Fresh Prince on Friendship

Will Smith did this awesome video about evaluating who your friends are.  It is so important for everyone, particularly young people as they learn to navigate the world.  I’ve been talking to my kids a lot about this over the last year.  Each of them has had situations where they needed to examine aspects of themselves and the part their friends play in helping or detracting from that.

It applies to everyone though.  As a young adult, mid twenties, I met a woman who was toxic to me.  I was friends with her for a year and it was unhealthy.  Sadly, I can’t say I became stronger and put boundaries in place.  I just happened to move.  I would handle that situation differently now, but I look back on that time and see all the red flags.

Friends are important.  Choose wisely.



Photo by Jimil Prajapati on Unsplash

Hands on History

I had a fun opportunity a couple weeks ago to attend a field trip with my fourth grader.  This year in school they learned about the pioneers.  We live in Utah and the pioneers who settled here are a big deal.  They overcame a lot and are an example of perseverance and hard work.

The kids got to dress up as pioneers for the day and were bused to a park where 13 stations were set up.   Each station having to do with what life would be like as a pioneer.  It was amazing.  The amount of volunteers alone was impressive.  I signed up to be a chaperone of one of the groups, so I got to see every station.  They are as follows:

  1. Games – three games were shown here.  One was arm wrestling.  The second was where you lay on your back, shoulders together but your body is laid out in the opposite direction.  Then you lift up your leg three times and on the third you hook your legs together and see who can get the other to flip over.  The third was where you sit facing each other, holding onto the same stick and you have to see who can pull the other over.
  2. Sewing – learned to sew a button onto a piece of fabric.
  3. Sawing – yes, they had actual two man saws that the kids got to use to cut logs.
  4. String games – a piece of string, tied together at the end, where you learned to make a witches broom (my favorite), cup and saucer, hat, and the Eiffel tower.
  5. Quilting – two beautiful quilts laid out on the table and each person got to sew up a square with corn kernels, so each kid went a way with a bean bag.
  6. Butter making – learned to make butter and took turns shaking it.
  7. Scones – Got to take their freshly made butter and go make scones. The dough was already prepared and they needed to stretch it out, then it was fried and given back.  Slather some butter and honey and boom! – total tastiness.
  8. Yo Yo’s – Got to learn how to make a yo yo out of a button and string.
  9. Horse shoes – played a game of horse shoes.
  10. Fudge – got to hear a pioneer story as they passed around a ziplock bag with all the ingredients inside, squeezing it as they went.  By the time the story was done, fudge was made and then eaten.
  11. Marbles – learned the traditional way of playing marbles.
  12. Punch – they took a round piece of metal, put a picture of an animal on it and hit the dots, that made up the animal, through the paper with hammer and nail.  Then got a nice metal picture.
  13. Hunting – used rubber band guns to hit pictures, taped to a tarp, of the animals they would have hunted during the time period.

Everyone had a blast.  This is the kind of hands on learning that really stays with kids.  My son was so excited for this activity.  They had learned about the pioneers and already did a performance for the parents about the history of Utah.   The teachers continued to teach about these trailblazers and created projects where the kids had to decide what they would take with them to travel across the plains.  All of the lessons before hand prepared them to really appreciate this field trip.

Everyone knows history is important, we learn from past mistakes and successes, as well as gain empathy and connection.  The enthusiasm that this activity brought reaches further.  Having been shown the joy that comes from knowing about others and what their lives were like, they now have an experience they can lean on as they venture forth in the world.  They’ll have been shown the joy that can come from learning of people – including those who are still living, about people’s different cultures and communities.  I am hopeful that these kids will be more interested in those around them and be willing to gain knowledge from the life stories and perspectives of others.


Photo by Jon Toney on Unsplash

LeVar Burton Lecture

The Power of Storytelling.  That was the title of the lecture LeVar Burton gave at Utah Valley University on May 16th.  I was eager to hear his words and get re-energized about my chosen craft.

As I waited with my friends for the lecture to start, the atmosphere was one of anticipation.  Excitement seemed to exude from every individual, uniting us in our complete and utter geeking out.  It was beautiful.  That’s a pretty powerful impact that the man has.

Despite my giddiness I took quite a few notes. I thought I’d share them here, so you too can be influenced for good by this wise storyteller.


The Power of Storytelling Notes (added some info to help it read smoother for you all)

He started by saying, “A life long learner I consider to be a … dangerous individual.”  He said that it’s a good thing, it means they are more likely to reach their full potential.

Literacy – helps with critical thinking.  Critical thinking  helps it so someone can make complex ideas in simple form.

When we do this it automatically involves STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math).  But he prefers STREAM!

Science, Technology, READING, Art, Math!


When he was eight years old he wanted to be a priest.  Priests were his more positive male role models and they didn’t pay taxes =cP

Then later he discovered storytelling.  “…Storyteller- that is who I am.”

Storytellers can create access to parts of human beings – a connection that makes us realize our power – the power of imagination.

Imagination is what has propelled us forward in our human journey.

Sci-fi helps us contemplate “What if?”  We literally release our super power.

What we imagine and what we create are linked.

Then gave examples of things imagined on Star Trek that came into being like the flip phones, Uhura’s earpiece (bluetooth), and tablets.

What we focus on in our imagination is what we manifest in the human realm.

It is in our DNA to be storytellers.  We must ask ourselves, “What will my particular contribution be?”

He mentioned how he literally lived in a time where we (African Americans) called each other when people of color were on tv.  It is important to see ourselves in popular culture.  It is critical to self image – sends a message that you do not matter when it isn’t there.

It takes two for a successful storyteller.  A storyteller and a story-listener.  Discernment as a listener is important.  A knife is either a weapon or a tool depending on the person who wields it.

Words/self-talk/intentions/social media – we are all in a constant storytelling mode.

He then spoke of his mother.  He said whenever he has a chance to say her name in public, he does.  Erma Jean Burton.  We all applauded.  He then shared that she died six months ago.  He always saw his mother reading.

Reading is as important as breathing in the human experience.

His mother had standards and consequences, hopes and expectations for him- so he knew the value of being educated.  She made sure he knew that there were no limits except those you put on yourself.


He spoke of the miniseries he was in called Roots and shared this intense scene in the show.  It was him, playing Kunta Kinte, where he is hung up by his hands.  One of the other slaves is whipping him as the taskmaster is trying to make him say his new name, Toby.  It is an intense scene as you see the young man defy them, saying his true name over and over and each time being whipped for it.  Eventually Kunta does say his name is Toby, the boy no longer able to withstand the punishment for his insistence.  He’s cut down after he says it a second time.  Another slave comes to him and puts Kunta’s head in his lap, and speaks to him – telling him it doesn’t matter what others call him, “you know who you are.”

He spoke about the before and after experience of this miniseries.  That it became a communal experience and greater understanding arose all because of one family’s story.  Was very dynamic – the very nature of storytelling where it is on a conscious and sub-conscious level.

This is one example of the impact of storytelling.  He then spoke of the moving pictures and sound and the benefit of reaching people in the ways that they are most receptive.  Some are kinesthetic, audio, visual.

Do not underestimate the influence of video games in storytelling.  Video games is more powerful than you can imagine – cause you are living it!

We came after people who sacrificed – where we can be accepted as a child of God and know we are worthy of the dignity and respect that every human deserves.

Education = Technology and Storytelling

Want everyone to have access to education that resonates with them – and is student driven.

We are moving to more digital forms of education.  Noted that there will be fewer books printed – moving to more digital because, if nothing else, making books out of trees isnt’ sustainable.

All media is educational, the question is what are we teaching?  Digital devices can remove the lens of when and where education takes place.  It can revolutionize how we teach.


Talked briefly about music in storytelling. The impact of the song Testify.  He then shared three phrases, but I’m afraid I missed the connection.  Could be lessons he learned from the song?  Not sure.

Be still – to feel God

Stand in love – only sane response to being human

Pay attention – might miss something critical for your personal story.

It was a fantastic lecture and he was actually super funny.  I just don’t think I can translate the jokes that well to paper =c)


Photo by: Lorna Jane

The Joy of Editing

I used to despise editing.  In my mind I separated it from writing.  Putting something down on paper for the first time is fun.  The thrill of not even knowing yourself what will happen next!  The feeling of inspiration.

I edited anyways, but in hind sight I see that — in the beginning — I often did bare minimum. I didn’t want to really do the work. I wanted to get started on something new and unknown.  But as I began to hone in on my craft I discovered something wonderful. A realization that editing is a beautiful opportunity.  It’s not something to rush through. It’s not something to dread.  It’s this unique time to look at your characters, setting, plot, theme, and voice all with new eyes. A time to make the written art better. It is work, but it is a joyful aspect of the writing process.

I can’t tell you when I switched to enjoying the editing aspect.  I was sitting at my laptop, my rockstar to one side with two copies of my manuscript — full of edits — on the other, whittling away at the words.  Then a particular edit got my attention and in that moment I realized I had passed the stages of editing dread.  That I relished it, felt grateful for it, and that it too can give me that thrilling feeling.  What a gift it is to refine the work and in so doing create a new experience for myself and the reader, one that is more compelling and enriching.


During the last few weeks two editing tips came up multiple times as I worked.  Each time I felt gratitude for the lesson of them and that I was FINALLY catching on after years of practice.

One: Don’t be afraid to delete things.  Your writing won’t get better if you are too afraid to delete lines/paragraphs/pages of your work and, in truth, you have something better inside you…it just takes practice.  (There’s another lesson here too – knowing when to leave things alone, but that’s for another day!)  I used to feel the need to save the parts I was deleting in a different file, but I have since learned it’s okay to let the words go.  I’ve deleted a lot of good lines and replaced them with ones that fit better for a character or a scene.  They may not be written as pretty but I’m glad they are there instead, and I’m glad I didn’t save all the things I have deleted.  I don’t need those clogging up my writing files 😉

Two:  Take editing advice in stride.  I LOVE seeing what is coming across and what isn’t from a reader.  That being said, they may mention doing something drastic when it can be fixed more subtly (or vice versa!).  This lesson I learned from Orson Scott Card.  I took a two day workshop from him and this was huge.  He gave the example of Ender’s Game.  The editor said that the novel was too long and that Card needed to cut the book in half.  Instead, Card looked at it and merely took out one of the battle room scenes.  The editor had thought it needed to be cut significantly, what Card realized was that it had too many of that particular kind of scene.  This made the story feel long.  Card gave it back to the editor and he loved it.  Card didn’t even mention that the editor was “wrong” because in reality the editor told him exactly what was needed by showing the symptom of the problem.   This lesson was huge for me because I grew up having a difficult time trusting myself.  I assumed that everyone else knew best.  I’ve grown though, and this time around it was a pleasant discovery to notice that I could read comments and not automatically do as they said.  Instead I worked through them.  Sometimes I did exactly as the edits said and other times I was able to see where the real problems were because of the direction my beta readers gave, then fixed those.

Doing both of these things really helped increase my ability to use editing to my advantage.

I have now finished the third round of edits on a science fiction novel.  It’s so much better now than it was when I started.  I have beta readers to thank for that.  I sent it off to four more readers and no doubt I will have much to improve upon its return, and I’m good with that.



Photo by Michał Grosicki on Unsplash

Don’t Be A Warm Body

Tonight I am remembering a piece of advice that I will always be grateful for.

My husband, youngest daughter, and I went to a book signing for Brandon Sanderson.

My husband, Tod, asked him, “What can I do to help support my wife in her writing?”

Brandon told him to give me at least four hours, twice a week, of non interrupted time to write.  If he did that, I’d have at least one book finished once a year.  This made Tod very happy since he was already giving me this time and more.

Brandon then turned to me.  I remember his tone so perfectly in my head, lighthearted but serious.  “Now you,” he began, “When you are with them, be with them.” He then explained further.  He basically told me to enjoy being with my family when I’m not writing.  To not be thinking about my stories, lost in my own world, when I needed to be present – both in body and mind – for them.  He said he knew writers whose relationships ended because they couldn’t leave “it” alone when they needed to be in the moment.

My family is giving me time and opportunity to live my dreams and I certainly want to really be with them when I’m not working.  Tonight this advice comes to me as I am closing up my work for the evening.  I feel eager to start again, but I know tomorrow I have an event at the high school which will take up my entire day.  So I end this night remembering to be present so that tomorrow the experience will yield a time of bonding instead of me just being a warm body in the crowd.



Photo by Andriy Babarytskyi on Unsplash

Hand Adventures Part 2

With all my hand/wrist/elbow problems I figured I could share a few things that I’ve done to help minimize pain.

Some of these things I wish I thought of before. I have no doubt I wouldn’t have ended up with a problem so quickly if I had been mindful.  So, perhaps reading this will help you to avoid some issues as well.

  • This is the ultimate one.  POSTURE!  Seriously, good posture will help your shoulders, your back, AND your arms/hands as you type.  I’m certain that I am in this boat because I had terrible posture while typing on my bed for hours on end. Practice it as much as possible.  I’m still reminding myself!
  • Make sure your hands and elbows are level with your keyboard, or that your elbows are higher than your hands.
  • A paraffin wax machine works great for immediate relief.  My friend was a sign language interpreter and she had one for those long days translating.  She let me borrow hers and it is wonderful.  You dip your hands in the warm wax and it hardens when you take your hands out.  Then leave it on for a few minutes as the heat calms your aches.  This was a lifesaver.
  • Keep your hands laid out flat as you sleep.  No curling or tucking them under your chin.  I’ve learned to sleep on my back for this and there was a definite difference for me.
  • Massage therapist.  This one gets pricey and I didn’t do it for long.  But a good neck, shoulder and hand massage is wonderful.  Only down side for me was I thought I could take on the world and so needed to resist the temptation of using my hands after.
  • Yoga. Not the ones where you put pressure on your hands.  Instead I do positions that help straighten the back, stretch the neck/back/arms.  It’s been very helpful and I find that I am more mindful of my posture throughout the day if I do it in the morning.
  • Do hand stretches!

These things have been extremely helpful to me in managing my carpal tunnel.*

Also, as a resource, here are a couple items my husband looked into getting for me.  We would have gone this route if the specialist hadn’t discovered so quickly what was really going on with my hands.

One is  I’ve seen it in action and it’s impressive.  We would have totally spent the $300 to get it.  It’s basically a speak to text software that is very responsive. Way better than the one on my phone I use to text, that’s for sure.

Second, to go along with that, we looked at a foot mouse.  These were interesting to research.  I never considered that something like this existed until my husband brought it up.

There was no way I was going to go on much longer without getting my writing work done.  I’m glad we didn’t have to go this route, but I’m also glad these are options out there.


*I am not a medical professional so if you have any symptoms or concerns make sure to check with your doctor.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Hand Adventures Part 1

At the beginning of this year I made some very specific goals.  One was to finish the second draft of my newest novel by the end of February.  In my mind, I figured I could finish and send it out to beta readers, making it so I would get edits/input back by the end of March.  This would ensure that I could edit and send it out to more beta readers by May, get it back by June, and edit again.  All in plenty of time to then send it out to professionals and, hopefully, hear back by the end of the year.

I finished the second draft on time. I power housed it.  I sat on my bed and  focused like crazy over the weekend making it so I reached my goal.  It felt great.  However, that high didn’t last long.  Literally the next day, my right hand began giving me problems. By the end of the week both of my hands hurt.  I couldn’t use them.  But it was not only my hands, I’d feel a pain going all the way up to my elbows and sometimes in my upper arms.

I rested for over a month.  No cleaning and no cooking.  I had people tell me that it must be wonderful to have a break, and “don’t tell my wife that” etc.  Each time I tried to explain to them that it’s really not as great as it sounds.  I couldn’t do the necessities (which I wanted to do in the sense that I wanted to take care of my family), but I also couldn’t do things I enjoyed.  I couldn’t hike, or even go on a walk since the sway of my arms was enough to hurt my hands.  I couldn’t read since holding a book open would start aches that grew quickly into pain.  Most importantly, I couldn’t type, so the new novel that I was planning on starting while beta readers were busy, didn’t get underway. Many a day I laid in bed, distraught.  My job was to rest.  That and administer ice packs on both my hands on a regular basis.

My hands didn’t seem to be getting better and they hurt in different places depending on what I was doing.  So, I took the plunge and after a month I went to the doctor.  I did two in-office carpal tunnel tests.  After those, he agreed with what we thought it must be. *Tendinitis.  This meant all the resting I’d done was exactly what I should have been doing.  So, I continued on trusting that if I took good care of them, my hands would feel better in a few months.  I didn’t do anything except drive my kids to and from school, all while wearing braces to help support my wrists.

Months later, I was still having issues.  I went to the doctor again and he sent me to a specialist.    The specialist told me my symptoms “SOUND like tendinitis, but LOOK like **carpal tunnel.”  This made him send me in for a nerve test.

The day of the nerve test came.  The result… MILD carpal tunnel.  Mild?  It didn’t feel mild.  Basically he said there might be more wrong with me, but a good start would be surgery in both my hands.   I decided I should rule out a couple things, just in case, since so many things can be related.   I went back to my regular doctor for blood work.  It all came back normal.  Surgery it is.

The plus side is that because it is “mild” I should be able to have this surgery and not have a problem for the rest of my life.  This is a huge relief.  Another benefit is that the recovery isn’t even bad.  It will be same day surgery and I’ll be able to use my hands quickly afterward; and yes, I did ask how soon it would be before I could type.  He said I could technically start that day, but waiting a couple days wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I’ll be having surgery before the end of the year is through.  Until then, the answer the doctor gave me was to pop some ibuprofen and use my hands despite the pain.  Not exactly ideal, but so much better than being told not to work.

I did discover a few things that have been helpful on this journey that I’ll be sharing in another post.  For now, I’m just thrilled to be editing again.


* Tendinitis is the condition where the tissue connecting muscle to bone is inflamed.

** Carpal tunnel is when you have a pinched nerve in the wrist causing your hand/arm to have a numbness or tingling sensation.

I am not a medical professional so if you have any symptoms or concerns make sure to check with your doctor.


Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash

NaNoWriMo – It’s For Everyone

It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Most of my friends aren’t writers.  Not in the sense of “let me sit down and write a 50,000 word novel in a month.”  I get that. However, NaNoWriMo to me is simply about writing.  Getting thoughts down on paper.  Yes, technically it’s a goal of getting a full novel done.  Yes it helps upcoming writers learn discipline, to plan out their time more deliberately, as well as keep a writer focused.  Let alone the simple fact that writing takes practice and it’s a great opportunity for lots of that.  All good things, even if you write just for yourself as a hobby.  That being said, I think perhaps some of my non writer friends gloss over this occasion.  May I make a suggestion?  This would be a beautiful time to buckle down and write down some of your childhood memories.  Or about a trip you took.  Or your favorite memories with loved ones.  Or advice you want to make sure your kids have as they get older.  Or write down what you are grateful for.  Or how about a struggle you’ve experienced and feel like others would benefit from the lessons learned?  The possibilities are endless.  It doesn’t have to be written elegantly, or with perfect prose (seriously, no one’s work will look like that after only a month – even the serious authors out there) but seeing your experiences and thoughts on paper I think will move you more than you realize.  Perhaps give you relief that they are finally recorded, making it so those things won’t be lost.  I hope you take up the challenge.  Everyone has a personal story to tell.  Go ahead and put yours down.  It’ll be rewarding and your family and friends will be happy you did.

Welcome to the NaNoWriMo club.  Happy writing my friends!

A Non-Gamer’s Perspective On Games

I have seen and heard the disdain  from some peers about games/gamers.  For contrast I give you this…

I sat and watch my eleven year old daughter play a level in a game.  She played and failed. Then failed again and again and again.  At one point I asked her if she was getting frustrated or if it was still fun.  Her answer?  “I’m getting a little frustrated.”  She continued again, and failed.  She went to a different aspect of the game and succeeded in that particular level opening up more of the game.  There it was for the taking, but she didn’t go exploring the new “fancy” area.  She went back to the level that she, at this point, had played a good twenty times.  She wanted to beat it.  She did it several more times and then… success!

Let me tell you the pros of being a gamer that I have observed for myself. *  Starting with the above story.

  • Games allow opportunities to learn to not give up.  It’s hard?  It’s frustrating?  Keep trying until you get it.  Learning to have perseverance starts with small moments like these.
  • Reading skills.  I’ve seen multiple young people who had a difficult time learning to read.  They start playing games and whallah, huge improvements.  To get the story line, or to understand the rules, you have to read.  Since they want to play, they are willing to struggle through the reading until, one day, it isn’t as much of a struggle.
  • Spatial recognition is part of gaming.  You have to be aware of where you are in connection with everything else.  People who grow up playing games usually have a good sense of direction.  I have seen this first hand where I was the adult in charge trying to get around in an unfamiliar city and had no clue, but the twelve year old in the car knew because they were able to process where they were compared to where we needed to go.  It was incredible, albeit humbling.
  • Eye hand coordination.  I know you hear this a lot but it’s true just the same. Seriously, fine motor skills my friend.
  • Games create a chance to learn about teamwork.  Can you work together to complete a task?  Not leave anyone behind?  Listen to one another so you know what is needed for the good of the group? Are you willing to do another’s idea instead of your own – setting your ego aside?  Do you understand about not leaving your team mates hanging?  This is huge.  It is a skill that is needed in the workplace/society and it’s fostered in games.
  • There are plenty of actual puzzle games (bejeweled doesn’t count) which teach problem solving.  The newer games give lots of hints and such, but the old school games truly teach you to solve problems.  (No cheating on the internet!)  One of the most brilliant men that I know grew up playing games and he is a phenomenal problem solver.  People go to him for advice on a wide variety of subjects because they know he can come up with solutions that others wouldn’t.
  • Build people up.  It’s a great environment to encourage others and cheer each other on.  It’s also a wonderful time to learn to laugh at your mistakes and carry on without it being a big deal.
  • Laughter.  Yes, there are plenty of things you can do to make you laugh.  That being said, have you seen the above list?  You get all of those in the package of a good time and the creating of memories.

In essence lessons are learned and comrades are made on a deeper level as you work together to build each other up in a unique environment.

I hope that, even if you don’t wish games to be in your own home, you’ll understand why they are beloved by others and why they can be beneficial.


* I have lived with at least one gamer for the last 15 years and currently live with five




Quite a few years ago I sat in my living room and watched a conversation unfold.  A friend was looking into a possible job opportunity and wanted my husband’s input on the matter. It was one of those “get rich quick”deals.  He said, “Pretend I have a million dollars and I’m willing to give it to you right now.” “Ok!”  “What are you willing to sacrifice to have it?”  Then he elaborated.  “I could be a millionaire right now if I wanted to sacrifice for it, but I don’t want to give up certain things.  I don’t want to have all my time and mental energy devoted to my job.  I don’t want to be a workaholic and never see my wife or children.  I don’t want to do things in a shady manner or screw anyone over for it.  I don’t want to give up my values.  So the question is, what are you willing to sacrifice to have a millionaire dollars quickly?”

Several days ago my husband asked me the same question.  “What are you willing to sacrifice?”  We weren’t talking about money, but something just as important.  It really hit me hard and got me thinking.  What do I value enough that I’d be willing to give up other good things for it?  To take hold and make it so important that it takes precedence, becoming my priority?

Sadly, I haven’t been great at this in the past.  I was searching for my own self worth.  I put what I truly valued on the side lines for the instant gratification of feeling like a good person by saying “yes” to other’s wants when I should have said “no.”  I put what I valued aside to get feelings of validation because I didn’t face the reality that the approval I needed was my own.  I played a part so others wouldn’t truly see me – a person I thought was weak and broken.  But I’m neither and I no longer have to pretend because I can see myself as worthwhile without the input of others.  Now my eyes are open to what really matters, what the treasures are in my life and where I want to be.  Now I can gather them up and sacrifice for those things I find more important than all the rest.  No doubt there will be bumps along the way as I learn to navigate along the new path and avoid the pitfalls of my old habits, but it will be a journey worth taking and one that will be deliberate which makes the quest more enticing.  Making the path one that I forge, not one that I have settled for. That is a good feeling.