Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: A Letter to My 16 Year Old Self

For this Thursday's throwback, I decided to write my 16 year old self a little letter:

Dear Colleen,

I know you are probably lying on your bed right now doing one of two things: listening to Duran Duran's Come Undone and pretending you are a mermaid because if a mermaid lived, that is undoubtedly what she would listen to, or you are crying into your pink and black comforter over some dumb boy that lives down the street from you because he didn't call. Again.

Here's ten things I want to tell you, from the future you to the past me:

1. That nagging finger pressing on your heart that is telling you to change schools? Listen to it. The place you go to school now is horrible and you know it.  Remember when you broke your ankle and had to crawl up the stairs while everyone walked past you and laughed and no one offered to help you, not even to carry your books that you dragged behind you? That's the kind of place that high school is, unless you are a football player. Spoiler: you do not go on to play football. Of the high school or college variety.  Leave this place as soon as you can, and don't be afraid because the school you are going to is going to be the best place for you, and along the way you will find your faith strong and firm.

2. You have terrible friends right now.  Your friends at this awful school are all about the drama. They love to create it, they love to sink their teeth into each other and rip to shreds. They are losers who make themselves feel better by making others feel bad. In a few years, you will see Mean Girls and you will recognize not only them, but yourself, continually walking on eggshells as the girl whose father invented toaster strudels.  Cut them free. They don't matter, not one bit. Hang out with your one bestie and be content.  These people are narrow, and you are so full of life, quietly waiting behind your shyness. Don't let them suck the joy away like the happiness vampires they are.

3. Read more and be proud of it. You love to read, and you pretend not to, because reading isn't cool. Well, 15 years later, I'm here to tell you that reading is now VERY cool. YA books are awesome, way more awesome than they were back then, with the exception of the Giver, Hatchet and the Westing Game. Those scary R.L Stine books that you read under the covers and then can't sleep? Put those down. There are better things out there for you, books that won't give you vivid nightmares.  Reading is going to blow wide open for you in the same way it did in your childhood. You have so much to look forward to. Two words: Harry Potter.

4. Explore where you live.  You can fill your gas tank right now, in your adorable little Toyota, for just ten dollars. You have no idea how lucky you are. You should be taking all sorts of road trips but you're not.  In fact, you know very little about Colorado outside your ten mile radius. Seriously, get out more. There are so many cool things in this state.

5.  Be proud of your body! Trust me, you will never look like this awesome again, and you will never have this vibrant, bright, flawless youth. You, perfect just as you are, will spend so much time obsessing in the mirror because you are not as petite as Tanya the dancer.  You worry about each inch of your skin, and it's such a waste of time because you are healthy and beautiful.  Embrace that body and revel at all the cool things you can do. Cheer! Dance! Leap! And when that mean boy who has a Joffrey Baratheon haircut tells you that you can't wear that dress, you punch him right in the nose and tell him that he'll flunk out of college.

6. Take some risks.  Kiss that crazy boy on the ski slope.  Stay out late. Try out for that hard part in the musical, the solo in the choir, join the yearbook.  Also, don't be afraid to pursue your interests. I know that musicals, theater and journalism aren't as "cool" as cheer-leading, but here's the important thing: YOU HATE CHEER-LEADING.  You like the people, but hate the actual cheering. You don't tell anyone, but not only do you hate it, but you aren't very good at it.  You're actually quite crap. Quit while you are ahead and do something you love!

7. Do not have a super serious relationship in high school. This is maybe my most important piece of advice.  You will waste so much time, energy and heartache over this serious relationship.  You will pass over other boys, friends, family work and school opportunities just to catow to this relationship. Yes, you will fall in infatuation and for awhile, it will be great. But eventually this will become a dark anchor around your heart, and it will have consequences that follow you into college. Be free, be friends, be fierce, be a high schooler.  He's not the one. You're not the one for him.  To quote the great Florence and the Machine, a band that you will love later and is way better than Ace of Base: "Our love is pastured, such a mournful sound - Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground" Get out now and don't look back.

8.  Take a moment, get down on your knees and thank God that you did not go to high school in the era of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or apps called "Rate my Hotness."  

9.  Write more.  Write all the time.  Take that passion and soar with it.  Spend more time with your English teachers. Be proud of your writing and pay more attention during those boring grammar lectures. You'll need it someday, or you'll have to catch up later. Much later. Those fantastic stories that you imagine in your mind, your fingers curling and uncurling as you look at the stars, laying on the hood of your car, you should really write those down.  Someday stories will become how you make a living.

10.  When looking at college applications, don't take anyone else into account. Don't go where your friends go, or where you think you can drive home easily. And for goodness sakes, definitely don't think "I'll go where by boyfriend does" because that's maybe the WORST thing you can do.  Follow your dreams. Dream big. Go where your heart compels you.  (New York) Don't say you'll be a teacher because you dont' know what else to say.  Take the time to explore your career options.  Travel abroad after graduating, because you will never be free to do that in the same way later. Make new friends. Go to things. Don't stay in your room doing Tae-Bo or looking up ghost pictures.    

And last of all, give thanks to God for your wonderful family and the blessings that have showered you all your life. They continue in the most unexpected ways and you will be okay.  

Let me say that again: you will be okay.

PS - You should also be nicer to your little sister.  She's actually pretty cool, most of the time.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stretching The Heart & Forgetting The Days

Warning: the following is an introspective feeling dump fiesta. You've been warned.

This morning I walked (late, always late) into church, carrying LittleM who looked absolutely adorable in his hipster plaid shirt and khakis.  As I hastily grabbed my bulletin, I noticed that there were a lot of people in church for the eleven o'clock service. Then I noticed that they were all waving palm branches. That's when I noticed a tiny parade of very short people going in front of me, all waving their palm branches and singing "Celebrate Jesus, Celebrate."

That's when I realized that today is Palm Sunday, which is normally one of my favorite days of the church year.  Crap, crap, crap. That's all I could think as I made my way to one pew and then another.  How did I not realize that this Sunday was Palm Sunday?? I'm a pastors wife!Why did I not wear a dress?? Argh!

I feel like somewhere deep inside of me I realized that since next weekend is Easter, something that I vaguely know, that today would be Palm Sunday.   I mean, I do have decorated fake vintage Easter eggs up in my house. But the party of me that remembered this was a part of me that did not wake up this weekend.  In fact, the part of me that knows whats going on in the big world is not waking up very often.  Like, where did Spring go? Did I miss it?

My brain has two functions right now: Baby and book.  I'm either wiping poo off my cheek or am drinking something warm at my computer and becoming increasingly lost in Neverland.  It's a pretty great existence, but it leaves very little room for anything else.  I lose track of days.  Suddenly it's Thursday Friday and I'm like wait. WAIT. What?

I think this is pretty typical for new Moms, or at least that's what I've been told by people who want me to feel better about myself, not like I'm a flighty meercat in sweatpants who can't remember it's Palm Sunday. Thank goodness my husband did not forget, which would be bad, seeing how he is the pastor.

In addition to losing track of the high holy days, there is something weird in the air right now, like a changing of the internal guard.   I feel strange.  It feels lately like I'm watching my life from the outside in, like a creepy elf on the shelf. The good news is, I love it. Life is very, very good. Incredible. But it's still weird. Maybe this is what happens when the person you spend the most time with is a 9 month old OR a 16 year old psychopathic boy who can't age and flies.

It feels like change. Or maybe a mid-30's life crisis. 

Yesterday was the swap party. It went fabulously, mostly aided by my step-moms vast jewelry and shoe collection, but for some reason in the middle of the party I realized that this will be our last swap party for awhile. I had a great time, and so did my guests, but it had a finality to it that I didn't realize until it was happening.  It's not that I'm "over" the party, it's just that it's time to maybe not have it for a few years. Same with our annual Halloween party.  I'm just not feeling it. Something is churning inside. It is Chick-A-Fila.  It is a turning over of myself, as I cling to what I know.  That very desperate action turns it into something I feel like I can't lose. It's too bad, because it's coming.

 Maybe this is all too existential for this blog, but I'm having one of those moments where everything is moving around me and it all seems like a blur.  Moments of epiphany tend to be like that for me: things slow down, I'm an observer for a moment outside of time and than: bam! I know what I need to change or what's bothering me or the realization that I need to sob into a bag of M&M's for a few hours. 

Life is changing.  Life has changed. When you get a child seemingly overnight, you have very little time to reflect on what that means, but now that we are coming up on the year mark, I am reflecting on what that means.  I am thinking about what I want LittleM's life to look like and how our life has changed.  Everything is different now.  We have a son. I have multiple books. I have deadlines and commitments and contracts that I should look over now and then.  There is an unrest that is beating in my heart as the old me surrenders to the new me.

It is the sweetest surrender of all.

But it leads me to not remembering that its Palm Sunday.

My heart is flexing, testing.  Who am I now, as a wife, a mother, an author?  What should my days look like?  I'm shaking off one skin for another, the same person underneath, but with newly charged abilities and desires.  For so long, I was driven by the desire to be an author and a mother.  Now I am both those things, and I wonder what's next.  I have so many questions, both profound and trite.

Am I displaying the Gospel in the best way I know how? 
Is my heart in the right place? What maturing needs to happen NOW?
Am I being the best wife, mother, friend and author that I can be?
When can I have a Kentucky Derby party?
What should my writing goals be now?
Why is formula so expensive?
When can I travel again? Will I ever go to Europe?
What am I making for dinner?
What day is it?

I'll let you know when I figure everything in my life out.

Spoiler: It might be awhile.
Spoiler: Today is Palm Sunday.

What I'm listening to: I See Fire by Ed Sheeran
What I'm watching: Game of Thrones is on tonight? I hope Sansa gets a fancy headpiece, if you know what I'm saying....

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Queen of Hearts, The Movie

Every author dreams of the day their book becomes a movie, or better yet, when their book becomes a BBC Drama. 

 I wish that this was happening right now, and it still might, but until then, I have been asked several times who I would cast in the movie version of Queen of Hearts.

The answer is so long that it can only be addressed in a blog.

Well, first of all, let's talk about Dinah.  Dinah is a fierce little thing. She has a wounded heart and is at times both absolutely insecure and made of iron.   She has black hair, pale skin and red lips and could best be described as "handsome".   From the moment I started writing the book, I had one actress in mind for Dinah, and she was my inspiration throughout the series.

Mae Whitman.  You might know her from Arrested Development where she was Ann (Her?), or from Perks of a Wallflower (where she got dumped for Hermione), or most recently the weekly sob-inducing show Parenthood, where she plays Amber.  She was such a muse for me when I was writing Queen of Hearts that I even thanked her in the back of the book.

She must be my Dinah. She must be.

My only requirement when signing a movie contract will be that Dinah not be played by Kristen Stewart. EVER.

Next up, let's discuss your friendly neighborhood future Knave of Hearts, Wardley.  Wardley is a steadfast presence in Dinahs life.  A perfectly handsome and cheery antidote to the bitterness inside of Dinah, Wardley is both a talented fighter and a good friend.  While Mae Whitman was the only inspirational figure I used while writing the book, when Wardley comes to mind, the actor I have in mind appeared on my radar after seeing Les Miserables in the theater this year. Originally I had imagined Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the role, but he's too old. Old in the way that I am old, only, he's younger than me.  Wardley is a teenager on the verge of adulthood, just like Dinah.  Aaron Tveit was phenomenal in Les Miserables. Whenever he was on screen, I couldn't pay attention to anything else, not even whiny Marius.  He's the ideal Wardley.

Raise your hand if you don't want to see this guy on a white horse wearing knee high red riding boots.  Oh, no one? That's what I thought.

The other characters didn't require as much thought to cast.

As the devious Cheshire, I can't decide who I like more: Tom Hiddleston or Edward Norton.

Loki, or the scary guy from Primal Fear? (Best movie ever.) Both are terrific actors who I respect, both are handsome in that clever villain way.  Both could be the slippery and devious adviser of the King of Hearts. Both are the right age, immensely talented and could be ultimately terrifying in a purple cloak filled with daggers.

The King of Hearts, a big, brutal man who has a deep hatred for his daughter, could be played by Kenneth Branaugh. He's about the right age. For this one, I actually don't have an actor that I lean heavily towards - I'd be okay with Mark Addy, Ralph Fiennes, Clooney, Connery, Sean Bean....I'm sure none of these men are busy.

 Vittiore presents more of a challenge seeing how I would probably need a girl who could somehow play the older and younger Vittiore.  I could see Amanda Seyfried as the older Vittiore, but I'm leaning more towards Saoirse Ronan, who is an amazing actress and just the right age. She has that look of youthful innocence down perfectly, and I've been a fan of hers since Atonement.

Finally there's Harris- everyone's favorite tutor, guardian and cheerful protector of the history of Wonderland Palace, a lover of croquet and tarts:  I could see only Michael Caine in this part.  If he puts on a few pounds and a checkered vest that is.   If he's a good enough butler for Bruce Wayne, he's good enough for Dinah.'

Morte will be be played by a CGI Engineer named Dale.

And if Christopher Nolan is available to direct, fantastic.

My only sadness in this casting is that there isn't a role here for Christian Bale, far and away my favorite actor. Sure, he could be Cheshire - he could be anything - but it just doesn't seem to fit.  So because I can't find anything for him, I'm just going to post his picture at the bottom here, just because.

Isn't he amazing? Let's all sigh and think about it together.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Random Desirings for Spring/Summer 2014

I need want some things for Spring and Summer 2014.  Call them whims, but for some reason, these are the items I can't stop obsessing about. I'm crossing my fingers that I find them all at my swap party next week, but I'm guessing that won't happen. 

So if anyone just has these things lying around (unused of course), that would be fantastic. Let's make that happen.  If you do happen to have each of these things in just my sizes then you are awesome, but also a creeper and please don't wear my head as a hat.

Here are the things I'm drooling over right now...

1. Yellow Shoes.  Of the flat variety. Of the flip flop variety. Of the very low heel variety.  Might as well as throw in a yellow necklace as well. And maybe some yellow earrings. I have a navy blue dress that needs all these things.

2. Speaking of dresses...I'll take one of each of these cuties from Modcloth! I can't tell you how much I love this website.

3.  These are the books that I need to kick off this nice weather with a strawberry daiquiri in one hand and an Irish suntan on my face.


4. New Dishes.  We've had the same dishes for a very long time, and I'm just ready for some variety. I want to have dishes that I LOVE, dishes that speak to who I am now vs. who I was 10 years ago when we were poor and bought all our dishware at Big Lots. Like, who shops at Big Lots??  We have some beautiful white dishes that need bright, pretty counterparts to contrast them.  We need new glasses, as I have broken almost the entire 8 piece set of LOST glassware.  Sad day. So, it's time, but I also want to find all these things at thrift stores for 80 cents.

5. I am desiring nice make-up. I totally blame Erika over at Something Beautiful, because I want the good make-up that she rocks. I want to learn how to do my make-up like a grown up.  I'm going to start with the Naked Palette and Tarte Lipsurgence work my way up from there. I feel like that hilarious girl with the frizzy hair in Mean Girls: "Erika wears Tarte lipsurgence and army flip flops, so I WEAR Tarte lipsurgence and army flip flops."

6. I want a knitting book. I'm going to learn how to knit cute things. This might be more of a winter hobby, but I want to learn this summer so that I can make things FOR the winter. Because winter is coming. Listen to the Starks people. They might never be getting back together, but they know what's up.  And I want to knit things like they do in Winterfell.


LittleM is almost not going to be in bodysuits anymore. That makes me happy and want to sob all at the same time. 

That's about it! Not too much to ask from the Goodwill fairy, right?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

To Helmet or Not Helmet

For the record, parenting is always an up.  Even when it's bad, it's so very, very good.  Even when you are up at 3am, dead-exhausted, holding a sweaty screaming baby, you take a moment and smell his head and think "There is nowhere else I would rather be."  I mean, you also want to go to sleep, but you still feel blessed.  This last month was a little bit more stressful than not, only because we had to make some major decisions regarding LittleM's "Cosmetic" health.

*This was when he had a cold. Poor kid!*

We've noticed for awhile that LittleM has a flat head in the back. It's commonly called Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome)  It's not always noticeable, but it's pretty flat. It was already flattish when he was born because of his position in the womb, and it just never really popped out.  He sleeps on his back because he needs to sleep on his back (Face Up to Wake Up!) and in general loves playing on his back...only. He was always a good sleeper, which is another thing that kids who have Plagiocephaly have in common.  From the very beginning, we were putting him on his stomach for tummy time and he was rejecting it.  The kid HATES being on his stomach. He screams immediately and begins crying and then will attempt to roll over, even if you have put barriers in his way. He will will roll right over: your arm, the boppy, pool noodles, rolled up towels, whatever.   When we hold him on his stomach, it feels like we are torturing him by the nature of his screaming and crying. Eventually, he just gives up and lies motionless on the floor and stares at your with the saddest eyes you've ever seen and then your heart explodes in your chest.  This is how tummy time goes.  We were told that sometimes tummy time can be painful for bigger kids. He is a big kid. This makes sense.

We've tried our best to keep him off his back as much as possible, more so in the past three months when we noticed his head was getting pretty flat.  We talked to our pediatrician about it every time we went in and the advice was always the same "Just try to keep him off his back when you can while still having him sleep on his back.".   Earlier this month, LittleM had a cold that wouldn't shake and so we took him in to have his lungs listened to.  We met with another pediatrician since ours wasn't available and he took one look at our gorgeous son and said "You might want to meet with someone about his flat head."

Okay then. (Note to readers: first person to comment with "I noticed LittleM had a flat head!" is going to get a gigantic eye-roll from this side of the computer.)

We ended up at the children's hospital here in Denver.  I couldn't have been more nervous about our meeting. Ryan had a Lent service, and so I made my way downtown and into this massive building with complicated parking and tons of kids.  It sounds strange, but actually being in the hospital made me mellow out. I saw children that were in the hospital for much more serious things than a somewhat flat head.  It was a reminder that we are in-expressively blessed already, and that holding a healthy baby is a gift beyond words, something many parents there would die for.  It reminded me that LittleM's flatish head is a VERY small problem in comparison. It's almost nothing.

*Before you ask, I'm not sure what's going on with his pants in this picture.*

 I waited a bit before meeting with the neurosurgeon and the head of children's plastics.  I was very intimidated by both of them as they both looked like supermodels and they were doctors and one was probably younger than me, and for some reason that makes me feel like I haven't done anything productive with my life.  The Dr's measured his head, looked at his spine and chest and ears and neck.  They asked about his milestones, his development. Then they had good news: "We don't think it's affecting his development"  "Or cuteness!" one of them added.

"It's purely cosmetic."

This was very good news. I asked them about what our next step is, meaning, helmet or no helmet.  This flat head thing isn't new. It's becoming much more common in children now that the SIDS recommendations is 100% to putting babies on their back to sleep.  I've read many, many, many blogs about helmets vs not using helmets.  It's a lot of information, so here I was offering up my child so they could tell me what to do. I was relieved. Finally, the experts were here!
They looked at me and then the basic recommendation of my two VERY intimidating surgeons was literally: "It's cosmetic, so it's up to you if you want a helmet, but we believe that with aggressive positioning it could fix itself."

I wanted to cry when they said that and almost did. I thought it would be a solid, forceful: "YES, he needs a helmet, or NO, he doesn't need a helmet."  Instead, it's handed back to us, which is what I didn't want. It felt like such a big choice:  put LittleM in a helmet for 6-8 months (not the three that was originally floated), a helmet that he'll get used to yes, but a helmet that he sleeps in and wears 23 hours a day.  It was that or try the "aggressive positioning".  It was a hard choice.  Both the surgeons and our pediatrician recommended the positioning, but Ryan and I couldn't help but feel like, "what if we make the wrong choice??"  Over and over again we looked at the options, looked at the paperwork.  There was much Internet research done, many people talked to. We kept going back on our choice. Our window is very small as his skull continues to grow.  The what-ifs were overwhelming.

In the end, after many conversations with many smart people and lots of prayer, we decided not to helmet.  The reasons?  1. We took the recommendation of the neurosurgeons and our pediatrician.  This is why they went to medical school and I didn't. Why do we ask if we don't trust?  2. There is no scientific proof that the helmet works better than aggressive repositioning in a case like LittleM's. 3. If that's the case, why put your child into a helmet when you don't have to? Why give him his formative, roly-poly baby years in a helmet? I know that he would still be my happy, hilarious little boy with a helmet. But if he doesn't have to have one, why do it?

 Now, just to be clear, I am not speaking for every child. I am speaking about my child. Helmets are very needed for some children especially when the plagiocephaly affects the ears, eyes or side of the head.  It's absolutely right for some parents.

Luckily, LittleM was not one of those children with a severe case.

I'm happy to report that the positioning is working. He has a new bump on the back of his head that is new, as his skull grows outward. He has three small bulges at the back of his neck where the skull is expanding.  We are still fighting hard for tummy time (one hour a day of holding him while he cries and we try to distract with everything at our disposal). During the day, he isn't on his back until he is sleeping. We repositioned him in the crib, we change which way he faces on the changing table, in his high chair, in the bumbo, everything. We bought a neck pillow to prop his head forward when he is in a position (like the car seat) where his head will be pushed flat. We are doing this thing, hardcore.

And it's working.   We have another appt with our pediatrician to make sure, but I'm feeling good.  As my Mom put it, "Honey, this is just one of many hard choices you will have to make about your child as they grow older."

But that smile? Worth it. So worth it.   I'm CRAZY about this kid.

And I'll keep you all updated how it goes.

Update: I talked to my friend Ash who works at that unit at Children's Hospital, and she made me feel a lot better about our decision.  She reinforced everything we decided and I could have wept with relief.  Also, a pediatric chiropractor has been suggested, so we are going to look into that, as I have had only positive experiences with that branch of medicine, except when they tried to convert me to Mormonism.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Reviews: Fangirl, The Rosie Project and Red Rising

Book Reviews:


FanGirl:  Coming off a very serious read (Life After Life), I was glad to escape to this little corner of Cath's life.  I loved LOVED Eleanor and Park, and I was so excited to read Fangirl. It didn't disappoint, and I tore through the novel with the same abandon that I did E&P.  I loved Cath's character, and as a sister, I really appreciated the insight into a realistic sister relationship that ebbs and flows with life's milestones. I could have used a bit bigger climax, but overall I was enchanted with the characters, the intricate family life portrayed and the interesting commentary on fan fiction, which definitely made me think.


The Rosie Project:  The Rosie Project was an absolute DELIGHT to read. It was light, it was hilarious, it was different and fresh, and I couldn't help but fall in love with Don. I think for me it was one of the best looks into the mind of mental illness - it's beauty and confusion - that didn't stuff the character into a convenient box of textbook diagnoses. The love story could be called adorable, but it also could be called devastating. I laughed out loud many times, but I hope never to meet Don and have my BMI Stats called out. "Feel-good novel" is often thrown about, but this truly was a novel that made me feel good all over, like a box of unique chocolate. (Don would not approve.)


Red Rising: Where to even start with this book?  I'm almost at a loss of words on how to describe this. In fact, I had a hard time explaining it to a friend, but finally ended up with "It's like The Hunger Games for smart grown ups."  Brutal. Ruthless. Genius. These are words I would use for Red Rising, but it's so much more than that. A promising start to a delicious series.  A tongue-in-cheek commentary on our society. A poetic vision of the future that is equal parts glorious ambition and terrible depravity.  If I had to rank this book using the future class system from Red Rising, it would be Solid Gold.  Once you read the book, you'll know exactly what that means.
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