To the person who tried to buy Verizon prepaid minutes with my debit card today

You took two cameras, a GPS and a Zune, my wallet, twenty dollars, and an insurance folder from my car. After calling State Farm, I know that the total value of all this is estimated at $744.00. After talking to the police, I learned that there’s not much that’ll happen now. Although, he did take fingerprints from the car, which felt a little like CSI.

The insurance folder included insurance cards, registration, some napkins, and a 10mm socket wrench. In my wallet, there was my license, my school ID, three different insurance cards, a credit card, a debit card, and a significant stack of punch cards that I collected from various restaurants. The worst part about losing the cameras is losing the memories on them. The GPS was broken anyway.

I don’t know why you did this. I’ve imagined a lot of reasons why, but the one I like best is so your kids could have presents on Christmas. I know that doesn’t explain everything, like the insurance stuff, but I still like to imagine your children unwrapping one of the cameras, or the music player, or whatever on Christmas. In my head, they’re younger—maybe nine or ten, but they might be older too. It doesn’t matter. I imagine they’ll be excited, that they’ll wonder how you got the money together to afford something like this. They will probably hug you. They will be so excited. And, when I imagine this, I wish you would have taken more.


“Only Brazil worms, only Brazil worms, only Brazil worms!”

This is a line from an essay written by Amy Leach. Karli recommends her. I read a recent interview and want to post some of her quotations.

About her--"On October 27th, Chicagoan Amy Leach, Instructor at Northwestern University, author and musician, won the 2010 Whiting Writer's Award.
This prestigious $50,000 award recognizes ten young writers for their extraordinary talent and promise and is one of the most coveted prizes for new writers. Awarded annually since 1985, past recipients include Michael Cunningham, Kim Edwards, Tobias Wolff, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Mary Karr – all have since become acclaimed, bestselling authors."

Good Quotations--
"The best writing is when you're writing about something you love- it's not about sounding smart or anything. It's the language itself."

"When I write, I don't start with any kind of message really, or any meaning at all. I want to learn about and think new things, to feel new things. Every time, I'm learning about a new subject, making an imaginative effort."
"Writer's 'block'? I stop writing and read a lot, walk the dog, replenish." As a teacher of creative writing, a lot of time is spent on other's writing. "I like sharing ideas in the classroom." What does she tell her students about writing?"
No hesitation here; her answer:
 "I tell them to combine personal experience with truth."
"They've become wise in a way only they can be- by not just accepting someone's truth or way of thinking, good writers, in their writing, are thinking for themselves and coming to their own wisdom, coming to their own truth." James Baldwin and  Allen Ginsberg influenced my writing."

Good stuff.  Thanks Karli.



I like the new look. I haven't checked this blog for ... boy, six months? More?

Firstly, I think your unintentional post is lovely, Meghan. I almost hesitate to follow it, because it's so honest and ... oh, I hate to use the word "profound" -- what does that even mean? -- so I'll just call it truthful. For the record, I think that worrying about writing, my writing, being profound is one of the biggest obstacles that stands between me and putting anything on paper. I always worry about writing something profound.

When I was in sixth grade, I remember hearing my teacher, Mrs. Bass, praising my brother Tanner's writing (Tanner had the same teacher a couple years previous), commenting that he wrote some "deep" essays, or something like that, I can't remember what adjective she used. Anyhow, I thought that I should be writing deep things, if my brother was, so for the next writing assignment, I wrote this paragraph about a old man, except I think it was just his head, floating in dark space, and he had a really long beard, and his beard was tangled and there was a key stuck in the tangles, I think. He may have been sad. It was completely meaningless.

Well, I don't have a whole lot to say. I have really enjoyed reading everyone's posts on here. Reading the writing of friends inspires me to write more than anything else. Outside of my journal and my work, these few paragraphs are possibly the most writing I have done in months and months. There's a good chance that it's the only extra-curricular writing I will do for a few more months. I miss you all, and I hope you are all doing well as you grade finals and create finals, carve out your prospective and nascent motherhoods, and work through the various tangled, key-filled beards of your winters.


Forgive me, Meghan Hoyos Scoresby.

Meghan Hoyos just posted this under a "Comment" section. I'm taking creative license and moving it into a post of its own because it's good writing, interesting, heartbreaking, and honest.

I'm really grateful for what you have all said. Shannon, I read "A Lantern in Her Hand" when I was young (like 6th grade), and I loved it. I don't remember anything about it except that it was about a good mother, and that's all I ever wanted to be. Sounds pretty ridiculous that that's what I wanted in middle school, doesn't it? I know you are going through a tough transition right now, and you are one of those women Jami talked about. You'll find a way to make life brighter and more interesting than ever before. It will take time, I guess. I'm learning that everyone has challenges that all sort of even out eventually.

Sister Morgan, thanks for sharing your thoughts on patience. It seems Heavenly Father knows just what we think we can't live without, and he lets us learn patience by having us live without it anyway. I really had to force myself to say "lets" instead of "makes." Really he's making us though. It's not in my control to be a mom or not to be. It's all in His. I don't understand Him. I trust Him more than ever after all this, but it's partly out of desperation. If I don't trust him, I'm giving up. And I won't ever give up. Sometimes I feel so stupid. Why do I have to care so much about being a mom. Could I have hidden it and pretended to be completely fascinated by painting or something that wouldn't ache so much when it was taken away? Obviously you can't hide that from Heavenly Father. Sometimes I wish I could have. I know He knows what is best and when the time is right. I know he knows what we need to learn and how. This is the first time I've ever asked "why me" in my life. (I used to pride myself on never doing that. Ha.) I guess everyone has to do that sometime, just to learn to accept tough stuff. Some weeks it's easy and I am as trusting as a baby. Some weeks, like this one, it's harder. I had a dream the other night. I haven't told anyone about this but Jason, who I really couldn't help but tell since he wouldn't accept my sobbing "nothing" for an answer--even at 4:30 in the morning. You'd think he'd be glad to go back to sleep. I had my baby girl in my dream; it was wonderful. It wasn't even a great baby dream, but the problem was it was a dream. I woke up. I tried to go back to sleep, but I felt so empty handed. I don't know where my babies are. That's what I sobbed to Jason. It sounds funny, maybe. It's not. Where are these children I'm supposed to watch over? Why am I empty?

That's it. My fingers stopped moving, so I guess I'm done. I just had to type it all out. I read what you said again, Sister Morgan. Thanks.

Jami, if you got this far, I really wanted to tell you how happy I am that you are feeling better about being a mom. You have great insights about not letting yourself disappear, which must be harder than it looks. I'm sitting in my dark apartment (sun went down while I read), and I feel as if it's just us four in a room and I just spilled my guts. Thanks for listening.


Corrected by Students

Today, for my class activity, I had my English 1010 students divide into four groups. I handed a printed copy of a different personal essay to each group and instructed my students that they had 15 minutes to read the essay. Then, after discussing their group’s essay, the students in each group had to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and ways they would apply what they learned from their assigned essay to their own personal essay they’d been assigned. During my first class, I told my students that two of the essays were written by my colleagues and two were written by me. The group that read my bee essay (Bumblebee Homicide from this summer) lauded its humor, and the group that read my disgusting service project essay (Used. $1.00 from about a year ago) praised its detail. Neither group listed any strong weaknesses, but the first group did indicate that the parts of the essay could connect to each other a little more smoothly. The second group said that they didn’t see what the main point of the essay was. I thought that the students were holding back genuine criticism because they were aware that the essays’ author, the teacher, was listening. I wrote a note to myself not tell my later class that I’d written any of the essays.

When my next class came around, I divided the class and distributed essays like earlier, but this time I didn’t tell them that I’d written any of them. The results were quite different. The students who read the first essay boldly proclaimed their confusion in following the bee narrative. “What does this part have to do with anything?” one student loudly asked her group mates. In the group reading the disgusting service essay, a student yelled across the room to me, “Mr. Hall, did you write this?” I told him that I wouldn’t confirm or deny anything because that would bias my students. Then I walked behind my desk and pretended to write something in my notebook.
When it came time to present their essays to the class, the group with the bee essay didn’t hold back their criticism. “This essay was a mess and really confusing,” the girl speaking said. “It was funny at parts, and it had lots of good words, but we just didn’t get what was going on.” I felt deflated. Then the student from the other group asked, “Mr. Hall, did you write that essay?” I blushed, caught myself blushing, and tried to regain composure.

“I wrote some of these essays, but I won’t tell you which until after class,” I said. After my reply, the girl presenting at the front of the class continued her assault on my writing.

“What I’m going to take from this essay is to not make mine so confusing,” she said. “But it does have a lot of personality, so I am going to include that.”

The student who figured out that these were my essays spoke on behalf of his group members when his group presented. The only weakness he listed was that the essay had a negative tone, and that he felt that essays should have a more positive message (this is the kid who has a large tattoo of a cross in front of a sunset on his right upper arm, by the way, but not that that means anything).
I left class feeling small, a little dejected, but acknowledging that my students’ comments were probably right. “This shows that even if you really like a piece of writing, if it doesn’t work, you need to change it,” I’d told the class right before I let them go for the weekend. “How the audience reacts to your writing is more important than if you like a particular wording or not.” And I’d meant it as I said it.

In my melancholy acceptance of my essays’ quality (which I really used to like, by the way), I felt a lot like I did in seminar all those times when Sharon would very forcibly show me the areas I needed to improve my writing. And I felt that same undeniable sense of “I don’t like this, but she’s right” that I did when Sharon pulled up an essay about a chair or something trivial like that and made me stand up in front of everyone in seminar while she dissected it.

I have a degree in English. I worked for almost two and a half years at the Writing Center. I was the EAS president and the top student in several of my classes. I’m Mr. Hall, a bearded college teacher, for crying out loud. But a group of college freshman reminded me of where I really stand in comparison to good or even competent writers.

And that constant reminder of what I’m really capable of (which is not much compared to The Greats) is part of why I love teaching university. In my experience, I haven’t had a student of a bad Sunday School or Priesthood lesson force me to face my spiritual inadequacies. I think it’s because class members at church don’t comment on the quality of a teacher’s spirituality. I’ve never heard a student say, “But Brother Jones, you say that we must love one another, yet I saw you flip off that old woman driving slowly on the road last Wednesday.” But my students, by being honest in sharing what they thought about my writing, slapped me in the face with the reality of my quality as a writer.

Once, while I was persuading some students on the British literary pilgrimage to dislike other students singing on the bus, Kirsten said to me, “You need to find a wife who is a little bit better than you to keep you humble.” These students aren’t quite a substitute for a wife (maybe a girlfriend, though), but they are helping me remember how lowly I really am and how much I have to improve before I can begin to call myself “good” at anything.

For some perverse reason, that feels nice.

(P.S. for the first time ever, I feel too intimidated to make comments in a class. I see the other graduate students as more intelligent and insightful than me, so I just sit and listen while they speak.)

(P.P.S. Also, posting on this blog is intimidating for some reason. Even though I know and love most of you and I know that the ones I know aren't perfect, I see your writing as much more significant than my own.)

(P.P.P.S. Congrats again, Shannon and Cooley.)

"Writer" with a capital "W"

I sit in the red armchair that’s much too large for me, my legs curled under me and my daughter nursing with grunts, squeaks, and slurps. On one arm of the chair I’ve spread a book, and I turn the pages with my free hand.

The book I’m reading is not a novel, but it holds me enthralled. It’s a book of creative non-fiction called Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by one of my favorite fiction authors, Madeleine L’Engle. I picked it up because my creative writing teacher said we need to read more of what we want to write this semester; we can’t work on novels for his class, I haven’t felt inspiration for poetry in over a year, and I’m very bad at short stories, so creative non-fiction it is.

One thing I’m struck by as I read is the way she talks about writing. Of her post-college-pre-marriage years, she says, “I wrote. Got out of bed in the morning and wrote, forgetting breakfast.” In her journal during her married years she recorded, “There is a gap in understanding between me and our friends and acquaintances. I can’t quite understand a life without books and study and music and pictures and a driving passion. And they, on the other hand, can’t understand why I have to write, why I am a writer. When, for instance, I say to someone that I have to get home to work, the assumption is that I mean housecleaning or ironing, not writing a book. I’m very kindly permitted to be a writer but not to take time in pursuing my trade.”

I lift my daughter’s head to my shoulder, rearranging the burp cloth and patting her back distractedly while the book’s pages slowly flip without a hand there to hold my place. I’m currently taking the last two classes of my bachelor’s degree, a degree in English, emphasis in creative writing. But this passage makes me question: am I really a writer?

In the book My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, the main character is an extremely gifted artist. While he is young he has the opportunity to take art lessons from a famous artist, but first the artist tells him that if he can do anything else with his life, anything, he should do it, but if he has to be an artist, then so be it. I’ve heard similar things said about writing, that “real” writers write because they have to, not because they necessarily want to.

I don’t have to. In fact, most of the time I feel very little drive to write. I can go days or weeks without writing more than emails and status updates on facebook. I haven’t kept a consistent journal since high school. I write to fill my school assignments, and every once in awhile I’ll get some inspiration (a.k.a. inner turmoil) and rattle off a blog post.

But then I’ll read something like Two-Part Invention, or the essay “Pearls Before Breakfast” by Gene Weingarten. And then I have to write. Suddenly it is compulsory, poking at a corner of my brain that makes my mouth dry up and my fingers twitch and my mind spin in circles, driving me crazy until I start to let the whirling dervishes out through words—and then it’s over. I get it out and it’s gone. I go back to clicking around on Facebook, or, if I’m feeling really ambitious, I do some dishes.

So I apparently do have some of the drive of a writer, but its infrequency makes me question its validity. Rather, it makes me question whether I can truly be a Writer-with-a-capital-“W,” or if I will finish my degree this semester and then let it sit and rot.

My daughter’s fussing again. I should go get her, but I’m actually writing, and I’m afraid if I stop I won’t start again.


Did not intend this to be a "Sermon" to Shannon, but, hey . . .

(I tried to write this as a comment to your post, but it got too long and wouldn't post.)

What a doll she is. And, hey, you can't write a conclusion because there isn't one, nor will there ever be. You now have another life attached to yours--forever. Sounds overwhelming? It is. But, it gets better . . . then worse . . . then better. I promise. Don't long for things to be good and well--a trap we all fall into. Earth life never reaches plateaus of pure happiness and peace. It keeps moving. But, you learn to adore every good day or moment and set your teeth tight against the bad. And, we keep walking. Only now lucky you have more company. The more your family grows, the more you have great spirits around you to comfort and heal you throughout all eternity. After, you have children you are never alone again (literally, in the first years). It's a wonderful feeling.
But, Shannon, I so relate to the physical agony of setting dreams aside for a while. That can even seem like the physical tearing of muscle. One time when I was having trouble with this, I got an interesting answer to prayer. It's sacred, but I'm going to tell you anyway, since I never see you anymore.
I was teaching full time while raising six kids and a "husband." Between lesson plans, grocery shopping, potty training, etc. plus dealing with an energy sucking illness, I often felt like I couldn't breathe because I had no time for myself. But, you have to treasure your own dreams, no matter how you squeeze them in. Figure out a plan because the dreams feed you. Me? After Jim fell asleep, I’d often sneak out the window and sit on the roof to write--small moments of pure flashlight delight. Yet, this stopped also after the kids became teenagers because they came home around midnight and took away even that small amount of space. I felt like pieces of me were flying out to everyone else leaving me shredded, with nothing of Me. Does that make sense? But, in prayer one night, a soft answer came. The Spirit said, "You will be compensated; you will not lose any good desire of your heart. This is what eternity is for." I was amazed and thrilled as that vision opened up, But, then horror set in as I saw what kind of patience this would take to wait, maybe even until the next life, for some dreams to unfold-- especially since "patience is not a strong suit of mine (or yours). Yet, think of it: To be a goddess, we HAVE to have patience even as great as Heavenly Father’s. What a plan. What a way to let us practice patience until it’s really a part of our character. I think the Lord is brilliant (ha, obviously). This path we walk is bigger than we can imagine. I love you. You’re strong. And whatever you can’t do, Heavenly Father can. (I feel like I should say Amen, and I remember promising never to give advice again. Ha. Sure.)


Dreams and Motherhood

Cimorene Elizabeth Cooley
Born Aug. 6th, 4:24 a.m.
7 lbs. 2 oz.

I check on her ten times during her nap just to make sure she’s still breathing. I hold her and just stare at her, amazed that I could have played a role in helping to create this moving, grunting, slurping, beautiful creature. I love her. Why can’t that make it easy?

I made cinnamon rolls last night, because I wanted proof that I could accomplish something. There’s not a lot of satisfaction in changing diapers when I know my little girl will likely poop again within five minutes.

I needed that sense of accomplishment to balance the panic I sometimes feel over moving into a stage of life which is unquantifiable. Always before, I could measure my progress against something. I could win a piano competition. I could master a dance lift. I could get an A, keep my scholarship, etc. But now I’m a mom. I want to be a “good mom,” but what does that even mean, and how will I know if I’m accomplishing it?

I’ve watched moms for a long time. It’s always been my goal to become one, so I thought I ought to know something about them. I marveled at the strength and selflessness of these unsung heroes. But now I wonder if I’m strong enough to go unsung.

The transition from “Shannon” into “Mommy” scares me. I feel that I’m covering up all my old masks with a giant new one, a mask which doesn’t get rid of the things I previously used to define myself, but which smothers them and tells me they’re not allowed anymore. But this new mask is not me either, and part of me is crying at adding one more layer to an already overly-masked soul.

The first week I was home from the hospital, my mom, knowing me all too well, looked at me with worry lines across her forehead and said, “You can’t stop dreaming. You just have to find new dreams.” But where do I find those dreams?

There’s a book my mom told me about years ago. I’ve never read it, but it’s called “A Lantern in her Hand.” Apparently it’s about a woman who is young and full of dreams, but she gives them up to raise a family, and her children go on to do all the things she hoped to do.

My daughter got her daddy’s long fingers. Though she’s only two weeks old, they’re already over a third the length of mine. Everyone who has seen her hands has held them up and commented that she’ll play the piano. Those who knew me when I was younger add, “just like her mom.” Everyone also talks about how she’ll “have” to be musical, because there’s so much musical talent coming from both her parents. I had dreams relating to piano once. I tried to give them up years ago, but it would be so easy to let them slide onto my daughter.

She has long limbs also, again from her father, not from me. She’ll likely have the tall, slender build that I always envied in dancers like Kami, my friend and former coach. My daughter will have lines which would be gorgeous for dancing, but I can’t push that dream onto her either. If she wants to dance, I’ll be thrilled, but only if she’s doing it for herself.

I can’t transfer my dreams onto my children. I don’t want to put that kind of expectation on them, because I’ve known people who had to choose between their own dreams and their parents’, and that’s a situation I never want my children to face.

So where do I look for new dreams? And how do I let go of the old ones? I have dreams I’ve been trying to give up for years, but they still lurk, coming out whenever I get too tired to fight them. I’ve attained Mommyhood, which was always the “big dream,” my career plan, but now I find that all the little dreams, which were just meant to fill time until I reached this one, have somehow become a part of me, and beyond not knowing how to amputate them, I don’t want to.

Does that make me a bad mom?

I love my daughter. I wouldn’t give her up for anything. I still can’t believe God trusts me enough to lend her to me.

Maybe that’s the real problem. I don’t trust myself nearly as much as God seems to trust me. My old dreams bother me because they remind me of how I don’t feel unselfish enough, or prepared enough, or just enough. Back to quantifying things again. I seem to have a fixation with that.


Sunny Summer Day--July 3rd 2010

Somehow this has become a tradition for the 4th of July (starting with Kristen, Anona, and the balloon snake hats). It's the Rexburg (tractor) Parade and playing in the park. Ninja games. Music. Hippie ribbons. BBQ at my house, and then rodeo for the strong and the hungry. It's rest and relaxing. If you're wandering around the country some year with nothing to do on the 4th, drop up to Rexburg.



Right now I am sitting in front of a mirror. I look in mirrors a lot; they provide a pretty good reality check. A ceiling fan spins around--its light glowing dullish, and its fixtures clearly 80s style--just above my head. It's harder for me to notice my "flab" when the light around me is warm-toned and soft. The tendrils of hair that always fall around my face whenever I wear a ponytail--some straight, some curly--quiver a little under the wind of the ceiling fan. I feel the air whisk over my shoulders, and it makes me feel calm.

I keep my earrings in a jar next to the mirror. I pride myself on my earring collection. A vintage turquoise one in a diamond shape faces me through the glass. The round silver ones I wore today lay upside down beside the jar. "You are wearing a different pair of earrings every time I see you I think," a friend told me once. After that comment, I made a conscious effort that I did indeed wear a different pair every time I knew I was going to see him. "And they're all unique," he had said. Yes, they were.

I'm about to pick up where I left off in Anne of Avonlea, the movie. I'm scared to, though, because the scene where Anne and Gilbert meet in the gazebo on that misty day in Kingsport--the one where Gilbert whispers to Anne not to forget him and then leaves her there, holding his note to her signed "your old chum"--made me cry this time. I pressed my eyes into the pillow tucked under my arm and wiped them in one quick, messy movement, almost angry that they were there. I pride myself on my ability to stay tearless during movies.

At this moment, I'm glad to be alone. If someone were here with me, I'd probably be too conscious about the pudge on my stomach to really listen to the fan or to feel or notice whatever this unfamiliar room has to offer. But even the ceiling fan's low, pleasant drone cannot make me forget that I'm not completely happy. I don't want to be defined by an earring collection or by my ability to stay unaffected during movies or by this darned pudge on my stomach.

"A scar means, I survived."

The comment that Sis. Morgan made on Jami's post below reminded me of this from a book called Little Bee by Chris Cleave. (I am not recommending this book because I had to stop reading it for personal reasons, but some of the writing really was breath-stopping beautiful.) I thought I'd share it with all of you:

"On the girl's brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."
— Chris Cleave (Little Bee)


Facebook. . .Finally!

Woah, love the new look on the WC blog. Looks so professional.

Since I have been in the Dark Ages without Facebook and everyone neglects this blog because of Facebook, I've decided to break down and create an account.

Yes, this means that I now have another digital addiction that I will simply have to combat. But it also means that I will know a lot more about your lives and what you're doing. Yay!

So, I don't know how this works at all. . . do you magically appear as my friend? Do I have to hunt for you? We'll find out. Uh, come and be my friend?? (Awkward) If you want. . .okay, bye.

--Jami Wilson Nichols
(some know the maiden name, some the married, so hence the formal name here :)


To Sis. M. (and anyone else interested)

We're making our way up to Rexburg for a quick trip this Friday and would love to see you! Lance will be getting the crown on his root canal fixed (he had the root canal done in Rexburg, and they guarantee it for 5 years...), so it'll be just me and the kiddos. We can visit the WC around 2:30ish. Hope you're there! That goes for anyone else still in town who would want to see me and meet my sweet babies. =D So many of y'all have left like I have.



We're goin' on a picnic

Saturday, August 7 at 2pm
Nunns Park in Provo Canyon

Everyone is invited :-)


My Call

My call was sent to our Grey Gables house in Rexburg, April 8, 2010. My roommate Victoria and I were in-between classes, talking in our room. I saw the mail truck parked outside of the house next door, and I must've stopped mid-sentence--or stopped Victoria mid-sentence--to walk to the window and watch. In what seemed like slow-motion, the mailman turned from the neighbor's mailbox toward our house. Beneath coupons and junk mail, I saw a big, white envelope in his right hand.

Immediately, I jumped down our twisted staircase, pushing myself off of the walls as I bounced between them on the way down. I ran past a group of people on the couch and almost tripped in front of the mail slot by the door. The mailman tucked the envelope through the slot, and it landed on the floor. In heavy breaths, I picked it up and read the address label: Sister Alyssa Nicole Fort.

"It's here!" I screamed. Victoria paid more caution to the stairs but wasn't far behind.

We yelled and jumped together. My heart beat fast and hard. What was in that envelope determined what the next 18 months of my life would be like--where I would live, what I would eat, who I would come to know and teach and love. Would I go foreign? Would I learn a language?

I didn't always know I would go on a mission, and actually, I never really wanted to. As a teenager, when people in church would ask me about it, I'd say, "maybe?" with an awkward smile, knowing for sure that I would get married at 18 to a tall, dark, handsome man who would take care of me and our beautiful children forever. Needless to say, I've had to revise my life plans a few times.

During the Fall 2009 semester, I planned to graduate from BYU-Idaho Winter 2010, then sell pest control in Arkansas with Victoria for the summer. Or work at the downtown Austin Anthropologie until my room was purely saturated in merchandise. Or maybe find a great job at a publishing house in a big city--Seattle, New York, or London would work. But I leaned more toward practicality and pest control.

I watched the 179th Annual General Conference broadcast in the comfort of my own spandex pants and school hoodie, on the sofa at our Snowed Inn house. During the Saturday morning session, there was a talk that impressed me greatly. I've since tried to look it up but haven't been able to find it. I'm not sure if the speaker said it or if I was just impressed personally by the Spirit, but I heard something along the lines of: just the fact that you have the gospel, means you have something wonderful to offer. The strong thought came to me: "Maybe I should serve a mission." I shared my impression with my mother and a few close friends. But still, I decided for myself that I would sell pest control first.

The next semester, I was sitting at the break desk in the back of the Writing Center, eating my dry turkey sandwich from Cafe McKay. Sister Morgan was having a conversation with Matt, about his post-graduate plans. I listened intermittently, turning the pages of Huckleberry Finn, trying to read but much too distracted to. I thought about my plans and wished that I knew someone I could talk to who had been through this particular decision-making process--graduating that semester, not knowing where to go from there. My plans made sense, but something didn't feel right. Their conversation ended, and they left. I tried to read, but my eyes watered over, and words got blurry. I said a silent prayer for comfort and direction and wiped my face. About a minute later, Sister Morgan came back to the break area.

"What are your plans, Aly?" She asked me.
I looked up from my book. "I don't know..."

I told her about my pest control idea. Her response was: first, that gurgle thing she does in the back of her throat when she's disgusted by something :) , then, "They make a lot of money. But God is in control of everything in this world--even money. If you serve Him, He'll take care of you. Have you thought about serving a mission?" I nodded and studied the Andrew Wyeth Helga painting in front of me. "Why would you sell something full-time that you don't believe in, when you could be preaching something full-time that you know?" I nodded and began to cry silently. "It's such a high calling," I remember her saying a few times. I knew this moment had been designed by Heavenly Father, specifically for me.

That Sunday, I went to my bishop and told him that I was pretty sure I should serve a mission. He told me I needed to be sure, sure and recommended I go to the temple with the question of a mission. I went, and the next Sunday I began filling out my papers.

When I got my call, I waited to open it, so my family could be on the phone to hear. Victoria called her RM friend and asked him about postage for foreign mission envelopes vs. stateside mission envelopes. She giggled and smiled to her friend on the phone, and I said, "don't tell me a thing." I waited until about 7:00pm.

Finally, with friends gathered in our Grey Gables living room and with family on the phone, I read:

"Dear Sister Fort:
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Philippines Cauayan Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months.
You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, August 4, 2010. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Tagalog language..."

There have been times when I've questioned my call, my ability to learn such a crazy language, whether or not I can live without Bvulgari perfume and Pier1 soy candles, or if I can survive on the opposite side of the world without iTunes. But there have been so many times when I've received perfect answers from God that I should go on this mission, and that he will protect me, guide me, provide for me, and be there when I pray to Him. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve Heavenly Father with my complete energy, time, and heart for the next year and a half.


I work for idiots.

I often read over memos and notes written by my immediate supervisor. Today I came across the phrase "I all so incourage him to see a dr." It took me a little while to figure out she meant "I also encouraged him to see a doctor."

Other mistakes she makes frequently: sense instead of since and tell instead of till or until.

Do you think I could get fired for making a running list of her errors? I hope not, since I've already dedicated a post-it pad inside my desk to just such a list.


If I had known my post would inspire insect and reptile horror stories, I would have kept my mouth shut. Just reading about bees and snakes makes me squirm at every tickle on my skin. Rather than continue the theme by telling one of my two really scary giant cockroch stories, I will gradually change the subject by telling a silly amphibian one.

One night in Florida, Hermana Nipper, my mission companion, woke me up screaming, "There's a frog on my face!" It was pitch black in our room, and my first thought was to wonder how she decided it was a frog without being able to see it. It was 3 a.m.. I gathered all the sympathy I could, turned on the light, and looked around. No frog. I gave her a groggy hug, patting her back and telling her it would be okay and to go back to sleep. That's when a little dark smudge near the ceiling moved. I squinted. It was a frog. I still have no idea how she knew what it was. My first thoughts would have been spider or lizard. Sis. Nipper grabbed a giant cup from the kitchen and we caught the miscreant responsible for waking me up. The cup was one of those big clear Coke cups with a switch that turned on colorful flashing lights, and I remember giving that poor frog a disco party in the cup before we took it outside. The next weird thing that night was just as we were taking it to the front door, I saw a lizard hanging on the blinds of the front window. Seriously? Two amphibians determined to keep us up all night? He took a little longer to catch, but we eventually got them both out the door and went back to bed. What a night.


"I'm Alive and Well" or Reptiles, Bats, and the Atonement

Aha ha. I had a similar experience when I creamed a small snake with spider spray, then whisked him out the door with a broom. He had the nerve to slide sideways into my house when I opened the door one night, and, hey, I'm paying the mortgage here—not him.
However, after I realized I had NOT had a heart attack, but had calmly (OK, “calmly” may not be the right word) walked to the kitchen to get any deadly poison I could find, I, like you, Matt, started to feel sorry for this snake. Though it was a fleeting tinge of a feeling,  I even stopped spraying him as I watched him squirm frantically away, but, then, he turned and slithered sideways toward me—probably because he was blinded by toxic chemicals—and I saw it as a direct attack. That ends story of one very dead snake.
Since then I've decided to choose my fear--or rather not to choose it because it’s such a waste of time and energy. I remember I did this when I went sky diving for the first time. I refused to let the fear rise up. It was an amazing thing (did I just use the word "thing"?) to realize I had that much control. Though my rabid fear of snakes has seemed out of my control, somehow I've finally perceived that snakes are usually crawling AWAY from me (though I still reserve all rights to smash any who turn to slither my way). I've decided to save my fear for bigger things--like tarantulas or bats.
Seriously, though, I love your thesis about how uncomfortable giving up even false beliefs and fears can be and how just contemplating the idea can seem like too much risk to one's personal mental health. (This is why I have not had much hope for Obama from the beginning. Our nation is still too infantile. Yes, my patriotism was fanned into fire as I watched us elect him. Geez, after what I saw in the late 50's, 60's, 70's, I was ecstatic to see such a miracle. But, I knew he'd be hit with hand grenades from all sides. He looks like a deer in headlights. However, I’ll reserve judgment until we know more.)
 But, on a personal level, I fear going numb—like one of Pavlov’s rats that gets shocked so many times she stops moving out of the way? What is that? What is going numb? It’s not letting any little feeling surface because if one tiny feeling gets though the concrete, others may come until there’s a whole wash of them, a flood that may drown us because the painful ones may be more agonizing than any we’ve yet known, and the sorrow we’ve already known was almost unbearable. I’m afraid of fear and how it can turn us inward to live in such a small suffocating world. So, sometimes, to choose faith instead of fear means reframing my day from the very beginning—not just once a week or yearly, but every single day, sometimes every hour. And without the Atonement to oil this process, to soothe this rocky struggle, I wouldn’t last 30 seconds. I would turn my back on the future and stop moving. Like the Wife of Lot, I’d turn into salt because I looked backward instead of having faith in the Lord to shape a good future. He does have that kind of power. He does want our happiness. He does have a stake in our lives turning out well. And He IS very powerful and kind. 
Today, I'm "alive and well. And that's good enough for me."
Did you know that Tarantulas can spin silk with their feet?
Ha. I just heard a country song lyric that says “Heaven help the fool who gets it wrong.”


Bumblebee homicide.

A few days ago, my roommate left the bathroom window open to air out the steam—our bathroom doesn’t have a fan and this is the best we have. Sometime after he left for work or whatever, I got in the shower. A few seconds after the water started running, an inch-and-a-half long bumblebee flew up towards my face. I jumped out of the shower, dripping and not sure what to do. After a few moments of standing naked and wet in my bathroom, I realized I should dry off and get dressed.

The bumblebee must have come in through the open window. I remembered the first apartment I lived in as a missionary, when the hornets that would come in through our bathroom window, and I remembered how my companion and I took care of them when we found them in our bathroom. I looked around to see if we had any pump hairspray or flammable aerosol liquid for a makeshift flamethrower. I checked the house next door to see if any of the girls had some (they weren’t home), then went back to my house. I looked underneath the sink and pulled out every bottle I found. I took my lighter and tested the Febreeze; it only put out the lighter, and the liquid didn’t catch on fire. A disinfectant spray flared up when sprayed over the lighter’s flame.

You know that scene from Ridley Scott’s Alien where Ridley finds the alien nest on the under part of the ship and splays her dying crewman with a flamethrower, delivering a coup-de-grace? That’s what I did with the bee. Its wet wings prevented it from flying, and it cowered behind two shampoo bottles in the corner while it buzzed in vain. There’s a sick satisfaction that comes from killing an insect with a flamethrower, especially one that can sting you. When I was finished, I saw that one of the shampoo bottles had partially melted during the frenzy. I didn’t stop spraying until the bee was a charred, black distortion of its former self. I left its body there for someone else to clean up.

I felt bad afterwards. That bee didn’t know that the only creatures I’m afraid of are flying, stinging insects. It didn’t know about the bee that stung my cheek when I was in third grade—how I cried my way to the nurse’s office, and how the nurse said, “Wait, hot water?” when she called my mom to see what she should do but find out that she’d used the wrong water temperature for my wound. That bumblebee in the shower didn’t mean be so big and fly towards my face when I was naked, relaxed, and most vulnerable. It didn’t know that I’m particularly afraid of insects that can sting multiple times—wasps, especially, because they look the meanest—because it might, what, hurt if I get stung more than once?

My fear of bees and wasps and yellow jackets and other stinging insects is completely irrational. I don’t know what it’s really like to be stung. I’ve never really thought about why I jump off ladders when I see hornets or bumblebees and run for the “Wasp & Hornet Killer—Fast Knockdown!” spray, holding onto the can like it’s some amulet of protection. When people ask, I explain that I don’t know if I’m allergic and that I might die if stung, but I’ve never imagined what a sting would be like. Would it itch or hurt? How long? Would it just be annoying? I don’t know because I don’t really remember what it’s like to be stung, and when I try to imagine it, it doesn’t seem so bad. Yet I’m irrationally afraid of it.

But I’m not willing to find out what it’s like to be stung. I don’t even want to take thirty seconds to do a Google search because I’m afraid of what I might find. It might not be as bad as I think, what I imagine as some abstract worst-pain-ever that I sometimes pretend results in paralysis, but I’m sure to find horror stories which would support my ignorant ideas and irrational fears. I mean, if I’m right, then everyone should run in fear when they see a wasp less than twenty feet away. But if I’m wrong, it means that whatever I’ve believed in the past must be abandoned and that I have to act in ways that are consistent with my new beliefs, even if those actions are uncomfortable. This would mean that when I’m standing on a ladder while I trim hedges and a bee quietly hums nearby, I would have to continue working as usual instead of what I do now: freeze until the bee goes away, and then run to the nearest can of that insect death spray. One time I tried being brave while a yellow jacket flew near me, and found myself still shrinking away from it until it flew away. So I willfully stay ignorant, irrational, because I don’t want act brave.

Maybe’s it’s the fear of acting differently that drives me to stay wrapped tightly in my blanket of ignorance, fear that I’d have to change my ideas and worldview to something else, fear that I’d have to wander in the dark for an unspecified period of time until I found what was actually true, fear that I’d be uncomfortable until I got used to my new way of living. Maybe that’s what propels those people who continue to say that our black president will destroy our country when to me, it looks like things are going pretty well, or at least about the same.

A few days after the shower experience, I imagined the bumblebee’s family wondering why Dad didn’t come home from work on Thursday. Mrs. Bumblebee goes to the insect police station, infant in her arms and towing a toddler behind her, to file a missing person report. I imagined the rose bush where Mr. John Bumblebee used to gather pollen and the questions his co-workers would ask each other. “You heard anything about John?” the honeybee would ask the butterfly while they pollinated.

“Nah, I ain’t heard nothing,” the monarch would reply. “But a yellow jacket says John’s drinking got the best of ‘im and that he’s probably in a ditch somewhere.”

“One of the other worker drones says that she heard he went off with a young bumblebee to Mexico,” the honeybee would say. Throughout the day, they trade stories and theories with other insects. Some say it was the drinking, some trade stories about a secret lover, some suspect foul play, and one guy suggests it could be that John Bumblebee just couldn’t handle the pressures of life.

But his wife will never know what really happened, that John Bumblebee’s corpse is in my shower behind a partially melted bottle of shampoo. She’ll never know that he died because I’m unwilling to squelch my ignorance of stinging insects, to have the courage to possibly be wrong or right and learn what would really happen in a sting. And that’s why a bumblebee which used to fluffy with yellow marking is now all black and twisted sitting on that ledge. For all I know, there his body still sits, a horrible token of irrational fear, extreme violence, and consequent death. 


Amen. We Need to Share Our Writing More.

I know people may be tired of me saying, “Hey, I have a motorcycle,” but it was a big step in my life. Pretty much my whole life I have always wanted to do things; then, I research those things; then, I make plans to do those things; then, I tell everyone that I am going to do those things; then, I never do.

I was going to learn to play the piano. I was going to learn Tagalog. I was going to go skydiving. I was going to run a marathon. I was going to live in France. I was going to lose forty-five pounds.

I have always wanted a motorcycle.

On the first nice, semi-warm day of March, I walked past Porter Park to my French 101 class. I thought to myself that this weather would be perfect for riding a motorcycle. I decided right then that I was going to buy one. By the time that I walked past the stadium, I realized that I probably wouldn’t buy one because it is the constant theme of my life to think about doing something, and then not do it. When I walked out of the doors of the Snow and saw the Spori, I decided that I would buy one, but I wouldn’t tell anybody.Two weeks later I arranged the funds, called Don in Ogden, UT, and then arranged to pick-up the 1985 Honda Shadow. I only told two people that I was buying it. I borrowed Suzie’s Saturn Vue and rented a u-haul trailer to go pick it up.

It didn’t really occur to me that it was actually happening until I went to the Madison County DMV to take the driving test and motorcycle test. I forfeited my Maryland license to get my motorcycle learner’s permit.

When my co-worker, Dallin, was teaching me to ride, I fell off only once. I kept practicing, which is something that I rarely do. For the first two weeks of owing it, I laid in bed at night wishing I hadn’t purchased it. It wasn’t buyer’s remorse; I don’t think. I was afraid of following through with learning to ride it well enough to not look like a fool. I even made plans to sell it, but I didn’t tell anyone.

I still have it though, and I love it.


I agree with Meghan

Although I also have no room to talk. I've been trying to write something to post on here for at least a month, but I have too many thoughts--I want to post the best one. This past month I've written essays on my dad, my broken fingers, my grad school experience, my feelings on being unemployed, my confusion over past relationships, my thoughts on marriage and future family life, the pieces of myself I've discovered through the years, the guilt I feel over not keeping in touch with friends, the tears I've shed over my little brother, the dreams I've had lately, the hours I've spent at the Provo Library, and the books I browsed on Amazon today. Yep. At least my journal is full. But for quite some time I've simply missed all of you, no matter what my essays were about.

13 Posts?

Okay, 13 posts this year? Come on. I'm but not one to talk, since this is probably my third post ever, but what's happening? Last year there were 93. The year before that there were 208. Before that there were 67. So we're halfway through the year and we've got 13? Is something wrong? We're the Writing Center. Start writing! Either that or you must be dang busy at the Center this semester.

Where is everyone?

I was looking forward to getting on and reading everyone's new posts. So where are they?

It's me, Meghan. I hate having to try and piece together details from a post to figure out who wrote it. I've thought about the WC last night while reading a talk by Elder Bednar in this month's Ensign. It's called "Things as They Really Are." It's a warning about getting so involved in facebook, texting, computer games, and blogging (Is that why you all stopped writing on here?) that you miss out on reality. He says, "Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed...you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication." I thought of the Writing Center. He would like what he saw there.

The first parties each semester are some of my favorite memories because of the incredible spirit of friendship and trust I felt there. I remember crying with Shannon at her first "party" and how satisfying it was to get home that night and feel so connected. I'd never shared that feeling with anyone before after leaving Sis. Morgan's house. There is some wall between me and nearly every other person I know that limits us...masks we wear. Somehow, Sister Morgan made it okay to take them off for awhile. I envy those of you who married someone who worked at the Center. I often wish Jason could feel what I've felt there. It's hard for me to explain it to him, so I'm glad you've all felt it too and understand me. I think that's what it is. We understand each other. We went beyond chitchat and really talked to each other on those nights at Sister Morgan's house and during so many seminars. Man, I want more of that.


Hi, it's me, Chan.

I just wanted to take a moment real quick and tell you all how much I love you. No, it's not Valentine's day, I'm just feelin real lovey.


Is it normal to not want to return to a place you love?

The light was still on in the toy room, where I slept this past summer. I just lay on my mattress staring at the side of the shoebox. I was too tired to do anything else. Or maybe I was just comfortable looking at it like that. But finally, I propped myself on one elbow and flipped open the lid. I smiled up at myself. I was in a pink sequined dress, posing in third position with my hands on my hips. The next picture was the one of Kyle and me at the banquet breakfast POPS Choir went to our first morning in Disneyworld. Then a picture of me in my blonde wig and red and white polka-dotted dress, just before the closing night of Anything Goes. The fourth was one of my senior pictures—I am looking at the ground, the trees by the creek burning green behind me.

The day after I got home from Rexburg, I told Mom I needed to go to the bank to make a deposit. I climbed into our little gray Camry and as I drove away, I watched the dust rise up behind me in the rearview mirror. I made my way to the bank eventually, but first, I drove up the red brick main street to my high school. School had been released for summer break a week before, so I knew no one would be there, but I looked around and behind me anyway before parking under the single tree in the Manhattan High’s parking lot. This had been the meeting place before and after our choir concerts and musicals and ACT tests and rehearsals. Kyle walked me out to this Camry parked under this tree one morning after the show choir workshop POPS put on for the resident grade school kids.

I love Manhattan, especially in the summer. I love our family weed-pulling fiestas at 6:30 in the morning, when the air is in-between the coolness of evening and the sticky humidity of day. I love running on dirt roads that are familiar, out past the old stone schoolhouse and the Manuels' red barn. There's a distinct smell there; I don't really know how to describe it, and I don't know exactly where it comes from--maybe it's the pasture grass or the dew or the leftover rain water in the ditches on either side of the road. But it's a sweetish, familiar smell. I love hanging out at City Park or AJ's Pizza at sunset with high school friends. I love going to the 30-person singles branch on Sundays.

Sometimes, though, I don't love memories. They usually make today feel empty. And memories constitute much of my living time when I'm in Manhattan. It's hard to move forward there because the past is so prevalent for me in that town. My mind plays the "remember when" game as I drive to work or walk into Dillons grocery store or listen to bands play during Arts in the Park, and especially when I drive past that red-brick building at the top of the hill on Poyntz Avenue. Manhattan means high school for me, and as a junior in college, I just feel the need to move on from there for good. Someday, I'll need to move on from Rexburg for good too. Places like these cannot be permanent. It's all a part of moving forward, moving forward. They have their time slot, their soliloquy in this Play of Life if you will, but there's no going back. That would screw up the plot.

It's a girl!

Pic info: It's a profile shot with the top of her head on the right of the picture, and her face up. You can see her little nose, lips, chin, and then the spine along the bottom, etc.

At almost 21 wks, our baby girl apears healthy and energetic (very wiggly: the nurse had to chase her all over my stomach to get the measurements needed). She's 14 oz. and between 6-8 inches, and I'm starting to feel her kicking. Another fun thing is that she seems fascinated by her lips, and kept making faces at us by pushing them out and moving them around. All her limbs are there, and all vital organs look good, so we're on track to have a beautiful little girl, due Aug. 1 (one week after school gets out--she better not come early). Those who are around know I'm definitely starting to show, but I'll post a picture of myself in a month or two when I'm really getting big. :-)


If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I will be hosting a jiggs dinner (corned beef, cabbage, etc.). The dates I'm considering are Saturday, March 13 and Saturday, March 20. If you would like to come, please leave a comment as to which date you would prefer and what time.

PS Chris Mower will be performing "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at the South Jordan Community Theater. Tickets are only $5, and the first performance is tonight (February 25). For more info, go here, and to buy tickets go here. I'm an idiot who didn't check her schedule prior to buying tickets, so I have two tickets for Friday, March 5th that I can't use. If you want them, they're yours. No charge.


Did you ever wonder what your first essay looked like?

Wonderful Writing Center friends,
I never write on this blog, because quite frankly, it scares me to death because you're all so poetic. I'm writing anyway because I have to show you a sample of my first graders' very first essays. I run crazy all day long just trying to keep the kids from killing each other or themselves, and I come home feeling guilty for being onery with them all day. I don't feel proud about a whole lot of my teaching experience so far, but I am proud of their writing. We have a good writing program in first grade. I taught them about topic sentences, supporting details, and concluding sentences. Despite the errors in this final draft, I promise we went through the writing process. They had to write about anything they liked. I got everything from an ode to donuts to a detailed description of banana boats (They are "the best ever," by the way). They had to end it with "That's why I like..." It's very structured, but trust me, it needs to be with 6 year olds. We write for 30 minutes a day in our journals, and we're getting to the point where I can give them a topic and say I want a topic sentence, at least two details, and a closing sentence, and they do it!
It's fun to teach writing to kids, though I do miss working at the WC. I might not mind the pay cut if you'd let me come back...
Sorry I kinda disappeared the past several months. I live and breathe first grade, but on the weekends I think of you often. Hope to see you soon.



Today, I do not feel good. My stomach feels swollen and pushes against my insides. My knees ache and I am overheated. My throat feels full of cotton balls. I’m sitting here, looking out at the Writing Center and seeing everyone.

A group of five has been working together for at least an hour. Among their books lie empty water and soda bottles. Behind them, a girl absently chews on her fingernails while her partner highlights the pages of a chemistry book. There are orange smears from the highlighter on the side of her hand. At a table by herself, another student has three textbooks opened. At the top of her table are three pens lined parallel to each other. The pens are all different colors: red, black, and blue. She marks occasionally and with purpose. A man with a blue shirt and a red tie leans against a pillar towards the back. His knot is fat and wrinkled. One of the men at the table with the empty bottles laughs loudly, his face turning red.

Back by the man with the fat tie, Sister Morgan’s office door is open, and the lights inside are on. Her chair sits in the window of the doorway, spun away from her computer. Portraits of her children line the window—some smiling, some serious. There is snow filtering outside her window, falling in flakes like the shavings of clouds.

From the front desk, Tyler walks through the grid of tables towards the open door. A red lanyard with his name tag swings across his chest. He carries On Writing Well in his hand, his thumb marking his place. I watch his eyes sweep Sister Morgan’s office. Realizing it’s empty, his forehead creases and he turns, walking back to the front desk.

He’s new, and I wonder if he’s handling the Writing Center alright. He made it through the first party, so I assume he’s doing alright. Still though, we can be overwhelming with our talks of abstract things like honesty, masks, and blood essays. I hope he feels like he belongs here; I hope this for everyone who works here.

Looking back at the tables, the man who once surveyed from the back has retired to an office somewhere. The group is gone too, taking with them their graveyard of plastics. The girl who had three books open, now only has one. Her pens are put away, but now she marks the words with her finger.

A girl with blonde hair leans against the desk, her elbows resting on the counter. Her legs are locked and stiff as she talks to Tyler.

“…and what class is this for?” Tyler says. She talks low and quiet, and I can’t hear her from where I’m sitting.

“…and the teacher? Do you know his first name?”

I walk to the bookshelf by the desk to get a mint, but mostly to stretch out my legs—to work out the aches and tightness. I pause there, holding a pencil between my fingers and tracing long, shaky curves through the Zen garden. In my head, I run through some of the “lessons” Sister Morgan gave me when we first got the garden at the Writing Center.

Tyler, now free of the girl, walks again back towards Sister Morgan’s open door. His training binder substitutes the book he carried earlier. He walks feet from the open door and stretches his neck, barely able to see past the door jamb. Meeting only the swivel chair, he walks back to the front desk, looking over my shoulder at the sand.

“It’s all about balance,” I say. “No one part should draw attention to itself.”

He moves to sit at the desk, and I still draw the lines that follow the curves of other lines that follow the curves of rocks.

Watching the groups at the tables and seeing Tyler moving from the front desk to Sister Morgan’s office, back to front desk, and finally stopping again at the desk makes me think about when I first came to school—when I first started working here.

It’s s how many times a day I hear the sentence, “I’m looking for the Writing Center,” and it never means what it did when I said the same words almost a year ago. When I got hired, I wasn’t looking for help with commas or for a place to work on thesis statements. I was looking for a place to belong to—a place where I could be accepted for Skyler and not anyone I was trying to be. I was moving from reality to numbness, back into reality, and then to numbness again, hoping to find someone along the way to keep me in a permanent state of living.

While pulling long lines through the Zen garden, I realize something. If I look close enough at the lines I’m drawing, I can see the sand spill around the tip of the pencil and then form long threads of rows and rows. I never change the sand into something else; I never change the rocks or the container either. I’m always working with what I started with—chaos to order.

Setting the pencil down beside the Zen garden, I laugh to myself.

“Ha,” I say. “Metaphors.”


Help Needed

Hey everyone. I'm in need of some help. I'm teaching three novels right now (in different classes, of course), and as soon as I finish, I need to start research papers. I want my students to write a literary analysis based around their novels, but I just don't know where to start. I was complaining to Brad last night, and he asked why I hadn't checked with my friends from the Writing Center, so here I am.

The three novels I'm teaching are Life of Pi, Things Fall Apart, and The Secret Life of Bees.

If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks.


Hey All

I wanted to drop a line and say, "Hey Writing Center." I still live in Philadelphia (for the next five months until Travis finishes his master's and then who-the-heck-knows where we'll be). I teach high school English and laugh sometimes, pull out my hair other times, cried once, and sweat every day. Hard work (but "soooooo rewarding," I hear).

I still think of all of you often (at least the "all of you" that I know). Sister Morgan, I don't know if you even have the same phone number but when I got my new phone I transferred your number and assigned your picture to it, knowing that we'll not talk because we both hate phones. There are numbers and pictures I'll never delete; one of my favorites is one of your river and canoe (despite my almost-drowning experience. Stop laughing. It was really cold. We all know it was my excuse to wear your killer hot 50's bathrobe, though).

How are you? Julie? Leanna? Anona? Dan? Meghan? Chan? Nathan? Kiersten? Kaitlin? Sister Morgan? Sending some Philly-colorful love your way. Yes, I still love Photoshop. And yes, I'm still terrified of being a mother. Some things don't change. :)



Good Friends are Hard to Find

I sit in the isle seat on a cold metal chair. Angled away from the girl sitting next to me, I look up at the speaker baring his testimony. It’s the 1st counselor giving a history of the dark ages; he emphasizes how hard it must have been to live then, especially for the protestant reformers that rebelled against the Catholic church. Ten minutes pass, and he is still talking. I look up at the symmetric, wood-carved design above the podium and wonder how someone had the patience and tenacity to create it. To the right, the wood planks that create the A-frame design of the church flow through the walls and are flanked by fading yellow, red, and orange stained glass windows. This is my church building now. This is where I feel like I am supposed to be, yet all I can think of is my Rexburg, my friends, and the life I left at BYU–Idaho.

I realized two things recently. First, I didn’t really get a chance to say goodbye to any of you, except for Matt who happened to catch me on campus and possibly Aly who texted me. Second, I really, really, really miss you all, and I worry that I did not take advantage of my friendships with each of you while I was in close proximities (that one is for you Daniel).

So to make myself feel a little better, I thought I would make a list of all the things I miss about you guys. Here it is:

Aly- I miss our yoga, laughing, and how you always made me feel loved and appreciated.

Britt- I miss our accidental hugs, your amazing fashion sense, and your deep questions that I would never think of asking.

Shannon- I miss how you could see into aspects of my life and could help me see the things I could not see myself.

Matt- I miss wondering if you were only my friend when it didn’t interfere with whatever diabolical plan you were plotting. Also I miss your keen sense of critique.

Kirsten- Argyle, argyle, argyle! Oh how I love and miss your argyle. And I miss your positive attitude and kindness.

Daniel- I miss having a human grammar book to reference. Pages are harder to turn than your synapses.

Rebeccas (plural)- I miss having three amazing Rebeccas to keep straight and laugh with.

Andylin- I miss being terrified that you were going to grammatically tear my heart from my chest and make me watch while it stopped beating. Even now… Oh, and I may or may not have misspelled your name on purpose.

Jalyssa- What isn’t to miss about the most perfect couple ever? You were always so kind to me. Always.

Karli- You live like ten minutes away from me. What the hecks is going on?

Loraine- I miss how you would sometimes steal my seat in seminar but that you were too sweet and nice for me to say anything.

Jodi- Remember how we rocked it in NYC? Yeah I miss times like that.

Kaitlin- I miss going to Abs that Rock and wanting to die while fake rowing to Mylie Cyrus. Oh and I miss how you were always interested in my not-so-interesting life.

Ivor- So poetic. I miss not understanding anything you say or write. My brain doesn’t do poetry.

Eric- I miss your honesty. I hear you are funny, but I fear I didn’t know you well enough to make an educated decision about that. I have hope I will.

Chan- I miss your zeal for life and especially wildlife. I don’t think I have ever cared about anything as much as you care about that.

Kylie- I miss your sweet temperament and the velocity of your speech.

Traci- I miss looking at you from the computers while you were on desk and thinking. She looks bored. Maybe I should show her how to make little boxes by clicking and dragging the mouse.

Amy- I miss thinking about that picture you showed us on your PowerPoint that had you holding the doll that looked exactly like you. Wait I still do that. Oh, and I miss how you would always ask how I was doing.

Jen- I miss your free spirit and wonderful supply of Wunderbars.

Sarahjo- I miss how we just click. It seemed like we always had the same opinions.

New people and people I may have missed- Sorry I didn’t get to meet and/or remember to put you on the list. But I am sure we could have laughed together. And I’ll miss that.

And of course, Sharon Morgan. That’s right, no more Sis. Morgan. We’re peers now. When you hired me, I really needed a job. I liked writing, but I never considered myself a “writer.” The things you taught me about writing will be with me forever. Detail. Honesty. An irrational fear of exclamation points. I can now say with pride that I am a writer. Thank you.

I love and miss you all! I hope to come and visit some time soon.

Hugs, hugs (Except Britt, I know how it freaks you out.)




It was 3:30 am and not a creature was stirring all through our house, then 3:31 struck and it began. The most annoying, aggravating noise you could ever conceive pierced my ears, through a thin wall. It was my beloved nephew, who I truly love, just not for the next two hours. The worst part of it was the guilty feeling I had afterwards of being teeth grindingly angry with him for crying. Ever since I moved in with my sister, I felt a feeling of pride… like I was the noble older brother I never was as a kid, coming in on my silver Subaru and making her life a little easier. What I soon found out was, I became what some friends in the (so called) know dubbed an “insta-daddy.” Now let me just clear the air, I don’t want to, nor claim to be Hudsen’s father, but I do contribute a lot in his life. From picking up soggy teddy grahams to the most horrifying diaper ever expelled from a baby, I have been there for him and for my sister Sarah. I don’t mind helping out (besides the diaper to be frank) and I know that it takes some stress off of a single mom trying to go to school, cook, and still be 21, but lately I start sulking with the “could you...”s and the “would you please...”s. I will readily admit that I am not ready to be a dad, with my own life turned upside down. In between wondering where my next pay check will come from and if I will ever see a degree (of any sort) with my name on it before I turn 40, I am hurtling rubber duckies out of my shower (however cute they may be.) That was two days ago, when all I could think of was shoving Hudsen into a cannon with one of those over-sized Q-tips and blasting him off to China or the moon, whichever made the house quieter. He was teething and had all four molars coming in at once. The pain was just too great for him to sleep through and as soon as he was given some Orajel he calmed down, smiled at me, and went to sleep in my arms. As his warm head rested against my shoulders, I began to think about how upset I get when I am up with things too painful for me to bear. I was there with him crying out in his crib for help and I wasn’t impatient with him anymore. That night wasn’t a cloud bursting, revelatory experience, but I understood a little more of what it is to be Dad, what it is to be a Son, and a little more of the Gospel.



Today I was sitting on a cushioned bench in the Snow building, trying to focus on my Orwell homework. A "couple" walked by me holding hands. She was larger than him in every sense of the word: a couple inches taller, thicker thighs, her round fingers practically swallowed his as they intertwined. They did that awkward swinging thing with their connected hands. I figured they had probably been only at this dating thing for a week or two at most. As they passed, I overheard some of their conversation.

Boy: "Dang. Umm I forgot what I was saying [embarrassed half-chuckle]. I hate it when that happens."
Girl (just late enough so it was uncomfortable):"Don't you hate it when that happens?"
Boy: "Yeah I hate it."

Another awkward hand swing. Make that one or two days at most. I was so glad I wasn't her.


Even if you have a headache, WRITE

I have a headache from this cleansing diet that Jen Tanner insisted we start. (Not that I'm complaining, since I ate enough chocolate to put Florence Candy out of business over the holidays.) But I'm wondering if my headache is from sugar withdrawal, chocolate withdrawal, caffeine withdrawal, or just a basic I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS attitude. Anyway, my headache post is to warn the new people to read and wait to post, encourage the other assistants who have not been writing to WRITE, and to basically tell the universe that I have one heck of a headache. Not that anyone is going to care, but, ya know, the world looks skewed--like looking through thick glass--and everyone is moving either faster or slower than I am. I'm turning away, not toward sounds and movement and walking carefully to keep my head from rolling off my shoulders. Waaaaa. I want to be riding a horse through pine trees. I want to be walking down a cobblestone street in Rome. I want to drive to Cold Stone and order a double bowl of double hot fudge ice cream. I want to be fishing. . . . But I'm not. I'm here--looking at my name plate hanging over my office mirror, staring at a calendar that says we just started this semester. Soooo, I'm going to reach into my hipster arsenal and pull out all my favorite sayings about BE Here Now. . . . Whoa, forget that. When I'm listening to Skyler, my eyes are crossing over, and he's blurring around the edges. OK, so, well, anyway. Write--even if it's just a couple of sentences.