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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Next Project - My 100 Daughters from India and Rising Star Outreach

    For years, our family has longed to adopt a little girl from India.  This is where the story of A 100 Daughters starts.
My students at New Horizon. 
In 2013 when my daughter Eden was three years old, she started a bedtime routine that became quite extravagant. I would tuck her into bed and say, “I always wanted a little girl just like you,” and she would hold my face in her tiny delicate hands and start kissing me.  First on my cheeks, then I’d close my eyes and she’d kiss my eye lids – first one, then the other.  Then, she’d kiss my ears, forehead, top of my head, my mouth, chin, neck and hands until she felt her love had been adequately expressed.  So insistent was her affection, she couldn’t fall asleep until she placed her kisses upon me.  One particular night, I was rushed putting her to bed.  I wondered if all her kissing was simply a bedtime delay tactic, but something inside me said her demonstration was an ancient ritual, and I was to take the time to let her show her love.  The way Eden loved me was not of this world. 
A few nights later, while I was putting her to bed and she had finished all her kissing, I was staring into her bright blue eyes. Eden asked if she would ever have a sister. With a family full of brothers, I knew the odds were not in her favor.
“I want 100 sisters,” she said, delightfully. 
“100 sisters,” I laughed, and took her in my arms as we giggled.  “That would mean I’d have 100 daughters,” and my heart burst with love. 
The very thought of 100 daughters felt like magic.  100 daughters would make our lives just about perfect.  While considering such an idea, I asked Eden what it would be like if we had 100 sisters.  Our discussion magically turned into a poem of sorts, alive with color and joy.  Because of my love for the girls of India, each of the 100 daughters I saw in my mind had the beautiful features of a girl from India – the black hair, dark eyes and brown skin.  After Eden fell asleep, I ran to the computer and started writing. I titled the story My 100 Daughters. This story is shared in my memoir Starving Girl.
100 daughters?  How would we do it? Could Eden and I help 100 girls from India? And what about adopting a little girl? After watching a documentary about India called It’s a Girl (click here to read a blog post I wrote years ago about my reaction to the film), I was passionate to do my part to help change the conditions in which the girls lived in. In some parts of India, it was customary that when girls married, their parents would pay a hefty dowry. This dowry could sometimes be up to half of the family’s entire worldly possessions.  Many families could not afford the cost to raise a girl, only to then pay and marry her off.  A daughter might earn no money, have little to no education and might never have the right to own property.  She might become a slave in an arranged marriage and treated like property by her new husband and mother-in-law.  Many baby girls were abandoned or sold into slavery.  What could we do to help?
In January 2016, I started practicing intermittent fasting and after the first 30 days, felt impressed to donate money to those who are hungry.  I conducted some research on nonprofit organizations in India and our family decided to donate $1,000 to Rising Star Outreach.  In April, 2004 this incredible organization started a school that helps children whose parents suffer with leprosy.  With $1000, we could sponsor two girls and the rest of the money would help Rising Star volunteers travel to the leprosy colonies, making sure the children had food, supplies and school lessons.  After a year, our sponsorship would expire, so with prayer and some careful budgeting, our family decided to donate again this year, this time sponsoring three girls.  In my heart, I knew it was a slow path to 100 daughters, but we were one step closer.
I sent the director of Rising Star Outreach the poem My 100 Daughters and after visiting on the phone, told her my goal to publish the story in a children’s book.  I also wanted to draw each daughter, all 100 of them, but there was one problem.  I’m not an artist.  I’ve always been creative, but where would I begin drawing each of these 100 beautiful girls from India?  It didn’t matter. These were my daughters and Eden’s sisters.  We would find a way.  I purchased an art book, coloring pencils and started drawing. (Ironically, the director of Rising Star was amazing I'd been fasting, as fasting is a very prominent practice in India and the children at the school had witnessed many amazing miracles because of fasting. Could this be another reason fasting had become such a central part of my life?)
Rising Star emailed me hundreds of amazing photos of the girls from India.  With those photos and some research, I was able to start.  One day, I colored in one of the illustrations with colored pencils, and Eden proclaimed with tears in her eyes, “I wanted to color it.”  The idea to have an accompanying coloring book was born.  
Everyday, she runs in the door from school, excited to see my latest progress and all her friends are eagerly waiting for their pictures to color.  In the meantime, I have been able to share this project with the students at New Horizon where I work as the creative writing teacher.  


These bright, caring kids are now very interested in helping the girls from India too.  This is a big project, but our goal is to be finished with 100 daughters of India by October 2017.  It will be released on October 11, International Day of the Girl.  The children's book will be called My 100 Daughters and the coloring book will be titled My 100 Sisters. So far, I have about 30 girls drawn.  Here are  a few samples.

I don't know how and I don't know when, but I feel I'm literally drawing my daughter of India to me. 

I know my little girl loves to color and I'd imagine the little girls from India would love to color too.

          Rising Star Outreach has asked me to come to Utah on June 20, 2017 to attend their presidential brunch, where I will be able to meet many of their donors and supporters.  I will also be able to meet the founder of Rising Star, Becky Douglas. Eden and I are thrilled to be attending.  What is my goal?  Well, of course to someday very soon adopt a little girl from India.  I feel she will be Eden's age, probably seven or eight.  I also hope to encourage others to donate to Rising Star and sponsor a girl.  The cost is $1.00 a day, $365 for the year.  If you understood the conditions these little girls live in, you would be compelled to help. Did you know in many parts of India, ultrasounds are not offered because so many little girls are aborted.  They are just not wanted.  Many baby girls are abandoned or suffer death through infanticide, which is the practice of killing a baby after it's born. Rising Star is there as a beacon of hope.  Through this campaign and with the help of others, I hope at least 100 girls will be sponsored.  You can contact them here and mention you wish to support the 100 Daughters Campaign.

          I will be in Utah from June 20 to June 23.  I would love to reach out to others to have a book discussion in your home, school, library  or church on my books Starving Girl – My 30-Day Experience with Intermittent Fasting andPrayer, What Has Your Sister Done –Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy or to discuss my project of the 100 Daughters.  If you are interested, please email me at mydeartrash@gmail.com.  Thank you for your support on this next endeavor.  When the coloring book is complete, I will be selling them to raise funds to send to India and adopt my little girl. I will also be donating the coloring books to the children at Rising Star Outreach.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Brother Sam Gets Married

It’s not every day I’m asked to climb a top a mountain, hide behind a tree and film a surprise engagement, but that’s exactly what my younger brother Sam asked me to do.  A 12-year gap hadn’t changed the fact we’d been best friends since he was born and considering I’d do just about anything for him, I quickly figure out how I can make this happen.  Since having my sixth kid I’m a bit out of shape, but how hard can hiking a mountain be? 

“It’s not a mountain, it’s a hill,” my husband says as I tell him the plans.  Brown Mountain is less then half a mile to the top and ascends only 300 ft..
“Fine, a hill,” I respond before placing a kiss on his lips. 
 Whether it’s a mountain or a hill, I put on my running shoes and workout clothes.  Last minute, my oldest son Chandler asks if he can come to help out.  Looks like Sam will have a film crew of two hiding on top of the mountain for this momentous occasion.
We’re supposed to leave at 5:00pm, but Sam’s waiting to pick up the ring, which had been sized over the weekend.  Like a specialized doctor, I finally get the call.
“Can you come down to Mom and Dad’s to see the ring first?” he asks and the excitement in his voice barrels me over.

I’ve lived on the same street as my parents for seventeen years, so I race out the front door and within two minutes, I’m standing in my mom’s kitchen staring at the beautiful diamond in Sam’s hand. 
“It’s gorgeous. Sasha will love it” I say a bit in awe at what my brother is about to do.  He has met the most wonderful girl and she will soon be his wife. 
“Thanks,” he says nervously.  “The sun’s about to set and the timing is perfect,” and I know he’s implying more then just the setting sun. It was only a few months ago he was contemplating returning out-of-state for college.  Should he stay in Arizona and build up his business of teaching tennis or finish up his teaching degree in Idaho?  Our parents had been living in London, so when he needed someone to talk to, he came to me.  Truth was, we went to each other most of the time when making big-life decisions and sometimes when just wondering what to have for lunch.  That’s just how our relationship was.
    I’d never seen Sam more nervous.  He’s already changed his shirt twice.  Before Sasha his hair had been a jet-black Afro of frizz, but thanks to her influence and styling advice, his newly- manageable hair had the curls and waves of a movie star. Just as I’m about to leave, I spot two metal basket in Sam’s car. Each holds about 100 tennis balls. As a tennis coach, these are his teaching tools and they’ve followed him around for years. That’s when I have an idea and place the metal baskets of tennis balls in my car.
I’d seen Brown Mountain while driving out to my older sister’s house.  It’s about as sparse as most desert mountain tops – nothing but a gnarly bush or spiked cactus in sight.  I imagine Chandler and I wearing detective coats, a baseball cap and shades –  hiding behind the slender branches of the creosote bush.  It just wouldn’t do, but for Sam we would find a way.  There must be some where to hide on top of an Arizona mountain.
Chandler and I arrive at the bottom of Brown Mountain and park our car.  I open my door to a gust of wind and the cool March air washes over me.  I’m so glad Chandler has joined me.  He’s seventeen and I want him to witness such a momentous moment for a man.  I share my feelings with him about marriage, Sam and dating, but time is of the essence.  We needed to get to the top of that mountain.  Now, I was the one who was nervous.   
Chandler offered to carry both metal baskets, each containing about 50 tennis balls. I insisted I could carry one, of course, no big deal, but within minutes I’m winded.  
Several people passed me by.  Their puzzled looks suggested we might be up to trouble.  What type of person they must think me and my son to be – devious vandals who want to terrorize the community by throwing 100 tennis balls off the mountain.  One woman is so perplexed; I simply tell her what I’m doing. 
“My brother is a tennis pro and he’s proposing to his girlfriend tonight.  We’re spelling out her name with tennis balls.”
Instantly gone is the face of disdain and replaced is one of elation and excitement.  “Oh, that’s just wonderful.” 
See, I want to say, we’re not a menace to society after all, but I’m just amused at how silly we must look. 

Chandler’s steady pace is no match for my constant stops to catch my breath, but I take the time to take in all that’s happened over the last few months.  I can’t believe Sam is getting married.  I always knew he wanted to get married.  He’d turned thirty the year before and during his twenties, dated a few girls here and there, but with a heart as open and caring as his, dating hadn’t been easy. He struggled with self-doubt and it took someone like Sasha to point out the obvious – that he was a catch!
     
    

          Chandler and I found a small ledge off the mountain where we hid.  I didn’t want to be the girl on the evening news- being reported she fell 300 feet to her death while filming her brother’s engagement proposal. Chandler and I secured ourselves and thank heavens there was a small shrub and way-wind grass to hide behind, and we waited.  From where we were hiding, we could see when Sam and Sasha parked their car near the bottom of the mountain.  The hike to the top would take about 10 minutes.  Finally, they arrived.  There they were, this amazing couple. Sasha had spent the last several years of her life caring for her tender husband who suffered with bone cancer.  He died last year and Sasha was a widow and a single mom with three young children.  I couldn't imagine the heartache she'd lived through. Now, here she was.  Her and Sam had found each other. 
      I started filming and Chandler took pictures.  SASHA – her name was spelled out with the tennis balls and we’d placed a bouquet of a dozen roses in the metal basket.  We were too far away to hear anything, but recorded as Sam got on one knee, watched as Sasha said "Yes," Sam placed the ring on her finger and they kissed.  At this point, you can hear me on the recording crying.  After a few minutes, Chandler and I climbed out of our strange little hiding spot and surprised Sasha.
          Sam and Sasha were married in Hawaii.  

A week later, had a ring ceremony and reception at my house. 
I can’t quite put into words the joy, gratitude, shock and love I have felt during this experience.  Sam is that little boy I helped raise and now, he is the best husband and father in this blessed beautiful family. 
Sam with his daughter Cecily.
I love you Sam and Sasha.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Taking a Break from Intermittent Fasting

I practiced intermittent fasting and prayer for 14 months.  I loved every minute of it.  I loved the peace, the discipline, the spirituality, living in the moment, experiencing more gratitude and more.  It's been an honor giving money to the poor through the fast offering. My family and I donated last year in March to Rising Star International, an organization in India and donated again this year in March.  We now sponsor three beautiful little girls who we love and hopefully someday will get to meet. This is all possible because of fasting.

Working on the cover for my next book, an historical fantasy called The Stolen Bible.

Another wonderful benefit of intermittent fasting is weight loss.  



I’ve lost 30 pounds and have been able to keep the weight off (something that is huge for me); however, my body has grown accustomed to daily 16 hour fasts and I’m no longer having weight loss results.  To my disappointment, I’ve learned I can’t eat whatever I want during my 8-hour eating window. I am taking a break from fasting for now.  This was difficult at first, but I’ve learned so much about myself and food, I’m applying what I learned while I’m on medifast for the next 90 days. My goal is to take off the next 20-30 pounds and then use IF to maintain my weight loss.  Trust me, I’d rather be intermittent fasting then using medifast, but medifast is a form of fasting that works for me. At this point, losing the weight is something I’m ready to do. In 2013, I wrote about my experience losing weight with medifast. You can read about that here

So, how did all this idea transpire?  About 6 weeks ago, I was at a Sunday dinner with my extended family.  We have so much fun together and there was much laughter and interesting discussion.  Somehow, we started talking about me and fasting.  I told Derek, my brother Tadd, his wife Heather and my sister Becky how for months I haven’t lost any weight, how I put in such effort every day, but still struggle with healthy food choices, how I want to exercise more, but struggle with the time commitment. Before I knew it, I was feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I started crying and my husband and my siblings rushed to my side.  I didn’t realize how much I was struggling, but it was at this point they all unconditionally offered their support.  As a team, we decided it was time for me to try something else.  Medifast is not an easy program, but I’ve lost weight on it before.  Tadd pointed out I have incredible self-discipline and after intermittent fasting for over a year, medifast would probably be easier then what I’d been doing.  We all got a good laugh out of that. I never considered myself somebody with lots of self-discipline, but I can see his point.


Intermittent fasting has changed my life. Without it, there is so much I would have never learned or understood. Now, when I discuss intermittent fasting, please know I’m referring to it in the past tense, to my 30-day or year-long fast.  I wanted to share this latest update because I’ve been so public about intermittent fasting.  With prayer and intention, here’s to the next phase of my journey.

I'm not promoting medifast, I'm just happy to know with a lot of self-discipline, I can see some weight loss results again.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Overcoming Is Not What I Thought It Was

When I set out to write Starving Girl, I wondered what made the difference between always wanting to share my story to finally being able to do it. 

Yes, I was fasting 16-18 hours everyday, which granted me incredible clarity of mind and personal insight I’d never experienced, but there was something more.  For 30 days, I literally wrote like my life depended on it.  When I had help with my baby Canyon, I might write for 8 hours a day.  Not only did the exercise of writing help me cope, even lift me out of the hunger, but it seemed one of the purposes for which I was inspired to fast in the first place.

Hanging out with my beautiful sisters and Mom on Easter.

When Starving Girl was nearly finished, I set out to write the back jacket hook.  



This would be a very condensed description of what the book was about.  I thought about it for days.  What had I accomplished? How was my story relatable to others? 

In the past, I’d attempted to write snippets of my life here and there, but had fallen short of finding my true authentic voice.  I was still trying to hide behind shame, hurt and misunderstanding. I had a goal – to help others who’d been sexually abused find their voice again, find their worth.  Was my story one of tragedy?  Sorrow?  Injustice?  It once was.  That’s when I realized the difference.

Through fasting, through writing, through prayer and having an intense desire to help others, my story was no longer hopeless.  No more did I see myself as someone with little to no worth.  My story had changed from one of being a victim to one of overcoming.

But, overcoming was not what I thought it would be.

Date night with hubby.

Overcoming is not a goal in the end zone.  It’s not applause on the stage.  It’s not a moment in time where things go from tragic to magical.  For me, overcoming came when I finally had the courage to take my truth, the good, the bad and the ugly and reach out to help others.  My story serves as a witness that I understand, that I’ve been there, that what you are feeling I’ve felt. 

In other words, I started to see the strength in what I’d been through. When I felt (and still feel) defeated, I find strength in other's journeys of overcoming.

In writing Starving Girl, I’m hoping others will see a piece of themselves and open up to the truth that sexual abuse, low self-esteem, negative body image, emotional eating and being overwhelmed in a world that is constantly sending us so many distorted messages -  does not need destroy us.  We can overcome.



For me, overcoming was facing my truth. It was staring at it in the mirror.  I could only do this through writing.  I finally had to take time and listen to myself. Overcoming was not only being sympathetic to others, but to myself. I think everyone's journey to overcoming is different, but it leads to the same path - a desire to help others. 



This is what I love so much about the stories in What Has Your Sister Done.  There is a freedom in writing your truth. 




Overcoming is like a tidal wave.  Some days it’s fierce.  Some days I’m a force to be reckoned with. Some days, overcoming is like a ripple.  Small, it might reach one or two in my circle and I may not even know it.  Overcoming is pulling at something deep and bringing it to the surface.  Overcoming is standing as a witness not just for others, but for yourself.  It’s staring at murky water and instead of seeing muck, noticing your own beautiful reflection staring back at you.  Even muddy water has to reflect the sky.




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Vintage Bird Press - My New Publishing House

I’ve had a dream for several years that seemed to big. Some days I would push the dream aside.  I would remind myself it was too much; even nearly impossible, but I kept believing.  So significant was this dream, I started actually dreaming about it. No surprise, it had something to do with writing – a passion of mine that grows bigger by the minute.  So what was it? 
I wanted my own publishing house.

Could I do it?  Could I start my own publishing house?  During my 30-day fast, which eventually lead to a year long experience of learning to believe in myself on such a deep level, learned to prioritize my time, learning to take risks and stop making excuses, that I finally had no choice but to live out my dream. 


Vintage Bird Press was born Fall 2016 and I have published two books. 

Starving Girl on Amazon and Kindle.



What Has Your Sister Done on Amazon and Kindle.

I have more upcoming releases and am working with several other authors, but for now I’d wanted to introduce my next work-in-progress, another collection of stories I feel very passionately about.

I’ve noticed a beautiful trend lately, where teenagers and young adults are taking their school breaks or vacation time to serve others. My sister Anna went to Vietnam to build homes, my brother Sam served the refugees in Greece and my sister Rachel went to South America to help with clean drinking water.   My red-headed neighbor’s daughter spent her spring break in Mexico building homes for those in need. I’ve watched them, and others, come back with a new perspective on life and greater purpose.  What did they learn?  Experience?  Who did they meet?  I want to know about the country, culture and more.  And Exceedingly Great Was There Joy – True Stories of  Young People and their Extraordinary Acts of Service is the book I’m now working on in hopes to keep these stories alive for others to enjoy and be inspired by.  If you know someone who has been involved in such a service project, please have them email me at vintagebirdpress@gmail.com or mydeartrash@gmail.com. 

If you would like to submit your story, here are some ideas on how to start:

Write your story 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. 
Start with prayer or meditation.  Allow your mind to open up to your experience.
You might want to outline from beginning to end to give yourself a point of reference if necessary.  Think of specifics.  Sights, smells and sounds.
Write down the key people who shaped the story?  What were your pivotal experiences with them?
What is it you want to share?  What have you learned?  What would you change?  Did you see God’s hand in your situation? 

If you would like any help writing your story, it would be my pleasure to assist you.  The interview will take about an hour and can be done over the phone or in person.  Thank you for inspiring me with your heart, love for others and desire to make the world a better place.

By submitting to And Exceedingly Great Was There Joy, you allow Laura Lofgreen and Vintage Bird Press the rights to publish your story.


Friday, April 28, 2017

What Has Your Sister Done Published

WHAT HAS YOUR SISTER DONE – Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy is available on Amazon
The Cover! 


Check out this beautiful cover. 

The tender photograph is of Rosa Dilworth Reyes and was taken just before she placed her baby for adoption. I interviewed Rosa on the phone and like most of the stories in the book, was overcome with emotion as to what she experienced, the courage she displayed and obstacles she faced during her unplanned pregnancy.

She said “When I decided to place my baby for adoption, my counselor had me write a letter to myself, reminding me why I was placing her. Without that letter of commitment, I’m not sure if I would have followed through. My emotions were pulling at my heart and I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to do what I’d set out to do. Even though it was hard, it was the best thing that could have ever happened because I had a fresh start. I could be who I wanted to be, which was the best person for my daughter. She needed to know I was going to make my life right.”


There may be someone today struggling with an unexpected positive pregnancy test or maybe she has known for weeks she’s pregnant, but is too scared to talk to anyone about it. Once you read what many young woman face with an unplanned pregnancy, you will want to step forward and be there, to love and help those in need.  Thank you to all of those who have supported this project.  It has been life-changing.

To see the book on Amazon, click here.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Meet our Dorothy Draper Couch

With so much life-changing things going on over here, I thought I’d write about something trivial – like our new couch.


Truly, it deserves it’s own blog post, doesn’t it?

Now that we’re not moving, Derek has taken it upon himself to accentuate the mid century features of our 45 year-old home.  It has some Frank Loyd Wright styling.  When we were house shopping, Derek and I were drawn to the more contemporary homes, homes that look very similar to our own.  It’s funny to think you’re moving, clean up your home, repaint, re-carpet and get it sale-ready, only to find out your home is exactly what you’ve been looking for all along.  I’m so thankful we didn’t move.  I love it here.

Derek has shown me on-line mid century clocks, tiles for the new kitchen back splash, chairs for the living room, paintings, retro front doors – all things to improve our current living space and make it a piece of art.  A few weeks ago, he started showing me mid century couches on craigslist.  There were two in the Phoenix area, both great and priced around $800.  He made offers on both and both were declined.  We weren’t super crazy about either one and considered paying full price for the one we liked the best, until the next day when Derek found this little jewel – a Dorothy Draper reupholstered leather mid century couch, in Mesa, for $425. 


I’d been a bit passive with Derek’s new found mid century fascination.  There was no rush on purchases, we could hem and haw about design, scour different patterns and impressions, but then he showed me this couch. 

“We have to get that!” I said and we headed across town to take a look.  It was in perfect condition, sturdy, comfy, stylish and the perfect piece of mid century design to start us on this journey.  The couple was adorable and the homeowner showed me pictures from the 1950’s or her parents dressing up for galas, standing in front of the couch. 

When Derek and I returned home, we did a little research on Dorothy Draper.  




She was an interior decorator and furniture maker who in 1937 had become a household name. 


She started what is believed to be the first interior decorating firm and designed and decorated hotel and museum lobbies and more.  I've always loved eclectic coloring and adore everything I can find on her.




She had a best-selling fabric line, best-selling books and during the depression encouraged housewives to “paint their front door red.” 



Now, her couch is sitting in my living room and not only am I inspired by the amazing Dorothy Draper, but it looks like I have a true piece of art from the mid century era.  I’m putting my honey in charge of the rest of the decorating.  He's got great taste, after all, he picked me!