Are you more like Marilla or Anne?

Colleen Dewhurst stars as Marilla Cuthbert in the 1985 movie version of Anne of Green Gables.

As I talked about in a previous post, I have been going through a bit of a midlife crisis the last six months. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

In October, I noticed that an entrepreneur, author, and counselor, Carol Tuttle made her program “Dressing Your Truth” free for everyone. The course is the idea that a person should dress according to their natural personality or “nature.”  It is very interesting. The program suggests clothing, hair, and accessories for Tuttle’s four personality “types.” They are Type 1-animated, upward, Type 2- soft and subtle, Type 3- edgy and driven, Type 4- bold and analytical. You can find the course here.

I took the course two years ago and decided I was a Type 3, very similar to Marilla Cuthbert’s personality in “Anne of Green Gables.” We are first introduced to Marilla from the point of view of Rachel Lynde. Rachel walks down the lone lane to Green Gables. It is hidden by many trees. Rachel says “living in a house away from the road was not living at all.” However, we see that Marilla likes her privacy.  Rachel notices how the lawn is clear of any debris and notes how Marilla spends hours raking the yard.

When Rachel meets Marilla. Montgomery describes her as “tall, and thin with  angles and not curves.  She wore her hair in a hard knot at the back of her head with two wire hairpins stuck aggressively through it.”

We know right away that Marilla neat, orderly, and likes to have control. As Marilla watch Rachel approach, she thinks “sunshine is too dancing and irresponsible a thing for a world which is meant to be taken seriously.”

Little does she know that in a few hours her brother will bring home a little redheaded full of sunshine and life.

anne arriving
Megan Follows as Anne of Green Gables in 1985 PBS movie.

We know Anne is vivacious and quirky from the moment she greets Matthew at the White Sands train station. She says, “I figured if you didn’t come for me tonight that I would crawl up and sleep in the cherry tree. It would be so romantic to sleep in a cherry tree all silvery in the moonlight, don’t you think?”  She talks the whole way to Green Gables and names common place things like an orchard “The White Way of Delight” and a pond “The Lake of Shining Waters.” We know by the time she gets to Green Gables that Matthew is completely won over and there is going to major conflict with Marilla.

I believe that I was more like “Anne” as a child. When I took the “Dressing Your Truth” course again in October, I decided I IMG_4727 was a “Type 1.” Animated and spunky,  constantly singing, pretending I was a heroine from my favorite story with my friends, or drawing pictures. I was happy “as a bird” my mother would say. In fact, she called me “Kare-Bear” because she thought I was sweet like the Care bears on television. (Wasn’t I a cute girl? I mean look at that yellow, fun, animated shirt!)

As I grew, I became more of a “Marilla.”  One night, I saw my mother crying in the kitchen. My brothers and I had scarfed down dinner then scattered, leaving her to clean up the mess. She begged me to stay with her and help dry the dishes. I didn’t want to at first, but I wanted her to be happy so I stayed. After that day, I never wanted to see my mother weeping again on account of me. However, I went above and beyond what was needed and forced myself to grow up too quickly.

I’ve never made it back to that “care free” person I was and I want to be. I tried to be the “perfect daughter” then I tried to be the “perfect student,” and eventually the “perfect wife and mother.”  Over time, I have shoved unrealistic expectations for myself like Marilla stuffed the long hairpins into her bun. It is time that I loosen my hair and find that animated, happy girl that I knows lives deep inside me.

I recently bought a songbook to a musical I love. I sat down at the piano and sang my heart out, not caring if I bothered anyone. I was singing for me. For that little girl who used to get up at the crack of dawn with a song in her heart and a bounce in her step. I am excited to explore my “Anne” side more. I know it will help me not only be happy in my daily life, but it will help me create better characters in my own books.

I wrote my first novel last year and the editor and beta readers said the story my characters were not developed well enough. I completely agree. I tried to make my characters too perfect. The reason “Anne of Green Gables” is timeless is because of the weaknesses the characters have. Anne loses her temper and has to apologize to Rachel Lynde, she breaks her slate over Gilbet Blythe’s head, she dyes her red hair because she wants it to be a “beautiful raven black” but it turns green instead.   Her troubles and wild ways annoy Marilla and yet she loves Anne all the more for them.

I was trying to make my characters without weaknesses because I thought that would turn readers off, when it is exactly just the opposite. As a reader, I like characters to have weaknesses. It is their weaknesses that make them come alive because everyone has weaknesses and strengths. How we deal with our weaknesses and the circumstances that are thrown at us, is what makes an amazing story.

In conclusion, I believe that I am a great combination of Anne and Marilla.


Anne says,

“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.” Anne of Green Gables, p. 161

I might be a lot of different Karens, but that is alright. If I was just one Karen, then life wouldn’t be very interesting. I am nurturing my “Anne” side now, but it is alright to be a Marilla too. What do you think? Which character are you more like?

Rejection Stinks but I’ve learned Character is Key

I recently sent my first manuscript ever to three different publishing houses. They each rejected the manuscript, but one was very helpful in their feedback. They said, “although your characters are based on real people, the characters are not as well as developed as they could be.”

I am so grateful for their feedback. My characters were not strong enough and this is where I need to improve on. I want my characters to seem as real as possible. Real means with weaknesses and strengths. As a perfectionist, I have a tendency to make my characters “too perfect.” But because they are “perfect” they are boring and not interesting.

I am so glad I have the opportunity now to go through a book I have already read again to help me understand where my characters fail.  It is called “Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint” by Nancy Kress. I am excited to learn where I went wrong and to make my characters stronger in the rejected manuscript and to create amazing characters on my current work in progress.

Kress says, “. . . without believable and interesting characters, you don’t really have fiction at all.  You may have names walking through a plot, but without the essential animation of the character, a historical novel becomes mostly a history text, a mystery becomes a police report, and science fiction becomes a speculative monograph. Character is key.”

I love those words: character is key. I realize that my characters are two dimensional. They are not Anne of Green Gables, Katniss Everdeen, Eowyn of the Riders of Rohan, or Elizabeth Bennett. It is hard to swallow after a year of work, but it also wonderful to know that I can improve my characters. When I make dynamic characters, then my next manuscript will be so much better.

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Despite my disappointment of publishers not accepting my manuscript, I am excited to learn how to create better characters and I can’t wait to get started.

Lawnmowers Declare War Against Karen

I love spring. The bright colors of the yellow daffodils, the red and purple of tulips, and the sweet blossoms on the tree bring joy to my soul. At first, I love the warmer, longer days and how the grass all around is turning lush and green, but then it grows. The grass reaches up toward the sun each blade stretching taller and taller until I am struck with horror that now I must mow it. (Cue horror music, dum, dum, dum).

Ever since we became homeowners, mowing the lawn has become my task as my husband is extremely allergic to cut grass. He tried to put on a gas mask and mow a few times, but it is embarrassing being the only alien yard worker on the block. I do not mind the task of mowing the grass, but I swear they met in a secret meeting to declare war on me even before the first time I mowed.

Our father-in-law gave us his old lawnmower when we moved in our first home as he now had a riding lawn mower. We were very grateful as it was a part of homeownership we had not considered until that point.  As we tried to prepare the new lawnmower to cut, we discovered it had a huge wasp nest in it. So we ended up borrowing our neighbor’s lawnmower for a few times until we could get it working.

Well, eventually my husband fixed the carburetor on the lawnmower and we were in business until I somehow broke the handle on the starter cord. We tied a wrench on the end of the cord and luckily there was a cease fire for a few years.

Eventually, the old tame lawnmower gave up the ghost and we got a young recruit from Saratoga Springs. We had moved over the winter and were excited to welcome him to our new home. He was fresh and young and worked hard. I was happy. I thought all my problems with lawnmowers was in the past until the day he fulfilled his secret suicide mission and ran into the railroad ties in our garden bending his sharp sword.

My husband purchased a shining new lawnmower. He was fancy and had an automatic start. I could not have been happier. He worked wonderfully until the day he needed new oil.  While I had never added oil, I figured I could do it and everything would be fi. Poor lawnmower! He was never the same after that. He smoked and puffed and refused to work again when I stopped to empty the cut grass from his stomach.  I found that if I bagged the grass while he was running that I could finish mowing the lawn, but he got back at me when he lunged at me with his blade.

Luckily, the lawnmower missed but the impact broke the bone in my middle finger. He laughed as I went around all summer giving people “the bird” as my finger was in a splint. I sighed with relief when the growing season ended.

Now here it is spring again, the birds are chirping and last week the dreaded day came when it was time to mow the long grass again. I filled the engine with gasoline and clicked the starter and the lawnmower burst into flames. The outside water had not been turned on yet and so I had to run into the house with a bucket and fill it will water. Then I ran back to the garage and put the fire out. I guess a bit of gasoline had leaked onto the top of the lawnmower and the spark made it start on fire.

I swear the lawnmowers have declared war and will continue until I no longer choose to mow the lawn. I have a teenage son who could mow, but now the blasted mower won’t work. I guess this is the year we hire a lawn mowing service.



Week Two: Writing Your Baby’s Story



Here are some questions to help you write about your baby’s birth and delivery.

  1. When was the baby born? Include the date and time of day.
  2. Where was the baby born?
  3. How far did the mother travel to get there? Who drove the mother there?
  4. How long was the labor?
  5. Once the mother arrived, how long until the baby was born?
  6. Who was the mother with during labor and delivery?
  7. Who were the doctor and nurses attending the labor and delivery? Share anything memorable about them.
  8. How did the mother ad father prepare for the baby’s delivery?
  9. What were some of the special circumstances surrounding the delivery?
  10. Who visited the baby at the hospital?
  11. How long did the mother and baby stay in the hospital?
  12. Who took them home?

As I wrote about having each of my three boys it was fun to remember the different circumstances around each of their births. Some of the highlights from my own writing.

We learned our children have large noggins. Bless their souls. They have such healthy large brains that they needed a big skull to put them in. My first son was two weeks late and ripped his way into this world and so with our second child, we asked our doctor if we could schedule me for an induction to deliver him early. It was a good thing because his head was a lot larger than our first baby’s head was. Finally, our third baby was born with a large noggin two, but the dear little guy’s bones fused in the back, so he had to have a special surgery at three months old. (I will talk about that later in another post.)

We wanted to name our first son Ethan but decided on Michael. I thought he would have several kids in his class with the same name but it suited him better. It was funny because later he had three kids with the name of Ethan in his class in third grade. So the common name was uncommon.

Our second son was born around Christmas. I remember feeling closer to what Mary would have felt like to hold the Christ child. He was and always will be my favorite Christmas present. I remember my oldest son’s Primary teacher asking him why Mary was so uncomfortable on the donkey and he said, “Because she was all full of Jesus.”:)

Our third son was born when our favorite NCAA basketball team was in the Sweet Sixteen after years of having bad luck at the “big dance.”  I remember watching the game when I was in labor and screaming more at the players then at my pain.  I also remember being surprised when some of the other parents in the hospital named their newborn babies after the star basketball player at the time, Jimmer Fredette. We teased my mother-in-law that our baby’s name was also Jimmer. She didn’t like that so much.




Week Three: Writing Your Personal History

The questions from week two took me a few weeks to complete. I had a fun remembering my early years. The highlight was remembering my two best friends. They were sisters, only eighteen months apart, and I was only six months behind the second one. We had a great time playing together (unless we were fighting.) 🙂

They had a large yard with a playhouse and a tire swing. They had trees to climb and a fun tree house. They had a large petroleum tank that we liked to climb on and pretend it was our “horse.” In the spring, we liked to pick the white and purple lilacs growing around their house and play “He loves me, he loves me not” and to play ‘wedding’ where we would sprinkle the blossoms all over the “bride’s” head.  We played with Barbies and other toys. We liked to play “skating waitresses” and we would use the shingles off their dad’s shed for “money.”

We liked to play “Red Light, Green Light” and “Mother, May I?” and “Swinging Statues.” We also liked to play games with the boys across the street and jump on their trampoline. They came to my house sometimes, but mostly we played at their house.

We liked to dress up and lip sync to The Bangles songs like “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like an Egyptian.” We also really liked to watch She-Ra, Duck Tales, Mary Poppins, and Jem and the Holograms. We loved the day we became ‘cousins’ because our grandparents married each other.


My third birthday. I am the one in blue with pigtails.

The questions for this week are:

  1. Tell about your early fears (of the dark, of animals, being alone, staying with babysitters, etc.)
  2. What were some of the funny things you said or did when you were little? What were some of the embarrassing things also?
  3. Can you remember your grandparents and visits with them? Did they take you with them sometimes? Also your aunts and uncles?
  4. What were your favorite pastimes, activities?
  5. What were some of your problems at this early age (0 to 5)? Have you been grateful for some of these things that you have been able to overcome? What could you tell your grandchildren to assist them with some of these same problems?


Writing Your Baby’s Story

I recently started writing about my own history and decided it would be fun to write a few blog posts about starting a history for your children. My “babies” are thirteen, ten, and six. I decided it was better late than never to write about their births, their first year, and their toddler years. I plan to share a few questions you could answer to start their story.

Here are the questions for this week:

  1. When did the couple find out about the pregnancy?
  2. What was the mother’s reaction to the pregnancy test? The father’s?
  3. To whom did the couple first tell the news?
  4. What were other’s reactions?
  5. How did the mother feel while she was pregnant?
  6. Did the mother have any weird cravings?
  7. What were some of the fears of the expectant parents?
  8. Were the parents given any advice?
  9. What was the family like before the baby was born?
  10. Where did the family live? What did the parents do for a living?

I recently started three documents and wrote the answers to these questions for each of my boys. It was fun to compare the answers even though they were the same questions, especially to number 2. When I found out I was expecting my first baby I was so excited, but I had also felt a bit of relief because we had been trying “for so long.” It was six months. I was 23 years old and thought that six months was SO long. It is funny to look back on it now.

When I found out I was expecting our third child, I was thirty-three and my reaction was very different. I was profoundly grateful. We had lost three babies after our second child over a period of four years and I wasn’t sure I could keep a baby to full term at this point. However, I found out when I was sixteen weeks pregnant and it was already passed the time that I had lost the other babies. It was truly a miracle. I was so happy to know that I would be blessed with one final little baby.



Geeking Out Over LOTR Mini Reunion

Spring Break 1992, I was thirteen years old. I remember “laying-out” to get a tan in my swimming suit in the backyard. However, upon closer examination of my reading material you would not find Seventeen or the latest Sweet Valley High books,  you would find J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” in my hand for ‘light’ reading.  I had devoured The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Series two times already that year so I needed something different.

I remember being so obsessed with The Lord of the Rings, I wrote my own mini spin-off about Legolas. In this novella, he fell in love with a mortal whose description was strangely similar to mine. My seventh grade English teacher wanted us to practice our penmanship so I had to purchase a new pack of lined paper just so I could turn my novella in, fifty pages and all. And what other thirteen year old girl spent her weekends and summers with her older brother and his friends playing MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing)? Only me, (but hey some of his friends were cute.)

Has it really been fifteen years since the first Lord of the Rings movie came out?  It seems like yesterday, my then new husband and I ran off the theaters after our college finals.

I love this photo Dominic Monaghan shared on Instagram yesterday, of course, I like the actors and think this is fun, but it has been more fun for me to the first time I became acquainted with the characters they played.

My favorite has always been Aragorn. He wandered Middle Earth for ages as Strider, dirty, and a bit angry and yet as each challenge comes in the book, he rises to the occasion, eventually fulfilling his mission as King of Gondor. His character sticks out to me because I just when I think I’ve got things figured out and then a challenge or a trial comes throws me off track, but I can’t let them stop me from becoming the best person I can be.

Yes, I am a Lord of the Rings Geek and I will always be.


Stranger Dialogue

Have you ever watched people conversing but could not hear what they were saying?

I think it is so much fun to make up dialogue for strangers as if they were characters in one of my books. It is a great way to spend time you have to waiting.

The other day I saw three teenage boys walking on the sidewalk. It had snowed the night before and it was very chilly even though it was mid-afternoon.  One of them stopped and showed the others something. I dreamed up him saying, “Hey look, snow!” As if they had not noticed until that moment.

There are also two teenagers at my son’s junior high who like to show the world they are in love every day after school. They smooch and lay on the grass with each other. When I picked up the kids in our carpool for Christmas Break, we watched them saying good-bye to each other for the two weeks.The kids helped me with dialogue.

“It will be alright,” he said rubbing her back. “I will tell Santa you have been good and he will bring you some cookies.”

“Oh, thank you, but I don’t like cookies,”she said and sniffed.

It is a very fun activity to do when you know the strangers can’t hear you, but probably even more fun if you are daring enough to do it when they can.

I love this clip from Gilmore Girls.

Trapper Keepers and American Girl Dolls

Back in the early nineties, my family moved from our log home to run a bed and breakfast across town.  I am the youngest of six children. I have an older sister, then four brothers. We moved while my third brother was on a two-year proselytizing mission for our church in Bolivia. The only two children left at home were myself and my brother who was two years older.

When we unpacked our belongings into our new rooms, my brother found a Beauty and the Beast Trapper Keeper in a box of his. It was not his and so he put it on my bed thinking it was mine. I saw it and knew it was not mine so I put it on his bed. This went on for days until finally I got upset and said,”Quick putting this thing in my room. It isn’t mine.”

“Well, it certainly isn’t mine!” he said.

We figured out it must have belonged to our brother who was on a mission. My brother put in a box in his closet and I thought it was the end of it until the next day when I got home from high school. My brother sat in the living room, not watching television, reading, or doing anything. He never just sat. I knew he was up to something. He nodded at me when I came in. Then he smiled. It was an eerie, mischievous sort of smile. “Aren’t you going to take your stuff up to your room?” he asked.

“No!” I yelled and ran to my room. “Where is it?” I searched my room for the offending Trapper Keeper. I looked in my pillowcases, in my dresser drawers, in my closet. He followed me and casually leaned against my door watching my erratic behavior. He had an amused look on his face.

“Where did you put it?” I asked ready to tear my hair out.

He laughed and looked at the ceiling.I looked and he had taped the Trapper Keeper to the ceiling above my bed.

“I wanted you to have a good dreams,” he said.

I immediately stood on my bed and tore the offending item from my ceiling.

The next day, I put it in the cupboard under his television where he kept his video games so his friends would see it as they got the games out.

The next day, he taped it to my shower.

The Trapper Keeper would never disappear. The game went on for the rest of the year until my brother graduated and moved away. I put in my closet and laughed when I saw it.

It felt weird to be the only kid at home with my parents that fall. When the spring came around my brother decided to go out and serve a mission for our church as well and was sent to England. The following Christmas, I got the Trapper Keeper out, wrote him a bunch of letters, filled it with candy and mailed it to him. It was the best!

Our family talked to him on Christmas and he had not received my package yet. Then a few weeks later, I got a letter saying he had received my package, but he wasn’t very happy about it. I believe he threw it away in a bin in Manchester, England. trapper-keeper

It is a funny thing to remember. Then similarly, a few years after my husband and I had our first son, we were expecting another baby and we bought some curtains from Pottery Barn Kids.  My husband got on a mailing list somehow and they sent him an American Girl doll catalog. We laughed about it and I would call him at work to tell him it had come in the mail so it would have something to look forward to when he returned home.

As our boys have grown, we still get the American Girl Catalog. My husband started putting it in our oldest’s sons room and then I would help him come up with a place to hide it in my husband’s things. Then our two younger boys have got involved and they hide in each other’s bedrooms. We moved three years ago and made sure that we changed our address so they would continue to come, however, we put the catalog in our oldest’s sons’ name.  We wanted him to feel special. With so much technology these days, who doesn’t like getting special items in the mail?

We continue to get them to this day and find funny places to hide them.  The best hiding spot was when I put it in a part of my son’s backpack he doesn’t use very often and he carried it back and forth to junior high for a week. Good times! It is the little, silly things we do that our kids remember. Just as I always think of my brother whe I see Beauty and the Beast, I know in the future, I will never see an American Girl catalog without thinking of the funny times we had with our boys when they were young.




Adventures with a Teenager

The other day, my thirteen year old son and I went around to a few local businesses. He is in a musical at his junior high in the spring and is required to help with fundraising. He had a letter from his teacher and had to talk to the managers of the businesses. He was nervous, but he did a good job. We went to a local grocery store and we asked to talk to the manager. While we were waiting for him, we entertained ourselves by looking in a bin of old DVDs.

We decided to play a game. We would pick up a DVD and then say a line from the movie. Well, the first one I picked up was called “Harry Brown” starring Michael Caine. It showed a photo of him on the front with a gun. I have never seen the movie and so I did my best Michael Caine accent (it more resembled Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins, but oh well) and made up a line. I said, “I will shoot you and you will die.”


Our game didn’t last long as the manager approached and we talked to him for a minute. He wasn’t able to help us out with the fundraising because it was not specific enough and so we left. I was proud of my son for thriving in an awkward situation and we laughed about the stupid line I made up on the way. Sometimes it is the silly little things that make your day. I was glad to bond with my teenager if only for a moment. I’ve got five years, (five years!) and he will graduate. I am determined to enjoy my time with him, even if it is for a few minutes at a grocery store.