My mom is a stress sleeper. It’s good that she’s not a pilot.
Feeling afraid, stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious can really make it difficult to be creative.
What can you do❓
① Be patient with yourself. Calling yourself names or setting unrealistic deadlines will only add to your stress level. Be kind.
② Talk it out. This can be done multiple ways. Talk to a friend or family member — or multiple people. Also write it out in a notebook. In Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way,” she recommends writing (by hand) 3 pages daily to unload whatever your brain is occupied with.
③ Take a break. Do something that doesn’t engage your brain — let it relax as you walk, do dishes, bake cookies…something repetitive and calming.
④ Accept less than your best. During difficult times, it can be a victory to show up and get something done. Sometimes that’s just how it is, and it’s enough.
⑤ Save you favorite mental escape — movies, social media, books, chocolate — as a reward for getting work done. (The first step of a large project, another item checked off your list, a half hour of solid work, etc.
Dad was out the door the moment Grandpa came inside. They didn’t even pause to high-five or tell a joke. Dad just mumbled something about a list on the fridge and left.
Grandpa came in and hung up his coat. Lynn and Jim and Neal waited patiently to drag him to the living room. As soon as the hanger was safely back on the rod in the front closet, they escorted him to the couch and sat down around him.
“Did you have any questions about the sleep study for baby Carrie?” Grandpa asked.
“I think this is when they find out she’s really an alien,” Neal said.
“I think she’ll scare them into pretending she’s normal,” Jim said.
They all looked at Lynn. She shrugged. “They may be right. Carrie’s scary.”
Everyone nodded. Even Grandpa.
After a pause, the children looked at him expectantly. Neal folded his arms and frowned. “Grandpa, aren’t you going to tell us a story?”
“What do you want to hear about?”
“Something true,” Lynn said.
“Something scary,” Jim said.
“Something with dinosaurs,” Neal said.
“I can do that.” Grandpa sat and thought for a moment. “But this story will have to go way, way, way back to when I was young. Back then, there were dinosaurs. They fetched our mail and mowed the lawn, and ate annoying house guests. Every house had two or three. But then, something terrible happened.”
Neal looked alarmed. “What happened to the dinosaurs?”
“They were cancelled. But that was only the beginning. Soon, everything was being cancelled. Television shows. Movies. Concerts. Amusement parks. School. Church.”
“You can’t cancel church,” Lynn said. “That’s ridiculous.”
“I wish they’d cancel our school,” Jim said. “We didn’t even get any snow days this year.”
“Why did they cancel everything?” Neal asked.
“Maybe it was a snow storm. A really, really, big snow storm. Maybe it was the ice age. I bet that’s it.” Jim looked at Lynn. “The ice age was real. I could be right.” She shrugged.
Lynn frowned and tapped her chin. “The dinosaurs died a long time before people, so they would be gone first. So, ignoring the part about dinosaurs living with people, maybe everything else happened at different times too. I still don’t know why they’d cancel church, though. Was all the power out?”
“Maybe all the presidents and kings got eaten by sharks. Did that ever happen?” Neal asked.
Jim rolled his eyes. “If everyone was getting eaten by sharks, everyone else would be hiding in the churches and praying.”
They looked at Grandpa.
“Do you want to know what happened next?” he asked.
“Yes,” they said in unison.
“Well, everyone stayed inside their houses. And they didn’t have dinosaurs to fetch their mail or mow their lawns, so they did that themselves. But only when nobody else was around.”
“Were they afraid of being cancelled?” Neal asked.
“Yes,” Grandpa said.
“What did they do about the annoying house guests?” Jim asked.
“They told them to go distance themselves,” Grandpa said. “For their own safety, of course.”
“So what did they do all day?” Lynn asked.
“Oh, they cooked and read books and talked on the phone. They also complained loudly and tried to sneak out of their houses when no one was looking.”
“Did it work?” Jim asked.
“Of course not. There was always someone looking.”
“And then what happened?” Neal asked.
“Then they cancelled the summertime, and it started snowing. Then they cancelled being reasonable, and everyone wanted to buy all the toilet paper. Then they cancelled breathing, and finally, this story was cancelled. Time for bed.”
“That story didn’t have enough dinosaurs,” Neal complained.
“And it wasn’t real at all,” Lynn said.
“It was a little bit scary, though,” Jim said. “But not as scary as Carrie.”
“Nothing is as scary as Carrie,” Neal said. Everyone nodded.
“Do you really think she’s an alien?” Grandpa asked.
Would you play a musical number for our Sacrament Meeting at home?
I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life!
I’m interrupting my regular post schedule for something a little different: another guest post. My oldest children collaborated on a story and I’m pleased to feature it here! “A Vision of Iron” by Joshua Bird. The illustration is by Sarah Bird. Please let them know in the comments what you think.
Ralf had just worked the whole day and was exhausted. They were close to a breakthrough, he
could feel it! They had worked at the lab for twenty years on this project. And soon, it would be done.
The excitement from these thoughts momentarily chased away the drowsiness from his eyes as he began
together the final preparations for tomorrow’s test.
A few minutes later, everything was in place, and Ralf walked to his living quarters in the
facility. He thought back two decades ago. He had tried to gain funding from numerous sources for his
project, but was continually rejected due to its cost. When the military offered to fund it with a few
conditions, he accepted. What other choice did he have?
Soon, Ralf reached his quarters. He changed into sleeping garments, turned out the light,
and soon was fast asleep.
Some hours later, Ralf woke up eagerly. “At last! Today at long last, it will work. I can feel it.”
exclaimed Ralf. He quickly changed clothes, ate a light meal, and hurried to the laboratory. He was the
first to arrive, but soon enough, the other researcher trickled in. Eventually, the army officers responsible
for overseeing the project arrived. A jovial feeling filled the air as the various researchers complemented
each other for the hard work of the last twenty years.
Finally, the officers gave permission to begin the test. Researchers activated power and the
various systems began booting up. Ralf prepared to begin the program. Five years of waiting, two years of
searching for funding, and twenty years of hard work, had all led up to this!
Ralf entered the commands and started the program. Ten anxious minutes later, a message appeared on
the screen. “Greetings, everyone! My systems are functioning perfectly. I think, therefore, I am.”
Everyone cheered. The researchers patted each other on the back congratulating each other,
while the officers applauded. And Ralf? He smiled and spoke to the world’s first successful AI, “Hello, my
In the middle of the night, the wind started roaring. Isaac woke up from an awful dream where he was chased by lions, and it took a few minutes for him to figure out what was happening. Rain hit the window in bursts and sounded like the drumming of fingernails on the glass. Every once in a while, there was a strange, high-pitched whistle.
It was difficult to fall back asleep, so he went to the kitchen for a drink of water. Earlier in the evening, the full moon was visible. It hung bright and luminous and unreal somehow, like a sticker placed on top of the sky. Now, he couldn’t see it at all. The only light was from the streetlights, and the shadows wavered and danced in the yellow-orange glow, distorted by the rain tossed against the window by the wind.
The wind roared even louder, like an invisible ocean coming in to shore. Isaac glanced at the clock. He had an early meeting at work and couldn’t stay up late. With a reluctant glance back at the shifting shadows, he went back to bed. After a while, he fell asleep.
In the morning, it was still dark when he left the house with a cold muffin wrapped in a napkin for later. He swerved around branches in the street as he drove to work. The sun was just coming up as he arrived. He had to watch his step. The sidewalks were littered with papers and wrappers that had been blown against the buildings in the night.
After a busy day at work, Isaac was starving. The muffin wasn’t enough to cover breakfast and lunch. He spent the drive home imagining the wonderful sandwich he would eat when he arrived home. It was going to have everything he liked on it. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and whatever else he could find in the fridge that would fit on a sandwich.
The sidewalks and yards in his neighborhood were covered in debris from the storm. It would take a while to get things cleaned up. His home was no exception. When Marianne and Charlie didn’t call out to welcome him home when he stepped inside, he knew right away where to find them. They were in the garden.
Marianne had her hands on her hips, and she was shaking her head. Charlie was on his knees, inspecting the bottom of a trellis. Isaac hurried over. “Is everything okay?” he asked.
Charlie stood up and brushed off his knees. “I think so. We just have a lot of clean up to do.”
Marianne smiled. “Welcome home. I’m afraid that we need to put you to work right away while it’s still light out.” She pointed to a box of trash bags on the ground nearby. “Can you get a bag and start picking up in the front? We’ll take care of things back here.”
Ignoring his grumbling tummy, Isaac grabbed a bag and some gloves from the shed and got to work. It didn’t take long to get the front yard picked up. He looked around, pleased at the neat, clean yard, and thought about going inside and eating that fabulous sandwich. Surely there would be cheese in the fridge. He would add two slices, or maybe three.
And then he noticed the yards around him. Mr. Johnson would have a hard time picking up trash while leaning on his cane. The Simonsens worked until late. Maybe he could clean up for just a little bit longer.
Isaac cleaned quickly, quicker than he’d expected, and made his way back around to Miss Marta’s yard just as the sun was setting. The shadows were long and the light seemed heavier somehow. He reached for a plastic cup that was leaning against the base of a pine tree, when he saw something small dart forward through a gap in the iris leaves nearby. He froze.
The something small froze too. It was a little man, dressed in a green that was a perfect match for the leaves behind him. The man was clutching a small cast-iron pot, the size of a tea cup, to his chest. It was filled with golden odds and ends, things like buttons and bracelets and tooth fillings.
Narrowing his eyes and scowling, the man clutched his pot of gold tighter. “You can’t have it. It’s mine!”
Isaac took a step back and held up his hands. “Of course it is. I’m not sure that I even own any gold.”
“Well you can’t have mine.” The man stepped back, two big steps, while watching Isaac. “And don’t try to catch me and ask for wishes. I’d make them all turn out terrible, you know.”
Isaac nodded. “I understand. I’ll leave you and your gold alone.”
“You’d better.” The man took a few more backwards steps and then turned. Three more steps. He was fading into the shadows. Just then, Isaac’s stomach growled loudly. The man paused and turned back to look at Isaac.
Isaac smiled. “Sorry about that. Busy day.”
The man looked at Isaac’s bag of trash and the plastic cup nearby that Isaac hadn’t picked up yet. “I see that. I won’t grant you any wishes, but I can gift you some food.” He frowned. “But it’s only because I feel sorry for you.”
He waved a hand at Isaac, and suddenly Isaac was holding something wrapped in brown paper. When he looked up from the parcel, the man was gone. “Thank you,” he said anyway.
Isaac took off his gloves and unwrapped the parcel. Inside there was a sandwich with everything he liked on it. It even had three slices of cheese. It was delicious.
He finished picking up Miss Marta’s yard and went home. The streetlights were coming on. He threw the trash bag into the outside trash can and went inside. Marianne was in the kitchen, stirring a pot of soup and humming. Charlie was setting the table.
“That took you a while.” Charlie set out the spoons.
“I picked up a lot of trash,” Isaac said. “I picked up around the neighborhood a little.” He washed his hands at the sink.
“I’ll bet you’re starving after all that work.” Marianne tasted the soup and added a little salt. “It’s almost ready.”
“I had a sandwich,” Isaac admitted.
“While you were out?”
“Someone gave it to me.”
Charlie put the cups on the table with a smile. “Was it nice?”
“It was the best sandwich I ever ate.”
Marianne smiled. “Well the sandwich might have been nice, but wait until you taste this soup!”
The soup was wonderful. Isaac couldn’t have wished for better.