Monday, November 17, 2014

Cleaning Out the Closet

When my family combined two households into one five years ago we rented a large storage unit. We weren't ready to part with our "prized" possessions. As the years passed our trips to the storage unit became more infrequent and this summer I got an idea to change a spider infested room under our backyard deck into a usable storage space.

Finally I was ready to tackle what seemed like an impossible task. I dragged out 2 dusty truckloads of lumber, wire, tubing, old inner tubes, rusted camping gear, re-bar, etc. before I could see the room's potential. Luckily I have a hardworking husband and 3 strong sons who did the next phase--removing the stored coal and spreading an inch of gravel on the floor before a cement floor was poured. After spending a few afternoons sweeping cobwebs from the rafters I was ready for the cement contractor. Our little job was not a priority so the weeks turned into months before the cement truck arrived. 

In the mean time I had plenty to do at the storage unit. Every other day I would load up the back of our pickup truck with boxes and take them home to sort through. Since I hadn't seen most of the contents of each box in five years, it wasn't hard to throw or give most of them away. When the last boxes were place in our new storage space and there was room to spare, I felt a sense of accomplishment. No more monthly bill and everything I own at my fingertips. My only regret was wondering why I hadn't done it sooner! Hopefully I have learned from this and won't put off getting rid of the "stuff" in my personal closet. Change isn't easy--but it is worth it!  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Doing What I Love and Being a Grandparent is the Best!

Since September I have been working on animations for the WantsToBe apps which are now available in the iTunes app store. It has been a very enjoyable project as I get to bring life to my illustrations. My husband describes it as an obsession but I prefer it to be the result of finding something I love to do. However, it pales in comparison to the joy that comes from watching my new grandson as he sleeps in my arms. First he tricks me into picking him up when he fusses during a nap so that I'll hold him while he sleeps for 2 more hours. If you have ever watched a newborn baby sleep you will understand what I mean when I say that it is fascinating. His list of facial animations include; half smiles, sighs, eyes half open, crinkled nose, pursed lips, etc. And that is just in the first 5 minutes. Usually he starts waking up about the time his mom and dad return so I get to give him back before the real fussing starts. Being a grandparent is the best!

Friday, January 24, 2014


I am at a stage in life where a month without a major event is not the norm. December was no exception. My son chose that month to be married. Both he and his fiance were working and going to school so it was a crazy time. We decided to switch responsibilities for a variety of reasons and I was in charge of the reception. With the wedding a week before, I figured I had time to pull it together at the last minute.

After a beautiful ceremony and as soon as they left for their honeymoon, I was scrambling to get ready. One morning I woke up at 4 am to start making 600 cookies and by evening that was checked off my list. When the ingredients for our hot chocolate bar were not available, I was saved by the in-laws who had the foresight to purchase the needed supplies before the holidays. All my time, between work and doing things with the family, was taken up with getting through the list.

What really made it possible was the people around me who pitched in and helped. My sister came to the rescue as usual. On the day of the reception she showed up early and we started hauling stuff to the cultural hall to pull it all together. Not long afterwards my friend and her husband came and started decorating the ceiling. Another friend provided trees and lights. My husband was in charge of the sound system and a variety of other duties. My daughter put together an amazing video and she and her husband did the centerpieces. My sons moved tables and chairs and helped where needed. At the start of this process my friend (who once had a wedding business) asked me what my vision was and since I didn't have a clue, she directed the transformation. The result was magical.

As we waited for people to arrive I had a feeling of anticipation, wondering if anyone would show up during the busy holiday season. Would all our work be rewarded with others to share it with? That answer turned out to be YES--the evening was full of many joyful moments with family and friends. As we took down everything, that just hours before we had put up, I was grateful for the memories of that day.

It is now another month with another major event. Valerie Harmon and I have just published our sixth Kindle book, The T-Rex Who Wanted to Be a Long Neck. And as with other milestones, we couldn't have done it without the help of others. I am once again in that moment of anticipation--hopeful that our work will be shared with many. It is about a T-Rex with a terrible temper who realizes that he needs to change. We have a free promotion on Amazon this Saturday, so take the opportunity to get the book and share it with your child. As always, we love to get reviews!

My next big event in February--the coming of my first grandchild!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Lot to be Thankful For

I have a lot to be thankful for this weekend and much has happened since my last post! Most importantly my family is growing with the joining of a new daughter-in-law the end of December and my first grandchild will arrive in February! I am also thankful for the example of my sweet mom who passed away in October. Life is always changing with the coming and going of loved ones. The kids are on Thanksgiving break and we are able to enjoy dinners, games, decorating the tree, movies and all the stuff that goes with the holidays. With the wedding in one month, life is full of small decisions and busier than usual.

On the professional side I am having a blast. Last June I finished illustrating my 10th book and when I said I was finally finished, my husband laughed at me and of course he was right. I was actually disappointed that the work appeared to be done. The process of creating a children's book series had consumed all my spare time for almost 7 months. As Valerie Harmon and I went through the process, we tried to have the animals overcome problems that children can relate to. I think we accomplished that and I am very excited about the last five books we will be publishing next year.

About a month and a half after I was "finished" I discovered a way for me to turn our books into interactive apps. To animate each page and search for ways to make children laugh has been a joy and the exceptional voice talents of Valerie bring the stories to life. We are still working on the sound effects (it was pretty funny to record Valerie snoring like a bear) but our first five stories will soon be available to everyone who has an Ipad! It has been a rewarding year for me in every way and I hope the same goes for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The moral to the story is...

Since the books Valerie and I have published have an unusual ending we have had a variety of reactions in the form of reviews. Most of them are overwhelmingly positive but we appreciate everyone's opinion and are excited that such a simple concept can generate such diverse conversations. Before we published our first book we had our family and friends review and offer suggestions which were greatly appreciated. After making many changes, we had a story we could feel good about.

When I first had the thought that the stories I told my son would be fun in a children's book format, I did not realize that every book has a moral. My aunt who taught children's literature at a university informed me that the best books present a moral without hitting the reader over the head with it with a 2 x 4 (metaphorically speaking). Our early readers helped us to accomplish that and for those that are confused with what message we want to covey, I hope to clarify that. As I stated before, my first thought in illustrating this series was to recreate the experience I had with my son as we imagined what a snake would have to do that horses do so he could become one in the end. It was a silly and imaginative game that we played. Each night as he chose another two animals I had to stretch my imagination to come up with a different bedtime story. Animals are amazing subjects and their many characteristics made for unlimited storylines.

Illustrating them is just as wonderful as telling stories about them because they are so unique and each species is designed perfectly. Unique to humans is our ability to imagine and a sense of humor to go along with it. Part of the human experience is to confront a problem and if we can't find a solution to it, there are others we can go to who can help us. Some readers are unsettled by the stories because the animals change. The physical change is just for fun and is not meant to be critical of God's creations or suggest that humans or animals can change themselves in the way it happens in our books. Rather I hope that our stories foster discussions about how with perseverance and reliance on those who have been there for help and advice, we can accomplish more than we can imagine.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring Vacation

It seems like Spring Vacation comes more frequently as I get older. There was a time when I had five children at home during the break but now I am just down to one. I find it interesting that for me this time of year means twice the work. I am not complaining, just amused that "vacations" are never that for parents. For the first time I don't have to worry about keeping my youngest occupied. He has a purchasing goal in mind so he is looking for every way possible to earn a buck.

It has been a great week so far. Or latest book The Alligator Who Wanted to Be a Dog was a #1 Bestseller in it's category yesterday! Tomorrow we are going to Washington to celebrate my Mother-in-Law's 85th birthday. It was supposed to be a surprise visit but apparently the word is out. The trip will be memorable as always with six in a van, bags of Doritos and road games to play. My husband is usually the only one awake after we pass through Salt Lake City. I guess these spring breaks come quickly because we usually end up doing the same thing; visiting family and friends. We do it year after year because the relationships we have are the spice of life. And there sure is a variety of spices in the cabinet!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sharpening the Mind

They say if you don't exercise your mind it will become flabby just like an unused muscle. My mind has been getting a workout lately and it's a bit out of shape! Through my work I have access to online training and lately I have been sharpening my Photoshop skills. Pictured below are some of my visual projects where I have distorted my children's faces. After filling my mind with all of these tips and techniques, the real test is if I'll remember what I learned tomorrow. I guess all I really need to know is that something can be done and to remember the source of knowledge so I can refer to it again.

I have enjoyed the creative workout I have been getting from the WantsToBe Series of children's books. I just finished illustrating my 5th book, The Chipmunk Who Wanted to Be a Bear. The sense of accomplishment is short-lived because almost before I save my last file, my mind is visualizing how I will illustrate the next one!