Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Real Love Story

Every little girl dreams of her PRINCE CHARMING. From a young age, she starts thinking about this handsome man who will ride in on his white horse and carry her away into their HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Even the most independent of girls wants to be taken care of (believe me, I'm about as stubborn and independent as they come). She wants to be loved and cared for and protected by her mighty man....

But, what happens when that Prince Charming's body goes to war with itself? What happens when your strong,  rugged warrior can no longer take care of himself, let alone his Beautiful Princess?

That's when the REAL LOVE STORY begins!

I've seen pictures of my mighty Uncle Dave when he can walk, and run, and play with the best of them. He was a strong and healthy and fit man. Unfortunately, I don't hold any of those memories. I know he had these abilities in my lifetime, I was just too young to remember them. When MS (multiple sclerosis) hit him, it hit hard.  But Dave is a fighter!

A warrior!

And, so is my Aunt MaeLynn, who lovingly, tenderly, unfaltering, devoted everything she is to making his life the best that it could be. For years - and even decades - she has been his caretaker. Not out of obligation or responsibility, but out of LOVE. She is a strong and courageous example of true womanhood. Her love knows no bounds. Her service has no limit. Selfish is a word she doesn't know. And, when you talk about LOVE, it doesn't get any more REAL than that!

Impaired only by his physical shell, Dave's abilities have always outshone his disabilities. He had an uncanny power to make a sad little girl smile. An ability to bring laughter to any room. A smile that could brighten any day. And a positive attitude that made everyone who crossed his path want to be just a little better. Though unable to run and frolic with us kids, we were drawn to him. He made us laugh. He teased us and lifted us. He let us race his scooters down the street! He was the kind of uncle we should all be blessed to have. The kind of father that cherished his children and grandchildren. The kind of husband that is a true Prince Charming.

The measure of a man isn't in his physical strength, 
but in the size of his heart and the depth of his soul.

Dave was called home to our Father in Heaven this week. We will miss his sense of humor and the joy of his company, but we celebrate his life and are excited for him to have finally been able to shed the bounds of his mortal body. And, as Aunt MaeLynn goes on without him, she will find peace in the knowledge that their union is one designed for eternity. Their amazing marriage is not limited to this mortal existence, but because of the beautiful plan of our Heavenly Father, they will rejoice in each other's love forever, because, a real love story has no end!  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Daughter of Helaman- by Misty Moncur

I'm such a slacker. I read this book in September and, even though we discussed it in our Book Club, somehow I never got around to posting my review of it. Better late than never, right? 

Daughter of Helaman - by Misty Moncur

Misty's debut novel is a fun, fast-paced step back into Book of Mormon times, though you don't have to be a member of the LDS church or even a believer in it's teachings to enjoy the story. Keturah is a young Lamanite girl who should be thinking about marriage and family chores but isn't really interested in those traditional activities. She, instead, see's herself as a warrior in Helaman's army.  

What I loved most about this book: 
There are more than a couple of things that endeared Daughter of Helaman to me. Foremost, I loved Keturah's character. She is smart and strong and sassy! She doesn't let anybody tell her what she can and can't do. When she sets her mind to something, she does everything she can to pursue it. I love strong women characters and I felt like in many ways I could relate to her. And what's not to like about a love triangle? With two boys fighting for her affection, which one will she choose? The dependable, loyal, committed one, or the new, exciting one that supports her in her desire to join the army? 

Daughter of Helaman is a fast paced, fun, and danger filled book that will transport you back in time and   bring the Book of Mormon to life. With just the right blend of love, adventure, and self-discovery wrapped up in a delightful main character, Daughter of Helaman is a great read for kids (aged 10 and up) as well as adults.  I've added it to my daughter's book shelf.   

From the back cover: 
SHE SHOULD BE THINKING of housework and being a wife. Instead Keturah is thinking of swords and being a warrior. Ignoring the worries of her family and her nearly betrothed, Keturah begins secretly trainning with one of the new soldiers to prove herself worthy of Helaman's army. But when the two men meet up, sparks fly, and Keturah must figure out not only her place in society, but also her heart's desire. 

About the author: 
Between working and raising a family, Misty fits in writing like others fit in breathing. Misty loves to write. She writes in the Romance, Young Adult, and Religious genres.
Misty lives in Utah with her husband, her Wii-addicted son, and her curly-haired daughter. They spend a great deal of time laughing and the rest of it eating pizza.
Visit Misty's blog for more information on her writing and current projects, or click here to read the first chapter of Daughter of Helaman.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

FAIR Doesn't Necessarily Mean EQUAL

I'm sure we've all heard it:  "Mom, it's not fair! So and so got something that I didn't..." or "so and so got to do something that I didn't..." or, better yet, "His piece is bigger than mine."
These words ring out in our house more often than I'd like to admit. "I'm sorry you feel that way, dear." Eyes are already starting to roll at this point because my kids know what's coming next, "Fair isn't always equal."

It's an interesting concept, this idea that fair and equal are not conjoined at the hip.Somehow our society has swayed in a direction that seems to promote the synonymy of these two very different words. And, while I'm not a sociologist, and economist, or a politician, I find an interesting link between the merging of these ideas.

Consider for a moment that fair really is equal and conversely that equal is fair. Imagine a room full of excited children as they take turns swinging at a candy-full pinata. Whack after excited whack, the pinata weakens, and at long last it burst open. Candy launches across the floor. Children scream with delight as they dive in to collect their treasures. Time flies forward as dozens of arms and legs work hard to secure their takings. - Now imagine a boy on the sidelines who, though perfectly able to have collected his own candy, chose to do nothing.
If fair is equal, the argument would be that all the other children - those who actually worked for their candy - should have to share with the one who chose to do nothing. And, if fair is equal, it wouldn't be just about sharing, an actual accounting and division would have to take place. The kids would all have to put their candy in the middle and divide it equal ways among all the children.
So, if fair is equal, is equal fair?  Is it fair to those who worked hard, got knees thrown to their ribs and elbows bumped into their faces, to have to split their loot with the ones who didn't put themselves on the line? In a nutshell, what does this teach them?

If there is no reward for hard, pain-staking effort, why do it? 

In an oversimplified nutshell, I think that scenario summarizes our current trend of ENTITLEMENT. I don't know who coined the term "Generation I Deserve" (aka Gen I.D.), but as a mom, a volunteer with youth, and a simple observer, I see it daily. And, it's not just limited to our children and our teens. Adults have started to adopt this attitude as well.

Sure, we are entitled to basic human rights. But, somewhere I think we've lost sight perhaps of what that means. Somewhere we've shifted from EMPOWERING people to do great things to ENABLING them to do nothing. We've all heard that "if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you've fed him for a lifetime."

Last night I was in a crowded room full of young wresting boys.I didn't take time to count, but I'd guess there were about 50 little boys (aged 3 - 9) and only 4 coaches. The air was thick with the smell of rubber mats and little boy sweat. From my position along the wall, I observed two very young boys (3 or 4 at the oldest) sitting cross-legged on the mat, giggling while the coach hollered, "Referee Position." All the boys positioned themselves accordingly, ready to practice their take-down at the coaches command... all the boys, that is, except these two cute little guys. What I saw next made my jaw nearly hit the floor. Two fathers stood and made their way on to the mat. One of the dads took position on his knees beside his boy and began to show him what to do. The other, approached the coach and expressed, in a very disrespectful tone, that he expected the coach to take a one-on-one approach with his son (remember the ratio is at minimum 12:1 here!). He then turned to the dad of the other boy, accusing him not only of having a lazy kid, but degrading him for doing "the coaches job." He took his son by the hand and dragged him across the mat. After planting his son into the care of another coach (and taking attention from at least a dozen other boys in the process), he returned to his cross armed, barrel chested position along the wall.

My hat's off to the dad who got on his knees and took time to EMPOWER his son. He saw his responsibility to his child's success. He took the time to teach his son to fish.

So, I ask, are we EMPOWERING our children, our friends, our associates? Are we taking the time to teach them to fish? Are we giving them the tools to do for themselves and to be contributors? Or are we teaching them to be takers?

Fair doesn't mean equal and equal doesn't mean fair. Hard work and sacrifice lead to merit based opportunities. When we take away competition and learning opportunities, we ENABLE people to become users of society. When we promote an "everyone's a winner" environment, we are ENTITLING others to take away from those who really do work harder.

 (This is not a political statement or endorsement, I simply thought it was an appropriate synopsis to my point.)

*Just Desserts*

Umm... I'm not even sure I need to explain - or justify - or even qualify: 
We LOVE DESSERTS! Not just eating them, though that is a plus, but we love creating them. All of my kids (including the 9 year old) know the fundamentals of cooking. My teenage son throws together an amazing bowl of roman noodles, my younger one can make his own mac and cheese, but my girls take the cake. Literally, they take the cake... and make it too! I'm so proud of my little master bakers! Here are a few of their creations: 

Peanut Butter Passion Cupcake - not for the faint of heart. *Nummy*

The grown-up version: Peanut Butter Passion Cake. 

Spider Cakes - simple, yet AMAZING!

Churros - okay, so they look like fish-sticks and they aren't technically baked, but "oh, my word, addicting." 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Miss California and the Glorification of Teen Pregnancy - 
A missed opportunity to do good. 

On January 14, 2012, America held it's annual "Miss America Pageant," a competition that touts a mission to represent high ideals of "beauty, grace, intelligence, artistic ability, and refinement."  

For the most part, I have no problem with this contest. The Miss America organization does much good throughout not just the US, but the entire world. Winners have represented our nation well throughout the years and I respect their platforms and the service they ultimately render. However, in the context of the competition itself, sometimes I wonder who these beautiful contestants are representing. Are they really looking to be examples to those young girls that look up to them? Or, are they more interested in singing the praises of the networks? 

My case in point:  (Que video to 4:29)

Before I move on to Miss California, I need to give props to Miss New York for her intelligent answer to the question about Occupy Wall Street. This is the type of intelligence and refinement I think the Miss America organization can be proud of. However, some contestants could've done a better job. 

Referencing TV shows like "Teen Mom"  and "16 and Pregnant", Miss California was asked about the  glorifying of teen pregnancy and what she thought of this type of reality TV show.

I'm not going to lie: I was riveted. My ears piqued and I scooted to the edge of my seat. They were talking my language. This was a question I could relate to. This is a subject I hold close to my heart! Miss California had a real opportunity to positively influence her audience. 

I eagerly anticipated her reply... "It absolutely does glorify being pregnant at a young age, but I have to recognize that there is definitely an appetite for reality television and it's the responsibility of the viewers to understand that we want to live our life different from these reality stars. It is an entertainment industry and I support those TV shows, but it is our responsibility to take responsibility for our own actions." 

I'm unclear. Is she opposed to glorifying teen pregnancy? Or, is she supportive of the TV networks? Is she touting the responsibility of teens to make good choices, or telling them it's okay to seek entertainment from the mistakes (and in some cases the "purposes") of young mothers? On the subject of teen-pregnancy, there is no room for fence sitting. Either you support our youth in making healthy, wise decisions about their futures or you don't. Either you give them the tools and the knowledge to make better choices, or you support the TV networks that glorify destructive behavior. There is no middle ground. 

So, you ask, what would my answer have been? 

"There is nothing glorious about having a baby when you are a teen and for a TV show to glorify it is an act ignorance and an injustice for those who find value in it. There is nothing wrong with drawing attention to a problem or in talking about it, however, creating a product that causes teen pregnancy to be admired and even praised further perpetuates the problem . The producers would be wise to show the struggles and the hardship that come to these teens not just now but as they (and their babies) mature." 

That's it in a nutshell. Teen pregnancy isn't glorious. Babies aren't toys to be played with. Parenting isn't something to take lightly. When we make adult decisions, we must face the adult consequences. Our kids deserve the facts. They deserve to have a fighting chance at a successful future. When we paint unrealistic pictures of "happy ever after" we are doing them an injustice. 

The responsibility is ours. Mothers, fathers, teachers, mentors, media outlets, celebrities, and friends.  Let's start a dialogue. Tell us what you think. What's your take on reality shows that glorify teen pregnancy?

(This post was originally posted on The Floor is Ours - a new blog designed with the intent to bridge the commutation gap  between teens and parents. If you are interested in being part of our The Floor is Ours youth or adult panel, please shoot me an email at 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I've Never Attained a Goal I Didn't First Write Down.

Here we are already 10 days into the new year and statistically speaking most of us have already broken at least one - if not all - of our resolutions. So, the question is, why do we make these "resolutions" when all too often what they really are is week-long goals? Why, year after year, do we start something that - statistically speaking - is near impossible to finish?

According to a recent post called Why New Years Resolutions Don't Stick, the answer is that we are neurologically programmed to like things that are comfortable; routines; neural grooves, as the article calls them. Don't worry, though, grim as it may sound, change is not impossible.We don't have to be stuck in the same old rut forever. We can set new neural grooves by simply doing things differently. Not just thinking differently, but by actually DOING differently. Simply put: developing new patterns.

And what does it take to develop a new pattern? I'm not a neurologist, and I suppose there are many elements involved to creating a permanent neural shift, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps at minimum, some kind of a game plan is necessary.

Game plan, you say. Some kind of order? Does this involve a list?

Now we're speaking my language!

I don't know about you, but I've never attained a goal I did't first write down. Sure, stating it out loud helps too, but there is a level of commitment and accountability that comes from writing it down. Simply put, an unwritten goal is only a wish. "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." (Anonymous)

Whether you call them goals, resolutions, or to-do lists, a random bullet list of items is simply no more than a random bullet list of items. If you plan to actually check off your list, here are a few suggestions:

  • Develop a plan. Set the goal, then figure out HOW you're going to do it. If it's health you want, how will you attain it? Will you go to a gym? Get a fitness coach? Consult a nutritionist? Kick your soda addiction? 
  • Make it realistic. Is it really healthy or wise to lose 50 lbs in a month? Can you really make a successful life-change over night? I'm a believer that you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it, but lets be realistic about it. Rome was not built in a day, and neither is anything else worth building, including a better self.
  • Set a timeline. "By such and such a date I will....  Then by such and such a date, I will further...." Timeline's make impossible seeming tasks feasible. 
  • Be accountable. If nobody knows your goal who are you accountable to? Yourself? Isn't that who you've been answering to for all these years while your bad habit developed? How's that been working for you? If you really want to succeed, find someone to help you be accountable. If you don't have someone in your personal life that you trust, there's a whole world wide web full of support groups out there! 

So, drum-roll please. I've made a list - shocker, I know - of the things I plan to work on for 2012. If you're interested to see how I plan to go about each item on the list or to see my progress, check back in the coming days and weeks and I'll break them down into more detail.

And now, without further adeu, and in no particular order, here is THE list (condensed, of course, because as previously mentioned, I am the master of list makers!):
My 2012 Resolution Revolutions: 

  1. Read more, including works of fiction, self-improvement, and the entire Book of Mormon. 
  2. Spend more time with my family. They're a pretty goofy bunch and we have a great time together, so why don't we take more time to play? Kanasta. Camping. Fishing (okay, maybe not this one, since I tend to bury my face in a book while they fish). Four wheeling. Five Crowns, Greedy Hands, Phase 10... Movies. Plays. Sporting Events. Bike Rides. Walks. The list of thing to do is virtually endless.  
  3. Manage time better. This essentially means limiting my time on the internet. Facebook can be like a big, hungry, black hole. There are many valuable tools for marketing as well as a communication avenues for me to keep in touch with friends online, but really, boundaries need to be set. I plan to set daily time limits for email, blogs, research, advertising, facebook, and all other things internet dependent so that I can get to the bazillion and one other things that are on my list.  
  4. Get organized! Okay, so I know that not only is this cliche, it's also pretty vague. Those who know me best understand my need for organization. I'm not just someone who claims to have OCD, I've actually been clinically diagnosed (Hahaha, now that's a story I should share sometime.) But, when you share a home with 5 other people, unless you spend your entire waking existence picking up after them, things tend to get ruffled. My specific list of organizational needs includes: the office, storage room, garage, and our finances!  
  5. Finish the plethora of household projects that someone continues to create. If that particular someone wasn't my very life blood, I might have to consider strangling her! But, the words "project" and "Stephanie" are synonymous. The particular projects for 2012 are: (1) Finish finishing the basement (sew curtains, make bench cushions, install cabinets, build bookshelves, and touch up paint). (2) Design and build a shed. (3) Finish our water feature and fire pit! 
  6. Create my very first "Honey Do" list so my honey can help with the plethora of projects that someone will inevitably add to throughout the year. - Nuf said. No explanation needed. 
  7. Take care of ME! Spiritually, mentally, physically. - This is a hard one, because as mother's we tend to put ourselves last. But, really, if we don't take care of ourselves, who will? 
  8. Develop a healthy relationship with my body. Create and maintain a sustainable exercise habit, learn more about my individual nutritional needs (because, believe it or not, we are not all created the same), and learn to love the lady in the mirror. 
  9. Sleep better. This means quality as well as quantity. At least 8 hours without waking up at ridiculous hours would be great! Rise earlier. Retire at a decent hour. Find a way to mentally disengage so my mind will let me sleep.  
  10. Learn more about marketing. I'm sooooo not a marketer - I'm a creator. But, I'm also a perfectionist and a sponge for knowledge, so learn I must, and learn I will. 
  11. Increase my contacts. Build more friendships.
  12. Write more. Period. Write more! I set a goal to finish three manuscripts by the end of March. Hindsight tells me this is probably a bit ambitious so instead I am shooting to finish at least 2 in that time. By years end I'm aiming to add another 2 to that list, for a total of 4. This is huge for me. I don't always prioritize my writing - it did, afterall, take me about 2 years to write "Hope's Journey". 
  13. Focus. Hahahahahahaha. Funny, coming from a gal who's brain is going about a million miles an hour in different directions. 
  14. Prioritize. This kind of encompasses everything on this list. If I'm going to pull it all off, I'm going to have to prioritize. Remembering that the important things aren't always the tangible ones is going to be the key here. 
  15. Don't stress what I can't control. I probably should post this particular goal on my wall somewhere that I'll see it daily! I've come a long way in learning the difference between things I can control and things I can't, but frankly, the knots in my neck would testify that I've still got a ways to go. Mentally, this is a concept I grasp, but physiologically, I struggle. I am hardwired to want things neatly bundled, organized, and under control. I will breath my way through set backs and let disappointment roll off my back! In and out. One day at a time. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fire and Ice: My Top 25 Reads of 2011

Fire and Ice: My Top 25 Reads of 2011

Heather Gardner's bookshelf included 150 books this year. Of those, she compiled a list of her top 25.

What an honor to have Hope's Journey included on this list, and as #7 no less!

Thank you Heather for all the support you've given to me and other authors. The entire list can be found at Fire and Ice.

Don't forget to check out Heather's review of Hope's Journey. 

12 Local Authors Signing Together This Weekend

Twelve local Utah authors will be signing their books this weekend at the Crazy Daisy Totally Bodacious Boutique at the South Towne Expo Center. This is a FREE EVENT in conjunction with the Home Remodeling and Decorating Show as well as the Rock Mountain Gun show. We will be in room 200 outside the main exhibit hall. Come see us and enter for you chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card

The event runs from 11 am - 10 pm on Friday (Jan. 6) and again on Sat (Jan. 7) from 10 am - 8 pm.

The following authors will be there at these times (their books they will be signing are in parenthesis):

Friday all day 11-8: 
Keary Taylor (BrandedForsakenVindicatedAfterlifeEden)

Friday 11-3:30: 
Karey White (Gifted
Cindy C Bennett (Geek GirlHeart on a ChainImmortal Mine
Heather Frost (Seers)

Friday 3:30-8: 
Anna del C Dye (The Elf and the PrincessTrouble in the Elf CityElfs in a Conquered RealmCurse of the Elfs)
Stephanie Connelley Worlton (Hope's Journey)
Jill Vanderwood (What's It Like, Living Green?Drugs Make You Un-Smarter - cowritten with her granddaughter Savannah Peterson)

Saturday all day 10-8:
Mandi Slack (The Alias
Sherri Mills (I Almost Divorced My Husband, but I Went On Strike Instead)
Jewel Adams (The Wishing HourGuardian of My HeartTears of Heaven,The JourneyPlace in This WorldAgainst the OddsStill His Woman,Mercedes MountainElise's HeartThe LegacyThe Shelter of His Arms)

Saturday 10-4: 
Stephanie Connelley Worlton (Hope's Journey)
Tres Hatch (Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy)

Saturday 1:30-5:30 
Anna del C Dye (The Elf and the PrincessTrouble in the Elf CityElfs in a Conquered RealmCurse of the Elfs)
Heather Frost (Seers)

Saturday 4-10: 
Karey White (Gifted
Cindy C Bennett (Geek GirlHeart on a ChainImmortal Mine
Shannen Crane Camp (The Breakup Artist)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year, A New Focus on What Matters Most

In popular fashion of the New Year, I've been thinking a lot about possible resolutions for 2012. As my list grows and grows and then grows more,however, it is apparent that I'm hoping for a self- REVOLUTION  rather than to fulfill a resolution or two. My husband likes to tell me that I'm an overachiever. The truth is though, that I'm a list maker. I like lists. Lists of things to do, lists of movies I want to see, lists of projects I will eventually complete around my house, lists of good foods to eat, lists of books to read, and lists of lists so I don't lose track.

Seriously! I might have a problem! Especially if you look at my list from last year and realize just how much I didn't get done. Honestly, it's discouraging. For a moment, I even thought about ditching this whole list-making mentality. Then an amazing Relief Society President who, apparently 100% in tune with what I need, shared a little video today that helped changed my perspective. 

If I look at all the things I didn't get done, I'm reminded of all the things that I did:
          I laughed with my family. 
          I painted nails and curled hair. 
          I sewed on merit badges and linked up Bear beads. 
          I held my breath on the back of a 4wheeler while my daughter drove. 
          We camped and hiked and played. 
          We worked together. 
          Played together.
          Read the Book of Mormon together. 
          Prayed together.
          Learned from each other.
          Learned about each other. 
          Loved each other. 

As I look over my 2011 list, complete with flaws and unchecked tasks, I'm reminded that the things on that list aren't the important ones. I am a mother and wife first. Everything else comes second. The moments we share with our families aren't necessarily things we can check off a list, but that by no means makes them insignificant or unnecessary. 

So, as I make my list for 2012 (check back this week to laugh at the ridiculousness of whats on it), I will try to remember the important things. The moments that matter most can't be counted in the word count or completion status of my writing works in progress, in the projects completed around the house, or in the size of my waistline, but in the love and security of my family. 

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