Thursday, December 29, 2011

Closets, Drawers, Diets and the New Year

A native proverb says each soul is a house with four rooms: intellectual, spiritual, physical and social. To live a balanced life, we need to spend some time in each room every day. There is a similar scripture--Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

Every January our family gathers for an evening of goal setting. Basing our goals upon the scriptures we have the four areas of focus—
Wisdom (knowledge)
Stature (physical)
And in favor with God (spiritual)
And man (social)
And then we add to the scriptures by including
And the ominous Other

On the designated night, one by one, we take turns facing the giant 2x3 white board where we’ve written our goals. Larry, the keeper and administrator of the goals, used to keep this board in his closet where it only saw the light of day once a year (actually, it never saw daylight since we have our annual goal accounting on a winter’s night) Since we were generally unsuccessful meeting (or even remembering) our goals, we’ve since moved the board to the kitchen, where it sits propped up against the wall, mocking or encouraging us, depending on how we’re feeling about our successes (or failures.) Anyone visiting our kitchen can see our goals. This can be a little awkward when we’re partying and anyone can see e abolish sweets on our board while we’re inhaling cake, or when Billy Bob comes over and sees be nice to Billy Bob as clear as day.

Is this goal exposure bravery or stupidity? I’m not sure. But in a spirit of sharing, or rash exposure—here’s my accounting of last year’s goals.

Intellectual: Learn digital photography. I did this, in fact with my new photo shop computer program, I’m taking this goal a notch higher.

Physical: Eat only healthy foods 6 days a week. I’m sure I ate plenty of healthy food 6 days a week, but I ate a lot of other food (food being a relative word) as well.

Spiritual: Read the New Testament. I did this.

Social: Using my new photography knowhow, make a memory book for my dad’s birthday. With the tutoring of my photographer daughter, I did this. It’s a beautiful book.

Financial: Market novel twenty times or get a publishing contract. Since I decided to self publish, I ditched the publishing contract idea and marketed my book way more than twenty times. I’m still learning marketing.

Other: Organize every cupboard, drawer and closet. I did not do this, but I did buy an organizational system for my closet, put it to use and sometimes my closet looks like a million bucks. I took a giant cork board, covered it in silky fabric and lace and made a place to hang my jewelry. Necklaces, bracelets and ear rings hang on it as well as one of my favorite quotes And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. It makes me happy every time I look at it.

And so what did I learn this year (other than digital photography?) I learned that I can organize and control my own closet and that trying to maintain organization and control over space and events that I share with others is futile and frustrating. It’s really best to focus on what I can do, what I can offer and bring to the world and let go of the dreams and aspirations that hinge on someone or something else. Take pride and pleasure in my own efforts and contributions and appreciate what may or may not come back my way.

And this is true of more than just closets, drawers and diets.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My 2011 Favorites

Wandering through the art galleries of LaConner, Washington with Rebecca. It was too early for the tulips, but since the fields were filled with snow geese, we didn’t care.

Grocery shopping with my dad and spending a day cooking in the kitchen where I grew up, filling my aging parent’s freezer full of premade meals.

Attending Adam’s graduation from law school, reading Lois Lowery’s THE GIVER on the plane ride.

Attending the LDS Storymaker’s conference and redefining my writing goals—coming to the decision to self publish.

Taking pictures of Miranda for the front cover of my novel.

Lounging in a big leather chair at the Mission Viejo mall at 4 am, reading Sarah Dessen’s novel THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER and waiting, first in line, for my iPad2.

Hanging out at the lake with my girl’s camp friends, reading Angela Morrison’s TAKEN BY STORM.

Learning how to be a stake relief society secretary and mastering the excel spread sheet.

Celebrating my dad’s 90th birthday with about 300 of his closest friends in the Arlington, Washington ward chapel.

Feeding ducks with Sterling on the Olympic peninsula.

Visiting the sea lions on the central California coast. Reading WHAT ALICE FORGOT on the long drive home. (I LOVED this book, but be warned, it's Australian. If you love Australian and British work as much as I do, you know what I'm taking about)

Going to BYU’s Educations Week with my daughters. Editing my novel during the long drive through the hot desert. Playing the game where Natalie would read a random half sentence from my book and I would try and finish the sentence—something I could do with about 90% accuracy.

Holding the paperback version of my novel STEALING MERCY in my hands.

Hanging out with Melanie Jacobson and about a hundred of our friends, celebrating the release of our books at Nothing Bundt Cakes in Mission Viejo.

Going to see ANONYMOUS with Larry.

Sitting up late into the night with Nathan, working on our ECLECTIC BOOKS catalog.

Hanging out with Jill on a snowy, autumn day.

Watching MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, my very favorite Woody Allen movie with my family.

Discovering SPY, a British sitcom and my new favorite TV show (so sorry Stephen Cobert, you’ve been bumped.)

Meeting Shirley and eating chocolate chip waffles in Provo.

Spending Thanksgiving at Bethany’s new home in Vegas. Reading Sarah Dessen’s LOCK AND KEY on our drive home.

Talking to missionary Jared on the phone on Christmas day.

Sitting beside the Christmas tree, writing on my blog, a stack of books on the table beside me—DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLY, DECEPTION AT LYME, CLEANING NABOKOV’S HOUSE, WITCHES OF EAST END, THE NIGHT CIRCUS, MOCKING BIRD, SPIDER WEB, and THE CLOCKWORK PRINCE. Next year, 2012, I’ll read all of these books and many more. I don’t expect to love them all, just like I don’t expect to love every experience that comes my way.

This year I published STEALING MERCY. Next year I hope to publish my nearly completed novel, A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE and also the novel that spent ten months on an editor at Berkley’s Publishing desk, A LIBRARY IN RHYME. I should soon finish my first go at non-fiction, THE REMEDIAL MONEY BOOK. And then if I’m very, very productive I’ll write the novel bouncing in my head that may or may not be called BITZY’S BLOG.

The future is very uncertain, but as long as I’ve books to read, ideas to write and an incredible abundance of people to love, I’m grateful and awed by the everyday magic that I call my life.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Swaddling Clothes—the Clothing Budget. Financial Fridays.

It’s two days until we celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world and somehow it just seems wrong to post about shopping…except it’s something that we all indulge in…something that some of us do with exaggerated excess. Since I’m tired of shopping, I’m going to write about something that I know very little about it and try to relate it to something I’m far too familiar with.

Jesus, through Mary, his natural born mother and Joseph, his adoptive father, was of royal blood and would have been king if Israel hadn’t been under Roman rule (see Matthew 1:17) According to Jewish custom, the swaddling clothes, the strips of cloth Mary used to wrap her baby, bore the symbols of her royal heritage. When the shepherds came to worship the baby Jesus, they would have immediately recognized him as their rightful king by the markings on his swaddling clothes.

Which brings me to the question—are we recognized for who we are by the clothes we wear? (Bloggers looking for financial advice are now clicking away in disgust—please wait before you click—this isn’t a lesson on modest dress, I promise.) There are plenty of ways to save money on clothes—garage sales, thrift stores, second hand shops, season end sales, coupons and group-ons, but remember, it’s two days before Christmas and I’m tired of shopping…

One of the few lectures I attended and enjoyed with my husband when he was in graduate school was given by a professor of organizational behavior on “dress for success--” a popular buzzphrase in the 1980s. (Remember power ties?) He said that the reason the business world wears dark boring suits is so that nothing in their appearance would detract from their ideas. What you wear should never call attention from what you have to say. Your shoes should never receive more admiration than your thoughts.

When Larry worked in Midtown New York, we lived in the commuter town, Darien, Ct. A hefty portion of the town’s population daily commuted to the city. We lived about two blocks from the train station and Larry walked to and from the station, but sometimes he would run. Not because he was late, but because he was cold and running was much faster than walking. After awhile, he learned to stop and walk if he saw a car approaching because, inevitably, the driver of the car would assume he was late for his train and stop and offer him a ride. Since he is unsocial by nature, this embarrassed him. Darien is a beautiful community—we had wonderful neighbors there, but I wondered if Larry had replaced his suit, tie and brief case for jeans, a corduroy jacket and a backpack—would the cars of Darien have stopped and offered him a ride? No, probably not. Right or wrong, assumptions are made by the clothes we wear.
New York City investment bankers follow a strict uniform code. The earlier the commute, the stricter the code. In the fall—raincoats--and then one late autumn day wool overcoats replace the raincoats…their attire is far more predictable than the stock markets. For a good reason, remember the advice of the organizational behavior professor--never let your appearance detract from what you have to say. Don’t try to hide behind your clothes.

In New York City, I saw women wearing tea length fur coats to the Macy Day Thanksgiving parade. I have never seen women wearing fur to the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Again, for a variety of good reasons, but the overriding reason, the one I want to talk about, is that a fur coat in California would be as out of place as a pair of flip-flops on the stock exchange floor.

If you’re a den mother, wear the lemon yellow shirt with pride. If you’re a yogi, wear your leotard. It’s worth the cost—whatever that is--to let the world know who you are, what your purpose is, and that you need to be taken seriously, because your daily work is seriously important.

Fortunately, for me, I write novels. This means that I get to spend the day in fuzzy pajamas. On the days I wear clothes, I can slouch in pants with holes in the knees and sweaters that grow fuzz balls, but, every once in awhile, I need to look like a respectable, contributing member of society. Sometimes, although usually not, I want to be taken seriously and when I do—I dust off my best clothes and put them on. And although the suit doesn’t change who I am inside and underneath, I can move and act with confidence, knowing that the skirt won’t slip and show my white belly, or that the blouse won’t shift and expose my bra strap. Well cut clothes can do that for you and when you need them, it’s nice to know you have them at the ready. I’ve heard it said that fashion is all about what doesn’t itch, but sometimes, every once in awhile, it’s also about looking your best so that you can share your most brilliant ideas without worrying about your outward appearance—which should never outshine who you are on the inside.

If you don’t already have the power suit, save your money and invest in two good outfits--one for summer and one for winter. Make sure they fit and are well cut. Buy matching shoes. (Maybe I’m not as tired of shopping as I thought.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011


So excited! Stealing Mercy is featured today at super e-reads. Curious? Click here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Grendal's Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas,

Grendal here. No one else has time to write the annual Christmas letter so I’m doing it in hopes that someone will stop making and eating cookies and put on their sneakers and take me for a walk.

Adam’s got his sneakers on. Since graduating from BYU law school and passing the California bar, he’s moved into the downstairs bedroom and now he’s picked up his keys. He’s walking out the door without the leash.

Bethany’s Chandler would take me for a walk if he were here. Their family moved to Las Vegas when Brandon graduated from chiropractic school, which is great because they’re able to visit a lot more. Chandler is always up for a romp and Sterling usually has something sticky and delicious on his face and he doesn’t mind being licked. Both boys are pretty good about dropping food and spilling milk.

Nathan is rarely around. He studies information systems at BYU and travels to places like Mexico, Japan and Bolivia on service stints. He found the time to help the mom with her online catalog of friendly family books, (look for the mom’s book) but he doesn’t have time for a walk.

Jared hasn’t been here for more than a year. He’s a missionary in Taiwan. He’s named after his Grandpa Dickson who just celebrated his ninetieth birthday, but I wasn’t invited to that party or that vacation. But neither was Jared junior. He stayed in Taiwan and I stayed with pet sitters.

Natalie is on the Tesoro academic decathlon A team and is in the a cappella choir. She spouts random facts and sings, but she doesn’t drop food or run.

Miranda is on the comedy sportz team and is a drama thespian. She’s funny and generous with the treats as long as I do tricks, although for me that means jumping through hoops—literally.

The mom doesn’t drop food. In fact, she sweeps up dropped food--such a waste. She also eats all the chocolate—which happens to be my all time favorite food. I have to scrounge for it. She spends a lot of time in the kitchen, making all sorts of different types of food, drops almost nothing, sweeps up after herself and feeds me kibble.

The dad only takes me running when the mom comes with us because he has an aversion to poop bags. He thinks he’s too busy and important because he’s senior vice president of whatever and executive secretary of whats-it to pick up poop.

Wait…I hear the jingle of the leash. I smell socks. I have to run. I love this time of the year when the air is cold and crisp and bright lights shine from all the houses and chocolates are passed from friend to friend…and sometimes dropped. May we all paws to consider the gift and life of our Lord and God and give thanks for the only gift that truly matters—love.

Merry Christmas from the Tates and Grendal, the dog.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thoughts for Food--Financial Fridays

Financial Friday is a weekly post of excerpts from my remedial money book.

Kelly arrives on campus with money in her bank account. It’s September, so the account is fat, but Kelly knows that whatever is in the account now has to last until December. If it doesn’t, she’ll have to call and ask her dad for more and she’d really, really rather not. The accounting, the explaining, the justifying (her) and the lecturing, sighing and grumping (her dad) is too steep of a price to pay. The rent, the books, the school fees are pretty much up front. She handles those first so that she doesn’t really have to think about them. Because she likes clothes almost as much as she likes shopping, she has a closet full and won’t be needing anything more for the rest of the semester (or, really, her lifetime.) Unfortunately, Kelly has to eat. Every day, four times a day, to be exact. There are some expenses that have to be considered on a daily basis. Here’s Kelly’s meal plan.
7 am. Breakfast—cereal and fruit $1.00
12 pm Lunch with friends at school $3.00
3 pm. Fruit $ .50
6 pm. Vegetables with cheese sauce $2.00
When Kelly goes to the grocery store, she buys hot chocolate, fruit, applesauce, bread, milk, cereal, eggs, maple syrup (Kelly likes to eat French toast when she’s glum) and cheese. Not having a lot of time and having to grocery shop when her roommate with a car decides it’s time to go, Kelly doesn’t give much time to menu planning and she generally eats pretty much the same thing every day, unless she has a date and he offers to pay for dinner, in which case she’ll pick something closest to the cheapest thing on the menu—she eats a lot of salads and soups. On Sundays, she eats with her roommates, the only day of the week where she eats meats and desserts.

Kylie and Kim are newlyweds living off of summer savings, scholarships and grants. Like Kelly, they also begin each semester with a fat bank account that dwindles as the semester nears the end--the difference is they cannot call their dads if their money runs out because they have serious pride issues. They take weekly turns with the cooking and meal planning, but they generally do their grocery shopping together. On Sundays they go for a walk and buy a Sunday paper and will spend on hour or so going through the paper cutting out coupons that they’ll take to the store that doubles coupons. When they shop they’re armed with a menu, a grocery list and coupons. They rarely deviate from their list.

Karla’s husband has an hour commute into the city and Karla has three preschool age children. Because Karla’s time with her husband is precious, she doesn’t like to leave him in the evenings nor does she want to waste their Saturdays in the grocery store. But, as much as she dislikes leaving her husband, or facing a crowded Saturday supermarket, Karla hates shopping with preschoolers even more. So, once a week Karla gets up at five am to do her grocery shopping. She shops at the only store that is open at that hour and has become good friends with the workers who stock the shelves. Because she has more money than time, she doesn’t even look at coupons or store advertisements, but she does make a menu and a list and she rarely deviates from it. She makes four meals a day and they rarely eat out, because eating out with preschoolers is almost as fun as taking them grocery shopping.

Kayla has six children in five different schools. She lives in a neighborhood with more than twenty school age children and it’s common for Kayla to have 10-15 kids hanging out in her kitchen looking for something to eat. Kayla grows plums, peaches, apples and tomatoes in her yard. The kids are welcome to eat anything off the trees that aren’t green—the tomatoes are never chosen. She bakes a lot of cookies. She does her grocery shopping while her children are at piano, or soccer, or swim. She makes out her menu for a month at a time and she doubles her recipes so that she’ll serve half and freeze the other half and save it for a (another) busy day.

Because Krista’s husband’s office is less than a mile from their home, he routinely comes home for lunch. Occasionally, they’ll go to their favorite taco place when his days are slow. Krista shops at two stores weekly—the warehouse store for her milk, bread, cheese, eggs and chicken, and the local place where she always finds the best produce. Every once in a while she’ll go to the expensive grocery store when steaks or roasts are on sale. She shops with a list, makes menus and even though it’s usually just her and husband at the dinner table, she enjoys making dinner. When her grown children are in town, she’ll load up on food at the warehouse store.

I’ll confess, I named all these women K names because I have been all of them. Kelly, Karla, Kayla and Krista—they’re all me at different stages in my life. I’m not saying that these are the best and smartest ways to grocery shop—I know that there are a myriad of ways to shop and save—what I am saying is that everyone needs to find a pattern that works for them and their current lifestyle.

Another confession—I often have guilt because I’m not my mother. I don’t have a life anything remotely like my mother’s. When I was growing up, my parent’s vegetable garden was larger than my California back yard. As a child, I spent countless hours snapping green beans, shucking corn, picking fruit and weeding. Our neighbors had dairy farm and since my dad owned a construction company, we had dump trucks which we would use to haul tons of manure we would spread on our vegetable garden. My dad and brothers liked to hunt and fish and we had a freezer full of bear, deer, pheasant, rabbit, elk, trout, salmon and a little fish called smelt. We ate tail, liver and tongue. We had an entire room in the basement dedicated to food storage and my mother and aunts spent weeks out of every summer bottling fruit and canning vegetables.

I do none of those things. I don’t have an acre of land or dump trucks or dairy farming neighbors. My husband doesn’t own a gun or a fishing pole and we live in harmony with the deer in the nearby canyon. I admire my mom for all that she accomplished and I hope that she would admire me for what I’ve accomplished—even though the difference is much bigger than my dad’s dump trucks. Did my mom spend way less at the grocery store? Absolutely. Sigh….

Using the grocery store ads, make a menu using the food currently on special and a corresponding grocery list. Don’t deviate when you go grocery shop.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm Guest at Greyhart Press Today!

Hey! I'm a guest today at I'm only responsible for the post, not the graphics. And no, my novel Stealing Mercy isn't a horror or a fantasy....but stop by anyway. Tell me what you think. Kristy

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Mud Run Miracle

I just read an interesting thing on a blog. I don’t follow very many blogs, which is completely hypocritical since I love that people follow mine, but I do enjoy the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association) newsletter and editor Bill Kenower’s blog. But, the interesting thing I read on his blog was, actually, not something he wrote. It was the caption at the bottom that read This entry was posted on Monday, December 12th, 2011 at 5:30 pm. Assuming Mr. Kenower lives in Seattle, this caption implies that somehow he is living life 5 hours ahead of Pacific Standard time. Is he living in another realm? Or is it a computer glitch. Which is not nearly as interesting as a time warp.

Mistakes happen all the time. And sometimes they’re so small and insignificant, that I don’t take the time to find out the whys or wherefores. Take, for example, the mud run.

The Camp Pendleton mud run is held twice a year at the military base just off the coast near Oceanside. Wearing throw away clothes and old sneakers, runners wade through a lake, slog mud pits, and climb hills while marines squirt them with fire hoses. I paid money to do this. When I got to a wall I had to climb, a marine stood ready to help. The woman in front of me said, let me do it by myself. After watching her scramble, I said You can help me. He picked me up and literally threw me over the wall. I had imagined a friendly boost, not a heave. Asking for help was my mistake.

Thousands of runners participate in the mud run and I assume everyone brings a bag with a clean change of clothes. I chose to bring a rather funky bag I got from the PNWA that has Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference, the sword is mightier than the pen written across the front. I told my running partner no one else is going to have a bag like this one. Thinking that it would stand out in the sea of bags and I’d be able to find it easily at the end of the race. And it did stand out and I did find it easily. But, when I opened it I also found 4 new mud run t-shirts from the spring run. (This was October)

Confused, I took my bag and shirts to the guy passing out the current run t-shirt and asked what gives. Don’t you want them? He asked.


So, sometimes mistakes work in my favor and sometimes they land me face down in the mud and it really isn’t worth the time or the bother to figure out why.

So, I took my free t-shirt experience and turned it into a scene in the novel I was currently writing, Shells Charms, and gave thanks for not only the t-shirts but also the idea. I was given more than t-shirts that day and every time my husband wears the mud run shirt I gave him I smile and remember.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ditching Debt Financial Fridays

Well we're waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved.

So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron or coke,
Chromium steel.

And we're waiting here in Allentown.
But they've taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away.

Every child had a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got.
If something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our face.

Well I'm living here in Allentown
And it's hard to keep a good man down.
But I won't be getting up today.

Billy Joel—Allentown

Marty worked dang hard in undergrad and got himself into the Harvard Business school. He did well. Came out of school with a great job. A few years later, landed an even better job. But, when the economy turned sour and his new company cut expenses—Marty became the most expensive item on the spread sheet and the first thing cut. Now, middle aged he’s too expensive for hire.

After thirty plus years of being a stay at home mom, Lindsey , recently divorced, decided to go to school to become a radiologist technician. The program was difficult, grueling. Two thirds of the class dropped out, but Lindsey hung in there, worked hard, graduated near the top of her class. But, she ‘s close to sixty—and even after all that hard work, she’s unemployed.

The stories continue and the debts mount. People who played by the rules- who worked hard, who ‘behaved’- aren’t finding their promised Philadelphia. And it’s hard, sad and disappointing. There’s no mitigating that, but do the graduations hanging on the wall- really not matter at all?

The scriptures tell us:
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
Doctrine and Covenants 130:18&19

And not just intelligence and knowledge, but also perseverance, tolerance, patience, determination, and a host of other admirable qualities. And although we can’t hang those attributes we developed and honed while pursuing an education on the wall, no one can take them away from us either. They are an indelible part of who we are. Regardless. Not everything comes with a dollar sign attached.

But, still the price for those attributes may have been high. Debts might have very possibly been incurred. Here’s a debt elimination calendar to help.

“Mark off several columns on the left, write the names of the months, beginning with the upcoming month. At the top of the next column on the left, write the name of the creditor you want to pay off first. It may be the debt with the highest interest rate or the earliest pay-off date. List the monthly payment for that creditor until the loan is repaid. At the top of the next column record the name of the second creditor you want to repay and list the payments due each month add the amount of that monthly payment to your payment to the second creditor. Continue the process until all loans are repaid.”
Marvin J. Ashton

“I urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt to the extent possible. Pay off debt as quickly as you can and free yourselves…If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts.”
President Gordon B. Hinkley

If you have debt, begin a debt calendar.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Pitfalls of Lysol, Chocolate and Tootsie-pops

Have you ever done something out of kindness that inadvertently hurt, embarrassed or offended someone? That’s the worst—when you think you’re being thoughtful, kindhearted or generous and—splat. It just lands flat.

So many mistakes are just mistakes. I think very few of us ever intend to be mean or cause harm. Remember the big hair in the eighties? This was a particularly challenging era for me—hairdo-wise—because I’ve very little hair. I used a lot of hairspray. Once, when I was late for something dressy, I thought I sprayed my hair with hairspray but had inadvertently picked up a can of Lysol. I had to spend an evening with investment executives smelling like fresh pine tinged with ammonia. Another time I went to church and a kind woman informed me that the back of my dress was tucked up- exposing way more than I would ever intend. Turns out, I’d sat on a half eaten, very sticky tootsie-pop. Another time, I was on my way to a parent teacher conference and eating a chocolate bar for my dinner. Somewhere along the way half of the candy bar must have fallen into my lap—where it melted, leaving chocolaty goo between my thighs. If I went home I’d miss the conference, but wearing white pants smeared with chocolate didn’t really seem like an option, either. Because the cost of the teacher’s regard was worth the cost of a new pair of pants, I stopped at a store along the way and pretty much bought the first pair I saw. The sales people were sympathetic and kind.

So, whether it’s Lysol, or chocolate, or tootsie-pops, sometimes we have to pay for new pants, expose our backsides or spend a smelly evening, because mistakes happen.

But wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t? I wish I could go through life doing everything perfectly, but that’s never going to happen. Not even for one day. Not today. And probably not tomorrow, either.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Eclectic Books Catalog

Introducing Eclectic Books- where old world values meet today’s technology. We hope you’ll take a moment to share our catalog with your family and friends, reminding them to include books written by authors of faith in their holiday wish lists. To visit Eclectic Books, please click here-
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Paying Cash for Karma- Financial Fridays

Karma: the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished according to their actions and thoughts.

I’m not sure how much faith I have in karma, but I do believe that you don’t have to completely understand something to have it work for you. Take, for example, cell phones, electricity, airplanes, kidneys…

So, when I stop to help a stranger, do I expect repayment? No. Never. But, I do expect good things to happen, because, in my life, generally, good things happen. I’m not sure why, I just know that good things usually come my way. So, I try to do good things in return and it’s like a spiral moving upward, even when I can’t see a beneficial outcome or a repayment of any kind.

For example, years ago my children were on a neighborhood swim team (go RSM Dolphins). My neighbor mentioned that she’d have to pull her kids off the team because of work conflicts. I offered to drive her kids to and from swim team, resolving her conflict. For me, this was NOT a big deal. Standing on my balcony, I can see the neighborhood pool (that’s how close it is). Driving her kids was a matter of throwing their wet bodies and towels in the car and depositing them on their front porch one minute later. A few weeks later she offered to take my children to a summer arts program where she taught. This was a big deal. She took my children to and from the program everyday for two months. (It was thirty minutes away and conflicted with my twin’s nap time). I never would have been able to have had my children participate in that program without her help. And I’m pretty sure she never would have offered to drive my children if I hadn’t first offered to drive hers.

Another example, a woman I worked with in our church went through a painful divorce. She’d been married for more than thirty years. We became friends. I tried to help her as much as I could. She moved to Lees Summit, Missouri to live with her daughter. About two years later, my sister went through a painful divorce. She had also been married for more than thirty years, and she was moving to Lees Summit, Missouri to live with her daughter. Maybe the move was a coincidence, but I think that because I’d been a good friend to Martha, Martha went out of her way to be a good friend to my sister. She welcomed her at the airport. They went to movies together. Eventually, they became roommates.

One last example, when I was working on my first novel, I pretty much wrote my character up a tree and I couldn’t figure out how to get her out. For two whole days I fretted how I could resolve her conflict. Then I was asked to drive a woman to the Bishop’s Storehouse (the Mormon equivalent of a food bank). This takes about three hours and would eat up (no pun intended) my writing time, but I agreed because, hey, there wasn’t any writing going on, my character was up a tree. What happened may not surprise anyone, but it surprised me. The ladder up the tree didn’t come on the way to the storehouse, or while I was filling the order, or while I was driving back to her apartment, or while I huffed the bags of groceries up the flights of stairs, but the resolution did come and it was brilliant. And I couldn’t wait to get back to my story. Since then, similar scenarios have happened to me repeatedly. I now take a notebook with me to church and to the temple, because that’s where I have some of my very best ideas.

That’s why I believe the best financial advice for living and writing is this- live life as fully as you can. Do good, be good, think good thoughts and good things will happen. That’s why I placed charitable contributions at the top of my budget.

I don’t believe that all blessings are financial. I’ve lived long enough and hard enough to know that for some people, abundance is a curse. And so, when the Lord promises to open the windows of heaven, the promised blessing may not be in coin or dollar form. The trick is to offer to the world what you can, set aside something for someone other than yourself and then “prove the Lord”—blessings will come. Maybe just not the ones you expected. That’s part of the magic.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Malachi 3:10

Exercise: If you’re not already making charitable contributions, search out a worthwhile charity and set aside a portion of your budget for a monthly contribution. Keep a record and watch for blessings.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Eyeball Sucking Debate

Last night it was my turn to read at my writing group and my bit about sucking out an eyeball generated a debate. Some loved it. Some hated it. My critique partners (who are not members of my writing group) also didn’t like it. So, I’m throwing it out here and asking—is it too harsh? Does it pull you out of the story? Does it seem unbelievable? Because it really truly did happen to a neighbor kid—he had a black eye for weeks. And in California the middle school PE classes have about 90 kids in them. It’s sort of a joke. (My apologies to the good physical education teachers—I know you’re trying to do your best in a beleaguered educational system.)

Believe me, I realize that I don’t deserve to have my questions answered. Because I read my stats page, I know that there are a lot of people who daily visit my blog and I really don’t deserve any of you. So, don’t answer if you don’t have an opinion. You don’t even have to read the excerpt. (But, I’d really like it if you would. And if you have an opinion, I’d love to hear it.)

By the way, this is a flash back.

She’d seen Ian weeks before she’d meet him. Tall, lanky, dark hair, fair skin and blue eyes. He wore narrow cut jeans, a button down shirt and a pullover sweater and he’d looked out of place in a school of lumberjack wannabes in plaid shirts, steel toe boots and massive belt buckles. The only class they shared was PE. He spent fourth period running while Mr. Teller, track coach, cheered him on. Since Laine spent fourth period avoiding Mr. Teller, hanging out on whatever opposite side of the field Mr. Teller happened to be on, pretending to exercise, it seemed unlikely that they’d ever meet, especially since there were ninety people in the class.

And they didn’t meet, then.

But sometime in between the jumping jacks and free choice, Clyde Perkins, Kyle Evans, and Jess Leonard met up with Myles Ackerman. They pinned him beneath the bleachers and tried to suck out his eyeball. Pinning him probably wasn’t too hard. Clyde and friends played football and were used to tackling much bigger players than scrawny chess captain Myles, but sucking out an eyeball proved impossible. People talked about it for almost as long as the hickey around Myles’ eye lasted.
Ian hadn’t interfered with the eye sucking. Like Laine, he probably didn’t even know about it until after the black eye had appeared. Unlike Laine, he’d probably been running around the track oblivious to the kicking, screaming and sucking beneath the bleachers.

What caught Laine’s attention happened later the next day when Myles sat alone, a bruised and lonely outcast in the school auditorium, target of jokes and spit wads, and Ian, the new guy with his Boston accent and his Irish flash, the star of every Thurston Middle School girl’s fantasy, sat down on the chair beside Myles, talked to him, and casually draped his arm across the back of Myles’ chair.

Laine knew right then and there that Ian was not only kind, but incredibly brave.

And maybe not that smart.