Auntie Karen

My aunt passed away late Saturday night.

Her memorial service starts in one minute. I wish I could be there but I can't because Utah is two-thousand miles from me. So I thought the best way to spend this time—while others are memorializing her—is to do the same. 

Karen is my mom's younger sister. She is survived by her husband, her one-hundred-year old mother, both of her sisters, three daughters, one son and many grandchildren. There are probably a lot of wonderful things being said about her right now.  But I only know, what I know. 

When I was little I was scared to eat at her house because if you complained about the food, you got a second helping. Genius.

When I was an unsure, gangly teenager who didn't like herself (I'm sure my parent's didn't like me and I don't blame them looking back) she told me I was normal and okay. She will never know how far that carried me. It still carries me.

Once when I was five, I went to church with her. She did a demonstration for all us primary kids. She held up a flower in a pot and asked if anyone would be willing to eat some of the potting soil. I loved my aunt but no way was I eating dirt for her.  Some other kid didn't mind though. He jumped right up and took a spoonful and darn it if that potting soil wasn't just crushed up Oreo's. Her lesson was on faith. I was ashamed that I didn't have enough faith in my own aunt; how was I going to have faith in Heavenly Father? I thought about that for years.

She glared me down when Jason (her son) and I belly-laughed at Thanksgiving dinner because an elderly guest passed gas at the table. I mean, it was hilarious and she didn't even flinch. Told us we should be ashamed of ourselves. And we were, a little. Okay, not really. But I'm still in awe that she didn't crack a smile.

Once I answered the phone at her house and didn't give her the message. Two weeks later she gently but seriously let me know that I'd cost her a case (she was a court reporter) which meant I'd cost her money and she was the breadwinner for her family at the time. I felt guilty for months. But I never, ever did that again.

When my husband was in college and a full-time professional firefighter, she let us sleepover at her house every Wednesday night. One morning when I woke up, and he was at class, Auntie Karen came and found me. She said she had two slices of apple pie left and that we should go eat them with a chunk of melty cheddar cheese on top. I thought she was crazy, but I didn't tell her that. I just humored her. Warm apple pie with cheddar cheese is amazing, people! 

She gave birth to and raised four of my favorite people. I love each one of those people as much as I love her. That's one reason I'm going to miss her so much. She is part of them and part of my relationship with them, but she's no longer here. I'm still wrapping my brain around it.

She had a great laugh. She always had her glasses on the end of her nose, or hanging from a chain around her neck. She had the patience of a saint and had six teenagers living in her house at one time. I got my love of earrings from her. 

But most of all, she was the kind of person you wanted to be around. Whenever I knew she was coming to visit or we were going to see her, I was excited. She always made me laugh, made me feel beautiful and just flat out loved me. And I loved her too. 

I love her too. And I always will.

She was too young to go. Yes, she was seventy-five, but she was a young seventy-five. But cancer doesn't care about age, gender or how amazing you are. It doesn't care who it takes. Selfish beast .

Here's one thing that sums up exactly who she was. Her mother's one-hundredth birthday was this past weekend. Everyone had plane tickets and hotel rooms, catered food was ordered and flowers bought. It was huge. Karen was supposed to be there. But she was dying instead. Literally on her death bed. 

She should've passed a week before. She was in terrible pain and her body was done. The cancer was eating her up but she wouldn't let go. I told Etta (her daughter) that I thought she was holding on so that Grandma could have her special, happy day. Late Saturday, Etta, went in her room, sat by her comatose body, held her hand and told her mom that Grandma had a wonderful party and that she loved the quilt that she and her two sisters had made.

An hour or so later Auntie Karen slipped away.

She held out all that extra time so her mother could have her special day. 

Even in her dying, she was an example to me. 

Until we meet again, Auntie Karen. 

 

 

 

Be a Debbie.

I cut my grass today. Sometimes when I cut my grass I get sentimental. And when I get sentimental sometimes I write.

When I was pregnant with my oldest son and then my oldest daughter, I was a gestational diabetic. For a girl who loved sweets--cookies, pies, brownies and most especially Chocolate Fudge Pop tarts drenched in melted butter (don't judge until you've tried it)--it sucked. Like put me in front of Disneyworld and tell me I can't go in, but I can people watch kind of sucked.

So I stopped eating everything I loved. It would've been nice while carrying around a nine and a half pound parasite, to have a cheat day. But I loved those parasites and so I abstained.

A few agonizingly long months later, a doctor laid a baby in my arms. And for a few minutes I forgot how badly I wanted a Friendly's Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae. All I could see was beautiful, healthy baby. And that was enough. Until Husband came in the room with the sundae and then it was pure bliss. 

After one of those babies--I can't remember which--someone other than husband recognized the efforts I'd made. It was a lady from church. A mom herself. A mom who'd paid attention when I talked. I don't recall if she visited me in the hospital, or gave the gift to husband to give to me. All I remember, to this day, is that it came in a bag with tissue paper and ribbons. I thought it would be a blanket or sleeper for the baby. But when I opened it, it was a box of Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts. To this day it's one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received. It probably wasn't much to her, but it was everything to me.  A hug and pat on the back, saying, "You did it. Now enjoy."

I still love her for that. She's a Debbie.

This week my husband took our two sons and a friend on a fifty-two mile hike along the Appalachian Trail. He does this every year with any boys from church who he can talk into going. Unfortunately, he couldn't take off work one of the days and the two oldest boys agreed to camp the night alone and hike the next day so that Husband and our youngest son could come home for twenty-four hours. 

Together, they had hiked twenty-five miles. Almost half-way done.

Oldest Son decided that he wanted to get up early the next day--their alone day--and try to finish the rest of the hike. His friend wasn't so sure but eventually caved. Twenty-seven miles in one day, up and down the Blue Ridge Mountains. Vistas and valleys and swollen creeks to cross. Throughout the day I got text updates. I cheered them on as they went. The friend told me at one point that he was dying. I kept thinking about the miles they were covering, the up and down, inevitable chafing and aching feet and knees. I prayed that they would be okay. That they would be safe and protected. Mother prayers shooting up to heaven throughout the day. 

And then I finally got the word: WE'RE DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOHOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Twenty-seven grueling miles in fourteen hours. Can you say you've done that? I can't. 

But that's not what this post is about. It's about Debbie.

The boys had hiked eleven miles when they came upon a woman with her car parked along the trail. She was unloading food. Son said there was so much food--waters, soda, gatorade, ice, apples, celery, grapes, carrots, a variety of chips and popcorn, dog food and treats for hikers with pets. Chocolate bars, pretzels, muffins. And that was only what she'd unpacked so far. She waved the boys over and told them they could eat whatever and however much they wanted. When they asked her why, she said it was something she liked to do. She drove an hour and a half every other weekend to lay out a spread on the Appalachian Trail for any hikers coming through. Just because she wanted to.

When Son told me this, my eyes got a little leaky and my throat closed up. I wanted to hug this woman. I wonder if she knew there was a mom at home praying for these boys to have everything they need, to be watched over and cared for. God wasn't there. But He was.

Bless you Debbie, whoever you are. 

Because of her generosity, the boys didn't need to eat the food in their packs, so they gave it to other through-hikers; people hiking the entire AT from Georgia to Maine. A trek that takes between five and seven months. Only twenty percent of those who start, finish. They happily took the food. It meant one less trip off the trail to get food. More time made up in their journey. It meant kindness, love and charity. 

It meant the boys got to be Debbies too.

 

A girl I know...

I haven't blogged in a long time. The whole craze has sort of died and I never loved it anyway. I just knew, that as a writer, I was supposed to have a blog. So I did.

But, I've realized in the last few months, that my blog has been my best method of journal-keeping ever. And I have a thing I learned this year that I don't ever want to forget. It's an important thing. And possibly a thing that might help anyone that happens to know anyone else in the entire world. Which is everybody.

This story is about a girl I know. 

She's a real, actual living girl. This is not made up. This is an honest-to-goodness story—not a story 'based' on a story. Every one of these events happened and were heart-wrenchingly real.

This is an underdog story, which, if you know me, you know is my favorite kind.

The Girl.

She was a nice girl. That had always been the 'great' thing people said about her. "She is so sweet." "Oh, she is so nice. The nicest." And everyone wished their kid were nicer, like her. So helpful, so happy, so kind.

And then The girl hit middle school. And her niceness was walked on, spat on, slapped at. She was a doormat. Teachers were too busy to notice the quiet one who never caused problems. And her peers saw her quiet, studiousness as something boring and not worth their time. They wanted to be loud, noticed. Popular. But the girl didn't care about that. She just wanted to be happy again.

And the girl cried. She asked her parents every single day to pull her out and homeschool her. She'd do anything. Bargains were offered and rejected. More tears were cried. But the parents knew that homeschooling for the sake of avoiding life was not the right thing to do. So the girl suffered through the year and hated every minute of it.

The next year, her parents just knew, would be better.

But it wasn't. It was worse. No matter what they tried—a new dog, a vacation, a new toy. None of it made any difference. Because something was going on. Something the girl hadn't told her parents or anyone else.

She had a bully. The bully was as loyal, diligent and thorough as any friend she'd ever known. Every day the bully would tear her down a little piece at a time. "You're ugly. You're stupid. You're crazy." He'd whisper in her ear. She tried not to listen, but he was so subtle, she didn't realize what he was. And the more he said, the more she believed him.

The girl's mother noticed that things were not getting better. In fact, they were much, much worse. The girl spent hours alone in her room, sleeping, watching tv. The once explorer had become a hermit. It weighed on the mother all day, every day.

What had happened to the girl? Where had her kind, sweet, beautiful, happy daughter gone? The mother prayed and pleaded with the girl. They went to the doctor, a counselor, and the guidance counselor at the school. Possibly something was wrong with the girl. Perhaps she needed 'special accommodations.' 

They tested and found out that she was normal. Very anxious, but bright. The guidance counselor and the mom didn't know what else to do.

And then the truth came out. One day on the way to school The girl told her mom, "I can't go. I can't go today." The mom could tell she meant it. So the mom pulled out of the parent drop off lane and said, "Tell me the truth. What is going on? Is someone bullying you?" 

The girl broke down, finally admitting that some boys were being mean to her.

The mom was devastated but hopeful. At least she knew what they were dealing with.

The mother took immediate action. She'd watched The girl tread water for long enough. The girl's muscles were weak and she couldn't do it much longer. So the mom said, "That's it. We're taking care of this today. Now."

The girl said she didn't want her to. She knew it would just make things worse. The mother told her she wouldn't let that happen and she meant it. This was the beginning of the end. No more treading water, barely keeping her chin up. Together they walked into the school.

Long story short--it took a few months, but once the mother knew what she was fighting, she could help The girl. Her counselor, the guidance counselor, assistant principal, principal and all her teachers had the girl's back. The bully was talked to. Seats were switched.

Problem solved.

Only it wasn't. The bully would not let go of his 'project' so easily. The kind girl toughened up a bit, lifted her chin and tried to put her armor on tighter. She was stronger now. She put herself out there and made friends. Good ones. She knew what the bully was and that every word he spewed was filthy, dark sewage. 

But the bully still wouldn't quiet.

So finally one night, The girl told her mother, "If I go to school tomorrow, I'm going to hit the bully." 

The mother said, "If you need to hit him, then hit him. We'll go out for ice cream later." She didn't say this because she believed in hitting. But the mother had learned that having a daughter that is kind, nice and happy was actually harmful, if she was not also confident and strong. The fact that The girl was even thinking of sticking up for herself in this way, made the mother's heart soar. The girl was finally finding her worth. 

The next morning, the mother dropped The girl off at school. 

The bully and The girl ended up next to each other at lunch. And he started in. "You're fat. You're ugly. You're stupid," he hissed.  

The girl was a tea kettle ready to whistle.

But now the girl had friends. People were watching this interchange. People who cared about the girl. "Don't let him talk to you like that," they said. 

The girl had finally had enough. She picked up her apple and chucked it at the side of the the bully's head. It bounced off his rubber skull and she caught it with ease. The table was silent and then explosive. They couldn't believe the kind girl had just done that. 

Neither could the bully. And he couldn't let her get away with it. One last hiss. "You're clinically insane."

The girl made a decision in that second. His words would no longer hold her back. She would set herself free. Her hand balled up tight, she pulled her arm back and "BAM," her fist connected with the side of his head.

She didn't wait for a reaction. She picked up her belongings and raced for the office and the telephone. "Mom," she cried into the receiver. "You have to come get me."

"Is everything okay."

"I did it. I hit him. I'm going to be in so much trouble."

When the mother got there, the office staff and principal were trying to figure out why The kind girl was crying. No adults had seen, and none of the students dared tell. The mother whisked her away with a promise that she would call the principal later.

The girl, so kind and good was she, felt like she'd done the wrong thing. That's how ingrained kindness and goodness was in her. She worried that even though her mother had told her it was okay if she hit this bully, that she didn't really mean it.

As the story unfolded, the mother's heart exploded with joy. She shoved her fists to the ceiling and "Wahoo'ed' as loud as she could. The mother called the principal. She told him he could suspend The girl if he wanted but that she was proud of The girl. (He did not suspend her.)

All the lies the bully had branded the girl with...were gone.

The mom realized that—The girl, as kind and good as she may be—was better with a side of backbone.

The mother pulled her kind, sweet, beautiful, spitfire girl into a tight hug, kissed her beautiful, dimpled cheek...

And The girl laughed.

-end-





While the kids are away...

We rented "Mom's Night Out," from the Redbox at Food Lion the other night. If you haven't seen it, it's basically an everything-that-could-go-wrong-does kind of movie. And in the end, the main Mom is told by Trace Adkins (who's hilarious as Bones, the tattoo artist) and her husband, Sean Astin, (Sam from Lord of the Rings and Mikey in The Goonies) that she's doing a good job and that being a Mom is important. The whole way through, I nodded my head. Yes, something like that has happened to me. And that. And that, and that, and that. The kids laughed in disbelief, asking me if this was for real. I told them basically, yeah. Being a mom is like being the ringmaster at the circus some days.

My days are calmer now that my kids are older. I've actually had people ask, "What do you do with all your time now that your kids are in school?" It kinda makes me want to pop them upside their head. Because you know what? I EARNED the peace and quiet. I was the one who got up every time the baby cried, lost his passy, needed to be changed or fed. I was sleep deprived for nearly a decade. This isn't even counting the exhaustion from making four babies inside my body. I know some people feel their best when they're pregnant. I'm not part of that group. Truthfully, six years after the last one, I feel like my body still hasn't fully recovered and I'm not sure it will. The adrenals are running on fumes.

Right now, I'm still the one who gets up with the kids when they have bad dreams. It happened last night and it took me over an hour to get back to sleep. I'm the one who gets up when they wake up barfing and I have to bathe them and run a load of laundry at three in the morning. All the while, my cute, hard-working husband is snoring away. And that's fine. I'm glad to be The Mom and glad that I have a husband who lets me be The Mom.

Here's the thing the Askers don't necessarily get. Just because my kids are in school doesn't mean it magically got easy. Yes, things are calmer while they're gone, but boy am I glad I have those hours to gear up for when they get back. Because when they step out of the car and into the house, some days, all hell breaks loose.

*I help the one who didn't get on his own, that the assignment he was completing was completely different than he thought and that we need to trash what he's already done and start all over again. It's due in three days and is 12% of his overall grade. And I need to help him laugh about it so it can be a happy memory instead of a horrible one.

*I help the one whose friend decided to become an uber potty-mouth this year, realize what's important and what kind of kid he wants to be, despite those around him. And once we're done with that, we pull out the Cub Scout manual to make up for the dysfunctional pack we have here because we need Webelos, Arrow of Light and Faith in God completed by the end of December.

*I help the little one learn to read, and bribe her into believing that going to school tomorrow will be okay—even though she hates leaving the farm—because when she gets home she and I will jump on the trampoline, make cookies, snuggle and watch a movie with her, read books together, and we'll race (and I'll let her win.) And I keep all those promises. Everyday.

*I calm the one who's struggled academically since she was little. I whisper to her ten times a night that we can do this. One problem at a time. It doesn't matter if she's got A.D.D. or if the other kids are quicker. I wipe away her tears, literally, hug her and tell her not to believe those nagging doubts that constantly want to drag her down. They're crap. She's a daughter of God and with Him, she can and will do great things.

And this is all going on at the same time. And I have to prioritize and decide who gets what and when, all while I'm finishing dinner and pulling the girl's hair into ponytails for gymnastics class and making sure my oldest is ready for Scouts.

I know, I sound like every other mom, ever.

My kids have had to deal with some crap in the last year, which means, I've had to deal with it too. At one point I wanted to teach one of them to use a particular finger when he was being mistreated. But I didn't, because I'm The Mom.

(I did teach him this though: "If you have a bad thought about yourself, tell it to go to Hell, because that's exactly where it came from." His jaw dropped but I feel okay about it since Brigham Young is the giver of that lovely quote.)

You want to know what I do when my kids are gone to school and my husband's at work? I clean, I prepare dinner, I read my scriptures, I take care of animals, I bushhog fields, I check cows, I grocery shop, I fold laundry, I rake leaves. I write, in hopes that someday I will earn enough money to help put kids through college and on missions and because it's the thing I believe Heavenly Father has asked me to do. And I pray. I pray for my immediate family, the family I was born into and husband's family. And I pray for myself. I pray that I can be the kind of mom that Heavenly Father wants me to be. And I do all of this so that the Spirit will be here so that when the kids are home, they can feel the difference.

I told myself years ago, that I wasn't going to listen to the voices that told me I wasn't doing enough, being enough—that I'd never make it and that my kids weren't going to either. That's not the stuff Heavenly Father wants me to believe. It would be one thing if I were sitting on my duff, watching soap operas all day, getting my nails done, while the maid cleaned the house (though I wouldn't judge anyone who did that. I hate judgers.). But I'm not. And I won't listen to anyone or any being who tries to get me to believe I'm not doing enough. Because I fully believe that Brigham Young quote. If you think Heavenly Father wants you to walk around feeling like you're crap, and that even though you're trying your hardest that it's still not good enough, you're wrong. One hundred million percent wrong.

So if you're a mom, dad, sister, brother, wife, husband, cousin, niece, nephew, single mom, widow, divorcee, neighbor, student, friend, a new bishop, a teenage girl who doesn't think anyone will miss you if you're gone, or just a plain old person—I give you permission to repeat the Brigham Young quote to yourself daily. Because you are enough. You are doing enough. You are His and that makes you spectacular.

The rest can go....
You know where.




A fan like this...

I was reading some of my first posts on the blog and realized I had no recollection of those things ever happening. It's sad really, how bad my memory has gotten since having children. I wonder how many other little moments I've forgotten? Just gone, forever! I've been so bad about blogging lately, I'm sure there are plenty.

There's one that happened last night that I never want to forget.

To preface it, let me give you a little backstory. Most mornings before school, Oldest Daughter tells me that I better sit down and write today. And every afternoon she asks if I wrote. If I didn't she gets UP. SET.  If I did, I must read it aloud and get her squealing approval.

Last night, she laid down next to me while I fooled around on the computer. As she drifted off she mumbled, "You're the best writer in the entire world and all the agents that reject you know they're not good enough to rep you. You're the best, Mom."

My breathe caught in my throat and my heart melted into a puddle.

Everybody deserves to have someone believe in them like this.

I'm hers, she's mine.

(I hope you have a fan like this. I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.)


A repost for those who need a laugh, but mostly for Janna. (A post, P-Dub style.)

I was thinking today, that if I want to be popular like Pioneer Woman I need to change a few things. But mainly, I need to post pictures of my husband's jean clad hiney all over my blog and write The End underneath.

There's only one problem with that.

Whenever I come close with the camera, he sits on it. (His hiney. Not the camera.)

Can you believe that?





So then I thought, I can't be just like Pioneer Woman. I have to have my own brand, right? How about the lady who posts actual pictures of her husbands face? That would be original.

I gave it a shot.





Oh well. I guess it wasn't mean to be. Thirty years from now when we're still eating our rice with real butter, I can pin point it back to this moment, and blame it all on him.


While we're on the topic of pictures, I have to show you this thing that has been going on in my house this week.

Oldest daughter has created a monster. I'm not kidding. She took this witch broom she got for Halloween, put a dress on it, and her Barbie styling head. It gets worse. The broom actually cackles. I'm not making this up. It's like something out of a horror movie. So why does my daughter keep giggling about it?





I swear it follows me. And the really creepy part is, it's about the same height as Toddler, it's wearing Toddler's dress, and it's hair is the same color as Toddler's hair. So for a split second I think it's Toddler and then I realize it's the poltergeist.

It's totally freaking me out. I opened my bedroom door earlier, and BAM it was staring me in the stomach. I 'bout had a heart attack. And O.D. was snickering.

I keep threatening to toss it in the trash, but I can't because Grandma is the one who bought the broom and that just wouldn't be right. Darn that, Grandma!

Maybe I'll leave it down at the farm the next time I go. That would be payback. Because my dad can't ever throw anything away. So it could just spook them out all the time. HAHAHA. I think I totally will.

One last thing. We went out for Mexican tonight. It was a school fundraiser. Our school gets fifteen percent of the proceeds from any money made this evening. Remember how I told you the stork messed up Husband's drop off point?  He landed a couple hours north of Mexico, up in L.A. So y'all have to know that using the terms 'authentic Mexican food' and Southwest Virginia' in the same sentence is just an oxymoron. Ain't happening. But that doesn't stop Husband. Believe it or not, all the employees in this restaurant were real live Mexicanos. So when our waiter comes up and has a thick accent, do you know what Husband did? He tried to talk to the guy in Spanish. I guess he thinks he's fluent after he spent three weeks there last year.

I burst out laughing right at the table. You should have seen the death look he gave me. I feel bad about it now. But I can't stop snickering. Gracias. HAHAHAHA.

Amen.

PS: On a not so funny note, I thought y'all might be interested to see the picture of the hole that tow hitch put through our windshield.

Here it be...


The End.

Can you sleep when the wind blows?

Guys, my husband did the most epic thing the other night.

For months (probably more like years) I've been telling him that I'm sick of being the only person in the house who tries to keep it straight and clean. After the kids leave for school, I pick up the mess. And as soon as they get home, it's a wreck again. A few weeks ago he said, "I have a plan for that."

OK, dude. Bring it.

On Monday night he pulls all the kids into our bedroom for nightly prayer. But first he tells them he wants to read them a story:

Years ago a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals. Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farm hand?" the farmer asked him. "Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man. Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!" The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows." Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.

So then Hubs tells the kids to think about it and head on to bed.

I thought that was nice, but whatever.  Reading a story wasn't going to change anything. I started writing on my computer and Hubs, who usually likes to watch something on Netflix before bed, turns off the light and tells me I should go to sleep. A few minutes later, he tells me again. So I close my laptop, stuff it under the bed and do as he suggested. That was around 9:30.

At 11:56 the alarm on his phone went off right next to my head. A quacking duck. Hubs was pretty groggy. "What's that?" he asked. I swiped the alarm off, thinking it had been set wrong, and told him it was nothing and to go back to sleep.

He sits up and says. "It is something. We need to get up. The wind is blowing."

There was no wind, guys. The weather couldn't have been calmer. I looked at him like he'd lost his mind. "You want me to get up? You know I have a hard time falling back asleep." I have to tell you, I was pretty mad.

"Get the kids up too," he said as he hopped out. There was a twinkle in his eyes and I thought we might need to be taking him to the doctor to get some meds. No lie. It was a real thought I had.

"You want me to get the kids out of bed when they have school tomorrow. Is this a drill or something?"

He just smiled. "Get the kids up. The wind is blowing."

I had no idea what he was doing, but I decided to trust him. We left our littlest in bed—because that's just mean—but woke the rest of them up. It took eleven minutes to get them all from their beds to the couch. You wouldn't believe the moaning and the tears. And they didn't even know what was happening yet. We could've been getting ready to tell them we were going to DisneyWorld.

Hubs clapped his hands together. "Okay, guys. The wind is blowing and we are not ready. This house is a disaster. There are dishes in the sink, laundry to be folded, countertops to be cleaned. The kitchen table needs to be wiped off and this room needs to be picked up. And no one's going to sleep until it's done."

The moaning and tears from a moment before couldn't begin to compare to this. "I hate you!" "You're the worst dad ever!" "I can't believe you would do this to us!" And the tones of their voices? It was like a bunch of two year olds got together to throw a group temper tantrum. It was kinda hilarious. But mostly really annoying. Because they are 14, 12, and 10. I won't lie. Somebody got seriously spanked before it was all over.

Oldest Son stopped crying when he realized they couldn't whine their way out of it. He put on a semi-smile and scrubbed dishes until his hands were prunes. O.D. cried the entire time we folded laundry, even though I tried to make her laugh. It took Y.S. thirty minutes to pick up the living room and another thirty to vacuum. He was the worst. I thought the poor kid was going to have a mental breakdown.

Fifty minutes after it had begun, Oldest Son was done and got to go back to bed. The other two sucked it up after that and finished so they two could return to their blissful slumber.

That was five days ago. I don't even know what to tell you. It's like I have new kids or something. When I ask them to do something it gets done and every night before bed, we're cleaning things up, making it look spotlless.

As they walk to their rooms after prayer, I hear at least once, "Please, Dad, don't let the wind blow tonight."

Sisterhood.

Some people don't understand why anyone would want to be a Mormon. Can't drink coffee or alcohol? Can't smoke? Or have sex unless you're married? I guess if you look at it that way, it seems pretty stifling.

But being a Mormon is so many things that have nothing to do with that.  There are so many reasons why I'm a Mormon. The most important is that I believe it is Jesus Christ's church restored to the earth. He is the head of it. He lives and guides us today. And who wouldn't want that?

But I want to show you one of the reasons why I love my membership in the LDS church.

First, I have to tell you about something super cool that happens to Mormon kids when they turn twelve. After a worthiness interview with their Branch president or bishop, they can enter the temple to do something we call Baptisms for the Dead. No, we don't dig up dead people and dunk them. Mormons are really big on family history. So when we go to the temple, we are doing temple work for those who didn't have the opportunity to do it for themselves when they were alive on the earth. The Savior did so many important things when he was on the earth, but the most important was being our proxy. He atoned for our sins. He represented us when he took all of our sins. He stood in to do something we could not do for ourselves. He was the only being in existence to be able to do this because he was perfect and he was literally a son of God. When you are baptized in the temple for someone already deceased, you are a proxy for that person. You are representing them at the baptismal font, to do something they can't do for someselves. Something they didn't have the opportunity, or didn't take the opportunity to do when they were alive.

Last week Oldest Daughter turned 12. So yesterday Hubs, OD, OS and I, plus a few others, took off early from school to head for this building.



The Raleigh, North Carolina Temple. 

The youth leaders of the Green Level ward were kind enough to allow us to crash their baptismal session. And when I say kind, I mean kind. But we'll get back to that.

We showed the temple worker at the front desk our recommends and followed a couple back to the baptismal font. After changing into all white, we sat quietly, feeling the peace that is always present there, while waiting for the Green Level kids to arrive. One by one they quietly filled the benches in front of the font. Including us, there were around twenty kids and another ten leaders filling the space. I won't lie, I was worried that it was going to take forever to do these baptisms. I told myself not to stress over the fact that we had a three hour drive back home and yes, the kids had to go to school today. 

OD sat there looking uncertain but hopeful. An opening prayer was offered by one of the young men. The temple President gave a short but wonderful talk about the brother of Jared. Then the session began. Things ran like clockwork. OD was number four, I believe. She stepped into the warm, clear blue water and offered ten other women the opportunity to step out of Spirit Prison and into Spirit Paradise. 

And then she headed for the locker room to get warm and dry.

As she was changing I chatted with one of the girls and one adult leader from Green Level. I have never felt more welcomed in my life. They asked where we were from. I asked where they were from. The girl lived ten minutes from the temple and the leader lived 2. 2! I was so jealous. But they were so jealous that we live on a 300 acre farm. OD and I went back out to watch and wait for the rest of the kids. Oldest Son sat down beside me and whispered some questions he had. I love that I had the chance to be in that holy place and share my thoughts with him. He asked if the temple workers were paid and I told him no, they were volunteers, maybe even missionaries, doing this because they love Heavenly Father and the Savior. He thought that was pretty cool. 

But here's the coolest part.

The girl I'd chatted with in the locker room came out and sat right down next to OD. She knew every kid in that room and she chose to sit next to the one that knew no one other girls. Then she started up a whispered conversation. I didn't catch a lot of what they said but I did hear her say to my daughter, "You can really feel the spirit here, can't you?"

Once all the kids were dry and dressed, we had a closing prayer. It could not have been a better experience inside the temple. But it didn't just stop there. That girl walked with OD out the doors and then she told me they were 'like instant best friends.' She hugged OD, me, and my sis-in-law. The girls she was with crowded in for a picture in front of the temple. And she pulled my daughter into the photo, with her arm around her shoulder, like they really were best friends. Like she was one of their group.

After exchanging contact info, their leader asked if we wanted to come with them to a birthday party they were having. They had plenty of cake. Oh, how I wish we would have had time for that.

As they walked away, OD was beaming. "If she lived near me, she would be my best friend," she said. I told her that's the cool thing about our church. No matter where you go in this world, you have instant friends. Sisters. People who believe exactly as you do. People who know who they are and who are you are.

Children of God.






Stop this train

Last night my oldest daughter and I were snuggling in her cozy bed, doing yoga to let the day's stress drain off us and into the mattress. We got to talking about how her body is starting to change. She's hitting puberty. She shook her head, her breath hitched and she cried. "I don't want to grow up."

She loves being a kid.

I was the opposite. I wanted to smash the pedal down and sail right through those years until I could grow up and be free.

Now I know better. I was wrong to wish it away.

Life sucks sometimes, no matter what your age. Really, it sucks a lot of the time. But every now and then you get to experience these amazing things that make all the suckage worth it.

And I want her to know what I would have missed out on if I hadn't grown up.

Emma,

First let me say, that between middle school and high school, there might be times when you hate yourself. It's hormones and it's okay. I know you think all the boys are ugly right now and that might just be the town you're in (though I doubt it. I've been to your school and the boys are a lot cuter than they were when I was there) but someday you're going to like boys. A lot. They may like you back, but they might not. And that sucks. So bad. So let's skip past that jerk who just broke your heart and head to college. You weren't going to marry him anyway and Dad would make sure you didn't get too serious so it would've sucked all the fun out of it.

I can't say for sure what your life will be like, but I know it will be good because you're good.

So let me tell you the best parts of my life. The parts I would've missed had I stayed young, on the farm, jumping hay bales, riding my bike through the pastures, just like you.

—The day standing outside the Cannon Center, hugging my parents goodbye, terrified that I wouldn't be able to do the college thing 2000 miles away from them. Then stepping back by my brand new best friend, knowing I had her and I would be okay. And I was. She got me through years and she will always be in my heart. I never would have met her if I hadn't left.

—Meeting your dad. It wasn't love at first sight but I was definitely enamored. I couldn't stop glancing even though he was a missionary. His smile was addicting and so was his soft, strong voice. And then writing him for six months. What a whirlwind of emotions. It was a terrible, intoxicating, wind-in-your-face with the top down kind of ride and I just had to wait it out to see what would happen.

—It's disgusting I know, but your dad and I did have a first kiss. And holy wow, it was just as spectacular as all those first kisses I write about. How do you think I can write those? Experience, sweetie. And you have to grow up for that to happen. Anyway, first kiss with your dad. Back then he wasn't your dad at all. He was just Bryan. Bryan who I'd been dreaming of for six long months, hoping, praying, wearing out the night wondering if he was The One. We pulled over between Vegas and Los Angeles, and I crawled in his lap and kissed him. He hadn't touched a girl in two years and I think I almost shorted out his nerve endings. But it must not have been too bad because he kissed me a lot after that. And I mean a lot. And it'll happen to you when you grow up and you'll be so glad it did.

—Our wedding day. I knelt down across from him, and as the sealer spoke the words, I could see the family and friends past your dad, watching, smiling, crying. But his eyes were on me and only me. Holding. Gazing. So serious. I don't know if he knew what he was getting himself into, but I knew he was committed. And he has been. And I love him so much and wouldn't trade him for anyone.

—First baby. There is nothing quite like holding that first baby. You've just been through something traumatic and hellish, and then a nurse lays this wiggling, screaming, red-face little person on your chest and something happens in your heart. You're so in love, tears are streaming down your face and you're laughing and you can't believe you could ever feel something so intense, but you do. The coolest part was when your dad got to hold him. He couldn't talk. Literally. I think he was so overwhelmed and in love that he was going to cry. It's a snapshot in my mind that I pull out often.

—Second baby. That's you, darling. You were so much easier on me than your brother. You didn't even cry when you came out. I asked the doctor if you were okay because your brother left my ears ringing. She said you were and laid you on my chest. You looked up at me with your eyes that I could already tell were going to blue, and your cute dimple. One of the happiest times of my life was after I had you. Two kids, easy peasy. I was floating. Life was so good.

—And then baby three came along. He kicked my butt. BUT. When the doctor laid him in my arms and he looked up at me with his eyes—your dads eyes—and this strong love washed over me and it's never stopped. I love that goofy, adorable boy. I know he drives you nuts, but one day you'll see what I see when I look at him. And you'll understand why I love him so much.

—Vet school. There's nothing better than seeing someone you love reach a huge goal they've worked for. Driving away from the farm that day was bittersweet, but it was worth it for your dad to be able to reach his dreams.

—Last baby. You know how bad her delivery was. It sucked so, so bad. I actually thought, 'I'm not even gonna want to hold this girl when she gets here.' But the minute it was over, I couldn't get my hands on her fast enough. I don't know if you remember meeting her but it's a picture that plays in my head often: you three standing over her giggling and in awe, while she was screaming under the heating lamp. You didn't even care that she was ticked, you just loved her instantly. And you know I still love that us three girls snuggled in for those first two weeks, just loving, healing and growing together as a family.

—Last memory I'm going to share. And this one is going to sound odd, but I wouldn't change it for anything. Holding Grandpa's hand as he passed away. My relationship with him was one of the reasons I wanted to grow up so fast. We banged heads daily and it was so painful for me. But we worked it out as adults and had a lot of good years together. I know people deal with death in different ways but I'm so grateful I lived close enough to help out as he was waning. And so glad that Grandma called to tell me when it was time. The last words he spoke on this earth were to me. I told him I loved him and he murmured, half asleep, I love you too. The next morning I was holding his left hand when he went. It means everything to me that I got to be that person.

I know it's hard to grow up and change, and someday leave home but it's good too. Don't ever wish it away. You only get to do this life once and maybe that's what's so hard about it. But it's also what's amazing.

You can't stop the train, honey. So just hold on tight, throw your head back and take it all in.
All of it. Every day.

Love,
Mom

The Magic of Mom

A few days ago, I read this book:



It's by an author friend of mine, Jolene Perry, and it's about a girl and a guy who meet and fall in love via a Mormon mission. From someone who experienced this first hand, I have to give Jolene props—she nailed it. But that's not even the point. The point is, I really liked it...so much that my own voice is now stuck in first person present tense. Which is awesome and great but I happen to write in past tense. So you see my problem? Emily didn't put her knee where Dex would never forget it, she puts her knee where Dex will never forget it. 

Gah! It's making me crazy.

Somebody suggested that I blog present tense right on outta here so that's what I'm doing! You with me? Here we go.

I have a story to share, surprise, surprise. It happened today. 

This morning we rushed out of the house like a whirlwind, per our usual routine. And as per our usual routine, one of my children forgot their lunch on the kitchen counter. We will call this child, Youngest Son. Youngest Son realized as he was getting out of the car, and asked if I could bring it to him. Sure, thing! It happens at least twice a week, why should today be any different? 

It was a crazy morning, cleaning and running errands for the Vet Clinic, but I had the lunch box and I would not forget my boy! I cut it close though and decided rather than dropping his lunch in the office for him to pick up, that I would give it to him myself. 

The cafeteria was packed. I leaned against a wall and waited. It took less than a minute and there he was, empty handed, eyes veering to the office window. I didn't immediately wave, I stood back and watched. He's such a cute kid; wavy hair, a huge smile, and these big brown eyes that stole my heart a very long time ago. I could see the hope in his face. He was hungry and no one had called him down to grab his food. Was it sitting on the counter, waiting for him? I could see the moment he realized it was a no. His shoulders dropped and he turned for the cafeteria. I couldn't help but smirk right before I lifted my hand and waved. His face burst into a huge grin. Mom had saved the day.

My heart did a little dip. This. This is why being a mom is the best thing I will ever do.

He ran up and we wrapped our arms around each other. I walked him through the lunch line and to his seat. He gave me a another hug and I left him to it.

I looked over my shoulder and gave him one last wave.

Until tomorrow, sweet boy.

————————————————————————————

Ah, now back to Scrivener. Maybe Emily can get her knee right this time.

(If you want to read that book, you can grab it here.)




Recycled blog post: Love Story

This is for Jolene P. and all the people who don't know or simply want to enjoy again, the story of how Husband and I met. It's funny but long.


Six a.m. on a Sunday morning (when I can't sleep because my antiobiotic is giving me insomnia) seems like a good time to write that blog about my husband.

I'm a little competitive, so I'm throwing out this dare--let's see if your how-we-met story is as awesome as mine. Even if it's not, I'd love to hear it below in my comments section. There is nothing I love more than to ask people how they met their spouse. Love me a love story.

Every time we have new missionaries over for dinner, they always say, "Elder So and So says I should ask you how you met each other." Or some version of that statement. Bryan rolls his eyes, and I laugh, because secretly I'm glad they asked. I love to tell it to willing ears. I get all kinds of responses when I'm done, but usually the missionary is wishing the same thing would happen to him. I'm glad I give them a little hope.

Let's get on with this. Oh, just so you know, I'm probably going to get a little spiritual on you. And that's okay, because it's Sunday. Here we go.

I went to college in Utah. I did this because I grew up in the middle of nowhere and the chances of me finding a good Mormon boy were, let's be honest, almost zilch. Of course I did it for the education too, but I could have gotten one of those in Virginia. I also stayed out in Utah during the summers because having a social life and landing a decent paying summer job in my hometown were also zilch. Anyway, I always came home for a week's visit sometime during the summer--monetarily sponsored by my parents, since I was already eating beans and rice. No butter on top. It's a long habit I need to get rid of one of these days.

So I go home, and the first thing my mom says is, "We have a missionary here with brown, curly hair. He's really cute. I think you might like him." This was not the first time she'd spoken these words, and the last time the kid was kind of nerdy, so I was thinking, nahHe'll be a dork. Besides I was officially older than the missionaries now, and too mature for that kind of thing anymore. I will say that I think they send their most socially handicapped missionaries to my parents branch on occasion. Maybe the mission president thinks they'll fit out there in the backwoods of the 'Ham. Anyway, my hesitancy was well warranted, I think.

Oh my goodness, that's not what happened.

So I'm sitting at the piano tinkering around, waiting for these missionaries to show up so we can all hit the Bateau festival (google it) together. These two guys walk in, and I look up, and wow, they're both cute. The other one is blonde, most definitely from Southern Utah, and too short for me. (Sorry, Rod, if you ever read this. You know I still adore you.) But the one with the brown, curly hair? Wow. He had the best smile I'd ever seen. Or at least in a very, very long time. And he's smiling at me.

It wasn't love at first sight or anything like that, or maybe it was. But I say no because I had a boyfriend out in Utah that I was pretty serious about, though I'm sure I didn't think about him as much as he would have liked that week. My mind was too much on somebody else.

So I talked to Elder A. and I promise you he flirted with me. And anybody who says missionaries don't or shouldn't flirt need to take a splashing dive back to reality. It happens ALLLL the time. They're budding young men with raging hormones. He says he didn't flirt, but I'd been doing this feel-you-out game for longer than him, and he was definitely sending I-think-you're-pretty vibes.

I see him a couple of times that week, and every time he grows on me. And then I'm whooshing off back to Utah. Back to my boyfriend of almost two years, who had a major commitment problem. He had no problem being my boyfriend, just a problem of taking me to the temple and making me his. Which is a completely other, really heartbreaking story that I won't be getting into. So, I'm back in Utah, ironically working as a cashier at Deseret Book, spending my summer divided over whether I should break up with this boy, or sink my heart even deeper into a relationship that was going nowhere. Nowhere. NOWHERE! So I break up with him. Either I'm heartless, or I was emotionally exhausted (it was definitely that one), but I'm not too remorseful about it. Two years is long enough to cry and beat your head against the wall before walking away, right?

An-y-way, my school was on a block system back then, so my summer goes late. My mom calls me one day in July and asks if I want to come home for one more visit before school starts back up. She's paying. I perk up. This has never happened before. I have never gone home for two visits in the summer. It's just too expensive. So of course I say yes. I hang up the phone, and from that second on, Elder A.'s name began pulsing through my brain. Nonstop, this name went through my head, to the point that it was irritating, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of it. Not for more than a minute. I'm not joking. This went on for weeks.

You need to know, I am not one of those girls that chases missionary's. Not at all. I had never written a missionary before that time. Okay, not totally true. My cousin talked me into writing her brother in law who was serving. That lasted two letters. So other than that, never before had I written a missionary. Except for my cousin J. who was serving at that very moment in California. This will be muy importante later.

So, like I said, I can't stop thinking about Elder A. Finally I realize, Heavenly Father wants me to do something about this. So I tell Him, fine IF Elder A is still in my parent's branch when I get there in September, THEN I will write him a letter when I get back to Utah. IF was the key word. I wasn't going to hunt the boy down if he'd been transferred by then. I wasn't going to send a letter for him to the mission office. I wasn't going to think about him one more second if he was gone. I made that very clear. I was not up for making a fool of myself, and I wanted some kind of sign that this was divine rather than something I'd conjured up on my own.

And then the wait begins.

Every week, I ask my parents about the missionaries, on the down low of course. If my parents had known about my little plan, I can promise this Elder would have found out long before I returned. And I couldn't have that. It was all about not making myself look like a psychotic missionary chaser. Every week, I hear that Elder A. is still there. Three weeks before I was going to return, I stopped inquiring, because I already knew. This was from Him, and Elder A. was definitely going to be there, whether it took a miracle as big as parting the Red Sea. He would be there.

And he was. Talk about weirdness. The whole week I was home, I kept running into him, and all I could think was, "I might marry this guy." But nothing he said or did scared me off. If anything the more I got to know him, the happier I was. So the day before I'm returning to Utah, Elder A. asks if I will chorister for a baptism they are having. Of course I say yes. Afterwards, I stood there talking to him over the refreshment table. It was funny, because I think my cousin K. knew. He walked past us with a smirk on his face. I blushed. I remember that. During my conversation with Elder A. I tell him about my cousin J. who is serving a mission in California, very close to where Elder A. is from.

The next day I hop back on that plane. It was really hard, walking away from that guy and putting all of my faith in Heavenly Father. What if he never wrote me back? By this point I would have been crushed, and there would have been lots of chocolate consuming and chick flick watching. LOTS. While I'm on the plane I pull out some paper and carefully compose the most neutral Hi-it-was-good-to-see-you-again letter in the history of the world. I mean that. There was nothing in that letter that would have even hinted that I liked this guy. Because personally, the fact that I was writing him at all should have been sign enough.

Heavenly Father must have disagreed.

I write my cousin J. a letter too, while I'm on the plane. I tell him all about my trip home: how I saw his family, and the cows and the farm. And then I tell him about this cute curly haired missionary with the killer smile. And how I was going to write said missionary to see if he'd write me back. And how I was positive said missionary thought I was pretty. Yeah, I was pretty confident.

Sometime during my flight I got this feeling: I needed to get the letter to Elder A. in the mail as soon as I got off the plane. He was going to be tranferred. I knew this. I just did. The post office would be closing in about an hour. I panicked. I didn't know his address.

I got back to my room I was living in, thanks to my amazing cousin C. (I know, I have cousin's all over the place. Don't you?) And I call my mom on the phone. You see, Elder A. and his companion lived in my grandmother's basement, and my parents owned that house. Surely, they had the address, right? Wrong!

"They have a P.O. box," my mom tells me.

Uggghhhh! So I plead with her just to call over there (now that I think about it, what would I have done if Elder A. and his companion had been out doing, heaven forbid, missionary work? Luckily for me, it was P-day.) She says, "I can't. What will I do when they come over for dinner after he gets your letter. It will be so awkward." What? My mom is actually thinking about something like that? So unlike her. Then she says, "I'll tell you what I'll do. The next time I'm over at grandma's, and the missionaries car is gone, I will sneak down into their apartment, go through their mail, and snag you that address."

She's serious. Can you picture that? Those of you who know my mom? Can you see her creeping down their stairs and flipping through their personal letters? I would have been rolling on the floor if I wasn't so baffled.

I don't have time for this, I thought. "Put Dad on the phone," I say. The perpetual match-maker. I knew he would do it for me, and he didn't disappoint. In less than two minutes I had that address.

So I carefully--yes CAREFULLY-slip my letters into their envelopes, seal them up, and head off to the Post office.

And then I wait. About five days later, I get a letter from my cousin J. I open it. But then i'm confused because the letter I sent Elder A. is sitting right there in that envelope. My cousin also sent me a letter and says, "I have no idea how you did this, but you switched the letters. This is so funny. You're going to marry this guy. I just know it. By the way, what did the letter you write me say?"

Oh. My. Word. I wanted to die. Die, I tell you! Remember, Elder A. has now received a letter from me telling him what a hottie I think he is, and that I know he likes me.

My cousin C.'s husband says something strange later that night, but I think, probably true. "Some angel must have wanted to liven things up a little, and made you switch those letters. Just think though, that angel just saved this missionary months of trying to figure out how you feel about him."

Very true statement, because I STILL remember how careful I was to put those letters in the correct envelopes. Hmmm. Maybe I wasn't as careful addressing them.

I honestly just wished he wouldn't write me back. Ever. And I halfway didn't think he would, but I was wrong. A few days later, I get a letter from him, telling me he'd been transferred (which I already knew via my parents) and that he thought it was hysterical that I sent him the wrong letter. And that it made his day. And that he would like a letter from me that was actually written to him.

And that was that. The next July we got married, forever and ever.

I went all the way to Utah to find my dream guy, and I find him standing there in my parent's living room.

I think God is a romantic. Oh, and He has a sense of humor too.





Braden Bell's Penumbras: A blog by Oldest Son (and me!)

A few days ago I found one of my author-friend's books open on my laptop. I wasn't sure how that happened since it was something I beta-read (that means I was one of the reader's she sent it to before submitting it to her agent) it for her months ago. The next day Oldest Daughter said, "Mom, why have you never read me your story about Claire." And I'm like, "Uh, I've never written about a Claire." I'm sure I would've remembered that since I am the creator of all my characters. Then I realized what had happened. She found that book on my lap top, I don't know how, and dug in.

My kids love to brag that they are reading a book written by someone I know. It is pretty cool. This past spring Oldest Son, who has been a very reluctant reader fell in love with The Kindling, the first book in the Middle School Magic Series by my e-friend and fellow Storymaker, Braden Bell. I've never actually met Braden in person—a fact that I lament daily as he makes me smile via Facebook—but here's one thing I know. I will meet him someday, in person, because he is my brother from another mother. This man rocketh. He lives in the south (like me!), loves fireflies (like me!), grew up doing theater (like me!) and can't quite grasp Twitter (just like me!) Here's another cool fact: He's a middle school teacher at a private school (not like me!). So he totally gets his audience. I know this to be true because O.S. kept sneaking off to read The Kindling. And that NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. Ever. O.S. also told me over and over that it was the best book he's ever read and that it was even better than Fablehaven (by Brandon Mull. Hey, we give credit where it's due because that was a great series!).

Braden's new book Penumbras, the second installment in the Middle School Magic series is out now and Oldest Son had the epic experience of reading it and being invited to be part of the blog tour. That's what you're doing here folks. So without further ado, I give you...Oldest Son.

Hi everyone!

Let me start by saying Penumbras was even better than The Kindling. In The Kindling there are three kids who are Magi and they didn't know it, but one day they Kindle (which means they become a Magi and use their full powers). Their teachers are fully trained Magi and they help the students learn to use their powers. In one battle, one of the students gets kidnapped and is taken to what the evil people(Darkhands)call the Shadow Box. This book lured me in from the very beginning when Conner caught a bully's pants on fire just by thinking about it. I never wanted to stop reading after that.

I couldn't wait for the second book to come out. One of the main plot points of Penumbras is when Conner (he's the one that had been kidnapped) thinks he's turning into a Darkhand, because he can shoot black fire. Also, I have to warn you that there's some romance in this second book. Meh. I'm sure the girls will like that part. I don't want to give the whole book away but one of my favorite parts was when a new character, Pilaf, realizes when he can hear the other Magi's private telekenetic conversations.

Penumbras was a really good action book. If you are looking for something to suck you in from the first page, with non-stop awesomeness all the way to the end, this is it. I loved the twist ending and now I can't wait for the next one!

Thanks, Oldest Son! Seriously, if you have a boy that doesn't love reading (or one who does. Or a girl, or a grandma, or a husband, etc.) you should get them this book. 

If my kid says it's the best book ever, there is definitely something special in the writing here. 

Lucky for you, Penumbras is now out and can be purchased in paperback and e-book form at:

Amazon 

Barnes and Noble

Cedar Fort




High School Reunion

If you were that girl in high school who was popular, a straight A student, dated the cutest guy, drove the best car, won prom queen, got a full ride to your top college of choice, always got along with your parents...then good for you.

You are definitely not me.

I love writing young adult fiction. It sucks up every spare atom of space in my chest. I live for the angst, that first kiss, the struggle to figure out who you are and where you want to end up.

I'm a sucker for the underdog. I want her to win, no matter what. Even if she is a stallion named Secretariat. (And yes I know that's not a YA story. I still love it anyway.)

But it's all a reflection of me.

Because high school was not epicly amazing for me, which probably makes me normal.

More days than not, my dad and I argued. My basketball team, of which I was co-captain, was 1-17 my junior and senior years. (No, I didn't accidentally flip those stats. We cried together in the girls locker room after an almost win.) I had stupid hair, no boobs and a ridiculous curfew. None of the popular girls liked me. I knew what it felt like to be the new girl. I knew what it felt like to walk smack into a pole the first day as the new girl. Yep. I did that. In front of EVERYBODY. I never got the lead role in a play. I worked for every A I got. I watched as the boy I loved walked down the hall with another girl day after day, my heart beating all it's contents onto the floor as they went. Conversely, I was the girl who was kissed by the boy she didn't want to be kissed by and who broke his heart in half. And I had to live with that.

I never did feel comfortable in my own skin. My stomach had a little knot in it most days and I was always on edge, always looking ahead until I could get out of that place and become who I really wanted to be.

My twenty year high school reunion was this past weekend. I debated on whether I wanted to go (it hadn't been that fun the first go round. Did I really want to rehash that?) but it seemed kind of stupid not to when I live in the town where I grew up.

My biggest fear was that someone I didn't recognize would come up and ask me if I remembered that one time... I don't remember anything anymore, guys. Not if it happened past last month. Having babies really does suck out your brain cells. I'm sure almost hemorraghing to death didn't help any.

Husband and I didn't stay for the entire event, but I was there long enough to realize that even though my head has forgotten a lot, my heart still remembers. I couldn't remember why I liked someone, I just knew that I did. They were always nice to me or they probably made me laugh a lot. I also knew when someone had been fake. And even when they hugged me twenty years later, I knew it was all show though I wasn't sure why.

Edward was right. The human mind really is a sieve. But the heart doesn't forget, ever. Not totally. And I never thought I'd say this, but I'm so thankful. It makes me a better person, a better writer. I haven't experienced every single thing, but I've experienced enough that I can draw from it when I need to.

So when Bayley's hair all falls out and she gets ditched by her date to Senior Prom two weeks before the event, I can write that.

And when Sarah watches the boy she's been in love with since she was ten hold another girl's hand, I can write that. And when she has to bury the older brother who was her best friend in the world, I can write that.

And when Emily has her heart ripped from her chest as she hands over her baby for adoption, I can write that too.

But I also get to write how each of those girls overcomes the hurt and the struggle.

And with each success I write, I succeed a little more. I become a little more of who that sixteen-year- old version of me wanted to grow up to be.

And that makes it all worth it.









Mi Casa es Su Casa—If this saves you some agony, my job here is done.

I don't usually give unsolicited parenting advice because I'm no mother of the year. But I do try. I've tried so hard but the older my kids grow, the meaner and snottier they've gotten. Sometimes I wonder if someone who has it out for me, hasn't made a deal with the devil and paid him to move into our house.

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to fly to Utah for the annual LDStorymakers writer's conference. It was a good time and I went to some awesome classes, but the one major thing I took away from that trip had nothing to do with writing. I had the chance to visit with two of my favorite cousins. Separately. They are not related to each other and have not seen eachother for years.

Anywho.

I've been struggling, praying, tearing my hair out trying to figure out how to get my kids to be nice to each other and to have some respect for the people in our house. I asked each of these cousins, how they got their kids to get along because in the past I have witnessed some stellar behavior from their children.

And guess what?

They both told me the exact same thing.

'If our kids can't be nice to each other, then they have no business being around anyone else.'

Oh my word. This is brilliant. And so simple. Why did I not think of this years ago? And it's true. If they can't get along with their own family—the eternal unit to which they belong—then really I shouldn't let them be around other people.

So I came home and told my kids what was up.

-No name calling.
-No saying I hate you.
-No disrespect, sassing or bullying of any kind.
-No swearing (not that this was a problem. Yet.)

If ANY of these rules are broken, they are not allowed to visit anyone or have anyone visit them for 24 hours. Also, no electronics for 24 hours. Because if you ground them and then let them watch tv, movies or play video games, it's not much of a punishment.

It took them each a few fails to realize exactly how horrible this consequence is. It means they can't even go to Grandma's house. Which is torture since she lives right next to us. Oldest Son had a meltdown when he realized that.

My mom called me this morning slightly bewildered. 'O.S. and Y.S. got along when they spent the night up here last night. They were really nice to each other. Your Family Home Evenings must really be working.

I grinned and gave myself a pat on the back.

I won't lie, it was a rough at first. It meant I had to put up with them more than normal for a few days. But it was so worth it. Satan has officially moved out and peace has moved back in.

Go ahead, learn from my pain. Do not go through this. Just implement the 24 rule. It's magic. This morning O.S. and Y.S. were in their room together playing Legos. It wasn't sounding promising.I leaned my head in the door. "This conversation sounds like it's heading for 24 hours." O.S. said "Yeah. I'm leaving." And guys, he WALKED OUT OF THE ROOM. I've been telling him to walk away for years but the consequence has never been bad enough for him to sacrifice the last word.

Seriously. It's magic. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.

Me and You against the world

My husband is the most stubborn male on the planet.

And I'm the most stubborn female.

Of course when we were dating we fooled each other into thinking we were the coolest, funniest, most chill people. We were both in shock when we found out how headstrong and deadset the other was.

There have been times when I've thrown my hands out, looked up at the sky and said, "WHAT were you thinking?" Because this had to be the most fiesty, fiery matchup ever made. But I never questioned if it was right. I knew what I'd felt when we were talking about marriage and I trusted that God knew what was best for me.

So yesterday Husband and I decided to go running. It was so nice to throw on our running shoes, leave the kids playing outside and never have to leave our own land. I slipped in my earbuds and he did the same (only because I can't talk when I'm running. I can't even breathe). He looked over at me, smiled and tipped his head to signal we should start.

Here's the thing about Husband. He can up and run six miles even if the last time he ran was a year ago. I'm lucky to push out two miles with occasional breaks, no matter if I went yesterday. Proven fact: His lungs are twice the size of a normal guy. Mine are average, but one quarter of mine traps air in, which means I can't push the air back out so that I can take another deep breathe. It's kind of hilarious. I spend half the 'run' with my head between my knees.

I'd pushed shuffle on my phone, not feeling too picky and wanting to see what song the universe chose for me. You have to know that my phone is full of church music, country, and teeny bopper tunes. It's hard to find a pump it up song in the mix.

So this song from the Nickelodeon made for tv movie Rags came on. And I let it stay. And then I fell in step behind husband and told myself I wasn't going to think about every breathe I took. I listened to the song and before I knew it we'd run half a mile. When we got to our 'track'—a huge field with a swath of grass cut out around the edge—I told myself to just keep watching his feet. If I could keep up with those feet then I could do this.

As I'm running, watching his feet move up and down, I had this montage of memories flood me. The song I was listening to is sorta cheesy in the movie, but it was perfect for me at that moment.

Put your heart in it.
You can go the distance.
Me And You Against The World.
Sky is the limit.
Push to the finish.
Me And You Against The World.
We did it for love.
We tried and we won.
We'll never give up.
It's Me And You Against The World.

We fight together.
We're down forever.
Me And You Against The World.
We stick together and it gets better.
Me And You Against The World.


And I was thinking about all the times our stubborness pulled us through something really hard.

A miscarriage. Two healthy pregnancies and deliveries. Getting Husband a job as a firefighter. Him working full-time and going to school full-time. Another baby. Packing it up and leaving the farm so we could go to vet school. Vet school itself. Me lying on the bathroom floor hemorraging as he says, "Don't you dare pass out on me." Giving birth to our sixteen-week-old baby and hemorraging again at the hospital. Waking up from emergency surgery to see a hose of blood being pumped into my arm and then looking up to see him standing over me. He talked the nurses into sneaking him into the operating room so he could be there when I woke. Him digging the grave to bury the baby with tears streaming down his face. A year later Him standing by my bed as I suffered eleven hours of epidural free labor delivering a gorgeous baby girl. His graduation. Crying on the phone with me when I told him my dad has passed away. Him being a pall-bearer at the funeral. Packing our house in Christiansburg and unpacking in Buckingham. It was a day from Hell. No electricity in one hundred degree weather. And yesterday as he and I jammed to music while we painted his vet clinic.

The thing is, those two stubborn, headstrong kids that got married? They don't exist anymore. What's left in their place are two much more mellow, kind, easy going people. I like who we are now. No. I LOVE who we are now. 

Sometimes I go on farm calls with Husband just for fun. Or we take a walk or a four-wheeler ride. Or I get my pants beat in Ticket to Ride. I'm his secretary and I've resigned myself to that. And I'm actually finding joy in doing this job that will further his career. My heart is overflowing as I finally learn that serving the man who has never left my side, even when things were downright ugly, brings me the best kind of peace.

He doesn't give up on me, no matter what. And I can't give up on him either. God could see that in us even when I couldn't.

So Bry—as long as your feet move up and down, I'll be right there with you.






The Little Things

Oldest Daughter and I have sort of fallen in love with One Direction. Those boys are charming, and cute, and funny and most importantly they can sing. Boy can they sing.

They have this song called Little Things.

It starts like this:

Your hand fits in mine like it's made just for me 
But bear this mind it was meant to be 
And I'm joining up the dots with the freckles on your cheeks
And it all makes sense to me...

And then it goes on talking about how she doesn't like the crinkles around her eyes, or her stomach or her thighs... It's meant to be a love song, and I love that about it, but it makes me think about life too. All the little things that make life good.

Like catching Husband on a day when he's shaved, and he lets me rub my cheek against his.

Or when Oldest Son is describing something he's really into, and I can admire his handsome face without making him too uncomfortable.

Or When Oldest Daughter smiles at me with that dimple that I want to poke my finger in, or stares up at me with her vulnerable clear blue eyes.

Or when Youngest Son does his goofy dance where he shakes his rear and points up and then down over and over again.

Gordon B. Hinckley left behind one of my favorite quotes...


“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

Tonight I took Oldest Daughter and two of her friends to see Wreck It Ralph at the dollar theater. She and her friends sat in a three seat row, while Big Girl (4 years old) and I sat in front of them. OD and her friends were chatting and eating their popcorn while the previews rolled. And BG looked over at me with a huge smile and said, "Mommy, you're my best friend." And then she laid her head on my shoulder. My heart was a puddle in my lap.

We have these huge, amazing moments like getting our first book published, or graduating with a graduate degree. We live, dream and work for those moments. But they're over so fast and then we're back to the grind. 

So in between we have to remember...it's all about the little things.


Handwritten

I ran across something yesterday that had my dad's name on it, written in his own handwriting. And it hit me right in my chest. One of my friends whose dad passed away a couple of years ago warned me that I would have these kinds of moments—where'd I see something in the most random place that reminded me of him and it would stop me in my tracks.

I think the strangest thing to grasp about death is how life goes on. Nothing really changes when someone you love dies. The house still gets dirty, the kids still have homework, dinner still needs to be made, and the dust has to be wiped up. It seems so wrong. Wrong that somebody who lived eighty-five years is now nothing more than a memory. He takes up no space anymore. He's just gone.

I think that's why his name, written in his own personal crooked cursive, made me pause. It was like he was waving his hand from the other side, saying, "Hey, remember me? Remember how important I was in your life?"

Handwriting is one of those things that is personal and no else has the same style as anyone else. I kind of love that now that my dad is gone. It reminds me that he was unique, special, hard-headed, soft-hearted, worry-warted. He really lived and loved us. And his name is left behind so we'll never forget.

He was.

He is Carl Mitchell Henshaw.

The movies I've watched in the last week.


I promised myself that my kids and I were going to watch tons of movie this break and we have.

Here's a lump-list review of everything I've seen in the last week:

HERE COMES THE BOOM: I typically hate stupid/funny movies, but I wouldn't mind owning this one. It was the perfect amount of funny, and had a pretty dang good plot (as far as comedies go), plus my kids loved it and we couldn't stop laughing. The acting was good and the script too. We were quoting lines and giggling on the way out of the theater. Definitely two thumbs up.

SWAN PRINCESS CHRISTMAS: No, no and no. And no some more. Even my daughter who loves the other Swan Princess movies hated this one. She said it was boring, plotless and they changed the appearances of the characters and not for the better. Pass.

TINKERBELL: SECRET OF THE WINGS:  I'm not even a fan of these movies but I really thought this was cute. Good plot. And I'm always a sucker for a sibling relationship movie, even if it is fairies. Definitely worth watching with your daughter. My girls LOVE this movie.

RED TAILS: I was so disappointed with this. I've been wanting to see it for a looonnnnggggggg time and had even heard good things about it. Granted, I heard good things about it from my teenage nephew, but still. The acting was bad, the lines were cheesy and did I mention the acting was bad? Oh, and way too much unnecessary swearing. It just felt thrown together, which is sad. It had so much potential.

SISTER ACT 2: BACK IN THE HABIT: So this is a really old movie. Like I think it was made the same year I graduated from high school. So, yeah, really old. I have loved this movie since the first time I saw it, back in college. And all these years I've been waiting to find it for cheap. It happened to be in Walmart right before Christmas for five bucks. Score! Finally. I was worried that now that I owned it, it wouldn't be as awesome. But it totally is. Awesome soundtrack, Whoopi Goldberg is hilarious, and it has an underdog defeats all plot, which I always love. So glad I finally have a copy for keeps. I'm going to wear it out!

And last but not least: LES MISERABLES: Do I really need to review this? I'm pretty sure every person in America saw this before me. Anyhow...I liked it. I won't buy it, and I wouldn't say it's one of my favorites, but I'm a sucker for the music and I thought all the actors/actresses did a fabulous job. Seriously, I'll be shocked if it doesn't win some Academy Awards. Also, up until last night I held no love in my heart for Hugh Jackman. I think it's probably because I've never liked any of the characters he's portrayed. And opposite of every other woman I know, I do not find him attractive. But I thought he was AMAZING in this movie. Seriously. Perfectly cast. Which is very shocking to me. I also thought Russell Crowe was impressive, as was Anne Hathaway (but I've known that for a while.) I have to say, though I like Amanda Seyfried a lot, her voice was kind of shrill.  Like Snow White in the Disney cartoon that my sister-in-law pawned off on me because it grated on her nerves shrill. And I hate to say that because I thought she was adorable as Cosette. And I really like her as an actress and even enjoyed her singing in Dear John. A lot. I'm just not sure she's a soprano. Anyway, Husband hated this movie. I tried to tell him to let me go with the girls but he would not relent. As we were walking out, he was like, "What was the point of that?" And I was like, "The main character changed. He took a journey and came out better than he started." And Husband was all, "I could have told you that story in fifteen minutes. Plus everybody died. Depressing."

And I shrugged and said, "That's Les Miserables." I mean, the title tells you everything you need to know.

What movies have you seen this lately?

The Parable of the Hussy

And it came to pass that a bony, ugly yet innocent hunting dog showed up at the farm. All the children  jumped up and down joyfully, begging to keep the dog. But the mean, hideous parents tried to talk them out of it.  The male chocolate lab agreed wholeheartedly that the girl should stay. So much so that he and his new love took off for a midnight rendevous and weren't back when the sun came up.

And there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of the teeth by the children on the farm. For they loved Max the chocolate lab. His floppy ears, big goofy feet and stick fetching abilities. All day they prayed. Through Math, Language Arts and Social Studies they prayed. Through lunch and recess too. And when they got home there he was! Their hearts were full and they rejoiced exceedingly. For God had heard their prayers and answered their pleas.

But then the evil harlot Lucy returned, looking as innocent and sweet as ever. And the naive children again fell for her charms, begging the beastly parents if she could stay. Again she led Max, the Lab away, to be gone for hours, his family never knowing if he would return. Participating in unthinkable behavior.

And the beastly mother had had enough. She called the Beast of all Beasts: The Animal Control guy. He carted off the innocent, yet evil Hussy to doggy jail. Good riddance, Hussy we yelled as she rode off whining through the bars! (There were a few tears from the children and great sadness in Max's eyes). The evil temptress was gone and life could get back to normal.

Only, it didn't. Because Max was not repentant in his heart and wandered over the county whenever he got the urge. What was he looking for, you ask? Possibly a new Hussy, or a better bowl of food. Having no care for the heart palpitations he was causing his owners, or the worried brows of the children on the farm. Yet their Heavenly Father never let them down, for one owner found the wandering Max just this morning tied up in someone's yard on Route 60.

Oh will the teenage boy dog never learn?
Will the evil influence of the Hussy ever fade into the past?
Will the children ever realize the Hussy is to blame?
Will the owners ever get off their butts and get dog tags?

That is for you to interpret.

And for me to get off here before I get struck down.


What and why I write

September 6, 2012


What I write: Young adult, coming of age, bittersweet romances that will make you laugh, cry, swoon and fall in love with fictional people.


Why I write: Because I have to. I love it too much not to. And honestly, because I never knew how happy I could be until I found writing.