Friday, March 27, 2015

Grateful Beyond Words

I'm so grateful to God for life this week.  Two big events took my peace and kept me fearful for a bit, even though I prayed fairly unceasingly during the waiting periods.  I was not in control of either situation, and I realized how weak my faith can be.  By the grace of God, I'm still His.  He never left me alone.

Situation one:  I've had blood in my urine for a month.   Not enough to see, but enough to need a cat scan to look at my kidneys and my bladder.  I had the cat scan and waited a week before the doc called me at 7:30 in the morning and said the CT did show something abnormal, and could I come in that afternoon for a cystoscopy?  I wanted to yell, can I come in right now?!?

From 7:30 until 1:30, I worried.  I prayed and worried.  I called my husband, who came home from work to go to the doc with me.  Once he was home, we tried not to imagine the worst, but of course, we did.  I texted my best friend, my daughter, and my sister to ask for prayer.  My sister told me later that while she waited for the final word from me, she wondered if she would be able to donate to me one of her kidneys.  I cried when she told me this.

During those waiting, morning hours, I wiped up the kitchen and folded laundry and scrolled mindlessly though facebook, anything to occupy my mind.  Every time my mind would consider the fact that I might hear fatal news, I rolled that into the prayer, Be still and know that I am God.  Be still and know that I am God.  Be still, be still, be still.

We arrived at the doctor's office early, and I flipped though an old TIME magazine, reading parts of articles, comprehending nothing.   The nurse called me back, and my husband came with me.  I would be on my back in stirrups for the cystoscopy, but I wanted him in the room.  Once I was gowned and ready, we waited another fifteen minutes. It seemed like an hour.

The doc came in and explained that the CT showed my kidneys were fine, but it appeared there was a mass on my bladder.  The cystoscopy would give him a better look.  Within a minute, the scope was in and we saw my bladder on the small screen to my left.  He pointed out different aspects of my bladder - all healthy tissues.  No mass.  He smiled and said, "Your bladder is fine.  I suspect it was empty during the CT and it folded in on itself, which bladders sometimes do." 

I stared at him. "The bladder is fine?  The kidneys are fine?"

"Both fine," he said.  "The urethra is a bit irritated.  We'll give you some cream for that, and I'm 99% sure the bleeding will stop.  It's nice to get good news once in a while, isn't it?"

I took a deep breath and looked at my husband.  He had tears in his eyes.

Situation two: Exactly a week after the fearful morning/good news cystoscopy, our youngest son was in a car accident.

Front of the car
 
Back of the car

He was rear-ended by a young woman who plowed into him at a stop light.  He swerved, went off the road, and hit a tree.  He was crunched from both ends. The air bag knocked him with such force, his glasses broke, and his seat was flattened into a reclining position.  With such impact from both ends, his 6'3" frame could have been broken in many places.

He emerged with only a bloody elbow and bruises from the air bag.  Unbelievable.  (No one else was hurt.)

Our daughter-in-law called us (we are two hours away) and kept us updated.  Until he was seen in the ER and cleared from head or internal injuries, I was back in worry/prayer mode.  A few hours later, we talked to our son.  He was sore, but assured us he was OK.  The accident was not his fault, insurance would kick in, he already had an appointment to get new glasses.

I breathed deeply, and my husband and I looked at each other, again, with tears in our eyes.

People get terrible medical news every day.  People are injured or killed in car accidents every day.  I don't know why we were spared the worst of things these past two weeks.  I know God is good all the time, whether we are ill or well, safe or harmed.  Life is random and crazy.  God is not.

He's in control all the time.  He's loving all the time.  He wants the best for us all the time.

A time will come when life will not serve me the best outcome.  I pray I will remain true to whom I know God to be.  All the time.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

How to Write When You Don't Have Time

by Katy White

After the title of this post, I'm so, so tempted to just say this:

Write anyway.

Instead, I'll leave you with a couple of quotes from famous writers who say the same thing, but better.


“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 


“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” 


“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”  (In other words, write anyway!)


And if that's not the inspiration or validation you were looking for today, there's always this...


“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” 



#amwriting

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nicole Kidman wanted a date with Jimmy Fallon - HE HAD NO IDEA and he BLEW IT.

Here's the Jimmy Fallon interview where he finds out that Nicole Kidman was interested in him when he was working at SNL.  She went over to his apartment one day and he served cheese and crackers, barely talked to her and eventually turned on a video game. 

This video is such a treat to watch.  Have fun.  And remember - sometimes we have access to more than we think in this life and are only limited because we put limits on what we think is possible for us.   So watch this thing and then go and reach for something you think you'll never get or that you think you don't deserve.....you never know....

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Not You, It's Me (Because There's No Accounting for Taste)

by Kasey Tross



There's a serious, sometimes debilitating issue that seems to bring down a lot of writers, and that flaw is this: They think that if their writing is good, and their story is good, then they will not have too much trouble landing an agent and getting a publishing deal. But the fact of the matter is, unless you happen to have dumb luck on your side, that's usually just not the case.

We've all seen the lists of now-famous authors who faced rejections numbering in the high double digits- sometimes even triple digits- and we remind ourselves that we must persevere. But do we ever think about why it is that those rejections piled up one after the other for these highly talented authors? I think we like to tell ourselves that it was because those agents who rejected Stephen King and J.K. Rowling were total morons, literary imbeciles, and completely incompetent (and probably lazy and ugly too).

But what if they weren't? What if they were perfectly competent, intelligent, good agents (and even hardworking and attractive as well)? What if the reason those rejections piled up was simply because the agents just weren't super excited about Carrie and Harry? 

We've all had those experiences where a good friend tells us, "Omigosh, you HAVE to go see This Great Movie. It's the best movie EVER!!!" And so then we go see This Great Movie, and while we enjoy it, to us it's not "the best movie EVER!!!" Or, even worse, we go see This Great Movie and we just don't really like it all that much. The simple fact is that everyone has different taste.

To illustrate my point, I conducted a highly scientific poll. (I used Facebook and everything.) I posted a message that said that The Voice is currently my favorite show on television (yes, even more than Downton Abbey!) and I asked my friends to give their opinions by comment: type "yes" if it was their favorite show too, "ok" if they liked it but wasn't a favorite, and "no" if it did not interest them/they didn't watch it. Here were the results:

No: 19
Ok: 18
Yes: 5

Keep in mind that I have lots of things in common with these people- many of them are LDS, I went to high school with a lot of them, we have socioeconomic similarities, age similarities, etc. They are intelligent, kind, fun, wonderful people. Yet, even with all of that, I found only 5 other people who were as excited about this show as I am. Does this mean it's not a good show? No! If it wasn't any good it wouldn't be on the air. Enough people like it that it continues on, and has for awhile. But if any one of those in the disinterested 88% were the ones deciding what would air, The Voice probably wouldn't be around.

Now think of your novel (which should be one of your favorite books ever)- how likely is it that the first agent you query (who probably has less in common with you than my Facebook friends have with me) will love it as much as you do- enough to put their name on it with you and work to convince others to buy it? The second? The third? The twenty-seventh? You're aiming for that 12%- that 5 out of 42 (and if we're being realistic, that number is probably even lower).

The bottom line is this: So much of what we do when we query is just luck. We put our best work forward and then we cross our fingers and pray and hope that it hits the right mark. When the rejections come rolling in, we have to remember that usually it's not us, it's them. And it's not "them" in the sense that they're idiots, it's that they're just not super excited about our work. And it's not because our work is bad, it's because it's not their taste. And that's okay.

The important thing to remember is that the more you query, the closer you are to finding that one agent who gets you, gets your work, and gets excited about it. There will be someone who feels it!

It's because of this realization that I was not at all devastated (or even disappointed really) when I received a "no, thank you" from the agent I pitched to at the writing conference last year. I knew going into it that the chance of this one agent at this one conference just happening to be The One who would be excited about my novel was highly unlikely. It was about as likely as me accurately guessing the birthdate of a total stranger.

So the next time you read a rejection letter in your inbox, ignore those voices in your head that start dogging on you, those voices that say, "Wow, your work must really stink." Instead say, "It's not me, it's them. And there are plenty more agents out there. And eventually, I'll find The One." And then go write your next query.



Don't Forget: While much of the querying process is luck, there are certainly things you can do to improve your chances of landing an agent:

- Know what kinds of work agents represent- don't pitch an adult sci-fi novel to an agent who deals mostly in YA romance. (And ALWAYS follow and agent's submission guidelines!)

- Get to know agents by following them on Twitter and Goodreads and see what genres they're interested in. 

- Find books that are similar to yours and check the acknowledgments page to see who the author's agent was (you can even mention that book in your query). 

Doing these things will help you hone in on your target and make it much more likely that you'll hit your mark with fewer queries. 


Saturday, March 21, 2015

A match made in Heaven....

By Lacey Gunter

In western cultures we love to romanticize the idea of a soul mate; that supposed person who is the other half of our whole. All the while, we women seem to never be satisfied with the half we make up.  We have the hardest time looking in the mirror without zeroing in on exactly what isn't great about our bodies, always obsessing about our physical flaws.

I find great irony in this situation, although, probably not in the way you would think. You see, our souls, or our spirits, have already been matched up with what Heaven believes will be the perfect fit, our utterly amazing physical bodies.

Who knows whether there is really another person out there that is the only perfectly right person for you? But there can be no question about which body God wanted your spirit to reside with. Yet, often, that match garners little or no enthusiasm.

The union between our bodies and our spirits is much like a marriage, albeit an arranged marriage.  Marriages thrive when both partners possess love and respect for each other. So what kind of partner is your spirit being in this relationship?  Are you abusive and unkind? Do you put your partner down for its shortcomings? Are you always pointing out the negative and failing to notice and give credit for the things that are wonderful, unique and special about your partner?

If we want this union between our physical bodies and our souls to flourish, women, we need to stop hating on our physical bodies. We need to cultivate a deep and abiding love and respect for the truly remarkable creation that they are. So give your body a hug. And when you look in the mirror next time, thank your body for all the many things it's doing right today.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

To Review or Not to Review? (I Still Haven’t Decided)


- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

This week I finished a book that I wasn’t certain I was going to enjoy. It was a kindle freebie many moons ago, and I picked it up (because, hey, free!). Then it languished until a week or so ago, when I finally started it.

I really rather enjoyed it. Yes, there were quirks I did not love (I thought the author’s figurative language simply didn’t work in many instances; I also didn’t find the main character’s personality entirely consistent). But I found the story to be overall enjoyable and tense enough to make me nervous reading it at night (it was a thriller). My biggest beef was the ending, which I found abrupt and far too unfinished, even for being the first in the series. This ending probably knocked half a star off my enjoyment level.

Still, I figured that I could give a fairly honest, fairly positive review. I used to write scathing reviews of books I didn’t like, but now I don’t bother with a review at all unless I can honestly say that I enjoyed it well enough to merit at least 3 stars out of 5.* In my opinion, that’s pretty reasonable. Three stars says, “Hey, I liked this. I didn’t love it, but if this is a genre you enjoy, this book is worth a look.” So I clicked over to Amazon to write a review.

And then I saw the ratings.

Out of about 150 reviews, there was only one 1-star review. Every single other review was either 4 or 5 stars. This is incredibly unusual, and it made me suspicious. Out of curiosity, I clicked the 1-star review. Which is when I discovered that the 1-star reviewer had received bucketloads of comments (almost all deleted by Amazon) from either the author or the author’s friends—all because he had given a 1-star review.

Note to authors: Bullying your readers is NOT COOL, even if they don’t like your book.

In skimming through some of the other reviews, I found that the author had told someone else who didn’t like his first book that they should give the second book a try anyway—it was even better. While that might be true, I was really uncomfortable with the tone going on here: like my book or be pressured into liking my book.

Now I’m sitting on what I would have considered a positive review, torn between posting and not posting it. I’d rather not get into a fight with the author of a book I enjoyed, you know? And I’d also rather not have an indie author out there gunning for me when one day I am published. I’m a bit angry at this author’s handling of negative reviews, too. Sure, indie publishing is hard, and negative reviews can hurt; but dishonestly positive reviews feel, well, dishonest.

So I guess I’ll figure it out. Or maybe I’ll just let it all slip because I’ve got better things to do with my time. Who knows?

In the meantime, have you ever faced a situation like this (either as the reviewer or as the receiver of a negative review)? If so, how did you handle it?

* Actually, I will still write reviews of books I hated if the author is either a) dead or b) so rich and famous that my negative review is just a drop in the bucket. But they’re usually not scathing anymore.**
** Unless the book is named Wuthering Heights or Romeo and Juliet. Then all bets are off.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Because we're all in this together. Everyday.

Hello all, it's C.J. Schneider here.  Today I'd like to introduce you all to my dear friend Virginia Oviatt.  Virginia is a woman of many talents.  She competes in triathlons, she cooks, she manages twin babies, she sews flowers onto headbands, she fights lions with her bare hands...you get the picture.  She blogs at: https://missconginnyality.wordpress.com/

Because We're All in This Together.  Everyday. - by Virginia Oviatt

The parable of the Good Samaritan gets me every time.  I see myself so clearly- not in the the man left for dead (although somedays I may look it), not in the thieves who robbed and beat him (at least I try to not be that person). I am not even in the Priest or the Levite who avoid and ignore the hurt man. No, I am a character untold in the story but I am in there just the same. I am the Martha, busy with to her own children, so tired she cannot see straight, fighting  to get the laundry done, struggling to make sure there is fruit in the house, rushing to an appointment or lesson 10 minutes late. I am the one in the story who doesn't cross to the other side of the road. I, taking care of my own little brood, arms over flowing with babies, listening to the constant chatter of my little girl, trying to watch the never ending slap stick of my 8 year old, wanting to but never quite finding enough ways to  support and cheer on my hubs, I cross in the same place as the man. Failing to see him with my cognizant eyes, I take my daughter's hand to help her step over him and we trudge forward on our journey.

Last week I attempted my first large solo grocery trip with my 5 month old twins in tow. With one strapped to my back and the other snuggled in on my front, I had 2 hands free to load and push a very full cart. As I made my way through the store, the responses I got from other shoppers ranged from smiles, the woman cheering me on, whispering she can tell I'm doing an amazing job. There were countless strangers repeating the same tired phrase- "you've sure got your hands full" and the one man who went out of his way to ask "what would you do if you had 3?!?!"  But I was doing well with just my two. As I got to check out and just as I began to doubt, wondering how I would lift all my groceries out of the cart, bag and lift them back in again with my sweet babies clearly acting as obstructions, the customer service women left their station. Without asking what I needed said "we see you've got your hands full, let us unload and pack your groceries for you."
Later they helped me out to the van while I bounced and shooshed my little boys. In a store not generally noted for its customer service, They saw me and they knew what they could do.
From the drivers seat of my vehicle I called out how proud I was of the three of us. We did it! But without the help of these thoughtful women, I'm not sure I would have felt the same. They made the difference from it being a trip we just squeaked through to an experience of success I can look back to in those moments when motherhood successes seem far and out of reach.

I have a dear friend who recently threw her back out; On a Wednesday.
Wednesday night she bought the groceries we would need to make freezer meals.
Thursday morning she stood in my kitchen with her sore back chopping onions and filling bags. That afternoon she took my older two kids sledding.
Friday she came to visit and stopping in later to return something, noticed I was on my way out the door. I was late, trying to furiously get babies into snow suits so we could pick up my little girl from kindergarten. Her offer to stay to help meant that I didn't need to pack babies with me and could enjoy some 1:1 time with my sweet Lady.
Friday night with my husband away, she picked up the same daughter from a dance class and watched her until for me so I'd  have less running around with my two monkeys.
Monday, back still hurting, she came to pick up my older kids for an hour of physical activity after school.

Like me, This sweet friend has laundry, the need for fruit in her house. She has her own kids and her own projects. Though her back was hurting so she could hardly stand straight, she didn't cross on the other side of the road. She saw me and she knew exactly what She could do to help. 4 days out of 6 she checked in with me, included me in her day, served me, let me know she saw me and was there.

At our Relief Society March 17 party, the question was posed "who is an example to you of One who possesses Christlike attributes?"  I thought of my friend. I like to think I'm a person who enjoys giving service. I generally try to be kind and if I'm told what needs to be done, I'm your girl. But she has shown me what Brene Brown meant when she said "compassion is not a virtue- it's a commitment. It's not something we have or don't have. It's something we practice."
She has shown me what it means to practice constant watchcare. To be a Shepard, not just to the lost and lonely but to one of the 99 who just needs a boost, a little extra help to make sure she doesn't get too tired, too overwhelmed, too crazy. Like the ladies at Superstore, she allowed me to feel like more than just getting by, to feel I am handling my life with a little grace.

And so I'm committing to practice. To have my eyes open. To see and to do. Because the real challenge of the Good Samaritan is not in serving those you despise in the rare occasion you find them with a flat tire. It's in seeking and seeing opportunities to chip in, to lighten the load of others. It's in making kindness a part of everything; what we do; who we are; everyday.
Because we're all in this together. Everyday.

- Virginia Oviatt

Top 9 Signs Your Kids Might Actually Be Leprechauns

Top 9 Signs Your Kids Might Actually Be Leprechauns: How else could you explain all the funny hats?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Slamming Doors, Lemons, Wrenches, Storms, and Other Confusing Things


On Saturday morning, my bishop (pastor) called me.

As you fellow Mormons know, that is rarely a good thing.

He asked if he could come over that evening to speak with me. About a calling. (A calling is an unpaid job in the church- pretty much every Mormon has one.)

That’s when I knew for sure I was in trouble. You see, I hold two callings: one in public affairs and one as a music leader for the children in my ward (congregation). I knew I wasn’t going to get a third calling, because everyone (especially the bishop) knows I’m too busy with the callings I already have. Which meant I was going to lose a calling. And it wasn’t going to be the public affairs, because that’s at the stake (regional) level, and that’s the stake president’s jurisdiction. Which meant it was my music calling.

*sigh*

My music calling is the bestest calling in the church. I get to be creative, I get to teach, I get to sing, and I get to PLAY with the most wonderful, sweet, amazing children, who have such a strong spirit about them. So when the bishop said he wanted to speak with me?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

But alas. It was true. My days as a music leader are now over. I was called to serve in the Relief Society (women’s organization) presidency.

Don’t get me wrong- I do love the Relief Society. It is an extraordinary organization that strengthens and uplifts women in so many ways, and it is a privilege to get to serve with them.

But will I ever get to bring in a screaming monkey toy and yell “INCOMING!” as I shoot it across the room?

Probably not. So it will be an adjustment.

Anyway, as I have been struggling with this sudden change (found out Saturday night, my last day with the kids was Sunday- *sniff sniff*) I have been having to hold onto my faith- my belief that this is the Lord’s work and that I am following His plan. Fittingly, the Sacrament hymn (which came right after the announcement of my release and new calling in Sacrament meeting) was, “Thy Will, O Lord, Be Done.” The very last part of the last line of that song is this: "And pray for strength, that we may say,
As he, 'Thy will, O Lord, be done.’”

So, why am I sharing all this? Well, I think we all have wrenches thrown into our lives at one time or another- those things that happen that throw us for a loop and leave us stunned and saying, “What just happened?” But there is one essential truth to remember which I think is described perfectly in this quotation (which is by someone of a different faith but I happily accept truth wherever I find it):

"Trials are a part of our experience...As surely as the stars are fashioned by His hands, and their orbits fixed by Him, so surely are our trials allotted to us. He has ordained their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us. Good men must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they will be disappointed, for none of their predecessors have been without them." - Alistair Begg

My situation might not necessarily be considered a “trial”, but I think this applies to any change: those things that we face might surprise us, but they don’t surprise Him.

I heard a story recently of a woman who had spent hours and hours helping her son finish a big school project. The night before the project was due, the woman was checking the weather for the next day and saw that some nasty storms would be in their area in the morning. Before going to bed, she carefully wrapped her son’s project, ensuring that it would be protected and ready to go the next morning.

The next morning her son woke up distraught, saying, “Mom! It’s pouring down rain outside! My project will be ruined!” His mother calmed him down and said, “Son, it’s okay! I knew the storms were coming and I took care of it. Your project will be fine. I got this.”

This lady went on to say that so often in our lives, when the storms come, we go to God in a panic and say, “What is this? I’m not ready for this!” Yet we don’t remember or realize that He knows about every storm, and He has prepared us for them- He wouldn’t let us go through it unless we were ready.

He’s got this.

So why this change at this time for me? I don’t know. And I don’t have to know. I just have to trust. Who knows? Maybe I can use all that creative energy I had been using to plan lessons for those kids to write my book instead... ;-)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Reigning Men

 https://causeisaidso.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/timthumb-php.jpg
By Beckie Carlson

For some reason, I’ve been noticing the passing of time more lately than usual. I feel myself growing older, I see my kids maturing before my eyes, and the past is stretching further and further behind me. I feel like I’m coming up on one of those hills you can see for miles and miles….but when you are at the top you can’t really tell how you got up there. How did I get here?

I’m a pretty capable person, always have been. My mom would tell you tales of me getting my wisdom teeth out or having jaw surgery and being a super hero. That’s her version. Mind over matter was my mantra and it worked. If I want something done, I usually just do it myself. Even when Brad was around, I would usually end up doing it. I would either get tired of waiting or just jump in feet first.

I decided to start my garden this week. It is spring break at my house, so it made sense. I have a wonderful garden area on the side of my house. The garden is actually one of the big selling points of this house. I wanted a bigger living room and  a garden spot. It has taken me almost two years from moving in, but I am finally attacking the garden. The area is a four foot raised bed, sprinkler fed, and almost completely full of dirt. It wasn’t quite full enough.
 
Step one, get more dirt, aka soil, to fill the garden. It kind of amazes me that we actually pay for dirt. Of course, we pay for water……Anyway. I was a good girl and measured the area before going to Home Depot to get soil. I needed approximately 80 cubic feet of soil. (I know this because I can do 5th grade math….) I got out my calculator and did a price check and even talked to a nice ‘gardener type guy’ before settling on the soil I needed.

26 bags of soil doesn’t seem like a whole lot until you lift the third bag. At that point, the, “what the h*** am I thinking” starts to set in and it becomes a real effort to not run at full (wimp) speed to the parking lot and drive straight to the craft store where things are WAY lighter. Having my son with me helped me be strong and stick to my guns. (He was inside on the lawn furniture playing games on his phone due to his allergies, but still…)

Quick thinking got me a rental truck and a forklift (and driver) to load up all those bags. Yay for me!
As I drove away triumphantly in my big hourly truck, I realized I still had to unload the truck. If I counted optimistically, I had me, a pregnant 25 year old, a two year old, 13 year old, 15 year old strapping young man, and a 20 year old…who may or may not be home. This was not looking good.
I admit that the thought went through my mind like this, “This is one of those days I wish I was married.” Yes, it’s true. I wish I had a man at home or even at the store doing this all for me. I was tired and I had just gotten started.

No sooner had I uttered these mental words, then the thought came into my mind clear as a bell. “Call the elders.” Of course! The missionaries are always looking for service projects. I don’t have home teachers that come so, I’m totally allowed to use them. I called them up and they came right over. Not only did our two elders come, but they brought two others they just happened to be giving a ride to. It took them all of five minutes to unload my truck. I gave them water and they were on their way.
I am so grateful for this tiny little miracle. Knowing me, I would have tried to get all those bags out the truck by myself and would most likely have thrown my back out. That would have ended my fun spring break and really messed up our plans.

The Lord has taken my main man, but he has not left me alone. I am so grateful for the men in my life that are there for me when I need heavy stuff moved, computers fixed, advice, hugs, priesthood blessings, protection, and even company on a given evening. I sometimes worry that I have taken too long, been single too long, left my kids without a father figure for too long, but I’m doing the best I can and I know my Father in Heaven is mindful of me.

Cause I said so.
Photo credit: http://www.ints-rep.com

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