Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Do you have a new Primary book out for 2017?

Yes! I sure do. Thanks so much to everyone who's asked me about this.

My 2017 Primary book is called Tiny Talks: Choose the Right

You'll notice that this year we are back to the Tiny Talks title, but don't let that fool you. This book incorporates a lot of the same format that I used for 2016 in Time to Share. That means that in addition to talks for kids to give, you'll also find lessons, activities, videos, songs, and scriptures that go along with each week's theme. Plus, I've included a sample outline for your annual Primary program in Sacrament meeting.

It's kind of hard to tell from this small picture, but trust me, there is a LOT of stuff in this book. A lot more than I ever put into Tiny Talks.

I really appreciate everyone who helped me write this book, including so many of you who contributed names for me to use in the talks and stories. For your information, I used the following names in this book.


Again, thank you so much to everyone who sent in names. I wanted to use them all, but there just wasn't enough room. If I missed your child's name this year, I'll definitely keep it in mind for next year.

I also need to give a big shout-out to all my amazing friends and colleagues at Cedar Fort, especially Shawnda, McKell, and Chelsea who worked so hard on this book. I love the collaborative partnership I have with you guys. It's great to still feel so involved in the publishing process even though I don't work at Cedar Fort anymore. Thanks for bringing my ideas to life, ladies!

Finally thanks so much to each one of you who read my blog and use my books. I really hope my books are helpful to you. I love writing these Primary books, and I feel so grateful each year that I'm able to do this. Thanks for all your support!

And to show you how thankful I am to all you blog readers, I'm going to give away five copies of this brand new book to you folks. All you need to do is share a link to this blog post on Facebook and tag me in it or message me to show me that you did it. Super easy, right?

If you're one of the first five I'll send you a private message on Facebook so I can arrange to send or deliver your book to you.

I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season and that you're looking forward to a happy and exciting new year ahead. Yay for 2017!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What's it like to be a minimalist at Christmastime?

It's the most wonderful time of the year, folks! I hope you're enjoying your holiday festivities so far.

Christmas is awesome for so many reasons, but in the past couple of years as I've really started embracing minimalism, there have certainly been challenges around this time of year. I've tried to figure out how to do Christmas as a minimalist, but I'll admit it's been a struggle. I have high hopes for this year, though. I think I've finally figured it out, or at least I'm getting pretty close.

Part of that has to do with the passage of time: most of my friends and family have now gotten used to not giving me things. And part of it has to do with really focusing my philosophy of minimalism in the past year: what minimalism means to me, how I practice it, and how much more I enjoy giving things away than getting them.

But first, a look at Christmases past. As a child I remember loving Christmas. I loved the anticipation, wondering what Santa would bring. I loved decorating the tree and laying underneath it, looking up at the lights. I loved the music and the treats and spending time with my family.

But I will confess, I didn't always love my actual gifts. I'd pretend to like them because I knew that people who loved me had spent a lot of time picking things out for me and had spent money they didn't always have to make my Christmas special. I always felt so guilty when I didn't genuinely like a gift. It felt like a burden to have this thing that I didn't want, didn't know what to do with, and had to keep because I couldn't bear the thought of offending the person who'd given it to me.

After ten years or so of this, I started to realize what was happening. Before then, I wasn't sure how to process the feelings of post-Christmas let-down. It soon became clear that I'd have to make Christmas about more than the presents or I'd continue to be disappointed. Luckily, this realization coincided with me starting to enjoy singing in choirs. Suddenly there was a new reason to love Christmas—all the caroling and choir practices with friends helped me look forward to the season. That got me through to college, when Christmas became all about the joy of traveling home to California, spending time with my family and enjoying the comparatively warm weather and the break from school between semesters.

Yet still there was that nagging guilt of not liking all my presents and of feeling frustrated by the consumerism, the busy-ness, and the burnout that often come along with the Christmas season. Christmas is a hard time to say no to things. You want to make the most of it and keeping adding more and more to your traditional celebrating. It seems like the right thing to do.

Simplifying can seem Scrooge-y. You're supposed to want more presents and you're supposed to enjoy picking out the perfect thing for each of your beloved friends and family members. You're not supposed to think about the money gifts will cost you and the fact that so many of these decorations end up in the trash or wasting away in the garage for the other 11 months of the year.

Christmas is supposed to be about more, not less.

But it doesn't have to be that way. As I've discovered in the past couple of years, Christmas can be about experiences instead of things and spending precious time with family and friends. Even at Christmastime, less can be more. A lot more, in fact.

It's all in how you approach the holiday. If you're like me and your childhood Christmases were focused on physical presents, it's going to take a little adjusting to get into the minimalist mindset. Instead of making a list of things you want to receive or keeping your eyes out for that perfect gift for someone on your list, think about all the time you could save not shopping and how that time could be spent creating memories with your family. Maybe you could try making a list of fun things you want to do with the people you love in the coming weeks or months.

Another important part of a minimalist Christmas is learning to say no to invitations to do more. It's going to take some work and conscious effort, but you really don't have to participate in that cookie exchange or attend your coworker's brother's holiday bash, even if you've been doing these things for years. Instead, focus on creating quiet moments to reflect on the beauty of the season. And do say yes to the invitations you really care about. Just remember that burnout is real and it's very important to know your own limits.

One idea that can be really fun is deciding not to spend any money on holiday decorations. I did this a couple of years ago, and it was super fun. I used paper and craft supplies that I already had around my house, plus some used lights and a mini-Christmas tree that were re-gifted from a family member. I made snowflakes and paper chains to hang up in my windows. Then when Christmas was over, I was able to throw most of my decorations away and not have to store anything for next year. I like all-white Christmas lights because you can use them all year, not just at Christmastime. When you have a tiny house, it's hard to justify storing things you only use 1/12th of the time, so stuff like that is important.

I'm not saying that it's bad to buy presents or that you should deprive yourself of the joys that come with this time of year. I just want to point out that there are other ways to celebrate Christmas. I used to get a lot of joy out of giving physical gifts to my friends and family. These days, I get a lot of joy out of giving them experiences and spending time with them. Instead of feeling entitled to boxes of presents, I've found myself feeling excited about donating to causes I care about.

Before you get the wrong idea, I want to point out that I'm not some sort of Christmas saint. I'm not perfect at this stuff. I still feel the pull to do and buy and be more, but I know that in the end, I'm happier with less. Minimalism is not the only way to focus yourself on the true spirit of Christmas, but it's working really well for me.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your holidays are completely magical whether you go minimalist or maximalist this year. Here's to a wonderful Christmas season and a brand new year to come!

Oh, and speaking of a new year, if you're looking for help with Primary this coming year, I've got a few extra copies of this book that I'd be happy to give you. Just leave me a comment here or on Facebook and I'll see what I can do!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Why aren't you moving into your house? (And where are you moving next?)

Oh, guys. I have so much to say on this topic and I want to make sure I say it all the right way. That's a lot of pressure for a post, or at least a lot more pressure than I normally feel. That's why I've been putting off posting about this. But now that my house is done and settling into its temporary home, it feels like it's time to address this.


Does anyone else feel like I've already talked about this? Because I feel like I have. And I'll likely have to talk about it again. That's how my life is going to go now. I'll spend a lot of time explaining my unusual choices to people for the rest of forever. Good thing I like to write.

So to answer the immediate question . . . I'm not moving into my house yet because I'm not ready to move into my house yet. And there are a few reasons why that's the case, but most of them come down to my finances.

I know money isn't the most exciting thing to talk about (or read about) so I'll try to make this part quick. Basically I've never been a fan of debt, and I've had to take on a lot of it in order to build this house. I had always planned to rent a space to park my house, but when I switched my plans from living in Utah to living in California, I realized that it was going to cost me a lot more to park/rent land here than there, not to mention the added expense of towing the house to California and paying higher taxes on it here.

Don't get me wrong; I'm totally glad I moved back to California. That was always in my long-term plans, as was working remotely. So I'm super glad that I'm now doing both of those things. But because I made those major life changes (moving and transitioning to working remotely), I decided I didn't want to change all that at once, plus move into my tiny house, and have to worry about all of these bills at the same time.

I needed some breathing room and I needed time to make sure I didn't overwhelm myself. Once upon a time in my 20s, I'm sure I would've jumped into all of this willy-nilly. But now as a wise, old 30-something, I have learned that as much as I love change, even I have my limits.

So I decided to plan for some transition time. At first I was considering putting my house in storage temporarily. That would be cheaper than renting a space where I could live in it. But then I found an even better solution: a tiny house bed and breakfast where they rent out tiny homes on Airbnb. This means that instead of costing me money, my house has now become an investment property and will make me money.

I don't know exactly how much money it will end up making me, but anything is better than the alternative: paying to have it sit in storage.

Um . . . let's see. Were there other reasons I wanted to mention? I talked about finances; I talked about not changing everything all at once. What else? Oh! Right! The whole parking situation.

So there are very few places in the Bay Area where you can legally park a tiny home. I don't want to get into a long discussion about zoning laws because that's even more boring to talk about than finances. To sum up: the best options are usually RV parks and some of those are really sketchy and if they're anywhere close to civilization, they're out of my price range. The funny thing is, my parents' house has plenty of parking space for a boat or RV. My tiny house would totally fit in our backyard. But the zoning codes prohibit it. You're not even allowed to store an RV there, let alone live in it.

What I will most likely end up doing, once I'm financially ready for this, is move my house to a tiny-house-friendly RV park somewhere on the West Coast either in Portland, southern Oregon, or Northern California. When will that be? I don't know for sure. But definitely not earlier than May 2017. And possibly as late as May 2018. Somewhere in that range.

Of course, I would like it to be sooner. I bought this house because I want to live in it. But I also want to be smart about this whole process and not end up moving in and then having to sell my house immediately because I can't afford to pay for it.

If anyone is actually interested in the full financial picture here, I would be happy to lay it all out for you. I am super open about my money and how I work through all that. But I'm omitting it here because I don't want to bore anyone to death.

In the meantime, until I can afford to actually live in my house, I am staying with my parents temporarily and I might start looking for another place to live with friends in the Bay Area. Or I might move to Arizona.

What?! Arizona?!


Want to know why? Because yesterday I made a whole list of places that I've always wanted to live/visit/see. And then I categorized them according to how long I think I'd want to stay there.

(Side note: It's kind of mind-boggling to me that I've finally reached the point where I can make plans like this. I've always wanted to create a flexible life where I could move as often as I wanted to without disrupting anything major. Now that I've got a mobile job, a mobile house, and a slimmed down minimalist lifestyle, I can really do it. It's so great!)

Anyway, there were only eight places that made the list of locations where I'd like to stay for a year or more. And one of them was Arizona. I know it's a big state, but I haven't narrowed it down any more than that yet. Probably somewhere close-ish to Phoenix, though. Or Tucson maybe.

I also might move to Eureka. That was on the list.

Or Santa Cruz. Or San Luis Obispo. Or Monterrey.

Are you seeing the trend? Most of the other seven places are in California. And a lot of them are locations where I would like to park my tiny house someday. But Arizona stuck out to me as a place where I wouldn't necessarily want to live in a tiny house, mostly because with a tiny house, outdoor living becomes super important and in Arizona the outdoors are sometimes inhospitable what with the extreme heat and all.

The way I see it, the next six months to eighteen months are like my last chance to live with friends or experiment with living situations that are not so tiny before I settle into my little house permanently. Or at least for a long time.

Speaking of the long term, this listing-places activity that I did yesterday also helped me to map out my plans for the next five-ish years. They look like this:

2017: Rent out my tiny house, live at home/in the Bay Area, or move somewhere like Arizona.
2018: Move into my tiny house in an RV park in Portland, Eureka, the Delta, or maybe central California or southern Oregon.
2019: Take a West Coast trip with my tiny house. Start near Seattle. Stay in RV parks for a few weeks at time. Work my way down to the San Diego area.
2020: Do the same thing on the East Coast. Start in Maine. End up in the South. Maybe head to Texas on my way back West.

So there you have it, folks, my entire life plan for the next five years. I know it would be more exciting if I were quitting my job and doing all of this cool traveling and tiny living right now, but not only would that be unrealistic financially, it would also just be too much for me. That kind of life makes for awesome television, but the drama is only sustainable for so long before you burn out and wind up selling your tiny house and moving right back into regular old traditional housing.

I don't want to do that. I want to experience my tiny house journey in a way that makes sense for me, even if that means waiting and being patient and doing things slowly.

Of course, no one really knows what the future holds. My list of places where I'd like to live might change dramatically before I ever get a chance to take my tiny house on the road. Who knows? I might even get married and that could change everything. But I feel pretty good about the fact that I have a plan for now. And I'm really excited that my tiny house is done and that it will be waiting for me whenever I'm ready to move into it.

Sorry this post was so boring and informative. I'll finish it off with a picture I took at the beach yesterday because life is lovely and when you have less stuff and less money you have more time to enjoy all the beautiful things around you that don't cost a thing.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What should I write for NaNoWriMo?

I know this will sound strange, but sometimes I forget that I write books. I'm not one of those authors that diligently pulls out my laptop every day and hammers out a thousand words before breakfast. And because most of the books I've written have been short or on supertight deadlines, I can usually get them done in a month or less and then go on my merry way and not worry about writing again for awhile.

But occasionally something does happen that makes me remember. This week it was getting the interior illustrations for a board book I wrote awhile back. It looks so cute! To be honest, I'd almost forgotten all about this book in the midst of tiny house building and moving and everything else that's been going on lately.

I feel sort of bad. Like I've been neglecting my authorial duties by not devoting more time and energy to this project. But the truth is that there's a lot of waiting time when you're an author. You submit an idea weeks or months before you hear back about it and then it often takes over a year before it really becomes a book. So I guess the only difference with this book is that I haven't been sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I've been busy with other life things.

Anyway, all of this is to say that while I can't show you the interior pictures, I do have a cover I've been meaning to reveal for awhile.

Isn't it cute?

This book comes out in February and is already available for pre-order on Amazon, so if you're interested, feel free to check it out there.

And in related news, I'm pretty sure I'm going to do National Novel Writing Month again, or at least attempt it. For those who've never heard of it NaNoWriMo happens every year in November and you have to write 50,000 words in a month. I've attempted it off and on for five-ish years now, but I only won for the first time last year.

I like it as an exercise in writing discipline, which, as mentioned above, is not something I usually have. It doesn't necessarily translate into a finished product because you're writing so quickly, but it's definitely a start and it's just fun to write with lots of other people in this big group-writing event.

My problem with doing it this year is that I've been really indecisive about what to write. I have tons of ideas, but I can't seem to settle on any particular one. That's why I need your help. I'm going to list my ideas below and I would love it if you would vote here in the comments or on Facebook if you have an opinion about which one I should write for NaNo.

1. LDS romance, characters would probably be just out of college or a late 20s, set in DC, California, or maybe New York.

2. The third book in the Jane Journals series. (The second one has been done for awhile; it just needs more polishing, which I've been putting off until after I finished my tiny house.)

3. Middle-grade light fantasy about a family with five kids who find another world in the woods, set in summertime.

4. Historical/contemporary story with two plotlines, one in the past and one in the present. Both tied to a specific place. Probably early 1900s for the historical story. Not totally sure yet what would happen in either story. Most likely would involve some drama and romance. Possibly LDS.

5. Rewrite of my first novel that I never published. YA. Set in contemporary San Francisco about a school for psychics. First in a series. Or I could rewrite it to be a standalone.

6. Fairytale retelling, probably Hansel and Gretel. Maybe Cinderella. In either a completely new setting or else in a historical setting. I'm not sure. I've just always thought it would be fun to try one of these.

I may also decide to go into it with absolutely no forethought and just start typing and see what happens. That could be interesting. But I feel like that might just result in something completely unsalvageable. I don't know. I tend to use NaNoWriMo as a time to experiment with a new genre or flex my writing muscles with a point of view or a tense that I don't normally write. But maybe I want to go easy on myself this year. After all, I did just move and build a house.

Which brings me to some unrelated news: I am officially back in California and it feels so good! My house will be done this week and will be delivered to The Hideaway Ramona, which is where it will stay for at least the next six months to a year while I figure out where to put it/pay off more of the loans it took me to build it/trade my little car in for a truck that can pull my house. I'll be heading down there next weekend to make sure it's all settled in place. I'm not entirely sure when I'll be moving in and actually living tiny, but for now I'm just excited to be a tiny house owner if not a tiny house dweller (yet).

This whole process of going tiny has taken me years to execute, so I figure what's a few more months or another year in the grand scheme of things? Besides, I have some really fun plans for trips and things coming up to fill my time while I'm waiting. Now that I'm working from home I feel like I have a lot more flexibility both for traveling and for life in general, which I definitely want to take advantage of.

So stay tuned for more updates. And if you've got an opinion about what I should write or another idea you think I should consider, feel free to comment here or on Facebook. I'm looking forward to getting started on another book!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

When are you moving?

That is such a good question! And I really wish I could give you a specific answer. In fact, I'm pretty sure I care a lot more about the answer to that question than any of you do right now. But . . . I don't know for sure because the answer to the question of when I am moving is: when my house is done.

And when will that be? I don't know.

Last time I saw my tiny house it was two framed walls, not connected to a trailer.

And as far as I know, it still looks like that. However, that was four days ago, so there's a possibility that my builder has made some progress since then. On the other hand, he is also working on three other houses right now. Here's some pictures of one house that's about the same size mine will be.

One thing that has caused a little bit of delay is that there was some trouble with the way my trailer was registered. When you buy a tiny house, you can have it registered as a travel trailer, a park model RV, or a standard utility trailer. The trailer for my house was registered as a utility trailer, which is not ideal because that makes it harder to get the right kind of insurance for my house and to park it at an RV park, should I ever want to do that, which I very well might.

So. There's that. The house in the pictures above was actually built on the trailer that mine would have been built on, if it had been registered the right way.

I'm trying to be as patient as possible through all this. I keep reminding myself that I have waited a whole year to make this tiny house dream happen (not to mention the four years before then when I was seriously considering it as a future possibility). So a few more weeks won't hurt anything. But on the other hand, I am so excited to get back to California that any delay at this point just feels like torture.

The good news is that Friday was my last day working in the office, so now I am totally ready to move from a work standpoint. I'm really excited about working full-time remote. I know there will be some challenges and things to adjust to, but I'm just so grateful to have a job with the kind of flexibility that allows me to go wherever I need to in order to live the life that I really want to live—in a tiny house, in California. 

I will keep you all posted on the progress of my house, but right now it's looking like I won't be moving until the 22nd or 29th of October. And for Utah people, I'm still planning to hold a tiny open house before then, so I'll let you know when that might be happening too. Although, with everything so up in the air it'll probably be a really last-minute invite, like, "Hey! Who wants to come see my tiny house TONIGHT! For one night only!" I'm sorry in advance about that.

Another good thing that's come of me building this house (even though it's tiny and even though I'm not actually building it) is that this process has definitely taught me a few lessons in how to be flexible and patient. I generally think of myself as very easy-going and chill, but even I have my limits, and I think it's good for me to be tested on those limits every once in awhile.

It's just really hard to be patient when life is about to get a million times more awesome!!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Would you like some help decluttering?

If you had told me when I started this blog that I would become the tidy, minimalist person I am today, I would’ve laughed in your face. Ask my parents; ask my siblings. They will tell you that I have never been a tidy person. I didn’t care if my bed was made. I didn’t care how long I let the dishes sit out on the counter. I didn’t care how much stuff I had stuffed in my closet. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total slob, but I definitely was under the impression that my creative, whimsical nature couldn’t be bothered with the organization and maintenance of all my many boxes of random things.

Well, folks, I have changed. And at this point, nearly 18 months into my new tidy lifestyle, I think it’s safe to say that the change is a permanent one. 

Turns out I actually really like tidying. I do it automatically now. All of my things have a place and for the most part, they all stay in those places. I won’t say that my cleanliness is perfect. My bathroom counter tends to stay a bit messy and my jeans sometimes sit on the floor overnight, but that’s a far cry from the giant piles of dirty laundry that used to creep into the corners of my room and the endless array of knickknacks that once cluttered up my bookshelves.

The thing is, now that I’ve dramatically downsized my possessions, I’m finding that my love of tidying has outgrown the actual amount of tidying that I can do. That is to say that I’ve physically run out of things to tidy. There are, after all, only so many ways you can rearrange your closet.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided to look elsewhere for decluttering opportunities to satisfy this new urge. And this is where you all come in. If you have a tidying/decluttering/organizing project that you need a little extra help tackling, would you be willing to let me try helping you? I’m definitely not a professional organizer and I don’t have any kind of certifications in this area. I don’t know if the approach I used will work for everyone, but it has certainly worked for me. And I would love to tell you more about how I made this lifestyle change and hopefully help you change your life too. Just think of me as a tidying mentor/coach person.

For now I just want to dip my toes in the water and see if this tidying stuff is as much fun when I’m helping other people as it is when I’m doing it for myself. Eventually, if I like doing it, I might try to earn some type of certification and turn it into a side business or something. But that’s a little farther down the road. 

Also, I have no idea what to charge for my services in this area, so I’m just going to leave that up to you. Propose a project to me and if you have money and want to pay me for it, that’d be cool. I can tell you that anything I earn from this will go directly toward paying off my tiny house (since I had to borrow money to build it). But if you don’t have money to spend on this, and you just need help, that’s fine too. I am here for you, and I'm just looking for some experience.

A few final notes: 

1. This offer is primarily for Bay Area people, but if you live somewhere else and have an extra room I could sleep in for a week or so (or even just a couch I could crash on for a few nights), I’m open to that idea too, depending on who you are, where you live, how well I know, how annoying your kids are (kidding, mostly), and what kind of project we’re talking about. 

2. I am not sure how soon I'd be able to get started, since I still don't know the exact date of my upcoming move to California. But I figured I'd post about this now to let you all think about it and so that we can start setting up tidying sessions for future dates. I'm guessing I'll be settled in from the move and ready to get started working at the beginning of November, but I could possibly do something earlier than that if you're up against a deadline (like you need your house to look good before the neighborhood Halloween party).

3. If you are interested, send me a message on Facebook or comment on this post. I'd love to schedule a time to chat with you about your needs and figure out if I'd be a good fit for your project.

4. I am generally a nice person and I would never force you to give up anything you truly love.

Final disclaimer: I very much dislike this sell-y type stuff. I am genuinely doing this because I think it will be fun. That's how much I'm into tidying these days. But I hope no one reading this will feel put off by it. And the most important point I want to make about all this is that I don't think you're a bad person if your house is not tidy. This blog is a no-judgment zone. If you are happy with your current level of tidiness, that's awesome. More power to you. But if you're unhappy with your house/room/apartment or how much time it takes you to keep it clean and organized, I think I might be able to help you with that. And I think I would enjoy helping.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

No more TV?

That's right, people. I am currently living through a dearth of television. Ever since my mom failed to renew our family Netflix account a few weeks ago, all I've been able to watch is Youtube. That means no movies, no shows, nothing but vlogs and late night comedy sketches.

It's been . . . interesting. If I weren't about to move home to my parents' house where they have an actual television with an actual DVR, I'd be seriously looking into my online subscription options. I don't want to own a large television myself or pay for cable. But in spite of my ultra minimalist lifestyle, I'm not a total Mennonite. Not yet, anyway. And I still want my TV shows. (No offense, to actual Mennonites, of course. I really admire many things about your lifestyle.)

Granted, there is some great stuff on Youtube. And I have definitely enjoyed the extra time to live my life without the temptation to binge rewatch Stranger Things. So I wouldn't say that the loss has been entirely a bad one. But I will definitely be happy when I can get back to my regularly scheduled programming, as it were.

What am I doing to in the meantime to make life bearable?

1. The New York Times Crossword Puzzle.

I treated myself to a one-month subscription to their app, and I've been loving it. I'm even getting the Sunday puzzles done, which is really saying something. Of course, it helps that you can reveal letters and words and check your answers. And Google helps a lot too. But I try to do as much as I can on my own before relying on cheats.

Though I will admit to some heavy cheating this past Thursday when the puzzle clues were all anagrams. It was a nightmare. And I like anagrams.

2. Knorpp and South

You guys, I am obsessed with this family. You HAVE to check them out. They have nine kids, five of whom they adopted from China. They're LDS. And they're currently traveling around the country in an RV. They are basically the coolest people ever, and I want to be just like them when I grow up. Plus their kids are totally adorable! They post videos as they go, and it's so fun to follow their adventures. Big Youtube score.

3. Good, old-fashioned reading

I started rereading Little Women the other day and fell back in love with it. Such a classic. I also reread Louisa May Alcott's lesser-known first novel, The Inheritance. She wrote it when she was seventeen and it's fun as a writer myself to see her learning to put a story together. It's like hanging out with the real Jo for an afternoon.

4. Getting outside!

It's early fall here and that means that the temperature and weather are perfect for spending hours and hours outdoors. Lately when I leave the office for my lunch break, I've been having a really hard time convincing myself to come back indoors to finish working in the afternoons.

And of course, our sunsets are always gorgeous. That's one thing I'll definitely miss when I move to California.

I also managed to squeeze in one last summer roadtrip to Colorado a couple of weeks ago with one of my very best friends. That was a blast. I should've taken more pictures because we drove through some really pretty scenery, but here are just a few.

5. And of course, lots and lots of writing Tiny Talks 2017.

As much as I enjoy writing these books every year, I'm always so relieved when they're done. I will freely admit that one of the reasons I love having a deadline is that I know that once it's passed, I'll get to go back to being lazy and only writing when I feel like it.

Speaking of Tiny Talks, though, I actually do have a proof I'm supposed to be going through this weekend, so I should probably get to work on that.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are you getting rid of EVERYTHING?

Blog! I missed you! I've been so busy writing Tiny Talks 2017 that I haven't had a spare minute for my blog in weeks. But the manuscript is done now (as of last night around 8:00 pm) and that means I'm going back to my normal reality.

And that means I'm getting ready to move to California, finally build a tiny house, start working remotely, and figure out what's coming next in my life.

In case you haven't heard yet or you were a little confused about the details, I'm currently planning to move from Utah to the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of September or beginning of October. The exact timing of the move depends on a couple of things. One is my tiny house, which I'll talk more about in a minute, and the other is a personal history project I've been working on with my grandma (not my history—hers). I've been helping her put together a book with some of her writings and photos and I'd like to get it at least mostly done if not completely done before I move.

To be clear, I am SUPER excited about this move. If I could, I would move tomorrow. But I also want to make sure that I act like a responsible adult and take care of the things that I need to take care of here before I go.

Now about my house. I am well aware that there are many people who would really love to know exactly when my house will be done and exactly what it will look like and how big it will be and all of that stuff. And let me just say, I am also one of those people. Heh.

I don't know for sure when the house will be done. The builder that I'm working with has had some unfortunate setbacks recently, and since I'm not on a tight schedule, I've just decided to go with the flow and let him take the time that he needs. For one thing, it's not like I have much of a choice. There's nothing I can do to make him go faster. And for another, this gives me more time to save up money to put down on the house, which ultimately will mean getting out of debt faster and that's a good thing.

As far as the design, I went through several rounds of changes and ultimately came back to my original idea, which will look something like this house.

I'm really excited about seeing how it all turns out, and I'll definitely post more updates and pictures as the build progresses.

I'm also really excited about sending it to The Hideaway in Ramona, California, for the first few months that I own it. The more I consider this plan, the better I feel about my decision. I think it'll be a great way to own a tiny house and have that security of knowing that I own something without having to worry about what to do with it in my immediate, still uncertain future.

In the meantime, I've been trying my best to prepare for the move and for my eventual transition to tiny living by downsizing some more. You would think that by now I'd have gotten rid of everything except the bare essentials, but you'd be wrong. I still have lots more books than I need, for one thing. However I have almost entirely eliminated the unnecessary craft supplies, bathroom products, and miscellaneous items. My clothes at least are close to being done. I'm actually down to three pairs of shoes at the moment after giving away a couple pairs of sandals last week. But I'll likely invest in another pair soonish. Four seems to be a good number: one pair of running/walking shoes, one pair of flats for church, flip-flops, and something casual like a pair of slip-ons. Right now I'm missing that last one.

In the photo above, you can see almost all of the clothes I currently own. I roll up my skirts and dresses and keep a drawer full of shirts, one drawer with socks and stuff, and another drawer for PJs and workout clothes. One of the nice things about working from home is that I'll be able to dress more casually (except when I need to be on a video conference call) so it'll be nice to be able to get rid of some more clothes when I don't have to dress up for work every day.

Since I didn't really answer the blog post title question yet, I guess I'll clarify that I'm not planning to get rid of EVERYTHING. But I honestly feel like there's a minimizing cycle where the more you get rid of, the more you realize you don't need all the things you've kept, and so that prompts you to get rid of more and re-evaluate again. I'm sure there will come a point at which I'll have to stop eliminating things, but I haven't quite reached it yet, and I'm not going to stop before then. It's really a great feeling knowing that things are just things and I don't need to plan my life around how much stuff I have.

Anyway, I could go on and on about how much I love getting rid of things, but I'll save that for another day. Like I said I'll keep you all posted about the house and everything. For people in Utah, I'm hoping to have a "tiny" open house sometime before I move away, so once I figure out the feasibility and date for that, I'll make some sort of announcement on social media.

And for people in California, I'm excited to see you all soon!

Hope you guys had a great Sunday and you're looking forward to a good week ahead like I am.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What's next? (part II)

Well, I was planning a lot longer post to announce this, but then this morning I found out that the Primary theme for 2017 was announced and now suddenly all my writing time needs to go to Tiny Talks instead of to my blog.

So I'll just give you the short version of this and fill you in more later.

I have three kinds of news: good news, bad news, and great news.

The good news is that I found a place to park my tiny house. (Finally!)

The bad news is that it's not a place where I can live in it. That means I won't be moving into my tiny house when my it's completed in two to three weeks.

Here's where my house is going:

It's a tiny house hotel and farm! And it's totally adorable. It's also in Southern California, near San Diego, so if you live around there and you're curious about tiny houses, you should totally check it out.

I would be way more disappointed about not moving into my house if it weren't for the great news, which is that in order find a more permanent spot for my house my boss has said that it's okay for me to move out of state and work remotely, which means that at the end of September, I'll be moving HOME!!

I have seriously missed the Bay Area and I could not be more excited about returning to live there. I'm not sure at this point how long I'll stay in the area, but I'll keep you all posted as I figure out more of my immediate and future life plans.

In the meantime, I have a book to write and tiny house things to finalize and a move to arrange and all sorts of details to deal with that I'm sure you guys wouldn't want to hear about even if I had all day to blog.

So instead I'll leave you with this picture of the beach. California here I come!!!!! (In seven weeks! Can't wait!)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Glasses? Really?

I've been putting this off for almost a year now, and to be honest, I'll probably keep putting it off another month or two, but I think the time has come to accept my fate: I will soon need glasses.

I have no trouble seeing up close, but distances have become fuzzy and bright lights at night when I'm driving are especially bothersome.

So if anyone reading this is a glasses-wearer can you please tell me what I should expect? I've only had my eyes checked professionally once, when I was a child, and I don't remember loving the experience. But I also don't remember it being that traumatic. Is it awful? Will they poke things into my eyes? Will it hurt?

Speaking of poking things into my eyes, I get really squeamish about that idea. I have a hard time with eye drops and I don't think I'll ever be able to handle contacts. Luckily I don't mind glasses, and sometimes when I've tried other people's on, I actually think they make me look cool. What's so great about contacts anyway? I don't get it. But then again, I've never really had to consider all this before. So if you want to chime in about glasses vs. contacts, feel free. 

Oh, and here's another question: how do you find an eye doctor? Is it basically like finding a dentist? Is it super expensive? Do you have to keep going back often? I don't know any of this stuff.

Aside from all of my questions and fears about this unknown world of optometry, I've also been putting off getting glasses for another reason: because it makes me feel old. I know I'm not really that old, but lately I've started to feel like my body is breaking down and now any little thing that comes up is just one more item to add to the list of ways in which I'm falling apart.

The latest was a knee injury that's had me limping for the past two weeks. The sad part is that I don't even have a good story to tell. I was at church (of all places) and I just twisted it the wrong way and there was a pop like a dislocating shoulder and then a second later it popped back into place, but it got all swollen up and stiff for the next few days and it's still a bit sore and hard to bend in certain ways. Luckily there doesn't seem to be any lasting damage. But it still makes me feel like I'll never be quite the same again. 

I know that I'm blessed to have a (mostly) functioning body. I suppose when things like this happen, it should make me more grateful for the times when I'm completely well and healthy. But I will admit that my typically optimistic, Pollyanna-esque nature tends to break down in the face of illness or injury. When I don't feel well, I'm much more inclined to plop myself in bed for a week of Netflix and pity parties than I am to try to find some kind of silver lining. 

Tangent: I was looking for a different photo to add to this post when I suddenly realized how obsessed I've become with photographing clouds and sunsets. I blame living up here on a hill where you can see the clouds for miles all across the valley.

Though that doesn't explain why I took this photo of clouds in Stockholm.

Anyway, speaking of silver linings, the only good part about this knee experience is that it's given me a perfect excuse to not go for any long walks in the 100 degree weather we've been having. I love summer, but I wish it would cool off a bit more here at night. I also feel like I might walk more if my neighborhood weren't on a steep hill. I can walk for miles on a flat surface, but inclines are a different story.

Man, I am just a wealth of complaints today. 

I guess I could also complain about one more thing while I'm at it. I've been having a really hard time finding parking for my tiny house. I wish that people would get back to me when I call or email them. It's the professional thing to do, especially if you are offering a service and someone wants to take you up on that offer. Sigh.

Because of my increasingly tight timeline, I've basically given myself a week and a half to keep looking around here before I have to pursue other options. I've also told my builder that I may need a little more time, and I'm lucky that my grandparents aren't kicking me out or anything, but it's definitely frustrating. So yeah. My timeline says 30 days till tiny today, but it may need to be adjusted again. This makes me sad, but I know that I'll still get there someday soon. 

One way or another, this will all work out for the best. I just need to keep doing everything I can do and then leave the rest up to the Lord. I'm sure He has a plan. I just wish I knew what it was.

I'm guessing that's a sentiment most people can relate to for one reason or another. So since it's Sunday, I'll leave you with a scripture that's been bringing me comfort amid my complaints and uncertainty. I hope it helps with whatever you are currently unsure of or complaining about.

"Search dilligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another." —D&C 90:24

And if you need a little more encouragement and comfort, you might want to try listening to this talk from Sister Tanner. 

Happy Sunday, everyone!

I'll be sure to keep you posted about my house and what ends up happening with that. And in the meantime, if you have any advice about acquiring or wearing glasses, I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Anybody want some free books?

UPDATE: All of my free books have now found homes except for one copy of the What Do You Believe? journal. Let me know if you're interested in that one. And thanks to everyone who took books! My offer below still stands for severely discounted books. Just comment on this post or send me a message on Facebook to let me know what you're interested in purchasing.

Dear readers,

You knew this day was coming. You probably saw it on the horizon long before I did. And you were right. The fact of the matter is that I have too many books to fit into my tiny house. Ah, the curse of being an author.

However, in my defense, I would like to point out that there are many ways in which being an author and living in a tiny house work perfectly together.

1. Authors don't make much money. Tiny houses don't cost much money.

2. For the most part, writing is a very minimalist-friendly hobby. All you really need is a laptop, and you were probably planning to own that anyway.

3. Living in a tiny house means less area to clean, which is great for all those times when you're so frantically writing that you don't even notice you've been wearing the same clothes for three days and there is clutter on every single flat surface in your house (and some of the not-so-flat surfaces too).

4. Or in other words, less time spent on house maintenance means more time for writing and other fun stuff!

5. Many authors like to travel around so that they can write authentically from perspectives that are unlike their own. Tiny houses can be mobile, so you can move often and more easily.

But, as you might suspect, there are also some ways in which being an author and living in a tiny house just don't work out.

And this is one of those moments. Just look at this mess!

In preparation for my upcoming move into a tiny house, I have been minimizing (again) and organizing and letting things go. You would think that I'd be done with this by now. I got rid of a TON of stuff before I moved to Salt Lake last year. And I kept getting rid of things for months as my tiny house move-in date inched closer and closer.

However, there some things you just can't in good conscience give to DI or Goodwill. And I draw the line at my own books. I'll give other people's books away, no problem. But my own? The ones I wrote myself? I worked hard on those! I can't just send them off into the abyss to be sold for fifty cents or less!! Even if it is for a good cause.

So instead, I have decided to give my extra books to you all. And I won't even ask you to pay me fifty cents (unless you want to).

Currently I have . . .

11 copies of 1, 2, 3 with Nephi and Me!
9 copies of Liam Darcy, I Loathe You
3 copies of Time to Share
2 copies of What Do You Believe? teen journal
2 copies of Tiny Talks vol. 14
1 copy of Tiny Talks vol. 15

If you or someone you know would like to claim one (or several) of these, let me know either on Facebook or by commenting below.

As much as I love my books, I have accumulated far too many extras from various author events and now I just need to get them out of my storage and into the hands of people who will enjoy them.

(Plus how many copies of a book do I really need? Even if they are my own books! Don't worry, though. I am keeping one archive copy of each book for myself. I think that's plenty.)

So anyway, if you live in Salt Lake City or near it, I'd be happy to deliver your books or arrange a time to meet you somewhere. You don't have to pay me anything, but if you want to make a small donation to my tiny house fund in exchange for the books, I won't necessarily say no to that.

If you don't live nearby, I would love to send the books to you! However, in that case, I would appreciate a donation to cover the cost of postage. (Usually no more than five dollars, depending on how many books we're talking about.) And if you want to donate more than the cost of postage, that money will go directly into my tiny house fund.

Thank you all for your interest in my books! And thank you for supporting me in my tiny house dreams! Only 67 days to go!


PS–I'll give away the free books listed above on a first-come first-served basis, but if I run out of something you really want, let me know and I might be able to get some more copies for you at a very discounted rate, with any sales proceeds going to my tiny house fund.

PPS–On the off chance that someone wants to donate to my tiny house fund but doesn't want any books, I would just like to say thank you sooo much. That is really, really generous of you! However, I am not currently accepting donations of that nature because I feel like that would cross an uncomfortable line for me. I want to be able to say that I bought this house myself and that I am a financially independent adult. So if you want to donate, you'll need to take at least one book off my hands. That way I'll feel better about accepting your money.

PPPS–Ugh. Enough of that. "Gentlemen, I dislike all this money talk. It isn't refined." Name that movie line!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Remember how I write books sometimes?

Heh. Yeah. About that . . . Have you been wondering what's going on with me and my authorial career? You're not the only one.

I do have news. And it's good news!

But I also have some thoughts on my life lately. And that part is not as good. Not that it's necessarily bad. It just . . . IS, I guess.

Let's start with the good news. I'm teaching a class at a BYU summer writing camp for teens. I did this last year too and it was so fun! I'm really looking forward to doing it again. I know classes like this are supposed to be for the students, but they end up inspiring me too. So that's good.

I'm also very lazily dragging my feet through the self-publishing process for book 2 of The Jane Journals series. It's pretty much written. It just needs some revising. And a cover. And a printer/distributor. And some other things. Sorry if you're waiting for it (all 2 of you). I promise it'll get done sometime before the end of the year. And I promise to keep you posted about my progress.

But what's even better? I have a new cover!!!!! And I love it!!!!!

Isn't it the cutest? I think I have the best illustrator and the best cover designer ever.

Seriously. Love it! This book is scheduled to come out in November and it will follow along with the Primary theme for 2017. If all goes well, I should be writing it later in the summer/early fall.

And now we get to the more contemplative portion of the post.

Here's the thing about my writing: sometimes the words come and sometimes they don't. And I know that I could make them come more often if I were more disciplined. Really, I know that.

I know plenty of authors who push themselves and are so inspiringly prolific. They write every day all day long and in their sleep they dream about their manuscripts so that when they wake up in the morning they've already written another eight thousand words that they just need to download from their brains onto the page. And they write in the shower with their incredible waterproof laptops. And they write while they're driving, in total disregard for the safety of everyone else on the road. They write while they're waiting in line at the post office and they write at airports and in Mexican restaurants and on street corners, and I know all this because I've done it myself.

Okay, I'm exaggerating a little bit. I don't often write while driving. I try to pull over first.

But yeah, some authors write a lot all the time. Some write a little every once in awhile. Some fall somewhere in between.

As with everything else in life, it's not worth it to compare yourself with anybody because there will always be someone who writes more or better than you. Always. Always. I promise. And that's totally okay.

What I'm actually trying to say is that, as you may have noticed from the lack of posts on my blog lately, I'm currently living through a dearth of words. I just don't feel like writing. And I don't feel like forcing myself to write against my will.

I do have several theories about why my life is off-balance like this.

(For most people not writing is the norm, but for a writer it's like a constant feeling of vertigo. You don't really know why it's there, you just know that it's messing everything up. And you really do feel off-balance, especially if you've been writing routinely for years at a time.)

But I don't feel like positing a bunch of probably true theories right now about my lack of words. Because, as mentioned, I don't really feel like writing. Even this post has taken me several days of talking myself into it before I managed to type anything.

I don't even write in my journal as much these days. It's weird. I don't like it.

I'm also sure it will all go away someday—probably sooner than I expect.

And if you happen to be my publisher and you're reading this, don't worry. I know I will have the words when there's a deadline hanging over my head. I can always find them then.

In the meantime, this is one of those problems that's not really a problem and that I don't really feel like trying to cure. I don't want helpful advice. I guess I just want to see what it's like to live a wordless life for a little while. There's something liberating in it. Like taking a break from social media or going undercover as a totally different person. Who ever said I have to be a writer anyway? Maybe that's just not who I am right now.

Final note: to save myself the trouble of trying to write another whole post, I'll just mention here that if you're wondering what's going on with my tiny house, I've been waiting to finalize a few things before I announce them online. But things are on track. And I'm still excited. The countdown is currently at 93 days.

I'm sure the words will come back before then. Probably.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Why don't you date?

So this morning I woke up from a dream in which I was having a conversation with a good guy friend. And in our conversation, I was asking my friend why he doesn't date more. I think in my dream mind I was a little bit mad at him (as girls sometimes get with guys) because it seems like guys should be dating no matter what. They're the ones who should be initiating things, and so this guy's perpetual single-ness was making me upset. It was an affront to all the single girls out there who are waiting for the men to get a clue.

I should clarify that in real life, I am not actually upset with this guy about this nor am I upset with guys in general over this issue. (Unless my subconscious knows something I don't.) But just to be safe, I'm not going to use the guy's name. Also, it would be weird if I did because in my dream we were a lot better friends than we actually are in real life.

Anyway, this guy had no real response to the question, so then I started telling him all the reasons I suspected he wasn't dating much—things like fear and laziness. As you can imagine, the conversation became more and more tense because no one likes to be told with so much candor how irrational their choices are. That's why it's a very good thing this conversation happened in a dream instead of in real life.

But then something happened that I wasn't expecting. All of a sudden, my guy friend turned to me and said, "Well, why aren't you dating?"

Oh. . . Um . . .

And that's when I woke up.

With the kind of clarity that I only get first thing in the morning, I realized: all of my excuses for not making dating a priority in my life are actually pretty hollow or based on assumptions that are just not true.

And even if I'm not mad at my guy friend about this in real life, it's not fair of me to get mad (as I sometimes do) with guys for their lack of dating, when I'm not dating either. I mean, yes, I still fundamentally believe that guys should take the initiative. I don't believe that they always need to do the asking. I have asked guys out before and I'll probably do it again. But I think that it should be their call about whether or not to pursue a deeper relationship. And I don't plan to take the responsibility for that part of dating.

But there are still things I could be doing to make dating a priority in my life. And those things are not about losing weight and wearing more makeup. They're more about honestly assessing what my reservations are and learning to see things clearly and push myself past my fears.

I assume there will be people reading this who are single like me and they might relate to some of the things I'm about to say. Others of you reading have likely been married for years. If that's you, maybe you'll want to keep reading so that you understand what it's really like to be single and a woman and LDS and almost 31 and a half years old. I can't say that my personal list of reasons or excuses is universal. We all have our own. But I think that the married folks out there could still gain some insight from this.

So what are my reservations? What are my excuses?

Well, I came up with a list. In no particular order, except the order that I thought of them, here are the . . .

Top Ten Reasons I Don't Date:

1. I don't want to get involved with someone from Utah when I know I don't want to stay here forever.
2. No one is going to want to date me as I currently look (cue the body image issues).
3. It will be hard to find someone who shares my values. It goes without saying that I'm looking for someone who shares my religious beliefs, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about someone who values things like minimalism, simplicity, and living within my means. It also includes the worry that no one will want to date me when they find out I'm about to be living in a tiny house.
4. Speaking of my tiny house, I'm really focused on that right now. Once I get that done, then I'll start worrying about dating.
5. I haven't met anyone that I'm attracted to in a long time.
6. Dating can be expensive and I'm on a budget.
7. I'm busy with work right now.
8. I'm afraid of being rejected.
9. I lack the social skills necessary to date.
10. It often seems like dating only brings negative energy into my life and I don't want to be burdened with that. I'd rather just be happy being alone, which I am most of the time.

These are valid concerns—well, a lot of them are. Some are not. But I know that in the past they have held me back. So now I want to take the opportunity to refute them a little bit. Just like that dream conversation I was having with my friend, I'm about to have a conversation with myself (and, by extension, with all of you) about why I don't date more.

1. I don't want to get involved with someone from Utah when I know I don't want to stay here forever.
So don't date people who want to stay in Utah forever. If this is really that important to you, ask this question early in the process of getting to know someone and use it to weed through the prospects. But just because a man lives in Utah now doesn't mean he wants to forever. Remember, Heidi, you yourself are currently living in Utah. Also, this is a good reason to try online dating again—so that you meet people from all over. (More about this later.)

2. No one is going to want to date me as I currently look (cue the body image issues). 
I don't have time to get into all this today. Yes, it's important to be healthy, and I know that's something you want to work on more in the future. And it's also true that there are guys out there who will rule you out because of how you look. That's a shame. It really is. But there are also guys who wouldn't care one bit, and right now you're not even giving them the chance to decide for themselves. You're just stereotyping an entire gender, which is really uncool. Whether or not a guy wants to date you should be his choice. After all, you get really upset when a guy you like assumes that no one is into him and then just ignores any attempts you might make to prove otherwise. So how exactly can you justify doing the same thing to all the guys in the whole world? That just makes no sense.

3. It will be hard to find someone who shares my values, like minimalism, simplicity, and living within my means. And no one will want to date me when they find out I'm about to be living in a tiny house.
Yes. It will be hard to find someone who values all the same things you do. But it's not impossible. And the good news is that none of these "values" are really deal breakers for you. That is, just because you feel strongly about them doesn't mean that you hold others to that same standard. You don't expect or need people to agree with you. And you would be fine living one way while your boyfriend/fiance/spouse lived another way. Even the tiny house could fit into a future with the right person. As long as you're both mutually respectful of each other's values—and as long as you still agree on the gospel fundamentals (because those really are deal breakers)—you'll be just fine.

4. But why can't I just wait until I move into a tiny house? I need to focus on that right now.
I can see why it would be tempting to wait. But here's the thing: once you move into the house, there will be something else that you're really close to accomplishing, like writing another book or some other major life project that you decide to take on. That's just the kind of person you are. You're driven and you like to constantly keep moving. But that means that if you keep waiting until after you finish the next big thing, you will never. get. there. There will always be something else big on the horizon, some reason to put off dating a little longer.
I think you know deep down that this excuse is just a way to keep putting off the potential for pain a little bit longer. You're pretending to yourself that you're preparing when you're really just procrastinating.

5. I haven't met anyone that I'm attracted to in a long time.
Yes, which makes perfect sense because you rarely meet new people at all these days. But trust me, when you do, you're just as attracted to certain types of guys as you have always been. Remember all the cute guys you saw when you stopped by that older singles ward last week? I rest my case. The problem is not with the selection of single guys. It's with your lack of exposure to them. And that's something you can fix.

6. Dating can be expensive and I'm on a budget.
It can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. You can date on a budget. Also—and I'm sorry to say this, but it's kind of true—this is one area where being the girl really works to your advantage. If anything, going on more dates and having guys pay for you once in awhile could actually help your budget.

7. I'm busy with work right now.
This would be a good excuse if it were true. But it sooooo isn't. You and I both know (because we're the same person) that work is not busy right now and that in fact you work for a great company that encourages you to have a life outside of work by keeping your work load manageable. This is not a real concern for you.

8. I'm afraid of being rejected.
Okay. This one is real. But I'd like to remind you that you've lived through rejection before and you survived it just fine, after awhile. Plus, as a writer and just a well-rounded human being, part of your job is to experience things so that you can write about them authentically and relate to others when they go through them. Even things like heartbreak. In fact, maybe especially the painful things that no one likes to feel or talk about. Sometimes those are the very things that people need to read about and relate to most. I'm not saying you need to go into it with the goal of getting hurt, but you can't let that fear keep you from experiencing the full spectrum of what life has to offer.

9. I lack the social skills necessary to date.
Dude. Your social skills are just fine. You may not be the world's best flirt, but you can carry on a conversation. You're funny and genuine and thoughtful. That's all you really need. The rest of it is just timing and circumstance. And a little patience doesn't hurt either.

10. Dating only brings negative energy into my life and I don't want to be burdened with that. I'd rather just learn to be happy being alone.
Yeah, I know that's been true for you a lot in the past. You have been dating for years, and you're still not married, which means that overall the experience can feel negative. But I don't think that means that it has to be that way. Just like with any other life experience, dating isn't inherently positive or negative. It's neutral. It's just dating. And it's up to you to frame the experience however you want to.
In the past, you may have chosen more negative framing than you should have. But that doesn't mean you have to keep choosing to see things that way in the future. You can still choose to focus on the positive aspects of dating. And you know that you can always choose to be happy. You're actually really good at that. Trust in your abilities as an optimist, and if you can feel yourself getting off track and starting to focus too much on the negatives, step back, take a deep breath, reread this post, and then get back out there and enjoy all the fun parts.

The thing about dating is that you may or may not find someone you want to get serious with, but your chances will be a lot better out there in the real world (or online) than they will be if you just keep sitting here, alone in your room or griping with your girlfriends about how guys are the problem. Even if that were true, that's outside your control. And you will be a lot happier if you learn to focus on what you can control.

That way, after you've cheerfully done all things that lie in your power, you can "stand still, with the utmost assurance to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed" (D&C 123:17).

So that's the conversation I had with myself this morning. I hope some part of it has been helpful to you. I can't say that I'm going to dive head first into dating up a storm tomorrow. But I am posting this as a challenge to myself to put myself out there more. And I hope that putting this online will help me to hold myself more accountable to that.

For more on this topic, I can recommend this excellent article from the April Ensign. And I can also recommend sitting down with yourself sometime to mull over these issues. You don't have to actually talk to yourself like I did. But I think that whatever it is that you're trying to achieve, whether it's dating or some other life goal, it's worth examining your own hangups and excuses and trying to work through them rationally, rather than letting your fears and feelings keep you from what you ultimately want.

Good luck out there, everyone! And have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Are you feeling homesick?

I hope I don't sound too preachy or too whiny in this post, but this is how I'm feeling tonight.

I really shouldn't be homesick. I was home just a week ago. But I don't know . . . maybe that's what triggered it.

I'll admit there are frequently times when I just really miss hiking in the hills around my hometown and all the friends I have there and the proximity to the beach.

I miss being able to spend time with my family doing nothing. We're great at sitting around the house doing nothing. It's arguably our best collective family talent.

But tonight I think I'm feeling extra homesick for a few different reasons. For one thing, it's coming up on two years since I moved back here to Utah. Thinking about that time when I had to say goodbye to everyone and uproot my whole life rather quickly always makes me a bit blue.

(Also, can you believe it's been two whole years?? That's so crazy to me! The little kids I nannied while I lived there have practically become adults now. So weird.)

Anyway, I'm also missing home at the moment because I really loved performing in The Lamb of God at Easter. The choir there had their first performance tonight and in honor of that, I decided to listen to the entire oratorio today. It was wonderful. And I'm glad I did it. But it wasn't the same as attending it live, and it definitely wasn't the same as performing in it in a cool cathedral in San Francisco like the one where I took these photos.

I know my life is here now, and it's not like I spend every day wishing I were there. If I did, I'd move back. And there are lots of cool perks to living in Utah, like being able to attend the Provo City Center Temple dedication today and getting to spend more time with my cousins than I have in the past. There's a great writing community here that I enjoy participating in. But as happy as I usually am here . . . I just don't think I'll ever love Utah the way I love California. I've really tried. I've given it a decent shot. It's just not home to me.

Thinking about all this made me try to remember why I moved here in the first place. I was actually reading this post the other day from right after I moved. I'm glad those feelings didn't last too long. Overall, I'm really happy with how my life has turned out over the past two years. I know I've grown a lot, professionally and personally, and that's comforting at a time like this.

But I'll admit there's still a big part of me that wonders what I'm doing here or why I needed to move back. I know that it was the right thing to do, but I still don't really know why.

It would be nice if I actually had all the answers. It would be nice if everyone had all the answers in life, but that's not how it works. Instead we get the comfort of faith in the fact that Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us. I'm so glad to know that as long as I'm following His plan for me, everything will work out as it should.

That's what I remembered as I was listening to the Lamb of God tonight. There's one song toward the end that has always been one of my favorites, but I think I needed to hear it more than ever right now.

You can listen to it here.

Someday this will all make sense. The answers won't come on my timeline, but they'll come. I just need to stick to the plan and one day I'll understand. In the meantime, I'm going to do my best to enjoy every season of life, no matter how far away from home I need to be. Because I know that if I keep following the plan God has for me, one day I'll get to experience the best homecoming of all.

Right before I moved here, I was reading my scriptures in the temple one day when I came across these verses in 1 Peter.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. . . . But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (6–7, 10)
These verses have since become some of my favorites. I think of them as a promise from my Heavenly Father that He knows what He's doing and that He will help me become settled in my life and in His gospel. And that's an especially comforting thought when you feel like your happiness and home are two states away from you.

I hope no matter how you're feeling when you read this, you can take comfort in the thought that Christ has experienced your pains and sorrows. He knows how to comfort you because He's been there. He's felt homesick, just like I do right now. He's felt sad and tired and worn thin. He knows exactly what it's like. And He will help you through it. That's something I know for sure.

Happy almost-Easter, everyone. And to all my friends and family in California, thank you for posting pictures and updates. I love seeing them and keeping in touch with you all! If I can't be at the beach myself, the next best thing is having beach pictures all over my social media pages!

And don't worry, I'll come visit again soon. :)