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!

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