Prioritizing: It’s As Simple As Rocks and Sand



I’ve been hit and miss on the internet recently. I’ve been hit and miss with writing, too.

Here’s why…

I love those kiddos. Every last one of them. BOY, GIRL, BOY, GIRL, BOY. Ranging from 16 to 4. That’s my five kids. 


They are my life. (Oh, and my hubby is my life, too. I can’t forget him. ;)  )


Recently, I gave a lesson to some teens that was as much for me as for them. 

It goes like this:

We have a thousand things vying for our time each day; things that can be categorized into three groups:


  1. Important things.
  2. Semi-important things.
  3. Not-so-important-but-kinda-fun things...


The important things in our life are like rocks.


The semi-important things are like pebbles.


The not-so-important-but-kinda-fun things are like sand.


But our day only has so much room.

Like a bottle.

Once it’s filled, it’s filled.

Though we know what’s important to us,

we often throw things into our jar in the wrong order.

The not-so-important-but-kinda-fun things consume half our day,

and suddenly we can’t make it all fit.


“I don’t have time!”


But if we put the most important things in first,

schedule family, spirituality, or whatever matters most to us first,

we find time for things we used to “not have the time for.”


The guilt dies.

The happiness grows.


(ie: Writing books and interacting with great people on facebook, twitter, and my blog are what I do when my kids, my family, and my priorities don’t need me. NOT VICE VERSA.)

And the best part is,

when we put first things first,

suddenly we realize we can make the other stuff fit, too. 

At worst, we might lose a few grains of sand, but really,

who misses those lost seconds on facebook watching other people live their lives?

If you’re living yours, you won’t.


So sit down.

Make a list.

Prioritize your life.

Then schedule your days and weeks accordingly.



Coming from someone who spent a summer putting the rocks in first…(literally)…

…I promise you’ll be happier for it.


What do you do to put first things first? Any tricks you’ve learned through the years?

Share your thoughts and comments here.



Talent vs. Hard Work?

I received an e-mail last week from my kids’ school on “smart kids,” also known as academically gifted, and I’ve been thinking about the concept every since.

The gist of the email was based on an article called, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids: the Inverse Power of Praise,” by Po Bronson (you can read it online here) which talks about a study done on academically gifted students.  

After scoring well on a test, one group was told, “Wow. You’re so smart.” The other group was told, “Wow. You must have worked hard.” The results were a little surprising. The kids who were praised for working hard scored much higher down the road than those who were praised for being smart. 

Why the difference?

Because the kids who were told they were smart got it in their heads that they were born smart and therefore things should come easily to them. If something started to become hard, many would quit and say, “I must not be good at that.” The risk of failure and not being “smart” enough was too great.

Whereas the other group which was praised for their hard work knew that regardless of the outcome, working hard was something they could control. They were willing to try new things and like I mentioned, ended up scoring 30% higher on academic tests down the road.


I know people are born with natural talent. Michael Jordan. Michael Crichton. Michelangelo.  (Apparently I have a thing for Michaels today.) Michelle Kwan. (Ha, threw a girl in there). And yes, natural talent is a great thing, but it’s not the only thing. In fact, I’m starting to think it plays much less of a role than any of us realize.

Michael Jordan could have been born with the most genetically-engineered basketball genes in the history of mankind, but it wouldn’t have done him an ounce of good if he’d never hopped off his couch and shot some hoops. Day after day. Year after long year. Michelle Kwan used to wake up at 3am so she could practice before school. And the second school was over, she was back in that rink. 

The Sistene Chapel didn’t paint itself. 

I guess I keep hearing a lot of “I could never do that because…” from my kids, people I know, and even myself.

Like my oldest son who told me he could never play the piano like his younger sister because she was born with more musical ability. Yes, she is very musically inclined, however, she’s also spent ten times longer (without exaggeration) on that piano bench than he has. Why doesn’t that count for anything?

But I fall into this same trap. I look at people I consider talented or intelligent and think, “Man, I wish I could do that.” In spite of what I think, I can run a marathon. I’m just choosing not to.

So maybe we should stop focusing on how talented or smart people are and start focusing on how hard they work. At the same time, we should stop selling ourselves short.

No more, “I can’t _____________ because ______________.”

I no longer buy that theory.

Because really, the best stories, books, and movies in the world are based on people who ignore the “I can’t” adage and decide it can be done.

Never underestimate the power of a little blood, sweat, and tears. 

What do you guys think? Talent vs. Hard Work?

Choose to Have a Good Day!


My daughter was telling me this morning that the announcements came to her class last Friday. I asked her what that meant and she explained, “We got to lead the Pledge of Allegiance for the whole school. Then we said, ‘Choose to have a good day’ right after.” 

Choose? Surprised, I looked at her and said, “That was a nice thing to add.” 

She said, “We say that every day after the Pledge.”

Maybe my daughter has told me this little ritual about her new school before, but for some reason it stuck with me today. 

“Choose to have a good day” 

Not “Have a good day,” or “I hope you have a good day,” which are two phrases I use often as my kids rush out the door.

Her school doesn’t even say, “Try your very hardest to have a good day and chances are, you will.” But they use the simple word, “choose,” and they use it each and every day.

Interestingly enough, I taught a lesson yesterday in my church about this very thing. I teach an adult class on the Book of Mormon every Sunday (Gospel Doctrine)–which I love–and yesterday’s lesson was about a young man named Nephi.

Nephi was the fourth son of a prophet who lived in Jerusalem around 600BC. This prophet, Lehi, was told by the Lord that his family must leave their home, their beds, their gold and food, and travel into the desert. Nephi’s older brother’s weren’t too keen on this. In fact, they complained quite regularly throughout the journey. In all fairness, their travels were under extreme conditions–think Saudi Arabia in mid-July without any modern-day conveniences. They’d probably never lived out of a tent before. Probably never walked that far in their life. There wasn’t much fresh water or shade. There wasn’t a Delta Airlines flight to take them where they needed to go. There wasn’t even a Taco Bell around the corner when they ran out of food. So when Nephi’s bow broke–their only source of food–the complaining went hog-wild (without the hog). 

I tried to picture myself in the heat of a desert, without food, watching not just myself, but my entire family including my little kids starving.

Quite frankly, I would have been in the front of the line at the complaint department.

Even the prophet Lehi was dragged into the murmuring. But not Nephi, good old Nephi. He had this attitude that the Lord commanded them to leave, so they might as well make the best of it. He went out, found some wood (in the middle of a desert) and made his own bow and arrow. All without complaint. Needless to say, he came back with enough food to save his entire family, including all the complainers.

In short, he chose to have a good day. 

Too often I get sucked into the popular and all-too-easy notion that things are forcing me to behave a certain way. I didn’t get enough sleep so I’m going to be grumpy today. The kids are fighting so I have to yell back. Yeah. Not cool. But what makes this extremely uncool is that my attitude affects the entire family. My husband might be grumpy, or one of the kids, and the rest of us get along just fine. But if Mom’s grumpy? Forget it. The domino effect takes all of 10 seconds and suddenly the whole family is grouching at each other. It’s horrible, but it’s my reality. It all starts with me. 


I’ve set the goal for this week at least, that I will CHOOSE to have a good day each and every day. It’s a choice. It’s a choice. It’s a choice. Maybe if I tell myself enough times (and put it in writing), it will stick. Like I taught yesterday, attitude changes actions and I’m ready to change some of mine. I’m hoping that if I have a good attitude, not only will I choose to have a good day, but I’ll find a way to actually MAKE it a good day. Or as my friend likes to tell me, “Fake it ’til you make it.”

One of the most inspiring stories of this kind of attitude is Viktor Frankl, a well-known Holocaust survivor. His pregnant wife was taken and killed by the Nazis. His parents, too. Even his brothers. Viktor was stripped of his clothing, his pride, and everything in the world that mattered, yet he chose to remain positive in those concentration camps, which in turn ended up saving his life. He lived to be 92 and spoke often of his experiences. If you don’t know who he is, google him or look him up in your local library. His life is truly inspiring.

One of his most profound quotes is this: 

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the
human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of
circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

So today and tomorrow and the next day, I’m going to choose to have a good day.

Attitude changes actions

Anyone else with me? Fake it ’til you make it?

It’s All Relative


I had planned on doing a different post today. It’s mostly written, but it still needs some work. And I wasn’t in the mood to work. I’m in the mood to play. Because…

It’s 39° in Michigan.

It’s January 6th.

It’s not supposed to be 39° in Michigan on January 6th.

It’s supposed to be 9°. On a warm day. If the sun’s out. If we’re lucky. But it’s 39° and the skiff of snow from earlier this week (see my pretty picture here) has melted.

So what do Michiganders do when it’s 39° and there’s no snow on the ground? We go to the park. Because in Michigan, it could be 39° in June. It’s all relative.

If we were Floridians, we’d pull our jackets out at 70°, put our coats on at 60° and crank up the heat. And when it rarely hits 50°, we’d pull out the whole works–gloves, mittens, thermal underwear, handwarmers. But 39° in Florida? Forget it. Whole towns shut down. People run to the grocery store and stock up on food and water. (This might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much.)

But I don’t live in Florida. I live in Michigan.

My daughter without a coat. Notice the frozen pond in the background.

So I’m sitting on an old wooden bench, watching my three youngest swing, slide, and bask in the rare winter sun. It’s awesome! They only have half days on Friday anyway and so it took very little cajoling on their part to get me to agree. I simply looked at the temperature, the lack of snow, the bright sun and thought, “Why not?”

Because 39° is all relative.

As I look around this park, I see that half the kids aren’t wearing coats. At least four are in short-sleeved shirts–including my own son (see PPS below). I think the temperature has risen a few more degrees since I’ve started hand-writing this post, but still. Mid-40s is hardly short-sleeve shirt weather. Yet I love it. They love it. We’re all in heaven!

But as I’m sitting here, this question just hit me:

When moments come into my life that are the metaphorical equivalent of 39°, do I treat them like a Michigander or a *Floridian? Do I say, “Man, my life stinks. I hate this. Why can’t it just be warmer for once? Easier for once? Perfect for once?”


Do I possibly say, “Oh well. It’s all relative. Today is a beautiful day and from my experience–and those of others–I know it can be a lot worse. In fact, I can guarantee it’s going to get worse before it gets better, so I should enjoy the moment for what it is.”

I wish I acted more Michigander than *Floridian at least half the time. I’m not sure that I do. But I think we all know someone like that. You know the type. They could be in the hospital, out of a job, destitute and starving, and they still smile and say that life is good. I want to be one of those people. I want to learn that kind of happiness because really, things can always be worse. A lot worse.

So…I have a good life. A great life! Any problems I might have are small because it’s all relative.

And now that I’m done typing this post, it’s up to a whopping 47° which means it’s time to take the kids out for a bike ride.

Enjoy the nice weather!

PS–What about you? Are you a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person? Are you more Michigander in your outlook on life or *Floridian?

PPS (or is it PSS?)–I realize this post is ironic considering what I wrote about earlier this week (if you missed it, read it here). But really, that earlier post just proves my point. It’s WAY too cold in Michigan. I was freezing my tail off in those stupid shorts. Global warming hurry up! (Oh geez, no hate mail please. I was just kidding.)

PPPS (or PSSS–except that looks ridiculous)–I’m taking the weekend off from posting, so I’ll be back here Monday when I’ll be talking about the top 10 things I’ve learned as a writer. Until then, enjoy the nice weather!

*DISCLAIMER: The party writing this post has nothing against the people from Florida. Well, maybe she does, but it’s just because she envies their weather. It’s nothing personal. Plus, she just really loves the word “Floridian.” It’s very fun to say. And type.

Self-education is a Little Over-rated. But it’s Cheap.

Can I just say, Google has been my best friend for some time now. We’ve had our ups and downs, and yes, there are days I want to throw Google out the window, but most days we get along just peachy.
I’m a huge fan of self-education. I always have been. You know how it goes. You’re walking down the street and you see an accordion in the nearest store window. You think to yourself, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the accordion.” Or, “Hey, I wonder who invented the accordion.” Or, “Hey, I wonder how far I can throw an accordion.” Then you get on your favorite device and Google it.
(I must digress a moment since you might be wondering what’s up with all the accordion references. My husband plays the accordion. In fact, he competed in several national accordion competitions growing up and even won DUKE one year. Does that make me a duchess? With that said, his accordion has been the brunt of more than a few jokes. And if you’re wondering how far you can throw an accordion, the answer is: Not far enough. Oh, and if you’re looking for the funniest accordion video in the world, it’s here… Okay. I’m done. Sorry hun.)
Anyway, my philosophy is that between the library and Google, I can learn just about anything. We live in the information age, right? RIGHT!!! It’s so amazing what you can learn from people around the world. And because it’s on the internet it’s open and available for all to see, hear, and read. The best—and worst—of humanity is right at our fingertips 24/7.
So for a person like me that 1) struggles to stick with just one hobby, and 2) couldn’t stand school while she was in it, the Library + Google = The Perfect Answer. Or as Matt Damon said in Good Will Hunting, You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you coulda’ got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.”
On the internet I’ve learned how to snowboard, I’ve taken a trip to the Forbidden City in China, I’ve translated my thoughts into Spanish, and I’ve watched my kids learn how to play their favorite top 40 songs on the piano. It’s awesome. Especially when it comes to writing. I’ll be working on a scene like I was this morning and think to myself, “I have no idea what I’m talking about.” This thought comes quite often, actually. Then I’ll jump on Google and educate myself. There are thousands, if not millions, of blogs and free websites from people who are willing to share their knowledge with me and the rest of the world. It’s mega awesome!
(There’s always a “However” isn’t there?)
There’s something to be said for a formal education. Did I really just say that? Friends and family, please don’t drop dead. But after years of trying to self-educate myself, I’ve learned that there are simply some things you can’t learn online. I’m sure my editor would agree.

For example, sure I’ve watched a couple people show me the basics of snowboarding on youtube, but 1) How do I know that they know what they’re talking about? and 2) How much have I actually learned without taking a single step on the snow? And on the flip-side, in the few areas where I actually do have some legitimate education, I see all sorts of incorrect information out there, which is what happened to me today. Even on reputable websites.

Not to mention, you can find opposing answers to pretty much any question. (How cool are accordions? Not cool enough to have the answer on Google. Okay. I really am done.) 

So writers, readers, and anxious learners…beware. Self-education is awesome, fun, exciting, and sadly, still a lot of hard work. But it is also over-rated. One thing is certain, though: it’s cheap. Which is why I will keep doing it.

Happy 400th!

When I get online every day, my homepage pops up, which has a quick list of news articles from around the world. Most days I ignore these articles, but today one caught my interest:

King James Bible: Queen marks 400th anniversary.”

My first thought was, why on earth would Queen Elizabeth be celebrating the anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible? And even beyond, why the heck did the liberal media care?
Sometimes I’m really slow. 
Before that, I should mention that I’ve been aware that this year marks the 400th anniversary of the KJV for some time now. I teach an adult Sunday School class in my congregation where we have spent the entire year (to my utter delight) studying the New Testament out of the KJV. My church, the LDS/Mormon Church has asked that all English speaking members use the KJV. So I have grown up with it. To say that I love teaching out of the KJV would be a gross understatement. I eat up every moment of it. It’s been so awesome and I’ve learned so much just this year!
So I’ve been interested in any articles talking about the 400th anniversary of this incredible book. With that, I saw earlier this year that BYU had produced an awesome documentary (no, that is not an oxymoron) that is entitled “Fires of Faith.” It is a three-part documentary going through how the King James Version came to be in 1611. You can check it out here. It is very, very well done and informative. I had no idea how much controversy was involved, or how grateful we should be to have this beautiful translation of God’s word.
But even with all this, I still couldn’t figure out what the Queen of England had to do with anything.
Again, I’m really…really…slow sometimes.
It finally hit me that this is the anniversary of the KING James Version of the Bible, as in King James I, King of England in 1611. As King of England, James I was also the head of the Church of England, and sanctioned this particular translation.
Okay, so that explained why the British Monarch, namely Elizabeth, would want to celebrate. But still, front page news?
Then I remembered that British Monarchy isn’t like our US Presidency. You aren’t elected into it, you are born into it. Or in other words:
Queen Elizabeth II is King James’ great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter. (That’s nine greats if you’re counting.) Of all the people in the world to help celebrate, surely she should be one of them. How would you like having your ninth great-grandpa’s name on your Bible? Cool, eh?
I also got to thinking today about how less than a decade after this translation was finished, the first permanent settlers sailed for America. Only 9 years later! That can’t be a coincidence. Especially considering how much of Colonial America was shaped by the Bible. The article above even points out how much of today’s English is influenced by the language of the KJV.
Another thing I learned (can you tell I’m excited?) is that it took 54 scholars to create the KJV. I knew it was a lot, but didn’t know it was that many. Not only that, but those scholars were contemporaries with William Shakespeare who died in 1616. In fact, they could have just walked across the field and asked, “Hey Shakespeare, what do you think of this particular passage?” or more accurately, “Pray tell, Sir William, what dost thou thinkest of said passage below?” Which explains why, at times, reading the KJV feels like you’re reading Shakespeare.
And yes, I agree–partially–with people who say that the King James language can be very cumbersome and difficult to understand. It can, but it is also absolutely, positively beautiful. And well worth it, in my opinion!
For example, in most new English translations of the Bible, the common phrase is rendered “Faith, Hope, and Love.” And yet in the King James Version it says “Faith, Hope, and Charity.” What is the difference between love and charity, you may ask? Well, charity isn’t just any love, it is defined as “The Pure Love of Christ,” which is something far greater than just love.
Apply that to an excerpt of Paul’s great sermon in 1 Corinthians 13. I’ve listed just a few verses side by side to show a quick comparison. The NIV, a popular version of the Bible today, is on the left, while the traditional KJV on the right.  Note the difference in language.
And if you go back and substitute “The Pure Love of Christ” in place of every use of the word “Charity,” the language becomes even more powerful.
“And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not (the pure love of Christ), I AM NOTHING…Now abideth faith, hope, and charity (which is the pure love of Christ), these three; but the greatest of these is charity…Follow after charity (the pure love of Christ).”
So yes, the KJV can be a bit cumbersome and confusing at times, but it is also incredibly, amazingly beautiful. And poetic. I think it is well worth the effort! But even beyond, I think the King James Version of the Bible has shaped our society, our language, and the history of America more than we will ever know.
Happy 400th KJV!