Sunday, December 4, 2011

not magnificent

listening and reading and praying today.

brook, i hope it's okay for me to share some of your words from your blog. they are beautiful and so are you. just what i'd been thinking:

all i can offer

is all i have.

and it may not seem like much.

especially when compared with others.

but it is mine

to give.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


sometimes, i wake up and say "i need to lose weight" or "i've been feeling sick/depressed/yucky lately" and i think it's time to overhaul my diet.

so i make a plan, which is usually something like this: TEN DAY JUICE FAST! i write out a grocery shopping list. it usually looks like this: TEN OF EVERY VEGETABLE IN THE WORLD. i realize it may be a little crazy, so i amend the plan in my mind.

three day juice fast.

now the shopping list looks a little more doable. but i have nothing to make juice in the house yet, so i eat a hard boiled egg, which tastes really good, so i amend my plan again:

three day juice fast plus EGGS. and maybe i'll add cottage cheese because protein is good right?

so i head out to the store, list in my purse. but by now i've grown hungry again and i pull out my list. i'm not sure i can live too long feeling ravenous. what was i thinking? i immediately change the plan to:

i will not buy hot chocolate or treats from starbucks, and i will not eat any sugar or anything after dinner. i will have a raw vegetable with every meal. i will not eat any white rice or flour.

i give myself a mental pat on the back. for lunch i buy raw spring rolls at the store. i think about how great i'm doing with this diet.

i get home and put all the produce in the fridge. i have to rest after doing this, but no sooner do i sit down then the kids are home from school and it's all: emma won't stop singing, and what's for snack, and i have to do this gigantic project by tomorrow and take me to dance and scouts and cello.

so when that's dealt with, it's a half hour past dinner time and i'm just getting started. i cook chili for the kids, but by the time we sit down for dinner, i know i can't muster up the energy to juice all my produce and also clean out the juicer, so i amend my plan again:

just eat what i fix for everyone else, but NO SUGAR. i mean it.

we get homework done and teeth brushed and scriptures read and prayers said. whew. i read in bed for awhile with the thought "cookie dough would really hit the spot" circling my mind like that adelle song plays on the radio. i toss and turn for an hour and a half.

throw off the covers.

make the dang cookie dough, and eat it while i look in the mirror and think "not too bad, not too bad at all."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Information design, federal budget and politics

So, if you're not in the mood for political talk, feel free to skip this blog post. I recently came across this chart showing the percentages of discretionary spending here.

It's a really well-designed graphic. Simple, easy to read. There is power in information design. On this site, they say: the military eats up a lion’s share of the spending, while social priorities fall by the wayside. Looking at this graphic, it is obvious where it'd be easiest to trim from the budget. And indeed, one of the things they hope to accomplish is to have more of the federal budget allocated for social priorities.

But wait. Let's look a little closer. Let's examine the truth.

Funny how MOST of the federal budget spent on welfare, unemployment, health insurance programs, social security, medicaid and medicaid AREN'T EVEN INCLUDED in this graphic. Aren't those considered social priorities? I think they are. But this chart shows only discretionary spending, NOT ALL SPENDING.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the American population strived to know whole truth, to look at as much of the picture as they can? This reminds me of someone going through a book with a highlighter, marking swear words, and then starting a campaign to ban the book because it has a BAD WORD in it. Never mind that the book is THE BOOK THEIF and perhaps one of the most beautiful books ever written with a message of peace and hope. They just see the bad word and they don't read those words in CONTEXT to the entire written work.

It's possible this image was created in ignorance, but I'm thinking more likely it was done with the intent to deceive and to hide the entire truth.

Rachel to the rescue.

I decided to take 10 minutes and create a complete picture of the entire budget. Here's what President Obama's budget looks like until December 16, 2011. A few more bills need to be voted for by Congress, but this is what the 2012 budget looks like as of now:

Looking at the complete picture, I'd say the lion's share of spending IS being spent on social priorities. How has that been working? Is that helping to create jobs? To foster self-reliance? To bolster American health care? To eliminate poverty?

Things to think about when you vote for your political leaders.

ETA: Please know that I believe ALL political parties and ALL news stations are guilty of putting forth incomplete pictures to prove their points and some time or another. I just happened upon this example today. And I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the way the money is being spent on the federal budget. I'd definitely like to see more spent on education, but If I had to cut a program, it would be really hard to choose where to cut. Just like it's hard to say "no" to a new pair of pants for your child or to a meal out when our family doesn't have the money in our budget to spend on those kind of things. Do you cut veterans' health benefits? Do you cut disability for the sweet lady who had a stroke in her late 40's? I don't know.

I don't know everything about all the issues either. Probably no one does. I just wanted to make a point about how lots of information we're being given is misleading but it doesn't take long to do a little research and find the whole story, or at least MORE of the story.

Monday, November 28, 2011

fantasy christmas wish list

as i prepare for the start of christmas season, these words keep running through my head:

Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?
(Mormon 8:39)

and so, i am trying to keep this christmas as simple as possible, to not ask for too many things, buy too many things, nor do too many things.

but what kind of fun is that? kidding! i'm working on a 12 days of christmas thing that i hope to share here in a few days. that will be fun. but i thought just for fun i'd do a fantasy christmas wish list.

fantasy as in the noun [fan-tuh-see, -zee]

1. imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained.
2. the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing.

so with that definition in mind, here is what i'd like for christmas:

1. brown ankle boots from brown's boots

2. vintage polk-a-dot blouse from amprisloves etsy shop

3. "every knee shall bow" painting by j. kirk richards. only $4900 for 48 x 147.5 on canvas(!)

4. mikado dishtowel from anthropologie

5. vintage industrial wall clock like this one from zinnia cottage. our $5 ikea one is broken, and even when it was working, i was the only one who could tell time on it.

6. hour glass from cb2. wouldn't this be more fun than setting the timer on the microwave?

7. a pair of petrie leather sofas from crate and barrel. this is the most fantastical of all, seeing as how younger son cut a 5-inch slit into our new ottomans the day after i bought them. i can't imagine how i'd feel if he'd done that on a $4,000 sofa.

8. week-long vacation rental in benyac, france. only 850 euros a week.

9. "ex libris" embosser to mark all the books in our family library. i've been wanting one of these for years. why i haven't just broken down and bought it i have no idea.

10. equilibrium necklace from palomarie.

11. clip-in hair extensions. seems weird, unless you know that my hair is falling out and not really growing. despite a healthy diet and lifestyle. wouldn't that be funny to have super short hair one day and then super long the next? have any of you tried this? i can't quite see myself spending the money, which is why i'll probably just keep my hair short and fantasize about having fairy-tale-length hair.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

the blog post of many, many things (a.k.a. procrastinating writing my novel)

1. i am doing NaNoWriMo this month. i've added a word count progress bar on the right side of my blog. hoping to type 50,000 words by the end of the month. wish me luck.

2. how to host a spooky spa party for younger daughter's 8th birthday: when elder daughter asks if her friends can come over, say do they want to help with a party? also, invite your brother and his girlfriend. then have everyone else do ALL THE WORK.

3. daylight saving time unfolds a bit like the FORTUNATELY, UNFORTUNATELY children's book. fortunately, all my kids were in bed by 7pm the last two nights. unfortunately, they all woke up at 6am. fortunately, it's light outside when elder daughter walks to the bus stop. unfortunately, it's dark before dinner. fortunately, we got an extra hour of sleep on saturday night. unfortunately church still starts at 9am. i think the practice should be abolished along with the incorrect use of the apostrophe.

4. will someone please buy the man who runs at 5am at the american fork rec center track some new pants? he's worn the same ones everyday for the past five years—which wouldn't be so bad except they're about 4 sizes too small, and pulled up at least 4 inches too high, showing an unsightly chunk of hairy white ankle and not leaving anything to the imagination in his nether regions. maybe he wouldn't breathe so loudly if he had a pair that fit better. no one should have to deal with this at 5am.

5. younger daughter's baptism day was one of the happiest of my life for many, many reasons. i might have taken more pictures had i not been deathly ill. i think when my head cold clears, i'd like to blog more coherently and deeply about it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

if you ever wanted to know what it's like

[images from the fantastic hyperbole and a half]

depression is hard to understand (for loved ones of the depressed, and the depressed themselves), hard to treat (at least in my experience) without feeling like a cold, dead, reptilian devoid-of-feelings person, and impossible to not blame myself for.

over the years, i have developed a few tricks to keep the sad wolves at bay: excercise, limit refined sugars, prayer, healthy relationships. but this fall has been HARD. and for no particular reason, which makes me feel even worse when i stop and think about it.

i have a great, wonderful, easy life with millions of blessings and tender mercies. children! prosperity! friends! health! freedom! clean water! maroon skinny jeans!

and yet.

if you ever wanted to know what it's like to have depression, you should read this.

meanwhile i'll keep waking up at 5am to fit in my exercising. cuz as crazy as that seems, it's helping.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

truth in fiction

a friend of mine [oh, hi, jenni] just asked her blog readers what our opinions were on age recommendations as a part of a book review.

and it immediately got me thinking about a related subject. how much darkness is okay in a novel? how many bad words? how much sexual innuendo or content? consider the following:

-we read A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS in my neighborhood book group and a few of the ladies took offense at the ugliness in the novel and suggested we should only read books published by DESERET BOOK.

-another friend brought back a few books i had loaned to her and said she just couldn't finish them because of the language in them. books i love. a friend i love.

-i told casey anne (who is 12) that she couldn't read a book because of the content until she was older.

-consider this excerpt from NORTHERN LIGHT by jennifer donnelly:

"it seems to me that there are books that tell stories, and then there are books that tell truths...the first kind makes you cheerful and contented, but the second kind shakes you up...why do writers make things sugary when life isn't that way...why don't they tell the truth? why don't they tell how a pigpen looks after the sow's eaten her own children? or how it is for a girl when her baby won't come out? or that cancer has a smell to it?...why doesn't anyone tell you that?"

my first novel is the sugary kind. in my current project, i am attempting to tell truths. MY truths. the emotional truth of addiction and prodigality and shame. and there is drug abuse and swearing and ugliness. and i've wondered why i have that all inside of me and why i feel a compulsion to write it down. because i also believe this:

everything we read stays with us, effects the level to which we can recognize and respond to the spirit. when we spend our time with filth, we lose that precious influence. i think this is a good and valid reason for censoring what we read and what our children read.

HOWEVER—and this is a huge however—i think the written word is at its most powerful when it contains truth. and how can you show the power of redemption, of forgiveness, the triumph over darkness and the beauty of returning to the light if there was no mistake made? no darkness followed into? no pigpen mired in? what power would the parable of the prodigal son have been with no prodigal and only the faithful son that stayed home at his father's side?

my favorite books will always contain a bit of that darkness, a bit of that rawness and grittiness because it makes the resolution that much more bright and beautiful. and to me, true.

Monday, October 10, 2011

oh, HELLO.

It's a sad story with a happy ending.

School started, I had scheduled, uninterrupted writing time everyday, and the blog fell by the wayside. Writing my new work-in-progress has been emotional, spiritual, and such a different experience than writing DYING LIGHT. The process has left me feeling vulnerable, exposed, and one hundred per cent sure that I am meant to be writing this. (And I've only written the first five chapters or so.)

Since my last post I've had an emotional breakdown (which happened, embarrassingly during writer's group at the Barnes and Noble cafe, right next to the knitting group), a bout of weird depression in which I woke up crying from my dreams all night long, and a recommitment to living a spiritual life dedicated to doing what the Lord wants me to do, and not the things I want to do (though on my best days these are the same thing). I don't think it's coincidental.

And the happy ending? I hope to be blogging more frequently. Here's a playlist that I have on repeat over and over. I know I've already shared some of these songs, but so what. They're awesome and I'm reminding you of them. I'm happy to share, if you email me.

Also, if you haven't already purchased Ben Howard's album on Amazon, you should do it now.

1. Old Pine / Ben Howard
2. London [Live on the Thames] / Ben Howard
3. Gracious / Ben Howard
4. Half Moon / Blind Pilot
5. Tonight Is The Kind Of Night / Noah & The Whale
6. Right Before My Eyes / Cage The Elephant
7. Out Go The Lights / Spoon
8. I Turn My Camera / Spoon
9. You, Me, & the Boatman / Quiet Company
10. Fairytale Lullaby / Bombay Bicycle Club
11. Rinse Me Down / Bombay Bicycle Club
12. Shuffle / Bombay Bicycle Club
13. Lights Out, Words Gone / Bombay Bicycle Club
14. OK Pal / M83
15. 1957 / Milo Greene
16. See You / Benjamin Francis Leftwich
17. Dont Stop (Color On The Walls) / Foster The People
18. Pumped Up Kicks / Foster The People
19. Helena Beat / Foster The People
20. If You / I Dream In Colour
21. Punching In A Dream / Naked and Famous
22. Block After Block / Matt & Kim
23. The A Team / Ed Sheeran
24. Fresh Blood / Eels
25. Milk Honey / Beatsteaks
26. Cheap Comments / Beatsteaks
27. Crystalfilm / Little Dragon
28. Until We Bleed (With Lykke Li) / Kleerup
29. Vultures / Jess Mills
30. Sail / Awolnation
31. A Real Hero (Feat. Electric Youth) / Drive College
32. Pouring Rain At Dawn / Jayhawks
33. Santa Fe / Beirut
34. Lost In My Mind / The Head And The Heart
35. Winter Song / The Head And The Heart

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Allow me this moment

I had this gratitude blog post all planned out. I will still blog about it. But allow me this moment to cry. My baby has gone to kindergarten, and instead of the feelings of relief and joy and excitement I thought I would feel, I am crying. Sad that my buddy is growing up. Worried about him following school rules. And a little broken-hearted at the way he pushed me away and said, "Just let me walk with my friends."

Today, instead of enjoying the silence at home, I am thinking how grateful I am for half-day kindergarten. I can't wait to pick this guy up in 2 1/2 hours.

Monday, August 22, 2011

gratitude day 25: casey anne

she left for her first day of junior high today, catching a ride with a friend's mom, my heart shredding in that way that mother's hearts do, over and over. i snapped a hurried photo as her friend waited in the car in our driveway.

me: nervous, crying. her: running, excited, hair curled.

i fell in love with her the moment the nurse laid her in my arms in the hospital. she was beautiful, serene, already wise. today she is calm, obedient, responsible, confident, a peace maker. and totally unafraid of the world.

i am afraid enough for both of us. thinking about her starting junior high, i've had this poem running through my head. it seems to fit her so well.

Song for a Young Girl's Puberty Ceremony

I am on my way running,
I am on my way running,
Looking toward me is the edge of the world,
I am trying to reach it,
The edge of the world does not look far away,
To that I am on my way running.

-Anonymous, Translated by Frances Densmore

Friday, August 19, 2011

gratitude day 24: burdens

[brightly colored burdens by brian kershisnik]

so many things on my mind, so hard to find the words. it's been one of those emotional, thinking-deeply kind of weeks for me.

i feel like i've reached the peak of a towering summit this summer after a grueling effort. only, once i sat down to rest i looked around and discovered that the next mountain i am required to scale looks exactly like the one i just climbed.

i am older, wiser, yes. but i have grown weary. and i have these burdens on my back—burdens with labels like difficult relationship, impatient, “unproductive”, “easily provoked”, “unwilling to forgive”. i feel like i am not up to the tasks at hand.

these burdens! i think. they are too heavy. if i were more patient, more naturally inclined to compassion and kindness then perhaps i could shoulder them. but i cannot. i cannot go on.

and then, up on that summit, i take my burdens off my back for a moment, really look at them. i notice how brightly colored they are, how brightly they shine in the sunlight. how, even though it's a strain, i can pick them up, because i am stronger than i was before. and i realize that i am grateful for that strength because i know i could not have gotten it in any other way. my burdens are brightly colored. they are beautiful.

and now, headed down the summit and onto the next one, i realize my burdens have had wheels all along. wheels with labels like “daily prayer”, “scripture study”, “temple attendance”, and “atonement”. i keep my burdens on the ground now, letting the wheels do their work, rolling down the mountain, gaining speed.

i hope i can pick up enough speed to make it at least halfway up the next peak. i can't wait to see the view from up there.

Monday, July 25, 2011

gratitude day 23: ipod

sometime around 1990 i got my first walkman. i spent hours listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite songs to come on, finger trigger-ready to hit the record button as soon as i heard the opening notes.

i made a running mixtape in high school that i ran to (the same 20 songs) until mr. coleman bought me a discman in 1997. then i burned most of the same songs onto a cd and continued running to them. can you believe i ran to the same 20 songs for 10 years?

pictured above is my first ipod, a second generation ipod nano, and the one i now use for running. it appears to be on the fritz, which is making me weepy.

cute, light, friendly little ipod nano: do not die on me. we have weathered the storms of life together.

the technology for the ipod is fascinating and a blessing i'm grateful for every day. hooray for apple and their brilliant inventors and industrial designers! huzzah for mp3s!

now, i'm still running to some of those same songs. crazy, i know, like pavlov's dogs, i feel like running every time i hear some of them; i just can't quit them.

i do enjoy finding new running music. my favorite source for new discoveries is the music section of the nike plus website. they have a new suggestion every week in several genres. of course, i love me some indie music.

and now for you all, a playlist with old and new favorites: (i always start my runs out with the first song. these words are a great way to start out a day: "today is the greatest day i've ever known")

today / smashing pumpkins
i want you back / the jackson 5
up around the bend / creedence clearwater revival
a little respect / erasure
don't go / yaz
rag doll / aerosmith
friday i'm in love / the cure
remember you / skid row

make some noise / beastie boys
captive / sarah harmer
burning / whitest boy alive
running with the wolves / cloud cult
giving up the gun / vampire weekend
techno fan / wombats
under cover of darkness / the strokes
block after block / matt & kim
am/fm sound / matt & kim
repatriated / handsome furs
shoelaces / the submarines
colours run / bear driver
we don't want your body / stars
the passenger / stars
i melt with you (modern english cover) / the coastals
sadie hawkins day / yip deceiver

as usual, let me know if you'd like a mixtape...then pay for the music if you love it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

gratitude day 22: revision

"funny that hurts" by brandi strickland

i spent two days this week in downtown salt lake city, away from family and friends and other responsibilities revising my novel. and guess what? i love revising! i was able to get more done in those two days of uninterrupted time than i have in all the past 3 months of working on it. something about immersing myself in the story for a longer stretch of time helped me to see the whole picture in my head and discover ways i might make a good story great.

if it weren't for revising, i couldn't be a writer. it would be too depressing to look at my first draft and know it was good but not quite good enough. revisions for me are the fun, joyous part of writing.

and all this revision and chipping away and rewriting and rewriting a scene again and again until it is the best that i can create got me thinking. [it's another writerly trait i have, this tendency towards thinking and pondering].

about revisions in life. about how we have a lifetime to revise ourselves, a lifetime to work on becoming the person we want to be. a lifetime to develop virtues and character traits that make us great.

there are only a few certain things in life: we will die. we will pay taxes. and we will make mistakes. and that's fine because the next minute, the next hour, the next day or year we have the chance to try again, to do better.

until we are better.

so here's to a lifetime of revisions, friends! and a big, GIANT thank you to mr. coleman for making my magical retreat possible: financing, child care, moral support, late-night texts, house cleaning and all. i realize i am a blessed girl.

Friday, July 22, 2011

gratitude day 21: summer


i love summer. lazy mornings, trips to the lake, garden produce, hours and hours of sunshine, eating outdoors, cool morning runs, flip flops, snow cones.

i am a summer girl.

here is a playlist to listen to whilst sipping a chilled beverage floating on a raft down a lazy river while bees hum decadently around summer wildflowers (or while scrubbing your kitchen floor and pretending that you are doing this). my favorite song is track #3, london, BEN HOWARD. i think this will be music week on my blog. i'm headed off right this moment for a 2-day writer's retreat, but when i get back i'll be sharing some more music and some of my favorite sources for discovering new talent.

hope you are all enjoying your summer. i am making the most of every minute. let me know if you'd like a mixtape ;-).

1. you were born / cloud cult
2. you for me / terra naomi
3. london / ben howard
4. first person / jenny owen youngs
5. more than life / whitley
6. replay / pezzettino
7. wessex boy / frank turner
8. i still remember / churchill
9. before i knew / basia bulat
10. okay (henslee version) / venice is sinking
11. old pine / ben howard
12. calgary / bon iver
13. the lion and the wolf / the lion and the wolf
14. not enough (album) / j mascis
15. lost in my mind (album) / the head and the heart
16. wonder why (album) / vetiver
17. already in love / exene cervenka
18. evelyn / gregory alan isakov
19. eet / regina spektor
20. psychasthenia / william fitzsimmons
21. we're from barcelona / i'm from barcelona
22. the very thought of you / billie holiday
23. les jours de pluie / les jours de pluie
24. think you can wait / the national
25. euphoria / motopony
26. you are the ocean and im good at drowning / phantogram
27. landfill / daughter
28. flaws / bombay bicycle club
29. low rising / swell season
30. middle distance runner / sea wolf
31. three tree town / ben howard
32. trouble / ray lamontagne
33. to build a home / the cinematic orchestra
34. strawberry swing / coldplay

Thursday, July 21, 2011

gratitude day 20: family vacation

it's been a long time since we took a family trip all together. this one was practically perfect. a quick trip to yuba lake for 2 days. wakeboarding, tubing, boating, playing in sand, watching movies on the ipad, sleeping on the boat, laughing with old friends.

making memories.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

gratitude day 19: siblings

readers: please meet all my siblings, from oldest to youngest, left to right [minus my older sister emily, who i left a space for next to me in this photo. i missed her a lot this past week.] me, ryan, anna, angela, steven, daniel, james, lilly

“To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” ~Clara Ortega

“Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply...” ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

the melzer family just wrapped up a family reunion. 10 days of a house full of noise, commotion, stuff, and people i love best in the world. [20 guests!] it seems so quiet around here—quiet enough for reflection.

and here's what i believe about families, about my family. we chose each other, in a pre-earth life. we were organized and placed in a unit where we could learn and grow best. we were put together because a loving heavenly father knew each of our strengths and weaknesses and knew that together we could do it. together, with each other's help we could become the people we were supposed to be.

to my brothers and sisters: remember summers in idaho picking wild huckleberries? remember trips to lake powell? remember collecting locust skins in jars? remember when we moved to san diego, the beach and having a sand volleyball court in our back yard? remember when we moved to snowflake on friday the 13th? remember when we found out mom was pregnant with lilly? when dad lost his job? when steven went to rehab? when he relapsed? remember when don and i were sealed in the temple? and ryan, and anna and angela? remember when you all drove to utah for a family reunion? i do. and i miss you all already.

since i've been small, i've started out my prayers by saying “i'm thankful for my mom and dad, and my brothers and sisters.” and it's never felt like a vain repetition. and there's a reason i always say it first.

i am so grateful for my family.

i feel like every good thing about me is because of them. every experience i've had with them has shaped me in almost immeasurable ways. when we are together, i feel closer to my true self than with anyone else. i am happy, joyful.

we have shared rooms, vacationed together, ate together, fought together, laughed together, grieved together, prayed together.

and i love them all.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

gratitude day 18: A father's love

I found it funny that when I posted a picture of my mother several posts back, some of you mentioned I look like her. I think I got all of my dad's physical genes, and most of his personality genes, too.

I think of these characteristics as the "german genes". I have his teeth [no cavities, yay!], his hair color, his physical build [no calf muscles], and his chin dimple. I once thought that I was as smart as him, but then we played a game of Trivial Pursuit and he put us all to shame. He knew every single answer but one. Every answer!

Also, I have inherited his trait of interrupting. And his debating skills. Sorry friends who have to communicate with me in real life. I am my father's daughter.

Thank you, Dad for being the hardest working man I know. Thank you for teaching me how to drive—that must have been really scary. Thank you for providing for me and trying your best to protect me. I wish I would have listened to you more. You always warned me and then stepped back to let me make my own choices.

Thank you, Dad for teaching me about the power of a father's love. Because of your example of unconditional love, I gained a greater understanding for the love my Heavenly Father has for me. I love you! Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

gratitude day 17: WIFYR

Oh man.

How does one sum up the week that I had? Being in Holly Black's fantasy class at WIFYR writing conference was terrifying, enlightening, exhausting, informative, and most importantly...


Holly cracked jokes about herself, about her mistakes as a writer, about the Church of Satan (surprisingly helpful to understanding the villains in my story), and especially about our manuscripts, all while wearing the most fantastic shoes. I wish I'd ignored my inhibitions and snapped pictures of them every day.

I will be a better critique partner because of Holly and the rest of my fantasy class.

And I'm thinking about my manuscript in a whole new way. That's the terrifying part.

I'm so grateful for Olivia, one of my critique partners, for going through this with me, despite being deathly ill. [I hope you don't mind that I posted this adorable picture of you.] Having her with me made the scary bearable. And infinitely more fun!

[And we sorely missed our other partner-in-crime, Meagan. I predict our next writer's group will be an in-depth analysis of the entire week.]

I admit, I had a moment pulling up to my house at the end of the week in which I thought: I never want to look, hear, or think about writing, or books, or agents, or queries, or plots, or EMOTIONAL LOGIC, ever, ever again. It was a hard week, as I had expected it would be, because it put into focus every writing flaw I have.

Overwhelmed. Done with it. That's how I felt by the end of it all.

But guess what I did when I woke up this morning? Pulled out all the critiques and began making plans for another revision. A huge, sweeping, drastic revision.

Because I am crazy. And because I am, in the fleshy tables of my heart, still a writer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

gratitude day 16: life

I am grateful to be alive. Are you? Here's a quick snapshot of my life, this week.

1. I am two weeks away from my writer's conference wherein my novel will be critiqued by HOLLY BLACK. [Typing her name, the rhyming phrase "spaz attack" comes to mind. Not a coincidence]. My adult ADD brain is having a hard time focusing on anything else. I WILL finish this round of revisions before then, because I do what I say and I said what I meant.

2. Markus Zusak is now on Twitter. Now we can deepen our imaginary author/celebrity relationship. This brings me an immense amount of joy.

3. I am in love with social media. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. It feels my social needs while allowing me to stay home, unshowered and barefoot living the dream.

4. I cannot keep up with the laundry. Or rather, I choose not to keep up with the laundry because I am revising my novel. Also, playing Angry Birds.

5. I am teaching a lesson in church this week to a group of women. My self-chosen topic: Lessons From the Garden. Any thoughts, insights?

6. My cousin passed away from a drug overdose last week. His memorial service is today. I cannot stop thinking of the email my mom sent to me and the thought she shared: Life is precious.

Life is precious.

Are you living your dream? Do your loved ones know you love them? Have a beautiful day, friends. You are here, you are alive, and you only get one shot. Make it count.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

gratitude day 15: office

welcome to my author office. i am taking a break from the throes of revising DYING LIGHT* to let you in on 8 of my favorite writerly tools for writing/living dangerously.

8. down duvet. because this writer can't perform with cold feet.

7. netbook. which doesn't have enough memory/big enough screen to search the internet properly, thus discouraging lengthy sessions of online "research".

6. notebook. wherein i write Very Important Things that i don't want to forget.

5. critiqued copies of my novel. otherwise know as The Only Reason My Book Will Not Be A Total Pile of Crap.

4. thesaurus. second only to my beta readers, this is my best writing friend. sometimes i just flip through it, reading words at random, and don't you know...the ideas just come. if i'm ever a published writer and someone asks me where my ideas come from, i have my answer: ROGET'S 21ST CENTURY THESAURUS IN DICTIONARY FORMAT.

3. snow and graham desk calendar. in case i forget what day it is (or what year, or what world. trust me, when your brain is living deep inside an imaginary world this is a lifesaver.)

2. water. known to ward off headaches and "bum enlargment".

1. prayer rock. because i need all the help i can get.

*working title. i'm open to suggestions for a better one.

Friday, May 13, 2011

gratitude day 14: miracles

{photo of and by my lovely sister}

last night i saw my mother-in-law riding down the street on her new purple birthday bike. we honked and she waved, a giant windmill of a wave.

and smiled.

i watched joy spread across her face. watched her hair blown back by the wind. she was a six year-old little girl. and it stopped me short.

in that moment i saw a lifetime of sorrow, abuse, silent treatments, and crushing disappointments float away from her.

and right now, my brother steven is in my front yard, tossing a football with micah. sober. alive. heroin-free since october.

this is what i know, what i have witnessed time and again: miracles happen all the time. there is no sorrow, no injustice, no wound, no atrocity that will not be made right in due time.

and god shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. -revelations 21:4

Saturday, May 7, 2011

gratitude day 13: mom

"It is interesting that today, decades later, when life seems particularly overwhelming or frightening or just downright scary, I call Mother and listen for her to say, “Sheri, you can do it.” A mother’s influence not only spans decade, it reaches into the eternities." -Sheri Dew

During my last trip home to Arizona, I was crying because someone didn't like me.* In the midst of my carrying on, mom walked over to me, kissed the top of my head, and said, "Rachel, I love you and know you are wonderful." And just like that I felt okay—like I was three years-old with a scrape on my knee and I needed my mom to kiss it better.

My mom is a calligrapher, water color painter, cook, nurturer, the life of the party.


I love her. I am so grateful to have her as a mother. How did she survive me?

*It's a long story, in which I acted like I was in junior high and my mother loved me anyway.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

gratitude day 12: cold

in light of the 6 inches of snow we received last night, here are the top ten most awesome things about living in a place that is nose-hair-freezing cold until may.*

10. views at your daughter's soccer game that look suspiciously like a bob ross painting.
9. no worries about the frozen mangos melting in the back of your car on errand day.
8. no need for ice baths—as recommended by timothy ferriss, author of THE FOUR-HOUR BODY**—to lose weight. you're already shivering cold. all the time.
7. playing in the snow when your sister comes to visit for spring break. how many people who went to a florida beach can say they did that? huh?
6. snow heads. see third picture down. i found this on my back deck today, courtesy of lucas.
5. seeing your cute niece, hazel, wearing emma's hand-me-down fleece hoodie.
4. endless cups of hot chocolate. in our case, cocoa mojo.
3. and endless baths.
2. plenty of time to prepare to plant your garden. plenty of time.
1. no need to imagine the norwegian scenery in your novel, or how a girl raised next to a citrus grove would feel about her first winter there.*** all you need to do is step outside. and look at that last picture.

*this entire post might be a lie. it's possible i spent the whole day dreaming of shorts, popsicles, and lounging on a sun-warmed deck, poolside and not being grateful AT ALL for the cold.

**this book is insane. like, seriously bat crap crazy. and offensive. i think a man who writes about his sexual escapades, describing the women involved as sexual experiments and needs clinical drawings to explain how to pleasure a woman, needs more than four hours to find "incredible sex." incredible sex is found through love, commitment, forgiveness, respect, and keeping sacred things sacred. just sayin' tim. you couldn't have missed the mark more.

***this is a bit spoilery for my novel i'm revising, but look at that castle picture again! doesn't that make you want to write a fairy tale? or take a trip to bavaria where your ancestors are from? no? that's just me? oh, okay.