About

Nineteen

Nineteen years ago, I bought a down comforter and yellow duvet cover. I wanted my bedroom to be bright, hypocritically cheery even, so that when I came home from the hospital after the scheduled induction, the natural light and yellow accents might help me get out of bed in the morning.

Natural light. Such a silly thing to focus on, but that’s how I got through that day. I was angry. I was scared. I hated myself. I wanted to die.

Nineteen.

The number of weeks I was pregnant. Roughly the number of hours that passed from finding out my baby died in utero to when I delivered her.

Nineteen.

The age my daughter would be today.

The books don’t prepare you for what could happen. They’re all about snakes and snails, sugar and spice, and everything nice. They touch on the fact that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, that it’s usually due to a chromosomal abnormality and so common most women have one, many before they even find out they’re expecting. It’s all clinical sounding. I should know as I became a voracious researcher of miscarriage, pouring through what research I could find. Maybe I was trying to justify why it happened to me. What I had done wrong. Where I had failed. I wanted, needed, to stop it from ever happening again.

Unfortunately, for me, miscarriage happened in 1 in 2 pregnancies, and hearing how common it was didn’t make it any easier. Being knowledgeable about it, didn’t keep it from happening again. And again.

I rarely talk about my miscarriages. In fact, most people who know me have no idea I’ve had one, let alone three. My first pregnancy ended at the start of my second trimester. Fetal demise, they called it. What an awful term. To this day it makes me cringe, even more than photos from when feathered bangs were actually cool. My fifth pregnancy ended early, at six weeks. My second pregnancy ended nineteen years ago. It’s the most raw, and to this day, painful. I have no intention of sharing the intricacies of those horrible hours in depth. Those details are private, as is her name.

In many ways I don’t believe I’ve earned the right to mourn publicly. Although she was stillborn, she doesn’t have a grave site to visit and my memories of that day are faded at the edges, partly because of the shock I endured, and also the guilt I’ve carried with me since. The only photo I have of her is a fourteen week ultrasound where I still recall the tech commenting on how active she was. Losing her remains my unspeakable tragedy, a darkness that was so deep I felt like I was descending into the ocean past where any light can permeate.

But with every darkness, there is light. At the time, I didn’t know if I’d ever find it again, but it’s here- in my social justice driven daughter, my son whose ability to overcome adversity inspires me everyday, and my youngest who brightens every room she walks into. It’s in my husband who held my hand on that day and didn’t say any of the words that people used to justify our tragedy, well-meaning as they were. Because at the time, I didn’t want to hear them.

If you’ve experience miscarriage or stillbirth, whether it was a month or thirty years ago, I’m so sorry. I’ll say no more than that because those are the only words I wanted to hear. For me, it wasn’t the loss of a dream and it wasn’t going to be okay. I didn’t want to hear that I got pregnant once so I could do it again or that she was better off having died when she did because she would have been too disabled to live. It didn’t feel like a blessing to lose her, and disability or not, I loved her.

Please don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not asking for sympathy. Instead, hug someone who needs it. Be welcoming and have compassion for those looking for a better life. Forgive. Be kind. Be the person that I wanted to be for her. Have faith. Have hope. Love.

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Perspective: How Almost Losing My Son Saved Me

A few months ago, I was living the “grown up” life I’d always imagined—husband, three kids, a teaching job, and evenings spent running my kids to their various activities, grading papers, writing, and exercising. I was the mom who appeared to have it all together.

Except I didn’t. Not even close. I went to yoga and while in shavasana, compiled my to-do list for later in the day. I ran three miles and then came home and ate chips and salsa. I had wine and chocolate every night as I watched mindless television while surfing the Internet. I suffered headaches, could barely survive without weekend power naps, and for the first time in my life, was told that my blood pressure was getting a bit high.

I counted down the days to the weekend as if my life could only be lived between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. That’s not to say that I didn’t love my job, but rather that weekends seemed the time to do what I wanted to do where weekdays were meant to tackle the things I had to do.

I was living the life I was supposed to live, or at least pretending to, when on a sunny February day, everything changed.

As with every other Sunday, that afternoon was filled with errands and an ever-present to-do list. I dropped my fifteen-year-old off at the indoor baseball facility for practice, gassed up the car for the week, grabbed some groceries, and drove back to the facility two hours later, to pick up my son.

I parked and waited, checking my email and responding to text messages on my phone. When he came out to the car nearly fifteen minutes late, he was crying. He’d been hit in the head with a ball while fielding at a first base station. I drove straight to an urgent care facility, figuring he had a concussion. After all, I’d signed the concussion waiver for every sport my children played. We were informed how to recognize the signs and symptoms. What else could it be?

Three hours, one referral to the emergency room, and a CT scan later, a doctor stood in front of me. Your son has a fractured skull and is bleeding in his brain. His condition is life- threatening. The pediatric neurologist is on his way to discuss surgical options. We’re admitting him to ICU.

The room filled with doctors and nurses. I signed consent forms, looking from my son to the stack of papers I’d been grading as we awaited his test results. The words emergency brain surgery still hung in the air as the surgeon and anesthesiologist arrived. My son was wheeled down the hall as my husband and I followed behind. They assured us they were going to do everything they could, they believed they caught it in time and he’d be okay, but even I, the mom who appeared to have it all together, couldn’t help but wonder if I was saying goodbye to my second born. And what had I been doing at the hospital? Rather than focusing solely on my injured son, I’d been grading math assessments. I was overcome with regret and shame.

I knelt in front of a chair in the deserted waiting room, surrounded by toys, and prayed, pleaded, and begged for my son’s life. I closed my eyes and pictured him walking into a room, his casual sway and signature grin. I thought about his love of pop tarts and how he always roots for the villain, rather than the hero. I could do nothing but hope that I’d once again hear his voice, watch a ball game with him, and see him relentlessly tease his sisters.

I’ve always considered myself to be a strong person, but this realization, that I may lose my son was beyond anything I’d ever been dealt, and I’d survived a lot. My oldest were two and four the first time my husband was deployed to Iraq. By the second deployment, we’d added another child and a shih Tzu to our family. That added up to three kids piling into my bed every night and a dog who needed to be bribed to pee outside. While he braved the sands of Mosul, I fought the tantrums and homework power struggles on the home front. Believe me, if anything is going to break at home, it will happen exactly one hour after a deployed-spouse lands on foreign soil. It’s one of those unspoken rules they don’t tell you about when your soldier signs on the dotted line. I was strong and self-sufficient.

Or so I thought.

I didn’t know it at the time, but in those minutes and hours, as I tried not to focus on the what ifs, I was also coming to terms with the fact that although I was a great pretender, I was no longer the mom I wanted to be, or the person I thought I was.

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My husband and I stood beside our son’s hospital bed when he was wheeled into ICU following surgery. There would be more tests, visits with specialists, and constant checks for neurological responses. Despite our joy that he was responding to our voices, we had to keep the room dark and quiet to allow his brain to rest. He was easily agitated and stress made his blood pressure rise rapidly. He fought fevers and couldn’t get comfortable because the side of his head that he normally slept on now had over three dozen staples holding his skull in place. But he was alive and it was more than I could hope for.

Blanco hospital

Four days later, I walked beside his wheelchair when he was released from the hospital.

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He’s responding well. His brain looks good. An amazing recovery. He’s a fighter. I became aware of our surroundings for the first time, as I’d never strayed more than fifty feet from his bedside in the hours he was admitted. He came home to heal from his brain injury and surgery, as we all tried to adjust to a new normal. The fear of him going into a seizure or bleeding internally was never far from my mind, despite reassurances that he was expected to make a complete recovery.

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When he told a joke, I said a silent thank you that he was alive to make me laugh. When he said, “I love you too, Mom,” I cried remember how I’d feared I’d never hear those words again. I monitored his medications, coordinated a plan with his high school counselor, and limited his activity and technology so his brain could heal.

Three days after he came home, I headed to Tacoma for my daughter’s state gymnastic meet. After driving through traffic, finding there was no parking, and fearing I was going to miss her first event, I completely lost my shit, for lack of a better word. I put my head on the steering wheel and sobbed. I cried from exhaustion, pounded on the steering wheel with frustration, and hated myself more than I ever had before because I’d been correcting those math assessments in the hospital.

Why had they mattered so much? Why hadn’t I gone in to look for him when he was late coming out of practice? Why didn’t I have the foresight to take him straight to the emergency room? Would he be in less pain now? Would his brain have suffered less trauma? Would it have made a difference?

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but for me it did. Almost losing my son had changed me. In the days and weeks that followed I realized that living for the weekends was not enough. Every day held the possibility of amazing things, and I no longer wanted to waste them. I finally accepted the fact that it’s okay to be overwhelmed and to say no once in a while, and that there’s no sense suffering through exercises that make you feel like crap.

I started cooking more at home, and making salads and vegetables rather than grabbing dinner on the run. I stopped bringing papers home to grade, opting instead to do it during my planning or have my students grade their work in class, and found out that no one, aside from myself, noticed. I gave up the nightly glasses of wine and chocolate and stopped mindlessly watching television to go for walks or work in the yard. Most importantly, I realized that if you’re not doing what you enjoy, there’s really no point to it.

I started dropping everything and reading more, spent less time worrying about the perception others had of me, and lost weight. My head aches dissipated and my skin cleared up. At a recent doctor’s appointment, my blood pressure was low and I celebrated by going for a long walk.

I’ll never understand why my son had to go through what he did. I don’t know if he’ll ever play baseball again, and I’m certain that I’ll never be the person I was before this experience. What I do know is that almost losing him reminded me of what’s important in life. It’s not the to-do list, which never ends, the decorated (and immaculate) house, or the perception of the perfect mom who is what everyone else aspires to be and looks fashionable whether along the sideline of a soccer match or behind the dugout at a baseball game. I’m never going to be the person who has it all together, and that’s okay.

There will always be an abundance of activities to take my kids to, but when I think of the alternative, I find it difficult to breath as I force the what ifs from my mind. Whether stopping for Starbucks or singing along with the radio in the car on the way, time spent driving my kids around is time well spent. Never again will I forget what matters because life can change in an instant, and the most important thing you can do, beyond everything else, is to just live.

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Life

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. The seasons have changed from summer, to fall, to rain, to winter, to rain (oh, the rain this year…), to spring, to rain, and now, summer again. Suddenly I’m a year older and the reality that my children are a year closer to moving away from home scares me more than ever before. In truth, the past year has changed me. Some of this shift was because of that natural progress that occurs as we go through life. Some of it was brought on by circumstances out of my control, which altered my perspective of both myself and humanity.

As you’ve likely asserted, I’m not a reliable blogger. I’m sporadic at best, preferring only to blog when I feel inspired, rather than sticking to a schedule which readers can rely on. I can’t handle blogging to a schedule- truthfully, it stresses me out. My brain is always running a thousand miles an hour, and even now as I write this, I’m thinking about all that I still need to get done this weekend. After all, laundry doesn’t fold itself. Regardless, I commit to forming an imprint on my couch for the time being so as to update you on the happenings of my life.

On Family…

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My husband and I will celebrate our 21st anniversary this July. He’s asked me repeatedly what we should do for our anniversary. My answer is likely a let down for him as I just want to live in the moment. He’s a planner and meticulous paperwork pile creator, striving to organize details with the precision of an event coordinator, likely a side effect of over two decades of military training. I, on the other hand, just want to “wing it”. I like to go for hikes, drink coffee in the early hours of the morning, drive to destinations we’ve never been, eat at restaurants that serve gluten-free food and cheap Merlot. I prefer to sit in a lawn chair with a good book than push my way through a crowd or watch an overpriced action-packed movie in a theater. Maybe that’s why we work as a couple- I am the introvert to his extrovert, the recycler to his pile creator, the smile to his untimely jokes.

With that said, I remain faithfully organized. With only a half-day left of school, I am ready to turn off my computer and leave the moment my students depart after the final bell has rung for the school year. I can make dinner, correct papers, and pay bills simultaneously, while also corresponding with classmates to plan our reunion this summer. I read novels while at baseball games and remain unable to cook when the kitchen isn’t clean. I’m not sure where my organized brain came from, but I’m forever grateful for the ability to plan lessons, coach track, write a chapter and pull weeds all before sitting down at the television to watch a FRIENDS rerun.

My best gift, however, remains being a mom. As of Monday, I will have a junior, sophomore and 5th grader. My children continue to amaze me with their athleticism and intellect. What I’m most proud of, however, is their respect and empathy for others. When I willingly signed up for this whole parenting thing, I seriously hit the jackpot. Not all days are easy. There are epic eye rolls, arguments, and more than enough morning dramas, but overall, I couldn’t be prouder and I am so grateful for every day spent with my kids.

On Teaching…

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This school year has been tough, but also rewarding. The two constants I tell my students are to never give up and to be awesome. More than ever before, I’ve had to adhere to my own advice. From moving to a new school, teaching a new grade level, learning two new curriculums, and having an extremely rough first week, I can honestly say, I couldn’t have been given a better class. The twenty-six students I was blessed to teach this year are amazing. Yes, it was a lot of work to get them to the next level, but I will never forget this group of students or how they cared about each other.

A couple of months ago, I was asked by the district curriculum team to be filmed as a model and example for instructional engagement strategies. Intimidating- yes. Overwhelming- most definitely. Awkward- totally. They sent me the video yesterday, along with a nice thank you note. I don’t know if I’ll ever watch it because seeing myself on film is painful. Performing on stage or in front of the camera was never my thing, however, it was nice to be recognized for my work. This summer, I plan to focus on student growth mindset strategies, while also serving on the literacy curriculum framework writing team and completing my English Language Arts endorsement.

On Writing…

I finished another contemporary young adult novel, which is currently in the hands of my literary agent. Publishing is a hard business, which moves at a glacial pace. In case you’re wondering; no, my other two novels have not sold yet. I remain committed to one day seeing my novels on the bookstore shelves, or as the market continues evolving, the Amazon website.

Here’s a sneak peek of my new novel, currently titled, Playing with the Boys:

diamonds are a girls best friend

        The ball stings the palm of my hand when it smacks against my glove. The batter winces at the ump’s call as I smile faintly, reminding myself that we aren’t done yet. One more pitch.

            The batter recovers and moves back into the box, tapping his bat on the plate, once and then a second time. The dirt from his cleats rises, clinging to my knee pads as the pitcher winds up. The ball crosses the plate right into my glove.

            “Strike! You’re out!”

            I stand and give my pitcher a high five before yanking off my facemask and helmet. I pretend to ignore the stares, the laughs, the comments coming from the other team’s dugout. No one cares how I played. No one cares that we shut them out. They only care about what they see in front of them, as if they’ve just realized what my team has known all along.

            The best catcher on the field is a girl.

On Reading…

 

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.

My verdict: This book was unputdownable (is that even a word?). I read it on the airplane to CA, while we were waiting to depart the plane, while in line at the car rental place, while waiting for the rental bus, while in line at the hotel, in the hotel room, and while my family waited for me to finish so we could go to dinner. It was that addictive.

Everything, Everything and The Sun is also a Star, by Nicola Yoon.

I loved these diverse YA novels. Highly recommend!

I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

This was a fantastic young adult book about siblings, with an awesome voice.

I’m currently reading Love and Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch. It’s another book with a fantastic voice and the fact that it’s set in Italy is a bonus. There are so many other books coming out that I can’t wait to devour.

On February 12, the Day that Changed Everything…

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I never imagined how things would change when I took my son to his select baseball practice on the Sunday afternoon of February 12. I remember dropping him off, gassing up the car, running errands and then stopping at home to see my daughters. Then I called out that I was heading to pick up their brother and would be back in a half an hour. I returned home four days later.

You see, my son was struck in the temple with a baseball toward the end of his practice. As most athletes do, he shook it off and continued playing. When he came out to the car, he was crying (not a typical reaction from him) and said he got hit in the head. I figured he had a concussion and took him straight to urgent care. After waiting for an hour to get in, they assessed him and sent him to the ER. A CT scan later revealed he had a skull fracture and was actively bleeding in both the epidural and subdural layers of his brain. In just those few short hours, his brain had already shifted and we were told his condition was becoming life threatening.

He underwent emergency surgery, spent four days in the hospital, two weeks at home letting his brain rest, but has recovered remarkably well. This experience, however, has changed me. The thought of almost losing my son weighs down on me every day, and I have to actively push aside the what ifs and focus on the moments we have together instead.  I don’t know if my son will ever play baseball again, but I do know that the fact that he’s stayed so positive, never felt sorry for himself, and maintained a 4.0 with a traumatic brain injury is amazing. He’s shown me how truly strong a person can be when faced with extreme adversity. He’s not defined by the scar bearing the thirty staples he had in his skull. He’s proving, rather, that even at fifteen years old, he’s stronger than I’ve ever personally felt.

What he’s given me, and what his experience has shown me, is that each day holds the possibility to do amazing things. I no longer live for the weekend. Yes, Tuesdays still seem to be seventy-five hours long, but there’s so much time left in each day to just be happy. To forget about the ugliness in our world. To say I love you to the people who matter most. To forgive those who’ve hurt us. To believe anything is possible. To just live.

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Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently…

CurrentlyReading…

I finished ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Meyers, and wow. Just wow. I loved this story so hard, even finding it difficult to put it down at the ballpark. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it.

Me Before You

Celebrating…

The end of state assessments for my class. In celebration, we’re also ending the year with a pow. Behind each tissue covered circle is a super student’s name and they get lots of fun privileges on their special day, including sitting at the “hero table”. They’re excited to be super heroes and I’m excited that there are only twenty-five days of school left. Oh my goodness, I can’t wait for summer!

hero headquarters

Exhausted From… 

The past few weeks. I knew April and May would be busy, but the sheer amount of added obligations, and therefore stress, took me by surprise none the less. Some highlights, however, included running the 12K Bloomsday race, in Spokane, WA, and going on a “Goonies” sight-seeing tour in Astoria, Oregon.

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Bloomsday starting line.

 

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Standing in front of the Fratelli’s infamous jailbreak site with my sister.

 

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“ORV. Bullet holes the size of matza balls!”

 

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Cannon Beach, Oregon.

 

Goonies never say die!

Proud of…

My husband, who recently took command of a Cavalry Squadron. Last weekend we were witness to the Uncasing of the Regimental Colors. As if the day wasn’t already amazing, a bald eagle flew over the Squadron during the ceremony. I asked my husband how he managed to coordinate that, but he hasn’t yet revealing his secret.

squadron

Loving…

The fact that whoever created this picture actually gets me. Also, I think it’s hilarious.

introverts

Hoping for…

A bit of kindness in our world. If I could ask one thing it would be for each of spread a bit of kindness to those around us. It’s amazing how much one kind word can brighten someone’s day.

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Working on…

Self-acceptance, balance, and drafting my new young adult manuscript. Have you written a Currently… post? Let me know. I’d love to read it!

 

 

Be Brave

Be Brave.

Those two simple words are spoken repeatedly by Tobias Eaton throughout the Divergent series, by Veronica Roth. Due to the fact that Tobias, also referred to as Four, is one of my book boyfriends, I believe you should see a picture of him from the film adaptation.

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Tobias is brave, dreamy, and purely fictional, but I digress…

Be Brave.

It’s a difficult thing to do, isn’t it? To go through life without fear or self-doubt. To have a belief that all will work out despite not knowing the end result.

Thirteen years ago, I decided to write a book. It was a memoir of my life, a way to take my constant memories and daydreams and put them onto paper, actually an old laptop that weighed about sixty pounds. The book was a mess, honestly, but it was my mess. It was my story. I sent it to my grandpa in a binder, all seventy single spaced pages of my memories. He emailed me that he’d read the entire thing and enjoyed it. You see, my grandpa had never emailed me before. I didn’t even know he had email. When my grandpa passed away, I brought the binder home from his house and inside were letters that I’d sent him. I still have them today.

My next writing endeavor was four years later and after my husband’s first deployment to Iraq. I wrote another memoir, this time of the deployment. I decided to query. For those who don’t know, a query letter is like cold-calling a literary agent through email or snail mail. Basically, you pitch your book and if they like it, they request pages. Most often you receive a swift rejection or hear nothing at all. I queried ten literary agents and received ten rejections.

After having my memoir rejected, I made the choice to start writing fiction. It was actually a great release for me because I was still home full-time with my kids and my husband was embarking on yet another deployment. I wrote during my toddler’s naps, amassing a 100K women’s fiction novel. I took another stab at the query game and garnered over twenty rejections. I did, however, receive a partial request for three chapters, which turned into a full request. For a few weeks I waited anxiously for her response and cried when it arrived in my inbox. Although she liked the concept, she wasn’t quite in love with it. She had some suggestions and said she’d be happy to take a look at it after a thorough revision. Although it didn’t seem like it at the time, I’d soon realize that a revise and resubmit is actually really good. I began revising the following day.

Revisions on my novel took another year. I studied the craft of writing, read a ton of novels, and wrote and rewrote and wrote again. When it was polished, I sent it to the agent who’d requested an R&R. She sent me a form rejection. I cried for two days.

I knew, however, that although it didn’t work out with this particular agent, I’d become a better writer and I had a manuscript to query. I queried widely and garnered a few requests. Ultimately, however, I didn’t sign with an agent.

It was a few weeks later that I was running on the treadmill and had an idea for a young adult novel. It was a complete overhaul from a project I’d previously abandoned. I wrote and revised draft after draft. I attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference and pitched the book to ten agents, garnering eight requests. I took to heart all that I’d learned at the conference and revised the book again. I sent it to beta readers and revised another time. Finally, I sent out my requests and leaped back into the query game.

Those several requests turned into several rejections, with one full request. It was also depressing that in the time since the conference, two of the agents I’d pitched to had already left the field to pursue other careers. I queried widely and took any and all advice I could get. In all, I accumulated over sixty rejections.

It took a lot to pick myself up after that. Writing looked different and even though I loved doing it, I felt fragile and unsure of my abilities. I was asking people to love something I’d created on a hard drive and in turn take a chance on me. I buried myself in book after book after book.

Be brave.

That’s a difficult thing to continue repeating when no one wants to take that chance on you. I started training for the Portland Marathon with my husband and on one of our runs, an idea popped into my head (you see how exercise can really be good for you?) I wondered…what if Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora had daughters the same age and they, like, totally hated each other? In fact, what if the entire band had children in the same year and those children became instant celebrities who had to reunite years later for a reunion tour? And just like that, a book idea was born.

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I wrote the first draft of The Reunion Tour in 2013, during Camp NaNoWriMo. When I’d finished and completed the 50K word challenge in a month, I realized I had something I loved, something unique, and something I was ready to revise. I read through it. It was a hot mess. Too many characters and not enough tension. I spent the next several months revising, and in January 2014, began querying.

This time around I received about an equal number of requests as I did rejections. I kept my query list small and only queried those I’d met at conferences or had researched previously. To be honest, I also tried to only query those who sent rejections because I can’t stand the “if you don’t hear from us, consider it a pass.” I totally get that people are busy, but I like to know outright that you don’t want to represent me, otherwise I’m going to obsess over whether or not you got my query in the first place.

In mid-January, I queried Marlene Stringer of The Stringer Agency. She was someone who’d passed on my work in the past and she was a fast responder, which I respect. You can imagine my surprise when I opened my email the day after querying to find a note from her saying, “This looks interesting. Please send the full and a synopsis.” I might have cried a little bit at this point.

I sent the full and waited while also continuing to obsessively check my email daily. I’d gone back to work by this time and was in the school until three o’clock, checking my email whenever I could get a quick break. The following Friday night, Marlene followed me on Twitter. I about passed out while shopping for birthday party supplies in Target.

A few days later, Marlene emailed to ask if we could talk on the phone. We set up an appointment for the following Monday. Luckily I had a lot to distract me as it was Super Bowl Sunday and the Seahawks won. It. Was. Amazing.

I signed with Marlene the following Wednesday.

agency agreement

And the rest is history.

Not quite.

You see, publication doesn’t happen overnight and all you can do is just keep swimming, just keep swimming….well, in my case…just keep writing, just keep writing…

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That was just the start of my journey. I continue to write and seek publication. I wrote another novel, Catch and Release, last year. That book is super close to my heart and I love, love, love the characters.

Tomorrow I will embark on another Camp NaNoWriMo in which I will draft a third contemporary YA novel. Every new writing venture is about taking a leap, being brave, and pursuing a dream.

 

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A Work of Art

Lately I’ve read a lot of articles and heard stories and beliefs about education. It is an election year, after all. One particular conversation that has stuck with me is the debate over public versus private education. It hit a nerve so deep that three days later I’m still thinking about it. Although I am a public school teacher, I have the distinction of experiencing both sides of the spectrum as I attended private Catholic schools from second grade through college. I loved my high school and the choice to attend Gonzaga University was one of the best decisions I’ve made. The memories I have of retreats and service opportunities, along with school-wide masses on Holy Days of Obligation are still significant moments which I’ll always hold onto.

I know private school is the best education for many students. Yes, it is expensive, and I admire those who choose to and have the means to pay for it. I paid for my own college education, and had the student loans to prove it for years. Although the Catholic schools I attended in grade and high school were nowhere near in cost as the current yearly tuition of some private schools where I live, where it runs upwards 15 thousand or more a year, I know the sacrifices my parents made at the time to make my education a reality. Likewise, I recall working in the high school cafeteria my freshman year to help pay for my schooling and sweeping bleachers after games each year after as part of my work study job. One time a group of girls from a neighboring school referred to my friends and me as “rich bitches.” It was such an odd thing to hear because I barely had five dollars to my name and was the furthest thing from being rich as we hadn’t yet had the money to purchase school clothes that fall.

I guess what’s bothering me about the comments I’ve read and heard recently are the insinuations that private schools are preferential in that their students receive more opportunities for future success. Additionally some believe that teachers in public schools have tenure so they’ve checked out of teaching, which is something that doesn’t happen in private schools.

I’m a public school teacher. I correct papers late at night, analyze data to help my students improve mandated test scores, take continuing education classes to better my teaching, collaborate with peers to improve instruction, spend hours preparing Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) lessons that will benefit not only my English Language Learners, but entire class. I differentiate lessons so that I’m reaching both my highest and lowest learners, and all 23 in-between.

And every teacher I work with is doing the exact same thing.

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My students and my own children, who I’m also proud to say attend public school, deserve the same opportunities as anyone, whether in public or private school, and I’ll fight for that to happen. Not only because it’s right, but because they’re worthy.

What I’d really like for my students to know, and to understand, is that they are capable and that I believe in them. After all, isn’t each of us motivated by those around us? It’s such a powerful thing to hear the words, I know you can do it. I believe in you.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, if you go to private or public school, if you’re homeschooled. The knowledge that someone knows you can achieve success is huge. It’s empowering. It’s a beautiful thing.

I could tell people that the best way to prepare a child academically is to read to them when they are young. I could list stats proving the quality of early childhood education and the benefits of reading lap hours until I’m blue in the face, but it won’t change the reality that many adults have never sat down and read to a child. One of the most depressing sentences I’ve ever heard as a teacher is, “We don’t have any books,” followed by, “No one reads to me at home.” How are we as teachers expected to overcome that obstacle of making up years of early literacy awareness and development when we only have students for a handful of months? The truth is, we teach to the best of our abilities, because we care.

In public schools, we teach everyone. We never know who’s going to walk through our doors. Nor does it matter because we will work our butts off to teach each student in our class. We will advocate for them, buy shoes and clothing for them, make sure they have food to eat over the weekend when they go home on Friday, and yes, at the end of it all, we will teach them. No application or tuition required.

Most importantly, we will believe that each child, whether they want to be at school or not, is capable of growth.

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If I could let each of my students know one thing, it would be this:

You are a work of art. Your heart, your mind, your spirit are all artistic elements that make you the person that you are. I’m your teacher. I provide the medium to aid in your self-expression, the charcoal to outline your abilities, the shading to fill in the gaps that prepare you to move forward.

My job of teaching you isn’t always easy, although neither is your job of learning. Your lines are often blurred, and there are many times when I wonder if you’ll be ready to move on and continue with your craft.

You see, I’m a temporary fixture in what will be a lifetime of learning as you complete your greatest masterpiece- your education.

Although I hope for the best, I don’t know what road you’ll take, nor do I know if you’ll receive the same opportunities as another, despite your hard work. What I do know is that I’ll hurt for you when your test scores indicate that you didn’t pass despite making over a year’s worth of growth. I’ll check my email at night and will read the Google doc you sent me from the after-school program. I’ll continue to meet with you after every writing assessment so you know what grade I gave you and I’ll help you set an achievable writing goal for your next task. I’ll make a fool out of myself, singing and dancing if that’s what it takes, in order to motivate you to reach the next level. I’ll open the door for you every day with a smile, even on those days when I am so exhausted that I’m barely functioning. I’ll brag about you to my family and will spend a significant amount of my pay throughout the year to keep our classroom library stocked with books that interest you and teaching supplies that help you learn.

When we were on our way to the field trip and you pointed out graffiti on a bridge, I made you promise that you would never do that. I expect you to keep your promise. I also expect you to keep your promise to call 911 if you’re ever in danger, including riding in a car with someone who’s been drinking. I’ll protect you when you’re in my care and will pray for your protection when you’re not.

I’ll always welcome your first language in my classroom, your insight, your thoughtfulness, and your creativity. I’ll also expect you to apologize with meaning and to know the proper way to accept an apology while still conveying why you were hurt. I’ll teach you what it means to be empathetic and won’t let you forget to say please and thank you.

I won’t be surprised if you think I’m mean or I push you too hard. It’s just that I know how capable you are, and I won’t let you waste that ability. I’ll expect you to come to school. I’ll communicate with your parents, whether for good reasons or bad. I’ll hold you accountable. When you misbehave or don’t complete an assignment correctly because you chose not to listen to the directions, I’ll forgive you.

You are a work of art, and I believe in you. Please don’t ever forget that.

 

 

Guest Post: To the Girls Who Will Love My Sons

Today I’m excited and to have a guest post from a very talented Inspirational Christian writer,  Kristin White, who I’m also blessed to call my sister. Enjoy!

To the Girls who will Love my Sons,

I think about you a lot. I wonder if I already know you, or if I’ve given you a ride somewhere. I wonder if you used to spin until you wanted to throw up, and then watch the clouds pass in the sky. I wonder about your childhood. If someone has hurt you. If you feel loved. If you’ve met God, and know how much He loves you. I wonder if you even believe in Him. 

I wonder about your house. Do you share a room like my boys always did? Did you whisper to your sister into the night? Did you sneak a flashlight in to read “Harry Potter” under the blanket? I wonder if you had help with your homework and dinner at night.

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I wonder if you were alone a lot. I wonder if  you were never alone. Do you have good friends?  Do you have the kind of friends who are lovely and fill you up with love and acceptance? Friends, who you fall over yourself laughing. Who don’t care what you’re wearing. I wonder if your home is filled with love? Are you happy? Are your anxious? Do you laugh a lot?

I wonder if you roll your eyes at your Mother and slam doors because she “Doesn’t understand.” I wonder if you love your Dad and tell him that. I wonder if your parents are together. Or if you wonder where they are. I wonder if you remember them being in love. 

I wonder if you are bullied. I wonder if the words are texted on your phone. I wonder if the bullies are people you cared about. I wonder if you know that they are cowards. I wonder if you’ve watched someone be bullied or have hurt someone else with your words.  My heart hurts thinking you might have. 

I want you to know I pray for you. I pray for your protection…

In Mind…that the images of over sexualized people from “Angels,” to so called “fitness experts” on social media, to a world that is saturating us with too much skin and less depth do not change how you view yourself. That you don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect, and that you remember to live. That you make eye contact and put down the phone.  That you read and learn every thing you can. And that you aren’t a prisoner to depression or anything that steals your joy. That you never ever compare yourself. And that you radiate confidence. 

In Body…that you love yourself. That you see yourself as a creation of God. That you exercise, but that you realize you look most beautiful when you are laughing because happiness is beautiful. That you embrace the parts of you that make you unique- scars and freckles, bumps and curves. And that you will love all of them. That won’t happen by magnifying  your self in a mirror, or taking the perfectly filtered selfies. 

In Spirit…that you will realize receiving love and giving love are two of the most beautiful gifts you can have. That you feel empathy for those in need, and serve them. That you have compassion for the broken, and love them. That you never compromise your integrity for a relationship, or a job, or a spot in this world. That you know that relationships don’t limit who you can talk to and be friends with, but encourage you to bloom. That you realize you are worth more than toxic people who will steal your joy and free spirit, in the name of love. But it won’t be love. I hope you know grace and humility. That you know how to say “I’m sorry” and how to forgive. And I pray that you will know brokenness enough to rely on God. Because He is the only way your spirit will flourish. 

To the Women who will Love my Sons…

From the moment that small little plastic strip showed a plus sign, they have been the center of my world. I would rest my hand across my stomach and speak to them, my little miracles. When each was born we named them intentionally. Names that meant something.

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One that can never hide from God.

One that God will always protect. 

And…

One that will always speak the Truth.

We are raising them to know and fear Him. To be kind to others. To fight for the vulnerable. To be compassionate to everyone. To honor people. To Serve. To thank people. To Love. 

They. Are. Not. Perfect.  But they are good. They love well, they are kind to their little sister, and to each other (most of the time, seriously…not perfect). And in life- they try so hard to do the right thing. And when they mess up…we expect them to make it right. We don’t enable, and I know this responsibility is big…this Raising a good man. This Raising Good Men. 

They know that true love exists. They are products of true love. A love I don’t deserve, but a love that has made a family. I want them to know that. I wonder if you will break their heart.

My beautiful Boys. With them I’ve cried tears of joy watching the years fly by, and wept with worry as I’ve pressed my cold hand against feverish foreheads…in these moments I have prayed with them. They know prayer. They know God. 

They know He is good. And kind. And merciful. And they want to follow Him. Not because they are told to, but because they know Him. 

And we are praying for you. Because maybe you will be a first great Love for them. Or maybe you will be the One. But regardless of where you will enter our lives,  we are praying for you.

 I want you to know that you are loved, and that you matter. We pray that you know your life is a gift.

I pray for you.  And I wonder about you.

For now, I am the woman who loves them most. I’ve loved them their whole lives and will continue for all eternity. And I won’t take a second of them for granted.

Jonah Danny Micah

Love, Their Mom. ❤️ 

 

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Kristin White writes and speaks what she knows. A Wife, Mother, Sister, inappropriate joker and Lover of Real, she is determined the shatter the misconceptions we have about our worthiness in this over-filtered-fast paced- pressure filled world. She sings back-up in an 80’s band, loves working out, has proud laugh lines for days, and is madly in love with God. Visit her Real at Joyful Mysteries.

 

 

Dining Gluten-Free at Social Events

I recently attended a military function with my husband. It was at a very nice venue and I was relieved when I discovered that they had a gluten-free menu option. For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of eating out or attending a social event when you have to be gluten-free (sarcasm intended), consider yourself to be fortunate. I do not exaggerate when I say that it can be a very difficult experience. Not only is there the fear of cross-contamination and a subsequent gluten exposure, there is also the side effect of being starving and having nothing to eat for the duration of the event.

Side note. If you’re anything like me, you become a raging bitch when you’re starving, but that’s beside the point.

This was an event that required some mingling to visit with other military officers, soldiers, and their spouses, so my husband and I left our table and worked the crowd, so to speak. When we returned, my salad plate had been delivered, right beside my gluten-free sign. The salad was romaine lettuce, topped with shredded parmesan and buttery herb croutons.

The moral of the story…

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When attending a social event gluten-free, be very afraid.

Now, I don’t believe all social events to be like this. In fact, last summer I loved every bit of labeled gluten-free goodness at my cousin’s wedding reception. Occasionally you’ll come across knowledgeable chefs and wait staff, but the majority of these events are not special-order functions. It’s kind of like the old saying, “you get what you get, and don’t throw a fit.”

Therefore, I’ll share with you some of my tips for braving the buffet line gluten-free.

  • Try to contact the host of the event to see if gluten-free is an option before the evening of the party. Follow up with the manager of the venue to ensure that the chef knows that you have an allergy.
  • Eat something before you arrive so that you’re not starving in the event that gluten-free options are not available.
  • Pack protein snacks, such as almonds or cashews in your purse.
  • If consuming alcohol, stick with wine. Beer has barley, which contains gluten.
  • When dessert is served, ask if fresh fruit is an option.
  • If a food looks too good to be true- seasonings, gravy, crisp potatoes that were likely battered in flour- it probably is.
  • Trust your instincts. You know what makes you ill. Don’t be pressured into days worth of sickness because someone said you can’t leave without trying just one bite of decadent raspberry cheesecake.

Most importantly, do your research ahead of time and take care of your body because it’s the only one you have.

Do you have any tips of attending social events gluten-free? I’d love to hear them.

 

 

 

 

Currently…

(I plan to do a Currently blog post every other Tuesday. To find out how this idea came about, click here.)

Currently

Reading…

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Although I’m only one third of the way through, I adore this book already. If you’re in the mood for a contemporary YA, you should totally check it out. It has amazing characters and a fabulous voice. I just finished reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. This was a fun, light-hearted read which was recommended to me by my daughter. I loved the family dynamics and highly recommend this book if you enjoy contemporary YA.

Loving…

Celestial Seasonings Apple Spice Herbal Tea. I recently started eating healthier and this led to cutting out my nightly glass of wine, which as any creature of habit will agree, was quickly replaced by something else. Thankfully it happened to be this tea. It’s so delicious that I forget I’m drinking tea. I’m also loving my new Nutribullet, which has become my most favorite appliance, aside from the coffee maker. Yes, friends, I am now one of those people who drinks a fruity-vegetable-chia seed smoothie for breakfast. It’s a miracle, and I’m not just talking about the Nutribullet.

Celebrating…

A job offer! I’m happy to share that I now have a contract with my school district, including a job offer for next year. I’m still waiting to find out the grade level I’ll be teaching, but I’m so excited to stay at the same school. After two years of not knowing what grade I’d be teaching until after the school year started, I’m thrilled to have time to prepare over the summer.

I’m also celebrating the completion of my Whole 30, which I promptly celebrated by having a glass of wine and two tacos. To find out what Whole 30 is click here. The mantra is You can do anything for thirty days. I had to repeat that over and over…and, I’m not going to lie, the first two weeks were tough. I actually went through sugar withdrawals in a bad way. I do, however, feel so much better. I also plan to go back on the eating plan tomorrow morning, now that I’ve had my tacos and wine.

Micro-Managing…

Being mom to three active kids and the wife of an Army Officer. My son’s baseball season is set to start as my oldest competes at the state gymnastic competition this weekend. I’m excited for her and so proud of how far she’s come since her foot surgery a year ago. I know that with each meet, we are nearing the end of her competitive career, but that doesn’t diminish the years of hard work that I’m sure will accompany her to her next endeavors. I truly think she is amazing, and am constantly inspired by her drive and ability to persevere. She is the epitome of every Nadia Comaneci/Mary Lou Retton gymnastics dream I had as a kid, as I was balancing on a two by four, tumbling on a flattened sleeping bag, and swinging on a metal swing set.

So Over…

The election. I know social media is a means to promoting ones beliefs and/or campaigning, but it’s exhausting for those of us who like to get away from the election. Plus, people are so negative and it makes me sad. I suppose you could say I live behind rose-colored glasses, but in truth, I don’t feel it’s necessary for you to know all of my political beliefs. After all, they are mine and you have as much of a chance of changing them as I have of changing yours, right? Let’s just keep it civil, huh?

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Planning…

To participate in Camp NaNoWriMo, which for those who don’t know is Camp National Novel Writing Month. It’s held in April and the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month. I actually drafted The Reunion Tour during Camp NaNoWriMo, in April of 2013. This time, however, I’m outlining the plot of a project I’m working on so that I can draft when I get home from work each night. In all, it amounts to just under 1,700 words/day. It’s fun though and keeps me motivated. You should join me!

Making Me Happy

Gonzaga made it to The Dance! Go Gonzaga! G-O-N-Z-A-G-A!

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I’m also thrilled that it’s supposed to stop raining tomorrow and that all of you took the time to read my blog. Enjoy the rest of your week. If you write a Currently post, let me know and I’ll stop by to read it. Cheers!

 

Cover Reveal for Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

Today, I’m really excited to share the cover reveal for Charlie N. Holmberg’s MAGIC BITTER, MAGIC SWEET. Isn’t it beautiful?

The peculiar tale of an enchanted baker who creates fairy tales’ darkest and most magical confections.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.

When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.

During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her. The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.

From the author of the Paper Magician series comes a haunting and otherworldly tale of folly and consequence, forgiveness and redemption.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is available for preorder on Amazon and B&N. Ebook, audiobook, and paperback release from 47North June 28th!

You can also preview the novel on Goodreads.

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About the Author

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Amazon | Goodreads

Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie N. Holmberg was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She graduated from BYU, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and hopes to one day own a dog.