Don't Thank Me

Since January 1st, we’ve been having daily, family scripture discussions. With three teenagers, they get pretty interesting. (Ahem…what is circumcision, Mom?) Last night, we philosophised about how one personal choice can ripple down and affect generations. It’s a pretty scary thought. No pressure or anything, but which kindergarten teacher your child gets could alter their entire life.

This brings me to my point.

My husband is the veterinarian in our small town. Before he came, there hadn’t been a vet here in a couple of years. Everyone had to drive to the next county over…and they didn’t like that. When we arrived and ever since, I have heard hundreds of people say, “I’m so glad y’all moved back here. I just love Dr. Auten.” Or some form of that.

Here’s the thing though: Neither he nor I deserve the credit.

After we moved away for vet school, we weren’t planning on coming back. It was nice to be off on our own and we loved living up by Virginia Tech. LOVED. I cannot stress this enough. The rolling green hills, the elementary school, our church, Target, Chick-Fil-A, Barnes and Noble, the recreational activities available, my brother’s awesomely fun family fifteen minutes away…

It was pretty much perfect.

But there was a hitch in our plan.

A tiny little blonde, dimpled hitch.


She didn’t want to stay. Everyone else was perfectly happy. And even she was happy. She loved living by her cousins. But not a day went by when she wouldn’t remind me of the 300 acres we’d left behind and how much she loved running through the fields, swimming in Grandma’s pool, eating Grandpa’s ice cream. Not a day. She prayed for and she lived for us to return.

At one point, I realistically told her, “You can stop praying to move back. We’re never going back.”

I mean, we visited all the time but moving back? No thanks. We liked our new adventure. Our new town.

Emma still would not relent. She gently persisted, reminding me daily that we may all be happy there but she would settle for nothing less than the farm. I felt bad for her. She was dreaming for something that wasn’t to be.

And then my dad died…

After his funeral, humbled and heartbroken, I knew in my soul that we were supposed to come home to the farm and start a practice. Nothing had felt that right in a very long time. I’d been kidding myself; we belonged on the farm.

Dang it if a little girl hadn’t known better than me.

When we told the kids they were so excited. Emma smiled victoriously.

And didn’t I feel like a fool?

It had never occurred to me that maybe she knew deep in her soul. Looking back, I know she did.

Here’s the scary thought? What would’ve happened if we hadn’t made the choice to come home?

I’ll tell you what. We would’ve missed out on a thousand wonderful things—helping my mom, opening a practice, our sweet church here, acres of room to run and never worry that my kids might get kidnapped, four wheelers, baby deer, four dogs, a cat,chickens and a rooster, a dream home, Addy’s amazing school, all the friends my kids have made, and getting to know all the people that I’d lived near and never even met. I know people now and it’s wonderful.

Yeah, some crappy stuff has happened too..but life happens no matter where you are.

I can’t imagine the other choice. The one where we’d stayed. It probably would’ve been good. But I don’t think it would’ve been as good.

All I’m saying is, make your choices wisely. Follow your heart, go after your dream—but keep an open mind. And when your six-year-old tells you that you need to move, maybe don’t shut her down.

Maybe she knows better than you.

Historical fiction short story--Like Rachel

Reposting a short story I wrote that won a contest about a decade ago.


Like Rachel

Jerusalem-600 B.C.

My sister, Miriam, linked her arm in the crook of mine and sighed. Nephi was running through the market, headed in our direction.

“Speak of the devil and he shall appear.” I giggled. She elbowed me in the ribs and whispered, “Do not embarrass me, Abigail.”

Nephi halted in front of us, his face red and his breath shallow. “Your father said you must come quickly! The baby is almost here.”

“Oh, thank you, Nephi,” I said. 

“Yes, thank you,” Miri replied, her voice shaky.

“You are most welcome.” He grinned at her. As we stepped past him to start home, he reached out and gave both our braids a nice tug.

“Ouch!” Miri and I yelped.

Nephi chuckled as he ran the other direction.

“See, I told you he liked you,” I said to my sister as we hurried through the crowded street.

“Why? Because he pulled my braid?” She scowled.

I nodded, smirking.

“How does that mean that he likes me?” Her eyes had turned hopeful.

“Thirteen year old boys are thick.” I tapped my forehead. “Believe me, in a few years he’ll be dropping flowers at your feet. He doesn’t know how to handle those feelings yet and he’s probably as mortified of you knowing how he feels as you are. So he pulls your braid.” I shrugged.

Her forehead furrowed. “But he pulled your braid, too.” Her eyes went wide. “Maybe he likes you.”

I laughed and shook my head. “No, he pulls my braid because he does not want to single you out. If he only pulled your braid when I was standing next to you that would be almost like admitting his feelings for you.”

“Oh.” She sighed again and lost herself in thought for a moment.

"Which boy do you wish would pull your braid?” she asked, studying my face.

"No one,” I said a little too fast. “I’m too old for that.”

“You’re only thirteen, like Nephi. Only a year older than me."

My face turned red, but I said nothing.

“I see you looking at Sam. I know how you feel."

“Sam who?” I laughed, my voice shaking.

She threw a hand to her forehead and swooned. “Oh, Sam, will you please tug my braid."

Now I elbowed her in the ribs. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

We were finally home and not a moment too soon. A baby’s cry rang through the air. Miri and I ran through the door to see Father pacing, with our little sister, Isabel, urging him to sit down. Two of our older sisters, Leah and Rachel—named after Jacob’s wives—were helping mother in the birthing room. Hannah was working on the evening meal.

“The baby is here, Father. Everything is fine. Sit down,” I coaxed. He looked into my eyes, his face softening and nodded. He sat down on the chair. He leaned his head into his hands and began muttering.

The bedroom door burst open and Leah rushed out. “It’s a girl!” 

I glanced at Father, waiting. He threw his head back, thrust his arms toward the ceiling. “Why do you keep sending me daughters? No more daughters!” He leapt to his feet and ran to the bedchamber.

Miri looked dejected. I giggled. Her eyes shot to mine. “What are you laughing about?” she hissed. “He doesn’t want us.”

I laughed harder. “Of course he wants us. He does not love us more or less than our brothers. Didn’t you see? He ran in there to meet his new daughter. It only took him a moment to gather his wits.”

“Why does God keep sending girls to this family?” Miri asked.

“Yes, why? Girls are not important,” Isabel, my seven year old sister asked.

I sat down beside her and put my arm around her. “Why ever would you think such a thing?”

“Because the scriptures only talk of men,” she said.

I threw my head back and laughed. “That’s because men wrote the scriptures. If females had written them, they would have been so much more interesting.”

Miri’s face turned ashen. “You blaspheme, Abigail!”

I rolled my eyes. “Have a little fun with me. How would the scriptures be different if women had the choice of what to include?”

Isa bounced on her knees.  “Less war and more romance.”

I clapped. “Yes, it would be every girl’s favorite book. Instead, the only romance we get is poor Jacob who had to work seven years and then is tricked into marrying Leah. Then he has to work seven more years for Rachel’s hand.”

“Don’t forget Queen Esther,” Isa said.

“True, Isa. And you see, those are our favorite stories,” I said smugly.

“But God told the prophets to include what He thought was important,” Miri added, probably trying to protect us from being struck down.

“I agree, Miriam.” I smiled. “But I think we girls sometimes feel like God doesn’t love us as much and I can’t believe that’s true.”

Isabel looked at me with her trusting eyes, waiting for more.

I crouched in front of her and said, as if I was telling a great secret, “I think girls have miracles every day, they just aren’t written in the scriptures.”

“Really?” Isa replied.

I nodded.

“Have you had any miracles?” she asked.

“No, but I will.”

I had to. I just had to.

* * * * *

“What are we naming her?” I asked, as I stared into my new sister’s sleeping face. I nudged her soft cheek with my nose and inhaled.

“Sarah,” Mother replied from the bed.

“We are running out of girl names,” Father said.

“No, we’re not, Ishmael. It is fine.” 

Sarah stretched in my arms and let out an ear-piercing cry.

“Bring her to me,” Father urged. I placed the baby in his arms. He leaned down and pressed his lips to her cheek. I could imagine how it must feel—his beard brushing up against her skin. She calmed instantly.

“Abigail, I want you to walk out to Lehi’s house and let Sariah know that the baby is
here,” Mother said.

“Can’t Miriam do it?” I asked. She would enjoy the task so much more than I would.

“No, Miri is helping Hannah prepare the evening meal. I want you to go now, please.”

“Yes, Mother.” I leaned down and kissed her forehead, sending a silent prayer
to God for preserving her through one more childbirth.

As I walked toward Lehi’s house, my stomach tensed and my heart thudded against my ribs. It was this way every time I knew I was going to see Sam. I always wondered—Will today be the day? Has my time come? Will he finally notice me?

By the time I reached their vineyard my hands had turned clammy. My calves burned as I climbed the hill toward their house.

I was at the last row of trees, almost to their yard when I heard a snarly voice.

“Well, if it isn’t Gabby, Abby!” Shana ben Levi said. I groaned inside.

Everyone knew Shana had eyes for Sam, and any girl who threatened that was destined to be humiliated.

I glanced over to see her and Sam standing next to a tree. I must have interrupted their time together. I felt the dread rise in my throat.

Sam leaned away from her, embarrassed at her words. “Shalom, Abigail.” I hated the way he was always so formal with me. I glanced into his dark brown eyes, looking for something. But there was nothing.

“Shalom, Sam.” 

“What brings you all the way out here?” Shana asked, eyeing me up and down like she wanted to devour me for dinner.

“I…I’m…” I couldn’t remember why I’d come. I could feel my face flushing.

“Did your mother have the baby?” Sam prodded.

“Yes, could you please tell your parents?” 

“Of course,” he said with a smile. A tiny dimple appeared beside his mouth and my heart jumped. I felt my face turning even redder. Shana was smirking now, a knowing look in her eyes. I needed to get out of there before the dog attacked.

“I have to go,” I said to them. I turned and started down the road, trying to escape Shana’s steely glare.

“Isn’t that cute? She’s got a crush on you, Sam!” she said when I was still well within hearing range.

“Leave her alone!” he hissed. "She's just a little girl."

I sped up, the tears burning at the back of my eyelids. A little girl? I was only two years younger than him.

Shana again. “She could hardly look at you. Did you see the color of her face?” I could barely hear her now. “It was the color of a beet!” she laughed. 

I broke into a run. I flew down the road, lifting my robe so I wouldn’t trip over the hem. Mother would be horrified if she saw how much leg I was showing, but I didn’t care. I ran harder than I ever had in my life. When I got to the road that would take me back home I didn’t turn. Instead, I kept running straight, out of town.

Once I reached old Aharona’s olive grove on the fringes of the countryside, I turned, losing myself between the branches of the trees. My legs flew, brushing over and over against the cloth I was wearing. I was almost there. Finally, I found the tree I was looking for. It had a twist in it, perfect for me to sit and get lost from the view of any passersby. I crawled up the trunk until I was tucked into the crook of the branch. I tucked my knees up against my chest and began to cry as the breeze swirled my dark hair around my face. I sat that way until long after the dinner hour. Then I began to talk to myself.

“Why do I feel this way inside?” I whispered. “I hate that I’ve always cared for Sam. He only hurts me.” I sobbed. Sam ben Lehi was not the type of boy who would hurt any one knowingly, yet my heart broke every time I saw him because he did not see me the way I saw him. I’d tried everything to get rid of these feelings, feelings I’d had for as long as I could remember, but they seemed to be stuck.

“Dear Heavenly Father, the God of all Miracles, please help me. Please free me from these feelings,” I cried, tears now dripping off my chin. “I want it to stop!”

The breeze died suddenly.

“Be still,” I heard a voice whisper. 

My head jerked up and I looked around to see who’d said it. But there was no one in the grove. I leaned my head back against the rough bark and closed my eyes. It came again.

“Be still, Abigail. These feelings are for a wise purpose.” I squeezed my eyes tighter, disbelieving this was happening to me. “One day Sam will love you and you will be his wife.”

My eyes flew open; searching one more time to be sure this voice wasn’t being spoken by someone playing a cruel trick on me. But I already knew from where the voice had come, because no mere human could place in my chest the peace that was now burning inside of me.

I sat in the tree for a while longer, my tears now drying up; my sorrow turned to happiness, waiting to be sure the miracle was over. When I was sure, I jumped down out of the tree and took off running for home.

God spoke to me!

* * * * *

When I neared my home, I heard my mother’s voice break out into a wail through the open window. My stomach tensed. Something was wrong!

I rounded the corner of the house and almost ran into Sam, sitting on the doorstep, blocking my path. He jumped up.

“Oh, sorry! Abigail, I…” he started. When he looked into my face—I’m sure still red from my crying—his expression turned ashamed.

“Not now, Sam.” I had to get to my mother. I brushed past him.

He followed me through the door, my heart racing from the fact that he was actually trying to talk me and from the fact that something inside wasn’t right.

“Abby! Where have you been?” Miri cried. Her expression was panicked.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She grabbed my hand and led me to the room where we greeted guests. Sam was right behind me.

“This is foolishness!” my father bellowed to Lehi.

“No, it is not,” Lehi said. “For many years I have felt that Jerusalem will be destroyed. The Lord has told me that my family must leave or we will be killed.”

“They are leaving?” I whispered to Miri. She nodded as she wiped her cheeks with her sleeve.

“For good. They are never to return,” she whispered.

“Where are they going?” I asked.

She shrugged. “To some promised land that God has saved for them. It means that we will never see them again!”

I slid my arm around her waist. She leaned her head on my shoulder. I glanced over at Nephi, who was watching her. He glanced away. He did not look happy, but he did look resolved.

What did this mean? How could I marry Sam when he was leaving, never to return? Had the feeling I just had really been from God?

For over an hour, Lehi tried to persuade my Father to go with them. But Father would not agree. “My wife just had a baby." ”We have no provisions! We can’t leave all of our possessions!” On and on it went.

“Then it is time for goodbyes,” Lehi said, defeated.

Mother stood first, pulling Sariah against her. They began to sob. I felt a tear slide out of the corner of my lid. I brushed it away.

Nephi stepped in front of Miri and I. “Goodbye,” was all he said. His forehead was creased, and I could tell he was holding back the tears.

Miri grabbed him and pulled him into a fierce hug. His eyes flew open but his arms slid around her. He hugged her tightly for just a second. Then he stepped back.

I hugged him, too. Nephi had always been one of my favorite people, and I would never see him again. Another tear trickled down my cheek.

We hugged them all, one by one.

Finally, Sam stood in front of me. He grabbed me by the elbow and led me to a corner of the room.

“Abigail, I wanted to apologize for earlier, for what Shana said,” he whispered.

I held my hand up to stop him. “It’s fine. Really, I’m alright. You shouldn’t waste your time worrying about me,” I nodded.

He searched my eyes for a second, and I knew what he was doing. He was trying to figure out if Shana knew what she was talking about, to find out if I did have a crush on him. I kept my expression as neutral as possible. Finally, he nodded too.

I held out my hand. He grabbed it tightly and we shook.

“Good luck…with everything,” I said, fighting the tears that were determined to fall.

“You too." Then he turned and walked out the door.

So much for miracles.

* * * * *

One Year, One Month and 6 days later

“Can you girls hear me?” I heard a soft, deep voice calling from the edge of my dreams.

I sat up in my bed with a jolt and leaned my head toward the window.

“Girls, are you up there?” it called again.

It sounded oddly familiar, but I couldn’t place the voice.

I heard the person mutter to someone else. “I’ll try one more time.” It sounded too normal to belong to someone menacing.

“Miriam! Abigail!”

My curiosity got the best of me. I ran to the window and stuck my head out. My hair cascaded down to my waist. I looked down, thankful that it was a full moon, so I could see.

Two figures stood below me. My eyes narrowed, trying to focus.

“Nephi? Is that you?’ I whispered.

He nodded, craning his neck to look at me. He was grinning wide. My eyes darted to his left.

“Sam?” I cried too loud. They chuckled.

“Hello,” he said. He was staring at me with this odd look on his face, like I was someone he’d never met.

“Are you back for good?” I asked them.

Nephi shook his head. “No, we came to obtain the plates of brass from Laban. Father wants to have those records before we go any further in our journey. Sam and I only have a few moments before we have to go.” He smiled.

“Let me wake, Miriam. She will be so happy to see you."

A few moments later, I returned with a groggy Miri.

“Nephi?” she laughed softly.

“Hello.” His voice floated up.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” she laughed again.

“They’re not staying,” I whispered.

“Oh.” Her voice was disappointed and I knew that for one second, she had hoped.

“I brought you something, from the sea,” Nephi said. He reached out, showing us an object in his hand. He lobbed it toward us. Miri missed it, but I caught it.

I held out my hand and gave it to Miri. It was a starfish.

“Oh, it’s beautiful!” she said.

“You’re by the ocean?” I asked, looking at Sam. I figured I might as well take this opportunity lest I never get the chance again.

He nodded, still staring at me with that strange look on his face.

“Do you see many people there?” I asked, wondering if he was betrothed. 

“Sometimes, but usually it’s just us."

“You look different,” Miri said to Nephi. “Hairier.” She laughed. They both needed a haircut.

“So do you. You look…really good,” Nephi said, and even in the muted light I could see Miri’s cheeks flush.

“We better go,” Nephi said.

“Will you be back again?” Miri asked.

Nephi shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. Don’t forget me.”

“I could never forget you, Nephi,” Miri’s voice shook.

I glanced at Sam once more. “Go with God.”

“We will. Shalom, Abigail.”

Then they darted into the night. I could feel Miri sobbing silently next to me. I guided her back to her bed.

“He must think of you, often,” I tried to comfort her. “He brought you a starfish.”

“It was for both of us.” She sniffled.

“No, it was for you."

“Did you see the way Sam was looking at you? I think he fell in love on the spot.” She laughed through her tears.

But I didn’t laugh. “He’s delirious from the journey.”

She reached for me. I gripped her hand as she cried herself back to sleep.

Miri had only hoped for a short moment, but it took her months to shake the despair she felt from losing Nephi after she thought he might have returned. As for me, I was more confused than ever.

The next year was full of the same old things; baking, cleaning, prayers. Nothing was happening, and I was beginning to believe it had all been in my mind. I prayed everyday to understand God’s will, wishing to feel that same peace I’d felt so long ago. Then, when I’d almost given up hope, I came home from the market one day to find Sam standing in my house, along with Nephi, Laman, Lemuel and a man named Zoram.

“What can I say to convince you?” Lemuel pled with my father, eyeing Leah.

“Nothing! We are not coming!” my father bellowed.

“We must have wives.” Laman's voice was earnest. “And your family is full of daughters.”

“Then you will have to find some where you are going,” Father said.

“There are no women where we are going,” Zoram said.

“Why would God tell you to go somewhere where there are no people?” Father asked.

Lemuel’s face turned rigid, angry. Nephi held up a hand to stop him.

He spoke calmly, looking my father in the eye. “This is what God wants you to do, Ishmael. Can’t you feel that? He wants your family to come with us. To be a part of this new, promised land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey, saved for this purpose and you are supposed to be a part of it. Will you deny that peace that you are feeling right now?”

Father opened his mouth to respond but Mother cut him off. “I feel it, Ishmael. Nephi is right. We are supposed to do this,” she said.

“But you love Jerusalem!”

“And what good will that do me when it is destroyed? My family and my God are the most important things to me. Listen to your heart.”

Father stared at her for a moment before he stormed out of the room, muttering the whole way about how we had all lost our minds.

Miri looked exuberant, her eyes sparkling like all her dreams had come true. Nephi grabbed her by the hands, pulling her to the corner so they could talk.

Lemuel too began talking to Leah. They began breaking off in pairs, couples. The men had already worked this out in their minds—who they would end up with. Sam glanced at me nervously and took one step toward me, but I turned away. I ran to my room and shut the door. I lay back on my bed and stared at the ceiling.

I didn’t like this. Not one bit! Was this the only way God could assure me as Sam’s wife? It was like I was Sam’s…Leah. I wasn’t what he wanted, I was just what he was going to get because he had no other choice. Well, I wouldn’t do it! I would rather never marry at all.

A few minutes later Miri came and told me that Father had ‘come to his senses’ and we were leaving as soon as we gathered provisions. Zoram and the sons of Lehi stayed with us all day, helping us prepare. Every time Sam approached me, I turned away from him. That night we stood in the courtyard securing our pack animals.

“What will we do with Sarah?” Mother asked Father. Sarah was still too little to walk very fast, and Mother was again with child. Father was getting old, and I worried for his health.

“I will carry her,” I said.

“Are you sure? I can do it,” Sam said, watching me carefully.

“No, she’s my sister. I’ll do it."

Father hefted Sarah on my back. I turned to look at my home for the last time. I wiped my tears quickly and fell in step behind Miri.

Sam stayed by my side, glancing at me every few moments. A few times, he tried to talk to me, but I was short with him. I did not want his hand because he lacked someone better to marry.

“Why don’t you let me take Sarah for a while?” he asked at least four times the first night.

“No, I’m fine.” I said even though I was exhausted. By mid-day most of the other couples were holding hands. I’d even seen Nephi give Miri a kiss on the cheek. Of course she was beaming. I felt the jealousy rise up.

Each day it went this way; everyone getting closer as Sam and I stayed an arms length apart. Everyday Sarah rode on my back while I refused any help. And then there was the matter of an uprising against Nephi, where certain people who will remain nameless, decided to bind him only to be humbled when he broke the bands. But that’s a story some man will include in the record.

After weeks of walking, we reached their camp.

* * * * *

“I won’t do it and you can’t make me!” I said to my Father.

Sam looked like I’d slapped him.

“Why not?” my father said.

“Think of what this means for you, Abby,” Mother tried. “You will remain single your whole life. You will never have children. You don’t want that.”

“I have thought of that. I will be a wonderful Aunt.”

“What is wrong that you will not take Sam as your husband?” Lehi said, looking frustrated and confused. “He is the logical choice for you. He is a good man! Everyone else has already chosen. You are the only two left. He’s two years older than you. It’s perfect.” That was exactly my problem. None of those reasons were good enough.

“He can wait for Isabel to grow up,” I said. Sam’s faced turned white at this.

“I have made my choice, and I know the consequences.” Then I turned on my heel and walked out of the tent.

I dashed past Miriam and Nephi who had been standing outside, listening to the conversation.

“Abby! What is going on? I don’t understand!” Miri called after me. But I did not stop. I ran down to the shore and took a long walk, talking to God the whole way. I don’t want Sam unless he loves me, I told Him.

I knew my parents were embarrassed by my behavior. They found me foolish; wanting love when I’d been born into a society of arranged marriages. But I couldn’t bear the thought of a lifetime with Sam if he didn’t love me. To love him so dearly while he felt nothing in return…it was too much.

When the sun started to set, I turned back for camp.

I came up over a hill to see Sam standing there skipping stones into the water. I spun around to leave.

“Abigail, I’ve been looking for you. I want to talk to you.” He grabbed me by the hand. I yanked it away and glared at him. “Please? We’re old enough to talk this out. We don’t need our parents to figure it out for us.” His eyes were soft.

I walked to a rock only big enough for myself and sat.

He knelt down next to me, his eyes tortured and confused. “Am I so awful that you can not marry me?”

I looked away. “Sam, it’s not like that.”

He grabbed my chin and pulled it back so I had to look him in the eye. “Then tell me what it’s like, because I don’t want to marry Isabel. She’s cute, but she’s nine.” It softened my heart and I laughed. His eyes lit up and he smiled.

But it didn’t change things.

“I just…I don’t….I don’t want to be Leah,” I stuttered.

His forehead furrowed. “What’s wrong with your sister?”

I shook my head. “No, Leah from the Bible.”

He stared at me for a moment. His face lit up with understanding. “Ah, you want to be Rachel.”

My face flushed, and I nodded. I jerked my chin away and laid my forehead into the palm of my hand.

“You want a love story,” he whispered. I nodded again.

“You’re expecting a lot from a wilderness expedition where you’ve only got one man to choose from.” He chuckled.

I shot my eyes back to him. “I don’t care if I’m expecting a lot. That’s what I want and if I don’t get that, then I don’t want anything.”

I looked away again, my arms folded across my chest as I stared into the distance.

“What if I told you that I’ve thought about you every day since Nephi and I came to see you last year?”

My heart thudded crazily. I looked back at him. “It’s probably just because you haven’t been around a girl in so long."

He laughed for a second before he exhaled. “That might be true, I don’t know. But I don’t think so.” He reached out and ran his thumb across my cheek. “I think it’s because you’re so beautiful, in every way. I just never noticed it before that night.”

Now I could feel my blood pounding in the back of my neck. I looked into his eyes as he continued.

“And when we found out that we were coming back for your family, I chose you first before any of my brothers had a chance to. Laman was talking about you, and I put a stop to that,” he said, gazing into my eyes.

“You did?”

He nodded.

I stared at him for a long moment.

He cleared his throat. “Aren’t you going to say something back? Like how you’re madly in love with me?” His eyes were hopeful.

“I’m madly in love with you,” I whispered staring right into his eyes.

“I know, Miriam already told me."

I smacked him in the arm, and he laughed, his eyes twinkling.

Then his face turned serious. “I’ve been watching you these weeks, and I’m certain of one thing. I like you more than I’ve ever liked any other girl. A lot more. I don’t know exactly how Jacob felt about Rachel, but I’m sure it must have started something like this.”

I nodded. It was good enough for me.

He stood and offered me his hand. “Should we find out together?”

I took his hand in mine. And squeezed.

The End

Purple bras and whatnot

There are rare moments when I think, "Why the heck did I think I could raise four kids? This is such a disaster." But for the most part, I really enjoy being Mom. Especially--and yes, I know this makes me weird--to teenagers. They are a challenge like nothing I've ever faced, but man, when there's a pay-off it is so, so sweet. 

Take this week for instance. Will. He's doing so great down there in Mexico. Before he left, he was really struggling; sure that he wouldn't make any friends, that he'd be so homesick he'd end up coming home, and that he would never learn Spanish. But none of these things has happened. He loves what he's doing and the people he's with and the language is coming along nicely. I've never experienced satisfaction like sending my newly-minted high school graduate out into the world only to find out that he's kicking trash. I'm so proud my cheeks could burst.

Then there's Emma and Cole. Oh my word, these two. They decided they were going to run cross-country together, which is great. But Emma is not a runner. She hates running with all her heart. And yet she has shown up the past two days, red-faced and exhausted when she's through. And she plans to continue so that she and her brother can have this experience together. 

Before you think I'm bragging about my 'perfect' children, let me keep it real.  So, a few days ago we went back-to-school shopping. Addy, Cole and I ended up in Justice--the glitter and neon All THE TIME store--just because. Cole spotted the training bras and couldn't stop laughing at how many there were, how many colors and designs--one had mermaid fins!--and how tiny they were. He's been making jokes about these 'practice' bras ever since.

Well, I think running makes Emma extra-sassy because at dinner she was not having it. "Cole, girls don't wear pretty bras because they care what boys think." Her chin jutted up and her eyes were hard and cutting. "We wear them for ourselves!"

Cole not being able to comprehend a girls desire to feel pretty underneath her clothes said, "I mean, why would anyone want to wear a purple bra? What is the point of that?!"

Without a single pause, Emma jerks her shirt up and yells, "I'm wearing a purple bra!"

For a nanosecond, everything went stone cold quiet.

My teenage daughter had just flashed her brother.

I dared to look at her, shirt still above her shoulders.  

It was indeed purple.

It was also a very modest sports bra. 

I hadn't failed as a mother after all. A laugh bubbled out of my throat. And then another and another. Then we were all laughing. Because, EMMA?! 

Once we were done, the conversation shifted to who had a higher pain threshold. "You think you know pain? You don't know pain until you've had a period, bro."

All I've got to say to Emma is," You think you know pain? You don't know pain until you've birthed and raised four kids. That is some serious pain right there."

Oh, I can't forget about Addy. Sweet, sweet Adelaide. Her dream has always been to be a pastry chef. She loves cooking and has ever since she was big enough to snitch the cookie dough. This week she helped me make lasagna. "Cooking is so satisfying." Her dimple says it all. I'm so glad she already has something she loves so much. I also wish I felt that way about cooking.

When I was younger, I hoped my kids would be awesome as I wanted them to be. But now, I hope I can be as awesome as they are. Purple bras and all.





Are we there yet?

This morning, my nephew was antsy. His mom had promised him a new pocketknife from Walmart. As we took the curves and the hills to get there, he asked, "Is Walmart always this far away? I don't remember it taking so long." I explained that it only felt far because he was so excited to get his knife and it made the ride seem slower but in actuality Walmart was the same distance it had always been. 

I would say that instance was the precursor for writing this post but that's not true. It just happens to tie in with what I've been thinking so much about lately. Actually, something else was the cause of this particular post. My summer garden. But I digress. You don't even know what the topic is yet.

When I was younger, I was positive God had it out for me. I was too sassy, too fiesty, too whatever and He didn't like it. As punishment He didn't give me anything I wanted when I wanted it. I had to wait for everything. To buy that toy all the other girls had ("maybe next time"), to finish weeding the longest row of strawberries ever planted, for my friend to hurry home so we could play. Everything took for-e-ver.

When I became an adult, He still didn't get it. Just give me what I want, when I want it and we'll all be happy. Dang Him. Between you and me, I wanted to meet the man of my dreams and get married at the end of my first semester in college. Then I could drop out and have babies and my life would be complete. 

I did not--I repeat, not--meet that man the first semester of school. Not the first year, or the second or even the fourth.  

I was sure He either didn't care or He was trying to force patience on me. 

And then finally, at the ripe old age of twenty-three, I got married. I look back now and laugh. I was still a baby. Surely this was the end of the whole waiting thing, right? 

Not even close. There was still waiting after I was married. I got pregnant about a year in, with very little effort. Could this be it? Was I finally going to get what I wanted, when I wanted it?  

I still remember the day I had my first miscarriage. One minute I was a future mom and the next I was back to completely ordinary and unspecial. Instead of women congratulating me, I got pity looks and pep talks about how it was all going to be okay and eventually I would have a baby. I wanted to smack every one of them. I wanted to hold my baby on my due date. Was that really so much to ask? But this is not a post about pregnancy loss and there are so many women who have suffered more than me.  

Bottom line: I knew He was punishing me, teaching me patience until He had 'beaten' me into submission.  

Fast forward almost twenty years. The waiting hasn't stopped. I've had to wait for everything; for my husband to get hired as a professional firefighter, for him to get into vet school (he was waited listed for what felt like eternity but was actually two months.) Our house at vet school wasn't ready on time and we had to cram into a two bedroom extended stay. And much bigger, more personal things. I could go on and on. But the truth is, I measured everything in time. And it wasn't time on a clock; it was 'however long it's taken God to grant me this thing that I want/need.' Let me be clear: I wasn't asking for a Porsche, or a mansion, or a trip to Hawaii. I was asking for righteous things. Things that would further our future as a family. How dare He make me wait for all of them? 

I don't know where, and I don't know when, but at some point, I stopped paying so much attention to the waiting and decided to focus more on the living. Rather than worry that it took five and a half years to build our new house, I just went outside and jumped on the trampoline with my kids. We read books together and watched movies and played games and chased and ate and laughed and worked. And it was fun. It was hard too but it was okay. Because I was living life the way He'd always wanted me to.

I'd like to say I finally understand, but as soon as I do, He'll just teach me something else I didn't already understand. Because He's awesome like that. He wants me to be happy even in the middle of trials. And as I am patient and seek His help, He sends me tender mercies. 

This summer I've done something I've never done before. I don't know if I'm suddenly old for my age or if I really needed some healing time. I suspect after the last couple of years, it's some of both. I went to the FFA greenhouse and the local farm supply store and bought...plants. Big deal, right? I've had gardens before. Most country folk have. But I did something different this time. Rather than push the kids to come out and weed and plant and turn it into a chore that everyone dreads, I quietly planted the plants myself. And when it was time to work the garden, I did that too. I took my time and didn't stress about the remaining weeds when I was too tired to pull anymore. They'd still be there tomorrow. 

I've felt His hand in my garden. As I put love and effort and time into working it, I feel Him cheering me on.

The crazy thing is, I love weeding the most. The thing I hated most as a child, has now become something I love. Those plants with the horrible pokey spikes are my favorite, as long as I have my gloves on. Pulling one up, root and all, makes me feel like David when he took out Goliath. (Okay, not even close, but you get the picture.) Yesterday, when the rain came down, I couldn't make myself stop and by the time I was done with the very last weed, I was soaked. Ah, but it felt so good.

The thing I've finally learned is that there is always going to be waiting. There's no changing that. Heavenly Father can't give us everything we want right now. We wouldn't grow. And if you're not growing, you're waning. And waning is no bueno unless you're the moon. 

There's still plenty that I'm waiting on: to become a Food Network level chef, a bestselling author, a master gardener, a Joanna Gainesesque decorator, a Beethoven rivaling pianist (I'd be happy if I could play most of the hymns.) Some of these things are not going to happen. Actually most. (Though I'm not giving up on the author thing, ever. It feeds my soul.) And that's okay. Because it's the working and the striving and the praying and the caring that makes it all worth it. 

I'm not in a hurry. I'm going to end up where I end up whenever I get there. As long as I'm headed in the right direction, that's all that matters. 







It hit me around the time Will hit high school.

It was all flying by.

My life. Swoosh. Like a broken boomerang with no plans of coming back. It was time to be happy and enjoy my kids. Find joy in the journey. I made it a top priority and instead of stressing about whether their grades are good enough (they are!), I find myself laughing at the little things. Everyday, multiple times a day.

But I have a terrible memory and I honestly can't remember the funny stuff from last week. So today, I'm putting down a snapshot. One that I can go back to and read and reread. Today wasn't spectacular. Nothing big happened. It was pretty typical of my life. 

Here's what happened:

I'm not gonna lie. I am not the mother of the year. I'm average. I woke up at 4:15 am for no reason and had the noble thought of making a big breakfast for everyone. They'd love that. Coffee cake, sausage and the new egg recipe Neal taught me at Christmas. 

I fluffed my pillow and went back to sleep. 

When my alarm went off at 7 am it was eerily quiet in the house. Will and Emma were gone. Okay, that's not typical. Usually I'm shooing them out the door to get to their early-morning seminary class at the church. Today they rocked my world and disappeared on time. I had to wake up Cole and make sure he was legitimately awake. He walks and talks and even showers half asleep. (I can tell by his incoherent mumbling.) Then I went down to wake poor Addy who's still recovering from the flu. I mean, her fever is long gone, but she's still beat. We agreed through tears--hers, poor thing--that she should go to school today. She didn't want to get any further behind. 

Cole takes a twenty-minute shower, only exiting when Matt bangs on the door at my request. Cole comes down the stairs and makes the breakfast he deserves--two cinnamon swirl toasts drowning in butter and a huge bowl of Lucky Charms--even though it is time to leave. I patiently wait--I'm getting better with age. He is a growing boy smack dab in the middle of puberty. His Pedro-stash and gigantic feet remind me every minute. Then I wave him towards the bathroom where he takes a solid five, very, long minutes to brush his teeth, his Invisalign trays and the carrier. 

We fly up the driveway at border-collie speed. I know this because Dixie and Peanut Butter do not beat me to the mailbox. Suckas!

I tell Cole to jump out of my car when we're pulling up to his school. He takes thirty long seconds to get his backpack, extra-credit tissues and lunch situated and finally gets himself up on the sidewalk where the school is officially in charge of his safety. I fly through town and zip into the drop-off line at Addy's school. She unstraps before she should and makes me kiss both palms and her cheek and gives me a hug (I live for it). Then she walks into the school as fast as...a zombie. Poor thing.

I come home, everybody's gone. I do this and that. It's weirdly 70 degrees and feels like tornado weather in the middle of January. I finally go out and cut down the weed-bushes blocking Rolfe Eldridge's (Pocahontas's great, great, great... grandson's) gravestone. High-five, Rolfe.

Fast forward to when Emma and Matt get back from community college. Matt leaves to take his dad to a doctor's appointment. Such a good kid. Emma has already snuck up to the tv room, hoping I'll be too lazy to walk up the stairs. Nice try. We haggle it out. It's Friday after all, I really should ease up. Yeah. Like I said, nice try. She does her geometry and Driver's Ed swiftly, once she's been bribed with Chick-fil-a that will happen later.

I pick up Will and Cole from school and Will pressures me into not stopping so seven school buses can enter the traffic nightmare.

Okay, pause.

People in my town are so angelic that they do this thing where they stop dead in the middle of the road and wait while every bus in the school parking lot pulls out. Will calls it the train-bus. It's sweet. I'm glad they do it. But for a seventeen-year-old boy who just wants to get home, it's the highest level of torture.


Will says I should write a letter to the superintendent. People shouldn't stop in the road. They're not supposed to do that. People should just drive like they're supposed to! And if I'm not going to protest then he's going to do something! He will get in his truck next week right when all the schools let out and drive up and down the road purposely getting in the middle of the train-buses and chopping them up so they'll stop doing that crap. He will "waste his time so other people don't have to waste theirs." 

Cole is slumped down in the back seat shaking his head and begging Will to take him home before he does it, as if this is a real thing that's going to happen. 

I'm laughing so hard I have to force myself to stop and look both ways twice before I get on the four lane road. 

We grab Addy who looks just like she did this morning--pitiful. I'm so glad it's a three-day weekend. That girl needs it. We get home and I commence snuggling my baby. White wind noises on my phone and tracing her eyelids with my fingertips. She falls asleep just like her eyes said she would when she got in the car. 

Emma and I rush out because Chick-fil-A is calling and Dad is on his way home to take care of Addy. I wanted Emma to drive but it's stormy so she gets in the passenger's seat and gets set to DJ--the most important job in the car, according to her. She chooses Hamilton. The entire soundtrack. I'm game because I'm cool like that. Emma rap-sings every. single. word. (pausing for every swear word to pass) only stopping to fill me in on some random tidbit of history.

By the way, her favorite characters in order are: Angelica, George Washington, Eliza and Burr tie for third and then Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton doesn't even make the list. Once she even ventures into what she learned in her history class at college today. Apparently, Galileo should've read How To Win Friends and Influence People. I am blown away by how smart she is, I don't know why.

We swim through oceans to get to an away basketball game so she can support someone who deserves her support. We win. We get back in the car and repeat the entire Hamilton thing all the way back.

I arrive home to a sleeping Addy courtesy of Bryan. Thank you, Bryan. Matt who has just spent his evening taking the local missionaries to an appointment now wants to know if he can please, please go to a dance at SVU tomorrow night because...girls. 

Matt and girls?

I'll think about it. 

While I'm making a bedtime snack, Cole pretends to pour his ice cold glass of water on my head and I tell him he will die if he does it for real. He asks why, as if he doesn't know. Because I HATE TO BE COLD MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THIS WORLD. So then of course he has to break out into "Would you rather have the cold drink poured on you or my icy cold, severed feet touching you all over your legs?"

What the heck?

And I laugh again.

Oh my gosh. I love my life.



Make up the rest. A spiritual post.

I know it's not November anymore but today, I am grateful.

Pulling Emma out of traditional high school and trying to get her through a botched semester on a second-rate online program has tested our faith. I knew it was the right choice--the spirit whispered that to me over and over again--but Emma wasn't convinced. She doesn't realize how smart and capable she is and sometimes this shows in her grades. But I can't blame her. A lot of things haven't turned out the way she thought they would. Her confidence is iffy at best and she's at a point where she needs to see some of the fruits of her labor. 

Which brings me to today. 

Today was SOL day for all students enrolled in Biology. We were given a couple of weeks notice and one SOL prep worksheet and that's it. She studied the worksheet, watched episode after episode of Crash Course (Hank Green) and the Amoeba Sisters and any other helpful video she could find. And yet she still felt unprepared. Separately, we took it to the Lord. He had brought her to it. Would He bring her through it? 

As I knelt in my closet (war room) a feeling of peace came over me. But peace, I've learned, doesn't always equal success. I mean, I felt peace when my childhood family's beloved border collie, Dixie, disappeared for a few days. Turned out she had wandered off to die. Likewise, I felt peace when I almost bled to death--literally--and subsequently lost my baby boy at 16 weeks. So. Much. Peace. Same when my dad passed away. 

That's the wonderful thing about Heavenly Father; He let's you know He loves you even, and especially at your lowest times. Thank goodness for that. But you don't always know what those peaceful feelings mean.

So Emma headed into the high school this morning with a full brain and a hopeful heart. 

And then I got an email from the school saying that Emma had only completed half of her Biology class. We didn't realize it was broken in half. Why didn't someone say something before SOL day? But still I was hopeful. Until Emma got in the car.

"Mom, there was not a single thing on that test that I studied." Not one question on Mitosis. No cell theory or Evolution or photosynthesis. "It was all graphs."

I sent a panic-ridden email to the guidance counselor. Emma wasn't nearly as prepared as we'd thought she was. This was a disaster.

And then the beautiful, wonderful guidance counselor replied. Emma not only passed the test, she passed high. There was so much high-fiving and hugging. Okay, mostly, I tackled her in a hug, my cheeks bursting into a full smile, and kissed her all over her cheeks. Such a proud mama moment.

And that, friends, is how wonderful our Heavenly Father is. If you have faith and put in the work, He will make up the rest.

Now, off to get her moving on the rest of that biology class.



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.




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.


1 Comment

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.)

1 Comment


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.


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."




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.


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.




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 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.)


1 Comment

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.

1 Comment


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:


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.


1 Comment

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.


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.

1 Comment