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. 
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