Feb 22, 2017

Addiction, deception and betrayal--an ugly, normal part of being human.

I've been thinking a lot about addiction lately. I have ancestors who have struggled with addiction. And people close to me, in my everyday life, have struggled with it as well. I'd argue, at this point, that nearly everyone on this planet has an addiction of some kind, if you define addiction as "something one compulsively turns to for comfort."

Addictive personalities. I'd argue they are anxious personalities. People who need comforting easily become addicts. Because they need comforting.

My addictions of choice: junk food, and buying stuff on sale. When I eat junky, fatty, cutely-packaged, sugary, salty, easily-consumable food, I feel like I'm comforting myself. In the moment. And often, after I'm done eating it, I need more comforting because I know it wasn't the best choice. So then, I'd eat more food.... you can see how it would take a downward spiral. If the thing you're turning to for comfort is actually ruining your life, the spiral would be more pronounced. And not until you hit rock bottom; not until you've lost absolutely everything that you find important in the long term, do some addicts finally become grounded to their reality. That the thing they are seeking doesn't actually provide long-term comfort, and that often, the short term comfort is really a mix of adrenaline and cortisol that causes more anxiety.

You could, in fact, say that anxiety itself is addicting. Anxiety is not fun to experience in the moment, but afterward, all these soothing, calming chemicals rush in to repair the damage that a run of anxiety has done to the mind and body. I think that often this is the turn anxiety takes, creating a spiral that lands someone in a real disordered state. Sometimes the answer is to get help--find ways to out-think anxiety and avoid it and break free and wear new tracks in the brain, and sometimes the answer is to ingest chemicals that block receptors that are sucking up too much of the soothing neurotransmitters, leaving the mind bare and triggerable in the wake of life events like giving birth or going through a divorce or being in a situation where you fear for your life.

Often, someone addicted to something mistakes anxiety for drive. For instance, when I feel anxious, often I interpret that as hunger. Both are painful sensations, and consuming food actually does, for a while, soothe both feelings. You could see how that would be easily confused.

I think the same goes for pornography. People who are addicted to pornography have learned to interpret anxiety or depression as sexual drive, because when they indulge themselves, both feelings--any sexual drive that might actually be there, and also the anxiety which is actually the dominant feeling they're trying to hide from--are soothed.

I guess what I'm saying, really, is this:

don't judge addicts. Because you are one. I am one. We all are addicts. We all need soothing. And we all turn to mistaken places for that soothing at times, and get our feelings all tangled up, all mixed up, and end up wondering why in heck we're such horrible people that we are so hungry all the time, so driven all the time, so financially depleted all the time and yet we want more... what kind of monster are we?

Which feeds back into the anxiety, and puts us at an even more lively pace down that spiral of addiction, as we turn back to the thing we hate for yet more comfort, yet more reassurance.

And then there's an added layer--the self-deception that can come along with all this anxiety, drive, and self-loathing. If you're a really, really good person, sometimes you just can't face wrong things you've done. You just can't.

Like the child who struggles to admit they took all the donuts off the fridge and ate them, even though they knew their siblings would be coming home from school anticipating them... the six year old, with only small amounts of impulse control, who did not withstand the lure of fried dough and chocolate frosting, and then struggled to handle the reality that they'd taken treats from people they love. Like this six-year old we often struggle to admit to ourselves how our break in will, our action, hurt another person. And when faced with that other person, quite often we can't form the words of truth--"I did this to you." Because it's too painful. Because you love them.

A lot of women know what I'm talking about. A lot of men, too. I glanced off the mention of pornography, but... I can't tell you how many people I've talked to, who are utterly heartbroken in the wake of addiction, not necessarily because of the behavior itself--though that is a very difficult thing to face and understand and it does hurt--but because of the lack of honesty. The betrayal. That's the clincher.

The thought is always "well, how much do they really love me? How much of a spouse are they to me, really? If they can lie so many times, so sincerely, even angrily, even tearfully...what kind of a person are they really? What else have they hidden from me? Do they really love me?"

They do love us. They really do.

And I, confirmed bad-for-me-food-and-shopping-addict, love my husband. Even though (I admit this openly, but it's hard!) I have not always been entirely honest about this to him, either, because I didn't trust him enough to love me, in my imperfection. Maybe that's the real clincher--someone who feels so horrible about themselves doesn't fully trust those around them to love them in all their reality. So they become fake. They put on a front. And meanwhile, it builds up inside them, hurting and swelling and finally, erupting, in the form of anger, dissatisfaction, avoidance, misplaced blame....

It really struck me the other day, as I discussed this subject with some friends of mine, that addiction really is common to all of us. We all have something we struggle to tell the truth about. And as we grow older, wiser, more secure and more willing to apply the atonement with humility, we grow more honest. We start telling ourselves the truth, and then, telling the truth to those around us.

I'd love your thoughts on this.

Jul 27, 2016

Summer of a Bunch of Stuff--Greenhouse update

So, my friend did a post recently about how this is a summer of miracles for her and her family. It has been one for us too, but I don't want to steal her title, or her post, so I'm just going to say: this has been the summer of a bunch of awesome stuff.
We've gone swimming in the pond almost every day,
We've found and raised monarch butterfly caterpillars, and realized that our pasture, with its russian olive trees and milkweed is a veritable Monarch paradise--something I wanted to build, but ended up with accidentally. Miracle, for sure.
We've fallen alseep during parades
Taken a million cute selfies with baby Fruitsnack on Mom's phone We've also made huge progress on the greenhouse. Our family reunion was held here this year, so Jeff and I quickly and frenetically gathered materials for the family service project, which was to start the process of plastering our cob walls inside. Just so you know, cob walls are earthen, baked walls with a limestone plaster finish. THey retain heat well, they're cheap to make, and they are natural. This is why we chose cob for the inside of the greenhouse. It does mean, however, that all irrigiation needs to be drip, or in-soil. SPray irrigation would wear away the walls too much. Cob can handle humidity, and some wetness, but not constant wetness. Still, we evaluated all the options, and it was the best choice. Finished, a cob wall looks something like this.
Rounded, natural. Earthen. Yes, there's a bit of whimsy to it. ANd yes, Whimsy did weigh in our choice :) Cob is made of sand, clay mud, and chopped straw. SO there was our other hitch--there is absolutely no clay to be found in any of the gravel pits, or from any of the landscaping companies around here. Many who build with cob just use the soil from their own backyard, but our problem there is, we live on the top of an old caldera, in the wake of sand dunes. Our soil has very little clay. So, we traveled to Utah to get some.
9,000 lbs of clay. We worried ourselves over the pass on our way to Pocatello. But we made it
With huge amounts of clay, and inexpressible gratitude toward the ward members who have repeatedly loaned us their trailer. SO the next steps were, Tvyek paper in all the spots bare of it. WE got that up
And then, chicken wire, with wood spacers, to create the framework for us to put the cob onto the walls. Lots of nails to anchor it so it wouldn't sag. We did this very late at night the day before the project, with the help of my little sister's generous fiancee :)
I didn't take pictures of the process the next day, where a dozen people were helping sift clay, mix clay, sand, and straw, and later, press it into our wall, because I was doing it with them and mud+phone don't mix. BUt it was wonderful. We got muddy and messy, and....
we got a patch of cob up on our wall. IT probably doesn't look as beautiful to anyone else as it does to me. But I've felt it, run my hands over it, dozens of times in the last few days as JEff and I waited for it to dry so we could see how it will hold up. (really well, btw. IT's as stuck and solid as cement. This will work!!) In other greenhouse related awesomeness, we finished the outside, finally.
That's the east side, which remained unfinished as we focused on bringing baby into the world. Jeff was out there all spring, and it looks so much better than I imagined. And also
We nearly finished the north-south run of the celing. Still need the east-west run. Again, family helped, and friends. This project has been a labor of love in so many ways. We're getting there. Feeling it. WE're growing vegetables this winter, I just know it.

May 4, 2016

On Creativity and Screwyness

I've been thinking lately about the phenomenon of creativity. If you are a creative person, you tend to live in the world of possibility. If you're like me, you think of scenarios all the time, involving imaginary or real people in your life. You also tend to ruminate; to go back and re-process things that have happened, trying to interpret or pull further implications from it and speculate on various symbolisms and possibilities and "what ifs."

Creativity has traditionally been linked to... let's face it. A lack of sanity.
I've worried about this myself. I've had a lot of people in my life--beloved figures of example--who were brilliant, and really struggling. One example that immediately comes to mind is a man who was great friends with our family. He sang with my dad often. Had a beautiful, fervent, inspiring voice... he sang, you listened. He could have made a big audience for himself with his voice, but never could quite get it together emotionally. He really struggled, and ended up taking his own life just a few years ago.

Maybe that's why so few people make it big artistically. You've got to have the combination--the brilliance AND the executive functioning.

It makes me wonder how many truly brilliant, inspiring people have been unable to reach the wide audience their skills deserved. I mean, this guy I"m talking about... the world would only have been better if more people could have been inspired by him. He certainly changed my life, and the lives of all he touched. I wish, I wish, more people could have been changed by him.

I think of people like Vincent Van Gogh, who was famously unstable, but so talented he broke through anyway. And we all benefit from his inspiration today. I think of Sylvia Plath, who wrote such catchy, beautiful, arresting words, and ended up a victim of her own brilliant mind.

I'm not anywhere close to as talented as these people I mention. And the mental burden I carry is also quite a bit lighter. But, let's face it... I'm still screwy.

Living in the not-real-world most of the time has consequences. You forget things you should remember. All the time. I have such a poor memory of my childhood, of events that occurred even three years ago. Often the best way for me to remember things is through writing about them--my creative talent--but when I'm not writing about them they are fuzzy, hazy, hard-to-grasp images, my memories.

IN real time, I live in a pretty fuzzy world, too. I'm made aware of this often... I drive very very cautiously because often if I don't, I get in trouble. Over-cautiousness is my defense against my own lack of connection to my surroundings. And still I fail occasionally.

Buildings that have stood on my daily routes suddenly bloom up into being on occasion... I realize, suddenly, that they're there. I didn't notice them before that. Conversations I have with people suddenly click with me days later... I realize what someone meant when they said such-and-such, and what they wanted from me. This can lead to interpersonal difficulties.

For crying out loud, I am, in fact, a bit screwy.

I struggled a lot as a teenager because lack of connection to surroundings, in real time, can lead to social problems. I had a few, forgiving, close friends, but mostly I was frightened of social interaction because I was constantly afraid I would offend people accidentally by responding in a way that didn't make sense to them, because i'd gotten the conversation wrong, or mistook a meaning. The other day in Relief Society, I misunderstood completely the instructor's question and puzzled her; when I responded that I'd mistaken her question, she took it for correction. Oh, this is my life.

I think this is why I make friends slowly. They have to put up with non-sequiturs, fuzzy logic, misunderstanding and eventually learn that I do have good intentions. I really treasure those relationships where this has come to pass.

I often feel that I"m navigating a river full of rapids, with everything around me slightly dimmed--noise, sense of touch, sight... I see through a bit of a dark glass. I'm very, very grateful for those who are willing to look past that and love me for who I mean to be.

Anyway. Creativity and screwyness. It's a thing. I would never give up my heart--writing, stories, memories, thoughts that branch out in crazy directions and connections that make me happy. But it does make life dangerous at times.

Anyway. This is a shout out to those of you who don't fully live in real-time, in the real-world--I feel you, my screwy brothas and sistas.

Mar 18, 2016

Writing Update and Request for Input

A few people have asked me how the novel writing's going. Those on facebook are aware of my querying and slew of rejections, seasoned by an occasional personal note from an editor telling me they enjoyed my pages but it's not from them, and also the very occasional request for pages.

I had a pretty big-time agent request my full, and then come back with, "I really enjoyed it. But it's too sweet and too YA for me and those I work with." In other words, (and in the words of a friend) "not enough sex or violence." I think. I think that's what she was saying.

At this point, I've finished (counting the current project) 5 manuscripts since Mile 21's publication. Two are LDS fiction novels that my current publisher, Cedar Fort, hasn't been able to find a place for. Two are fantasy novels that General agents haven't been willing to risk their resources on. So what I'm doing right now--I'm taking one of the fantasies (The "too sweet" one) back to LDS publishers, because I realized after that feedback, that an audience looking for fun fantasy but with a preference for clean literature is probably my best bet for that manuscript.

So, last week, I submitted it to Shadow Mountain. We'll see what comes of that.

Also, a few months ago I was contacted by Covenant Communications (another LDS publisher, not the one I worked with on Lightning Tree and Mile 21) that my manuscript Butterfly Years made it past a couple of tiers of evaluation and they'd sent it to their outside readers, and I ought to hear back in a few months. It's been a few months, so I anticipate I'll be hearing from them soon. If they want to publish it, I'll be ecstatic. I love that story. And while I'd like to take my writing outside of the niche of LDS fiction, I still love writing LDS fiction as well.

This is the life of a writer. You publish, you don't publish. You write something nobody wants, you write something else nobody wants, you keep trying until you hit a sweet spot of Market and Trends and Audience and someone is willing to take a chance on what you've written.

Anyway. I've written a few different types of fantasy stories. I started with my behemoth--the epic fantasy I've played with and written several versions of from the time I was fifteen or so. It ended up being 200,000 words, and I know it needs some editing, and I think I know how I can fix it. It got a couple requests for pages, and ultimately was passed on by my list of agents to submit to (about 120 long). Then I wrote something shorter, something fun and funnier and more commercial, and got the almost-break of that big agent as well as a couple requests and a lot of encouraging rejections. I had fun writing it, but ultimately, struggled. It was so silly and fluffy and honestly, while I love reading stuff like that, and I enjoyed writing it, I felt a bit sugared-out after finishing, if you know what I mean.

So the next thing I wrote (my current project) I decided to do something more serious. Knowing fully it probably wouldn't easily be marketable, I decided to write a literary fantasy story along the lines of Madeline L'Engle. And I really enjoyed writing it. A lot. Man. This is the genre of my heart--fantasy that explores the human experience. But anyway, I doubt a lot of people will be requesting pages because it doesn't easily slide into any genre. IT's got 17 year old characters, it's basically a hero's journey, and it's pretty introspective and kind of unusual. Most of the story is two characters on a boat fighting their way through an Alice-In-Wonderland type scenario. SO while I enjoyed writing it, I'm pretty sure not many people will be reading it. I'll still submit, of course, and try. But not a lot of high hopes there.

And that's OK.

I needed it. It was palate-clarifying, if that makes any sense. After trying so hard to write stuff that appeals to an audience, I needed to write something for myself to remind myself I love to write and why I'm a writer.

But now it's time to try something commercial again. I need to find exactly the right sort of story. Something that will appeal immediately to editors and agents and strikes the right chord in the market right now. I'm just not sure what that is. SO I'll be doing a bit of research before I choose my next story.

To that end, I'm going to ask. Those of you who love reading fantasy. What do you think is missing in the market right now? What do you wish you could read, or read more of, that isn't out there? What do you like most about what *is* out there right now? Let me know. The thing about writing is, writing itself is just a joy. So whatever I end up writing, sugary or spicy or serious or fluff, I might as well be writing what people want to be reading.

Mar 5, 2016


This weekend, my last baby was blessed, and my first son was baptized.

We were given a paper to write on, to put in books for baptism memories.

All I felt today, seeing my wonderful eight year old son who still impulsively gives me kisses on the cheek, who can't stop talking about MineCraft and electronics kits, who can't keep his hands off his baby sister because he loves her so much, who has theories about the way the world and all its parts work, who says the most hilarious things in all seriousness so I have to stifle chuckles, but who still smiles at me when I accidentally let one go... seeing my son be baptized...

I felt that feeling you get when you know you're experiencing that perfect moment and you wish there was a way to capture it--more than a picture or a movie, but a moment you can immerse yourself in and come back to any time you want.


Today little Fern was blessed. The men who blessed her were all people who loved her, who loved the priesthood.

I love the priesthood.

That's what I felt today, seeing my son get baptized and my daughter get blessed.

Part VI (two years later)--Cascading consequences and epiphanies.

So as y'all are aware who read this blog, about two years ago I wrote a multi-part post about something very difficult and sad that happened to me a while ago. If you haven't read it and are curious, the tag on this post will lead you to the others.

In a nutshell, I got married at a young age to a guy who was good but secretly addicted to pornography. He had other issue in his life that lead him to be abusive and unstable and unsafe for me and our daughter to be around. His actions lead to several different things: we ended up divorced, he ended up in Jail, Emma and I ended up on our own, and I ended up in the news. Nobody knew how to handle it, and everybody (including me) sometimes handled it horribly, and I was left with a lot of scars and sadness as a result; scars that left me hurting pretty badly for a really long time. THen about three years ago a miracle came into my life; a friend and bishop who helped me heal. And then as I was able to open up, others were able to help me heal. My husband. My kids. Friends. Family. These last three years have been the happiest of my life, in spite of the fact that there have still been significant challenges and things that have been heartbreaking even. Things I have not written about on this blog.

I'm going back to this today because the other day, I had an interaction with someone that left me hurting again, and questioning whether it was a good idea to write about it all. To come clean. And wondering why I did; why I exposed such a vulnerable part of myself for people to judge and comment on and be upset at me for.

This person told me that I am a liar, that I live in a fantasy land, and that I write about other peoples' lives without permission. This person was pretty upset with me. They said I'd offended several people by writing on my blog about stuff. Because no posts on my blog have really been about anything significant, other than this series of posts about my recovery process, I have to assume that these were the offending posts.

In a sense, I guess these posts did include others' lives. My ex husband being the most salient example. While Emma and I were pretty significantly affected by what happened, the real tragedy in this story is his. And the real vulnerability is his. This is why I have decided never to tell this story as an author. I could, and I'm sure I could sell a lot of copies of a book about what happened to me. But it's not my story, primarily. Not my tragedy. It's his. That means it's his to decide to tell or not.

So why did I write about it? Was it going back on my resolve to blog about this?

In addition to my ex husband, I also talked about the bishop's life--the one who handled it all. It was a signiifcant trauma for him, too. And the way things happened, and how I reacted, didn't exactly bring him off in a good light. But he is a good man. ANd he learned a lot. Like all of us.

IN addition to my bishop, I wrote about how some ward members struggled, how those struggles hurt me. Those were their tragedies, their traumas. And I wrote about my own family's struggle to help me, and in so doing, I told about their struggles and their traumas.

Also, as I described the recovery process, I wrote about the life of those who helped me recover. I revealed some vulnerable things about them.

I want to say, if this hurt any of the above people, I really am sorry.

I've been struggling the last few days with guilt and sadness, wondering if it was the right thing, to write this stuff at all, because it could potentially hurt so many people to be writing about what happened to me. I go back and forth--on the one hand, it is hard and sad to revisit that stuff. But on the other hand... it's a story of healing. My healing. It's a very real example of how you can be very hurt by those you are supposed to trust, and how you can still trust again in spite of that--trust husbands, trust preisthood leaders, trust friends. I want people who are struggling like I did, to feel hope that they will be able to trust again. I want to loan them a piece of my faith until they can find their own again. I want people to know that the church is still True in spite of imperfect vessels of priesthood and spousehood and freindship.

The church is true.

It will keep you sane.

It will keep you happy.

It will give you strenght.

It will give you joy, even in the face of complete despair.

Your Heavenly Father loves you. And he loves everybody that ever hurt you. And He is doing all He can to help you help yourself find happiness again.

That was what I wanted to say. That was the thing that allowed me to press "publish" on all those posts--the possibility that others, who are where I have been, might be more able to continue knowing that life gets better and can even be more wonderful in the aftermath of tragedy, than it would have been if no tragedy had occurred. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband because he has seen me through heartache and struggle and paranoia and lack of trust and all sorts of things--he has been more than a best friend. ANd the others in my life have come to know me in a way they never would have, if I hadn't been so vulnerable when I met them. I treasure this, because I am not normally a very open person, and to have such good friends and family who know me so well is a miracle to me.

So for that reason, I am not ashamed I posted about my life (and others' lives.)

Today I realized another reason I am not ashamed. I've been turning this over and over in my mind, like I said, questioning my motivations and one thing I've realized lately is, I had to take my story back. My epiphany came after watching this video that my friend posted on facebook tonight. It's about rape. It's really sad. Don't watch it if you don't want. Here are some of the lyrics:

You tell me "it gets better, it gets better,
in time"
You say I'll pull myself together, pull it together,
"You'll be fine"
Tell me what the hell do you know,
What do you know,
Tell me how the hell could you know,
How! could you know

Till it happens to you, you don't know
How it feels,
How it feels.
Till it happens to you, you won't know
It won't be real
No It won't be real
Won't know how it feels.

The point that struck home for me is this. Rape is a horrible thing. What I went through was a horrible thing.
What I went through does not trump rape. Rape is awful. What I went through was awful. Both are awful.

But not very many people actually go through what I went through--survive three attempts on her life by someone she should have trusted, and then have personal details, vulnerable details, about her life--in every newspaper in the state, on the television, talked about behind her in every college class. Not very many people have complete strangers come up to her and ask her about the most horrific, vulnerable things she's ever gone through; is going through at that moment, as a matter of curiosity. Not very many people have these personal, terrible things that she is not even able to process or accept, commented on in the most vulgar and judgmental way--hundreds of comments on dozens of news articles; not very many people have cameras shoved in her face and very personal questions asked; not very many people have news vans following her around as she's trying to go to class and drop her child off at childcare and go to court to testify against the person she thought she knew and loved the most; not very many people have people who *still*, thirteen years later, remember these very personal details about her life.

NOt very many people go through this. So not very many people *can* know how it feels. Nobody knows. Nobody. I'm alone in this. Except for Heavenly Father, who knows exactly how i feel.

THe thing is, guys. I had to tell it.

It was part of my recovery.

I'm sorry to those I hurt. Deeply sorry.

But I had to do it. IT was taken away from me; these things. IT was told for me, and told wrong. Nobody heard my voice at all.

I had to tell it.

And until it happens to you,

.... you don't know how it feels.

I'm not a liar.

I'm not living in a fantasy land--these things REALLY happened. And the IdaDad of my posts is REALLY a great dad, to a lot of people. His own daughters, and lots of others who are not his daughters. Lots of people who aren't me. What a miracle some people can be in the lives of others. I am inspired by the example of those who have helped me. And by the way--Mile 21 was about my recovery process, and about an old acquaintance from my home stake who went through a significant tragedy right about the same time mine took place. It wasn't about you. At all. So you can stop thinking you're that special. Sorry.

And I don't tell about other peoples' lives on purpose--no, not at all. I told this story because I needed to. But there has been plenty that has happened... things that have broken my heart, that I have *not* talked about.

But I had to tell this story. ANd I had to talk about what happened with my young women calling. It was too close to what happened before... it was too much. I had to talk about it. If you have a problem with that, well, there are several lovely bridges in town that you can feel free to jump off of :)

Sorry. I'm just done.

I love a lot of people. Even people who have been awful. I love a lot of people and that's why it hurts so much. Please forgive me, people, for being broken, and for not being perfect as I try to fix myself. Maybe someday we can be friends. I make a good friend. I'm loyal. I'm kind. I'm a hard worker. I've got good intentions even when I accidentally do things that are awkward and offensive. So, please forgive me if I've made you sad. Let's move on. I'm ready to. IF you aren't, I'm leaving you behind. I'm kind of done. I'm not listening to you anymore. I've got to be a good mother and a good wife and a good friend and a good family member, and your words aren't relevant, and they're not true, and they're not healthy for me to listen to. I have to be done.

Feb 1, 2016

Naming, and Strong Women

I have very strong-willed daughters (and sons) and while this presents some struggles right now as I try to parent them, I wouldn't want it to be different. Because strong women are kind of my heritage, and my husband's as well.

Jeff and I have a lot in common, family-tree-wise, actually. (Ok, nothing creepy. Our closest ancestral connection is that we are 11th cousins 1 time removed. We've checked.) I mean circumstances. Even before I married Jeff, I was struck by the similarities in our background, namely, the backgrounds of the women who raised us.

Jeff's mother lost her mother to cancer when she was 14. It was a slow, heartbreaking struggle for the family, which left behind children ranging from age 6 to age 20. Jeff's grandfather remarried quickly--within two years--to an amazing, wonderful woman who took over raising the girls (and later had a son), and she is the grandmother Jeff has always known.

My mother lost her mother to cancer when she was 4. It was a slow, heartbreaking struggle that lasted nearly a decade, and in the midst of this struggle, she chose to have a daughter, for which I will always be grateful. My grandfather remarried quickly--within two years--to an amazing, wonderful woman who took over raising my mother (and later had a son), and she is the grandmother I have always known.

Both of these women--the ones who came into our mothers' lives after losing mothers--are now the only living grandparents Jeff and I have left, and we are so grateful for them. They are loving, strong women, and have never been anything other than our grandmothers, related by blood or not. Both of us have experienced the miracle of adoption in our lives, and I think it's likely part of the reason why Jeffrey and I were lead to adopt as well. There's no "half sister, half brother, stepmother" in any of this. We are, and always have been, family.

But these women whom neither of us have met--grandmothers on the other side of the veil, we'd say--have always been family as well. I've felt my biological grandmother's influence in my life, and I'm pretty sure Jeff has, too.

Jeff's maternal biological Grandmother, Fern Lillian Moulton, was older-than-usual-for-small-Utah-towns when she married his grandfather. While her siblings called her a "noble lady", she was also something of a modern woman. She learned to drive young, working at her father's gas-station. She was an activist, an intellectual, and she was very active in her community. She raised her oldest two children, for the first few years, while her husband sailed in WWII. She passed strength, intelligence, a strong morality and independence on to all her daughters.

My maternal biological Grandmother, Ardis Clasen Swan, was very young when she married my grandfather; 18. She was determined, driven, intelligent and had a sharp sense of humor. She had a very strong idea of right and wrong. She was one of the first woman bankers in California, and she continued to work all the way to the end of her illness. She was classy and beautiful and strong and striking. Looking at her pictures, I almost can't believe that someone with that much life in her could have passed away so young.

I'm writing about this because we have decided to give our last baby--a girl--their names. They are unusual names, and I know some people will wonder where we got them from.

I have always felt strongly about giving my children names that they can look to as great examples. My kids are Emma Josephine (named after two heroines in Womens' Literature, and also a prophet and his wife), Woinshet Miriam (a name with Christian symbolism from her homeland, and the mother of Christ), Meaza Elizabeth (a name from her homeland meaning "lovely aroma," and a strong woman from the bible), Ruth Allison (Ruth from the bible, my mom), Samuel Evans (bible and book of Mormon prophet, a great friend in LOTR, and a family name from Jeff's side), Hazel Grace (both Jeff's and my paternal great-grandmothers' names), Daniel Robert (a bible prophet and my grandfather), David Curtis (Jeff's grandfather and a reference to the Curtis line in my family, whose culture has greatly influenced my life).

And now, we're giving our littlest and last child the name of two strong women we've never met, but whose influence has and continues to infuse our lives--

Fern Ardis.

As I said, unusual names. But names we find very lovely, because we have heard them all our lives spoken with reverence and respect and love, names that I hope will bring them even closer to us as an influence on us and our family and our last little girl.