Friday, September 27, 2013

Books I read this summer

Welcome to this week's Friday Five. If you are new here, Friday Five is nothing more than a short (hahaha) list of five random(ish) things. They might be favorites, thankfuls, pet peeves, or frankly whatever else strikes me on any given Friday.  

After a busy summer, I'm ready (I think?) to get back into the swing of things... And, what better way than to share with you FIVE BOOKS I READ THIS SUMMER

On your marks, get set, go...

1I, Spy by Jordan McCollum - Fast paced. Fun! Perfect escape read. 
Click on picture to read my full blog post about I, Spy

2. Fight For Me by Misty Moncur - Book #2 in the Stripling Warrior series. An awesome fictional story about a Lamanite girl who wants to be a part of Helaman's 2000 stripling warriors. 
Book #1 (a must read before book #2!) click on cover art to read my review
Book #2!!! Fight For You
3. The Book of Mormon  - All 500 plus pages in 50 days! Whew! What an experience. Completely new and fascinating (though I've read it many times before) to read it so quickly. And, yep, you guessed it: for 50 days my family had to listen to me talk about what I was learning and experiencing. YOU'VE NOT TRULY EXPERIENCED THE BOM UNTIL YOU'VE READ IT LIKE A NOVEL. Start today! Do It! Yes, DO IT! 

4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom - I've been waiting to read this for quite some time, so when it hit my daughter's high school summer reading list, I stole (I mean "borrowed") it from her. Mitch Albom never disappoints. 

5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Also on my daughter's summer reading list. Though I read this when I was in high school, I thought I'd give it another go-around to see what maturity - or at least age - has done to my perspective. Honestly, I think I liked it better when I was younger. The whole time I read, especially knowing that my daughter would be reading it after me, I wished I could take a sharpie to all the bad language and black it out. Tell me, friends, WHY IS THIS A CLASSIC? The language is harsh and honestly unnecessary. The story, I believe, is nothing revolutionary either. I don't know, maybe it's just the mom in my talking, but this is one "required" read I'd like to get rid of. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

LDS Missionaries Kidnapped in Russia : this isn't just a movie, it's REAL life! The SARATOV APPROACH

The Saratov Approach's photo.
Last night my family had the opportunity to go to a free screening for the soon to be released movie The Saratov Approach. Though it won't "officially" hit theaters until October 9th, we were honored to get a sneak peak. I typically don't review movies. In fact, this is the first time I've ever reviewed one on my blog. Books, yes. Movies, no. So, what made me decide to break my mold? Simple stated, this movie touched me and I think it may have the same effect on you.

The best place to start is by watching the trailer: (If you are one of my "missionary mom" readers, you may want to grab a tissue.)

After watching the trailer, I was hooked. I wanted to see it BAD! But this little voice in my gut told me that might not be a good decision - you know, with my son currently serving a mission in a foreign land and all. It is, after all, about two missionaries who get kidnapped and held ransom. Maybe it'd be too emotional. Maybe it'd tear me up and make me break down. Maybe it'd leave me terrified for my own son...

Yeah, I went to the preview anyway.

And, I'm glad I did!

I hunkered down in the packed theater with my ice cold movie mug, a large extra buttery popcorn, and a handful of tissues (just in case.) Right from the beginning I was riveted. Watching through the eyes of a missionary mom, I was on the edge of my seat, praying for those Elders and thinking of my own. There were a couple of moments I was glad I had that tissue handy. And, even though I knew the premise of the film was the kidnapping of these two Elders, the story was not predictable in any way. I'd anticipated being filled with fear and heartache, but instead, I left the theater having had my faith strengthened and my hope lifted.

Elders Tuttle and Propst are indicative of the kind of young men that represent the LDS Church worldwide. Their experience could've broken their faith, but instead it solidified it.

I know what you're saying: "It's one of those indie films, how good can it be?"  Well, my friends, it was GREAT! The cinematography was professional, the writing was genius, and the acting was beyond believable. My only quip was that the missionaries seemed to be a little old. Maybe, at least for me, that made their situation a little easier to watch. If they had looked like green 18 year olds, it may have been too much for this mama to handle.

I thoroughly enjoyed it as did my husband and children. It was two hours of my time well spent, and I would highly recommend you go see it.

The SARATOV APPROACH will officially hit Utah theaters on October 9th. It's opening weekend sales will determine how long it runs and how far across the country it spreads. Please support this film in the theater (for the record, this is an unsolicited endorsement). Not only is it inspirational, but it is well made and deserves to go far. It is far more worth the price of admission than most of the Hollywood productions I've spent my money on. I'm hoping it comes out on DVD so I can purchase it.

There are a few more FREE SCREENINGS available.

They are also hosting a special "Girls Night Out" (Oct 5, 6:00pm) and a "Guys Movie Event" (Oct 5, 8:45pm) at the Jordan Commons Megaplex in Sandy. This special feature night includes unlimited popcorn and drinks plus a chance to MEET THE REAL ELDERS (Travis Tuttle and Andrew Propst) and the WRITER/DIRECTOR (Garrett Batty). The cost of this event is $15.75.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Head First - A missionary reality check (aka: First Assignment)

I promised myself that I wasn't going to cry.

"Dear mom," he starts energetically. "It's different," he says about his first assignment. Two weeks at the MTC, I realize, did little to prepare him for the culture change. "I have so much to get used to." I feel my eye sockets warming already. Though he's trying so hard to be positive, I sense the knot in his chest as he writes.

"I miss everything from home..." It's a simple declaration that at first leaves me with a smile. Haha, I celebrate a tiny victory: he does miss us! It's almost like sweet justice for all those teenaged eye-rolls and chest thumpings. Maybe we weren't such terrible parents after all.

"I have found a new appreciation for EVERYTHING at home... It kind of hurts to see and realize how much we take for granted." With a grin, I read the passage out loud to my sixteen year old as she shovels Apple Jacks into her mouth. She raises an eyebrow. "So?"

Ignoring her indifference, I continue reading. "I have leaned to adapt.. well, I am trying anyway!" As he relates the condition of his apartment it occurs to me that he doesn't remember our lean years. He was too young, I suppose, to recall those early years of hand-me-down furniture, bare-minimum dinners, empty closets, and cars held together with duct tape and binding wire.

Grateful to be past those days, I grab the keys to our late model SUV and head out the door for morning car pool. We've certainly come a long way since those starving student years and although we've tried not to give our children too much, it occurs to me that perhaps we did. For a moment I rebuild his childhood. Did we give him too much? Did we expect too little? Did we make it too easy? ... I don't believe we did. We've taught him to work hard. We've taught him to sacrifice. We've taught him to be independent. But, we never taught him that life was supposed to be easy.

The sun crests the mountains and shines into my car, my chest burns. I remind myself again that it's not supposed to be easy. We didn't send him on a vacation, after all. That's not what any of this is about.

As I make the turn into the high school parking lot, I realize that it's not his physical comfort - or lack thereof - that draws my tears to the surface. He's a tough kid - heck, he survived his own "war-zone" of a bedroom just fine. Let's face it, I'm surprised we didn't find parasites in there when we cleaned it out! Physical comforts are just that: comforts. He'll survive an old dirty apartment just fine. It is what's on the inside, however, that I worry about.

As I pull back into the garage, I also pull myself together. One more kiddo to get off to school before I can have a full breakdown... But, it doesn't come. Instead, I open my laptop and start typing. "Dear son," I start, but where do I go from there? What can I tell him that will make the growing pains feel better? 

We've spent his whole life hoping he'd choose to serve the Lord. This is what we've prepared him for. Why then, is it so hard to see him go through exactly what we knew he'd go through?

If I were there, I'd wrap my arms around him and together we'd shed a tear or two. Yeah, I know that its not cool for guys to cry - for heaven's sake, this mama doesn't usually cry either - but sometimes it's necessary to just let it out. It wouldn't take long, I am sure, before we both had things back in perspective. I'd swat him on the shoulder and say, "Get to it son. You've got important work to do."

But I can't do that. Whether its 500 or 5,000 miles standing between us, my arms would not reach him. I plunk a few words into a letter. Its not my arms, I admit, that he needs anyway. I can give him my love, my support, my advice, and my heart, but the comfort he needs can only come through learning to rely on the Savior. "Heavenly Father," I pray aloud, "please wrap my son in your love."

Before I can finish my prayer, I feel the comforting embrace of the Holy Ghost. Maybe my elder isn't the only one who needed a hug today.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Five Things to Do With All That Zucchini. The very first item on that list were these delicious little cookies.

(*Note to my sugar-free/diet conscious friends - These are not sugar or fat free by any means and my attempts to remove the goodness from them simply resulted in, obviously, goodness-free cookies. Rest assured, if you are looking for a sugar-free version, I don't give up easy and will keep trying. In the mean time, enjoy these beauties on your "free day.") 

Preheat oven to 375.

1 C. unsalted sweet cream butter, room temperature
3 C. granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 C. shredded zucchini
5 C. flour
2 tea baking powder
2 tea baking soda
1 tea salt
2 tea vanilla
2 tea nutmeg
2 tea cinnamon
2 C. semi sweet chocolate chips 

  • Cream together butter, sugar, and eggs til smooth. 
  • Add remaining ingredients (except choc. chips). Beat well. 
  • Gently stir in chocolate chips. 
  • Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 for 10 min. 
These freeze fantastically! Throw some in a freezer bag and enjoy them for months to come. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Little Time - Big Memories

Welcome to this week's Friday Five. If you are new here, Friday Five is nothing more than a short (hahaha) list of five random(ish) things. They might be favorites, thankfuls, pet peeves, or frankly whatever else strikes me on any given Friday. 

From Memorial Day to Labor Day there are 98 days.. That's less than 2400 hours, in case you are wondering. Sounds like a lot of time when you think of it that way, but really, summer comes and goes so quickly. For our family, the summer of 2013 was a busy one... one full of travel, hanging out with family, and building precious memories that will hopefully last forever. 

Because we had a bit of a pre-mission bucket list for our son, our summer was extra adventurous. And, when I say we were running like crazy, I'm not kidding. We were greatly blessed to have spent about 1/3 of our summer traveling... 33 days away from home to be exact (not including the girls' time at YW camp or my husband's business travels).  Thanks to everyone who helped make our summer a memorable one - both while we were at home and while we traveled! 

Here's to a summer of fun! MY FIVE TRAVEL DESTINATIONS IN THE SUMMER OF 2013:  

1. Fillmore, Utah - Okay, so disclaimer: I already blogged about this adventure. Surprisingly enough, this is one of our favorite places to run away for some R&R. To read about what we do in this little Utah town, check out my earlier post: Exotic - or not - Adventures.
Fields south-west of Fillmore, Utah

2. So Cal... - Ahhh, sunny southern California. Home of beaches galore, sunshine, smiles, relaxation... and traffic (over 7 million drivers in LA county alone), amusement park lines, overpriced concessions... and, did I say relaxation?

There's something about So Cal that drives our family there frequently. Maybe we're just suckers for spending boat loads of money on entertainment... okay, not penny-pinching, budget-loving me, per say, but someone! Our little vaca to So Cal this year included hot dogs, ice cream, and cheering fans at an Angel's home game. Star searching in Hollywood, fitting our hands in the prints at the historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and people watching while eating a giant pizza above Hollywood Blvd. A walk and pictures at the LA Temple grounds and a whole lot of chuckling at the missionaries who had to jimmy their way into a car for a lady who'd locked her keys in it. Sun bathing, picnicking, and body-boarding at the Seal Beach, Moonlight Beach, and Corona Del Mar. Not mention multiple days of crowds, and lines, and heat at Disney Land, Sea World, and Universal Studios.  For more about our SoCal trip, check out the picts on my Exotic - or not - Adventures post.... teaser: there may be something in there about an unexpected guest at the beach!
LA Temple 

3. Fish Lake - This is the one annual tradition we NEVER miss out on! This marked my 19th consecutive summer campout at Fish Lake (and, all things considered, this makes me a relative "newbie" since the tradition has been in place for over 60 years!)

Beautiful quiet mountains, crisp morning air, and fish-tales as big as a pontoon boat! Any time I get to spend out in mountains is a good time, especially when it gives me a quiet moment to read a book. As far as fishing is concerned, I leave that to the rest of the family. When I was about 10 my dad told me that whatever I caught I had to clean - that marked the last time I put a pole in the water. It's all good, though, cause the bow of the boat is a great place to read a good book, take a nap, snap some photos, and read some more.
Fish Lake
First year "Boo" had to clean his own fish...
maybe next year he'll decide to read a book instead :-)

4. St. George - Utah's Dixie. The true Utah desert with temps well above the century mark all summer long. I don't get to visit sunny St. George as much as I use to, but every time I do, I wonder why we don't live there! We've got abundant family down in this beautiful, red-rocked corner of the state, so it's not like we'd be alone if we did decide to make a move... hmmm... something to think about.

Though not our first trip there this year, our summer trip to St. George was for the occasion of my cousin's wedding. No wedding crashing, but we did crash at my bro and sis in laws house. And, what a blessing to be pampered by my sister-in-law. She is an amazing hostess, and her missionary mom stories are fantastic to boot!

Reflection off the porch window at the
Jacob Hamblin home, Santa Clara, Ut

5. And, the final horah?.... Moab - Again, sunny and hot. Do you sense a theme here? Yep, I'm a sucker for sunshine! Though I've been to Moab before, this was my first time riding the trails. It's amazing how much you miss from the highway. Gemni Bridges, Chicken Corners, Baby Lions Back, and Fins and Things... you guessed it, we conquered them all! And, though my children will try to tell you differently, I was brave! A few whimpers, a gasp or two, but not a single tear - even when we went VERTICAL.
Moab, Utah
Let's get vertical... 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Fight For You," Book 2 in the Stripling Warrior Trilogy

Just about two years ago I had the opportunity to not only read and review the first book in the Daughter of Helaman trilogy, but I also got the privilege of doing a group signing with the author, Misty Moncur, and I'm going to admit, she is one of my favorite author friends. That being said, I was thrilled for the release of Fight for You, first because we authors like to see each other succeed, and second, because I've been anxiously waiting for 2 years to see what's going to happen with the adventurous Keturah, and her devoted friends Gideon and Zeke.

Book Blurb:  
Keturah fought her way into the army, but now she's in Judea building fortifications, and the only thing she's fought so far is boredom. The work is hard, and the other soldiers don't think she can pull her weight. Her brothers are becoming strangers, and Zeke's jealousy is getting worse - because Keturah is falling in love with the wrong warrior.

But she's not about to let cruel pranks and hurt feelings keep her from doing what she knows to be right. She completes every order with faithfulness - a hasty retreat from the Lamanite army, a spy mission into the enemy stronghold, a midnight assassination. From burying the dead to whiling away hours on guard duty, Keturah will do whatever it takes to protect her religion, her freedom, her peace, and her family.

But in a camp of two thousand boys, the most important thing she has to protect is her heart.

What I loved most about this book:

Keturah picks up right where she left off - the only girl in the ranks of an army of 2000 young stripling warriors. Immediately, as a woman who pursued a career in a male dominated field, I relate to this young, bold, strong-willed girl. Determined to be just one of the guys, she struggles with the fact that some of the boys want to take care of her. She must find the balance between honoring her divine womanhood and being the strong, able warrior she fought so hard to become. 

Having just finished re-reading the Book of Mormon, this historical-fiction account of Helaman's stripling warriors was particularly fascinating to me. Misty has done her research! As I read, I found my self in continual awe at the level of  commitment she had in maintaining the integrity of the era and society which she was representing. Well done, Misty! Seeing the innocence of these young warriors (mostly youth 12 -18 years old) really drove home just how young and faithful Helaman's army was. What a great job humanizing the bold young men we loving know as the Stripling Warriors.

I am definitely passing this one on to my daughters!  

Note: This is book #2 in the Stripling Warrior series. I HIGHLY recommend you read book #1, Daughter of Helaman, before reading Fight for You. For more info, including my review of Daughter of Helaman, CLICK HERE

About the Author: 
Misty Moncur wanted to be Indiana Jones when she grew up. Instead, she became an author and has her adventures at home. In her jammies. With her imagination. And pens that she keeps running dry.

Misty lives in a marsh near a very salty lake in Utah with her husband and children, where they cuddle up in the evenings and read their Kindles. Well, she does anyway.

Connect with Misty at the links below.

Visit Misty's blog
Like The Stripling Warrior Series
Connect with Misty on Goodreads
Follow Misty on Twitter
Follow Misty on Wattpad

As part of the Fight for You blog tour, enter to win a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get your copy today on Amazon

Sunday, September 15, 2013

50 Day Book of Mormon Experience

"How are you doing on your reading?" I asked. It'd become a frequent question, perhaps even daily as the time to leave quickly approached.

"Working on it," came his standard reply, knowing exactly what generated my question. When my son started preparing to serve a mission, our Stake President issued him the challenge to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover before he left. Not too big of a challenge, since he had five months from the time he got his call til the time he actually was set apart and boarded the plane.

Some months into his preparation and after much of my near-nagging, it occurred to me that the invitation to read the Book of Mormon was not just for my missionary alone. In fact, it's an open invitation to everyone - members, non-members, Christians, and non-Christians alike. Including me.

And, because its what planner's do, I made a plan.

First, I calculated my time frame. Because I'd procrastinated, and my plan was to read it before he entered the MTC, I had about 50 days to read just over 500 pages. Well, that sure made the math easy: ten pages a day! Whew! Difficult? Perhaps. Doable? Absolutely.

I purchased a brand new, unmarked, miniature copy of the Book of Mormon. Brand new, so I wouldn't get distracted by the highlighted verses and abundant margin notes of my well-used, standby copy. Mini so that it could fit in my purse and I could take it wherever I went.

As easy as opening the page to 1 Nephi, my personal challenge had begun. Diligently, I worked my way through first and second Nephi, proud with myself for staying on task. 

Then, something happened. A few days after slogging through the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi, my heart changed. My challenge became an experience. My task became a pleasure. The familiar verses and stories started to come together. What had always read like a textbook to me had suddenly become more like a novel. Though an abridgment of different ancient stories, the Book of Mormon, in fact was one continuous story. I began to relate to the characters, cheering at their successes, crying at their defeats. Our ancient ancestors came alive. I saw their personalities, felt their trials, and celebrated their triumphs... I found myself looking forward to reading as I anxiously awaited the time when Christ would come visit them.

Never before have the words of the scriptures touched me so deeply. I've often heard people say that they hunger for the scriptures and I always thought I knew what they meant. Well, as it turns out, I didn't. But, I do now. They touched my heart, my soul, and my mind. They truly filled me.

There were days I would read and re-read the same chapters over and over again. Stories of our Savior, testimony of Him, the faith of our ancestors that sought Him for generations and generations before He was born, and the steadfastness of those who followed him for generations after his heavenly return. Men and women of faith. Children of virtue and promise.

In 50 days I learned more about the Book of Mormon than I have in all my years of study. I learned more of my Savior's love for me and of His promises to those who follow Him. I gained deeper testimony of the prophets, both ancient and present day - of their relationship with God, of their service, their love, and their ultimate devotion to leading us in the direction the Lord would have us go. This book of scripture that I've treasured for years, now has even deeper meaning to me. My testimony is firm. I know of it's divinity, of it's truth, and of its purpose in our lives.

I'm so full of excitement about my experience I feel like yelling from the roof-tops, "READ THE BOOK OF MORMON!" Whether you've never opened its pages or are a seasoned reader, read the Book of Mormon. Whether you do it in 50 days or 50 weeks, read it. Whether you like to read or not, READ IT!

"How are you doing with your reading?" The question is for me, this time. "Done," I answer, but not definitively, for one can never be done absorbing the word of God. Til the day I die, I will continue to study the scriptures, the Book of Mormon and the Bible alike. I make a new challenge, do the math, and set a goal: I will read the New Testiment, cover to cover, ten pages at a time. If I start today I should finish by the end of February.

Editorial note: You can get a free copy of the Book of Mormon by clicking HERE.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I, Spy - by Jordan McCollum

I have to confess, I read this book a few months ago and somehow in the crazy busyness of our summer, I forgot to actually publish my post about it. (*blushing*) I feel horrible, especially since I really enjoyed reading it. Hopefully those I verbally shared my review with ran out and got a copy... at least then I won't feel quite so guilty for my lack of organization. 

About the book: 
Canada is probably the last place you'd expect to find an American spy. But in my romantic suspense novel ISpy,  even idyllic Ottawa has its deadly secrets--and so does CIA operative Talia Reynolds. She can climb through ventilation shafts, blend in at the occasional diplomatic function, even scale buildings (small ones). But there's one thing she can't do: tell her aerospace engineer boyfriend Danny about her Top Secret occupation.

It worked for a year, keeping Danny in the dark, keeping him away from danger, keeping her secrets. And then Talia finally catches a hot case: Fyodor Timofeyev. Russian. Aerospace executive. Possible spy?

She can make this work, too--until Danny needs her at the same time her country does. And when Fyodor targets Danny? Suddenly her schedule isn't the only thing suffering. Now to save her secrets and her country, Talia must sacrifice the man she loves.

Read an excerpt from the book:

What I loved most about this book: 
For starters, its not every day I get to read a book dedicated to Ryan (my husbands name.) with a character named Talia (my daughter's name!) - Made me giggle... and, had me intrigued!

Talia Reynolds, much like my own Talia, is a powerhouse, no-nonsense kind of girl. Strong, yet sensitive. Determined, yet compassionate. She is quick and witty and I became quite fond of the thoughts that swirled around in her mind. In a world where so many of us look out only for ourselves, I loved her dedication to her partner - even when he had fumbles that jeopardized her life. This was a fun, adventurous, fast-paced book that had me turning pages. Not a dull moment. Definitely a must read. Can't wait for the rest in the series. 

Image of Jordan McCollumAbout the author:
An award-winning author, Jordan McCollum can't resist a story where good defeats evil and true love conquers all. In her day job, she coerces people to do things they don't want to, elicits information and generally manipulates the people she loves most--she's a mom.

Jordan holds a degree in American Studies and Linguistics from Brigham Young University. When she catches a spare minute, her hobbies include reading, knitting and music. She lives with her husband and four children in Utah.

For more about ISpy
Available in paperback and kindle at Amazon

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How often should a writer write?

You've got an idea for the next big thing. It's revolutionary, gripping, and beautifully written... at least in your head! You play it out in your mind over and over again until you could almost recite it in your sleep. It's an amazing book! Everyone will want to read it. So, you log onto your computer, open a blank doc, and stare at the little black cursor. If you're lucky, you got down a paragraph or two before the mind fairy swept everything away. If you're even luckier, you got down a whole chapter or even an outline. What do you do? What happened to your muse?

It happens to the best of us. At some juncture during our writing journey we all loose our muse. For some its a quick turnaround, for others, it may be a struggle to get back in the game.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard it said that a writer should WRITE EVERY DAY. Treat it like a job that must be done. My type-A, task mastering self loves this idea. Set aside a specific time EVERYDAY! Assign a place, a time, and a word count goal to each and every day! Yes, genius counsel. Brilliant. Productive.

... And soooo NOT realistic for many of us. If you're like me, you love to write and enjoy doing it as often as you can, but the reality is that writing is something you do for you when you're not busy doing things for other people. Sometimes you get so caught up in the business of being a parent, a spouse, an employee, a volunteer, and a plethora of other things that can actually push your muse to the side.  - Poor, sad, rejected muse! - And, it's okay.

Now, I'm not saying that I have a magic template that should work for all writers. In fact, my point is that there is no magic formula for how, when, where, or how much a writer should write.

I write as a release, therefore, when I feel pressured into doing it, my work isn't just unsatisfying, it often is without feeling and depth. Because of this, I did something almost unheard of to an aspiring author: I turned down a book a year contract with a reputable publishing house. Why? Because I know I can't pump out a good quality book, that I'm pleased with, in a years time. I am, after all, an OCD editor of my own work! However, I have some fantastic author friends who pump out genius works like water from a tap. We're talking five to ten books a year! And, yes, sometimes I compare myself to them and feel like a literary weenie!

 - Shake it off. Get a grip! Writing isn't a speed competition. At the end of the day, the end of the chapter, and ultimately, the end of a WIP (work in progress), writing is a very personal thing. Figure out what works for you. Being pressured by a deadline is a good way to a quick burn-out (unless you have a contract, then by all means, hit that deadline!) Shooting for a daily word count may have you padding your work with unnecessary words just to fulfill your self-instilled quota.

Writing a novel doesn't have to be, nor should it be, a torturous expedition. It should fulfill you. So, put the clock away, forget the word count, and let your muse speak when it wants to speak.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making the "Drop"

I don't think he ever went to bed last night, though we'd run through our check-off list a half a dozen times by midnight and his bags were packed, weighed, and ready to go. Too much on his mind, I suppose.

With the rising sun came the promise of a new day, a new chapter, and for our newly set-apart Elder, a new country, climate, routine, opportunity... Within hours, the rest of us will fall back into the normal(ish) swing of life. Familiar. Comfortable. But for him, aside from some treats and a few photos that this "over-doer" mom of his tucked into his carry-on luggage, everything will be new.

It's not business as usually this morning. There is nothing, in fact, usual about the mood in our home. Somber. Quiet. Reflective. Even the dogs seem to pick up on it. As he reaches out to give them each one last pat, his eyes cloud over. This is the last time he will probably see our sweet, old, Rocky-dog. Lilah tucks her ears back in disappointment when we tell he she can't go. Cooper, the wonder-pup, zooms from one end of the house to the other, across the coffee table, onto the couch, and ultimately into the arms of an optimistic, suit and tie clad boy.

I record the scene through the lens of my camera. Strong. Positive. Hopeful. Proud.

My better, more tender, half starts down the stairs to help carry up the luggage. "No, dad," eleven year old Boo insists, "I want to do it." We watch in humility as his slender frame maneuvers the bulging bag up the stairs. The suitcase really is bigger than him, but his desire to serve his brother gives him the strength to perform the task. It's going to be a tough day for our little guy. He's taking this harder than any of the other kids. He's going to miss his big brother - his defender, his helper, his partner in crime!

We get off a good 30 minutes behind schedule. OCD mom wants to panic, but world-traveler dad insists we are doing just fine. The car stereo is muted as are the typical cat-fights that seem to fill our car rides. Amazingly, not a single finger finds its way into someone else's personal space. Atypically somber.

Airport check in goes smoothly. Everything is in order, right down to the weight of his luggage. The first bag weighs in at 49 lbs and the second right at 50! Whew! I release my first sigh of relief for the day, grateful that our home scale was at least somewhat accurate... a little on the light side, but close. Then it hits me: if it's on the light side, then I've gained more than I thought I had. I reabsorb that sigh of relief with a single, ugly word: Diet... Followed by two, slightly more comforting words: Next Week!

The ticket agent finishes things up on her end and before I know it we are headed towards the security gate. We are not alone. There are other clean cut, well-dressed, eager missionaries, some with their families, others from the Provo MTC, and one, at the end of his two year journey, headed back home some 5000 miles across the pond. My second sigh of relief is one I don't have to take back: he will not travel alone. Not now or at anytime for the next two years. I can do this! He can do this!

Selfishly I take the first goodbye hug! I hold on as long as I can without things getting awkward. He may be taller than me, he may be stronger than me, he may even be smarter than me, but he'll always be my little boy!

Hugs are dealt out all around. "Boo," though struggling for the past couple of weeks, takes his like a champ... "Awesome One" not so much. She buckles into her big brother's arms, no longer trying to be tough. "Lu" holds out for a quick embrace, but her emotions betray her as he walks away. Dad, in the typical fashion of his teddy-bear heart, lost it before he even got his hug.

The security line is almost non-existent and before we know it he gives one last wave and disappears out of sight. He's off on his adventure but for some reason our feet are hesitant to leave. Ryan and I share a deep, tear filled glance. Words don't need to pass between us. We are both feeling the same sudden emptiness. Eighteen years of our lives has just left our hold for two years. We've officially handed our son over to the Lord.


Why is goodbye so hard?

"Why is goodbye so hard?" he steals the words from my mind. Vocalizing them triggers my heightened emotions once again.

My boy, on the brink of manhood, crumbles into my arms. "It's hard," I manage through the tender tears of motherhood, "because you are going to miss the ones you love."

By nature I am not a super emotional person, I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. I don't shed tears on a regular basis. But when it comes to my children - their health, their success, and their happiness - there is not a strand of my being that isn't emotionally bound. Seeing my boy hurt, hurts me.

We share a moment of tenderness - something that doesn't happen much between red personalities. "It's going to hurt," I don't even try to sugar coat it, "because you care." I look for another tidbit of wisdom to offer, but all I can muster are sympathetic tears.

There are parts of this journey I didn't plan for. Parts that if I'd taken off my OCD, planning, organizing, checking-off-the-to-do-list hat for just a moment, I'd have seen coming: Saying goodbye to your family is hard... saying goodbye to your best friend may be even harder.  

Though I sent many good friends off on their missions, I never had to bid the two year farewell to my best friend. My heart breaks. I can only imagine the pain. He has many good friends... Great ones, even. His best friend is someone we all love. Saying good bye is hard.

"It's okay to cry," I comfort through my own damp eyes. "You're doing what's right." We both know it. We also both know that things will work out, if not the way we plan, then as something even better.

Saying goodbye is hard, but with each day that passes we will know that he is busily engaged in the Lord's work. We will all grow. We will all benefit. His service will touch many - both at home and abroad.

Good bye, my son! May God bless you. We love you. Return with honor!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Two Years

Nine white shirts, perfectly folded, nestle easily along side an equally pristine set of ties. What looked like a large suitcase just hours before, now bursts with the reality of just how long two years is. Several pairs of slacks, a suit coat, a winter coat, socks, shoes, and even bedding fill every spare nook and cranny. I glance over his packing list for the gazillionth time. It's not like he's leaving the planet, I remind myself. But, it's two years... Two. Long. Years. Blinking back the moisture that hasn't been far from my eyes the last several days, I wonder at the experiences that await this young man I happily call my son. My chest bursts with more pride than his packed luggage. Two suitcases, a backpack, and a soul filled with love.  
In the grand scheme of life, two years is merely a blink of the eye. But in the measurement of a mother it is a long time. In the stretch of two years, a lot could happen.... and, it will. 

In two years, we will have another high school graduate, a high school freshman, and our caboose will be in junior high. In two years, the number of legal adults in our household will out number the number of children. In two years, I will have added another book (or two) to my resume and our caboose will have added another inch or six to his stature. Life will resume here, moving forward at the speed of the teenagers that fill our walls. Driver's licences will be procured. Hearts may get broken. Memories will be created... and all the while, our missionary will be making his own memories. He may not be here to comfort his sisters' broken hearts, or wrestle around with his ever growing brother, and, although we will miss him, we understand. There are others whose hearts he is meant to touch. Others who need his compassion, his laughter, and ultimately his service. 

Two years may seem like a long time if you count it in days (730!), but I know not one moment will be for naught. As hard as it is to imagine him gone, I can't imagine him doing anything better. 

I think I will count in terms of Fast Sundays. Twenty-four. Much easier for this Mama to swallow. Twenty Four is doable. Easy... almost! 

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