Thursday, December 29, 2011

A "Diddy" of a Quote.

I never thought the day would come that I'd be grateful to P. Diddy for anything more than providing my exercise routine with a little bit of background music (clean versions of course). But, despite my doubt, that day came last week on Dec. 21, 2011. Surely by now rumors of his tweet have reached even the most remote corners of the LDS world. And, thanks to the power of Twitter and Facebook, perhaps Mr. Sean John Combs, also known as Diddy, P.Diddy, and Puff Daddy, has inadvertently introduced the pop world to a man by the name of L.Tom Perry.  For this deed alone Diddy deserves a vote of gratitude, as Elder L. Tom Perry is a remarkable man whose teachings are worthy of note and whose example would be great to embody. However, it is to the discovery of the context of this simple quote for which I am grateful:

"One of the greatest weaknesses in most of us is our lack of faith in ourselves." 
– L. Tom Perry

Without Mr. Combs, I likely would have never stumbled upon one of the most life changing talks that Elder Perry has perhaps ever given. "Be the Best of Whatever You Are" was presented at BYU in March of 1974. Not only was I not there in that original congregation to hear his presumably prolific delivery, I was yet to even be born, yet the words of his text hit home as if they were written for me. Today. At the wrap up of 2011! 

"One of our common failings is to depreciate our tremendous worth," Elder Perry spoke.

Hello? Can someone please repeat that? ... Which one of us has ever depreciated our worth? Or, better yet, which one of us has never depreciated our worth? 

May I be so bold as to imply that we've all fallen into that trap at one time or another? May I further suggest that perhaps that self-depreciation can be directly associated with failed decisions or misguided choices that we make?

On a personal level, I can think of a few choices (more-so concessions, really) that I made because I didn't understand my great worth. I could tell you of rough paths that I've traveled that could've been avoided had I truly understood who I was in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.  Satan seems determined to undermine our self worth. If he can implant even the littlest drop of self-doubt, we open a door through which we can inevitably bring our own progress to a stop. Laziness, disappointment, discouragement, or ultimately a loss of hope could soon follow.  

So, how do we keep our head high? How do we stay true to the divine potential within each of us? Perhaps Elder Perry summed it up best with:  

"As a child of God, be the best of whatever you are."

It doesn't matter if you're a master pianist, a doctor, a mother, or even a pop singer. What matters is that you give a hundred percent in everything that you are and everything that you do. You may never be famous in the eyes of the world, but you'll always be known and important to Him that created you. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Appreciation for the Tangible

I'm not making any excuses, just stating the facts: I'm a little behind the game this Christmas. In a typical year all of my gifts are purchased (and often wrapped) before Thanksgiving. By the end of the first week of December, I've written a family Christmas letter, created some sort of card, and sent them on their merry way. Usually weeks in advance I've planned out our neighbor and teacher gifts and when possible (if they aren't of the perishable variety) assembled and delivered them too... Not so this year!

I'm so behind! And when I say that, I may mean in the very literal sense of the word (as in: a horse's behind!) or I could mean it in the sense that somewhere I've lost my motivation... or is it organization? Probably both. But, as I've scrambled the last several days to make up for lost time, I've come to the conclusion that I really appreciate the tangible things.

Like Christmas cards.

For the first time in years I considered nixing the annual Christmas card and accompanying letter from my to-do list. It would've been easy enough to attach some semblance of a Christmas wish via email, or better yet, just a broad posting on facebook. I could've probably done without the cutesy paper and the coordinating family-photo encrested card - heaven knows my schedule would've been completely supportive of the idea. But, as week by week and day by day, cards from our friends and family started showing up in our mail, I knew there was no way I would convince myself to break the tradition.

Maybe this labels me as a little bit more than "special", but each day in December finds me eagerly anticipating the arrival of the mail. I think it may even be one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. A simple card means so much. It says, "Even though I'm really busy, I thought of you!" It also gives me a reason to pause and think about the sender... someone who's likely blessed my life! So, to all of you who've sent my family a Christmas Card, know that we look forward to them! We appreciate them. We cherish them.

So, I made it work. After much stress about it, I got our letter written and cards sent out. And, as of today (yes, I know Christmas is only 3 days away) my great to-do list is finally complete! I'm not going to pat my own back by saying I pulled it off in record time.... but, hey, I pulled it off in record time. (I know taking only a week to "accomplish" everything Christmas isn't a feet for most people, but this is "make a list & check it twice, then check it a third time for good measure, me" - so cut me some slack!)  Which means that tonight - for the first time in several weeks - I get to curl up with a book. Not with a Nook or a Kindle or even an iPad... a REAL-LIFE PAPER-BOUND book.  - For the record, I'm not knocking e-books, (afterall Hope's Journey is available in this format), but like I said before: I have an appreciation for the tangible things. 

Merry Christmas my friends! And, remember - enjoy the tangible things in your life, like friends, family, and all the other blessings that warm your heart and touch your lives. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Influence - The magnitude of touching lives.

I've been working on a manuscript that's had me thinking a lot about the power of influence. It's brought to light the reality that sometimes we all need a little reminder about how much influence our actions, behaviors, and overall character have on other people. Each of us holds the ability to touch lives either for the good or the bad. And, every contact we have leaves some kind of a mark - even if it's a small one.

I'm reminded of all the influences in my life.

When I was a child there was a particular family that bore such a profound influence on me that it still affects me to this day. Because of the quiet example of this neighbor family, my children reap the benefits of family prayer and scripture study. Because of the unknowing influence of this mother, I am a better mother.

When I was a teenager I saw a man kiss his wife tenderly on the forehead. As I got to know him deeper, I saw other qualities of love and tenderness and patience. Because of his unknowing influence I knew where to set my standards when seeking a companion.

My life has been shaped by the compassion, love, friendship and examples of those I am blessed to rub shoulders with. Each person who's crossed my path has left me with something - and, while it hasn't all been good, the bad is minimalized by each positive interaction.  Even as an adult, hard set in my ways as it may seem, I am still vulnerable to those influences.

And so, as I look at my manuscript (and my life in general) I am reminded that:

The power of influences is strong enough to alter the direction of a life. 

I can't tell you how many times I've started reading a book with a wonderful plot line only to be distracted by bad language, degrading scenes, and dark, irrelevant imagery. I don't believe any of these "tools" add to a story. I don't believe in "fluff" stories either. My new writing project really could go one of two ways: I can either stick to my values and keep it clean, or I could sell-out and take it the direction that a lot of "popular" fiction has gone. I believe as an author, artist, mother, friend, I have a responsibility to be a positive influence. My goal is to tell the tough, real-to-life, entertaining stories without compromising who I am or the values that I hold fast to.

It's a tall order, but I think I can do it... Not because I'm anything or anyone special, but because of the influence of my friends!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A signing at Walmart! This is BIG! REALLY BIG!

I'm pretty much an open book, so keeping this under wraps has been really difficult! But, at long last, here is the big announcement:

I've been invited to do a signing at Walmart!
Saturday, December 17th
In Riverton, Utah (at the intersection of Bangerter & 13400 So)

Whoo Hoo! I am literally shaking with excitement! 

In case you're wondering, this is no small deal! Many wonderful people have worked to make this happen, and I believe many miracles were at play too! Walmart doesn't open it's doors to many authors and I am so, so, so... (did I say so?)... excited for this amazing opportunity! 

If you haven't picked up a copy of Hope's Journey yet or are looking for a great gift idea (at an amazing Walmart price $$), please come visit me! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Irrational Expectations of Excellence

Whew! Say that three times fast! I can barely say it once, although it's the mantra that's been dancing through my head for the better part of my life. I do pretty good at trying to keep my expectations for other people in check, but when it comes to myself, I tend to have irrational expectations of excellence.

Perhaps, you may say, irrational is a bad choice of words. But, I subscribe to the belief that a rational person would never set her sights so high. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. And, even after days and days of gnawing at a self-imposed problem or task, I can't ever bring myself to lower that standard to a more easily attained one. There's just this certain something inside me that strives for perfection - whatever mystical destination that is - even though I know reaching it is nearly impossible... But nearly doesn't mean never!

Perhaps this explains why I have bags under my eyes. Perhaps I should spend more time eating and sleeping and less time worrying about all the little details.

And, maybe while I'm at it, I should teach my children to do the same. Hard work is overrated, right? Achievement is unnecessary. Goals are unattainable. Aim low, reach your goals, and... well, that's the problem. In life you get what you work for. A farmer who sleeps all day, yields no crops. A computer programmer who fails to stay at the cusp of technology designs outdated products. A student with no drive never graduates. A runner who doesn't train, will never win a race (haha, I threw that in for all my runner friends! and no, it doesn't mean I'm going to take up the sport!) A hiker who doesn't push himself, never reaches the summit.

I believe that hard work is the producer of miracles! Whatever "it" is, if we are willing to put in the required work, Nothing is Impossible! So, while my expectations of excellence might lack rationality, they do not necessarily lack attainability.

At the end of the day, I think it's important to remember that we are all our own worst critics. If we do our best every time, we will not fail!

I hope before my journey ends I'll touch the peek of excellence that I've spent my whole life climbing towards. If not, then I guess I can at least say I tried - and sometimes that's enough!

Stansbury Holiday Boutique: Joint signing & Christmas shopping all in one place!

Look what I get to do this weekend! Can I say how excited I am to get to hang out with Misty and Mandi!! Whew hoo! 

Did I mention that Santa will be there? If you are anywhere near Stansbury come visit us... oh, and check out all the fun vendors too! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I didn't do: the story of an imperfect Christmas tree.

Several years ago I made one of the most satisfying investments an OCD mom could make: I purchased my very own "grown up" Christmas tree. The eight-foot beauty, complete with fragile decorations, ornate ribbon, and over a thousand twinkling lights has been my child-free, immaculate addition to the Holidays since my children were little. It sits in my living room, also known as the "piano room" because, let's be honest about formal living rooms, there's almost no amount of living that actually happens in there.

So, back to the tree....

In a typical year, the kids and I decorate the entire house together. We stream the banister up the stairs and into the loft with a lighted pine swag and big red ribbons. We adorn our "tall" tree in the family room with what amounts to almost 200 Hallmark ornaments (not to brag, but its a pretty impressive collection, derived from the ornament giving tradition my grandparents started in 1982). We hang six stockings across the family room mantel, plus a couple more on the basement mantel for good measure. All three levels of the house get cluttered up with holly and snowmen and all measure of cutesy holiday joy!

But the living room... the living room is my room! It hosts what I like to think of as the more sophisticated decorations. I've got my small village, my bisque white nativity, and my tree. In a home that boasts the energy - and mess - of four energetic kids, my OCD necessitates the need for me to have control of at very least, my tree! I like to wait for the kids to return to school after Thanksgiving weekend so that I can take the day to put my tree together the "right" way! Yes, the "right" way, because any way that's not my way is not right! I carefully place lights from top to bottom, intricately woven up each and every branch. The result? An immaculate tree with proportional light balanced uniformly from bottom to tip!

Not this year! I woke up Saturday morning to a giddy eleven year old begging me to come see what she'd done. I slipped on my bathrobe and met her in the living room. She'd set up and lit my tree! From a distance, it looked pretty good. I thanked her with a smile. She was so very proud of herself, and I don't blame her, it was quite a feat. Upon closer review I discovered what could best be described as a "web" of lights. I'm not exactly sure what her installation technique was, but it uniformity apparently wasn't important to her. I took in every inch of the tree - noting its imperfections and analyzing its lighting imbalance (it loses umph as it reaches the top), then I did something that surprised not only me, but the elder of my two children:
I left it alone! 

Of course, there was a part of me that wanted to dismantle it and start over. And, I'm sure every time I walk into the room, I will itch to fix one imperfection or another. But, something bigger is at play here. Something that as an OCD mom I have to be consciously mindful of. My beautiful daughter's heart would be broken if I undermined her hard work. This is about so much more than a silly tree. It's about recognizing her effort and celebrating her "gift" to me!

This year as you look at your tree you might think of it's heavenly symbolism or even about the gifts tucked underneath. However, when I look at my tree, I will be reminded of a cute little girl who went above and beyond for her mother.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Author Blog Tour

The title of "AUTHOR" is still so new for me that sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it. It's strange to see my name in print and even stranger to Google it and actually get hits. And oh so exciting! Every step of the process has been a learning experience, that's why I am so grateful for blogs like Of Thoughts and Words  and Oh! For the LOVE of BOOKS! for co-sponsoring this cool New Author Blog Hop
By way of introduction, my name is Stephanie Connelley Worlton. I am a lover of sunshine, warm weather, and sandy beaches, which is why I live in the mouth of a canyon that hosts an extra long Utah winter, mild summer temperatures, and soil that's as hard as a rock. Without my husband's many frequent flier miles and the companionship of good books, I just might find myself even crazier than I already am. 

My debut novel, Hope's Journey, is a YA fiction that has been labeled as an easy read about a difficult subject. In an over-simplified nut shell, it is a story about a high school couple with everything going for them until they find themselves pregnant. Their worlds get turned upside down and their relationship torn apart as they try to piece together their new reality. Not your typical romance, Hope's Journey is a story of love, faith, forgiveness... and most importantly hope. 

Cover blurb: 
A couple since their sophomore year, Sydney and Alex are looking forward to graduation and a bright future together. Sydney is  straight-A student trying to decide between college scholarships and Alex is a quiet jock preparing to serve a mission. Both active members of the LDS Church, their hopes and dreams painfully fade when they learn that Sydney is pregnant. The very foundations of their faith are shaken, as is their relationship. Separately, they venture through confusion, self-doubt, and failure as they learn the value of forgiveness and try to piece their broken lives back together. 

Giveaway:  As part of the New Author Blog Tour, I will be giving away a free e-copy of Hope's Journey. Entering is as easy as becoming a follower of this blog (in the column to your right) then leaving a comment with your email at the bottom of this post. Good luck! 

For purchase links and reviews check the left column.
Check out my Hope's Journey blog page to learn more and to watch the trailer.

Monday, November 21, 2011

So much to be thankful for

I started my morning by previewing the literary prowess of my eleven year old . Her assignment was to write a persuasive essay about why we should keep Thanksgiving as a National Holiday. Being a part of our fifth grade curriculum, this is the third time we've had the "defending Thanksgiving" discussion at the Worlton home. 

In the words of an eleven year old, "if we quit celebrating Thanksgiving, people would become ungrateful." 

I think she's on to something. Imagine what our society would be like if we didn't take a public opportunity to be thankful. Somehow we've morphed into a generation of self-aggrandizing, want-it-now, entitled ingrates. And for many, the only time they stop to realize the blessings in their lives is on Thanksgiving.  

Our 2011 "Thankful Leaves"
We have a tradition - started a few years ago via a family home evening challenge - where each day for the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we write down something we are thankful for. I'd like to think that this simple tradition helps our kids realize the enormity of their blessings. For such a diverse and sometimes goofy group of individuals, we come up with some pretty profound (and equally unprofound) "thankfuls." Each of the six of us gets to add a leaf every day, and occasionally we have duplicates, but by day 14, our "thankfuls" typically start to reflect some deep thought.

Here's a little taste of what our family is grateful for this year: (Keep in mind our kids range from 9 -16)

I am thankful for...
My family
Rocky & Lilah (our dogs)
My home
The Holy Ghost's guidance
Me! (this one appears twice)

Teknoligy (aka: Technology)
Grandparents & Great Grandparents
Google (lol)
The Gospel
A strong and healthy body
Farmer's and Rancher's who work hard so I can have food
Books that entertain and one's that teach, too
Good teachers
Dad & Mom
Trees / Plants
My amazing Ryan :)
Computer, Wii, and friends
My job
Ice cream and hot fudge
 Dichinerys (so funny, perhaps he should consult a Dictionary to check his spelling!) 
This isn't a comprehensive list, mind you, but some that gave me pause and other's that made me smile. With four days to go till the giant turkey gets stuck in the oven, we'll surely add a few equally thought provoking leaves to our collection, but I think it's safe to say, that WE HAVE MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Mother's Ultimate Confession

Today was a good day. The kind of day I long for and often take for granted. For some mothers in my neighborhood, I'm sure it was a sad day, but I can't say that I'm worthy of being ranked with these so-called super moms. After three weeks of boredom, way too much TV, and a messy house, my elementary aged kids are finally back ON TRACK! If you are unfamiliar with the year-round school system, this basically means that after a three week stint of being out of school, my kids are back in for nine-weeks while another "track" of students takes their 3 week sabbatical of sorts. We repeat this pattern several times throughout the year.

I used to listen to other mothers lament their children's return to school and wonder what was wrong with me. But not anymore! I've recently come to the conclusion that to be excited about my kids education isn't a bad thing.... neither is cherishing my routine of productivity while they are away. And, its not that I don't love my kids -because they are absolutely first on my list -  but I've learned to love the self that I've discovered in the few hours that I'm alone each day. 

I am a creature of habit. A lover of routine. A cherisher of order!

And, so it is, that for the next nine weeks I will exercise every morning (okay, maybe "every" is a strong word), I will clean the house and shower and enjoy some quiet,  guilt-free, undisturbed writing time. Maybe I'll read a book or ten. And, if I'm lucky I'll squeeze in a sewing project too.  

And, I won't feel the slightest pang of guilt as I send my babies out the door! I will, instead, count my blessings for teachers that are everything that I am not! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Developing Character

Unfortunately, none of us are immune to stupidity. As part of the human condition we all, at one point or another, fall unwittingly into its trap. This applies equally to adults as well as children. Adolescents, it seems,are the most susceptible. 

Even my own brilliant prodigy are prone! 

It seems only slightly ironic to me that the subject of character would be so heavily on my mind on the same day that I've been invited to guest blog on a site called The Character Connection. Ironic, perhaps because of the coincidental timing. Timely because of something that recently played out in our household. 

In the Worlton home we have a mantra of respect and responsibility. It is upon these two traits that I believe every other virtue derives. From a very young age we've tried to instill these characteristics in our children.In the words of Anne Frank, however, we learn that: 
"Parents can only give good advice or put [their children] on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands." 
Fast forward to the teen-years...

My son pulled me aside the other day to tell me about something stupid that he'd done and - with a broken spirit - to suggest punishment for it. Sadly, this level of responsibility is almost unheard of in today's world of entitlement. Most kids (and adults too) approach their mistakes with an attitude of secrecy. My son could've easily taken this road as it's likely I'd have never found out on my own. But he didn't. He took the higher road. He accepted responsibility without being caught! 

I don't share this as a means to pat my own back as his parent, but to awe at the depth of  character already developing in this sixteen year old. As is often the case, I find myself the student and my children the teachers.

So, to my son - I applaud your honesty and courage. Thank you for respecting your father and me enough to accept responsibility for your poor choices. Your strong, unflinching character will define you and endear you to those whose paths you cross.  
People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.  -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

This thing called Scouts

For most of our married life (which is only a short blink different than that of our adult lives) either Ryan or I have been involved with the youth. For obvious reasons they don't give you the responsibilities of being the Scout Master or even the Young Women's president when you are nineteen, but age - neither young nor old - is an excuse NOT to be called to play with them!

I couldn't tell you the first calling Ryan had with the scouts, because other than a few short stints, I'm not sure he really ever graduated from the program. (Plug to Ryan: he was an Eagle Scout before his 14th birthday, so in that respect, I suppose he did "graduate", but at heart, he's always been just one of the boys.) I do recall as a mere 23 year old, that he served as the Venture Leader and I only remember this perhaps because he seemed more like one of the boys (16 - 18 year olds) than a leader of them.

This may come as a shock, but there have been times over the years when I've been a less than eager Scoutmaster's wife (gasp). As I'm sure any Scoutmaster's wife will tell you, it's not any easy roll. And about 4 or 5 years ago I'd come to the conclusion that we were DONE! I wanted my husband back. I was tired of sharing him with the boys. Every Wednesday night he was gone. One Friday a month - gone. Over a dozen vacation days a year - gone. Not to mention what amounted to over $1000 each year in unreimbursed expenses and personal resources - gone. I was DONE!


So, here's the lesson with murmuring: Even when you think nobody's listening, Somebody is. And sometimes that particular Somebody has a different plan for you.

The very evening that I'd been complaining, I got an unexpected knock at my door. Hesitantly (and kicking myself) I welcomed executives of the Great Salt Lake District 29 scout committee into my home. Within moments I had become one of THEM! I can't say that my attitude about scouting changed in that moment - or even in the immediate weeks and months to follow - but it was the beginning of a transformation for me. And, more so, it became the channel through which I have week by week, month by month, and even year by year developed a testimony about scouting. I by no means believe that it is a flawless program, but I do believe that it is an integral tool by which to mold boys into confident, capable, responsible men.

Sometimes I still grumble as I trip over scout gear in my garage. And some weekends I get a little growly when I'm sacrificing a date night so the boys can enjoy a camp out. But, at the end of the day, I have decided to call a truce with this thing called Scouts. I am honored to have these boys be a part of my life and humbled that my dear husband has the opportunity to make a difference in theirs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


"So, I was modifying my Bionicle the other day, when I thought to myself: What can I do to modify myself?"

Those words have been stuck in my mind all afternoon. Who'd have ever thought that the one of the most touching sermon's I've ever heard would come from a kid? No joke. A boy not more than maybe 9 or 10 years old stood up to the pulpit and delivered a little sermon on self improvement. "Self-modification doesn't just happen," the young boy taught. "You have to want it. You can't just decide to change and expect it to happen. You have to work for it. You have to work every day."

I wish I could credit the boy for his brilliant insight, but we were just visitor's in his ward - there for the purpose of my nephew's daughter's baby blessing. The boy's parent's no doubt cringed a little when he started his testimony with a Bionicle reference, but for what it's worth, he not only caught my attention for the moment, he's managed to keep it all day.

What can I do to modify myself? What do I need to change? How can I be better? And, most importantly, am I willing to work for it?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Hear Voices

Why is it that I can have the most amazing, prolific conversation with myself, but as soon as I sit in front of the keyboard my brain enters a vegetative state akin to overcooked oatmeal? If only you could hear the brilliant exchange in my head... If only that voice would burn itself somewhere in the catacombs of my mind, then I could give it sweet, justified life. 

And then you would awe at my GENIUS!  (please feel free to stop laughing at any time!)

Seriously, though. I talk to myself frequently, although not vocally. (Like you don't...) And often those mental exchanges are near magnificent. Some of my best writing comes from those voices - Okay, most of it does. But, the problem is, as soon as I try to write it down... POOF! Magic. Gone. 

So, I've made what I feel is a very important addition (the only one, really) to my Christmas list this year. No, it's not a new brain (although somedays that would be handy); I'm asking Santa for a voice recorder. 

Not one of these....

But one of these! 

Hopefully he'll deliver. (My chances are pretty good since he follows my blog!) And when he does, look out world, because I will officially join the ranks of the crazy! Yes, those quiet exchanges in my head will no longer be quiet nor in my head. I will be that lady at the stop light having a verbal conversation with herself! 

I can't wait!

Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm a BOO-HUMBUG kind of mom

Some might find this strange coming from a creative-type person, but when it come's to Halloween, I'm a Boo-Humbug kind of mom. I just don't get the whole fascination with purchasing candy (that I otherwise wouldn't have wasted my money on) to give to random kids, most of whom I've never seen before and many of whom are old enough to get a job to buy their own stinkin candy. Then the whole costume thing... Because it's taboo to wear the same costume twice, each year we have to get creative on a new costume for each of the kids - which for me includes four children & my sweet husband! We spend hours either sewing or searching for the perfect costume just to wear it for a few hours (usually with a coat on top) then tuck it away in a box... perhaps to never see the light of day again.

And for what?

To get candy that:
       (1) We've garnished from strangers (Isn't this against everything we were taught as kids? "Don't take candy from strangers"... unless you're dressed like a pirate, or a princess, or a pumpkin...??)
       (2) Is usually cheep and gross and ends up in the trash anyway. People simply don't hand out the good stuff on Halloween (ie: See's, Cavanoughs, etc...)
       (3) Will be consumed in one of two fashions: the instant engorging or the drag-it-out-for-a-month method. Honestly, I prefer the engorging - at least that way I'm not breaking up fights over who took who's candy or finding wrappers shoved into the couch cushions for weeks on end. But, this eating a bucket of candy in one night isn't exactly demonstration of self-control, is it?

Perhaps the root of my Halloween-complex is its proximity to my birthday. My whole life I've endured the "birthday-goul" comments with a smile on my face, but really, such things are akin to Decemberites getting birthday gifts wrapped in Christmas paper. A birthday should never be bundled with a holiday! Augustites don't have "back-to-school" themed parties... Februaryites don't have valentine themed birthdays, so why should Octoberites have ghost and gobblin and pumpkin themed parties?

And yet, despite my abhorrence, tonight I will paint my kids faces and send them out the door in the pursuit of candy they don't need. I will answer my door with a smile and hand out little treats to little strangers. I will lock up my dogs to prevent them from losing their minds from the constant ringing of the doorbell. And, tomorrow I will clean up the remains of our jack-o-lanterns that have been spread throughout the yard by deer (and maybe even kids). I will spend the un-frozen weeks of November trying to nurse my trampled plants back to strength. I will squish four costumes into our box only to be shunned to the basement til next year. And, I will find candy wrappers hidden in every corner of my house until spring.

Yeh for Halloween! BOO Humbug!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Making of a Hero

Sometimes when we think about heroes we envision cultural icons like C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr, and most recently, Steve Jobs. Undoubtedly, my kids would list superheroes like Iron Man, Spider Man, or Taylor Swift (to my 10 year old, she is about as superhero as it gets!) While we could idolize any of these, most true heroes live their lives in virtual anonymity. There exists in my journal a list of my personal heroes -none of which are famous. Near the top of that list is my grandma.

She didn't record any albums, write prolific words, or star in famous productions. She didn't save the planet or invent some grand technology. She didn't even go to college. What she did, however, was leave a mark on not just me, but on all of her 23+ grandchildren.

My beautiful grandma, Vicky Sharples,
as I remember her from my childhood
There are many things I could say about this woman whose legacy is so deeply imprinted in my heart - like that she loved pistachio ice cream (seriously, who does that?), or that the only thing I ever saw her make for dinner was reservations (I'm starting to see the genius in this one!), or even that she washed and reused plastic utensils even though she had ample real ones - but those are just tidbits of the little quirks that made us love her. What she gave me was far less tangible than money and far more lasting than any physical gift. She taught me the value of unconditional love. Never once did I hear her say a bad word about anybody (and believe me, there were times she really would've been justified doing so). Regardless of who you were, what you'd done (or hadn't done), or the choices you'd made, her door was literally always open.

This month marks the nine-year anniversary of her call home and yet there are still days that I feel her so close its hard to believe she's gone. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to pick up the phone to share news of one sort or another or - as is more often the case - just to hear her voice bring life to the nick-name only she and Grandpa are allowed to call me.

Not a day has gone by that I haven't missed her. I can't say that about any of the aforementioned superheroes or icons. None of them, regardless of their social status, has impacted my life more than my amazing, quirky, ever-loving grandma. Her legacy of love and tolerance will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of those who loved her most. And that is the mark of a true hero.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Win a signed copy of Hope's Journey

The contest for a signed copy of Hope's Journey is officially closed. Congratulations to our winner: Christine!  
You can still enter to win an e-copy by becoming a follower (if you're not already) and leaving your email in the comment line New Author Blog Tour post

Hope's Journey Giveaway: 
As part of Hope's Journey's blog tour, I will be giving away an autographed copy of Hope's Journey to one lucky winner. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post (make sure to leave an email so I can contact you if you win.) Plus, for a few bonus entries, "like" Hope's Journey on Facebook or become a follower of the Kreating Krazy blog. It's that easy! 

For a schedule of Hope's Journey's Blog Tour, click here.

Contest is limited to those within the continental US. Each person is eligible for up to three (3) entries. Contest closes at 11:59pm November 21,2011. Winner will be selected by then contacted via email and listed on this blog on November 22, 2011. Winners who don't supply emails will have 48 hours to contact this blog before forfeiting their prize. If such an event occurs, a second winner selection will be made using

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Interview with Mandi Tucker Slack - Author of The Alias

Click here to read the first chapter
Decidedly one of the biggest perks about being an author, is getting to meet other authors. I'm kind of a dork about "celebrity" in that I could care less about movie stars,TV personalities, and even (most) politicians, but give me a good author - and especially  one whose book I read before even imagining that I'd get to meet her - and I'm in heaven.
That's exactly what happened with The Alias. I picked up the book, drawn to it initially by it's amazing cover (figure that, a cityscape grabbing my attention... weird, right?)  Then there was the story. Amazing! Just the kind of book I love! Romance, suspense, relatable characters. It sucked me in right from the start -which if you know me well you know is a good thing. A book has two or three chapters to hook my attention, and The Alias did just that. Once Jacey was on the run, I couldn't put it down. The story pulled me along right to the end with anticipation for what I thought (and hoped) was coming. And then there's that fun element of reading about familiar places! If you're looking for a quick-flowing, down-to-earth, suspenseful read, I recommend The Alias.

Off the back cover: Jacey Grayson is an average, young, divorced mother struggling to build a new life for her son, Blaze. But when the FBI discloses some disturbing information about her ex-husband, Jacey’s life becomes anything but average. At the risk of losing her identity, her future, and her heart, Jacey and Blaze flee to Utah, hoping to hide and start over once again. But no matter how far she runs or who she pretends to be, her past is always lurking nearby, bringing old fears with it. 

Mandi Tucker Slack

And now it's time to meet Mandi!
Steph: Where did the concept for the Alias come from? 

Mandi:To be honest, the idea for The Alias came after visiting with a close friend who was pursuing a divorce at the time. She was leaving behind an emotionally and physically abusive husband. I was touched by the amount of strength and courage it would take to leave behind a marriage like that and build a new life for yourself and your child(ren).

Steph: Who is your favorite character in the Alias and why?

Mandi: Uncle Grant. He was a conglomeration of my dad, both my grandfathers and my uncles. I grew up in a small town surrounded by cowboys who wore Stetson and loved farm life. I had fun building his character.

Steph: What inspired you to become an author? Is it something you've always wanted to do or did you have a different plan for your life?

Mandi: I have always wanted to be an author. When I was a young girl I devoured books and I loved the concept of building my own adventures and creating fun, inspiring stories. I didn’t pursue writing as a career, however. I went to University and received a degree in Special Education. I loved to teach, but I also knew I wanted to be published one day, so I just wrote stories in my free time and kept at it. 

Steph: How do you spend your time when you're not writing? 

Mandi: When I’m not writing, I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I love to rock hound or hike with my family. We love the outdoors and spending time together while we visit new places.

Steph: Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any weird rituals when you write?

Mandi: At the park while my kids play. I love being outside, but when I can’t manage to get to the park, I write sitting cross-legged on my living room floor. I’ve always been a “floor sitter”. I built a pillow desk thingy that I use to support my laptop or I write out story lines on notebooks, and I have all sorts of strange rituals!! I love to eat muffins or munch on Sugar Babies while I write and I always like to listen to music before I get into the heart of writing too. Music is my muse. It’s what I use to create the particular mood I’m trying to convey for any given scene. I just scroll through my ipod or my playlists until the right sort of song comes on and I listen. I usually don’t like to write while I listen to music, however. It’s too distracting. I like quiet with some background noise.

I've loved getting to know a little bit about Mandi and can't wait to read more of her work. To learn more about Mandi and for links to purchase The Alias, visit her website here. And, don't forget to check out the trailer for The Alias. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Back-story: Following Inspiration

A few years ago, as I anticipated the freedom of sending our little caboose off to kindergarten, I began to contemplate the next step of my life. I considered going back to school, getting a job, or even starting my own business. But as I hit my knees and took my ideas to the Lord, it was made clear that, while all of these options were good, none of them were the right path for me. Instead, I was impressed with an overwhelming understanding that, for whatever reason, I had a story to share. And so, despite my doubts, I embarked on my literary journey, holding to the faith that He would guide my steps.

After much prayer, a lot of writing, and some intense editing, I’ve been blessed with the great opportunity to have my book published. Powers bigger than me were at work helping this project along. More than once I got discouraged and was tempted to throw in the towel, but in those moments I felt undeniable promptings to continue.

Hope’s Journey is not intended to be a biographical work, but is a work of fiction. While the basic framework was inspired by events in my own life, the book is a fictional account derived from prayerful inspiration and the designs of my imagination. In that this is a work of fiction, the characters and events are also fiction. I have been blessed in my associations with family and friends, and while there may be some similarities in personality or physical appearances in order to create believable, dynamic characters, not one character in this book is intended to be the explicit derivation or interpretation of any one person in my life. Situational conflicts and character liberties were intentionally exercised in order to create a dynamic, yet believable story.

I hope that Hope’s Journey will live up to its name, bringing a message of hope and a softening of hearts to those who read it. If it touches but one life, changes one hurtful stereo-type, breaks down the walls of communication for one family, or saves just one “lost” teenager, then it has fulfilled the purpose for which it was inspired.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chocolate Muscle

It's a good thing my television intake is so small. If it were any bigger, so would be my "chocolate muscle" - which for the record should probably be renamed my "sugar muscle" or my "lack-of-self-control muscle." Bob would be so disappointed if he could see my milkshake through the TV screen. But, traditions are important, right? And my tradition is to eat something sweet and tasty while I sit lazily on the couch. Watching people work their butts off (literally) on The Biggest Loser just wouldn't seem right if I didn't have a cookie (ha, ha, like anyone eats just one!), a hot gooey brownie (again, who eats just one?), or a peanut-butter oreo milkshake. Don't judge!

But, last night one of the voices in my head convinced me to stray from my ways. And, despite my resistance, I broke the tradition. I watched The Biggest Loser from my dread-mill... and yes, it was powered on.

Seriously, why choose this....

when you can choose this? 
And, amazingly enough - I didn't die. Neither did my chocolate muscle, mind you, but lets not go getting all crazy or anything!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Eight Seconds....

If you thought this was going to be a post about bull-riding you are oh so wrong! Although there may (or may not) have been a time in my life when the sport intrigued me, my invincible days went out the window about the same time my first child entered the picture. As any (okay, most) mother will admit, once you affix that title ("mother," "mom," "mama," "hey-you-lady-who-feeds-me") to your name, your wild side settles to the back corner and your instinctual side kicks in.

Today my oldest child had his first job interview - which, for the record, is almost harder to digest than that first day of kindergarten or even the infamous driver's licence! - and I had a chance to impart some good ol' motherly advise to him before he walked out the door. "No pressure," I stated to an already nervous kid, "but you've got eight seconds."

He looked at me quizzically (more so than usually) and asked what in the world I was talking about, so I explained, "It takes eight seconds to make a first impression." This logic he seemed to understand. He returned to his room and came out wearing slacks and a tie. I can only hope that he walked into that interview with his head held high, but at least I know that his attire sent the appropriate message. And, while I can't say for sure what his eight-second impact was on the manager, I do know this: my son walked away from his first interview with his first job!

And, a proud tear formed in his mother's eye (followed by another tear for the reminder of her faded youth).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It doesn't cost ONE CENT to be POLITE

I often wake up to a cold, wet nose against my cheek and big, beautiful eyes staring at me. (I suppose my husband would appreciate that I clarify: No, they don't belong to him. If his nose is near my cheek, it better be warm & certainly dry!)  Sometimes this same set of eyes stare at my husband too, but not with the same intensity they give to me (or, so I tell myself) and I wonder at the love behind them. 
Yes, her nails are painted! She's a very dainty girl!
The companionship of canines is something I've had all of my life. I currently am the proud mama to two of the most personality rich dogs I've ever had. Rocky is an 11 year old Lhasa Apso that came into our lives quite by chance over 8 years ago when we rescued him. I'll admit that at the time I didn't really want another dog, but the moment he ran into the room, unhesitantly jumped onto Ryan's lap, and then lay his head on his shoulder, I knew we were bringing him home.  Delilah is our beautiful 3 1/2 year old Bullmastiff. She is undoubtedly my dog (aka my "baby"), until Ryan walks in the door then I'm chopped liver!
Rocky & Lilah (when she was still a puppy)
So, why do I tell you about my dogs? Well, simply because as Lilah's big head (yes, it's bigger than mine) greeted me this morning, it occurred to me that she didn't care that my hair looked like a ratty old broom, or that I didn't have on any makeup. She didn't even care what I smelled like, where we lived, or even how I spent my days. She just loved me.  

I wonder how many people float through life wondering if anybody loves them.  And, I wonder how often we turn down the opportunity to lift someones day. I was reminded of this video called "The Civility Experiment." 
"It doesn't cost one cent to be polite." - What profound words of wisdom.

So, while my dogs continue to teach me life lessons (like: "Never turn down an opportunity for a joy ride" or "Work  hard, play harder" and the ever important " Take a NAP!"), I think the most valuable thing I've ever learned from them is to LOVE. Unconditionally, nonjudgmentally,and unceasingly LOVE! Kindness is never wasted. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's never too late to change your game... and other lessons I learned while yelling at my GOLF BALL

Our family tradition for LDS Conference weekend usually includes a trip somewhere in our RV. This allows us to listen to the sacred words of our prophet and other church leaders without the distractions of our everyday life. (Oct 2011 LDS General Conference) Thus, the first weekend in October represents the last camping trip of our season. It also represents the last golf game of our season.... And to me, that's okay, because GOLF is a FOUR LETTER WORD!

First of all, the word "novice" is a generous term for my golf game, if you can even call my experience a "game." My husband continues to ensure me that with practice I will get better and then the joy will come. Golf is his game and frankly, he's pretty good at it.  But, me? Not so much. I simply don't enjoy games that I can't win. I mean, really, what is the point in playing a game YOU CAN NEVER WIN

Yet, late Saturday morning we teed off and, surprising even to myself, my game didn't start out too bad. In fact, I had an amazingly beautiful 135 yard drive on the first hole. (Compared to my husbands 300 yard drive it was nothing, but for me, completely impressive.) Unfortunately, it was all down hill from there. Within an hour I was teed off!  

I wish I could give you pointers to help your game, but honestly, I've got NOTHIN'! My score will remain confidential, as will any rumors of a club throwing tantrum that may arise. I will however, tell you what I took away from my day: 

1. You've gotta love your shoes! Seriously. It doesn't matter what the activity is, if you love your shoes, you're already one step ahead of the game! 
The best part of my game.

2. Don't over analyze. - Around the 6th hole I was ready to throw in the towel. Before each swing I'd analyze my stance, my swing, my connect (or lack thereof) and yet, things were so bad I actually quit keeping score. I couldn't seem to figure out what was going wrong and so, I quit. Not the game, but the analyzing. And, miraculously, it worked. The more I relaxed the better my game got. For a control freak, this is a huge lesson learned. Don't over analyze. Sometimes it's okay NOT to have a spreadsheet. Sometimes it's okay to just feel the wind in your hair and connect. 

3. It's never too late to change your game. -  After that 6th hole epiphany, my game changed. It still wasn't perfect, but my attitude about it was much better. We all have bad moments, bad games, and even bad days, but it's never too late to change. Sometimes we can't control our circumstances, but we can always control our attitude. 

Because I love my husband, and my husband loves golf, I will continue to try to love the game. At very least, I will tolerate it, because at some point he's going to retire and if I have any hopes of spending time with him, I'm pretty sure it's going to have take place on the golf course. Perhaps I will learn his patience. By some miracle, perhaps I'll even learn how to swing that stinkin' club. But, if all else fails, I'll slip on my cute golf-shoes and just enjoy the scenery. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I've found myself in a bit of a bind lately - drawn between the things I've "gotta" do and the things I "wanna" do. I keep telling myself that I need to treat my writing as a job (funny to think of it that way since it's really my release), but with a mile long To-Do list screaming at me, I'm sad to admit that I've barely written anything the last few months. 

Sure, I could throw out the whole "I've got four kids" excuse and get a sympathetic sigh from at least one person, but really my kids self-function. I could drop off the planet and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't notice I was gone until the fridge was completely barren or they needed help with a book report. And, okay, being the camp director for our Young Women was a big job, but camp wrapped up a month ago. The kids are in school, the yard is being neglected, I've only vacuumed once in the last 2 weeks (shhh, don't tell my mom), and I'm pretty sure the pizza we had for dinner last night had zero nutritional value. Apparently my domestic prowess isn't what's holding me back. So, what is it that keeps me from stealing even an hour or two to write? 

The simple answer? Being an author. 

And that's the oxymoronish truth. I - apparently naive to the publishing world - thought that the hard part was actually creating a story worth sharing. I thought I'd turn the manuscript over and voila', move on to my next project. I had no idea that my work was just beginning. The 89k words of Hope's Journey were the easy part, now I get to learn all kinds of stuff about marketing. Seriously? I couldn't even sell a pair of magic glasses to a blind man. Luckily, I know a thing or two about computers and design (very handy skills for creating trailers, bookmarks, and web pages), but beyond that, this whole marketing thing is foreign to me. This is where my stubbornness may actually be a virtue... because, I will figure it out. I will make it work. And, if pizza has to become a staple around here, so be it, I will find the time to write! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I used the word JUVENILE

Juvenile - that's the word I used when asking my husband about the formatting of my blog page. "I really like it, it's whimsical and bright and fun, but do you think it's too juvenile?" His response? Laughter. Not just a snort or a chuckle, but out right, belly jiggling laughter! Then, he told me it was the perfect way to let people meet the real me.

So, there you have it... I may write stories about serious stuff (teen-pregnancy, domestic violence, etc..), but at the core, I might just have a little bit of growing up left to do. Juvenile? I don't know. Young at heart? Absolutely.  

Hope's Journey book trailer

Monday, September 26, 2011

One foot in the Insanity Pond

I know what you're thinking - or maybe it's just me thinking it - but here we go again.... I know, I know, I've never been much of a blogger. In fact, the blog I started over two years ago has a whopping 4 posts on it. So, what am I doing here now. Frankly, I don't know. But, when you wake up at 3:00 in the morning with a racing mind, you have one of two options: (1) continue to ignore the thought, pushing it to the back of your mind hour after hour as you toss and turn (& probably drive your husband crazy in the process), or (2) do something about it.

So, here we go again... one foot in the insanity pond, the other (hopefully) anchoring my crazy, wonderful life to reality.
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