Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Memories

Sunday night my husband and I found ourselves sitting beneath our Christmas tree peering up at those dazzling lights, and we couldn't help but think over past holidays when our children were young. We miss the excitement and expectation of seeing Christmas through the eyes of our children. We're fortunate that our grandsons live close by, and we're able to enjoy watching them. Still, I look back over the years with fond memories.

We had lean times. I remember the first Christmas after my husband and I were married. Oh boy were we poor. I only had eight dollars to buy Bruce's present. I remember walking from store to store wondering what I could possibly get him. Nothing that I could afford seemed good enough for the man I'd married. I settled on an ID bracelet, but I couldn't afford to have his name inscribed.

The Christmas with our first child was an experience. Kristina was only seven weeks old, but I pulled her out of her crib at 6:30 a.m.. Poor little baby could hardly open her eyes. In my defense though, we had to go to my sister's that morning as well, so I had to get her up anyway. I remember propping my baby next to the doll we'd given her. The doll was bigger than she was, but baby Kristina was by far more beautiful.

I remember the Christmas my parents helped us make most of the gifts that Santa would leave: a dollhouse for Kristina, a cradle for Patricia's baby doll, and a rocking horse for little Ben, who was nearly two. We were working on them well into the night, but it was worth it. The children squealed with delight when they found what Santa had left them.

And then, there were Christmases spent in the mountains. My little family, my sister and her family and my brothers and their families all converged on our parents' cabin at Palisades.  Those were wonderful times. What I enjoyed most about Christmas in the mountains was going outside to sing Christmas carols at night. The heavens seemed so close I felt as though I could reach out and touch the stars. The hush of the forest covered with heavy snow always made me think of the that night over two thousand years ago when nature grew quiet in reverence for the true meaning of Christmas.

This year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released some beautiful new videos about the story of the Christmas. I thought you might enjoy them.

An Angel Foretells Christ's Birth to Mary

Mary and Joseph Travel to Bethlehem

Shepherds Learn of the Birth of Christ

The Wise Men Seek Jesus

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?
What part of Christmas touches your heart?

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I'm taking time off from blogging. But I'll be back in 2012.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Zealand Christmas Story

This time of year there are always a bunch of new Christmas clips on youtube.

My sister sent me the link to this one. It was posted last year, but I wanted you to see it just in case you were like me and missed it. What an adorable take on the Christmas story! There is so much that I loved: of course, Mary and Joseph; the angel who appeared to Mary; the donkey; how they traveled to Bethlehem; and I could go on and on. You really need to take the time and watch this. You'll be glad you did. It's soooooo cute.

What was your favorite part of the clip?  Did you see the star? I loved how it guided the shepherds and wise men.

Have a great weekend! I'm going to bake cookies with my daughters on Friday and Saturday. Also on Saturday I have two signings: 12:00 - 2:00 at the Deseret Book in the Layton Hills Mall and 3:00-4:30 at the Seagull Book in Centerville.

If you're nearby stop and say hi. I'd love to see you.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ladders, Lights, and Publshing Your Book

We have a very tall Christmas tree in my house. This is my son and husband a couple of years ago putting decorations on the tree. I have a fear of heights, so they usually do it. However, this year my husband threw his back out bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic. My son wasn't available to help, so it was up to my daughter, Tricia, and me. Yes, I was scared, but I was determined to meet this fear so up the ladder I went. Took us a full day because we kept running out of tree lights. Is there ever enough? But when all was said and done the tree looked gorgeous.

Facing my fear of heights reminded me that sometimes as writers we need to face whatever fears stop us from sending our books to agents or publishers. Some of those fears could be that you're afraid of rejection, afraid of criticism, or afraid of sending your baby out into the big, cruel, business world of publication.

Afraid of rejection . . . 
Rejection stings and bites and hurts like the dickens, but if you don't risk rejection you'll never succeed.Now I have heard stories of writers who have never been rejected, but those are so few and far between. Most of us have to earn our stripes and face rejection, because most likely rejection will come. It's what you do with it that makes the difference. Learn from it. If you are fortunate to have an editor tell you why he/she is rejecting your book, feel honored and truly think about what they say is wrong with your work. Then go in and fix the problems and send it out again. Don't sit around waiting for the rejection either. Get busy with your next book because with every novel you write you are learning more and more about your craft.

Afraid of criticism . . .
This is closely related to rejection because if you're lucky your rejection letter may have critique comments. Again this is a good sign. Remember the saying that criticism is a form of flattery and when it comes to writing it really can be. If you never receive criticism on your work, how can you grow? If you only hear good things about your writing yet you're not selling, how will you ever improve? I think you see where I'm going with this. Another saying that is very true, good critiquing will make your story strong. Your job is to recognize the good critiquing from the bad. Questions to ask yourself as you contemplate a critique, does this move my story forward? Does it make the story clear? Will this take away from the story I want to tell? In the end, it is your story, just make certain you're not throwing away good advice.

Sending your baby out into the publishing world . . .
This is very scary because all at once you're getting serious about this writing thing. People are going to ask if you've heard anything. Also rejection and criticism might follow. But here's the deal, if you want to see your dream come true you're going to have to send your baby out there and see if it will fly. But you can do it. Just realize it's all right if your work isn't perfect. It's all right to receive rejections. And it's normal to receive criticism. Go ahead and send your novel out into the publishing world. You never know if you can succeed until you try.

So climb that ladder to success, string the lights that will make your novel beautiful, and then step back and admire the work you've created.

Okay, your turn. What helps you face the fear of sending your story out into the publishing world?


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review - Faithful, Fit, and Fabulous by Connie E. Sokol

I don't know if you're like me, but I have shelves full of self-improvement books. Everything from Say No to Diets to Get Organized Creatively. (I really made those up, but I'm sure there are books out there with such titles.) I'm always looking for books that will click and I'll magically keep weight off, and my house will be clean all the time. So when I was asked if I would like to review Connie Sokol's new book, Faithful, Fit, and Fabulous: get Back to Basics and Transform Your Life in Just Eight Weeks, I was happy to do so. Maybe what she had to say would help me on my quest to be all that I can be.

I have to say after reading the book that I was really disappointed. :(

Hold on . . . I didn't say I was disappointed in the book. Absolutely not!!! Nope. I was disappointed that I didn't receive the book eight weeks ago so that I could actually try and do what she recommends because after reading her thoughts on being faithful, becoming and staying fit, and turning into a fabulous person I REALLY wanted to give it a shot and report back to you. This book is full of wonderful hands-on exercises.

Sokol starts with what will help you become more in-tune spiritually by focusing on making goals for prayer, scripture study and learning to listen to promptings. Then she asks you to create a life plan and actually write that plan in a paragraph. I loved this. Let me tell you why.

For more years than I'd ever admit, I wanted to become an author. I forged ahead writing stories, trying to fit into one genre after another. I even went back to college and finished my degree with the idea that doing so would help me finally sell a book. Still I languished. One day, I sat down and actually wrote a mission statement for my writing. I included what I wanted to accomplish with my writing, what kind of stories I wanted to write and how I was going to do it. After that my writing was focused and I was clear on why. When I read the section on writing a life plan in Sokol's book, I knew this was a book that could very well change a person's life because I'd seen how writing a mission statement for my writing had done wonders. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Another reason I enjoyed this book was the stories Sokol included. Many times she tells you what she did wrong, and how she remedied the situation. She made me feel as though she was a friend sharing her life lessons with me and also giving me directions on how I could avoid making similar mistakes. I loved how she talked about finding balance in life. And then, she actually provides a plan that can help you see where you're wasting time and how you can actually find time for yourself without guilt!

But I think the section of the book I enjoyed most was about connecting with those you love. She gives wonderful examples of how to get along with your spouse, your kids, and your friends and how to make those relationships meaningful. And yes, she has a plan to help you do it. The New Year is coming. I'm honestly going to give this book the 8 week try. I think after you read it, you will too.

You can learn more about Connie Sokol by checking out her blog.

And you can purchase this wonderful book here.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One Sweet Lady

This is a real feel-good story and I have a couple of videos to help me share it with you.

As some of you may know, I've been called in my church as the Relief Society President in an assisted living branch. We have about 55 members in the branch and most of them are elderly women. I have come to love each and every one of them very much.

One sweet lady, Edith Young, is a real go-getter. She doesn't let age stop her from being of service to others. When she heard about babies in need of quilts she set to work making them. Here's the amazing thing, Edith turned 97 on November 22. Watch this fun video where she appeared on TV.

When the TV crew found out about Edith's crush on David Archuleta they decided to make her birthday very special. Take a look. Have a tissue ready.

Now that should get you in the holiday spirit.

Do you have a feel-good story? I'd love to hear it.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Review - In God Is Our Trust by L.C. Lewis

If you enjoy historical romance, if you enjoy historical fiction about America and our Founding Fathers. and if you enjoy historical fiction that tells a story about the strength and endurance of the early saints in the LDS Church than let me recommend a fantastic new novel, In God Is Our Trust by L.C. Lewis.

Before we go much further let me tell you that the author sent me a pdf copy of this novel before it went to press. After I read it, I was so impressed with the writing and how the many stories within the series came to satisfying conclusions (not all happy-ever-after, but logical and hopeful) that I offered to send her publisher a blurb, which they used. I was delighted that I could help spread the word about this timely novel that makes us appreciate our country and our freedoms.

In God Is Our Trust is a  wonderful journey. There were times when I thought I knew what was going to happen and then to my surprise the characters would do something different. I love it when that happens.

Here is the back cover blurb:

America exits the War of 1812 battered but determined under the leadership of the last men tutored by the Founding Fathers. As she is welcomed onto the world stage, new leaders prepare to thrust an aggressive platform on the nation, threatening America's unity and her brief period of prosperity and peace.

The country's trials have prepared a choice generation, but as adversity afflicts the Pearson home, Hannah enters a crisis of faith, questioning man's interpretation of God's word. The struggles plaguing the Pearsons affect Frannie and the six families with whom the Pearsons have become entangled during the war.

As a new religious reformation dawns in America, the Pearson and Snowdens become involved with a young man from Hannah's past--Joseph Smith--whose accounts of vision and dealings with angels strain tender relationships and test the Constitution's guarantees for religious liberty.

I was drawn to Hannah as she struggled to come to grips with many trials. I don't want to ruin the book for you, but the growth of this character is gripping. I'm sure many mothers who have gone through similar trials will identify with her needs and will eagerly read on to see what she does.

Jed is a hero determined to do what he feels is right for not only his family, but for his friends and for his country. Yes, he has his faults, however, he learns from his mistakes and moves on trying to do better. He's also a man who is true to his word, a very admirable trait not only then, but in today's world as well.

In fact, as I read this book I couldn't help but think of the struggles our nation and the world is going through right now. History is a great teacher. If only we could remember our past and learn from it, how much better off would we be? The reader can't help but think some of the characteristics Lewis gave her fictional characters lived and breathed in the hearts of many of our Founding Fathers. I'm hopeful that these traits also live and breath in our nation's leaders today.

This is a book to cherish, filled with characters who struggle through life, make mistakes, learn when they stumble, and become stronger because of their faith in God. I highly recommend In God is Our Trust. And I think after reading it, so will you.

You can learn more about L.C. Lewis and her books on her blog.

(I w
as given a copy of this novel to review, but I reviewed it because I liked it.)



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