“Really Good”

Isn’t it amazing how two little words can brighten your day? Last Saturday, after a discouraging week in which my youngest son came down with a sinus infection for the sixth time in six months and the doctor and I discussed having his tonsils removed, my family was scheduled to have a picnic on the mountains near us and take some pictures. We had a really awesome photographer lined up (the same one who took my author pic in The Matchup) and were excited to go. Why would we be so stoked about a simple day trip? Well, it isn’t so simple. Because of health reasons, I haven’t been able to drive up on Mt. Graham very often in the past few years.

But we decided to drive up about halfway where the scenery is still nice and the weather is slightly cooler than the little valley we live in, snap a few pictures of the fam, and perhaps even hand-pick some apples at the Angles Apple Orchard while we were there.

As I was putting the finishing touches on my girls’ hair and gathering shoes for the little ones, my photographer, Katie, texted and said her husband had been on the mountain just a short while ago and it was raining. I looked out my bedroom window and, sure enough, she was right. A monstrous monsoon storm cloud hung over the entire mountain. It hadn’t been there even an hour beforehand. We watched the cloud carefully, hoping for some divine intervention. Instead, the storm cloud moved into our little valley and thoroughly drenched it! The storm came and went all in an hour’s time and ta-da! Blue skies again! But our plans were ruined.

That evening, I was feeling down about our wasted efforts. I had wanted this so badly, not only because it had been such a very long time since we’d had any professional family pictures taken but because my birthday’s coming up and this was what I wanted as a gift. My husband isn’t terribly fond of pictures but he was willing to do that for me. And when our plans fell through, he was genuinely sorry.

Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize this as a gift in itself and wallowed in my despondency. Later that night, after talking the day over with Rob and feeling marginally better, I happened to log onto Amazon and find a brand new review of The Matchup by a woman who said, “Really good”. That’s it. That was her entire review. And I thank her for it!

But it gets better. I then looked up my first book, Pierced by Love, and saw a review from the same woman. Again, her review contained only two words: “Great book” with a side note about how she’s read it out of order but it didn’t matter. I was astounded. These two reviews were the first and only reviews I’ve received on my books over the course of this summer after heavily advertising them. And they came on a day when I really needed them, when I needed to know that my efforts are not wasted but used for purposes other than our own, and that sometimes blessings are delayed but never withheld.

I know this was not a coincidence but rather a tender mercy from the Lord. He knows our hearts. He knows when we are downtrodden and discouraged. He knows when we need His help. Most of the time, He waits until we ask Him. But every once in a while, He sends His comfort just for us in the one moment when we really need it.

I continue to be in awe by all that He does. That wonderful hymn we sing on Sundays, “I Stand All Amazed,” keeps floating through my head at all of the many tender mercies that come my way, especially when I look for them. Another favorite hymn, “I Know that My redeemer Lives,” comes to mind. I love the simple yet profound testimony of that song!

Because He truly does comfort me when I am faint. And He will comfort you, too. Know that your efforts aren’t wasted. He loves and cares about each one of us. And I am indebted to Him for His tender mercies.

Summer-y Summary

Hi again! I hope you all had a terrific summer! I sure did, and I didn’t even go anywhere. But that’s okay because it seemed like our family was constantly busy with something. Two of my kids competed on their local swim team and gained valuable experience and endurance from that adventure. My oldest daughter went off to Girls Camp for Young Women, my oldest son spent a week on the mountain with the Scouts, one son had a swim party to celebrate his birthday and then he was baptized. And one of my daughters celebrated her birthday on the first day of school. She specifically asked for cupcakes like the ones shown. I’m no decorator but I tried my best. Whew!

If that isn’t enough excitement for a mother, I don’t know what is.

Now that school is back in session, the kids are settling into a routine again. My youngest will start his second year of preschool on Wednesday and, as such, my daughter felt the need to write up a Preschool Survival Guide for him, patterned after the Princess Diaries (according to her). I thought I would include pictures of all these fun events.

My life is full and I am richly blessed!

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

 

image

 

image

Summer Smilies

I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since my last blog post. Summer’s really moving fast, in part because we are keeping busy with family activities, and also because I’ve been involved in some really fun and exciting online author events.

First, J’Nel Wright from Deseret News reviewed The Matchup. And wow, what a thorough and thoughtful review it was! If you’d like to read it, you can find it here: Great Expectations review

Second, I belong to an LDS writers group on Facebook called LDS Beta Readers, which is run by three fabulous women. The focus for this group is mostly to help each other improve our manuscripts, ideas, and writing in general. However, our wonderful administrators orchestrated a Publishing Party in which they invited the published authors in the groups to share their books, writing and publishing experiences, and memorable moments with others. Each author was featured for one hour over the course of two weeks. I posted a few games and giveaway and answered lots of questions about my writing style and experiences. I had a blast and I also enjoyed getting to know more about other authors. The admin is already talking about doing another party down the road.

And last but not least, The Matchup will be featured along with seven other titles on Loving the Book Launch Party’s summertime reading schedule. Here is the link which you can hook up with for chances to win some prizes. Summertime Reading

From Loving the Book Launch Party’s Facebook page:

We have our new Countdown blitz with 12 Authors, 12 Books and 12 prizes! Join now for an amazing chance to; find new books to love, find new Authors to cheer on, and win amazing prizes!

Here is a look at our amazing line-up!

Day 1 (July 11) – Winning or Losing by Robert Lamoreaux
Day 2 (July 12) – The Wizard’s Heir by Devri Walls
Day 3 (July 13) – Academy of Secrets by Michael Carney
Day 4 (July 14) – Tarragon: Key Keeper by Karlie Lucas
Day 5 (July 15) – See me for me by Teya Peck
Day 6 (July 16) – DEATH UNSCRIPTED: A Trudy Genova Manhattan Mystery by Marni Graff
Day 7 (July 18) – Proposals and Poison byRachelle J. Christensen
Day 8 (July 19) – The Matchup by Laura L. Walker
Day 9 (July 20) – Rising Tide: Dark Innocence by Claudette Melanson
Day 10 (July 21) – A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe by Nanette O’Neal
Day 11 (July 22) – Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello
Day 12 (July 23) – The Suspect’s Daughter by Donna Hatch

So join in the reading fun this summer. I’ve been immersed in my own TBR list and loving it!

Let’s Beat the Heat!

imageI am soooooo happy to announce after a VERY long school year that summer vacation is here!!!!!!! Can you tell I’m excited? And not because our family has a Disneyland vacation or awesome family reunion planned. Actually, our plans are pretty low-key this year: swim, swim, swim. After several summers of trying to convince my older children to go out for the swim team only to hear them refute, I gave up asking. Then, out of the blue as the school year came to a close, my daughter told me that she wanted to be on the swim team this summer. I was elated and, as a proud parent can only do, I then turned to the next child in the pecking order and asked if he wanted to join the swim team, too. To my delight, I heard “Yes!” So with that, I wasted no time registering them, knowing that at some point, the Cinderella phase would end and the clock would strike midnight. They would realize that swimming–as opposed to playing in the water–day in and day out, is hard work. Sure enough, the first day after the kids were dismissed by the coach with a cheery “See ya tomorrow,” my son came up to me, shivering in his towel, and said, “I don’t want to come back tomorrow.”

Oh, how I love that kid! He’s so much fun to be around! But he only began swimming independently at the end of last summer so I knew it would be difficult. As for my daughter, she is inexperienced in competitive swimming compared with the other swimmers in her age bracket. She wasn’t too happy when she was required to practice with a younger group. Last night, we had a pep talk about how hard work and a good attitude can improve a person’s circumstances. I’ll admit that I also bribed these two youngsters with a treat of their choice (with a dollar limit) if they stuck out the first grueling week. My goal isn’t to see them receive a medal. My goal is to see their swimming abilities improve AND for them to learn that hard work pays off.

Ironically, I am currently writing a novel with a swimming element in it. My plot involves a high school swim team whose coach runs into some trouble with the star athlete and one very stubborn teacher. It’s a love story but it’s also so much more. I don’t know a lot about competitive swimming so I’ve had to ask my author friends to help me with certain details. They’ve been extremely kind and helpful.

I hope to complete the rough draft of this story by the end of summer and submit it to my publisher soon after. With all of the editing and rewrites I’ve done on it so far, I honestly think it’s doable. We will see what happens. I hope to have some news to share about it in the coming months. And there’s another reason I want to finish this story. Another WIP of mine has waiting not-so-patiently for me to get back to it. A newlywed couple is in trouble and I’ve got to rescue them!

The plot thickens! Hopefully, hard work WILL pay off!

The Sacred Gift of Childbirth

image

As you might glean from today’s title, this blog post is about an amazing new book written by Marie-Ange Bigelow, MT, ADVCD, who is a certified birthing doula and has assisted many new mothers in bringing their babies into this world. Her book is written with the LDS audience in mind but really, just about anyone can benefit from her knowledge and experience.

The most refreshing part of this book, for me, is the perspective that Marie-Ange gives on the very act of childbirth being a very spiritual experience because it enables a woman to feel more closely to what the Savior feels for us. She also explains how a woman’s body is designed to release certain endorphins throughout the process to help her bond more fully with her baby, especially if the baby’s birth is “natural.” I love how the author further explains the benefits of a natural birth while at the same time helping expectant mothers to accept that it’s okay if their bodies are unable to deliver their infants in this way or if they need medical intervention (she goes on to explain the difference between an expectant mother needing medical intervention as opposed to wanting it or doctors wanting their patients to use them.)

For my review purposes here, I will say a few things about my own birthing experiences while trying to keep them modest. I am a heart patient. Although I was never a candidate for a completely natural birth because of the medication I have to be on, I’ve personally experienced a birth that was as natural as possible otherwise (not my firstborn), induction with Pitocin, two epidurals, no Cesarians but an almost-Cesarian which thankfully was prevented by a neat trick that my OB doctor decided to try at the very last minute after the nurses had begun prepping my husband for the C-section (and that’s about the most description I’m giving on this very public forum concerning that birth! Lol) so even though my family is complete, I still found this book to be extremely insightful and informational for women in general. I also appreciated the fact that the author didn’t bombard the reader with a bunch of statistics but rather interspersed them to provide more clarification to her premise. Childbirth is a very special gift. We are allowed a glimpse of eternity in that sacred moment when our eyes behold the face of the tiny person we’ve been carrying inside of us for the past nine months.

I wish that every expectant mother could read this book! Two chapters in particular caught my eye: one on post partum depression which provides strategies to deal with it in a spiritual way in addition to the medical ways that most other books list and another chapter dedicated to the husband/father-to-be that lists real, integral ways that he can be a support to his wife before and after the birth. I have to add as a side note that one of my hubby’s tendencies when we were in the hospital was to watch the monitor and mentally prepare me for the next oncoming contraction. He was funny in his commentary, almost like we were watching a football game on TV and he was doing the play-by-play (because monitors show the contraction before the pain actually hits, I guess he thought it was helpful.) But you know, having my husband there for me was exactly what I needed. I hold many special memories of those times of being together in the hospital in my heart and I hope that every expectant mother can have a special person with her who provides that kind of love and support through the delivery of her child.

So even if you, like me, are already finished having your babies, I would like to encourage you to keep a copy of this book handy for the women in your life: daughters, nieces, visiting teachers, etc. It’s a terrific guide to one of the most special gifts and responsibilities that Heavenly Father has given us: that of being a mother in Israel.

image

About the author:

Marie-Ange Bigelow’s fascination with childbirth began when she was a teenager taking voice lessons. Her voice teacher had just given birth and compared delivering her child to singing a high note and holding it for a long time. Over the next decade Marie found a way to combine her love of music and her interest in childbirth as she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy, and then went on to specialize in Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth. Marie also became a certified doula and childbirth educator, and was recently awarded the prestigious Advanced Doula Designation. Marie has not only helped couples prepare for birth through her popular childbirth classes, but has supported hundreds of parents during the births of their children in hospitals, birth centers, and homes.

Marie is passionate about childbirth and positive outcomes for mothers and infants. It was this passion, along with her belief that women should be empowered by knowledge and gospel truths, that led her to write The Sacred Gift of Childbirth: Making Empowered Choices for You and Your Baby.

Along with her own childbirth-centered blog, Marie’s work has been featured in International Doula and on popular websites such as TheMommyMethod.education.com, SheKnows.com, and Parents.com. Marie and her husband, Todd, are enjoying raising their four beautiful children in Boise, Idaho. As a family they enjoy biking, traveling, music, and movie nights.

To read more about Marie, visit www.mariebigelow.com.

You can purchase Marie’s book on Amazon: Sacred Gift of Childbirth

On the Edge

Hello again! Today I’m featuring YouTube sensation Stuart Edge’s new book, On the Edge, which was an eye-opening read for me, as you might be able to tell from the cover.

image

About the book:

Everyone has had that one awful job, but Stuart Edge really had an awful job–cleaning porta-potties. As he cleaned, he dreamed of creating videos that not only made people laugh but also changed their lives. Now a YouTube sensation, Stuart shares his secrets to his YouTube success and reveals his conversion from self-conscious to confident and how being true to his beliefs made all the difference.

About the author:

Stuart Edge was earning money for college tuition by cleaning portable toilets when inspiration hit: “Make YouTube Videos That Make People Happy.” Only months later, he called his mother in a panic. “Please pray for me. I think one of my videos just went viral.” The Mistletoe Kissing Prank did indeed go viral, netting more than 27 million views to date. Several viral videos later, Stuart Edge has found fame, and possibly fortune, making people laugh. Not bad for a boy with social anxiety.

My review:

This is a must read for teenagers, parents of teenagers, and just about anyone else who feels stuck in their current situation, whether it be personal or professional. I loved how Stuart described his growing up years because that is an especially difficult time for most people. He really offers some great advice on how to cope with anxiety and feelings of not quite fitting in. He also shows a strong work ethic that paid off for him later in life. I wanted my own children to read his story so I even bought a second copy of On the Edge for them to read as well.

For me personally, I had actually never heard of Stuart Edge before I signed up for this blog tour. (But please understand that I don’t watch TV or videos much – I had never heard of Lindsay Stirling until a year and a half ago, either.) The initial reason I participated in this blog tour was that I was intrigued at how a guy cleaning porta-potties for a living could go from doing that to producing viral videos almost overnight. It’s a great read, to be sure, but what really impressed me about Stuart’s story was when he hit a professional low even after his incredible success and had to rethink the way that he was doing things. As an author trying to create entertaining stories with meaning, I’ve received my fair share of criticism from critics (whether well-meaning or otherwise) and recognized the truth in what he was saying about the role they play in ensuring that our intentions in sharing our talents with others are sincere.

You can purchase your own copy at Amazon: On the Edge

Barnes & Noble: On the Edge

Deseret Book: On the Edge

Time Out For Women

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend Time Out For Women in Tucson, Arizona with one of my closest friends, Leora. We grew up together and were, in fact, mistaken for twins at one time or another usually by opposing doubles trams in tennis during high school. Not that we looked much alike but our names were very similar. Anyway, Leora attends TOFW regularly but I had never been. This year, I didn’t want to miss out. My wonderful hubby took care of the kids overnight so that I could enjoy both sessions.

Friday night featured recording artist was Hilary Weeks, whose music I love. Her songs were beautiful as always. Sister Elaine S. Dalton, former General Young Women President, spoke and Michael McLean was the closing speaker. His heartfelt and tearful testimony was amazingly sweet and simple yet profound.

Saturday featured more special authors/speakers and musicians, including Mercy River, Emily Belle Freeman, Alissa Parker, and Timothy Ballard. What an incredible spiritual bucket-filling experience this was! I’m so glad I went. I definitely want to go again next year. If you’ve never been to Time Out For Women, I encourage you to try it out. I promise that you won’t be disappointed!

Motherhood Matters & Life is Too Short Blog Tour

 

imageToday I’m featuring two books by Connie Sokol, author, radio host, and mom extraordinaire. I have to admit that when I started reading Life is Too Short, my first thought was, “I’m not this kind of mom. I’ve never been the super organized, ultra achieving, fast-paced mom that I’m surrounded by. I don’t even like to exercise!” But really, Ms. Sokol’s message to slow down and take time for yourself applies to us all. Because even though I’m none of the above-mentioned entities, I still find myself running in circles at times with the responsibility of caring for six children. The past year has been an especially difficult year for me health wise, so I’ve really had to take this advice to heart and do what was best for me. I was intrigued by Ms. Sokol’s idea of creating what she calls a Life Board, a visual reminder of the things you want to achieve in your life or places you’d like to visit. She provides steps to then make them happen.

Motherhood Matters, I felt, is a terrific addition to this collection. In this book, Ms. Sokol has included sage parenting advice from many LDS Church leaders, including President Gordon B. Hinckley, Sister Julie B. Beck, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, and many more. She has also sprinkled some timely and powerful examples from her own life of enjoying the ride of motherhood and not getting bogged down by all the daily struggles. I personally identified with her description of her son’s struggles with Asperger’s syndrome as well as her essays titled, “Nothing is Wasted” and “When to Be at the Top of Your Game.”

Enter for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card here:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bd36101946/

image
About the Author: Connie Sokol is a mother of seven, a national and local presenter, and a regular speaker at Education Week. She is a contributor on KSL TV’s top-rated afternoon show “Studio 5” and is a regular blogger for KSL’s “Motherhood Matters.” She is a former columnist for Deseret News and Utah Valley Magazine, and former TV and radio host. Mrs. Sokol is the author of the Life is Too Short for One Hair Color Trilogy, Create a Powerful Life Plan, Motherhood Matters, and the award-nominated romance, Caribbean Crossroads. Mrs. Sokol marinates in time spent with her family and eating decadent treats.

Where to buy these books:
Motherhood Matters

Life Is Too Short Collection

Blog tour schedule:
April 18: Lisa Is A Bookworm
April 19: Laura L. Walker
April 20: Peggy Urry
Rachelle Christensen
April 21: Min Reads and Reviews
April 22: Cathy Jeppsen
Sydney Anderson

Ladies Night Out at Deseret Book

You may have heard of Ladies Night, a semi-annual event that is held at Deseret bookstores throughout the U.S. on Saturday evening of the LDS church’s General Conference during the Priesthood session. Last Saturday, April 2, 2016, I was privileged to participate in this wonderful event. This is actually the first book signing I’ve had at a Deseret bookstore. They are extremely choosy with authors, so this was a great honor for me. The book signing took place at the Deseret Bookstore in Mesa, Arizona, which is located just down the street from the Mesa Temple. Patty, the assistant manager, was very gracious and her entire staff was amazingly kind and helpful. Several women took advantage of this opportunity to come into the store and find bargains not limited to books. The place was hopping all night with shoppers and giveaways galore. I was pleased to sign several copies of The Matchup and, quite unexpectedly, meet Alec Marie in person, one of the bloggers who reviewed The Matchup during my blog tour. Alec Marie is an amazing young woman who has received her mission call to Alabama. I spoke with her mother for a few minutes. She is very proud of her daughter, who takes every opportunity to share the gospel with others. I want to be more like her!

Thanks again to the management and staff at Deseret Bookstore in Mesa for a fun, engaging evening!

And if you ever in that area and are wanting a good book to read, stop in and browse their shelves. You won’t be disappointed!

Book reviewer Alec Marie and myself at Deseret Bookstore in Mesa during Ladies Night.

Book reviewer Alec Marie and myself at Deseret Bookstore in Mesa during Ladies Night.

 

We tried to do silly faces but we just look...silly. ;)

We tried to do silly faces but we just look…silly. 😉

 

Pioneer Trek

During my 15-year-old son’s Spring Break, the youth in our LDS stake participated in a 3-day trek across rugged terrain, simulating the rough experience early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had while crossing the plains to the American West over the Rocky Mountains, mostly on foot, in the mid 19th century.

As we prepared for this trek in purchasing the clothing and camping items he needed, anticipation ran through my veins at what this experience would mean for my son. He’s the oldest in our family and being in that awkward teenage stage, doesn’t always get along with his younger brothers and sisters. I was hoping that by the end of Trek, he would come home a softer and more humble person.

But life, just like fiction, always has twists and turns. The week of Spring Break caught us off guard as first, my dad who suffered a small stroke about three years ago fell and cracked his ribs and second, my son came down with Influenza A right before he was supposed to leave on Trek. So the first part of the week was spent with family members who came from out of town as we tried to make my dad comfortable and the middle of the week spurred on a frenzy of doctor visits (my husband, Rob, was still sick with something, though we could not determine what-the doctor called it strep throat and prescribed another antibiotic) in a frantic attempt to get my men well enough to join the Trek participants by Friday, the second day, of the expedition. Rob had been asked to join them on that day for the watermelon seed spitting contest. We got our son on Tamiflu just in time for him to head up there with his dad on Friday. I wasn’t sure if he would stay or come home that day with Rob.

He stayed.

And as soon as Rob pulled into the driveway, I had to leave for a 2-hour trip that turned into three hours due to road construction for a writers meeting. Life isn’t usually this crazy for us, but sometimes everything comes to a head at once.

I have to say that even though Trek didn’t work out for my son the way I thought it would, I’m extremely proud of him for “enduring to the end.” After all, that’s part of what leaders of our church hope to accomplish by sending these young men and women out in the wild with a “ma” and “pa”. They learn how to help each other and do hard things. At one point, a few members of the company were feeling exuberant about almost “reaching Zion” when they turned a corner and were stung by a hive of bees. Their way was not easy but they stuck it out. I’m sure this is an experience they will never forget.

As a side note, my great-grandfather, Peter Howard McBride, walked across the plains when he was only four years old. What? you might ask. How can there be only four generations between present day and the 1850s in my family? My grandmother was the younger daughter of a plural wife. She had 13 children, the youngest of whom are my dad and his twin. I am the youngest daughter of my parents. So yes, only four generations span that great event of the pioneer movement in our family. Also, Peter’s father, Robert, died in present-day Wyoming on this same trek. His name was the one my son decided to take with him on Trek. I’m in awe of and very grateful for the tremendous sacrifices my ancestors gave my leaving their mother countries and traversing continents for the truthfulness of the Gospel.

Before Trek - still feeling a bit weak from the effects of the flu

Before Trek – still feeling a bit weak from the effects of the flu

After picture - he said it was harder to walk at times than to push the handcart, which broke down along the way. This was an experience he'll never forget.

After picture – he said it was harder to walk at times than to push the handcart, which broke down along the way. This was an experience he’ll never forget.