Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Trekking On

The summer is flying by all too quickly for me. Last week was the youth pioneer trek reenactment. We took 61 teenagers out into the mountains and woods and pushed handcarts through the rain, heat, bugs, and mud. Trust me when I say we don't do this for the fun. It's all about the "experience."
It's hard work and it's hard on the body. But it is good for the soul.
I've always loved camping and hiking, so it isn't the worst thing in the world for me. I prepared myself physically by walking nearly 5 miles almost every day for 6 weeks in advance. I never suffered from a lack of stamina. (I was so proud of myself!) And my body held up pretty well. After the fact though, oh my word!, it hurts. The stiffness and soreness of walking 18 miles, and sleeping on the ground under a tarp in the rain does take some recovery. (So sore!!)
"Before" with 3 of my 4 Baby Ducks that went 
After - much stinkier, much dirtier, but still smiling
 About 2 weeks ago I had to make the very tough, very adult decision to not go to Europe with Clog America. If I had gone, I would have left today to fly to Zurich. It is breaking my heart to not be there. And it kills me a little inside each time I see a picture one of them posts from their trip.
It was a tough decision to make. I'm still trying to convince myself it was the right call. I couldn't justify going to Europe for 20 days and spending what money I have, when I don't know how long it will be until I have reliable income again. I'm heartbroken, but what can you do?

Settling into my life in Roanoke has been rough ride. Learning to live with my parents for the first time in 20 years has its ups and downs. Living with sister missionaries again has had its ups and downs. Learning to be someone's child, while also being the YW president, start my own business, write a book, and be the unofficial "third companion" to the missionaries has not been easy for me. Just learning how to balance being myself (an adult woman used to living on her own) and being someone's child has been tough. Juggling so many roles, not one of which I asked for or wanted, has really taken its toll on me.

But I'm happy enough. Things are okay. I could still really use a job, or for my business to come together and take off. Just having a routine and semblance of a normal life would be welcome at this point.

Bear with me. (Bare? Bear? I can never remember.) It's going to be a rocky road before it's a smooth one.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

My favorite picture from Awesome Con. This was the "Debate 2015: Which Superhero would Make the Best US President?" panel.

The last few weeks have been crazy busy for me. And it all came to a full stop 2 days ago.
I've been writing like a madwoman, getting books ready for Awesome Con. Then I went to Florida with girlfriends for a few days (where I was introduced to Escape Rooms, and fell in love with the concept, and you'll hear more about that in the future I think). And then came home, turned around, and went straight to DC for Awesome Con. Got through that, came home, did some work for a client, and BOOM, it's all done.
No more work.
No more jobs.
No more clients.
Now I just live in Roanoke with nothing to do.
Well, for a few days or weeks anyway. I may not have a paying job, but I'm still busy enough on my own. (I'd much rather have a paying job though!)
Me at Awesome Con. My shirt had a cape on it. I went straight from Awesome Con back to Roanoke without changing clothes. I wore this shirt for about 18 hours. There was a massive thunderstorm that caused me to pull off at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere southern VA for a while. Next thing I know people are pointing at me, and bringing their kids over to look at me, and one lady asked to take a selfie with me. I completely forgot I was wearing a cape. It caused quite the scene. 

I was "called" as the Young Women's President at church this week. If there are non-Mormons reading this, that means I am now the volunteer in charge of the 12-18 year old girls. I am responsible for making sure there is a teacher for the Sunday lessons, and an activity every week. And for getting the girls to youth conference and girls camp this summer. Among other things. And getting called in mid-June means hitting the ground running. We have youth conference in 2 weeks. I will come home from that, shower, nap, and get in a plane to fly to Europe for a few weeks. I come from Europe, where I will possibly have to go from the airport to girls camp. If I'm lucky I'll get to come home and sleep in my own bed for a day.
(It's going to be madness!)
I'm very excited and humbled for the chance to work with my Baby Ducks again. I've watched these girls grow up and love being a part of their lives. It's different this time because I'm the organization president, and not just one of the advisers. That's the intimidating part! When I think about how influential my YW leaders, particularly the presidents, were in my life, it humbles and overwhelms me that I now play that role in someone (15 someones) else's life. I suppose in many ways I was already playing that role for them, since I've been around since many of these girls were 12. But it's hitting me harder now that I'm the president.

So here I am...
Back in Roanoke, serving the Baby Ducks, and looking for a job.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 

Friday, May 15, 2015

My latest love

Introducing the Squatty Potty

Yes, it's a little stool you put in front of your toilet and rest your feet on.
I'm not saying you  need it.
I'm just saying once you've used one, you will never want to go back.
Especially if you have lower gut issues.
Just saying.
Carry on. 

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Happy Mother's Day! We love you, Mom!

Happy Mother's Day to Our Mom!!

Love, Erin Ann, Natalie, (Scott), and Steph

The following blog post is a mix of thoughts and pictures contributed by my sisters. Not all of the pictures are family pictures, but just images to represent some of our memories. These are not all my words or thoughts.

Mom never went to medical school but she is one darn good Witch Doctor.  What ever ailment you may have mom knows how to fix you right, and 9 times out of 10 it works.  Thank you, Mom, for always taking the time to keep us healthy.

She scored when she married the handsome Naval officer!

My mother might not realize this but she gave me a gift by teaching me to always see the gentle beauty and humor in little children.  She always gets a kick out of the cute things children do and say and she also points out the sweet innocent faces that might have gone unnoticed.
Baby Scotty

Baby Porter

Baby Dallin

Not so baby Dallin


Handsome Tell

Who doesn't love a nekkid toddler? 

First grandbaby - Tell

A fun memory I have of you is that if you saw a strange fruit you would always buy it and bring it home for us all to try together.  I always enjoyed that and I now continue that same fun tradition with my own kids. (From Natalie, pictures by Erin.) 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Walmart Bestseller!

Take a good look, friends! There on the bottom row! Do you see it? It's small, but it's there! MY BOOK IS ON A WAL-MART BESTSELLER SHELF!

For an author it's a pretty big deal just to get into a Wal-Mart, because they don't sell all books, just bestsellers. But to be a bestseller of the bestsellers? I'll take it!

And it's coming just in time when I could use some promising good news.

I am moving this week back to Roanoke. The plan is to "make it as a writer." I'm scared. Completely terrified of how this will all go. Can I really make enough money to get by just writing? We're about to find out. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

How to Fellowship the Singles

We live in a world where married couples far outnumber singles, or at least it feels like they do. And then at Church they really do outnumber and overshadow the singles. This is a wonderful thing! Thank goodness there are so many marriages and families. However, walking into church week after week not sure who you’re going to sit with while observing a sea of heads resting on shoulders and hands being held can immediately make a single feel like the odd man out. The singleton who wants to marry and loves the Gospel experiences a wide range of emotions in regards to this particular season of life. At one’s deepest core, one desires to be loved (as we all do). No one wants to feel excluded, singled out, or left out. 
And yet, even at church, the one place we truly seek (and expect) to be loved and included, it is very easy to be left out, excluded, and misunderstood. The language used at church often excludes the singles inadvertently. Conversations leave out singles because married people apparently forget how to talk to a person who doesn’t have a spouse, as if they weren’t once single themselves. Singles leave the Church every day because people ignore them, instead of just saying hello.
Here are four ways you can better embrace, love, include, and fellowship, and speak to the singles in your ward.
Affirm, Validate, and Encourage. Don’t Assume or Attempt to Fix.
Everyone likes to be encouraged. Everyone should be encouraged! Affirming and building one another up is something we are called to do for each other. This is a call that applies to every person you are in relationship with, not just singles. Affirm and validate their choices to be at church. Affirm and validate their hard work. Affirm and validate their service to the community, church, and their family. Affirm all good decisions. And if you don’t know what good decisions they may be making, get to know them well enough so that you can. Singles often struggle with their choices and decisions because their life lacks validation. (I want to stop myself here and point out that validation is a terrible word to describe this. I don’t mean they want someone to pat them on the back and tell them they do everything right. But married couples, and those who live with their families, have other people in their lives who help with decision-making, and other people who have a vested interest in the job, decisions, and choices of another person. Singles are very much alone in this respect. There is often no one with a vested interest in their lives. No one who cares about a good or bad day. And no one to give heartfelt advice on tough decisions.) There isn’t another person with a vested interest in what he or she does, which makes some decisions a lot easier to make and others really difficult. Be there for your single friends and family, offer advice, and affirm and validate their choices.
Assumptions about why a person is still single can be very hurtful. Marriage is not a goal, it is a gift. It is a calling and/or gift that is not extended to all. There are many singles who remain single for no specific or obvious reason. When someone wonders why they are not yet married (especially women) the last thing s/he wants is for someone to take a magnifying glass to her heart to diagnose its condition. What the person really wants is compassion, comfort, and love.
Unless you have been specifically asked by the person to help fix them, it isn’t your job to do so. We are all called to serve and sharpen one another and [as the Lord leads] encourage one another toward a Gospel-centered life. But we all have the right to choose to be who we are and be held accountable for our own choices, not the choices of others forced upon us. Under no circumstance should we try to “fix” each other as it takes away accountability. Love, affirm, validate, and encourage instead of criticize and fix.
There are all kinds of people who are married. Ugly people, smart people, stupid people, people with really bad teeth and hair, people with good jobs, people without jobs, people with bad credit, people with big bank accounts, people with divorces, people who have never been kissed. Sometimes it feels like people will marry just about anyone these days- except for “me.” Which tells me that there is no such thing as “marriage material.” Resist the urge to “fix” your single friends. (Unless it is to give a few helpful hints regarding fashion, halitosis, and/or body odors.)
Singles spend far too much time comparing themselves to married people and wondering, “What’s wrong with me?” “How did he convince a woman to go out with him, let alone marry him, and I can’t?” So why would you want to add to their burdens with your criticisms and critiques.
What a loving Father in Heaven wants His children to know is that they are loved and are of great worth. “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” There is no clarifier on that that says, “The worth of married people is greater than single people, especially the singles over 30.” When others (in an effort to help) fill a single’s head with a lot of “maybe this is why you are single,” it only makes the person feel of less worth.
And while I am at it, please stop calling single men a ‘menace to society.’ Chances are you are taking the quote completely out of context and using it wrong, degrading and insulting the thousands of very good single men in the Church.
Ask and Be Willing to Receive
Some of this will depend on the personality of the single person in your life, so proceed with caution. But there are few things I can share with you that come from such a raw and humble place in my heart.
Singles, by their very status in life, are alone. There are few people in their lives that they can share things with. They often live far from their families. Roommates aren’t always close friends or confidantes. Their other single friends are often similarly burdened. Singles are, whether they want to be or not, a very isolated island.
To be remembered and acknowledged in even just the simplest of ways can make a world of difference. A simple “how was work” text, or comment on a Sunday, can mean everything to a person who never gets asked how their day was, and doesn’t have another person to share their life with. Sometimes it is the littlest things that can make the biggest difference.
I’m not afraid to admit that my favorite reason for working with the youth and primary is all of the hugs. I live alone. I can go for weeks without any physical touch from another person. The unsolicited, uninhibited hugs from my “little friends” in the primary and youth program, are often the only touches I will get for months. When a “little friend” draws me a picture it can make my whole month just to think that someone thought of me for a brief moment. Remember how lonely and isolated a single person can be next time you have the chance to sit with one. Reach out and include them. You may never know how much they needed to be noticed that day.
Include and Embrace
Every time a Relief Society teacher says, “What can we do as mothers…” a childless woman gets knocked down again. This includes the single women. Re-evaluate your words and the real intent of the lesson, and include every member of your ward. Each member is of great worth. Not just the parents, and not just the married ones. Couldn’t the question as easily have been, “What can we do as women?”
When you plan ward activities, are you remembering to include ALL of the members of your ward, including the singles? Or are the activities so family-centered that the singles are excluded? There are lots of ways to plan activities that are fun for small children that don’t unintentionally exclude the adults without children.
When speaking to the youth about the different phases of their adult lives, don’t leave out the single phase. When asking special guests to come speak to the youth, ask for the input of a single adult as well. Chances are good that fifty percent of the youth will go inactive in the Church if they are not married by age twenty-five. If they were to see how the Church still applies to them by seeing and hearing more from single adults, would they stay active? And will that single adult feel more included and appreciated?
Do Not Use If/Then Statements
There may be nothing that irks me more than when I am told, “It’s when you let go and are ok with being single that you’ll meet someone.” Or “Relationships happen when you least expect them.” If either one of these platitudes were true, I’d have met a dozen men a dozen times over by now. Where it may have happened to you or your child or sister or brother this way, it’s just not a concrete fact. A loving, merciful Heavenly Father doesn’t use reverse psychology on His children and He certainly doesn’t employ complicated dating formulas for us to figure out and follow.

Contentment doesn’t bring about blessings, willingness to submit to the Father’s will does. By telling a single person that they need to be cool with being single before they can be married, you have (most likely unintentionally) encouraged them to live according to a “works-based” mentality. Ideas and beliefs like this create a manipulative relationship with God. (If I pay my tithing today, I’ll get a raise tomorrow. I better read extra scriptures tonight so that I get an A on my exam. I got a flat tire because I missed church yesterday.) What is more helpful, is to lovingly encourage a single in his/her relationship with the Gospel. Share with her how He has proven himself enough for you personally in difficult seasons of life. (You would be surprised just how well single women relate to the emotions of infertility.)

Fellowship the Singles
Include, love, embrace, and speak to the singles. Your simple actions of just saying hello and asking someone how they are doing can help not just make someone’s day brighter, but also help keep that person in the Church.
Do not forget your singles. Fellowship them. Don’t let them disappear because you didn’t speak up.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Finding the Positive in the Opposite Sex

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the opposite sex. I had an epiphany that had never occurred to me before: It’s almost always a disappointment with the opposite sex.
First, let me start out by making this one thing clear. This post is not a “down with men” or “down with love” sort of diatribe. Far from it. I am a woman writing about her feelings and experiences with the opposite sex. This could just as easily be written from a man’s point of view. At least, I think men might feel this way too. I’m not sure. And that’s why I’m putting this out there to spark some thoughts and conversations on the subject.
After twenty-plus years of dating, I’ve become jaded of sorts. My expectations have been lowered significantly on the romance front. The twenty year old version of me dreamed of the day her crush would ask her out and bring a dozen roses to her on the doorstep. The 40 year old version of me has never had a man bring her roses on a date, and is impressed when a guy actually offers to pick her up, and doesn’t suggest she take public transit to meet him somewhere. Actually, the older version of me is just impressed when a man asks her out. That’s about all it takes to impress her now. Sometimes, even less.
After years and years of being single, I’ve been disappointed over and over again. I’ve lowered my expectations considerably. Oh I still have high hopes, but reality keeps them in check.
Nearly all of my experiences with the opposite sex have had negative returns. Even the good guys have left a bad impression at some point in time. The once great boyfriends eventually broke my heart. Whether it’s an unrequited crush, cat calls from a man on the street, a bad breakup, most of the experiences I have with men are not positive.
There are a few good guy friends out there. And occasionally I’ve had a decent home teacher or two. (I mention this only for the sake that I know someone will bring it up in the comments section.) But these positive social interactions with the opposite sex are the minority of my experiences, not the majority.
My experiences with my own sex are different. We laugh, joke, share, and commiserate together. For the most part my experiences with my own sex is very positive. (In other words, it’s not me. I do have positive relationships.) These are not the experiences I frequently or regularly have with the opposite sex. The positive experiences I have with men are getting farther and fewer between.
And I worry about that.
I worry that my little heart will build bigger defenses, higher walls, and tougher callouses with every additional negative experience to the point that no one will ever be able to get past them. You have to have a “strong center,” or “be mentally strong,” “have thick skin,” etc., when it comes to attempting to befriend the opposite sex. Or at least that’s what my guy friends tell me. But that’s the problem. I’m jaded and calloused when it comes to men breaking my heart. I expect it now. (Reality over hopes.) But really, the heart under those callouses is soft and tender.
In the long run, can all of these negative experiences be good? We need the positive experiences. We need to seek them out and find them. We need to start to like them again, and not just associate them with bad experiences. Otherwise, my heart may turn into one gigantic callous. And that just sounds gross.
I know I’m not alone. And I know this isn’t all one-sided. Maybe all those tough manly men won’t admit to it, but I think they suffer from the same afflictions.
How can we expect anyone to couple up and fall in love if they never have positive experiences with the opposite sex? How can we even expect them to bother to look at or speak to each other?
Consider this my challenge to you- be kind to the opposite sex. Ask someone on a date. Do something fun and positive with a member of the opposite sex so that they have a reason to believe that there are still “good ones” out there. Surprise someone with a card or a call. Invite someone to go for a walk. Take them a plate of cookies. Give a member of the opposite sex a reason to smile. Just this one time, don’t worry that you will lead them on or give them the wrong idea. Just worry that maybe you haven’t done your part lately to give the opposite sex hope or a smile. Because wouldn’t you like someone to do that for you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Get your tickets to "Freetown" today!

Exclusive Washington, DC premiere with the director, Garrett Batty, at AMC Hoffman Alexandria, Monday, March 30, 7:30 pm. 

Caught in the middle of a brutal civil war, six Liberian Mormon missionaries in Monrovia flee the widespread violence of their native country. Their destination: Freetown, Sierra Leone. With the help of local church leader Phillip Abubakar, the missionaries make the difficult journey, only to have their troubles compounded by a rebel fighter bent on killing one of their own. Based on true events, FREETOWN is a thrilling and inspiring story of hope and survival.

Due to the "on demand" nature of this special, one-time only showing, we must sell a certain threshold of tickets in advance for this viewing to happen. Tickets will NOT be available at the door or on Fandango. They are only available through Tugg.com. So buy today! Don't miss your chance to see this incredible new film.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Slovenly Productivity

For the past 2 months my bedroom has been a disastrous mess. I mean over the top messy. And I hate it. I don't like it when it's like this.
It started when a roommate moved out, and I switched bedrooms. Shortly thereafter, before I had the chance to get organized in the new room, I went on the big cruise with my family. And then I came back, my laundry exploded, and minutes later I came down with that little nasty kidney stone attack and spent 3 weeks in bed.
I followed those 3 weeks in bed with 3 weeks of working 50+ hours each week at the spa. And then I threw a huge party, and then helped with another huge party. And party planning tends to explode all over my house (and car).
And in short, for someone with only a part-time job, I've been so overwhelmingly busy for the last 2.5 months that something as simple as unloading a laundry basket has been very low on my list of priorities.
Tonight I was certain I was going to sequester myself away in my room, put on a movie on Netflix, and fold some clothes and get organized. It didn't happen. Not even close. But I did get a bunch of bills paid. And bills are always more important than laundry.
I'm moving in about 6 weeks. (Where? That remains a mystery, even to me.) And knowing that, it's becoming even more difficult to motivate myself to organize my room. I'm more likely to just start packing and preparing for the move.
I'm impressed with my tolerance for slovenly living, even if I do hate the mess. I had no idea I could put up with such a disaster for so long. But then again, maybe I shouldn't be so impressed with my own exhaustion and laziness.
That all being said, I think I should hire someone to come over and organize and run my life for a day for me. Is there a service that organizes and pays your bills, plans meals, buys the groceries, does the laundry, and vacuums floors? (And isn't called a wife?)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Next Big Adventure

Some pretty building and flowers in Belgrade, Serbia. Summer 2014 

In the past week I've made the unexpected decision to join Clog America on their summer tour this year. I hadn't expected to have the funds, time, or resources to make the trip this year. But with everything else in my life falling apart recently, suddenly the 2015 summer tour came together for me.
I've had to explain to a few friends how it is I became associated with a group of cloggers from Utah, and why I get to travel around Europe (again) with them. Every time I explain it, I laugh even harder. But basically the short version goes like this.
I accepted an invitation from a strange man on the internet to go to Serbia.
Seriously. That's basically what happened.
The longer version is this- a man who had read my columns for several years sent me a very nice email and explained his relationship with Clog America. And told me how they would like to invite me along on their tour as their social media person. So I said yes.
It honestly didn't hit me until I was in the Belgrade airport looking for a total stranger just what a crazy situation I had gotten myself into. I had taken a few precautions (for instance, my plane ticket was flexible. I could have left at any time.), but I really was just along for the ride.
And what a crazy ride it was. I won't say that it was fun and easy every step of the way. Joining up with 40 complete strangers, having no control or influence on what could happen next, and not really even fully understanding the situation, was really hard on me. It was definitely a learning experience in "letting go." I like to be the boss, and I like to be influential. And I really like to make my own choices. So to be at the mercy of so many unknown people for so long was really hard.
But granted, it was a hard thing to deal with in the middle of an awesome situation. 3 weeks in Romania and Serbia? Not exactly a hardship, you know?
I didn't love every minute of the trip. But I did love more hours than I didn't.
Which is why I more than willingly volunteered to join up with them again this summer as we tour Switzerland and Germany. 20 more days of folk music and dance festivals in the heart of Europe. It's going to be great!
And if you thought I posted a lot of pictures of food in Serbia and Romania, just wait till you see what happens when I'm in the land of chocolate and cheese! I can't wait! (Did I mention we are going right through the town of Gruyere? Oh yes, there will be cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. AND CHOCOLATE!!) (I have a lot of weight to lose before I go to Europe and happily gain it all back.)
(So much chocolate!)
This year I will have more responsibilities than just social media for the group. And I'm excited about the changes. I'd much rather be able to contribute more and be busy, than just be along for the ride. Patiently waiting for things to happen is just not my style! I'd rather make things happen! (And oh, will I be making things happen this year!)
Watch out, Europe, I'm coming back for more [chocolate and cheese]!


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