Wednesday, August 30, 2017

First Day of School (translation): Let's pick on the introvert....


Being a shy introvert for the better part of my life, many of my school memories are not all that pleasant.

I dreaded the first day of school, and not just because it was school and it was more work than fun. It was mostly because of what the teachers often did to me (albeit unintentionally) those first days of school…

Teacher (usually the kind that hasn't been teaching for 20+ years) walks in with a big happy grin, “Since it’s a new year and we’ve got a bunch of new faces, I thought it would be a great idea if we played the “Getting to Know You” game!” Teacher looks around with grin still plastered in place. My guess is she's hoping for applause or some kind of shout for joy, but at least half the class is sinking lower in their seats.

My mind traitorously dredges up all my previous "getting to know you" experiences from the deep place I've tried to bury them. Well here’s to another year where I’m known as “barf girl”...

I didn’t always turn green. Sometimes I just peed my pants. Honestly, I preferred “barf girl”.

Junior High quickly became the bane of my existence when I had to repeat this same scenario 6 or 7 times the first day.

By eighth grade I’d learned the hard way the best place to sit to avoid further opportunities of torture throughout the year:


  1. Never sit in the back because the teacher knew the people who sat in the back didn’t want to be called on, which meant they would always be called on. 
  2. Never in the front because then you looked like someone who was anxious to be called on. 
  3. Never dead center because it was too easy for the teacher’s eyes to pause there and call on you. 
  4. The best place was somewhere left or right of the center, but not too close to the edge seat. This way you could scrunch down and dodge behind the person sitting in any direction when the teacher started looking for people to call on. This was especially helpful if you could find a girl with really big hair and position yourself directly behind her—for those of you millennials, in the late 80’s early 90’s it was actually possible to be completely blocked by the hair of the person in front of you, sometimes even in a 360° radius. Not kidding.

Nothing has changed much in my adult years. I still turn green and feel like vomiting whenever it’s time to introduce myself, and I still inadvertently find myself looking for ladies with big hair to hide behind in any situation where I could be called on. On the rare occasions I do feel compelled to raise my stupid hand and open my stupid mouth, both my heart and my sweat glands decide I’m in the middle of a 5k. It neither looks or smells pretty. Although, I have learned which deodorants work better than others, never to believe anything that says it completely removes sweat rings, and that of all the things I’ve tried, nursing pads and waterproof electrical tape work better than any product out there (you can figure out the details of that one on your own).

So, why do I put myself through the torture of teaching gospel and writing classes, going to launch parties, and attending book signings?

Surprisingly, (sans vomit and sweat), there are aspects of it I enjoy. Something I never would have believed possible the first day of 7th grade.

We rarely discover what we are capable of until we do the things that scare us stupid. Seriously. The first few times I stood in front of crowd or sat at a table to sign books, my mind would go completely blank if I made eye contact with anyone. But in my scared stupid moments, I learned some valuable lessons I don’t think I would have learned any other way...

  1. I learned to laugh at myself and have fun. I learned that the best way to dispel my own awkwardness was to be my own goofy self—which meant many people have probably thought I escaped a mental hospital, but I discovered--oddly enough--that I'm okay with that.
  2. I learned that usually the way through to someone isn’t by my impressive speaking skills (that I seriously do NOT have). The best way to teach is not to worry about what the learner thinks of you as a teacher, but rather to love those you teach, and care only about the message you are trying to convey and seeking the right kind of influence to teach from. If someone likes what I teach or write, it’s because I’ve been genuine, I’ve been myself. When my words reflect that, the listener/reader can relate to me or my character as another normal human being with flaws and imperfections who is honestly trying. It’s most definitely not because I am actually impressive.
  3. I actually like people, despite how much they terrify me, and I like giving them hope. Whether it’s the hope that even an introverted “barf girl” can find a way to achieve her dreams, or a mom with two kids, general anxiety and depression, can find light in the darkness and courage to follow the road to become whoever it is she’s supposed to become despite the challenges of life. 
  4. Nursing pads are far more useful than I ever could have imagined, much better than walking around like a robot who can't raise their arms out of typing position. And electrical tape residue washes out better than duct tape.


Bottom line?

I love people. I love writing. I love teaching. If that means my face is a little green and my armpits, back, and hair are a little (or sometimes a lot) wet. So be it.

Dreams are worth sweating and turning green over.


Do something today that scares you. 
You never know what amazing things will happen…


Next month:
The truth behind one word I like and one word I absolutely hate... Incredible vs. Incredulous (Seriously, I HATE THAT WORD!!!)

Friday, June 30, 2017

It's Official...I'm 40

Okay, let's face it. I wasn't looking forward to turning 40, but it wasn't because I didn't like the idea of being Over-the-Hill.

I was ready to say goodbye to my 30's, it was not an easy decade: I had 4 surgeries, lost a baby, learned first hand the horrors of clinical depression, and was diagnosed with Celiac disease.

Given the last decade, I was worried about what the next one had in store, especially with the results of an MRI waiting on the horizon that could lead to yet another surgery. But then I realized I was focusing on the bad things that happened and not the blessings, the amazing growth and strength I gained through my 30's.

For starters...

Physically

  • I can hear out of my left ear--which is obviously a really good thing. 
  • My cancer risk went from 80% to normal--also a very good thing.
  • I can eat and not be as worried I'm going to be sick--which is really quite nice despite the lifestyle changes.
  • I have a better understanding of my physical body and what I can/need to do to help keep my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual heath, balanced.

But most importantly...

Spiritually, mentally, emotionally

The physical were HUGE blessings to be sure, and they deserve IMMENSE gratitude, but it is the lessons I learned through each trial that deepened my testimony, strengthened my relationship with God, His Son, my husband, my children, my extended family, my friends, and changed me, the way I see myself and the world, forever.

There is one thing about surgeries, especially the kind that alter our bodies. We understand as we go under that the surgeon is going to try to fix a problem, an ear that can't hear, remove a dying uterus, etc. But we can't anticipate the challenges involved in the healing process no matter how much we try to be prepared. We were used to our problem, have learned to live around it, and once it's gone we have to try to learn to live again, differently.

While my ear healed I had to rely on my husband and children to be my ears. I couldn't hear at all on my left side, it was extremely disorienting and sometimes scary. A silent world can be a lonely one. My family was my safety, my haven. I have much more compassion for the deaf and I only experienced it half way. I will forever appreciate the sound of my children's and my husband's voices, the sound of bird song, and the tap of the rain. Sound is beautiful.

While my body and my heart healed from my hysterectomy I had to rely on others not just for my physical care, but for my spiritual care as well. My heart was broken. I'd lost a baby and any chance at giving birth to another one. I dealt with grief, guilt, physical pain, and intense sorrow. But in these months/years of healing my relationship with my Savior deepened into something that forever changed me. He held me through it all, every single minute of it. He showed me a side of myself I never could have found without Him. He showed me the way out of the darkness. He helped me find courage I never knew I could be capable of. He helped me see who He knew I could be if I could have enough faith and trust in Him to stay the course, no matter how hard or scary it may be. He helped me see how truly blessed I am with an amazing, loving, husband and family, and some truly incredible friends, and that through Him and with them by my side, I could become who I was created to become.

To put it simply I gained...

  • Deeper gratitude for life, family, faith, testimony, and all the little things we take for granted.
  • Compassion for the soul behind the face. If we all wore our heartaches on our faces we would be more kind to those around us. I learned how to wear a fake smile to hide the pain. I try really hard now never to make assumptions and just be kind.
  • An understanding of the value of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that goes beyond Church on Sundays. I learned to truly see Him as my best friend who understands perfectly my pain and sorrows because He experienced them in that Gethsemane experience. He is the physician, the one who heals us beyond the physical and helps us find the beauty in life's changes. Medication may have balanced my brain chemistry, but it was Him and the gift of His Atonement that balanced my heart, body, mind, and spirit. It was Him that made me whole again. And it is He that will keep me whole as my life continues to have mountains to climb, and fierce waves to sail. I have learned to turn to Him.
How can I possibly regret my 30's?

On to the next decade....

Bring it on. I'm ready.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Chocolate Days


I read a post the other day on Facebook. A woman was having one of those days, you know, the kind where nothing is going right and where you just feel like crying. One of the comments said "it sounds like a chocolate kind of day." I quickly agreed. Chocolate is my personal favorite prescription for bad days, sad days, lonely days, happy days, awesome days... Yes it is my favorite prescription for EVERYTHING.

I love chocolate. If it's covered in chocolate I'll probably eat it, unless it's a bug or a vegetable, although I'd probably consider the bug before the vegetable. I even watched a documentary on chocolate the other day. I almost ate my TV.

Honestly, I think I'm addicted.

So, why am I blogging about chocolate and making myself crave it all the more? Because the idea of a "chocolate kind of day" got me thinking. I am an emotional eater, have been my entire life. And chocolate is my food of choice. I crave it after lunch because I think I deserve something to relax me after working all morning. I crave it during movies, because you gotta have something sweet and chocolatey while your eyeballs are glued to the screen. I crave it when I read, because, well, just because.

I had to wonder, if I craved a deeper relationship with God, my husband, my children, the way I crave chocolate... If I devoured my time with them the way I devour chocolate... How much stronger, happier, more relaxed and content, would I be as a Christian, a wife, a mom?

Now, I have no intention of lowering my consumption of chocolate, after all my family appreciates a chocolate fed mom. But I am going to try an experiment, for every piece of chocolate that goes in my mouth I'm going to evaluate where I am at in that moment in my relationship with God and my family. What can I do to further appreciate them the way I do the chocolatey goodness headed down my throat? And maybe, just maybe, great things shall come that surpass even chocolate.

Hmmm anyone else now headed to find chocolate?

Try this yummy EASY recipe for Gluten Free Chocolate Cookies with Vanilla Frosting. I grew up eating these and when I found out I had celiac disease I had to modify it so I could keep eating them! If you don't want to make it gluten free just use 2 C normal flour.

Preheat oven 350*

Ingredients:
1 C softened butter
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Cream these together in a large mixing bowl, then add:

3/4 tsp baking soda
2/3 C cocoa (I love Hershey's cocoa)
2 C Gluten Free flour blend (I love Pillsbury blend. It already has the xanthum gum and it bakes up nicely)

Mix together and add more flour if needed until it's no longer sticky and easy to mold into balls. Scoop out with tbsp, roll, and place 2" apart on parchment paper or non-stick cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until top starts to crack, but not more than 10 minutes or they will harden when they cool. Flatten slightly with spatula while warm for easy frosting.

Vanilla frosting:
1 C powdered sugar
1tsp vanilla (swap with a tsp or two of mint extract for chocolate mint cookies instead:)
1tsp melted butter.
2tsp milk (2%, rice, or almond milk)
Cream together and add more powdered sugar or milk to desired consistency.

OR omit the frosting and add peanut butter chips, or mint chips, or white chocolate chips (you get the idea) to the mix for yummy varieties!


Monday, March 27, 2017

Can vs. Can't

Whether you say "I can" or "I can't", you're right...

As a writer it is important to know, “how to turn a phrase”. I need to be able to convey my message in the most succinct way possible, yet with enough description and action to keep it interesting. Too many words and it gets weedy and boring, not enough words and it becomes staccato and bland. 

I love using words to paint vivid mental pictures.  Just as a painter needs to know the complexity of the colors on his palate in order to know how they will mix and appear on the canvas; a writer needs to know the meaning of words and phrases in order to create a believable and beautiful story.

We are impressionable human beings. We repeat what we hear. But something important to note is that we subconsciously live out what we say. Words, believe it or not, have a lot more power on our subconscious mind than you think. Deep within the reaches of your mind, the real definition of the word you are using is there and when you say it, especially repeatedly, you are convincing your mind of its truth and it becomes an attitude of truth.

There is a great quote I read somewhere once that says “Whether you say ‘I can’ or ‘I can’t’, you’re right.” 

“I can’t”
Everyone uses this phrase. It can’t (ha ha) be that dangerous right?

It actually can be. Let me explain why.

The word CAN is powerful, yet conditional. 
Definition of can:
be able to; be able to through acquired knowledge or skill; have the opportunity or possibility to 

It is conditional depending on our own willingness to gain the skill or education, change our circumstances, or how we deal with our circumstances, in order to succeed. 

The word can’t (or cannot) has no definition. Let me repeat that. The word can’t (or cannot) has no definition! 

Why? Because it is the opposite of can.  Because it does not exist. It is not a real word. It is a word we have made up to describe the absence of can. It is just like the word cold—it does not exist. Darkness does not exist, evil does not exist, death does not exist—they are all words we have made up in order to describe the absence of the real thing. 

Can’t is poisonous.  It goes into the mind poisoning hope, poisoning confidence, poisoning self-worth, poisoning will, until it turns into something even more terrible. Fear

Fear is even more debilitating than “can’t”, it is the monster that is created from feeding can’t. The idea of “can’t” grows the fear that if we try we will fail. We won’t ever be good enough, or strong enough, or smart enough. As these two concepts “can’t” and “fear” coalesce and grow we become paralyzed by their seductive lies, and we lose our will to fight back and become more than our fear.

Can I make a suggestion? From this day on try to recognize that “can’t” is a choice. Just as fear is also a choice.

I love the quote from Neal A. Maxwell, "Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy, but the absence of courage." When you get frustrated, don't say "I can't". Just because you don't succeed the first time doesn't mean you can't do it, it just means try harder.

The next time you are about to use the phrase “I can’t” replace it with this phrase, “I will”.

When you say “I can” you are saying you are capable. You can find the skills and education necessary to achieve. “I will” is an action sentence. You are saying you are actually going to do it. You are telling your subconscious mind that you believe in your ability to do whatever it takes to succeed. You are removing the poison of self-doubt and fear and replacing it with hope. "I will" motivates us to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of success because we are no longer dwelling on the obstacle, we are only seeing the finish line. 

Do you think a track and field athlete who has to jump hurdles only sees the obstacle of the hurdles? I don’t. I think he/she sees the desired outcome and then focuses on the strength needed to jump the hurdles, not on the hurdles themselves.

There is no definition for the word “won’t or will not” either. In fact the word “not” has only a definition as to its use—it is used to suggest the negative of other words.

That puts the phrases “I will”, and “I will not”, as perfect truths with no room for doubt, or fear, to cloud them. If you will, you will. If you will not, you will not. There are no excuses for “will” and “will not”. They are truths. 

Choice and firm action. You might be surprised how when you use the phrases “I will” or “I won’t” most people won’t argue as much as they will if you use “I can” or “I can’t”. Their subconscious minds recognize the power and commitment of “will” too. 

"Will” needs no justification. Very rarely is the commitment of “will” related to something bad. If you are doing something wrong it is because you can, not because you willfully desire wrongdoing. We are inherently good creatures who desire light and truth above all things. Our will is much like our subconscious self. It wants peace, love, and contentment on a deeper level. If we allow our will to come out, can’t disappears. 

The phrases “I can’t” or “I won’t” are age old and hard to avoid. They crop up in my books, because my characters are human. 

But I hope together we will come to the knowledge of the truth and power of self-will and confidence, and the next time a task seems impossible we will look at the skills necessary to achieve the impossible and find the way to go out and acquire them.

"The only way to achieve the possible is to attempt the impossible again and again." -Hermann Hesse

Let's achieve the impossible.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Beautiful Scars

Nearly twenty years ago I had surgery to remove a softball sized tumor from my left hip.

I was seven when I first felt the tumor move and for years dealt with reoccurring bursitis and chronic pain. My parents took me to several doctors, I had x-ray after x-ray, I had diagnosis’s from growing pains, improper standing/walking, to attention seeking. I was given steroid pain medication on several occasions. One doctor asked nothing, just walked in with a needle and gave me a cortisone shot. I was seventeen and I’d had enough. I lived on Tylenol and Ibuprofen to get through my work shifts, and I wasn’t going to deal with another doctor.

It wasn’t until after I was married, and my husband couldn’t stand watching me wake up night after night crying from the pain, that he convinced me to try his family doctor. Back then you had to get a referral to see a specialist and up to now no one would refer me. This doctor said he would give me a referral, after I tried one more thing--six months of physical therapy to see if the way I walked/stood was the problem. 

It wasn’t. 

The physical therapist noticed my left leg was significantly weaker than my right, because I had favored that leg throughout all my growth years, and he worked hard to bring up the strength and retrain my muscles. But still, within three months of finishing therapy, the bursitis returned and we asked our family doctor to refer us to my Grandma’s hip surgeon, a sports medicine doctor by the name of Pepper Murray. I was twenty and had now lived with this for thirteen years.

I went to my appointment with little hope and every expectation that it would come to nothing. I sat on the crinkly paper expecting them to take me down for yet another x-ray, but this doctor came in and after I repeated for the millionth time what I had told other doctors, that it felt like my hip was popping out of socket as I walked, he asked me to do something no one ever had before.

“Can you pop it out?”

Other doctors had me lay on the table while they moved my leg up and down, but none had ever suggested this.

“Yes, I can.” I jumped off the table and he stood beside me with his hand on my hip. I took one step and felt the pop. He nodded and told me to jump back on the table.

“You have tumor.”

He then preceded to explain that the reason it was never discovered was only an MRI-scan would show the tumor, not an x-ray, and the only reason he knew what to look for was because in his entire career he’d seen it just one other time. He said he didn't need to do a scan because the tumor was so large he could feel right where it was. He said I was likely born with the tumor and it grew as I grew, and would continue to grow and cause me pain for the rest of my life.

He told us the surgery to remove it would be painful, as it required the same surgery used to replace a hip, and recovery would take a year. The incision to remove the tumor would be more than 7 inches long and he would have to go all the way down to the bone to remove the tumor and its tentacles (which he discovered while in surgery was the size of a softball and the tentacles went all the way around to the backside). I would have permanent nerve damage and arthritis, but in his opinion the alternative was far worse.

At this point we’d only been married about a year, and an expensive major surgery with a long recovery where I could not work, was a stressful prospect. We prayed about it and decided it was the right thing to do.

The surgery was performed at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City Utah. Since the tumor was larger and had more tentacles than he anticipated, he commented that it was no surprise I had been in so much pain. The recovery was long and extremely painful. I was on crutches for two weeks and had to use a cane for about a month, and it did take about a year to regain full strength and use of my left leg.

Why am I telling you this? Because even though I will never wear a bathing suit again, my scar is really a beautiful thing. A beautiful reminder at least.


My personal goals this year are directly focused on living a more Christ centered life.

WWJD has become my silent mantra. A simple question we teach our children, and we hear constantly as the butt of jokes in conversation with adults and on television. But it’s not a joke, in fact when taken to heart, it can have the power to transform our everyday lives. 

WWJD?

What Would Jesus Do?

In every aspect of life, pausing to ask ourselves this simple question, can move us to a solution we might not have considered. It can bring us perspective in anger, hope in moments of despair, and peace in times of struggle. 

The reason this little question is so powerful? 

Who knows our heartaches, fears, disappointments, and pain better than the Man who in the meridian of time took upon Himself all the sins, pains, and sicknesses of all mankind? Because He experienced our experiences in that garden, He knows how to succor (run to) us in our time of need. When we ask ourselves what He would do, we know what we can do to resolve or deal with our situation in a way that isn’t going to bring more pain and grief. 

The scars on His hands remind us He understands, He will not leave us comfortless, we are NEVER alone. 

Some scars are simply...beautiful.

A reminder of something precious. 

Strength. Hope. Freedom.

My scar is ugly (especially now that I’m not as thin as I was at 20). I haven’t worn a bathing suit since my 20’s. The nerve damage caused the skin around the scar to sag so it looks like I’m carrying a sack of blubber on my leg, and I do have some pain from arthritis, but it’s nothing, nothing compared to what I dealt with when that tumor lived inside me. For years I couldn’t run, walk, or stand without pain. The pain was so bad I struggled sitting and sleeping. I look at that scar now and I am reminded of where I used to be. I remember the strength it took to endure the pain as I healed. The hope that I could live a normal life, and the freedom I now experience. 

I couldn’t be who I am today if not for that surgery.

Nor will I ever be what I can be without my Savior Jesus Christ.

We are going to experience pain in this life, whether by our own doing or as a result of the faults and follies of others. The world will try to give you solutions, but just like the doctors who didn’t know how to heal my pain and could only offer medication, the world’s ideas won’t be permanent solutions.

But if you ask Him to heal you, He will tell you jump off the table of doubt and come to Him. He’ll place his hand over the real cause of the pain and He will know exactly how to heal you. He does not promise it won’t hurt, that the recovery will be quick and simple, or that you won’t have a scar or two. What He promises is that you won’t suffer alone. That each trial you allow Him to walk with you, you will come away stronger, filled with hope, and more free than you can possibly imagine. You will find the beauty in your scars.

Although the experience of taking on our sins, pains, and afflictions, in the Garden of Gethsemane left no visible reminders, the final step in the Atonement, the voluntary giving of His life on the cross, did, and these scars can serve as the ultimate reminder of His precious gift. 

His willingness to take my debilitating “tumors” of sin, heartache, and pain, so that when I choose Him--His solutions, I can live a free and hope filled life, is a gift I can never repay. But every time I ask, “What would Jesus do?” I hope I will answer in such a way to show him how thankful I am for His beautiful scars.


*This song really touched me. It’s a beautiful reminder to love who God created you to be, (and let me add, scars and all), not who the world makes you feel you should be.



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Parable of the Small Stone

The Parable of the Small Stone



A couple weeks ago my jeep started making this horrible screeching noise while driving down the road. It sounded like metal scraping against metal. And it was loud, REALLY loud. 

It was a few days before my husband had time to take a look at it so while we waited we stressed about what it could be and how much the repairs were going to cost. We've had a few expensive issues with this jeep and truth be told, I'd about had it with the thing. As much as I loved it, I was ready to get rid of it.

The day my husband set aside to work on it, I helped him roll the jeep back and forth so he could tell where the screech was coming from. We discovered which side and tire so he jacked it up and set to work taking off the tire. I went in the house (where it was warm) to wait for the bad news. He came back in an hour later(it only took so long because of course one of the lug nuts broke...) with a smile and a gift. 

A tiny little stone with two very shiny sides.

Shiny because it had been stuck between a metal guard (that was meant to keep things from getting in the very spot this little rock was) and the brake drum, and it had polished the sides.

Rock gone. Screech gone. No repairs necessary. I get to keep my jeep (I really do love the thing)

This had me comparing myself to this small stone. When in the middle of hard times all I hear is the loud scrrreeeeech that screams something's wrong, all I feel is the painful squeezing and scraping. But when it's over, when the trial finally ends, I often see the beauty of knowledge and strength that came from the trial. The hard time has improved me, refined me.

"...we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrow, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days...painful times...feelings of being forsaken..." (Pres. Thomas S. Monson)

"...this is the process by which we discover what we are truly made of. We are created by the Almighty God. He is our heavenly Father...We are made of supernal material most precious and highly refined..." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

Hard times show what we are truly made of. And in the midst of our struggles, we are not alone. There is one who understands completely how we feel.

"Our Savior, the Good Shepherd knows and loves us. He knows and loves you. He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. He knows your grief. Your silent pleadings. Your fears. Your tears. It matters not how you became lost--whether from your own choices or because of circumstances beyond your control. What matters is you are His child. And he loves you...Because He loves you, He will find you...If you will only lift up your heart to the Savior of the world He will find you. He will rescue you. He will lift you up and place you on His shoulders. He will carry you home...His plan is to build us into something far greater than what we were--far greater than what we can ever imagine. With each step of faith on the path of discipleship, we grow into the beings of eternal glory and infinite JOY we were designed to become." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

Funny the things you can learn from a little stone...

*References quoted from talks given by Elder Evan A. Schmutz and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf