those are all excellent books and I hope all of you go out and get them today. And I'll be back here soon to write a proper review of The Holy Secret.

Happy reading. :)

Post Edited to Add:

Sorry, I never did do a full book review of this book. I did end up really loving the book and I felt like I learned a lot of things about how to study the scriptures, worship on the Sabbath day, and learn from the temple ceremony.

But, having said that, I felt that the book turned to a different focus throughout the book. Instead of teaching us how to learn from those things, I felt that he started teaching us what we should be learning from them. It has been a while since I finished the book and I'm sorry I neglected to come right back here and write my impressions. I just didn't do it because I wasn't sure at that point what to write. But now, I can't remember what I wanted to write! I guess either way, I lose. :D

I did still really like the book and I learned a lot from it. I just wasn't quite as excited about it by the end, and the above thoughts are the only real reason I can think of as to why that was the case.

#40 - Gas Prices

I haven't always been concerned about rising gas prices.

I was about to explain all our budgeting highs and lows, but I'll spare you the details. Basically, I've recently decided I really need to watch my gas output, because there's no reason not to try and save money on gas.

So, here are my tips on saving gas. And, before you think they won't make very much of a difference, I went from getting 350 miles out of a tank to getting 450. Does that get your attention? :)

Edited to say: I'm not actually getting 100 extra miles out of every tank of gas. I just happened to come out of a tank that only gave me 350 miles, and then got a tank that got me 450. But the averages are a lot closer to the middle. Still, you should do all this stuff! You save money; just not as much as I thought.

1) Turn your car off at the drive-through! I can't stand to hear people's cars running while they wait ten minutes for their food, or at the pharmacy drive-through. I used to be one of them, thinking that if I turned the car off and then back on, I'd use more gas than just keeping it running. Wrong! That used to be true, back in the days of carburetors, but with fuel injection, it's not true anymore. When I'm waiting for the train, I turn my car off, too. And I can't stand to hear someone's car running when they pull into someone's driveway to drop something off at their house, and they end up talking for 10 minutes. Turn your car off!! :)

2) Watch the tachometer! You know, that little thing that shows rpm's. If you don't have one, pay attention to the sound of the engine. Accelerate gently, shifting up whenever the engine starts revving up very much. If you do have a tachometer, keep the rpm's below 2000. I try to keep it around 1500 when I can, but no higher than 2000. Sometimes, you have to accelerate faster than that to get out into traffic, or going up the on-ramp of the freeway, but whenever possible, keep it down. If you accelerate gently, the car will shift up a lot sooner. Sometimes, I even let off the gas around 25, 35, and 45 mph, just enough to get it to shift up, before speeding up more.

3) Drive slower! Seriously, it makes a big difference! Going down from 75 to 65 saves a lot of money at the pump. My husband's boss did an experiment with one of those fancy cars that actually shows how many miles to the gallon you're getting on a display on the dashboard. Going 55, he got something like 25 miles to the gallon, and going 45, he got 40. The faster you drive, the more wind resistance you get, and the more gas it takes to get that big hunk of iron moving down the road.

(I edited this post to correct my mistake - I was calling it down shifting, when really the car is shifting up to the next gear. Speaking of down shifting, though, I was thinking about the issue of cruise control. That's another way to save mileage. But use it wisely. If your car is revving way up on the rpm's to keep the car at the same speed, turn it off and go on manual mode for a while until the road is more even. It's not just going uphill that makes the rpm's go up, either. Going down a hill, the car will shift down to slow the car down. It's better to turn cruise control off and use your brakes to slow down. You'll save a lot of gas that way.)

I used to get frustrated with people who took forever to accelerate, and now I'm bugging the rest of the world. I don't care, if it gets me 30% more bang for my buck at the gas pump!

So, that's my thought for the day. Drive slower, turn your car off when you're waiting, accelerate gently. You'll save a LOT of money.

(One last thought. We know people who are converting to natural gas, and in Utah, you can get it for $.65 per gallon. We're thinking about it, but it costs quite a bit to convert the car and we haven't taken the plunge yet. Something to look into if you're serious about saving money. Also, if you have a long commute, you could get your money back on the conversion in a matter of months)

# 39 - Rejection

Well, neither of my paintings were accepted, but I still think they're good. :)

Now, it's back to writing. My critique group is getting on my case about not being done with the first draft of my book. I'm on it, I promise!

We met tonight and I got a lot of great feedback on my story. I really need some motivation to get myself writing on a good schedule and getting some real work done. Any ideas?

#38 - Painting

I entered two of my paintings in a contest.

I don't have a lot of high hopes of them winning, but I'm not totally convinced that they won't.

I thought I'd post them here for all to see. Please don't post and tell me you hate them. Just shake your head and move on. :D

If I do place in the contest, my painting(s) will be placed in an art show, and put up for sale. That would be so cool!

Now, all of you, go out and do something fun. If your dream is to be a painter, go for it. If it's writing, give it all you've got. Or, if you're like me and you can't decide what to do with yourself, try a little of everything.

And if you have no idea what might interest you, try something. Take an acting class. Buy a Wii. Becoming a video game master is something to be proud of, too. :D Throw some pottery. And if it doesn't turn out well, throw it at the wall. You might find it relieves a lot of stress. Try decorating your house. You might have a knack for it. Garden. Cook. Scrapbook. Get a book about finding your passion. Organize a play group. Or a book club. Or a hairbow-making or card-making group. Hike. Run. Jetski. Sit in the park and stare at the sky, contemplating the universe. Sit down with a piece of paper and brain dump on the page about anything and everything that comes to mind, whether it makes sense or not. Maybe you'll find something you want to do in the middle of the whole mess.

Sorry, I'm getting carried away, I think. Maybe I should have just said, "Wish me luck."

# 37 - Schizophrenic Muse

My muse is schizophrenic.

I can't seem to make myself settle down, focus, and work toward a single goal until it's done. I do have some success from time to time, but at others, I can barely focus from day to day, let alone the weeks or months at a time that it takes to complete a big project.

Lately, my muse has been speaking in the language of paint. I went to an art auction on board the cruise a few weeks ago and bought a few really beautiful pieces of art. It was the first time I've bought anything like that, despite the fact that I've always wanted to.

After that, my husband kept trying to tell me that I can paint things just as good as those things at the auction. We got into a big argument over it and I suddenly realized - I can paint that good. I can't paint exactly like Monet or Kincaid, but I can paint in my own way, and the paintings I've done in the past - some of them, anyway - are nice.

So, I went and bought a bunch of new art supplies and started painting again and I'm so excited! Just by examining the art at the show and giving it a lot of thought, I've come up with some things that have really improved my art, so as soon as I picked up a paintbrush last week, my painting was immediately better.

And I don't know if it could be a coincidence, but I just heard the other day about an art contest being held right here in my town, and I'm thinking seriously about entering it.

There have been other times when I've been really excited about music and I've played the piano a lot, bought new sheet music, etc. I pulled my old clarinet out a couple years ago, dusted it off, bought some new reeds and books and went to town re-learning how to play. Another time, my husband rented a cello and I rented a viola and we spent a lot of time playing - we were both in the orchestra in High School.

Then, last night I had critique group, so I've been spending some time going through and critiquing the other girls' work, and last night, we got together and went over everything and I got a lot of great feedback on my story. So now, I'm excited about my writing again.

On the one hand, I think it's a good thing to follow the muse. By doing what I'm most excited about at that moment, I feel like I best tap into my creativity. On the other hand, I think I need to be more firm in telling my muse to be quiet and just buckling down and getting to work.

Does anyone have secrets they'd like to share that might help me accomplish my goals?

# 36 - Hold On, the Light Will Come

Despite the fact that I own hundreds of books, I rarely read one more than once.

It's kind of embarrassing, actually. It's just that there are so many books I love, and so many books I want to read. There isn't time in life to do it all.

So when I wanted to relax and read a book while I ate my chocolate on Mother's Day (Thank You Sunday School Presidency!), I was searching for a book I hadn't read yet. There was one book on the bookshelf that stood out to me immediately and I felt drawn to it. But I passed over it because I've already read it. But the Spirit was insistent and so I pulled it down, expecting to get bored soon and want to read something new.

Boy, was I wrong. This book was exactly what I needed to hear right now. I've actually been copying down quotes from it because they touched me so much.

I decided to give the book a shout-out because it's so wonderful.

The book is Hold on, the light will come - and other lessons my songs have taught me by Michael McLean.

This book is so inspiring and uplifting. It tells the stories behind many of his songs, where he was in his life and career when the song was written, and the things he learned through those experiences.

As a fellow "creative person" who is trying to write something the world will want to hear (re: read), I am relating so much to the stories and messages in this book. I highly recommend it, so go out and get yourself a copy. And after you read it, put it on the bookshelf because someday when you really need it, it will be ready and waiting for you to pick it up and discover it all over again.

# 35 - The Art of Letter-Writing

The art of letter-writing is practically extinct - and I'm just as guilty as anyone.

I decided it would be fun to write letters to my kids and send them every few days over the course of our trip. So I was at Wal-Mart the other day, shopping for stationary.

I was amazed to find that they don't sell any stationary. None. Seriously. That is a really sad sign that nobody writes letters anymore.

I have a book called "Letters" by Marjorie Pay Hinckley. It contains a lot of the letters she wrote to her husband when he was away, and to other people throughout the years. As I read them, I was thinking how sad it is that everything is done through e-mail these days.

I'd like to see a raise of hands by those who love to get letters in the mail. Every time I go to the mailbox, I have this moment of anticipation. What's going to be in there? Maybe a package. Maybe a letter. Maybe a card. 99.9% of the time, all that is in there is junk mail and bills. Sad.

Now, let's see a raise of hands of those who love to write letters and send them in the mail. Particularly, hand-written letters. Hmmmmm... That's what I thought.

So, I've decided to make a goal to write at least one letter to as many of my friends and loved ones as I can. Please don't feel bad if you don't get one, as I might miss some of you, or fail to meet my goal. In fact, if anyone who is reading this is disappointed when they don't get a letter in the mail, go ahead and send me one. I'll be sure and return the favor. :)

Anyone else up to the challenge? If you can commit to writing at least one hand-written note to at least one person, leave a note in my comments. I'd love to start a revolution. ;)

# 34 - The Slow Lane

I'm really enjoying life in the slow lane.

There's a lot of hype about the fast lane, but I've learned in the last few weeks that it's WAY over-rated.

I've always gone about 10 mph over the speed limit. I've had my reasons for believing that you will never get a ticket for going 10 over or less, and in my 15 years of experience, I have never been pulled over for doing any less than about 13 over, which reinforced my belief. It may or may not be true, but it's my perception, so there you go.

Well, I got pulled over by a gold SUV a few months ago. (As an aside, I think it's awesome how cops are starting to go undercover. There are a lot of people who only slow down when they see a cop. You'd never think the gold SUV behind you is a cop until it's too late.) I was going 10 over, but I was in a hurry and every time I'd look at the speedometer, I had pushed it up to 15 over, so I'd try to slow it down, but I was living right there on the edge, and it really made me mad at myself when I got pulled over.

After that, I tried to be more careful, but I was still driving in the 10-over range.

Well, I decided a month or so ago that I would try an experiment. I started driving 5 over and I was absolutely, jaw-droppingly amazed at how much less stressed I felt as I drove around town. I coupled that with a serious effort at leaving for things early and I was so very excited at my new-found knowledge that I could actually slow it down a bit and not feel like I had to stay right on the tail of the guy in front of me.

A week or two into the experiment, I was talking to my dad about it and it hit me - if I felt that much better slowing it down to 5 over, what would I feel like if I actually drove the speed limit? I was afraid to try. I didn't want to be that car that has a million people piled up behind them, cursing them for going so slow and making everybody late.

But, I decided to try it and the most amazing thing happened. It seemed like the whole world slowed down, almost as if everyone was in slow motion. When I drive the speed limit, I feel like I can just lean back against the seat-back and breathe. Nothing bothers me. I accelerate a lot less vigorously now, and I start slowing down for lights long before I used to, rolling to a stop instead of screeching to one.

Now, I'm wondering what all the hurry was about. I get everywhere I need to go in almost the exact same amount of time I used to get there in. I have to admit, I do feel stressed when I'm going 25 and someone gets on my tail and there's no way to pass. I speed up to about 5 over at that point, but then I tell myself not to let them bully me into speeding. So I try to just breathe deep breaths, force myself to relax, and go 5 over until they're past.

In 6 days, I'm about to take my slow-down experiment to the next level. I'm actually going to move out of the slow lane and park my car on the shoulder. My husband and I are going on an 11 - count them, 11 - day vacation. 11 days and 10 nights of absolute, blissful freedom. We'll be on a cruise for 5 of those nights. Talk about parking your car on the side of the road. We'll be pulling our beach towels out of the trunk and setting them up right there off the side of the freeway - figuratively speaking, of course.

I'm going to miss my kids like crazy and worry about them, but it is going to be soooo nice to go snorkeling off the coast of Mexico, ride roller coasters at Six Flags, make out whenever I feel like it, day or night. *blush* Did I just say that? At least most of you have probably stopped reading by now. :)

Seriously, I don't think I've ever done anything half this exciting and fun in my life. DH and I never even had a Honeymoon. The closest thing to this that we've ever done is a 2 day, 1 night trip to Victoria, BC for our 10 year anniversary. That was just a small taste of what this vacation is going to be like.

Back to the original point of my post - I highly encourage everybody to just slow down and relax. In this fast-paced world, we all need to relax a little bit. You don't have to go to the spa to get pampered - pamper yourself right on the freeway by relaxing on your way to your kids' next soccer game.

# 33 - Naming Posts

I'm getting a little tired of naming all my posts "Confession #XX"

So, that's my confession for today. :)

Actually, I think I'm going to keep it up because it presents a kind of challenge for me to come up with an opening sentence that sounds somewhat like a confession instead of just giving each post a catchy title and plunging into it without much thought.

#32 - Critique Group

I'm now part of a critique group.

Part of me has been longing to join a critique group for a long time now, and part of me was scared. As the date approached for our group to meet, I just about backed out. I can't really say what I was so scared of. It's not like I've never had my work read and critiqued before. I attended a class called "Boot Camp" at the last two LDStorymaker conferences where we all go around to different tables, read each other's work, and critique it.

I guess it was just the commitment of knowing the same people would be reading my work over and over that freaked me out. It wasn't just some random strangers who would change tables in 20 minutes and I wouldn't have to worry so much what they thought of me or my writing.

So, last night, our group met for the first time. I just have to say that it was awesome! If there are any writers out there who aren't part of a critique group, I'd strongly encourage you to get into one. It was so fun to read each other's work and have them critique my work.

Plus, I feel like this is going to help motivate me to stay on task and keep writing. Knowing that I'm going to have to meet with them in 2 weeks and have something more to show them is putting a fire under my derrière. After we introduced ourselves and I had to admit I've started a few different books and never finished one, they told me one of their goals is going to be to help me finish a book. I'll keep you updated on how that goes.

# 31 - Harnessing My Creativity

I'm having a hard time harnessing my creativity.

I haven't been writing again lately. I just have a hard time keeping my focus. I keep coming back to this idea for a book I want to write that I think could be really great, but I have no idea how to write it.

Basically, I want to write about someone who has lost touch with reality. The story I want to write is much deeper and more complex than that, but that is the real issue I need to tackle in order to have a chance at writing this book.


My husband and I just watched a movie called "The Fountain." I looked up some information on the movie after we watched it, and it is supposedly a story that interweaves the distant past, the present, and the far (and I emphasize FAR) future. That's not what I saw when I watched it. What I saw was a man who went crazy because he was on the brink of discovering a cure for his wife's fatal condition right when she dies. I saw him having delusions, thinking he was in the distant past trying to save a queen from dying, and at other times, hallucinating about trying to save a dying tree in a very warped and strange kind of world. While watching the movie, I felt that it portrayed psychosis solely from the perspective of the person who is delusional. While very interesting and thought-provoking, I felt it was just too hard to understand. Yes, that leaves the viewer/reader to draw their own conclusions and is very artistic and everything, but I don't think that is the most effective way to tell the story.


I have actually experienced a time in my life recently where I completely lost touch with reality and had to be hospitalized. That's all I'm going to tell you about my personal life, but I tell you that to say simply that I feel I can write on the topic of psychosis from a perspective of personal experience.

My original thought was to write the book in a fully omniscient point of view, but I've scrapped that idea. Although it does let the reader see everything that's going on at once, it's just too detached. There's just no way to get the feeling of the characters and really delve into their experience that way.

So here's the question - how do you write it in a way that portrays what it's like, while still having it make sense enough to the reader for them to get something out of it? I don't think writing it solely from the psychotic person's perspective would be the best way to go because it's just too darn confusing. Although, I think it could be very powerful if I could pull it off. "The Fountain" was very confusing, but after watching it through to the end and talking it over with my husband, I felt I understood what was going on. My interpretation wasn't at all like the writers had in mind, but maybe that's the best kind of art.

If I were to write it from any other perspective, I couldn't get the true feeling of what's happening inside the main character, and therefore I would lose a lot of the effect and meaning of what I'm trying to portray.

One option is to tell the story in the William Faulkner fashion. "My mother is a fish." is the chapter that comes to mind. Each chapter contains the thoughts and perspective of another person in the story, so that all the different characters' thoughts, perspectives, experiences, and beliefs can be shown. Unlike the 3rd person limited omniscient viewpoint, Faulkner actually writes each chapter in 1st person; each character gets to talk in their own voice in their own respective chapters.

The most conventional way to write the story would be to use limited 3rd person, where the character whose "head we are in" changes, but the story is never told by them in the "I" fashion; it is always in 3rd person. I just don't know if I could really tell the story this way without it sounding too modern and mundane.

I don't know; I'm just rambling at this point. If anyone has any thoughts or advice on the subject, feel free to pipe in. Hopefully now that I've dumped some of my thoughts on the subject out on the page here, I'll be able to get back to work on my other projects and finally finish a first draft.