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Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Could I Have Done to Help the Man by the Canal?

I love to walk on the local canals here in Mesa.  They zigzag throughout the busy city.  Cars drive by on the busy streets and it gets especially chaotic during rush hour, but out on the canal it’s serene and peaceful.  The water moves at a snails pace and welcomes ducks that swim and search for food.  Occasionally a fish makes itself known and I wonder what else is down in that murky water. 

Last spring, it was one of those days when the sun was shining bright, but the air was blustery and cold.  The baby and Eden where wrapped up in a blanket in the jogging stroller and I pushed them through the neighborhood until we arrived at the canal.

As a woman and a mother, I am always evaluating situations for safety, sometimes subconsciously.  This day was no different.  Sitting near the water, I saw a man about a ¼ mile up the canal.  He was sitting alone.  Was he writing in a journal or working on a piece of art?  I’m not sure if I wanted to respect his privacy or keep my distance, either way I instinctively made the decision to walk on the other side of the canal
The walkway of the canal path sits several feet above the water.  While pushing the stroller, the strong wind gusts seemed to push at the wheels.  The stroller responded and it was like we were in this game of tug of war.  I kept both hands on the handlebar and recognized the potential danger of the stroller getting too close to the water.  It was during this debacle Eden and I both noticed the man, now directly across from us on the other side of the canal. 

His body language seemed full of messages.  He appeared unsettled, thoughtful and unsure.  Was he making a big decision?  Seeking inspiration?  Was he upset?  How many times had I come out to the canal with big ideas, obstacles or insecurities in my mind?  That’s when Eden spoke and with the swirling wind gusts, I could barely hear her:

“Mom, that man looks like he’s going to fall in the water.”

And he did.  He was sitting very close to the water's edge, but he was in fact a man, not a child?  Was it my call to consider he was sitting too close?  Through out the years, I'd seen many people fishing on the canal and they would sit near the water's edge.  Was he fishing?  He must see me, but he wasn’t looking up.  I wanted to respect his privacy, but I also wanted him to know I saw him.  If he was sad, I wanted him to know someone cared.  He had a box next to him, like a tool box or was it a lunch box disguised as a tool box?  Was it full of fishing gear?  Art supplies?  Lunch? 

“Hello,” I said and smiled, but he refused to look at me.  Did he speak English? Perhaps the wind was too loud.  Did he hear me at all?  Again the stroller pulled against the wind and I focused my attention back on the kids.  It was late in the afternoon and I didn’t want to be stuck on the canal in the dark. 

Within 30-45 minutes, I turned back onto our neighborhood street and considered what to make for dinner when my cell phone rang. 

“Honey,” and I heard the desperate voice of my husband on the other end. “Are you alright? Is everything ok?”

“Yes, what’s wrong?” I asked.

Derek explained to me he had just picked up our son at basketball practice and was driving home, right by the canal he knew I was walking on with our children.  There were police cars, fire trucks and an ambulance.  His first thought was something had happened to me or our children, but I immediately knew.  The man – he’d either intentionally or accidentally fallen into the water. 

Why?  Why hadn’t I done anything?  My intuition was something I could always count on, but it had failed me.  I was more than capable of handling an emergency, this emergency.  I could have helped him.  My dad was a psychologist and I’d grown up with a keen awareness for mental health.  I’d been a swimming instructor through the City of Mesa and was trained in CPR.  More then once I’d been the first to witness a car accident or medical emergency and I was at my best under pressure. 

In my mind I could see the man’s face.  Looking back, I could see the signs.  That’s when I realized I could have called someone?  I should have called 911 and said, “There’s a man here and I’m not sure if there’s a problem, but he appears troubled and he’s sitting close to the edge of the canal.”  Why had I cared so much about respecting his privacy? I considered why I didn’t walk near him, but instead walked on the other side of the canal.  Was he really a threat or had I over reacted? And the wind!  It had prevented him from hearing me when I said “Hello,” or had it. His body language had not invited me in. If he had heard me, he didn’t acknowledge it, but that wind pushing the stroller had kept me more focused on my kids then him. 

It was too late. He was gone and I couldn’t believe it. I called the non-emergency police department for information.  I told the dispatcher I’d just seen him and gave her a description.  I told her I should have done something and she said something about hindsight, that I'd done what I thought was best and to not feel guilty about it. Later, I did an internet search and read he had drowned.  The article didn’t say why, just a man had been pulled out of the water and was pronounced dead.

I didn’t go on the canal for a while.  I prayed about the man, about my experience and felt a bit lost.  Wouldn’t God have wanted me to save him?  “Why” was a question I couldn’t answer and it made me mad at myself, very mad.  I knew if I allowed it, this experience could put me in a dark hole.  I tried to keep my distance from the guilt, some days doing better than others.  One evening after work, Derek picked some roses from our backyard and suggested we walk to the canal and spread the pedals where I’d last seen him.  He said I needed closure.  

We left our home and when we turned the corner to the canal, I wondered if I could do it.  I’d failed that young man.  I was the last person to see him.  I could only imagine the heartache and pain his family and loved ones were going through. I held Derek’s hand as we walked back to where I’d last seen him.  On the ground, pebbles had been made into the shape of a heart and white sand had been placed inside.  

A note, maybe from his sweetheart had been pinned down with several large rocks.   

“Are you alright,” Derek asked as he put his arms around me.  I wanted to ask why, but knew the question would remain unanswered.  I pulled the petals off the roses and dropped them in the water, hoping the young man knew I would never forget him.  Most importantly, because of him, I would never miss an opportunity to help someone.

Over the last year, I’ve had two more experiences by Mesa canals.  While driving, I witnessed a man and woman fighting on the canal path.  He appeared to be shoving her.  I called 911 and reported what I thought might be domestic abuse.  I didn’t question if I was wrong, I would let the authorities investigate.  I’d rather be safe than sorry.  And just last week, my daughter Eden and I were driving to an appointment when I saw a woman standing near the water’s edge.  I stopped the car and asked if she was alright.  She wasn’t.  She asked for something to drink and I had a water bottle in the car. I offered her some money so she could go eat.  I told her “God loves you.  He told me to stop and help you.”

I’m glad I’ve been able to help in my own way, but nothing will make me stop asking “What if” or “If only.”  I’ll never know if I could have made a difference to the man sitting too close to the water, but if someone out there is struggling today, please know someone cares and that in honor of this man, I’m not letting another chance go by without helping someone.

I trust God knew what he was doing that day, but I wish I could have been the one to help the man by the canal, to tell him everything would be alright, that I could have offered him a hand and he would have walked away from the water’s edge.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Law of Attraction and The Cat

Over the last year, Eden has said to me many times “Mom, I wish I had a cat.”

So, we set out to find her one.  This last summer, off we went to the pound and looked at the cats, but ended up adopting a dog, a beautiful collie/golden retriever mix named Luna.  Up one dog, but still no cat.

I love this dog!

A few weeks ago on a cold evening in January, I was dropping my son Reef off at basketball practice.  As we pulled into the parking lot, Eden just out of the blue said, “Mom, if I had a cat I would love her and she would be my best friend.  I would take care of her and she would sleep with me every night.”  I knew how Eden felt about a cat and so heart-felt was her little desire, so specific were her motives, I recommitted to doing what I needed to do to get a cat for her.  “Eden, we will find you a cat,” I professed again, this time hoping I would follow through on my commitment.

While Eden stayed in the car with her older brothers, I walked Reef across the parking lot to his practice.  His basketball league practices at a park and the court is outdoors.  I wrapped my sweater tightly around my body and watched for a moment as Reef, in his short-sleeved shirt ran up and down the court.  “Grab your jacket,” I’d said to him as we left for practice, but in my experience, the only thing little boys notice when it’s cold and windy outside is that it’s an adventure. 

Reef’s practice would last for about an hour, so I was going to run up the street to Costco and grab a few groceries.  I thought I’d make a quick potty stop and ran into the park bathroom.  Those of you who live in Arizona know the restroom at the city parks are sparse – cement floors, steel toilet seats and grimy. Well, in the very back corner of that freezing bathroom I saw it.  A cat. A white and gray, purring, warm, fluffy, beautiful cat.  The only thing missing was a bright red bow.

I’ve seen stray cats.  They don’t want to be approached, the are dirty and scared.  This cat looked like it was put there just for Eden.  I bent down and reached out my hand to her.  Her pink moist nose touched my skin and it was love at first sight.  I reached out and she allowed me to pick her up.  When I walked out of the bathroom, Eden was watching from the car.

She didn’t say a word.

Eden, Heavenly Father gave you your cat,” I said, believing all good things come from God.

She waited as I approached her and then, through the car window I handed her the cat. 

“Her name is Princess,” Eden finally said. 
I just couldn’t believe it.  My daughter had manifested the cat, this playful, heaven-sent, tender, gentle cat. 

The cat looks to be about six months old, not a kitten, but not yet full grown.  
Disclaimer: The cat does not have a chip.

What I find interesting, is almost every time Eden and I are out, we now see stray cats. “Can we have that one,” Eden will say as we see a stray cat in a parking lot or in a random neighborhood.  Finally, I had to laugh out loud because I realized her positive energy and desire for a cat continues to manifest cats.  I finally said to her, “Eden, you need to stop desiring a cat because the universe keeps granting them to you.”

I’ve been listening to Abraham Hicks now for about a year.  If you haven’t already, take a listen to The Law of Attraction.  It’s life changing.

Click here to watch it full screen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I'm In Awe

What Has Your Sister Done – Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy

I have been completely in awe of the stories from my sisters who have faced an unplanned pregnancy. Some days, I open my email and somebody has sent a story.  These moments have been breathtaking.  Those of you who have sent your stories, thank you.  They demonstrate the strength, fear, social barriers and all the diversity that comes with such an experience.  Many of you have suffered through abuse and speak about such injustices while others share where they found support.  Many stories have both aspects – abuse in some areas and support in others. 

Once I offered to help write your stories, I have been scheduling appointments to conduct interviews and the book has been rapidly growing.  Thank you for trusting me with details you may have never shared with anybody else in the world.  Thank you for giving your story to others, so if they are in the same situation they will find answers and validation. 

In my memoir Staving Girl, I share my own story and how I became interested in collecting stories of unplanned pregnancy.  To me, this journey is personal and through my research, I’m drawing conclusions that even I wasn’t aware of. 

I have a degree in communication. My senior year of college, I was the assistant director of a project where we collected stories about a diversity of issues and presented them in a vocal stage performance.  I remembered how each story demonstrated a variety of social issues when all we were doing was sharing a story.  It’s been said the best stories allow the reader to interpret the meaningful effects.  Readers are independent thinkers and can come to their own conclusions.  Stories on unplanned pregnancy demonstrate certain aspects of societal norms and changes we as a people need to make to better support our sisters.  Each story of unplanned pregnancy stands as a witness to what is going on in our society, how each sister stands in an unforeseen place and with a leap of faith, does the best she can. I appreciate these stories and I love my beautiful sisters.

If you know someone who may be interested in sharing their story, I have extended the deadline to February 26, 2017.  The book is scheduled to be released in Summer 2017.  Below is some information you can share with them.   Thank you for your support. 

___How to Submit Your Story__

What Has Your Sister Done? is a collection of stories about girls who faced an unplanned pregnancy and what they decided to do about it.  Some may have kept the baby while others may have placed their baby up for adoption or terminated their pregnancy through abortion.  Because many aspects of unplanned pregnancy aren’t talked about, I’m hoping these stories will open the door and help someone in the same situation – after all, our stories are more powerful than we realize. 

If you want to help, here’s what you can do: 
Write your story.  This can be done the same way you would write a journal or diary entry.  Write about how you felt and how your story progressed.  Share what ever you feel.  There is no judgment here.  Remember, your story just may be what someone else needs to read. 

Stories can be submitted anonymously or you can request names be changed.  You can email stories to or message me on facebook here.  I need your story by February 26, 2017.  By submitting your story, I reserve the right to have your story in What Has Your Sister Done?

More thoughts on writing your story?

Start with prayer or meditation.  Allow your mind to open up to your memory.
Outline your experience from beginning to end to give yourself a point of reference if necessary.
Write down the key people who shaped the story?  What were your pivotal experiences with them?
Ask yourself?  What is it I want to share?  Some parts of your story may be too private?  If so, give yourself permission to submit your story anonymously.  Does this help you feel like you can be more honest?  See what you feel comfortable with.
What is it you’ve learned?  What would you change?  Did you see God’s hand in your situation or not? 

Also, if you know someone who has had an unplanned pregnancy, please pass this information on to them.  Feel free to contact me is you have any questions. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Baby is Little For A Reason

My Dear Baby,

You do not realize the influence you have over me, but because you’re little you control me on many levels.

Some things are small by design, like blueberries or carrot seeds.  Some things need to be little, like aspirin or tic tacs. 

Baby, you came into this world little, little with a purpose.  Little pulls at my heartstrings. Little grants me the opportunity to be your ultimate protector.  When I care for you, I learn just how strong I really am.  When I love you, I learn just how big love can become.

Once I saw this video of this tiny little hummingbirds.  It had been abandoned by its mother and so this guy was feeding it from an eye dropper. I watched this little hummingbird sucking from that dropper and I just cried my eyes out.  The hummingbird was so little and that was what made it powerful.  This young man was strong because he cared for a vulnerable living creature. To destroy this creature would have left this young man weak.

Click here to watch it full screen on youtube.

Little doesn’t mean helpless.  Little means miracle.  Little means teacher.

I watch you do something I’ve done a thousand times, but somehow, when you do it, it’s a miracle.

I fall asleep, and from what I know, nobody stares at me with tears swelling in their eyes.  nobody literally has to pull themselves away from staring at my face while I’m sleeping. 

I eat and no body claps.  Clapping is usually saved for really monumental accomplishments, like winning a race or singing on a stage.  Baby, you get not just cheering, but literal applause for opening and closing your mouth.  Power, I tell you, power for the little people.

I walk, not big deal, but when you walk I can literally feel the smile growing on my face.  In other situations, when I smile, I don’t actually feel the smile coming on, but when you blow kisses or say the word star, but it sounds like TAR, my smile flies on my face.  It’s magnetic.

Little is the new black. 

You are only little for a season.  I want you to grow big and strong, but today, you are little and I will cherish every beautiful little thing about you.

Click here to watch it full screen.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What I Learned From Taking an Improv Class

I thought I had a little something to offer the world of comedy because at times I’ve been known to be the life of a party.  I’m pretty good at dinner humor.  Get me around roasted chicken and a dinner salad, BAM, I’ve got it.  Someone can say something and I have that perfect pun to punch back with.  I can get my mom laughing, my brother, my sister and we build off each other, pointing out hypocrisy, building off memories from our childhood, making fun of ourselves, somehow current events got mixed in and we have the perfect evening of laughter and fun.  Literally, laughing so hard I've choked on chicken.  We’re all geniuses!

But, from the very first day of comedy class, I learned I’m so not funny. 

(This is the type of statement that will get me a call from my mom and she’ll say something like, “Oh, Laura, you have so much to offer.”   Thank you Mom, I’m ok.  I can handle this one. I love you.)

On that first day of comedy class, I knew I was doomed.  Looking around, I realized I’d gotten myself into a strange sort of torture – where others are supposed to be entertained at my expense.  I had sky-high expectations and with that sort of pressure, I had nothing to say. This was going to force me out of my comfort zone, something I was not comfortable with.  But always up for a challenge, of course I was going to follow through.  I would do my improtu-un-self-conscious-un-filtered-raw-best.  Remember, I don’t drink so this would all have to be done while entirely sober.


After that first day of class, I knew I needed to loosen up.  

This is about as wild as I get, dancing
with my kids at Chuckie Cheese.  

No, I wasn’t going to be a comedic pro.  Yes, I had to start from the very beginning, like a kindergartener; I needed to learn the ABC’s.  This consisted of not taking myself too seriously, not worrying about what other people thought, forgetting I might look fat, wondering if I should have worn those other jeans, trusting my babysitter at home, not checking my phone a hundred times and becoming present.  Wow, it’d been a long time since I’d been there.

A normal warm-up in comedy class is a word exercise.  Silly, quick reactions to words without much thought, just reaction.  You learn to lean on your classmates, to help build them up, to say “Yes” to their ideas, to go with the flow, let the process move you forward and just go with it.  After that first class, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back. I can see why comedy class has a non-refundable clause in their agreement. 

But the truth was, I wanted to learn about humor.  I’d been researching it, trying to find TED talks, YouTube videos, understanding the psychology behind laughter, and so forth.  

Attending Tig Notaro's comedy show at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.  
You should watch her clip here on meeting 80's singer Taylor Dane.  Hilarios!

As a writer, I wanted to incorporate more humor into my work.  I wanted it to be natural, like how I felt around Sunday dinner with my family, minus the choking part.  I wondered: Is humor something a person can learn or is it genetic, like curly hair?  After that first class I knew I hadn’t inherited the comedy gene in any way, shape or form.  What a bummer because I wanted to be funny in a big way. (Mom, you don't need to call.  I'm really ok.)

I immediately loved my classmates.  They were brave and smart and I could pick up on their cool quirks, something comedians must have.  There was a man in my class named Eric who had Down syndrome.  I don’t know if it was the mother or big sister in me, but I immediately bonded with him.  I felt this sort of need to protect and help him, explain things when he didn’t understand, validate him – and we became great friends.  Truth was, he really was funny.  At our final performance, he had the crowd roaring.   

I’m so glad I went back the second week of class because something interesting happened.  Time flew by.  I arrived at 6:00 and before I knew it, it was 8:00.  I’d genuinely been laughing the entire time, not just courtesy laughs like I’d offered the week before.  The word games were ridiculous and nothing I’d normally do, especially considering the time I had away from my kids was usually zero.  I didn’t feel the pressure like I normally did to make every minute count.  Laughing was productive enough.  I granted myself that permission.

My classmates treated me like a queen.  Normally, I was running a few minutes late and when I ran in the door at 6:10 for class, they would cheer, “Laura’s here,” as I ran up on stage.  

We would start a game and I don’t know when I’ve genuinely laughed more.  Our instructor was absolutely hilarious and I was sad he had to stick to instruction because just off the cuff, I was laughing at everything he had to say.  Taking a comedy class allowed me a 2-hour opportunity every week to just be goofy, no strings attached and to explore where my mind would take me.

I saw growth in my classmates and could see each of their gifts.  They arrived at humor in their own way – through wit, charm, naivety, power, confidence or insecurity.  Either way, it was really funny and I loved how we built off each other. If they were growing, I probably was too.

So, what about my writing?  Did it change?  I know I have so much more to learn, but I’ve seen how I need to lighten up; how I have to let loose, even though I’m still strung up pretty tight. I write about some serious topics, but I know many of my favorite points of literature are when the author provides that comic relief.  Fault In Our Stars is a book about teenagers dying from cancer, but man, it is a funny book.

My husband,kids, sister and friends came to my comedy show.  

My husband occasionally gets those brilliant moments of comedy genius from me, but not as often as he deserves (think drill sergeant with a mom bun).

On our most recent date night, and we did laugh!

He's a mental health provider, so his line of work doesn't provide bouts of laughter.  When he laughs, I feel like he's given me and him a gift.  I always point out when he's laughing, that's how notable it is to me. I started to wonder: Do my kids see me laugh?  Do they laugh much? I knew the answer before I asked the questions. Ouch.  That side of me that takes life too seriously, that feels the need to make every moment count, that is self-conscious makes it difficult to lighten up and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine and now that I know how to find it, I hope to bring more of it into my home.

I also recognized to do improv takes tremendous talent.  That’s why only certain people are famous for being funny.  They deserve the big bucks.  In the meantime, I’ll keep my day job of being a full-time mom and part-time writer, which doesn’t pay well, but has some of the same perks as stand-up comedy like late-night audiences (my baby was up again at 3:00am!) and uncensored monologue (if my 11-year old says that word again, I'm washing his mouth out with soap). (I call you later, Mom.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Dear Trash – the title of my blog offended somebody.

A young woman in a facebook group who I had sent a friend request to responded in a way I hadn’t expected. 
I told her I was writing a book called WHAT HAS YOUR SISTER DONE – Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy. “If you know anyone who has a story they’d like to submit, please have them send it to my email at,” I wrote.
“My dear trash, are you serious?” she responded.
Maybe she’d heard of my blog.  Was she a fan?
“Yep, that’s me,” I replied with confidence, not reading into her repulsive tone yet. 
“I will never send anyone to you, no way.”

For a moment, I didn’t understand.  Did she not know I’m advocating for the unborn, searching for those tender stories of unplanned pregnancy, trying to help others in similar circumstances.  And then I realized, My Dear Trash.  Oh my gosh.  Was I serious?  This was awful.

My Dear Trash – finding value where others may not see it.  That’s the core principle this blog was started on.  I wrote it up on my first blog post almost nine years ago.

My Dear Trash – a great title while writing about my latest thrift store finds, or how I dumpster dived and saved a vintage vanity from landfill death. 

My Dear Trash – because we as a society throw so much away, too much away when there’s still value in our trash and I’ve spent almost a decade proving it.  I’ve made a living off of other people’s trash.

My Dear Trash – written by someone who has felt like trash most of her life.  And why would she?  She has a beautiful family, seems to be together (most of the time anyway), oh, but my story had just started.  I’d been peeling away at it ever since I sold used name-brand clothing I found at thrift stores on eBay.  I’ve been trying to find value in my self the entire time, not those designer Rock n Republic Jeans, not that .99 cent used Eileen Fisher cashmere sweater I sold for $100, but me.

My Dear Trash – about so much more then thrift stores and vintage trends.

My Dear Trash – a blog about babies?  My baby?  What type of society would ever deem a baby as trash?  Sickening.  Babies thrown away?  Not in America.  No woman, no mother would consider such a thing, would they. 

My Dear Trash – sexual abuse, that nasty statistic that 1 out of 3 girls in this country experiences that lead me to feeling worthless even when my life was filled with tremendous bounty.  The reality of a pregnancy scare after I was sexually abused, how food addiction and negative body image has been a cover up for shame and hurt, how abortion is not just about women ending their unplanned pregnancy, but about dysfunctional abusive men who continue taking advantage of women.  Do these men find value in women or do they see them as trash?  It had been a lie I’d taken responsibility for way too long. 

My Dear Trash - I was a young girl when I first saw the image of an aborted baby in a book my mom was reading.  Why was that baby thrown away?  I was raised by an activist mom who coined the term “prebirth studies.” She collected stories from women all around the world who had seen their unborn children in dreams or visions.  Ultimately, her research dared her to ask the question “What happens to the soul of an aborted baby?”  Through more research and pivotal stories of abortion, survival, overcoming and second-chances, my mom was able to start a controversial discussion that still continues:  Are our children alive before they are born? 
My mom's book can be found here.

My Dear Trash – With all I knew about abortion, what would I decide when facing my own unplanned pregnancy?

So what do I say, to the girl who’s offended by the name of my blog?  I sent her a link to my most recent post, how my son, this most loved and adored baby who came into my life almost two years ago, is my perfect expression, how his life has given my immeasurable purpose, how his influence has transformed my children outward and I watch in awe as they love and nurture him. 
My beautiful family at Christmas time this year.

I learned in the most meaningful way that children just like my baby deserve a chance at life and that abortion is one of the cruelest, most dysfunctional options a society can ever offer a women. 
  The link to the blog post My Baby is My Perfect Expression is here.
My Dear Trash – because much we throw away has tremendous value, especially if we are throwing away our babies. 

So very thankful was I when this girl responded within moments of my message.  “I understand,” she said.  “You are most loved by God for all you are doing.  Thank you.”

I’m glad she questioned the name of my blog, as it’s given me time to consider the many meanings it has offered to me.  Never could I have discovered a more deserving, meaningful, richly deep and purposeful name.  It was given to me in a dream and I write about this experience and other experiences in my memoir Starving Girl.

My book can be found here.

In other news, December 2016 was my last month at Merchant Square and Antique Plaza.  My workshop is cleaned out. No more vintage furniture.  I’ve given away paint, my collection of old scrap wood and a part of my heart had to close too.  My mirrors, those I’m still holding onto (not sure why) and my giant box of vintage drawer handles and knobs, that’s going to take some time to sort through and part with.  I’ve bonded with many aspects of furniture restoration, seeing something so old, junky, thrown out, forgotten –  but if I spend some time, with a gentle touch, an artistic eye, I’ve had the privilege of bringing these pieces back to life.  Why stop now?  Two shops, a steady cash flow, more opportunities just over the horizon, but the truth is, I’ve out grown the task all together.  I’m a writer now and painting furniture is not going to get me to my dreams.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

What Has Your Sister Done? Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy

I’m working on a book called What Has Your Sister Done? Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy

What Has Your Sister Done? is a collection of stories about girls who faced an unplanned pregnancy and what they decided to do about it.  Some may have kept the baby while others may have placed their baby up for adoption or terminated their pregnancy through abortion.  Because many aspects of unplanned pregnancy aren’t talked about, I’m hoping these stories will open the door and help someone in the same situation, after all, our stories are more powerful than we realize. 

If you want to help, here’s what you can do: 
Write your story.  This can be done the same way you would write a journal or diary entry.  Write about how you felt and how your story progressed.  Share whatever you feel.  There is no judgment here.  Remember, your story just may be what someone else needs to read. 

Stories can be submitted anonymously or you can request names be changed.  You can email stories to or message me on facebook.  I need your story by January 31, 2017. Please message me if you need more time or would like help writing your story.  I can conduct an interview over the phone that takes about an hour.  It has been such a tender experience to hear these heartfelt stories.  By submitting your story, I reserve the right to have your story in What Has Your Sister Done?

Also, if you know someone who has had an unplanned pregnancy, please pass this information on to them.  Feel free to contact me is you have any questions. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

More thoughts on writing your story?

Start with prayer or meditation.  Allow your mind to open up to your memory.
Outline your experience from beginning to end to give yourself a point of reference if necessary.
Write down the key people who shaped the story?  What were your pivotal experiences with them?
Ask yourself?  What is it I want to share?  Some parts of your story may be too private?  If so, give yourself permission to submit your story anonymously.  Does this help you feel like you can be more honest?  See what you feel comfortable with.
What is it you’ve learned?  What would you change?  Did you see God’s hand in your situation or not? 

Let me know if you have any other questions.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

So, You Want to Write a Memoir

I have written several novels and have published two memoirs, my memoir Starving Girl and my mom’s memoir The Memory Catcher.  

My mom author and researcher Sarah Hinze and I being 
photographed for our local newspaper.  2103

I find reading and writing memoirs meaningful to the things I know to be eternally true.  I feel as we do simple, yet extraordinary things, our personal stories are magnified and meaning is everywhere.  Here are a few tips to get started:

1)     Find the most meaningful part of your story.  For me, it was my first 30-days of fasting.  I wrote in real time, but much of my memoir looked at past experiences.  Look through your blog, facebook, old journals, photos, etc.  Find your angles, quirky unusuals, meaningful life lessons, etc. See if you have one life experience bigger than the others.  What are the common themes?  What part of your life is your best story? 

2)     Don’t get too stuck on dates.  Most biographies do not read like my book, where dates are the start of each chapter, but do try to start a chronological path of each meaningful experience.  Think of Erin Brochovich, Julie and Julia, Eat Pray Love, Wild, The Glass House, etc.

3)     Don’t get lost in the details, at first.  The details will come later.  Be very general, but once you have your outline finished, I want you to put yourself right back in that scene and think of your emotions.  Emotions are the best teachers.  At this point, I want you to get specific.  More ideas will flood your mind.  Keep going.  Go detail crazy. Think of your senses.  Bring in past experiences that might be significant at this point.  Your input has no boundaries.  Ask yourself questions.  Research your own ideas.

4)     The start of your book should be a gripping, emotional story to pull the reader in.  The event maybe didn’t even happen during your “best life story”, but it is a monumental experience that opened your eyes to what?  Love?  Adventure?  Commitment?  Overcoming?  Whatever it is, and you probably haven’t written this scene, start digging to get it done.

5)     I kept my baggage out of my book.  This doesn’t mean I’m not revealing or even vulnerable, but I tried to focused every story on strength, overcoming and self-discovery.  No preaching and no gossiping.  I spoke very kindly of my loved ones, because I love so many of the people who make their way into my book.  I made a point to not reference “You.” Or make generalizations about what most people might think or do.  Everything I wrote about was written from the “I.”

6)     Pray like the dickens.  God has asked us to journal, to keep a family history, etc.  Although writing a memoir is not the same as writing in your journal, please know Heavenly Father will help you ( But you already know this.)

7)     If you don’t think you can write about a certain scene, write it anyway.  If it’s something embarrassing, revealing, shocking, emotional, write it generally.  Think of scenes you’ve read in other books like the scene in Wild when Cheryl had to shot her mother’s horse or when Elizabeth Smart wrote about her rape in My Story.  When I wrote Starving Girl, I imagined everyone close to me reading it.  I had to remind myself most of the people I know won’t even read my memoir.  I had to write the story for me and there were certain necessary scenes I had to make fit.  Second of all, your story is intended for a bigger audience.  Be silly, don’t take yourself too seriously.  Write it for your own sake and decide later if you have the courage to include it in your memoir.  For me, in the writing I found the courage to overcome.  

8)     Write and then, we-write.  Edit, write and re-write.  Write, put it away, work on another scene, then go back and read your previous work.  Rinse and repeat, ok, don’t rinse.

9)     Keep a log of ideas.  I would be out on a walk or folding laundry, and an idea would come to mind.  You don’t want to lose any of this.  I would speak into my phone and email my ideas to my computer.  Don’t think, “Oh, I’ll remember it later.”  This is a trap.  Take your ideas seriously.  Invest in yourself.

10) Listen to motivational talks.  Be inspired.  Read memoirs.  Listen to audio books.  Study your favorite authors.  Research their lives.  When people ask “What do you do?”  reply, “I’m an author.”  Start looking at yourself differently. 

11) Ask yourself, “What is it I want to say?”  What do you wish was out their in literature?  Have you found it?  Write the book you’d want to read.  Say the things you’d want to hear.  Be the voice.  Be strong in your convictions (without preaching). 

12) Do not seclude your audience by clinging to certain religious or cultural differences.  Be more general with these ideas, as they might turn certain readers off. 

13) Keep the flow.  Once a story ends, end it.  Do not analyze things to death.  Allow the reader to fill in some of the gaps.  Don’t write, “My husband is the best.”  Instead, write about a time he proved he was the best.  Show, don’t tell.

14) Allow us into your mind.  Let us hear the pros and cons.  Let us hear your inner battle, the courtroom drama, etc.  The inner growth and struggle is a key part of the story.

15) If you have written on your blog or kept a journal, many of your stories are already in their first–draft format.  If possible, use some of your past writings to propel you forward and think, “I’m so glad I kept this stuff written down.”

Remember, every rule can be broken if necessary to share your story.  So, there you have it.  Writing your own memoir is a thrilling, rewarding journey that I think more women should experience.  Your life story has real villains and heroes, adventures to unknown destinations and gripping accounts of overcoming.  Email me at if you have any questions.  Happy Writing.

Find it on Amazon and Kindle.

Find my book trailer on youtube by clicking here.

Find The Memory Catcher here.

Book trailer here.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

30 Days of Kindness to My Husband And More

I wrote my memoir Starving Girl in 30 days.  I didn’t think it could be done, after all, I’d spent years and years writing my other books, many of which were still unfinished.  What was different about Starving Girl?  I created an exciting dramatic experience in my own life and the story line followed.  

The bottom line was I needed a challenge, presented in my day-to-day living.  Something big enough to inspire me into a new exciting reality.  With that in mind, I started on my next 30-day challenge.  Why 30 days?  Because 30 days is a good base number to form a new habit. (Read here for more ideas about that). 30 Days of Kindness to My Husband was born. 

Like my first 30 days of fasting, 30 Days of Kindness to My Husband was thrilling, but the story behind it was more subtle than 30 days of fasting.  It started first with intention and in a beautiful dance of will, my actions followed.  From day one, I say my husband Derek different.  He was my focus and like a flame in the darkness, I became more aware of his presence.  My every day actions became more narrowed on him.  Before, I’d rush through conversations, a sort of “Get to the point,” perspective.  After all, I’m a busy girl and if I allowed it, our dialogue could be all business:  What are the kid’s schedules?  Who’s picking which kid up where?  Did you call the plumber?  Did you see where I put my shoes?  A marriage should not be a business partnership, even if only for moments at a time.

My husband is such a gift.  In a world full of ill intended, even arrogant men, he is a serving, loving, adorable gem.  I didn’t mean to take him for granted, but I did.  So how did writing keep me on task to change my habits?

It started with my wedding photos.  I pulled out my wedding album and randomly started looking at us.  This was going to be fun.

During my 30 Days of Kindness to My Husband, I found clues everywhere suggesting I could do better as a wife and kept mental notes.  So many aspects of me had slipped, including my patience.  Quick wit could be one of my literal gifts, but over the years it had turned into unintended insults and my tongue snapped like fingers at a jazz concert.  I didn’t mean to be so opinionated, but wasn’t it obvious I knew better.  Small tasks like driving turned into me offering suggestions and pointing out discrepancies.  Just wanting to help was an unnecessary evil.  If I had not set my goal to put kindness first, I’m not sure I would have noticed Derek’s larger-the-life patience, his awareness of my needs, the children’s needs and the purposeful way he provides for our family.    

            I started to see the story everywhere because Derek and I were the story.  His voice became more pronounced and I noticed his deep tones.  One night, when he reached for my hand, I actually had butterflies in my stomach and it reminded me of the romance we’d experience while dating.  I started sending him texts like “I love you” and “Hurry home.”  Always full of compliments, Derek would tell me I’m beautiful and I actually started listening to him.  His words meant something and if he spoke it, I respected him.  After a week of this, I finally felt the pure joy of his compliments.  The words “You’re beautiful,” entered my mind with such love, I could feel my perspective shift.  I was becoming how he saw me.  

With little effort, but a great big thing called intention, I had changed so much.  I loved who I’d become.  My need to be heard and be right all the time had gone away.  In its place was more trust, patience and love. I was surrounded by goodness and practically tripping over my blessings.  Derek’s love for me was life-changing and it was about time I took notice.

The last weekend of the 30-day challenge, Derek was out of town and I missed him terribly.  I thought of those who have long-distance relationships or couples who live apart because of military service.  How did they do it?  Like while fasting, I kept myself busy with the baby and household projects.  That night, I put the baby on my bed to change him into his pajamas when I noticed it – a yellow rose on my pillow.  My story unfolded again and the depth of love in my life was almost more than I could handle.  Derek’s presence was everywhere and I took this beautiful symbol of love to heart.  I would never go back to who I was before the 30 Days of Kindness to My Husband.  Kindness was the gift that kept giving.  How was I going to keep up with all the love coming back to me?  Now that was a challenge I could handle. 

The last day of the 30 Days of Kindness to My Husband, I did something I hadn’t expected.  I said to Derek, “I’m sorry.”  With tears in my eyes, I asked for his forgiveness.  Like a giant teddy bear, he wrapped me up in his arms and told me that was unnecessary.  He didn’t need me to apologize.  I was his perfect wife and he saw me for all the good I was.  Even still, I needed to say it and now, I’m on a new, fresh path in my relationship with my man.  

Now, in this world of girl-power and modern-day feminism, I’m sure somebody could read about my experience and deem me subservient and passive, but let me assure you this is not the case.  Girl power is wonderful, but not when used to dominate.  Feminism is important, but there is still a certain grace we as women carry that needs to be accentuated, not squandered. 

For the last ten years, Derek has taken me on a date almost every weekend.

The truth is, being a writer I've create worlds and stories in my mind, but living out these experiences, even these challenges is something I’m just now realizing I can be doing all the time.  I have loved the new windows of exploration, the journaling and watching the story unfold.  My next 30-day challenge, 30 Days of Service Toward My Children.  During Christmas time, this is going to be uniquely special.  I can hardly wait to get started.   Who’s with me?