Sunday, April 26, 2015

Are they here yet?

Yes, they are!!

What are "they"? My books, of course!

The first print run of my first novel Liam Darcy, I Loathe You arrived in Cedar Fort's warehouse last week, while I was in California. I was so excited to see them that I snuck into work yesterday—on a Saturday!—to spend a little time just basking in the glow of all those awesome yellow covers.

(And to take pictures for you guys. Because I love you.)

Here they are, all boxed up on a pallet in the warehouse.

And here's some more, on another pallet.

And here's a copy I found sitting on my desk. Do not judge my desk's messiness. I've been gone for a week. (But really, it always looks like this. Except without the candy. I eat that.)

Too often I forget to celebrate my accomplishments because by the time I actually achieve a goal, I've already set five more in my head. I tend to be a little too future-oriented—always thinking about what I want to do next.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who does this. If this is you, you know what it's like to jump from project to project, always pushing yourself to be better in one way or another. But from one future-oriented-person to another, I'm reminding you to pause every so often and reflect on the things you've accomplished.

Resist the urge to make a list of all the things you want to get done in the next year, and instead make a list of all the things you've achieved in the past year. I think you'll be surprised by how much you've already done.

Seriously. Celebrate. You are awesome!

In other news, I hope to see you all at Women's Conference (all three of you that are reading this) at the BYU Store this Thursday, (4/30) from 9:00 to 11:00 am, where you can get your first sneak peek at this book in person before it's even available in stores. I'll also be signing copies of Tiny Talks and giving away a copy of Liam Darcy, I Loathe You to one lucky fan.

(I love how I say that like I have fans. Hahahaha.)

Oh, and in case you didn't hear, I made a website: I promise it'll look better as soon as I figure out what I'm doing. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What are your biggest regrets?

I know the kosher answer to this question is "Nothing, because every choice I've made has taught me something about myself."

That's all well and good—and it's probably true. But I also think it's BS. No one wants to admit that they messed up or confess to a golden opportunity they failed to see.

And while the past is the past and there's nothing you can do to change it, that doesn't mean you can't think about it every now and again and wonder what would've happened if . . .

So, here's my list.

I'll warn you right now that this list is a lot more personal than what I usually post, which is why you won't find long explanations to go with each one. The details could get me in even more trouble. But I'm putting it up in the hopes that it will help you think about what would be on your list.

Maybe if we all spend a little time considering our lists now, we'll be more likely to recognize the next golden opportunity before it's gone or keep ourselves from messing up in the future. I know that's wishful thinking and hindsight is 20/20 and blah, blah, blah. But I still think this will be a useful exercise for me.

Plus I'm trying to put off packing for my trip/cleaning the house before I leave/writing my book. Indulge me.

Okay. Here goes . . .

1. Saying "I love you." Even though it was true, I shouldn't have said it.
2. Hiding in the laundry room and not answering my phone.
3. Stubbornly pouting through Peter Pan.
4. Quitting piano. (duh)
5. Writing a letter. Actually, several. I tend to say more than I should in writing. Surprise, surprise.
6. Buying those expensive heels I hardly ever wore.
7. Not taking journalism in school.
8. Not taking my college grades seriously.
9. All those times I totally binged on my mom's cooking. Like way beyond full.
10. Playing minesweeper instead of playing with my two-year-old brother.
11. Checking my phone while driving.
12. Not even applying to anywhere but BYU.
13. Waiting to be kissed.
14. Not writing to Nani while she was on her mission or sending her birthday cards when I said I would.
15. Being too afraid of failing at sports that I didn't even try them.
16. Sleeping on the edge of the tarp.
17. Not standing up for a friend.
18. Not taking a semester off to refocus.
19. Walking away too quickly instead of waiting to let the moment play out.
20. Taking the easy route.
21. Dropping Ali.
22. Using the word "stench" when I shouldn't have.
23. Getting so mad over little things that didn't matter.
24. Not renewing my passport.
25. Wearing pigtails way past when it was age appropriate.
26. Pretending to be okay with my life when I really wasn't.
27. Making my siblings eat that bag of carrots.
28. Not protecting Jeeves better.
29. Slamming James's finger in the door.
30. Missing so many sunsets and sunrises.
31. Obsessing over guys who weren't interested in me.
32. Attempting to reread The Da Vinci Code. Once was more than enough.
33. Missing parts of or entire family vacations because I thought I needed to be at school or work.
34. Not sending my grandma that letter.
35. Not doing my visiting teaching. (Oh, the guilt. It never goes away.)
36. Losing my coconut ring.
37. Spending my money on Sailor Moon cards instead of investing it.
38. Not flossing. (Again with the guilt.)
39. Saying "hecka" just because I was trying to sound cool.
40. Several super unflattering shirts.
41. Holding people to impossible standards and then being disappointed in them for not meeting them.
42. Being prideful and too quick to judge.
43. Giving up on calculus.
44. Not going to prom or all those senior things or more than a couple high school football games.
45. Not learning how to really do my hair or put on make up until college.
46. Living too much in my own head and ignoring the people around me.
47. Deciding to make this list 50 whole items long. I'm running out of things to say.
48. Driving up the canyon in that snowstorm.
49. Not following a few really specific promptings to help.
50. All those times I missed people and didn't tell them so.

Wow. I kept meaning to stop the list sooner, but then I'd think of more things. Apparently I have a lot of regrets. More than I thought I would, for sure.

I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. I mean, it's bad because there are some things I obviously wish I could change. But it's also good that I'm looking back on this stuff now so maybe I can try to fix it before it happens again.

One thing I know for sure: I will continue to make mistakes. I will do things I regret. But that doesn't mean I should stop living. In fact, I noticed that a lot of my items have more to do with what I didn't do than what I did.

So here's to living bigger, taking risks, and not being so afraid to fail that you don't even try.

I dare you to do it with me.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why do you fast?

In the early hours of last weekend's LDS General Conference, before the post–Easter–candy sugar crash and subsequent coma that pretty much put me out for all of the Sunday afternoon session, President Eyring gave a wonderful talk about fasting. For those who aren't familiar with our church and how we fast monthly, I'll refer you to that talk, which you can view here:

I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was thinking about this talk as I was fasting today. I've been fasting for years, but I don't think I've put enough thought into the purposes behind my fasts. There are, of course, some occasions I can think of when I've fasted for a specific reason or fasted with a group of people for a need. But sadly those seem to be more the exception than the rule.

In order to remedy that situation, I've come up with some ideas for how to make my fasts more meaningful. I'm sharing them here in hopes that you'll take some thoughts from this list and add your own, either in the comments or on facebook.

1. Prepare ahead of time.

This doesn't just mean eating a giant meal on Saturday night, although I can't exactly admonish you against that since I definitely enjoyed more than my fair share of paneer masala last night. What I'm really getting at here is that I need to be thinking about my fasts at least a few days in advance. That will give me more time to focus and figure out what I can fast "for," instead of waking up on Sunday morning and racking my brain for a good reason not to make pancakes or French toast.

2. Study scriptures about fasting.

This one's pretty self-explanatory. This might be a good place to start:

3. Consider fasting from other things, not just food.

Facebook? Netflix? Video games? We all have our vices. Part of fasting is letting your spirit dominate for a little while instead of your natural instincts. I'm pretty sure that when I spend hours on end playing 2048, my spirit is not the one in the driver's seat. Granted it can be tempting on fast Sundays to try to while away the long hours by doing something totally mindless so you won't have to think about how hungry you are. But I'm not sure that's really the point.

4. Ask family and friends about their needs and then fast for them.

It can be a difficult to come up with good reasons to fast if you're only focused on your own desires. Most of the time my life is pretty awesome, so I don't often fast for myself. But fasting for someone else is hard to do unless you know what they're dealing with. If you can't think of someone with a specific need, ask around. There's likely someone you know who could use a boost.

5. Give a generous fast offering.

I need to be better about this. I don't always give as much as I could. I should be more like the widow in Mark 12, giving from my want rather than solely my abundance.

6. Pray more.

When your tummy starts growling, say a little prayer. When you want to sneak a cookie, pray instead. When it's still three hours till dinnertime, find a quiet place and pray. I'm always amazed by how much easier it is to feel the Spirit on fast Sundays. It's like when you get star power on Super Smash Bros and for a little while you're invincible. You gotta take advantage of it while you've got it.

7. Try fasting in gratitude.

You know how it can be a really good idea to say a prayer that's purely for giving thanks? This is the same thing, except it lasts longer and you get to spend the whole day thinking about all the things you're grateful for. Who wouldn't love a day like that?

8. Be still.

Fast Sundays can be a great time to receive personal inspiration, reflect on your life, and renew your commitments to become a better person. But if you fill the whole day with distractions, you won't have time to think about or do any of that stuff.

9. Fast on different days.

If the once-a-month-on-the-first-Sunday thing has got you in a rut, try fasting on another day. If you can do it safely, experiment on weekdays or Saturdays. You might feel it more poignantly, and you'll definitely feel better about the experiment if you follow the Savior's counsel to "appear not unto men to fast," and focus instead on having a personal experience with your Heavenly Father (Matthew 6).

I hope this post doesn't come off as preachy. I'm not trying to lecture anyone, except maybe myself. But I do want to publicly say that I know that fasting works. I've seen miracles happen because of it. And I also want you all to know that I intend to get better at fasting. After all, it's such a little sacrifice to make when you consider the immense blessings it brings.

I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday! Happy fasting!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Are you still thinking about marriage? What is wrong with you?

I hope I can get this out right. It's something that's really important to me and that I've been mulling over in my brain for the past couple of days. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes to me. 

It's this: I'm starting to think that my current life is not a consolation prize.

Growing up, I thought I knew exactly what would happen to me over the course of my lifetime. I would go to college. I would meet someone. We would marry. I would stay home and raise our kids. And that would be that. I had no interest in working outside my home. I liked the idea of having a large family. Maybe homeschooling my kids like my mom did off and on with me and my siblings. That was the kind of family I'd grown up in, and that was what I wanted. That was always Plan A.

But that's not what happened.

Instead, I went to college, learned some skills, got a job, learned more, started writing books, kept working, and became an author. Totally not what I had planned.

And all of this time, as I've been living this not-Plan-A life, I've been thinking. Well, this is nice. This is good. I guess if I can't have what I really want, this is a pretty cool consolation prize.

But the thing of it is, I've been following the Lord's plan this whole time. At every point when I've had a major decision to make in my life, I've prayed for guidance and felt prompted to move or take a new job or buy a house or publish (or not publish) that book.

So why do I still feel like I'm in the middle of Plan B?

As I started watching conference this weekend, it finally dawned on me: What if this isn't Plan B at all? What if I'm actually on the right track?

It's hard to believe that the Lord could want something different for me than what I learned about in my young women's classes because I don't feel different. I feel like I'm the same as every other LDS girl who grew up wanting to go to BYU and get married. But what if that's not the case? What if Heavenly Father has always had these plans for me?

In the past, I've mostly assumed that my singlehood was somehow my fault. All around me, as more and more of my friends got married, I would see them and think, "I'm just not as pretty as her or I'm not as friendly or I don't put myself out there enough." Or even, "I'm not as good a person." In my mind, I'd recommit to being better: reading my scriptures more often, going to the temple more, exercising, dieting, online dating, anything.

I was convinced that God would bless me with a spouse only after I had proved that I deserved it. I knew exactly what my faults were (we all know what ours are) and I was determined to beat them and earn my eternal companion. Every young women's lesson I had ever heard convinced me that if I were good enough, if I became the person I would want to marry, then instantly my prince would appear.

And yet, here I am. Practically perfect and still unmarried. Hahaha. Not really. I'm still hopelessly flawed. But so are millions of married people.

My point is that maybe instead of focusing so much of my energy and frustration on trying to "earn" a spouse through all my good works, I could've spent a little more time enjoying life and using the blessings I did have to help those around me. Maybe instead of working so much on myself, I could've been working to build the kingdom.

And maybe in spite of all those young women lessons and the expectations of my family members and the peer pressure of watching my friends get married, I could've recognized a little earlier that I am actually living the life that my Savior has planned for me. 

That's all that really matters. 

If I'm on His track, then I am on the right track. Even if my course is not the one I originally had marked out on my personal life map.

More and more I find myself grateful that I did not get what I wanted when I wanted it. For example, if I had gotten married in college, I can tell you I would not be the confident, happy person that I am today. I was not in a good place in college—especially right in the middle of it. I was failing classes. I had no direction. I didn't think that I could handle the pressure of life on my own. I had no self-discipline.

And I can tell you now that if I had met someone then and my life had turned around and become as good as or better than it currently is, I would've given my partner all the credit. And I would still be convinced to this day that I couldn't handle adult life without him. 

But instead, I can place the credit where it really belongs, with my Heavenly Father. He was the one who helped me find direction and taught me through experiences how important I am to Him and how much good I can do when I follow His promptings. I wouldn't know my own strength if I had gotten married when I wanted to. And I don't think I would've learned how to rely on the Spirit as much as I have.

As always, I am not saying that my life is or should be the ideal. But I wish that someone had told me earlier that it was okay to not get married in college. They probably did, and I just wasn't listening. 

In fact, I know that happened at least once because I remember going to a talk my aunt gave about what to do if you are single and about to graduate. At the time, my aunt was about to turn forty, a college professor, and she'd never been married. But I was still a freshman, and I was sure that my Plan A life was about to begin. I had no thoughts of graduating single because that wasn't the plan.

Oh, the irony.

I guess that's the message I want to share more often with the girls I know and meet. That it's okay to not get married. That it's okay to take a different path. It's fine to want what you want when you want it, but it's not as important as wanting what the Lord wants for you when he wants it for you.

Trust Him. He knows you. He knows what you need most, even if it's not what you want most. And even if it's not what your parents think you should be doing. Trust His plan. It's personalized for you.

Or, as the scriptures put it, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5–6)

As long as you keep following the promptings He gives you, you won't be getting any consolation prizes. Instead you'll be getting the life He knows will make you the best person you could possibly be.

You will always be living Plan A.