It's Been a Year

Happy Anniversary, Will and Kate.

I admit it. I watched several hours of wedding festivities last year. They called it the wedding of the century and although I think that's a little premature, I must admit, I was starry-eyed.

First of all, I've liked William for a long time. He handles himself with dignity and in spite of the paparazzi nipping at his heels, he's managed to stay pretty free of controversy. Then he picked Kate. A commoner. A stunning commoner, but still a commoner.  That makes me think he's pretty level-headed.

Then there's Kate. During their courtship, when he had a bout of cold feet, she didn't wallow or cling, even though there was a prince (and probably future king) at stake. She moved on. Lucky for him, he got smart before someone else won her heart.

And then there's her dress--elegant, classy, tasteful, modest, flattering. She looked breathtaking. She looked anything but common.

I hope they have more happiness and fidelity than many royals before them have experienced. I hope they're always as happy as they looked that day.

And I can't wait to see what their children look like.

Basketball

By now most of you know I love basketball.

LOVE IT!

For me it's entertainment. It's a chance to put things aside and sit down with my family to watch a game. 

I love the Jazz.

LOVE THEM! I love their teamwork. I love that there isn't a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James on the team. I love that instead of jealousy I see guys that pass the ball and are happy when someone else has a breakout game. I like that they seem to be friends. I like that when they're winning, Coach Corban doesn't sweat as much. I like that the old guys are teaching the young guys. 

I'm excited that they made it to the playoffs and I'd love to extend the Jazz season by a few more weeks.

Go Jazz!


Bits and Pieces

TWENTY-seven years ago today. Love you and miss you, Bruce.

MY CONFESSION: Many of you have asked me about my half marathon. It didn't happen. Four of us were planning to run together and during the last six weeks of training, two of our group were sidelined with injuries. So that we could all do it together, we opted to do the 5K instead. Confession within a confession: I was relieved. During all my training, the most I'd run was 8 miles and that was really hard. If everyone had been able to do the half, I'd have certainly given it a go, but as it was, we had an enjoyable 5K run together. We'd have opted for a 10K but they didn't have one. Oh well. There will be other races later.

I'M HAVING a love/hate relationship with spring this year. I love the flowers. The trees are as beautiful as I've ever seen them. They've re-filled the pond behind our house. All is lovely.

However, the allergies are laying me out. I have a never-ending headache, I have Bill Clinton puffy bags under my eyes, my sneezes are scaring small children and hurting dog's ears, and my eyes feel like I've been swimming in poison oak tea.

WHEN RON ARTEST changed his name to Meta World Peace, he may have been trying to leave the demons of his violent past behind. Unfortunately for him (and especially for JamesHarden) the name change didn't actually change who he was. If all it would take is a name change, I'd change my name to Gorgeous Organized Best-seller. You could call me Gorgeous for short.



MY FRIEND MISSY posted this video and I wanted to share it with you. I know it's twelve minutes long, but if you're interested in happiness, you might want to invest that twelve minutes. I thought it was excellent and it's going to be part of our Family Home Evening this week. I'm going to use the tips he suggests and you watch, in 21 days, I'm going to be bursting with happiness.

Ouch!

A couple of months ago, Bruce (our 20-year old son who is serving a mission for our church in Taiwan), wrote home asking what our thoughts were on his release date. Because he left on his mission on January 5, his group of missionaries had to choose whether to come home on December 18 or January 28. We're only talking six weeks here, but those six weeks were pretty loaded.

He'd either be home for Christmas or he wouldn't.
He'd be back in time for winter semester or he wouldn't.
He'd be in Taiwan for only one Chinese New Year or he'd be there for two.

His Dad and I, who both served missions, gave him our thoughts. Coming home in December had some practical and emotional advantages, but we didn't want him to have any regrets. If he stayed, he'd get home around the same time as his grandparents (who are serving in Canada) and they'd be able to attend each other's homecomings. If he stayed, he wouldn't feel so rushed making his educational decisions. If he stayed, he'd meet so many more people and we'd have six more of the letters that thrill and inspire us each week.

Of course, we'd love to have him home for Christmas and getting back into school right away would be a good thing, as well.

Ultimately, we left it up to him to pray about it and make his decision and then we began praying that he'd make the decision that would be best for him in his life.

He decided to come home for Christmas and get back into school. But after praying about that choice, he felt uneasy. So for several weeks, he reconsidered and then decided to stay. This time he felt it was right, and although he was the only one of his group who made the same decision, he chose to stay until the end of January.

He told us in his letter this week and even though it's what I'd privately thought he'd choose, and I thought it was a good choice, it bowled me over. When it became a reality instead of a possibility, I felt a pain in my heart and I cried. The kids asked what was wrong and when I told them, they chastised me. "But Mom, that's what you thought he should do. Why are you crying about it?"

The answer is simple. I miss him. And even if it is the right thing, it's still a hard thing. The missing has felt a little sharper the last few days. The tears I've shed are only partly from allergies. And yesterday, in spite of Savannah teasing me, I listened to "Murder in the City" by the Avett Brothers. Twice. Because Bruce included the last line of the song in his first letter home.

And now I need a tissue.

It's A Giveaway!

Enter to win your choice of a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card
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 Choose one of the basic classes from the Junior Authors website.


Whitney Finalists - General Fiction

Disclaimer: It will be really hard for me to be impartial about these books. Gifted is one of the finalists and I AM THRILLED and because I lived it as I wrote it and grew to love the characters as I wrote, I still really like the book. In fact, I'd have to say it's my favorite of the bunch.

That being said, I am honored to be in the same category with New York Times best-selling authors, an academy award winner and someone who can easily be called LDS fiction royalty.

Being nominated has brought with it something I hadn't realized would happen. It has brought readers that wouldn't necessarily have read it if it hadn't been nominated. Some are reading for curiosity, some so they can vote. I've had some responses that were really nice. But there have also been some that were surprisingly harsh. This has definitely forced me to thicken my skin. Some days that's been easy, but some days have been tough. Even so, I'm still excited and honored.

The finalists are:
Before I Say Goodbye by Rachel Ann Nunes
Gifted by me
Evolution of Thomas Hall by Keith Merrill
The Walk: Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans
The Wedding Letters by Jason F. Wright
I put a picture of Gifted because... well, because it's mine. I really enjoyed the The Evolution of Thomas Hall. His transformation was fascinating and many of the scenes made the book feel like I was reading a movie. The Walk was the first Richard Paul Evans book I've read and it made me want to read more. The Wedding Letters felt like a sweet, old-fashioned romance. Even though I think it was supposed to be happening in the present day, it had the feel of a story taking place fifty years ago. Before I Say Goodbye was an interesting story of choices and consequences and forgiveness.

Feel free to share your thoughts about this category.

Whitney Finalists - Youth Fiction - General

This is the other youth category and overall it was one of my favorite categories. The finalists are varied and deal with some serious issues--mental illness of a parent, a serious physical illness of a father, family dynamics, hopes and dreams. There are some really good books here.

The finalists are:
Girls Don't Fly by Kirsten Chandler
Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams
Pride and Popularity by Jenni James
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsay Leavitt
With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo
I put a picture of Sean Griswold's Head because it was the first book I read after the finalists were announced and it delighted me. The story is about Payton, whose father has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and the way she copes with the news and the difficult family dynamics. I absolutely loved this quirky, sweet story. I also really enjoyed With A Name Like Love. It was innocent, old-fashioned and adorable. Girls Don't Fly was another favorite. I've read several reviews from readers who felt uncomfortable with the relationship between Myra and her mentor, but I didn't. I liked the relationship and how it helped Myra learn to care about herself. I really liked Myra.

Be sure to share your thoughts.

Up next: General Fiction (my category)

Why Does it Take A Sniper Attack?

The past 36 hours or so have been filled with news stories, tweets, facebook postings and uproar over the sniper shot that Hilary Rosen aimed at Ann Romney Wednesday night. Fortunately, Ann is pretty quick on her feet and not only dodged the attack but has managed to lead a counter-attack on those whose primary purpose is to bully conservative women into silence.

If we listen to those "free-thinking," women's rights advocating women, we'll shrink back into the shadows, choosing our way but trying not to be too "in-your-face" about it since being a conservative woman must mean that we're also backwards, uneducated, bigoted and generally foolish.

But we're not. We're smart. We're thoughtful. And we've made a choice. And that choice doesn't preclude us from being worthy to weigh in on the state of our economy. In fact, I'd assert that some of us, who have chosen to be stay-at-home moms, have an advantage when it comes to economic skill. I know Ann Romney didn't have financial worries, but most of us who have chosen to be stay-at-home moms didn't do so because we were so financially carefree that it sounded fun and easy. We made a choice and along with that choice came the daunting--and sometimes nearly impossible--task of raising a family on a single salary that would blow the mind of Hilary Rosen.

And large numbers of us do this without government aid--no foodstamps, no welfare, no housing subsidies. We really live on one income. Many of us could sit down with the suits in Washington (and I'm including suits with skirts) and teach them a thing or two about stretching a dollar, making it go as far as possible, and then doing without when the dollar is gone.

This is what government needs to learn and I'm sure some of us stay-at-home moms are more than willing to give President Obama, the congress and even Hilary Rosen a little workshop on real economic policy.

In the meantime, stop belittling Ann Romney. Stop bullying us, hoping that you'll silence us so that the only voices you'll hear during the next seven months will be the loud and angry left. The left who pretend to care about women but really only care about us if we agree with them.

Whitney Finalists - Youth Speculative

I know I'm a grown up. The targeted demographic for these books is young people my children's ages. I still enjoy them, though. I enjoyed the two youth categories as much as any of the adult categories. This category--Youth Speculative--is, in my opinion, the hardest category to judge. Every single one of these books was good. There wasn't a disappointment in the whole category. Talk about authors with brilliant imaginations.

The finalists are:
My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison
Shifting by Bethany Wiggins
Slayers by C.J. Hill
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Variant by Robison Wells



The reason I put a picture of Slayers isn't because it was necessarily my favorite, but it was the one that surprised me the most. A book about teenage dragon-slayers. I didn't expect to enjoy it at all, but it was a really fun book. Slayers and My Unfair Godmother are by the same person (C.J. Hill is a pen-name for Janette Rallison) and she's good. They were both great. Variant and Shifting were darker and edgier, while Tuesdays at the Castle felt like it was more for tweens than teenagers but it was charming and cute. 

All of these books were imaginative and well-written. This is a close and impressive category.

If you've read any of these, I'd love to hear what you think.

Next up: Youth Fiction - General

It Still Costs Someone Somewhere

My sister sent me this link to four short videos from The Anderson Cooper Show about drastic ways families saved money. They were interesting and made me want to be more frugal and aware of money and where it goes.

At the bottom of the article, it asked us to share any ideas we might have for living on less. Curious, and hoping I'd find some useful ideas, I began reading the comments.

I came across this:

also they could get on low income housing where they would only have to pay 30% of their income for housing and get on food stamps and energy assistance to pay their electric bill. There is also lifeline that will pay for their phone bill and internet and you can get his anywhere you go. I am currently on all these programs except I am on section 8 which is now closed for the waiting list.


What? I thought they had to be joking and poking fun at the entitlement society we live in. But by the time I finished reading the comment, I became pretty sure they were being serious.


Does this person not realize that nothing is free? If they're getting 30% of their housing paid, that means the government is paying it. And where do they think the government gets its money? Who's paying for the food stamps and the energy assistance? Who's covering the cost of the phone bill and the internet? Those companies aren't giving her power and phone and internet for free. They'd be out of business in a flash. Someone is paying for those things.


The families spotlighted were actually cutting costs, not transferring them to someone else. 


This is just one more example of the topsy-turvy, mixed-up, messed-up world we live in. If this is the way very many people think, how are we ever going to make it out of this mess? 

Peace in the Savior

For a few months, I've felt stressed. A lot of it I've put on myself. I demanded of myself that I read 35 books in just over two  months. I set a goal to do a long, hard race that has required more hours of training than I've ever wanted to put in.

There are demands I haven't brought on myself. The challenge of finishing out this school year, which has seemed interminable, while trying to help a daughter jump through all the hoops associated with going to college in the fall. Scholarship hunting. A missionary who needs me to to do the legwork to get him back in college when he gets home. Cheering on a husband with a high-stress and often thankless job. Dealing with the tricky moods and emotions of immediate AND extended family (and that can sometimes feel like picking my way through a minefield).

There's an economy that makes budgeting and money management a constant struggle and an election that has already given me high blood pressure and promises to give us a contentious and frustrating seven months as exaggerations, misinterpretations, half-truths and lies are hurled from sources we should be able to trust.

Sometimes I feel tossed about in a choppy and treacherous sea and I'm not a good swimmer.

But every so often I'm blessed with peace.

That happened at conference last weekend. Two days of peace. Two days of focusing on the big picture how and why instead of my often short-sighted and temporal cries of HOW? and WHY?

And then there's today. Easter Sunday. The day we focus on the atonement and the sacrifice of our Savior. Not a sacrifice like getting up early on Saturday to fix my daughter breakfast before an AP test. Not a sacrifice like giving up the last cupcake because there aren't quite enough to go around. And not a sacrifice like paying a generous fast offering.

A sacrifice that involved all the pain and anguish of a sick and sinful world. A sacrifice that wasn't about giving up comfort and security, but about giving up everything. A sacrifice of not just dying for us, but of suffering and dying in a horrible, humiliating and inhumane way.

And because of that sacrifice, I can have peace. Peace in knowing that death doesn't end it all. Peace that there's hope for foolish, selfish, short-sighted me--the one who takes offense when I shouldn't, and too often offends people, me who is harder on people than I should be, who gets caught up in trivial and unimportant things and who wastes too much time on television and the internet. There's peace knowing that I can repent and that my family aren't just temporary acquaintances, people who live in the neighborhood of my mortality and will move away and drift apart once I move out of this neighborhood.

And all this because of the Savior. My Savior. I'm grateful. I need him. I LOVE HIM!

Below is a beautiful rendition of one of my favorite hymns of all time and a link to a beautiful depiction of the Savior's resurrection.



Happy Easter.

Happy Birthday, Joe

Happy birthday, Joe. And this is a big one. You graduate from Primary. You become a deacon with all the priesthood responsibilities that come with that. You begin working on your Duty to God. You start going to Young Men's activities.

You're only two years away from stake dances.

And four years away from dating and driving.

And seven years away from leaving us to serve a mission.

You're becoming tall, and handsome. You say things that surprise me with their maturity and delight me with your cleverness.

You're developing your talents and your confidence.

I'm so glad you still want to sit with me and watch something together. You still want to share your day with me and you still ask for my advice. You still do your chores without complaining and you still tell me you love me.

I'm so proud of you and I love you so much. Happy birthday.

Whitney Finalists - Speculative

I've said before that I don't really like speculative fiction. And then I realize I liked The Host, The Shiver series, all the youth speculative finalists, and several others. So maybe I do like speculative fiction after all. More than any other category, this one felt like it was all over the place. The books were hard to compare to each other because they were all so different.

The finalists were:
The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson
I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells
No Angel by Theresa Sneed
The Alloy of Law was really cool. As I read, I could picture a movie with special effects like Sherlock Holmes or The Matrix. I found it pretty entertaining. A Night of Blacker Darkness proved that Dan Wells is a very versatile author. It was funny and so clever.

The biggest surprise in this group, however, was I Don't Want to Kill You. It's the third book in a trilogy--I Am Not A Serial Killer, Mr. Monster and finally I Don't Want to Kill You. I read I Am Not A Serial Killer last spring and was surprised (and a little disappointed) at the supernatural element, so I wasn't expecting to like this book much. In fact, I found myself putting it off because I hadn't read the second book and I didn't think I'd like it. I was wrong. I liked it, it made me sad and it made me happy. There were a few jaw-dropping surprises. I couldn't put it down and that has to mean something.

If you've read any of these, tell me what you think!

Up Next: Youth Fiction - Speculative

Whitney Finalists - Mystery/Suspense

I used to read a lot of mystery and suspense. As a teenager, I read every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book our library had. A few years later, I read every Mary Higgins Clark book I could get my hands on. I read Coma one time when my family was out of town and completely freaked myself out. But in recent years, the only mystery/suspense I've read are the Jack Reacher books, so I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy this category.

Surprise! I liked it quite a bit. 

The finalists were:
Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry
Bloodborne by Gregg Luke
If I Should Die by Jennie Hansen
Rearview Mirror by Stephanie Black
Smokescreen by Traci Hunter Abramson

Reading these gave me a fun dose of scary, creepy, and deranged characters with heroes I liked and villains I didn't. I felt most on the edge of my seat as I read Rearview Mirror and If I Should Die. I was reading Rearview Mirror one night after everyone had gone to bed and decided I'd better stop. I was getting a little worked up. Acceptable Loss had an ending I found ironic and surprising. I liked the ending a lot.

If you've read any of these, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Up Next: Speculative

Whitney Finalists - Romance

The romance category was one of the harder categories for me to judge. I liked most of the books and had read two of them before the finalists were announced. I'd liked both of those books a lot and had figured they'd end up being my top two. I was surprised to find that there were a couple of others that also captured my heart (I had to throw in a romantic sounding cliche. Sorry.)

The finalists were:
Borrowed Light by Carla Kelly
Captive Heart by Michele Paige Holmes
Count Down to Love by Julie N. Ford
The List by Melanie Jacobson
Not My Type by Melanie Jacobson


I liked all these books. It was hard for me to judge them because they were so different. Two are historical romances and three are contemporary romances. I usually prefer contemporary, but I have to say Borrowed Light was so good. The romance was subtle and mature. The characters were likable and the heroine was so charming and opinionated, I loved her.

Congratulations to Melanie Jacobson who had two finalists and writes witty and entertaining books that are going to make it hard for my daughters to find guys that measure up. My daughter just finished Twitterpated, Jacobson's newest book and liked it a lot, but as she was reading, she kept saying, "I shouldn't read books like this. There aren't guys like this out there and it's just setting me up for disappointment." I hope she's wrong. I hope she finds a wonderful guy that exceeds all the books she's read.

Count Down to Love was a guilty pleasure read. It was set in a Bachelor-type show, which I swore off of quite a few seasons ago, but in book form and in the hands of a talented author, it was sweet instead of sordid, fun instead of trashy, and entertaining without guilt instead of (ugh) entertaining with guilt.

If you've read any of these, please feel free to share your thoughts.

Up Next: Mystery/Suspense