Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Topiary Cuteness

I am a plant lover.... I have plants in my yard, on my porch, and in my house. They just make me happy.

Since I live in the desert, keeping plants alive and looking green can be a challenge.  I have to make sure not to under-water my plants so that they don't dry up.  I have to be careful of over-watering because the soggy soil causes roots to rot and little gnats and pests to appear. And when I go out of town, I literally have to talk one of my friends into coming over to take care of my living plants.

So when I find a nice looking artificial plant, I sigh with relief, knowing that the only maintenance it will require is to be occasionally dusted. I'm sure my plant-sitting friends also appreciate that I don't have to ask them for favors too. Plus I never have to worry about little bugs (eww).

Recently I was asked to provide a neutral review for  Of course I jumped at the chance to get a free plant to review (and then get to keep it in my house!).  I chose to order the two pack of 18 inch topiary trees.

I did a little research while I waited for my plants to arrive. The website features small trees, large trees, indoor trees, and outdoor trees... plants and trees for homes, commercial buildings, corporate offices, hospitals, etc. The website offers ideas and inspiration for using Museum Trees' products.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Book Review - "Hooked" by Deanna Browne

I am so excited to read Deanna Browne's new book, HOOKED (Book 1 of the Hardwired Trilogy). Today is the release date!

One of my favorite genres is Dystopian Fiction. Virtual Reality fascinates me (and also scares me at the same time) so I think HOOKED will be interesting since it centers on virtual reality and survival in a dystopian society.  Give me a good futuristic, dystopian thriller, a comfortable couch and a quiet evening at home and I'll be satisfied.  And maybe throw in a Diet Dr. Pepper and some kettle corn to munch on too.

Here is a little insight into her book HOOKED:

When virtual reality surpasses people’s wildest dreams, many struggle to remain in the real world. Sixteen-year-old Ari has watched the financial and emotional cost of virtual reality addiction for years as her father continues barely existing in a VR coma. Unfortunately, her only option to help her family escape poverty is if she studies the one subject she hates and fears: virtual reality programming.

Despite her misgivings, Ari soon develops a rare talent that makes her question everything. Now she must hide her ability or risk becoming a priceless commodity that governments and corporations will fight, steal or even kill to possess. As officials tighten the shackles surrounding Ari, she rebels against her imposed future and searches for a way to save those she loves. Yet, running proves impossible, when the government is always one click away.

Book Links:

Author Social Media Links:

“Browne’s HOOKED delivers a mind-bending ride guaranteed to bring you back for more.” 
~ Jami Gray, award winning author

I have known Deanna for over a decade and admire her creativity and gifted writing style. This book is sure to be a big hit.  I can't help but wonder if she will be the next author to become famous and I'll be able to say I knew her from her early author days.  She writes because she loves it and the thoughts just come to her.  The satisfaction that she receives from her writing will transfer to the reader as we enjoy the fruits of her labor.

About the Author: DeAnna Browne graduated from Arizona State University with her BS in Psychology. She finds it helps to corral those voices in her mind and put them to paper. An avid reader and writer, she has a soft spot for fantasy with a touch of romance. Despite her love for food and traveling, she always finds her way back to Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, children, and pet dog. Hunt her down and learn more about her work on this website.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Effective Conversation Skills

What makes a good conversationalist?

We've all experienced awkward conversations. I just had one at a recent family event and that motivated me to write this post. Eight of us were seated at a luncheon and half the people at the table made the experience uncomfortable. One of the individuals actually fell asleep sitting up to avoid interaction (super awkward!).

I personally love conversing with others and have been comfortable talking to anyone and everyone since I was a toddler. But I recognize that conversations may feel torturous to different individuals.

Whether you are a natural conversationalist like me, or someone who would rather go hide in the bathroom than have to talk to people, here is some advice.

7 helpful hints:

Whether you are on the phone or conversing face to face, try your best to focus and concentrate on the conversation.  Treat the person like they are important and don't multi-task or think about something else.  If you are busy or distracted, politely excuse yourself from the conversation until you can eliminate the distraction or complete the other task. No one likes to feel like the person they are talking to doesn't really care.

If you are in the same room with someone and conversing with them, you need to be conscious of your body language.  Depending on the nature of the conversation, you can smile, nod, look empathetic, give them a hug, pat their hand, etc.  In all conversations it is important to look at the other person's face so they know you are focusing on them.

People like it when you show interest in them. Whether you are chatting with a relative, friend, stranger, or customer service representative, it is a smart move to ask them questions. With a relative or friend, you can ask them what they've been up to or how they've been feeling. With a stranger you can make small talk about the weather or something around you. With a customer service rep, you can ask them how their day is going. Asking questions about someone shows you care. Some people you talk to may end up going on and on about themselves and in those situations you'll just need to be patient. If they are also good conversationalists, they will ask you questions as well.

An effective conversation involves both parties having a chance to talk. If one person dominates the conversation, constantly talking about themselves, the other person may feel irritated or unimportant. You can always learn something when you listen to someone. Respond when people say something to show you're paying attention. You'll miss out if you are just waiting for your turn to talk. And don't change the subject when the other person finishes talking because that is a dead give away that you didn't care what they were saying and were just waiting for "your turn."

Don't bring up controversial or deeply personal topics such as politics, religion, money, divorce, etc. If the other person insists on discussing these, be pleasant and don't contribute anything that will make others uncomfortable.  Or make a joke that you avoid discussing politics and religion and change the subject.

Remember the saying, "He who gossips to you, will gossip of you." People won't trust you if you gossip about others. It is okay to positively say things about other people that are applicable to the conversation but don't say anything about someone when they are not there unless you'd say the same exact thing if they were present. If you have a concern or need to vent about something, pick a close trusted friend or loved one to discuss concerns with and ask them to keep your issues confidential.

Look for the best in the person you are talking to.  If they say something dumb, forgive them and move on quickly to another topic. Don't be easily offended. Treat yourself with kindness as well. Don't rehash conversations in your mind after they occur and try to think about what you should have said.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Book Review - At the Pulpit, 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women

At the Pulpit is a refreshing collection of women’s voices from the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The book contains 54 speeches given by women from 1831 to current day and is an impressive collection that shows the strength of women in the church. After reading the words of these eloquent women, I felt empowered and grateful for their examples of courage, compassion, and faithfulness. 

Life can be very full and busy at times.  I worried that I wouldn't be able to find time to read and review this book at first.  But during quiet minutes, I found myself drawn to it to bring me peace. I loved the stories and I felt stronger and more motivated after reading it.  Sister Jacobs had it right in the infographic below.

In the first chapter, I was impressed with the leadership of Lucy Mack Smith (aka “Mother Smith,” mother of Joseph and Hyrum Smith). In 1831, Lucy Mack Smith was part of a group that was planning to travel to Kirtland, Ohio from Fayette, New York. Two prominent males in the group refused to lead the group during the journey and deferred to Mother Smith. She rallied the troops and handled the finances, food, lodging, and spiritual guidance. At one point, the group was stuck in Buffalo, waiting for the ice to break in the harbor. Another party there encouraged Smith and her group to hide their religious identity to avoid prejudice. Smith rejected the advice and instead “boldly proclaimed her Mormon beliefs” to the townspeople.

Eliza R. Snow’s speech to the Salt Lake City 17th Ward Relief Society really struck a chord with me in regards to how church callings should work.  She said, “Each member of the society should study to know her place, and honor herself by filling it honorably , and all move forward like machinery that is perfect in all its parts. Let no one overstep her mark or in the least crowd against another… And if this principle shall be carried out in every department, the society will move like clockwork.”  Her beautifully chosen words and appropriate similes describe how callings should be handled not only in just olden days but now as well. Each person is to learn and magnify her calling and not hinder others from fulfilling their responsibilities by enabling them or doing things that are outside their realm of stewardship.

Great lessons on forgiveness were conveyed in Jane Harper Neyman’s story and words. Neyman had been widowed twice and had lost four other family members. She was destitute. When she applied to join the Nauvoo Relief Society in 1842, she was rejected because of gossip regarding two of her daughters who had been accused of sexual immorality. She continued to show great faith and serve others. Eventually Neyman became the first Relief Society in Beaver, Utah and her motto as president was “gather up the fragments, let nothing be lost.” When she addressed the Relief Society sisters in Beaver First Ward in 1869, she encouraged all “to be forbearing and forgiving, refraining as much as possible from scrutinizing the conduct of our neighbors, remembering always that we are human and must therefore err.” She set the expectation in the Relief Society sisterhood that “they will live above reproach and by guarding the doors of their lips keep themselves from censure.” What a wise woman to encourage charity and teach sisters to refrain from gossip, slander and judging others.

Zina D. H. Young was a great example of serving God. She was described as the heart of women's work in the church.  "Sister Zina was all love and sympathy, and drew people after her by reason of that tenderness." She spoke to the Relief Society sisters in her ward and valued motherhood and said children are "blessings from God entrusted to your care."  Yet she also showed compassion to the sisters who did not have children and urged them to be comforted, saying, "We serve a just God, and if you are faithful to his cause it will be no loss to you."  This is as applicable today as it was nearly 150 years ago.

This book contains a plethora of valuable information that has been overlooked and underappreciated over the years.  I for one am grateful that the Church Historian’s Press worked hard to gather this information and share it with the world.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Choose to Reach

The theme for Primary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this year is "Choose the Right."

I serve in the Stake Primary Presidency and we decided we would give the ward Primary Presidency members a little treat when we visit them for Ward Conferences.  We wanted to do a CTR theme but with a twist.  So we decided to create, "Choose to Reach" as a play on the CTR theme.

We've been encouraging our Primary leaders to reach out to each individual and to focus on "the one."  The one can be a child, teacher, etc.  We are also encouraging everyone to strive to prepare for, value, and attend the temple.  So this is what I created.

We attached a handout (printed on cardstock) to a chewy candy (get it, "CHEWS" to Reach?) and we'll pass them out over the next few months.

Feel free to use the graphic if you'd like.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Early Return LDS Missionary - The Importance of Waves

The Importance of Waves

After my son put his mission papers in and we were waiting for his mission call, I had a very spiritual and important dream.  In my dream, I saw the place where my son would serve his mission.  It was an island with a strong European influence.  It was so definite in my mind that I had absolutely no doubt he would be called to an island like that. The second important part of my dream was when I saw great giant waves in the ocean.  I had the feeling that these weren't literal waves but symbolic waves. At first I felt a sense of panic but then I had the strong and undeniable feeling that I should completely trust the Lord and turn everything over to Him.  Little did I know how important this dream would become to our family.

I know that Jesus Christ can calm all of our inward storms and He will help my son because He loves him and wants him to feel joy and grown and learn. My son ended up returning home from his mission earlier than expected. We are so proud of his desire to serve and all his hard work. A mission is a mission no matter how long you serve.

Here's an analogy that helps show how the Lord will help us through the stormy seas and help adversity be for our gain.

Tossed upon the Waves (click on title to read original article)

In the middle of my anxiety and despair, I reread the account of the Jaredites crossing the “great deep” (Ether 2:25). I can only imagine their anxious anticipation as they entered their barges. Their journey might be perilous, but they knew they were headed to “a land choice above all other lands” (Ether 2:15).

Of their journey, we read:

“The Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.

“And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.

“… When they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.

“And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind” (Ether 6:5–8).

These verses became personal to me. I felt that I was in my own barge, with winds of anxiety beating upon me and waves of depression swelling over me and burying me in the depths of despair. When I was “encompassed about” and would cry unto the Lord, I would break through the surface but would then be buried once more.

I read verse 8 again: “The wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land … and thus they were driven forth before the wind” (emphasis added). Then it hit me. The very wind that caused the mountainous waves to bury the barges also blessed the Jaredites on their journey. I had been pleading with Heavenly Father to calm the wind and waves, but without them, I might not reach whatever “promised land” He was leading me to.

These verses changed my outlook on life. My anxiety and depression had increased my reliance on Heavenly Father. Without the wind and waves, I might never have come to know God as I have—and the Jaredites might never have reached the promised land.

For now, a few years after this experience, my winds of anxiety are no longer gusting and my waves of depression have ceased to bury me. But if and when the tempest returns, I will call upon the Lord and be thankful, knowing that calm seas don’t carry barges to the promised land—stormy seas do.

Early Return LDS Missionaries - Anxiety and Depression Resources

Many people don't understand depression and anxiety. I get it.  If you, or someone you love, haven't experienced it personally it is easy to misjudge and think someone can just overcome it with a positive attitude.

Signs of Depression
  • A persistent sad, helpless, hopeless, or worthless feeling.
  • Decreased energy and motivation, and increased fatigue.
  • A loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
  • Appetite change and weight loss or gain.
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up.
  • Thoughts about death and suicide.
Here are some informative articles, videos, blog posts and podcasts that may help provide some understanding about depression, anxiety, and early returned missionaries.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Games to Play in the Dark

Here are some fun games to play with teenagers that I found online.

Blair Witch Hide And Seek

What you Need:
Two mobile phones

How to Play:
Wait until it's dark and turn out the lights. One person hides with a cell phone. In the pitch black, everyone goes looking for this one person. Every so often he must call the other phone and give clues to where he is hiding. If you have one, get a night vision video camera to follow the guests, and watch the tape later.

Murder in the Dark

1. Get the number of cards of people in the game. EX: 7 people means 7 cards. In the cards, make sure to include the Jack and a King whilst the rest of the cards are number cards. Pass out the cards, but make sure no-one sees them. When you are done, everyone can secretly look at the cards. The person with the Jack is the murderer and the person with the king is the detective.

2. Make sure your'e in a house. Turn off all the lights. The object of the game is to not be murdered. If you're the murderer, the object is to murder other players. Everyone else is a victim/detective. 

3. To "Murder" someone, you have to sneak up behind them and tap on their shoulder, which means they are now dead. Then the "Victim" has to lay on the floor. However if you try and murder the detective, he will not die and will just ignore you!

4. If a player comes across a "Murdered" person, he must turn on the room light and yell "MURDER IN THE DARK!" Then everyone has to assemble in the room and the person who yelled has to guess the murderer. If the player guesses correctly, then the game is over. If he guesses incorrectly then you turn off all the lights again and all the murdered victims are brought back to life and the game continues.

5. The only time the murderer wins is when he/she murders every player, except for the detective.

Mannequin Hunter Game
Dark room

How to play:
You need at least five people for this game and make sure you have plenty of room to play. The room must also be as dark as possible so draw the curtains and shut the door. All of the players go into the room except for one person who is named the hunter who must wait outside with the flashlight. The person outside the room must count to thirty whilst the other people will act like mannequins in a store and stand as still as possible and try not to laugh. 

The Hunter then enters the dark room and using the flashlight he must locate the players. Once he finds a player then he must try his best to make the mannequin move, talk or laugh. If they do then the mannequin is out of the game. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Review - Bible Origami by Todd Huisken

Let me start by saying that this book makes me happy. I will explain.

Since my youth, I have struggled with spatial things. Things such as folding paper airplanes and answering those test questions that involve imagining how an unfolded patterned cube would look when folded back up. These things tend to frustrate me and make me feel helpless.

Fast forward to my adulthood. Todd Huisken (creator of Bible Origami) reached out to me to review his new origami book.  Todd was my dear friend during our freshman year of college but after we graduated we lost touch. We reconnected when he found my blog and asked me if I would give an honest review his book.

Author, Todd Huisken

Todd sent me a copy of his book, "Bible Origami," along with some paper so that I could try creating some of his designs. (I'd kept my spatial inadequacies hidden so he had no idea how challenging this would be for me.)

So I bravely sat down to try my hand at "Bible Origami."  I started with making Joseph's Coat of Many Colors. I followed the directions and illustrations exactly. Imagine my surprise and delight when I was able to do it! I literally screamed out, "LOOK WHAT I MADE!" (Sure, my family mocked me a bit for my over-enthusiasm but they were happy for me.)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

You're Turning 8 - Info for LDS Children

Here are some forms that we use in our stake to help children know what to expect when they turn 8.  Boys and girls get the first page.  Then the second page is gender specific. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Parenting, missionary work, obedience, everything, employment,

Six Levels of Motivation

1. Force
2. Fear
3. Consequence
4. Duty
5. Faith
6. Love

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Stake Activity Day - "There's No Place Like Home"

I am currently serving as the secretary in our Stake Primary Presidency.  I loved this recent Stake Activity Day event! Feel free to copy anything you'd like from the activity. 

We had a committee of around 20 people working on it and it was incredible.  Everyone magnified their responsibilities and I have to say it turned out to be quite a memorable event for the girls.

This was our poster (I took our stake name off to make it generic).

Our invitation. We printed them as 4x6 pics at Costco.
We based the theme around the Wizard of Oz but adjusted it to fit our desired goal.  Our theme was "There's No Place Like Home with Our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ."  Our focus was trying to prepare the girls to attend the temple someday and then eventually return to live with Heavenly Father.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rustic & Romantic Wedding Reception

This wedding reception was AMAZING! 

The bride really didn't want a "cultural hall" reception at the church but decided to have it there anyway out of convenience and affordability. It turned out incredibly beautiful and proved that even a basketball court can be transformed into a magical scene.

How darling is this couple?  They are not only beautiful on the outside but also on the inside.  I can't even tell you how incredible they are.  They will have a wonderful life together.

Entry area.  They used a piece of furniture from their future home.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Rustic and Romantic Wedding Luncheon

Two of my son's best friends were married and it was a wonderful day. We love this adorable couple!

The luncheon that the groom's family provided was delicious and the decorations were beautiful. They served pulled pork with BBQ sauce, homemade rolls, honey butter, potato salad, baked beans in little cups, corn, and fresh fruit.  White cloth tablecloths had a burlap topper and then fresh flower arrangements.

The fruit structure in the middle of the tables was really fun.  It was also smart to have two serving tables with the exact same items to help with line control.

The awesome wooden sign in the backdrop was made by the groom.  I heard rumors that it could become their headboard later.

 Lemonade, water, and IBC root beer hit the spot since it was a super hot day.

They served desserts and drinks on the same table.

What a cute little "Happily Ever After" sign to dress up the table.

They served small servings of brownies and bar cookies labeled with chalkboard signs.  My favorite thing was the mint brownies (not pictured). Yum!

They also played a fun game in front of everyone at the reception.  Bride and groom were seated back to back.  They gave each other one of their shoes so they each of them had a bride shoe and a groom shoe. Then the cute couple was asked questions such as "Who said I love you first?" and then independently they had to hold up the correct shoe to answer the question.

I'm not sure if the game coordinator created their own questions or found them online.  Here's a website that I found online that explained the game well and listed a bunch of questions. (The picture is from their website too).