Friday, May 22, 2009

Being an Author is SO cool!

I just had the most awesome day speaking at the Grantsville Jr High Author Day. Just thought I'd type a quick blog about it before my kids start really begging for dinner.

First off, I showed up and they had assigned each author a student guide for the day. I got Shelby who, aside from being totally adorable, also happens to be efficient, competent and fun to talk to. We all had lunch and then gathered in the lunch room for the main part before separating into our classes.

I kind of danced all over my topic, trying to stay on a time line but really jumping all over, but did manage to eek out at least 25 min of talking about myself and my writing during my two sessions. But I got to meet some great kids. Seeing as it's a Friday afternoon near the end of May at a Jr High, I kind of expected a group more ready for summer than sitting and listening to someone they'd never heard of.

But over all the kids were awesome. I got good feedback and a lot of them signed up for my newsletter so I can tell them when The Peasant Queen comes out. I'm really excited to share this with them because some of them said they'd like to be authors too.

I do regret not being able to talk more to one particular girl. She came up on my right side as we were doing signings and said she wanted to be an author too, but someone distracted me and she said that we could talk later and then disappeared before I could grab her. (If you're reading this, get on my website and email me please! I want to talk to you!)

Overall, these kids represented their school beautifully. Everyone was so gracious. This is an experience I'd definitely repeat!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Personal Accountability in a Blameless Society

I’m not sure how it happened, but over time the term “victim” has become some kind of badge of honor. “Victim” is not an empowering word. Think about it. Becoming the victim of something automatically makes me feel like I’ve taken a step down in life, like I’m somehow less now than before.
There are incidents in my past that I don’t often discuss. An extended member of a family I once babysat for grabbed and kissed me inappropriately. (To be clear, there is no appropriate way to grab and/or kiss the family babysitter) He never got near enough to touch me again, but I never told the family. I became convinced, due to things they said, that I would not be believed. As the only person who knew of the incident, I told myself I had to stay to protect the children. That wasn’t my job. I should have spoken up and let the chips fall where they may, not matter how embarrassed or ashamed I felt.
Thirteen years ago, while working at the movie theater near my home, I was robbed at gunpoint. Note that I don’t say I was the victim of a robbery. I truly hate that term. But as this person walked up to my window I had no idea the encounter would alter my life. When he pulled out the gun and the niceties ended, I switched into “automatic” mode. I somehow detached myself and simply did as he instructed. Only after it was all over did I allow myself to fall apart.
It’s amazing how, in a crisis, your mind seems able to scale Everest or go around the world. By this I mean that my brain leapt from one thought to another in the few seconds it took to register the gun. Newly married, I’d had some interesting symptoms that conflicted with the negative pregnancy tests and my first thought was what if I actually was pregnant? His gun pointed directly at my abdomen. What if I survived but my baby died? What if he shot me anyway? What would my husband do?
As it happened, I didn’t get pregnant until a couple months later and the man didn’t shoot me. But he did take something from me, personally—and I’m not talking about the corporately insured money out of the till. I registered the loss immediately; though identifying what I’d lost took a little more time. In that single act, a stranger took my sense of security. Suddenly nowhere was safe. And though I’ve worked through this for the most part, I still fall asleep every night going over exit strategies in my mind. Where are the kids in relation to me? What are the best escape routes in case of intruder or fire?
In all fairness, I had a pretty loose hold on my sense of security anyway. I grew up in a somewhat unstable environment. I knew what a person’s eyes looked like when they meant what they said, as the gunman’s did that day. And I knew that getting carried way with love for your family was no excuse for mauling the babysitter.
But here’s where society and I part ways. It has been pointed out to me that, given my background, no one would have thought it amiss if I’d taken the “victim” route and lived my life as though I had no responsibility for my actions because I’d been hurt growing up. People do this. Defense attorneys build cases with this concept—that somehow a person is not responsible for their actions because they had a rough life.
News flash: a person is not the sum of what happened to them, but instead a person is defined by how they reacted to what happened in their life. No one can always choose what happens to them, but everyone has the ability to determine how they will let it affect them. I don’t often talk about being robbed at gunpoint because, aside from it being difficult to work into a conversation, it feels ridiculous. It happened almost thirteen years ago—get over it already!
I’m not saying it’s easy. There’s a lot of work and pain that goes along with working through the tragedies that can happen in our lives. But this is how we grow. Picture a baby. A baby does not hang out on his back all his life. He has an inner drive to roll over, to kick, to wave his arms—to move. And once he masters rolling over, he scoots, then crawls, then pulls up to things and then walks. So I ask the world: Where is your drive to pull up? Where is your drive to walk?
There’s living, and there’s surviving. A person going through the motions every day, letting life bat them around—that’s a survivor. They’re barely getting by until they die. A person who takes the wheel, makes mistakes, changes course, moves forward—that person is living. Their life will be what they make of it.
Recently I submitted a book manuscript to a professional editor. One complaint she made that stuck in my mind was that my main character seemed passive; she just let things come to her or happen around or to her without making things happen. And I realized two things: one, that she was right. And two: that I’d written the character that way because I was living that way.
It’s easy to fall back into the survivor, or victim, mentalities. Life’s hard and sometimes you just want a break. The problem there is that if you aren’t moving forward you aren’t standing still either. You start to slide backward the second you stop taking those forward steps. We revert to what is familiar, comfortable, even if it’s wrong or bad for us.
So I stopped sliding. I rewrote my character and myself. Now my character takes action, and sometimes it gets her into even more trouble. I probably will too, but at least I’m doing something. Next week I’m going to New York and I’m going to own it. This is my time. I’m going to (figuratively) spray paint my name across Times Square and let everyone look at it. Honestly, I don’t know when the excitement to fear ratio shifted. I’m probably going to say or do something stupid, or foolish, but that’s not going to stop me. I know who I am: I am not the mere sum of my parts. I am who I have chosen to be.
So, who are you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dinner time

As a mother of 5 young children, I've pretty much heard every, and I mean EVERY excuse in the book when a child doesn't want to eat their dinner. Now I have another one to add to the list.

Rianne, who is 5, was the last one at the table and likely had about a dozen other things she figured she'd rather be doing. Children who never know the gnawing of true hunger develop a well founded belief that the food will always be there, so they aren't worried about walking away. I'm not finding fault in this; it's simply an observation.

At any rate, Rianne looks at me with her large, round gray eyes and says, "Mommy I'm full."

Because I'm not an idiot, I don't take that at face value. I look at her three or four bites and say, "You can finish that. It's not much."

She's at the arguing stage and says, "But, it will make my knee hurt if I eat it!"

Kudos to moms who can think on their feet. After a brief hesitation, I say, "It will, huh?" (real zinger, I know)

This goes on for a bit because I have not accepted the fact that logic and children simply don't mix. I'm stubborn that way. But eventually she eats those last few bites and goes on with life.

So I've got to know--What's the best excuse your child or children ever gave for not eating or finishing their food?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

If you ever...

If you ever get a chance to lay in the dark with your 5 yr old while she tells you a ghost story--seriously--DO IT!!

Last night, my girls and I had a slumber party while the male-folk (I hesitate to say menfolk since my sons are 11, 10 and 10) were on a father-son camp out. After pizza, popcorn, soda, chocolate and movies, we settled into our mattresses and turned out the lights. Kylie thought we should tell ghost stories. She started. The details fade but I can say she's imaginative. Then Rianne, newly minted 5 yr old Rianne, took her turn. Up to this point, she's been the one to have stories told to her, or she reads from a book. This is the first one to come from her imagination. (It's an intimidating, spacious place) She started out in this soft, spooky voice and told her story with a lot of "and then"'s and "and the scary part was..."

It took all I had not to laugh out loud. Talk about incredibly adorable and totally hilarious all at once. It was great. Then the girls wanted to hear a story from me. So I fed them this one:

Once upon a time there was a huge house at the end of a long, dark street. The house rose 3 stories in the air and blocked the sunlight from the houses around it. In this dark, spooky house "lived" a family of ghosts. One dark, stormy night the family of ghosts gathered around the dining room table to eat their dinner. And then, they went to bed WITHOUT DESSERT!!

I opted for silly, rather than scary. It's the mom in me. I could have scared their socks off, but then I'd be the one sleeping with all the lights on. No thank you!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

When I stop to think about it, I know some really incredible moms. I couldn't let the day go by without thanking them for their place in my life and also sharing my love for them.
First, of course, to my own mom. She managed to keep all five of us kids alive as a single mom and instill some values in our lives. Even my inactive brothers have a working moral compass.
To my "other mother," and by this one I mean the lady who looked at that gangly, lost-eyed four or five year old girl and opened her heart. Almost two full decades later, even though our families never connected through marriage, they're just as much a part of my life as I'm a part of theirs.
To my mom-in-law, who accepted me completely despite some rather shady family drama. I'll never forget meeting her for the first time as an adult while dating her son and the first thing she did was wrap her arms around me and give me a huge hug. I've never felt so completely accepted. No wonder I married into the family!
And to all the rest of you, who love your children and let it show in everything you do--whether you're an author, an educator, a businesswoman or whatever--I appreciate your example more than words can express. Thank you for being moms!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Moms, writing and working

There are only 24 hours in a day. God did it on purpose and no matter how hard we try we can't cram 26 hours of things to do in a 24 hr day. Come on, Moms, you all know you do that.

I know I do. There's so much to get to every day that somehow something gets left behind. Between family, work and writing I simply run out of day. I know I'm not perfect. My family doesn't always get the best of me, but I try and I think I'm improving. After all, that's what life is about. If you don't know where you need improvement you might be working on the wrong thing.

I love my day care kids. I have the day care so I can help support the family and still be here for my kids when they need me. But it's my job, not my career. Writing is my career.

For me, writing is breathing. I sometimes struggle to do both and yet I can't give up either. Breathing is a struggle because of my asthma and allergies and that fun stuff. Writing is a struggle because, mostly, I run out of time. Work has to happen--the money has to come in. The family doesn't let itself be ignored, which is good since it has to be a priority. And yet so much of who I am is wrapped up in the writing I don't have time to do.

I become an incredibly irritable and crabby person when I don't write regularly. The outlet is vital to my being an emotionally contributing member of this family. It should be prioritized. It's important. It's that one thing that fills the spaces in my heart not already taken up with the people I love.

This year I sewed my daughters' Easter dresses. I really have a problem with the available spring fashions in Utah. Nearly every dress sold for little girls is sleeveless or short sleeved and, HELLO!--it's sometimes 50 degrees on Easter around here! So you buy your little girl a beautiful dress and then have to cover it up with a sweater, jacket or coat. Forget it. My daughter wore Easter dresses with long sleeves.

The dresses turned out amazing. Better than I would have thought I could do. I approach sewing in much the same way I approach writing. I see it in my head first and then work to make it look like what I saw. This will include piecing together parts from different patterns to make what I want or making it up as I go. Both sewing and writing are formulaic. Certain things have to fit together in order for it to work. Unfortunately I can never repeat a sewing creation. But that's also true of my writing. Nothing is ever exactly the same.

The experience gave me the confidence to say I would make Kylie's baptism dress this year. We could even use my Temple wedding dress. It will be beautiful. Don't get me wrong. With $60 to spare I'd drive to Orem and buy her the one I've been eyeballing for months. But money's tight. These days, that's almost a universally accepted condition.

So much to do, so little time. What am I doing here?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Those darn fortune cookies are at it again!

My mom brought me Chinese food for lunch today. Nice mom, huh? At the end I opened my chosen fortune cookie. This is a thing I do whenever I have Chinese. I eat and then at the end pop open my cookie, read and munch. (authors, seriously, they'll read ANYTHING) What did I read, do you ask? And I quote, "Fame is in your future."

Big deal, you say. It's a cookie. It's not a message from the Almighty. You KNOW how to get those. Take a breath and get over yourself. Ok, ok. But this is not an isolated message.

In the last two and a half years, my fortune cookies have gotten eerily specific:

"Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you." "Good news from afar may bring you a welcome visitor" "Fame and Fortune lie ahead" "This is a prosperous time of life for you" "You will enjoy good health and financial independence" "Executive ability is in your makeup"

And now fame is apparently in my future. Silly cookies.

Mother's Day

I've got to get cards out today. :) The only ones I really worry about are my mom in law and sis in laws' cards. My mom lives next door. If I can't get her card and gift to her in time then I'm caught in some kind of time warp.

(Real quick, I sat down to do this post and my 5 yr old pulled two fingerprinting strips out of the ID card she got at preschool yesterday and proceeded to cover herself and the day care baby in ink. So I'm back now)

I love being a mom and I understand how important it is to get that recognition and appreciation from your family for all the things you do for them day to day. But, guys, I hate Mother's Day. I kinda feel the same way about it as I feel about Valentine's Day. It's like suddenly there's this expectation that, on this specific day, you're supposed to get gifts and adoration, etc. It feels forced and I don't like it. Although I love doing things and getting things for people I hate days that focus on me. Like my birthday. My husband asked me a few days ago what he'd get to do for me for Mother's Day and I'm like "Look, we just spent $900 on the NY trip for BEA at the end of May. Can we just call that my gift?" See? I'm really, really bad at this. The really scary things is I used to be worse.

This week I went to the store and got the things I wanted for my breakfast in bed Sunday. My kids love doing that for me and I can't take that away from them. That and it lessens the chance that I'll get something delightfully inedible for breakfast in bed. :)

I just thought of two more Mother's Day cards I need to get out. I have 2 nieces who are mommys for the first time and I want to help make that special for them.

I used to be bad about Father's Day too, but for a very different reason. My dad died when I was 7 so I tended to dwell a little on Father's Day. I've worked through that and now we have a really good time doing fun stuff for my husband and his dad on their day. But for a good 20 years I dreaded June like none other.

I know some moms who love Mother's Day and keep track of how many cards they get and from whom. I'm just not that way. It's one more thing I have to work through and someday I'll get there. I hope. But I do sincerely wish all moms out there a very Happy Mother's Day. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Writing the next great novel

Isn't that what we all dream to do? I mean, of course, us authors. But how do you do that when you can't even squeeze in time to write every day?

Ok, I've been in kind of a funk today. I was essentially fine during day care hours but when evening hit I kinda really, really wanted to be alone. Yeah, right. 5 kids and a husband all vying for my attention. Dinner. Laundry. Reading. Writing. And my mom came over. The minutes ticked by. Suddenly it's 9PM, I have to get up at 4AM to do it all over again and I find myself wondering where did the day go?

Maybe it was just that everyone seemed especially helpless today. You know how it goes. "Honey/Mommy/Hey you, where's the Ward list/paper towels/front door?" I've been working more this year on my writing than ever and sometimes it's just not in harmony with the household needs.

Right now I'd just like to shut everything down and go to bed. I tell myself I'll get up at 4 and have time to write and read in the peaceful morning. But you know what? I'll curl up on the couch with a warm blanket and sleep until my second alarm goes off and it's time to get the kids off to school. :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

If you're going to fall, fall UP

It's a good thing authors don't write with their feet. Although, on that note, I picked up some stationary recently that was made by the "Foot and Mouth Artists", those very talented individuals who have to create but don't have the use of their hands to do so. They draw and paint incredible pieces of art with their mouth or feet. I'm pretty sure, if I had to, I would find some way to type or write with my feet. But I digress.

I got to sleep in Sunday morning. It's probably the one benefit of having a 3PM-6PM church schedule. And I really mean the ONE benefit. Primary really has it bad. The kids under 5 want to nap and everyone is really hungry for dinner by the time church lets out. But I got to sleep in until ten. I get up early Mon-Fri and the last several Saturdays I've had something going on so Sunday is all I have.

When the whisper gets around my house that Mommy is awake five pairs of ears perk right up. I cuddled with three of my kids before even getting out of bed. The other two were doing dishes. But we had allergy medicine to distribute and daily vitamins so I got out of bed and prepared to go upstairs to take care of that.

I hate being tall. I know, everyone out there under 5'5" hates being short and they'd exchange tall for short any day. But really, sometimes being tall is a pain. Case in point: pajama pant legs hit my shins like long capris. (Capri pants look like knee shorts but we're talking about my pajamas at the moment) I lifted my left foot to place it on the first stair and it got caught in my right pant leg. My momentum was already propelling me forward only now I had no leg to land on. Images of bruised and battered knees flashed through my head as I struggled to get my foot out before I fell onto the stairs. And I did, with such force I ended up kicking the front of the second stair with my left toes. Hard.

My second toe, because of the angle, ended up taking the brunt of the impact rather than my big toe. I hobbled up the rest of the stairs with my oldest son asking if I was okay and of course me telling him I was. I took care of the meds and everything and got my breakfast and most of the pain faded but I started to notice when I walked the tip of the toe felt weird. It hurt a little to walk on, but if I kept my weight off the toes when I walked it was fine.

The day went on. I got ready for church, put on my nice, long black skirt and my high heels (smart, huh?) and we went to church. I noticed the more I walked the more my toe hurt, the stranger it felt. I figured I'd bruised it pretty good. When we got home I took a look at it. No obvious swelling but some slight discoloration. Bryan helped me tape the injured toe to the middle toe and we had dinner and went to bed.

At some point I woke in the night because my toe hurt like crazy. I ripped off the bandage and went back to sleep. This morning I re-taped the toe because it hurt more when I got up and also because the tip of it looks swollen and a little purple.

So, I either badly bruised my toe or I broke the bone in the tip of the toe. Either way nothing can be done for it except taping it to the other toe and hoping it will heal straight. I called the dr's office this morning to confirm that and basically we concluded that if it doesn't seem to get better in the next couple of weeks then I may have to go in and have him look at it. Right now it's an inconvenience--I keep having to remind myself to walk without limping and it's amazing how fast your brain forgets what "normal" walking feels like. Seriously, walking is something we do without thinking about it so when you think about it you almost can never do it the way you usually do. The human brain is a strange little thing.

Fortunately I just picked up a really cute pair of sandals on Friday (I really love shoes) and so I can bandage my toes without having to then shove them into a pair of shoes. I just hope it feels better before I go to New York at the end of the month. I do not want to have to take a cab from the hotel to the convention center just because my toe hurts too much to walk the relatively short distance.

But the experience on the stairs brought home a point for me that I hadn't really applied to myself. If you're going to fall, fall UP. If you're already on an upward path when you fall then you really don't fall as far. If you're body is already going down, say I had been on the top step when I got my foot caught in my pant leg, you're going to end up hurting more. It's kind of a life lesson--are you on an upward path in your life? Are you reaching for your goals and following the Spirit? Because on the staircase of life you are either moving up or down; there is no such thing as setting up camp on a single stair and hanging out there for a while.

Incidentally I've also learned to be more careful in my selection of pajama pants. :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Revelations

My Father in Heaven trusts me. I mean, really trusts me. And it's a little intimidating. I'm so glad I'm not out here doing this alone. It's also very humbling. I received a very meaningful and powerful blessing yesterday that has life altering ramifications. I'm so grateful He has been patient with me. More to come, I'm sure.
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