Oct 30, 2013

Repairing & Building My Faith in Men

I told you all I'm going to be posting some vulnerable stuff! Hooray, for more vulnerable stuff! Today's post centers around some crud I'm dealing with as regards my perception of male people in my life.

Thing is, I really really struggle to trust men. Especially men who are more typical men. The more manlike a man is on the manly spectrum (earning points in the direction of manliness if they're obsessed with sports, for instance, or dismissive of touchy-feely discussion, or extremely driven to some specific manlike activity such as fishing or hunting or outdoor cooking, or very logical rather than intuitive, or collecting cars or boats, or displaying the sort of leadership or "protective" qualities men are supposed to have) the less I trust them.

(I know, in listing these traits, that many women exhibit them as well. Right now I'm talking about stereotypes.)

All the men I trust are kind of... not typically male, in the sense of what society thinks are man-like traits. Jeff is not. He's not interested in sports. He loves fishing but not to the point where he loves it above all else. He really enjoys being a teacher, not a leader. A mentor. He loves talking. *loooves* talking. I might be more manly that way than he is... I can't talk for as long as he can about dreams, feelings, experiences. He's also a fantastic dancer, a musician...

these are not the traits that society designates as manly, necessarily.

And my own Dad. He's manly in the sense that he's Logical. Very answer-focused, when it comes to problem solving. Very A+B=C. Logical. BUt he's not into sports. He's kinda geeky... into books, reading, music, computer games. He loves to hike, that's pretty manly. He might be more typically male than my husband.

There's my Ida-Dad. He's manly in the sense that he's protective, he is authoritative, he's kind of a guider. He's also pretty strong & enjoys being able to work hard. But He doesn't like sports, or hunting, and he loves talking. And he loves music. And he doesn't take himself too seriously... maybe I'm wrong to think that's not a typical male quality. Maybe it's manly to not take oneself too seriously.

when I think of the men around me that are more "typical" (acc to the definition I'm using) I feel pretty threatened. Even if they're good people, if they have some of theses traits (really into sports and talk about them all the time, speak authoritatively in front of a group & have that sort of attitude of protectiveness toward stuff, not really into emotion-driven conversation, not really into books or music...) I feel like I pretty much don't want to be around them. I feel rejected by them before they've really rejected me.

The thing is, these traits are traits. Period. They don't make people good or bad, or even necessarily more manly or feminine. THey exist in people. By golly, some women are really, really authoritative (see Sheri Dew) and protective (see ME!)

But when those traits exist in a man, I feel pretty threatened by/suspicious of that man.



And it's lead to some thoughts about how I feel about myself, my body, especially during this pregnancy, and my interactions with various men in my life. I think the reason my body during pregnancy makes me feel so very vulnerable and self conscious has to do with the fact that I can no longer hide that I'm female. When I was a young woman, I had subtle curves. I could wear stuff that made it so nobody really got a good look at me if I didn't want them to. They likely knew I had breasts, but couldn't really see them. They weren't prominent. My hips had a bit of curve, but not an outstanding, undeniably feminine curve like they have now. I walk into a room right now and sometimes I feel extremely conscious of the fact I am a woman and it's pretty obvious.

I think I feel really self conscious about it because I've been used before, and so I walk into a room, feeling overtly and vulnerably feminine, and all these men are sitting around and I don't know what they're thinking. What if they're looking at my body and purposefully allowing it to induce sexual thoughts? I can't do anything about that. What if they're being overpowered by my feminine body & can't *help* but think sexual thoughts? I hate that. That turns me into an assault weapon.

Oh gosh. I'm kinda messed up.

I guess that's what happens when you go through what i have, sometimes, though.

I don't think it's just being married to a porn addict that helped me develop these kind of insecure feelings, though. I think it comes from my mother, too. I'm not at all sure she's comfortable with her own feminine body. I think she's pretty embarrassed by her body. I need to not pass that down any further.

Lately I've been working on feeling like i'm beautiful and endearing, as a woman who can't be anything but woman, the way I'm shaped. Maybe JEff loves me because I have breasts, because I am growing and turning into a different, wider-hipped, more curvy shape. Maybe that shape is beautiful and endearing to him. Maybe he feels tender about me. Maybe he feels protective and full of joy because of my body being undeniably feminine.

I just feel threatened, because I trust him, but I don't trust other men. I want to be that just for him. I'd like to be a secret woman, with secret breasts and secret hips. Not a woman with obvious ones for everyone in a room to see. i'd like to be able to "choose" who looks at me like that. But I can't.

I was having this kind of discussion with my IDa-Dad recently (not nearly so articulate or in depth... I can't speak as well as I can write) and he was attempting to bring across to me the message that men don't necessarily "turn on" as soon as they look at a woman. That's not how it works.

And I said, "But don't men think about sex every seven seconds?"

And his response made me laugh so hard. I had to post it. I hope he doesn't mind. He said "That's a great statistic. Lots of people have used it. But I have to think that anyone who is thinking about sex every seven seconds can't really be a productive citizen."

Ok. Take a moment and laugh.

Now think about it.

In what ways is our world distorting and destroying our faith in each other, in men, in women, in this way? Since when have we been all about sex?

Why do we paint men as hormone-driven, barely-controlled sex machines? If I walk into a room, looking obviously feminine, and some people happen to enjoy looking at me maybe, is the thought on every man's mind "sex," or is it "she's beautiful. I like looking at her." Sort of the same way a sunset is beautiful. Or a particularly graceful quaky aspen is beautiful.

I mean, you can "go there," but how many men actually "go there?" Can I trust that men aren't using me as pornography simply because i'm female?

Oh, gosh. I really hope so.

Responses welcome. Remember that this is me being vulnerable & real and I don't mean to shock at all, just trying to figure stuff out, and this is the easiest way for me to sort these thoughts, so. Thank you in advance.

Oct 24, 2013

Interview of R.I. Drembic, author of The Knights of the Caers


Today I'm doing something a little different.

I'm interviewing a fantasy author!

About R.L. Drembic:

R.L. Drembic has loved reading from an early age. It wasn’t until shortly after
high school that he got the idea for a book of his own. Inspired by a friend’s
courage to try and get her own novel published, Drembic began writing and has
continued through his college career. Drembic has plans for a dozen more books
and hopes for a chance to share these adventures with avid readers everywhere.

About Knights of the Caers:
An ominous storm brews over The Northern Kingdoms. Edric, a young man, has wandered through the kingdoms alone and forlorn for years, ever since a tragedy forced him to leave his village. A fateful encounter brings Stephen to his campfire with inspirational news; war looms on the horizon of the realm of Osmér and King Herus has called for skilled swordsmen to come to the Knight’s Academy. The news brings Edric some desperately needed hope and he risks everything to escape the past that haunts him.

The novel has been described as gripping, the plot as twisty, and the characters, endearing.

OK. So here's the interview!

1) What is the genre of your book? What has made you choose this genre for your writing?

The Knights of the Caers is an Epic Fantasy. I chose to write in this genre because I have always found it to be the most exciting and enrapturing genre in my years as an avid reader. I believe that reading a good book should be a means to transport the reader to a new, amazing world where they can experience an adventure that they could never have in real life.

2) I noticed from your blurbs that your story has a historical bent. Did you do research?

The novel doesn't actually have much of a historical bent beyond ships and weapons common before the renaissance. Originally, it was set in medieval times, but as I wrote I slowly added fantastical elements starting with orcs, then a little magic, then elves and dwarves, and so on. I quickly decided to set the story in a completely created land because I believed that all the research required to do one in a historical setting would get in the way of creativity; and it is the creativity that makes a story good.

3) Do you love plotting or character development more? Which of those have you had to work on as you grow as a writer? Or are you great at both?

Writing this novel, and working on my others, I definitely focus more on plotting. I love creating a thrilling, twisting plot. There are strong elements of character development throughout the story that are what make the characters real and inspiring, but the focus is on how the events help or harm character development.

4) What do you feel is the most valuable writing skill you have gained in writing this book?

I would say the most valuable skill that developed is the ability to write more fluidly while making the imagery descriptive. As you read the book, there is definite, noticeable improvement in this aspect throughout.

5) Tell me five interesting or strange things about yourself.

I started writing this novel at 18.
By the time I graduated high school, I calculated that I had probably read over 1,000 fictions books.
Although the first novel took me about a year to complete (6 months for the first third), the first draft of the sequel only took me about 4-6 weeks (2 weeks for the first third).
I have six other books in various stages of the writing process as well as ideas for a half dozen others based off characters introduced in The Knights of the Caers.

Thank you, R.L. Drembic!

If you want to know more about this author, here is his facebook page.

And for those interested, here's where you can purchase a copy of Knights of the Caers. And you can have a sneak peek at the first few chapters here.

Oct 17, 2013

Bobbert's Good Intentions

Farcequin part 5.

If you missed parts one through four and are morbidly curious and/or horrified but can't look away in the same way you rubberneck on the freeway looking at a five-car pileup, click here.

. Surely it’s suppertime by now, Elfreda thought, eyeing the long shadows cast by the sagebrush along the garnet-colored ground. She couldn’t, however, keep from watching Bobbert as he dove into the pool. She gasped as he wrestled a 20-foot croc up onto shore, dragging it by the tail. The danger had her frozen in horror, and the sight of his muscled back and shoulders as he knelt on the monster’s ridged back, pressing it to the ground, as with one deft stroke he slit the creature’s throat, allowing its gore to spill out over the red mud….
“Good one, Sir,” one of the farmhands said, tipping his hat to Bobbert. “Likely get at least a hundred purses and belts out of that one.”
Bobbert nodded curtly, dusted himself off. He turned in Elfreda’s direction and she immediately began shoveling again, shoveling with real intent—keeping her eyes on her task.
“How are you holding up?” He asked. She shivered, sensing his presence as he walked up behind her.
“Fine,” she said tartly.
“You need different boots,” he observed, watching her slide a little in the crocodile refuse.
“I’m fine,” she repeated, turning to glance at him, running her hand over the damp hair around her face, which stuck to her cheeks annoyingly in perfect, gleaming copper rings. ,
After a moment, a moment in which she was intensely aware of the heat of him, standing so close to her; of his breathing, still labored after dispatching the crocodile, he walked away. As soon as she was sure his attention had returned to the creature—now being skinned and disemboweled and dismembered—she leaned weakly on the shovel and put a hand to her brow.
All day they worked tiring, back-breaking jobs. After Elfreda had cleaned the croc pool, Bobbert asked her to feed them, and she climbed the precarious ladder up to the feeding platform, balancing two large buckets of dead skunks, rabbits and raccoons. Carefully, timidly, she dropped the carcasses one by one and the crocs leapt, snapping them up before they even hit the water. One croc came very close to the platform—within three feet. He was a 30-footer; scarred on the face with eyes that seemed cold, intelligent, and evil. He seemed to eye Elfreda appraisingly as he rose up into the air toward her, snapped savagely at the rabbit she had flung into the air, and disappeared back into the pool with a spectacular splash that left her entire front soaked in muddy spatter.
After her buckets were empty, she descended she sadly regarded her genuine leather, five-inch-heel Louboutin boots. She would never again be able to wear them in decent company. She smelled like crocodiles and skunks. She was terribly hungry as well. Lunch, while filling—crocodile steaks seared to perfection, served with a light rose wine which she’d had rather a little too much of—had been quick and hurried, and she felt like she hadn’t eaten for a lifetime
“Time to turn in for the day,” she was relieved to hear Bobbert say. She hurried toward the house, not really wanting to walk with any of the men, but he caught up and fell into step with her. She ignored him, straightening her back and trying to keep her knees from shaking with the strain of her tried muscles. Again she was intensely aware of his rugged presence, half-covered with blood and other substances.
“Ready to call Uncle?” he finally spoke when they were almost to the house.
She turned to him, her eyes blazing like angry agates. “Never,” she spat. “Though I think your line of work is despicable. Raising those poor brutes in a tiny pool and then killing them for… for their skins!”
Something in his face hardened. He took her arm with a bruising strength and walked faster, forcing her to stumble to keep up. “And what do you know of it, missy?” He growled. “Grown up in a clean little house with a clean little yard. A little different when you see life as it really is, at its root, isn’t it?”
She didn’t say a word, but bit her lip again, wincing when fresh blood flowed and she realized she’d bit it in the same place she had the day before.
“Best take care of that,” Bobbert said, flinging her arm away when they arrived at the doorstep. “Not a good idea to be bleeding around rabid crocs.”
“R-rabid?” Elfreda said.
“That’s right,” he replied grimly. “The rangers bring them to us. We make them comfortable as long as we can… feed them, make the end of their life something better than it would be otherwise, and give them a quick, easy death. We use the skins,” he shrugged, “it’s our way of keeping the operation going. All this,” he stretched his hand out to indicate the mansion, its many dark gables and foreboding arched windows, precarious tottering towers and acres of immaculate flowerbeds, “is, as you know, family money. I don’t have to work, Gayle.” He paused, and his face softened. “And you don’t have to, either.”
But Gayle’s humiliation had turned to stubbornness and anger, blazing and intractable as her beautiful coils of hair rippling like flame in the evening breeze. She turned away from him without answering and marched inside, not caring that she left mud all over the floor—part blood, part crocodile refuse. I’ll stick it out, she told herself. I’ll stick it out and prove to Bobbert I’m not what he thinks I am; I’m not some silly society girl who cares about nothing but purses and belts. I’ll show him. I’ll show him what Elfreda Ardmore is made of and exactly what kind of woman he’s planning to marry, even if it means losing all my boots, and limbs, in the process.

Oct 15, 2013

A Geneology of Conflict

I have been thinking a whole lot of things lately about how to improve myself, improve my relationships with my spouse and my children and also members of my ward. The problem is, I went through something pretty difficult, and so I've got some residual anxiety & emotional scars that have caused me to kind of curl up in on myself and isolate, and not get to know or trust people, including, sometimes, those closest to me. But now's the time in my life I'm moving forward & trying to become a whole human being, to be honest, for the first time in my life, I think.

I am examining the roots of what I might call, "social anxiety" or even "pathological constant skepticism & mistrust." And I realized the other day, my big trigger is conflict. Any conflict. Real, un-christlike conflict-- eg, Two people actively arguing, or just coldly not getting along, or throwing subtle barbs at each other, or a person who likes to gossip/be mean, for me would mean, OK, now I do not trust any of you as far as I can throw you. In fact, my feeling of annoyance is such that I actively dislike you.

Not very christlike. And how is that any better than what they're doing? Everybody sins differently. But that's what a trigger is, it's something that taps into a sore spot & you find yourself being less than logical & capable of seeing a bigger picture/person.

But for me, it goes further than that. *Any* conflict immediately makes me feel either angry or guilty, depending on the situation. Or both, usually. For instance, in a meeting with ward members the other day, one person hesitantly suggested something. New to the ward, clearly shy, he was just trying to do his best. And then the other person responded with dismissal & defensiveness. Probably mild, it was, and probably the person didn't think much of it. But for me it was a nuclear explosion, or a slap to the face, or something. I wanted to snap or leave the room or berate the person. I didn't, of course. I know I'm a little screwed up.

It also extends to stuff I'm actually supposed to do if I'm going to be a good wife and mother. I *hate* (that needs to be capitalized, italicized, underlined and bolded until it creates a permanent imprint in the eyeballs of those who read this so when they look away there's this glowing, white afterimage seared into their retinas) disagreeing with my husband. To the point where, in the past, I've gone with what he wants unless it's an emergency. And in those cases, I've just put my foot down, haven't discussed things at all, and have felt terribly, terribly guilty.

every time I tell my kids to do something they don't want to do, I feel guilty.

every time my kids misbehave & I have to punish them, I feel guilty.

every time I sit them down to talk to them about something they need to work on, I feel like a monster. Who lectures, and crushes peoples' spirits.

I still do these parental things because I've read enough literature on parenting, child development, adoption and attachment that I know by heart what I need to do. But it causes so, so much guilt.

Only lately have I been able to see, just a chink of light in a long, dark tunnel, how discussing things we disagree about together (Jeff & I) could actually be a bonding and loving thing. Theoretically. Hopefully. It's important, though. He is a discusser. A loving man who isn't afraid of conflict, who has actually been hurt & saddened by my lack of ability to engage in productive conflict. Discussing things together, presenting our points & deciding, together, what to do. Trusting him to love me even if I disagree with him.

The thing is, some of that came from my first marriage. I'll go into that just a little bit.

My first husband was a person who, most of the time, was completely mellow & mild-mannered. Genteel, I think, is the word most people would have used to describe him (before his whole ugly story came out.) But he did not handle conflict well. He'd escalate really fast. And we're talking escalating at the level of, we're disagreeing about how to make biscuits. He's getting a little annoyed I'm doing it my way, not his. I stand my ground, saying they'll be fine & so he runs into the bathroom with a knife and threatens suicide.

Yeah, to you, that seems really wacko, I'm sure.

But the thing is, my Dad did the same thing. Sans knife and suicide threat. When we got into disagreements, he'd either make fun of me (tell all the kids at the table to stick their tongues out at me, tell me how silly I'm being) or he'd storm out of a room & slam the door. If (as teenagers are apt to do) I insisted that we have something out, he'd escalate to the point of throwing stuff, yelling in my face.

The thing is, my Dad's a good guy. He just can't handle conflict. At all. I see the way he and my mother interact & I used to put it on a pedestal--they don't argue much. But he makes a passive-aggressive remark about how he wishes we could do things a certain way & she takes it in stride & moves on. She doesn't always ask his input before she does something she knows he might not agree with. He does things he doesn't want to do even though he doesn't want to do them & doesn't argue. And occasionally he walks out of the room & shuts the door. And often he plays piano for hours on end, or computer games for hours on end, or reads for hours on end.

Anyway, all I knew growing up was, conflict was bad. Bad.

And if I feel a need to disagree with someone, that should be kept to myself.

Problem was, I couldn't. I didn't do a good job of that. I have another, conflicting trait that rears up inside of me and takes me over, and that is a strong desire/need for resolution. I can't let things hang, I can't let them fester. It *kills* me when I know someone's not happy with me. I feel this huge drive to go them & apologize & ask how I can make things better, even though it may not be welcome/the right time. So, growing up, I was the kid who tried to resolve bad feelings & therefore, engaged in a bit of conflict. Sometimes more than a bit. I think of my fifteenth year & it seems like one long, unending shout/scream/anger/pushing away/abuse fest.

Of course, that was the year my mother was almost dying for 8 months.

And there's a lot to be resolved when you're fifteen. In that phase of figuring out how you're not a child but not yet an adult (queue the Britney Spears music.) Also, let's face it. Family. There's a whole truckload of stuff to be resolved.

Thus the geneology I'm about to embark upon.

My family, just like most families, has its share of difficult history. On my dad's side we come from almost pure LDS pioneer stock. I had ancestors in the Martin Handcart company, yeah, the one that lost half its members to cold and hunger on the frozen prairie. One of my direct ancestors is fabled for having carried 16 people across one of the rivers on her back. Another is that famous one you read about from time to time in the Ensign--she swam across a river with her 6 year old son on her shoulders.

On that same side of the family (my Dad's) is a line of ancestry that is quite interesting to examine. The Curtisses. Matthew Curttis was an east-coast farmer, and I suspect, intellectual, because at least two of his children, Theodore and Olive, attended New York University and became proficient in several languages. This is how they became converted--through elder Lorenzo Snow (also an intellectual, from an intellectual family) who got to know them at NYU. Back then, that was a very unusual thing--for a woman such as Olive Curtis (Coombs) to be educated to that degree. I have to think that family has always emphasized learning, thinking, intellectualism.

They became poets, artists, musicians. Logicians. Mathematicians. Theodore's grandson Theodore wrote four hymns in the hymnbook. And his son, Reuben, was a pastor in the Army and became a famous speaker at stake conferences, who painted magnificently realistic paintings and drawings of landscapes and people.

There's another element to this, however. Theodore (the first, the one who settled in Salt Lake City) had, I think, what they called back then, "melancholy." I can't diagnose it officially of course. I'm not a professional and we're talking snippets from journals and family histories. But it's more a *feeling* I get. There's a flavor to that family. Intellectual. Somewhat emotionally divorced from conflict. Hands off, about conflict.

Theodore's son, Theodore the second, ended up separated from his wife because she wanted him to be a polgyamist, and he'd seen his father suffer as a result of polygamy, so he said no. She decided to leave him. He decided to leave Utah. He went east and wrote for a periodical there--he was famous for being liberal and an advocate of the mormons. But he died in poverty, away from his family. He didn't engage in any sort of resolution, he just left. The family only heard of him at the end of his life. They were told by the hospital that was caring for him that he was a pauper, and alone. They asked if there was any family who might come and help him. Did they?

I don't know.

Fast forward to my grandmother. My grandmother is a wonderful but complicated individual. And (and this is still just a *feeling* for me, I can't prove it) she is almost entirely Curtis. She is an intellectual. She is an artist--she has painted many beautiful, striking landscapes. She did a painting of my mother that I love, and of each of her children and their spouses. She is a musician--she plays many instruments as well as singing. She is a character--she and grandpa used to dress up as clowns and entertain people. She has a mind that bends and stretches and examines and imagines and jokes and is utterly brilliant, dryly hilarious and creative. She's like nobody you've ever met before. I love talking to her. Her sense of humor, and the way she expresses herself--it gets at the very edges and corners and deep places in my soul and expands into them, making me more sure of and glad and proud about who I am. There's a very primal aspect to it.

She is also frightened by/very bad at conflict. Or at least, in engaging in conflict resolution with her spouse.

My belief (from what I've read and feel) is that, in Grandma's Family, conflict was resolved in a very Curtiss-like way. Mainly avoidance with an edge of gallantry, and a bit of high-handedness on the part of men--so, men took care of women. Fathers took care of families. They stayed calm, cool, collected and intellectual, and they adored & looked after their women & expected some obedience and adoration in return. It's interesting... this is soooo out of this world different from how my family is.

With grandma, it was marrying grandpa that kind of changed that. Grandpa was (is) much more matter-of-fact about resolving conflict. He had a temper which would explode at times and then die down & that was supposed to be OK. (And I think it can be OK depending on how you work it out with those who live with you.) He was kind of a jock in some ways. A man who got impatient with silliness. I'm going to go on and say, he was and is a wonderful, artistic, brilliant, hilarious person as well--this is what brought him and grandma together. There wasn't a bad bone in his body. He did tend to lose it at times, and my Dad has spoken of having to cut his own willow whips from the backyard, but he was a good, loving father & husband.
He & grandma just didn't know how to find common ground in the area of conflict resolution. Their ways were just so, so different.

And it kind of made my grandma be broken at times. She really struggled. She, used to being kind of looked after, nurtured, and deferring in return to the authority of the men in her home, was in a situation where things were kind of more bland, matter-of-fact, offhanded, sometimes joking a little at her expense maybe. She couldn't handle that every well. I've been told she had several breakdowns. SHe still does, now. She'll get worried that someone doesn't like her or someone means harm to her and instead of going and resolving it she allows it to build in her head until it becomes something real and insidious and then spectacular and strange things happen as a result. We've learnt to deal with it and love her. But she's a broken woman when it comes to conflict.

Add to that a certain social difficulty. Brilliance often accompanies difficulty in other areas. My grandmother really struggles with social cues. She sees hostility where there is none, and accidentally is harsh when she doesn't mean to be. I don't think it's a thing she can help... she really does struggle in that area of cognitive ability. Heavenly Father gives abundantly in some areas and he allows us to struggle in others. I say "us," because I am this way as well. I see hostility where there is none at times. I struggle with a lot of confusion at times about what I might have done to make someone upset, and often they're not really upset at me. I worry all the time that I might accidentally say or do something offensive or hurtful, because it's happened in the past where I didn't mean it. I mean, I'm getting much better. As I grow older and learn more, I have become better attuned to social cues, which allows me to get closer to someone, which allows me further insight, and thus the upward spiral has been from the akwardness of adolescence when sometimes I was frightened to even look someone in the eye and smile, even if I knew them, because I was not sure how I was coming across.

There's aspergers in the family. I have a cousin with it. By the way, he served a full time mission and has done really well, and is brilliant at a lot of things, particularly mathematics. But I think some of us could all be put on the spectrum there somewhere. I know I could be. I know my sister Laura is, with her auditory processing stuff she struggles with & her social fears, similar to mine though perhaps, more pronounced & difficult. I know my Dad could be. He's brilliant, but he's also different. And he struggles with social cues, though for him I think it's less of a struggle because he has learned not to mind, and to find the people who are comfortable with him. He doesn't get close to a whole lot of people & he doesn't (seem to) mind that much. He has my mother who he loves, and us, and that's enough for him.

This is all Curtis. The brilliant, the creative, the humorous, and the emotionally (& physically) distant.

There, I said it. And I'm sorry. I know my family reads this. Sorry, Family. Actually, I'm really hoping, as I write this, that it helps more than me to be writing it.

The other side of my family has a different spectrum of issues.

My mother's father is a man who came from a turbulent sort of family. HIs father was the son of a rich cattle rancher who made some poor decisions, including (unfortunately, possibly) his choice of a wife (though I'm glad he did choose her, or I might not be here. Strange, how these kinds of musings cut both ways.) She was troubled, from a family that was very tight, close, loyal, who'd gone through hard times and weren't always ethical in the ways they handled those hard times. She embezzled from the ranch, and drank, and she and my great grandfather were, by all accounts, a wild and crazy pair.

But there was my grandfather, and his older brother.

There's a picture of them that just makes my heart swell. He's sitting with his brother & they're both blond-haired, large-blue-eyed, cupid lipped little boys staring out of that frame. So innocent. So big-hearted. Because let me tell you, in spite of how he handles conflict, my Grandfather has the biggest heart of anyone I know. He passed that on to my mother. They both like to think they're sensible and practical when it comes to people, that they're discerning and skeptical and good at judging character, and to some degree they are, but a much bigger part of their interaction with people is their tendency to immediately just want to love and be loved.

My grandfather was raised by his aunt. She did a wonderful job. It was not easy, the circumstance, but she's credited, rightly, as being the family hero. Because of her in part, my grandfather made better choices. But it was also because of him. His big, soft heart wasn't the type to endure the chaos and harshness of a life of rowdiness too well. He chose not to drink, He chose not to gamble, and he chose to marry young, and he chose to become a teacher, and he loved all his students, and his family.

But, conflict.

He couldn't handle it. But in his case, it was fear. It all goes back to that chaos of his family of origin, his big, soft heart he had to protect. He just knew he couldn't handle people he loved hurting the way he saw his family hurt, and hurting each other the way they did. So he reacted, a lot, to the mistakes his children made (or things he saw as mistakes) with anger fueled entirely by fear that they'd mess up and hurt themselves and break his heart. He had a very set, structured idea of how to be happy in life--be perfect. Don't make mistakes. Then you don't get hurt, so you're happy.

My mother struggles to be OK with mistakes her kids might make. She gets worried and feels very vulnerable at the thought that something might happen to one of us, or we might do something stupid to hurt ourselves. Growing up, I wasn't a victim of the sort of harshness my grandfather ended up unintentionally unleashing on his children, particularly my mother, because of his fear. But I had a degree of it, and I could sense it with every fiber of my being.

Don't make mistakes. Indescribable, unthinkable bad things happen when you make a mistake.

So, when I would make a mistake growing up, there was this sense of shame (fueled by fear) so strong and palpable, I just couldn't acknowledge it. Often even to myself. So my mother would sense that (and likely be frightened by it--how can my child not admit to mistakes, she's going to make more if she doesn't learn) and sort of ground my mistakes into me. Not just by coming down on me hard, punishing me hard, chewing me out quite thoroughly, but also telling others. Talking to her friends in relief society. Talking to my Young Women leaders. Talking to her therapist (OK, that's allowed, but man, it still bugged me) talking to my teachers, talking to a random fireman or the Sheriff's department... she made sure to grind my mistakes into me hard, so I'd not want to make more. All the while the sense of shame & fear I felt at even the *possibility* I might make mistakes completely immobilized & paralyzed me emotionally so I couldn't process anything other than: I am a bad person. I am a bad person. I am a bad person.

And as someone who needs to resolve things, who'd like a clean slate, who needs the emotional zen of knowing what my standing is with everyone & that I've done all I can to make sure they aren't hurt by me or for me, that was a little bit of hell.

I was kind of scapegoated growing up. It just happened. When people struggle with conflict, it's quite easy to put all that ire, worry, fear into one kid & then the other kids provide much less stress, much less "conflict." The concept of the scapegoat is an ancient one--collect all your sins, funnel them into one place & then burn them away. Simple. Much less stressful than having sins scattered all over creation, having worries come from this kid and that kid and that kid... much easier to identify a source and only worry about that.

How does this relate to things now?

I feel like the world is falling every time I disagree with my husband. It is both an emergency and a reason to be incredibly ashamed.

... but I'm working on it. And this is part of that.

I love my family. All families have "stuff." This is my family's "stuff." Why am I posting it for everyone to see? Because people might identify with me & be helped by it. Maybe my family will. Maybe my Dad & Mom will. I want people I love to feel the sort of freedom I don't feel yet but can see in my future--freedom to really be vulnerable & love each other with no reservations. To be able to love each other not just in spite of, but because of weaknesses & disagreements. To enjoy the different flavors--even those that have a bit of bite-- in our family stew.

And I have to say that I am grateful to my parents. They work hard at being good parents and good people. Neither of them came from easy situations, but both of them have made things easier on us kids, just like my Grandfather made some decisions that made my mother's life better. And my hope is to continue that trend--make things even easier on mine. That's why I'm doing this.

And that is how I feel about that.

Oct 7, 2013

Sneaky Peek at my new book

Mile 21 is in Cedar Fort's October Fiction Fest. You can get a sneak peek inside the cover of my new book here.

My book is releasing officially tomorrow! And you can win a free copy!

Good news, guys. My book, Mile 21, is officially being released tomorrow, Oct 8, 2013 and you can buy copies of it, or if you have pre-ordered, your copies will be shipped at that point. Hooray!

So, here's the thing. That goodreads giveaway above? There are two free copies of Mile 21 up for grabs there. Bad news--over 800 people have entered. Your chance to win over there is now pretty small. But still enter if you haven't, because you just have to push a button and it's so easy that, why not? Free book, after all.

But here's some more good news. I am doing *another giveaway* on my Lightning Tree Facebook Page And so far... only 2 people are in the running! Um, yeah. You could totally win this one. So go over there & see what you have to do!!! This other giveaway will apply mostly to people who have read Lightning Tree already. But if you haven't read it, and have a copy... well hurry and finish fast and you'll be in the running, too!!

OK. I'm pretty excited. Sorry for all the exclamation points.

and in case you didn't catch them, here are the links:

Goodreads Giveaway

Lightning Tree Fans Giveaway

Mile 21 on Amazon

And have you seen the book trailer for Mile 21 yet? It's pretty awesome. Take 2 minutes and watch it, and then please like it! Thank you!

Oct 4, 2013

On Accepting & Enjoying Praise, or Actually Allowing Yourself to Consume the Fruits of Your Labors.

This is such a hard one for me!!

I'm tempted to just not write anything, and ask people to comment and tell me how they manage it. But since this is my blog & I'm the one writing this post, I guess I'll write something.

Last night I read an awesome email from one of the advance readers of Mile 21. She said she *loved* my book (just like that with the asterixes)and cried 2/3 of the way through it, and that she felt her blog was the perfect audience to review it. She gushed for a bit. And I was very complimented because she's not the type to gush. I got that warm, happy feeling...

for about three seconds.

And then the usual secondary process took over--concern. Worry. Fear, that she's overestimated my story or that I've somehow set the bar too high with this story and that soon, very soon, I'll disappoint her with my lack of writing ability or my lack of coolness or my next book which will almost certainly be boring.

OK, I know that has Satan written all over it. (Or whatever you call it in your line of thinking--bad Karma, Negative Thoughts, bad Chi etc). And I need to stop.

The thing is, how do you enjoy such things without worrying that you'll be prideful if you do, or get complacent, or that you're taking credit for more than you should (I feel like a lot of my writing is actually kind of through the grace of the Spirit), or that you're really just riding a fluke & you're going to end up disappointing yourself or others if you don't immediately let off a bunch of disclaimers?

The thing is, I really, really love the idea of people loving my story. I write so that people will read stories they love. I want them to love them so, so badly. To be caught up in them, moved by them, changed by them; to make people happy or think harder or even change a little. So when it happens, how come I'm not over the moon? Ecstatic? I could really use that sort of positive energy fueling my writing/life. I have a lot of stuff I do. I work kind of hard some days. I could really use the fruits of my labors. I could use those positive-energy calories to sustain me through the leaner, frustrating times when I am completely insecure in a project and feel dragged down by the burden of my own expectations.

I'm going to make it a goal to figure out how/why it's appropriate to enjoy people loving my books.

& I'd love your suggestions and experiences on this topic. At this point, I'm completely baffled as to how I can be a good/humble person/writer and do this.