Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bitter Blessings: Drawing Winner

I'm excited to announce that the drawing winner for a copy of Christine Mehring's book is...

Drum roll, please...


Christine and I will make sure a copy makes it into your hands very soon!  Love you!

(I used to generate the winning number. If you didn't win, but are dying to read it, I hear they're already shipping from amazon.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bitter Blessings: A Book Review

I love to read.

I love to read almost anything: magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, and books of all kinds, of course. Poor David. It made him crazy when we were packing dishes with newspaper and he'd look over to see me distracted over yet another article in the months-old newspaper.

It's a bit of a problem.

I have a special place in my heart for Young Adult literature. I loved YA literature before I was a YA, while I was a YA, and now that my children are YAs. (I haven't resolved the dilemma of parenting children who are at the age I was when I was pretty sure I knew more than the adults around me...let's just say that I am almost ready to claim adulthood at nearly 40, but it's taken me 20 years to accept this "new" stage in my life.)

I also have a special place in my heart for Christine Mehring. Christine and I have been friends for almost 15 years. She is a brave, wise, funny, loyal, thoughtful, and cool woman with a fascinating life story. And she's always been one of my favorite writers, even if only in emails. I'm not going to share any of these emails with you. This is your loss, because she's kept me afloat many a day, made me laugh, and described the world in ways I think but can never write.

I was thrilled to get an advance copy of Christine's new book, Bitter Blessings. It combines two things I love: YA fiction and Christine. Bitter Blessings is due for release near the beginning of July, but one of you lucky readers can get an advance copy.

Despite my early affinity for LDS YA writing (Jack Weyland, how I loved you...) I will admit that my later return to writing with a Mormon background has left me a little jaded. I began the book not knowing that Christine's subject matter would involve LDS characters and situations. And while some of these situations are typical for LDS teen fiction, Bitter Blessings read much truer to me than I would expect from the genre.

The book blurb is: "Megan has the perfect life, but when her mother dies in an accident, everything spins out of control. With the rest of her family falling apart, Megan must confront her past to uncover the truths that will keep everyone together. Thought-provoking and heartfelt, this book shows that even in times of trial, you can often find blessings."

The characters in Bitter Blessings are well-fleshed out. Megan is a multi-faceted teen girl with a big heart and some misconceptions. After the death of her mother, her sister's life spins out of control. While trying to help save her sister from her foolish choices, Megan finds herself with her own difficult choices to make. While she discovers truths about her sister, she also finds unexpected truths about herself, the rest of her family and her best friend, Adam.

The plot has a little romance, a little intrigue, and a lot of life lessons. One of the beautiful things about the book is that the troubles are not easily resolved, and some are not resolved at all. I'm finding more and more that real life doesn't often hand us our problems fixed, tied up in neat little packages, with happy resolutions. Sometimes we face really really sucky decisions. Sometimes we can't make everyone happy. Megan finds this to be the unfortunate case, as well. Happy endings don't mean that everything ends perfectly. Happy endings come when we make the best out of a hard situation and choose to live happily. I loved this quote from the book:
I’ve come to realize that our Father in Heaven wants to bless us—He wants to bless us beyond what we can imagine. Sometimes we’re too comfortable where we are, and we dig in our heels, and He has to pull us kicking and screaming to the blessing He wants us to have, and it’s only after we’re there that we can look back and see His hand, see that He was there all along helping and guiding even when it felt like the world was falling down around us.
I'm thrilled to have been able to review Bitter Blessings. I am glad to recommend it to you as a well-written YA book with enough suspense to keep the plot moving, relatable characters, and real life messiness. If you want a copy, comment! We'll choose one of you at random and announce the winner in a couple of days.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Fun

Today I got to run with a chukar.  It was hysterical.  It would run past me on the street, then pause while I caught up, then run some more.  I love chukars.  And dang, they're fast.

My cute friend Tracy has some brilliant chore ideas.  We tried this one on Saturday and my kids asked (yes, ASKED) to do it again today.  Woo-hoo!

I had my neighbor and her kids to breakfast this morning.  I just texted her on the spur of the moment.  They ran down and we all had Swedish pancakes.

Since I've been told by my children oh so many times that last summer was terrible (and it kinda was), I told my kids that we're going to keep track of everything fun we do on a calendar so I can PROVE that it was a good summer.  I've already needed to pull it out and say, "No, it hasn't been a boring summer...SEE?  Here's PROOF."  And every day has had something fun.  Here's hoping it stays that way!

(Anyone else think having fun is hard work?)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Tightrope

I lost a preschooler today.

I was the co-op mommy helper at the U preschool.  Kate joined me.  She's been anxious to revel in all the preschool fun and has asked all year if she could help.  Today was the day.

During outside time I felt a sense of well-being.  The air was perfect June air: soft, warm enough to seek for shade but cool enough to enjoy, a gentle breeze blowing.  The preschoolers were humming around, painting with water, chasing each other in a game of Spiderman.  Ben "cleaned cars for customers" and "worked hard all day."

During line-up time before returning to the classroom, a little boy tripped and fell and burst into tears.  This little boy is The One.  You know The One.  There's One of them in every class.  One time I helped, he grabbed toilet paper from the in-room bathroom and ran screaming around and around, making a trail of paper behind him.  When I checked, I saw he'd already unwound two rolls in the bathroom itself.  He always has one teacher assigned to him because he runs away any chance he gets, or colors on a wall, or uses inappropriate language (which I find kind of funny, but shouldn't.  Like "Let go of my freakin' hand!")

So this little man tripped and fell and got hurt and broke into tears.  I happened to grab him first and he snuggled right into me.  His heavy, warm body and little boy smell triggered the mommy impulse and I went to work comforting him and loving him back to wellness.  He stopped being The One and became a boy to love in that minute, and I loved him.  (Isn't the mommy impulse a wonderful thing?  If only I could harness it and use it better as an actual mommy.)

Soon all was well.  We were heading back to class.  I put him on his two feet and made sure Ben and Kate were near and we returned for snack.  I felt all was right in the world.

Remember that part about him running away any chance he gets?  Well, I didn't remember.  I'd forgotten that he needed to be watched every single minute.  And I didn't remember until a few minutes later when his mom showed up with him and said, "He was outside on the front steps."

Totally my fault.  This little boy made his way OUTSIDE of the preschool building onto the front steps of a university campus and was just hanging out all by his lonesome.  My fault.  And suddenly all was not right in the world.  Every terrible scenario that might have played out ran through my head, and I felt the guilt pile on.  I hadn't watched closely enough.  I hadn't taken my responsibility seriously, and I didn't even have a glimmer of remembering to see if he had made it into the class with me.

On a normal day, I might have been able to shrug it off, make my apologies to the teacher and the mother (which I did anyway) and whisper a prayer of gratitude that everything hadn't gone horribly wrong.

Instead, I remembered that I KNOW things sometimes do go horribly wrong, that sometimes the stars align and tragedy results.  Just the wrong step, just the wrong choice, just turning the wrong way at an intersection, just diving under a waterfall at just the wrong moment.  I wish I didn't know this down in my bones.  I wish I hadn't learned this particular lesson.

Sometimes we're walking the tightrope and there's a lovely net underneath and when a mistake happens and we fall, we're caught in its happy threads.  And sometimes a mistake happens and there is no net.  None.  And the ground (or the water) is hard and unforgiving.  We never know when we fall off that tightrope whether or not the net will be there.  Today it was there, and I am so grateful.  But last year, on June 9th, it was achingly missing, and none of us have really been the same since.

Faith is getting back on that tightrope again and again and again.  Faith is believing that the net will be there when we need it to be, and when it's not there, that we will be given the strength to manage the fall and its consequences.  Most days I renew my faith, choose to get up on that rope again and keep moving.  But some days the fall seems too overwhelming, the chance for pain too great.  Today and for the next two days, I'm feeling the shifting of the rope under me, sensing my feet grip the cord and wanting to fall to my knees and hang on for dear life.

But instead, I'll go plan the barbecue we're having tonight.  I'll pray for my dear dear friend whose wonderful father died unexpectedly last week.  I'll clean the piano studio and put together the binders for my first piano students who arrive tomorrow morning.  And maybe in the living of life I'll be able to fall back into believing the fable that the ground under me is solid.  Because it's not.  It never is.  And it just takes losing a preschooler to remind me.