A Message for Tom Cruise

In 2001, I read a review for Echo Burning by Lee Child. It sounded interesting, so I checked it out at the library. It was my first introduction to Jack Reacher, the 6'5" and 250 pound hero. Jack is an ex-military cop, a loner, an advocate for the underdog and the guy you'd want to step in and fight your battle if you were being bullied.

I was hooked.

That summer, I checked out the four books that came before Echo Burning. Since then, I've eagerly anticipated each new book. I've had discussions with my brother and sister who have also read the books about who we'd cast to play him. We've talked about Vince Vaughn and Russell Crow. When I saw Thor last summer, I thought maybe Chris Hemsworth would be a good choice, although he might be a little bit too handsome.. Whoever it was, it needed to be a big man with a big presence. Jack isn't necessarily good-looking, but he's magnetic and interesting. He certainly isn't pretty.

Tom Cruise is pretty. And short. And small. I'm happy for Tom that he's managed to pull off the four impossible missions, but he's not big and burly, and tough. If I were about to be ravaged, I wouldn't want to have to rely on Tom Cruise to save me.

And now he's been cast as Jack Reacher in the upcoming movie adaptation of One Shot. While this is great news for Tom Cruise and all the short actors who will be cast as his co-stars so that maybe they can pull off the illusion that he's not shorter than the average man, it isn't great news for those of us who have been patiently waiting for Jack to come to the big screen.

It's really disappointing. If real Tom were the right person to play Jack, he'd break the arm of whoever suggested he play Jack and then he's quietly leave town and let a man of greater stature play the role.

I really wanted an actor with a big body and a big heart to play the part. Not just an actor with a big ego.

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It Is the Night of Our Dear Savior's Birth

I love Christmas music, but not just any Christmas music. I love the hymns and the songs of the Savior's birth and I like some of the older standards. But some of the Christmas music drives me crazy. I don't want to hear jazzed up versions of the old standards just so the newest pop sensation can sell more albums and it about sends me over the edge to hear Neal Diamond sing O Holy Night. He doesn't even believe in the birth of the Savior and that's seems like such a sellout to me.

One of the songs I love the most is "O Holy Night." No other song's lyrics better represent what we're celebrating--the birth of that special baby that would grow up to save us from sin and sorrow and death. I love it.

When I was a little girl, music was a huge part of our lives. My dad's HUGE theater speaker sent the music throughout the house. We often received records for Christmas. I don't know how Dad and Mom discovered him, but they brought home an album of Ricky Tanner. He was a boy whose voice hadn't changed and I remember my parents saying he could be in the Vienna Boy's Choir. I first learned the words to "O Holy Night" as I sang along with Ricky Tanner. His version is simple and unjazzed, which feels so much more reverent to me. I hope you enjoy it.

And of course I hope you enjoy your Christmas. In the past I've been a teeny bit disappointed when Christmas fell on Sunday, but this year I'm thrilled. We'll spend time as a family, we'll go to church and sing songs of Christmas that celebrate the Savior, we'll come home to a delicious meal and then we'll talk to Bruce from Taiwan. Wow! It just doesn't get better than that.

Merry Christmas!

Today I Cried...

Last spring my son spent a lot of time playing with a boy that I really like. His friend would come to our house and Joe would go to his house. They got along really well and because the boy came from a good family, we encouraged the friendship.

Then, suddenly, they didn't hang out as much. His friend would call him and he'd tell me he didn't really want to play. I wondered why the friendship had cooled. I continued to encourage him to call this friend and he occasionally did, but he often dragged his feet about it. When they'd get together, they had a good time, but Joe was always reluctant to extend the invitation.

Today he wanted to play and he called a couple of friends who were unavailable. I suggested this friend and he said he'd wait for one of his other friends to be available. He was a little moody that no one was available and I suggested this boy again. When he was uninterested I asked him why he didn't want to play with him.

"He said something that..." Then Joe wouldn't finish.

"What Joe? What did he say? Did he use bad language?"


"Then what is it? What did he say?"

"Never mind. I don't want to say. It would hurt your feelings."

After some cojoling and then some insistence, including mild threats, Joe said, "He said you were fat."

Even though I'd been asking him to tell me, I was still a little stunned. Joe was searching my face with concern. "Sorry, Mom. I told him he shouldn't say things like that about people." He put his hand on my arm. "Are you okay?"

And I WAS okay. I know better than anyone of my struggle to lose weight. And so I smiled at Joe and told him it was fine. I wasn't worried about it. I told him I appreciated his concern for my feelings and I always wanted him to be careful with other's feelings.

I gave him a hug and he left to play. Then I cried. A tiny part may have been for the unkind thing said by his friend, but a bigger part of it was for the compassion and sweetness of my son.

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Missing the Light

Last night we went to Travis's parents for a little Christmas gathering. The way to their house is lovely. Every time we go, I look forward to the spot where we crest the mountain and the lights of Salt Lake are spread out before us like a bed of sparkling diamonds. As we descend into the valley, there are several places where the view of the Draper Temple is breathtaking. A little further down we can see the Draper temple, the Jordan River temple and the Ochre Mountain temple at the same time. It's a beautiful drive.

Last night as we reached the summit, something was different. The air was thick with fog, smog, and nasty inversion air. I'd been hearing for several days that the air quality wasn't good but I was unprepared for what I saw.


No lights. No temples. We could hardly see the road in front of us. The darkness was thick and it felt like it was pressing in on us. There was nothing beautiful, nothing bright. There wasn't even anything outside the car to fix your gaze on. It was just this heavy, dark mass. It was unsettling.

As we crawled down the mountain, I became more and more unnerved. I not only missed the beautiful things I looked forward to seeing, I missed seeing anything that gave me perspective. I wanted to see something, anything, that would help me pinpoint where on the mountain we were. And there was nothing.

I thought of Lehi's dream and the mists of darkness. It felt like we were slogging through those very mists and I felt immediately grateful for the spiritual and emotional anchors in my life. My heart breaks for those who can't or won't see the sparkling lights of truth that come from the gospel of Jesus Christ, who feel closed in by those mists and can't get a glimpse of the landmarks that give life perspective, that represent love and peace and eternity.

I felt unsettled by the physical mists last night. How desperate it must feel to have no sight of the big picture before us because of the stifling, suffocating dark mists that surround our spirits.

This week I'm so grateful for my Savior, who is the light that leads our way, who through his life, death and resurrection, burns off the terrible mists of darkness and reveals the plan for our eternal happiness.

This week, let's spend some time reflecting on that baby that was born that night in Bethlehem, who became the light and life of the world.

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Congratulations, Melissa!

Way to go, Melissa! Your gift card is on it's way.

And thank you to everyone who entered to win and to all you who read and follow my blog. I'm very blessed by your associations.

Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope 2012 is a wonderful year filled with elections that make us happy, a recovering economy, and lots of love and delicious food.

A GIVEAWAY - And it's Long Overdue

I've been thinking for some time now that I need to do a giveaway. And what better time than Christmas?

Here's the deal. I'm giving away a $25.00 Amazon gift card. You can use it to help you buy a Kindle, you can buy a book, or really just about anything. If you look around Amazon you'll find clothes, shoes, books, basketballs, video games, home decor--really about anything.

First entry: Leave a comment telling me why you like Christmas (or why you like me--I'll take either one)

Second entry: Follow my blog (and leave another comment)

Third entry: Leave a review of Gifted and/or rating on Goodreads (leave me a comment)

Four entry: Leave a review of Gifted on Amazon (leave me a comment)

Fifth entry: Post about this giveaway on twitter or facebook and leave me a comment (You can do this one every day of the giveaway--just be sure to leave me a comment)

This giveaway will run until Friday, December 16 at midnight.

Thanks and have a Merry Christmas!

Scattered Bits and Pieces

I think this might be the prettiest version of Silent Night ever. I love how it builds throughout the song and the harmonies are incredible.

Sometimes people surprise us. Last night we went to my husband's work Christmas party. There was an ice skating rink and he took his skates. I knew he could skate. He played hockey through high school and I'd seen him roller blade, but I'd never seen him ice skate before. He was amazing. He was weaving in and out of people, skating fast and then coming to a sudden stop while spraying ice all over. It was impressive and it made me sad that life and responsibilities (and the fact that almost every hockey league plays on Sunday) have robbed him of that. It was fun to see him have fun out there.

Savannah got her braces off and her smile is gorgeous. She looks older and I don't really like that. I'm not ready to have my third be fourteen next week. Last week she was fitted with a retainer. Yesterday I took Savannah and Joe grocery shopping. I let them get an ice cream cone and so she took out her retainer and put it on my purse. And then it disappeared. She and I went back to the store and hunted for it for nearly an hour and it's gone. Frustrating but not fatal. She and I will both pay more attention next time.

Speaking of grocery shopping, I hate changing clothes. (I know that didn't sound like it went together at all, but it will all come together, I promise.) I really do hate changing clothes, which is why I usually wear my Sunday clothes all day and why yesterday when we went grocery shopping, I was already dressed for the work Christmas party. I looked pretty cute in a dress and sweater and tights and boots. It was definitely the most stylish grocery shopping attire I've worn in a long, long time. But the tights were ill-fitting and I had to tug on them over and over. As I walked down an aisle filled with people I felt them slip. I didn't care to have a dozen people witness the dance I had to do to hike them back up, so I waited. And then it was too late. By the time I loaded the groceries into the car, the tights were around my knees and I was praying they wouldn't fall any further.

By the way, before I left the store I had a new pair of tights that I changed into before the party. They were much better.

Every year since we had children, we've bought Christmas ornaments year for the kids. They're marked and when the kids get married they'll take their ornaments with them so they don't start out with nothing. It has always made for a pretty but very mismatched tree. Last year, when we hit the after-Christmas sales, the girls asked if we could buy pink and teal and purple and lime green ornaments that were marked down 75% and have a Dr. Seuss looking tree this year. So we did and we love it. I still love all those other ornaments, but we're really enjoying our colorful and matching tree this year.

My Christmas shopping was finished and I was feeling so good about it. Savannah wanted some duck shoes, so I bought some online. The day after I bought them, she came home from a trip to the thrift store with a pair of duck boots that looked brand new. So now I'm not finished. I have to return those and figure out what to get her now. Any suggestions?

I'm an Amazing Race fanatic and during the past two weeks I've suffered two of the biggest disappointments I've faced in all 19 seasons. I wanted Andy and Tommy or Bill and Cathy to win and in the last two weeks, both of those teams were eliminated. Big bummer.

Spray and Wash works best at removing stains. That is according to Savannah's science project. It worked better than Shout or Fels Naptha at removing grape juice, olive oil, ketchup and chocolate.

Speaking of ketchup, why do some people call it catsup? Never understood that.

As long as we're talking about what people call things, I'd like to give an award to whoever came up with the knock-off brand name for Pepto-bismol. Pink Bismuth. Doesn't that just make you long for an upset stomach, just so you can take Pink Bismuth?

And now I think I need to go make some Christmas candy but I'm having trouble deciding if I should make See's fudge or English Toffee. Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to make them both.

Take a Look

I was honored to be asked to do a guest post for Torrie, a friend we used to live by.

Take a look here.

Letter to Homework -- Guest Posting by Missy Stowell

Missy Stowell lives halfway across the country from me. I've never met her face to face, but we've become friends through the internet. I recently read a posting on her blog that sounded like she had taken up residence in my head. She expressed my thoughts exactly. She's graciously allowed me to re-post her letter here.

But first let me tell you how much we loved Thanksgiving break. Savannah had a little work to do on her science project, but other than that, we took a break from homework and it was peaceful, pleasant and fantastic. On Sunday, Joe remembered  he needed to have a book read for his book report this Friday, so he found a book and started reading it. He was loving it, even resisting "lights out" because he wanted to keep reading. Then at school Monday, he found out it had to be a Newbery winner, so he found a book at school and started reading it, setting aside the book that was longer that he was loving. Now read Missy's letter to homework and tell us what you think.

Dear Homework,

I hate you.  There, I said it.  In fact, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! 

I hate how you follow my kids home from school every day.  I hate how you stay way too long and suck the fun out of everything.  I hate how you make my kids feel guilty when they want to spend time with anyone (or anything) else while you’re still here.  I will admit that there have been times I have felt your meaningful contribution to our lives.  Sadly, those times are rare.  Mostly, I just hate you and the black cloud that hangs over my house when you are around.

When you tell my kids they have to read, then they get no enjoyment out of reading.  When you tell them to do math, they complain because they already did math at school.  When you tell them to write, they disappear and try to hide from you and say their tummy hurts and sneak outside because they’d much rather run and play.  But when they come in, you’re still here!  You never take the hint.  I’ve tried to help them get rid of you.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down right next to them to try to help them meet your daily demands.  I’ve colored their maps for social studies. (Since when is Social Studies an art class?)  I’ve helped them brainstorm for papers even when they tell me, “That’s not how my teacher does it!”  If it’s always supposed to be how the teacher does it, then I say let them do it at school where the teacher is!  Actually, I say that even if it’s not always supposed to be how the teacher does it.  So there.

The teacher has my kids for over 7 hours a day.  You know what?  I think that’s enough.  If you always follow them home, when do I get them?  With you here, meal times are always stressful.  With you here, bedtime gets later and later.  Sometimes you even have the nerve to still be here when they wake up in the morning!  When do my kids get to be kids?  When do they get to read for pleasure?  When do they get to be excited about what interests them without having to write a report about it?  An amazing thing happens when you leave them alone:  My kids are curious.  They use their imaginations.  They read and play together and laugh and sing and joke together.  But when you’re here, they fight and cry and yell.  You are a bully.

I hate you.

The Mom

Courage -- It Isn't Always What You Might Think

I recently heard a conversation about courage that got me thinking. We often think the one with courage is the one who stands up and fights. But sometimes it's the one who walks away that shows the most courage. Bluster does not necessarily equal courage.

Sometimes the courageous one is the one who takes a big risk to get ahead. But sometimes the one with courage is the one who puts in the miserable, boring, or backbreaking days just to keep his head above water.

Sometimes the courage is demonstrated by having the guts to get out when it's not what you want. But sometimes the courage is to stay and gut it out.

Sometimes the courage is speaking up and being heard. Sometimes the courage is keeping your mouth shut when what you have to say would make you feel better but would hurt someone else.

Sometimes the courage is shown by making a great sacrifice. Sometimes the courage is shown by demanding what you need.

Sometimes the courage is saying yes, when the task seems too large. Sometimes the courage is saying no when the task is unwise.

Sometimes the one who looks courageous is just foolhardy. Sometimes the one who looks cowardly is only careful.

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Some Things Are Better Left Unknown

I think it's better not to know when you've missed out on the deal of the day. Joe wants K-nex for Christmas. Wootkids had a bundle of four K-nex sets--the Razor, Chomp, Turbo and Spider Moto-bots--for 1/3 the regular price. I excitedly clicked the button to order them and they were sold out. I've been sick about it all day.

I think it's better not to know when an old boyfriend or girlfriend wishes they'd have married you instead. It just raises a bunch of what-ifs that are better left unexplored. And if you didn't know you wouldn't have to feel sorry for them that you don't feel the same.

I think it's better not to know if the milk is on it's last day of "Best by." If I don't know, I can put it my cereal with confidence and not give it another thought. If I do know, I wonder if it's tasting a little off. And in my mind, I can actually make it taste wrong.

I think it's better not to know what you're getting for Christmas. When I was a teenager, I was babysitting my younger brothers and sisters and when most of them were in bed, my brother and I carefully unwrapped and then rewrapped all our presents. It kinda spoiled it for us. We deserved that.

I think it's better not to see the ad on KSL.com for the perfect guitar with a case that is just the color of wood a certain daughter wants for Christmas two minutes after someone else has committed to buy it. I wish I hadn't even seen it.

I really wish I hadn't discovered how yucky it was under my dishwasher. When I didn't know about the filth, I felt like a much cleaner person.

I wish I'd never discovered that a certain someone who I thought was my friend, really didn't like me much. I was blissfully happy being friends and now that I know it wasn't real, it's a bit of a bummer. 

I wish I didn't know about Typing Maniac. The compulsive side of my personality (and it's a pretty big side) wants to hit the 2,000,000 mark and I've wasted way too long trying. I wish I'd never been introduced to that time-suck of a game.

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

I'm Thankful...

For parents who put their money where their mouth is. They don't just tell us we should love the Lord enough to serve him. They go serve him. Next year at this time, they'll be somewhere else, serving another mission. Is it bad to hope they get called to Taiwan?

For sisters who aren't just sisters, but friends. They are women I laugh with, cry with, confide in and love. And since they're all younger than me, it just felt very strange to call them women. To me they'll always be girls.

For seven brothers who are smart, opinionated, entertaining and loud. And not necessarily in that order. 

For my brother-in-laws, sister-in-laws and nieces and nephews. I can't imagine what life would be like without those dozens of additions to our family. (I know the correct way to say it is brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, but I'm rebelling. Because I think that sounds stupid, even if it is right.)

For children who have grown into interesting people I like to be around. When I hear people talk about typical teenagers, I bite my tongue and think dissenting thoughts and then knock on wood. I don't want to jinx myself by saying my teenagers aren't typical, so I just keep my mouth shut. And I won't say it here, either. But I just knocked on wood.

For a husband who is funny, hard-working and likes to decorate more than I do. He's smart and reliable and often amazes me.

For friends, near and far, who stick up for me, celebrate with me, commiserate with me and offer to take me to lunch or get me treats. I'm very blessed.

For another book deal. I'm not a one-hit-wonder (not that I was ever really a wonder) and it feels good. 

For food. Especially during the holidays, but really all the time. Food is good. I like food. I'm supposed to learn to separate food from my emotions, but I can't. Good food makes me happy. It means I have to exercise a lot more than some people, but if that's the price I pay for loving food, I'll pay it.

And because of that...

For my treadmill. So that I don't have to risk life and limb running in the pitch darkness with wild dogs howling in the hills OR risk running in the daylight and subjecting anyone to actually having to see me running. 

For DVR because I hate watching commercials and I love watching an hour's worth of television in 44 minutes. And I love being able to instantly rewind Psych to hear the funny line again. And again. And sometimes again.

For good products for curly hair (really, you should be thankful for that, since it spares any of you the terrifying experience of having to look at me without hair product) and Bare Escentuals makeup, which replaced my goopy foundation more than a decade ago. I love it and if I had to go back to using liquid foundation, I'd probably become a recluse.

For my Kindle because it turns the pages automatically so I can read while I run on the treadmill and lets me have an array of books, including scriptures, with me whereever I go. AND if you have one, Gifted is available for only $4.99 now. Woo hoo!

For Sunday evenings. Because on Sunday evenings here, it's Monday in Taiwan, and that means a letter from Bruce. Funny, spiritual, happy--it just doesn't get any better than that.

For this blog that lets me share, celebrate, rant, and contemplate. Because of this blog, I've met new people, made new friends, and shared my life. It's been one of the best things to come out of getting published. AND I LOVE COMMENTS!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, whether you live here where we celebrate Thanksgiving or somewhere else. I hope you have a happy, thankful day!

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You Don't Have to Agree With Me But Please Be Nice

The Savior told us not to judge each other. I think that means that we don't assume we know each other's motivations or thoughts. We need to realize that we only see what's put out there for us to see. We never truly know the inner workings of a mind or a heart.  We don't know what hurts someone has survived. We don't know where they've been or what trials they've overcome. We can't see their loneliness or their pain. We don't know what life experiences have caused them to make the choices they've made.

Unlike each of us, the Savior is able to see what really is. We can put on our happiest face, but the Savior can see our sorrows. We can hide many of our sins from the world. But the Savior sees them. We can look confident and fashionable and attractive to the world, but the Savior sees our insecurities and our weaknesses. We can surround ourselves with other people, but the Savior knows when we're lonely and desperate.

This week someone decided it was their job to set me straight. They thought they understood my situation enough to call me out and "fix" me. They thought if they talked tough and backed me into a corner, I'd see things their way. They thought it was okay to make hurtful accusations and say belittling things because they were convinced that their way of thinking was right and mine was wrong. They tried to push and prod and squeeze me into the mold they thought was best without knowing what experiences created the shape of my life. My life won't fit into their mold, no matter how much they berate, criticize or judge me.

It hurt. A lot. And it was pointless. It didn't change my mind or convince me I'm wrong. It just made me sad and uncomfortable and it made me want to gather my loved ones close and protect them from the onslaught of criticism and judgment. And it made me thankful that the One I will answer to is the only one who truly knows my heart and why I've made the choices I have.

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Cheaper By the Dozen (Almost)

I often have people ask me what it was like to grow up in such a large family. When I did my blog giveaway asking for blog ideas, that was one of the suggestions--to give some of the details. To tell you everything about growing up in a family the size of ours would take pages and pages, maybe even volumes. But there are a few things that stand out in my mind.

Dad and Mom had wanted a dozen children, but a miscarriage before me and a miscarriage after my youngest brother made that plan impossible. They settled for eleven.

I am the oldest, and therefore, the luckiest. We often joke about how different things were for the younger children. For most of my growing up we lived in the country. At various times we milked cows, gardened, raised pigs, and butchered our own animals. We had to drive into town to go shopping and rode the bus to school. For most of the younger children's lives, they lived in town, walked or drove to school, and bought milk and meat from the grocery store. My own kids have been raised more like my younger brothers and sisters and I'm often struck by how different their lives are from mine.

The younger kids were raised with the luxuries of living in town (I sound like Laura Ingalls Wilder, or something), and there was more money as they grew up. My youngest brother would go grocery shopping with Mom and he'd put whatever he wanted into the cart. AND SHE'D BUY IT! That didn't happen with the rest of us. Things like that might lead you to believe that the younger ones in the family were the lucky ones.

But you'd be wrong.

I got to live at home for eighteen years with younger brothers and sisters. I was rarely alone. I got to stay up late and watch Marcus Welby, M.D. with my Mom. Dad would be at meetings and the rest of the kids would be in bed. But not me because I was the oldest. Sure, I had a good share of responsibilities associated with being the oldest, but I also got to stay home from school and watch younger siblings when Mom would go have a new baby. I loved that. I took pride in making sure that the family was well-cared for and Mom came home to a spotless house. That was a small price to pay for the privilege of missing two or three days of school without having to be sick.

I loved taking my younger brothers and sisters places--to movies, shopping, or other outings.

I loved being able to go to their games, track meets, and concerts. I have all those memories. I was always so proud of my younger brothers and sisters.

Having a family that large had to be hard. My parents worked hard to provide for all of us. Dad taught school and picked up bus-driving jobs, as well as taking care of our little farms. Mom sewed and cooked and made bread. She used cloth diapers that she made herself until the last baby. We didn't eat out much. McDonalds or Wendy's was a rare treat and even then we'd usually split the meals.

We drove large vans and when we'd travel (which we did every summer), people would pass our car and you'd often see them counting as they drove by. We were a curiosity. We always said we should have a sign that said "11 Children" to hold up when someone would drive by counting, but we never did.

Looking back, I realize there were many things that were different because of our large family. I often thought about how tragic it would be if Mom and Dad had stopped at a smaller number. If they'd have stopped at five, I wouldn't have had any sisters. If they'd have stopped at nine, we wouldn't have had the little boys. What a loss it would have been in my life without each of those seven brothers and three sisters.

A smaller family might have meant more material things for us, but we'd have missed out on so much fighting, laundry, work, fun, friends, loyalty and love. I'll never, ever be sorry I was the oldest of eleven children.

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Miscellaneous Musings

It's election day. In a little while I'll go down to the elementary school and exercise my right to vote. I'll also exercise my right to tell some of the candidates I hated the way they campaigned. One candidate stood on my front porch and seemed to want to pick a fight. He told us we were wrong about our views and made assurances he couldn't possibly make and then when I asked him a question that pointed out that his assurances couldn't be guaranteed, he said he'd check on that and get back to me before the election. The election is today and I haven't heard from him. I won't be voting for him.

Speaking of elections, I often wonder why this blessing (the right to vote) becomes such a curse. It so often brings out the worst in people. It's so contentious and often so mean-spirited. I wish we could force the candidates (and those that speak for them) to sit down and talk it out using kind words and inside voices.

I recently read an article that shared Dr. Marc Weissbluth's method of teaching your child proper sleep habits. The article was vehemently against letting your child sleep with you and suggested something called "silent return system." It didn't take me long to know I wanted to have a word with the abuser author. He suggests that you reason with your toddler, telling them that they must stay in bed and that if they get up, you will return them to their bed. You won't look at them and you won't speak to them. You'll speak to them again in the morning. What the &$%@(??? I'm sorry. I think it's wrong. Whether it's bad dreams, fear of the dark, a need be loved and reassured by parents, or whatever--I will gladly err on the side of cuddling, reassuring and loving my kids. My four kids are well beyond the years of stalling, crying, and wanting to sleep with dad and mom. They're normal, well-adjusted children and all I lost was a little sleep. I'll take that any day over losing those nights of giving my children the love and attention they needed. (And may I just point out that some of the parents that are inflicting this horrible system on their kids are then going to their own bed where they're sleeping beside someone. If they get scared or lonely or cold they can snuggle right up. They aren't alone in another room. It's ridiculous.)

I have now finished the Old Testament. I feel very proud of myself. It wasn't easy and there were times I really wanted to forget it and read the New Testament or The Book of Mormon a dozen times instead. But I did it! And maybe I'll do it again when I have another missionary leave to serve. Maybe.

Don't you just love soup when it gets cold outside? I think soup is the best cold-weather meal there is. I love the lentils, beans, noodles, chicken, beef, and vegetables. I love good rolls or biscuits with butter and jam. I still mix it up with regular meals, but if it were up to me, I could eat soup every day from November until March (except Thanksgiving and Christmas, of course).

Am I crazy? My dishwasher broke the first week of August. We've been setting aside a little money every paycheck to replace it. We were getting close. I'd have probably had a new dishwasher in the next couple of weeks. But then it got so cold and we had a snowstorm and running outside became dangerous and scary. We heard what sounded like wild dogs howling not very far away as we ran in the early-morning dark. So we took the money we'd set aside for a dishwasher and we bought a treadmill off KSL.com. I love going downstairs and running in the light. And I can handle a few more months without a dishwasher. I just remind myself that my mom didn't have one until I had moved out of the house--and she had eleven children. I've got it easy!

I have found the house I want to buy. It's interesting. It's beautiful. It's closer to grandparents and cousins. It's completely original. And it doesn't cost a million dollars. Okay, so it costs $995,000. And it's not going to happen in this lifetime. But it's beautiful and I can dream.

And finally, something that has been running through my mind quite often lately. I love my family. I love my hard-working husband who puts up with so much to take care of us. I love my boy who is half-way around the world doing the Lord's work with a happy heart. I love my girl who works hard but can't resist a good book or a good BBC period piece. I love my girl who loves to have fun and always sees the good in people. I love my boy who loves to tell me every detail of everything on his mind and always wants to sit by me when we watch television. I'm very blessed.

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Let This be Your Warning!

I love English Toffee. When I was growing up, my mom made English Toffee. She had an excellent recipe that included butter, almonds chocolate and mouthwatering deliciousness. The flavor combination was exquisite, the tender crunch was so fantastic.

It wasn't an easy recipe. It had to be watched and stirred. It required a candy thermometer and a cold, buttered surface. Once in awhile, the timing would be off and it would be chewy and would stick to your teeth. Or it might be too crumbly and sugary. But when it was timed just right, it was perfection.

When we lived in Colorado we found a place in Grand Junction called Enstrom's. They made toffee that tasted like mom's perfect batches. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth the occasional splurge and they gave away samples.

I was at Costco on Monday and saw that they had English Toffee made with real butter. I wanted to try it. I don't know why I wanted to try it. If it was good, I've given myself one more temptation I have to control. If it wasn't good, I'm out ten bucks. I should have left it on the shelf.

I really should have.


Because it was delicious. It was tender, buttery, chocolaty, almondy and irresistible.

It's gone now and every time I go to Costco I'll have to avoid looking that direction.

You've been warned. Don't try it. It's delicious and you'll have trouble leaving it alone. You might find yourself eating most of a jar and having to buy another one to replace it to prevent your family from knowing that while they were at school and work, you ate WAAAAY too many of them.

I'm not saying that happened to me. I'm just saying it might happen to you.

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Give Til It Hurts!

As you can see from the flyer above and the new donation widget on my sidebar, I'm encouraging all of us to get a jump on the upcoming season of giving and start giving now. If we give now, it might still hurt a little, but it won't hurt quite as much as if we're asked to give in sixty or so days.

There is much good to be done in the world and if we'll all do a little, we'll be able to collectively give a lot.

So give a few dollars and help send a single parent to school and take your honey or your kiddo or your friend and enjoy an evening of live music and give a little to help a couple create a family. Let's all do something.

Halloween Makes Me Witchy--Eight Things I Hate About Halloween

First, let me apologize. I know many of you love Halloween. To you it's fun. You like the candy, the creativity, the scariness. I just don't share your enthusiasm. Of every holiday known to man, Halloween is at the bottom of my list of favorites. I'd rather celebrate Panama's Colon Day, even though I don't know what that is and the word Colon is scarier than anything Halloween has to offer.

So don't hate me for hating Halloween. If you love it, let's just agree to disagree.

But here's why I hate it.

1. I don't think we need a holiday whose primary purpose is to fill our children (and ourselves) with cheap candy. No one gives out See's for Halloween.

2. I hate gore. I hate the fake wounds, the blood, the weapons protruding from bodies. Yuck.

3. I hate the whole idea of sending my kids out threatening their neighbors. Essentially, they're saying "Give me a treat or I'm going to play a trick on you." When we were first married, we gave out the treats and still had the trick played on us when  a tacky yard statue was stolen from our front yard. (I wasn't sorry to have it gone. I didn't like it at all. But it's the principle, right?)

4. Halloween is just an excuse for moviemakers to make disgusting, gory, stupid movies that revolve around promiscuous teenagers that scream a lot, then walk toward the danger instead of running away like a person with a brain would, and horrible villains that keep coming back even though they should be dead. They just won't die. Ever. So you never know when the stupid, storyless movie will actually end.

5. Halloween is an excuse for women to dress like sluts. Naughty nurses, trampy flight attendants, medieval wenches, cleavage-bearing cowgirls, and more. Just browse women's costumes online and you can practically see a p0rn show. Actually, please don't browse them. And steer clear of most adult Halloween parties so  you can keep your mind out of the gutter.

6. While I'm on the subject of costumes, let me tell you how much I hate having to come up with costumes for my kids. It's always an issue. It has to be clever, humorous, fun to wear, safe, something their friends will think is cool, and cheap. Is there a costume out there that meets all these requirements? I don't think so. And yet,  every year I'm supposed to perform this miracle.

7. I don't like people's irrational attachment to the holiday. Here's what I mean. Three years ago we were in total chaos. We were trying to sell two houses, we were finishing the house we'd just purchased, we were living on the floor of my sister's house, trying to keep kids caught up in school without the internet or a computer and printer. It was a trying time.

We didn't want to deal with the hassle of Halloween, so we offered our kids $20.00 to skip the holiday altogether. They accepted so on Halloween night, some of us spent the evening at Ikea buying sinks and fixtures and the rest of the family stayed at the house, doing construction cleanup. My husband took my eight-year-old son (who was $20.00 richer than he'd been the day before) to the gas station. He took Joe in with him to buy a candy bar.

As they waited in line, a woman behind them said, "You'd get a lot more candy than that if you went trick or treating tonight." My eight-year-old said, "We're not doing Halloween this year. My parents are paying me $20.00 to skip it."

There was a collective gasp from everyone who had heard, a few people shook their heads and one man said, "That's just not cool at all." What? You'd have thought my son had just said, "My parents tie me to a chair, turn on bright lights and loud music and then shove toothpicks up my fingernails."

Giving your kids $20.00 to skip Halloween is not child abuse!

8. I don't like spook houses/spook alleys or anything like them. They're silly at best and traumatic at worst. When Savannah was nine, we were walking by a spook alley at Lagoon when a man with a pig face and chains hanging off him came up to her in a crouched position, made ugly grunting noises and then turned on a chainsaw practically in her face. We hadn't even gone into the actual spook house. We were just walking by it. She was terrified and started screaming and crying. I took her over to a bench and sat down holding her while she clung to me, inconsolable. At that point, the man, who wasn't really a pig, felt terrible. He turned off the chainsaw and followed us to the bench where he leaned over us, still in the pig face with chains hanging off him. He said, "Don't be scared. I'm not really a pig. I won't hurt you."

It didn't work and I finally had to order the pig/man to leave.

There you have it. That's why I feel the way I do about Halloween. I'll still try to find something for my kids to wear (the ones who still want to dress up) and I'll still give out candy at the front door with a smile.

But inside, I'll be counting the minutes until October 31 is over and November has arrived--the month of wedding anniversaries and Thanksgiving.

I love November.

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Some Thoughts on the Stealing of My Daughter

Today I read this article from The New York Times. I'd recommend having a kleenex handy if you read it.

It was particularly poignant because of my frustrations with all this "preparing for the future" stuff.

I understand the importance of thinking and preparing for the future and I don't for a moment envy this mother or any others who have no future to prepare for. I only wish that somehow I could harness that "live for the moment and enjoy your children right now" attitude and enjoy it in our lives.

But we can't because our children have to prepare for the future.

I try my hardest not to overschedule my kids' lives. When Elder Oaks gave his "Good, Better and Best" talk in conference, I listened and rejoiced. But I wasn't the only one who needed to hear that talk. Every school teacher needed to hear it and apply it in their classrooms, as well.

We've been really blessed with smart kids. Smarter than we are and smarter than we deserved. All of our kids (especially the older ones to whom this applies more) realize that college is expensive and that good grades will lead to money which will lead to college. So they work hard in order to have that blessing.

But that hard work isn't just accomplished in school. Much of it is accomplished at home. And that load of work that is done at home is sometimes too heavy to carry.

Too often, I think homework is given because teachers think they're SUPPOSED to give homework. Some of the homework my kids bring home seems to have little to do with actually improving skills and learning. Much of it is busy work, meant to teach kids responsibility. I'd contend that I, their mother, can teach them responsibility better than a teacher who's trying to teach a couple hundred students responsibility. I can teach them to work. I can teach them to serve. I can teach them that there's joy in resting after a job is done well. I can teach them about values and character and love. But I can only do these things if they have time in their busy schedules for us to BE TOGETHER.

Unfortunately, there's not enough time in the day for me to talk to my daughters while we fold clothes or cook dinner or go grocery shopping together. This time together is why I love summer so much and dread the start of the school year.

In order to succeed in the future (get the grades to get the scholarships) they have to be dedicated to school work. Hours and hours of it. Veronica got home at 2:30 today and with the exception of about 45 minutes, did homework until nearly 10:30. I'd understand this if it were isolated to the occasional big project, or if she were a procrastinator, but unfortunately, this evening is repeated far too often.

Please tell me how she's supposed to keep up with the homework so she can keep her good grades, have time to work a few hours every week, practice piano, read something for pleasure, have a modest social life, fulfill church obligations, shower, do her personal progress, and still find time to sleep.


I want to say, "FORGET IT. DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. JUST DO WHAT YOU WANT FOR AWHILE AND EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT." But if her goal is college, forgetting it won't make it work out.

I sat down with her a few weeks ago because she had so much she was trying to fit into her life. We made her a schedule so she could get through each day without being overwhelmed. It included things like scholarship research, study for the ACT, finish Personal Progress, Read Scriptures, apply to colleges, practice piano, work at Great Harvest, go to the temple, write to Grandma and her brother who's on his mission, clean her room, and several more things. And all of these were in addition to the regular homework given out every, single day in her classes.

She's a senior. I'm down to less than a year of her still being my girl and living with us. And we're being robbed of this time.

I'd like her to have time to breathe, to play, to read something besides assignments, to attend her brother's basketball game, to spend an evening gabbing and painting nails with a friend, to spend time with her family, to go to a Young Women's activity without having to worry about the homework that isn't getting done.

I either want much less homework or more hours in the day.

Life should include some living, not just homework.

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Move On!

There is advice I've heard over and over about writing--Once you send in a manuscript, get started on the next one.

There are several reasons to do this, but one of the most important reasons is that it keeps you from dwelling, obsessing, and wondering about the one that's been turned in.

A week ago Friday, I sent in the manuscript for For What It's Worth. I love this book. I think it's good. I really, REALLY want it published. But right now it's out of my hands.

The day after I took it in, I started The Husbandmaker. And I'm having a blast. I'm excited to write and I can't wait until I have the house in order enough to sit down and get at it. I won't deny that I've thought about For What It's Worth a few times this week and hoped my editor was enjoying it. But it wasn't the project that occupied my mind. It wasn't what had my creative juices flowing and it wasn't my focus.

I've thought about how this same principle applies in so many things. When we obsess or dwell on what's done, we rob ourselves of what could be happening right now.

If we spend all our time reliving the past--good or bad--we aren't really living in the present. We've all seen someone whose high school glory days keep them stuck. Uncle Rico comes to mind, but so do other people who aren't fictitious. They relive a past love, a heartbreak, the big game, or a great success from sometime in the past instead of creating and nurturing a new love, trying something new, or creating a new success.

Memories can be wonderful things. We can pull them out and enjoy them and they can make us smile. But then we need to tuck them back in our life's scrapbook, put them away, and LIVE our lives right now.

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I find the courage to stand up for what you believe very attractive.

I've liked Brandon Flowers and The Killers for years. This made me like him even more.

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Wow! Just Wow!

Have you ever had an experience where Heavenly Father sent you a message? A personal, finger pointing at you "this is for you, so pay attention," message?

Well, that happened today. It happened to me and another member of my family today at church and there is no question--I mean ZERO question--that Heavenly Father was speaking to us.

I was angry today. Really upset. The kind of upset where I spent most of the night awake, plotting how I was going to vent my anger at the right person (people). I'm not going to go into details about what happened because it was so hurtful and I can't voice it, even with my blog voice. But trust me when I say the anger and the hurt we felt was justified and the behavior that caused that anger and hurt was completely unnecessary, unwarranted and mean-spirited.

This morning was difficult. I still felt protective and upset. I don't take it well when those I love suffer at the hands of other people.

Sacrament meeting was good--a couple of good talks and a nice musical number. But during church, I still thought about how I was going to make my anger known to the right people, how I would make them understand how awful they had behaved. And I wasn't the only one. The other member of my family was hurting--the kind of hurt that manifests itself in anger. Except for every once in awhile, when the hurt overcomes the anger, and a lip quivers or tears fill the corners of one's eyes. And when I saw that happen several times, my own anger grew.

And then the meeting was ending and the bishop leaned over to the one who was conducting and whispered something. And then the bishop stood and said, "I know the meeting needs to end when the meeting should end. But I also know that sometimes something needs to be said and I don't know why, but today, for some reason, I'm supposed to share this with you." And then he shared Doctrine and Covenants 64: 9-11:

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to aforgive one another; for he that bforgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
 10 I, the Lord, will aforgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to bforgive all men.
 11 And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God ajudge between me and thee, and breward thee according to thy cdeeds.
And we were stunned. We looked at each other and cried. And then we knew that Heavenly Father didn't want us to carry the greater sin because of our anger. He wanted us to forgive so that there wouldn't be in us the greater sin.
And we knew that Heavenly Father had sent us a clear message. And because of that, we knew he loves us.

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No Offense to Eggies, but God Did Eggs Right the First Time

My husband is a sucker for a "good deal" and for interesting gadgets. Many times he's brought home some silly thing that looks like a good idea in theory but in actuality, it's just a waste.

But never has he come home with something more ridiculous than the Eggies. Maybe you've been up late with sick children or a nasty case of insomnia and you've seen the infomercial.

The idea is that you can have boiled eggs without having to deal with the "hassle" of peeling the shells of the hard-boiled eggs. Let me tell you what you deal with instead of the shells.

First, you crack the eggs into the little plastic case and put the lid on. Then you carefully put them in the boiling water. Be careful. After the eggs have cooked, you simply untwist the plastic egg case and there's your cooked egg. No shells to peel straight into the garbage.

Instead, you get to clean them. And we all know how easily egg comes off dishes. So I scrubbed each little piece. There was egg residue on each piece including in the little creases. It was difficult to get all the egg out.

Travis boiled six eggies. I could have peeled six eggs in two or three minutes tops. As it was, I spent seven or eight minutes cleaning the eggies.

And then I had to figure out where to store them.

Definitely not worth the hassle. Or the money.  No matter how good the deal was.

(Image from http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41qY%2BxBXc8L._SL500_SX300_SY390_CR,0,0,300,390_.jpg)

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Last Week, I...

Made a huge pan of corn chowder. I love good soup.

Visited my son's classroom and talked about being an author. The children were attentive, respectful and curious. Joe looked so proud of me that I almost choked up. It was so much fun.

Melted down twelve pounds of white chocolate and made Bountiful temple candies for my nephew's wedding dinner and reception. Congratulations Richard and Haley.

Wrote two blog postings and three letters.

Re-wrote thirty pages of my book.

Ran eight miles (not in a row and not very fast).

Watched The Amazing Race, most of Project Runway, Pioneer Woman, most of The Sing-Off and part of The X-Factor. I had to turn away during part of The X-Factor. I find the judges so nauseating that I almost threw up a little.

Gasped when it snowed. It's too early to be snowing. I want Autumn to last for three months, like it does on the calendar.

Watched Elder Holland's Priesthood session talk with my family. It made up for not being able to see him speak during the sessions I watched.

Pinned some recipes that look mouthwatering on my Pinterest Boards. If only I could make them as easily and inexpensively as I pin them.

Laughed at several golfers out my back window who lost their ball in the water and still spent way too long hunting for it in the water's edge. Sometimes I holler back there and tell them their ball went in the water. This time I just watched and laughed.

Turned the heat on. As I sat and wrote, my fingers and nose were freezing. I can layer with sweaters and jackets and hats, but I can't type with my hands in gloves and I can't see when a scarf is wrapped around my nose. I had to give in.

Felt: joyful when I got Bruce's letter, excited when Veronica got her "yes" response to Sadie's, happy when I saw Savannah's excitement about her guitar lesson, disappointed that I missed Joe's spectacular football game, thrilled when our friend Skyler went into the MTC, proud at parent/teacher conferences, annoyed when I heard about junk my husband deals with at work, and thankful every night that my family was safe and accounted for.

Why I'm not an Atheist

A few days ago, I was browsing on Amazon and I came across a book called I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. The title caught my attention and I read more about the book. It sounds interesting and at some point, I'd like to read it. But not because I need help believing in God. I believe in God and in his son, Jesus Christ.

Some don't think that's rational. There are those that think I'm deluded or superstitious. Bill Maher thinks I'm a crazy fool and Richard Dawkins thinks I'm stupid and uneducated. They think that if you believe in God, you're defying science and reason and logic.

I disagree. I think believing in God is perfectly reasonable and that once science has uncovered all of the secrets and systems of the universe, believing in God will be indisputable and will be possible logically and scientifically. Until then, my belief is based on faith and a few other things.

I believe in God because:

--It isn't reasonable to me that the complexities of the universe just "happened." Every tree, every flower, the seasons, the stars, the rotations of the planets, and more is too orderly, too beautiful, too wonderful to have happened by accident. Running into an old friend at the grocery store is a happy accident. The creation of the earth is not.

--The structure of the family is too perfect, in spite of its imperfections. What I mean is that despite human nature and imperfect people, the family is in almost every instance the best place for nurturing, loving, and teaching our young to be good adults. Only a loving Heavenly Father could come up with a core societal structure as wonderful as a good family.

--He gives us his word in scriptures and messages from prophets. In so many ways, he guides and teaches and nudges us. Last weekend, as the prophet and apostles spoke, I knew. I knew I was learning truth and that truth comes from my Father in Heaven.

--Because of his ability to let us choose. He knows some won't choose his way, and yet he has total confidence in the decision to let us choose. Anything less than God would struggle with the principle of agency. Most of us have a tendency to want to force good choices on others, to manipulate or step in so that others make the right choice. We especially have that desire with regard to our children. But Heavenly Father (whose children we are) lets us choose and even though it's probably heartbreaking to see the children he loves make bad choices, he's confident and secure enough in his ultimate plan (the big picture) that he gives us the privilege of making our own choices.

--To me, just about everything around me proves there is a God. Piece by piece, flower by flower, person by person, emotion by emotion, line by line, I'm convinced that God exists and that he loves us.

In The Book of Mormon, Korihor was an anti-Christ. I'm not sure if today he would call himself an atheist or an agnostic, but he didn't believe in God and he tried to convince those that did believe that they were fools. He told Alma, the prophet, that if God would show him a sign, he'd believe.

"But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."                                                    Alma: 30:44

If we feel we need a sign to believe, all we have to do is open our eyes and our hearts. The signs are everywhere.

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