Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Very Best Part About Being Sick

Our family has the vomit and eat Jello sort of illness. This is bad because:

I haven’t made my bed for several days because I keep on getting in it and sleeping.
Natalie is on the sofa when she’s supposed to be at school.
Adam has been playing video games for hours when he’s supposed to be at work.
My husband hasn’t showered in days and we share a bed.

I was supposed to put the finishing touches on my novel this week and it still has holes big enough to float the mighty Mississippi through. (Or since it takes place in fictionalized Arlington, Washington- the Stillaguamish.) Anyway, my point is because I have all these people floating around and cluttering up my space, my writing has suffered almost as much as my intestines.

The scriptures say that we can take any adversity and turn it for our good-- "Know thou my son that all these things will give thee experience and shall be for thy good." D&C 122:7 This is hard to do when you’re tired of jello, sick to your stomach, cranky and wondering exactly how to make Sid reconcile to his death (Ghost of a Second Chance- the novel that is semi-finished). But, here’s my attempt.

Good things about being sick:
I can lie in bed and read Sarah Dessen novels all day.
Someone else will clean up the dog’s vomit. (Did she just feel like she had to participate? Or is she sharing our virus?)
No one cares if dinner doesn’t happen.

But, I think the really best part about being sick for me is realizing how much I love my real, healthy life. I love praying with my family before they leave home and begin their busy days. I love running in the canyon as the sun rises. I actually like cleaning my house- rubbing lemon oil into the furniture and squirting the mirrors with polish. I love sitting down with my computer and spending time with characters I find interesting and exasperating all at the same time. I enjoy sitting with my family around the dinner table and talking about what happened during our busy days.

And all of that begins again tomorrow, maybe, hopefully, and if not tomorrow, then soon. And that’s the very best part of being sick—realizing how amazingly wonderful it is to be healthy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Financial Fridays Chapter 4, The Budget

“Complications can be serendipitous.”

“Is that a word?” Mercy took Trent’s proffered arm and slid a glance at his face as she fell into step beside him.

“Absolutely, it was first coined in 1754. It's defined as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for." Horace Walpole, parliament member and writer, used it in a letter that he wrote to an English friend who was spending time in Italy. Walpole came up with the word after a fairy tale he once read, called The Three Princes of Serendip. As their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and good fortune, things for which they weren’t searching.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” She blinked at him and looked as if she expected him to grow wings and fly away.

“The three princes hail from Serendip, the Persian word for the island nation off the southern tip of India.”

“That’s serendipity, not serendipitous.”

He shrugged and smiled. “If serendipitous is not a word then it should be.”

From my novel Stealing Mercy.

Is it too ironic to have a post about budgets on Black Friday? Good things happen and bad things happen. We try to mitigate the bad things by having an emergency fund in the budget. The good things aren’t in the budget. They are, as my hero Trent Michaels said, serendipitous. And they do happen, but if they happened frequently or as a matter of course, we’d stop finding them serendipitous and a smidge of the joy of the unexpected in life would be less bright, less miraculous. It’s so much better to make a plan, work the plan, take satisfaction in the accomplishment and then wonder in grateful awe when the serendipitous happens--or mourn when the catastrophe comes and wipes out our plan and we have to start over, make a new plan, work a new plan. Either way, serendipity or catastrophe, plans and work are necessary ingredients.

The amazing thing about budgets, or plans, is the same exact principle works for time management (calendars) or healthy lifestyle changes (diets). The best thing about budgets, calendars and diets is that they alleviate guilt. Really. Because when you do what needs to be done, you can spend, eat or do whatever you’d like and enjoy it—without guilt, without pressure, without fear—because you know where you’re going, you have a plan and you’ve already done what needed to be done to work your plan.

And without a plan, without the work, we see the catastrophes, but it’s easy to completely overlook the serendipities—and they happen all the time.

Here’s a sample monthly budget for a young family of four living in Las Vegas. I know that this budget won’t be applicable to everyone, everywhere, but it’s a very real budget of a very real family, which I tweaked by increasing the clothes budget—because I really like clothes. You might want to tweak it by budgeting in your music habit, or your yoga expenses, or whatever makes your life interesting and worth living. You can find a myriad of sample budgets on the internet.

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be posting on each of the following expenses.

Income 4,000

charity 400
savings 300
debt 200
taxes 330
mortgage 900
food 400
transportation 300
clothes 100
vacation 100
allowance 200
date nights 100
insurances 315
utilities 320

Total Costs 3,965

Income-Expenses +35

Using last week’s exercise (you know the one where you kept track of all your weekly expenses—you did do that, didn’t you?) Make a budget. Be generous and realistic.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Breaking Dawn Premier and What I Learned About Boys from Carly Simon

I’m sure that anyone not living beneath rock knows that last night was the midnight premier of Breaking Dawn (part one.) My brilliant, straight A, academic pentathlon competitor daughter is (seriously) the president of Tesoro High School’s Twilight Club. Yesterday she and her band of Twi-hards wrapped themselves up in blankets and were the first in line for the show.

I’ve no doubt that when Rob Pat showed his glistening face on the big screen that she and her friends screamed. Maybe they even swooned when the werewolves took off their shirts. Today my brilliant daughter went to school proudly wearing her Twilight t-shirt. I hope she screamed, I hoped she swooned, I’m happy she has a vampire shirt, but—when it comes to real boys, real flesh and blood boys, I hope she’ll listen to the best boy advice I ever heard. It came from Carly Simon.

I personally don’t know the love life status of Ms. Simon. I hope she’s happy. I know that she divorced James Taylor years ago. It’s interesting to me that a romance writer I admire who has written more than 36 New York Times Bestsellers is in her sixties has had two very brief marriages that both ended in divorce. Writing and singing romance is very different from living romance. Here’s Ms. Simon’s advice. It’s from a song Titled Boys in the Trees
I’m home again in my old narrow bed
Where I grew tall and my feet hung over the edge
The low beam room with the window looking out
On the soft summer garden where the boys grew in the trees.
Here I grew guilty
And no one was at fault
Frightened by the power of every innocent thought
And the silent understanding passing down
From daughter to daughter
Let the boys grown in the trees.
Do you go to them or do you let them come to you
Do you stand in back afraid that you’ll intrude
Deny yourself and hope someone will see
And live like a flower
While the boys grew in the trees.

So, to my daughter and to all the daughters—it’s okay to scream and swoon at characters in books and on movie screens, but when it comes to real boys, real flesh and blood boys—let them grow in the trees while you do what you need to do to be your very best self. Take the hardest math classes. Practice your guts out and audition for the very best choirs. Swim as hard and as fast as you can so that you can wear the medal at the meets. Rehearse the monologues that will make the audience cheer. Write the essays that will bring tears to reader’s eyes. And let the boys grow in the trees.

While you are your path, going where you want to go, trying to become as brilliant and talented as you possibly can be, eventually, you will meet others on the same path who share your goals. If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone to hold your hand as you walk that path.

That person won’t be hanging out in your bedroom after you’ve fallen asleep--he’ll be too busy with the very hardest math classes, swimming and singing. He won’t drive you to suicidal activities like cliff jumping into the waters of Washington’s Coast--he’ll be too sensitive to your feelings and goals to ever want to cause you that sort of pain. (Honestly, has Mrs. Meyers ever been swimming in the Pacific in the Northwest? It is darn cold.) He won’t pick you up and carry you away from danger—you have to do that by yourself and for yourself.

Oh, how I hope you will.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Financial Fridays Chapter 3 Doughnuts and Dollars

Dion has busy mornings. She has a husband and a host of children that need to shepherded out the door at an early hour. Homework in backpacks, books in bags, lunches in hand, goodbyes and kisses given. Sometimes tears are shed, shoes are lost and gym clothes aren’t washed. After the frantic morning rush and the last of the children are deposited at their schools, Dion needs her breakfast of a doughnut and a latte. She deserves the reward. Her stop at the coffee shop is as much of her morning routine as brushing her teeth.

But, what if Dion’s doctor told her that her crippling headaches could be solved as easily as giving up caffeine? Assuming that Dion spent $2 on her morning coffee shop ritual and that she could replace her latte and doughnut with a .10 cent bowl of oatmeal and a .25 cent piece of fruit, she’d save not only $$$ but also thousands of calories a year. (Remember, I’m a math toadie—do your own math.)

Dion might insist her coffee and doughnut are worth the cost and calories—until she adds on the 4% the money could have been earning had it been wisely invested, and times it by a lifetime and then tack on the expense of her medical and dental bills. And who can put a number on the cost of head-achy days?

I’m all about rewards, but I think it’s important to look and see what is blessing your life and what is not. (Please do not think that because I’m spooning out this advice that I righteously follow it and religiously eat oatmeal. I’m aware that there’s often a large dark, rocky chasm between what we know to be prudent and what we actually do. All I’m trying to do is offer a ladder out of what can be a scary place.)

Exercise 3
For one week, without altering your spending habits whatsoever, save every receipt for every purchase made. Do not be judgmental or unkind to yourself. At the end of the week, sit down and add the tally. Learn to distinguish the difference between wants and needs. Recognize those things that you want today that you might be able to sacrifice for something that you want even more tomorrow. This is a gateway step to next week’s exercise on budgeting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Post Office Expose

Today I mailed two copies of my novel. (Congrats to Gloria who won my Gobble Blog Hop.) Since publishing my book, I’ve spent a good amount of time and money at the post office mailing copies of my book and today I noticed something odd.
“That will be $6 something,” the clerk says.
“Really? It was a lot cheaper last week,” I reply.
“Oh!” She acts flustered and then tells me other mailing options. I pick the cheapest, $5 something.
She rings up the next package--same novel, exact same envelope. “Look,” she says, acting surprised. “This one is $3.60!”
I think she thought this would make me happy. Instead, I feel suspicious. “How is that possible? It’s the exact same thing.”
“No. It can’t be.”
“I promise you, it is.”
“Well, let’s ring up the first one again and see.” AND—now it’s $3.60.
Is the two dollar difference a big deal? Not really, unless you times it by the hundreds of people who pass through the Rancho Post Office every day.
Why am I sharing this story? I’m not sure. It’s not funny, uplifting or even slightly entertaining. I don’t expect there to be an investigation of the Rancho Post Office. I don’t want the post mistress to lose her job, although I hope she’ll be more careful, and if she’s being dishonest, I hope she’ll stop.
It’s just that when you do the exact same thing repeatedly, it’s fair to expect the same results, and when that doesn’t happen, you have to ask why. What happened? And what can I do about it?
If nothing else—I can share it on my blog.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oh Deer-- Financial Fridays Chapter Two

No worries, the blog hop runs through tonight, click here for a chance to win my fabulous prizes.

But, it is Friday--the day I post a chapter from my money book, which I may title MIND MONEY AND MARRIAGE MATTERS. Some may recognize this from an earlier post, and for that I apologize. I hate redundancy. I hate greed and envy even more. They make me miserable.

Let me begin by saying that when I had this experience, I was going through a rough time. Within a week a number of very disappointing things (5 to be exact) had happened. Granted if you twisted those things around you could say they were blessings, but I wasn’t interested in twisting. I think its human nature, or at least my nature, to want to run away when things aren’t going as planned and so when a friend told me they were thinking of moving to Utah, I was filled with envy. Horrible envy that sat on my shoulders, no matter how hard I tried to shove it away. I love my home, I love my friends, I know I don’t need or even want a 6,000 sq. foot house in Utah that costs half the price of my home and comes with twice the yard, but it ate at me for several days. (Okay, I know that at this point many of my California friends are truly disgusted and disappointed with me. They are attaching my name to obscenities and are mightily offended. Believe me, no offense is intended. I’m sorry.)

On Sunday morning I went for a walk in the canyon. Off in the grass were three deer who matched my pace, walking in the same direction. This was interesting, but after about a mile I turned to go home and the deer followed! They kept me company for some time and before turning and running directly across my path. If I had reached out my hand I could have touched them. Eventually, they disappeared into the woods. A passing runner who had seen the whole thing, said to me, “Wow, you were almost run over by deer.”

A scripture came to mind. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

When I got home, l looked up the scripture. Psalms 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Which seemed rather remarkable since I’d just spent a week thinking of (bigger and better) houses.

I told Larry about my deer encounter and he believes that it means that where ever I am I can live in a house dedicated to the Lord. Of course he’d say that, it will take something more miraculous than lonely deer to make him leave California.

This is another example of the value of Jesus’ commandment to GO and SEE.
Exercise 2
For one week keep a journal of every time you see the Lord’s hand in your life, every scripture that rings true, every prayer that’s answered. This is a remedy for envy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A scene that I love, but that needs to be cut

No worries, the blog hop runs through tomorrow, click here for a chance to win my fabulous prizes, but I'm about to cut a scene from my current work in progress, A Ghost of a Second Chance, and because I love it--I wanted to share it before it goes into oblivion. My critique partners think, and sadly I agree, this scene screams of a romance novel—the sort where the hero and heroine stop to kiss for ten pages even though villains, monsters and dogs are about to overtake them. While my novel doesn’t have any over the top villains—not even any dogs—and aren’t being chased when the kissing happens, the kiss doesn’t really make sense. So it has to go, which is just sad. Everyone likes a good kiss.

Tell me what you think.

More footsteps. Whirling, she saw a tall form emerge from the trees. She tried to run, but the wet shoes slid from her feet, slowing her. A hand on her arm stopped her.

“Lainey, it’s me!”

Ian? How had he found her?

He dragged her against his chest, his eyes looking wild. She tried to pull away, but he pinned her to him. Reaching up, she tried to slap him, but he caught her wrist and brought his mouth to hers. He kissed her hard.

She willed herself to fight. Sanity told her to step away. But she couldn’t and as the kiss deepened, she realized that she’d lost sanity a long time ago and if she didn’t do something, anything, she’d be right back where she’d been before Ian stepped out the door. No. She sank deeper into the kiss. Had it always been this way? Kissing Ian, why did such a small meeting of flesh make her knees buckle? Placing both her hands on his chest, she pushed him away.

She stumbled back, out of his embrace. Frustration marked his face and he raked his fingers through his hair. He looked at her and his gaze lingered on her legs. Puzzlement overtook the frustration and then he grinned.

“You have no right--”

Ian fought his smile, but it still lingered around his lips. “Actually, I do. I’m your husband remember? Marital rights.”

“That’s barbaric.”

Ian folded his arms across his chest. “I’m a barbarian? If I were truly a barbarian I’d carry you into that shack and strip off your clothes.”

Laine threw the cabin a worried glance and stepped away from it, which brought her one step closer to Ian. She shuffled to the side, closer to the road.

“Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. I’m considering it now.”

“How did you find me?”


Monday, November 7, 2011

Gobble Blog Hop

Welcome to the Gobble Blog Hop, where bloggers from all over the Internet have come together to throw a party!

Every blog on this hop is offering a fun prize, and entering is quick and easy. Simply follow the instructions on each blog, leave a comment, and bop right along to the next blog. You can win multiple times, so be sure to check out all the participating blogs!

On my blog, you can win a signed copy of my novel, STEALING MERCY (go to Amazon to read its awesome reviews) and a handcrafted journal made in India.

To enter:

1. For one entry: become a follower of my blog.
2. For two entries: go to Amazon and 'like' my novel, STEALING MERCY.
3. Leave me a comment and tell me what you've done. If your e-mail isn't available through your profile, I'll need you to leave that, too - I can't tell you if you've won if I can't contact you!

In STEALING MERCY, modern day genealogist, Bette Michaels, steals the 1889 journal of Mercy Faye. Here’s an excerpt describing the theft:

I’ve never stolen anything. Ever. Not even by accident. I always return extra change if a cashier makes a mistake. I’m meticulous about my taxes, generous with charitable donations, scrupulously honest. And that’s why an unfamiliar guilt worm wiggles in my belly.

I lift my fingers off the piano and glance back into the deserted living room and then at the library’s double doors. Through the windows I see rain dripping from the eaves of the porch. I hear wind rattling the doors and windows and after the crush of mourners filling Dot’s home, the plink of rain seems amplified. As does my beating heart.

I gather up my music and after a quick glance at the casket in the center of the room, I have a silent conversation with Dot. Do you mind? If I find it, I’ll just borrow it. I’ll return it. I won’t keep it. Dot, of course, still and silent nestled against all the silk in her casket, doesn’t respond, but I imagine her smiling, nudging me forward.

If I find the diary, that missing part that would hopefully explain so much, maybe I could just read it, quickly, before leaving. I pause in the entry hall, my feet rooted to the tapestry carpet. To my left, Dot’s library. I see my reflection in the beveled glass doors. I look tiny and fractured in the reflection. My pearls cast a small glow. I tuck a strand of dark hair behind my ear, debating. If I stand stock still in the entry much longer, perhaps the caterers will come and carry me out along with the empty boxes and trays of partially eaten food.

I’m not driven by impulse. I’d been waiting the opportunity to slip into the library all evening. I’d waited for the guests to leave so that I could look for the missing diary, the one that began in New York. My gaze flits around the room and I see the framed genealogy fan chart hanging on the wall, a stack of library books sitting on the desk, a mishmash of books marching across the shelves. I scan the collection, marveling at the eclectic choices. Standing on my toes, I find the tiny leather bound book on the top shelf.

I flip it open and my heart picks up speed when I recognize the copperplate handwriting. After another glance at the wet world outside the window, I lean against the solid walnut desk and begin to read.

This blog hop officially runs from November 8th to November 11th. The winner will be notified by e-mail. Now that you've entered my contest, come meet my blogging friends and see what fun things they have to offer!

Three Questions

Brittany at My Life Herding Cats sent me these questions. It’s hard to imagine anyone really cares about my answers, but since Brittany asked—and I really like Brittany—I’ll answer.

If you could go back in time and relive one moment what would it be?I was standing on the ramparts of a medieval castle, looking out over acres and acres of wild Scottish countryside. My husband and I were exploring a remote and derelict tower. At that moment, Larry was off somewhere and I was alone. I imagined that if I was a queen, what sort of ruler would I be? Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was a queen, the ruler of my own life. It was an incredible life changing experience when I realized that I had total control and power over my days and years.

I don’t think I needed to be in Scotland for such an epiphany, but the beauty and peace certainly added to the moment.

If you could go back in time and change one thing what would it be?I would redo high school. More studies, music and writing, less boys.

What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?I’ve been told I remind people of Helen Hunt and Julie Andrews. But, I do not drink (Helen in Pay it Forward) nor do I burst into song (Julie in The Sound of Music.) Okay… sometimes I’ll burst into song, but I’d never wear a dirndl.

If you could push one person off a cliff, who would it be?Really—just one? This question is much too hard.

Why do you blog?That’s easy. I blog because I have stuff to say.

And now I have to pass my questions onto three people:
Taffy at Taffy’s writing
Maria Hoagland
Shirley at Word by Word

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stealing Mercy's New Blurb

A girl in disguise.
A villain with a brothel to fill.
A hero wondering why he’s in love with a lad in breeches.
Murder, mayhem and pies, Stealing Mercy is a romantic adventure set in 1889—when the city of Seattle burns.

Unorthodox, but I like it. Any opinions?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Go and See

Financial Fridays Chapter 1

This post is for those who are unemployed, underemployed, employed in a job that doesn’t match their skill set or for those who need a lesson on how to create and recognize miracles.

I helped my friend, Celine, move. After thirty years of being an at home mom, she was suddenly single and alone. Her settlement in the divorce had been generous, but she’d invested poorly. Sadly, her money, her husband and even her children had left. Her only choice seemed to be to trade her spacious home for a room in her grown son’s house. As I helped fill the boxes that represented Celine’s life, I felt only a smidgeon of Celine’s frustration. She had all this stuff and yet, it seemed, she had nothing. No job training or marketable skills, no visible means of self support.

It reminded me of the account in the Gospel of Mark of Jesus feeding the five thousand.

34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:

36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.

37 He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?

38 He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.

39 And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.

41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.

42 And they did all eat, and were filled.

Jesus told his disciples to go and see and I think the advice is as brilliant today as it was back then. GO AND SEE.

Celine and I sat down, offered a prayer and made a list of all her assets and resources. We included all her family and friends. As she saw all that she’d been given, all the tremendous love and support available, her world seemed a little less bleak As she considered what to keep and what to let go, letting go of what she no longer needed was just a tad easier.

Still hard, but easier.

Loss is always difficlut, but it’s easier to swallow when weighed against all that we have and all that we have to offer.

Go and See--Exercise Number One.
Make a list of all your resources. Divide them into three categories.
1. Your own talents, skills and personality traits.
2. Your assets and available finances.
3. Family, friends and organizations that can help.

Think big, be creative, and write down every little thing that comes to mind. That’s the stuff that makes miracles.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sleeping with Power Tools

Congrats to Velvet Hubler who won my kindle kontest!

On Halloween night I stayed in the cheapest hotel in Provo that I could find on Travelocity. My reasoning—Provo is safe. Once I'm asleep, all motels/hotels are pretty much the same. It was close to Nathan and we would be up late working on our Eclectic Catalog.

But, it was Halloween and I had a reason for fear. The motel was not nice. Not nearly as nice as its pictures. It had mattresses, odd furniture and clusters of people hanging out on the sidewalk. I went to my room, locked my door and called my husband.
“Get out of there,” he said. “Go and stay somewhere else.”
“It’s already close to midnight,” I whispered, not wanting the people outside of my window to hear me whining. I looked around my room. At least it was clean except for—what was that? A giant power drill stood on the table beside a box of screws.
“I found a weapon,” I told my husband. I picked up the battery operated drill that was roughly the size of my forearm and pushed its button. It made a satisfying angry sound.
After a few minutes my husband grunted a goodbye, because really, from a thousand miles away, what else could he do?
I got ready for bed, pushed a table and chair in front of the door, checked the lock on the window and after offering a prayer for my safety, got into bed. I placed the power tool on the pillow beside me and formulated a plan. In case of attack, throw the box of screws at offender, jump on to table, and threaten eye gouging with power tool.

Fortunately, the next morning I woke up safe, alone and only slightly wet.
(The roof leaked.)