Monday, December 30, 2013

Remember Who Your Enemy Is

Valerie J. Steimle
If you recognize that statement then you have either read The Hunter Game series or saw Catching Fire; the second installment of this series which came out in theaters in December.  I saw this movie with a friend and it had a profound affect on me. 

On the way home from the theater, I thought about how that movie related to my life. My friend and I discussed how the angst in the story affected us and how we ourselves would react in a situation like the story in The Hunger Games. Would I just stand by and let others die for no good reason? Would I let government control who gets to eat and who doesn’t?  Would I let a government get so powerful as to dictate who dies and who lives and not do a thing to stop it?  I don’t think so.

I thought about all the hours I have written article after article about supporting the strength of the family. I have written about the evils of pornography, abortion, divorce and losing our freedoms and for the most part, I am not paid. So why do I do it?  Why do I spend all this time writing, writing, writing to help others understand what is really going on in our country without payment? 

I do this to remember who our enemy is. I write to tell others of the battles we are fighting in our society. I write to remind others that we should never give up on our high moral standards and keeping families intact from the filth of entertainment thrown at us from every direction. We are not fighting a battle against governments, terrorists or dictators; we are fighting a battle against the Adversary; the one who is referred to as Satan or the devil.  He is the real enemy and those who understand what is at stake needs to join the battle against evil.

A perfect example of this is from the media. Miley Cyrus and Phil Robertson both were given media attention. The young singer posed half naked on a wrecking ball and did some inappropriate body language in public, which was photographed and widely distributed. That is all you see of her. She was once a child’s TV show star and with this horrific example to the younger generation we are left speechless.   

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty makes an honest statement in a magazine interview of how he feels about another group of people and he is asked to leave the A& E show. Lucky for him the rest of the country came forth in utter disgust and told the whole Duck Dynasty crew to jump networks and keep on going.  I’m not a big fan of either but I do support family prayer and the freedom to express religious conviction. Promote the good in others. Remember who your enemy is.  

From church leader Dieter F. Uchtdorf we learn: “We would do well to slow down a little, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes and truly see the things that matter most” (General Conference October 2010). 

So for a reminder of what is important in the New Year of 2014, remember who your enemy is. We are helping our fellow man become better people. Let’s promote goodness. Let’s raise the standard of excellence in entertainment, education, and family life. Make it a great year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Transitions

You read that right. "Transitions" not "traditions."

This year, I'm understanding better than ever before the transitional nature of that first Christmas as we get ready to move. In fact, we've packed up almost everything EXCEPT Christmas and some essentials (like our computers…which will get packed, along with everything else, on the 26th).

Like Mary and Joseph, we are on the move. 

Unlike them, we have arranged for help. The movers are packing up whatever we have left (besides what we'll take with us) on the 26th and 27th. Then we have a weekend without TV, which will probably be a welcome respite as we take time to reflect on the coming year. On the 30th, the movers load up all our furniture, boxes, etc. And on the last day of 2013, we head off for our new family adventure in St. George, Utah.

Unlike Mary and Joseph, there'll be room for us in the "inn" in Burley, ID because we made reservations for us and our two cats in advance. Still, traveling in two vehicles with two cats will not be easy. Nothing like riding the back of a donkey, but probably a lot noisier.

And unlike Mary and Joseph, we don't have to flee into Egypt (no, Idaho does not count as Egypt) before settling our family in a new home.

Seriously, though, I can well imagine Mary's thoughts about the transitions and responsibilities that lay ahead for both her and Joseph as she pondered over the glorious signs and occurrences that accompanied the birth of this tiny infant, so seemingly helpless…and yet, God's Son.

I, too, am pondering what lies ahead for my family, particularly my children. I'm not so sure that infancy or adolescence presents the most challenging stage of life for our youth. I may be past fifty now, but I can still recall the loneliness, insecurity, and isolation of being a young single adult in the Church.

I pray this transition will bring joy in the new year. I believe the fact that we are making this change at Christmas time, a season of joy, is a sign of better things to come. A promise for the future not unlike the promise of the Christ child. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Whole New Perspective on Christmas

I grew up with the iconic image in my head of Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem and then giving birth to the Christ Child in a stable, surrounded by animals and streams of heavenly light. I knew the story really well and read it every Christmas Eve with my family. But it was December of 1998 that brought it all to life for me.

My first child was a little girl, a tiny little pixie child who now, at the age of seventeen, is still just over five foot tall, which drives her insane. She was always quiet, always picked up her toys - she really never gave me any fits at all.

In December of 1998, though, I was pregnant with a colt. Or a calf. I'm not sure which. But it easily could have been both. I was being kicked and pummeled and kicked some more until I was sure every rib I owned was broken. I was so, so puffy - I was doing the whole slip-on shoe thing because no regular shoe had been invented that could contain the amount of puff I was carrying. I discovered that year that I'm allergic to live Christmas trees, something that we didn't know until it was all set up and decorated in the corner of our living room and the insides of my nose were getting raw.

I had just entered into the stage of pregnancy I love best - the part where I go into a deep, deep depression and I'm positive I will be pregnant forever. As in, the child is never coming out and my stomach is just going to grow and grow until it completely takes me over. You really don't want to come near me during that last week or two of pregnancy. I can kill people. With my bare hands and the power of my gaze.

I was sitting on the couch, sniffling (because of the Christmas tree) and feeling sorry for myself (because I was never, ever going to have that baby and I'd be pregnant forever) while my daughter examined our little nativity scene. She was two and a half, and her whole little face was covered in awe as she named each of the pieces. "Wise man. Wise man. Wise man. Wise horse. Wise sheep. Wise pig." And as she sat there looking at the nativity, I looked at it too. Suddenly, I understood that story more clearly than I ever had before.

Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. 

Let me repeat myself. Mary, nine months pregnant, swollen and bloated, ready to go into labor, rode a donkey to Bethlehem. Pregnant. Donkey. 

Oh, wow.

This was Mary's first pregnancy, which means that her labor was probably longer, which means that the odds are good that she went into labor while she was on the donkey. Maybe the donkey ride sent her into labor. Regardless of how all that played out, she was very, very uncomfortable. More than I could even imagine - no one has asked me to ride a donkey ever, let alone while pregnant.

Mary had just traveled miles away from her home, and was giving birth without her mother. That would have been so hard. We don't know if there was a woman in the village who came to help, or if Joseph helped her, or if she delivered entirely by herself. Given the culture, I tend to think that Joseph didn't help her, but again, we don't know. Either way, the isolation of not having her mother or a good friend nearby must have been so hard to deal with.

And then ... it was a stable. With animals. And animal smells. And animal ... presents. Yeah. Smelly presents. 

When I looked at it from this perspective, understanding truly how hard it was for Mary to go through all that, all alone (Okay, she had Joseph, but let's be honest. Men can't understand what it's like. They can try, but they can't do it. It's not possible.) I began to think about Christ's birth from a totally different perspective. I also regarded my pregnancy differently. I wasn't riding on the back of a donkey - I was sitting on a couch. I wasn't having to deal with animals and their little surprises while trying to bring a baby into the world. I was so, so blessed to have the things I did.

And then, on December 9th, when I brought forth my firstborn son and wrapped him in a receiving blanket, I felt the joy and the wonder and the love that every mother, Mary included, feels when they look into the hazy eyes of their baby. There might not have been choirs of angels and adoring shepherds, but I felt guardian angels welcoming this new little one to the world.

We will never understand everything Mary went through. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to bring a child into the world knowing that he was destined to die for all mankind and then to rise again. Her experiences are something that the rest of us will never know firsthand. But we are united with Mary, as we are with every other woman who has ever had a child. We know those feelings of joy and wonder. We know what it's like to hold our baby for hours and watch every breath and every flutter of every eyelash. We know what it's like to ponder that child's future and wonder what lies in store for them. Mothers everywhere are united in our sorrows and in our joys.

Christmas of 1998 was the Christmas I came to know Mary. What a beautiful gift that was to me that holiday season. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Twelve Days of Christmas

by H. Linn Murphy

My family has had a storied past with the Twelve Day's of Christmas. It's 12 days worth of small little gifts mainly to show the recipient that someone is thinking about them. We love it because doing it gives us a chance to step outside ourselves at a time when selfishness can run rampant. Kids actually go ga-ga over being the runners. Ours used to fight over who got to carry the gift and who got to ring the bell.

I lived in Oregon for a year or two after high school. My parents had a home there for eight years. Everyone knew them. And let's just say my mom is very outgoing. We had a different family over for scones every single Sunday when we first moved up there. Mom's friends ranged across a broad spectrum, from little old widow ladies and homeless people to a Romanian man who taught Mr. Steinway's son how to build pianos.

After some years, they moved down to sunny Arizona, leaving my sister and I to clear up loose ends. One of those ends happened to be Patricia, one of Mom's widow friends. We knew she was desperately lonely, so L and I decided to do the Twelve Days of Christmas for her. We went down and bought things we figured a lady in her situation would like and could use: fruit, fluffy slippers, cans of soup, a back scratcher, and Bing Crosby Christmas music to name a few.

Every day, starting the 13th of December we'd sneak over and take turns dropping off a gift at her door, ring the doorbell, and bail. The other would hide and watch the door if they could. Often there wasn't anybody home, so we'd have a nice leisurely jaunt to the car.

One day nearly at the end of those twelve days L dropped something and dinged and ran back to me. Just as she dove behind the bush I was occupying, the door opened. A youngish pregnant woman bent down and picked up the gift. In a loud voice she said, "I don't know who you are, but Patricia moved. You should come get the gifts we didn't already eat." L and I sheepishly retrieved the inedible presents, vowing to call Mom and find out where our target moved.

And here we thought we'd been so sneaky. That's half the fun, though. And if you can see their face, it's all the payment you need. Most of the time we try so hard not to get caught that we don't have the opportunity to watch. Still, we can be assured that at least one corner of the world got a little brighter that Christmas.

So now I've got to go put the rest of the groceries away and stash that little box of orange Jello my new target said she liked in my bag o' 12 Days stuff.

You have two days to plan yours, Ladies. Or you did when I wrote this. Now you're a little late, but nobody dictates whether you can spread the cheer after the frenetic holidays are over and everybody's kicking back like a portly lady taking off her girdle. And by the way, you don't have to wear a suit. In fact, we favor ninja clothes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Path to Publishing Success

Years ago, the only way to get your book read by anyone was to secure a deal with a traditional  New York publisher. My how things have changed!  

These days there are more than one path to take. There are traditional publishers, indie publishers, and,thanks to the electronic age, self-publishing. With one touch of a button, your book can be available for millions to download and read.

It seems the question for us writers isn't so much of 'when' or 'if' we will get published, but 'how?"

Is one path better than another? Which path should I pursue? How do I know which way to go, which path to take?

With the explosion of ebooks, anyone can publish a book, and some are very successful at it. You retain creative control and all the rights. But you also have full responsibility to edit, polish, and market your book like there's not tomorrow. With the thousands of ebooks out there, it takes a loud voice to be heard. It's easier to publish this route, but can be harder to sell a large number of books.

On the other hand, with a traditional publisher, it is really hard to get on with one. Query letters, slush piles, pitch sessions, months of waiting, rejection. It can be emotionally exhausting! But, if you do get signed on, chanced are your book will get in front of A LOT of people.  However, in most cases you give up a lot of control--they typically have the last say regrading the title, cover, final edit of your book, release date, and marketing/promotion.  But, chances are, they will get your book in front of more people than you could on your own.

Then there are indie publishers that fit happily between.

The big question is: Which path do you take?

David Farland (one of my literary heroes) wrote a wonderful article about the path to publishing success here

Author Mike Resnick told Mr. Farland: “If you look at any five successful authors, you’ll find that each of them took a different route to success.”

So how do we choose which path to follow?

Regarding electronic self publishing, Mr. Farland says: 

Some people are getting rich by self-publishing, yet when you try that, the field is glutted with books that used to get tossed from the slush pile. It’s hard for self-published authors to gain an audience, and it will grow harder.

Add in the problems with uncertainty about paper book sales in the future, and the landscape becomes hazier. Will my traditional publisher keep most of the profits from my novel for the rest of my life? Is that fair? Is the small amount of money that they pay in advance worth the trade?

Will there even be bookstores in America in ten years? My suspicion is that no, not on the scale that there are now. Do you see stores that still sell VCR’s (if you’ve been alive long enough to even know what I’m talking about)? Ten years ago, there was a DVD rental store on nearly every block, but now they are almost all gone. Why? 

Destructive technology. There was an old way of doing things, and there is a new way of doing them. My wife is home from work sick today, and she’s watching “Skyfall” on Netflix. Now, we own the DVD. She could go rummage through the basement and hunt for it. But it was easier to just turn on Netflix. Electronic delivery of movies is the wave of the future. Redbox, the last vestige of DVD rental stores, is already on its way out. Their selection is poor and getting worse.

How much more cumbersome is a book than a DVD? Lots. When I went to China to work three years ago, twenty DVDs took less space than a hardcover novel. Fortunately, I had my iPad, so I could take books.

My point is, the book industry is facing destructive technology. I doubt that in its current form, the book industry will last another twenty years.

This last year, 55% of all sales were electronic. In 18 months, every school in America should provide children with tablets to read from. When that happens, the paper book market as we know it should dry up.

When we reach the point where 80% of all book sales have gone to tablets, the box stores will all but disappear—other than the occasional “boutique” store.

So as an author I’m in a tough spot. I love good old-fashioned paper books, much in the way that I loved my VCR tapes. But I don’t think that they will be with us much longer. Electronic delivery is faster, easier, and more economical.

To this, Mr. Farland adds:

With some fields, self-publishing is the preferred way to go. If you’re writing romance or self-help books, you don’t need a publisher.

So what about traditional publishing?

But if you’re breaking in as an author today, does that mean that you should ignore traditional publishers? Not necessarily.

If you are looking to jump start your career, traditional publishers still have a lot to offer, particularly if you’re trying to break into some major markets, such as middle-grade, young adult, and the thriller market. Even as paper books dry up, it may be that publishers will take the lead in marketing new novels, so that the biggest hits are still selected by purchasing editors, manuscripts still get massaged, and professional marketers push the books.

When we stand at the fork in the road, with our beloved manuscript in hand, and we ask ourselves, which way is the right way? The answer from Mr. Farland is this:

If I have one piece of advice for you, it’s this: Don’t look for “the path” to publishing success. If you’ve ever had to negotiate through a swamp, you know that paths usually turn into muddy bogs at one point or another. Often the best way to your goal is to pick your own track the best you can—looking for one strong foothold at a time, watching out for the snakes and alligators (agents and publishers) leaping out of sinkholes when you need to, and always keeping one eye on your goal.

At first I was kinda bummed. I was looking to the writing guru (who has published more than 50 books) to answer my question, to tell me which way to go. But as I pondered his answer more, I understood more that he is right. There isn't' 'one path' to publishing success.

What works for one writer may not work for another. What works today may not work tomorrow.

There is not one path to guaranteed success.

But, there is one thing that can guarantee success. It is what my husband told me over and over again. He said, "The only way you will fail is if you stop trying."

It isn't so much that path you choose, but the decision to take step after step, and never stop.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What is Christmas?

The other day we put up decorations for Christmas. I was so excited to see the lights go up and all the little decorations come out of their boxes. One of the things I collect are nativity scenes, so I arranged them all on the shelf by the door. My family has another tradition of placing a small nativity in the center of the tree to remind us that Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus Christ.

Over the years I thought I'd been doing a great job stressing the true meaning of Christmas, but it seems I dropped the ball with my littlest. I buy window decals for the little ones to stick in all the windows so that they feel like part of the decorating team. This year I was excited to find a nativity scene. While my littlest put up the other decals, I worked on placing the nativity high up in the window so that it could be seen by those outside. When we were done I stepped back to admire my work. My son came up behind me and said, "That doesn't look very Christmasy."

Oh the horror! I asked him why we celebrate Christmas, and he knew the answer, phew. Then he added, but it doesn't have Santa or snowmen or lights to make it look Christmasy. I think he sees Christmas as two events that happen on the same day. I have some work to do. - Dorine

Monday, December 9, 2013

A spot of news and nostalgia

Sometimes it's easy to long for days gone by. To get nostalgic for the way things were way, way back when. But the fact is life, society, technology changes. And with it so does everything else. In this article by David Farland he does a great job of illustrating why the writer of today has to seek out the one break out novel. They can't count on the slow and steady build up that would one day lead to being a leading author. The market wants the one big book. Moreover, this article on how the numbers shake out for writer's earnings in the last year, makes it pretty clear that most of us plodding along, unless we write the next NYT BEST SELLER, are more likely to need a day job. 
The advent of new technologies that made it possible to just get your stuff out there through Createspace and Smashwords, has also made the way to a career or even a relatively lucrative hobby via writing more unclear than ever. 
The market though was always fickle. Living as an artist carries inherent risks. Yet, despite the ebb and flow of public tastes, economic forces, and the availability of space in the market, still writers write.
We persevere despite the changing tides, the disappointments and set backs.
I just learned that my first novel, The Accidental Apprentice, will not be released until July 2014. It makes me a little sad. It also makes me relieved to have more time to prime and polish before it goes out into the world. (also more time to tackle other projects like ANWA Time Out for Writers) Moreover it will be perfect summer reading whether you are out and about or hiding from the heat like we do in AZ. 
And this sort of thing is not new either. Deadlines get pushed, time tables shift, money that should have been available for marketing goes somewhere else. As someone with an all or nothing mindset, living in this kind of constant ambiguity is the stuff of nightmares. My writers, and I dare say my fellow mothers, how do you cope with the vagaries of living as an artist? 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where to Start Your Story

"Your story really starts in the fifth paragraph," I said. "Everything that comes before that is backstory, but this," I pointed, "this particular sentence is where something changes, where the excitement begins. Take out those first four paragraphs, and I'll show you where to weave bits of them back in to the rest so that your reader has exactly enough information." 

Our second son is applying to colleges right now, and one prestigious film program that he'd love to attend requires a three-page short story as part of the application. He had a fascinating idea for the story, and after he drafted it, he gave it to me to look it over. As I read, his writing impressed me, but I immediately knew how he could make the story a thousand times better. I told him so.

He made the changes I suggested, and guess what? I was right (always a banner moment for a mother of teenagers).  He then asked me how I knew where the story should really start.

"What you did is very common," I answered. "Every writer I know struggles with getting the beginning exactly right. But knowing where to start and where to end--those are key skills for any storyteller."

Even Hemingway acknowledged this weakness--and I'm not even sure it IS a weakness, as long as we realize that the first pages of any story we write often should be discarded eventually. When we fill those first, fresh pages with words, we're just getting warmed up. We're articulating what we, the writers need to know about our plots, our settings, and our characters. We're finding our voice. We need to get the backstory out on paper, to make it flesh--as long as we know that we then need to be subtle about when to let that flesh show. 

When I was nine, I desperately wanted to read The Hobbit, but I couldn't get past the first few pages. I tried several times, not giving up because all my friends were reading it, and I wanted to be in on the secret. Finally--and I don't know where I got the idea to do this--I skipped the first chapter and started reading the second chapter, whereupon I was instantly hooked and got through the rest of the story with ease and huge enjoyment. Later, when I was fully invested in the world of Middle Earth, I went back and read that first chapter. 

Once I finished The Hobbit, I started The Lord of the Rings, and encountered the same problem. But this time, I skipped the first chapter almost immediately--and later, when I was evangelizing non-stop to others about the series, I'd counsel them, "Skip the first chapter until you're really into the story. Then go back." 

But admissions officers--and many of today's readers--don't have that kind of patience (nor should they, in the case of the admissions officers). And most of us writers don't have the prestige of a last name like "Tolkien" to persuade readers to stick with us through an avalanche of information that they don't yet care about knowing. In a world of ever-decreasing attention spans, we need to hook our readers right away. And it can be a little, subtle hook; it just needs to be an effective hook. I recently read an article in which the author wondered how Tolkien would have revised his manuscript after getting feedback from today's agents and editors. Would Gandalf storm through Frodo's door on page one, demanding, "Is it safe?" Maybe so. 

What's the trick to finding your beginning? First of all, don't worry about it while you're drafting. Anxiety over where and how to begin will keep you from actually starting. But once you're through that first draft, you can go back and fix things. Remember what Anne Lamott says--it's literally infinitely easier to revise a [bad] draft than a nonexistent draft. 

Second, read other great, recently written openings of both short stories and novels and dissect them. (I specify "recently written" because writing an opening the way Tobias Smollett or Agatha Christie would probably isn't going to fly these days.) What's the balance of dialogue and narrative? How quickly are you immersed in the voice and style and tone of the story? Read good writing and copy it (not literally, of course). That's not wrong; great writers have been doing just--reading and imitating--for centuries. 

Third, many times you need other eyes to see the real beginning. You've created this world. You think you know everything about it--but you don't. You're too close to it, like a mother who can't see the defect in her precious child that is painfully obvious to everyone else. Ask a critique partner and another writer and someone who reads a lot to read your first few pages. Likely, they'll point to a moment where the world changes, or where the protagonist is in trouble or encounters something new. We may not have noticed the subtle shift in the narrative, but fresh eyes often will. 

Fourth, be conscious of your story's arc. An arc is more or less symmetrical, so look to your end to know how your beginning should be shaped. (And sometimes the reverse is true.) In the case of my son's draft, his last sentence revealed a clever twist that shed light on the entire story--so he worked to make sure the beginning would allow that ending to pay off as satisfyingly as possible. 

Fifth, don't give up. Keep working on it until it's right. If it takes twenty revisions, so be it. If writing well were easy, everyone would be doing it. I'm a big knitter, and I know from hard experience that beginnings are challenging (though there are challenges and pitfalls all along the way). I'm getting used to the yarn; I'm setting the foundation of the pattern. There's a lot of ripping out and starting over; it's just part of the process. Writing is the same way. We may be tempted after a lot of struggle to just leave it as it is, and hope that others won't notice the flaws. Trust me: they will. Get your beginning exactly right, so that your story has the very best chance of being read all the way to the very end. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I can't believe it is already December!  November really flew by.  I can't believe that it is the first Monday of December and my Christmas tree is not decorated- gasp!  I am one of those goofy people who think Thanksgiving should be allowed a time of its own to be the holiday. So we don't do Christmas till December, but the lights and decorations take so long to put up and take down, it is wasted if you don't have them up the whole month- besides they are pretty and fun and I love Christmas time even more than Thanksgiving.

So I am sitting here in disbelief and mildly stressed that I did not fulfill this one family tradition- decorating the tree for our first family night of December.  The kids noticed, well the little ones did. My plans got derailed and it got too late, too fast.  Dad was not stressed about it at all, just thought it best to get them into bed- my race horse instinct kept kicking in, telling me-"You can do it. Keep trying."  Maybe I could have but I put the kids to bed promising tomorrow. My eight-year old cried.

In the grand scheme of things, missing this one day won't have a long term effect on our tradition (I hope). The tree will be decorated tomorrow.  The boxes are in the living room and my three- year old and fifteen- month old have proven how efficient they are at covert seek and destroy missions.  Mystery boxes full of pretties are too much of a temptation.  With that kind of pressure, it is a done deal.  So I am trying to relax.

I love traditions.  When my husband and I went through training to become foster parents, one of the things we were encouraged to do was to share our traditions.  Traditions give you roots. They help put things in perspective and that helps make life easier to deal with and more pleasant.

Over the years we have passed on traditions from our childhood homes, created new ones specific for our family or for the year or the circumstances.  Some have changed slightly or been altered completely to accommodate our family's growth.  I love that my six- year old knows that today is tree-decorating day without being told and that she is excited about it and will be ready to go at it tomorrow.  Maybe my kids will forget that we missed the day this year and just remember that we got it done and it was beautiful.  I love that my fifteen-year old and twelve-year old know how to make fudge and have done so already- YES!  I love the Christmas music they play on the piano and various other instruments.  I love that they join me when I randomly start singing Christmas carols or songs.  I do not love shopping, never have but I love taking my kids out one by one so they can find a gift for a sibling.  We have friends who only make gifts to give for Christmas and I think that is AWESOME!  Some day I might be organized and mature enough to try that one but for now I am okay with shopping.

My dad used to give my sisters and me each some money and take us to the store so we could buy gifts for the family.  It was great because we always wanted to get that one thing we knew a sister, Mom or Dad would love.  Being young and living fifteen miles out of town made it impossible without his help.  Dad was great at teaching us to think about others.  He only had three girls at home at that time.  We have nine so we have altered it to fit us.  We draw names, then I take one child out at a time and let them choose something.  It is wonderful how well they have gotten to know each other's interests. likes and wishes.  It is great for me to have that time with them. What is great about it is not the things we buy so much as the thought that goes into the purchase- kind of like O. Henry's  The Gift of the Magi- well we are not sacrificing heirloom watches or hair, but the idea of knowing and loving the person in order to give a good gift is the same.

Which brings up another tradition, the Christmas stories- the accounts of Christ's birth in the scriptures, A Christmas Carol and a multitude of other small, warm, fuzzy Christmas stories.  Well, I missed the target tonight, but I have the rest of the month to make up for it.  There is still plenty of tradition to go.
I hope you all have a magical Christmas season enjoying your own traditions. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Newest writer for our blog...

We must bid a fond farewell to Margaret Turley who is busy with her writing and her fight for cancer project which I'm sure helps so many people.  Good luck in all of your endeavors, Margaret.


Let's give a big welcome to Tristi Pinkston who is our latest contributor.

Here is something about Tristi and her links....  (how does she have time for all of that..I don't know) but I look forward to reading her posts....

Tristi Pinkston:

Tristi Pinkston is the stay-at-home, work-at-home mom of four wildly creative children who keep her on her toes as she attempts, bravely, to homeschool them, knowing full well they're smarter than she is. Tristi is the author of over twenty published books ranging from LDS historical fiction to cozy mystery to nonfiction. She is also a full-time freelance editor and author mentor, and presents regularly at writers conferences up and down the Wasatch Front (Utah). She sits on the board of directors for iWriteNetwork and has just started up a publishing company, Trifecta Books. She may or may not be willing to admit to a small addiction to television shows such as Dancing with the Stars, The Biggest Loser, and The Adventures of Merlin.