Monday, June 30, 2008


I didn't think I was old enough to have a date-able child, but my daughter convinced me otherwise when she turned 16 this month. There have been no dates, yet, but she's still date-able. She's driving too. And she's cute.

My father's not helping matters with this daughter, pointing out all the cute returned missionaries in his ward ... and explaining that if she were to get married right out of high school, I could be a grandmother - well - very soon.

At least she's not boy-crazy. It could be worse. It's actually nice having a child who can run my errands, pick up a few groceries or return movies. She and her sister have even become friends! That's something I'm really liking.

I do enjoy watching my children grow up. Each new stage intrigues me. And this newest stage, the one where all of my children will be in school all day come fall, especially fascinates me. I think I'll get another book finished when they go back to school. Maybe two.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Corpus Christi, Texas

By Marcia Mickelson

Sorry for not posting last week. Last weekend we moved 2.5 hours away from San Antonio to Corpus Christi. One week later, we're almost all moved in and getting caught up.

Our boys were excited to ride in the big moving truck with Daddy all the way to the new house.

We spent the week cleaning, getting situated, and exploring our new town. Thank goodness for the GPS we bought Dad for Father's Day. Also, my 8 year old has been studying the Corpus Christi map for months now, so he already knows his way around and has been a great help for me.

Here is a picture of one of the beaches in Corpus Christi. One night we went downtown to a beach and walked around the sidewalk and down to the sand. Our kids loved it. We didn't get in the water, just walked around. We stayed out until past nine o'clock and it was so nice to see many families walking, pushing strollers, riding bikes, and roller skating along the beach's sidewalk. We're hoping to get to another beach this week to go swimming and build sand castles. We're excited about our new town and hope to be all settled soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Welcome Break in My Busyness

by Marsha Ward

I thought I was busy before, but this week has been horrendous. Because of my trip to the WWA convention, I wasn't able to get together with my new visiting teaching companion earlier in the month. The Saturday we chose to go was the Relief Society's Super Saturday, so that bombed out. VT got left to this week.

Now, I don't have your typical neighborhood route for visiting teaching. A week into June, I received a new route and new companion. I get to travel 17 miles into a small nearby town and pick up my companion, then visit our ladies. My companion works out of town, so not every day is available. We squeezed it into this week, between my getting personal effects out of a mobile home I hope to sell this weekend, melodrama rehearsals, and four performances (thank goodness I'm only the piano player this year!), along with several other crucial tasks, including writing a magazine article on a deadline and mailing off a packet of labels for a newsletter.

One of the ladies we visit teach on this new route was planning to have a painting lesson tonight, so we asked her teacher if it was okay if we came over to give the VT lesson (she's in our branch, too). We got permission. I picked up my comp at a Circle K convenience store so I wouldn't get lost trying to find her remote home. She was just returning from her job in the Phoenix area and still had her name badge around her neck. She's busy, too.

We arrived at our destination to find that the painting teacher was missing and our lady was waiting in her car outside the home. We drove to a nearby playground and gave her the lesson while sitting at a small table in the shade. It was actually very nice. Then we visited with another lady who lives about eight miles from our first stop. That was good, too. She home-schools her five terrific children, but because she follows the public school calendar, they are having their summer break. We had a good visit, then I returned my companion to her car and drove the 17 miles home.

Even though the rest of my week is full of stress, taking the time to do my visiting teaching was a nice break, and helped me relax and think on eternal things. I needed that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Powerlifting and a Wedding

By Tamra Norton

Last week was a busy one for our family (they always are, aren't they?). On Tuesday my husband and our 16-year-old son, Josh headed off to Aruba for our son's powerlifting competition. Josh was part of the 2008 US Men's Powerlifting Team. They had a blast hanging out on the white sandy beaches of Aruba! Oh, and Josh came home with the silver medal.

"Any why didn't you go to Aruba?" I hear you ask. Well, on the same day my guys headed off to the Caribbean, we had lots of family come in town from Oklahoma for our nephew's wedding. (How considerate of him to marry a Houston girl). :)

On Friday (the same day as Josh's competition) Douglas (our nephew) and Ary were married in the Houston Texas Temple. The wedding was so incredibly beautiful, as was the happy couple. Aren't they darling. My oldest son, Preston was a groomsman (he's the blond). Preston and Douglas have been pals since they were wee tykes.

So I'm sad I didn't make it to the beaches of Aruba this year. Maybe I'll make it to the beaches of Galveston sometime soon. But there's nothing quite like witnessing a beautiful young couple start their lives together, in the right place, to the right person, and at the right time!

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm Not Stupid, It's My Thyroid!

by Elodia Strain
The following is a true story related to me by a friend.

“I knew something was wrong.

I couldn’t concentrate at work or when doing things like reading a book for fun. I was in a mental fog when I ran errands like going to the grocery store.

I’d just finished a round of a toxic drug that had put me into a medically-induced menopause, and I knew my hormones were completely out of whack as a result. My metabolism, which had always been fast, was suddenly sluggish, and I counted my calories, exercised like crazy, and drove myself nuts trying to get things back to normal—to no avail. What’s worse, I was hungry all the time, like my body wasn’t using the food it was getting properly and wanted more.

I was swollen and retaining water and “that time of the month” was miserably long and heavy. Then I, an active 20-something who eat no dairy or red meat, found out that my cholesterol was slightly high all of a sudden with no explanation.

And you know what, I knew what was wrong. Somehow, I just knew.

For a year and a half I told my doctor my symptoms and said I suspected a thyroid problem. He didn’t agree. I showed him a book I found at the library that listed my exact symptoms as those of hypothyroidism.

He treated me like I was a woman who didn’t like that I had gained weight and thought thyroid medication would make me skinny again.

I found another doctor and requested the tests. The results were exactly what I suspected: Hypothyroidism.

I’ve learned to listen to my body, and I believe any woman experiencing the symptoms associated with thyroid disease (or any disease for that matter) should be taken seriously. Especially after she’s been through a hormonally-taxing event in her life such as pregnancy, menopause, (or in my case medically-induced menopause.)

These days, now that I’m being treated, I’m starting to feel better. I can focus better, my appetite has decreased to a proper level, and my metabolism is back up. I’m not 100% yet, but I’m on my way."

I share this story, blog readers, because I love that the blog community is a place where we can learn from others' experiences. I learned from my friend’s experience, and I thought maybe someone else might too.

Additional Resources: The Thyroid Solution: A Revolutionary Mind-Body Program That Will Help You by Arem Ridha

Living Well with Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You... That You Need to Know (Revised Edition) by Mary J. Shomon

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What I've Been Up To

by Marsha Ward

Last week I attended the annual get-together of Western Writers of America, whose member produce much of today's Western Literature, both fiction and nonfiction. WWA is made up of historians, novelists, writers of short fiction, juvenile authors, magazine writers, journalists, and everything in between. At our conventions, we take tours of sites of historical significance; listen to panelists expound on topics from researching and writing military history to how to write Western music; eat very well; and grant the Spur Awards in 17 or so categories of literature, film writing, poetry, and song lyrics.

It is great fun to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones. I lined up several outstanding writers for future Author Interviews on my blog. I spoke to a potential publisher for my WIP. I gleaned a lot of information, hugged a lot of people, and came home exhausted.

What did you do last week?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So my internet and I were having a difference of opinion yesterday, but here I am, a day late, but alive and kicking!

We got to greet a friend from Samoa last week on his first trip to the U.S. What a fabulous experience!! He flew in Tuesday, spent the night and we drove him to the MTC Wednesday, after a trip to town to outfit him for his mission.

To say he was overwhelmed could not even begin to describe his reaction to the U.S. He came from a country where they grow nearly everything they eat, working in the jungle and fishing for their daily food. To see everything laid out in the grocery store was quite a shock.

It was such a beautiful experience. He was filled with such a strong desire to serve the Lord, his spirit touched us all.

I can't even begin to describe the feelings and experiences in that short space of time. He is truly a member of our family now, someone we will never forget.

Now I'm homesick. Homesick for a beautiful island in the south Pacific that I've only visited once. I'm homesick for the happy people and their simple lifestyle. As I saw on a plaque the other day, "The beach is where my heart is."

Sunday, June 15, 2008


By Marcia Mickelson

Back in March, Robyn blogged about geocaching. In her post, she described geocaching which I had never heard about. Using a GPS, you plug in coordinates for a location obtained online. You follow the coordinates to various locations- parks, parking lots, just about anywhere- and then look for a "treasure." It can be a box, tupperware container, a can, or just about anything else. When she first blogged about it, I thought my 8 year old would love it because he loves maps and geography. We didn't have a GPS at the time, so I didn't look into it.
While my husband has been working out of town, he and his co-workers have been geocaching in the evenings and he has really been liking it. So, I thought for father's day, we could buy him a GPS. The kids and I went on Friday and bought him one. On the way back from the store, he called me to say he was on his way home, and he'd really be thinking about buying a GPS. He wanted to know if it was okay with me if he stopped to look at them. I told him maybe we could wait a few days. Then, he explained that he wanted to take the kids geocaching this weekend since it would likely be our last weekend in San Antonio before we move. I told him maybe he'd get one for Father's Day, but he said he wanted it for Saturday to take the kids out. So much for my surprise! I had to tell him we already bought one. He sounded surprised anyway, but still, it's not the same effect. Anyway, turns out I got the wrong kind, so after a late night on Friday, we finally returned it and bought the right one.

On Saturday morning, we set out for our first adventure. The first two places were a bit tough. There was a steep hill to climb to reach three small caves near where they treasure was hidden. We didn't find that one and it was too hard for our kids to climb. Another one in that same park was also a bit tough because the area was surrounded by cacti and my 2 year old just wanted to run around. We didn't find that one either, but managed go see a coyote and a deer. Can I just tell you how proud I am of myself for not freaking out about the coyote? I was trying to be calm for my kids' sake, but if it had just been me, you would have heard me screaming halfway across the city. The coyote was more scared of us then we were of it, though.

After those first few challenges, my kids were a bit discouraged, but we went home to find a few easier ones and had a better time after that. We went to three more locations. The first one was at a church where the instructions said it was okay to stick around and play on their playground. My youngest were happy about that while my husband, oldest son, and I searched the perimeter. We were about to give up when my husband started looking under the shed, and I said look behind that rock maybe it's next to that tub. Well, the tub was it! Inside the tupperware container covered with cammo tape, was the loot.

The loot is just small, cheap toys. You can trade a toy. So, my kids had fun leaving a toy and choosing a new one. We scored a whistle, a car, and a travel bug. A travel bug is a little key chain that started out in Florida and is trying to make its way to Houston. You also sign a log saying when you came. We were so excited to finally find one. The next two were a lot easier-a car wash parking lot and an abandoned lot. The picture is of the second one we found by the car wash. It was a geocache tube of toys. We scored some bubbles there. My kids love it. That night we went to do two more, but no luck. It got dark and we couldn't find them.
It was a great day together, despite disappointments of not find some of them. We're excited to do more. Each of the kids loved it for different reasons. My oldest loves the GPS and looking at the maps on it, my middle one loves the loot, and the youngest loves running around and throwing rocks. He found a place to throw rocks at every location.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cub Scout Camp

By Tamra Norton

I haven't written a word in the past 4 days...because I've been hangin' with these 5 wild-and-crazy guys! This is the awesomtastic Bear Den #59 and I had the way-cool job of being their den walker. This was my 4th year volunteering at cub camp (a by product of having a houseful of boys). My little guy has the squinty face and is wearing the royal blue shorts.

Somehow I ended up with 3 boys named Jacob this year, which was just as well. If I needed everyone's attention I'd yell, "Jacob" and I'd get an immediate response from the majority. And since my son is used to being called a half-dozen names other than his own anyway (another by product of a houseful of boys), we had our system down.

Aside from the 1001 degree Houston heat (you read that right--1001 freaking degrees. I wouldn't lie!) we somehow managed to survive. I think the slushies saved us, although we did walk around the remainder of the day with blue mustaches--a small price to pay.

I met some other really great den walkers there--one who is actually an aspiring author. We had a fun time talking books while our little-guys did BBs and archery. I think he said he was on chapter 6 of his YA Fantasy. (Keep it up, Sean. I'm looking forward to reading it!)

All-in-all, it was another great year at cub camp...but I'm SO ready to start writing again! :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

by Marsha Ward
Last Saturday I went into town with a friend and visited "The Wall".

"The Wall" is an 80% scale replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC – “The Wall” – is 370 feet long and stands eight feet tall at the apex. The Tribute Wall contains the names of all 58,219 Unites States service men and women killed or listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War. This is the first time I had visited such an exhibit. Apparently there are several traveling Walls, sponsored by various groups. This one came through the American Veterans Traveling Tribute & Traveling Wall Foundation.

I didn't know what to expect, or how I would react. No family members had died in Vietnam, although my husband served there before we met and married. I knew of one classmate from high school who had served there and died. I'm sure there were several more, but the only name I could recall was that of Joe Lyons.

I didn't know Joe well; he was just one of the many good-looking guys at my high school. I don't recall having any classes together, but I did know who he was. He had a cute blonde girlfriend, and they married during their senior year. I don't know if they had children. He joined the Marines, and began a tour of duty in Vietnam on January of 1968. On June 5, 1968, he was killed by small arms fire in Thua Thien Province. I didn't know about his funeral, or I might have gone.

This is the first stanza of the poem "White Gloves," by Mary Anne Russell. Her mother's reaction describes very much what happened to me once I received a printout of the location of Joe's name:

Mother paged through the names,
In the book of names
And then, businesslike
Read aloud;
“Robert S. Bagnall,
Bloomfield, Connecticut.”
And I read too, but silently,
High school basketball
And yearbook photos.
“January, 1968 –
Date of Casualty,” it said.
Impersonal words for death.
“Row 34E,” she said
And stiffened.
“Line 40,” she said, and turned away
As it struck.
“I will not cry,” I thought,
A boy I hardly knew,
We all admired
Healthy, handsome, easygoing,
Clean cut.
His hands in such white gloves, folded.
My throat closed and tears welled up. It's been forty years, and I still wept for a classmate I only knew in passing. Freedom is not free, and my acquaintance Joe paid the price of it a long time ago in a far-away country.
Let's not forget him and the countless others who defend our freedoms around the world.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Krispy Kremes

By Marcia Mickelson

On Saturday, we took our kids to Krispy Kreme Donuts. If your child brings their report card, they get a free donut for every A. That was a fun treat for our second grader who gladly shared his donuts with his brothers. In Kindergarten, they don't give letter grades yet, so we didn't bring our middle son's report card.

My kids love to go to this Krispy Kreme store because you can look through a long window partition to see how the donuts are made. There is a big machine that moves the donuts along a conveyor belt. It's fun to see the ones that don't turn over to be cooked on the other side and don't quite make the cut. This store that we go to also gives out a free trial donut to each person which is always nice. However, we always end up buying more because who can eat just one donut? So, we ended up buying another half dozen after the free report card ones and the free trial ones.

In our family, we go to extremes for Krispy Kremes. When we lived in New Jersey about six years ago, Krispy Kremes were not available anywhere in our state. So, one evening, we drove an hour to New York City just to buy Krispy Kremes. What's fifty miles and a Lincoln Tunnel fee when you can get some Krispy Kremes? So, we drove in, my husband pulled up, double parked outside the store, and waited in the car while I ran in to get 2 dozen. Then, we just drove home. Kind of sad, really that we'd go in to New York City and not do anything else, but I think it was around 8 or 9 at night when we got the craving, plus we had two sleepyheads in the car at the time.

Now, the Krispy Kreme store is just 20 minutes away and actually, there is a great selection available at the convenience store just down the street. They receive a fresh delivery every morning. Ahh, Krispy Kremes.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New and Improved?

by Marsha Ward

I think if we didn't have adversity in all things, we certainly wouldn't appreciate the times when everything goes smoothly.

The latest adverse factor in my life is one that hurts me where I live--in my email inbox.

I didn't get the heads-up message from my provider that they were upgrading the email system on Monday. I did notice that the incoming posts were few and far between--and then they just STOPPED!

If you're not an email junkie, or someone who checks their incoming messages more than once a day, you won't understand the angst such a condition brings. For someone who lives tucked away in a rural forest, email is a lifeline. It's also the means of communication for several projects I have going on. When email stops coming in, I don't get the feedback, or the notification, or the answers to my interview questions. Or the pictures and bibliography information for the websites I update. Or the critiques from my CPs.

The sad fact is that I can email out, but not receive.

I finally checked with someone who shares my Internet provider. As writers, we both have alternative email addresses, and thankfully, our Internet connection still functions. She's not able to send out with her regular email, but can receive.

We've both sent in trouble tickets to the support crew. I got an email back (on my other email addy) that had an address to try that I wasn't familiar with. When I clicked on it, I was able to find a new webmail spot for me, and there were my messages, along with the notice that the upgrade would take place. Also, the website is offering alternative spots for logging in, so it's not just me. Something really isn't working right in the new system.

I still can't download messages to my computer, and I don't function well without my voluminous address book, but at least I can read and answer my email now. Eventually someone will figure out what went wrong and fix it. I hope I don't use up the capacity in my mailbox before then!

The moral of the story? When you hear the phrase "new and improved," or the word "upgrades," it's time to quake with fear!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Up for the Challenge?

By Tamra Norton

I've done a few challenging things in my life...

When I was seventeen I climbed to the top of Huayna Picchu--that mountain peak you see here towering over the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, located in Peru. It took approximately an hour to hike to the top. It was an incredible and challenging experience--one I'll never forget.

I've given birth seven times...naturally (see evidence to the right--aren't they cute?). Didn't even take a Tylenol. And three of the seven weighed in at 8 lbs. 10 oz. Amazing I can even walk upright today! Yeah, I'll admit, childbirth has probably been the most difficult, yet most rewarding accomplishment on my "challenging things to do" list.

I've run three 10K races...a long time ago.

In the summer of 2000 I lost 23 pounds using the Body-for-Life training and diet system. (I've since gained it all back and then some. That wasn't challenging at all.)

I've served as assistant nursery leader at church for 2+ years ('nuff said).

Over the past 6 years I've written and had published 4 LDS YA novels and 2 middle-grade novels. And while some would say (including myself, at times) that this was a challenging endeavor, as with all of the previously mentioned "challenging things," the experiences have simultaneously brought me the most happiness!

There's that old saying: "No Pain. No gain." And while I don't really like the negative connotation that goes with it, I do believe, however, that many of the most worthwhile things we will accomplish in this life come with a whole lotta work! Writing is no exception, but I do it, because I love it.

And as with so many other challenging things in life, the rewards are priceless!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Not a Contractor

I came to the conclusion that I was not put on this earth to be a contractor when I drove my first nail into a 2x4 in my unfinished basement. Perhaps it was before that, as we were making blue chalk lines on the concrete and wondering if we should do the work ourselves or hire it done.

Two rooms? How hard could it be?

For the last month we have lived in a never-ending fog of white sheet-rock dust seeping into clothing, carpets, food and hair. I have personally met every employee at the local Home Depot and am now treated as a relative each time I step through the door; waves across the store and smiles at seeing my familiar face ... oh, and their expectant use of my seemingly endless credit card.

I even made it a point to have reunions right there in the paint department, discussing my writing projects while my primer was tinted to match my paint.

I wish I could say I'll miss my new friends at the Home Depot, but now that the basement is finished and most of the dust is settled, I'm in no hurry to return. I think I'll just sit back and relax in front of this screen and type until I get the feeling back in my first two fingers. Maybe I'll even get that other novel edited so I can send it to my editor ... it's about time!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

One Box At A Time

By Marcia Mickelson

We're moving this month, and I've started boxing things up. First to get boxed, were the books and toys. Looking through years of things that have been collected and stored takes a lot of time. I've pulled out old posters from my days of being a Mets baseball fan. I rolled that one back up--it's a keeper. Don't know why. I've done away with a box or two of books and clothes I will never read or wear. I've even secretly thrown away broken toys that my kids would be devastated about. They haven't played with them for years, but they would still be devastated. I recycled baskets of old papers, bills, payments stubs. Why am I still holding on to telephone bills from the 90's? Why do I have a box full of handouts my 8 year old was given in Sunbeams at Church more than five years ago? Yes, I still have Christmas cards from last year and five years ago. And, my college dorm photo directory from freshman year? Yep, still got it. I even have a dress from six years ago that doesn't fit, but it might one day, right?

Happily, a lot of this stuff has made its way to the recycling box or the garbage. I have a large section of my garage stacked with boxes of stuff we're taking. So, why do I look around and feel like I've hardly packed anything? There's still more to pack and only over a week to do it. People have offered to help, and that is very nice. But before I get to that point, I have to decide what else is getting thrown out. That pot that my mother-in-law gave me ten years ago? Yes, I think so. It's so old, and even she was surprised I still have it and use it a lot. She couldn't believe it was the same one she'd given me. I hate the kitchen, so I try to spend very little on kitchen stuff. That's why I still have the electric can opener we received as a wedding present almost 14 years ago. Time for a new one, I think. It will be an eventful week for me--throwing out and packing up. Hope to come out of the mess and say 'hello' every so often, if I can.