The Life of Bon: February 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bon's Book Club: My Story by Elizabeth Smart


Every month we read a book.  On the selected day, we talk about it. (Generally the last Thursday of the month).  I will do my darndest to post questions ahead of time so that you can be thinking of possible discussion topics as you read.

Join in for whatever books you can.  I know you are all busy, and you might not be able to read all the books. (Or be interested in reading all the books!)  Read what you want and comment on what you want.  Some readers write their own review on their blog and then link up to it, others just write their thoughts in the comments- it's up to you!  If you write your own post and link up, please slap the image above on your post! Grazi!


+ What made you feel connected (or disconnected) to Elizabeth throughout the story?
+ What was something that amazed/ shocked you when reading her story?
+ Was the writing style an issue for you?  Why or why not? 
+ What was most impressive to you about Elizabeth's story?

My co-host and partner in crime this month is April from Hansen Love.   Here are her thoughts:

Where to start about this book? 

Amazing! Inspiring! Uplifting!

Everyone who is anyone knows the story of Elizabeth Smart. How she was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah when she was 14 years old. Her captors, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, took her to live up in the mountains not far from her home. Mitchell believed that he was some modern day prophet that was sent to come and marry 7 virgins and save humanity. 

Sadly Elizabeth was one of those that Mitchell believed was sent to be one of his wives. 

Mitchell and Barzee, many many  moons ago 

Mitchell and Barzee during Elizabeth's trial.

This book was a little bit of a shock to me. Growing up and living in Utah, even though I was younger, I remember hearing about what she went through after she was found. I read the news stories that were told during the trials for Mitchell and Barzee and I was shocked even more while reading this book to hear Elizabeth's everyday life with these two. 

 I loved the voice that was used for telling Elizabeth's story. She did a fantastic job of recounting what happened with using just enough emotion to pull you in but not too much that you think that she is whining and complaining. Don't get me wrong she has every right to whine and complain especially after everything she went through, but she did an excellent job. I felt like I was there watching the whole thing. 

There were times while I was reading that I would have to remember that she was rescued and she is okay! I would come home on my lunch and pick up where I left off. She would be talking about how she went days without food, and here I was munching down on my PB&J laying on my couch and I felt bad that I had all of this and she didn't have anything! It really reminded me that there are others out there that don't have anything. 

The thing that amazed me about reading the book is that after everything that happened, you would expect Elizabeth to be ruined. But she has gone on and become a motivational speaker and has her own foundation that helps prevent crimes against children. She has taken this absolutely horrible situation that she was placed in at such a young age and turned it around and made it something amazing. Her mothers advice is absolutely perfect:

“You be happy, Elizabeth. Just be happy. If you go and feel sorry for yourself, or if you dwell on what has happened, if you hold on to your pain, that is allowing (Mitchell) to steal more of your life away. So don’t you do that. Don’t you let him. There is no way that he deserves that. Not one more second of your life.”

Thanks April!  And, of course, I couldn't resist adding my two (or two hundred) cents...

First things first- the book is not well written.  At times I felt like Elizabeth was almost emotionally detached while telling the story.  It felt like I was reading a newspaper account of the events.  I suppose this might be how she has to deal with everything that happened, but it did feel odd that I didn't feel more of emotional reaction from her while reading the book.  At times the writing was even a bit painful for me because it was so bad.  It was frustrating to me that for a story of this intensity and with this amount of interest, better efforts weren't made to find a really good ghost writer- or at the least an amazing editor.  HOWEVER, the story was fascinating enough to me that I ended up being able to turn off the part of my head that cares about writing quality and just focus on the story.  Still, a better writer would have really made this book more enjoyable, and I believe, made the message of hope and forgiveness from the book even more powerful.

+ I was shocked to read that Brian David Mitchell tried two other times to kidnap a young girl to take for his wife- like he had Elizabeth.  One of these items he tried to kidnap Elizabeth's own cousin.  Both times he failed- when trying to kidnap Elizabeth's cousin something fell over in the house and crashed which led him to run.  Mitchell required that all his victims be young (easily manipulated) and Mormon (inexperienced and innocent.)

+ I was very interested in the way Elizabeth talked about Mitchell. She says several times that Mitchell was a master manipulator.  He was not insane, as he pleaded during the trial, nor did he sincerely believe that he was doing God's errand by kidnapping these girls as he claimed- he was just using religion and insanity as tools to manipulate and control others.

+ Reading about the abuse that Elizabeth went through was heart wrenching. She was raped nearly every day, tied up like an animal, forced to go naked in the camp, forced to pee and poo in front of Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.  She went without food and water, was forced to drink alcohol until she threw up and passed out, etc.  (Smart, at 14 years old, woke up in her own vomit from drinking too much alcohol.)   I had known all of this, but hearing the day by day experiences from Elizabeth's own mouth made it all much more real.  I also wonder if reading this after having my own daughter made me more sensitive, but it was a very emotionally taxing book to read.

Elizabeth Smart at the time of her kidnapping- this picture was posted all over Utah.

+ Something interesting that I didn't know is that Mitchell would say prayers for sometimes and hour or more and force them to all kneel on the hard ground the entire time.  In his prayers he would praise himself and thank God following him to be chosen and all this other garbage.  It was infuriating to me to see somebody use something as good as God and prayer to carry out such evil and twisted purposes. I know it happens all the time, but again, to see it so close up like that made it hit home much more to me.

+ I think the most frustrating part of the book was reading about all the opportunities that Elizabeth had to escape. There were several times that they were out in public and Elizabeth did nothing to escape.  She felt no feelings of love or compassion for her captors like some have speculated, just that she was absolutely terrified. She was always covered head to toe so people couldn't see her, but I just couldn't believe that in a huge crowd she wouldn't yell out or try to leave. The most mind boggling was the story she recounts of being in a public library and being approached by a police man.  The police came and point blank asked Elizabeth if she was Elizabeth Smart.  She was covered so he couldn't see her face. Elizabeth didn't say who she was. Instead Mitchell jumped in, claiming that Elizabeth couldn't uncover her face or speak because it was against their religion. (Again, using religion to manipulate.) The officer didn't persist, and Mitchell left the library with Elizabeth safely in tow. It was so so frustrating that she didn't say anything in that moment.  She explains why she didn't, saying that she was only fourteen years old and she was terrified. Mitchell had threatened her that if she said anything or did anything to aid in her capture that he would kill her whole family.  Even if he was in jail he said that he had friends that would kill Elizabeth's family.  Adults have a better perception of reality and understand that a man wouldn't really send friends to kill your whole family while in jail (or that a man like Mitchell wouldn't even have "friends" to do this for him), but a fourteen year old wouldn't be able to quite grasp that.  Especially a fourteen year old like Elizabeth who was very sheltered and naive.  Also, I think the fear kind of took on a life of its own.  Elizabeth mentioned many times how paralyzing it was.  I think most of us have never been in a situation when we are faced with extreme fear like that, but my guess is that logic kind of goes out the window at that point and you just do what you can to survive.

A picture of Elizabeth at a rave the summer she was captured.  She is on the left, whispering to Wanda Barzee.  So sad that she didn't say anything to anyone!  (Also, that man's hair is on fire!)

+ Something else that surprised me as I read was how much I hated Wanda Barzee.  I knew I hated Brian David Mitchell, the man who kidnapped Elizabeth, but as I read I found that I hated Barzee just as much.  Even though she didn't carry out the plans, she sat and watched it happen, and to me that is just as bad.  She is a mother (I believe she has six kids?) herself, and to sit there and let a fourteen year old girl be abused and raped like that and do nothing to stop it is inexcusable.  I was filled with so much disgust for both Mitchell and Barzee.

Throughout the entire book, Elizabeth has an incredible attitude.  She prays and thanks God for her family, and is able to remain mentally and spiritually strong throughout the experience.  It was incredible to see her strength and tenacity.  She was kidnapped in June and she explains her Thanksgiving day with her captors.  She says that on that day she makes a mental list of everything she has to be grateful for- after five months of being abused and raped and starved.  I was also impressed with Elizabeth's attitude after she returned home- the quote that April mentioned stuck out to me as well.  She was able to forgive her captors and move on, not letting them take any more of her life or her experiences away from her.

At one point in the book Elizabeth says something like "I am 25 years old.  That means I have lived 300 months.  Nine of those months were pretty horrible.  But the other 291 have been great and I have been extremely blessed.  So how can I focus on the nine bad months when the other months were so good?"  Pretty amazing attitude, right there.

Now, thirteen years later, Elizabeth seems to have healed and recovered.  She has served an 18 month mission in Paris for the LDS church, has graduated from college, and has married.  She also speaks out as an activist on behalf of kidnapping survivors and child victims of violence and sexual abuse.

Elizabeth now- 27 years old.

Alright, that book review got way too long.  I apologize- the whole story is just so fascinating to me.  I can't wait to hear your thoughts!  Leave your thoughts below or if you wrote your own post make sure to link up!

And don't forget to join in next month!  We are reading Amy Poehler's Yes, Please and will discuss the book on Thursday, March 26.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How We Wore it// Fashion Collaboration// Jean shopping is the worrrrrrrst

A few weeks ago, Brooke emailed me and asked me if I wanted to join in for a little fashion blogger collaboration thingy.   I said yes, of course, you fool! The idea was to copy a look from a favorite blogger (Sasha from Moilogy) using pieces of clothing we already had in our closet.  Several of us would do it, and then all share our looks and link up to each other's blogs.

Here's the thing.  I know I am not a fashion blogger nor will I ever strive to be, pretend to be, or want to be a fashion blogger.  But sometimes it is fun to accept a challenge, like the one from Brooke, to wear something a little bit different.  Expand your fashion horizons, you know?

I especially enjoyed doing this little fashion project because I haven't exactly felt on top of my fashion game since having a baby.  None of my jeans fit anymore.  All shirts must have quick and easy access to my bosoms which feed my baby.  I am home twice as much as I used to be.  All this translates to a lot of baggy sweat shirts and yoga pants for the win.  Cutting edge fashion, basically.

So yah.  It was fun to get dressed and challenge myself a little bit.  Fashion is weird.  I love it and hate it.  Like who says we have to look nice?  Why can't sweat pants be enough?  But then at the same time, I feel proud when I look good and put together.  But sweat pants!  It's an emotional roller coaster.

Anyway, here's the pics. Eat your hearts out, peeps.

The original....

And the copycat...

Shirt: Old Navy
Jeans: American Eagle
Sunglasses: H&M
Shoes:  Don't know, don't care.

I can't wear those jeans anymore, fyi, because the holes have gotten way too big, but they were the perfect jean and now I'm mourning their loss.  I went jean shopping this week and it was the worrrrrrrrrst.  I found nothing to please me.  I like a jean that has a tight leg, a tight(ish) butt, but a roomy waist and thighs.  I'm so sick of the skinny jeans that are uber uber tight on my waist, and I hate the baggy jeans that make me look like I have no butt.   Is there no best of both worlds that doesn't have huge holes down the pant legs?  DO I ASK TOO MUCH? 

Please send jean help.

And as always, a big thanks to Aubrey for doing her thing behind the lens.

Now go see these bloggers' unique take on Sasha's look.  E'ryone did it!

Brooke at Silver Lining
Deidre at Deidre Emme
Brielle at Ready or Not
Laura at Sincerely, Laura
Brooklyn at A Little Too Jolley
Ashley at Absolutely Ashley
Bonnie at The Life of Bon
Bri at Breezy Days
Alexa at He and I

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sleep No More

A few months ago I had figured out the delicate art of getting your baby to sleep when you want, where you want, and how long you want.  At a mere three months old, my babe was sleeping through the night, taking long naps in the day, and falling asleep without any aid from me.  I was a baby whisper genius!  I shared with all of you how freaking easy it was to get your baby to sleep on your schedule and told you all my tricks! (The full post is here.)

I have since learned that I know nothing.  It was all a fluke,

You see, June has decided she's done with the good sleeper business.  It was fun while it lasted, but you know what's more fun?  Being awake!  In the middle of the night!  Because you never know when you might miss something!

It's already pretty apparent that June has quite the extroverted personality.  She loves being around people, lets anyone hold her, and loves nothing more than to go to a crowded place and people watch to her heart's delight.  The problem with all that is June likes people SO much that she doesn't want to go to sleep.  I think she thinks she's missing a party. (She might be a bit like her mama in that regard.)

The biggest change in June's sleeping has been at night.  June will go to sleep fine at around 7:00, but then at 11:00 or so she is awake again.  She eats and goes back down, but then whaddya know?  3:00 am and June is wondering if it's time to start the party yet?!  She eats, she goes back down.  6:00 am!  Surely it's time to wake up now?!?!?

June has been doing this for the few weeks- waking up two or more times a night.  Two months ago she was sleeping through the night consistently.  Last night June woke up four different times.  FOUR!  She wasn't even pulling that crap the night she came home from the hospital.  The older she gets, the worse sleeper she becomes.

I don't know why June is doing this, but I have some theories.  One is the above listed- that June is social and just likes to be around people.  She wakes up, sees no one is around, and demands a party.  As she becomes more and more aware, she enjoys sleep less and less because she'd rather be socializing.

Another theory is that June is now quite the rolly-poly and that this is affecting her sleep.  She could roll all day long if you let her.  Back to stomach to back to stomach, let's go!  When she wakes up in her crib she immediately flips over to her stomach.  Most times she stays on her stomach, lifting her body up with her hands and crying because, well, this position sucks!  Other times she will roll herself right to the corner of the crib, get herself good and wedged between a bunch of hard crib slats and then start screaming.

Another theory is that June is not sleeping as well because she is breaking out of her swaddle.  Tell me, how do you wean a baby from a swaddle?  There are no books for these things!  Since the day she was born, June has loved a good, snug swaddle.  Even now, it is absolutely how she would like to be put down.  But now she wakes up, starts to squirm, breaks out of her swaddle and starts to cry.  She is no longer snug and secure, and she can't sleep until Greg or I go into her room and swaddle her back up and place her on her back.  The madness!

As of right now I am waking up at least twice in the night and swaddling and feeding June back to sleep.  Part of me feels guilty when I am doing this- that I am nourishing a dependency on mama (and on mama's bosom) to be able to fall back asleep.  I am doing myself no favors, instead creating a needy baby who demands to be nursed twice in the night to fall back asleep. I know June can go through the night without nursing.  She's did it for weeks straight for me.  So do I leave her in the crib when she wakes up in the middle of the night?  I usually give her 10-20 minutes before I go in to get her- am I supposed to wait even longer than that?  Let a baby cry for an hour at 4 am?

This is the part of the blog post where you answer all my questions and tell me how to get my perfect angel sleeping baby to turn back into a perfect angel sleeping baby.  She goes to sleep fine, it is the staying asleep that is about to make me go crazy.  Do I let her cry?  Will she learn to fall asleep without being swaddled?  Or I am to be a slave to middle of the night nursings until the day I die?  Someone tell me what to doooooooooooo.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bachelor Recap- Take 3

Well, folks that was a lot of Bachelor this week, was it not?  Five hours of Bachelor a week is pretty much my wildest dream come true, but there's no way I can write detailed recaps for all of that.  So, instead, an extremely condensed Bachelor "discussion" will have to do.  Also, I know my brother in law checks in on this blog when he gets to work in the morning, and I'm sure he's dying to discuss all the latest Bachelor gossip.  Trent, this one's for you.

Disclaimer:  This will make the most sense if you already watched The Bachelor this week.  There are also spoilers.  I think you could probably figure that out on your own, but you know, I don't want anyone crying their eyes out in the shower because I ruined the week's episodes for them.

We ready to dive in?

On Britt's departure:
I'll be honest, I was pretty shocked how fast that whole thing went sour, especially considering how totally gaga Chris seemed for her. I didn't think she'd ever really send herself home, and I didn't think that Chris would go through with sending her home either.  He seemed to like her too much to really do it.  In some ways I do think he (and the other girls) were a bit harsh on her.  I mean, when she first got to his home town she said she could never imagine living there, but by the end of the day it had grown on her.   So what? Not exactly the worst thing in the world.

That being said, I'm not sure that I believe her that she could live in Arlington, but I think she thought she was being honest, if that makes any sense.  No, Britt never could have hacked Arlington, but she thought she could and lied even to herself, trying to convince herself it would work.  I don't think she was being malicious or deceitful to Chris, I just think that she herself didn't know what she wanted or how much she would be able to handle.  We've all been there, chica.

NOW Britt's total freak out when she didn't get the rose on the group date was a major red flag to me.  It just seemed like toddler freak out "I can't have what I want!" type of behavior.  As soon as she did that I was over it.  Peace Britt.

On Carly's scheming:  
I really liked Carly until these last episodes.  She just got a bit carried away with trying to get rid of Britt.  I get it if you don't like someone and suddenly every single thing they do drives you absolutely insane.  I've been there.  But Carly worried so much about Britt that she blew all her time with Chris bad mouthing Britt instead of working on her relationship with him.  Then she cried in the limo on the way home because Chris didn't feel a romantic interest.  What?  Slamming other girls doesn't make a guy fall madly in love with you?  WHAT KIND OF WORLD AM I LIVING IN?

On Jade's "secret":
Wowzers!  What a bombshell, huh?  I think Chris handled it as graciously and sweetly as possible.  I know a lot of people don't like Chris (he kisses too much!  he's not smart enough!  his laugh is annoying!) but I do think he is kind and genuine and to me those are traits that really matter.  He handled the situation as kindly as possible.  I'm shocked, not because I can't believe anyone in the world would ever pose nude, but that it was Jade who posed nude.  When her brother called her a "wild mustang" I thought we surely must have been talking about different Jades.  She has seemed so quiet, uninteresting, and even dull to me this entire season.  She's got no life, no sparkle, nothing interesting about her.  She is the last person I would have guessed to have had such a past.

And now, for the question I must have an answer to:  why oh why did she ask Chris if he wanted to see the pictures?  It was awkward for us all, Jade, FOR US ALL!

On Arlington:
Deal breaker!  400 people, oh gosh, I would die.  That place was deader than a doornail.  What would you do all day?  Where would you work?  Who would you talk to?  I grew up in a city of 8,000 and that felt a bit lonely.- imagine 400!

And the winner is...

My prediction, at least.  I have read absolutely no spoilers.  (And wish to continue so! No spoilers in comments!)  Chris seems to really dig her, and she seems like a good match for him- down to earth, kind, responsible, nurturing, etc.  She's pretty but not too pretty. My only complaint would be that she's just a tad bit too enthusiastic sometimes, but that is a Bonnie complaint not a Chris complaint.  (But seriously, take it down a notch, woman.)

And the next bachelorette is...
The producers are going to have a tough time rounding up their next Bachelorette, I'll tell you!  None of the top five fit their perfect bachelor or bachelorette mold.  Kaitlyn is a little too free spirited and doesn't "want love" enough.  Becca is not interesting or fun enough.  Whitney is not pretty enough.  Jade... well I don't think ABC can let a playboy model be their next bachelorette, now can they?  That leaves Britt- she's got the personality and the looks for Bachelorette- but does she have the fanbase?  Bachelor portrayed her as a villian- I don't know if Bachelor fans are going to be all about that.

You see the problem producers are dealing with here? My guess is they go for Becca and try to play up the whole "I am afraid of intimacy" thing and also maybe try to give her a little more spunk.  She's certainly got the looks for it, though.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

They Call it Sin City

Sometimes I wonder about blogging about vacations.  I feel kind of selfish using my blog to post pictures and talk about vacations that you probably couldn’t care less about.  But last summer Greg and I went to Germany and Switzerland to visit my sister and I hardly blogged any of it.  Now eight months later, I really regret that.  There are lots of things about the trip I don’t remember because I didn't write them down.  So I decided to heck with it, I’ll blog about my vacations how I want when I want.  If it’s boring to you as a blog reader, no problem!  Check back in tomorrow and we’ll definitely be talking about something else.

This weekend Greg and I headed out for some Las Vegas sunshine.  Forecast said 78 degrees.  We live 5-6 hours from Vegas and it seems like every year around this time we decide that we absolutely need some warm weather and we book it for Vegas (See this post and this post).

I haven’t left the state since June was born so I needed a vacation in the worst way.  Furthermore, Agathe, our French foreign exchange student, was dying to see something more in the states than just our living room.  Greg’s parents agreed to take June for three days, Agathe invited her best friend to come along, and we were off- my ginger husband, two seventeen year olds and me.

What we listened to: (on the way) The Serial podcast. We’re four podcasts in (out of twelve) and dying to finish it.  WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

Where we stayed: Watergate Resort Hotel and Casino.  We didn't have the best experience.  I am 95% certain that the hotel workers were smoking pot in our room because every time we came back in it after it had been cleaned it reeked of weed.  Also the pool was closed for maintenance, but of course they didn't say that anywhere on their site.  We complained and had our resort fee waived as well as were allowed to use a neighboring hotel's pool, but still.  Not staying there ever again.

What we did:

Walked up and down the strip... 

Agathe blended right in with the H&M models

Watched the water show at the Bellagio... (several times)

Went to the M&M factory... '

Took lots and lots of selfies, due to Maggie’s purchase of a selfie stick.

And enjoyed the absolutely perfect weather.


Cheesecake factory
Greg and I were going to go alone Saturday night to Cheesecake Factory for a little Valentine’s dinner but we felt a little uneasy about letting Agathe and Maggie roam the strip on their own at night, so we had them tag along.  Two teenagers could be quite the buzzkill for a V-day night date, but it turned out fine.  My favorite things at Cheesecake Factory are: Avocado Eggrolls (appetizer) and the Chicken Madeira < - - - - out of this world!  Greg and I usually split those two.  For dessert we ordered the red velvet cheesecake this time around, but nothing beats the Anniversary cheesecake.  Cheesecake Factory is one of my favorite places to eat so I’m always interested in new things to try.  What are your favorite dishes there?

Our double date partners...

My forever Valentine.

Shake Shack
I insisted too, that we try Shake Shack because I have heard so many rave about it.  I am sorry to report that I thought it was only okay.  The ice cream was regular ice cream.  The fries were the best part, squishy and hot just like I like my fries.  But I thought the burger was too salty.  It’s got nothing on In-n-out burgers.

Do I look like mature enough/ old enough/ responsible enough to be this girl's "mom"?

I almost died when...
Agathe and Maggie insisted that we ride the rides on top of The Stratosphere.  Greg was all about it.  I was lukewarm.  I LOVE roller coasters, but I did the swings on top of The Stratosphere when I was 19 and IT WAS TERRIFYING.  It's the only roller coaster I've ever been on that I didn't totally love.  I just remember wanting to get off the whole time.  It's just so freaking high and you're dangling over the whole city and you feel not one bit safe.

On top of The Stratosphere.

Waiting in line at midnight with 100 crazy teenagers from volleyball and basketball tournaments around the country.  I kinda wanted to put a gun to my head.

Here's the scoop on The Stratosphere rides.  There are three rides- swings, a rocket that shoots you straight up, and a rollercoaster that launches you over the edge in which you think you are going to drop.  They are all terrifying but the straight down launcher was absolutely terrifying.  The worst.  I thought I was going to die.  I never ever ever ever want to do that again.

But you could probably talk me into it.

After the rides.  I was happy to be done.  Greg was throwing up.  The girls were in line for another ride.  Ah, teenagers!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Take AP Lit!

It's that time of year- time to push for next year's classes.  Last year the AP Literature program at my school got axed.  I was very disappointed at the time. (See this post for all the details.)  Now, a year later I realize that teaching the class this year would have killed me (See: The Winter of our Discontent) and am very grateful that I just taught my regular junior classes.  For next year, though, I am ready to take on the class  and hope that we can get enough students enrolled to offer it again at my school.  I love teaching the class, but more than that I believe it to be a very important class.  I feel like we are short changing our students by not offering it.  Where else do students get to focus on reading and writing about reading and more reading?  It is the perfect class for the book lover's soul.  I know there are book lover's souls in my school.  Now if I can get them to take this class from me.

Now tell me, would you take the class after seeing this flyer?

Take A.P. Literature and become a literary scholar!  

Pop quiz!  Can you name what pieces of literature these first lines are from?

1.       Call me Ishmael.
2.       It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
3.       It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
4.       Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
5.       All this happened more or less.
6.       All children grow up except one.
7.       When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
8.       This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.
9.       Marley was dead, to begin with.

In AP Literature you will…

  • ·        Pass the test at the end of the year and receive 6 college credits (Humanities and English at most state colleges)
  • ·        Study the great pieces of classic literature.
  • ·        Finally understand what Hamlet was talking about when he pondered “To be or not to be!”
  • ·        Watch literary characters come alive before your very eyes!
  • ·        Master the English language and become a vocabulary ninja.
  • ·        Learn to write kick-butt critical analyses.
  • ·        Act out fights from Lord of the Flies, dress up like Macbeth, write songs about Huck Finn and play a round or two of vocabulary bingo!
  • ·        Be surrounded by funny, intelligent people who love books just as much as you do!

I Moby Dick 2. Pride and Prejudice 3. Tale of Two Cities 4. Anna Karenina 5. Slaughter-House Five 6. Peter Pan 7. To Kill a Mockingbird 8. Princess Bride 9. A Christmas Carol

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Winter of our Discontent

Since Christmas I have only been posting on this blog three times a week.

Thank you for that.  Thank you for allowing me to cut back, but for still checking in.

I was nervous when I decided to go down from five posts a week to three.  I knew that pageviews would drop.  I knew that my sponsorships would drop.  I knew it would make me less likely to work on campaigns that bring my family needed income.  Most of all, I was worried about you.  That you would drop.  That a community and audience that I worked so so hard to develop for three years would find something else to do.

But I had to do it.

The truth is that Greg and I took on way more than we could handle this year.  We were stupid.  Greg took a job at a high school which has been a tremendous blessing to us.  But a theater teaching job is so so much work.  Not only is he a first year teacher, which brings in and of itself a terrific amount of stress and worry, but he also was thrown into the job of director right from the beginning.  The second day of school, Greg held Les Mis tryouts and stayed after school until 5 or 6 (at least) every day until Thanksgiving week directing that play.  He rehearsed on Saturdays, too.  He is also responsible for the auditorium.  He has to get it ready for assemblies, for community groups who want to use it on, say, a Thursday night.  One weekend night about 7:00 we had to drive over to the school because the lights had been left on by a band that had performed there. The responsibility to turn them off fell to Greg. There was a torrential downpour and it was Friday night and I thought sheesh, what a life, heading to the school at 7 on Friday with a baby in tow to do one more extra job.

In November Greg decided to audition for a play that would be performing starting in January.  In retrospect, this was a terrible idea.  One of our worsts.  He got a good part.  He accepted the role.  Those rehearsals started in November and for two miserable weeks he was juggling teaching, directing, auditoriuming, and acting all at the same time.  Those two weeks are now a total blur of stress, fast food and diaper changes.

If I had stayed home full time and took care of all baby and home responsibilities we might have been able to manage Greg's crazy schedule.  But I went to work part time.  I also tried to keep a blog running with five or six posts a week.  I was crazy busy, even on my days home, and it felt like the most basic of things were falling to the wayside.  No one had been grocery shopping in over a week.  We forgot to take the garbage out onto the street.  Wet clothes had sat in the washer for three days.  I wasn't returning important emails.

In the middle of such chaos, we agreed to take a foreign exchange student into our home.  We are blessed to have Agathe in our home and in our lives.  But this amped the stress level.  How could it not?  We were adding another member to our family.

And then there was Maverick.  He was getting ignored and neglected.  I would go two or three days without taking him for a walk and then feel beyond guilty when I got mad at him for chewing up my chapstick out of pure boredom.  He couldn't win, that poor pup.

On top of ALL of that we have a new baby.  The best thing in our lives, no doubt.  But a baby needs time and patience and love from both parents.  Diaper changes, doctor's appointments, bedtime routine.  We couldn't keep up.

The first or second week of January, Greg and I were both at our wits' ends.  I almost had a nervous break down.  I begged my mom to go to lunch with me so I could unload all my stress on her.  Saying it out loud to her I felt kind of stupid, "Look at all the awesome things we have in our lives!  We're miserable!"  I was frustrated that I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working.  Everything we were doing was "good."  The baby was good, the job was good, Les Mis was good, taking in Agathe was good, my blog was good, our dog was good.  Then why did we feel so stressed and unhappy?  We had surrounded ourselves and our lives with so many, many good things!

The thing that I didn't realize throughout that process is that your plates can be too full with really really good things. It was just too much.  And it didn't matter how good these things were, we were making ourselves miserable trying to keep up with it all.  If I could go back in time six months I would have insisted that we say no to a few things to save our sanity, our marriage, the peace in our home.

I knew then that things had to change if we were going to live past this.  We had over committed ourselves and now we needed to find a way out of some commitments.  I looked and looked at our situation, but it felt like there was nothing I could do to ease the burdens.  No way to take out stress or chaos.  Greg nor I could quit our jobs.  Greg was in the middle of his show's run- you can't just decide you're done.  I love my blog and didn't want to quit that.  We certainly didn't want to say goodbye to Agathe.  June is the best thing that ever happened to us.  What to do?!?

The answer came a few days later when we came home from Sunday dinner at my mom's.  Maverick had eaten half a bar of chocolate, then diarrheaed all over the floor.  That night he cried and whined all through the wee hours of the morning, keeping us both up when we had to both be up at 6:00 am for work.  I knew it was our fault this had happened.  We hadn't given him enough attention.  I had left the diaper bag with the bar of chocolate on the floor.  We didn't blame poor Mavvy, we just knew that he was adding to our misery and stress.  So I made the ultimate call.  For now, we couldn't have a dog. Greg's parents agreed to take him until the chaos in our lives died down a bit.  He has been with them for a month.  We miss him every day, but a small amount of sanity has been regained.

The second thing I did was cut back on blogging.  Blogging is a source of income for my family, and the reality of it is that the money earned from blogging is no longer a little bonus for us; it is a needed contributor to our family income.  Furthermore, I had worked so hard to build this community and I genuinely enjoy blogging and coming to this space to share with you.  My blog was a good thing.  BUT it was making me unhappy.  So I axed my complicated sponsorship program and instead came up with something that was much easier and much less work for me.  (And, ideally, more effective for you.)  I made the decision to only require myself to write three times a week.  I knew it would have consequences, but I just had to cut back.  It was hard in some ways, but so ridiculously easy in others.

Saturday was Greg's last performance of Is He Dead?, ending a six week, four shows a week run.  He survived. I survived.  He's done.

The past week the weather in Utah has been beyond gorgeous- sixty degrees and sunny- an absolute rarity for Utah February weather.  I take it as a sign that we are out of the winter of our discontent.  Things have been getting easier and better for us.  After school Greg gets to come home and stay home now.  He is around to give his daughter a bath and put her to bed.  We can hang out with friends on the weekend.  We can see a movie together again.  This weekend we will leave the state for the first time since June's birth and show Agathe a good time in Las Vegas.  Our lives are regaining a sense of normalcy.

I feel like we're finally coming out of a fog.  Growing pains, I suppose?  In one vein it seems so ridiculous to tell you how hard it was when so many good things happened to us all at once.  But I would guess that we are not the only ones who have experienced this- who have felt stretched beyond what they could give.  Who have had everything they ever wanted (a home! a job! a baby!) and discovered that life is still hard.  That having it all on paper doesn't mean that you have it all

We have different goals than we did six months.  Now we are working on not making commitments, not trying new things, and not saying yes.  We've done a lot of that and for now we are going to say no to everything and just enjoy some time together.

We're also going to get our dog back.

TurboTax: How to Kick Butt on Your Taxes This Year

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and TurboTax, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #TurboTaxACA

Yo!  It's tax season, fools!  You ready to get your file on?

Every year I file our taxes for our little family.  I also track our credit cards, map out a savings plan for us, put money in retirement, and pay all of our bills.  This is a chore I enjoy doing.  I think women should make a point of knowing how much money their family is bringing in and exactly how that money is going out.   Knowing all the details of our finances gives me security and peace.  I am proud that I am familiar with my family's budget, and that I am the one responsible for tasks like budgeting and filing taxes.  #likeagirl

This year for the first time ever, I am filing with TurboTax.  Before I always went to a free lab at BYU where a budding accountant would kindly file my taxes for me.  But there were a lot of inconveniences this way.  I had to travel to Provo.  If I forgot a document I had to schedule another time.  Sometimes the budding accountant didn't know what he was doing.  It took hours.

I still held off, though, on using TurboTax.  I thought that doing my taxes "on my own" was going to be way too complicated.  Yes, I can track my family's money, but I'm no financial whiz.  I'm an English teacher for crying out loud!

FINALLY my cousin's husband (Go Adam!) who is an accounting major convinced me last week that TurboTax is really the best way to go.  He assured me over and over that it is easy.

As soon as he left, I gathered all of our tax info that I'd been keeping in a special basket (tax basics 101:  KEEP ALL TAX STUFF TOGETHER) and got to work on my return.

It was so easy!  I was shocked!  Even with the new requirement for health care (WHAT?!) It was such a breeze.  Here!  I'll walk you through the process.

Step 1:  Get cozy.  Taxes are totally manageable, yes, but they do take a bit of time.  I loved that by doing my taxes at home with TurboTax I could wear my comfortable pjs and even enjoy some treats. I sure can't do that when I take my taxes in!

Step 2: Go to TurboTax.  You don't have to buy anything at the store.  (I always thought if I used TurboTax that I'd have to go buy one of those little kits at the store.  Nope!)  If you have a simple return you can file right at home for FREE through February 16th.  That's only four more days.  Chop chop!

Step 3:  Answer the questions they ask about your life.  Don't worry they're not tricky.  What do you do for a living?  Are you married?  etc.

Step 4:  Declare your health insurance status.  This year, for the first time ever, there is a requirement to declare your health insurance coverage when filing taxes. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all Americans have health insurance coverage for 2014 or pay a penalty. (Say what?!)  This can be intimidating and overwhelming, but luckily, TurboTax makes it SO EASY.  I literally didn't even know that I had fulfilled this part- they just asked me one simple question about my insurance and it was over, just like that.  If you are insured through your work, all you do is check a box!

Here's how to declare your health insurance if you are:

Marketplace insured

Step Five:  Act fast!  February 15 is the last day to purchase health insurance through or a state marketplace to avoid a penalty on next year’s tax return. Do it now so you don't have to pay the penalty next year.

Step Six:  TREAT YO SELF!  Your taxes are done!  I like to treat myself for getting big, important things done.  And my treat almost always comes in the form of a, well, a treat!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bachelor Recap: That's Why They Call it The Badlands!

Welp.  I had so much fun last week gossiping about Bachelor with all of you that I just couldn't resist doing another recap tonight.  I mean, there can never be too much Bachelor talk, right?

Let's see where did we leave off?  Ah, yes.  With Kelsey having a self induced panic attack on the floor the night of the rose ceremony.  She was seized with fear that she might be going home, and the panic attack was her new best move, second only, of course, to the dead husband card she played earlier in the day.  Lying on the floor, she requests that Chris comes to comfort her.  When he shows up, everything is better. Kelsey then has a revelation.

Kelsey rejoins the rest of her ladies, who are quickly growing weary of her shenanigans. She, once again, becomes the counselor to the group and explains to them everything that Chris is feeling and experiencing during this journey of love.  "The weight of the decision is really hard on him..." yada yada yada.  Ashley I. says what everyone is thinking when she asks to a camera man if there is paperwork proving her dead husband story.

There is a rose ceremony.  A girl who literally said two words over the series of six weeks (R.I.P. Sam) and the NBA dancer go home.  No surprises there.

Good news, girls!  You are now headed to the beautiful and exotic land of South Dakota!  Bachelor producers must be trying to save a buck- gone are the trips to Europe, Iceland, Hong Kong.  Instead it's Mount Rushmore for the win, and don't anyone complain about it!  At least we get to see Chris pose naked in an old timey bathtub.  That's almost as good as Belgium, right?

Becca gets the first one on one date of the week.  Becca is the only girl who (up to this point) has not kissed Chris.  Round of applause for Becca please.  Standing ovation?  No, okay, we're good.  Becca might be the most normal person to have ever graced the reality tv set of The Bachelor and to reward us, the producers give us exactly thirty seconds of their day date.  Thanks, Bach!

Let's check in on the girls at home and see if they can spruce up a bit for drama for us.  Yep!  They can!  Looks like Whitney and Carly have decided to confront Kelsey about her widow story/ panic attack act from last week.  Kelsey handles it the way anyone who is sincere and thoughtful would and tells them the truth about her so called "fakeness."

While then telling the camera something completely different.  The girls hate her because they're jealous!

Back on Becca and Chris's date everything appears to be totally normal.  They are sitting at a campfire, having a genuine conversation, flirting and laughing.  Chris, taking a lesson on eloquence from Kelsey, has some very articulate thoughts about the date.

A rose follows.  And a kiss.  Becca mentions the one thing I have always wondered about The Bachelor and that is that now her dad has to watch her kissing someone.  We feel your pain, Becca.  Thanks for being so freaking normal.

Group date time!  Britt, Kaitlyn, Jade, Megan, Carly, and Whitney are the lucky ladies to go on a special country western music date.  Britt apparently got the wrong memo and has dressed up for an 80s pop concert instead.

The girls write love songs for Chris.  Jade freaks out because she has no confidence and a member of the country band says it will definitely help her to run down the street in front of a camera.  I mean, if that doesn't loosen her up and make her forget about her self consciousness, I don't know what will anymore!  Disturbingly, the run seems to have helped her confidence a bit until she sees Britt and Chris locking lips right in front of everyone to see.  Bad call, Chris.  Bad call.

Chris sings first.  His song is truly horrific.

Then it's the girls' turn!  Britt is first up.  Chris looks at her like she is the moon and the stars.  The other girls each take their turns- Kaitlyn makes a crude reference to her genitals in her song, Carly invites Chris up onstage and sings right into his face (One upped!), and Jade, who thought she would surely die before successfully singing a song to the bachelor, somehow lived to tell the tale!  Chris declares he is smitten by all of them and we declare this day date a success!

Oh, but the night is going to get hairy.  Chris, in an unprecedented Bachelor move, steals his obvious favorite, Britt, away from the date for OVER AN HOUR to sneak into a concert.  I have thus far been a big Chris fan.  I don't think he's the smartest guy in the world, but he has always seemed genuine and kind, and I appreciate that in a person.  But this was not kind.  He was on a group date and he gave lots and lots of special attention to one girl while ignoring the rest of them.  Not nice, Chrissy boy.

SHOCKINGLY, the girls are upset when Chris returns an hour later with Britt- her lipstick smeared and the rose in her hand.  The tension is thick enough to cut with a knife, and Chris does his best to smooth over the situation.


And Chris leaves Britt to fend for herself in a pack of jealous and probably very drunk women.  They all start crying. LITERALLY everyone is crying.  Well, except Britt.  Great end to a great date!

The next day dawns, and Chris is headed out on the infamous two on one date.  You know the rules!  Two girls, one man.  By the end of the day one girl will be sent packing while the other girl wins the rose and Chris's undying love.  Our two candidates for the two on one are Ashley and Kelsey.  Oh Bachelor producers, you are too good!  I couldn't have planned this better if I had written the show myself.  You are forgiven for filming the show in South Dakota.

The date card says the girls will be going to the Badlands, to which Kelsey immediately starts cheering.  Ashley, though is confused.

The date start off with a chopper ride, one girl on either side of Chris.  They fly over Mount Rushmore and Kelsey takes this opportunity to tutor Chris and Ashley on presidential knowledge.  Or maybe she's showing off?  "Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Lincoln..."  Good job, Kelsey!  Here's a cookie!

For this two on one date The Bachelor producers have really out done themselves.  They've placed an awkward bed and some pillows flat in the middle of the Badlands.  Now have fun on your date, you three crazy love birds!

Ashley, who is appropriately dressed for ninja training, gets the first one on one time with Chris.  She makes out with him the same way my high school students make out in the hall- with mouth open as wide as possible.  After she gets her smoochy smooch in, she tells Chris point blank that Kelsey is fake and nobody in the house likes her.

Next is Kelsey's turn with Chris while Ashley hangs out by herself on the random bed in the middle of nowhere.  Chris, sweet naive innocent beautiful Chris, breaks girl code right away when he asks Kelsey if it's true that she's "fake in the house", like Ashley said.  Kelsey tries her best to recover, but is obviously reeling from being "thrown under the bus" and blames her behavior on the difference in maturity between the girls.  Chris seems to maybe buy it.

Kelsey leaves Chris to confront Ashley.  What follows may be the best scene in all of reality television?  Do I have an AMEN?

Kelsey sits down on the bed with Ashley.
Ashley ignores Kelsey.
Kelsey glares at Ashley until Ashley looks over.

Ladies and gentleman, this is how you glare.
And ladies and gentleman, this is how you pretend like you have no idea what's going on.

Let's get a close up on that glare, shall we?

Ashley finally looks over for a quarter of a second and Kelsey pounces.  "I know what you did!"  Ashley does her best to play dumb.  "What did I do?"  For the record, Ashley would do very well in a high school setting- she is excellent in avoiding any kind of confrontation and acting like she's oblivious.  Congrats, Ashley, you would rock eleventh grade!

Ashley finally speaks, and when she does it is basically pure gibberish.

And then she runs away.  Literally runs away into the Badlands.  She finds Chris, (who is doing who knows what) cries frantically, and demands to know why he told Kelsey what she told him.  Uh, because he's a dude.  They don't understand the girl code, Ashley.  They work on a much simpler, much more direct system than women do, trust me.

Chris sees the crazy in Ashley and decides to end it immediately.  He tries to not hurt her feelings, though, and blames it on the fact that that Iowa just can't support her Kardashian lifestyle.

Ashley cries, runs away before Chris can even finish breaking up with her, then has a sudden change of heart and runs back to Chris and apologizes for letting him see this side of her.  She laughs then cries then laughs the cries- a trick very similar to what my six month old baby can do.  Chris sticks with his decision to send her home, she gets mad because he didn't give her a second chance and then yells something about "You think BRITT wants that lifestyle?"  In other words, she handles it very well.

We think we've seen the end of this date, but Chris throws in a real twist!  He goes back to Kelsey, who is waiting patiently on the bed in the middle of the desert, and tells her that she needs to go, too.  They're just not jiving.  The girls are left out in the desert alone while Chris takes his sweet chopper home by himself.  (Anyone remember when Kasey got left on the iceberg in Ali's season?  Yes I have watched way too much Bachelor in my lifetime.)

Back home, when the girls see someone come from Kelsey's bag, they are a tad bit excited.  I think it's safe to say that Ashley wasn't joking around when she told Chris everyone in the house hated Kelsey.

And that's a wrap!  There's no rose ceremony this week and we are promised that next week will be very exciting when we head on out of South Dakota and embark for the sensuous land of Iowa.  Sweet mercy, those contestants got robbed this season.

- Becca has the most perfect hair ever.
- Why is Britt hanging out on the balcony in her bra and baggy pants that ride up her butt?
- I am clueless as to how Megan has lasted this long.  Megan who?  Exactly.
- My top four predictions are: Britt, Whitney, Becca, Kaitlyn.
- My predicted winner:  Whitney.
- Predicted next Bachelorette:  Becca?