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If you’ve been around here much, you know by now my heart bleeds for the homeless.  I don’t care what someone did or didn’t do to become homeless.  No one should be without a home.  No one.

Last year I took a tour of our local homeless shelter (so interesting and I learned SO much–especially about the families that live in the shelter).

And I’ve written about the period of time my own brother was homeless (and whether or not we should give money to people begging on the streets).

And I’ve done clothing drives for the homeless shelter in the past.

It’s my husbands 40th birthday this week and my birthday at the end of the week as well.  And it’s Thanksgiving.  So for birthday/Thanksgiving week, we thought it would be the perfect time to do another drive for the Homeless shelter.  Best birthday gift anyone could give me.

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE if any of you would be willing to participate.  If you don’t live by me, I would so appreciate if you take things to your local homeless shelter and e-mail me to let me know or leave a comment (most shelters have a list of things most needed on their website).


Here’s what we’re looking for specifically (but we’ll take just about anything)–these are the current URGENT needs at the Road Home in Salt Lake City and Midvale, Utah:

Pillows (new)
Coats & Jackets (all sizes)
Jeans & Warm clothing (all sizes)
Boots & Shoes (all sizes)
Socks (all sizes)
Underwear (new, all sizes)
Blankets (twin, full, & queen)
Diapers (sizes 3-5)
Baby Bottles & Formula

Please make sure anything you donate is in GOOD condition.  It doesn’t have to be new, just make sure it’s still wearable and something people could use.

The Road Home also has a program called “Candy Cane Corner” that is stocked full of NEW things so parents can “shop” for their kids for Christmas.  This is a list of things they need for Candy Cane Corner:  Click this link for the list.  If you donate new things for the Candy Cane Corner, please put a note on the outside of your bag so I know that’s what it’s for.  This would be a good opportunity to take your kids to the store and have them pick out a few new things to donate to the homeless shelter kids.  When I took a tour last year, there were 50 families and close to 200 kids living in the shelter.  I can’t.even.imagine.


We will be taking donations starting today, November 21st until Monday, November 30th.  We’ll be taking the things to the homeless shelter with our kids on December 1st to participate in the Worldwide Day of service (all the details in the video below):


If you know where I live, you can drop your donations on my porch.  If you don’t live by me, please consider donating to your local homeless shelter.

Most of the people living at the shelter are NOT the people you see on the side of the road begging for money.  Many of them have had incredibly difficult lives filled with circumstances and decisions I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  My guess is most people reading this have things in their home they aren’t using.  Clothes they’ve outgrown.  Towels and blankets that collect dust in our closets.  Toys our kids no longer care about.

Will you please take 30-60 minutes sometime this week and go through your home, pull out anything you can spare, and donate it to those who don’t have a home?  Or take a quick trip to the store and buy a few new things that would make an incredible difference in someone’s life?  Or a monetary donation would be a great as well (you can give the money to me or pay online).  It would mean a lot to me.  It will mean even more to them.  Everyone wins.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes and one I think of often by my girl, Jen Hatmaker:

“It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said. When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter. These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the local park. They convey, “God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.”

I guess that’s why “love people” is the second command next to “love God.” And since God’s reputation is hopelessly linked to His followers’ behavior, I suspect He wouldn’t be stuck with his current rap if we spent our time loving others and stocking their cabinets.” Jen Hatmaker

I’ve had death on the mind a lot the past month.  Morbid, I know, but true.  A year ago one of my friends (who nearly died herself) dad died in a tragic accident at work.  I’ve watched how the family has responded and spoken of him since then.  My uncle Jim also passed away a year ago on November 22nd and I think of him every single day (and my 4 year old prays for him every night to come back alive).

And now my neighbor, who has been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, just passed away this week after a pretty rough year.  I’m so incredibly grateful for the knowledge death isn’t the end.  There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll all see each other again after we die.

Living next door to a friend who has been told he has limited time on earth, I’ve had the rare opportunity to watch how this has unfolded with the people he loves.  His friends.  His family.  His coworkers.  His wife.  His neighbors.

Cars roll in.  Cars roll out.  People come. People go.  Friends, neighbors, strangers drop everything they’re doing to see him one last time.  To serve their family.  To DO things for them regardless of the busy schedules they may have.  And I watch.  And I found myself wondering…..

What would life be like, what would the world be like, if we treated people every.single.day the way we would treat them if we knew they would die soon.  Today.  Tomorrow.  In the immediate future.

Vulnerability comes out.  Walls go down.  People say things they otherwise wouldn’t say and do things they maybe otherwise wouldn’t do because we generally seem to be afraid to open up and let someone in like that.  To tell people how we really feel.  To tell people, every day, how much we appreciate and value them.  How much we love them.

I wonder what the world would be like if we didn’t wait until we knew someone was dying to DO the nice things we think of doing and SAY the nice things we think of saying. Instead of thinking it and not acting. And thinking it and not saying it. The world would change I think. People would change. And life would maybe feel a little bit easier.

That’s the whole point anyway.  Learning to GIVE Love and BE Loved.  Not because we are dying but because we are living.  That alone would change the world.


Thank you for sharing this journey with all of us Mel.  You have no idea how much your unwavering faith and grace has helped those around you.

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  • So beautifully said. LOVE! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Thank you Catherine!! Thanks for taking time to read it and taking time to comment. I really appreciate it!ReplyCancel

  • Mel

    So grateful you and Mike and the kids have been here in the trenches with us. Good, solid friends. God is good.ReplyCancel

Here’s some things I hear people say (and e-mails I get) all.the.time:

“My photos are a complete mess.”

“I’m not printing anything.”

“My photos aren’t backed up and I’m so afraid I’ll lose them.”

“I don’t even know where to begin”

“How do I get caught up?”

And on. And on.  And on.

This whole digital photo age, something that should have made managing our photos easier, has seemingly made it harder.  So many photos.  So little time.  And one big hot mess of memories we want to preserve but don’t know how to get caught up, where to start, or where to go from here.

It’s something I’ve recently tackled myself (I currently have 80,000 plus personal photos in my Photos library).  I’ve learned a LOT through this process and have made it a huge priority lately to help people get control over this part of their lives and their stories.  We’re all taking photos.  We want to preserve the stories.  But the BACKend of photography can be incredibly overwhelming.

But it doesn’t have to be.

There ARE ways to manage our photos.  There ARE ways to get control over what we already have and be more mindful of how we approach preserving memories in the future.  There ARE systems we can put in place to relieve the anxiety, stress, and overwhelm many of us feel when it comes to managing our photos.


In preparation for the launch of the online photo course, Tell Your Story, I’ve been laboring on for quite some time now, I’m going to be teaching a LIVE Tell Your Story class on Saturday, November 5th in Lehi, Utah.  This will be an in person, full day class.

The purpose of the class–to manage your digital photos in a way that works for YOU.  This is not a one size fits all system.  This is a “what works for you and your family” system.  And there IS a system for every person out there.  And I want to help you find it.

In the class, we’ll work through four stages of the backend of photography:

**Loading your photos.  Getting them all in one place and in one system so you can manage them.

**Backing up your photos.  Making sure you have a SOLID back up strategy so you never lose any of those photos you’re taking and stories you’re trying to preserve.  My computer hard drive has failed THREE times in the past year.  And I didn’t lose a single photo.  It was a complete headache restoring things the first time because I wasn’t doing everything in the best way possible.  The second time was not nearly as stressful as I had a solid backup strategy in place.  Making sure you have this in place is so so so important.

**Organizing your photos.  This seems to be a huge hangup for people.  What’s the best way to organize them?  And HOW do you go about doing that?  We’ll talk in depth about this and we’ll actually physically do the organizing while we’re in class so when you leave at the end of the day, your photos are organized and ready for the next phase (printing).  This isn’t as complicated as people sometimes make it.  Simple systems.  Huge results.

**Printing and displaying some of your photos.  Notice I didn’t say all of your photos.  Once you have your photos organized, my guess is you’re waaaaaay behind in printing anything.  Most people I talk to haven’t printed anything in years and years and years.  Which is OKAY.  There are ways to “catch up” (and that may not even be your end goal–something we’ll discuss for sure).  There are several things to consider when deciding how to do this.  What should be printed at this point?  What system works best?  So much to cover here and we’ll talk about all of it in the class.  When you leave the class, you’ll have a system in place for sharing the photos and not just hoarding them on your computer.  We’ll talk all about choosing the photos, how to edit them and get them print ready, where to print them, etc.


Some important things to know about the class (PLEASE read all of this before you choose to sign up):

**It will start at 9:00 am in Lehi, Utah.  My estimated finish time for the class is 4:30 or 5:00 but this will all depend on how many photos you have, how long it takes to organize them, etc.  Some of this process is just waiting while our computer does some work.  Some people may end earlier, some closer to 5.  I want to make sure you have your systems in place before you leave.  You may still have a little work to do when you leave (definitely some work with the printing part) but you’ll have the peace-of-mind of knowing how to go about all of it.  We’ll go over some things together, but some things will be a work at your own pace kind of thing.

**Lunch will be included.  Somewhat tedious tasks combined with hangry women is no good.  We’ll be sure to have food on hand.

**You MUST have a MAC computer.  The computer you plan to manage your photos on has to be a MAC and you have to be able to bring the computer to the class (thankfully Mac’s are easy to transport).  It can be a desktop or a laptop.  Whatever computer you manage your photos on.  We’re going to be working with your photos and you obviously need your computer there to do that.  Not trying to be a snob on the type of computer, I just need everyone to have the same program so I can help everyone understand things at the same time.  I may do this for PC users some other time depending on demand.

**There will be some pre-work you need to be able to do before the class.  I will send more details on this once you sign up, but be aware, there will be a few things you’ll need to do before hand so we can all start at the same point.  I’ll tell you exactly what once you’re signed up.

**You may be asked to purchase an external hard-drive before the class.  Again, we’ll assess this upon signing up, but that may be something you’ll want to buy.

**The class size will be SMALL so I can give one-on-one help to each of you throughout the day.

**Please note we will not be going in to “tagging, key-wording, etc.”.  The organization part of this class will be a very simple and basic method for organizing.  But a very effective one.  I can talk individually to people about tagging and key-wording but that will not be a big portion of this class.

**I am NOT a tech expert.  But I don’t have to be.  I’ve gone through this process and want to show you only what you need to know to manage your photos.  No extra fluff or overly technical things that often leave people confused and frustrated.  If we run into an issue I can’t solve, I’ll make sure we find an answer.


This is basically me sitting by you, going through your computer, making sure your photos are really backed up, helping you get them organized in a way that makes sense for you, and making sure you have a system for sharing and preserving them (printing, etc.).  Instead of just telling you what to do, I’ll SHOW you what to do and we’ll actually do it right there so you know exactly what to do and how to do it.  And you can ask questions in real time so you don’t get hung up and give up.

When you leave, you will have a better understanding of what photos you even have, what to do with those photos once you take them, and how to create a system so you can print those photos and share the memories you’re so diligently trying to preserve.  You will feel so.much.better at the end of this class about the “health” of your digital photo mess.  It won’t be a mess anymore.  One Saturday.  Huge results.

Based on the amount of emails I get and the questions I’m asked, I know there is a huge need for this and I’m dedicated to helping you.


The cost for the course is $137.

That cost includes:

  • some pre-instruction and help before the class begins
  • an entire day of instruction and personal one-on-one help getting your digital photos in order
  • lunch
  • a happy computer full of photos and memories that are organized and ready to be shared
  • relief from the stress and overwhelm of digital photo hot-messness
  • and e-mail support after the class is over if you need some more guidance after you get home (I’m going to take care of you–promise)

So.  If you want in to this first ever live Tell Your Story course on the backend of your photography, here’s what you need to do.

Send an e-mail to ltross17@yahoo.com.  In the subject line of the e-mail please put “Tell Your Story class”.  In the e-mail tell me your name and e-mail address and I will send you instructions on how to pay and reserve your spot.  Your spot is not reserved until your payment is made.

The class is capped and will be filled based on the first people who e-mail me.  If it fills, I’ll post on here that it’s full.

If there are any questions, please e-mail me at ltross17@yahoo.com

Let’s make some use of the thousands and thousands of photos we’ve got stored and continue to take!!  You can do this!  You and your memories deserve it.

  • Vicky Still

    I wish I lived in Utah right now!!! The class sounds amazing!
    When will the online Tell Your Story class be available for those of
    us living far away? I just purchased a mac computer and I don’t want to transfer
    or try to do any organizing until I can see you method to the madness!:)

    Super Excited!
    Vicky StillReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Hey Vicky,

      I’m hoping the online class will be ready to go by the beginning of January! Stay tuned!ReplyCancel

Three times a week, I have a precious few hours in the morning with no kids at home.  Which means it’s sacred time.  Time where I can get some serious sh*t done.  I look forward to those few hours.  And plan ahead of what I’ll accomplish.  This morning I was going to move mountains.

I go through phases of motivation and excitement.  Periods of time where I’m sure that all the work I put in to things and the effort I put forth is pretty much good for nothing and helping no one.  And periods where I’m all fired up and ready to make things happen.  And create things for people that will actually make a difference in their lives.  I don’t like fluctuating so much between the two, but I think that’s just reality.

The problem.  It seems like every time I get fired up, excited, highly motivated and confident in what I’m doing, all hell breaks loose.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished” in the last few weeks.  More times than I’ve heard it in my entire life since.  But then immediately the thought “You reap what you sew” pops into my head right after.  A constant struggle in the mind.

Is it worth it.  Is it not.

My husband came home this morning during the “sacred time” to meet the cable guy (who, as a sidenote, had a molestache like you wouldn’t believe–it was pretty amazing) and found me in tears.  I should definitely mention at this point that I rarely cry.  Like, ever.  Unless it’s an episode of Parenthood and then all the tears.  But really.  I don’t cry.  And there I was, a crying mess.  I had just hung up the phone with the most unhelpful Apple care customer service representative and was more frustrated than I’ve been in a long time.  She should probably lose her job.  Customer service is definitely not her mojo.  Nor is technical support.  And I’m pretty sure my husband was thankful the cable guy was there because holy train wreck of a wife–steer clear of that one (whaaaat the heck is wrong with her?).

You see, I got a brand new computer last Fall after my computer hard-drive failed (thankfully I didn’t lose any data because I back that baby up).  And it gave me trouble from the day I brought it home.  Hours and hours over the period of days on the phone with technical support.  But after some magician work from my computer genius who I finally had to call over, it was working well.  Until last week. When the hard-drive crashed.  Again.  So they sent me home with the same computer, new hard-drive.  And all was well until this morning when said computer wouldn’t work.  Again.

Long story short, I hate my computer.  But still love and need my computer.  And though I realize this issue is all relative and seemingly small on its own, it’s a big deal to me.  A big deal when there are things on that computer that I’m tired of transferring, and re-organizing, and trying again and again and again to carve out the time to do things that really matter.  To create things that will make a big difference in other people’s lives.  And to deliver things to people who are relying on me to deliver things that are on that computer.

So after I had a few frank words for the Apple “care” woman who should definitely not be in a customer service job (God still loves her though), and a very uncharacteristic melt down by me, I thought to myself “Does any of this even matter?  Is what I’m doing even worth the trouble?  Are the things I’m trying to create really going to make that big of a difference?  Does anyone even notice?  What if I just crawled back in to bed?  Forever.”

Dramatic.  I know.  But these are the thoughts I was having.

As I sat on the couch staring at the wall, I started to think about all that’s going on around me.  The people suffering. The world seemingly in turmoil and my little computer problem quickly spiraled into a world/life problem.  Does any of the stuff we do matter?  Do people notice?  Are we making a difference?  What if I didn’t put so much effort in to trying to build a business that helps people and just withdrew for a bit?

The bigger question–what if EVERYone stopped creating and DOing and putting light out in to the world?

Sometimes I have similar feelings and thoughts when I get bogged down in social media.  Especially lately as those in the USA are caught up in one of the most controversial presidential elections of all time.  Should I get off social media? Why am I even on here?  What’s the point?  Is what I’m doing here and what I’m sharing here making a difference in people’s lives?

And almost immediately this photo that I have saved in my camera roll popped in to my head.


Quite possibly the best meme.  Of all time.

Not today Satan.  Not today!

The things we do, the things we create, the things we put on social media, the things we say to other people, the time we sacrifice to make and do things for other people–they MATTER.  We matter.  Our efforts matter.

If we don’t share light, who will?  If we don’t balance the “dark” in social media with “light” what will happen to our world?  If we don’t show up every day and give what we have to give, who wins?  If there’s one thing Satan would love for us all to believe, it’s what we DO, what we give, what we create, what we share, what we say doesn’t matter.

Light matters.  And when we have light, I believe it’s our inherent duty to share it with others.

For as much bad and evil and awful there is on social media and in the world, we need an even greater amount of good and light in return. For all the times we feel like the things we’re doing don’t matter, we have to remember where the source of those thoughts are coming from.

And when we feel like crawling back in bed for the rest of forever, may we remember this photo.

Not today Satan.  Not today.

  • Lynne Johnston

    Thanks Lindsay for giving me a light!ReplyCancel

I tried to come up with a clever title for this and I got nothing so we’ll move right along.  Here’s a question for you.  Do you have a Will?  Do you have Living Will?  If you own a home, do you have a Trust?  Do you have a power-of-attorney for your spouse? If you have kids, do you have a guardian assigned to take your kids should something happen to you and your spouse?

All very “adult” questions that make me think of this awesome t-shirt my friend sent me.


But adult we must.  If you don’t have these things done (will, living will, power of attorney, trust, etc.), take a quick 5-10 minutes and read this.  And then get.it.done.  It will save your kids/posterity a lot of headache.  You’re doing them a huge favor and yourself a big favor should something happen to you or your spouse.

My husband and I drafted up a Will soon after we had our first kid.  I did a freak out about who would get our daughter if we both went down in a blaze of glory on a trip or something.  I’m a worst-case-scenario thinker sometimes.  I didn’t care so much about our stuff as I did about assigning a guardian.  So we got documents for a Will, put in our guardians, left everything to the kid (and whatever future kids we may have) and that was the end of it.

Fast forward to today.  We now have four kids instead of one.  We own a home and have a few other assets we’ve collected along the way, although I’ve been slowly getting rid of stuff because less crap in my house makes me feel a whole lot better.

Anyhow, I honestly haven’t thought much about the Will since we quickly drafted that first one until a friend of ours, David Wood who is an attorney and is specializing in estate planning contacted me to see if we wanted to get our stuff done (thank you David).  I’ve also been thinking about it the past few weeks as more and more people in our lives are faced with these hard decisions right now.  Holy cow life is hard.

David did the estate planning for us and I’m blogging about our experience.  I’m pretty choosy about what I’ll talk about here on the blog.  I try to only blog about things I know will truly help people and make a difference in someone’s life.  This is certainly one of those topics.

I know there are a lot of DIY folks out there who like to try and do things on their own (which in some cases is awesome), but this is one of those areas I think it’s definitely worth having someone who knows what they’re doing make sure you’re doing everything right.  It will save a lot of headache on the flip side of all of this and I think it’s 100% worth the investment to get it done right.

The four big things we focused on:  Will, Living Will, Trust, Power-of-Attorney.

My guess is we all know what the Will is for.  You decide who gets your stuff when you die.  You can be broad and just split everything evenly or you can get detailed down to who specifically gets your trophy from little league baseball.  Totally up to you.  It is also where you assign a guardian for your children (holy stressful–I don’t want anyone to get my kids but if that happens, I’d like to be the one who decides where they go).  Along with assigning beneficiaries for your stuff, you assign an executor to carry out the wishes of the Will.  It was helpful to have David walk us through who we should consider for that role and WHY.  It’s not just picking your favorite sibling.


Living Wills.  This is doing a HUGE favor for you family.  Your spouse.  Your kids.  YOU decide what happens to you should you be in a medical emergency and some big decisions have to be made.  You decide when/if you are sustained on life support.  You decide if and when someone should “pull the plug”.  Taking those decisions out of someone else’s hands is honestly a merciful thing to do.  You also assign a healthcare power-of-attorney who will make these medical decisions for you.  Mike is mine, but should we both be in a situation where we’re fighting for our lives, I have another person assigned should Mike not be able to do it.  And Mike and I have different people as our healthcare deciders should we both need those decisions being made at the same time (the odds of this happening are hopefully slim, but it’s certainly a possibility).  Again, so helpful to have an attorney walking us through those decisions and who we may want to consider.  Obviously hoping no one ever has to make those decisions, but it makes me feel a lot better knowing that’s taken care of should the need arise.  Do your family a favor and get this one taken care of.

Power-of-Attorney.  The person who can do stuff on your behalf.  Spouse is the obvious first choice, but it’s good to have a second person in line.


Trust.  This is one I was totally clueless on and didn’t know the importance of having one.  The short version–in your Will you decide who gets your stuff (house, cars, personal belongings, bank account money, etc.).  But.  If you don’t have those assets in a Trust, your beneficiaries have to go through probate before they can get it.  Probate is where you have to go to court (insert long and loud groan here) to prove the validity of the Will and the whole affair is made public.  It costs money and it takes time (could take lots of time if the estate isn’t left in order).  If you have your assets in a Trust, there’s NO probate and everything is dealt with privately.  The Will is carried out by your executor, and the trust is managed by your trustee (could be the same person as your executor) and the beneficiaries are able to collect on the things assigned to them withOUT having to go through probate.  No lawyers at this point.  No judges.  No court.  Can I get an Amen.

I didn’t know this and I’m SO glad I do.  Probate sounds like a big headache and can be expensive.  You have to hire a lawyer to go through this process and it can take several months to sometimes several years.  Holy nightmare. (I’m also making sure my parents have that all taken care of so we don’t have to deal with courts when they say peace out and go to the after-life).

Get your stuff in a Trust (home, bank accounts, etc.).  As soon as possible.

Obviously this is the sweet and short version of all of this.  When you go through this process with a lawyer they’ll explain everything in detail, walk you through the decisions you have to make and help make sure you do everything correctly so you can avoid some headache in the future.  Yes, you’ll have to pay some money right now, but it will give you peace-of-mind and will end up saving your beneficiaries money and time later on.


Not super exciting or glamorous stuff to talk about, but one that seriously needs to be done.  And no more “I really need to do that.”  Just do it.  You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for a lawyer, I highly recommend David Wood who did our estate planning for us.  The whole process was super simple and we were done in less than an hour (because I had lots of questions–could have been faster if I wasn’t a question spaz).  He was patient and answered all my questions, helped us make the decisions of people we needed to assign for various tasks and is making sure we have our Trust completely set up (there are steps you have to take after you draft the document that some lawyers don’t stick around to help you out with).  I also like the way he does his fees.  Some lawyers will charge hourly rates and those can add up quickly and feel vague–you have no idea what to expect on costs.  David charges a flat fee so you know upfront what you’ll have to pay.

Regardless of what lawyer you choose, be sure to choose someone you can trust, someone who knows what they’re doing (just because someone is a lawyer doesn’t mean they specialize in this specific area), and someone with a fair fee ($1500 or maybe a little less is realistic in my opinion).


While we’re talking about this, also be sure to GET LIFE INSURANCE!!!!!  I’m not going to go in to that on this post, but it’s definitely something you want to do while you’re getting your estate in order.  My friend Jenni’s husband passed away from an awful battle with cancer and this is one thing she is a huge advocate for (her post is definitely worth reading).

Definitely some things to think about and some action to take.  Who gets your stuff, who gets your kids, who decides what kind of medical care you get if you can’t make those decisions, who can make decisions on your behalf.  Just reading through this whole thing means you adulted today.  Well done.  Now on to the action part….

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