Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Family Talk: How to Organize Family Meetings to Solve Problems and Strengthen Relationships

I'm happy to introduce you to a great new book, a manual of sorts. Family Talk is a practical guide to having real conversations with family members, primarily through organized family meetings. Christy's book is packed with real life experiences addressing real life problems, drawing on her own family and forty years of practice as a Family Therapist. 

In fact, Familius editor, Christopher Robbins, came to her and asked her to write this book. Christy says: 

"At first I felt a little overwhelmed by the task, but as I got into it, I had a wonderful time remembering all the funny things, the problems, and challenges our family and other's in my counseling practice faced as they raised their children. I could feel something greater than myself helping me write this book. So, as I got into the manuscript, I began to have a great time. It is one of the most fun writing projects I've done in a long time."

Nobody teaches you how raise children, it's primarily on the job training and by the time you've got it kind of figured out, your kids are mostly grown. This is a nonfiction book about strengthening family relationships and increasing the love in your family. I've read it and I love it.

Praise for Family Talk

The Family Council Guidebook is a vital and necessary addition to every home. In this day and age when emails, chat rooms, and staring at computer screens are rapidly replacing real-time human interaction, what better corrective could there be than a guidebook to how to talk with one another in meaningful, productive and healing ways. Christy Monson knows what she is talking about. It is a great blessing that she is sharing it with all of us.

—Ben Bernstein, PhD, Author of Test Success! and A Teen's Guide to Success

Check out the great reviews already coming in on Amazon!

Links to buy Family Talk:


About the Author: Christy Monson established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her books, Love, Hugs, and Hope: When Scary Things Happen and Becoming Free: A Woman's Guide To Internal Strength are published by Familius. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

10 Books That Left a Lasting Impression

Recently a friend tagged me with one of those Facebook challenges.

10 books that have touched me or changed my life in some way.

Anyone who loves books can’t possibly be expected to name only ten books that are particularly significant to them. Most of us who’ve done this challenge tend to list the ones that first come to mind. Given some time, we could come up with many more. The fact that these particular ones came to mind first though is also telling.

I tagged a couple of author friends who I greatly admire because I wanted to know the books that they found significant, the books that helped mold them into who they are (Josi Kilpack and Luisa Perkins). What a great way to peek into someone’s make-up and find some new books!

After I made my list, I really wanted to add why all of these books are significant to me, but that’s too much for a FB post. Predicaments such as this are why I have a blog.

My books (not in any particular order)

1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

When I was in the 8th grade, my junior high was still doing those classroom book order forms. I’d heard of the book To Kill a Mockingbird, but I didn’t know anything about it. I just knew it was considered a classic and it had an intriguing title, so I ordered it. My copy had the yellow cover with red block lettering. It was a seminal moment for me because it was the first (what I considered) adult book I voluntarily read and it was the first time I realized a book could be about more than one thing. Yes, it’s about the trial, but it’s about so much more.

2. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I’m not a big YA reader, but if one catches my attention, I’ll give it a shot. A lot of my friends who are YA enthusiasts had talked about this one, and to be honest, the cover and title were intriguing, so I tried it. Okay, confession time, I’m a sucker for quirky romances. For Love of the Game is one of my favorite movies, because it’s a love story disguised as a baseball movie. A book doesn’t have to have a happy ending for me to love it. All it has to do is move me in some way, and this one does just that.

3. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Growing up, I never read SciFi or Fantasy. I read plenty, but those genres didn’t interest me. As an adult, I finally read Ender’s Game, based on the recommendation of my wife. I’m now a freelance editor working primarily in SciFi and Fantasy. Ender’s Game was a gateway novel for me (followed immediately by Enchantment, also OSC).

4. Mistborn: The Final Empire - Brandon Sanderson

Had I never read Ender’s Game, I would have never read the Mistborn series. I love the magic system, it’s so unique and creates scenes that I’ve yet to see equaled. The MC, Vin, is a strong, smart, sassy girl who grows into an amazing woman. I really connected with her. One of my reservations about reading Fantasy was the sheer amount of pages. How could someone create and then maintain a compelling story over eight hundred pages (in just one book)? Brandon showed me how.

5. Wild Seed - Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler is unique among writers. She is one of the few African-American female science fiction writers. Another story of a unique female main character, both Octavia and the MC, Anyanwu. I love her defiance to Doro and her commitment to family. I love her spirit across different lands and times. I love her devotion to family, and I love the fantasy magic elements: Doro’s ability to posses other bodies. Anyanwu’s shape-shifting and healing abilities. The book gives a fascinating look into colonial life and plantation slavery, examining themes of control, freedom, family, and hope.

6. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

Because Henry can be yanked out of any moment and thrust  into any other moment in time, the book is written in a similar construct. It is not sequential. It’s unlike any other novel I’ve ever read and it works. And it’s a deep passionate quirky love story. The main characters are faced with an existence none of us could possibly experience, but it also says, if they could do it, so can we. On a side note, it also has one of my favorite movie scores.

7. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years - Donald Miller

This one is non-fiction. It espouses the idea that we need conflict in our lives, that we are the main character of our own life. We seek out conflict in our entertainment—it’s at the core of our favorite movies and books, but in our own world we try to avoid it and bemoan our state when confronted with it. Donald Miller says, hey, conflict makes for a great story and a great life. Every great story has conflict, struggle, and triumph. God is the author and we are the characters, and he has written a story for each of us. Every book has difficult scenes, but those aren’t the entire story, just a few chapters. Our story can be so much greater and fulfilling if we trust in His story-making abilities.

8. Blood Bound - Rachel Vincent

This is a three book series. I love each of them, but Blood Bound is the first book. It is Urban Fantasy and has a very cool magic system that exists in our world—not a far off fantasy world, but right here on Earth in our modern time. The plot is deliciously complicated but not confusing. An ongoing theme is free will and how we are figuratively and literally bound by our choices.

9. The Gingerbread Girl - Stephen King

It wasn’t until I read On Writing by Stephen King that I realized he isn’t just a horror writer. He is a writer—period. Many people don’t realize the scope of his work, until you mention The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile and they tell you how much they love those movies. The Gingerbread Girl is from one of his anthologies. I have it on Kindle and audio and I’ve listened to it probably half a dozen times. The characters are so strong, but especially the voice of the main character and how she sees the world, how she deals with her grief, and comes to accept it. Stephen King deftly weaves backstory and flashback into a novella without distracting the reader or affecting the pace.

10. Suspect - Robert Crais

Opening scene. A squad of Marines in the Middle East. Part of their squadron is a German Shepard. The scene is told from the perspective of the dog. It’s amazing.

I had to add one more:

11. Drawing Out the Dragons - James Artimus Owen

This is also non-fiction. It’s essentially a memoir and there are two things that stand out for me: a) never give up what you want most for what you want most at the moment and, as an extension of that idea, b) never give up, not even when things are so bad that no one would blame you if you walked away. When I think of what he endured and overcame to make his dream a reality and compare his life to mine, I have no excuses. I have it on my phone so I can read it any time I want or need to.

Honorable Mention: 

The Shining - Stephen King

The first book that actually scared me while reading it. 

So there you go. That’s my initial list. Any of these resonate with you? What are some of your favs and why?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Practical Prepper by Kylene and Jonathan Jones

Perhaps you've heard of the Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel? The folks who "are preparing for the end of the world . . . and are testing the limits of ingenuity as they develop extreme doomsday survival machines, high-tech shelters, and specialized escape routes."

Well, these guys ain't them. Kylene and Jonathan Jones have written a prepper's guide for the common man. I'm not going to dig a shelter in my back yard, arm it with booby traps, and have a cache of weapons in the forest. BUT, survival kit? Yeah, I could do that. Water storage? Don't look to FEMA. Superdome anyone? Emergency heating? Oh yeah, bad stuff can happen in the winter time too.

I give you:

The Practical Prepper: A Common-Sense Guide to Preparing for Emergencies by Kylene and Jonathan Jones

Available on Kindle or paperback: 368 pages
Genre: Nonfiction/Emergency Preparedness
With all the information out there about emergency and disaster preparedness, you might feel overwhelmed. If you're thinking, "I wouldn't know where to start," well, you're in luck:

The Practical Prepper: Chapter 1: Where Do I Begin?

The lines defining many traditional gender expectations are blurred and even transparent. My family and I pretty much make our own rules, but at the end of the day, if something were to happen and we had to live out of tent, I think my family would first look to me, the dad, and say, "Now what do we do?" Never would my instinct to provide for my family be stronger than in that moment.

I speak three languages but I'm not particularly fluent in this subject, which is why I was so pleased by this book. It's not a rote agenda of must have's and must do's (although I think you'd be wise to pay attention). Kylene and Jonathan take a practical approach to prepping. Whether you're just starting out and want to make a few changes or you've been-there-and-done-that, you'll find something in The Practical Prepper that you didn't know before (at least I did). The book starts with the basics and simple things you can do to start preparing yourself, then goes into greater detail about extended or severe events.

They understand that not one method will fit everybody and so they've crafted their advice to be both general and specific. You can take what you need and apply it to your circumstance. If you need more, they've got sections that cite additional resources.

If we're honest with ourselves we'll admit that it's not a matter of if, but when and to what degree.

You don't need one of these:

                                                                                                        Just get the book!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day 2014: Never Count It Toil

Mother’s Day Talk 2014

Chris Todd Miller

Last Sunday I was asked to speak in church on Mother's day. I don't often wear my faith on my sleeve, but after a couple of days, I thought, why not share it on my blog--that's kind of what blogs are for. Here you go:

When Josh called to “ask” me to speak in church, I figured it was some sort of karma for missing the Stake Priesthood Leadership meeting. I was out of town at a conference. Then he said it was for Mother’s day and it got me thinking, last year we had the women speak, and that seems like the way to go to me. I don’t know what it feels like to be a mother, particularly an LDS mother.  I don’t know what it means to mothers to take on that role. I gave it a lot of thought and this is what I came up with. It’s not perfect, but maybe it’s in the ball park.

We don’t have mothers speak on Mother’s day, because too often I think you forget how the rest of us perceive you. And sometimes you might even begin to underestimate and question yourselves and you need to be reminded how we see you. How we cherish you.

The church group, Elevation Church, asked several moms to come in and do one thing: Describe yourself as a mother.

I'm a perfectionist and so that's hard with kids.
There's definitely days when I have my doubts about my abilities.
I struggle with my temper.
I wish I knew how to calm myself before speaking to them.
I wish I was better at just taking time to sit down and listen more to my child.
I wish I was more confident in being a mom.
Patience is far and away the biggest struggle.
I want them to know just how much I love them.

A couple of days later, the moms were asked to come back in, sit down and see what their kids had to say about them, as a mother. In between this time, they brought in the kids (2-6 grade) and asked them: What are your favorite things about your mom? Tell us about your mom.

My mom is totally awesome.
She's fun to snuggle with.
Pretty and funny.
She does cook a lot of food for me.
She's just unique. That's why I love her so much.
I have a lot of favorite things about my mom.
We like to watch movies together and color and stuff.
We go to church together and volunteer together.
My favorite thing is to jump on a trampoline with my mom.
She's like my heart, I guess you could say, because she's that close to me.
My mom is my hero.
She will care about me and always love me forever.

Take a moment to contrast those two lists.

Max Brooks is an author who wrote a book that was well received. It’s called World War Z. After the story ends, there’s one more page, the very last page of the book. It has one sentence on it, right in the middle of the page—I love you, mom. As kids grow up, our answers may get a little more articulate, but the gist is the same.

We love you for who you are. We love you for your sacrifices. We love you for mama bear protective streak. We love you for wisdom, for your caring, for your perspective.

David O McKay

“Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.”
( Gospel Ideals, [1953], 452.) 

That was in in 1953. In 2004,

James E. Faust said: “There is no greater good in all the world than motherhood. The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation” (“Fathers, Mothers, Marriage,” Liahona and Ensign, Aug. 2004, 3).

My children’s mother has given them a wonderful gift. As you know, we have two daughters and no matter how much I tell them and teach them, and guide them about making their way in the world, I don’t have the perspective that my wife has. Through her life, through her example, she is teaching them that anything is possible. That preconceived notions are just notions not absolutes. That their lives can be anything they want them to be. This is true for us all, but a word of warning, you’d better hurry, because we only get one life here on Earth and that’s not a lot of time. 

What if you have sons? What then? What better perspective on how boys should treat girls, men should treat women, than their own mothers.

Perhaps the reason we respond so universally to our mothers’ love is because it typifies the love of our Savior. As President Joseph F. Smith said, “The love of a true mother comes nearer [to] being like the love of God than any other kind of love” (“The Love of Mother,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1910, 278).

Kate and I both grew up in the South Davis area. Our parents still live in those homes. When we got married we both tried really hard not to live in South Davis. But after 10 years, we ended up buying the home we’re in now, two and a half blocks from my parents. And it’s been great. So many blessings have come from having grandparents so near. I’m not making any promises for the future, but for now it’s good.

Let me close with Joseph Smith. Joseph and Emma were married for 17 years. Joseph traveled extensively for the Church and was often obliged to find safety among friends to avoid angry mobs or numerous legal harassments. While he was away, Joseph and Emma wrote consistently to one another. We are fortunate to have some of those letters.

Joseph frequently wrote of his love and affection for Emma and his children.

He wrote to Emma: “If you want to know how much I want to see you, examine your feelings, how much you want to see me. … I would gladly walk from here to you barefoot and bareheaded … to see you and think it great pleasure, and never count it toil.” 

Sons, daughters, and husbands, let us all follow the prophet’s lead and never count it as toil. We are who we are because of our mothers.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Frozen: People See What They Want to See

and I see plot holes.

As the title of this website indicates, I will confess my thoughts on Disney's Frozen.

I only saw the movie this weekend, taking my 13 year-old with me. She loves the movie (and we all love the soundtrack--it's on every iPod-like device we own). I suggested a daddy-daughter afternoon and thus found myself at the Megaplex, balancing a steam shovel of popcorn and a "large" sugar-water that would take more than a few big gulps to finish off. 

I mentioned on Facebook that my daughter took offense when I mentioned that there were a few plot points that I did not agree with. As a writer, I tend to view movies through a different lens than most. Several of my writer friends (who suffer from the same affliction) wanted to know my thoughts. I understand that it is quite possible I was last person to see the movie, yet not wanting an unsuspecting movie-goer to stumble upon my examination and cry foul at my disregard for spoilers, I decided to voice them here.

If you are reading this and have not seen the movie, then proceed at your own peril *insert lawyer speak*.

Kristoff returns the near-frozen Anna to the castle. 

This is probably the only true plot hole, IMO. My other points are really more of preferences. Kristoff returns Anna and they are received at the gate. He turns her over to some people? not official guards or court representatives, staff perhaps, and they thank him and slam the door. 

I cannot fathom any actual scenario short of small pox where those receiving the princess would not say, "Kind sir, oh thank the Heavens, you've returned our beloved Anna. Thank you. Please COME IN and warm yourself by the fire. Let me get you something warm to eat and drink." They then cast a blanket over his shoulders and bring him in to rest and recuperate. I know that the gates were alternately open to the public and closed. I don't remember which state they were at this point, although I believe Hans was still playing Prince Charming and letting the towns folk in and caring for them with warm broth and blankets. Regardless, when the beloved princess is returned to you, you don't treat her rescuer like a census taker.

I also understand that they (writers, producers, whomever) needed to get Kristoff away from the castle so he and  Sven could have their I'm-not-the-one discussion (and we could laugh at the clever non-speak animation of Sven, and I did laugh), Kristoff could see the freezing cloud form over the city and have the super-dramatic desperate dash to render what we think will be the act of true love that leads to the you-didn't-see-it-coming actual act of true love. Disney oh so cleverly played on our acceptance of Disney-esque tropes to execute a very satisfying plot twist. 

All of that hinged on Kristoff not being invited in, but it doesn't work for me. You've got to think of a different reason to get him away from the castle. 

Anna and Elsa's upbringing.

After the parents decide to lock Elsa away for her own good (Really? What kind of parenting is that? A whole different blog post, I suppose.) am I really to believe that the sisters had no further contact? That Elsa became a shut in of sorts, never communicating with Anna other than through the keyhole? And limited not-so-sisterly communication at that? This is the bulk of their childhood? If that's the case, then I think they turned out surprisingly well adjusted, all things considered.

I get that they (again they) didn't have time to dwell on the childhood and needed to get to the main story. 

The King and trolls?

So, the king. The guy who rules the kingdom, the most powerful dude in the land, when faced with a crises readily and willing submits himself to a wise old mystical troll? Okay, I guess it's possible. In my experience it's not the sort of thing men of power readily do. If there'd been some sort of effort to previously justify this behavior then maybe . . . perhaps that was what the book written in runes was for. 

Okay, it is a kid's movie with adult appeal, not Game of Thrones. We don't need to spend time dwelling on these minor characters. I'm really just nit-picking now. 

Like I said, Kristoff at the gates is my only real beef. I can let the others slide. In fact, I can let that slide, too. None of these weak points were compelling enough to spoil my overall experience, and hey, ultimately, it's not my story. 

I just have to let it go. Cue Adele Dazeem. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Elana Johnson: Elevated

It is my pleasure to host a new release by ELANA JOHNSON: ELEVATED

About ELEVATED: The last person seventeen-year-old Eleanor Livingston wants to see on the elevator—let alone get stuck with—is her ex-boyfriend Travis, the guy she's been avoiding for five months.

Plagued with the belief that when she speaks the truth, bad things happen, Elly hasn’t told Trav anything. Not why she broke up with him and cut off all contact. Not what happened the day her father returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. And certainly not that she misses him and still thinks about him everyday.

But with nowhere to hide and Travis so close it hurts, Elly’s worried she won’t be able to contain her secrets for long. She’s terrified of finally revealing the truth, because she can’t bear to watch a tragedy befall the boy she still loves.

Buy Links:

Praise for ELEVATED:
"ELEVATED will take you on an emotionally gripping journey through the highs and lows of first love."
~Carolee Dean, author of Take Me There and Forget Me Not

"Poignant, raw, and intense, ELEVATED is a novel that will grip your heart and linger in your mind long after you turn the last page."
~Stasia Ward Kehoe, author of Audition and The Sound of Letting Go

About Elana Johnson: Elana Johnson’s work, including Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), is available now everywhere books are sold. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for download, as well as a Possession short story, Resist. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Social Media Links:
League of Extraordinary Writers:

Rafflecopter Code: Copy and paste this into the HTML side of your website/blog. People can enter to win $15 Paypal cash by helping to spread the word about ELEVATED.

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