Cry Freedom

7/8/14



I worry sometimes that my babies are going to grow up not knowing what freedom is. It will be an idea as obscure to them as 'privacy'. Or perhaps, it will be like the small-town parade we attend each year to mark the birth of our nation. We park outside gramma's house with a barrage of cousins and wait for freedom to march by in glitter-adorned pomp and circumstance and throw us fistfuls of candy. We wave a few flags and eat chili burgers and swat mosquitos all day long and then fall asleep to the sounds of rowdy teenagers setting off firecrackers down the street. The day just passes in a happy, busy blur, like Christmas, and we thank our lucky stars we live in a place that by all appearances, runs itself.

And maybe childhood is just naturally full of such suppositions that we'll eventually grow out of as we learn about war and election campaigns and drones and executive veto. Or maybe it takes more than a history lesson to learn to be free. Really free.

So these are my Canada Day wishes. And my Independence Day wishes as well - because I consider myself an honorary American.

First off, I hope each one of my little bugs comes out of childhood with a deep sense of personal responsibility. That they don't take direction from some cold, blind bureaucracy. That they understand that everything worth having comes from being free to seek, strive, build, create, and believe. For themselves. Their way. For their own happiness. That there's no shame in enjoying the benefits of a hard day's labour. And that they can't elect someone to help and serve their fellow man on their behalf.

I hope they learn that no government employee will ever feel anything more for them than a sincere but generic compassion, but that family is bound to them by the deepest and truest human ties, forever.

I hope they aren't fooled into taking the easy path. That they understand a hand-out is just a band aid. That they can't travel far on a quick fix. That education is not a national standard, but a personal mission. That communities thrive on individuals. That their bills are theirs to pay. That a government that owes them, owns them. And that choices always come with consequences.

I hope that they won't have to rely on a media campaign to tell them to do the right thing, because they will already be telling themselves, and they'll be ready and able to decide for themselves what the right thing is. That they will never accept the unknown or the untested just because its given away for free. That they will trust themselves far more than they trust any federal court or committee.

I hope they won't be swayed by charisma and catchy slogans, but always seek truth. That they'll know that tolerance means merely to tolerate. That equality is opportunity, not outcome. And that they will never take offence, because what someone else thinks of them will never be as important as what they think of themselves.

I hope that they will grow up and realize that there is so much more they can get from life through their own intelligence and ingenuity than the cheap, road-rashed candy tossed at them by the passing parade and collected in their recycled plastic grocery bags. Freedom isn't a reward doled out by a benevolent leader, it's a way of life that is ours by birthright, not as Canadians, but as human beings. No one can give it. No king or country. They can only take it away.

I pray, desperately, that my little ones will know what freedom is. For real. And that they'll never let it go.

At least not without a fight.

(so, family...we might all have to move to Texas)








Bohemian Rhapsody

6/30/14



Being a writer is not especially romantic. Not even when you're struggling. Puccini may have painted a lovely picture of star-crossed artists, living on hope, talent, and bread crumbs, but it really has nothing to do with me. Maybe if I wrote by the quavering light of a candle stub in a cold flat with walls blackened by coal smoke on some putrid river bank in a novel by Dickens. Maybe then I could claim to suffer for my art. But it's hard to be a true bohemian when you have a laptop and microwavable burritos.

No, a real writer is someone who labours hard and stresses harder. Someone who has to be one part brilliant businessperson and three parts...who the hell knows what. Because their work is not the by-product of the machinations of the musculature or the application of formulae. There is no 1+1=2. You can't matriculate or reason your way into a successful novel. You just have to pour yourself onto the page and hope that you won't be too ridiculous.

Maybe we like to think of writing as being a romantic profession because otherwise, we're just crazy people. Crazy to think we can create something that other people need even more than the next iphone.

But I am a writer. For better or worse.

Right now we're enjoying the 'worse' part, because I haven't paid my cell phone bill in ages. And no one really likes microwavable burritos.

A fellow keyboard jockey invited me to share a little bit about my process in a good old fashioned blog hop and I was happy to oblige. Because the members of other competitive industries might see each other as the enemy, but writers always love other writers. So here are my carefully guarded secrets.

1. What are you working on now?
With my debut novel published and sitting on top of a pile of papers and journals beside my bed, I am hard at work on book #2, the sequel to SPARK, appropriately entitled BLAZE. Fire will be thrown, demons blasted, and tough decisions made. Just like in my real life.

2. Why do you write what you do?
I write middle grade fiction because kids of that age have a way of processing the world intelligently while still being able to believe in something. They don't think they know everything...but they want to know everything! I love to write about courage and redemption because I think you need generous helpings of these things when you're a tween. And I love to write about magical things happening in the regular world, because I think we all need to be able to believe in miracles. Sure it's all fun and games, but a good story should also remind you of the important things.

3. How does your writing process work?
I sit and stew. I am a stewer. I like to write a few paragraphs quickly and then go back and agonize over every word, several times over. The characters are more important to me than anything, so the plot usually develops according to what I want my characters to be and how I want them to change. I used to write at a narrow desk pushed up against the wall, but I sold it to pay the bills so now I write sitting cross-legged on my bed, surrounded by glasses of ice water and tatty coil notebooks. I have to HAVE TO make my notes with sharpie markers. Extra fine tip. In a style of handwriting almost completely illegible. When I finally get a paragraph to go just the way I want it, I giggle to myself.


Now, I was supposed to find three other writers to answer these same questions, which would make it a blog hop, you see. But I'm afraid I asked too late and didn't get things arranged in time. So I am going to send you to the far reaches of the galaxy, to some of my favourite writers. You may not automatically glean the answers to our blog hop questions, but hopefully you'll be amazed by their genius, as am I.

Meg Fee  -  My first selection is not a kidlit author, but a blogger I admire. As a writer, she is absolutely vulnerable, which is something I am not awesome at. Love her musings on life and relationships and new york city.

Claire Legrand  -  One of my current MG faves, although I hear tell she is branching out to YA. I love the careful attention she pays to her characters. You can examine their imperfections and cheer for them at the same time.

Ellen Potter  -  This is a writer whose genius lies in weaving a compelling and beautiful story out of harsh and unusual circumstances. I gasp and cry every single time I read the Kneebone Boy. And I think I've read it four times.

Yes, I realize I chose all women. That is purely incidental, I assure you. I could have gone back and swapped one out for a man for the sake of diversity, but that would be prejudicial and anyway I don't believe in gender quotas.

Special thanks to a new pal, Lisa, who asked me to be a part of this blog hop (hope she's not regretting it). Good things always happen when writers reach out to each other. It's a special sort of literary karma. Check her out here:
readlisalong.com 

Don't be a Hobo

6/24/14



There have been times in my life when I was really not in style. And other times when I have been stylish with a vengeance. I seem to swing back and forth like a human pendulum with a penchant for popular fashion blogs and too many pairs of yoga pants (without actually doing yoga). But I've decided/discovered that life is one giant balancing act between who you are at your best and at your worst. And that's really what I set out to say when I started this blog. Style is really just the ability to make your life personal.

When I lived with a house full of girls, we had an expression. "Don't be a hobo". Which basically was a favourite admonishment for those days when any one of us just didn't feel like being presentable or sociable. Because there are moments when mascara is a monumental task.

And in those days, we were quite concerned with appearing at all times to be amazing young women.

The best days were when all four of us were hobos together. Then we'd wear pajamas and lay around the living room, making up ridiculous songs on the guitar about our love-lives, such as "Let's Not be Awkward" and "Mr. Hot and Cold", both very much applicable to my dating experience. Of course, it doesn't make much of a difference if you shrug your shoulders and refuse to make an effort when you're that young and your thighs don't need to be packed into non-stretch denim to remain firmly above your kneecaps.

Fast forward to the forty year home-stretch and those hobo days become so obvious, you may as well hang a sign around your neck that says "I just don't care today, so sue me".

And then you accessorize your hobo look with a sour expression, or an exhausted grimace, and you walk twice as quickly as necessary to prove to anyone who sees you that you're only dressed like that because you're incredibly busy being superwoman and your schedule is apparently that much more stressful than theirs.

But maybe we don't need matching eyebrows or painted nails to show that we care. Maybe being stylish has nothing to do with chevron wallpaper and neat rows of potted herbs in the kitchen window. And it very well could be that entertaining is really about relationships, rather than an impressive table setting.

I know. You're all gasping right now. Me too. Because I like to impress with a good centerpiece.

But with all the pins and mags and blogs that assault our vulnerable sensibilities these days, I think we sometimes lose ourselves somewhere in the mix. Where are YOU in that clever new cupcake design that just went viral? No where. You find your true self in the moment when you get to surprise your kids with those cupcakes. Or when you stuff one into your face, laughing hysterically, at a dinner party with friends. You are not found in the design. You are found in the intent.

Being a hobo really means that you've grown weary of putting on your best self and you just need some time to remember your real self - that beautiful, fascinating, complicated combo of awesome and not awesome.

So dress up when you want to. And put on those yoga pants and shredded sneakers when you want to. Be so helpful and sincere and aware that people don't even notice that you under-moisturized.

And wear a smile that says "Yeah, there are paint stains on my pants. But paint stains are really just so ME today."

Life isn't about being presentable. It's about being happy. I need to remember that as much as anybody.

So go right ahead and have a hobo day. I'll have one too. In fact, I'm wearing yoga pants right now.

I also just made donuts. And they would not look good on pinterest.

But I intend to enjoy eating them.

Plain donuts are so ME today.

Mormonism, Feminism, and being snarky

6/16/14



I've been putting this post off for a while now. Partly because it's a very mormon issue, and not all of you reading this blog will be mormon. Partly because it's ridiculously emotionally-charged and I really just need people to CALM DOWN. But mostly because there are two things that make me so frustrated I get a little snarky and this is one of them.

The other is communism, in case you were wondering.

There is a movement that has raised itself in direct opposition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that accuses God of being oppressive to women. Yep, I mean LDS women trying to leverage the church into ordaining them. Some of you may cringe over the way I've phrased this, but can we be real for a few minutes? Can a group of people who admittedly oppose the doctrine, to the point of launching a media campaign, really consider themselves as being 'within' the church? And as mormons, we truly believe that the church is operated by Christ himself, in a person-to-person link with latter day prophets. So yes, opposition to doctrine is opposition to God, according to our own beliefs. There is no vote.

But equality is an important issue just in general these days, so why shouldn't it come up at church as well as everywhere else? And yes, we need to discuss it. Especially when so many women are torn between what their faith tells them and what they hear on the 6:00 news or read on sister so and so's blog.

But lets approach this issue first from a more secular angle. Because I like to do that.

Men and Woman are NOT THE SAME. Do I Have to Draw you a Chart?

I worked for ten years as a human rights activist at the United Nations. And one of the greatest and most profound threats I found to human rights in our time is radical feminism : a topic guaranteed to bring the snark to my lips.

It's not that I'm NOT a feminist. If you and I sat down for a chat and a cupcake, you'd insist that I am one. But you see, some words leave a bad taste in the mouth thanks to life experience. And after so many years of being told, and not nicely I might add, that I'm a brainwashed fool who needs to smarten up and toe the company line, I have eschewed the term 'feminist' forever. I have yet to come up with an appropriate substitute label, but I think 'reasonable human being' sounds good to me.

I love being a woman. I love what makes me inheritantly female. And I refuse to believe that I am the same as a man. I know we have many similarities, being of the same species and all, but men and woman have many differences; beautiful differences; equalizing differences. And I find incredible value in that. I have never in my life been so offended, in the true sense of the word, than when I had other women trying to sell me the idea that my value as a person lies in how closely I resemble a man. What the hell is that?

It's 2014 ladies, and men are not telling us that the roles of wife, mom, teacher, and caregiver are submissive and demeaning. They are not telling us that they are better or more powerful or more righteous because they hold God's priesthood. It's other women telling us so. It's other women telling us what to think. It's other women belittling the roles that make us different from men - and even belittling our men. And it's other women who are scrutinizing and patronizing. How dare they?

I believe that women can and should do anything they want to in this life. But I also believe that we need to be true to ourselves, and sometimes our femininity gets a little tainted by society's driving need to make us all identical little comrades.

Okay, time to add a spiritual layer to this cake.

Priesthood Responsibilities Are Designed to Grow Good Men

The most perfect and yet challenging relationship in all creation is man + woman, whether as family, friends, or companions - how they complement each other and teach each other and drive each other bananas. I believe it's God's design that we do so. But in the western world, women do everything - and by that I mean we take on a man's roles as well as our own and men are more than happy to let us. There is no true partnership when a woman thinks she can do it all and do it better. Golly ladies, there's a purpose to this life and we need to let the men have their mortal schooling too!

{ Oh, and before you retort with a million stories of how some male manager at work did this or said that and women can never get ahead, we're discussing the priesthood mantle, which deals with church and home. Neither of which is a corporation based on promotion and competition. Thanks. }

You see, I believe that priesthood responsibilities teach men to develop and use skills that women are already darn good at. It's an equalizing force, not a divisive one. They need this role to become more like God. We need it to...what? Demonstrate our organizational and empathetical superiority?

Some ladies just can't let the men have any task or position tailored to their needs. It's like a mosquito bite they just have to scratch. Yet women can have all the exclusivity they want. Uh, huh. Because that's fair.

The Priesthood is Not a Status Symbol, Yo

Sister Sheri Dew said that none of us came to earth to gain our worth, we brought it with us.

Activist, Kate Kelly said that equality in the church can be measured.

Does she mean measured in righteousness, commitment, value, importance? Are we supposed to measure what we give and how much we receive? Personal intent and spiritual progression aren't really things we can weigh against the next person. Although, if you compare a lifetime of service in the church, in time and resources and sacrifices, men are not even on the same plane as women. So it can't be more opportunity to serve that these women want. Is it just power at the heart of this issue? Is it really just 'middle management' that these few women are after? Is it about titles? There are no little brass nameplates in the Kingdom of God.

Or is it the power to perform ordinances and miracles that they want? Because I'm pretty sure the priesthood is powered by faith and humility...and trust...accepting God's will...stuff like that...

Anyway, can you even imagine if we did hold the priesthood? Ladies, we'd be doing everything!!! Every. Thing. Just imagine Sunday morning, sisters and how your list of things to do would double...even triple. Because we'd take over. You know we would. And the ward would be run smoothly. Not equally, but smoothly. And God's plan for our progression would be thwarted, because if this was something we needed to be doing right now, we'd already be doing it. Perhaps it's in our future, perhaps not, but it's not in our present and thank...well, thank God for that!

Same Destination - Same Airline - Different Carry-on Luggage

I have seen many systems in this crazy world of ours and I can plainly recognize the value in God's plan based on politics and economics alone. But when you plug faith into the equation, it becomes so much plainer. We are here to become something more than what we were - to become like our Godly parents. And darned if we think we know the best way to do that. No, silly little humans! Only God knows how to become like God. So perhaps we should all pay closer attention.

There isn't a single blessing or gift of the priesthood that isn't ours. True, men carry the priesthood. And some women are soooooo bothered by it because we insist we can and should carry everything they do.

But wait a second...do men have everything we have? What about those little rugrats playing with toy cars on the carpet - the ones we completely recognize as being as much of a gift and blessing to dad, even though he didn't get to carry them. Do you see where I'm going here? Men have a pretty intense claim for inequality when it comes to baby. They may be incredible dads, but they never get to experience anything like motherhood. Never. It is our very powerful, very exclusive responsibility. So exclusive in fact, that not even every woman gets to experience it in this life. And yet every woman gets to utilize and experience the priesthood. If you want to get technical, Motherhood is actually the great inequality.

So doesn't the fact that men and women share complementary roles in an effort to create an eternal working relationship just make good sense? Don't we want our men to cultivate the gifts that come from this specific type of service? Doesn't whinging about not being able to carry the priesthood, in addition to everything else we have, seem a little...I don't know...hypocritical?

Dial it back Ginger, snarkiness is just a paragraph away.

*takes deep breath, sidesteps temptation*

Now let's get to the real meat of the matter.

Trust in the Lord with all Thine Heart

Yeah, I actually just quoted that scripture. It's cheesy enough for a pinterest poster, but do you believe it? Do you have a testimony of this promise?

I've had a few sticky moments in life when God was my only champion. I came out of those moments knowing that every time I accosted some gospel principle or teaching that made me pause, I could sort through it using both my mind and my connection with the Holy Spirit and get the assurances I needed. And I did. Every time. My role as a woman was probably the most empowering personal investigation of all. I can honestly say, that I have absolutely zero insecurities as a woman. Which is probably why I have no trouble allowing a man to take his role as a bearer of priesthood power.

In fact, I insist. Go forth brethren and be exalted by your priesthood! I certainly don't think it makes you any better or higher up the spiritual food chain than me. I don't feel that I'm missing anything. And I don't see that I am either. Having this responsibility makes you better men and I honor that.

But then again, I've already dealt most efficiently with the tangled web of secular feminism, so perhaps this wasn't as much of a struggle for me...?

My point is that in every deep personal battle, there comes a time when you have to place your trust. Because we don't exist in isolation. I can trust myself in matters that concern only myself. But for something that concerns God's kingdom, I have to be able to trust God. Not because I'm subjugated. But because He has earned it. During all my past adolescent torments and grown up melt-downs, He earned my trust. This isn't some CEO we're talking about, it's GOD.  It's our FATHER. If he says I don't need to hold the priesthood right now, then I know it's the truth. Because I know what He hopes to make of me. And what He hopes to make of me could not. be. any. better.

So why do some people turn from faith to feminism? They don't like the answer we've been given? They don't trust the God who gave it? Is that why they get angry and confused and go to the media? I guess that makes sense. Because the world understands. The world relates.

The world knows how it feels to have God tell them no and ask them to follow a better way.

Ah, my sisters. All of my sisters.

Being a woman is something special. But so is being a man.

What reason could we ever have to deny our brothers their role as sons of the Almighty God?

To this strong, confident, opinionated woman in the world, some manufactured idea of carefully apportioned sameness is just not good enough. My mind is satisfied. My spirit is at peace.

I truly hope all women and men of the church can seek and find the spiritual affirmation they need. To those who don't, you will be sorely missed. And I mean that.


Hey everyone, just a quick note after the fact...thank you for reading my blog. I honestly never expected anyone but a handful of friends and family to even notice this post. I know not everyone agrees with me, but I didn't write it to gain anyone's approval. I write what I think and feel and I do it for my own peace of mind. However I did read your comments with great interest. Unfortunately, I can't continue to keep up with them or answer all of your emails. If you feel that you have something to say, please share it through your own personal media sites. The fact that this post has been viewed by so many is proof that we all have a voice. Add yours to the discussion! 

And one more sidenote - I've had many helpful notices about the word 'whinging' and I just wanted to clarify that it is actually a real word. It's British and it means 'whining'. And I use it occasionally because I am a nerd. 

Wrapped in Brown Paper

6/10/14



As a person who is likely soon to be homeless, I am extra cheeseball lately about the general concept. But it's one of those words, isn't it? You'll find it in the dictionary, properly and succinctly described in a meagre sentence or two: home. A four letter word to encapsulate mountains of human emotion. But you get it. We all get it. Even a 6 year old and a 2 year old get it. Home is just home. And it defies description.

I needed a project to get me away from the computer screen so I don't end up despising my own novel and, in some freudian fit, I fixed on building a cardboard dollhouse for my little girlies. It's not fancy or perfect, although surprisingly structurally sound. I literally used garbage bin cardboard, scrapbooking scraps and a whole lot of glue, all wrapped up in brown paper. But you'd think I'd invented ice cream, the way the beetles oohed and aahed.

Dolly and the Bean came over with a backpack filled to the zipper with dolls and figurines. And they played. For hours. And I spent hours just watching them roll up dishcloths to make couches and beds and assign all the disney princesses bedrooms.

I wished for a moment that I had spent more time on the details. That I'd added a crystal chandelier and straw in the stable and some furniture. I wished that I'd at least taken the time to peel away all the webby strings of glue left by the darn glue gun. But it didn't matter much. What Dolly and the Bean saw at once was the possibility for happiness, not the gaping seams where I didn't measure the cardboard accurately.

I thought of all the crapholes I've lived in over the years and how much I loved each one. Not for the absence of cockroaches or pot-smoking neighbors, because I got plenty of those - and dang it if I haven't had a toilet that flushed properly in over two years - but for the sheer number of possibilities that a home provides.

Home is the physical embodiment of faith, care and ingenuity. It doesn't actually come all done up in brown paper - or vinyl siding - like a slice of plastic perfection. Home is never contained and limited by cheap wrappings or credit consuming upgrades. It's not expensive, it's expansive. So I won't worry too much about what dungeon I will be living in next (I have a strict 'dungeon only' budget). My life has never been very cosmetic. And you can forget this en suite, hardwood, granite counter top, keeping-up-with-the-joneses nonsense that has everyone's heads and bank accounts spinning. If that's all a home was, it could be adequately described in the dictionary after all.

Love, security, peace, hope. What's more valuable than that?

Although, a home really should include little fingers and ponytails if you can possibly manage it.















Payday

5/30/14



There are small moments when life is perfect. Absolutely perfect. You tend to pay dearly for those moments at some point or other, but they're totally worth it. Because this is what life is - deposits and withdrawals. Investment and return.

When I look at these children...these miracles that defy nature, science, and all reason...I am overwhelmed by the richness of my life. How does one get to be so insanely wealthy when really, all you've invested is a lot of hugs and a few sleepovers? Sure, their parents give vastly more than I do, but still...it's a small price to pay for the reward of watching these little people grow. You may put everything you have into being a part of a family, but you somehow always get more in return. A family is more than everything.

But I'm feeling a little mushy on the subject lately. Because I am selling all of my worldly possessions in order to market my novel. And the idea of being left with nothing but a suitcase full of clothes and a twin sized mattress could easily result in a total nervous breakdown. But I have felt particularly blessed with family over the last year and suddenly, my collection of dessert glasses just doesn't seem all that inspiring.

If I'm going to invest in something, I want more in return than a houseful of stuff. I want everything. I want more than everything. Life is a series of deposits and withdrawals. And this group of wonderful, frustrating, supportive, annoying, squeezable human beings are the big payload.

We went on a small family trip to the Heritage Park in Calgary. And while we all had much to say on the wonders of the park itself (it's quite a nice place to spend the day), it was really the moments. Oh, the moments.

For instance, when the 2 year old knocks down the 7 year old, steals his shoe and runs off laughing, you tend to feel the dreadful weight of serious things lift away. When the 9 year old surprises the baby with a lime green frog he won in an old fashioned carnival game, your belief in all humanity is reaffirmed. And when you're sitting with a group of grown ups, sharing foil-wrapped french fries picnic-style, you forget the quarrels, the disappointments, the childhood stings, and you bask in the luxury of having people in your life who know your every flaw and would still slay tigers for you.

Have a peek at some of my recent withdrawals from the bank of life and tell me I'm wrong.

Because this is life. Everything else is just stuff.





Dreams come True...Yes they do...in Santa Fe

5/19/14



Yeah, it's been a while.

Sometimes in life, you just get so busy with things that when you do get a spare hour, you spend it watching back episodes of supernatural instead of keeping up with your personal blog. There's no escaping a computer screen really, this is the digital age, but you do need to change up what appears on your screen. And too many hours of html and manuscript can kill a person. I'm convinced.

So now that I've apologized for my long absence - sort of - we can move on to business. Book business. Because that is my biz now.

First, let's deal with the obvious. I am not in Santa Fe. But in my opinion, any opportunity you have to make a Newsies reference, you take. And dreams really do come true. Not always in the way you expect them to. Usually it's better than you originally wanted. Because somebody upstairs knows better. And thank goodness for that.

I mean, what if Jack Kelly really had taken that train to Santa Fe to become a real cowboy? It would have broken my heart. He had to stay in NY to be with his friends. His dream came true - but it was the new dream. The better dream. The newsie dream.

I sometimes get so hung up on the minutia of long-held dreams that I fail to recognize the evolving dreams unfolding before me. Dreams aren't made of steel or concrete. They live and grow because we live and grow. Just the other day I was thinking how cool it would be to live in Nashville. Nashville! This from a person who used to think it a crime to live south of the Hudson River.

But my dreams are re-forming and this time, I'm paying attention.

And in honor of this new-found sense of self awareness, I'm posting a few pics taken right after I got my first paperback copy of the novel in the mail. It's the old dream...tweaked and trimmed and just generally re-made. And I'm free. Like the wind. Like I'm gonna live forever... sing it if you know it!