I Found Love

I love, love, love this video by Lindsey Stirling. It makes me happy every time I watch it.

As I was thinking about this video, and finding love in a hopeless place, I realized one of my favorite things are those moments when the world goes still and the spirit stirs within me, washing me with love. Love for life, for the world, for the blessings I have. They are my frozen memories, the times I wish I could snap a photo and hold on to it forever. It's love in an unexpected place.

It's the little two-year-old girl's eyes when she pulls grass up with chubby fingers and wiggles it into the bunny cage, "Here bunnies, here."

It's the bubbles all over the six-year-old's face; Santa Claus beard, laughing in the bathtub.

It's the nests we made out of the beds last night, pillows and blankets on all the edges, the littles in the middle with a place to put their heads, no matter where they turned.

It's their sleeping breaths when I stood in the bedroom this morning, not quite able to wake them up.

It's the careful fingers of the eight-year-old, passing out pez candy to the small ones, one and at time. "Here, open your mouth."

It's in words.

"Did you hear him! Did you hear? He whistled!"

"Watch how fast I can go on my bike."

"Please bless us to serve everyone in the whole world."

Two glasses of water spilled in one meal. Wet rags scattered everywhere. They are half out their chairs, laughing as they scoop up food with their fingers. Don't use the silverware, don't mind the puddles. There is nothing in the world more funny than my brother right now.

I found love in this place.

Where do you find love?

Guest Interview, Lisa Jones (Audrey Grant)

I asked Lisa to do an interview for the blog. A story Lisa's mother shared with her is included in A Circle of Sisters. Known in the writing world as Audrey Grant, Lisa's first book, Curse of the Jaguar was recently published.  I'm so excited for you to get to know her a little better.

J: What are some of your hobbies and interests?

L: Writing, reading, scrapbooking, crafting, jewelry-making, and anything Interior Design/architectural related.

J: What is the most unusual thing you've ever done?

L: I'm actually pretty boring and don't like to go out of my comfort zone. Even my husband couldn't think of anything unusual I've done. Sorry.

J: If you could go on a dream vacation, were would you go?

L: Europe probably. I'd love to see all the sites and old architecture.

J: You’ve mentioned that you like interior design. What got you interested in that and what is your favorite part about it?

4. I do love interior design. I started enjoying decorating and designing floor plans when I was in ninth grade. From there on I knew I wanted to go into that field. I got my degree in interior design from LDS Business College (where I met my husband). I love everything about design but most of all, I think I love creating something beautiful.

J:     I know you’ve recently published a book. Would you be willing to tell us a little about it and maybe what inspired you?

L: The book I just published is called, Curse of the Jaguar. It's a paranormal, (clean) romance. I started writing stories back when I was thirteen but never finished the two books I started then. This one I started four years ago and finally published in November 2012. I'm not sure if one particular thing inspired me to start writing this book, but the legend of the were-jaguar I read on wikipedia.org inspired a lot of it. I have over a dozen more stories for books either in my head or on my computer as we speak. To read the legend of the were-jaguar that inspired me, you can go to my website: http://www.audreygrantbooks.com

You can also read the first chapter of Curse of the Jaguar for free on my website. I am currently working on the sequel to it and am hoping to be done this summer or early fall. (One can never tell).

Eek. I'm posting a poem . . .

I know just enough about poetry to know it's better if I keep mine to myself. Which I usually do. So I'm completely blaming this on Crystal Collier for writing this article I read about blogging. (Check it out here.) She wrote about ten ways blogging improved her writing, one being it allowed her to experiment, including by posting poetry. So you are my guinea pigs and I'm experimenting.

Maybe I should cue the evil scientist laugh here.

Thorns Unhealed

I'm a young mother,
And I’m afraid to go,
As if the years between us
Will be too hard to breech.

But He has walked with me
Through fires in the past.

So I pray for help and message in tow,
Drive myself to your home.
Somehow I find that I’m crying as you ask
Why God can heal
But won’t heal you.

I’ve stood in a tangle of darkness,
And like Paul I’ve prayed for release.
So many times my answer
Was the same as his.

When I open the scriptures
And tell you about Paul,
It’s like I’m looking up once more,
A light penetrating the shadows of my

And with gratitude I read
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice,
That it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee,
My strength is made perfect in weakness.*

We cry together and in my heart,
I’m mindful of
A thorn unhealed
That fills me with compassion
Bridging gaps made by our years.
My weakness, made perfect by God’s grace,
For a moment here with you.

* 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Guest Blogger Rebecca H. Jamison, Growing Postivie Thoughts

This week our featured author is Rebecca H. Jamison. One of her short stories will be published in A Circle of Sisters. To learn more about Rebecca, visit www.rebeccahjamison.com, or check out her book Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale.
Now I will leave the stage to her.

Our minds are wired to think negatively—to anticipate problems and prepare solutions. That’s how humans have survived through the ages. Most of us don’t even realize how often negative thoughts creep in. I certainly didn’t. I thought it was my life that was the problem, not my thoughts. Meanwhile, I worried about house cleaning as if it were a life-or-death situation. I told myself I was a failure as a mother. And I second-guessed the way other people felt about me. It wasn’t that I was a super negative person. It was just that I wasn’t as happy as I should have been. Gradually, I began to see that most of my problems were in my head—my negative thoughts were making life harder than it should have been.

That led me to one of the most challenging goals I’ve ever set for myself: to get rid of negative thoughts. Since I’ve been working on this goal for several years now, I can tell you it’s impossible to get rid of negative thoughts. A better strategy is to fill your mind with positive thoughts, so there’s less room for worries and complaints. I’ve learned that my mind is like a garden. One way to get rid of weeds is to sow a lot of good seeds. When the good seeds grow, they crowd out the weeds. Here are some ways I’ve filled my mind with positive thoughts:

Happiness File: The first thing I did to help myself think more positively was to start a happiness file. This is an idea that originally came from Pam Young and Peggy Jones, but I picked it up from a motivational speaker. Some people have digital happiness files; mine is an accordion folder I keep in my desk. Inside, I keep notes people have written me, gratitude lists, pictures, comic strips, and other things that make me happy. When I’m having a bad day, I open up my happiness file and read through it.

Revamp My Media Choices: The second thing I did to crowd out negative thoughts was to be very selective about my entertainment. I stopped watching the news. Instead, I choose comedies or other shows that make me happy. I also make time to read scriptures and other uplifting literature.

Exercise and Sunshine: For me, there’s a direct correlation between exercise and my mood. Scientists say it has to do with the fact that exercise releases dopamine and endorphins into your bloodstream. I get a similar effect from being outside in the sunshine, which helps me to absorb more vitamin D.

Music: I’m always happier when I’m listening to good music. Singing along to songs in the car always gives me a boost. I also love to dance to music with my kids.

Express Gratitude: Sometimes when I’m feeling down, it helps to write someone a thank you note. It always makes the receiver happier, which in turn, makes me happier. I’ve also noticed that sometimes the person who’s received one of my notes will write a note to someone else. Thank you notes are little gifts that keep on giving.

There are a lot of different ways to plant happy thoughts, and I’m sure everyone has different ways to do this. What is something you do to cheer yourself up?

My Life: The Prayer of a Child

I don't know what the appeal of tiny dark spaces are to children, but  they are like magnets for small objects.

Three years ago, my then two-year-old came to me saying "Mcqueen is in the tunnel."
There was no tunnel among his toys. It turned out to be the subwoofer on our sound system. My husband pulled the speaker apart and we found seven cars, two magnetic letters and one ping-pong ball. 

Earlier this week disaster struck. A favorite hot wheels car was dropped down the center pole of the backyard slide. (See photo for clarification.)

All four boys came running to the house in a state of panic.

"Someone get a long stick!"

"We need a flashlight, hurry!"

The four-year-old, whom the car belong to, wandered about the kitchen wailing.

The glass door slid open and shut. Feet pounded on stairs. My hubby followed the line of kids to the backyard. The pole is buried deep in the ground to stabilize the slide. They tried a magnet on a long string but it just stuck to the sides of the pole. At the dinner table, the conversation centered around that little car.

"I think we need a fishing pole. I'm going to get my fishing pole." The six-year-old announced.

"Let's eat first. Sit back down," his mother urged.

"We need a bigger magnet." The four-year-old demonstrated the effects of a good strong magnet, holding his hands apart and bringing the right to the left while making a sound to represent the magnet sucking that car right out of the pole.

It was determined the car would not float, using a similar vehicle in a cup of water as a control.  Filling the pipe with water was out. The six-year-old appeared with his fishing pole, and had to be talked out of sticking it down the tube. The boys went to bed in a state of worry.

"Mom, I really, really, really, really, really want my car." The four-year-old draped himself over his mom's legs. What could happen to the car if it was left in the dark? What if it rained?

My husband pulled up the weather on his phone and reassured him that no rain would be coming. The car would not be flooded out and washed into the ocean. (Yes, the littlest thought it would be and yes, I live in Utah.)

Every prayer uttered that night contained the words "Please help us to get the car out."

Truth be told, the adults would rather replace the ninety-nine cent car than tear apart the fancy swing set, but the kids couldn't grasp that idea at all.

"Heavenly Father, bless us that we can get the car out."

The next morning their mother went to the temple. The little's (as we call the three younger ones) followed me around.

"Can we try a fishing pole, please?"

I was ready to abandon the car to a tunnel death, but for them, all personal prayers, breakfast, and lunch prayers included the same plea for rescue. When their mom got home, inspiration hit. She taped two long poles together, stuck a huge section of tape on the bottom, and inserted it into the center of the slide. Out came the car.

It spent the afternoon on the kitchen counter and by now is probably lost again. After all this, I can tell you something. Never doubt a child's faith.  And never doubt that a loving Heavenly Father will answer the prayer of a child.

Guest Blogger Crystal Collier, Cheese and Children

I'm so excited to feature Crystal Collier on the blog today. She is one of the authors who contributed to "A Circle of Sisters" which should be coming out around April. I met Crystal through a writing friend and I really enjoy reading her blog http://crystalcollier.blogspot.com. Today she's wrote up a little something about "Celebrating Small and Simple Things." Here's Crystal!

Cheese and Children
What do you think of when you hear the word, “Cheese”? Yummy milk products? Picture taking? General silliness?
For me, cheese = smile = happiness.
We moved to NYC when my daughter was only a year old. She had absolutely no fear of people. She’d walk up to any stranger in the subway and take their hand—while I suffered heart palpitations. Even though it put me on edge, I had to appreciate that my child faced the world with such boldness, that she saw goodness in everyone. She had such a sincere love for people that she couldn’t help but spread it.
And the miracle? People responded. Hardened New Yorkers softened when she looked at them with those big eyes and that sweet smile. They constantly commented on how adorable she was, and everywhere we went, a trail of smiles followed.
Recently I’ve been studying about happiness and the power of a smile. It is a scientific truth that smiles pass from person to person, just like yawns. They’re contagious. In one experiment I watched, a well-timed smile even prompted the recipients to stop and help someone who’d dropped some books. Can you imagine that? A smile inciting the inherent goodness in people?
According to Gary L. Wenk, a Ph.D. and Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, a smile (fake or real), pulls on the thin bones in the face and causes increased blood flow through the frontal lobes of the brain. When that happens, the body releases an increase of dopamine—which is a naturally occurring “happy drug.”
Believe it or not, you are dosing yourself with happiness every time you smile—and inspiring others to do the same. Maybe that’s the real secret behind children being so much happier than adults. They smile more.
Seems like my daughter had life all figured out at the age of one. Guess I should try to be more like her, eh? Would you like to try the experiment with me? Let’s see if we can’t make the world a better place, one “cheese” at a time.

Embrace the Day

Just wanted to post this. I love this song because it reminds me to embrace each day with wonder and hope. There's so much beautiful out there. Dance a little, smile a lot, and sing at the top of your lungs when no one is listening. Our lives are all connected. The circles we make, the lives we touch, they are all part of being alive. Have a great day! ("All I Can See" By Brendan James)

Guest Blogger Cynthia Joan Mitchell

Celebrating Small and Simple Things

Life’s greatest joy often comes from taking time to enjoy the simple things.  As we mature we loose the spontaneous and adventuresome attitude that just may have gotten us into trouble as a youth, but created memories that will last a lifetime.  I think one of the key elements of staying young is to occasionally let down our guard and enjoy the moment – regardless.

As I think of things that have brought me the greatest joy in my life, some thoughts that come to mind are:

·         Witnessing the miracle of my grandchild’s birth.
·         Sharing confidences with a friend.
·         Petting a steam breathing buffalo on the forehead with nothing but three little strands of barbed wire between us--and living to tell about it.
·         Getting away from the responsibilities and trials of motherhood for a few days with friends and rediscovering our daring, fun-loving personalities emerge from a more youthful time. Laughing and giggling through the night as if we were kids at a slumber party and having the hotel clerk knock on our door telling us to keep the noise down so the other guests can sleep.
·         Skipping with my grandchild.
·         Dancing with my husband under the streetlight on Halloween after the trick-or-treaters’ had all gone home.
·         Door-knocking, on Valentines Day with my three year old grandson as I taught him it’s more fun to give.  Running to hide behind a tree so we wouldn’t be discovered, but allowing just enough of him to show, to bring a smile to an elderly widow as she discovers her valentine and knows she’s loved. 
·         The pride I felt when my grandson asked me to attend the Grandparents Day luncheon.  He swore the popsicle they served would not make my tongue blue.  I smiled broadly at everyone I met--and there were many.  After the luncheon was over, the children went back to class, and as I got into the car and looked into the rear-view mirror, I was horrified as I saw that my lips, teeth and tongue were the most interesting color of deep blue.  What an impression I must have made!

These simple joys make me smile and they add richness to my memories.  Each time I think about the devil-may-care, spontaneous and adventuresome attitude I dared to have, I feel triumphant. 

Holding a baby melts my heart.  Dancing like no one is watching sets me free, and learning to let go of my inhabitations makes me feel bold.  

As I think of these special times I smile as I remember the joy simple pleasures bring.

Get Ready to Meet the Authors!

I'm so excited to start this next series on my blog. Many of the women who submitted stories for "A Circle of Sisters" have agreed to guest post or be interviewed over the course of the next few months. I can't wait for you to meet and get to know more about these women. Each of these women are remarkable in their own ways with countless gifts, talents and strengths. I've learned so much from them and I hope you do too.

Coming Monday, our first guest blogger will be Cynthia Joan Mitchell, who has been interviewed on this blog before. She sent me a beautiful email with the sweetest story about writing for the blog. She's agreed to let me share it as a taste of what's to come.

A funny thing happened while I was trying to figure out what to write about. I went to one of my 'get away' spots where I could sit and think and write for as long as it takes while sipping on a diet soda. I was in a booth at Chic-fil-A at the back of the restaurant and a little old man was in the next booth facing me. I was on a roll...starting one story, then another and as I walked down memory lane thinking about the 'small and simple things' that brought happiness to me, I quickly recorded them in my spiral bound notebook, stopping only to reflect on yet another memory. These are good times. Apparently the little old man was watching me as he gazed up from the newspaper he was holding. Finally, and seemingly unable to contain his thoughts any longer he blurted out "DANG! THAT MUST BE A GOOD LETTER...IT'S WRITTEN ALL OVER YOUR FACE!"
Now as a writer yourself, I'm sure you understand the compliment in his statement. It was a good letter...in fact it was several good letters. When I got home and reread what I wrote, I found that I had written a tribute to my good friend that is no longer alive, but still in my heart. I wrote about my sister in-law and fun times we shared...and I wrote about the Relief Society Sisters and the remarkable women they are, along with my testimony to them. It was this writing that I was doing when the little old man noticed the expression on my face. They say members of the Church reflect the light of Christ and I hope that is what I did. We engaged ourselves in a nice little chat about his family and common interests and we both benefited from the shared experiences.
I reminisced about some pretty nice times. I completed two writing projects. And I left with a smile. It was a great day!