Tuesday, May 24, 2016

More on that life reboot

Sometimes things happen in your life that are completely out of your control. You can't change the economy. You can't stop someone from dying. You can't undo a car accident. You can't control the world and make everything happen the way you want it to.
Oh how I wish that we could, but we can't.
Forces beyond my control have changed my life situation for me (again).
And you know what?
Rather than fighting it, I'm embracing it for a change. I know I won't necessarily feel happy about it forever, but for the moment I feel like a huge weight and black cloud have been lifted from me. I'm free. I'm happy. And I have a world of opportunities ahead of me.
In fact, I have some amazing opportunities ahead of me right now. I can't get into all of the details right now (because they aren't all 100%, and I don't want one of the opportunities to think I've ruled it out because of some of the other, because you can't control what people might infer or think). But I am excited at the very least to be going to France and Italy in July, where I will get to see some dear friends again. And if all goes according to plan I will get to go to a family reunion in Tennessee to see cousins I haven't seen in over 20 years!!
In fact, I have so many fun things planned over the next few months that I think we should just all get to take summers off like we did when we were kids.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Personal Life Reboot

I'm going through a personal life reboot right now. Yet again, through events completely out of my control, the world has been turned upside down on me. A month ago I was the church youth group leader (YW president), and then released completely unexpectedly. And then last week my job came to an abrupt (but welcome) end. (I had expected my job to last 2 more months.)
Not bad changes.
Just completely unexpected changes.
Suddenly, I have nothing to do. And I really do mean absolutely nothing.
I do have a book launch I'm slowly getting through. And I'm writing a book as much as my muse allows me. But really, no obligations, events, time sucks, etc. going on.
I've forgotten how to be this way.
But before I can figure out what comes next, I'm doing a very intentional personal life reboot. I'm reading books that have meant something to me and guided me professionally. I'm contacting mentors for advice. Organizing my material objects. Indulging in some creative activities. And really making sure I know what my priorities are, so that I can make a plan on how to achieve and focus on those priorities.

Some of the books that have helped me figure life out include the following

Who Moved My Cheese? 

This book, told as a story about mice in a maze, is about adjusting attitudes toward change in life, especially at work. Change occurs whether you are ready or not, but the book affirms that it can be positive. I come back to this book every time an outside force moves the cheese on me (again). 

My friend Rebecca wrote this book (and I helped edit and format it). She is a training and organizations expert that really understands the process it takes to set a goal and work towards it. Most importantly she understands and values the importance of motivation to help you get going and stay moving. This isn't a feel-good story book. It's more factual and yet casual. A good one to come back to when I am contemplating new ideas and goals for the future. 

Some people may consider this a strange book for me to count in my list of personal life reboot books. But this was one of the most life-changing books I've ever read. Malcolm Gladwell (one of the greatest writers in modern times, if not the 21st century) explains the extraordinary success of some very high profile people- Bill Gates, the Beatles, etc. And he explains their personal backgrounds and experiences that led to their exceptional success. For me, to understand how and why some people have achieved such remarkable success, while others who are equally talented and smart have not, really hit home. It wasn't about being the smartest or most talented. And in some cases it wasn't about hard work either. In many (if not most) it was about timing- being in the right place at the right time. Bill Gates wouldn't be Bill Gates if he hadn't grown up in an affluent neighborhood in Seattle at precisely the time he did. The Beatles wouldn't be a phenomenon if they hadn't accepted one of the worst gigs ever in Hamburg. (leading to what is now known as the Hamburg principle.) 
And like some people have had extraordinary success all due to timing, some people have encountered more setbacks, through no fault of their own, due to timing. He doesn't address failure much at all. But the converse of what he did talk about is what made a huge difference to me when contemplating some of my own successes and failures. 
For instance, I had a major professional setback for several years. Why? For a long time I struggled with the "why" question. Why couldn't I get a job? Why did I get laid off? Why did some friends seem to have so much success, while I kept getting setback further and further? This book helped me find the answers to the why. 
And helped me start seeing my way to success.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

Love, Erin Ann, Natalie, Scott, and Steph

Every year for Mother's Day/Mom's birthday (which often land on the same day) we add to this ever growing blog post with new pictures and stories for the year. Some pictures and thoughts are contributed by my sisters. Not all of the pictures are family pictures, but just images to represent some of our memories.

I has been almost 6 years since we've been able to spend holidays with our parents. And we all look forward to making up for all of the missed birthdays, Mother's Days, Father's Days, anniversaries, and Christmases with you next year!

It's been lots of fun to see you become a world traveler.

Thanks for teaching us to love all the animals. And for loving all of our fur babies. 

And for taking the nephews on awesome trips.

You are a great example to us all for choosing to serve the Lord!

Thanks for all the great dresses and fun presents from around the world!

Thanks for the pretty weddings and loving our in-laws so much.

And for raising Scott to be an awesome dancer and soooo humble.

Thanks for supporting some of our more ambitious and crazier ideas. And for encouraging our creative sides.

--------------------------- Everything below this line is from last year's post. Everything above is the new stuff.------------
Mom never went to medical school but she is one darn good Witch Doctor.  What ever ailment you may have mom knows how to fix you right, and 9 times out of 10 it works.  Thank you, Mom, for always taking the time to keep us healthy.

She scored when she married the handsome Naval officer!

My mother might not realize this but she gave me a gift by teaching me to always see the gentle beauty and humor in little children.  She always gets a kick out of the cute things children do and say and she also points out the sweet innocent faces that might have gone unnoticed.
Baby Scotty

Baby Porter

Baby Dallin

Not so baby Dallin


Handsome Tell

Who doesn't love a nekkid toddler? 

First grandbaby - Tell

A fun memory I have of you is that if you saw a strange fruit you would always buy it and bring it home for us all to try together.  I always enjoyed that and I now continue that same fun tradition with my own kids. (From Natalie, pictures by Erin.) 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Answers to Prayers

I don't write too often here about my religious experiences and faith. I do write a lot about my churchgoing activities. But those are not the same as religious experiences. I usually choose not to share my faith because I don't care to share something so personal with an anonymous audience who may choose to criticize me for it. Call it "pearls before swine," although that would make you, the reader, the swine.
But today I feel like sharing a little bit. Why? Because along with the answers came a strong feeling that I should share it.
Recently I suffered a serious setback in one area of my life. It broke my heart. All of my hard work, efforts, and good intentions meant nothing. Someone who quite frankly didn't know what they were talking about, held all of the control in a situation, and pretty much chose to hurt me. There were a lot of ways the situation could have gone, where the person could have still exercised their control, but s/he chose the route that personally hurt me.
A lot of tears were shed over the situation. A lot. It's not often that an adult would take such measured calculations to inflict pain on another adult. But it happened.
I was left with a lot of questions along with the sadness. I was sad that someone would seek to hurt me so personally. I was hurt. And most of all, I wanted out. (And still do.) I can't think of one reason why anyone would chose to stay in a situation where such ill will is dished out.
So I prayed for an answer on how to handle the situation. I prayed for the strength to not rush back in there and yell at the other person and inflict pain of my own on them. I prayed for a huge, big, obvious answer on what to do next. The words I used specifically in my prayer were "I need an answer as big as a billboard." Because in my emotional state of mind, if it wasn't that big and obvious, I wouldn't be able to see it.
And I got my answer the very next morning. Things that never happen happened. We're talking packages arrived early even as the tracking information was still saying it wasn't coming for days. A news article publishing on exactly the right day. An email from a friend with exactly the right words and timing.
The answer I got reminded me that it's okay for things to be hard. In fact, they will probably always be hard. But there is a path laid out for me to follow, and setbacks can be a part of that path. And that there are answers to prayers that can be as big and obvious as a billboard, right when you need them the most. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Participation Medals

You know that feeling you get on Sunday evening, when you're just finally getting the hang of this relaxing and resting thing, and then you realize you have to get up and go to work again on Monday? There needs to be a word for that feeling. A word that means "relaxing interrupted." Someone want to coin that word for me? 

This was a big weekend for me. Two significant things happened at the same time. The first was that I participated in a 5K. It was just the Color Run, which is non-competitive, and not timed. It's just for fun. But the point is, I did it. For a year now I've been actively working out and trying to lose weight. And I've actually reached a point where I enjoy exercising now. Running for more than a few minutes still eludes me. But I can walk about 6 miles before I start to tire. I could possibly go longer than that, but by then I'm so bored I don't care. But I digress. The Color Run was fun and I'm glad I did it. How I got purple powder through my shirt, and my bra, to stain my chest and cleavage, I'll never know. Not to mention somehow my belly button got stained orange. (Which made me laugh because "navel orange.")

The second significant thing is that I went out and did something with a friend in Roanoke. Christi and I actually see each other a few times a week to go walking/work out. And we've met up for dinner a few times as well. But this was different and it was a big deal for me. For the first time ever I did something fun and social with someone in Roanoke and it had nothing to do with church, family, and/or work. That has never happened before. It was nice to know I'm still a social human.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fun Surprise from Samoa

How fun is this?
My parents are serving a mission for our church in Samoa right now. I called to tell them about my book arriving today. They surprised me with all these fun videos!




When Books Fly is LIVE!

I'm not quite sure what happened, but the book I didn't expect to see until May 10th is already here! My book is live!
Now to go full throttle into a book launch a month earlier than anticipated.
You can get your copy of When Books Fly: Social Media Secrets for Best-Selling Books on Amazon here and Barnes and Noble here.

Obviously a new book means it's time for a HAPPY DANCE!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Next Chapter

I’m writing this from an overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was driving back from Virginia Beach to Roanoke, and decided on a whim to take the parkway home. It adds a few minutes, but a lot of beauty, to my drive, and I don’t mind.
Right now in Roanoke, a major chapter of my life is coming to a close in a bittersweet way. Instead of it ending on a high note, it’s ending on a rather sour one, which makes it both hard to let go, and easy to not look back at the same time. In other words, I’m more sad than happy, but accepting that this is how it ends.
It leaves me free to open the next chapter of my life without attachments or remorse. And I’ve don’t nothing but think about what that next chapter will be for the last few days.
One year ago when I left Northern Virginia for Roanoke, I had no idea what to expect. I certainly never foresaw the confusion, stress, and pain of the past year. I had expected one friendship to be waiting for me when I arrived, but instead, that person was the cause of much of my angst.
A year ago, I said goodbye to one particular friend and fully expected at that time for that to be the last time I would ever see or speak to that person. Here we are a year later, and that person and I communicate almost daily- far more than we did a year ago at this time. And now there is a chance we’ll have to say goodbye again, and I wonder how that will change things.
When I left NoVA I had a crazy idea for a small book. I didn’t even think I had enough material to make it a full book. I figured it was more like a really big pamphlet. But I wrote it, tried it out in a class, and submitted it to a publisher. By the end of this week that book will be in bookstores across the country. By far my biggest book release yet. My first book to be sold in the mainstream, and not just in LDS bookstores. (I’m a little overwhelmed at the thought.)
You probably figured it out before I did from my blog posts, that I really lost my identity this past year, maybe even before that. I haven’t been at liberty to share the details of the difficulties I’ve dealt with, and I am still not. Maybe by saying this much, you’ll understand why- when the lawsuit is over, maybe I can share my side of the story here. But I may not choose to share the details, if I think saying anything will make it harder for other parties to heal.
I think I am in the clear enough to say that for nearly a full year now, every single aspect of my life has been criticized. At work, at church, and as a writer. It has taken its toll on me in every possible way. I’m as fragile as they come these days. I’m defensive and suspicious (something I never was before). I expect that everyone and anyone I meet is going to think the worst of me or tear me down (because they have so many times).  Never before have I felt more single – no partner, no person to share my burden and cares with. I know many people see my struggles, but there is little anyone can do for me. My problems are mine and mine alone to carry.
But I know this one thing to be true- that the Lord knows and cares for us. No matter the load we are forced to bear, we are loved and never forgotten.  Jeremiah 31:3, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.”

I do not carry my burdens alone. I have the strength of a loving Heavenly Father to help me along. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30.)  

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mormon dot org

If you are reading this through an RSS feed, and not on the actual blog, you are missing out on seeing the awesome ad to the right! It's my dear friend, Tim Gates of Due West, in a Mormon.org spot. I've seen the video featuring Tim and it's just wonderful. I highly encourage you to watch it. Learn more about what makes Tim (and his family, and his Due West family) so incredibly awesome. Makes me humbled and happy to call him my friend. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

How Much is That Doggy in the Window (middle of the street)?


Just a funny little story for the heck of it. 
Last week I was driving up Bent Mountain Road where the road goes from 4 lanes to 2 lanes. But right before that should have happened, traffic suddenly backed up. But this is Roanoke. We don't have traffic. But my lane was the turning lane, and it hadn't stopped, so I was able to move a little closer.
Just ahead several cars were in a circle in the road. All the cars in all 4 lanes had stopped and people were running around in the road. The firefighter in me thought it was about to be an awful car accident. 
That's when I saw a beautiful brindle greyhound dog running around. His tail was tucked, ears down, and he looked terrified as he ran between the cars. People were chasing him all over. One guy looked like he was trying to lure the dog with food. Several people opened their car doors, to try to trick the dog into jumping in. (Truth be told, if I had been a little bit closer, I would have done the same thing. That trick usually works.) 
I wasn't going anywhere, and I felt bad for the dog and all the people. So I got out of my car to help, and picked up Kaya's (my dog) leash out of the backseat, (she wasn't with me), and held it up. 
I was actually holding it up so the people would see me and the leash. The man with the food had nearly grabbed the dog a few times, but the dog had slipped away. I figured maybe a leash would help.
But the dog saw the leash and ran right up to me. I put the leash right on him! 
The man with the food was actually the owner of the dog. He said he had jumped right out of the car window while it was moving. The poor man looked as traumatized as the dog did. I let him take my leash. It seemed like a good causse.
I walked back up to my car the hero of the traffic jam. People were clapping for me and yelling thank you. It was cute and hilarious all at the same time. Nobody knows that it was a fluke that the dog ran to me. I didn't expect that to happen!
The only problem is now I don't have a leash. And Kaya is not going to be happy when she finds out we can't go for our Sunday walk. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Accepting criticism as a chance to improve

I don't blog as much as I used to for myriad reasons. One of the most important reasons is just having learned from lessons of the past, and how expressing personal feelings about events in my own life can upset people. Or invites unwelcome feedback from people who make my feelings and thoughts about them.

But tonight I'm feeling alone with few (no?) people to talk to about some of the problems in life. So rather than talk to no one, I'll talk to everyone in the anonymous internet. (Hopefully I won't be repeating mistakes of the past.) (Ha ha.) (That was deep, sad, sarcasm.)

But let's start with some disclaimers. This isn't about you. This is about me. This is not any one person, problem, or event. It's a huge conglomeration or confluence of ALL THE THINGS!

Seriously, if it wasn't so painful or hard to deal with so many things at once, I'd laugh at how so many things could be happening at once.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's jump to the lesson learned and then back it up. Or something like that.

A few weeks ago, an old friend posted a beautiful picture of her ballerina daughter getting a private lesson. (or something to that extent) She commented how her daughter said how she liked to get feedback or pointers from the teacher "because how else could she improve?" I was just floored by this statement from such a young kid.

I've never been great at taking criticism. But ever since reading her comment I've been trying to take it to heart. If I don't get feedback how will I ever improve? This young girl just amazed me at her outlook! I could learn a lot from her.

If you believe that all things happen for a reason, you'll find it easy to believe that I needed to hear and digest and internalize that idea before the last few weeks hit me.

Because, wow. I have had lots of opportunities to apply this lately!

We're talking criticism feedback coming at me from all sides. You name it, I'm getting it. Work, church, personal life, writing life, volunteer life.

Old me would have given up and hidden under a rock by now, or lashed out and given everyone a dose of their own medicine.

But I haven't. I'm learning. I'm trying so hard to just get through, accept, and take it all as a chance to improve.

But it's not easy. Especially when it doesn't let up. I feel like I'm caught under Niagara Falls, getting beat on the rocks with criticism feedback.

I need a break. I need some personal improvement time. I'm writing this all out so I can get some of my emotions out before diving back in to handle the most recent problem. Mostly, I just feel like a huge failure in nearly every possible aspect of my life right now. (Writing is actually going pretty well. More on that some other time.)

I want to be a Millennial and beg a for a safe space around me. "Please only speak kind words in this area."

Sigh. Yeesh. And sigh again.

So tell me, Oh Anonymous Internet World, when you feel beat up, criticized, overwhelmed, let down, frustrated, and disappointed, what do you do? How do you personally handle it? I'm looking for a new way to handle everything, and not be me anymore.

You can always be the kindest person in the room

Tonight my heart is broken, but not for me. When my friends and loved ones are hurting, I hurt. I am not a therapist or counselor. But through the different roles that I play and hats that I wear in my life, I see first-hand many of the problems in my community, and in the lives of my loved ones. Throughout my life people have often come to me with their problems and heart aches. And I hurt when I cannot fix each of their problems. In recent days and weeks, my heart has been overloaded with the trials and burdens of others. And as I have heard and witnessed their problems, I have repeatedly seen the same problem over and over. I want to take a minute to share what I know would heal so many broken hearts and solve so many problems. Tearing down another person will never make you a better person. Hurting them out of spite, jealousy, or resentment, will never solve your problems or make you happy. It will only make your discontent worse. There is never a reason to criticize or belittle a friend, family member, or loved one. Or for that matter, even just an acquaintance. It solves nothing, and only causes pain to both you and the other person. Be civil and show respect, even when you disagree. (Especially during a political season.) If there is someone out there that would do anything for you, ask yourself if you have made the sacrifice or effort to do anything for them. Have you gone the extra mile to show kindness or help another person? When was the last time you showed a true kindness to someone who asked for help? You don’t have to be the smartest, wittiest, prettiest, richest, fastest, strongest, coolest, or even the most interesting person in the room. But you can always be the kindest person in the room. You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to be hurtful or critical. We’ve all heard the message by now that everyone is going through something. It’s nearly a cliché by now, and yet there is still so much truth to it. But the thought I want to leave with you tonight is simply this – are you causing the something that someone else is going through? Be kind. Put yourself aside and go the extra miles to help and serve a friend. Show love even when it’s hard to do. And never put other people down.  I know I could have shared these thoughts directly with the offending parties. And it may be possible that this was directed right at you. My thoughts are directed at more than a few specific people, but really, isn’t it a lesson we all need to remember from time to time?


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