What Blessings Are in Your Book of Life?

On my birthday, I reminisced about the challenges and blessings in my life. I asked my readers about what blessings they've received from challenges in their lives and what they would like to see written in their personal Book of Life. Here are some wonderful responses I've received:

My life has been very difficult with bi-polar disorder, PTSD, Depersonalization Disorder, and Anxiety Disorder. These all have roots in my family of origin. However, a great light came into my life with the Gospel. It took six years after my conversion at age nineteen to find the person who has contributed the most joy to my life--my husband. He was a golden contact, I met by chance far from where I was living. I bore my testimony in the middle of the wedding reception where we met. A voice told him, even before we met and spoke that I was the girl he was going to marry. He pursued me by letter for many months. Then things sped up and he began calling several times a day. Then he flew to see me and flew me to see him. Finally, we made a decision, that I would write my Master's Thesis in Chicago (where he lived) if he would take the missionary discussions. He was converted 10 minutes into the first discussion. After he was baptized, we became engaged. We married 2 months later (at advice of bishop). We were sealed in the LA Temple. He has stayed with me through my entire mental illness and helped me to raise a wonderful family of three outstanding children, all deeply committed to the gospel. Life has been hard, but our family makes it more than worth it. In the next year, I hope I will be the agent of helping many people with mental illness through my writing, and will bring many people under the healing influence of Jesus Christ through my story of healing and testimony.
- GG Vandagriff

What do I want to be remembered for? Kindness, Integrity, and standing up for truth. It isn't always easy to do the right thing. I want to make a difference.
- Linda Gardner

What would I want written on my page tomorrow? What would I want everyone to know about me or remember? Just that I stayed true to the gospel and myself.

Someone who was a blessing to me: At the very worst time of my life, my best friend was there for me in the very best sense as a true disciple of Christ, and in the very worst time of her life, I was there for her in the same sense, as a disciple of Christ. For her, when I was Primary President, I called her to a position she felt she had no talent for--music--because I woke up early in the morning and knew that was what I was supposed to do. She has born testimony numerous times how listening to DVD's of the primary children's songs while driving the long drive to and from work each day kept the spirit with her during a horrendous time in her life. For me, when I was Young Women President and suffering a severe (triple underline severe) challenge in my life, this same friend served as Laurel Advisor and stayed to talk to me every Sunday after church, freely sharing a listening ear, a patient heart, and a supportive soul. Christ came to me through her.
- Kathleen Brebes

In a very, very literal sense, tomorrow I'd love to write in the book of my life that I had an inspiring, informative and totally worthwhile church training meeting. I also want to try to give of myself to my children tomorrow, and love it.

Suddenly that seems a lot to ask.

Someone who was a blessing to you as you've been writing the "novel" of your life: the first person that comes to mind is my husband, of course. No big stories, just little things he does. He's so good with our kids, and wants to be involved with them and their lives (this isn't remarkable at all to him, of course, but I still love it). Lately he's really developed a talent for defusing my frustrations when they get overwhelming, and he's amazingly patient. He does the dishes every night so I can have that time to write.
- Jordan McCollum

I hope to be known as one who cared about and helped others. The longer I live, the more I recognize how important people are. I have to remember that from time to time as I give up my precious writing time to others. My mother was a great example of this, always finding something to say to help someone's self-esteem.

Thanks for letting me put this in words and reminding myself of this.
- Renae W. Mackley

I also have bipolar, and that has been the cause of numerous challenges in my life.

What I would want written on my "tomorrow" is that I never gave up, no matter how bleak things sometimes seemed. My yesterday (the literal kind) was one of those days where everything seemed bleak to the point of hopelessness. But today I got up and decided to stop looking at everything I was "failing" at, which was quite literally everything, and just try to focus on one thing I could make a slight improvement on. I really have to break everything down into teeny tiny baby steps and let myself feel good about taking them, no matter how small they are compared to the big picture.

Someone who has been a blessing in my life is my mom. She's shown me what it means to be strong and stay faithful no matter how hard things got.
- Jenn Wilks

I love how each of us has a unique story to share. I am grateful for God's blessings in  my life and for the healing atonement from my Savior, Jesus Christ. The Gospel and my family are counted as the greatest blessings in my life . . . but there are so many other blessings too. Including my bloggie friends. Thank you for sharing your humor, insights, and friendship out here in cyber world.

I promised to give away a copy of my book, (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. Writing this book is just one example of how I took a challenge and turned it into a blessing. Random.org chose #4 as the winner. Congrats, Jordan McCollum! Please email me your snail mail address.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am grateful for my family, friends and faith.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

And here is a special little treat to all my fellow NaNoWriMo friends.

Tips to Stay On Target With NaNoWriMo During Thanksgiving Break

I want to share a few tips and tricks to getting in some writing time during the busy - and way too distracting - Thanksgiving break.

I know, you're thinking, "Danyelle, you're nuts! There's no way to get writing done when all the kids are home from break and out-of-towners are invading the house!"

But trust me, there is. Just keep reading.

Tip #1 - Short 15 Minute Sprints
Make it a goal to get a least two short 15 minute sprints into your Turkey Day. If you can get in three, then Wahoo! Choose a location where you can lock the door and no one will bother you. May I suggest the bathroom? You can seriously lock yourself in there and no one will blink an eye that you disappeared for a whole fifteen minutes. Just be sure to flush the toilet and wash your hands before you come back out - or else your secret will be blown. If you have an annoying MIL, SIL, or other family member, you'll find you may want to schedule four or five (or more) 15 minute sprints. They're great for the psyche.

Tip #2 - Hide Your Laptop/Netbook/Alphasmart
This is important for two reasons. #1 - If you hide your writing buddy, then your kids can't get on it to surf the net or use it for an impromptu DVD player. It will be ready and waiting for you to pick it up and sprint it out.  #2 - If you hide your laptop in the location where you plan to escape for your sprints, then once again, your cover won't be blown when family members see you trying to sneak into another room with it.  Hint: If using the bathroom location, I highly recommend putting your laptop in either a drawer or beneath the sink in the vanity. But don't leave it visible! Cover that baby up with a towel. Think like your sneaky teenagers . . .

Tip #3 - Set a Word Count Goal
Shoot for 1,000 words minimum. You can totally do it! If you're a speed demon writer, then shoot higher. But make sure it's a goal that mildly challenges you, instead of knocking you on your butt because you shot too high. It is after all a holiday!

And now, my friends, I wish you all a fabulous Thanksgiving filled with family, laughter, and speedy fingers!  Happy writing!

Book Review: Bound by Christine Bryant

I'm happy to review the fabulous Christine Bryant's debut novel, Bound.

When a photo shoot ends in tragedy, Kira discovers her best friend, Lydia, has been keeping a secret. Knowing the truth, and accepting it, will change Kira’s life forever and thrust her into a world of ancient curses, magical objects, and savage enemies. What happens next will challenge everything Kira knows about her world, herself and the shape-shifting warrior she’s falling in love with. No longer the timid mouse her mother accused her of being, but a woman who finds the mental and physical strength to endure and survive.

BOUND is a heroic tale of true friendship, infinite sacrifice and untamed love.

My Review

Bound is the first book in The Crystor series. This first installment sets up the relationship and ties between Kira, Lydia and Octavion.  There are several excellent scenes in Bound, but there were some parts when I wanted more . . . information or action. For most of the book I hated Octavion (he's abusive), but there were a few moments when I caught a glimpse of a better man on the inside. By the end, I was trying to decide if he'll stay a bad guy in my point of view or evolve into a good guy. I'm interested to see where the next book leads the trio. And yes, I'll definitely be reading the next book. I'm totally intrigued and want to know how Kira, Lydia and Octavion are going to step up and defeat the bad guys.

You can read the 1st Chapter and purchase Bound on the author's website. 

My Thoughts After the Advance Screening of Breaking Dawn

I was super lucky to be invited to attend the advance screening of Breaking Dawn, Part 1 of the Twilight Saga Finale. I was so excited - I mean, who wouldn't be?

My good luck all began when I first arrived. I got an incredible parking spot right up front. Woot! Then, I walked around the theater to where I was told to go for the advance screening . . . and ran into Marcus from the Volturi (and the couple of theater security people following him around). He had his red contacts in and everything. Awesome!

Finally, I met up with my group - Breckann and Sarah. Breckann was the slick chick with the 'in' for the advance screening. I received this cool VIP badge . . . then was led to a reserved theater.

No fighting for seats, no stupid teenagers yelling out annoying stuff during the movie. Is this how movie reviewers live? Dang. Maybe I should stop doing book and get into the movie reviewer gig.

The lights went down. The previews began . . . and yes, Breaking Dawn followed.

What I Loved

The thing I loved most about Breaking Dawn was first, the wedding. Of course the romantic in me absolutely loved it! Alice can come plan my next anniversary party. PLEASE! The other fabulousness was the special effects, make up, etc they did to Bella while she was pregnant.Wow! As the movie progresses, she sincerely looks more and more drained from the baby taking away all her nutrients. There's a spot in the movie when Bella is preparing for a bath & you see the bones jutting out all over her back and shoulders. The people on the set who did all the work to make Bella into "Prego Bella" did an incredible job and deserve a HUGE round of applause.  *clapping for y'all from here in Kansas City*

What I Liked

Most of the movie hit the "Liked It" mark on my movie-meter. Other than the Prego Bella stuff and the romantic wedding, there really wasn't anything about the movie that made me say AWESOME! and want to immediately go back to watch it when the next seat was available. Will I go see it in the theaters again? Nah. I'll wait to either Redbox it or buy it to add to my movie collection. I may as well finish up the Twilight collection since I have the rest of them.

What I Didn't Like

The birth scene and immediately after was actually quite gruesome. Like, nasty cover your eyes gruesome IMO. There were a few shots I would have preferred not to have stuck in my head.

What I Hope for Part 2

I sincerely hope they change the ending for part 2. I'll be honest here and say that Breaking Dawn was my least favorite of the Twilight Saga books. I'm not saying I hated it, just that it wasn't my fave. It started off great, then half way through, it felt like the author got burned out from the series. Everything she built up for incredible conflict, she let fall flat, then conveniently wrapped it all up. I hope the screen writers fix that issue and actually have a good conflict and fight before the conclusion of the series.

Now, all of you Twilight fans, tell me what you thought of the first part of the series finale. And be honest! You don't have to agree with me . . . but tell me what you really did & didn't like.

Birthday Reflections & Unwritten Contest

Today is my birthday. As it approaches each year, I think back on my life. There have been many challenges. Oh so many challenges. But looking back on them, I gain a new perspective and can see blessings that came from each of them. Some rough patches seem to have served no other purpose than to make me a stronger, more compassionate individual.

In 2008, I hosted the Unwritten Contest, and received so many wonderful, uplifting responses from my readers. In October, I went back and reread those posts and found so much to be thankful for once again - and also a renewed desire to think about how I want my personal Book of Life to be written.

So this year, to celebrate my 34th birthday, I would love to share this experience again with my wonderful bloggie friends. The contest was inspired by Natasha Bedingfield's song Unwritten. What I love about Unwritten is that it reminds me the journey is not over. No matter where we are in our lives today, our tomorrow is unwritten.

Please enter and share a part of yourself to inspire each other. To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post and tell me two things:

1) What do you want written on your page tomorrow?


2) Share a story of someone who was a blessing to you as you've been writing the "novel" of your life.

Be sure to post your entry before noon on November 22nd. Each of the stories submitted will be compiled for a "Count Your Blessings" blog on the 26th. Submissions can be humorous, uplifting, etc. But they should all be sincere!

A random winner will be chosen and will receive an autographed copy of my book (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. This book is an example of how I took a challenge (teaching my son with autism the gospel), then shared the knowledge & techniques I learned to bless the lives of parents and church leaders facing similar challenges.

November Blog Hop Winner

Congrats to Lynda Clark for winning the Thanksgiving Banner and Thankful Tree template. I'll email you with your prizes and more info!

I hope everyone is ready to kick off their week. I'm personally spending the entire day with my sweetheart. He took off work for my birthday - which is actually tomorrow. It's going to be an awesome, awesome day!

Watch for my birthday post tomorrow. It's going to be a really good one!

Pasta & Awesome Sauce

A few weeks ago, my friend Renae had my hubby and I over for dinner before a presentation I was giving at her church. She made the most fabulous meal! Pasta and Awesome Sauce (so dubbed by my hubby).  It's so delish - I had to share the recipe with my bloggy friends.

Awesome Sauce Recipe

1 red bell pepper, remove seeds & slice into strips
1 orange bell pepper, remove seeds & slice into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, remove seeds & slice into strips
1 container of sliced mushrooms
1 lb hamburger
1 roll Jimmy Dean's Italian Sausage
1 family size jar Ragu's Chunky Mushroom spaghetti sauce
1 regular size jar Ragu's Chunky Garden Combination OR Super Vegetable Primavera spaghetti sauce


This sauce requires a large saucepan. Cook the hamburger and sausage together until crumbled and browned through. Use a strainer to drain & lightly rinse. Then set the meat aside in another bowl. Spray the pan with cooking spray, then saute the mushrooms and pepper slices until they are tender - about 15 minutes. Once the veggies are at your preferred tenderness, then add the meat back in. Mix this up a bit, then add the sauces. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, then serve over pasta. Add a side of salad and garlic french bread and you have the perfect delicious meal!

I recommend making 2 lbs of spaghetti or other favorite pasta. This is perfect for when you have guests because it makes TONS! Even with our family of 6, we can have a few guests and we still have leftovers for lunches.

If you have a small family, you can make this sauce, then freeze the leftovers for another meal. Be sure to use it within 3 weeks of freezing.


Helping Kids with Autism at Church

If you haven't seen it yet, below is my Good Things Utah appearance with Heather Gardner on how to help kids with autism at church. The tips highlighted are from both my book - (dis)Abilities and the Gospel - and from Heather's experiences as a mother with three special needs kids.

November Giveaway Hop

November is my favorite month of the year for several reasons.

  1. It's National Novel Writing Month
  2. My birthday is in November
  3. Our family Thankful Tree
  4. The big yummy family meal on Turkey Day

All month long, my family writes down the things we're thankful for on pretty autumn colored leaves, then hang them on our Thankful Tree. On Thanksgiving Day, we take all the leaves down and take turns reading them. Each year there's a range of items from funny to sweet to reverent. I especially love giving my kids the opportunity to express their gratitude.

Giveaway Hop Prizes

For this giveaway hop, I am giving away a few items to make your own November full of Thankfulness.

Prize #1: Be Thankful Banner
This awesome banner design is courtesy of LeeLou. I *love* her stuff!

Prize #2: Thankful Tree Leaves
The instructions & leaf design to make your own family Thankful Tree.

How to Enter

There's just one thing you must do to enter . . . 

Follow my blog & leave a comment.

After doing that, if you would like additional entries, you can:

  1. Follow me on Facebook
  2. Follow me on Twitter @DanyelleTweets
If you take advantage of the extra entries, be sure to leave a comment on this post to tell me.

The contest ends at midnight on Nov. 11th. I'll announce the winner before Nov. 14th. Be sure your email address is accessible on your blogger status, or that you leave your email address in your entry comments so I can contact you.

Happy November!

Book Review: Become by Ali Cross

Sixteen-year-old Desolation Black wants nothing more than to stay in Hell where it's cold and totally predictable. Instead, she's sent back to Earth where she must face the evil she despises and the good she always feared.

When Desi is forced to embrace her inner demon, she assumes her choice has been made - that she has no hope of being anything other than what her father, Lucifer, has created her to be. What she doesn't count on, is finding a reason to change - something she never had before - a friend.

My Review

First, from a reader's point of view, Become is one of the most unique books I've read in a long time. Desi is the daughter of a demon (Satan) and a Guardian Angel. But she doesn't know that. She just knows her father is Lucifer, who raised her. This first book of the series is about Desi's struggle to figure out who she really is, then is faced with the difficult choice of between the comfort of the life she grew up in or stepping into a world she always feared. I thought all the characters in Become were fascinating, each adding more depth to the story & Desi's dilemma.Beware though: There is a mega huge cliff-hanger ending that took even me by surprise. It wrenched my heart out. Now I'm anxiously waiting for the next book in the series to come out in spring 2012. Although I wouldn't mind one eensy bit if the author was kind enough to send me an advance copy to review. Or even just take pity on me cause I really, really, really want to read the next book.  =)

Now, there's another element to this review that I wanted to share. And this is something very rare. There were times while I was reading Become that I stopped and thought about the traits Desi had - both the good and bad inside her, the challenges she faced, and the difficult decisions she needed to make. Then I thought about how those same concepts applied in my life - especially right now when things aren't all roses and peaches. I really spent some time reflecting on the current challenges I'm facing, as well as my own virtues & vices. How are my choices and reactions to trials directing my life? What changes to I need to make? What kind of woman do I want to Become? It was interesting to analyze those questions. It also reinforced my knowledge that I am a daughter of God. Life is not easy & there are definitely "foes" who work hard to make life difficult. But I can face hard things, take on those difficult challenges. And even if I mess up, I have the opportunity to right those wrongs and make better choices in the future.

It's not often I find a book that I both devour the story and am inspired into some personal introspection. Becomes is most definitely a book worth not just putting on your to-read list, but bumping it up to the top.

Kickin' Off National Novel Writing Month

Quick Note: Be sure to tune into ABC 4's Good Things Utah on Tuesday November 2nd. I'll be a guest to talk about how to help kids with cognitive disabilities at church!

Ah yes, it's that delightful time of the year when writers all over the word unite & take up the challenge to beat the World Record for the most hand cramps.

Hang on a minute. That's not quite right. I think it's the biggest caffeine high.

No, that's not it either. It's the most bruises from beating our heads against the wall as we work through writers block.

Oh wait! I know! It's all three . . .

30 Days - 50,000 Words.

I must be insane. Who's with me?

Happy NaNoWriMo!