Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Good Question

Ronda asked a good question:

I know this is a strange comment, but I'm a little confused. What are you doing with this? Are you going to write the next exerpt to the chosen story? If so, that's a pretty brave, fun, and quite unique idea. Kinda like a "choose your own adventure."

I bet a lot of people are wondering the same thing, so here's the answer, I hope it's clearer than mud!

It's not just me writing a next excerpt ... it's anyone who wants to throw one into the ring. I did enter one into the first chapter, so did a few other people (some sent more than one entry). But no one knows who is who, they are just voting on the story.

Next, anyone who wants to will send in a 'what happens next' bit to the story and we'll vote on that to see where the story will take us.

Exactly like a 'choose your own adventure' thing.

The winning story, "Finding Hope" might appear to be clearcut .... a tragedy, a romance. But I've been thinking about it and there are so many ways it could go; it could be a romance, sure, it could also be and LDS or other religiously uplifting story about finding faith, it could be a conspiracy theory, a thriller ... I'm sure the list goes on and on.

Anyone can submit a continuation to the story, whether they consider themselves a 'writer' or not, whether they are professional or not. This is just a fun exercise I think more in what readers want than in our skill, although I think "Not From Around Here" had a lot of potential but was probably robbed because only one paragraph was submitted so the story didn't have a chance to 'present' itself properly.

I'm writing very badly tonight myself. I've been paying bills for the last hour. Can you say 'brain cramp'? So forgive me if this really is no more clear than mud. Please, ask questions. Remember elementary school? There are no dumb questions. (only dumb answers ... oops!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finding Hope ~ Interactive Story Chapter One Winner!

Joseph stood, trembling, trying to regain his balance. His head throbbed and he found it difficult to see through the rivulets of blood running down his face. He couldn't stop, though. There were others hurt far worse than him; he was needed.

He bent to reach the woman in the black Mazda. She was awake, but her door was so buckled, she couldn't get out without help. When Joseph leaned down, he glanced into the side view mirror. He stopped. His blood ran cold at what he saw there. He first pressed his face closer to the mirror to see better, before realizing he could turn and see for himself. Yet, he hesitated.

Time seemed to draw around him like a cloak. He pulled it closely about him, letting the world come to a stop for a moment. He turned then, slowly. As he finished his about face, he squared his shoulders and prepared himself for what he had glimpsed in the mirror.

Several cars behind him, thrust through her windshield, unmistakably, undeniably, lay his wife. Her car, her hair, the same white blouse she'd been wearing when he kissed her goodbye this morning.

As he took each leaden step toward the wreckage of her white Honda Odyssey, he remembered, vaguely, her describing the day she had planned for herself and the boys. Back to school shopping in the city. He hadn't realized she'd planned to leave right away. He hadn't realized she had been only a few cars behind him. He hadn't realized ...

Every joy in his life was encapsulated in this vehicle. Without her, oh God, without them, what was there now for him?

*© 2007 belongs to author, name currently withheld until the contest conclusion

Interactive Story Contest Chapter TWO!

Ooh, that was a close race!

Finding Hope won by one vote with The Mirror Cracked and Along for the Ride just one vote behind.

But the voters have spoken and I said we'd go with the story with the most votes, so Finding Hope it is!

WRITERS: write a second installment of Finding Hope and submit it to me at ali at aworkofheartphotography dot com by Sunday night at 11:59.

Continue the story from where this first chapter leaves off. What do you think will happen next? Tell us and we'll decide which story we like best!

VOTERS: tune in next Monday to read the next 'chapters' of Finding Hope to decide which story direction you like best.

Also, please be sure to register your vote in the poll on the blog; comments on entries do not count.

I'll re-post Finding Hope above, so you can refer to it easily.

Good luck to everyone and thanks for participating!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Interactive Story Voting


Following are five fun stories. Choose which story line you like best and vote for it!

Voting will go through today and tomorrow, closing at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.

After a winner has been determined, the next 'chapters' will be written based on the first chapter that was chosen.

Good Luck and Have Fun!

Not From Around Here ~ Entry #5

Joseph looked at his reflection and what he saw shocked him. The flesh of his face was shredded and bloody. He had a large wound from his temple to the side of his lip which was laid open to what should have been the bone, but what he saw there instead of white bone was perfectly smooth silver metal forming jaw, cheek and something resembling tendon. Joseph’s fingers reached up unbidden and touched the exposed “bone” forcing home the unwelcome reality he was decidedly not human.

*© 2007 belongs to author, name currently withheld until the contest conclusion

Along For The Ride ~ Entry #4

The crashes continued, so far he was unhurt. Joseph counted six crashes and was beginning to breathe a sigh of relief when suddenly a sedan swerved into the scope of his rear view mirror. With a depressing sense of inevitability Joseph knew that his typical luck was about rear its ugly head. As if bent on fulfilling Joseph’s expectations via some cosmic “Murphy’s Law” the gray Corolla corrected its trajectory and plowed directly into the back of Joseph’s car. The moment the sedan struck, Joseph’s deep thoughts were interrupted: What kind of color is gray anyway? Would it be too much to ask before I die, that I get hit by a more colorful car? Then the red Mustang hit.
When Joseph came to, he cautiously tested his faculties in a moment with mounting excitement as each responded. I can hear! This was painfully obvious even before he opened his eyes. Car horns were blaring and people were yelling and or screaming. I can smell, he observed with excitement, smelling the sweetness of the doughnuts he’d picked up for… what did he get them for? I can see! He exulted as he noticed the doughnuts squished and dashed against the jagged remains of his windshield. He could feel too! And what he felt was pain in every limb and joint.
He pushed the deflating air bag out of the way and slowly got out of his car. He stood for a moment and surveyed the island of wreckage around him which stood still amid a stream of moving cars. Those fortunate enough not be on the “island” were now pretending not to notice the plight of the less fortunate as they sped toward their waiting jobs using every spare inch of pavement and ditch in order to make their way around before the police showed up and blocked their route.
Joseph turned toward the gray car which had hit him, quickly scanning to see if the occupant was ok. As he approached the car he noticed a middle aged woman looking at him through the smashed driver’s side window, her mouth agape and emotions playing across her chubby features which were difficult to read, aside from a bruise on her head she seemed fine. What happened next surprised him, she started to scream.
Joseph had not until that moment thought to examine his face. Compelled by a sense of narcissistic emergency Joseph sped toward her side-view mirror for a look, as if viewing it quickly enough he could wish away whatever was wrong. He ducked down to look in the remains of her side-view mirror. What he saw surprised him. Nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, maybe a little redness and swelling from the air-bag powder but nothing more than what he might see in the bathroom mirror any given morning after shaving.
“I thought you were dead!” The gray car driving woman managed in a European caricature of English that sounded Swedish or something close to it in Joseph’s estimation.
“Yeah, I thought so too, for a minute,” Joseph answered.
“Where have you been? The whole country is freaking-out. But I knew you weren’t dead. I just knew it.”
“Wh…” Joseph tried to interrupt but couldn’t decide whether to respond with a question or statement or to try to convince the upset woman to just be quiet. He’d have to assume she had hit her head and was hallucinating, or was simply crazy, or more likely a crazy woman who was hallucinating.
“I’m Annie, your biggest fan! I knew you had just faked your death because you wanted a break from the business. Why else would the greatest actor our country has ever had fake his own death? I knew you were deeper than the tabloids said. Just experiencing ordinary life in America! I knew destiny needed me to zag when I should have zigged!”

*© 2007 belongs to author, name currently withheld until the contest conclusion

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Finding Hope ~ Entry #3

Joseph stood, trembling, trying to regain his balance. His head throbbed and he found it difficult to see through the rivulets of blood running down his face. He couldn't stop, though. There were others hurt far worse than him; he was needed.

He bent to reach the woman in the black Mazda. She was awake, but her door was so buckled, she couldn't get out without help. When Joseph leaned down, he glanced into the side view mirror. He stopped. His blood ran cold at what he saw there. He first pressed his face closer to the mirror to see better, before realizing he could turn and see for himself. Yet, he hesitated.

Time seemed to draw around him like a cloak. He pulled it closely about him, letting the world come to a stop for a moment. He turned then, slowly. As he finished his about face, he squared his shoulders and prepared himself for what he had glimpsed in the mirror.

Several cars behind him, thrust through her windshield, unmistakably, undeniably, lay his wife. Her car, her hair, the same white blouse she'd been wearing when he kissed her goodbye this morning.

As he took each leaden step toward the wreckage of her white Honda Odyssey, he remembered, vaguely, her describing the day she had planned for herself and the boys. Back to school shopping in the city. He hadn't realized she'd planned to leave right away. He hadn't realized she had been only a few cars behind him. He hadn't realized ...

Every joy in his life was encapsulated in this vehicle. Without her, oh God, without them, what was there now for him?

*© 2007 belongs to author, name currently withheld until the contest conclusion

The Jailer ~ Entry #2

He had known this would be a bad day. From the moment Katherine had lit into him at the kitchen table about why he refused to let her see that new boy again, his day had taken a turn for the worse. How could he explain to his sixteen year old daughter that he could usually tell the bad guys from the good? A sixth sense or something, he didn't know what it was, but he'd always had it and he'd never been wrong. Except, he was certain if he explained it like that to his girl, she'd be quick to run straight into the boys waiting arms. Isn't that what teenage girls did?

Strange the things you think about when your life is about to end. Except, somehow the crashes had stopped and Joseph found himself sitting perfectly comfortable in the drivers seat of his Honda CR-V. He wondered briefly how he had managed to get himself out from the wreck that was his windshield, but his musing was cut short by a quiet cough from the passenger seat.

There sat a stranger, dressed in black, his face smooth and ageless, though his hair was as white as the deployed airbag that sagged on the dashboard in front of him.

Joseph stared at him. The strange man smiled kindly back.

“Hello,” said the man in the black.

“Am I dead?” Joseph croaked. Quickly he racked his brain trying to list all the bad things he had done for surely this must be hell, what with the screaming, the sirens and this ... man ... dressed in black. He certainly didn't look like an angel. But his smile seemed kind enough and none of Joseph's normal signals were going off alerting him to evil. He narrowed his focus on the man, trying to perceive more, to understand.

The stranger was shaking his head, slowly, sadly. “You are not quite dead, Joseph,” he said inexplicably.

“Your work is not yet done here. But you will need better tools with which to do your work.”

Joseph shook his head, understanding eluded him.

“I'm an accountant. What tools do I need?”

The stranger laughed then.

“Why, you are the Jailer now, Joseph. And you have much to do.” Suddenly the stranger thrust forth his finger and touched him gently, with one straight finger, directly in the middle of his forehead. Joseph had no time for thought before his body slumped mindless into his seat.

*© 2007 belongs to author, name currently withheld until the contest conclusion

The Mirror Cracked ~ Entry #1

He looked again, hoping to locate the injury. The blood that he knew was running down his face and dripping onto his chest had to be staunched.

Nothing. His mind spun out, numb and uncomprehending. The mirror held no image at all. No black, wavy hair framing his tanned face and blue eyes. No square jaw line, or sensitive, full lips. No blood. No wound.

Wait. The mirror did hold something—a large, zigzag crack that ran from side to side. Without reason, bits of a poem Joseph had learned in high school came to mind. Was it Poe? No. Although in light of the grisly scene around him—the broken bodies, the salty smell of blood—Poe would be appropriate.

It was Tennyson. Surprised at the memory, he mumbled the words to himself, “The mirror crack'd from side to side; ‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried The Lady of Shalott.”

Joseph sat on the graveled shoulder of the road and the truth came upon him in a lightening bolt of panic. People weren’t running from him. They were running through him. A cold mist swirled about—a fog that shaped itself into death.

Surely he wasn’t dead … was he?

© 2007 belongs to author, name currently withheld until the contest conclusion

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

That's Hot.

I'm laughing at myself because I'm walking around thinking "That's hot" a la Paris Hilton.

Why, you ask? Because I'm in St. George this week and oh yeah, it's hot. That's H-O-T hot. Hot like Hades. I heard a local describe it as turning your blow dryer on high and blowing it straight in your face. Or opening your hot oven and sticking your head in. It's that hot.

But why is it funny? Because at girls' camp my role in the little skit we did was to play a Paris Hilton type character and of course I said "That's hot". I either did such a bad job or such a good job that the girls went around saying "That's hot" to me for the rest of the camp and I got the "That's hot" award. *U*

So every time I come out of a store and get slammed with the blistering heat of this desert-turned-oasis I have to say "106 degrees? That's hot!". And then I laugh.

Where is my purse dog and limousine?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Interactive Story Premise

Following is the premise for your story:


Joseph Carlisle was having an ordinary day. Work lay within sight yet frustratingly far away as he was stuck in yet another traffic jam. But this day was not going to be like any other, in fact this was the day that Joseph Carlisles' life would change forever.

When the first crash boomed, Joseph was startled out of deep thought just in time to comprehend that his face was about to plow through his windshield. Again and again the crashes came until there was deadly silence, followed by screaming and wailing. How he survived the wreck, Joseph didn't know. He pulled himself from what was left of his car and stood, shakily, surveying the terrible scene.

Joseph tried to help, but people screamed and ran from him. Confused, he didn't begin to understand until he caught a glimpse of his face in a side view mirror. What he saw there made his blood run cold. What he saw changed everything.

Email your first chapter entries to
ali at aworkofheartphotography dot com
before Sunday, August 26th 11:59 p.m.

Interactive Story Contest Rules & Guidelines

Hello Writers and Readers!

Shortly, I will post the premise or 'book flap blurb' on which you will base your story. You may start your story wherever you like, when the character is born, when he dies, or anywhere in between - it's all up to you!

Following are the rules to the game:
1. You must base your story on the provided premise.
2. Please keep your entries clean, i.e. free from vulgarities, and bad language, etc.
3. Editing services will not be provided, so your entry will be posted exactly as you sent it; be sure it is just how you want it to be before you email it to me.
4. Your entry may be as short or as long as you would like to make it.
5. You can enter as many times as you like.
6. You may submit an entry at any time, whether you have previously submitted or not.
7. All entries will be listed as ANONYMOUS contributors to keep the game fair, but I'll keep track of your submissions so that I know who to award the prizes to.
8. Entries will be accepted from Monday through Sunday each week. You may email them to ali at aworkofheartphotography dot com.
9. Stay tuned for additional rules should I feel a need to add them!

1. Voting will take place every Monday and Monday only.
2. You may vote as many times as you like.
3. Your votes will control the direction the story takes, so choose wisely!
4. You may post comments for the different entries if you care to do so, but keep it nice!
5. Please come back every Monday to follow the story and vote your choices!

There will be TWO PRIZES awarded for
the writer with the most votes
the writer with the most entries.

Interactive Story Contest

Writers, Start Your Engines!

Come back
Monday, August 20th

for the Story Premise and Rules of the Game!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Emergency Numbers ...

I'm working on these little scripture books for our Ward's Youth Conference which is next weekend. We got these from a Murray ward, I believe, but I'm afraid I can't give the proper credit. The book is half a sheet of cardstock, folded into three parts. One part will have a notepad affixed, on which the kids will write their favorite scriptures, much like a yearbook. On one of the pages is this list of "Emergency Numbers"; all from the Bible, these are great references for all sorts of spiritual needs.

Emergency Numbers

When in sorrow ......................................................... call John 14

When men fail you Psalm 27

If you want to be fruitful John 15

When you have sinned Psalm 51

When you worry Matthew 6:19-34

When in danger Psalm 91

When God seems far away Psalm 139

When your faith needs stirring Hebrews 11

When you are lonely and fearful Psalm 23

When you grow bitter and critical I Corinthians 13

For Paul's secret to happiness Colosians 3:12-17

For understanding of II Corinthians 5:15-19

When you feel down and out Romans 8:31-39

When you want peace and rest ................ call Matthew 11:25-30

When the world seems bigger than God ................. call Psalm 90

When you want Christian assurance ............. call Romans 8:1-30

When you leave home for labor or travel ............. call Psalm 121

When your prayers grow narrow or selfish ............ call Psalm 67

For a great invention/opportunity ........................... call Isaiah 55

When you want courage for a task .......................... call Joshua 1

For how to get along with your fellow man ........ call Romans 12

When you think of investments and returns ............ call Mark 10

If you are depressed Psalm 27

If your pocketbook/wallet is empty call ........................ Psalm 37

If you are losing confidence in people ........ call I Corinthians 13

If people seem unkind ............................................... call John 15

If you are discouraged about your work ............... call Psalm 126

If you find the world growing small and yourself great Psalm 19

Alternate Numbers

For dealing with fear ............................................ call Psalm 34:7

For security Psalm 121:3

For assurance Mark 8:35

For reassurance Psalm 145:18


And for those of you who are LDS, the other flap of the book has this information:

Answers to Life's Questions

Elder M. Russell Ballard

Is there a God? ~ Alma 22

What does Jesus expect of me? ~ 2 Nephi 9

How will belief in Jesus help me? ~ Alma 36

Is there life after death? ~ Alma 40

What is the purpose of life? ~ Alma 34

Why do evil and suffering occur? ~ 1 Nephi 2

Should babies be baptized? ~ Moroni 8

Does God know me? ~ Alma 5

How can I find peace and joy in life? ~ Mosiah 2 & 4

How can I have a happy, united family? ~ Mosiah 2

How can I balance family and career? ~ 3 Nephi 13

How can I strengthen my relationships with my spouse? ~ 3 Nephi 3 & 14


Wanna Win Some Free Books??

Of course you do! Check out this new website: The Long and the Short Of It to find out how!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stay Tuned ...

On Monday, August 20th, I'm going to begin a writing contest of sorts. An interactive continuous story where you get to submit your chapters for your readers consideration.

I'll give you the 'teaser' for your story, what might be on the back flap if it were a book, you take it from there!

Entries will be posted each Monday and on Monday only your readers will vote on which chapter they liked best. Then entries will be accepted through the rest of the week for the next chapter of the story, based on the voting outcome.

There will be cheesy prizes for two categories: The writer with the most votes and the writer with the most entries.

So come on back Monday and be ready with pens in hand to get writing! This will be a great writing exercise for all of us and I think lots of fun to see which direction the story goes.

See you Monday, August 20th!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Highwayman

My earliest memories include my Mom telling the poem "The Highwayman" like a really great story. She knew it by heart and would tell it with such zeal, she stole my breath, and my imagination away. My Mom was a busy and tired woman who never read to me, though she herself was an avid reader. Yet she never hesitated, as I recall, to tell me the story of the Highwayman, and I have never forgotten it. I was feeling nostalgic tonight so I thought I would share this amazing poem with you. It is probably my single most favorite.

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

The Highwayman



THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.


Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—


"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."


He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.



He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.


They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.


They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!


She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!


The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain .


Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!


Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.


He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.


Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *


And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.


Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I feel so loved ...

Tristi gave me a lovely gift, the more so because it came from one of the loveliest people.

This award is especially sweet to me because being nice is very important to me. It's not about being a pansy, it's about respect. I won't let you walk all over me, because I'm a person of value and worthy of your respect. I don't need to be sarcastic or rude to you if your opinion differs from mine, because I can still respect you. Through it all, I can be nice, you can be nice and I bet my patootie that we'd all be happier for it.

I'd like to pass this award on to Candace Salima, who though she is very busy and I am a 'little person' she takes the time to comment on my little blog, write very thoughtful and engaging posts on her own blog, and responds kindly to visitors to her blog. She's NICE!

Here's to being Nice! Pass it on! :)

Product Raves!

I am the most undomesticated Goddess you're ever going to meet. If it weren't for Flylady, my family would be living in squalor. Seriously. I have no housekeeping skills. So I love, love, LOVE it (think Dragon Tales "I LOOOOOVE it!") when I find something that 1) ACTUALLY makes my job easier and 2) ACTUALLY works like promised. Hallelujah!

Here's my top two current faves:

The Swiffer SweepVac.
It works awesome in my kitchen for every day pick-ups. Much faster and easier than a broom and pan, PLUS it gets even those small little dusty grits that collect on hardwood floors and brooms just can't get.
Also, you can run it with a wet cloth (or at least I do, lol) so it's a quick and easy clean too.
The vacuum surprisingly well and picks up tons of stuff including cheerios, rocks and candy wrappers. It does need emptying after every use because it has such a small reservoir, but hey, I'd be dumping a pan, right? No big.
LOVE this product.

I also love my Clorox Bleach Pen.
Works beyond awesome on stains on white things.
My boys love white polo shirts but come one, they're six year old boys, right?
They can't keep a white shirt clean for the life of them.
At a wedding a couple weeks ago one of them dripped a big ol' drip of chocolate right down the front of his white polo shirt and made a M-E-S-S. I wasn't sure if even the bleach pen, though wonder worker it was, could pull this one off. But I scrubbed on the bleach using the srubby end, threw it in the wash and voila, good as new!
Awesome product!

That's it for now. Tune in again soon for another installment of Product Raves. :)

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Art of Sky Gazing

Yesterday was a day for looking at the sky. Notice, I didn't title this "The Art of Star Gazing", though we did that. We also gazed at clouds. And guess what? It was one of my best days in a long time.

Yesterday afternoon, in the sweltering heat of the day, my husband and the boys and I went for a little walk with Jack. Jack needs practice 'loose leash' walking and the boys needed to get out of the house.

At the end of the walk, we lay down on some soft grass under a couple of shady trees on the school ground near our home and looked up. Way up.

Ooh, that reminds me ... when I was a child my favorite TV program was
The Friendly Giant. It was through shows like this that I came to appreciate the world around me. I can still clearly recall the theme song "Early One Morning". I think this show was primarily a Canadian show, so you probably have no idea what I'm talking about.

Anyway, lying there on the grass, my dog attentively watching the world around him, my hand comfortably grasped in the hand of my husband, my children rolling around on the grass, that I experienced a moment of true bliss.

I did not have a terribly happy childhood. There was abuse, neglect, abandonment ... you name it. However, what I did have is a highly active imagination and loads of time in which to use it.

Cloud gazing was one of my most favorite pastimes.

I can still feel, like it's happening to me at this moment, the feel of intermittent sparkles landing on my face like kisses from heaven, as the leaves of the trees above me flash in the wind. I saw in the cloud formations above me, not random shapes but rather whole worlds and sometimes even angels. I felt close to God, though I had no religious training; I felt the connection to my
Maker in my soul.

My children did not grasp the beauty of the moment we were sharing. They enjoyed, for a second, seeing what shapes they could discern in the clouds, but they didn't have the patience or interest in remaining there to let time pass. My husband and I, however, staid for quite a while. We even came up with a new book idea inspired by the clouds. Not that I need a new book idea when my idea shelf is already full, it was still a joyful experience to find another idea inspired by a childhood love of solitude. I wish my children could have these same memories, but I can't
make them. I can only provide the opportunity and hope they find the joy in it, as I once did.

Later that night we drove up to Little Cottonwood Canyon to watch the Perseid meteor shower.

We all lay on top of our SUV, comfy in our sweats, laying on blankets with pillows to cushion us, but best of all, squished together so arms pillowed heads and hands stroked, and our togetherness buoyed us. It was wonderful. Another moment of bliss. How lucky am I to have experienced two such moments in one day?

We only saw a handful of shooting stars, but as they were my childrens' first, they were joyous. Best of all to David and I, was the conversation we enjoyed with our boys while the blanket of stars lay over us.

We talked of everything from UFO's and Aliens, to the wonders of God's creation; from how being a good person is more likely to gain you success in life to how you ask a girl to marry you; from the science of shooting stars, to the blessing of the sealing ordination. It was wondrous.

We'll definitely go back next year to see this natural light show, but David and I also feel like we want to find opportunities to do more sky gazing with the boys. It brought a peace to all of our hearts and opened our minds to all the possibilities that this amazing world holds for us. We all deserve many such 'best days'.

Have you experienced bliss lately?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Girls Camp Again

Aww, sweet! Girls Camp was a joyful and eye-opening experience for me. I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses and how I might help myself grow. Most of my learning came from spending so much time with the 2nd counselor in the Presidency, Dawn.

I've known Dawn for a long time, but honestly I wasn't sure until just these past few days what to make of her. Perhaps because of my childhood, I am inherently suspicious of people who are very friendly and affectionate. I tend to believe that they are either insincere or over-compensating for something. I tend to shy away from physical affection, feeling that other people don't or won't appreciate my attention because they won't believe that I am sincere. Do you see how my mind works? Always a circle, a rat biting its' tail, I can't receive love without feeling the giver is insincere and I can't give love because I fear the receiver will believe I am being insincere.

Dawn has a wonderful gift, and after these few days I'm certain she truly is as giving and loving as she seems. I've decided that I am too selfish to give like she does, or for that matter, to receive. It's hard for me to not think about myself when I give to another, or to think about myself when I take. Dawn, on the other hand, gives for the pure love of giving, out of love for the other person. She has a true gift and I love her for it.

Because of Dawn's wonderful example to me, I've determined to strive to be less self-centered. For one thing, I need to improve my worship, for I'm certain that if I'm more worshipful the light of Christ will fill me more and I will have more love and charity to share. Then, I'm going to work on thinking of myself less in my family, looking more to how I can show my husband and children I love them, rather than looking for proof that they love me.

This is a life thing for me, born out of a childhood of uncertainty and love granted only under the proper conditions. I've thought a lot about this shortcoming of mine, this weakness, but it was only until this week when I watched and talked with Dawn that I understood how perhaps my weakness might one day become my strength.

Not the update on girls' camp you were expecting, eh? Well, here's a little more conventional information:

Thursday night we enjoyed some canoeing with the girls around the small lake. We had a ton of fun trying to 'hit and run' as my co-paddeler Alyssa called it; our favorite target being Dawn and Joni and their canoe. Joni is a real fun-lover and I enjoyed splashing her with my paddle. *U*

After that we hit the rope swing where I was content to watch Dawn and Wendy (Wendy is our President) give it a whirl. I *said* I couldn't do it because I was afraid I might hurt my 'favorite muscle' (my groin area) because I'm still not entirely healed up from my surgery. Or so I said. Whatever the reason, I couldn't resist when the girls started chanting my name "Ali! Ali! Ali!" and I gave in.

And I'm glad I did too! It was great fun, though I whacked my heals hard in the industrial spool they use as a launch and landing pad. Ouch! But more than the exhilaration of zooming over the water on the rope, it was such fun to just be with the girls, to feed off their exuberance and feel like I was a part of them.

Here's a picture of me, Dawn and Wendy after our turns on the rope swing:
I wish Tammy was in this pic, then we'd have a fun one of our whole presidency. Tammy didn't get up to camp until shortly afterward though.

In the evening we had a Testimony meeting, which was oh so sweet. I bore my testimony, as did the other members of the presidency, and most of the girls. These girls are so amazing, with such wonderful trust in God. I hope their faith never fails them and they always live in the comforting shelter of obedience.

At bedtime the four of us and one fantastic camp leader named Caryn, crammed ourselves into a four-man tent for the night. And oh my but a body-snatcher stole our mild-mannered Tammy from us and replaced with her a really wacky bad karaoke singer. She was hysterical! She and Dawn entertained us and some of the girls till the wee hours of the morning. I laughed so hard my gut hurt and I got a headache. Fun times! *U* We enjoyed singing songs back and forth between our tent and the Laurels in a nearby tent. They enjoyed laughing at Tammy and Dawn and their bad renditions of popular songs. In the morning Tammy had singers' regret, but I don't regret a moment of it. Her entertainment was the best I've had in ages!

In the morning we quickly packed and were outa there. Dawn and I drove home with three of the girls. We sang songs and bopped around in the car earning some weird looks from passersby. But I didn't endanger any lives and I followed the speed limit, but wow we had fun!

Now that I've written a novel, I suppose I can be done. I'm glad to be home, but so glad I participated as much as I was able in this years' girls' camp. I'm glad to have strengthened the foundation of my relationship with these girls and to have learned some things about myself and I am eager to improve. I have a lot to overcome from my own girlhood, but seeing these girls going through their own problems gives me the courage and desire to try to overcome the lingering demons in my heart.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Girls' Camp

Girls' camp started Tuesday. This is where all the girls aged 12 to 18 in our ward, or church, get together for a few days. It's a lot like Girl Guides, which I grew up with, but heavy on the spiritually uplifting side and not-so-much on the outdoor survival side. Although as I understand it, yesterday they learned how to recognize certain grasses and weeds and such and how to cook them up for a tasty, er, umm, edible, treat. So, really, what do I know?

I have been girls' camp once before but it was deep in my I-feel-sorry-for-myself and I'm-not-even-sure-I-beleive-there-is-a-God stage so I don't remember much from the experience at all. I don't even remember staying over night. I didn't have an official calling there, well, maybe like assistant to an assistant sort of thing. I did a lot of the preliminary work for girls' camp but not so much UP there.


So now I'm a fully active member of the church and I'm secretary in my Ward's Young Women organization and here it is girls' camp. I and the other leaders went up last night just for the evening to see the girls' skits and to give our own. We, yes, even me, were really sorry we had to come back home last night. Thankfully, we'll be going up again tonight and this time staying over.

First of all, the camp is situated high above the dirt and grime of the valley. There are actualy trees, well, shrubby trees but trees nonetheless, and little streams flowing by. You can see the blue of the sky, rather than the gray drab we ar accustomed to 'down below'. It was quite lovely.

We had dinner with the girls, during which the conversation of braces and the woes of such dominated the dinner conversation. One of the girls had to eat only pudding and yogurt for dinner because she just got braces on this past Monday. Ouch! And as an aside I have a little story to tell that involves this girls' pudding.

The other night I was talking with one of the camp leaders' husbands and he was sharing how frustrating the whole experience has been for his wife. How frustrating it was to have a mom call up at the last minute saying she needed room in the cooler for her daughters 'special diet'. And how enraged this husbands' wife was when she discovered the 'special diet' was pudding, jell-o and yogurt. I was equally baffled by the story, but purposely did not ask for names because 1) it's not my business and 2) I didn't want anything coloring my good opinion of these girls.

Nevertheless, I immediately recognized and grasped the truth of the situation when I sat across from this sweet girl, her lips taut and barely moving as she tried to spoon smooth pudding into her oh-so-sore mouth. Instead of ridiculing her for her bizarre 'special diet' I applaud her for coming up to girls' camp when she could have sat at home moping and feeling sorry for herself. And when she was done, she freely shared her new fizzy yogurt with her table mates, even though I wondered how much soft food she could have left if she was so willing to share.

I hope that leader who was so quick to bad-mouth this girl and her mom to her husband has recognized the folly of her thinking.

After dinner we had a riot watching the girls' skits. We watched Mad try to find a place for her anger, which she could not, and learned that it's better to forgive; we saw the birth of the a new super hero - The Good Works Hero - and applauded her wondrous good works and learned how we too could be heroes just like her; and finally we learned that anything is possible with faith, and almost nothing is possible without it.

The YW leaders and I gave our own skit. The theme of our camp was S.T.A.R.S., "Standing Together As Righteous Sisters", and I wrote a skit for us to perform for the girls. It was very funny and sweet. If you want a copy, just email me :)

We all caught a ride with this one friend who was anxious to head back down to the valley before it grew too dark, which we were sort of sorry about because none of us were in a hurry to leave. One girl, the most amazing sweet girl you could ever hope to meet who has a life story that would break your heart, begged us to try the 'monkey bridge' with her before we left. We convinced our friend and driver to wait a little longer, while we went down to try out this bridge.

Oh my, it was hysterical! I thought I would pee my pants! It was a rope bridge strung over a shallow lake/large puddle. The girls wildly bounced on the rope so it was suitably dangerous and exhilerating for us. Our president went out first and I was behind her and oh boy I thought she was going to pitch in. Sometimes my feet would leave the rope beneath me, being bounced so high by the exuberant girls at either end - one of whom was a leader who was taking far too much pleasure in seeing us so close to our doom.

Finally we all made it safely to the other side and I just had to hug, hug, hug that girl who took us on that fun little trip. Sometimes as a grown up, at least for me, I get mired in my adulthood and it feels like a couple of lead blocks have been cemented to my feet during the night while I slept. I forget how darn fun it is to just let loose. It's fun to have fun!

So I'm going back up there today with far less trepidation than I had yesterday. Yesterday I feared I wouldn't fit in, that I would feel lonely, that I wouldn't have fun. I bet those are a lot of the same feelings some of the girls felt too, don't you think? (I don't think I've ever grown up) Today I go up looking for some adventure and expecting to find it, and more courageous to find my place amongst these awesome girls.

Wish me luck! I'll try to post pictures when I get home tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My Power Element is Water

Your Power Element is Water

Your power colors: blue and aqua

Your energy: deep

Your season: winter

Like the ocean, you evoke deep feelings and passion.

You have an emotional, sensitive, and spiritual soul.

A bit mysterious, you tend to be quiet when you are working out a problem.

You need your alone time, so that you can think and dream.

Off the top of my head I'd say yes, that water is my element. I have always been drawn to water of all kinds, from the widest ocean to the smallest rain puddle, I love it and take note of it.

I don't know if I 'evoke' deep feelings and passion, but I do feel deep feelings.

Yes, I'd say I'm 'deep' in that oftentimes my thoughts are consumed with weighty matters and I could usually care less about trivial things. Like what's for dinner or where's the clean laundry; I'm much more concerned with what motivated my character to do something unexpected or how to solve a timing problem.

Yes, I think I am emotional, too often sensitive and yes, spiritual. Although lately I have not been feeding my spirit the way I ought to.

I'd like to think I was mysterious, but I highly doubt it! I think I wear my emotions and my thoughts on my sleeve for all to see!

But I do like to be alone when I'm working through a problem. I'm not usually good company then. I also like to be alone to savor life too. That's where the water comes in, some time alone to listen to the push and pull of the waves and have my thoughts drawn with it; ahhh, now that's dreamy!

Monday, August 06, 2007

I'm Blue, A Boo Dee A Boo Die

... A Boo Dee A Boo Die ...

Thank you to all who voted in my Poll

Blue, it is!


My husband has a nephew, Kenny, whom I just love more than I can say. He has been a friend to me, a son, a brother. I love him way bigger than I imagine most people love a nephew-by-marriage. Kenny has turned his life around and become a real man of honor and integrity. Did I already say I love him?

This past year I realized that I needed to help Kenny find a wife. I am not normally a meddling sort of person nor have I had any experience in match-making. All I can say to excuse myself is I felt this undeniable need, or pull, to find someone for Kenny to love. I felt like it had to be ME too, not because I was better than anyone else, but more like if it wasn't me Kenny wouldn't find his girl. I can't explain it. It was like a calling from God. And if it comes from God, I'm NOT going to ignore it.

So I began asking girls in my ward out on Kenny's behalf. "Hi, would you like you to go out with my nephew?" One girl said yes, another girl, not from my ward said yes, but neither worked out beyond a date or two. And Kenny is no slouch either. It's not like I had to say "He has a really sweet personality". :) Kenny is a good lookin' guy. Just neither of those girls were the right girl.

One Sunday as the year was drawing to a close, I was pondering this dilemma. I thought I had asked all the girls out there were to be asked in our ward. Or all the girls in Kenny's age range were already spoken for. What to do? Should I give up and let Kenny do his own thing? No, a little voice inside me told me distinctly NOT to give up.

Then, low and behold, a sweet voice spoke in answer to the Relief Society teacher's question and my spirit lept within me. I turned around and asked her "Would you like to go out with my nephew sometime?" I was only vaguely aware of who this girl was, but I knew that I had to ask her. I knew, somehow, that Kenny was just the sort of guy she was looking for - and she, him.

Bless her heart, she said "Sure!"

Unfortunately it was over the Christmas holidays and it proved to be very difficult to arrange a time when we could double date together, and they hadn't actually met yet, even casually, so I hesitated to stick them together without some company. I began to think it would never happen.

On December 27th, 2007 my hubby and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. We have been through a lot together and can honestly say that we love each other more today than yesterday. But we wanted Kenny to know the beauty of such love too.

Kenny, being the amazing guy that he is, stayed in our house and took care of our boys while we were away on a little snowmobiling vacation. And he was still at our place when we got back - the perfect opportunity to introduce him to the girl, Chelsea at church that Sunday!

We ran into Chelsea at the beginning of Sunday school and I introduced them. A little awkward at first (more on Kenny's part than Chelsea who handled it with her usual fun smile on her face), but it was done. Whew!

I think they went out on their first date January 2nd or 3rd. After their date they came to our house for some pool and stayed for a long time, which I thought was a good sign, but I couldn't tell if any sparks were flying or not.

Well, whether I saw them or not, they must've been flyin' because a few months later, Kenny and Chelsea became engaged!

Just this past week we all joyfully celebrated their wedding. August 1st, 2007 Chelsea and Kenny were married.

It was a beautiful ceremony, the best I've heard from a Sealer, I think. Everything about the day seemed to me to be perfect. It was lovely. I don't have a picture of their wedding day, but I did their engagements and bridals, so I can share those ...

This was the photo Kenny and Chelsea chose for their wedding invitations.
And below is the picture Chelsea chose for her biggest portrait display at the reception.
She was beautiful and radiant.

So YAY I did it! Kenny is married to the perfect girl for him and all is right with the world. :)

Of course, I fully expect them to name their first born child after me, but other than that, I am happy and content knowing that this man I love so much, is coming to know what it means to be a part of something bigger than himself ... true love shared between an husband and wife.
A Family.