Word of the Year for 2011 - Consistency

Last year I decided to give up the typical New Year's resolutions that have made me a failure year after year of my life. I'd heard of someone who chooses a single word to be their guide for the new year and I liked that idea. So last year's word was "FOCUS." When we focus on something, we see it clearly and the peripheral things become blurry and less important.

I would have liked to succeed in more ways than I did, but I focused on two things that I'm proud of. I focused on preparing my book for submission and submitted it. And now it's being published. I also focused on one area of my house at a time to organize. Now there are certain closets and cupboards that I'm happy to open.

So with those little successes inspiring me, my word for 2011 is going to be "CONSISTENCY." By nature, I'm impatient and easily distracted. I want to regularly and consistently follow through with things, but often the things I want to do get crowded out. My hope is that consentrating on this word will help me be CONSISTENT, to follow through.

There are a few habits I hope to develop and a few I'm already pretty good at that I want to solidify.

1. Consistently read my scriptures and pray
2. Consistently exercise
3. Consistently do a load of laundry daily (including folding and putting away)
4. Consistently write every weekday

Of course, I'd love to become a better housekeeper in general, but I figure if I develop the habit of keeping up with laundry, other things will be less overwhelming. Hopefully a year from now, I'll be reporting that my word helped me accomplish a couple of important things.

So, CONSISTENCY is my word. What are you doing for your New Year's resolutions?

Check back in the next few days for another great giveaway!

Not Exactly Like Riding a Bike

They say that once you've mastered riding a bike, you'll always be able to ride a bike. That may be true, but is the same principle true of other things?

Not entirely!

Sixteen years ago, I made my first real wedding cake. It was for my cousin and it served as both a wedding gift from my family and as a chance to launch my career as a wedding cake baker. It turned out beautiful and it was the beginning of a twelve-year run as the owner of Karey's Custom Cakes. During that time, I made hundreds of wedding cakes. I was good at it. I loved the challenge of duplicating the cakes in Martha Stewart Weddings and did cakes worthy of the bridal magazines.

Six years ago, we moved to Idaho. I kept my business going for awhile, but over the next couple of years, it died a natural death. People weren't ordering the cakes I loved to make and I found delivery in the rural area challenging.

It has been almost four years since I did a wedding cake, but as a favor to a friend who had just done me a huge favor, I offered to make his daughter's wedding cake.

Boy, is it different when you're older and out of practice. Everything took a little longer than it should have. I had a couple of near-catastrophes that I won't go into detail about, (maybe they'll appear in my next book) and the delivery to Salt Lake was much more stressful than I remembered. How did I deliver all those other cakes without hyperventilating?

**Let me pause here for a little shout-out to the smoking man in the white Ford pick-up with a tattoo of a lion on his muscular bicep. Thanks for swerving back into your own lane in the nick of time, thereby avoiding my wedding-cake-carrying car. And may I offer this bit of fashion advice--wife-beaters in December aren't a good idea, no matter how proud of your muscle and tattoo you are.**

But I delivered the cake safe and sound and it looked beautiful. The bonus was that I got to see an old friend and meet a couple of new ones. It was a successful day.

I'm not sure if the excitement and thrill of creating something beautiful outweighs the horror of a scary wedding cake delivery, but as Laura Ingalls Wilder always said, "All's well that ends well."

The Nativity & Breath of Heaven

Enjoy this beautiful song by Amy Grant. It almost seems it was written for this little film about Christ's birth.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas--not just merry, although I hope it's that, as well. But I also hope you'll take time to think about the Savior, the life He lived, the example He set for us and the extroardinary sacrifice He made for us.

Take a few moments to thank Him, to ponder about Him and to feel His love.

Merry Christmas!

My Savannah

Thirteen years ago today, I went to the doctor's office for an amniocentesis--that terrifyingly long and thick needle that is used to check amneotic fluid. This time it was being used to see if Savannah's lungs were sufficiently developed for her to be delivered. We hoped she was. I'd been in labor for several weeks, on bed rest for a couple of months and Christmas was three days away. We needed her to be born. The lungs were ready and I went in at 4 p.m. to deliver a beautiful baby girl.

Savannah was a little thing, 6 lbs 1 oz and only 19 inches long. She was on the lower end of the growth charts, but she was healthy and pretty and happy.

At each visit to the doctor, she slipped a little further down the growth chart, until at about a year old, she fell completely off. She got sick easily and had almost no energy. When her cousins were on the floor playing together, she just sat quietly on my lap. She was always hungry, but never seemed satisfied. I was worried.

Over the next few months, I took her to the doctor several times, wanting to know why she was so lethargic, hungry and sickly. At sixteen months, she was a scary 14 and 1/2 pounds. To appease me, the doctor told me to put her on a high protein formula and bring her back in two weeks to see how much weight she'd put on. I did and she was down three ounces.

"You've got to quit comparing her to her more robust cousins. Not all babies are the same," the doctor told me over and over.

I asked Travis to take an afternoon off and come with me to the doctor. When the doctor repeated his advice that we stop worrying so much, Travis said, "She seems like she's starving to death. At what point would you suggest that we start worrying?"

"She's not starving to death. You've seen the pictures of children starving in third world countries. Their stomachs are distended. She doesn't look anything like that."

He actually suggested we watch for her stomach to distend like the poor starving children on television, who we can save for the price of a cup of coffee a day? This was my baby. Here. In the United States of America. She belonged to a family with plenty of food and health insurance and we were supposed to wait for that? I was dumbfounded. I'd have changed doctors that very second, but I couldn't because of our insurance requirements.

On the next visit, I was angry. I sat in his office and told him I wasn't moving until we had some answers. "Okay. I'm going to go ahead and send you to a gastroenterologist. But I'm doing this for you, not Savannah. I think she's fine."

We went to the gastroenterologist and after a battery of awful tests, they found that Savannah was suffering from malabsorption--a very real thing. She WAS starving to death. Everything she ate was going right through her and she wasn't absorbing any nutrients. "It's sometimes called 'failure to thrive' and it's very serious," she told me.

A simple enzyme added to her food for about six months turned things around for her. She began putting on weight. She got taller. She had more energy. She didn't need to eat constantly. She became a different girl.

Now, at thirteen, she's tall, healthy, beautiful and one of the most entertaining and pleasant people I know. I don't know what I'd do without her.

Happy birthday, Savannah. I love you!

A Very Good Day!

This is what our entryway looked like yesterday afternoon.

Nineteen years ago, I had my first baby--a boy that we named Bruce, after my brother who died when I was twenty. He was 7 lbs. 1 oz. and was 21 inches long. He was snuggly, smiley and sweet. As he grew, we discovered he was smart, opinionated and stubborn.

I distinctly remember when Bruce turned five. I realized how fast that first five years had gone and that he was more than a fourth of the way to his mission. Almost every year after that, I did the math. Bruce is 1/2 of the way to his mission. Bruce is halfway to his mission! I can't believe Bruce will go on a mission in just five years. Holy crap! He only has a year left until he leaves!

Time has flown by and yesterday was his farewell. (I know it isn't called that anymore, but I don't know what else to call it, so just go with me.) His subject was "preparing to become a worthy husband and father." Not an easy subject for a kid leaving on a mission in 2 1/2 weeks, but he did a great job. He made me cry. And I didn't have a kleenex, so thank you Sister Thompson for the cute kleenex covered with pink and red hearts. Travis and Savannah didn't have one either, so I tore it in thirds and we shared.

After church, we had an open house with waffles and toppings and breakfast meat. It was good and the help I received from loved ones made it a wonderful day. Over 120 family and friends came by. Sweet siblings and in-laws kicked me out of the kitchen so I could go talk to old friends, family and Bruce's friends.

Just 16 days until Bruce goes on his mission. You'd think after nineteen years to prepare, I'd be ready. He's so much more ready for this than I am. I guess that's something to be grateful for.

Our Jack-A Christmas Eve

Salt Lake is a beautiful city around Christmas and quite a few years ago, we decided to make a tour of the city our Christmas Eve tradition. The evening included the almost half a million lights and nativity at Temple Square, then a drive down Christmas Street, a street on the east side of Salt Lake that connects all of the houses with lights and decorates like an old-fashioned Christmas. A couple of streets over is a block with paintings on the front lawns, lit up beautifully and scriptures that tell the Christmas story from both the Bible and The Book of Mormon.

To finish off a lovely Christmas Eve, we'd drive downtown to Olive Garden for soup and breadsticks. We'd done this for several years and always enjoyed a pleasant Christmas Eve.

Then we moved to Twin Falls, Idaho. We debated how to carry on the tradition. We couldn't just drive to Salt Lake. That was over three hours drive and part of that was over Sweetzer's Pass, an area of I-84 that seems to produce snow flurries every time we drive it. It can be a scary stretch of road.

It was our first Twin Falls Christmas Eve. Travis's mother was visiting and there was some discussion about what we should do to try to carry on something similar to the tradition we'd established. Travis had heard of a live nativity in Pocatello, a town about two hours away. You may be wondering why, for just another hour of driving each way, we wouldn't just drive to Salt Lake. The reason is that we could go to Pocatello without having to travel over Sweetzer's Pass.

I googled Pocatello and Olive Garden and was excited to have an address pop up. So it was decided. We'd go to the live nativity in Pocatello, eat at Olive Garden and then come home. Not exactly Temple Square and Christmas Street, but it was a reasonable substitute.

The first thing we did upon arriving in Pocatello was look for the Nativity. We couldn't find it. Concerned about our timing and not wanting Olive Garden to close before we could eat there, we searched for the address I'd written down. It didn't seem to exist. We stopped to ask directions and were informed that there was no Olive Garden in Pocatello. That address was for an Olive Garden in Idaho Falls, another hour north.

That wasn't going to happen, so we drove by Butter Burr's (a good place we'd eaten before) and found it closed. We drove to a Mexican restaurant (even though the kids did not want Mexican food) and it was also closed. We quickly drove to Red Lobster. The light was on. Whew! We could feed our hungry family. We parked and unloaded and were greeted at the door by the manager, who was locking up for the night. They were closing early. It was Christmas Eve, after all.

We loaded back up in the car and drove our ravenous family around Pocatello looking for somewhere to eat. Travis's mom suggested that maybe we'd have to settle for Jack-in-the-Box. Ick, I thought, but we seemed to be out of choices. We bought yucky hamburgers and watery milkshakes. They weren't good and in spite of our hunger, most of us couldn't finish them.

We weren't in the best of holiday spirits. Determined to try to salvage the evening, Travis stopped and asked directions to the address of the nativity. When we arrived, we saw the remains of what was probably a decent depiction of the stable, but all that was left was an empty manger and a donkey. That was it. No Mary. No Joseph. No baby Jesus. Not even a shepherd or a lamb. Just the donkey.

We headed for the freeway. Snow had begun to fall. It got worse as we drove. It took us over three hours of driving in a blizzard before we finally arrived home and heated up canned soup.

We tried to carry on a Christmas tradition. We failed. Now we can laugh about it and Travis calls it our Jack-A Christmas Eve. (Jack in the box and a donkey. Get it?)

Now we're back in Utah and this year and we've revived our Christmas Eve tradition. I, for one, can't wait to see the lights on Temple Square.

Christmas Truce

This is a story I've loved for a long time. The song is by Garth Brooks and I don't know the person who put together this Youtube video, but I liked it.

Hope you've got your Christmas shopping finished. I just finished the proof copy of my book, so I'm pretty much starting today. This is not my style and it's giving me serious high blood pressure.

So enjoy the song and I'm off to shop--online this morning and at real stores this afternoon!

Christmas Coupons

It was 1979. My family had moved to Missouri because Dad could buy land there for a good price. He'd dreamed of someday owning a dairy farm and thought Missouri is where he could make that happen. He'd taught school for a dozen years or so and was ready for a career change. Before we moved there, he and a couple of my uncles and one of their friends, headed to Missouri for school--real estate school. They all got real estate licenses and Dad got his broker's license. They found a cute little house that sat on a little hill in the middle of a little town, bought it and created Pioneer Realty.

The problem was timing. It was 1979. Interest rates went insane. Shortly after they opened Pioneer Realty, they saw rates go as high as 22%. Yes, you read that right. Real Estate came to a standstill. More than half of real estate offices in the United States closed. Just as Pioneer Realty was opening.

Thank goodness Dad had secured a teaching position in the little town we lived in. So for a couple of years, Dad worked two jobs--jr. high school teacher and real estate broker. Teachers in Missouri weren't paid very well. Dad's twelve years of experience earned him $11,000 per year. And that small amount of money ended up supporting our family of 12 at that time, as well as paying the mortgage and utilites for the real estate office. I'm not sure I need to say it, but we were poor. Very poor.

I can remember scattered details of many Christmases as I was growing up, but I remember many more details from that Christmas than any other. The real estate partner that was my dad's friend was poorer than we were. I remember Mom and Dad deciding we needed to make sure they had a Christmas, so we did. Mom and I made dresses for their daughters and shirts for their sons. We took food for a good Christmas dinner and we left it on their porch in the middle of the night.

Christmas morning, we opened our presents. I still have mine. It was a coupon book. It was and is a treasure. Mom and Dad had no money, so the book was filled with things that would be redeemed throughout the year. Some were things we'd need anyway, a couple were activities we'd surely be asking to do and some were things that would cost nothing. They included:

A dinner out with Dad and Mom
A new blouse
Admission money and permission to go to a movie
A new pair of underpants (4 of these)
A new pair of socks (4 of these)
A cousin could sleepover at our house
A summer vacation with the family
A new pair of shoes (when the coupon holder and the parents agree they're needed)
A new bath towel
The privelege of preparing the Family Night lesson
An afternoon of shopping with Mom
A haircut
A morning of reading scriptures when it isn't your turn
A walk with Dad
A walk with Mom

And my three favorite:

A BYU basketball game if they came to play within a reasonable distance,

A stupid mistake erased from Dad and Mom's memory, never to be mentioned again,


This coupon entitles the bearer to have a fit--act like a lunatic--without punishment and without harping. One Time Only.

I still have my coupon book and all coupons were redeemed. It was a wonderful Christmas and reminds me that the best Christmas memories aren't about the money spent or how showy they are. It's about giving and loving. And while I've always looked at that Christmas with fondness, only after I became a mother did I realize what a hard time that must have been for my parents. At the time they had ten children, and under the tree, they put ten 3 x 5 notebooks to greet us Christmas morning. They knew that they couldn't afford to buy clothes and toys to put under the tree, but what they couldn't have known was what a wonderful memory they were making and how special those Christmas coupon books would be to us.

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Book Reviews - Christmas Books

Since our kids were small, we've had a few Christmas traditions that we've tried to uphold. One of those is purchasing a couple of new children's Christmas books. We pack them away throughout the year and bring them out to read during the Christmas season. Here are a few of my favorites.The Tale of Three Trees - Angela Elwell Hunt

Technically, this isn't a Christmas book, although it does reference the baby Jesus's birth. Even so, it is one of my favorite children's books ever. It tells of the desires of three trees and how those hopes are met in ways they didn't expect. All of them reference the Savior's life and it's beautiful and touching. It's hard to read without getting a little choked up. If you can only buy one book this Christmas and you don't yet own this one, this w0uld be my recommendation.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Sure, you can get your Dr. Seuss Christmas fix by watching the half-hour special or the full-length Jim Carrey movie. I enjoy those, too (especially the animated one). But there is something so fun about reading Dr. Seuss to your kids that I think it should be required of a parent. No one is as skilled at rhythm and rhyme as Dr. Seuss. He's a genius. So go ahead and watch the special, but don't forget to read the book!
The Christmas Alphabet by Robert Sabuda
I had trouble choosing which Robert Sabuda book to share. I chose this one because I think it offers the most bang for your buck and these books aren't cheap. They're an investment. A beautiful, jaw-dropping investment. You could also get The 12 Days of Christmas or The Night Before Christmas. They're beautiful, as well. These are heirloom books that require a little care, but they are stunning and any age will enjoy these pop-ups. They are works of art!
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
This is a sweet book with lovely illustrations that teaches the joy of sharing during Christmas. Mr. Willowby, the millionaire, buys the largest and most impressive tree imaginable, but when he finds it's too tall, he shares it with someone else, who then shares it again and so on. It's a wonderful story about sharing the spirit of Christmas.
Be sure to take some time this Christmas to share a book.

David Bowie and Bing Crosby - Little Drummer Boy or Peace On Earth

It's hard to imagine a time when we had three major networks, two PBS stations, no DVR and not even any video tapes. If you wanted to see something, you had to watch it when it was on.

During most of the 70's, we were limited on the television we could watch. Until December. During December the restrictions were relaxed and we watched lots of Christmas specials, and Christmas episodes of our favorite shows. One Christmas special I remember seeing was Bing Crosby's. At the time I saw this, I didn't know who David Bowie was. I just knew that when I heard this song, I loved it.


A Christmas Song - One King by Point of Grace

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the music. Christmas music is also one of my least favorite parts. I'm completely blown over by the amount of horrendous Christmas music that's out there. No station should try to play 30 days or so of uninterrupted Christmas music. It causes them to dig into the Christmas music archives that should have been sealed and never re-opened.

Every once in awhile, however, someone does a new Christmas song that compelety stirs my emotions. A few years ago I found this one. This little video has the lyrics. Be sure to read them. The whole point of this busy, beautiful season is the birth of that One King. The one who set us a perfect example. The one who loves us enough that he willingly suffered for us. The one who makes EVERYTHING else worthwhile. My Savior.

Check back over the next few weeks for a few of my other favorite Christmas songs, some children's Christmas book reviews, and a story from my favorite Christmas growing up. Feel free to share any of your favorites.


A fellow writer suggested that I read James Herriot's book All Creatures Great and Small as an exercise. See, I love to read and I read a lot. I'm not only a fast reader, but when I'm enjoying a book, I sacrifice sleep, television and my housekeeping responsibilities to finish it as quickly as possible. Imagine my horror when I was told I needed to read one to two pages per day!

Really? That would be easy if the book stunk, but unfortunately (and fortunately) this book is really good and the writing is clever and beautiful. This has been a challenge.

The suggestion was that I read it S L O W L Y and write down phrases or passages that struck me, to really appreciate the writing, the language, the way the words were put together, not just the story.

This has been very eye-opening for me. I'm loving the book. I'm loving the way its written. I'm loving the humor. I'm loving the way the words are put together. How much have I missed in other books I've read? I recently started reading East of Eden again. The last time I read it I fell completely in love with the story. This time I'm falling in love with the prose. It's beautiful.

Unfortunately I'm an impatient person by nature. I'm sure there will be times I'll blaze through other books, but I'm really thankful for the challenge to slow down and really read the words that were written.

By the way, I'd recommend East of Eden and All Creatures Great and Small. I'll do a review on them sometime next year--when I've finished them.

Need an Idea for Christmas?

I recently discovered there is another writer named Karey White. Fortunately for me, she (or he) writes finance articles for magazines, so there are no competing novels authored by someone with my own name.

I was at my parents house yesterday enjoying some good company, a cute baby to hold and some delicious cinnamon rolls when the subject of the other Karey White came up. They were surprised because my spelling of Karey is rather unusual. I googled my name to show them the other Karey White when, to my astonishment, there were listings at a few different sites for Gifted, with a pre-order option.

Within minutes, my Dad and my sister had pre-ordered the book. A few minutes after that, another sister had posted a link on my blog and her Facebook, and I'd figured out how to add the cover to the Amazon page.

So there you go. Its real! My book is for sale here. If you're stumped on what to get your Mom or your sister, or your uncle or your neighbor or your boss or your mailman or your cat for Christmas, may I suggest you pre-order them a copy of Gifted. Just an idea.

Congratulations Tawnie! Lucky Number 45

Congratulations to Tawnie. Using the random number selector at mathgoodies.com, the lucky number was 45.

Let me know if you want the regular assortment of chocolates or the nuts and chews and I'll get this on its way.

Merry Christmas!

GIVEAWAY - Christmas Music and See's Chocolates

It's time for a giveaway and I think this is possibly the best one yet!

What could be better than listening to Linda Eder singing "Silent Night?" How about listening to Linda Eder sing "Silent Night" while you eat a box of See's chocolates?
This is one of my favorite Christmas CDs of all time. She's incredibly talented and the arrangements are breathtaking. Her versions of "Silent Night" and "Do You Hear What I Hear" will have you playing them over and over.

Along with this great CD, you'll get a one-pound box of See's chocolates--my favorite candy in the world. You can choose between the regular assortment or the nuts and chews variety. When you win, just let me know.
So how do you win? You leave me a comment about what you love about Christmas. You can get more chances to win by becoming a follower and by linking this to your Twitter, Facebook or Blog. Be sure to leave a separate comment for each link. You can post a new link to Twitter and Facebook daily during the contest and then comment with the link, so you can get extra chances every day.
Contest ends at midnight on December 1. I want to be sure you have plenty of time to enjoy your Christmas CD.

Be sure I have your email address so I can notify you when you win!
And Merry Christmas! While we're listening to Christmas music and eating chocolates, let's remember the birth of our Savior, the real reason for this wonderful holiday.

My Favorite Holiday - Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday of the year. I love how uncommercialized it is. I love the historical significance, the personal nature of what it means and the food. We must never forget the food.

I find it inspiring to think of Pilgrims who'd come to this unknown place for religious freedom and personal opportunity and their Indian neighbors, who'd helped them survive starvation, sharing a feast together. A feast of gratitude.

I find it humbling to take the time to reflect on my life and the many blessings I have. I love the Thanksgiving circle at Grandpa and Grandma's house, where everyone tells something they're grateful. I try to acknowledge the people I'm thankful for and to let my Heavenly Father know how much I appreciate my blessings.

And I love the food--the pies that don't get made any other time but the holidays, the stuffing that I could eat forever, so I only make it at this time of year, the cream cheese, chocolate and nut twists, the sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce... I could go on and on. My mouth is watering.

So in honor of this holiday that I love, let me say thank you. Thank you to each of you who come and read my blog and leave your comments. Thanks for everyone who helped me with my book. Thanks to wonderful family, amazing friends and good neighbors. And thanks to my Heavenly Father, who continues to bless me beyond what I deserve.

Happy Thanksgiving! Now go feast.

Life is an Amazing Race

My favorite show on television is The Amazing Race. I love to travel and if I were younger and had perfect knees, I'd want to go on this show. Of course, I'm not sure I'd want to go with Travis. Although I think we'd have a great time, we'd bicker a lot and pretty soon most of America would think we're jerks.

But can you imagine how great it would be to see so much of the world, experience so many different cultures and accomplish so many unusual challenges.

Sometimes I pretend my life is an episode of The Amazing Race. When I have to do something I don't want to do, I imagine it's a roadblock. The team member (me) who folds and puts away this enormous pile of clean laundry can proceed straight to the detour (a good book). Or perhaps after I clean the master bathroom, someone U-turned me and I have to clean the kids' bathroom. Maybe the Mom who has her family to church on time, in clean clothes with hair and teeth brushed and scriptures in their hand can use the Fast Forward.

I know, I know. It all sounds silly and a just little bit OCD, and I don't do it all the time, but every once in awhile it helps me psych myself up to get through chores I don't much enjoy.

I just finished this blog posting, so now I'm going to proceed to the pit stop (which tonight is my couch where I'll watch this week's episode of The Amazing Race.)

If you don't watch this show, you should give it a try. It might help you clean your bathrooms.

Happy Anniversary to Us

The years after my mission were a strange combination of fun, misery, hope and despair. I worked full-time, went to school part-time and dated more than I'd ever wanted to.

I developed an unflattering reputation among my friends as someone who gets guys ready for marriage. You see, after my mission, almost everyone I dated married the girl they dated right after me. One roommate, who couldn't get her boyfriend to commit, actually suggested maybe I should go out with him a few times. This was funny, and I laughed, but it was also really hard. This pattern happened over and over and over again. Sometimes this was a little disappointing, sometimes it was an enormous relief and on one or two occasions, it was devastating.

I'd just had my heart shredded. My most recent loss had disappointed me more than any others had. I didn't know if I could take any more. I was in a very low place. I got in the car and drove up the hill behind Dad and Mom's house to a place not far from where the Bountiful temple would later be built and I prayed. I cried and prayed and poured out my heart to Heavenly Father. I asked him what I was doing wrong. I told him I was failing at finding someone I could spend my life with and that I was through. No longer would I worry about what a guy looked like. No longer would I worry about how much fun we had together or if there was any attraction. Good conversation and really "getting" each other was perhaps a luxury I could live without. I was turning it over to Him. If he wanted me with a nerd, I'd be with a nerd. If he wanted me to be bored the rest of my life, okay, I guess I could be bored the rest of my life. If he wanted me to marry Harvey, I'd marry Harvey.

A little background on Harvey, whose name I've changed to protect a very nice guy. Harvey was someone who'd been in the background for about two years. He was friendly, he was pleasant, he was nerdy, he was shorter than me. But he was a really good guy. He'd liked me for a long time and would always go out of his way to shake my hand with his sweaty one, or he'd sit by me at the college ward, the poster boy for friendly nerdiness. I wasn't attracted to him AT ALL, but as I sat there on that hill and prayed, I asked Heavenly Father to take over. And if he wanted me to marry Harvey, I guessed I would, but please, please, please, PLEASE! make me a little bit attracted to him, so I could stand to hold hands with him...

or more?

I went home feeling scared. I wasn't at peace, I wasn't calm. I was terrified that I was going to have to marry Harvey or someone like him. Now that I'd turned it over to Heavenly Father, who knew what was going to happen?

Two weeks later, I met Travis. He was good-looking. He was funny. He was strong in the church. And he liked me. Right away. We were married five months later.

To this day, I'm thankful I didn't have to marry Harvey. (You'll be happy to know, he married a beautiful girl who was shorter than him and they're very happy.) I'm thankful for Travis, who is a dedicated husband, a loving father, a good provider, someone who loves to travel, enjoys a good movie, and encourages me to do things that make me happy.

I love you, Travis. Happy Anniversary!

A Sense of Adventure - A Tribute to My Parents

(The Wallsburg school. This building, built in 1904, was our home for ten years. It's been abandoned again for many years and is sadly falling apart. It was for sale a year or so ago and we excitedly thought about buying it again, until we discovered from the realtor that it was selling for $800,000.)

Yesterday, my parents celebrated their 48th anniversary. (I'd intended to write something about them yesterday, but then a Ford F150 pulled in front of us and my day changed.) But as great as 48 years of marriage is, that's only a small part of what makes my parents impressive.

I could tell you about what great examples they are, about their mission, about years of church service, about hard work and sacrifice and patience. I could even tell you about a few times when they showed their human side and lost their cool or severely over-grounded one of their kids, or got carried away at a basketball game.

But instead, I'll tell you about their sense of adventure. There are those who would say they showed their adventurous side by having eleven children. I think this is true, but imagine taking those eleven children on a road trip. Dad and Mom did that every summer. While we didn't have a lot of money, they wanted their kids to see and experience as much as possible. We traveled all over the United States. Mom made sandwiches and we had contests to see who could make an oreo last the longest. We played games and fought and sang songs. But we played in the ocean, we saw big cities, and beautiful barns. We traveled winding mountain roads and drove through hundreds of miles of plains. We went to National Parks and saw rock formations and State Parks where civil war battles had been fought.

Dad and Mom's sense of adventure carried over into everyday life. When I was six years old, they bought an old, abandoned schoolhouse in Wallsburg. I was scared when I first walked inside--the windows were broken out and the floors were covered with three or four inches of dead hornets, flies and broken glass. They transformed that scary, abandoned building into a home. They cleaned up the filth to reveal hardwood floors, tore down plaster to the beautiful brick underneath, put in walls to create bedrooms. It became a beautiful place with only one hallway that led to the underground storage room that continued to be scary.

We had a gymnasium and a stage. We had bats that flew above our heads as we fell asleep some nights. I had a bedroom that had been a library with bookshelves from floor to 12-foot ceiling. We had an enormous (and dangerous) slide until Dad and Mom "donated" it to the city park. It was an amazing house for kids to grow up in.

At the time I didn't realize how unusual my parents were. I didn't realize that there were parents who didn't take their kids on long family vacations. I didn't realize that there were parents who wouldn't even know how to begin a challenge like turning an old schoolhouse into a home. I took them for granted.

But of all the valuable things my parents gave me, today I'm thankful for their adventurous spirit. It helps remind me that I can do hard things, that I can look at things differently, that its okay to try something unexpected.

Happy Anniversary, Dad and Mom. I love you and I'm so thankful that you're my parents!

Mothers Who Know

Recently at a major university, a class on Christianity in the modern world spent an entire class discussing Sister Beck's talk Mothers Who Know. Instead of discussing the merits of the talk, it was dissected piece by piece, examining its flaws, stereotyping the "stupid" women who would follow such outdated ideas and discussing how dangerous these teachings are for the women's movement.

I'd love to sit in a similar class that examined piece by piece the flaws, stereotypes and dangerous ideas of the women's movement, the damage that's been done by taking an idea like equal pay for equal work and spinning it into an entire movement that undermines families and belittles men...

but that's another post.

I distinctly remember the day that talk was given and the desire I felt after listening and feeling the spirit, that I could and should do better and that as a mother, I was a critical part of God's plan. I was inspired.

I remember being shocked in the days and weeks following the talk, that people were finding fault with it. As I looked at blogs and articles about people protesting the talk, I re-read it, baffled that anyone could take issue with the beautiful message.

Now, three years later, students at a major university are paying for the privelege of figuring out what's wrong with the message and how it sets back women.

Women who know bear children - President Benson said, "In the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels."

Women who know honor their sacred ordinances and covenants - Hard for me to imagine this being a bad thing.

Women who know are nurturers - "To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow."

Women who know are leaders - "In equal partnership with their husbands, they lead a great and eternal organization."

Women who know are teachers - "A well-taught friend told me that he did not learn anything at church that he had not already learned at home."

Women who know do less - "These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all."

Women who know stand strong and immovable - "Latter-day Saint women should be the very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families."

I strive to be one of those "stupid" women. I hope my daughters grow up to be two of those "stupid" women and I pray my sons come home from their missions and find one of these "stupid" women to marry.

What is that Horrible Smell?

Two weeks ago, completely out of the blue, the fan in our car began to make a terrible noise. It was one part rattle and two parts buzz. It was noticeable on a low setting and got progressively worse with each setting until it sounded as if the car might explode when turned on high. It was most unpleasant. Because of the noise, we only used the lowest fan setting, even on cold mornings.

A few days later, as I drove the kids to school with the heat on low, I noticed an unpleasant smell. It seemed to be coming from the vents, so we turned the heat off. A few more days passed and we began to smell the unpleasant odor even if the fan wasn't on. As we shivered in the car one cold morning, I nervously turned on the heat. The smell that almost instantly permeated the car was ghastly.

Veronica and I began gagging. Despite the cold, we turned off the heat and rolled down the windows. Veronica leaned outside the window, gulping in cold, fresh air. I drove back home, my teeth chattering, the window still down.

From somewhere in my past, I recognized the smell. It was the smell of death and decay. I can't put my finger on the time or place that caused this recognition, but I knew what it was. I now had to psych myself out to get in the car. Something had to be done.

Today I took the car to the mechanic. He listened to the fan, took a whiff, and agreed that it needed attention. Three hours, a new fan and $266.00 later, the car is recovering. A mouse had somehow made it into the fan and had died a violent and bloody death when we had turned on the fan. The clean-up was disgusting.

I'm hoping any rodent looking for a warm place to hide will look elsewhere. I can't afford another rodent funeral.

That'll Teach You

About a month ago, Travis and I were called to team teach Sunday School. The course we'd be teaching is Marriage and Family Relations. Whew! Not really feeling qualified to teach those subjects. We're not necessarily poster children for marital tranquility, but we love each other and are willing to do what we're asked.

Travis returned from a week-long business trip on Tuesday evening. I mentioned that we needed to look at the lesson and figure out who was taking which section. He was tired. After all, he'd been traveling. We'd look at it the next day.

The next day, I mentioned the lesson again. He was still tired and headed to bed early to watch the Jazz game and get some sleep.

For some reason, my pleas went unheeded on Thursday and then Friday. Friday evening, he suggested there would be plenty of time on Saturday. I was trying to be patient (see lesson 2) and give him the benefit of the doubt (see lesson 3), but I was getting frustrated. I don't like preparing a lesson right before giving it. I like time to read, think, pray....

Saturday morning ESPN brought College Game Day to the University of Utah and Bruce was there. So of course, we had to watch for him and his clever sign (which was front and center most of the show). Then there was the BYU game. Then there was the University of Utah game. As soon as that game was over, he had to leave for Salt Lake and the Jazz game he was attending with Bruce.

I'd had it. I went upstairs, read through the lesson and smiled. A satisfied, if slightly evil grin. I highlighted the portion I was leaving for Travis and placed it on the counter with a sandwich. "I'm teaching the first section and the last section," I said. "I left you the middle section."

"Good," he said. He was tired of me nagging him and this would get me off his case. He began eating his sandwich and reading his portion of the lesson. "You're a jerk," he said with a smile.

"Maybe next week, you won't put me off all week," I said.

I taught "Expressions of affection and kindness keep love and friendship alive in marriage" and "Married couples should strive to have charity, the pure love of Christ." I left him "Proper intimacy in marriage is an expression of love."

He handled it fine, even got a good laugh from the class as he told of the lesson preparations. I, thankfully, didn't have to teach that section.

He read through next week's lesson as soon as we got home from church. It's always nice to see a valuable lesson learned.

Random Thoughts

Why does a beautiful and sweet dog, that loves us, follows us around, checks in on me during the day and adores our kids have to shed, poop enormous piles and slobber?

Why did the construction in front of the high school start the week before school started. Wouldn't it have been better planning to start the week after school got out? There have been a couple of days that have taken me more than 1/2 an hour to get in and out of there with Veronica, leaving Joe waiting in front of his school for us to get there. Please plan better!

Why is it that even when I throw away all the mismatched socks and start completely over, it only takes a couple of months to have an entire laundry basket of mismatched socks. Where do they go?

Why have I never been given a sample of marzipan at See's Candies? I always hope for one but have never been offered one. And why would anyone enjoy a chunk of sugared ginger dipped in chocolate. Worst sample of all time!

I enjoyed the Shade going out of business sale. Especially when things were $1.00 and $2.00 each. Nothing like buying $1500.00 worth of clothes for about $80.00. Now if I could just find someone selling stylish boots for $2.00.

Since working out until you're drenched feels so good after you're finished and showered, why is it so hard to make yourself do it?

How is it even possible for autumn leaves to be as beautiful as they are? The oranges and reds and yellows are stunning and the flowering pear trees with their variagated colors? God is an artist, no doubt about it!

Are You Happy?

My sister found this great chart. Look at it closely. It's simple but profound.

A few years ago, I was in a bad mood. I'm not talking a "got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed" bad mood that lasts throughout the morning, or maybe a day. I can handle those. I'm talking an "in-for-the-long-haul" bad mood. It lasted weeks. I was irritable and snappy, I rarely smiled, and it seemed everyone was trying to annoy me.

The bad thing was that I knew it. Every time I'd jump down someone's throat, I wondered what was wrong with me. Everytime someone did or said something funny and I didn't laugh or even smile, I wondered who I was. I began to wonder if there was something really wrong with me. Maybe I needed to see a doctor. Maybe I needed medicated. I knew my family was paying for my behavior and I felt bad, but I wasn't sure how to remedy the situation.

At the time I was serving as Young Women's president in our ward. As I sat through a lesson one Sunday, the teacher who was my first counselor and my friend said something to the girls that I think was meant for me. "If you're not happy, you need to examine your life and figure out why. Often it's because you're doing something you shouldn't be doing or you're not doing something you know you should be doing." Sounded simple. I thought about it all day. What was I doing or not doing that had me in such a crappy mood all the time?

Before I went to bed that night, I sat down with my journal. I began to list the things I knew I should be doing that I wasn't. It isn't always easy or pleasant to examine yourself that closely, but I wanted to be happy. One thing I knew I could do better at was my personal scripture study, so I put that down. Another was reading the Ensign, so I added that. I knew I could pray more earnestly. Then I decided I should be more grateful, so I decided that every day I would write down five things I was grateful for in my journal. And as long as I was writing down what I was grateful for, I might as well write in my journal.

I work well with charts and "to do" lists, so I made myself a checklist for each day, so I'd have to be accountable for what I was doing. And guess what? It was only a matter of a few days before I started feeling happier.

I know this sounds extremely Pollyanna and simplistic. But sometimes the solutions to our problems really are simple and we complicate them because simple is just too.....

well, simple.

Now, if I start to slip into an extended funk, I do a little self-examination. It usually doesn't take me long to realize what I've let slide. I know that small tweaks can lead to big changes. I've seen it happen.

A Little Song to Make You Happy

Two years ago, I won a radio contest (for real) that gave me tickets to see Jason Mraz in concert and conduct an interview for the radio station. I was excited to win the tickets, but me interviewing Jason Mraz for a radio station? Maybe not.

Instead, I let Bruce (16) and Veronica (14) do the interview and I stood off to the side snapping pictures. He was so nice to the kids and was funny and unhurried. It didn't feel like he was there to meet a radio station obligation. It was a lot of fun.

I love good lyrics. I appreciate a song with a positive message and I like it when words are put together in a clever and profound way. This song has it all. So to celebrate Friday (or whatever day you happen to be looking at my blog), here's an entertaining version of a great song, with some of my favorite lyrics. Enjoy!

It takes a crane to build a crane
It takes two floors to make a story
It takes an egg to make a hen
It takes a hen to make an egg
There is no end to what I'm saying

It takes a thought to make a word
And it takes some words to make an action
And it takes some work to make it work
It takes some good to make it hurt
It takes some bad for satisfaction

Ah la la la la la la life is wonderful
Ah la la la la la la life goes full circle
Ah la la la la life is wonderful
Ah la la la la la

It takes a night to make it dawn
And it takes a day to make you yawn brother
And it takes some old to make you young
It takes some cold to know the sun
It takes the one to have the other

And it takes no time to fall in love
But it takes you years to know what love is
And it takes some fears to make you trust
It takes those tears to make it rust
It takes the dust to have it polished


It takes some silence to make sound
And it takes a lost before you found it
And it takes a road to go nowhere
It takes a toll to show you care
It takes a hole to see a mountain


How to Change a Flat Tire

Two weeks ago, my son had a flat tire. I was only a few miles away, so when he couldn't find a jack or a lugwrench, he called me to see if I could come and help him.

So there we were, one mom, two 18-year-old boys and a 12-year-old girl. We figured out the jack and slowly lifted the car up. Then we tried to remove the lugnuts (I hope I'm calling things by their proper names.) When we did, the tire began to spin. It wasn't working.

I checked the time and discovered that it was a couple of minutes before 5:00. It was a Sunday. We loaded up in my car in search of an open tire store that could tell us what to do to keep the tire from spinning. (Don't you dare be laughing!)

We found three tire stores. All of them were closed. Two of them had employees in the stores, but they wouldn't come to the door in spite of my desperate expression. We started back to the car, knowing I'd have to call someone I knew and ask them what we were doing wrong. I didn't want to do this because of the mocking and humiliation I was opening myself up to, but it looked like we had no choice.

And then I saw it--Costco's Tire Center. The garage doors were still open, beckoning me to come inside and ask for help. I pulled up to the doors, hurried to the employee who was beginning to shut the garage doors and explained our predicament. He laughed. Not with me, but at me. And not in a jovial way, but in a "you're an idiot" way.

"You have to remove the lugnuts while the tire is on the ground. The ground keeps the tire from rotating." Okay. That made sense. So humbly, we drove back to the car, lowered it to the ground, removed the lugnuts and then raised it back up. In just a few minutes we'd changed the tire.

So this is for all of you who have never changed a tire or for those of you, like me, who have changed a tire, but it was at least two decades ago. Remove the lugnuts before lifting the car off the ground. It will save you time and embarrassment.

Let's Read!

Here are four of the books I've read in the last month or so. I debated whether or not to include two of them because I had such mixed feelings about them, but I decided I'd include them and just explain what I see as their pros and cons. Then you can decide if they'd be something you'd enjoy or not.
The Long Masquerade by Madeleine Brent
This is my third Madeleine Brent book in as many months. It was also my least favorite of the three. It still had adventure, romance, mystery, interesting settings and great characters, but I found myself mired down in some of the details. The main character, Casey, spends a couple of years at sea, and that is where I became bogged down. Once I got through the slow part, it picked up and I enjoyed the rest. Some people might really enjoy that part. I might have if I'd been in the right mood, but it was hard for me to get through.

61 Hours by Lee Child
I confess. I love Jack Reacher and with only one exception, I've enjoyed all of Lee Child's novels about the ex-military cop who is now a loner who wanders the country with only the clothes on his back. He's tough, he isn't afraid of a fight, he stands up for the victim. He's a guy anyone would want on their side. In this book, we get to know him better emotionally than in any other book, and I enjoyed that a lot. He accidentally ends up in a town in crisis in South Dakota in the dead of winter. It's suspenseful, it's interesting and it's hard to put down. This was the least violent of the Jack Reacher books. I love Lee Child's writing. I was freezing through most of the book.

Luck of the Draw by Rachael Renee Anderson

This is one of those fun books that I get to share with my daughters. This book starts out with a roommates bet that goes wrong and then maybe right. It was fun to read, had a positive message and entertaining and believable characters. My oldest daughter read it first and then couldn't wait for me to read it so we could talk about it. It's a fun romance that actually makes you think about values and the choices people make.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker
It was hard for me to decide if I should include this book. I had such high hopes for it and when I started it, I was thoroughly enteretained b Elna Baker's writing. She's funny, sarcastic, and I actually laughed out loud. It tells of her life as a single LDS girl in New York. She's looking for love, trying to lose weight, and deciding how she really feels about her faith. While it felt genuine to me, there were times when it made me really uncomfortable. Part of the time I cheered for her and part of the time I wanted to send her to her room for five years to think about making better choices. I wouldn't want my daughters to read this and be warned, there is some bad language and some bad behavior included.

Say Thank You

"Oh Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness." ~William Shakespeare

Recently I've been annoyed. I've let something really get under my skin. Not too long ago, I was asked to do a favor for someone. It wasn't a small thing. It was a sacrifice and an inconvenience to do it, but I thought it would be a good thing to help out. I performed the service and did a good job. I felt glad that I could help out.

That gladness has gradually changed to irritation. I've seen the person I helped on several occasions now, and not once have I received a thank you. Not even a mention of what I did. Not one word.

Nothing! Nada! Zip!

Now I realize that I shouldn't have to have a thank you to make what I did feel worthwhile. But I wanted one. Just a little one would have been enough. Just a teeny, tiny mention of my good deed would have sufficed.

So Thursday I was driving home from taking the kids to school and I was thinking about how ungrateful this person was. I've heard it said that lack of gratitude is a sign of arrogance, of pride. How proud must they be to think that they shouldn't offer even a token little acknowledgement for what I'd done for them.

Then a thought crossed my mind. How many blessings do I have that I don't express gratitude for? How many times have I disappointed (even annoyed) Heavenly Father by not telling Him how thankful I am for all I have and all He's done for me? Way too many times, I'm sure.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still bugged. But it was humbling to remember that I need to do better at showing my gratitude. Tomorrow is the first day of November, the month we celebrate Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. Next to Christmas, it's my favorite holiday. I love spending time with loved ones and contemplating the many things I have to be grateful for.

In honor of this month, and because I want to cast the beam out of my own eye, I want to share a few things I'm thankful for. These aren't necessarily in order. They're just a few things I feel profoundly grateful for right now.

I'm thankful for family--immediate and extended. Amazing parents, a hard-working husband, wonderful children, brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews and more. I'm incredibly blessed with amazing family.

I'm thankful for comforts--a home, a comfortable bed, and good food and heat.

I'm thankful for all those who've helped me on my book, past and present--family who read the first very-rough draft, those who've encouraged me and suggested a publisher I might want to try, those who are helping me revise and improve it and the designer who created the beautiful cover. This is not mine alone.

My Heavenly Father and my Savior--I'm thankful for their hand in my life, the blessings they've given me, the challenges they've helped me endure and the beautiful plan they've provided to give direction to my life.

What are you grateful for?

GIFTED Has a Cover

Gifted has a cover. And I think it's beautiful. Thank you Cedar Fort and Bonneville Books for this beautiful cover that will be the first impression many people have of my book.

What do you think?

Most Romantic Movies and Scenes

Over the weekend, we watched the movie Say Anything. I hadn't seen it for many years and was a little worried it would be like some other 80's movies I used to love that now disappoint me. I wasn't disappointed. It is still sweet and romantic and full of good lines. And my girls loved John Cusack as much as I did.

You'll soon discover from my list that I'm not talking about kissing or more than that. I'm talking romance. There's a difference. The most romantic scenes I can think of involve emotions. They make you smile, catch your breath, and maybe even swoon. So here are my favorites.

7. A Walk to Remember - The whole movie is pretty romantic, but Landon's face when Jamie is singing "Only Hope" is great. You can actually see him falling in love with her. (This one is for my girls.)

6. Fiddler on the Roof -- I love the scene where Motel has just learned that Tseitel is to be his wife after he'd thought it was impossible. He sings "Miracle of Miracles" while they run and frolick through the woods. You can feel their joy.

5. Flipped - This is the most recent movie I've included in my list. The whole movie is sweet and charming and romantic, but the scene where they plant the tree together is a perfect depiction of young love.

4. The Last of the Mohicans - One of the most romantic scenes doesn't involve Hawkeye (Lewis) and Cora (Stowe). Uncas is killed by Magua and and thrown over the cliff. Alice, who loved Uncas, steps over the edge to join him. It was beautiful.

There are almost too many scenes involving Hawkeye and Cora to list, but a few of my favorites are when he stares at her in the kitchen, when he's looking for her in the fort and then simply takes her hand and leads her away and when he sends her away, promising to find her. This is such a good movie.

3. Say Anything -- Diane Court is nice and likeable in this movie, but Lloyd Dobler charms his way into your heart.

Diane's father asks Lloyd what his plans are (referring to his life and career) and Lloyd answers, "To spend as much time with your daughter as possible."

When Diane breaks his heart, he calls his sister and says, "I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen."

Of course, no Say Anything list would be complete without mentioning the scene where Lloyd stands outside her window and plays "In Your Eyes" on his boombox. How she resisted that, I'll never know.

At the end of the movie, speaking of their relationship, Diane says, "Nobody really thinks this will work, do they?" Lloyd says, "No, but you just described every great success story."

2. The Sound of Music -- When I was younger, I thought Liesl and Rolf were so romantic. Now I recognize the real romance in The Sound of Music. When Captain Von Trapp cuts in on Kurt to demonstrate the Laendler (folk dance), you can see on their faces when they realize their feelings. No wonder the Baroness freaked out a little.

1. Pride and Prejudice -- I ranked this number one because it has romance all the way through it.

The dance, where the rest of the world disappears and they're all alone.

When she rejects his proposal. I don't think there's ever been a more romantic rejection.

When she accidentally sees him at Pemberley and he follows her out to the terrace, where they're both a bit tongue-tied.

And of course, when he walks across the meadow and tells her he loves her. The 40+ seconds of meadow leaves you breathless and then he speaks and it only gets better. "You must know... surely, you must know it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me. I believe you spoke with my aunt last night, and it has taught me to hope as I'd scarcely allowed myself before. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you and never wish to be parted from you from this day on."

So there you have it. My favorite romantic scenes from the movies. What is yours?

Not Just for Youth

Almost five years ago, I was called to be the Young Women's president in our ward. It was a daunting calling and I felt completely overwhelmed. I'd never served in Young Women's before and the busy schedule, the number of work and meetings, as well as the responsibility of teaching these girls what they needed to know scared me to death.

The Bishop gave me a special blessing to help me fulfill my calling and in that blessing, he advised me to take advantage of my resources, including the For the Strength of Youth booklet. I'd seen one of those when Bruce brought it home from church, but I'd never read it. It became one of my most valued tools.

The booklet is filled with commandments and counsel that, if followed, will help our kids make wise choices. We used it regularly in Young Women's activities--studying and discussing it together. We've used it at home, doing a series of family night lessons, using the booklet as our manual. It has been a valuable tool in teaching appropriate behavior in many areas of life.

The great thing about this book is that even though it's directed to our youth, it's great for all ages. I've benefited from the counsel in it and so have my pre-teen kids.

I'd encourage everyone to pick up a copy for everyone in your family. (They're free.) Use it for teaching gospel standards to your kids. Use it to remind yourself of appropriate standards. Become familiar with it. It's inspired and if we'll let it, it can be a huge blessing in our lives.

Feel free to share any tools you've found useful in teaching our kids! There's always room for improvement.

What About Karma?

After a week at home for fall break, Bruce left for school again on Sunday morning. He forgot his dorm key, so in the late afternoon, Savannah and I drove to Salt Lake to meet him and give him his key. Just as we got back on the freeway, he called my cell phone. He had a flat tire. We got off at the next exit and returned to help him change his tire.

This made it so we were a half an hour later driving home and happened to put us getting off our exit right behind an old, green Chevrolet pickup. Immediately I could tell there was a problem. We were driving down a six-mile stretch of two-lane highway that is torn apart with construction and heavily-traveled. It's a mess and now, right in front of us, was a man swerving out of control. He hit a big construction pylon, causing it to spin into the road. Then he hit another one, throwing it twenty feet into the air before it landed just off the road.

Then my heart stopped. He headed directly into on-coming traffic and almost hit a mini-van before he swerved back into our lane. I called 9-1-1 and spent the next ten minutes on the phone with the dispatcher, updating her of our location and his movements. I was scared. I vividly remembered being hit head-on by a drunk driver several years ago in Colorado, an accident that changed our lives. As the driver in front of me swerved and veered into oncoming traffic time and again, my daughter and I feared we were going to see someone killed before the man was pulled over.

Eventually he was pulled over, admitted to being wasted, and was arrested. An officer met with me and I filed a police report. It was scary, stressful and I still have a tension headache I haven't been able to shake. But we did our civic duty, right? Of course right.

So why have we been punished since then? Monday night, my headache raging, Travis took the kids for ice cream for our family night treat. On the way home, he got a speeding ticket. The ridiculous thing about that is that Travis doesn't speed. He hasn't had a speeding ticket since he sold his prized muscle car to make a down payment on a house sixteen years ago. I'm the one that drives too fast. I'm the one with a new speeding ticket every couple of years. But Travis was cited for driving five miles over the speed limit. FIVE MILES! Couldn't they have given him a warning?

Then Tuesday morning, as I drove the kids to school, my heart sank. There was Travis, pulled over. I later found out he'd rolled through a stop sign--and they gave him another ticket. TWO TICKETS IN LESS THAN TWELVE HOURS? Right after I'd done my stressful civic duty.

Now I know there are no rules about karma--about when it comes and if families can share it's good vibes. But really? Would it have been so hard for karma to give us a break?

Please just let the same traffic school work for both tickets!

I Confess!

(Ford's store, where I bought my stash of goodies.)

My sister, Lisa, recently sent me to a blog posting here because a couple of the confessions reminded her of me. I enjoyed the posting and was prompted to clear my conscience of a few of my own past misdeeds. So here goes:

1. I confess to cheating in 9th grade English. I sat next to the cutest blonde boy in the school and I had a terrible crush on him. When we were supposed to be diagramming sentences, he leaned over and whispered, "Can I see yours?" I slid my paper over to the edge of my desk and he copied my diagrams. The smile he gave me when he got a perfect score completely made up for the damnation to my soul. Unfortunately, he didn't fall in love with me because of my diagramming abilities, as I'd hoped he would. I've left out the handsome blonde's name to spare him the humiliation of the world knowing he can't diagram sentences.

2. I confess to getting completely addicted to General Hospital the summer I babysat the Nielsen kids. I had to put the kids to bed for a nap at 12:30, so that gave me time to run up the hill behind their house and adjust the giant television antenna that sat on top of the hill (it was a decent-sized hill, too) and get back in time to watch the Luke and Laura hour in peace before the kids got back up.

3. I confess to throwing away an awful shirt with pandas and buddhas on it that my husband really liked. He actually bought it for an ugly-shirt party and it was appropriate for that purpose, but every so often he'd drag it out and wear it around the house because it was "so comfortable" (or just to annoy me). I not only got rid of it against his wishes, I pretended to look for it when he couldn't find it to help convince him I wasn't responsible for its disappearance.

4. I confess to taking credit for a gift I didn't give. My friend, Lisa, thanked me for the flowers she'd received for her birthday. I didn't give them to her, but I was confused about what she was talking about and not very quick on my feet, so I just said, "You're welcome." What 12-year-old girl gives her friend flowers? The tag said "Love, Kari." Not my spelling of Karey, but strangely, it's the way her aunt spelled it.

5. I confess to being so sad that I could only have four kids that I let my youngest sleep with us way, way, way too long. I won't give an exact age, but let's just say he sleeps in his own bed now, is smart and well-adjusted and so even though I met with much disapproval, I don't regret it.

6. I confess to putting a thermometer under hot water or against the lightbulb on my lamp to prove (falsely) that I was sick enough to stay home from school. Dad had a rule that we had to go to school unless we had a fever. I'm pretty sure Mom had me figured out though. What else would explain not rushing your daughter to the hospital when she had a fever over 105 degrees?

7. I confess to trying Vicki Gappmeyer's makeup when I babysat. Her bathroom was filled with eyeshadows in beautiful colors, blushes and eyeliners. I wasn't allowed to wear makeup yet and her array of beauty products were too much of a temptation. I always washed my face thoroughly before they got home.

8. I confess to taking some of my babysitting money to Ford's Store in Wallsburg and buying my own bag of Cheeto's and my own M&Ms that I hid in my drawer and enjoyed all by myself. Okay, on occasion I'd give some to one of my sisters if they'd help me clean my room or some other unpleasant task.

9. I confess to telling my husband we won a night at Anniversary Inn on a radio contest. (I have fairly good luck at radio contests, so he believed me.) We'd been married four years and I wanted us to have a little getaway, but I knew he'd say we couldn't afford it. We had a great time and I confessed to him that I hadn't won it about a year later.

10. I confess to riding a motorcycle while I was in college. My Grandpa Higginson hated motorcycles and called them murdercycles because of the number of people he knew who had either died or been seriously hurt while riding them. His dying request was that his posterity not ride motorcycles. When I was invited to go up the canyon for a picnic with a funny, charming and good-looking guy from my college writing class, I hesitated only briefly before saying yes. I felt my grandpa watching me the whole trip and wondered what I'd say to him when I greeted him on the other side if my life ended in a violent crash on this little picnic. I've never ridden a motorcycle again. Sorry Grandpa.

Feel free to share any confessions you'd like. I'm sure you'll feel a lot better.

Congratulations Stephanie!

Congratulations to Stephanie. You're the winner of the Cold-weather reading giveaway.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this giveaway. I'm so excited by how many of you entered to win. Be sure to keep checking back for hopefully more entertaining posts, more opportunities to win prizes and more information on my upcoming book, Gifted.

The winner was selected using the custom random number generator on mathgoodies.com.

Cold-Weather Reader's Giveaway

Sure, there's a lot of talk about summer reading--sitting on the beach or in a hammock with a good book. But let's talk about cold-weather reading. The reading that happens while you're wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa or snuggled up by a nice fire with your favorite book.

I love cold-weather reading. It gets dark earlier, there aren't as many distractions from outdoor activities and it's easy to get lost in another place and time.

This giveaway is for a cold-weather reading kit--a $25.00 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble to get whatever you want to read, a bookmark, and a container of Stephen's hot cocoa. Pictured is Stephens Wassail. You can choose if you want wassail or hot cocoa.

The deadline is Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m. At that point, a random selector will choose the winner from all entries. Here are ways to enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me what book you'd like to read this winter.

2. Become a follower and leave me a comment.

3. Post a link to this giveaway on your blog, facebook or twitter and leave me a comment with the link.

4. Post a link to one of my blog postings that you enjoyed to your facebook, twitter or blog and leave me a comment here. (You can post as many links as you want.)

5. If you are responsible for someone becoming a follower of my blog, leave me a comment telling me who you recruited to follow me.

So you can see there are lots of ways to win. I'm excited to have more people checking out the blog as I get closer to the release date of my book. Your help to share my blog with others is really appreciated. That's why I hope you win!

Have a great day and enter, enter, enter!

Time Passes but Love Doesn't

Heather Christensen

A year ago today, a band trip to Idaho ended in tragedy. The bus driver lost consciousness and the bus full of American Fork High School band students went off the road in a remote part of Idaho. Heather, a brave and quick-thinking band teacher, dashed to the bus driver and took over the wheel. Her quick thinking saved many students' lives, but unfortunately, as the bus came to a violent stop, Heather, unprotected by the seats of the bus and exposed at the front, was thrown from the bus and killed.

Heather was my sister-in-law's sister. Heather was a frequent and welcome addition to many family gatherings. She was funny, energetic and friendly. She's missed by her band students, by all of us that knew her, but mostly by her family.

When someone is taken from this life, we have to rely on our faith in the Savior and in our Heavenly Father's plan for each of us. That faith can give us comfort and help us through the difficult, lonely days. But it doesn't stop those difficult, lonely days from coming.

Heather is survived by parents, a brother, sisters, nieces and nephews, in-laws, cousins, friends, and students who miss her. I hope they all feel comfort and peace today and I hope she knows how much she's missed.

It isn't What I Hoped For... It was Better

Every once in awhile, an object becomes symbolic in our lives. My yoyo dress has been one of those things in my life. It has come to represent much more than just an interesting and beautiful piece of clothing that I designed and made. It has come to mean much more than that.

When I began making the yoyo dress, I had certain expectations of what it would be like and how much I'd earn for it once it was completed. As the materials and time invested grew, I realized it was unlikely that I was going to get out of the dress what it would be worth, but by this point, I loved the dress. I loved the idea of it and I loved the beauty of it. I finished it because it was important that I finish it and because I loved it.

The picture above is Sara and her new husband, Andreas. The dress was worn for their wedding in Switzerland, high in the mountains. It perfectly fits their personalities, the location and the spirit of their wedding. I made almost nothing on that dress, and yet I feel incredible joy and satisfaction about it. I'm thrilled that a sweet and interesting girl wore that dress for the most important day in her life. I'm thrilled that she got compliments and praise for her unique dress. I'm thrilled that she felt special wearing it. I couldn't be happier with the outcome.

I think there are so many things in life that are like that dress. We put our whole heart and soul into something, expecting a certain outcome. We dream about that outcome, we hope for it, we work toward it. And then somehow it doesn't work out the way we wanted it to. Sometimes that's a big disappointment, but sometimes the reality ends up being even better.

For What It's Worth is a book I'm finishing. It's a story of a young lady who opens a wedding cake bakery and because of her lack of experience and reputation, isn't sure what she should charge for her cakes. She conducts an experiment to determine the worth of the wedding cakes and finds that things don't go quite like she expected, and that ends up being okay.

Very often our expectations don't become our reality. But if we're lucky, those realities--like the yoyo dress--become much more satisfying than our expectations.

Congratulations Sara and Andreas! I'm honored that I had a small part in your special day!

What's In A Sigh?

A few years ago I took one of my daughters to the doctor. I was concerned that she was having difficulty breathing. She would take long, ragged breaths and then slowly let them out. It happened so frequently that I thought maybe she had asthma.

The doctor listened to her breathing, asked her some questions and then asked me to step out in the hall with him. "There's nothing wrong with her lungs. I believe what we have here is sadness and stress. We often hear of sighing with relief. Just as often, sighing is a sign of sadness, stress and loneliness."

I was blown away. She was only in the 4th grade. We weren't dealing with any extraordinary family issues. She was a good student. Her teacher loved her. What could be so bad that my sweet daughter was actually suffering this physical symptom? I became a detective, determined to find out.

When my sleuthing was completed, I'd learned a lot about my little girl. I'd learned that she sat on the curb at recess and watched other kids play. I learned that she was afraid to invite herself to do things with others, so if they didn't invite her, she spent recess alone. I learned that she was so lonely at school that she thought of little else when she was at home.

She'd never told me these things before. When I'd asked how school was, she'd say it was fine and then tell me about her teacher or a good score on a paper. When I'd asked who her friends were, she'd named a couple of girls in our neighborhood, because she was embarrassed to admit she didn't have any real friends.

I was heartbroken. What kind of mother can't intuit this kind of pain in her daughter? How had I spent so much time with her and not known of her suffering? I went to work immediately. Working with her teacher, we helped her find a good friend. And the sighing stopped.

At times I've been guilty of minimizing the struggles of our children. I think, lucky them, they don't have to pay bills. They don't have to work a crummy job. They don't have to deal with demanding church callings or mortgages or a bad economy. Their lives are so easy.

Not so. In their limited experience, the social struggles, the homework, the sometimes not-so-nice teachers and even their parents' stresses weigh on them, causing them to worry, to stress and sometimes to sigh. Sighing means something. I watch for it now and when I see it, I try to help my kids cope and resolve the problem.

The Sum of Its Parts

I saw this movie over the weekend. It was sweet, charming and entertaining and I highly recommend it. In addition to being one of the sweetest movies I've seen in a very long time, it had a couple of very positive messages in it. With regard to honesty, the boy's grandfather tells him, "A little discomfort in the beginning can save a lot of pain down the road." In speaking of people, he describes us all as being dipped in paint--some of us are dipped in flat, some in semi-gloss, some in super-gloss. But once in awhile you find someone dipped in irredescent. Those are hard to forget.

The message that seemed to be the theme of the movie, however was the old saying, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Juli describes Bryce, the boy of her dreams as having incredible eyes and an amazing smile, to which her father, a painter of landscapes, asks, but what about him? He then teaches her that a person isn't just a bunch of parts. Is he greater or less than the sum of his parts?

This causes her to step back from the beautiful eyes and dazzling smile and really examine if the whole person is greater or less than the sum of his parts.

This is a wonderful lesson for all of us. I was in a ward once with a woman who prompted sadness in me. She was so homely. Her features were so unattractive that I instantly felt sorry for her. How awful and difficult it would be to go through life looking like that? But then I had the opportunity to get to know her. She was funny, energetic, kind, and good-hearted. Before long, I hardly noticed her physical appearance. She was a beautiful person. She was definitely greater than the sum of her parts.

Conversely, I've known some really beautiful people in my life who become less attractive as time goes on. They're self-centered, vain and condescending. The more you get to know them, the less their attractive features save them. They become significantly less than the sum of their parts.

What am I? What are you? Are we more or less than the sum of our parts?