Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How to catch your future self

Monday was my birthday. I love birthdays, besides the excuse to party and spoil myself, they also give me a reason to reflect back on my past year. I have so much to be grateful for . . . even if some of that gratitude is just for the simple fact that this past year of my life is over! 32 was quite a doozy for me. There is a lot of this past year that I wouldn’t repeat, not for a million dollars. But, I’m still grateful to be where I am and for all the growth that my trials and triumphs brought me. And I’m grateful for my blessings. 

The other gift that birthdays give me is a reason to look ahead at this next year, and to pave a new path of possibilities.

I found this video of Matthew Mcconaughey’s Oscar speech super inspiring. It has helped me to look at how I want to move forward and how to make some new goals for myself.

I think if we’re always chasing after ourselves, ten years from now, it will do a couple different things.

#1. It will force us to make a plan for who we want our future selves to be. If we’re going to chase ourselves we need to know who we’re going to be. What will we have accomplished? Where will we live? What will be important to us? This is great because it gives us direction. Otherwise we’re just living our lives and if we don’t have a destination who knows where the road of life will take us.

#2. It will force us to put that plan into action. If we’re going to catch ourselves (or at least attempt to) we’re going to have to make a plan. Having a destination is not enough. We have to figure out the mode of transportation of how we’re going to get from the person we are now to the person we want to be in ten years.

#3. It keeps us dreaming. One of my first thoughts when I watched Mathew Mcconaughey’s speech was, “Wow! He’s still reaching for something? I mean. He’s got it all doesn’t he? Hasn’t he already reached the top? Where is there to go from here?” Sometimes I think I’m more afraid of success than failure because I’m afraid that if I ever reach the destination that I’m reaching for that I’ll look back and feel disappointed. Like when something fun ends and I’m left feeling empty. But listening to Mathew Mcconaughey has made me realize that it never has to be that way. There is no ultimate summit. No final destination. There is always room to grow and things to learn and look forward to. And that fills me with so much excitement and relief!

So this birthday I am left with a big task. It’s time to start dreaming. Of all the characters I have created in my head, I think the most exciting and scary person is going to be me . . . in ten years. And what a fun and exciting journey it will be trying to catch her.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer book review

I am not ashamed to admit that I love Stephenie Meyer's books. Twilight? Loved it. The Host? Loved it even more.

Were they cheesy? Yes. Were they long-winded? Yes. Do I care? No! They were entertaining! And guess what? They were hugely popular! That’s why they made them into even cheesier movies okay!? (I like cheesy.)

It’s actually a HUGE pet-peeve of mine how much other writers love to rip on Twilight. It’s so hilarious to me. I’m like, hey! If I can write a book with that huge of a following (however fleeting) I will be stoked! Who cares if her writing doesn’t sound like freaking Shakespeare. Oh and the other complaint I hear all the time is how angsty and whiny Belle is….oh give me a break! She’s a teenage girl, guess what? Teenage girls are whiny, I know this because I was one.

Ok. I feel better now. I can jump off my soap box--enough to rant about her latest book—The Chemist.

As I have already mentioned I am a fan of hers, so when I saw this new book, which by the way I had not even heard a whisper of until I saw it on the library shelf, I was pretty excited!

I admit—I found a lot more complaints about this book than her others. Truth be told, I’m not sure if it is because it’s not as good or if it’s because I read the other ones before I started all my writing training. (I’m becoming one of them. It's so sad. I’m such a hypocrite.)

But the main point is I still really liked it. The good things first:

It follows Meyer's same M.O.—with the whole “falling in love with the enemy thing.” First with the Vampires, then with the evil Aliens, and now with the more contemporary enemy—the interrogator. I feel like Myers brainstorming sessions must go something like this. “Ok. Who is the absolutely least likely candidate for a love interest?” She brings the whole “falling for the bad ‘guy’” to a seriously whole new level with her books. And why is that good? Because it’s different. It’s fun to read about something totally unexpected.

She does a great job handling the complications of having a character with multiple fake identities and fake names.

The beginning and the ending were huge page turners. There were a few parts in the middle that I almost put it down, so there is that, but the majority of the time I was very excited to sneak away and read more more more.

So now the bad things (aka, things to learn from as a writer):

The insta-love. I know, don’t tell me. It’s been too long—but I’m pretty sure Twilight and probably the Host were also heavily-laden with the insta-love but were not going to complain about that today. And honestly, it wasn’t so much the insta-love that was the problem for me, it was the fact that Alex had no real redeeming qualities to love. After reading the whole book I’m still not sure why Daniel fell for her besides the fact that he “liked her face.” Actually, I take that back. Alex was “lovable” because I liked her as a reader but I just never saw or heard Daniels perspective on why he liked her which made his attraction unbelievable, so I learned the importance of showing that.

The bleak middle parts. Not all of the middle part dragged but a significate enough part that I really did consider just putting it down. So the thing I learned about this is just tighter writing. It really is possible to give too many details and drag on about things too much. As fun as it is to set things up for a later Ah-Ha moment—if readers can’t even make it through the set-up there will be no Ah-ha moment to get to!

The gun details. This might just be me, but I just really don’t care about the type of gun she’s carrying around. All guns are the same to me. SIG Sauer? PPK? It means nothing to me. There are probably only about three different gun visuals I have in my head.

There’s this one

And this one

And this one.

Giving me like 15 different gun names is doing nothing for me besides annoying me. It would make sense if she were writing for a different audience—but I think I’m a good sample of her target audience and I’m fairly certain that we just don’t care about the specific details of all that. It’s one thing to mention the gun name like once or twice but I think she threw it in there like a bajillion times. And yes, that is an accurate estimation. Just ask my husband Jona, I never exaggerate on numbers.

You should read it. It was fun. All silly rantings aside . . .Stephenie Meyer has a new book out after like 7 years and that is pretty exciting!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sticker Charts--How to get your kids to do anything you want

Sometimes I have genius ideas. Only I can’t really take credit for these genius ideas because I can tell the difference between the way my mind usually works and the way it works under the influence of inspiration.

Most of my genius ideas have been inspiration. I believe in divine help. I don’t know the how or the why of when it reaches us but I guess I can take credit for occasionally finding a way to let it in. Because I know that being an open vessel to inspiration is anything but easy.

Luckily a little while ago this genius idea came to me of how to get my kids to do the things I want them to do and to get them to do it with very little effort on my part—super win! And I know the novelty of this sticker charts will most likely eventually wear off and I will be in need of some new inspiration of how to tweak and change it but for now . . . this idea is GOLDEN.

So let me share it with you and why it works.

#1. It is motivating: Once my kids fill up their whole sticker charts (which should take about a week) they receive not just one reward but three highly motivating awards:

  • ·         Money. We divide it up so they are getting a portion towards spending, savings, tithing, and to the girl we are sponsoring from Bolivia.
  • ·         3 coupons of 30 minutes extra screen time. Technically my kids only get 30 minutes of screen time each day so this is a huge reward for them. (There are definitely days where I “reward” them with a lot more screen time than this. It’s for everyone’s sanity.)
  • ·         A reward from the prize bucket. There are all kinds of things from the dollar store in it.

#2. I never have to calculate anything so my kids actually get paid! I have historically been horrible at paying my kids when they finished their charts. Why? Because . . . math. There was way too much calculating involved. Now . . . it’s simple. It is always the same once they fill up the whole chart. And the sticker chart is separate from the list of things they need to do so if there is a day they don’t do one of the things on the list it won’t affect the count at the end.

#3. It has bonuses: My kids are seriously asking me if they can do extra things so they can fill up their chart faster.  

#4. It keeps them from asking me for more screen time—even my three year old! My three year old's chart, and my older kids bonus chart, has things on it that typically would not be considered “chores” but the reason I put these things on is because I would much rather have them doing these kinds of things than watching screens. Things like:
·         Make something (legos, art, play dough etc…)
·         Play outside
·         Play with a sibling

#5. I easily combined behavior into the sticker chart. In the past it’s been such a nightmare trying to come up with a separate behavior system and keeping track of it all and finding ways to reward and discipline. Now I just made a list of all the good behavior that would get them a sticker and all the bad behavior that would make them loose a sticker. All done on the same chart.

#6. It's not overly complicated. I've been there. I've done that. I like making cute things, I do. But I also like simple things, and at least for now this is simple and plain, and I'm happy with that.

Here’s the sticker chart. Super simple.
Sticker Chart

Here’s the list of things they need to do, along with the Bonuses
Noah's List
Kayla's List
Josiah's List

I laminated everything and then stuck them on the inside of one of my cupboards! (Except for the coupons...those are under lock and key. ;)

This is the link to the clipart I used for the charts ----->Job Chart clipart (It's adorable.)

The first day I implemented this my daughter (who is notorious for dragging her butt through her chart . . . and is also notorious for sleeping in) woke up at 6:00 in the morning to get started!

And my cute little 3 year old can still be heard uttering the words "I can do it! I can do it!" As he makes his bed.

And all of this couldn't have happened at a better time--we are totally going to make it through the last few weeks of summer!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Takeaways from BYU Books for Young Readers Symposium

My soul has been fed. I seriously have the coolest Grandma! She took me to the amazing conference, BYU Books for Young Readers Symposium. While it is geared mainly at librarians, I found plenty of wonderful takeaways as a writer. It's amazing the difference I feel after soaking up the words of other creative people. I have heard before that you can't make art without consuming art and it's so true! I feel so much more creative and full after learning from other writers and admiring their works of art.

Tess Hilmo:
This woman is a local children's author and is seriously delightful. I want to be her friend!! Here are some of her words of wisdom:

  • Dreams require honesty and vulnerability
  • Dreams require support and encouragement from others.
  • When the sadness is changing who you are, maybe it's time to move on.
  • The things about dreams is . . . we ultimately find success, not in spite of our trials but because of them.
  • Care more about getting it right than being right.
  • Take a beautiful paragraph and practice writing it terribly so you can appreciate the difference as well as learn your bad writing habits. 

Check out one of her books, Cinnamon Moon.

Deborah Wiles:
  • If you have a goal it can change your life--even if you never reach that goal.
  • Time moves on and we capture what we can of it through our stories
  • The only thing we can change is ourselves and there is no small change or choice.
Before I came to this conference I was not into reading biographies or anything historical but coming to this conference changed my mind. This novel, in particular, looks fascinating! It's a complete documentary type novel of the whole sixties! 

Melissa Sweet
I was completely spell-bound by this woman's art and her art studio . . . oh my! It is to die for. I need a picture of it to go up on my vision board because I would love to have a space like that to be creative in one day! In the mean time (I'm awaiting her response to my email for a picture of her studio) here are some other inspirational art studios.)
----->My Pinterest Art studio Board

  • If I'm in my studio I'm working. Even if I'm reading, that's work. 
  • You have four good hours for creative work. It's hard to do good creative work after that. 
You must check out her books. Her artwork is so amazing. She does these awesome collages with old book covers that are so cool. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

When your ducks won't line up

My ducks have been having a hard time lining themselves up properly as of late. I want to do all the things but I feel like I’m doing none of the things. But then I had an epiphany as I was helping Kayla through the struggle that is piano practice. 

I hate helping Kayla practice piano. Hate it—more than I used to hate practicing my flute. She has inherited way too much of my clenched up frustration when things do not go completely perfectly. And watching her melt-down makes me want to melt-down. But, fortunately for me (and for her) I was having a surprisingly patient moment in which I did not give into my desires to run screaming from the room. And I managed to get her to calm down and actually play through her songs. It was a major accomplishment. The clouds parted. There were angels singing. It was that amazing.

And I realized, I am not giving myself enough credit. I really need to change my expectations and start stacking up a more realistic list of what “all the things are.”

It all boils down to a sense of what I consider an accomplishment and what I consider to be interruptions to the accomplishments. At a church meeting the other day, one of the other ladies reminded us that at the end of the day, when we feel like we haven’t finished anything on our ‘to do list,’ to remember to celebrate all the little interruptions and all we accomplished in taking care of them. Maybe "all" we did was help our children with their needs, and maybe at the end of the day that doesn’t look like much but when we sum up all the years and the little people we have raised into competent and loving human beings, it amounts to something grand.

The other thing that occurred to me is that I need to stop multi-tasking. I know . . . . I know . . . even as I write this my inner-self is shouting at me “but how will you ever get anything done?!” I don’t know, exactly, but I do know that I am currently functioning at about half capability, because I try to do “all the things” all at once. But in the end none of the things get done very well.

So my new goal is to be more present with my kids when I’m helping them. To (try to) embrace  all the interruptions and give myself more mental gold stars along the way for all my accomplishments.

And if my duck line looks a little more zig-zaggy than all lined up then hey . . . that's motherhood right?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Hundredth Queen book review

First of all, this book is fabulous. I loved it. It made me want to throw aside all other responsibilities and hide in a closet somewhere, devouring it, like chocolate!

The author, Emily R. King is fabulous as well. I've been friends with her on Facebook for a while (and in person for a short time) and something she wrote a while back has really stuck with me and I'd like to address it here.

She posted , "When people repeatedly tell me they didn't think they'd like my book, but they actually really loved it...why does that feel like a backhanded compliment? Why say that at all? Am I supposed to be grateful I changed their mind? This whole being an author thing has good moments, but honestly, a lot of it is just aggravating."

I can completely get what she means about taking it as a backhanded compliment and also how frustrating such words can be. But I would venture that perhaps one of the reasons why those people didn't think they'd like it is because . . . well . . . there just aren't that many fabulous books out there. So when they read it and discovered that it is actually very well written, has a wonderful fast pace and is full of delightful romance . . . they were genuinely surprised. And I'm guessing that surprise usually had nothing to do with Emily R. King as a person and more just books in general. It's sad but the market is so over-saturated with books, and there are just not that many amazing books out there. I mean, sure there are good books along with the not so great and even crappy ones but there aren't that many amazing books like The Hundredth Queen. 

So there you have it. Now that I have sufficiently hyped the book up--go and read it--with the usual expectation you hold for "most books" out there, so that you can be pleasantly surprised and delighted with this gem. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The healing power of trees--and time.

I'm writing this post to tell you all that I'm okay. For my friends and loved ones who might be wondering and for all of you who are in the midst of a miscarriage, wondering if you're going to feel "this way" forever. I want to be a testament to you that yes, one day, you will heal. That's not to say that I don't still have my moments and my triggers. Just yesterday I was at a church activity where someone brought their adorable little 3 week old baby. I wanted to hold her . . . but I didn't. I haven't held a newborn since my little twins passed away at 15 weeks gestation.

I went home and had a little cry as I was watering my garden. I noticed my big willow tree--which has very deep emotional connections to all things baby-related to me. Early this spring it had split practically in half. I was devastated, thinking we were going to loose it. But my sweet husband, through much man-power and will-power cranked that thing back up with a chain. And guess what? It's alive! And not only alive--to my complete joy and amazement I noticed yesterday that it is sprouting new branches like crazy all over it's "wounds." We had to saw off many of it's branches to make it light enough to lift back up. Wow! I thought. Look how it's trials have made it stronger--more lush and full of even more branches. I held my chin up high and realized that, just like my beloved tree, I have grown stronger too. That's not to say that I don't have my scars, just like my tree, But we have both triumphed over adversary. We are whole, and we are growing, stronger than ever.

The hammock. however, that used to hang from it's branches, has not met with the same happy fate. That hammock is now in about a million pieces, probably buried under piles of dirt at the landfill. I can laugh about it now but at the time it served as a symbol for me that had to be destroyed. It was the hammock, you see, that I had spent many days swinging in, lying under that branches of that great willow tree, dreaming about Kayla and then Josiah being born. As I was preparing for their natural deliveries it served as my "happy place" that I would later envision and hold onto during my labor. It was one of my favorite places.

Then later, after I had already had one miscarriage after Josiah (and two before him) it was the place I went to as my refuge to pray. I was looking for an answer as to whether we should try again. If there was another little soul out there waiting to come to our family. As it turned out, I got a pretty strong answer that yes--there was. I haven't actually gotten that many answers to prayers that I can definitively look back and say, yes, that was clear answer from God. So . . . . naturally . . .  when we lost the twin girls we later got pregnant with . . . I grew to hate that hammock. Ripping it from the branches of my willow tree and cutting it up into a million pieces was one of the first things I did when I came home from the doctors office when I first learned the devastating news. It was therapeutic and I don't regret my destructive decision. But looking at my big willow tree today, and considering our symbolic relationship, and all the growth we have both undergone, I think it might be time for a new hammock. And that thought fills me with a wealth of joy.