Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Real Christmas

My kids are awesome. Really. They're not perfect but they're mine. And they've got really good hearts. It's easy to pick out their individual strengths and weaknesses, but I'm not doing that. This post isn't about that.

A few of our Family Home Evenings this time of year inevitably focus on the spirit of giving. Not on making your lists, and mailing them to Santa. Not on making sure Mom and Dad are fully aware of everything you want. But on what you can do for others. I actually have a great follow up planned for next week.

We don't do this every year because our kids are greedy or selfish. Rather, we do it to foster their giving natures. I want them to always be this way. I want them to grow up realizing that each of us has the power to impact the lives of others--for good or for ill, it's our choice.

Usually there's a secondary motive. We're always doing Christmas on a budget. This year is no different, except the budget is a bit larger than we're accustomed to. And when we made our list there were several things the kids discussed wanting to do. For other people. Donating to the food bank. Helping a family with their Christmas. Reaching out to a loved one turned curmudgeon.

But this year things are going to be a little different. The more I take stock of our extended family the more I realize that the people we help don't have to be anonymous faces. There are several members of our extended family who are struggling for basic needs. I've been there. The kids have been there. We all understand what that's like, how it feels. And I'm confident--no, I'm certain--once I point out those facts to them they will *want* to help. God has been good to us. We can certainly pass that along.

Like I said, I have good kids.

So we're just going to turn our focus ever so slightly inward. It may mean the girls don't get brand new beds but rather get the beds they have fixed up to last another few months. That's okay. It may mean the boys have to wait till their birthday to get that weight bench set. That's not too far off.

One of the neatest things about doing good for others is how it spreads, like ripples on a pond. Filling hearts with warmth and love is never a wasted effort.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Epic Mom Fail--Should that have a Hashtag?

I'm the first to admit I don't do everything right. I'm also the first to admit that doing the "single parent thing" is tough. This isn't meant to be a debate about who has it harder--the internet is full of that with stay at home moms vs. working moms. But I have a theory born of watching my mom struggle as a single parent and then the times I have had to be the part time single parent--where you know it's not "supposed" to be this way, you are happily married after all--but still you are *on duty* 24/7 with little or no relief.

Personally I don't think it matters who has it worse. Hard is hard. Period. And we all struggle, just in different ways. Right now this is my way.

It's little wonder my brain gets overloaded sometimes and I screw up. I just don't usually screw up *this* big.

Saturday I'd planned to be the day that we deep clean the house. The problem was, it was also the weekend of the chili cookoff, primary program practice, and the program itself. I seriously, SERIOUSLY considered staying home and working on the house. It's needful. Desperately.

But after waffling about it for most of the day I decided to take the girls up to the practice. The twins chose to stay home and continue the cleaning. Awesome of them, really. They didn't have to do that. The girls wanted to stay for the chili, so I let them eat and then we grabbed some chicken to take home to the boys. (I've learned fried chicken is great currency to 14 yr old boys)

We did a little more to the house, trying to get the table cleared off and the kitchen done, before bedtime. Exhausted, we fell into bed a bit later than we really needed.

Then Sunday hit.

Now, Sundays are generally pretty basic. We get up, get ready, go to church. The boys and I head up and Papa brings the girls. As we gathered for family prayer I had the thought that I should call Papa and confirm that he was coming for the girls. I've done that before, especially after a weekend or two where our plans differed--I was out of town, he was out of town, General Conference, etc--but I dismissed it.

The boys and I pulled away from the house later than usual. On the way we passed Papa heading to our house and waved hello. When we turned the corner to head out of town Papa passed us. Wow, we thought, he sure picked up the girls fast.

That bothered me all the way to church. *remember, church for us is 30 miles away.

When we got there we realized the boys didn't have the bread for Sacrament. Their leader had gone home to get some. There's one thing we forgot.

Then church started. And my girls didn't show up. About 20 min into the meeting I went back and sat next to Papa. "You did pick up the girls right?"

"No," he responded, all surprised. "When you waved at me I thought that meant you'd gotten everyone."

So he didn't stop. So he didn't pick them up. That's how he got ahead of us on the way out of town.

Both my girls were so looking forward to the primary program. It was going to be Kylie's last one. And Rianne was the narrator. The NARRATOR. And the program was starting and she was at home. 30 miles away.

Obviously there's no way I can get home, get them, and get back in less than an hour. The program would be over and we'd be into the next class. There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop this disaster from unfolding.

All because I neglected to make a simple phone call.

Mind you, the girls are okay being home alone for a little while. But I had no way to call them, no way of letting them know what had happened or making sure they were okay. I started to worry that they'd try to find their own way to church. My mom brain went a little crazy.

Of all the days to forget to get my girls to church, it had to be the day of the primary program. Ugh.

I fell apart. I mean it. I got into the car and just bawled for 20 min. I'll spare you the rest of the details but I lost it. I felt so guilty, so stupid, so neglectful. Still kind of beating myself up about it.

So...when I posted on Facebook that we'd made a disastrous attempt at church Sunday I totally wasn't kidding.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


It's nice to think I can show up here once a month and post and not feel like I'm ignoring this blog. Now for the real reason you're here:

My whole life (to a point) I worked toward one goal--I wanted to be invisible. I mean it. The less attention people paid to me, the happier I was. In fact, when I initially toyed with the idea of being a writer I thought it would be ideal. I could hole up in a quiet room, or in a cabin somewhere, and write and publish and nobody ever needed to see me.

Things changed a little when I got married and had a family. I mean, no mother is invisible to her children unless it's time to do chores. And I have to confess even without the publishing thing I'm a celebrity in my own home. Even the dog and cat seek out my attention (whether I want them to or not). But, still, I'd rather be out of the public eye.

You will fill stadiums... ~That's a tidbit from one of the blessings I'd received when rededicating my life to writing books with God in mind. To my credit, I didn't hyperventilate. I figured if that's what God had in store, I would deal with it when it came.

But I have to admit I sort of focused on it. Obsessed about it a little. The idea of being the focal point of thousands of people made me crazy. It's not that I can't do it. I've conquered my fear of public speaking. It's just that I don't want to do it. I'd much rather work behind the scenes. Way, way behind the scenes. (To that end I once considered letting my husband be the "author" while I wrote the books in secret. The only thing that stopped me there was that it didn't feel truly honest.)

Then, during one of my other blessings, the same phrase repeated itself. You will fill stadiums. But with a side note of: but don't worry about that right now. And it's true. I was letting that little statement turn the focus from what I needed to be doing--writing.

My writing and publishing goal for this year is pretty aggressive. It doesn't leave me any time to do book signings or author visits or anything like that. The problem is I may enjoy that a little too much. In 2014, I will still publish but I will need to make time to do the signings and author visits and all that jazz.

Because it doesn't matter how much I write if no one knows it's there to read. How can I fulfill my role in God's plan if no one is reading what I write? Because He's made it clear that I'm supposed to affect others' lives through my writing. It's not just for me and my family to benefit from.

It occurred to me about 6 months ago that my filling stadiums and writing may not be connected. I mean, who goes to a "stadium" to hear a writer? My obedience and willingness may lead to rising to a position of prominence in the leadership of my church. Scary. Sure, I've got a lot of growing to do to get to that point.

This long winded post is all intended to demonstrate on thing: My crippling fear of success. Failure is easy. Failure means I stay right where I am. But success? Success takes me places. Scary places. Places where people know my name, recognize me around town, come to see me when I have a public appearance. And other various things that I don't prefer.

So why haven't I gotten over my fear of success yet? I believe that, with God, all things are possible. If that's what He has in store for me then I will do it (and hope to enjoy it when the time comes). But I keep finding myself sputtering at the gate. I worry that I won't finish another book, even though I've published three. I worry that I won't be able to hold the reader's interest. I worry....fill in the blank. And it slows me down.

Then I get my gumption on and realize I hate to be afraid of anything and dive in and do it.

But right now I'm feeling more sputter-y than gumption-y.

Ideas? Suggestions? Help?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Overcoming Oneself

This is another one of those posts where I don't know if I should put it on my author blog or here, because it has to deal with both. But, since I'm going to focus less on writing and more on me, I chose this blog.

We all do it. I do it. You do it. So it should come as no surprise that I've done it.


What am I talking about? Well, I've been stupid. This is a bit more serious than doing something stupid. It's a moment when you really just shut your brain down and become actual stupid. Briefly.

Years ago when I first accepted God's call to write my stories for His glory, He gave me a precious gift. He said that all I ever needed to do was ask, and He would personally become my barrier between myself and the influences of Satan. He would keep the tempter at bay and allow me to do the work He has ordained me to do.

When you think about it, that is an awesome gift. As in something that can NEVER be paralleled or matched. And I used it. There were times when, creating my first novel, I had to pray before I sent an email or it wouldn't reach it's destination. Satan was working hard against me, and he hasn't given up.

If you've been keeping up with my blogs, you know in early December I chose to heed the Spirit's call to quit my job and write. I received confirmation from my Heavenly Father that I have TWO callings in this life. The first, and most important, is that of mother. Nothing will compensate for short-changing my children. The second was that of writer. This is not a hobby. This is not a job. This is a CALLING FROM GOD. An important distinction, I think.

So, for a while I did pretty well. I took a week off after leaving my job and then wrote a 7500 word Christmas story. And I thought I had found the groove. I started working on The Lost Princess. Then the holiday came. And then we got word that my mother in law had passed away.

And then everything fell apart.

I'm not kidding. The weekend of her death our computer--where I do all my writing--and the refrigerator DIED. Kaput. Within the next week, our heater stopped working as it should. The dryer developed this insanely loud clunking sound every time it runs. The washer refused to operate on any cycle other than normal with cold water. No more large loads. No more small loads. My father in law knew a guy who came out to fix the fridge, which turned out to need only a $22 part. That time. And I managed to get internet on my hubby's laptop, which is what I'm now using. I don't have all my stories, and some of the ones I have aren't current--like the one I was working on when the PC died. That I've had a hard time getting back to.

But it didn't end there. My son broke his arm playing keepaway after mutual one Wed night. His twin brother got the flu. My youngest started getting these incessant and unceasing headaches. Bryan is having a difficult time coping with everything and it's left him troubled and moody. Yesterday, the same son with the broken arm came home and showed me his finger (on the opposite side of the arm he broke) was all swollen and hurting. He'd injured it trying to play one handed basketball with his friends because he didn't want to let them down. While taking him to the ER I had to make a short stop at the school so my daughter could get her play scripts and a guy in a truck backed into me. My 11 yr old daughter lost a classmate in a house fire. And the fridge died again Monday morning. For good this time.

WE are under attack. I'm not kidding. While I can see the hand of God in everything we are going through--the broken bone could have required surgery, but didn't. The flu was extremely mild and he got over it quickly. The finger wasn't broken. The damage to the car was minor. A friend had a spare fridge which we picked up yesterday--it's pretty clear we are being assaulted at every turn. I still haven't been able to fix my PC. The dryer, washer, and heater are all still acting up, but they are working and so aren't getting attention right now. Because of all of this, I have been unable to write anything. Which is what I quit my job to do. And I'm paralyzed. I sit down to write but nothing comes, until I go to bed or am somewhere I can't write. The creativity is there, it's alive in me, but the outlet isn't working.

So I have been thinking quite hard about that gift God gave me, that precious barrier. But I hadn't done anything about it. Why? Well, therein lies the stupid part. I have a horrible weakness that is a form of pride where I don't take my problems to God because I don't want to bother Him.

As if I can burden Him. As if anything I can bring Him would be too much. See, stupid. So I've been trying to take on Satan myself, announcing my plan to fight him and not back down from what I know is my calling in this life.

And, obviously, I've been failing. Duh. Why in the world would I try to take on the father of all lies by myself, when all I have to do is call on God's protection and He takes care of him for me? Again, stupid. What's worse is the detriment to my family.

So last night, while I was minding my own business (which here was being exhausted from yet another round of hospital visits and X-rays, stress, and aggravation) I checked my email. And received this from a friend and fellow writer for God:

Okay, so, you're going to think I'm crazy, but in case you don't, I'm going to say it anyway.

I strongly recommend that you get a blessing of protection.

All the stuff you're going through sounds a whole lot like my last year, and I can't share everything that happened, but I'll just say that I got a blessing of protection, and most of it stopped.

So ... take that for what it's worth.  :)

I knew she was right. And I knew the time had come to stop putting off asking for God's protection. So when my husband called I told him I needed that blessing, and he reminded me there was something I can do myself until I got it.

So I did. I got down on my knees and apologized to my Heavenly Father for my pride and weakness. I begged Him for the barrier He promised me. I renewed my promise to write good things.

And then I wiped my tears and sat in the silence of my house (at 1:30 am even though the kitten tried everything to get my attention during my supplication) and realized something vital--

I could breathe again. The air was somehow cleaner. I felt peace. And it was precious. You sometimes don't notice how deeply the influence of evil has permeated your life until you ask God to force it out.

I can still feel it, the peace. I noticed a distinct change as I listened to the kids getting off to school this morning. (yeah, after not going to sleep until well after 2am I could not get up at 6 to help with that) Bryan was calmer. The kids were kinder. It was a miracle, right here in my home.

So I thank God again for helping me. The gratitude will remain in my heart, but I wanted to say it publicly. He loves me. He loves all of us, but that doesn't diminish the fact that He loves each of us individually. He knows us. He knows what we need. He is never as far away from us as we are of Him. Think about it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Count 'Em Up

As I shared in a PREVIOUS post, I recently gave up my job and heeded the spirit's call to return to writing. Within 3 weeks of my last day of work, the following things happened:

My mother in law passed away December 29th. She'd been sick for a long time, but it was still something of a gut punch to lose her that morning.

That same weekend, the refrigerator stopped refrigerating.

A couple of days later, the computer crashed. No kidding. Dead. As. A. Doornail. All recovery methods have so far failed. My brother is sending me some things to hopefully help. I may have to send him the computer (which hasn't worked so well in the past). That was after I wrote an entire short story and added about 10 pages to my WIP. I was actually *doing it* people, and the computer just died.

The clothes dryer started making a horrible squeaking sound whenever it's operating.

The washing machine now only works on *one* setting, and it's only 2 yrs old. (my conviction there is that it's the low water pressure in this house/town. It's one of those awesome front loaders, but you can't use the large load settings, the hot or warm water settings, or even the small load setting anymore)

I learned how it feels to attend a funeral and a wedding on the same day.

My son broke his arm on his brother.

My daughter nearly broke her arm at school when a heavy metal lid fell on it, sandwiching the arm between the metal box and the lid.

(Yes, I have, in fact, wondered why my son broke his arm hyperextending it while trying to stop his brother from getting the ball in keepaway, and my daughter *didn't* break her arm after such trauma.)

One of my other sons got the flu.

There, I think you're all caught up on the last 2 and a half weeks. Why am I telling you all this? Am I trying to make you feel sorry for me?

Of course not.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that life happens when you're busy making other plans. And in Plan B (C, D, E, F, G....). I also KNOW without a doubt that the more things that pile up in my path--the more convincing it becomes that I'm on the right path in the first place.

Here's what I'm supposed to do: Get discouraged. Let these things bring me down. Want to quit, throw in the towel, respond to at least one of the two job offers I've had in the last month. Stop writing.

Ya, that would make someone down there really happy. The jerk.

Now, here's what I'm GOING to do: Keep writing. Even if it's slow progress, it's still progress. Read my scriptures. Love my kids. Spend time with my family. Trust in God, and in His plan for me.

It's not easy. And I'm definitely accepting support if you're offering.