The Life of Bon: June 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

On my birthday eve.

In celebration of my birthday, I am selling all medium and small ads for 20% off for July.  One day ad sale only!  I will be switching up all advertising options starting in August so get in now!  Email me at TODAY if you are interested!  Ad info can be found here.

Tonight I am 27.

Tomorrow I will be 28.

28 feels like the year that the whole ball game changes.  The year I become a mom, the year Greg and settle into a home, the year that we finally really truly become adults.  It feels like a year to learn to love my own company, a year to slow down and read more books, a year of less to-do lists.  28 will certainly have some growing pains as I adjust to a new life, to new priorities, to new skin.  But even the growing pains seem to carry with them the promise of love and satisfaction and incredible joy.

I'm excited and ready for 28.  One of the sweet surprises of life is that I have found every year to be better than the last.  I loved being 19, but 20 was better.  23 was so much fun, but 24 showed me love I've never seen before.  I thought 26 was the best year of my life until I knew 27.  So here I am, on my birthday eve, more than ready for 28 to knock at my door.

That being said, I don't want to shoo 27 out without a proper send off.  Any good year needs a good good-bye.  27 was great to me, treated me just right, spoiled me even.  27 felt like a gift.  Like God was saying to me "this year is so that you know how much I love you."

Somehow I knew going in that the year would be unusually good to me.  I could feel it.  In my birthday post a year ago I wrote this about turning 27:  "The age feels good on me.  Like it fits.  You know when you try on a terrific new pair of jeans, and they fit just perfectly over your hips and butt and they button up so comfortably and look just totally stunning on every part of you?   27 feels like a time to buckle down and grow up- a time to think about retirement plans and buying a house and babies.  And it fits."

That's not to say the year has not been without its difficulties.  I struggled immensely to adapt to working at a new school.  Spiritually I felt more confused and conflicted than ever before as I watched my religion make headlines over issues such as gay marriage and women's rights.  My best friend moved to California, the last of my college roomies to say goodbye and make another state her home.  This blog itself experienced some growing pains as I tried to write authentically and honestly about my life while still respecting the privacy and desires of the people I interact with daily.   I suffered this spring when I was told that the AP Lit class that I poured blood and sweat into wouldn't be offered next year.

But even those difficulties seemed to give 27 its sweetness.  I think I liked 27 so much because 27 was the year that I finally stopped being afraid.  Actually that's not true.  I'm always afraid.  But I stopped allowing my fear to make the decisions for me.  I took risks I've always wanted to, but been too afraid to take in the past.  I learned what it felt like outside of my comfort zone.  27 was my yes year.

Exactly one year ago I put aside my fear when Greg begged to try to start a family.  Going off birth control was a decision that has always absolutely terrified me.  But when we found out we were pregnant in November, there was no more fear, only absolute joy.  

I was scared when I said yes to a new teaching position- I left behind the school that was comfortable and easy, and switched to a new school with a different way of doing things.  I took on an AP class that I was scared out of my mind to teach (and certain that I was under qualified for).  I took it a day at a time and somehow figured it out (ish) and in May when I said goodbye to those eight kiddos, I held back tears.  

I put aside my fear long enough to take on a student teacher, an experience that helped me grow and reflect on my teaching in a way nothing else ever has.  I felt a kinship with the other teachers in my department.  I finished the year feeling happy and 100% confident in my decision to switch schools. What's more, Greg was hired as the full time theater teacher at my school starting in the fall, allowing me to go part time for next year.

I was scared when Greg and I made an offer on a new home a month ago.  We will now owe a bank a terrifying truckload of money, but we did it!  We made an offer on a home!  We stopped renting!  We stopped throwing money down the toilet each month and tried to make some smart investment decisions.  Yes I'm still scared!  But we did it!

I was terrified when we got a dog in October.  I've never wanted a dog, but I said yes anyway, and somehow I've fallen completely head over heels in love with my teddy bear poodle.  In February I started writing a book, a silly little project I've wanted to do for years, but always felt too stupid or too inept or too hopelessly naive to really tackle.  But I started it and am writing it now, and no matter what happens with it in the future, I will always be grateful that I at least attempted it.  

I suppose that has been the theme for 27 .  A goodbye to fear and a hello and welcome to new opportunities, experiences, people, and blessings.  A year of yes and a year of less fear and a year full of incredible joy, love and satisfaction. 

Thank you, 27.  

You are now dismissed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

June Book Club: Matilda

Alright gals, it's book club time!  This post was originally supposed to go up for Thursday but it got postponed to Friday.  One day late never hurt anyone, right? (If you are new around here and want to join in for book club, it's super easy!  Just read the book and then come back here on the last Thursday of the month to discuss.  Full details are here.)

 (If you link up I'd love you to slap this image on your post somewhere.  Please and thank you!)

2014 Book Club Schedule:

January: The Husband's Secret by Liane Mortiary (January 30)  Discussion here.
February:  I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (February 27) Discussion here.
March: Divergent by Veronica Roth (March 27) Discussion here.
April:  Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern (April 24) Discussion here.
May:  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (May 29). Discussion here.
June:  Matilda by Roald Dahl (June 26)
July:  In Cold Blood  by Truman Capote (July 24)
August:  Brain on Fire:  My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (August 28)
September:  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (September 25)
October:  Z by Therese Ann Fowler (October 23)
November:  Wonder by R.J. Palacio (November 20)
December: My Story by Elizabeth Smart (December 30)

You are welcome to answer any or all of these questions.  (Or none of them.  Do whatever you want, people.  I'm not your English teacher!)  I've decided to limit questions for the book to five questions each month- that way it can get our brains moving without being too overwhelming or burdensome.  I answer some of the questions below, not all of them, and I jump around and do whatever I please.  Feel free to follow suit.

+ What do you like more or less about reading a children's book as compared to adult fiction?

+ What did you like or dislike about Roald Dahl's writing style?
+ Were the characters over the top to you or did that not matter to you?  Did you have trouble "buying" the story?

+ Did the story seem too grim or dark for children?
+ For those who have read the book and seen the movie- what are the strengths of the different mediums?  Which one did you like better?   (Has anyone seen the Broadway musical?  I'd love to hear how that is!)


I LOVED reading Matilda this month.  It felt so light and easy and I guess that is kind of what I needed for this first month of summer.  When I was a little girl I read all of Roald Dahl's books- he was one of my favorites.  It's crazy to revisit a book 15 years later and rediscover why you loved it so much the first time.  In a way it was kind of magical for me to reread this book and to fall in love all over again with a book and an author that made me fall in love with reading in the first place.


Dahl is hilarious.  His quick wit and charming voice is unmatched in children's authors.  He can be a little bit biting- he's just a tad on the darker side and I love it.  (The book starts out talking about how all parents think their kids are awesome, but how most of the time the kids are total brats and the parents are too stupid to know it.  I was reading this on the airplane and I couldn't help but start to laugh out loud... the man is just hilarious:   "It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers.  Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that we or she is wonderful... School teachers suffer a good deal from having to listen to this sort of twaddle from proud parents."  Yes!  Yes we do!) 

One thing I love about children's books is how fast they read- give yourself two hours and you will have downed Matilda in its entirety.  Both of my older sisters are so good about reading with their children, and reading Matilda this month made me really excited for the day when I can read books with my kids.  It's such a great story for children who are just diving into chapter books, and I think it captures the magic of reading.  Such a great book to instill a love for reading.


The main thing that normally  turns me off to a book or an author is if I don't relate to the characters or I don't think the characters are believable.  This, however, didn't bother me at all in Matilda.  The majority of the characters are somewhat ludicrous- the mother who plays bingo all day, the dad who puts sawdust in the engines of the car he sells, the terrible Ms. Trunchbull who throws children by their pigtails.  All characters are totally over the top and unbelievable. (The principal for sure would be fired within days!)  And then you have the opposite- the characters who are all good.  The darling Ms. Honey who is so sweet and perfect; Matilda, the angel who can read and understand whole novels at the age of four...  Usually I roll my eyes at characters like this.

But not in this book.  I think the reason I didn't mind that the characters were so over the top in Matilda is the fact that it's a children's book, and I saw it as a portrayal of the characters from a child's viewpoint.  To a kid of four or five, everyone is either all bad or all good.  The kids don't understand nuances or subtleties yet- there is no understanding for or reasoning behind why the bad characters do what they do, and the good characters have no flaws whatsoever.  This black and white portrayal of the characters reflects children's understanding of people.  I don't think we understand the complexities of people until we are much older (and even then, many adults still prefer to see people as all bad or all good).  Because of that, I loved how terribly evil Mrs. Trunchbull and the parents were portrayed.  Of course they were that evil, this is the story about a five year old girl and in her mind people can be that cruel and unrelenting.  On the flip side, people can be so good that they border on saints- like Ms. Honey.


I don't have kids yet and my standards might be a bit different when I do, but I don't mind the darkness in the book at all.  Yes, the principal is locking kids in a standing-only-with-spikes-all-over closet, but to me it doesn't touch anything that would make me seriously concerned for a child reading it.  I am interested what moms think, though- would you feel comfortable reading this to your six or eight year old?


While I don't think the movie adaptations of Dahl's books are horrible, (Witches, Charlie and Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda) I also don't think they come close to capturing the wit or humor of the books.  Dahl's voice is totally lost in the movies which is why I think everyone should read the books.  They are so easy and fun and that magic is lost in the movies.  (The scene where Trunchball throws Lavendar by the pigtails in the book is hilarious and witty.  In the movie it's just kind of weird.)

Leave your comments below!  If you wrote your own post for Matilda, make sure to leave the link and I'll do my darndest to read all posts and respond to all comments.  Even if it's been years since you read Matilda or you only saw the movie, you can still comment!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hi! It's been a while! Let me reintroduce myself!

I don't know how to blog about vacations.  I've got no talent for it.  How do people make it interesting? Traveling is a weird paradox- it's the absolute most interesting thing to do and the absolute most boring thing to hear about other people doing.  So I'm open to suggestions for how to make my vacation posts interesting.  Really I am.  I've got 400 pictures and 17 days of vacation to talk about- now someone just tell me how to do it without putting everyone to sleep!

 Because of that, I'm going to hold off on the real vacation posts until next week.  I know that's kind of lame, but seriously, I am struggling to figure out how to blog about it all and keep it interesting and not too cathedral/castle/waterfall heavy.  You know.

I feel like I've been gone from my blog for so long that tonight I want to just write.  I feel like a re-introdcution is in order.  Oh, a reintroduction!  This should be fun!

Let's start with the basics.  My name is Bonnie.  Bonnie is my full name- people often ask if it is short for something like Bonarrhea.  No, my name is not short for Bonarrhea, but thanks for asking!  I'm named after my grandma who was a crazy and wildly fun lady who always told me that if I don't like the boy I'm on a date with that I should still put my hand on his knee just for practice.  I'm very proud to carry her name and do everything I can to emulate her fun and loving personality.  Because I'm named after my grandma, it's a bit of an old fashioned name...not a lot of young folk today sport the name.  But a lot of old folk do!  Anytime I tell someone my name is Bonnie they inevitably reply with, "Oh!  My mom's/aunt's/grandma's name is Bonnie!"  Everybody raise your hand if your mom/aunt/ grandma is named Bonnie.  See.  I told you.  I once dated a guy and BOTH of his grandmas were named Bonnie.  Yes, we knew quickly that that was never going to work out.

Above is a picture of me smiling like a genuine creepo.  In case you didn't catch on, I am currently growing a small human inside of me.  Very small, in fact.  She's nowhere near as big as she should be so I get extra doctor's appointments and extra ultrasounds just to make sure that everything is good in the hood with the baby.  So far it is.  I think she just likes to be a little bit high maintenance and get extra attention.  In other words, she's going to make a very easy baby.

The baby was mostly my husband's idea.  In a moment of pure insanity last summer, he suggested we go off birth control.  It sounded daring and adventurous, two things I love, so I agreed.  We could not be happier (or more scared!) now to be welcoming a baby girl in four weeks.  The fact that we are willingly embarking on this voyage of parenthood tells you that we are either two very giving, loving people or two complete idiots.  I'm not a betting woman, but if I was, I'd put my money on the latter.

My middle name is Louisa.  It's pronounced Lou-wise-uh not Lou-wheeze-uh.  People always mispronounce it... my own sister asked me a year ago how it was pronounced, so that was awesome.

My maiden name is Blackburn.  I married the last name Larsen which is also pretty awesome, but I am already sick on the -on or -en question and I'm only three years into the name.  I would have stuck with Blackburn for life if my husband hadn't been so dang excited for me to take his name and if it wasn't an absolute nightmare to have a different last name as your husband and kids. Blackburn just sounds so tough and legit, don't you think?  My first year of teaching I loved being Ms. Blackburn- it sounded like the type of teacher who would never let students hand in late work or take any of their bullcrap excuses.  Mrs. Larsen sounds soft and loving, which I guess is good too, but sometimes I miss the severity of Blackburn.

I really love writing this blog although I have no right to own a blog, if you want to know the absolute truth.  I don't cook well, my photography sucks, and I'd rather watch reality tv any day than delve into the unknown abyss of a diy project.  But I like to write and I like to connect with people so I guess the internet humors me by letting me keep my blog.  I grew up with seven siblings and had to fight to get a words in edgewise- now I keep fighting to have my voice whether or not others are fighting with me.  Along the blogging way I have made some friends, and I think there's a few people out there who check back on the daily to make sure I haven't killed one of my students or burned down my house with a pot roast yet.  As my best friend says, "I read your blog because sometimes it's kind of interesting."  So here's to reading a blog that is sometimes kind of interesting! 

I'm married to a white skinned, brown eyed ginger boy whom I affectionately call Greg.  I never thought I'd fall hard and fast for a redhead, but did I ever!  Something about his charm.  Either that or his Scottish accent. You can read our weird love story here and here if you are into weird love stories about perfect strangers. 

This is a picture of us in front of a waterfall in Switzerland.  We saw a lot of waterfalls on our trip- Greg got kind of "waterfalled out."  His motto is "You've seen one waterfall, you've seen them all."  Also his motto for castles.  And museums. And cathedrals.

If you want to read more about me and my pretty normal life, then don't you worry, there is more for such a brave soul as yourself.  You can check out my Best of Bon section or any of the posts on my right sidebar are pretty big hits with readers.  I've really loved doing this reintroduction of sorts.  Maybe I'll make it a monthly thing?  Here here!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back to my bloggy home!

Well, folks.  Looks like we're back in the saddle.   Back in the blog saddle.  It feels good.  After 2 1/2 weeks off from blogging, I'm not entirely sure I remember how to ride, but we'll give it a go.

Greg and I got home from our big trip to Europe last night.  Our plane landed about 8:30 and it was all we could do to get in the car, roll through Costa Vida for some dinner, and drive ourselves home.  We about dang near collapsed into bed at 9:30 (9:30 pm in Utah is 5:30 am in Germany.  We felt like it was the middle of the night!)  Then, this morning, I couldn't force myself to sleep in past 6 am.  I tried.  Believe me I tried!  But my stomach was grumbling up a storm.  I was fiercely hungry, and by 6:30 I gave up on sleep and listened to my body that so rudely demanded food instead.  I put a load in the laundry and ran to the grocery store.  (The drawbacks to a long vacation- absolutely no edible food in the house when you get back!)

Who knew?  The grocery store is empty as can be at 7 am.  I had the place to myself!  Just me and the dude stocking shelves.  By golly, I might be switching up my routine to morning grocery shopping runs.  It was a grocery shopping dream this morning.  It beats the heck out of fighting the mobs for a measly loaf of bread in the evening- you know how it is.

When I got home about 7:30, Greg was awake and cleaning the kitchen.  We both hate mornings.  The fact that we were both willingly awake before 7 am on a day that neither of us had to work... really, it could only be jet lag.

It's amazing to have so much energy in the morning.  Really it is!  We did three loads of laundry, cleaned out the fridge, cleaned and organized the whole apartment, unpacked all our suitcases, and did the grocery shopping all before 10 am!  Jet lag- don't mind if I do!

There is a lot to say about our trip.  Vacations our awesome.  Vacations are also very exhausting.  I feel like I've been working on a quarter tank for the past month, and I am ready to do nothing for the next five weeks but sit on my couch in my air conditioned apartment and wait for baby.  You can come sit with me if you want.  All are welcome!

I will post more about our vacation.  But not today.  Because it's 9:45 pm and usually you'd think a woman would have at least a little energy left this time of night, especially when she has summers off and has no kids and can do whatever she wants all day every day.  But this woman does not have energy.  Not a bit.  So I believe I shall lie here and catch up on The Bachelor. You don't mind, do you? Tomorrow there shall be a nice long post, I promise you that!

In the mean time, I've got Jenny here to tell you a little about her blog and her reasons for blogging.  I know it's hard to always believe what a blogger says before a guest post because, hey, it's sponsored, I'm being paid to tell you to read this blog.  But the truth is I'd tell you to read Jenny's blog sponsor or no sponsor because this girl has got it going on.  I love her outlook on life and the way she views writing and blogging.  She just gets it, you know?  She is a spectacular blogger and you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't read her guest post and then click over to her blog.

You may now proceed.


Oh, hello, there. I was just sitting here reading my book, and you caught me by surprise. But now that I have your ear (eyes, really), allow me to introduce myself. Okay, so I'm not being entirely honest here. You didn't actually catch me by surprise. But unfortunately, every other intro I have come up with so far screams, "I paid to be here today". Ignoring that fact feels kind of awkward to me. It's like the blog equivalent of a weak handshake. And nobody likes that. But the real truth about my being here today is this: I am excited. I've been looking forward to being here all month. I am excited because the people who like Bonnie and this space she has created are the people who like books and joyfulness and not taking themselves too seriously. I'm all about that. And I am honored to have your attention for these few moments. Do you want to know something? I once thought my calling was in the political world but then realized my true love in life is writing. Being in your twenties is full of surprises, I have found. I moved from Oklahoma to Washington, D.C. five years ago to pursue my short-lived political career. I still live in the D.C. area, but I don't work in politics anymore. Ever seen House of Cards? Yeeeeeah. Instead, I work in the un-glamorous private sector and write a blog called Jeneric Generation, which is surprisingly much more fulfilling than my former life. This is what I look like standing in front of the White House, in case you wanted to know. Five years I've lived here, and I still get giddy walking past our national monuments.

So what do I write about on Jeneric Generation (remember when you asked me that right after you interrupted my reading session?)? My theme quote for my blog, and everything I write, is this one by C.S. Lewis: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Doesn't that make you want to stop wasting time and start enjoying everything that life has to offer? I write so that I might understand the meaning of a holiday at the sea. I write about writing a lot, because it is a source of both great joy and great frustration for me. If you are a writer, I know you understand. I write tongue-in-cheek (shhhh) guides to being jealous the right way, and instructions on how to kill creativity. One of my favorite posts is the one I wrote about how it ended with my husband (it's not what you think). What I love about blogging is that it continually teaches me that none of us are as original as we think. We are all so similar when you get down to it. And when we all make ourselves vulnerable in our writing, we are not only comforted by the familiarity of each other's words, but we also grow in our understanding of the world. And isn't that exciting? I really do hope you stop by Jeneric Generation and say hello. I would love to meet you! At the very least you could find me on twitter and apologize for surprising me at the beginning of this post.

Before I go, I am going to leave you with the first part of the story I am writing about how I met my husband after I moved to D.C. Sound like a plan? It's one of my favorite stories:

"So it goes like this: In the fall of 2010, I was dating another guy. Isn't that how all good love stories start?  I had been in Washington, D.C. for almost a year, and hadn't so much as gone out on one date. There was this time when this completely self-absorbed guy asked me out after walking up the stairs behind me (ew), and didn't really get it when I said, “I don’t go out with strangers.” And there was this other time that this guy walked me home after an embarrassing non-purchase at a corner store where I walked up to the counter with my Ben and Jerry’s, and then realized I didn't have my wallet. The guy behind me didn't offer to pay (although he did ask if I needed to borrow some money….who borrows money from strangers?), and then somehow ended up walking the mile back to my house with me. (Don’t worry: when that guy left I promptly retrieved my wallet and walked 8 blocks to a different corner store to get Ben and Jerry’s. Oh, and the dude was harmless.)

Needless to say, I didn't have any expectations. I didn't really like any of the guys in D.C. As the chief of staff in my office used to said, “D.C. guys are all taken because they are all in love with themselves.” Of course, there are the exceptions, but they are few and far between. Or married."

Read the rest here! Thank you, Bonnie, and Bonnie's readers, for letting me take up a few minutes of your day! I've had fun. And now, back to my book. ;)  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ode to Summer

Post originally written one year ago- June 2013.  Funny how much some things change and how much some things never change.

Summer has a purity and a beauty of its very own, don't you agree?  It is like no other season.  It stands bold and fierce, burning even, but offers the very best of everything. Long nights and lazy mornings.  Swimming pools and fourth of July weekends.  Camping trips and family vacations.  Ghost stories and campfires and flip flops and sunglasses and tan tan legs.

I have been off for summer and Greg has been in between jobs and getting ready to start his graduate program.  Therefore, we were both free as the wind for a week.  We went to the water park, we feasted on shaved ice, we slept out on the tramp, we roasted mallows over a camp fire, we went to the movies, (Man of Steel- I was unimpressed.  What's with all the punching?), we tried some golfing, we visited with family, and we told ghost stories to our little hearts' content.

In short we lived the pure, unadulterated summer life of a child.  And it was glorious.  I wish it were somehow possible to take a week every year in the summer to just be little kids again.  To do summer the way eight year olds do... in the most carefree and innocent way possible, with no responsibilities and no burdens, just one long hot summer day followed by another.

Greg will start up a new job this week, and then the first week of July he will start his master's program in marriage and family therapy and before you know it, it'll be August and I'll be back teaching them little rugrats.  We will get busy again and the days won't be slow or long or carefree.  They'll be busy and hectic and all other things that life can get, and these long, summer days will be just a distant memory.  Some dreary day in January, when I'm scraping ice off my windshield and feeling stressed and busy and oh so overwhelmed, I will wonder, "Why can't life just be simple and easy and fun again?"

And I'll remember this week.

Sleeping out on the tramp.  The flash... it was a bit bright.

Blogger's Roundtable #4.  One of the most stimulating and interesting hours of my life.  These girls are incredible and I loved talking so in depth about the power of writing and how to become better writers.  I left totally invigorated and motivated. (From left to right, Suzzie, Kimberly, Tayler, Aubrey)

It's when I look at pictures like this I wonder when I became the type of person that takes pictures of dogs.  But who can deny how cute he is?  All ready to head up for a weekend of fun with Greg's parents.

The second time in my life I have played golf.  I was awful.  Absolutely awful.

Summer evenings.  One of my favorite things in the world.

Carrying both sets of clubs.  What a stud.

And of course, a picture of Greg with his old man for Father's Day.  Gary's hair is pretty much always sticking up like that, and that is only one of the many reasons why we're so crazy about him.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The day I turned 27

My birthday is around the corner.  One reason I love this blog is it allows me to see what I was doing a year ago, two years ago, three.  To see how I have grown and changed.  This is what I wrote almost a year ago- the day I turned 27.

Today I am 27.

The age feels good on me.  Like it fits.  You know when you try on a terrific new pair of jeans, and they fit just perfectly over your hips and button up so comfortably and look just totally stunning on every part of you?

That's what 27 feels like.

I liked 26.  I really did.  Probably the happiest year of my life.  It was fun and playful and involved making lots of big decisions about our future.  In a way, I suppose, 26 feels like the end of the play years.  27 feels like a time to buckle down and grow up- a time to think about retirement plans and buying a house and babies.  And it fits.

I feel so incredibly blessed on this birthday.  I don't say that to show you how great my life has been compared to all of your sub par lives, but because the truth is I think we are all so incredibly blessed.  I feel like there are blessings beyond measure, beyond counting, beyond what we will ever have the capacity to recognize.

So for my birthday I present to you, 27 things I am grateful for today.

1.  My husband and his playful attitude.  He makes me laugh every single day and I adore him.  I'd be so lost without him.

2.  My mom who has taught me about incredible strength, faith, and the power of serving others.  I learn from her every day.
3.  My dad who taught me to work hard, to recognize God in my life, and the simple joy of a cherry coke.
4.  My seven siblings who never stop teasing me but never stop looking out for me either.
5.  My body that lets me run and play and doesn't get tired.
6.  Writing and the power it gives me.  The ability to rest my thoughts, to understand the world through writing, to record my life.
7.  My niece, Josie, who has round, chubby cheeks and asks me to paint her toenails.

8.  The belief I have in a higher power and the strength and peace that that has given me in my hardest moments.
9.  Ghiradelli's milk chocolate.
10.  My mind that never rests, that wants to do everything at once, that has big crazy ideas like writing on a blog every day.
11.  This blog and the people who read it.  The people who leave thoughtful comments and send love, and even the lurkers who read but never say a peep.
12.  My students and their sassy attitudes and their crappy papers and their great big hearts.

13.  My voice that is so totally awful- that couldn't carry a tune if my life depended on it- but that will perfect to me when I belt a song alone in my car.
14.  Running water and clean water and hot water.
15.  My time in Argentina and the people I left there.  Their faith, their courage, and their constant teasing me over my American accent and my bright blonde hair.

16.  Books and books and more books.  To travel to another world, another time by turning pages.  To understand a culture, an idea, a lifestyle.  To read something that is so profound and beautiful and that you swear you have thought before, just never knew how to say it.
17.  In laws who love me like their own daughter and sister, who accept me into the family, who raised a fine red head for me to marry.

18.  People who stop and ask you if you're okay when you're pulled off to the side of the road.
19.  Friends that are as close as sisters- that will do anything for you, that you know you can count on no matter the situation, that practically share your heart.

20.  Handwritten notes.
21.  Cuddles and hugs and kisses and handholds and backscratches.
22.  Summer and long, hot days and campfires and vacations and chocolate that melts in the car.

23.  A country that lets me wear what I want, wake up when I want, work where I want, marry who I want, worship how I want.
24.  My mom's home cooking.
25. The ocean and the mountains and the trees and the sunsets and the beauty of the world we live in.

26.  Skinny jeans that make you feel like a million bucks.
27.  The people that surround me, that love me, that make this life worth living.  That put up with my crappy moods, my crazy schemes, my fits of anger.  For love and charity and peace and beauty and all those things that make life so great.

For my birthday, I would like nothing more than for you to leave a comment telling me what you are grateful for today.  Mounds of happy, grateful comments will make this day complete for me.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Scams and vacation mishaps

Turns out preparing to leave for Germany is only the tip of the iceberg for how stressful it can get when you're preparing for vacation.  How could I forget about this that happened a year ago?

Originally written and published August 2013.
I got scammed out of $1,100.  That is money I worked my butt off for and it is money I will never see again.  It happened in mid June and I wanted to write about it.  I wanted to let my blog feel how devastated I was, to share with strangers my story, to let my fingers heal the experience through the writing of it.

But I couldn't.  I don't know why, but I can't write well when I am highly emotional.  I have to be in a calm state of mind.  To some extent I have to detach myself from the experience to be able to write about it.  The first time I mentioned my dad's death on this blog was two years after he died.  It took me that long to be emotionally ready to write about it.

That is why I haven't written yet about how I got scammed.  I decided to give it a couple weeks before I was ready.  Then a couple more.  And maybe one more.

Now I feel ready.  Mostly I need some kind of closure on the experience- to tell it in its fullest and then move on forever from the experience.

There are two versions of this story and I'm not sure which one you want to hear so I will tell them both to you.

Version #1:  The short version-

I got scammed out of $1,100

Version #2: The long version-

In March, Greg and I decided to go to Hawaii with Greg's family.  His brother and wife would be moving out of state and it seemed like a good opportunity to gather us all together for some quality bonding time before they bailed on us.  I didn't want to get ripped off on some crappy hotel in Waikiki, and since I had lived in Hawaii before I figured I would take it upon myself to find us a place to stay.

There were three couples and no kids-  a condo would be perfect.  I googled "rent condo on Oahu" and went to some classic safe "rent a condo" sites like airbnb and homeaway.

I clicked on this link and thought the place looked nice- especially for $1,500 for the week.  That would only be about $500 a couple.  Score!

Looks, great, right?

So I pushed the little tab on that says "Contact me" to send a message to the owner.  I stated I was very interested, would like to know more, yada, yada, yada.

The next day I got an email in my personal inbox.  The owner stated the condo was available the week we were looking at but another family was also looking at it.  She also told me we would get a 30% discount since it was during the "off season" making the total $1,100.

"Freak, guys, I'm a genius!" I thought.  "I'm so good at this people should pay me to do it for them!  Less than $400 a couple to stay the week- yes I am amazing and people are lucky to know me!"  You know, normal stuff you think when you find a condo at a great deal.

I emailed back, said we would take it, and she said she would send us over a contract.  Her email looked super legit.  Just so you believe me how legit it was I'm going to copy and paste some of the details.

We have a special offer. The breakdown would be as follows:

$ 1,560.00 ( 7 nights )
$ 0.00 (Departure Cleaning Fee)
$ 1,560.00 +
- 30% (Discount for special offer only)
$ 1,092.00 (TOTAL/Tax included)

Cancellation 100% refundable 15 Days prior to arrival.

Rate is inclusive of:
- Hawaii tax
- Airport transfers, round trip (one time from and one time to airport)
- Wireless internet access (unlimited internet usage)
- Free Laundry service
- Daily housekeeping
- Car - Ford Galaxy (excludes petrol cost)

For this special offer payment of $ 1,092.00 must be completed within 7days (to secure
this booking).

If you would like to proceed I will just need your home address for the contract and I
will forward as e-mail attachment.

Airport Transfers:
Through popular demand we are offering Round trip airport transfers by our private driver
to pick-you up at the airport upon your arrival (he will be outside with a
sign that has your name on it) then check you in and bring up your bags and groceries. Upon your agreed
departure time, he will return to the villa, load up all your suitcases and bring you back
to the airport for your departure flight.

Check in & check out:
Check in time is 3 pm and check out 11 am (there is a flexibility  in case your plane
leaves or arrives at different times) to give the cleaning person a chance to properly
prepare the villa for my next guest.

Please let me know if you have any questions and how I can further assist you.

We look forward to being of service to you.

Kind regards,

Melissa Randy

She sent us over the contract with all the details.  I've never signed a contract for staying anywhere for a week, but I figured, whatevs.  Can't hurt.  The contract gave us all of her bank account info and stated that to reserve the condo we needed to wire the money over.

I realize now that this should have alerted me.  But I was innocent and naive and too trusting.  Anytime I've ever booked a place to stay, a flight, bought anything online I've always paid for a credit card or paypal so I should have known this was off.  I guess I just figured that since it was independently done and not by a big business they required the money just be sent directly over.

So that week I headed on down to Chase, my bank, and wired the money on over.  Not just my money, but my mother in law's money and my sister in law's money.  I took it all and sent it over and even paid the $40 fee to wire money internationally.

Yep.  She was having me send the money internationally.  Obviously this should have been my red flad number two.  Why was I sending the money to London?  But everything still seemed super legit.  The owner had signed a contract, there was a number to contact her, it was through airnbnb, a safe and trusted site.  I was fine.

So I sent that money on over, Greg at my side when we did it.  We smiled thinking about where that money was going- a condo for a week in Hawaii!  We were so lucky.

And that was it.  The money was sent in March along with the contract and we were good to go.

Three months later, Greg and I were getting ready to head out to Hawaii.  It was a Wednesday.  We were going to my cabin for a family reunion from Thursday to Saturday and then Saturday we were to drive to Boise (6 hour drive) where we would catch our flight to Hawaii on Sunday morning.  Who doesn't love summer and vacations and road trips and cabins?  Everything was great!

Tuesday night I sent an email to Melissa with our flight plans and asking if there was anything else we needed to take care of before we got there.

Wednesday morning I sat in my classroom at my new school.  I tried to be super productive and get everything taken care of before we left town for 10 days.  I organized books, tried to figure out the layout of my new classroom, and also looked for a place of silence for a few hours so I could answer emails, schedule blog posts, etc.

Ping.  From the corner of my eye I saw that I had gotten a new email.  I clicked over, my mind always happy for a distraction, to read this:


I'm the manager of the resort.
Melissa is not available for the moment.

We want to inform you that the resort suffered a fire and is destroyed 70%.

The persons that was there, forgot something deteriorated plugged in and caused the fire.

I am sorry to announce you that the booking will be canceled and the money will come back in your account + the money that you paid for the fly tickets.

Please reply with the sum that you pay for the fly ticket and your bank account details so we can give you all your money back.

Thank you for your understanding.

Now I might have been stupid enough to wire money internationally to book a condo, but I was smart enough to realize that there was something majorly wrong with this email.  I emailed back right away, demanding to know why we were not alerted of this sooner, but in the back of my head I knew the money was gone, knew we were going to Hawaii in three days and had no place to stay, and knew I had been totally scammed.

I called Greg right away.  He thought I was playing a prank on him.  Because that sort of crazy, dramatic stuff doesn't happen in real life, right?

At that point I knew I wasn't going to get a thing done in my classroom, so I grabbed my stuff and headed home.  I didn't cry on the way home, just focused and concentrated on finding solutions.  I'd fix this. My mom was at the cabin already where she couldn't get service. I didn't feel like we could tell Greg's family yet because we had just totally lost all of their money. I was desperate for a responsible adult to talk to, someone to talk to me rationally, to calm me down, someone older and wiser who would know what to do in this situation.

I called my brother.  No answer.  I called my lawyer friend in Arizona.  No answer.  I tried my mom even though I knew she wouldn't answer.  A desperate attempt.

Once I got home, it took both Greg and I several minutes to start thinking rationally and calmly.  Panic mode sets in and it's hard to get your brain to act, you know?  I had emailed back "Melissa" about three times and received no response.  I knew I never would.  I called airbnb to report the scam and to see what they could do. They basically replied that they could do absolutely nothing as I was not a registered user of their site. They had no record of any of my correspondence with "Melissa".  Yes, because she emailed me at my personal email I told them.  We went in circles for close to an hour with no solution.  When it came down to it, the guy basically told me that they couldn't help me because everything was done off the site. They didn't even have a record of my first initial attempt to contact her within the site.  As far as they know I could be making the whole thing up so they couldn't help me.  I understand that if I don't have an account with them there isn't they can do to help me, but the fact of the matter is a scammer successfully used their site and information I gave on that site to get my money.  They didn't seem too concerned.  (I talked to them again this week- they won't even take the page down as they continue to claim it's legit...)

Next I called Chase to see if they could help me out.  I had transferred the money from my Chase account, after all.  (Looking back and realizing what happened, I am a little frustrated that the Chase banker helping me to transfer the money didn't warn me at all.  I was sending $1,100 internationally to reserve a week at a condo?  Shouldn't bankers of all people know that that is suspicious activity?)  Chase basically washed their hands of the matter, saying the money had been gone for months and there was nothing they could do.

"Can't you figure out whose bank account it went into and demand the money back?"
"No, ma'am.  Their bank will protect them."
"You didn't protect me!"
"Ma'am, I'm sorry.  We can't access someone else's account who doesn't bank with us.  Besides the account has probably been closed for months by now."
"So you're saying there's nothing you can do about it?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am."

I don't blame Chase, I suppose I am just confused.  Anyone I have told this story to with two bits of sense has replied, "Why did you transfer money directly?  Never do that!  Pay with a credit card or something that will protect you.  NEVER TRANSFER MONEY DIRECTLY FROM YOUR ACCOUNT!"  So why wouldn't a Chase employee have told me...?

I called the resort where the condo was supposedly located to ask if there had been a fire lately. Naturally, they said no.

I called the number on the contract for "Melissa."  I called internationally, not caring the extra fees, the extra numbers to dial.

Dead end. Dead end. Dead end.

And just like that, the truth dropped heavily into my lap.  In the back of my brain I had known for hours what had happened, but now my heart accepted it too.  Accepted that I would more than likely never see that money again, that I had been taken advantage of, that I had willingly given my money to a crook.  I buried my head in the bed and burst into tears.  I had been stoic up unto this point- not a tear, not a crack.  Now the walls came down and I let the emotions and the stress and the feeling of utter stupidity and failure wash over me completely.

"I'm so sorry, Greg.  I'm so so so sorry," I cried into the pillow. "I lost our money.  I lost our family's money."  He hugged me and put my hair behind my ear and told me that we would be fine.  But I couldn't help it.  I felt so defeated, so stupid, so naive. I felt like an idiot as I thought back to this post where I made fun of people who fall for scams. I was embarrassed to have lost his family's money, to have allowed them to put their trust in me when I clearly didn't know what I was doing.

I pulled myself together enough to face the immediate future.  We were leaving to Hawaii in three days and had no place to stay.  We surfed the web, found a couple of expensive rooms in Waikiki, paid with a credit card, and tried not to wince as we looked at the extra thousand plus dollars being added to our monthly credit statement.  It ain't no thing, right?

With that done we were free to leave the computers and the phones and get away from the madness for a minute.  We stepped out of the house and into the blazing hot afternoon, as if the heat were mocking our pain.  We drove to Maverick and bought a soda and drove aimlessly around town.  I don't know why the house felt so oppressive, so heavy, but we couldn't stay there.  We had nowhere else to go so we drove.

More than anything else I felt vulnerable.  Taken advantage of.  Scared.

"It's not a tragedy," Greg said as we drove.  "It's just money.  Money comes and goes and you can always make more money.  But we have the most important things in life that can't be replaced.  We have a happy marriage.  We have our health.  We have our families.  It's just money."

Yep.  Just money.

Still, it might make me feel a little better if you could all tell me all the money you've blown on scams and schemes.  Even if you haven't, maybe you could just make something up.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Wanna meet my sister?!

Well folks, do I have a treat for you today.  Of all the guest posters in the world, who would I most want to guest post?

My older sister, of course!  While I'm visiting one sister in Germany, you get to hear from my other older sister!  Aren't I nice?  This is the sister I talked about in this post- who pushes me and motivates me and makes me get off my butt and do stuff.  She is a terrific writer and a lot of my drive to be more active about my writing has come from her.  I hope you love her as much as I do.  

Hi, I am Bon’s older sister, Becky. I was the first born in the family while Bon was number seven which means that Bon was the party girl while I was good at cleaning bathrooms. 

I don't know why you would read the blog of a first born child.  We are known as the boring, responsible ones, while the number sevens are far more entertaining.  Still, there are a few things Bon and I have in common. We both read like crazy, we both are a little ADD, we both deal with rowdy kids, and now that Bon’s seven months pregnant, I'm guessing we both weigh about the same.  Hoping, at least.  

Come on over to see me because I’m a strong believer in community.  You read my blog, and I’ll read yours.  Just leave a comment or follow me and I’ll be sure to reciprocate.
I know you are all nuts about Bon, and so am I.  Bon has always had such a tender heart.  She cried before I left on my mission to Guatemala, and she wrote to me every week, her letters often between eight and ten pages long.

Bonnie was sad when I left.  
My mom, who made me a wonderful scrapbook, wrote this next to the picture of the four girls.  

But when I invited Bonnie to come live with us in California after her freshman year in college, she had changed.  Really changed.  I loved having this high energy girl around, but why was she always looking for a party, and why did she always want to borrow my car?

But I became especially concerned when she came downstairs late one night wearing a pair of short shorts, a tank top, and her tennis shoes.

“Where are you going?” I asked.    

“Out on a run,” she said. 

“Right now?  It's 10:30.”


“You know you’re not in Utah anymore.”  Since she was Bonnie, she went out anyway, looking super cute and really vulnerable, and I got to wait up for her.   Except I didn’t.  I promised myself I would only lie down on my bed, but I was asleep in about five minutes. 

I woke with a start after midnight.  Where’s Bonnie? I went upstairs to check her bedroom, and she wasn’t there.  I cased the house and still no Bonnie.  I called her cellphone only to find that she had left it at home.  The car was still in our garage, and that’s when I started freaking out. 

And for the rest of the story . . . .