Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The True Meaning of Christmas

I love Christmas.

Christmas explodes at my house the day after Thanksgiving—or as my daughter, Melanie, so eloquently put it last year as she surveyed our decorated living room, “Mom, it looks like Christmas threw up in here...” I love getting into the spirit of the season. I play holiday music all day, every day. I mail highly informative and attractively designed Christmas letters and cards to 100 friends and family members on December 1st. At least two nights each week, I force my teen-aged kids into the car to drive with me through the neighborhoods so we can see the lights. We always do a Secret Santa. Most of my shopping is done long before December begins and I find joy in seeking out just the right gifts for my family and friends. It’s the one time of year when I do crafts and, yes, even cooking is involved.

But not this year.

Two weeks before Christmas and I haven’t done a thing to prepare. My day job is swamping me. My house remodel/redecorate is a much longer work-in-progress than I had imagined it would be. I haven’t been feeling well. Last week, I decided Christmas was just going to have to happen without me. I told my sister that, like it or not, she was hosting the family party this year. Christmas would be cash and gift cards. I put my Christmas letter on the To Do List for February. And we’ll be doing a Secret Easter Bunny in 2007.

I surveyed my living room, jammed floor to ceiling with furniture and boxes that belong in the rooms that are under construction, and I sat down on the floor and cried. Life was just too much, too hard, too overwhelming. And as many of us tend to do when faced with an intolerable situation, I shrunk my heart. If I couldn’t have the Christmas I wanted, I wouldn’t have Christmas at all. My children are grown. They will understand when I tell them I’m too busy to cook, to shop and to decorate for Christmas. I resumed my day with a sour grinchy attitude and a heart that had shrunk by much more than three sizes.

And this is where you discover what angel children I have.

Megan, my youngest, nagged me for an hour to go downstairs and set up the computers in my home office. She had homework to do and needed the Internet. I kept putting her off because I was still catching up on work and I was too tired to fuss with the cables and plugs. She could use the computer in the kitchen, even if it is old and slow.

Finally, Megan got quite stern and said, “Mom, you have to go set up the computers NOW, and you can’t come back upstairs until I say you can.” Realizing something was afoot, but too tired to argue or even guess what it might be, I just went downstairs and did it. I could hear footsteps upstairs, so I knew she had company—but I heard no voices and no sounds to indicate what was happening. Megan came down once and I told her that I was uncomfortable with the idea that there were people in the house with the mess that it was in. She just smiled and said, “Love you, Mom,” with a cheesy grin that is her way of saying, “I know you don’t like what I’m doing, but I’m doing it anyway.” My favorite “b” word crossed my mind—Brat!

An hour later, I hear Christmas music blasting from upstairs—Sleigh Ride, the song I’ve played on Christmas morning for the past 10 years to announce that Santa has come and it’s okay for the children to come out of their rooms. I go upstairs to find a perfectly clean, rearranged and beautifully decorated living room, compliments of my children, Megan, McKenna and Stephen (son-in-law).*

Aware of how difficult this month has been for me, and having eavesdropped on my earlier meltdown, they had been planning it all day—asking surreptitious and well-disguised questions, pumping information out of me, coordinating schedules, sneaking keys to my office to retrieve Christmas trees on loan for a company party, moving heavy furniture without making a sound. And I had no clue. I was overwhelmed and in tears for the second time in one day.

Christmas came early this year.
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!…
This year Christmas didn’t come from a store.
This year, Christmas means a lot more. **

And now my heart doesn’t feel quite so tight—thanks to my wonderful, gift-from-heaven children who deeply understand the true meaning of Christmas.

*Christopher and Melanie would have been involved too, but they were at work and out of town, respectively.

**paraphrased from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! By Dr. Seuss.

Now playing on my iPod: Sleigh Ride by Emile Pandolfi.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

There Is a God and He Loves Me Very Much

Just in case there was still any doubt in your mind as to the existence of a very loving and benevolent being in charge of the universe, who knows what you want in your deepest, most secretive heart of hearts, and inspires others to help bring that to pass for you…

First let me say that sisters are awesome. I have been blessed with two, whom I dearly love and who enrich my life beyond the telling of it.

Second, the rest of this post will not make any sense if you do not know about THIS. So read the previous post first, then come back here and read this one.


I have been saving money for an iPod for 66 days. Every time I want something really bad and I don’t buy it, I put that money in my iPod Donation Bucket. I’ve put a lot of stuff back on the shelf for the sake this intended iPod (like this totally cool pair of navy leather boots I saw at D.I. for $7). But finally last week, with what I’ve saved plus what I expect in birthday and Christmas giftage over the next month, I determined that if someone had a Day-After-Thanksgiving sale on iPods, I would go stand in line at 4:00 a.m., regardless of the weather, and trample over anyone in my way to make my intended iPod a reality.


My sister called to see if I wanted her old Palm Pilot. I said yes, because mine is acting weird. It came in the mail today in a big box. But I know my sister and she always sends stuff in big boxes, and she frequently sticks in a package of my current favorite sugar free candies, or some fancy ink pens, or note pads or whatever. She’s very thoughtful that way.

So the package comes and I let it sit on the counter for several hours, because, like, I’ve got other stuff to do, right?

I just opened the box.

No candy. No ink pens. No alphabet stickers. But there on top of the Palm Pilot is the CUTEST iPod mini I’ve ever seen in my entire life!!!

It’s exactly like my daughter’s—the one that started this whole intended iPod fantasy—except green instead of pink. (And of all the colors that iPods come in, THIS green is the exact color I would have picked for myself!)

I was so flabbergasted that I came close to swearing in shock. I said, “Oh my crap!” (which is Utahn for “this is so overwhelmingly awesome that there are no words that I’m allowed to say to describe the complete and total excitement and amazement that I’m feeling right now!”).

I think it took a full 30 seconds for me to remember to breathe in again.

I called my sister as soon as I had a voice that would work and told her, among other things, that this was the best present I’ve ever gotten in my entire life, even better than the handicapped toilet (aka a toilet for people who are taller than 5’4”) my husband gave me for Christmas two years ago—which is sister-speak for “Thank you from the absolute depths of my heart and soul. I love you.”

Her response: “Merry Christmas. And don’t be thinking you’ll be getting anything else from me this year,” which is sister-speak for “You’re very welcome. I love you too.”

And this iPod is a double-blessing, the second being of infinite more importance and worth than the first:

1) the iPod itself which I will enjoy and treasure for many, many moons to come;


2) what the gift of this iPod represents—

a.) that God knows me on a deep and personal level. He knows the struggle I’ve been having lately and He brings blessings of peace and comfort and joy, both great and small, into my life through the actions of others.

b.) that I have a sister who gets me as a person. She knows all my dark secrets, my weaknesses and shortcomings, she sees me, warts and all, and she loves me anyway. She knows what speaks to my heart, my wants and desires, and she loves me enough to help bring those desires into reality.

Sisters are awesome—and I have a better one than she does.

Now Playing on My REAL iPod: You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor (lyrics)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dove Sugar Free Chocolates

I went to Wal-Mart today for some Nouggies. They were all sold out. I just about sat down in the aisle and cried—until my eye caught a new product. Dove’s Rich Dark Chocolate candies. They have three flavors: Chocolate Crème, Mint Crème and Raspberry Crème. Of course, I bought a package of each and sampled them during my drive home.

I can’t tell you how the sugar free versions of these candies match up against the regular Dove candies because Dove came on the market after I stopped eating sugar. But in comparison with other sugar free dark chocolates, the Dove dark chocolate outer covering is pretty good—not too bitter, not too sweet. They get an “A” for that.

The Mint Crème is a very mild, very light mint flavoring, similar to what you get in the higher end truffle candies, like Mrs. Cavanaughs or Sees. You can taste the mint, but it’s not strong enough for a good movie treat.* I prefer a stronger mint flavor or none at all. But if you like the mild mint flavoring, it’s not bad. I won’t throw it away, but I probably won’t buy them again. Russell Stover Mint Patties remain my unchallenged favorite.

The Raspberry Crème is very good. It has a stronger raspberry flavor than I would prefer, but I still liked it. If they’d make the mint flavor as strong as the raspberry and the raspberry as mild as the mint, I think I’d like them both a lot better. The raspberry truffle in the middle is nice and solid and chocolatey, unlike the Russell Stover’s variety which has a pink mushy raspberry middle. So Dove wins the Raspberry Crème category. I will definitely buy these again.

The Chocolate Crème was the best of the three flavors. It was really smooth and creamy. It’s a toss up as to which I prefer—the Dove brand or the Russell Stover brand. I think perhaps Russell Stover wins by ½ a point, but since it’s sooo hard to find, I’ll probably be eating a lot more of the Dove Chocolate Crème.

So in summary, if you like dark chocolate and you’re sugar free—give the Dove brand a try. I think you’ll be pleased.

*My favorite movie treat since I was about 10 years old was to mix chocolate, mint and movie popcorn. When I ate sugar, I used Junior Mints. Now, I use the Russell Stover Mint Patties. You take a bite of the mint, then a mouthful of the popcorn. Ummmm! But it has to be movie theater popcorn. Light or regular popcorn just doesn’t do it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Am I the Luckiest Mom in the World or What?

My daughter is a DJ for her high school radio station. She does a wonderful job. She's clever and funny. And today, she was sweet and sensitive too.

Life has been rough for me lately. Lots of big decisions and changes and all that. Spent the last couple of days banging my head against the wall over some issues.

So today, just now, I'm sitting at my computer, again hassling with the issues and feeling completely overwhelmed and beyond my abilities. And she comes on the air and dedicates this song to me.

Now Playing on my intended iPod: Up! by Shania Twain (lyrics)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Lost Obsession

I am obsessed with the television show Lost. I don't get to watch it much during its regular season because: 1) It competes with American Idol and I get outvoted by the celebrity judges who live in my home; and 2) I keep forgetting it's on. I know, that sort of runs contrary to the definition of obsession, except that by 7:00 p.m., I rarely know what day it is because I'm exhausted from all the chair twirling and bon-bon eating I do all day.

I know a woman who would claim I was possessed because she thinks that show is evil. She spent nearly an hour telling me how horrified she was that her RS pres watched Lost and how that almost shattered her testimony. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to be the final nail in her spiritual coffin. But let me just say here, I do not believe the island is controlled by aliens. I do not believe the people are dead and in hell. I do not believe that evil incarnate is running amok on the island. I think it's a very clever psychological experiment and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Last year, one of my kids gave me Season 1 for Christmas. We had a family marathon and watched the whole thing all at once. Talk about a piece of writing that balances plot and character well.

The week Season 2 came out, I happened to be at Wal-Mart and it just fell into my cart. What could I do? I had to take it home with me. We've been doing another marathon in short relays. It's hard to work around eveyone's schedules. We finished it up last night. I had to talk to one daughter on her cell phone as she drove home in the middle of the night. Then I had to walk another daughter downstairs and tuck her in. I don't get why it freaks them out. Everyone knows that it's the monsters under the bed you need to be afraid of, not a bunch of psycho kooks who play games with your mind.

Anyway, Season 2 is not quite as strong as Season 1, but it's still very, very good. And when you watch the shows all in a row, you see a complexity that you miss when you go a whole week in between. I highly recommend the series.

Now Playing on my intented iPod: The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?

I'm pretty good at narrowing my decisions down to two. Then I get stuck. It's not too much of a problem if I'm deciding between books or dresses or shoes. I just buy them both.

But sometimes choosing one means you have to give up on the other. Those decisions kill me. What if I choose WRONG?

I've been weighing a decision for nearly a year now, back and forth, up and down, inside and out. I'm so dizzy I couldn't walk a straight line if my life depended on it. I am so good at weighing the one hand, then the other--and finding benefits in both. Most of the time I try to put off making these types of decisions and then life sort of just makes them for me. But now it's time. The decision has to be made.

It's time for me to be a grown up.

Now Playing on my intented iPod: Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind by the Lovin' Spoonful

Monday, October 16, 2006

Russell Stover Has Done It Again

I recently discovered a new sugar free candy by Russell Stover--Dark Chocolate Candy Miniatures. I love dark chocolate. (I'm from Kentucky, which is far enough east that our taste buds have not become corrupted to prefer wimpy milk chocolate.)

Hershey's does a sugar free dark chocolate, but it's a little bitter and waxy. This Russell Stover dark chocolate is rich and creamy, with just the right amount of bitter that dark chocolate should have. I don't think it's replaced the Nouggie Nuttie Chew as my favorite, but it's very close. Now, if they made the Nouggie Nutty Chew in dark chocolate, I'd be in heaven.

Unfortunately, I could find no link to what this product looks like. I cannot believe that a company this big does such a lousy job of informing the public about their products. I'm seriously considering quitting my day job and applying for the position of Vice President of Marketing (which according to their website, doesn't exist).

Anyway, here is a description of the package--its a green 6 oz bag, but it's made with a wide bottom to sit on a shelf rather than hang from a peg. It used to come in a box, but it looks like RS may be phasing the boxes out. There's a clear window in the belly of the bag, so you can see the individually wrapped candies. The wrappers are silver and dark brown with a red Russell Stover oval and have the ends twisted closed (like mini tootsie rolls). The candies are not quite 1" long, flat on the bottom and rounded on the top.

Good luck finding them. Since I live in Utah, the milk toast--I mean, the milk chocolate center of the world, it's hard. My sister has found them up in the SLC, UT area, but I can't find them down in Utah County. I happened to find them on Friday, here in St. George, at a Smith's. They were in a box of other RS candies that hadn't been shelved yet. I bought all 4 bags. They were $3 something each.

But if you go to a store near you that carries other Russell Stover Sugar Free candies, you can probably have them special order some for you. Trust me. If you like dark chocolate, it's worth the effort.

P.S. Nouggie Alert--Even though Russell Stover told me that the Nouggie Nutty Chews were specially made for Wal-Mart and were not sold anywhere else--including by RS--I've found them recently at two different Albertson's.

Now Playing on My Intended iPod: Sugar Sugar by The Archies

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Make Your Choices and Enjoy the Ride

So I wasn’t really thinking and I forgot to get motel reservations for our trip to St. George. By the time I remembered (the day before we left) I had one choice. (Can I call it a choice if there is only one?)

Bad News: Princess and the Boulder

This was THE most uncomfortable night’s sleep I’ve had in the past 2 ½ years! The mattress could not have been any harder had it been made from plywood. The first thing I did on Friday morning was rush to Wal-Mart to get an egg crate foamie. After a second night, I’m thinking I need still another foamie.

Good News: Cable Television!

We only get 2 or 3 channels at home—ABC, PBS and sometimes Fox. This makes it very difficult for me to do my writerly research. I like to use TV shows to help me research techniques—what worked, what didn’t work, how would I have written this differently, was the plot too easy and predictable or was there some depth.

So I’ve been thrilled to have 100 channels to pick from. The only thing is, it was 9:45 p.m. before I realized I could watch ER! I nearly cried to have missed so much of it. Apparently John Stamos is a new character. That may or may not be a good thing. Abby and Luka are still together, having had a baby boy. And I guess that red-headed jerk is still on there and he has a kid too. Nila is looking good. When did Gallant die?

Bad News: Fire Trap
I was eating sugar free Russell Stover’s Dark Chocolate (will blog about that another day) and dropped a wrapper on the floor. Being the complete neat freak that I am (stop laughing!) I leaned over to get it and I see….exposed wires! The power outlet is broken and it has wires coming out of it, connected to other wires, wrapped with duct tape. !!! I’m sleeping on the far side of the bed with my head down at the foot. That way if a fire starts while I’m sleeping, my feet will burn first and my head last. I have this curious idea that I can live without feet better than I can live without a head.

Good News: Yummy for My Tummy
I found sugar free Russell Stover’s Dark Chocolate at the Smith’s in town.

Bad News: Can you say “THUNDER STORM”?
The lightning is so close and so violent that I can feel the thunder in my chest half a second before I hear it.

Good News: Free Internet
I am assuming it’s provided by the motel I’m in. Although, now that I think about it, maybe it’s the one next door—the motel I wish I were in.

Moral of the Story: Life's a mixed bag. Make your choices and enjoy the ride. (Also, make your St. George motel reservations more than the day before you are due to arrive.)

Now Playing on My Intended iPod: Life's Been Good by Joe Walsh

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rooooooad Trip

It’s UEA weekend here in Utah—schools are closed. So Megan and I are on a road trip to St. George to visit Melanie (whom we have desperately missed since she went away to college in August).

Now I know a 4 hour road trip with a 16 year old, listening to her music, is many parents’ nightmare, but I had a blast! It was absolutely delightful.

First we listened to some music from her iPod (mine is still intended). Then we listened to Rod Stewart’s new CD. (clips 1-5 and 13 were good; the others not so much. I paid $14 and only liked 6 songs, so I recommend getting the ones you want from iTunes.)

Then we listened to a mix Melanie (18 years old) had created—and herein is where I am the luckiest parent in the world. It’s called “Oldies But Goodies” and I loved every song on it. We followed that up with some SheDaisy and Ashlee Simpson and a few other mixes. Except for the longest 15 mile stretch just outside Cedar City, where Megan forced me to listen to the Aladdin Soundtrack, I would say this was the best road trip of my life!


Now Playing on my intended iPod: Put Your Records On by Corrine Bailey Ray

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I've Seen Better Days...

I used to be able to redecorate a room in half a day, easy. Prep, paint, paper, move furniture--all by myself. But I must be getting old because this teeny room has whipped my behind. Everything hurts.

It took me a full day to prep and paint. Another day to get the furniture in. And I've still got a front room full of junk to sort and store.

I was going to write a very funny, tongue-in-cheek treatise on aging. But I'm too old and too tired. I'm going to go take a nap instead.

Now Playing on my Intended iPod: I've Seen Better Days by Sublime
(you have to listen to this one because it took a long time to find the link)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thank you

Thank you for your generous inclinations but I really cannot accept donations for a camera.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Channeling the Energizer Bunny

Have you ever had one of those days where you look at some aspect of your life and you just cannot stand it one second longer--you have to do something about it NOW or someone is gonna' get hurt!?

This used to happen with my hair a lot. I'd let it go until one day, I couldn't stand my bangs in my eyes and I'd go get it cut by whomever would get me in immediately. Only sometimes that led to trouble--as in, haircuts from hades. I've learned to plan my hair meltdowns a couple of days in advance now so I can get in to the girl I like.

You'd think I'd be able to apply that experience to other areas of my life, but no. Not so much.

We've needed to reshuffle and paint some of the rooms in our house for a long time. My mother-in-law moved out in November (yes, that's 11 months ago) and the master bedroom (her room) is still empty and unused because I haven't had time to move into it. I've fallen prey to the habit of putting things that will eventually have a home in that room into "temporary" stacks all over the place. Then all the things that will have their home in the bedroom I'm currently in get put into "temporary" stacks in room #3, and things that will end up in room #3 are waiting in room #4, and...

Every day I walk through my house and it's like chewing on tin foil.

This morning I had a meltdown. Even though I had other things that really needed my attention, I just could not let this situation go on for one more second without doing something about it. And since it's piled up for so long, I can't start with room #1 (the abandoned master bedroom); I have to work backwards through the stacks.

So today--determined to succeed or die trying--I hauled everything out of room #3 and painted it, transforming it from a child's bedroom to a home office. Tomorrow--room #2.

Now playing on my intended iPod: Cheeseburger in Paradise (aka "Painting Music") by Jimmy Buffett

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We Can All Relate to This

Now Playing on My Intended iPod:If You're Going Through Hell by Rodney Atkins

Dedicated to a good friend.

And since I know many of you will not click on the link, I've posted the lyrics here.

If You're Going Through Hell

Well you know those times when you feel like
There's a sign there on your back.
Says: "I don't mind if you kick me;
Seems like everybody has."
Things go from bad to worse:
You'd think they can't get worse than that an' then they do.

You step off the straight an' narrow,
An' you don't know where you are.
Use the needle of your compass,
To sew up your broken heart.
Ask directions from a genie,
In a bottle of Jim Beam an' she lies to you.

Well, that's when you learn the truth:
If you're goin' through hell,
Keep on goin'.
Don't slow down:
If you're scared, don't show it.
You might get out,
Before the devil even knows you're there.

Well, I've been deep down in that darkness,
I been down to my last match.
Felt a hundered different demons,
Breathin' fire down my back.
An' I knew that if I stumbled,
I'd fall right into the trap that they were layin', yeah.

But the good news is there's angels,
Everywhere out on the street.
Holdin' out a hand,
To pull you back up on your feet;
The one's that you been draggin' so long,
You're on your knees; you might as well be prayin'.

Guess what I'm sayin':
If you're goin' through hell,
Keep on goin'.
Don't slow down:
If you're scared, don't show it.
You might get out,
'Fore the devil even knows you're there.

Yeah, if you're goin' through hell,
Keep on movin'.
Face that fire:
Walk right through it.
You might get out,
'Fore the devil even knows you're there.

If you're going through hell
Keep on goin'.
Don't slow down:
If you're scared, don't show it.
You might get out,
'Fore the devil even knows you're there.

Yeah, if you're goin' through hell,
Keep on movin'.
Face that fire:
Walk right through it.
You might get out,
'Fore the devil even knows you're there.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Someone (cough-meh-cough, cough-ken-ah) is giving me grief over the size of the iPod I am coveting. "You don't need one that big," she assures me. "You would be just fine with the smaller 30GB model that holds 7,500 songs."

At first I was offended. "I'll show her!" I said, and I started an Excel file of songs I want to put on my intended iPod. I've got over 500 titles on my list and I've only gone through the Time-Life collections. I bet I can boost that list to 2,000 with one ear tied behind my head.

But she's right. I did need to reconsider the model of iPod I want. So after much soul-searching and quiet reflection, I've decided that now I want this one instead--the one on the right, the one that is 80GB and holds 20,000 songs.

Now playing on my intended iPod: Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry

Friday, September 22, 2006

Life List

It’s a cold and rainy day and I’m watching Ellen. I’m still in my pjs. When it hit noon, and I hadn’t gotten around to getting dressed, I decided to rebel and keep my pjs on all day. Just because. That’s one of the benefits of being the president, CEO and queen of your own company. You can “telecommute” any time you want and work in your jammies and no one will fire you.

So Ellen is talking about writing your Life List. Apparently I’ve been on another planet for some time now and completely missed the fact that this is the new thing we’re all supposed to be doing. I’m still working on my Gratitude Journal—so passé.

I did a Life List when I was 16, only I didn’t know to call it that. I called it the “100 Things I Want to Do Before I Get Too Old” list. It included things like go to Mexico, get a pair of lace up hippie boots, and write a novel. By the time I turned 21 and got married, making me therefore too old to do anything fun in my life anymore, I had accomplished 98 of the 100 things on my list. The only two I hadn’t done were backpack through Europe and motorcycle across the U.S., visiting all of the 48 contiguous states.

Feeling very smug and proud of myself, I took some time off from “life listing.” I thought I’d give myself a few months before creating a new Life List. But life didn’t wait for my list, it just happened. I had a couple, or four, children and concentrated on raising them. For a long time, my Life List only had one item on it: get through the next 24 hour period.

It feels like I looked away from that list for just a minute and all of a sudden it’s 26 years later, and I’m sitting in my jammies watching Ellen and remembering. So I’m making a new Life List (or as I plan to call it, My “100 Things I Want to Do Before My Teeth Fall Out” list).

Let’s see…

#1. Get an iPod with vital accessories.

#2. Oh. Commercial is over. Ellen's back on. I’ll get back to my list tomorrow.

Now Playing on my intended iPod: I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thanks Megan

First, I want to say that I have THE four most talented, beautiful, kind and thoughtful children on the planet. Each of them has blessed my life deeply and I am forever grateful that God sent them to me. I could go on and on about each one of them, and maybe I will some day. But after I sort of vented about the whole drivers license thing the other day, I feel the need to say some nice things about my youngest daughter, Megan. To kind of balance things out.

Megan is really an exceptional girl. She has a great many talents and abilities and I am constantly amazed at how she uses those to bless the world.

She is a writer, and sees the world through a writer’s eyes. As a young child, she would sit and watch people interact and come up with some of the most insightful comments on deeply universal themes.

She is a musician. She plays the piano like a concert pianist. She picked up a guitar a few months ago and is teaching herself to play--and it's phenomenal how quickly she's learning.

She is a true student. Megan doesn’t study much. She doesn’t need to. She catches on quickly and does well in school.

She is a believer. Megan believes in the goodness of others, regardless of how they look or dress or act. She believes in the goodness of life.

But the talent I cherish most in this girl is Megan is happy. She looks for the humor in every situation. She finds the silver lining in every storm. She laughs and she plays with an open heart, drinking in love and life.

Megan is, pure and simple, a gift of love from God to me. I tend to be a little intense and uptight and to see and feel the burdens of the world. I believe God sent Megan to me to teach me how to play and how to be happy. And she has done a spectacular job of that.

Thanks Megan. I am a better person because of you. I love you.

Now playing on my intended iPod: Rosemary's Granddaughter by Jessica Andrews

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I'm Proud to Live in Utah

I'm proud to live in Utah.

Click here to find out why.

(If it plays really jerky, let it go all the way through once to get it cached. Then play it a second time and it should do fine.)

Now playing on my intended iPod: "Tribute to Utah"

Monday, September 18, 2006

How NOT to Help Your Daughter Get a Drivers License--in 14 Very Easy, but Time Consuming Steps

1. This requires advance planning. First, have a child in the middle of summer, so that she will not be in school over her birthday. This will ensure that there will be no convenient semester for her to take Drivers Education.

2. Tell your child she needs to be responsible for her life and sign up to take Drivers Ed during summer school. Nag her incessantly for three weeks, but do not call the school yourself to determine the deadline for summer school sign-up.

3. Miss the deadline for summer school sign-up.

4. Have your child enroll to take Drivers Education through the online high school. This way, you will have no one to call or talk to face-to-face to make sure that you fully understand the process. (Having a teacher who only checks his e-mail every two weeks and goes on an extended vacation during the class is also a very good idea--if you can arrange it.)

5. Pay $22.00 for a book (that is provided free if you take the class at school).

6. If you don't already live there, move to a state that changes the laws governing the licensing process thirty days before your child's 16th birthday. That way, you, your child, the teacher, the online high school, the DLD of the DMV, and everyone else you talk to will be confused, and all authorities will give you conflicting information.

7. Ask the online teacher general questions about the process. Do not specifically say, "I am an idiot, so please send me step-by-step instructions for completing this process before August 1st. And make sure the instructions are written on a second grade level."

8. Assume that the DLD is telling you the truth when they say, "That little blue piece of paper that came with your class outline IS the learner's permit. No, you don't need to come down here to do anything else. If she has the permit, she's on the old program. You can take the driving portion of the test as soon as school starts and everything will be fine."

9. Assume that when the online class final is labeled "State Test" that it really is the State Test and that no further written testing is required.

10. Assume that when you tell your child, "Put this permit in your wallet and never take it out, on pain of death!" that they will actually put it in their wallet.

11. Assume that when both the school and the DLD of the DMV tell you, two days before the new law goes into effect, that you are on track to get her license as soon as she does the road test, that you have done everything you need to do, and that you will be "grandfathered in" on the old program, that they are telling you the truth.

12. Spend one entire day finding the social security card.

13. Spend one entire day finding the birth certificate.

14. After a full week of range driving (2 hours a day, two towns south of where you live) and a full week of road driving (at 6:00 a.m., every day, two towns south of where you live) you discover:

a. that the blue piece of paper was NOT her permit and she's been driving illegally all summer;

b. that the online test was the class final and NOT the state written test; the state written test must be taken at the DMV and the deadline for the old program was 48 days ago;

c. that the e-mail explaining that you had to go down to the DMV to take the real state written test before August 1st was apparently hijacked and is lost somewhere in cyberspace, probably over China;

d. that the deadline passed (48 days ago) and no one can do anything about it;

e. that instead of getting her license on Friday, she must take the real written state test on that day, then wait another 6 FULL MONTHS before she can get her license;

f. that you will be spending another 6 FULL MONTHS driving her to school, to work, to lacrosse, to radio, and to every other place she needs to be;

g. that you are developing a very bad habit of swearing under your breath.

Now playing on my intended iPod: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I am so tired of living in a world where physical appearance wins out over more important things, like kindness, generosity, intelligence.

I’ve pretty much resigned myself to looking like a half-put-together goofball most of the time. It just takes too long to do the hair and the make-up and the dress-up. I have more important things to do—like write my blogs.

That doesn’t mean I’m a slob. I shower—almost every day. I wash my hair. I comb it out and try to coax it into a position that doesn’t scream “Loser.” My clothes don’t always match, but they are clean—unless I’ve just eaten chocolate syrup or spaghetti. And I brush my teeth about 8 times in every 24-hour period (that’s a story that will have to be told another day). What I’m saying is, I’m not a raging beauty, but I’m tolerably presentable.

And that’s just fine with me. It’s easy for me to be casually indifferent to my appearance, because I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m married to a man who was able to see past the outside. He fell in love and married me when I weighed 300 pounds. When I informed him that I was serious about doing whatever it takes to lose weight, he said (and this is an exact quote, forever burned into my memory—even if I get alzheimer’s one day, I will still remember this):

If you want to lose weight for health reasons or because it will make you feel better about yourself, that’s fine and I’ll support you in whatever you want to do. But don’t think you have to lose weight for me. I couldn’t love you any more than I do now.
And I believed him. And my world became safe. And I lost the weight.

But, back to being beautiful. My heart just breaks as I watch my girls navigate a harsh, judgmental world where so much emphasis is placed on how you look. I worry. Will they be as lucky as I am? Will they find someone who will cherish them for how they think and how they act, rather than how they look? And will they be able to brush off the darts and arrows flung at them by visually oriented idiots?

I hope so, because my girls are the three most beautiful people I know—inside and out.

Now Playing on my intended iPod: Beautiful by Christina Aguilera

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Blog

I started a new blog called Signature Scents. It's all about how I became a Scent Consultant for Urban Botanic and how you should really host a party and try their products because they're wonderful. I will also include some reviews on books or products that I think would be helpful to other Scent Consultants, or anyone, for that matter.

But that's all I'm going to say about that here on this blog. If you're interested, click the links. If you are geographically distant from me, but want to have a party, fill out the info on the website and I'll hook you up with someone in your area.

Now playing on my intended iPod: Free by Donavon Frankenwreiter

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Want an iPod

My oldest daughter just upgraded her iPod.

Did she offer to sell her old one to her mother? No! She sold it to her baby sister for $80. I’m ticked. You can’t even touch that price on ebay, for the iPod by itself. But she also threw in the charger and this cool thing that lets you plug it into the cigarette lighter in your car, tune to an empty radio station and then listen to it through your radio speakers.

But that’s okay. I forgive her because I want this one anyway. 60 GB. Holds up to 15,000 songs. I don’t think there are 15,000 songs that I would want to listen to, but I don’t care. The heart wants what it wants.

I also want the charging dock, the Airplay2 (the cigarette lighter thingee), the OnStage 2 dock with speakers, and the Sportwrap for when I go workout. (Shut up. I work out. Sometimes.)

Oh, and I also want the cute little socks to keep it warm at night.

And a bunch of iTunes Gift Cards.

I figure $2,000 ought to do it.

I don’t know where I’m going to get $2,000. But I was watching Wayne Dyer on PBS the other day and he’s all into the power of intention and creating the way to get what you want in your life. So, I’m going to “intent” this iPod, with accessories, into my life. By Christmas. 2006.

Now playing on my intended iPod: Running on Empty by Jackson Browne

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada


Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly -- Wonderful! Snarkily Hilarious!
Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs -- Okay
Emily Blunt as Emily -- Good job, great delivery
Stanley Tucci as Nigel -- Funny, but not over the top as he often is.
Adrian Grenier -- Cute, but kind of boring

I thought this was funny. Meryl Streep was the best part of the movie. Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci were great. Anne Hathaway is not my favorite actress, but she did okay in this one.

Overall, I recommend it, with the cautions listed below. It's definitely a chick flick. Most men would only tolerate it.

I had to laugh when Miranda Priestly comes in, dumps her stuff on Andy's desk and says, "Where is that piece of paper I had in my hand yesterday...?" I've been heard to say the same thing to my own assistant.

Language: Some mild swearing. It's not intense or angry, but along the lines of someone saying, "dang, dang, dang..." when they've forgotten something, but that was not the word used.

Sex: Andy Sachs lives with her boyfriend, but we're not forced to watch anything more than kissing. She does show him her new underwear and they head off to the other room, but no naked bodies. She also gets drunk in Paris and goes home with another guy. Again, we're not forced to watch it, but it is implied.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Why is there a rat on my blog?

[Photo of rat removed due to my total inability to stand up to peer pressure.]

Because I'm taking a novel prep class sponsored by Latterday Authors and I wanted to post this picture for an assignment. Posting it here first is the only way I know how to do it. Sorry.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Alien" Back in Print!

I met with Kristen Randle, YA author of The Only Alien on the Planet, Slumming and Breaking Rank yesterday.

Alien has been my teenage girls' favorite book for a long time, and I quite liked it too, but it was out of print by the time we discovered it. Kristen has recently (this week!) brought it back in print under her own imprint, PonyMoon Press.

I was thrilled to discover this book was available again and I rushed down to her home today to buy the first two copies from this printing. And of course, I stayed to chat a bit. (Yes, I guess that makes me a groupie.) And she was gracious enough to spend some time with me--a total stranger--talking about literature and teens.

I've been very impressed with Kristen's philosophy on writing for youth, since I first met her at a workshop she gave three years ago. Her commitment to quality writing and her determination to give our youth literature they can live with has stayed with me. I can still hear her saying to the writers in the room that if you're going to write YA lit, "you better not mess with my kids!"

Kristen wrote an article published in the English Journal (Volume 90, Number 4, March 2001, Page 125) on the need for YA literature that is hopeful, to counteract all the depressing, dark and bleak stuff that's out there now. Go read her article.

I agree with her whole-heartedly. I've given books to my children, nieces, nephews for every gift-giving occasion since I became a mother/aunt. I give them my favorite books and several of the recipients have said that they look forward to the gifts because they know they will enjoy reading them if they have my "stamp of approval."

I take this responsibility seriously. And unfortunately, at around 12 years old, it becomes much, much harder to find fun, interesting, captivating, well-written stories without objectionable content. That's one of the reasons I like Kristen's books. It's not that they're all light and "It's a Wonderful Life"--there are real issues. But good is good, right is right, and wrong is wrong. You can count on that.

And so, I'm supporting Kristen's efforts in bringing Alien back into print. If you'd like to support her too, purchase The Only Alien on the Planet. Read it, then give it to a teenager you know. (Kristen is still getting the bugs worked out of the PonyMoon website, but you can e-mail her directly at Alien (at) ponymoon (dot) com. If you do contact Kristen to get her book, please let her know you read about it here. Thanks and good reading!

P.S. If you know of any good, hopeful YA books, spread the word. List them in the comments trail. And thanks--I'm always looking for good books to read.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

UB Site Updated

My daughter just updated her company's website--the new and improved Urban Botanic. You can now take her fun personality test to determine what your scent personality is.

And if you want to see how absolutely gorgeous my daughter is, here's the About Us page which has her photo and tells a little about her and the company.

My assistant, Sandra, is also an Urban Botanic scent consultant. (Yes, McKenna and I have had some long conversations about her stealing my key employee...) If you think you might want to have a party or be a scent consultant, access the website through Sandra's link. I want to support her in this, even if it means she might someday leave my employ. I mean, if I have to lose her, I'd just as soon lose her to a company/product that I wholeheartedly support, right?

Don't know what I'm talking about? Click HERE to read an earlier post about Urban Botanic.

P.S. So McKenna called me up and said thanks for the promo, Mom, but take off the link to go look at my photo on the About Me page of my site because that is just vain and obnoxious and like the stranger in the grocery store line that hauls out the 45 photos of her grandchildren and you're forced to look at it and make nice comments because you're trapped between her and the check out and already have all your stuff out of you basket so what are you gonna' do? And I said thank you for sharing, sweetie, but it's my blog and I'll post what I want. And I think she's gorgeous and am totally proud of her. So the link is staying!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Nougie Update!

So I decided to let Russell Stover's know about all this FREE advertisment I've given to their new product "Nougie Nutty Chew." As far as I can tell, I'm their ONLY advertising. If you google "nougie nutty chew" this blog site is the ONLY thing that comes up. I thought maybe they'd be so grateful they'd offer me a case of nougies, or a couple of free bags, or even just a cents off coupon. But No! Just a thank you very much. (maybe they were mad because I dissed their fake Turtles and the Orange Slices??) Here's their reply:

Dear Ms. Browning:
Thank you for recently contacting us. It is always a pleasure to hear from our customers whether it is to praise or in offering their comments and/or suggestions.

We are sorry, but the Sugar Free Nougie Nutty Chew is not available on our website. This product is pnly available at Walmart stores.

Thank you again for contacting us, and we hope you continue to enjoy our candies.

Russell Stover Candies Consumer
Service 800-777-4028

Okay, so here's what I want all of you dear, dear readers to do.

First, go to Wal-Mart and buy a bag of the Nougie Nutty Chew. (If you shop at the PG/Lindon, UT Wal-Mart, you might be out of luck. I clean them out every time I go.)

Try them.

If you absolutely love them, e-mail Russell Stovers at customerservice@russellstover.com

Tell them how much you love this product. That you would have never even known about it if you hadn't read about it on my blog. That you would have never been able find the product if I hadn't so graciously informed you that they were at Wal-Mart. And that you hope they realize what a big deal my one-woman advertising campaign has been, because of course, based on my blog, you've told all your friends about nougies, and they love them too. And gee, don't they think they should send me a year's supply* of Nougie Nutty Chews for my time????

Then cc your e-mail to me at nougies2@hotmail.com. If they send me anything, I'll split it with the first 3 people who let me know they've acted on this. (I originally put the first 10 people, but I really LOVE these nougies and if they only send me one bag, I want to make sure I get several nougies for myself.)

I wonder what will happen...

*btw, I'm going through 2 or 3 bags a week, so a year's supply would be 100-150 bags.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What Makes Your Heart Sing?

I just got back from visiting the Southern Virginia University Campus. Deep in the Shenandoah Valley, it's like heaven. The campus is really old and beautiful. You can hear the echoes of students past in the halls, feel the love of learning that emanates from the handcrafted woodwork. It made my heart sing--and revived a long forgotten dream of teaching.

I publish LDS homeschool curriculum (among other things) and I was there for the LDSEHE homeschool convention. Networking with other vendors, talking to homeschool parents--particularly the newbies--that made my heart sing too.

I believe in homeschool. I was blessed to homeschool my children for 6 glorious months--having them with me full time, learning and growing and creating together, experiencing the intense joy I found in communing with those four unique souls--that felt like heaven and my heart sang then, too.

When I had to put my precious children back into public school, I refused to let go of the homeschool dream. Although circumstances combined to make homeschool impossible for me, I still believed in it with all my heart. When I was commissioned to write curriculum for the public school system, I made sure that my books could be used easily in homeschools too. I found some peace in creating products that would help and support parents who could homeschool, even if I could not.

But I haven't written any homeschool curriculum in many years. My time has been absorbed in the process of making a living. My attention goes to the area of most urgent demand. I had forgotten how much I loved this. All last week, as I mingled with other vendors and discussed homeschool curriculum ideas, projects and possibilities, my heart just sang and sang and sang--one aria after another.

I came home from Virginia filled with a divine discontent over the quality of my work day. So much of it is spent in things that drag my heart down. Facing a Monday morning and work as usual was just too much for me. My heart stopped singing. My heart began to cry.

And so I have made a decision. I do not know how I'm going to do it. And I do not know when. Nor do I know what it will end up looking like. But I am committed to changing my life so that I can spend the majority of my work day doing the things that make my heart sing.

I'm starting a choir of heart singers. Want to join? There are only two requirements:

1.) A desire to change

2.) The answer to the question: What makes your heart sing? (If you want to share, please post what makes your heart sing in the comments trail.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Free E-News

Spreading the word about two fabulous weekly e-newsletters: FFWSmallMarkets (link to sample issue) and FundsForWriters (link to sample issue), both sponsored by Funds for Writers (link to main webpage).

Each issue contains:
  • An article by Hope Clark, the editor
  • An Article of the Week--something about writing
  • Then huge lists of: Grants, Award, Contests, Jobs and Markets

Every single issue has something that I can use. For example, this site was one of the listings in the latest newsletter: The Dabbling Mum. It looks really interesting. I can think of maybe 2 dozen articles that I could write and submit.

Hope Clark also has two other websites that are filled with good info:
The Shy Writer and her blog, C. Hope Clark.

Just thought I'd share this info with my fellow ink splashers.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

La-la-la! I've Got UB Chi!

Today is a happy day. I smell yummy and my hair looks incredible!

Sunday my daughter, the entrepreneur, came over and we had an Urban Botanic party . (UB is her company that she thought of when she was still in her teens, and has just this year turned it into a booming reality. And my sole purpose in life is to shamelessly promote her endeavor.)

All of my girls and I created some unique and yummy scents for summer. I made a shower gel and lotion called "5 o'clock Somewhere" that is a perfect pina colada scent. I also made a gel and lotion I called "Raspberry Macaroon." It smells like a raspberry flavored, coconut cookie. Both smell so yummy I want to eat them.

And here's another plug--I haven't been able to wear scented products in over 20 years (since I was pregnant with said daughter). I have scent allergies and all perfumes give me a raging headache. But not these. It has to do with the natural ingredients used; and the unnatural ingredients avoided.

If you are interested in making your own personal scented products, check out her website. And have a party, they're really loads of fun! Or you could even become a scent consultant. U.B. is going gangbusters in Utah, but is still expanding. You could be the first scent consultant in your state!

As to my hair, also on Sunday, my kids gave me an early Mothers Day present, the Chi flat iron. And you should see me. My hair is flipping all over the place, exactly like I want it too. Me--the totally inept, can barely part my hair in a straight line, the last person to notice fashion trends, I hate days when I have to wear make-up, person! Hah!

The Chi Ceramic Hairstyling Iron (for silk smooth hair) heats up in an instant. It's easy to use. It will straighten, curl, flip, style. A versatile "all in one" ergonomic design, professional salon model. (Got all that off the box.) Anyway, I have no vested interest in the success of the Farouk Systems company which makes the Chi. I just like it.

Now I'm so happy, I think I'll actually go do some work today. La-la-la! (That's me singing.)


Saturday, April 29, 2006

I Love Nougies

No, not the ones your big brother gives you. The ones you eat!

I have been sugar free for 8 years. That is a sad and boring way to live, and so I bless the scientist that invented Splenda. Since Splenda hit the market, there has been a huge increase in the availability of tolerable sugar-free goodies. I fancy myself a connoiseur of sorts.

My latest crave-monster is Russell Stover's Nougie Nutty Chew. It's a bit of a misnomer. Although the description says "Peanuts and Caramel on a Layer of Nougat Covered with Chocolate Candy," I have yet to eat one (out of about 400 I've now eaten) that has a recognizable peanut in it. That's good. I don't mind peanuts if they have enough caramel and/or chocolate around them, but I like the nougie part best. Go get some. They're good. They're at Wal-Mart.

Other Russell Stover goodies are their Mint Patty and the Coconut and the Orange and Strawberry Truffles. Their Pecan Delights are too sweet and hurt my teeth. I prefer Nestle's Turtles (the pecan ones).

Tootsie Roll just came out with sugar-free mini Tootsie Pops. Don't bother. They have a bitter aftertaste. And don't even think of trying the Russell Stover's sugar-free Orange Slices . They are disgusting.

My favorite cookies are Pepperidge Farms SF Mint Milanos and SF Oreos. I like to take two Oreos, place a hunk of banana between them, and squish it into a banana/Oreo sandwich. Yum.

Kroger has a yummy SF ice cream sandwich; Fudgesicle brand fudgesicles are really good, as are the Popsicle brand red and orange popsicles. The grape ones are not wonderful.

Sugar-free ice cream doesn't usually taste very good--too grainy and has a funky aftertaste. I haven't had a good banana split in ages. But Dreyer's just came out with some new & improved flavors. I tried Fudge Tracks. Heaven! Except the teeny peanut butter cups taste weird. I just pick them out. The other day I put a perfectly ripe banana in a bowl, added three scoops of SF Fudge Tracks, some crushed up SF chocolate cookies, a couple of Nougies, all topped with some SF chocolate syrup. It was sooooo good.

I'm making myself hungry. Bye.

Good Intentions

Well, when I started this blog back in January, I thought it was a really good idea and it would "force" me to write creatively.

Ehnnn! (obnoxious noise signifying "wrong answer")

I'm experiencing a bit of growth at work, and it is keeping me extremely busy. Which is fine. I love what I do. Mostly. But my heart yearns to write, to create--and that's hard to do when you're feeling pressured to do other, more practical things. By the time I finish work and do the mom thing, I'm pooped and my brain feels like sludge.

So, busy as I am, what do I do? I sign up for BIAW* which starts on Monday. That's the equivalent of putting out a house fire with a hose hooked to a hydrant of gasoline.

But life never gets any slower. There's always something popping up to fill your available time. So if I'm going to be too busy, I might as well be too busy doing the things I love.

*BIAW is Book In A Week. This one is sponsored by latterdayauthors.com. I did one in January and it was really fun. I wrote more creative fiction in that one week than I've written in the past 10 years.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My Academy Awards

My family insisted on watching the Academy awards Sunday night. I like the pre-shows and seeing all the fancy dresses, but I take a pass on the actual awards presentations. I have a personal problem with all the hoopla and extravagance of the event. I mean, yes, actors should be recognized for their achievements, but it’s just become too much. All the money spent on this event, which will be over and forgotten in a matter of days, could have made such a lasting difference if put toward more needed and worthier causes.

And it’s not just the waste of money that bothers me. It’s the waste of attention, of esteem, of time and energy. On Sunday night, a handful of men and women were getting a huge portion of our country’s personal resources because they’re good at pretending! There’s just something unbalanced about that.

So I got to thinking…if I could create an awards show, who would I honor? So here’s my not quite exhaustive list:

Jim—the kindest, most generous man I’ve ever known. He works two full-time jobs so our family can enjoy the luxuries of life, such as a home in a nice neighborhood, music lessons and sports activities for the kids. He sacrifices his life energy for us. And I love him for that.

McKenna—who has an overabundance of creativity. She adds beauty to the world with colors, shapes, scents and words which gladden hearts and uplift spirits.

Stephen—the gentle giant, protector of the weak, champion of the underdog. He exudes stability and security. The world is a safe place when Stephen is around.

Christopher—who has a tender and giving heart. He took two weeks off work to go help his grandfather clean up a rental unit and get it ready to sell.

Melanie—who has great patience, kindness and a gift for working with those who are considered “less than” in our society, children, the elderly, the handicapped.

Megan—who has the gift of being happy. By her example, she teaches those around her to stop and enjoy the simple pleasures life has to offer.

Roger & Lucille—who were, and still are, always there for me anytime I need them. They love, they listen and they offer wonderful advice.

Dennis—a divorced father of two whose job requires him to work in a city four hours away from the town where his children live. He maintains a household in both places and makes the 4 hour drive each way to see his kids every weekend.

Suan—the glue that holds her siblings together. She reminds us to honor and to celebrate each other and the special events in our lives.

Elaine—who can find the humor in every situation. Despair finds no foothold while we’re laughing at ourselves, and Elaine gives us plenty to laugh about.

Colleen—whose gift with words and connection with the divine is an inspiration to many.

Monteen—whose wisdom is hard won through experience, and yet she gives it freely.

Sandra—whose loyalty and dependability have seen me through many trials.

Jana—who generously gives to others, whose kind heart reaches those in need, and whose example has inspired me and given me strength over and over again.

Dave & Sharon—who went above and beyond the call of duty during and after my divorce. They opened their home and their hearts, included us in family holidays, drove me to the hospital when I was injured, dealt with dead mice, provided encouragement and advice, and in many other ways took care of me and my children during our time of great need.

Like the actors accepting their awards, I find myself unable to thank all the people who have added to and enriched my life. But I hope that over the years, I have let you know who you are.

And last, but never least, I acknowledge my Lord and Savior—who doesn’t need my measly recognition of His place of honor in the world or in my heart, but who I want to praise anyway.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You're LATE! Nothing since Feb 7th!?

Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhh! What, you want to read contracts?! I have been writing my fingers to the bone this month, just not always creatively. (Or maybe very creatively. Depends on how you look at my business contracts...) (Thank you for pointing out the ebbing in the flow of my commitment level to this blog, btw. You made my day. I mean, it's not like it's eating away at my conscience every waking moment of my day.)

I started a piece last week on Reality TV, but halfway through, I realized everybody says they hate it, but we all watch it anyway. How else would we know how lame it is? (I really cannot believe some guy sold a kidney to further his invention...At least, that's what the teaser for American Inventor has been implying.) (And I am soooo ticked that they booted off Stacey and kept Jerry. He's a nice guy, but she can DANCE!) (And I mean, really, Moana [phonetic spelling] when you signed up to go on national TV to find a boyfriend, and the basic design of the show is that he sends one of you home each week, it had to have crossed your mind at some point that he might choose to send you home!?) So anyway, I deleted it.

In between contracts, I've been 'book doctoring.' (That is heavy duty editing; not for the faint of heart.) I spend my days making other people's words shine, while yearning to splash a few of my own. But I've grown accustomed to the luxuries of life, like eating and sleeping with a roof over my head. (No, I didn't make it up. I swiped it off a bumper sticker.) So the jobs that bring in the most money the fastest are the ones that get my attention and take my time, my resources, my very soul!

What we need is the replicator. Wouldn't that solve all our problems? No longer would we have to scrabble in the dust for a mere pittance, a subsistance living. All our basic physical needs would be met and we'd have time for the emotionality of life, the intellectual, the spiritual. Ahhh...

And that's all I have to say about that.

Yes, I just watched a rerun of Forest Gump on TV the other night. Watched Castaway the week before. I bet if they played a Tom Hanks rerun every weekend, we would have at least 6 months of happy watching. Hey, imagine that. Tom Hanks, the cure for Reality TV.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On Speculation and Gambling

Another week. Time to write another blog.

Fantasy: After writing multiple pieces each and every day during the week, I merely need to choose which of my clever and entertaining pieces to post here.

Reality: Uh…Do business contracts and e-mails count? I’ve written three contracts and a zillion e-mails this week.

Actually, I do have something to say today. Being a small business owner, I am always only two steps away from failure and bankruptcy. What can I say? I like living on the edge. But the last few weeks I’ve been closer to the edge than even the most thrill-seeking and desensitized entrepreneur would care to be. Close enough to the edge to hear the surf pounding on the jagged rocks below, to feel the spray upon my face, and to see the roots of the twig I’m swinging from start to give way.

Anyway, during this most recent I-grew-before-I-could-afford-new-clothes phase of my business, I had a client ask why things were so precarious. She was curious to know if I had “speculated” or “gambled” on business being better than it was. I had to think about that awhile.

And the answer is No. At least, not in the usual sense of those words, which imply taking unfounded or dangerous risks. My choices and business decisions were made as safely, as carefully, as well thought out and as prayerful as I know how to be.

The answer is also Yes. If you think about it, every decision we make in life, business or otherwise, could be called a speculation or gamble. We decide to shop at one store over another, speculating that their prices will be lower. We choose to quit one job and take another, gambling that it will provide a better living for our families. We decide to marry, rather than stay single, speculating that it will be a positive experience. We decide to have babies, gambling that we will survive both the experience of labor and delivery, and their teen years. Sometimes those gambles pay off the way we hope or expect. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the consequences are merely annoying, sometimes they are dire. That’s life.

So in that sense, yes, I suppose I did some speculation and gambling in the business, every day, every month, every year. Many times over the past five years, I’ve faced the choice of staying in business or closing the doors. Perhaps I have stayed in business over long, from a purely numbers and financial standpoint. But each time I faced that decision, I gambled on my products, their message, my enthusiasm, and the Lord’s continued help and support.

If I had it all to do over again, knowing what I know now, I’d have done a lot of things differently from the very beginning. If I had it all to do over again, knowing the eventual outcome would bring me here, dangling over disaster, yet not knowing how to prevent it, I’d still have taken those risks. I’d still have invested and gambled on these past five years and called it good while it lasted.

[Do not think that I have surrendered to the inevitable. I have not. The situation is not so dire as to be impossible to turn around. But for the sake of the creative writing to which this site is dedicated, that last sentence was a good stopping place.]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Jumping Into the Frey

Like Oprah and just about everyone else on the planet, I have an opinion on Mr. Frey's Million Little Pieces of lies. As an editor, I think my opinion is valuable. Therefore, I'm forcing you to read it. (Stop now if you really want to.)

1. A memoir is not an autobiography. It is a narrative based upon personal experience. It is the author's personal experience and interpretation of a memory. Ergo, it's probably not 100% true. Which is not to say that all, or even most, memoirs are purely fiction. I tend to believe most of them are true--or at least true within the frame of reference of the writer.

2. Everyone's memory is fallible and colored by both previous and subsequential experiences. You might "remember" Suzy wearing a red dress, when in fact, it was blue. You might "remember" the gist of a conversation, but you're not going to get it verbatim.

3. While you are comfortable telling your story and taking your own inventory, which obviously includes interaction with others, you do not have a right to print their inventory for millions of people to read. Therefore, sometimes you change the details: use a different name, different physical description, place them in a different location or career. This is not a horrible thing to do. It is protection for both the other person and for yourself.

4. Unlike a biography, which is a narration of facts connected by time and sequence, a memoir is a narration held together by a theme. It describes or teaches some universal truth. People are only willing to read about your life if they are going to get something back in return--insight, a feeling of connection, a good laugh, whatever. Sometimes to make the point, a memoirist waxes eloquent, rather than strictly literal. This is part of the definition of a memoir.

5. Having said that, a memoir needs to be based upon fact. The writer can only stray so far from harsh reality before they cross the line into fiction. Did James Frey cross that line? From what I saw of his appearance on Oprah recently, I believe he probably did. Bad, Frey. Don't ever do that again.

6. Use a little common sense when reading a memoir. If it sounds unbelievable, it possibly is. Take it with a grain of salt. However, don't assume that just because something doesn't fit within your personal frame of reference it isn't true. Really good men sometimes find it hard to believe that other men would beat their wives. Strong women find it hard to believe other women would stay with men who beat them. So while believability is a clue, it also may not be relevant.

7. When reading a memoir, or anything for that matter, I think the question is not so much is this a 100% representation of the honest-truth-in-every-detail reality, but is there enough truth in this story to touch my heart, to make me change?

8. Along with the aforementioned common sense, do what they say in Twelve Step sharing meetings: Take what you like [what feels true to you] and leave the rest.

9. Real life is a big enough lesson, James. You don't really need to embellish it. And in the future, call a spade a spade. If your story is true, with only small changes to protect the innocent (or more likely, the guilty) call it a memoir. If you write a story about months spent in jail, when in reality it was only a few days, say it is based on a personal experience. And if you really want to be creative, call it fiction. Fiction can move people too.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Clean, Efficient and Replenishable Energy!

So I'm sick today. I got a bad sore throat, an earache, and a headache that prevents me from using correct grammar, proper verb tense, and highly structured, non run-on sentences. I might even misspell something. Tough beans.

I went in to the office long enough to put out a few blazing fires, then left to come work from home in my jammies and fuzzy pink piggie slippers.

On the drive home, I'm listening to Glen Beck rant on the radio about energy sources, and how ethanol is not a good idea because then we're dependent on Africa, and nobody likes the wind turbines, and then this guy calls in and suggests we use candles as our main source of energy. I mean, really. Have you ever tried to type on a computer by candlelight?

So I got to thinking...here's a solution to our energy problems:

You know those old hand crank Victrolas, where you turn the crank for about 5 minutes and then the record plays for half an hour or so? What if we took that basic design but converted it to a stationary bicycle which would run an electrical generator. More energy for less cranking, and it's easier to pump with your legs than with your arms. Plus you won't build up those big bulky arm muscles that make all your shirts feel too tight.

Home owners could assign family members to take their turn on the Energy Bike. (Isn't that a catchy name?) Business owners could make a turn on the bike a part of their employees' job descriptions. And the President could pass a law that says in order to receive your monthly welfare check, you have to spend X number of hours pumping the government bike.

Just think--clean, efficient, replenishable energy; we're not dependent upon any outside country, but upon our own good citizens; and everyone loses weight to boot! Woo-hoo! Oh I suppose there will be some fat cats who choose to hire someone to take their turn on the Energy Bike, but we'll all know who they are because they'll be the only overweight people in the country. I think it's a staggeringly brilliant concept! (And if somebody acts on it, you owe me a royalty for the idea.)

What? I must have a fever? I don't think so!

And you know how no matter how much baking soda or orange peelings you dump down the garbage disposal, it always smells like sour milk and rotting vegetables? Well, I'm logging off now to work on a solution for that.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Book Review: The Believer by Stephanie Black

I just finished reading Stephanie Black’s The Believer, LDS futuristic fiction. I hesitated to read it because I have not been overly impressed with LDS fiction in the past. In fact, I used to do book reviews for a local paper 20 years ago. They wouldn’t print my reviews of LDS fiction because I had a bad habit of pointing out plot holes, stuffy dialogue, and trite, sappy endings.

But I was sick last week and bored out of my mind, so I decided to give The Believer a chance—and I am so glad I did! Futuristic fiction, science fiction, fantasy—these are my guilty pleasures. While it’s getting harder to find G or even PG stories in these genres, I still hesitated to try an LDS version. It would be like a Belgium chocolate connoisseur biting into a Hershey bar.

The Believer is set in New America, a country founded by violent separatists. Big Brother is alive and well in New America, where possession of religious pamphlets can land you in jail for years and people are blacklisted for speaking their mind.

Ian Roshek is a history professor who reads a contraband copy of the Book of Mormon and believes it. As he tries to live by its teachings, Ian comes slap up against the very worst of his society—secret combinations, terrorism, corrupt government, and mob mentality.

I liked the plot. There were plenty of twists and turns. I knew what was coming most of the time, but not so far ahead that it bothered me. And I have to say, I’m unusually good at guessing plots. My family often gets perturbed with me for telling them the plot twists and endings five minutes into a TV show or movie.

I liked the characters. They were believable. The ‘good guys’ weren’t lily white and while several of the ‘bad guys’ were just plain evil, others were simply weak and misled. I found myself wondering if I would have the courage to make the same decisions Ian made.

Dialog was natural, not stiff. Character voices were individualized. Emotions and reactions were real. Cause and effect events flowed naturally from one to another, not manufactured for effect. I especially liked the way Stephanie wrote of Ian’s religious beliefs and even quoted scriptures without beating the reader with a conversion stick or baptizing all her characters.

There were a couple of little glitchy places in the book, where I thought, “No, that doesn’t work…” but I enjoyed the book so much that now I can’t remember what they were.

I whole-heartedly recommend The Believer for anyone who likes futuristic fiction. This book is appropriate for teens as well as adults.

And Stephanie, if you’re not at your computer writing the sequel right now, get there fast! I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Welcome to My Blog

Hello and welcome to my blogspot. I fancy myself a creative writer, a novelist, in fact. Although I've published several non-fiction works and made a living as a "book doctor" for years, I have yet to complete a fiction manuscript.

Having said all my life that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I find myself, here at the age of 46, sufficiently grown up to make a try at it. I also find myself sufficiently terrified at the prospect. I need practice, encouragement and constructive criticism. Ergo, The InkSplasher.

I have made a commitment to myself to post something here at least once a week. It may be a short creative fiction piece, a commentary on current events or society, a book or product review, or something along the lines of Oprah's "What I Know for Sure." (Good idea, that. Go, Oprah!)

This blog is my practice spot--my place to practice writing and, more importantly, to practice putting my writing in a public place and risk feedback and commentary. Please feel free to comment on pieces I post here. Constructive criticism I can handle, but please don't flame me.

See you next week.

P.S. A caution to any who are not familiar with blogspot. There is a button at the top of most blog pages that says "Next Blog." It will take you to a random blog page. While most blogs are fine, I have encountered a few I wish I had not. Therefore, click the button with caution. If you come across an offensive site, click the flag button at the top of that site. That will send a message to blogspot "officials" that we find it offensive. If they get enough flags, they will investigate and possibly remove the blog.

I have removed that button from my site.