Seven Top Fives - A Random Post

Five Things That Annoy Me (in no particular order)

Itchy Skin
Joe Biden
School starting in August

Five Things That Make Me Sad

School Starting in August
Unkind school teachers
My children leaving home
Movies I can't see because of too much crap
Missing my missionaries

Five Things That Inspire Me

Missionaries who sacrifice to serve
Christ and the New Covenant by Jeffery Holland (I'm reading it again)
Political speeches that mean something (Ann Romney, Mia Love, Chris Christie)
My family
President Monson

Five Times I Scored BIG

When we got to stand on the lawn outside a church visiting with President Monson
When my first book got picked up for publication
When John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting) invited me to sit on the front row of his concert.
When I married my husband
When I had my children

Five Things I'm Looking Forward To

Pizza Pie Cafe opening in Bountiful
My missionaries getting home
The For What It's Worth Launch Party at The King's English (it's December 5--mark your calendars 'cause you're invited)
School getting out for the summer (I know! I know!)
Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney's speeches

Five Places I Want to Go

The British Isles
The tulip fields of Holland and Denmark in the spring
The fjords of Norway
The Canary Islands

Five Things That Make Me Happy

A clean house
Kind Schoolteachers who love my children
Texts that say "Good night. I love you."
Letters from Taiwan and Canada

Is There a Place for Teasing & Sarcasm?

When I was at Ricks College (yeah, I'm that old), my psychology professor taught an entire unit on teasing and sarcasm. It was his opinion that there is no place for teasing and sarcasm--that no matter how harmless it may seem to us, the person we're teasing or being sarcastic toward could suffer emotionally.

His across-the-board denouncement of teasing and sarcasm was not easily accepted by the class and examples were given of times when teasing and sarcasm were used in good humor, as a sign of affection and even as a way some people bond.

I understood what the professor was saying. I'd experienced times when I'd laughed while being teased when inside, I was trying not to cry. But I also had personal examples where sarcasm and teasing were done out of love--my family teased me about many things. Even though my grandpa was sarcastic, we knew he still loved us. I've been known to be pretty sarcastic and I sometimes tease. Sometimes my sarcasm is in the course of a debate or disagreement, but more often, I mean it in humor. Because it doesn't seem like an issue that can be classified as completely right or completely wrong, I haven't spent much time thinking about it. Until last week.

Last week my children started school. Joe, my child who loves school more than any of my children and has had perfect attendance the past three years, came home on the first day a little upset. He told me of a situation where the teacher, who had never met Joe before that day, singled him out, calling attention to him in a negative way because she "likes to embarrass kids." I asked him if she was joking and he said, "I don't know. I hope so." The second day was worse, with Joe being singled out again in a situation that caused him to sit at his desk, with his head down, crying. Twice. Not a comfortable position for a 6th grade boy.

As I've dealt with this situation, I've been told by more than one person that this teacher is sarcastic and likes to tease the children. That's why she chooses to teach the older elementary grades.

In fairness, I should say that the third and fourth days of school were great and Joe came home very happy. Were the first two days just his 6th grade hazing and now that that's over we can all move ahead?

But what about those first two days? And what about teasing and sarcasm? If you're prone to those behaviors, should there be some ground rules--there must be a certain level of familiarity or not with children younger than a certain age? Is there a place for it? Is this a chance for Joe to develop a thicker skin and is it a good thing?

Or is there no place for it?

Please tell me what you think. I'd really like your opinions.

I Left My Heart... In Provo

 My grown up girl.
Today we moved Veronica into her apartment. We cleaned and organized and unpacked. We decorated with the second-hand treasures she and her roommate had found over the past few months. It was a fun day.

Until we said goodbye.

my head hurts
my jaws hurt
my heart hurts

In my head I know this is right,
But my heart isn't convinced.

Please don't tell me it's close. I know exactly how many miles it is from her apartment to my front door. I know she could be further away. But tonight it might as well be halfway around the world.

She isn't here.
I won't kiss her goodnight tonight.

I want to the one who hears about school and work every day.
I want to be the one whose shoulder she cries on.
I want to watch movies with her and discuss books.
I want to hear her walk in laughing with Joe.
I want to watch her dance with Savannah.
I want to be the one she cooks with, cleans with, and shops with.
I want to teach primary with her.

And yet I want her to grow and experience new things.
I want her to meet new people.
I want her to have fun and stretch and feel confident and accomplished.

It's impossible for her to have the things I want for her future if I keep her close to do the things I'm going to miss so much.

So I'll patch up my heart and cheer her on with a smile on my face, a prayer in my heart, and occasionally tears in my eyes.

Motives - The "Why" for What We Do

The last few days I've thought a lot about what motivates us to do what we do. There are the easy ones: I work to support my family. I exercise to be healthy. I clean so I don't live in a pigpen.

But what motivates us to be who we are and do what we do? This is something writers have to think about. Right now I'm writing a character who does some things that make me shake my head or roll my eyes. But her actions--crazy as they may seem--are completely understandable when you look at her past and what motivates her.

Each of us, even our fictional characters, have a history. Sure, the writer creates that history for the fictional character, but without that history, the character floats in a land of unbelievability. She doesn't ring true. What she does doesn't make sense without that anchor of back story.

Our back story is just as important. When we understand someone's back story we have a better understanding of what motivates them and why they do what they do. Understanding those motives makes things that might seem incomprehensible make more sense.

When we see someone doing something that makes us shudder, we need to remember that if we knew their back story, we might understand their actions. We might still need to take a stand against those actions or speak out in an effort to spare the damage their actions are causing, but it might help us do it in a more effective way.

Happy Things

My goal this next week is to focus on happy things. It's a little challenging. I miss my son who's in Taiwan until the end of January. I miss my parents who are in Canada until February. I'm already missing my daughter, who leaves for college a week from today. And I'm not at all happy that school is starting next Tuesday when most of our cousins aren't starting until after Labor Day. If I think too much about these things, I end up sad and I don't want this next week filled with doom and gloom. So here are some happy things think about.

I have a husband who could be a stand-up comedian. Last night, the daughter who's headed off to college had a rough evening with many tears shed. To cheer her up, my husband combed his hair into a serial killer style and then modeled for her. It was scary and hilarious and did the trick. It made her smile.

There are three hummingbirds that hang out around my back window, furiously flapping their wings and hovering there. We have window tinting on those windows and so during the day, they serve as mirrors outside. I think those little birds like looking at themselves, which makes it so I can look at them while I'm writing.

I have a fun book I'm writing right now and the ideas are coming almost faster than I can keep up with them. No anguish and no pulling my hair out. It's the funnest kind of writing.

I have a new haircut and I like it. Thanks Courtney.

My second daughter has finally decided she likes period romances. After years of leaving "those boring shows" to my oldest daughter and me, she now wants to join us. Lately we've watched Northanger Abbey and two versions of Mansfield Park. (The Jonny Lee Miller version from 1999 is far superior to the 2007 version.)

My youngest son has the best laugh in the world. There may be some of you who would disagree, but you'd be wrong. And lucky for me, he laughs all the time.

We're having layered chicken nachos for dinner tonight. Everyone in the family likes them. That always makes me happy.

Upping Your Game - Lessons from The New Testament

The goal was to read the standard works while Bruce is on his mission. That's around 2,500 pages of reading and let's face it. It's more like Tolstoy than Seuss. Well, Bruce has a little less than six months left and I'm finished.
Here are a few observations and lessons from this trip through The New Testament.

Each of the four gospels had a distinct voice.This strengthens my faith in the Savior because I see how these different men saw some of the same events.

I understood some of the parables better than last time I read the New Testament. I tried to put myself in the sandals of those who were seeing miracles performed.

I was really struck by the change in the apostles after Jesus's death.

When Jesus was among them, they relied on him for everything. They asked some silly questions. They had the Savior of the World on board their boat, but they got afraid of the storm. They walked on water and then doubted and sank, they slept when they were asked to stay awake. They denied the Savior even though they knew him and what he was. They betrayed him for money.

And yet, these apostles who were just men, with the weaknesses and failings of human nature, seemed to change when he was no longer with them. They upped their game. The responsibility of the leadership of the church and the preaching of the gospel was now theirs and they did it. They rose to the occasion and demonstrated incredible faith and courage. They still faced prison, opposition, angry mobs and enormous challenges, but they met all of those with resolve and determination.

I think that's inspiring. It gives me hope that I can be more tomorrow than I am now. Today's weakness can become strong. I can up my game. I can become a better person. 

Real Beauty vs. the World's Beauty

“I've got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don't want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I'd rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before 'thin'. And frankly, I'd rather they didn't give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls.”  -J.K. Rowling

I was going to add a picture to this post. I Googled "thin supermodels" because I wanted to be fair. I knew if I Googled "anorexic supermodels" I'd get an unfairly skinny assortment of girls. What I found was still shocking and it made me sad. I found girls who have traded health and vitality for a super skinny body.

The hazard of writing this is that those who are really thin will possibly disregard this entirely because they may think I'm just jealous. After all, isn't it a given that those of us who are at the other end of the spectrum would rather be really thin than where we are right now?

The answer to that is, "NO!" And I speak from living both sides of the weight issue.

I weighed 103 lbs when I left on my mission and 112 lbs when I got married. I'm 5'6". I could give you the overused lines that are uttered by those who are super-thin. I could tell you I was really active or that no matter what I did, I couldn't gain weight. I could tell you I ate all the time and that was just the place my body felt its best. I could tell you those things but they wouldn't be any more true than if I tried to tell you I'm at my ideal body weight right now. In a perfect world, I'd be somewhere between there and here. 

But honestly, I don't want to talk about where I am or where I should be or where I once was because it misses the point entirely. 

The point is that our bodies are miracles--plain and simple. They weren't given to us for the purpose of looking "hot" or "sexy." Their primary purpose isn't to be a certain weight or size. Our body's purpose is to house our spirit, to give us experiences and lessons that require a physical body. They are to help us learn patience and self-mastery. 

I want my daughters to be healthy and happy and I want them to understand that health and happiness aren't related at all to being skinny. There are healthy and happy people all along the weight spectrum and there are sickly and miserable people in every area as well.

What makes a person healthy? Eating well and being active, certainly, although doctors will attest that even those things don't assure a certain size or build. 

But what makes a person happy? That's a whole other thing.

Happiness comes from having a purpose, from thinking of others, from being comfortable with who you are. It comes from creativity and reaching goals. It comes from unselfish service and a knowledge that we have a Heavenly Father and a Savior who love us, whether we're thin or not, whether we have flawless skin or not, whether we're considered beautiful or not. 

J.K. Rowling got it right when she said, speaking of her daughters, "I don't want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I'd rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before 'thin'. "

It isn't easy to keep a clear perspective in this superficial, media-driven world, but this I know. When my children (daughters AND sons) remember what I taught them, I hope they remember that I taught them to use their minds and their hearts, to love and serve others and to recognize that they're worthy of the love and respect of others. I hope they remember that I taught them to create good things, to love themselves like I love them and to be kind and patient with themselves and others. I want them to recognize the beauty in the souls around them, not just the beauty in the bodies around them.

A Giveaway of One of My Favorite Things

Remember when Oprah would have her "Favorite Things" episode. I only watched Oprah sporadically and never cared if I attended a live taping, except for that annual episode. And who wouldn't want to be there? Lotions, pajamas, electronics, giant bath towels and exotic food all handed out to the audience. With the exception of the car debacle, the "Favorite Things" episodes were the best thing for television viewers since a young Pierce Brosnan stepped into the fictional shoes of Remington Steele.

Even though I've posted some of my favorite things before, I've never offered samples of each of my favorite things to you, my internet audience. Today is a little different. Just pretend you're sitting in my cyber audience and I tell you my favorite lip treatment is C.O. Bigelow Ultra Mentha Lip Shine. It's moisturizing, it's tingly, it lasts a long time. I love it. Now, imagine a couple dozen cute young people scattered throughout the audience. They're holding baskets of my favorite lip shine tied with cute, ivory bows and they're handing one to each and every one of you.

Well, that's not happening. The baskets are all empty, save one. One cute guy with dark hair and a slightly crooked smile is holding one lip treatment. Without a bow. One person will get it. Sorry in advance to the rest of you.

That's my version of a favorite things giveaway. Leave me a comment telling me one of your favorite things and you'll be entered to win the lip treatment. Follow me for another entry. Follow my attempts to tweet something clever and you'll receive another. Like the For What It's Worth page on Facebook and get another. Tweet about the giveaway for one more. Arrange for Brandon Flowers and his family to stop by for ice cream and an acoustic set and you'll receive a whopping 25 entries. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Is There an App for That?

I was at the Apple Store with my kids on Monday and one of the men in blue shirts was talking to a customer behind me. They were discussing apps for his i-phone. The Apple man said, "We've got apps for just about everything."

I don't have an i-phone, a smart-phone or any phone that can support apps. My phone barely supports texts. But if one of those fancy phones that support apps can truly do just about everything, I might be willing to invest.

I looked up some apps to see what was available and discovered that I can get help cheating on a Rubik's Cube, I can track the Olympics including the medal counts, I can learn guitar chords, check my blood alcohol level (if I drank), and I can even warm up my hands. All very exciting but not very tempting.

What I'd really like to see is an app that cleans toilets.

Or how about an app that picks up dog poop.

I'd love an app shaves my legs or weeds my flowers.

Maybe someone could invent an app that rearranges furniture or that gets a primary class to be reverent, or trims your toenails.

I'd love an app that puts the clothes away. I'm pretty good at the sorting, washing, drying and folding, but somewhere between folding and putting away, I often lose interest.

Maybe there's an app full of clever 140 character quips I could use on twitter to make me sound more witty than I am. 

Oh well. I can't afford an i-phone anyway, so I'll just keep performing my own apps.

What would you like an app for?