Imperfect Life is Perfectly Beautiful – My L.D.S. Perspective on Being Human

Look around our world and see how God feels about perfection. There are no two mountains in the world that are exactly the same. There isn’t a wave that washes onto the sand that is the same as another. Every human has his own face, hair, skin, heart, height, weight, and singularly individual soul. Every mother knows her child’s unique cry. This is His work and His glory and He is perfect.

As humans, we seek the rare, the unique, the unusual and call it treasure. One of a kind is desirable. Art which is symmetrical, balanced, perfect, with one red flower in the center or one tree in the middle of the painting is called static or in my opinion baren, without joy, bland, and boring. The most beautiful models in the world have something unique about their face, large lips, large eyes, or an odd nose.

Olympic athletes recently tried to make perfect time, perfect movements, and perfect scores. All worthy goals. The entire world held their breath as ice-skaters reached for perfection, ached when they fell, celebrated when they succeeded. Perfection is a worthy direction, but failure doesn’t mean we are lost.

In a recent talk by my favorite LDS speaker Jeffrey R. Holland titled, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect – Eventually,” he reminded us all that, “If we persevere, then somewhere in the eternities our refinement will be finished and complete.” He admonishes us to seek steady and healthy self-improvement without the self-loathing, eating disorders, general misery,  and toxic perfectionism.

But what is perfection? 

Today my grandson, seven-year-old Elliott gained a new scar on his forehead and a trip to the emergency room. His mother sent a group text and his uncle drove two hours to help, his father came home, his Nana made dinner, and his family all over the world sent love and looked at his new imperfection. In my world, the love that was shown Elliott was perfect.

Holland said of the Savior, “I testify that in this and every hour He is, with nail-scarred hands, extending to us that same grace, holding on to us and encouraging us, refusing to let us go until we are safely home in the embrace of Heavenly Parents. For such a perfect moment, I continue to strive, however clumsily. For such a perfect gift, I continue to give thanks, however inadequately. I do so in the very name of Perfection itself, of Him who has never been clumsy or inadequate but who loves all of us who are, even the Lord Jesus Christ….”

Valentine’s Day Celebration Book Tour hosted by Singing Librarian Books

Safe House

Love, gone wrong can go so right!

Tour Schedule

February 12-cherylbbookblog
February 13-All-of-a-kind Mom
February 14-Singing Librarian Books
February 15-Red Headed Book Lady Heidi Reads…
February 16-amandainpa
February 17-Soulfully Romantic | Reading for the Stars and Moon

Storms…Healing Week 2


Storms roll into the Pacific Northwest Coast and change the beach, the trees, our world in minutes. I don’t know about you, but I love to watch a good storm. The power of the wind and water change rolling dunes to flat sand or new cliffs. Trees are tested, dead branches are torn from trunks, deep roots hold while others give way.

Today I ran the beach after the storm. Everything was wiped clean. Logs had been washed into the dunes and it was a new and different kind of beautiful.

Storms of all shapes and sizes roll through our lives, test our roots and strengthen us as we wrestle with the wind. Storms can change us in minutes. I think they can leave us a new kind of beautiful, molded by experience.

Isn’t it interesting that the creator of this world didn’t create manicured lawns with perfect white picket fences? He created majestic mountains, raging oceans, cascading waterfalls, frozen tundras, and storms. His creation is a work in progress. Storms still change it daily.

How many times have I stood looking in a mirror for an imperfection, a new wrinkle, a misplaced curl, signs of my storms? How many hours have I wasted angry at the storm?

Today, I worked on embracing all my imperfections as visible signs of the storms in my life. I believe in goals and choosing the direction of my journey, but I also believe in having compassion for myself.

I may have been broken by storms, shaped into someone new, changed forever, but I like what I have become.  I am a testimony of endurance. One more day, I choose to lean into the wind and journey on.

Healing Week 1


We all have stress in our lives. We don’t have to be trauma survivors to feel overwhelmed.

The world is full of quick and easy ways to soothe ourselves when we feel like life has not only run us over, but it has backed up and parked on us. The question is, what do we choose?

Do you open the freezer and say hello to Ben and Jerry’s Ice-cream like it is a long lost love, or do you call a friend and go for a walk?

According to Maxine Harris, Ph.D., and creator of “Trauma Recovery and Healing,” there are high-cost coping methods and low-cost coping methods.

High-cost methods may not be expensive, but usually, they have costly consequences. For example, when you smoke you might gain quick relief from stress, but the long-term outcome is costly.

Low-cost methods may or may not give you immediate relief but they don’t cost a lot and they lead to long-term positive outcomes. For example, it only costs time to take a brisk walk but it is a great coping mechanism. It gives you time to process or a place to escape thinking for a minute, as well as improved health. The only financial cost is a good pair of shoes and permission from your doctor.

I took some time to practice one of my favorite low-cost methods of coping with stress. I rode my old rusty beach cruiser (Coastie talk for a one-speed bicycle with a basket on the front) on a 12-mile trail and listened to some great tunes. A garage sale bike and the beach! The best!

Here is a little live movie on my favorite subject, how to heal. I hope you listen and remember, there is nothing wrong with Ben and Jerry’s as long as you share it with a friend like me!

2017 Whitney Nomination for Safe House by ME! (No not the other one…really….me!)

Thank you to everyone who nominated Safe House for a Whitney Award! Wondering what a Whitney Award is? Look HERE. And yes- it is for my book! I am so relieved you can’t see my dance of joy! What a gift it is to have you all in my life. I love every person I have met on this journey including Cedar Fort staff, the critics, the other authors, bookstore family, and bloggers.

Okay, there is another Safe House, which came out later by everyone’s favorite author, but she is nominated too! Wouldn’t it be fun to actually make it to the finals and sit together? I would lean over and say, “Hey, nice title,” real smooth and casual like I wasn’t jumping out of my skin to be at the Whitney Awards by Traci Abramson. Then I would say, “So, I hear we share a shelf at Deseret Book.” Do you think she would sign my copy of her book?

Well… a nomination is just the first step. It is such an honor to even be listed. To be in the same room as the people I read and respect would be like Christmas times ten!

This is the happiest photo I own. This is my face one second after finding Safe House in the Deseret Book Catalog. Trust me – you don’t want me to video my dance of joy!

P.S. Sunday is my birthday. This was the best gift! But if you feel like it, visit my Operation Underground Railroad donation site and donate. A small portion of the proceeds from Safe House will go to O.U.R.

A 2018 Beach Wish for You!

This 2018 I thought I might actually make a video for you WITH my makeup on and NOT after running 3 miles! Still breathless!

I love visiting at book signings. I can promise you if you struggled with anything in 2017 you weren’t alone. I heard a few statistics this year. Don’t ask me to tell you where….but I heard half of all adults under 35 live with their parents, like my kids. I know 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic abuse. I also know the statistic that says 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime is only for those who report. I hear from more who never, ever told a soul.

But there is still reason to be happy in 2018. We have so much to be grateful for! This video includes my recipe for joy.

Hope. Don’t give up hope. You may feel alone or overwhelmed. You may or may not believe in a higher power or that God has a plan for you. If you’re not sure, just take a good look at me. I live in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the continent in an old money pit and you and I are chatting. I believe there is a God and a plan for you and me. Every day I look for something to be grateful for. I will often share my gratitude list online. In the process of hunting for reasons to be grateful, I have become keenly aware of the miracles that surround me.

Last year, I decided in December to find a way to volunteer and give to Operation Underground Railroad. At the same time, my sister became critically ill. I drove from Oregon to Utah to spend as much time as I could with her during her last moments. While there, someone from Operation Underground Railroad actually reached out to me and I was able to donate a book to a Utah event. We got to talking, and it turned out we had a friend from my small Seaside town in common. It becomes a small world when you start to recognize Heaven’s pattern.

Healing. After years of research, the C.D.C. announced at a national sexual assault conference and training I attended that we have “neuroplasticity” and the ability to heal. The best way to heal is to choose a list of healthy self-soothing activities and turn to them when we have anxiety, are overwhelmed by memories, or need comfort following a traumatic event. Anything that makes you feel better and is good for you works to rewire your brain to turn to healthy soothing methods in times of stress instead of addiction. For example, I take a short run regularly and write to soothe myself, find time to think and make sense of my world. For me, it’s run or turn to chocolate and peanut butter.

Helping. Reaching out and helping someone who may be struggling with something you understand or have experienced is a great way to heal if you are able to keep healthy boundaries. When you are ready, seek ways to volunteer, donate or just be kind to others in need. A pot of soup may be nothing to you and everything to someone else.

As a survivor, I never want anyone to feel as confused, lost, or absolutely overwhelmed as I did. I will always seek to make other survivors experiences better. The sooner someone is helped following trauma, homelessness, job loss, or other life crisis the sooner they will return to as normal a life as possible.

Giving to others can keep you really busy! Serving others reminds me daily how blessed I really am. You may be the one who needs to be served like I once was. Even in the worst times, there are ways to give back.

Hope, Healing & Helping

Happy 2018!



Seaside Christmas Traditions or Shannon goes crazy at Christmas


Over the years my little family of 8, now 8 plus spouses and 9 grandkids have lived in a little town called Seaside about a block from the Pacific Ocean. When the sun shines, family visits us, coming in and out like the tide.  Then in winter snowy mountain passes keep visitors away.

I want to share some of our Seaside Christmas traditions with you. As a young mother, I wanted my kids to have great Christmas memories and so I chose a few traditions we have maintained over the years. These silly traditions are now part of the glue that brings us back together each year.

Christmas on the Coast

Christmas pajamas from the Elves:

Christmas pajamas from the elves is a tradition I borrowed from my belove Aunt Joann Sappenfield. On Christmas Eve the elves “magically” deliver new pajamas to the kids. They put them in their stockings. This is a brilliant tradition for two important reasons.

  1. The kids get all excited about the most practical gift I buy them – Pajamas!
  2. The kids look great in all the family movies and early morning pictures. When my son Joseph grew to 6 feet tall at age 10 he was sleeping in a onesie with the feet and arms cut off. Boy! I was so happy to see him in pajamas that fit Christmas morning.

Treat Tables

Early in the morning on Christmas Eve I sneak downstairs and set up 4 or 5 little tables around the house. I decorate them all with bright Christmas colors. I make a batch of cinnamon rolls and keep them on the kitchen table.

  • One table has hot Wassil or my recipe for “Stephanie’s Cider,” in the crock pot with mugs.
  • My favorite table has my great aunts Chex mix by the gallon with paper cups.
  • There is a table with veggies and dip, cheese balls and summer sausage.
  • Then I mix in some small tables with homemade sugar cookies, peanut brittle, fudge, and other treats.

The gift to my kids is a whole day and a half without me telling them what to eat or when to eat. The gift to me is letting go. Paper everything and no dishes. The house is ready for friends to stop by and the kids all get their favorites.

Stephanie’s Cider:

  • 1/2 Gallon Apple Cider
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Allspice
  • dash of cinnamon

Simmer for 20 min – place in crock pot on warm with floating orange slices

The Nativity

On Christmas Eve we open the packages from Grandma Bev and Granpa Jeff, but not before we are grateful. Annually, we dress up in sheets, towels, and wings to act out the Nativity. I wish I could say I sewed amazing costumes, or that we sang in harmony, but this is a Seaside Christmas and we spend our money on wetsuits and kayaks – not costumes.

As the years passed, everyone settled into their roles. Now new generations join in and we have to get creative. A few years ago I heard one of the kids tell the missionaries who were celebrating with us, the only role left was a donkey. And so she rode him around with her doll as Baby Jesus.

The Symonds are a silly bunch, who laugh a lot when they are together. However, year after year, even the toughest of the Symonds can’t help but feel the spirit when we read the Nativity. Even if we wear old sheets and towels. It truly is the greatest story ever told and our testimony brings the brightest spirit to our paupers play.

From Blessings

After our first meager and difficult Christmas, when all the toys were brought by someone else, I realized what a great blessing it was to have Christmas at all. We began my favorite tradition. The toys and packages left on Christmas all say, “From Blessings.” Even though we let the kids believe in Santa, we could never take credit for a single gift under the tree or give the credit to Santa. We recognize where our blessings come from and in our house, Santa does too.

We are grateful

Before we open a single gift Christmas morning we have a prayer of gratitude.

I don’t want you to think we are perfect. We are most definitely not. Over the years some of our little family has had their own struggles. Some go to church and a few choose not to. But they have all told me they recognize their blessings. I am grateful we have kept this tradition. It may not seem like much, but it is my favorite. It is a sweet moment in the midst of holiday chaos.

The Christmas Elf

When we were a new family, we weren’t able to buy many gifts. This tradition began as a way to make the moment seem a little sweeter. One person wears the elf hat and passes out the packages one at a time in order of age, youngest to oldest. The bonus to this tradition is I can actually see what all 6 kids and their kids think of their gift and take a few pictures!


We don’t have a lot, and yet every year we manage to find a small way to serve. This year we are focused on the light the world campaign. I have shared a few giving traditions. But the best gifts, are given in secret. #lighttheworld

804 Chex Mix




I am an abolitionist because….

“Bad things happen when good people do nothing.”

When the Heart Calls (A great sappy show!)


I am donating to Operation Underground Railroad because I heard Tim Ballard, the CEO speak and I knew he was a good man doing great things for children. And let’s face it, I believe i have proven I am a, “kid horder.” Six kids was not enough!

This Christmas give gifts with a deeper meaning. When you purchase from the O.U.R. catalog funds go to end sex trafficking and save children. Learn more HERE.

How do you help light up the world?


Light the World! 

What is your favorite way to serve at Christmas? How many secret Santa/Angel missions have you pulled off? This year our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invites you to do MORE! Learn more about the “Light Up The World Campaign” Here.

We had the gift of being near enough to Leavenworth Washington to finally stop and see the Christmas lights in the beautiful Bavarian town. I wondered why so many of us love the lights at Christmas. And then I remembered, Heavenly Father used light, a single star to announce the birth of his precious son.

This Christmas be the light. Light up the world the way the Savior did, with personal service to others. How will you light up the world? Please comment with ideas. I need them!

I will be donating a few of my signed personal copies of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for a Holiday Catalog giveaway. I am already donating a small portion of the proceeds from every single copy of Safe House sold to O.U.R. to end sex trafficking. Shop the Catalog and donate HERE.

Please! Send me ideas. Let’s light up this world!

#operationshinelight #shopandshine #lighttheworld #safehouse #lighttheworldwithgoodbooks

Light the world with books

Nominate your favorite #LightTheWorld participants to win good books!

Every year the LDS church encourages us to focus on Christ by lighting our world with good works. This year, authors at Cedar Fort and other presses would like to say thank you to those candles on the hill.

When you find a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter post that lights your world (it does not need to be tagged as a #LightTheWorld post, but certain may be), please 1. Sharing the post or creating a public post highlighting your friend AND 2. Tagging the page Light The World with Books. You may also use the hashtag #LightTheWorldWithBooks. Both YOU, the nominator, and YOUR FRIEND, the nominee, will automatically be entered to win one of 48 books! For official rules and details on the prize books, visit

*PLEASE NOTE: If the original post is private (as many on FB and especially IG are), to guarantee we at Light The World With Books see the post, you may also share the post on our Light the World with Books Facebook page at A screenshot works; a share; a post that simply says who you are and who you nominated–any of that is fine. We don’t need to be technical; we just need to see you!

Official Rules on


I will be working with my publisher to donate a portion of the profits from my book to Operation Underground Railroad.

I have had the privilege of meeting with hundreds of survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and listening to their stories. I hope to share my experience through fiction and motivate change through stories.  Holiday Catalog HERE.

Remember! Opening a good book is like running towards the light! #lighttheworld #lighttheworldwithbooks