Month: May 2013


Tomorrow is the end of an era for me.  It will be my last day working for Grabber Inc.  I will be moving over to Poler  and have actually been working there as pretty much full time employee for the last year and half.  Now it will be official.  I feel a little bittersweet at the change for a lot of reasons.  Mostly I am happy because I love working with the gang at Poler including my Dad (I worked with him at Grabber and he’s my greatest cheerleader).

I guess it just feels a little sad because I’ve spent my entire adult life, aside from my mission, working for Grabber in some form or another.

Let me tell you a little bit about the journey of Grabber and my own path within the company

Brad Wagner

My Grandfather founded Grabber Construction in 1967.  It all began with an invention of a new kind of drywall screw that ‘grabbed’ on to commercial steel studs, creating a stronger building.  (Don’t ask me too many questions because I really don’t understand the difference!).

My Grandpa- the inventor!
My Grandpa- the inventor!

My Grandpa and I have never been super close but I have to say basically everything good that has happened to me in my life can in some way be traced back to him.  I owe him a debt of gratitude I sometimes forget.  First of all, he opened the doors to the missionaries.  It was close to the same time as the invention of the screw and for whatever reason he was open to their message.   I don’t think my Grandma would have done it without his approval and involvement and  I am beyond words grateful for that.

Grabber screws
Grabber screws

He also has continuously challenged his own creativity and is fearless in meeting new people.  Starting with just him, my Grandma and 2 other employees (I believe) bagging up screws and making cold calls to construction sites all around California, my Grandpa eventually built Grabber to a successful international brand with branches all around the US including Hawaii.  You can see the company today at

The Grabberman logo for Grabber Constructions was evidently based on my Grandpa and was a 'streaker' for the Grabber streaker screw
The Grabberman logo for Grabber Constructions was evidently based on my Grandpa and was a ‘streaker’ for the Grabber streaker screw

While he was in Japan sourcing the screws my Grandfather met Dai Hiorota who ran a postcard/novelty company and the two immediately became fast friends.  They started both a personal and business relationship that still remains.   Eventually Impact Photographics was created, which is still operated out of El Dorado Hills California and is the leading supplier of photographic memorabilia to the national parks and other attractions.

With a photography company in tow my Grandfather became an avid landscape photographer, particularly loving to shoot panoramics of Hawaii and San Francisco.  My father and brother are also all excellent photographers with professional experience.

One of my Grandpa's posters.  He loves using filters and getting bright colors.
One of my Grandpa’s posters. He loves using filters and getting bright colors.

While he was in Japan he became familiar with a product called a handwarmer.  These nifty devices were invented during the Korean war to help soldiers stay warm.  They have always been more popular in Japan than here but sensing a good idea my Grandpa became a distributor and the company still thrives today. Go to to see more


My Grandfather of course has gotten older and with that the company needed to change and adapt.  In 2009 Grabber Construction was sold to the ESOP.  Then in 2011 Grabber Handwarmers was sold to Heatmax (makers of Hothands).  In April 2012 Impact Photographics was sold to the ESOP and then finally in Dec 2012 Heatmax announced the closing of the major accounting offices for the Handwarmer business and the full administrative merger of the 2 companies (although both products at least for now will be sold).

So now the Wagner family is no longer officially an owner in any of my Grandpa’s enterprises.  (He is still alive and pushing forward.  Don’t want this to sound too much like a eulogy!).   My father still works for Grabber and my uncle Jeff  is still president of Impact so there is still the family influence but it isn’t as much as it used to be.   That’s why it’s a little bittersweet.  My Grandpa’s legacy, the thing that gave us so much good and helped our family become what it is, has served its course and is moving on to new owners, new situations.

My Story

Since 2002 I have ridden this roller coaster along with Grabber.  I started out fresh out of college working as a web designer for a little company my Dad founded called Linguatronics. My work is long gone but you can still see the company at

Then I went on a mission for my church to Indiana came back swearing I wouldn’t work for the family company, but I looked around and despite having a college degree no job offers came up in California.  So, I was forced to turn to the only place available to me, the corporate office at JWA (the old parent company for all the businesses)  in Alpine, Utah.

I worked at the office for 3 years and its no secret that I struggled with personal anxieties during that time period but that was mostly due to my own issues not the office environment.  Everyone I worked with there, with one notable exception, was fabulous and basically taught me how to work in accounting from ground zero (and I mean zero!).  Probably my favorite part of my job back then was getting to know all the managers for all 3 companies.  Plus, it was a wonderful experience to work with my Dad, Grandfather, and uncles (my uncle Tom worked in the office with me and he is a character).   I had a great boss in Roland and the best coworker a girl could ask for in Sandy.

However, it reached a time for me to move on and challenge myself more, so in Dec, 2007 I quit and dived again into the job pool with similarly fruitless results.  After 6 months I said forget it and moved on to start my own business.  Originally I thought I would do events and catering but it didn’t work out, so I ran my fathers rentals for about 18 months full-time and then was offered a part-time job for the handwarmer division, Grabber Inc.

I first started in the marketing department setting up booths at festivals and areas around the west.  This was very satisfying and I enjoyed it a lot.

Here I am manning the booth.  That is hard work!
Here I am manning the booth. That is hard work! Btw, isn’t my sign clever. A play on twilight cover

When the company split in 2009 from Grabber Construction there became a need for more accounting help (with the loss of the corporate office it was perfect timing for me).  Slowly I was offered more work in accounting and less in marketing until the whole division was basically dissolved leaving me with only accounting.

This proved to be fine because I kept getting more work until Feb 2010 when I was added to Grabber Inc full-time.  It really has been my dream job.  Yes, it is boring, but I get to work from home and that makes all the difference.  I can have music on, take a break if I need to, talk to someone on speaker phone without bothering people, and most of all I don’t have a boss breathing over my shoulder.  To me, it is the ultimate American Dream.  Freedom mixed with hard work!   I LOVE WORKING FROM HOME!

This has been basically me for the last 3 years(and at my desktop in my office!)
This has been basically me for the last 3 years(and at my desktop in my office!)

The downside of working from home is you are kind of constantly working but to me it is worth the sacrifice.  You get to have freedom and it has allowed me to train for swims, see doctors when I had poor health, and just be myself.  I don’t know how I’m ever going to go back to corporate America if I ever have to.  It gives me the chills and makes me feel nauseated just to think about it.  I hope I never have to return to cubicle life again!  Working for home isn’t for everyone but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

In 2011 my brother Ben and his friend Kharma started a new brand of apparel and camping goods for the urban camper called Poler and I began working with them as well as the other 2 companies and running my Dad’s rentals.  It was crazy but somehow I got it all done.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with the accounting team at Poler so far and was thrilled when they offered me a job as Grabber closed down.  I have basically already been doing that job since February as my Grabber responsibilities have gotten smaller each day.

poler 1 poler product

I just want to say thank you to everyone at Grabber Construction, Impact Photographics, Grabber Inc and Poler for helping make my worklife a good experience.  I’ve learned a ton about myself and gotten to work with some outstanding individuals.  With each separation I’ve missed working with people who have left with the company such  Sandy, Roland, and Kevin but they took the time to teach, praise and critique me and for that I am so grateful.


I am also grateful to my father for always having my back.  When I was in college I idolized my professor, Dr Holland, because he believed in me and gave me a shot as a teaching assistant (I still idolize him).  The more I think about it my Dad has done the same thing time again but without the benefit of my fawning praise.  He gave me a job when I needed one after quitting (what some might have seen as a dumb move he never criticized me for it).  He gave me opportunities at Grabber, pushed for my hire at Poler and has always stood beside me.  I hope I have repaid him for all he has done for me.  My Dad has made it possible for me to live the life I love.  Can you ask more of a parent?

I also want to say thank you to my Grandfather.  He can be gruff around the edges but when the tough decisions come he has made a lot of good ones.   Thanks Grandpa!

So onto Poler and a great career as the unlikely accountant (that would be a good title for a book The Unlikely Accountant by Rachel Wagner…)


My Imaginary Husband

imaginary husband

So today was an interesting day at church.  It started with an early meeting with my bishop and  a surprise release from my calling as Relief Society secretary.  It was a bit of a bittersweet moment for me because on one hand I felt relief because it frees up a lot of time (at least until the next responsibility comes along).  The reason they released me is they dissolved the whole presidency.  They did not give me a new calling so your guess is as good as mine.  I’d love if they called me to be a teacher.  (As stressed out as I’d get teaching I still learned a lot).

Then we went to sacrament meeting and had one of those ‘when I was a boy’ talks where old people berate the incarnate modern times while waxing nostalgic about their television, movies, music etc.  (Remind me to never do that when I’m 80).  The truth is every generation has its good sides and bad sides.   After all, blacks and whites couldn’t get married or go to the same pools when he was a teenager, so it hasn’t all gone down hill.  Sigh…

Then we had Sunday School which was academic but fine and relief society.  I was busy as we got things started and then had the lesson which was on marriage.  Now, I have no problem with a lesson on marriage.  Everything is not about me after all.  However, this focused on ‘keeping the romance alive’.  How exactly do I keep the romance alive with a relationship I don’t have?  She even went so far as to give tips on writing love notes to your husband and talking about her vow renewals in Africa and Tahiti (I thought vow renewals were discouraged by the church.  Who knew?).

Anyway, I normally wouldn’t care but for some reason it rubbed me the wrong way.  I let a tear out during closing prayer and tried to sneak out but my visiting teaching companion saw me and was inspired to offer words of encouragement.  She’s normally not a super cuddly person so I knew her thoughts were sincere, and I was very grateful that she followed the spirit.

As I was thinking about the women talking about their husbands and how one brought them breakfast in bed every weekend and another always did the dishes, I started to wonder what I would want in a husband.  I guess thinking about what you’d like to have seems less melancholy than what you don’t.

One of my pet peeves is when I say something like ‘I’d like to marry a Republican’ and my friends say ‘Oh, I bet that means you’ll marry a Democrat’.  This is very annoying.  Yes, I get that he probably won’t be anything like I think but am I supposed to have no idea what I’m looking for because if I do I will get the opposite?  This doesn’t seem logical to me.

How do you find it if you haven’t given it some thought?

I look at it like searching for a house (although even more frustrating).  When househunting I had a list of must-haves.  Over time, about 3/10 of those must-haves didn’t come to fruition, but I don’t think creating the list was a bad idea.  It helped me get the 7/10 and some things I didn’t know I wanted.

So, it begs the question- what would my imaginary husband be like? Here goes nothing:

I think he would be kind if a little obstinate, have opinions on things and be open to discussion (I used to know a guy who had no opinions on anything, such a turnoff), he gives good hugs and has a nice smile, he probably likes the outdoors more than me but we can go to a lake and he can set up camp while I swim.

He loves God and tries his best to be a good man and worthy priesthood holder.  He leans conservative and is interested in learning/talking about the world and new things.  He is ok with the fact we might not be able to have our own kids.

He is willing to do laundry and doesn’t care that I hate to iron.

I imagine he comes from a big, loud family like my own, or at the least can relate when I love them and when they are driving me nuts.  He lets me have time with my girls and he can do his own thing.  He comes to my recitals or my swim meets even if he hates them.  I will come to his events even if they are deadly dull.  We both watch movies, TV and sports together.

Most importantly he loves me and when we fight (which I imagine will be somewhat explosive!) we still know that our marriage is eternal and our commitment is above any such squabbles.

Overly-simplistic? Yes.  Unrealistic? Yes. The only way to stay sane? Yes.

President Eyring has a talk called The Law of Increasing Returns where he talks about how some harvests are immediate and some late, requiring great faith.  It can defy human nature to keep ‘working and waiting with nothing seeming to come of it’.  He speaks eloquently about the moment of frustrations some of us have when we decide ‘what’s the use?’.  ‘I seem to be giving too much and getting too little’.

One of his words of wisdom for dealing with late harvest is to create a picture of what you are working for.  I just love this (seriously everyone should read this talk):

“You rarely can have a photograph of that future for which you now sacrifice, but you can get pictures. Years ago, near the time of that sacrament meeting, it occurred to me that I would sometime perhaps have a family. I even joked about them, calling them “the red heads.” My mother’s hair had been red when she was young. I certainly didn’t think the idea of red heads was inspiration, just an idea. But more than once that picture was enough to make me work, and wait.

If all my four sons were here tonight, you would see two blond heads and two red ones. In a kitchen chat one evening, one of them said to me he’d not mind exchanging red hair for beach-boy blond. I just smiled. All dads may think their sons are handsome, but I would not exchange his red hair, nor my early vision of it, for spun gold.

It’s not wise to daydream, and I’m not recommending it. If you girls dream too much about a house or a car, some poor man will someday have to get it for you. But I recommend a little thought, not about things or places but about people.”

So, yes my imaginary husband is ridiculous but I agree with President Eyring that it is wise to have a picture of what you are working hard to achieve.  Perhaps it makes disappointment more acute but I don’t know? If I have no idea what I am looking for does that not leave me more open to being disappointed?   Regardless, it is the only way to do things.  Not to be living in the stars but to have a goal, an image, a picture of who someday I might get a love note from and who I can give lessons about our great love in church…. (Remind me not to do that either!)

Cooking Lesson: Spaghetti and Meatballs

As many of you know my favorite food is spaghetti and meatballs.  I love it because of the carb-fest, the mix of flavors and a certain sentimental value.  When I was super down in life I made a spaghetti and meatballs and as odd as it might sound I had an ‘ah, ha’ moment about my life.  I recounted that experience in the chapter of my nanobook I entitled ‘The Spaghetti Incident’.  You can read about it here:

Basically I said to myself ‘why isn’t the rest of my life as good as this spaghetti’.  6 years later my life is close to as good as that spaghetti, which I am very grateful for.  Hopefully some day I will get all the way as good but a girl’s got to leave some room for dreaming. 🙂

Anyway, my friend and fellow bookclub buddy Rachel Bey asked if I could do one of my famous cooking lessons.  She didn’t know what she wanted to learn how to make and so I suggested making spaghetti and meatballs (if she doesn’t know why not make my favorite food).I think this is the 6th lesson I’ve done over the last year and a half or so and I really enjoy it.   Its fun to cook with friends, share talents and make delicious food all at the same time.  I’ve been thinking I may want to come up with a mini-cookbook and update it as I do more lessons.

I started this recipe with Ina Garten’s spaghetti and meatball recipe and then added my own flare (and yes to you Italian purists I put sugar in the sauce, so good).

spaghetti 5
Rachel making meatballs
spaghetti 4
Stirring the sauce. The water for the pasta for some reason took forever to boil.
spaghetti 1
A good meal, good friends. Happy day
spaghetti 3
Rachel liked it too.

Spaghetti and Meatballs (my recipe inspired by Ina Garten with a bunch of my additions)

For the meatballs:

1/2 pound ground Italian sausage (Ina calls for veal but who can afford that)
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices pulsed to crumbs in food processor)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten

3/4 cup of water
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock (Ina calls for wine but I don’t cook with that)
2(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp sambal or other hot sauce
3 tbsp sugar
Italian seasoning

For serving:

1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan


Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Mix all ingredients together with your hands or a spoon if you aren’t brave. Then lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. I like to put them on cookie sheets as I make them.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. I then put them on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 to keep warm and bake all the way through.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock and cook on high heat deglazing the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Once it heats through add hot sauce, sugar, Italian seasonings to taste.  Heat all the way through and then let simmer as long as you can

Put meatballs into sauce and let cook a few minutes together until spaghetti noodles are done (follow package instructions.  Our water took forever to boil).  I personally like to keep my pasta and sauce separate and then plate them together but if you like to mix them all up in one pot that is fine.  Top with parmesan cheese and a little basil or parsley.
The finished product.  So good!
The finished product. So good!


Writers Block, Tornados, Recital and Random Thoughts

So I just realized I haven’t updated the blog for a week.  Shame on me!  I am sure all of you my loyal blog readers have been sitting at home wondering when I was going to unleash my creativity and wisdom on you again… (LOL.  Wouldn’t that be the life!).   I have actually at down several times to write but couldn’t come up with anything to say.  I guess you might say I had writers block.

If you ever have any topics you would like me to research, opine on, please suggest!  I suppose when you’ve been blogging for 5 years it isn’t much of a surprise you eventually run out of topics at the ready beckon call.   Need help from all of you!


Of course we had the horrible tragedy in Oklahoma with the tornado this week.  I was shocked by the photos and video.  Naturally I thought of my friend Jani who was my roommate in 2000 and has lived in Oklahoma for the last 10 years.  I saw her last year after a long loss of contact (just lost emails).  I emailed her on Tuesday to see if she was ok and she sent me the following response:

Can you believe this:


“The greatest need is prayers right now. I’ve heard of some members homes being heavily damaged and some others haven’t been able to get to their homes yet. Most don’t have electricity, and water is low pressure or not on yet. At the stake center, a few blocks north of the area, they are collecting water and boxes so people can collect things from the rubble. Our home is ok and we have water turned on again but we can’t drink it. We’ve had a few friends stay and just sleep or use the internet or electricity to charge stuff. There is a constant sound of helicopters and sirens–its a constant reminder of the critical situation out there. I’m sure once the neighborhoods are opened up there will be a great need for volunteers to clean up. It’s going to take a while. I haven’t heard of any fatalities in the ward or stake but there are complete losses of property. I will get in touch with our rs president again and let you know if there is anything they need. She’s been busy, as you can imagine. It’s sad to see much of our community just gone. We love Moore and the people of Oklahoma!”

Please keep them in your prayers and find little ways to help.  I was really hoping for a way and then out of the blue the Red Cross called me yesterday to individually ask me to donate blood on Friday.  This was kind of amazing because I haven’t given blood in probably three years so I’m shocked they had my number.  My veins are so small and wiggly that I have hesitated in the past (last time I donated I was battled and bruised).  Anyway, I am O- and they said they particularly needed that so I am happy to give it a go and try to help.  I felt like it was a blessing to find a way to help those in need instead of just watching the news.  Cross fingers I can actually donate and my veins will cooperate.


On other news we had my spring recital today.  It was a great time and my Dad was in town and came to see me.  I didn’t get a video this time but here is a recording I made of singing the song just a few minutes ago.

I sang Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan as sung by Adele (no small order!).  I’m not saying I could make American Idol but I don’t think you would be running for the hills, covering your ears.  I was able to get the character of the song which made me happy.  (I wish I had  a recording just so you can see that).

Regardless of how it turns out the whole experience of recitals and voice lessons is so positive.  It makes me feel like I am progressing, learning, and contributing something beautiful to the world.  I work in accounting, which I am grateful for but not exactly the most creative thing.  It feels so good to get out there, work on a song from ilk to all right, and hear the positive feedback (btw, if you hate it, keep it to yourself!)

A happy girl after the recital!
A happy girl after the recital!

Other Random Things-

Comcast has been making me crazy (also part of the reason I haven’t been posting this week, been on the phone with Comcast or having weak to no internet).  After 4 hours today I think we finally figured it out.  Prayers!  At least I have the phone number of the technician so no  more call center nightmares and drives up to Lindon to get new equipment (went through 5 modems before we figured out the gateway channel was full presumably with others from my building).  Sigh

It was so hard to get to this point.  Trust me!
It was so hard to get to this point. Trust me!

Working on getting ready for GSL swim in just a few weeks.  I don’t feel nearly ready but I’m going to give it a go.  Did a 1200 in a long course pool on Saturday, so that felt good.  This taking it slow thing is sort of nerve-wracking and I’m trying to not get nervous.  I keep telling myself if I fail, so what.  My friends love me.  That said, I don’t think I will fail. 🙂

Learned a big lesson at the house Monday.  My roommate had her car in the street and I hadn’t read an email from the HOA about towing cars on the street starting Monday. You can guess the ending of the story.  Her car got towed and it cost us $264.50!  Isn’t that nuts?   Double sigh…

As a proud tea party conservative I am horrified at the IRS targeting of tea party groups.  I attended many rallies in perhaps the most conservative area of the country, Provo, Utah and never felt anything but peaceful, love of country.  Practically the only thing discussed was cutting spending.  Honestly you didn’t hear at the tea party about pro-life, 2nd Amendment or other conservative hot buttons.  It was without a doubt the most patriotic and positive experience I’ve had as an American and the fact that these people have been targeted makes me nuts.  It is wrong and it will not blow over and be forgotten if I have any say in the matter.

So, turns out I had a lot to talk about.  Maybe I should always wait a week. 😉

Hope you are all doing well.  How’s life treating you?

How to Give a Talk in Church


This is a post has been stewing inside of me for some time.  How to give a talk in church (or any other public forum for that matter)…

Sometimes I feel in the Mormon church we are great at inspiring but not so great at the nuts and bolts of how to implement that inspiration.  For example, we teach young single adults that dating, courtship and marriage are important, but how often do we talk about etiquette on a date or what practical things we can do to prepare for a family?  Not much.

Public speaking is another example.  How is it possible in all my years of speaking in the church I have never been to one activity or lesson on the mechanics of good public speaking?  One would think there would at least be a mutual activity or enrichment lesson?  Maybe there is an assumption that everyone already knows how to do this and it is easy?  We are, after all, forced to speak publicly from primary on…

However, repetition in public speakings is helpful but couldn’t we be merely repeating the same bad things, reinforcing the same distracting tendencies?

To be clear, if I don’t get anything from sacrament meeting the fault is mine not the speaker.  I am responsible for my own spirituality but a good talk certainly can make my job easier.

In giving this advice let me further clarify that while public speaking is a strength of mine, I by no means have it all figured out; however, to the best of my ability I have came up with some tips to use the next time you are asked to give a talk:

1. Decide on 3 important points that you want to make.  This helps you plan for little time or elaborate if given a lot of time.  You can always just bare your testimony on the 3 points and sit down or you can do your full prepared talk, and perhaps have a few ‘if time’ stories on hand to include if needed.

2. Write out your talk- I know some will disagree with me on this but I do not believe the outline format suits the unseasoned speaker.  Write out your talk and include the quotes and scriptures so you don’t have to be flipping around to find things.

3. Be weary of bad introductions “The bishop assigned me this talk 2 weeks ago…”  “I am going to speak on testimony”, “Have you heard the joke about the bishop, a chicken and the RS Pres”  All such introductions are deadly.

4.  Do not ‘couple brag’.  A brief introduction may be appropriate for new couples but we don’t all need to hear about your wives fantastic cakes or how great your dog is.  Get to the doctrine.

5. Practice giving your talk.  Stand in front of the mirror and give it trying to look up every 30 seconds or so to make it feel more natural.

6. Follow the rule of 1/3rds:

a. 1/3rd of your talk should be statements of doctrine.  This includes quotes, scriptures and other resources.  For example, a talk on tithing may include Malachi 3:10

b. 1/3rd of your talk should be explanation of doctrine and how it applies to our lives.  So, you’ve stated a scripture on tithing, now you are   going to explain in your own words what the scripture and tithing mean to you.

c. 1/3rd of your talk should be personalizing the doctrine to your life.  Tell us a story on an experience with tithing from your life or ask your friends for their experience, do a poll on fb or twitter, find a story in the ensign that touches you or a scripture story you’ve always loved.  You’d be surprised how far you can get by ‘This scripture has always been special to me because….”

d. These 3 are all equally important.  If you just have data (scriptures, quotes) it will feel dry, just explanation it can drag and introduce false doctrines by accident, being too personal can be awkward or distracting.  All 3 must be there for a great talk (think about Elder Hollands or Pres Monson’s talks and you will see they follow this rule of thumb in general.

7.  For the most part, do not throw away your talk at the last minute and ‘speak by the spirit’.  Sometimes that is needed but most of the time I think it is Satan’s way of having congregations full of unprepared speakers.

8. Do not worry about offending people or making your talk apply to everyone.  While we shouldn’t be rude, I’ve heard speakers go a little overboard in the ‘we want to keep the single mothers happy’ in talks about the family.  The thoughtfulness is good but I think most people are comfortable with a little bit of doctrine on Sunday not applying to their situation.  Also, it can make a person feel more ostracized when  their ‘special circumstance is made a big to do of’.  It is typically better to find a core in the doctrine that most anyone can relate to and mention that in the course of the talk.

9.  Try to prepare your talk in advance with prayer and study.

10. Stick to the scriptures, Ensign and other church meetings.  Do not quote general authorities from personal conversations or fuzzy sources online.  There are quotes that have been attributed to multiple general authorities over the years, oftentimes stating incorrect doctrine.

11.  Finally don’t apologize for your life or talk.  I used to apologize when I’d tell stories of my mission, and I suppose those can be a bit over the top, but in general, just share and if its a good story people won’t care if its a mission story or whatever.

12.  If you say “I know the church is true” give a little bit more information to help new members understand.  “I know the church is true because I have prayed about it and gotten a witness in my heart” That is so much more powerful and easier to relate to.

13.  Finally leave your congregation with a challenge.  Something they can do like make a list of friends they haven’t spoken with, or a person they can forgive.  President Hinckley was the best at this.  Practically every conference talk he gave would end with some variation of ‘we can all do better.  Let’s go and do it!”

14. My last advice is to remember when you are quick to criticize someone’s talk, remember they aren’t being paid to do this.  It is out of the generosity of their heart and love of the gospel that gets them up there.  That alone deserves some respect.

Always remember public speaking is scary! Some fear it more than death:

(The Church has published their 10 tips for giving a talk in church.  Pretty good!

Dr. Randy Bott giving his 4 parts to writing a talk.  This is brilliant


Office Closet Organization

Very exciting!  Today I had a new addition to my house installed.

closetMy guest room/office was causing me problems because of the small closet and the lack of other convenient storage.  Having done such a great job with my other closets, I called Classy Closets and they had lots of great ideas.  We eventually decided to put shelves in the closet for the file folder boxes and shelving outside the closet with a closet rod for guests to use.  It is fabulous!

What do you think?  I’m excited!

5 Years of Blogging


Quick post.  I promise I will update on day 2 of the amazing LDS Storymakers Writing Conference but I got the notice that today makes 5 years as a WordPress blogger.  5 years!

In that time I have written 608 posts in 63 categories and 2,057 comments (wished more 😦  ),  260,547 views, most popular categories are health, happiness, arts and entertainment and family.  My strabismus posts, movie reviews and general health posts have been the most popular.

My first post was written on May 12, 2008 was entitled The Freedom of Joblessness.

In the post I spoke about how not having a career and being unemployed felt quite liberating.  For once I had no answer to the question ‘What do you do?’  I had been so unhappy in my job that the removing the ‘DO’ had been one of the most empowering experiences of my life.   My thoughts at the time were ““I would rather be doing nothing than doing something I hate”.

Its true.  I would rather be doing nothing than something I hate.

I then add:

“In the meantime I am enjoying my life and looking forward to the next adventure.”

That’s the great thing about blogging is it gives a platform to process all the madness of life.  It allows me to tell my story! How powerful is that!  Now the documentation of the human experience does not have to be limited to the memoir and biographer.  I have tried my best to tell my story as honestly as I can and I’ve learned that people are amazingly supportive and good-hearted.

Some of my personal favorite entries over the years have been

There are so many.  My most controversial one was probably on teens and reading.

I know that is a barrage of links but checks some of them out.  Remember writing is new if it new to you.

From the beginning of putting pen to paper I knew if I was going to engage in a public journal, it would have to be just that.  The real me, no fog, no illusions.  I have shared with you my pains, anxieties, discouragements but also the successes, loves, and moments of glee.  I am confident a man could come to know the real me from simply reading words. Isn’t that what great writing should do anyway?

On one of my first posts I spoke about happiness:

“It is such an empowering thing to know that we have a say in our happiness. We are not just lifeless blobs that respond to stimuli. We can decide to follow the Lord, sacrificing our egos and desires; thereby, creating happiness both currently as we serve and in the eternities. It reminds me of a quote I have from President Kimball (I had it on my wall when I had a wall!)

“Happiness does not come by pressing a button, as does the electric light; happiness is a state of mind and comes from within. It must be earned. It cannot be purchased with money; it cannot be taken for nothing”

Happiness is a state of mind and for 5 years I’ve had a state of mind of the Smilingldsgirl.  Yes, it has been tough but I’ve always known that smile was inside me.  I never lost hope and my confidence in my Heavenly Father.  God knows my heart and loves me.   I started this blog at a time of great hope and new beginnings.   All I knew is I had escaped a black cloud and felt set free. Since then I have always carried that freedom in my pocket as a reminder to never go back there again. Never allow myself to experience sustained misery again.

The blog has been a big key in ensuring the success of my journey.   Again, it has allowed me to share MY unique story with all of you, my faithful readers.  I am so grateful.


FAITH is power, LOYALTY is essential, LOVE is pure,  and HAPPINESS goes a long way towards HOPE

If you haven’t gathered I really love my blog.  Thank you all for reading. Have there been any posts you enjoyed?  Please post in comments section!  Sure love ya!

PS in the words of Nora Ephron- “I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.”

Thoughts on Mothers Day Part 2

So each week I have to send out an email to the sisters in my ward updating them on the events of the week and leave them with a spiritual thought to encourage them throughout the week.  Usually I try to get this out on Wednesday but we had an activity Thursday and I had the writing conference yesterday so I hadn’t gotten it out and it was Saturday.  (They are used to me being late on this.  Sigh…)

Now many of you read my recent post on Mothers Day and how the day challenges me. .

With those thoughts still swimming in my mind, I was tasked with saying something inspiring to women on Mothers Day.  This was quite the dilemma.    I hope you have all gotten the impression from this blog that I am not a disingenuous person and I am not about to put pen to paper on anything that is false or preaching doctrine I don’t believe or struggle with.

If I’ve learned anything in my life it is that honesty is the only thing that matters and the sharing of true experience is always more impactful than the privatizing of who we are and what life has taught us.  Sharing my heart with all of you through this blog and my friendships is my gift to the world.

Giving our heart is the only thing we really have to give.

So what should I write? What will be an authentic expression of my views of Mothers Day and mothering while also being helpful to others?  How can I write what I feel? Interesting question for a girl at a writing conference…

Here’s what I came up with. I’m immensely proud of it. I rarely can think of a moment when I have as effectively put my heart on the page:

“So Sunday is Mothers Day.  Please come and help us celebrate womanhood.  To be frank, sometimes Mothers Day can be a bit of a downer.  I’m not only unmarried but I’ve struggled to relate to the often ‘ooey goey’ version of womanhood that seems to be presented as the ideal at church particularly on Mothers Day.

I know I am not alone in feeling this way.  In fact, this week we were talking as a presidency about how pretty much everyone we know walks away from Mothers Day feeling inadequate, guilty or at least frustrated.  There are women in my life who refuse to attend church on Sunday because they are so wracked with guilt over their own perceived failures as women in Christ.

How can we fix this problem? I know Heavenly Father wants His daughters to be happy but does he accept our efforts when the standard seems to be so high and our output less than we wish it was?  Here’s something to think about:

“See that ye look to God and live.” The ultimate source of empowerment and lasting acceptance is our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They know us. They love us. They do not accept us because of our title or position (or I’d add marital, familial status). They do not look at our status. They look into our hearts. They accept us for who we are and what we are striving to become. Seeking and receiving acceptance from Them will always lift and encourage us.” (Elder Erich W.  Kopischke April 2013 Conf,

So, tomorrow on Mothers Day let’s try to remember that the Lord accepts us for the women we are striving to become.  He knows our hearts.  He loves us.  We are His daughters.  Perhaps we can turn Mothers Day into a day of sharing and fulfillment instead of lost expectations and thwarted dreams? I’m going to try and I hope you will all join me.”

So how did I do?  Thoughts?

LDS Storymakers Conference Day 1

So it is late and my last post got erased so I will be brief.  I went to the first session of the LDS Storymakers Conference today and it was fabulous!  First of all, I got the day off work (pretty much the best thing ever…).  Then I was able to attend lectures all day on writing (and pretty much when you are discussing writing, you are discussing life).

The day started out with a lecture on pacing in writing, then my favorite was on romantic literature, then we had lunch and I was able to meet up with my Aunt Chris and Cousin Elizabeth King.

chris elizabeth and me at storymakers
Eating lunch with Chris and Elizabeth King.

They are both avid writers and have written multiple books over the years.  The amount of material Elizabeth generates is amazing.  She completed Nanowrimo while taking a full load at BYU.  Impressive. It was a fun treat to spend time with family and nice to know someone at the conference.

Next I went to a lecture on grammar, revision and proofreading.  It was a little dry but included a lot of good material.  Next up was a lecture on writing memoirs which I found interesting as I recently have been poking at a true memoir version of the events I have penned in my novel.

My notes on the lectures can be found here:

Pacing notes

Lecture notes on writing romance In that lecture I loved the quote ““Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others and the delight in that recognition” Alexander Smith

Grammar notes

Memoir writing notes

At 4 we had the treat of hearing from the keynote speaker novelist Anne Perry and I loved her words.  She spoke about how are greatest gift we can give the future is by writing the stories in our hearts.  I loved it.  One of my favorite quotes of the day was when Perry said:

‘Each of us leads one life but if we read well we can empathize with many stories’.  What is reading well?  Ponder on that a sec.  I believe it is not settling for mediocrity in life or in reading.  I have argued tooth and nail with people that feel ‘any reading is good reading’ and I don’t agree.  There is reading well and reading’.  I believe it is the responsibility of all adults to encourage ‘reading well’ to our students and friends.  Do not just be satisfied with the bare bones.   Clearly to Anne Perry it is too important.  In fact, reading and writing are what distinguish man from the animals.

Finally we went to a mass book signing and I bought a bunch of cool new books (figured I had to if I was going to a writing conference)

storymakers 1
Got to get some books at a writing conference!

Seems like a pretty good day to me!  I’m looking forward to tomorrow! Happy writing

Now I am exhausted and off to bed!  More fun to come tomorrow. I feel inspired to work more diligently on my book.

The Village School System

Loved this refute to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.

A Homeschool Mom

Here is a guest post written by my husband… enjoy!

Power, authority, and responsibility go hand-in-hand. Authority implies responsibility and the power to fulfill such responsibility. Responsibility presupposes possession of authority and power. Without authority and its accompanying responsibility, power is tyrannical. Finally, one can have no responsibility for something over which one has neither power nor authority. The point is, these concepts are inextricably linked. Let’s apply this to the problem in public education or what I’ll call “the village school system”.

Supporters of the failing village school system insist that more money will solve all of its problems. When one points out that private schools perform better with far fewer funds, village-school apologists will quickly point out that such success is largely due to parental involvement. Here’s precisely where collectivist ideology has a negative effect.

We’re all familiar with the modern mantra on the political Left, which insists…

View original post 528 more words