Family, Family Travel, Life with Boys

Our Summer Trip, Day One:

We left our home at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. We drove north through Ogden, Brigham City, and Tremonton. Just outside of Tremonton we took I-84 toward Boise, Idaho. We drove for an hour and then had a break in Snowville, Utah. It is a very small town. We stopped at the small post office so I could mail a card to my father.  Then we followed Grandpa on one of his “Grandpa” trails.  We left I-84 for a back highway and headed northwest to Malta, Idaho.

Aaron (our junior ornithologist) had his binoculars out checking all the power lines for birds of prey. We had driven only a few minutes when he spied a golden eagle. It was the first time that he had seen one “in the wild” and he was very excited.  I was excited too because I had only ever seen them at the zoo or the Ogden Nature Center.

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My Mission

Applying a Lesson from ‘Anne of Green Gables’ in My life

As I was reading “Anne of Green Gables,” a part stuck out to me. It is not included in the movies because I think producers chose to take it out afraid that its contents would offend someone.

In Anne’s first few days at Green Gables, Marilla asks her to go upstairs and retrieve her card with a prayer on it so she could memorize it.  Anne has been a long time and Marilla comes to find her standing on the stairs looking at the picture of “Christ Blessing Little Children” hanging on the wall.

Anne imagined she was one of the children.

“I was the little girl in the blue dress standing off by herself.  She looks lonely and sad.  She crept shyly, hoping Christ would notice her. He would look at her and put His hand on her hair and oh, such a thrill of joy as would run over her!” (p. 56)

I love the imagery of this! Dear Anne had felt unwanted since she was a baby. Her parents died of fevers when she was just three months old, then a neighbor took her in until she was eight. Then she went to another home where the woman had three sets of twins all under the age of six.  She looked after them for three years until she was finally to the orphanage in Nova Scotia. Her story tugs on your heart strings. You feel sad for the little girl who had not known love.  I love that she felt drawn to the painting and could imagine herself in the photo.

I feel it is a lesson for me and important that I do the same. I need to picture myself standing next to Jesus Christ. I believe he will put his arms around me and hug me and “such a thrill will run over me.”   I do believe in Jesus Christ. I do know that He came to earth and suffered for my sins, but also for my “physical pains and anguish, my weaknesses and shortcomings, my fears and frustrations, my disappointments and discouragement, my regrets and remorse, my despair and desperation, the injustices and inequities I experience, and the emotional distresses that beset me.” (Elder David A. Bednar,  “Bear up Their Burdens with Ease”, Ensign, May, 2014.)

I know this is true.

 

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Are you more like Marilla or Anne?

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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.

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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?

Heres to Living my Life!, Motherhood, Writing Your Own Story

Midlife Crisis Leads Me Back to Classics

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For the last fourteen years I have been a stay-at-home mom. There has always been someone here with me to look after, but in August, my youngest went to school full time. At first I loved the new freedom that came with my days. I went hiking on trails I had never explored, I went places the kids would never want to go with me, and I spent some time doing charity work. However, as the weeks went on, I started down a spiral that lead me to what I could only describe as a midlife crisis (I am not even forty yet)! I started to feel lonely. Things I liked to do didn’t make me happy anymore.

As snow fell on the mountains and the ground became more muddy, I didn’t want to hike anymore. I thought maybe now it was time to look to the future. “What am I going to do now that my kids are in school?” I thought I really needed to find a job. Doesn’t everyone who has kids in school all day have a job? I looked at part time jobs and applied for a few, but when the call came for an interview, I realized that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.

Then I I thought maybe I needed to go back to school to get some additional training. The problem is I don’t really know what training I want and I don’t want to waste time and money. I thought about it for weeks and thought I really didn’t know who I was anymore.

I reached out a community on Facebook and many helpful people suggested I read a book written for teenagers to help them discover their mission in life. It is funny, but it is really helping me. I am on a new path in my life and it is nice to get back to my roots. One of the suggestions in this book is for teenagers to read classics, then to talk about them with someone, then to write about them. There is a list of 100 classic books to read.

I decided that I didn’t really need to go back to school to get an education. I had only ready about ten books on the list. The first book on the list in the suggestions for twelve-year old girls was Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables.”  You can read my review and experience reading it again here.

I had read the book when I was twelve and loved it. I remember watching the PBS movie as a child with my mother and grandmother. We would watch eight hours to see the kiss between her and Gilbert Blythe at the end, but it was always worth it. Here is the list of novels I will be reading over the next year. Feel free to read along and discuss them with me. How many have you read?

Level One:

  1. ‘Little Women -Louisa May Alcott
  2. Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
  3. The Wizard of Oz- L. Frank Baum
  4. Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe-C. S. Lewis
  5. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes– Edith Hamilton
  6. Little House in the Big Woods– Laura Ingalls Wilder
  7. The Phantom Tool Booth –Norton Juster
  8. Ender’s Game- Orson Scott Card

Level Two:

  1. Pollyanna-Eleanor H. Porter
  2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream–William Shakespeare
  3. All’s Well that End’s Well- William Shakespeare
  4. The Tempest- William Shakespeare
  5. Prince Caspian– C. S. Lewis
  6. Aesop’s Fables
  7. Tom Sawyer- Mark Twain
  8. Flatland- Edwin Abbott
  9. Saint Joan- Mark Twain
  10. Huckleberry Finn-Mark Twain
  11. Little House on the Prairie- Laura Ingalls Wilder
  12. Best Loved Poems of the American People– Hazel Felleman and Frank Allen
  13. Sonnets, William Shakespeare
  14. The Jungle Book- Rudyard Kipling
  15. The Real Thomas Jefferson- Andrew M. Allison
  16. Asimov on Numbers- Issac Asimov
  17. Love Languages- Gary Chapman
  18. The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny -by William Strauss and Neil Howe
  19. The Walking Drum, Louis L’Amour
  20. Say, Go, Be, Do- Tiffany Rhoades Earl
  21. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People- Steven R. Covey
  22. The One Minute Manager-Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D and Spencer Johnson, M.D.
  23. The Cash Flow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki
  24. A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink
  25. Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick

There is also a level three, level four, and level five by I think for now thirty seven books on a list is a good start! Happy Reading!

Life with Boys, Motherhood

Back to School is Bittersweet

No, I’m not! I know many parents count down the days until their children are back in school, but I have to say, I am not one of them. I really hate when summer comes to an end.  I love summer. I love the freedom each new day brings whether we will stay at home or go on an adventure. I enjoy my boys and I love when they are home. I know they need school to learn and grow but sometimes I wish I could make time stand still. I have incredible boys and I am going to miss them when they start back to school tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also the end of an era. Sniff. My youngest is going to be in school full time.  It is bittersweet. I am happy for him because he will grow so much this year, but I am feeling a bit melancholy. I no longer will have any little person at home with me. There have been many times over the last fourteen years that I have been home with my children that I have wanted to tear my hair out and run away from the craziness, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I remember feeling overwhelmed with the task of holding my oldest in his car seat as we left the hospital. I thought,”they are really letting me take this baby home? Don’t they know I know nothing?” It was difficult. I had taken classes and looked after children before, but never infants on only on a few hours of sleep. I remember once my son was crying. He had been fed, changed, burped, and snuggled and I couldn’t figure out what he needed. I remember thinking at that point “And I wanted this?” but the truth is I did. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to look after children.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I haven’t always listened, I’ve yelled, I had my own embarrassing temper tantrums, and I teased my boys when I shouldn’t have. I haven’t been as patient or kind as I could have been (or as my husband who is the Saint of Patience) and there are many times I should have kept my big, fat mouth shut,  but being a mother has been the most rewarding job of my life. I have no “work experience” but I have grown so much as a person as I have watched my little ones grow. They have taught me so much. My oldest has grown into one of my best friends. My other two keep me on my toes. They are smart, articulate, and are always making me laugh.  I am grateful for the hard days and the great days. I am also grateful for the mediocre days.

My Heavenly Father knew I needed these boys to become a better person and I am so grateful he sent them to me.  We may have closed the door on having little children now, but I know my husband and I are excited to enter the new door of having older children and the joy that will come from it. I’ve got four years (just four years!) with my oldest, and I am determined to try to be the kind of mom that my boys need.

 

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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.

Family History, Life with Boys

Adding Family History to Our Vacation

Our family recently went on a trip to Southern California. There were three things on our list: Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, and my favorite The Mormon Battalion Historic Site in San Diego’s Old Town.

Yes, it was fun to go on the new Guardian of the Galaxy ride at California Adventure, to have everyone laugh at me and my terrified face as we went over Splash Mountain, and to see the koalas and pandas at San Diego Zoo, but the part of the trip that meant the most to me was when my children go to learn about their fourth great-grandfather, Zemira Palmer.

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Mormon Battalion Historic Site

The Mormon Battalion Historic Site is located at 2510 Juan St., San Diego, CA 92110. It is free to the public and open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The last tour is at 8:00 p.m. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to go because we had spent the majority of the day at the San Diego Zoo and the children were exhausted from walking, but I really wanted them to go. I knew they shared information about their ancestors and I wanted them to see it.

When we walked in, two beautiful young women (missionaries) asked us if we wanted a tour. We went into the front waiting area.

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Front waiting area at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site

It was a lot of fun because the pictures on the wall talked to us almost as if we were in some kind of Harry Potter movie.  The young man on the bottom right-hand corner represented Zemira Palmer. He was the narrator and took us through the journey.

First, we started in the room that represented Mount Pisgah, Iowa, then we moved on to Fort Kearny, Kansas.

At Fort Kearny, my ten-year-old son got to dress up like a member of the Mormon Battalion and carry a gun that they would have carried.

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After Fort Kearny, we followed the Battalion on their journey of over 2000 miles to San Diego. One thing I learned is that the Battalion stayed in San Diego for over a year later and helped the people learn to make bricks, irrigate, and so many other things.

Outside, my boys got to pan for gold, make bricks, and wash clothes like the members of the Battalion did. It was a great, interactive way for my children to learn about their great fourth grandfather Zemira Palmer. As the missionaries told the story, I also supplemented with additional information that I knew about him. It was the highlight of my trip.

 

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Zemira Palmer was born 9 August 1831 at West Borough, Frontier County, Canada to George Palmer, Jr. and Phebe Draper. Zemira was the six child in a family of 7 children. His father passed away when he was two, and his mother Phebe met Brigham Young and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Many years later, Phebe remarried a man named Ebenezer Brown. Ebenezer enlisted and Phebe followed to become a laundress. She mended and washed the clothes for the Battalion. She also cooked for the officers.

Zemira was fifteen years old when he volunteered and was assigned as a personal aide to Col. Allen, which included caring for his horse and shining his boots. The Mormon Battalion march was very difficult. They dealt with cold, heat, lack of water, sickness, and even problems with wild bulls. There were also soldiers from Missouri; some who had helped drive the Saints from their state.They made it to the Pacific Ocean at the new settlement of San Diego in January 1847. The war ended and they never had to fire a shot. Zemira, his mother, and his step-father all re-enlisted and stayed one more year in San Diego. Phebe taught school to the children of the area and Zemira and Ebenezer made adobe bricks and helped build new buildings.

The Mormon Battalion made a good impression on all the people with whom they had associated. After their enlistment was up, they traveled north to find work before coming to the Salt Lake Valley, They were employed at Sutter’s Mill during this tune and were there when gold was discovered. It is said that they paid the first tithing in gold. They rode mules all the way to the Valley. When they finally arrived there was a great family reunion. It had been three years and they were glad to be with the family and the Saints again. Zemira was now 18 years old.

Later Zemira married Sally Knight and they had 12 children together. He was a strong man who did amazing things because he exercised his faith in his Heavenly Father.