Christmas Spirit

With Christmas only one week away, I hope everyone is getting into the holiday spirit. For me, there is nothing better than a really sweet Christmas story to remind me of what makes Christmas my favorite holiday. Last week I read a story just like this on I really wanted to share it with you. So check out this link and I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas.

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Call for Stories

I hope you've noticed my new page with the guidelines for submitting a story for A Circle of Sisters, a collection of true stories about Relief Society women. I am excited to tell you that last week I also heard back from Walnut Springs saying they would be interested in seeing A Circle of Sisters when it is complete.

Since starting this project, I have been amazed at how much clearer the purpose of Relief Society Organization has become to me. As I searched my own life for experiences that changed me, I have seen how even in times when I thought I was giving the service, I received so much in return. It seems our lives are interconnected, with each person's story overlapping and reaching into another's. Our power to make a difference is remarkable and with the Lord's help, we can each experience first hand what it feels like to be a part of something incredible.

When we reach out to fulfill our roles in this organization we are changed and we change others. Hopefully as we share our experiences we will find another circle of sisters that will be changed by hearing our stories. Perhaps they will be reminded of a time in their own lives when something similar happened to them. Perhaps they will feel a new desire to keep going when it gets hard.

I hope you've been thinking about your own experiences with Relief Society. They don't have to be obvious miracles (though those would be great too,) but think about those times in your life when a kind word came at the right moment, when a prayer was answered by a friendly face, or when you were able to see clearer for a service you gave. The greatest miracles are often the simple things, each leading to another in a chain reaction. The Lord himself has told us many times that by small means, he will bring about great things.

So trust that you, no matter how small you may feel, can make a difference. Write from your heart and be sincere. You matter, and your experiences are unique. I can't wait to read your stories.

Something Fun

I wrote a blog this week for Crittersink, an online critique group I am a part of. I was going to direct you to that page, since writing more than one blog seemed a little over whelming, but I don't know when it's going to be published. So instead, I thought I'd post a music video I found a few days ago. I've always loved "Singing in the Rain," and lately I've become a fan of Michael Bublé, so this seemed like a perfect mesh of things I like. I hope it will get you into the holiday spirit.

Book Review: (dis)Abilities and the Gospel

This is my very first book review and I'm so excited to be doing a book that is literally full of great ideas and helpful suggestions. I picked up my copy of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel by Danyelle Ferguson and Lynn Parsons at the LDStorymakers conference last April. I know some of you might be thinking "why?" I don't have a child with special needs, and I currently don't work with anyone with special needs.

Well, I had several reasons.

First, I teach sunbeams in my ward. None of them have special needs, but as many of you know, teaching three and four years requires a lot of creative energy. I secretly hoped I'd find good ideas that would help me with my teaching. I was not disappointed.

The book covers stages from primary to adult. The primary chapters contained ideas for leaders, teachers, primary presidencies, and even activity days and cub scouting. One thing that really stood out was how many times adaptions made for children with special needs benefited the whole class or primary. For example, I now would like to create a schedule using visual aids to help my sunbeams understand our routine in our classroom.

The second reason I picked up this book was because I have worked with people with special needs in the past and in the future I plan on completing a degree as a special education teacher.

This book answered so many questions and I plan on keeping it in my library for future reference. The chapters are carefully arranged so that if you have a question, all you have to do is look for the chapter that covers that subject. Within each chapter they refer you back to other helpful chapters if you have more questions. This isn't a book you have to read from start to finish and remember everything. It is designed to be returned to time after time when new struggles or questions arise.

The third reason I picked up this book is because I have family members who struggle with different special needs. I wanted to be more informed and to better understand some of the difficulties that they face.

This book is great at explaining different disabilities and helping people outside of the immediate family to understand and know what they can do to help. I loved how they talked about creating relationships and how rewarding the experience of getting to know these special spirits can be.

The best part of this book was the unexpected things I found. Ideas to be a better parent and spouse, tips on how to help adults struggling with depression and other mental illness, sweet testimonies, and many tender stories of adaptions made, miracles seen, and unexpected successes found.

This book not only fulfilled my expectations, but also gave me insight and inspiration for other aspects of my life. It is carefully and sincerely written. It shows how everyone is important to God. The authors reminded me that no matter how much effort it may take, we will all be uplifted and changed for the better when we focus on our abilities and work together to come to Christ.

The Best Part

Yesterday I started about a million things, none of which are finished yet. It was one of those times when you have so much you want to do that you can't stay focused long enough to do any of them. The same frantic feeling followed me into today and I resorted to making a list of things to do, hoping it would help me focus.

I finished my list, but instead of cleaning the bathroom like I planned, I put together a puzzle with my son, drew a picture of a castle and dragon, helped him color it, and dug a crayon out of the pencil sharpener.

Instead of starting dinner in the slower-cooker at lunchtime, I drove to a fast food place, let my little boy take as long as he wanted eating, and made dotted letters and numbers in his notebook with a crayon while I waited. Thrilled, he traced them on our drive to the city center where I did something that was on my list, vote.

My plan included an in-and-out approach to voting, but the line stretched down the hallway, through a set of double doors and almost to the front entrance. I spent my time there explaining to my son why Hawkeye was mad at Black Widow in one of the Avengers cartoons we recently watched, helping him trace more of his letters, distracting him by asking how many times he could hop on one foot, keeping him from hopping into the people next to us, and sending him on a search for letters. (He insisted on finding four of each letter. Thankfully, a man there had a hat with two H's on it or we might have had a problem.)

We finally got through the line. Then instead of working on a project I have going for Christmas, we went to the library. He picked three books about a bear, looked through them, put them back, and found something else. When I went to the front, he didn't follow. I back tracked and found him still sitting in front of the shelves of books. We made it too the check out and by some miracle didn't have a fine.

When we got back, my son had to shovel what remained of the snow, which meant he needed hot chocolate after. At this point my day was more than half gone. I started to get stressed. I turned on my music, and pulled up my "Uplifting" playlist to try and refocus. The first song was one of those songs you can't help singing to. I took one look at my son and the splatter of hot chocolate he'd sprayed across the table and scooped him up. Instead of taking a nap, we danced like a couple of crazy people.

Finally, we made it to the nap. I consented to read three books before I left. THREE!

I sat down to write my blog, which I'm happy to admit is on my list of things to do. I needed something good to write about, something happy and uplifting. Funny how everything we did today was just that. As I thought about it, my stress lifted and I didn't care so much that the bathroom wasn't clean yet, the clothes were still wet in the washing machine and the dishes weren't done. We'll still get to the list, but the best part of my day wasn't on there. The best part has brown eyes, a huge smile, thinks spinning in circles is dancing and gets crayons stuck in the pencil sharpener.

For the Love Which From Our Birth

Last week a sweet little niece was born to our family. A series of unexpected events put me driving to Provo to drop off a change of clothes for my brother. He arrived at the hospital in his hunting gear and worried they wouldn't let him in the room with his wife. As I drove, I could hardly contain my excitement. A new baby was coming to our family. For a moment I wondered why I was getting so excited, but I couldn't help it. I already loved this little girl even though I hadn't seen her. I couldn't wait to be her aunt.

As I drove, I had an impression of another joyful group of people who were also waiting for the moment that this little girl would come into the world. These people, friends and family who have passed on already, were so happy to see her starting her life. They were celebrating too.

Later, as I watched my father and mother take their new granddaughter in their arms, I couldn't help but remember a story they used to tell me.

My grandfather used to work at the temple. The day my brother was born, a note was passed to him announcing the birth. Tears filled his eyes and he joyfully shared the news to the other temple workers. They congratulated him, one of them asking, "Is this your first grandson?"

"No," My grandfather replied. "He's my eighteenth grandson."

My father is the youngest in his family. By the time my siblings and I came into the world, we had about thirty cousins, and that was just on his side of the family. My grandparents rejoiced in every one of our lives.

My grandparents passed away when I was eleven. Today is the anniversary of my grandmother's death. As I was listening to "For the Beauty of the Earth" I couldn't help but think of family and of the love that truly "from our birth, over and around us lies." I have always loved my cousins. I was quite a bit younger than most of them, so when they talked to me and noticed me I was always thrilled. Being with my extended family helped me get to know my grandparents even after they were gone. The stories they told, and the love they showed filled me with memories of my own. They reflected to me the love that my grandparents where no longer there to give.

That love doesn't go away. Even now, I can't really express how much I love my family. The funny thing is that it doesn't matter what happens, or how much time passes. I still look for them at family reunions. I still get excited when see them in an unexpected place. It's like I'm still that little girl who saw them all as heroes. I can't help it. Their love has been over and around me since my birth.

I hope someday, my new little niece will know that she too has been welcomed into this world by many loving faces, all who are joyfully celebrating her life.

"For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friend above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Lord of all to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise."

Results of Good Things Photo Hunt

Last week turned out to be a great week. The only problem with my photo hunt was I'd get so busy I'd forget to take a picture. Still, it was fun to be on the look out for beautiful things or good things that happened. Here are a few photos I took.

I took these photos up Payson Canyon. It was such a beautiful day.

I love fall. This is my little boy's pumpkin mobile he made at preschool.
He always reminds me that we have to bring it inside if it rains, very important stuff.

Okay, I couldn't help but take a photo of my scriptures. They really helped me last week when I started to feel overwhelmed and worried.

And finally, birthdays are always something to celebrate! Happy Birthday to my nephew.

A "Good Things" Photo Hunt

I had an idea last night around midnight to find something good, and just for fun, take a picture. I'm no photographer, and my camera's battery meter is always on red when I pull it out. Most of my pictures are sitting in unorganized digital folders waiting to be scrapbooked. (Hmm, ironically it just reminded me of the haphazard collection of boxes in my mother's basement that she plans on scrapbooking someday.... In honor of the photo above, I'll admit the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.)

Anyway, my mind was already wrapped around the project this morning, so I sent my little boy for his shoes. Several great things happened. First, I didn't drop the camera. (Inside I am giving myself a cheer.) If you know me, you know why that is worth celebrating. If you don't, let's just say I once dropped a camera down the steps of a lighthouse. The second thing, it was warm enough to let my bunnies out. They are now happily hopping around in their play yard. Finally, I found lots of cool stuff and took so many pictures, I had to have my little boy pick the one to post. He liked the apples, probably because he was eating one at the time. They tasted really good.

This idea led to another. What if I took one photo of something good everyday for a week? What good things I could find if I were constantly on the look out for a photo? I'll tell you how it worked out next week. Meanwhile, if you get a chance to take your own photo, I'd love to hear about it.

Self Talk

I ended up doing some research last week, trying to flesh out an important character in my Young Adult novel who has down syndrome. What I found was a wealth of amazing people who either have down syndrome, or live with someone who does. As I read their stories, I couldn't help but be up-lifted by their ability to focus on what really mattered. One article especially struck a cord with me, not just because of the author's sister, but also because of what it reminded me about something she called self talk.

Self talk is those moments when you start an internal dialogue with yourself. Many people with down syndrome have this conversation out loud and the author reflected on how much strength these reassuring conversations gave her sister. I thought about times I use self talk and the first thing that came to mind was spinning class.

Sometimes at spinning, I am so tired and I can't believe how slow time goes. I find myself thinking, "Don't look at the clock, it'll only make it worse." Other times I'm surprised by being able to do something I couldn't before. I think something like, "Wow, your legs are getting strong! You can do anything!" Of course I know that's not true, but when you're thirty minutes into a vigorous bike ride and the instructor is yelling, "Give me one hundred percent! Sprint it out!", you learn quickly not to let in any negative self talk.

But my self talk isn't always positive. What about those times when I think things like, "Why on earth did you take up writing? You'll never be any good." or "You've got to be the worst mom. That's the third TV show he's watched today!" As I read this article I realized how often I let in the negative. I know not to think certain things at spinning, the downward spiral is quick and painful. But what about the rest of my life? Is there a similar downward spiral there? How much more could I accomplish if I shut down my negative self talk and replaced it with good?

What would I get done with my writing if I thought things like, "You are smart enough to figure out how to fix this problem. You can do it." What if instead of giving up on myself when I make a mistake, I thought, "This is why there's repentance. Get back up and try again." If I thought "Wow, great job not loosing your patience that time," how much easier would it be to keep my patience the next time? I think maybe I'd be amazed at what I could accomplish.

So what are some of your favorite self talk phrases? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Meanwhile, if you need a little more inspiration, check out this article by Rae Rein "A Sister's Reflection on Self Talk."

Welcome to My Blog

When I was a teenager, my mom started a tradition around Thanksgiving time of writing down things we were grateful for each night. Mom gave us all cute little journals she made on the computer and tall candles in red or white. We would scratch into the wax, leaving a mark for each day until Christmas. To me and my siblings, being able to burn a candle while we wrote sometimes became more important than what we wrote. Despite Mom's efforts, the tradition died as we got older.

Halfway through my freshman year at college, I became depressed. I've struggled with anxiety and depression many times in my life, but finding myself back in that place of darkness and worry made me feel like I had failed somehow. Why couldn't I get over it? I struggled through the final semester hoping that when the stress of tests, projects, and grades had passed, I would find some peace again. But the summer started and the depression didn't leave. As I prayed about how to find the strength to be happy, the memory of Mom's gratitude journals came back.

That summer, I started a list. It wasn't a journal, I didn't even put down the date. I simply wrote a few things every night. An amazing thing happened. As I wrote, I started to see how blessed I really was. I saw the Hand of God everyday in my life. In the mist of depression, I sometimes thought I'd been abandoned, or that what I had to give the world could not be of much worth. But the list changed that. With a gentle and never failing love, He led me through the summer. Happiness came as I noticed the small and simple things that mattered the most in my life.

In the years since, there have been ups and downs of sadness and joy, but whenever I reach a low, I'm reminded to look for the good. Even in the most difficult times, I can always find a multitude of blessings, if I will only look.

This blog is about those things. The things that people are doing everyday to help others, the things that tell us God is mindful of us, the little moments we almost don't see. These things fill me with peace and understanding and I hope they will do that for other people too. We are never alone and as we look for the good, we will be led to the source of all good. We will be led to our Savior.

Here is a video from that inspires me to look for those moments that matter most. I hope you enjoy it.