Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mini Car Memories

One of the most memorable Christmas gifts given to my family growing up was a mini car. It was a black roadster convertible with orange and red flames along the sides. It sat just one person and ran on a lawn mower type engine. I think it must have driven as fast as 10 mph, so it was a fun time to ride in it.

The mini car was given to us by my mom's boss, Dean Jensen. I think it must have been about 1980. He brought it over on Christmas Eve, but my parents kept it hidden until Christmas morning. When they told us to go look on the front porch for a fun surprise, I remember at first I didn't see it and was confused by the instruction. But after seeing it and getting to drive in it, the mini car easily became a family favorite.

When we first learned to drive it, we took it to a nearby parking lot to practice. My dad started the practice of standing in front of the car while the driver stepped out and a new one stepped in. Since no one was holding down the brake pedal to keep the car in place, my dad's position helped keep the mini car from moving.

Of course, those watching would often get impatient for their turn. One time Jeff impatiently called to James that his time was up; but he went ignored. So on one lap Jeff decided to block the path of the mini car, kind of like dad did, in hopes of ending James's turn. But James didn't slow down to end his turn. He just ran right over Jeff and kept driving. Luckily poor Jeff was not seriously injured.

After having the mini car for a while my mom signed us up to drive it (and a few other mini cars belonging to the Jensens) in a parade. We dressed up like clowns and drove along throwing candy to the children in the crowds. Sometimes I would ride on the back of the roadster throwing candy and waving while Jeff would drive. Another time I have a big bouquet of heart-shaped balloons.

While doing a double wave with my hands I blocked my face... oh, well.

My mom often made us costumes and made these clown ones (even the wigs!), too.

I think we were in three or four parades doing this; we would borrow two of the Jensen's mini cars and have some friends help us. Fred Crum is sitting behind Jeff in the black truck. I am not sure who the Raggedy Ann is to James's Raggedy Andy... maybe a ward member.

We owned the mini car for at least five years. Apparently, it was ruined when Jeff and a friend ran it into a light pole. Still, having the mini car was one of the fun memories of my childhood.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Five Phrases to Help Diffuse an Argument

In relationships conflicts can pop up at any time; however, handling conflict in public, or in front of children, generally leads to poor outcomes. As a result, there are times when it is important to diffuse an argument long enough to handle it more effectively in private. Here are five things you can say to help keep harsh words at bay:

1. "You've got a point."
Say this when someone has a complaint or is critical, especially of your behavior. Even if you do not feel their opinion is 100% accurate, you could likely honestly concede there is some truth to it. Remember, we all have blind spots. Similarly, you could also use the phrase, "I could be wrong."

2. "Ouch."
Sounds silly, I know. But really, if someone makes a particularly personal, hurtful comment, saying, "Ouch," is a great way to respond without attacking them back.

3. "I need some time to think about that."
If someone is asking you a question (or for permission) you don't want to answer in public, this is an ideal response. It buys time, is tactful, and helps the other person see they need to give you some space.

4. "What do you think about _________?"
Ask questions about the issue they are concerned about, use good eye contact, and rephrase back what they are saying to be sure you understand. Showing an interest in the other person's thoughts and opinions is often enough in itself to help diffuse arguments. When people feel heard--truly listened to--they are generally calmer.

5. "Let's Google it."
So many arguments can be solved by finding reliable information or research. Even if it is a relationship issue (or something opinion-based), professional opinions are all over the internet and can be helpful. And, by saying "let's" you remind the other person of your desire to work with them, rather than against.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

FHE: Christlike Attributes #1

Note: In the upcoming month I thought I would highlight some of the Christlike Attributes lessons from my book MTC at Home. Although this book is primarily designed to help prepare future missionaries for service, the lessons--all based on Preach My Gospel (PMG)--work really well for FHE. Want to receive notification of future lessons to be posted in this series? Like my Facebook page.

Faith in Jesus Christ

Purpose: To review fundamental principles required for having faith in Christ.

Scripture: His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).

PMG Quote: “When you have faith in Christ, you believe in Him as the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. You accept Him as your Savior and Redeemer and follow His teachings. You believe that your sins can be forgiven through His Atonement” (p. 116).

Key Term: Faithful – To live in a manner that is steadfast in love and loyalty to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lesson: When the people of Israel began to worship idols, the prophet Elijah went to King Ahab and declared there would be no rain or dew on the land until the people repented. During the long drought Elijah was commanded by the Lord to hide by a brook off of the river Jordan. Elijah was told he would be able to drink from the brook, and that ravens had been commanded to bring him food so he could survive. The scriptures indicate Elijah simply “went and did according to the word of the Lord” (1 Kings 17:5). Elijah’s profound faith in the Lord helped him survive and stands as an example to follow.

As demonstrated by Elijah, living with faith brings great blessings. Having faith in Christ helps us to trust in Him, utilize the Atonement, and be more obedient. Those who live by faith are inspired to action based on promptings from the spirit. The faithful are led to accomplish great things in their own lives and to bring good to others.

Heavenly Father encourages His children to increase their faith. We can do this by first, choosing to believe in the Savior and His love. Second, asking for His help through regular, daily prayer. And third, thinking about Him and regularly studying the scriptures.[1] Elder Theodore Tuttle taught, "We're not going to survive in this world, temporally or spiritually, without increased faith in the Lord-and I don't mean a positive mental attitude-I mean downright solid faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”[2]

Exercises: Prayerfully select one or more of the following exercises to supplement the lesson.

Ñ Teach: Explain the doctrine associated with the principle of faith.

˜ Testify: Describe a personal experience or feelings you have about exercising faith in Christ.

? Invite: Practice inviting those you teach to make commitments related to having faith (i.e., praying or paying tithing).

® Role Play: Use the following question to role play a gospel discussion with a friend or family member. “How can I increase my faith in Christ?” 

Open Your Mouth: In the upcoming week, start a gospel conversation with someone by asking them, “How do you define faith?” Probe to learn what specific behaviors they feel help increase faith.

Activities: Make a simple birdfeeder to attract ravens. Tie a piece of string around the top third of a pinecone to hang from a tree branch. Coat the outside of the pinecone with peanut butter and then roll in birdseed. Press small pieces of dried fruit (e.g., cranberries or raisins) into the openings of the pinecone. Be sure to hang it where it is easy to see from a window.

Additional Resources: 1. For smaller children, use the Sunbeam manual lesson 13 and it’s coordinating picture to tell the story of Elijah in more detail. 2. has a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page, including member contributions, dedicated to the topic of faith. 3. Finding Faith in Christ is a feature film about doubting Thomas; it is available to watch online in the media library of 4. Relevant musical selections include “Go Forth with Faith” (Hymns no. 263) and “Faith” (CS 96).

[1] Patricia P. Pinegar, “Increase in Faith,” Ensign, May 1994, 94
[2] A. Theodore Tuttle, "Developing Faith", Ensign, Nov. 1986, 72

Saturday, May 20, 2017

How to Communicate Well

Relationships are hard. No surprise in that, right? Sometimes figuring out how to maneuver through relationships means dialing in on the basics of communication.

Several years ago a co-worker taught me a formula (based on James 1:19) for improving communication. Ever since I have taught it to my students each semester as a way to summarize a semester of learning. The formula reads like this:

Q2L + S2S + S2A = GR8 COMMS
Translated: Quick to Listen + Slow to Speak + Slow To Anger = Great Communication

Q2L: Stop talking, or trying to decide what you will say next, and listen to others. Listen with your eyes, your ears, and your heart. Listen with empathy. Be in the moment.

S2S: Rushing to speak often gets us in trouble. Slow down and think about the impact your words might have on others. Choose wisely and choose to speak with compassion.

S2A: Anger overrides most other emotions. When we let anger take over, we stop listening and forget to have empathy. Recognizing our triggers and learning to stay in control can eliminate numerous relationship problems.

So that's the formula. If you are having a relationship problem, it could very well be one of these components is missing in your communication style. Focus on what you can control or change about yourself, rather than on the behavior of others. As you work to improve your own skill level, communication and interpersonal relationships will improve.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ask the Editor

Ages ago I used to post now and again about how much I enjoy the Merriam-Webster series Ask the Editor? Never heard of them? These are fun ~2 minute videos discussing etymology, definitions, and punctuation issues. A favorite one is on the plural of the word 'octopus'; I use this video at school on occasion.

I also enjoy the clear description of the serial/Oxford comma in this video. I will have to use this in my PR writing class next go around.

And this 'biweekly/bimonthly' video confirmed a pet peeve I have of using those terms.

These fun videos come out only about once a month, but are usually informative and interesting. So many people could benefit from watching these. There are a lot of them on YouTube, or you can find them using the link at the top of this page--go check them out!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Family Night: Improving Family Communication 4

Note: May is Mental Health Month. To help increase awareness of mental health and mental illness, I thought a family night discussion might be beneficial. Like so many other families out there, mental illness has had a direct impact on me and my loved ones. This lesson is part of a series written to promote improvement of communication in the home. You can see an earlier lesson here and here. Want to receive notification of future lessons to be posted in this series? Like my Facebook page.

Mental Health Awareness

Purpose: To help family members be aware of and better understand the impact of mental health on communication at home.

Scripture: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11; emphasis added).

Thought: “When conditions affect functioning in school, employment, church, or relationships it is time to seek help” (Dean E. Barley).[1]

Key Term: Mental Health – “Emotional and spiritual resilience that enables us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment, and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own and other’s self-worth.”[2]

Lesson: In 1971 poet Emma Lou Thayne and composer Joleen Meredith were asked to write a closing musical number for a Young Women’s conference. Emma Lou called Joleen and over the phone the hymn “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” came together. “We determined this was a mental illness hymn,” Joleen noted. “Emma . . . was struggling with the mental illness of one of her daughters at the time this was written, and I was struggling myself personally with mental illness. And so we lovingly call it ‘The Mental Illness Hymn.’” Sisters Thayne and Meredith themselves found comfort in knowing the Savior, “He, only one,” understood their challenges.[3]

Mental illness occurs in approximately one in four individuals and can take many forms, including depression, ADHD, anxiety, eating disorders, and schizophrenia, among others. Because mental illness often impacts perception, it can significantly complicate our ability to communicate with others. Working to develop patient listening and verbal communication skills in the home can help to improve interpersonal relationships. Specifically, controlling tone of voice, making good word choices, and practicing self-care can enhance are essential.

Often those who struggle with mental health have difficulty finding inner peace. “Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came,” taught Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. “It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.”[4]

Activity: Hand out the lyrics to “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” and sing the hymn to open family night. After introducing the lesson, show a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the same hymn. After the video, ask family members to share parts of the lyrics they like. Note: if needed, define the word ‘solace’ as meaning comfort or consolation.

For Little Ones: Gather together items (bandages, tongue depressor, sling, etc.) that can be used to play a pretend game of doctor. Have little ones pretend to have a broken arm, a bad cut, or some other obvious sickness, while a parent or older child plays the role of doctor. After “treating” these pretend obvious illnesses, explain that some people have disabilities that cannot be seen. Mental (explain this means in the brain) illnesses, although less obvious, still have symptoms causing pain, distress, and sadness.

Challenge: Many mental illnesses begin to manifest at a young age. As with all serious illnesses, the sooner people get help and treatment, the better the outcome. Use a reliable reference guide to look up common symptoms of various mental illnesses and review these as a family.

Suggested Music: “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” (Hymns no. 129) or “I Feel My Savior’s Love” (CS p. 74).

[1] As quoted in: Lisa Ann Jackson Thomson, “Know the Signs,” BYU Magazine, Spring 2017, 24
[2] Health Education Authority, UK, 1997.
[3] “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” History of Hymns, Episode 18,
[4] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Like a Broken Vessel,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 41

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mother's Day

Although I don't have a lot of extra time to do crafts, I definitely enjoy making them. I recently stumbled across this graphic (originally posted here) from the Children’s Friend, May 1936. I think it would make a nice card for Mother's Day, or maybe a coloring page for Primary.

I love the three generations on it and the idea of maternal heritage. I have great admiration for my maternal grandmother, Donna Kelson Morgan. She worked hard to raise six children, one of whom was disabled. Often she was alone because her husband travelled for work. And to supplement the family income she (along with a sister and sister-in-law) started their own business--unusual for the 1950s. Although I have no personal memories of her, I feel a deep connection to my maternal grandmother because of the memories shared of her by my own mother.

Donna Hannah Kelson Morgan

My own dear mother inherited a lot of the strength from her mom. She works hard owning her own business, graduated from college while raising three crazy teenagers, and constantly planned for fun, memory-making activities we could do as a family. Remarkable in so many ways, including being a wonderful grandmother to seven grandkids.

Patricia Jane Morgan Spiers

And then there are my own two beautiful daughters. I see amazing potential in both of their unique, individual natures. I pray they inherit the strength and talents of their grandmother and great-grandmother, and build on those characteristics they can pass on to their own daughters and granddaughters in a never-ending chain of maternal love and heritage.

Happy Mother's Day!