Friday, October 28, 2011

A Milestone!

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I am an aspiring writer (that's code for someone who likes to write stuff but has never actually been published). Well, this week I hit a milestone: I submitted my first manuscript!! AAAAHHHHH!

Scary stuff. Anyway, it's an exciting step for me to take. I decided to send it to Deseret Book, an LDS (Mormon) publishing company because the material is about the Mormon faith.

It's a book called, "The Grocery Store Under My Bed and 50 More Fun Poems for LDS Kids." Think Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" meets the "LDS Primary Children's Songbook." It's been about a year in the making, and I wrote around 65 poems and just picked my favorites.

The title poem is about a kid whose family keeps their food storage in his room- Latter-day Saints are big on food storage and it's kind of a running joke in the Mormon community that we put it wherever there's space!

Yes, I did the "artwork" on the front cover myself. I sketched illustrations for most the poems, not because I'm an illustrator (or an artist) by any stretch of the imagination, but just so that the publisher will have an idea of my vision for the illustrations. They're all pretty cheesy.

Anyway, now that I've sent my baby off to the big leagues, I'm working on a new project- a YA Fiction novel. Exciting, no? Well, it's one of those things where the characters are constantly writing their story in my head and I can't get them to shut up. Yes, apparently if you hear voices in your head it doesn't mean you're crazy, it means you're a writer. Well, that's what I tell myself, anyway! Just go with it, people.

Fortunately, it's an incredibly fun project and so it will hopefully keep me very busy in the 12 or so weeks that it will take to hear back from Deseret Book. Hopefully.

By the way, remember that surreal video clip I posted a few weeks ago? Well, last weekend I got to meet Jason F. Wright! As luck would have it, he was a presenter at that Time Out for Women conference that I attended. He spoke at the Friday evening session, which I didn't get to go to, so I was a little bummed because I had hoped to meet him. Then on Saturday I was sitting having lunch with my mom and stepmom and suddenly he comes walking in to the food court at the conference center. I had that, "Do I risk appearing weird and pushy and go introduce myself or do I not and then regret missing a great opportunity?" Yeah, I went with weird and pushy. Well, he was very kind and friendly and I was able to tell him how much he had inspired my writing. I went to sit back down and then he brought his sweet wife over to meet me! Such a pleasure. They are a great family, I can tell. :-)

I just feel like God has been whispering in my ear my entire life that I was meant to be a writer, and for some reason I'm just now listening. I know it will most likely be a long road (I have an empty frame all ready for that first rejection letter!) but I am just happy to walking it, one step at a time.

Join me, won't you? :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Homemade Halloween: Family Circus Train Costume!

Every year our church has a Fall Festival, which is basically just a fun get-together with costumes, games, food, and a Trunk-or-Treat at the end in the parking lot. Usually for Halloween we let the kids choose their own costumes, but we like to do a family costume for the annual Fall Festival.

My son loves trains, especially Thomas the Tank Engine, and he thought it would be really fun for us to be a train. I liked the idea, but I thought it would be more interesting to take it a step further and have us wearing costumes *in* the train cars! I'm not sure how I came up with the idea of a circus train, but as you can see above, that's what we ended up with!

My husband brought home some boxes from work and we had a great time making a big painting mess in the kitchen one night. My son was our engine, my husband was the clown (my son decorated his train car with him), my daughter Starlet was the Amazing Acrobat, Little Boo was the Monkey (she wanted to be a monkey for Halloween anyway), and I was, of course, the Ringleader. I always think it's fun to have us in costumes that are kind of fitting to our roles anyway. ;-)

For my costume I just used stuff we already had- my black boots, my running leggings, a white button-up blouse, a red velvet blazer, and a hat from an old Zorro costume we used once that I just made taller and fancier with black and red paper. Oh, and some white gloves we happened to have (I wanted my hubby to wear them but he wasn't interested. Oh, well).

For Starlet I picked up a gymnastics leotard and black tights from Target. It was a little bit of a splurge, but she may be taking gymnastics again soon, so I figure she might get some use out of it. My husband got his clown hair and nose/glasses from Wal-Mart, and I picked up Little Boo's costume from Old Navy- 50% off sale, so I got it for $12! And lastly, Monkey had his Thomas costume from many years ago when he was Thomas for Halloween.

Here are some photos of our family costume 2 years ago (just after Little Boo was born):

Our teams don't exactly match (Starlet is a Virginia Tech cheerleader!) but it had the overall effect we were looking for. And I loved that I was the referee. How fitting, right?
Can you see how I put Little Boo's hair up in tiny little pigtails? How cute is that!

This Halloween, be creative! If you have little ones who aren't TOO opinionated yet, then a family costume is a really fun way to go. Or, you could do like we did and do a family costume for a special function and then let the kids wear their own costumes for Halloween night.

I'm getting more creative later this week with Monkey's costume...stay tuned to see how it turns out!

Have you ever done a family costume before? Leave a comment and tell me about it! We need ideas for next year!! :-)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spiritual Sundays: My Thoughts Are Not Your Thoughts

The view from Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville, Virginia. Amazing how the view from above can give you such a larger picture than what you can see from below...

I had the INCREDIBLE opportunity yesterday to attend an amazing event in downtown Richmond called Time Out For Women. It was an all-day conference for LDS women (and any other women who wanted to be uplifted and inspired!) and we heard some wonderfully funny, motivational, and spiritual presenters along with beautiful music as well. This will probably be the first of a few Spiritual Sundays posts that will be based on the things I learned there, because truthfully, it was so hard to choose just ONE topic!

So for today's post I drew from a few different things I heard at the conference. The first was a story told by a member of the "boy band" Jericho Road. He told the story of the birth of his first child. Prior to the baby's birth, doctors discovered the child had holes in his heart. The family prayed that the holes would close so that the child might be healthy. The singer described the scene surrounding the delivery as one straight out of an ER drama, with everyone rushing around. When the baby was finally born, it was discovered that the baby had an overflow of blood inside one chamber of his heart, and that the holes were what were actually saving his life- without them his heart would have stopped. The singer reflected on the fact that the very thing they were praying for God to remove was the very thing that God, in His ultimate wisdom, was using to save the child's life.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9

So many times in our lives we might pray for that which we believe to be good, only to discover that our own view is so limited that there might actually be something greater in store for us.

Another speaker, Brad Wilcox, told a very funny, yet very moving story about how he had to do a lot of soul searching while on his mission. He told of the day he felt he had lost his testimony, and how that night he knelt down on his bed and prayed to the Lord that He might show him a sign. He figured Joseph Smith got to have a vision, why couldn't he? Suddenly his room filled with light- and then the car passed. Joseph Smith got God and angels and he got headlights. Go figure.

Well, he was disappointed, but he was determined to discover what the truth really was. Suddenly, his biggest problem was not trying to stay awake during his study time- it was finding enough study time. He read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price. He prayed. He read Jesus the Christ, the Miracle of Forgiveness, and other books by prophets and apostles. He prayed some more. Finally, he had a moment when his mission president asked him after an interview if he had any questions. He paused, then said, "President, is there a God?" He said, "Yes." He asked, "Does He know who I am?" The mission president replied, "Yes." "Does He really love me?" "Yes."

Those simple responses suddenly filled Brother Wilcox with the Spirit and he knew it was true. In his presentation, he reflected on his journey. He pointed out that if God had answered his prayer and showed him a sign that night in his room, would he have done all of that studying, pondering, and praying? The Lord knew what he needed, and that night in his room the Lord knew that he needed to not receive an answer. The Lord knew it was a journey Brother Wilcox had to take on his own, to gain more knowledge before he could have that testimony he was so desperately seeking. Once he had completed the journey he was meant to take, the Lord answered His prayer in a sweet, simple, unmistakable way.

Consider this Part I of this post...I realized as I was writing that there was another GREAT presentation from Time Out that will fit right in with this one, but there's too much to write to fit it into this post.

For now, think about that scripture, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts...", and think about how you might seek to better trust in God, and know that He has a better plan for you. More on that next week.... ;-)

To find out more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit

Sunday, October 16, 2011

...and I'm a Mormon.

My family and me at the LDS Temple just outside Washington, D.C.

With Mitt Romney on the ballot, there have been quite a few news stories coming out lately about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka, the "Mormon Church." If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you've probably figured out that yes, I'm a Mormon! I decided to take today's Spiritual Sundays post and tell you a little bit about my background in this religion and what it means to me.

Both of my parents are converts to the church. They converted before I was born, so I have grown up in the church. Even with that upbringing, however, my parents have always encouraged me to gain my own faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, quite simply, I don't believe just because they do, and I don't just go to church because I'm used to it. I have a real strong faith that it's the true church.

Some say that our church is a cult. By the popular definition of the word cult, that is untrue. However, if you look at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of "cult", you could certainly categorize Mormonism under that definition:
1. formal religious veneration
2. a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also its body of adherents

3. a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also its body of adherents

4. a great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work

I clarify this definition only to point out that virtually any world religion could be labeled a cult, and that Mormonism is really not that different.

So why do people think we're so different? Here are a few questions you might have and some explanations straight from a Mormon!

Q: The "Mormon" label- are Mormons Christians?
A: YES! We are Christians. "Mormons" is really just a nickname derived from a book of holy scripture that is unique to our church, The Book of Mormon.

Q: What's the Book of Mormon?
A: The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. It contains the records of the people living on the American continent a few hundred years before and after Christ's earthly ministry. It also contains a beautiful account of His visit to the people on the American continent after His resurrection.

Q: What about the bible?
A: We believe in the Bible, too!! Old Testament and New Testament, absolutely. We prefer to utilize the King James Version.

Q: So you do believe in Jesus Christ?
A: YES, YES, YES! I cannot emphasize this enough. The name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that it is only through Him that we can be saved. We believe in His atonement and we honor it and renew our covenants to be faithful to Him each Sunday when we partake of the holy sacrament.

Q: No drinking, no smoking, no coffee, no tea...what's with that?
A: We're not trying to be little goody-two-shoes (okay, well, I guess we are) but we follow a code called The Word of Wisdom. This "health code" identifies certain substances that are more addictive and therefore potentially harmful to our bodies. Smoking is a pretty obvious one, and alcohol is addictive enough that it's just not a good idea to even start. Coffee and tea contain high levels of caffeine that are mood-altering and addictive as well.

Q: I heard you have a prophet. Does he think he's like Moses or something?
A: Well, in the sense that he is God's mouthpiece on earth, then yes, he is like Moses. He does not, however, have a long beard and walk around in robes with a big staff. His name is Thomas S. Monson, he wears a suit, is usually smiling (he has a great sense of humor!) and he absolutely exudes love. We believe that God continues to lead and guide his people through modern-day revelation. We don't worship the prophet, we know he is a man, but we listen to what he says, usually gentle reminders that God loves us and that we can be better people.
What's interesting about the fact that we have a prophet on the earth today is that he leads the church much like prophets did in biblical times. We also have 12 apostles, just like then. Our church is organized just as it was by Christ's direction long ago.
If you would like to see and hear the prophet, you can check out his closing talk from our church's semiannual conference a few weeks ago. There's a place in the sidebar that says, "watch" and you can see the video.

Q: What's with all the secret temple stuff?
A: We prefer to refer to the things that happen inside the temple as being "sacred" rather than "secret." What's the difference? Well, because they are sacred they require a certain mindset. If we were to allow people to come in from off the street and watch temple ceremonies, they would most likely be confused and the ceremony would have a very different feeling to it. Before one is allowed to attend the temple for such ceremonies, one must be a baptized member of the church. That's not because it's an exclusive club, it's because when you are baptized you make certain covenants with God, and you promise yourself to His service. Even after you are baptized, you must wait at least a year before entering the temple (and you must be at least 18 years old for most of the ceremonies) and you must have an interview with your bishop (like a pastor) to determine your worthiness to enter the temple. He makes sure that you have been keeping your baptismal covenants and that your heart is dedicated to the Lord. Then, when you enter the temple, you are able to fully understand the ceremonies, and you are surrounded by others with a similar dedication to God. Within that environment, the Spirit of the Lord can be felt and wonderful truths can be learned.

Q: Okay, but what kind of ceremonies?
A: Because they are sacred, I will not go into detail. But let me say that there are no blood sacrifices, no weird chanting or anything like that. The two primary ordinances that take place in the temple are the sealing (marriage) ceremony and the endowment ceremony. They are quiet, teaching experiences as you learn more about who you are, where you came from, and what is in store for you in this life and the life to come. You make special promises to God to keep His commandments, and I always leave the temple feeling uplifted, like I have just experienced a bit of heaven on earth. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit dwells in temples.

Q: So why do you believe it?
A: For me, I believe that God's affirmation of truth is a feeling of pure joy. Joy that is not tied to any earthly desire. The more I learn about this religion (because even now I am still learning!) the more joy I discover. I have the answers to life's questions- Who am I? Where am I going? Why am I here? And I feel the love of God in my life every day. The more I follow the teachings of this gospel, the happier I am.

I love that I don't need a cup of coffee to wake me up in the morning. I love that I never had to worry about STDs or teen pregnancy because I vowed to save myself for my husband. I love that I was able to marry a man who had promised the same thing, and that we both know we're in it for forever, not just till death we do part. I love that my husband celebrates my role as his wife and as a mother to our children, because our church teaches him what a special calling that is. I love that I respect him and honor him as my husband because this religion teaches me what a special duty he has to me and our family. I love that I have a clear moral path that I can teach to my children, about how to live and love as the Savior did. I love that I know that when I keep the promises I made at baptism and in the temple that God will keep His promises to me, and that I can someday live with Him and my family together forever. I know that this life is about much more than my time on earth- that I existed before I came here and I will exist after I die. I am a spiritual daughter of God.

Simply put, I love that I have The Truth. Not a truth, not some truth, but The Truth, all of it, simple and perfect. I can question till I'm blue in the face but there's always an answer that brings me joy.

I hope that this post has helped to answer some questions you might have. If you have any more questions or anything you might be curious about, PLEASE leave a comment or e-mail me if it's something you don't want to share with other readers. I love to answer questions and share my joy! :-)

For more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Goodwill Gold

I have a dear sweet friend at church who is very fashionable and whenever she sees me, she says, "You always look SO cute, Kasey! Where did you get that??" And she always gets so exasperated because my answer, about 90% of the time, is "Goodwill outlet!"
Let me confess something to you: I used to be a shopping snob. I didn't do Goodwill- whenever I thought of shopping at Goodwill I thought of oversized stained t-shirts, women's suits from the 80's (complete with shoulder pads) and polyester. LOTS of polyester. To be honest, the thought of thrift store shopping repelled me.

Then we started having kids, and we were on a budget. We started checking out Goodwill just for random things we needed that we considered okay to buy used. Then I saw that they had some pretty cute kids clothes, and kids grow out of their clothes practically faster than you can buy them, so I relented. And then an occasion would come up where I would need something specific in a hurry that wasn't in our budget (like a black skirt or something) and so I would go there to see if I could find something just for this one time. Then I found myself putting lots of things in my cart to try on...and I became hooked.

So if any of you out there might feel a little wary of thrift store shopping like I did, I am here to dispel the myth of the Polyester Palace! Here are a few of my favorite Goodwill Outlet finds and some tips for making the most of your own thrift store shopping.

Fashion Show!!

I LOVE the cut of this satin top. So slimming! Incidentally, the skirt I'm wearing is also from the Goodwill outlet- knee-length black satin with wide pleats. I paired this with opaque black tights and a cute pair of satin Steve Madden pumps- also from Goodwill. ;-)

Super soft teal drape-front sweater (Banana Republic) and the perfect pair of black pants (okay, they may be polyester, but they have a great modern style!).

These. boots. are. AWESOME. Are they not? And really, for $2, how can you go wrong??

Love this sheer black drapey top with dolman sleeves. It has just the right amount of sparkle around the neckline to make it perfect for a night out.

Tips on thrift store clothing shopping:

1. Don't go with expectations. It's okay to be hoping to find something, but it's always best to go with an open mind so that the deals find you.

2. Go often. Stock changes constantly, so rather than doing one blowout trip, break it up and go frequently in order to spend less on items you really love.

3. Know your size and what shapes work best on you (not all places have dressing rooms) Shape and fit are FAR more important to me than color and/or pattern. The idea is for the garment to make YOU look good and for people to notice you, not what you're wearing. Also keep in mind that these clothes may have shrunk or stretched from their original size, so try to train your eye to be able to recognize your size.

4. Be familiar with brands. Name brands = quality and style. Once when checking out at a Goodwill store the cashier looked at the clothes I had picked out, including the Steve Madden shoes, a cashmere sweater and a DKNY shirt, and said, "Oh, girl- you knew what you were looking for!" Yes. Yes I did. :-)

5. When in doubt, check it out. You might not always be able to tell what something is at first glance (see last photo!)- things aren't styled like they are in retail stores, so pull it out away from the other clothes to see it alone and get a better perspective. That peach blouse might actually look pretty great once you get it away from that olive green sweater!

6. Don't get too excited over the price and buy things you won't use. You know what I'm talking about. You've done it. Admit it.

7. Look for staple items- they're always there! Basic black skirts & pants, basic button-up blouses, jeans, etc.

8. Evaluate wear & tear vs cost. If an item is damaged, can you- and WILL you- take the time and/or money to repair it? Be honest with yourself!

9. Step outside your box. Thrift shopping is a great opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new without risking too much cash! Try going bohemian or punk. What have you got to lose?

10. Saving $$ on clothes means you can spend extra on accessorizing! Even a very basic thrift store find can look fabulous when paired with the right accessories. Get some pretty new earrings to bring out the color in your new shirt.

Are you a thrift store fashionista? What was your best find??

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ahh....Surreal. Yes, I think that's the word for it.

Well, I didn't win. Bummer, right? But I did get a nice e-mail from Jason telling me that he liked my letter, and that made me happier than winning.

And then there's this:

Did he really just call my letter "brilliant"?

Yes, quite surreal. I am...well, pretty much speechless about that. In a good way. Not every day that a New York Times bestselling author goes on tv and talks about something YOU wrote. I take this as a good sign for my writing career.

Surreal. Totally.

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