Creating a Positive Self Image

I recently decided to go back to counseling. It is hard to recognize that you need help processing and working through your own thoughts, but it is important. I am working on a few things that my counselor gave me. I am trying to practice self-compassion and to work on having  a postitive self image.

Self-compassion is a term created by Dr. Kristin Neff. She is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin. She has spent over ten years researching and writing about this concept. It means we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. I have been working through her online exercises and they have been very inspiring. If you are interested, you can find them here.

I also really enjoy listening to The Life Coach School podcast by Brooke Castillo. Her recent episode was about Self-Image. You can listen to it here. She defines self-image as the way you see yourself. It is how you interpret and think about yourself. It’s not the factual way you see yourself, but the opinion that you have of yourself.

We spend a lot of time trying to manage how other people see us. In fact, for most of us, this is a full-time job. Managing how other people see us. The way we dress, the way we drive our cars, the way we manage our households, the way we do anything can be really about other people without even realizing that that’s what we’re doing.- Brooke Castillo

I believe I have been doing this. I have been trying to control how other people see me and I’m tired of it. I can’t control what other people think of me, I can only control what I think of myself. I don’t like what I think of myself because it is so negative and I am trying to change it. I need a plan! Thank heavens Brooke suggests some ideas.

If you could dictate what everyone’s opinion of you would be, what would it be? What is the best-case scenario? What do you want them to think about you?

My first thought was surprisingly not about my physical appearance because I am so obsessed with telling myself how imperfect my body is. My first thought that I want people to notice or think about me is that I am kind, I am happy, and that they can find a friend in me. I want people to feel better after being around me. I want to lift people up and to be a positive light in a dark world. I want to allow myself to reach my fullest potential.

In sixth grade I was in the school musical. I was a background dancer with my friends. A high school senior came and taught us the choreography for the dance. I don’t remember the dance or even if I performed well, I only remember that I loved being in the musical because of her positive influence. She radiated joy wherever she went. If I could control what people think of me, then that would be what I would want them to see. I would want people to say, “I like being around Karen. She is fun and positive and I feel loved and accepted when I am with her.

Ask yourself what is the thing that you think you need to achieve to prove your worthiness? How would you think about yourself if you achieved it?

The two biggest things I want to accomplish in the next few years is to become healthier (physically and mentally) and to finish writing a novel.

I am tired of being overweight, but it is more than just a number on the scale. I am tired of my bad eating habits. I am tired of the way that I beat myself into making change. It never works! I need to be compassionate with myself as I change my bad habits that I have lead me down this unhealthy road. I need to be friend to myself first. I can’t be the kind of person I want to be when I am abusing myself.

I would love to finish a novel. I have four in transition but I haven’t finished them. I am very excited about the one I am working on now. It is the kind of book that I would like to read, about history, romance, and how the characters overcome their personal struggles to find themselves and to grow a beautiful, lasting relationshiop. I need to write it for myself, not for anyone else. I believe it will be a good book!

Now, once you do these two exercises, you’re going to have a long list of thoughts that you would love to think about yourself. It’s the ideal self image that you can have of you.

Brooke says the more I honor myself and take care of myself, the more I have to give. The more I love myself genuinely, the more I love other people. I would love to be like this!


Along the Oregon Trail: Three Island Crossing

Growing up the Oregon Trail to me was a video game. I always tried to be a farmer who could make it to Oregon with $400 dollars and a big dream.  I played online today with my seven year old. You can find the link here.

At one point in the game,  my character got lost for two days. “It is was probably because you spent too long talking to people, Mom,” my kid said.

Eye roll.

A few minutes after I finally decided to return, we ran out of food, and my character died.


No problem. I could restart my game. However, it made me think about the brave men and women who traveled the Oregon, California, Mormon and other trails over a hundred and fifty years ago. They sold their homes, packed supplies into a wagon, and set off for a part of the world they had never seen. They only had hope that their lives would be better once they reached their destination. On our recent family trip, we visited one of the sites along the Oregon Trail, the Three Crossings of the Snake River.

Three Crossings is located near present day Glenn, Idaho. When the settlers arrived here they had to decide whether to continue down the south side of the Snake River where there wasn’t as much water or to risk crossing the river. They could die of thirst or die drowning in the river. It wasn’t an easy decision.

IMG_6090The strength and fortitude of these emigrants is amazing. I am out in the hot sun for ten minutes and I want to run inside to my house where it is cool. I get a few mosquito bites and I am annoyed, but I don’t have to worry about getting infectious diseases.  I am so blessed to live in this time and to have so many comforts.

Many of my ancestors traveled the Mormon Trail. My fifth great grandmother Lydia Goldthwaite and Newell Knight left their home in Nauvoo, Illinois. The home was only a few years old and had a tidy lawn and new corrals.  They left in the cold of February because mobs from the surrounding cities threatened to come into the city and destroy their homes and harm the women and children. Mobs had destroyed their home in Missouri only eight years before.

Newel and Lydia Knight traveled with their seven children across the muddy plains of Iowa and eventually settled in a place called Ponca near the Missouri River.  They made crude dugouts and lived there throughout the harsh Nebraska winter. Newel became sick from the exposure to the cold.

From Lydia’s journal,”On Monday morning, Jan. 4, 1847, Bro. Knight, whose health had been failing for some time, did not arise as usual, and on going to him he said, “Lydia, I believe I shall go to rest this winter.”

Lydia watched as her husband declined for ten days.

“I felt at last as if I could not endure his sufferings any longer and that I ought not to hold him here,” she wrote. “I knelt by his bedside, and with my hand upon his pale forehead asked my Heavenly Father to forgive my sins, and that the sufferings of my companion might cease, and if he was appointed unto death, and could not remain with us that he might be quickly eased from pain and fall asleep in peace. Almost immediately all pain left him and in a short time he sweetly fell asleep in death, without a struggle or a groan, at half past six on the morning of the 11th of January, 1847.”

Lydia and family look on at Newel’s grave.

I can’t imagine losing my husband and then having to cross the plains with seven young children. Lydia did it. She did not give up. Her motto was, “God Rules.” She wrote in her journal, “I still trust in God knowing He will do all things for the best.

My faith is not as strong as hers. If my husband were to pass away suddenly and I was left to raise my boys by myself, I don’t know if I would be as strong as her. I know I would struggle and it would be hard for me to say, “Heavenly Father, I Trust in Thee.”

I would like to have Lydia’s kind of faith. In the next few levels of my real life, I want to remember her and her faith and I want to become stronger. I can choose today to restart my life and strive become better each day.




Family Travel, Life with Boys, Uncategorized

Lazing at the River Ranch Retreat in King Hill, Idaho

We arrived at the River Ranch on a warm summer evening. The ranch was only a few minutes off I-84 and was easy to find.  I loved the tall timbers outlining the property entrance as we drove up.  A bit of nostalgia hit me as we drove lane lined with tall pine trees. It reminded me of visiting my uncle’s house as a kid.

We parked the car on the country estate. On the property, there is a main house to the right as your enter. We passed the guest house and a small cabin with a wrap around porch. There were also many outbuildings on the property. We met up with our family who parked who were camped in the RV site. They were lounging on the banks of the Snake River so we headed across the park like yard shaded by tall oaks.

One of the large tress had tree swing that we immediately loved. IMG_6046

We put our things into the guest house. It had two bedrooms, a bath, a living room/dining room and kitchen. There was also a sun room east. The kitchen was very fun. I loved the bright red and yellow hutch that held the old fashioned dishes and we enjoyed playing cards at the round table.




They had almost every copy of Natural Geographic ever written. They had a large selection of other books and lots of music. There wasn’t a movie collection, but the kids didn’t need it because there was so much to do outside.


Jason especially liked the leather settee in the living room.

We lounged for two days at the River Ranch.  The boys fished, waded on the Snake River, and found a killdeer and her nest. I loved reading my book on the porch swing at the cabin and even took a nap on a blanket under all the glorious shade from the many trees on the property. We had a fire, roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. It was great place to “camp.”




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.

Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 9.19.00 AM

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.