Becoming an Author

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

Honestly, I still can’t believe this is happening to me. It feels surreal and weird. Is my heart supposed to be this light? Do I need to see a doctor about this problem I have where I can’t stop smiling?

All jokes aside, the Story Of How I Became An Author is pretty unique so hold on to your hats, folks.

In early October 2017, I was feeling pretty low. I’d been a college graduate for over a year, I’d totaled a car, I was applying for jobs and getting nowhere, and most importantly I was Extremely Frustrated with myself.

I decided that something had to change. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew I had to do something.

My first step was to go to my father and ask for a blessing. I’m a Mormon, or a Latter-Day-Saint (LDS) if you’re a stickler for the formal title, and we believe that through the power of God’s priesthood, fathers are able to give their children blessings when they need them. I’ve asked my father for a great many blessings over the years. We always got one before the first day of school each year, but I took advantage more often because I am a sensitive little softy who needs fairly constant emotional and spiritual validation.

In my father’s blessing, he blessed me with a few things, but this in particular was relevant to the rest of the story: if I took steps to prepare to go to the temple, I would find employment.

I’m not going to talk about the temple, here. Not much, anyway. This isn’t the time or place for that kind of post.

Anyway— every year, twice a year, the LDS church does this neat thing called General Conference. It’s filmed at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and consists of the leaders of the LDS church gathering and addressing everyone in the church. General Conference is translated into hundreds of different languages, so that people around the world have access to the wisdom and inspiration shared by the prophet, apostles, and other church leaders.

I decided that I should listen and think about what my dad said in his blessing, about going to the temple. With every talk given, I felt more and more certain that I needed to actively do what he suggested. Partly because I wanted to go to the temple and believed it would be A Good Thing, and partly because there was that nifty little bit about finding employment and I very much wanted to be employed.

I decided to do it. I decided I was going to get ready, and that I wanted to go to the temple by the end of the year.

And: not a WEEK after I made this decision, I was contacted by a guy named David, who works for a children’s publisher called Familius, based out of California. They had this book series, you see. The author of the first two novels, Annette, was David’s sister, and she was getting very busy with her family and didn’t have time to write the books anymore. David actually grew up in my local congregation— in fact, his dad was the bishop before my dad. David’s mom (my former bishop’s wife) had mentioned that I write, so he’d gotten in touch and would I be interested in this kind of thing?

It might be a bit of an understatement to say I was VERY INTERESTED.

I sent back an email indicating my INTEREST. David said, “Neat! Can you send me some writing samples?”

I sent one of these blog posts (the one about the name Elizabeth), and a three-page excerpt from the novel I’d been working on in my spare time.

David said, “Great! You’re hired.”

I screamed and cried and generally lost my marbles to my entire family.

Now you have to understand, this isn’t really how it works in the publishing world. Usually what happens is that unless you have an agent or an editor prior to submission, you write a draft and revise it a couple of times and send queries out to publishers, who will then reply, “nah, not interested” or “neat, send more pls”. It is a lot of sitting around and waiting for things to happen while working on your next project, basically.

So I am EXTREMELY LUCKY to have gotten this opportunity. Or, as I personally believe based on the coincidental timing of the father’s blessing and my decision to prepare to go to the temple, EXTREMELY BLESSED.

(I did end up going to the temple, but as I said— not the time or place. It’s very sacred and private. Also, it’s off-topic for this post.)

Not only was I employed, but I was employed in a field that was literally my dream job. The job I had wanted, craved, adored since I was six. The job for which I have spent fourteen years of my life attempting to hone my skills. I was handed an opportunity on a golden platter and told, “You’re welcome.”

The book I wrote (because yes, it is already written; that’s why if you know me IRL I’ve been doing things like a neat lil author’s page and stuff) is very cool. It’s a children’s book, targeted toward middle-grade readers. The premise is similar to the very popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, in that it is done in a diary-type format with illustrations. It differs from said DWK series in that it stars cute little monster-type people, and it discusses children’s mental health issues. There were two books in the series when I came in. The first was about ADHD, and the second was about screen addiction.

My book is about anxiety— a topic very near and dear to my heart, as you well know.

The previous author and I both worked with a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and psychologist, Dr. Raun Melmed. He’s fairly well-known in his community— like his picture comes up when you Google him and everything. Dr. Melmed was a pleasure to work with. He told me about the technique he wanted me to implement in helping my character deal with her anxiety. We even had a phone call. I hate phone calls, but it went okay and he was very helpful. This series is his brainchild and I am very grateful to be allowed the opportunity to work on it with him. He also wrote a guide for parents and teachers that goes in the back of the book— it’s designed to be used as a classroom tool, as well as a story. However, besides a few key details like the name, gender, and identity of the main character and the background given in the first two books, I was given more or less complete creative freedom over the story.

Dr. Melmed and I went over my first few drafts and he helped me with the mechanical edits and how I implemented his technique into the story. Then the story went to editing and we were assigned a lovely editor by the name of Caroline.

Honestly, Caroline was probably one of the best things about writing this book. I’d never had a real-life editor before. I have had good friends and family read my stuff and offer suggestions, but I’d never had an actual editor. Caroline was so easy to work with and so much fun, and she helped me to understand that I have a tendency to use weak verbs with adverb qualifiers— something I can apply to my writing in general right away!

The best part about working with Caroline is that I do feel like we are friends now. She was so sweet and she really encouraged me to use my odd sense of humor and my own brand of weirdness as I wrote.

The story has been in illustration since February or so. The illustrator’s name is Jeff Harvey, but I don’t actually know much about him. I was given PDF copies of the first two books so I can say firsthand that he is a fantastic artist. The books are adorable and I can’t wait for mine to turn out in the same style.

Publication is set for Spring 2019. I’ve not been given an exact date yet, but I will update both here and on my brand-spanking-new author Facebook page (found here!) when I know more.

Since Familius isn’t one of The Big Five publishing companies, I will be doing a lot of self-advertisement and branding. That’s just how publishing works. So, if that kind of thing annoys you, then, uh, I don’t really know what to tell you because my entire life is self-advertisement now?

So that is the story of how I became an author.

I don’t know if I can explain this feeling I’m experiencing, but since that’s how I will be shortly making a very small living, I think it’s worth a shot:

Despite every single hateful thought I have had about myself, despite the times when I have wished I was dead, despite the wretched heartache that has, on occasion, manifested as physical pain— despite all this and more, I have fulfilled a dream.

This is something I have wanted so badly, for so long. Realizing this dream has made all of the pain I’ve gone through to get here entirely, one hundred percent worth it.

And that— that is something that will never be warped by the darkness within me. When I am confused and sad and afraid, I can look back on this moment and smile and say, “It was worth it.” It is a golden, endless thread in my patchwork personality.

I’m not saying that I’m cured of mental illness. Nor am I saying I will never have bad days again. What I have now is perspective. I have something solid to hold onto, instead of just a hope that things will get better. Even on my worst days, I can say, “Screw you, mental illness. I wrote a book.”

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter. If you would like to follow me on Facebook for professional purposes, you can find me at S.E. Abramson.


I Would Recommend Therapy for 11/10 People

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.
Therapy has taught me so many things, but the most important thing it’s taught me is that I can very slowly, over time, push the limits of what is comfortable and what is not.
For instance: driving often makes me anxious. Like, anxious to the point of physical nausea and headaches. Especially if I don’t know where exactly I’m going and require the use of a GPS or a map or a navigating friend in the passenger seat.
However: every time I force myself to make a trip like this and succeed, it causes me to have a reason to celebrate. “Yay! I did this little thing! And it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be because I didn’t die in a fiery fifty-car pileup!”
Now, the best way to think of things like this is a scientific experiment, as follows:
Question: if I have to drive by myself to X place, will life go on and will I survive?
Hypothesis: if I successfully make it to X place (and back), life will go on and I will have achieved something.
Experiment: I drive to X place.
Results: There is no car accident and only one person honked at me, and it’s because they’re rude, not because I was driving badly.
Conclusion: Driving to X place was not so bad, because there was no fiery fifty-car pileup, I am not dead, and I didn’t puke. I will probably be able to do this again.
Yay, science!
It doesn’t always work this way, of course. Life cannot and should not be a series of constant risk-taking. Doing that to yourself is unhealthy. If Z activity scares the living willies out of you like driving does for me, then you would be constantly living life in an adrenaline-fueled hellscape. There’s no reward in the scenario, and so you are even less motivated to do the thing again.
The pattern goes like this: take a small risk, succeed, reward. (The reward may be entirely psychological motivation to do scary things again, or it might be a giant slurpee or chocolate bar.)
Now, ordinary life doesn’t allow for you to do things at your own pace. There’s no time or space or money for you to reward yourself for doing little things that “normal” people manage to do all the time, every day. So you have to add a bit of a recovery period in for yourself, and it’s simply impossible to make it work by the timeframe, space, or budget of a “normal” person.
Now we get to my main point: this is why I believe we need a universal healthcare system, a better mainframe for mental healthcare specifically, and for people to not make jokes about things they don’t really understand— i.e. triggers and safe spaces.
I wouldn’t have realized ANY of this about myself without therapy. Before I was in therapy, I was a complete mess. Sometimes I wanted to die, sometimes I was very glad to be alive. Sometimes I would cry for absolutely no reason and sometimes I couldn’t sleep at night because my brain wouldn’t shut up and I couldn’t figure out how to make it do so in all of the chaos. Sometimes I would go to a ward activity at college and jump when someone tall walked right behind me. Sometimes it felt like being in a room with more than five people in it was TOO MUCH and I needed to get out, CLANG CLANG ALARM BELLS CALL OUT THE CAVALRY and “Wait, Sarah, where are you going?”
Uh, I left something in my room. I’ll come out when I find it. (I won’t find it.)
Anyway, I was having all of these weird thoughts, and sometimes I would do weird things and I didn’t know why. I couldn’t understand how my brain and my body were cooperating because to me, it felt like they weren’t.
When I finally got to therapy, it was just venting at first. I talked to my therapist, Anne, about all of my problems. She listened and nodded and wrote things down, and occasionally asked me questions.
After a few sessions, it occurred to me that… something had changed. I was calmer. I didn’t have the same need to hold everything back until I had to word vomit into Facebook or blog posts to get it out. I was more controlled.
Then she asked me more questions. Questions that probed deeper into the stories I told her about my life and my trauma and my brain.
They were simple questions.
“Why do you think that you’re not pretty?”
“When did you start feeling bad about your body?”
“What makes you think that (X event) is your fault?”
And when she asked those questions, I had to think about them. I found myself crying a lot. Anne always had about ten boxes of tissues in the room and she would just hand me a box and wait for me to be able to speak through the tears.
I was finally beginning to find something, in the chaos of my mind, that I could hold onto. And once I said things out loud, they became so much more real.
She taught me about the risk-reward thing related to anxiety. This technique is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in which a person struggling with anxiety over a specific behavior or action (which is called a “trigger,” now stop making fun of it) deliberately performs or exposes themselves to that behavior or action in a controlled environment (which may be called a “safe space” depending on your therapist). By creating a situation where the trigger will have a greatly diminished risk (or no risk at all), the person with anxiety is able to rewire their response to the trigger to reflect a lack of risk, and therefore prevent the anxious response. TL;DR— it’s some next-level, positive Pavlovian brain-programming and it’s freaking amazing.
Anne gave me ways to practice this type of CBT. It’s been very helpful with driving and making casual conversations with people. I have future plans to apply it to things like phone calls, opening the oven door when I’m making food, and eating in front of other people.
Every therapy session I go to costs a little over a hundred dollars. My family’s insurance covers most of it but we do a co-pay of about thirty bucks. I used to go every two weeks, but I only go every three weeks or once a month now. If my family wasn’t so lovely and understanding about the whole thing, if they weren’t willing or couldn’t afford to pay for it, then I would still be a complete mess. The helpfulness of people on the internet can only do so much— emotionally, mentally, financially.
And that is why we need universal healthcare. That is why we need a better system for diagnosing and treating people who have mental health issues. That is why people need to stop making childish jokes about things they don’t understand.
Mental health issues don’t care about your socioeconomic standing, but people in a lower income bracket are more likely to go without treatment for their mental health issues, because they can’t afford it. They can’t worry about their mental health; they have to worry about the roof over their heads and the food they can afford and the families they have to provide for. People who cannot afford mental healthcare don’t have the luxury of recovery, of risk-and-reward, of CBT. If they can even afford therapy in the first place, then taking time off work to go and spend money on it could mean an entire week’s groceries. It absolutely sickens me that we live in a world where people have to live in unnecessary misery because they can’t afford something that should be a human right. Like, capitalism, what the actual crap. If you were really beneficial for people then you would be doing something about this.
Mental health issues are so often misdiagnosed because it’s a “soft science” and “it’s not always medical.” (Hint: it’s pretty much always medical.) I’ve been fortunate enough to have a fairly official diagnosis from a psychiatrist, accompanied by prescriptions for the pills I need to take to prevent myself from wanting to not exist anymore. But other people have far more vicious and complex problems than I do. Because the mental health field has far fewer professionals than it needs, not everyone can be seen for their problems right away. I go to therapy in the next county over because the waiting lists for therapists in my county are nine months long. That is completely ridiculous— both that we don’t have enough therapists to cover as many people who need it, and that nine months worth of people need a therapist and can’t get one. Say what you like about exercise, sunshine, omega-3 fatty acids, or essential oils— the most effective treatment for mental illness is a combination of therapy and medication.
And finally, the joking about triggers and safe spaces really has to stop. Putting a political charge on this is unfair to people of any political alignment who suffer from mental health issues. Like cool, I get it, you disagree with me, but there’s no need to be deliberately unkind to people who are already dealing with a whole lot of crap. A safe space, to me, is the risk-free zone where I can practice my CBT techniques. It’s a place where I will not be punished if I break down crying over having to make a phone call. It’s a place where I can allow myself to relax a little. Safe spaces are places, like my bed and my room. Safe spaces are people, like my therapist and my parents. Safe spaces are things, like this blog and my small army of stuffed animals and the playlist on my MP3 player that I designed for Bad Days. And triggers, to me, are things that might cause me to have a panic attack or a particularly bad depressive episode or a return to suicidal ideations. Triggers are phone calls I’m not expecting. Triggers are The Great Hard Drive FUBAR of 2016. Triggers are wanting to say something, to speak up and argue in defense of an idea that I have— but not having the words for it because I write so much better than I speak.
If this doesn’t make sense to you, it’s due to one of two possibilities— firstly, you don’t have anxiety; or secondly, if you do have anxiety then yours manifests differently from mine. But keep in mind that anxiety isn’t rational. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. There’s no practical reason for me to feel nauseated every time I have to drive somewhere, but it happens anyway. Why? Because my brain still views it as a threat to my existence. Logically, I am aware that I am a fairly good driver and that I am an extremely careful driver. It is statistically unlikely that I will be in another car accident anytime soon. I can have all these thoughts, simultaneously, with an overwhelming tidal wave of DEAR GOD I AM GOING TO DIE MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP, because anxiety doesn’t care about logic. Logic can be a tool I use to reassure myself, but it doesn’t magically stop me from having enormous amounts of stomach pain or headaches whenever I go somewhere.
The point of this entire post is that I was a hot mess, but thanks to therapy, I now understand how my brain works. (Mostly.) And now that I have experienced this magic, I want it for everyone else. I’m not better than any person on this planet and I am no more deserving of help than anyone else; so why should I get to have therapy while others suffer? Everyone should be able to have help for this, if they need it.
And even if you don’t need therapy for a specific thing, I recommend it anyway. Therapy has not only helped me deal with some of my issues, but it’s helped me learn how to organize my own mind. I understand why my brain does what it does, and I can even recognize the difference between the rational and the irrational thoughts. I know when I need to take a pill and when I need to leave a room. I know when I need to disengage from something in order to keep myself from being hurt. I know what risks are okay to take, and I can accept the rewards I get for taking them.
Seriously, therapy. 11/10 would recommend for all 7 billion and change on the planet.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.

A Fairy Tale For Millennials

Once Upon A Time, there was a young… blogger.

She had a college degree in English, because she understood from an early age that the STEM field was not for her, and that she was always going to be more intellectual than physical. If she’d known that so many people were going to say things about “young people who get liberal arts degrees being surprised when they can’t get hired,” she might have sucked it up and gone to law school or medical school instead.

(In her childhood, everyone said “Follow your dreams.” She took that advice, and was subsequently surprised and annoyed when the same people touted the virtues of STEM, trade school, and other career fields and made jokes about English majors working in the drive-through at McDonalds. This is called a double standard, and it’s not her fault. Stop telling her what she should have done, it’s none of your business.)

The young blogger was a hopeless romantic, and she wished to meet— well, not a prince exactly, but a gentleman. She knew what to expect of the dating field, and so assumed that there would be a few cads, a few charmers, and a wide variety of fairly average fellows who would turn out to be extremely lovely on closer acquaintance. However, she did not realize that her own personality was lacking in many ways, and that she needed to fix her personal flaws as she attempted to find and choose someone with whom she could comfortably spend her life.

The young blogger, growing up, noticed that she was a few pounds bigger than the other girls her age. This was often uncomfortable, for the fashion industry had not always been open to the idea of advertising for plus-size women and it hadn’t occurred to successful screenwriters to cast plus-size actresses. So she never saw people who looked like her in movies or television shows, and she never saw people who looked like her wearing pretty or flattering clothes. This served the purpose of making her believe that fat girls were not meant to be pretty or talented, two things she wanted very badly to be.

(She was not aware that she was, in fact, both of those things already.)

Perhaps you are scornful of the influence that advertisement and media had on the mind of the young blogger. “She shouldn’t have listened to those things,” you say. “She should have known from the beginning.”

Maybe you’re right. The young blogger knew, to an extent, that she was worth something. She just had no idea whether the something consisted of gold or garbage or something else entirely.

She knew there were things missing, but she did not know where to find them. She knew there were things wrong, but she did not know how to fix them. It was not until she listened to strangers on the Internet that she began to understand.

“I have depression,” said one such stranger. “These are the symptoms: I am tired all the time. Sadness and happiness feel more and more like apathy, and all that is left to me is an exhausting anger at my own mind and body for not accommodating the things I would like to do with my life. I have gone to a doctor. I take pills. I am getting better.”

The blogger heard this, and it resonated within her: it was one of the things wrong and missing. She did more research, then went to a doctor, took pills, and began seeing a therapist.

She went back to the Internet to listen to more strangers. “I have anxiety,” said another stranger. “Here are the symptoms.”

The blogger went back to the doctor and got more pills, then returned to the Internet.

“I am a woman,” said another stranger, “and every day of my life I have felt like the world does not want me because I am fat.”

The blogger could not go to the doctor for this, but she understood that pain all too well.

“I am a woman who loves another woman,” said another stranger. “I want to marry her, but our families are afraid and don’t understand, so they will push us away.”

The blogger preferred men, but she had often felt that people did not understand her, so she was sympathetic. She kept listening.

“I have autism,” said another stranger, “and the world thinks I ought to be a certain way but I cannot be like that.”

“I am black,” said another stranger, “and I am never sure who I can trust. I have family and friends who are in jail or dead because they trusted the system to take care of them.”

“I am religious,” said another stranger, “and all I want is to worship God peacefully. I don’t understand why some of my faith persecute others, and I don’t understand why some of my faith are persecuted.”

“I was raped,” said another stranger, “and now I am pregnant and I cannot do this. I need to get an abortion.”

“I am Latina,” said another stranger, “and I have American citizenship but some of my friends and family do not, and I am terrified that they will be sent away.”

“I am poor,” said another stranger, “and I do not have clean water to drink or a roof over my head.”

The blogger listened to all of these people, and as she listened, she felt her heart open wider and wider. She wanted to help them so badly, but she was poor and shy and sad and tired, and she could not help the whole suffering world at once.

In desperation, she typed her own question, casting it far across the World Wide Web: “What can I do to help?”

The answers came abundantly, but they were also confusing. Some things she could do— she could continue to listen and to offer comfort and empathy where it was wanted, and to remain silent when she was not needed. That was easy.

The hard parts were something else: admitting when she had made mistakes, for instance. She tried her best to change the way she thought and spoke, so that she would not hurt people more than they were already hurt.

She tried her best to explain her changes to others, but they said “she was too sensitive” and insisted that the things she had learned were wrong or stupid or weird. They said that the things she had been told were lies, that they couldn’t be Proven By Facts.

The blogger knew that there was no way to Prove that someone sharing their experience on the Internet wasn’t lying, but she believed these strangers because they reminded her of herself: they shared the things they could not always say aloud. Their writing was raw and full of pain and heartache. She could hear that, even though it was sterile letters on a page of pixels. There were so many people sharing stories, sharing similar stories, sharing the very same experiences with different characters and settings, that the blogger was convinced that most of them were being honest. She Knew, because truth and pain are two things that are hard to fake.

And still, people did not believe her. It seemed as though, knowing that one person could not fix the world, that all of them had given up on trying.

The young blogger retreated into herself to think. She did not have any money, so she could not donate to Project RAINN or TWLOHA or the Trevor Project or Planned Parenthood. Talking to people had done no good. And despite her best efforts, there was no such thing as “recovering” from mental illness. She had days where she coped, and she had days where she couldn’t. She was already tired because of her own mind and body; the insistent prejudices of the world were doubly exhausting.

“Very well,” decided the blogger. “The things I can do are listen, and act. No more talking, no more arguing. What I must do is live as my conscience dictates, and make sure that I never turn a deaf ear to those who are less fortunate than I.”

And that is what she did. It was quiet work, and there wasn’t a whole lot of it, but sometimes she was able to make people think because of the example she set. She vowed to be kind. Sometimes she didn’t always succeed, but she did try.

The blogger had long known of her knack for words. She was bad at public speaking, but good at writing. She hoped she was doing some good in the world, by writing about things she cared about.

To this day, she has not found a job, nor has she met anyone with whom she would like to spend her life. She got several participation awards, but she never requested them and her report cards always indicated that she did not participate in class anyway. (The blogger was too shy to raise her hand in elementary school, even if she knew the answer.) She has never lived alone, but she still dreams of a decent apartment and a dog that needs her. She dreams of floral curtains on the kitchen windows, of ceiling-high bookshelves, and a good queen-size mattress.

She doesn’t even like avocados. They smell and taste like grass, water, and glue sticks pureed in a blender.

The blogger, like many people, is not entirely sure that Happily Ever After exists. The blogger simply does not have the ability to believe that Happily Ever After can exist on a day to day basis because she does not have the ability to be happy on a day to day basis.

Regardless, she is an optimist and she likes fairy tales, so she has penned a new phrase.

The blogger lived— lives. She lives Hopefully Ever After.

Letters To My Past Selves

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

Firstly, some housekeeping. I haven’t posted in like a month. I apologize, but I’ve also made an executive decision that following a posting schedule is BS unless I’m getting paid for it, and so I’m only going to post when I want to post and I will not be stressing myself out about it. Because that was what I was doing and it made me not want to post things. Now, on to the main event!

Dear pre-Earth-life, spirit Sarah: You made some decisions, kid. I don’t know what all of those decisions were, but I do know that you picked an excellent family, one that makes you feel needed and loved, and one that you need and love. So— you know, thank you. You’ve made some other decisions, and I hope that I don’t get older and look back on what I did with those decisions in mortality and go, “Wow, that was dumb.” For the record, though, I think you’ve done a great job.

Dear in-utero-Sarah: My propensity for inappropriate laughter is thanks to you. You were right-side-up, which for a fetus is upside-down, and they had to manually turn you and my mother was laughing uncontrollably the whole time. It’s one of those things that I am convinced is absorbed by osmosis because now I laugh when I shouldn’t. It is a coping mechanism for severe clinical depression, so I will allow it. And you came out okay, anyway. A little jaundiced, but quite healthy.

Dear infant Sarah: You learned to sleep well at a very young age, to the point where your mother was half convinced you were dead sometimes because you didn’t wake up at three in the morning to cry. Unfortunately for you, sleep is not something you can backlog, and in the future you will be very tired, very often. Mostly due to being sad and not producing enough neurotransmitters.

Dear one-year-old Sarah: I don’t remember anything about this time in my life, but I do know that you were full of joy. Hang on to that, kid. You’re going to need it.

Dear two-year-old Sarah: There’s not a lot of memories, still— but I’ve seen some pictures. You know, Two, you loved the heck out of your big brother. The two of you were best friends. It’s sort of adorable. He’s still one of your best friends. You fight occasionally, but it’s because you love each other so much that it hurts.

Dear three-year-old Sarah: You can read! Good job. You can also use the toilet, but that’s boring and not at all essential to your progress on the path to healthy adulthood. You already have a propensity for interesting names. Your Barbie dolls, Theresia and Evangelina and Susannah, thank you. Also, you believe that you are beautiful. Guard that belief, Three, because it’s unbelievably precious and you don’t get to keep it.

Dear four-year-old Sarah: You wear that princess costume frequently. You also have a windbreaker-sweatpants combo that make this interesting scratching noise when the fabric between your legs rubs together when you move. Yes, that is where that noise is coming from. It’s not a ghost or a tree or the wind. It’s your pants, Four. You can be so adorably stupid sometimes, but childhood is a learning process and I promise I am not judging you. (Just laughing at you. From the future.) Also, you know the big wall of mirrors in the house on Cherrywood Drive? Enjoy them now, because in the future you will hate mirrors.

Dear five-year-old Sarah: You’ve started school. I get it, I really do. School is confusing and loud and the other kids don’t understand your jokes, and on picture day you wore a really cute dress and the boy who sits next to you wore a suit and tie and everybody else said that you two were going to get married. You don’t need to cry about that, Five. Really, you don’t. He moves away after kindergarten and you never see him again. It will be okay. Also, just because you color outside of the lines on purpose sometimes doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. It just means you already have a healthy objection to categorizations like “colors belong in certain places.” The whole world is a big, beautiful rainbow and maybe the rest of them can’t see it, but you can. And you will keep seeing it for a very long time.

Dear six-year-old Sarah: You have the cutest haircut. Every adult you know tells you so. The kids your age don’t seem to agree; in fact, the one girl told you that you have “boy hair” and you cried about it— but Six, you cry about everything. Also, you wrote your first book. Remember the Young Authors program? Where you wrote a story and drew pictures and they bound it all up into a cute book for you? Yeah, you wrote a counting book.

Dear seven-year-old Sarah: This is the year you got glasses— and you promptly lost them three days later. This is a problem because you need glasses, Seven. You REALLY need glasses. It does not help that you have spent your nights reading by the extremely dim light shining through your open bedroom doorway. Stop doing that. You need your eyes. Also, you wrote another book. This one is an entirely fictional story about how your infant brother got lost in the supermarket. But you found him, because you believe in happy endings.

Cling to those happy endings, Seven. I’m begging you. I need them so badly.

Dear eight-year-old Sarah: So you moved to Red Lion this year, and everything is just— weird. You don’t have friends. At the end of the school year, that girl in your string lesson at school will be your friend. She’s a great friend. Everybody in your class thinks that you like the one boy because you played tag with him a couple of times at recess. There is nothing wrong with playing tag with a boy, and you do not have a problem. They’re the ones with the problem, Eight. They don’t know any better, so don’t judge them too harshly— but a boy and a girl can be just friends. It’s okay. At least you have Darcy the purple bear, who is your best friend and will be for a long time.

You were also baptized this year. That’s important, because it marks the beginning of your relationship with God. You knew He was real before this, but this time, it’s more important. My advice to you (not that you will take it) is to remember your baptism day as often as you can.

Dear nine-year-old Sarah: This is the year you learned that you hate math. This is unfortunate, because your father does math for a living but also because from here on out you are going to struggle with math, and therefore science, for the remainder of your education. I’m very, very sorry about it.

Also… puberty is on its way, and it’s not going to be fun. Hold on for a hot minute, Nine. You can make it and I believe in you.

Dear ten-year-old Sarah: I’m sorry.

Ten, I just— this is the year of capital-I Issues. Literally, because this is the year you get boobs and experience menarche, and on top of that you embark upon the lifelong, self-destructive train of Hating Your Own Body and you’re not going to get off that train for the next thirteen years. And even then you sometimes hang out near the tracks and ride from town to town like a hobo in the forties.

This is the year you did a report on the state of Wyoming. In the future, you will go to Wyoming and discover that it is not nearly as interesting as your report made it sound. I mean, you were on Interstate 80 the whole time, but it’s a six-hour drive from one border to the other and there’s one town along the entire highway. Also, it’s always raining.

The most important part about that report is that you stood up and gave that report in front of everyone, and it was the last time you were ever comfortable giving a report because afterward… well, afterward, one of your friends told you that two of the popular girls were laughing at you the whole time because you have hairy legs.

I’m crying for you, Ten. You didn’t know any better. You didn’t know that the cultural patriarchy had already taken an awful grasping hold on the minds of those girls and caused them to believe that body hair is the worst thing a woman can have. They didn’t know, either. But their mockery hurt you, and you asked your mother for a razor and she showed you how to use it.

Ten, you never needed to shave. Neither of those girls had to do it. One of them had light-red hair and her leg hair was invisible, and the other one had tanned skin so her leg hair didn’t show up. You had fair skin and dark body hair, and the only reason that they teased you is because it was visible.

There’s not a thing wrong with your body hair, but you don’t know that, and you’re going to spend the next ten or eleven years having a love-hate relationship with your razor before you and your therapist realize that this specific report on the state of Wyoming is the cause of half of your hang-ups about body hair.

Dear eleven-year-old Sarah: The Puberty Stagecoach took you to the Hating Your Own Body express, and that train has made a stop in Acne City. You have bumps on your face. Sometimes they have cyst-like fluid in them. Sometimes they’re just clogged pores that have become blackheads. Either way— you have acne, and it is the plague of your existence. Eleven, I am sorry to inform you that acne will remain the plague of your existence well into your twenties. It’s unfortunate. The residents of Acne City are also the drivers of the Hating Your Own Body train, and they feel the need to return home frequently. Sometimes you will hate your legs, or your arms, or your back, or your chest, or your stomach— but you will always hate your face because you can’t yet see the beauty in it under the acne and the scars.

Dear twelve-year-old Sarah: Junior high is hell, Twelve. I have no advice for you other than this: Survive.

Dear thirteen-year-old Sarah: This is the first and last time you will get a sports award for anything. You won the Presidential Fitness Award for the V-Sit, which is where you put your feet against a box and reach forward to rest your hands on a ruler on the top. This is supposedly a test of flexibility, but you have an advantage because you have short legs and a long torso and arms. This is the one time you actually enjoy something your body, Thirteen— savor the moment.

Also: that kid who was a jerk to you once in gym class, because you were afraid of getting hit by the volleyball? He’s not so bad, honestly. He’s going to date like half of your friends so you better get used to him.

Dear fourteen-year-old Sarah: So high school is okay. You see a lot of couples sucking face in the hallways, and part of you is grossed out and part of you is deeply, unreasonably jealous. Not because kissing looks all that fun, but because once these people are done making out they hold hands and walk to class together. You would like that, but you’re a hopeless romantic and you are also quiet and you believe you’re too ugly for anyone to look at you like that. It’s not going to happen.

Also, there’s this boy. I know it’s too late to give you advice now, but please don’t fall in love with him, Fourteen. It’s going to hurt you. Please.

Dear fifteen-year-old Sarah: Now that you’re busy and having fun with your friends all the time, you can sometimes forget about hating your own body. I mean, there are still moments— all of your friends are getting boyfriends and dating, and they hold hands and sometimes make out and you’re still unreasonably jealous but not that way, eww. They’re your friends. You don’t want to make out with them— you just want someone to make out with, someone who will fill this growing emptiness inside of you and tell you that you’re pretty.

Fifteen, you are never going to date in high school, and I know that sounds terrible but I promise you it is a blessing. It is protection. God is literally protecting you from getting screwed up by these emotions you don’t know how to handle. I know it’s bitter, and it’s hard to watch and not feel envious, and I know that it feels like the only reason boys don’t look at you that way is because you have thin, beautiful friends— but Fifteen. I swear you are better off. Please just trust me.

Dear sixteen-year-old Sarah: Your mother let you get contacts this year, and your hair is longer than it’s ever been. You not only feel pretty, but downright beautiful. I mean, you still get acne, but your school picture this year was the first one in five years that was not a complete travesty, and they retouch the acne away so you can pretend you are a normal, pretty, slightly overweight girl instead of the fat ugly mess you believe yourself to be.

Sixteen, I hate to burst your bubble— but you are going to cut your hair a lot in the next few years, and you are also going to go back to wearing glasses full-time. Once you get the right frames, they will make your face much thinner than contacts.

Dear seventeen-year-old Sarah: You’re nervous about getting that BYU acceptance letter. Don’t worry, you’ll get it— it just won’t come until March because BYU is really picky and your GPA was on the edge of Nope for them. Fortunately, the abundance of extracurriculars and the whole perfect seminary attendance and lettering thing did it for them. And you know, you did score a 31 on the ACT. Nice going, Seventeen. You might believe you’re ugly, but nobody’s ever said you were stupid and trust me, being smart has done more for you than being pretty.

Dear eighteen-year-old Sarah: So— college. You have a lovely roommate and four other lovely apartment-mates. You are doing your own laundry and cooking; you are going to class; you have your first job selling doughnuts and brownies at the football games. You have made some really good friends who like the same books and TV shows and movies as you. You are doing good. And you are on a huge campus with thirty-six thousand people (including the Independent Study people, so maybe it’s more like thirty thousand) and you feel invisible. It’s the best feeling in the entire world. Nobody is looking at you. Nobody cares. Yes, they’re all prettier than you and there are tall, thin women who wear six-inch-heels to class every day but nobody bats an eye at your sweatpants. Nobody cares and boy, do you feel free.

Eighteen, a small part of me now wishes I could tell you to dress up cute every day and learn to put on makeup, but the rest of me is glad that we didn’t do that. It wasn’t necessary, and if you felt like you had to do that in the future, and… well, let’s say it would have contributed to a whole host of factors playing into your depression and anxiety.

Dear nineteen-year-old Sarah: Remember how I told you not to fall in love with that boy? Well gosh dang it, if you didn’t go and fall in love with that boy. He is going to break your heart, little by little. And— here’s the thing you won’t understand right away— he isn’t even going to do it on purpose. Some of it is definitely his fault but some of it is you over-romanticizing the whole situation (which he did not know about), and the rest has to do with the Hating Your Own Body train, next stop Acne City, next stop Fatty Station. For once, a boy is making you feel pretty, and not because he says so— but because he likes spending time with you and talking to you. It is flattering and lovely, and infatuation is such a powerful drug that you can’t wait for your next hit.

Nineteen, it’s still a drug. And once you came off that high, once you realized that the relationship was toxic and bad and wrong— you crashed.

Nineteen, I told One to hang on to her joy, and I told Seven to hold her happy endings close, and I told Ten that puberty was going to be awful, and I told Twelve that junior high school was hell, and I told Fifteen that she was better off without a boyfriend. I told them those things because they were true, but I also told them those things because joy and happy endings are something you can’t see anymore. I told them that puberty and junior high were awful because those things are survivable. I told Fifteen that she was better off without a boyfriend because being single and alive is better than slowly wasting away because your heart is broken.

And Nineteen, it’s not just your heart. There’s something wrong with your head, too. You’re going to be okay, Nineteen. You’re going to be fine. Please— don’t think those things. Don’t think so loudly. Put that bottle of ibuprofen, that full bottle, back into your medicine drawer and call your mother. It’s three in the morning, but call your mother because waking her up is better than… the alternative. You’re not actually going to down that entire bottle of pills, but stop thinking about it. I know that’s not entirely in your control.

Nineteen, I’m talking you off the ledge. Listen to me.

Dear twenty-year-old Sarah: Your new medication is helping. And some other things, too. You moved apartments, and you’ve got a good job at the campus bookstore. You’re quieter now than ever, though you’ve always been quiet. Boys scare you, in a way they never did before. You guard your heart so carefully, Twenty. That’s smart, but it’s also lonely.

Remember Five? Remember how she’s always seen rainbows? The rainbows left and you didn’t even notice, until they came back. Now that you’re on medicine, the whole world looks brighter and warmer. Even rainy days just remind you of home.

Twenty, you spend a lot of time on the Internet. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, I’m glad you did. If you didn’t spend a lot of time there, you would never have learned about the body positivity movement and feminism. Those things have helped you realize that the thoughts you have about your body are— well, you’re not sure what they are, but you know they aren’t quite right.

On the other hand, you have suddenly gotten a lot jumpier. Go to the doctor for that. Anxiety medication will make you sleepy, but it will also help you if you’re about to have a panic attack. By the way: panic attacks are not fun. Also: you’ve been having those since fifth grade, but you had convinced yourself that you were just a crybaby. Don’t do that anymore, Twenty.

Dear twenty-one-year-old Sarah: I’m sorry, again. I’m sorry you couldn’t finish college. You had less than a month left in your last semester, but it was too much and you self-sabotaged because of anxiety. It’s going to be okay, Twenty-one. We’re getting you therapy, we’re getting you new medicine because Lexapro stopped working and Zoloft— well, it was quit college or talk yourself down from the ledge again. And you’ve gained thirty pounds in the last five months of college. That was Zoloft, too.

I’m sorry.

Dear twenty-two-year-old Sarah: Therapy is really amazing, isn’t it? You’ve been going for about a month and it’s already made such a difference. You haven’t talked to your therapist about your body yet— but once you both realize what’s going on, you’re going to fix this. The Hating Your Own Body train will be leaving the station— but you, Twenty-two, are going to get off the train and stay in this new place. It doesn’t have a name yet, but I suggest you call it Confidence.

Dear twenty-three-year-old Sarah: Here we are. We’ve come a long way, kid. Heartbreak, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation— it’s not been pleasant. But you are finally starting to look back and see little spots of joy. Remember Four? She believes we’re going to be a princess. Maybe we haven’t always felt like one, Twenty-three, but Four is right. You’re a princess.

You’re still uncomfortable with your body, but you don’t hate it. You’re down to high school weight, or a little over. You still have acne, but you’ve also talked to the therapist about the whole picking-at-your-face-and-nails thing and learned that it’s a symptom of anxiety. The comedone extraction kit has been helpful, and once you get hold of a cube or a spinner, that will be even better. And you know, you graduated from college. Not a big deal, or anything. (Yes, it is. Good job on finishing college without dying.)

You’re still lonely, but you’re also beginning to understand that friendships are in some ways more important than relationships. You’ve also learned to serve people. You’ve learned that God loves you, and that even when you don’t believe you are beautiful, He knows you are. You’ve found faith in your healing, and healing in your faith. You can look at a mirror and see your bright hazel eyes and your cute little nose instead of acne scars and fat. You can look at a mirror and see acne scars and fat, and the thoughts are not “ugly and worthless” but “a set of genetic dispositions that have no actual bearing on my aesthetic appeal.”

Dear future Sarah: In June, you will be twenty-four. Sometime after that, you will be twenty-five, and twenty-six, and twenty-seven, and so on. Eventually, you will land a cool job that lets you buy a computer on which you can finally run Minecraft, and maybe someday you will meet a nice boy that thinks your acne scars and fat are just as cute as your hazel eyes and tiny nose, and maybe you’ll marry him and have babies like you’ve always wanted. And you’ll have a little house or an apartment or something, and you’ll grow old and happy.

Of course, maybe none of these things will happen. Maybe you’ll land a job that makes you want to tear your hair out but pays your bills, and maybe you rent an apartment that won’t let you have pets, and you never meet a nice boy in your whole life.

But Future Sarah… you’re still going to be happy. You can write, and you can talk to people you love. Your sister is one of your best friends, and you need her as much as she needs you. Your older brother needs you more than you think he does, but not as much as you need him. Your little brothers are growing up and they are going to be such cool adults. Your parents have always been cool, even when you were a bratty teenager, and they will continue to be cool. And you will always have extended family, and friends, and medication, and Darcy the purple bear, and the love of God.

No matter what happens, you will have such a joyful, happy life. It will be hard. There will be days where you don’t want to get out of bed, and there will be days when you don’t get out of bed, and there might even be days where you think about suicide as a viable option for getting some rest because depression always makes you tired and sleep just isn’t doing it for you. There will be weeks and months and years where you will continue to wonder if any of it is worth it.

In a moment of rare wisdom, Future Sarah— let me tell you that it is worth it. It is worth it now, it was worth it when you’ve struggled before, and it will still be worth it. It will always be worth it.

With love, fondness, exasperation, and more than a few tears,


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

One of the things that people don’t always understand about me is that I am an intensely visual creature. Many of my high school friends know me as a musician; all of my college friends know me as a writer; most of the people in my life are aware that I am very right-brain, very artsy, very much a creative thinker.

I’m not good at drawing or sculpture or things like that. I can knit. Kind of. And given a pattern and fabric and several days of frustration, I can also sew. But I have an eye for color and I like coloring things. (Adult coloring books are my jam.)

I painted a 9-by-12 mural for my church’s summer camp for teenage girls. The only way I was able to do this was by transferring a grid from a picture onto the canvas and eyeballing approximately where things went inside the grid as I drew my pencil markings. After the penciling came the paint and voila, very large canvas covered in paint.

I don’t consider myself a naturally gifted artist, per se— but I can make art, with time and rulers and a great deal of erasers.

What I am gifted with is color. I have a knack for knowing which colors go well together. Sometimes my choices are— uh, eccentric, to say the least. My sister has a pair of hot-pink tights and I borrowed them once to wear with a dress that is also bright pink— it looked kind of weird, but I got nothing but compliments. I’ve also been told that I am stylish, and I’m very okay with accepting this compliment because most of my style consists of putting on as many accessories as possible to distract from me not wearing makeup or high heels most of the time.

Anyway, I like colors. Give me all of your rainbows. I have a few favorites which I have strongly considered for wedding colors for my as-yet entirely fictional wedding and I thought I would list a few of them here for you. With picture samples, so you get kind of the idea what color I’m referring to if I don’t describe it well enough.

  1. To start with, there’s purple. I’ve always loved purple. Purple is regal and royal and mysterious; purple is elegant and yet whimsical, stately but mischievous. I’m very fond of deep, dark plum purple but I also like pale lavender and lilac colors, as well as bright mid-violet.

    My favorite shade of purple is lilac, as evidenced by the following photo of my fourth-grade Halloween costume.

    The color featured here is “sarah-lilac,” produced by Abramsonola Color Company. Crayola, please don’t sue me. I WAS NINE, OKAY?


  2. Pink is also a favorite. It took me the longest time to admit to myself that I actually do love pink. Pink is soft and sweet and gentle— and yes, it is traditionally associated with femininity, but I believe that “softness” and “sweetness” and “gentleness” are character traits that everyone should strive to master, not just girls. I like all shades of pink, but I am especially fond of magenta.
    Magenta (according to Google

    But I also love pale baby pink, as evidenced by the following photo of my Halloween costume when I was three (and which I proceeded to wear for the next several years, whenever possible.)

    This is a picture of my preschool-ish group, called “Joy School.” My older brother is on my immediate left (your right) as Peter Pan; I have no memory of these other boys. I, of course, am the pretty pretty princess. And yes, I literally wore this outfit for years afterward.
  3. An honorable mention that gets its own entry is the shade of pink known as ashes-of-roses. This color is also known as dusty rose, or sometimes blush. It’s pink with a slightly gray tint added— it isn’t a pure, bright pink. I like this color because I like pink and I like gray and because it reminds me of sunsets and smoothies.

    ashes of roses
    Ashes of roses (according to Google)
  4. I love bright orange. Orange is the only color I consider an acceptable shade of neon. Neon pink, yellow, and green hurt my eyes, and it feels like they’re so trendy right now. But bright orange? Absolutely. If you scroll far enough back through my Instagram feed, you’ll find a picture of my Converse All-Stars—ankle-cut and neon orange.

    neon orange
    Neon orange (according to Google)
  5. Yellow, for me, is hit-or-miss. I’ve already said I dislike neon (highlighter) yellow, and I’m honestly not too fond of a bright, lemony yellow either. But I love me some dark gold. I hate when people call it mustard, because mustard itself is brighter yellow than the harvest-gold yellow I like.

    dark gold
    Dark gold (according to Google)
  6. I like a lot of green, turquoise, and blue. I think most people do— blue is said to be the most popular color of all time. A few standouts for me are: jade, mint, teal, baby blue, royal blue, and navy. (You know, all of the trendy Pinterest wedding colors.)

  7. I have surprised myself and other people by telling them how much I like brown. Some people see brown as dead and boring, but I think brown is so alive. Chocolate brown is always a good one— Hershey’s Milk chocolate does that precise, perfect color that makes your mouth water when you see it. I love a dark, nearly black-brown; I love reddish mahogany brown; I love pale golden-brown. Brown is so PRETTY.

  8. I do love gray, black, and white as well but I am especially fond of gray. There is something so soft and classy about it.

    Gray (according to Google)

I didn’t feel like writing a much longer post than this, so I’m just wrapping this up now. I love colors, and I love looking at the world and seeing all of these colors. (And I apologize to any person who may be color-blind and excluded by this post. I offer you hugs and Internet cookies to hopefully make up for it.)

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

It’s been eleven days since I last blogged, but I actually have two good reasons: this last Sunday was Easter and I spent the holiday in Virginia with my family, my extended family, and a Considerable Lack of Internet. This is a good thing, believe it or not; sometimes it’s just best to get away from it all.

And last week, Thursday April 13th, I was in a car accident and once I got home I simply did not feel like blogging. I would say I’m sorry about it, but I’m really not.

The accident happened, ironically, on my way home from therapy. At this particular therapy appointment, I admitted to my lovely therapist, “You know, driving isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was.” She smiled and agreed and we talked about fears, risk-taking, and the psychological payoffs for risk-taking that often outweigh the fears that prevent us from taking those risks in the first place.

The universe saw fit to punish me for such a blasphemy, of course, and as I tried to get on the highway I chickened out and failed, looped back around underneath to try again, and made a left turn into an intersection. A series of events then happened, and I’m not sure I can accurately describe them because I don’t know if I’m remembering accurately. I’ll do my best, though.

What I think happened is that the light turned green and I went into the intersection, turning left (on a green arrow, it was totes legal) and somehow failed to see the police officer’s truck that had come to a stop in the middle of the intersection. By the time I saw the truck and comprehended the need for action, I was probably somewhere between six inches and a foot away from the back of the officer’s truck. I believe I turned my wheel a little bit, but only after a lot of crunching sounds and some slight movement on the part of the truck did I remember that I had brakes, and promptly used them.

I was more surprised than anything. The first thing I thought was, and I hope he forgives me for thinking this, “Oh my God, Dad is going to be so angry.” (Forgiveness being hoped for because 1) I was thinking the Lord’s name in vain and 2) I assumed that my dad was going to be angry.)

Then I realized that the front of Gerald, my beloved little old-man car, was the thing that had been making crunching sounds.

At this point, the police officer I had hit got out of her truck and walked back to look at me. She was a bit older, and she looked a little bit annoyed but I remember looking at her and fumbling to open my door, and the first thing I said was, “I am so sorry, I’m so sorry, sorry, sorry—”

And then her face changed. She’d been squinting against the sunlight and it made her look a little bit angry— maybe she was angry. But her face seemed to soften and she just said, “Are you all right?”

I said, “Yes, I’m just fine.”

Because I was. I’d been doing something between thirty and thirty-five probably, and I hit the back of a truck with the front of my car and the front of my car crumpled like tissue paper, but the airbags didn’t go off. The only thing that happened inside of my car was that the check engine light went on.

The officer nodded and said, “Okay, that’s good,” and she went back to her car. I’m pretty sure she radioed for the aid of another officer, because about twenty seconds later there was another police car right behind us. This officer was a tall man with a mustache. He also asked me, “Are you all right?” I said, again, “Yes, I’m fine.” At this point the shock and anxiety set in and I started crying. (Until I say otherwise, you can assume that I am crying during the rest of this story.)

The female officer pulled her truck away a little bit. Gerald shuddered, but nothing happened. The mustachioed police officer directed me to try and drive Gerald over to the right-most lane, under the highway bridge. I was able to drive Gerald over and park him along the curb. The truck parked behind me. I put my hazard lights on and stared out the window and took off my sunglasses and proceeded to call my mother.

My mother answered the phone. I said, as clearly as I could manage, “Mom, I’ve been in an accident. A car accident. I’m fine, I’m not hurt at all. I need you to come and get me.”

Those were the important things to say, I think; I was able to get those things out clearly and loudly despite the fact that I was underneath a highway, surrounded by busy traffic. I told her vaguely where I was.

The mustachioed police officer told me that he was getting another officer to fill out the incident report, and that he was going to call a tow truck because my car didn’t look driveable. He asked me if I wanted to stay here under the bridge, or if I wanted to go with the tow truck driver. I elected to go with the tow truck driver, and I called my mother again to update her with this information. The tow truck driver hadn’t arrived and I didn’t know where he would be towing Gerald and I, but I told my mother I would let her know when I had an address.

Another police officer arrived to do the incident report. This guy was younger and I remember he had a really kind face. He came over to the passenger-side of my car and I opened the door to talk to him.

“So, can you tell me what happened?” he asked.

My response: “Um, yeah. I was trying to get on the highway and it didn’t really work because I was in the wrong lane to begin with and I kind of err on the side of caution when I change lanes because I hate doing it because I’m new at driving and so I looped under the first bridge back there, and instead of taking the other loop to get back onto the highway ramp I, like an idiot, went to the intersection instead and I didn’t realize she’d stopped but I’m pretty sure it’s completely my fault anyway because the driver behind is always at fault and I’m really sorry.”

Yes, this was probably all one sentence; yes, it was probably exactly as incoherent as I wrote it; and yes, I said I was sorry again; and yes, I told the police officer it was my fault. Because whether or not the female police officer had made a stupid decision by stopping in the middle of the intersection, my opinion didn’t matter, and anyway I was the driver behind. Legally, I was at fault.

Also, I’m pretty sure the babbling was due to what was more or less a full-blown panic attack, but I knew I couldn’t take my medicine yet because it would make me sleepy and I couldn’t go to sleep yet, as much as I would have liked to close my eyes and not wake up Until The Nightmare Was Over.

The kind-faced police officer was quiet for a couple of seconds, and then he said, “Okay. Thank you. Can I see your license, registration, and insurance information?”

I handed them over. “Yes, here they are.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be back soon.” He left.

Meanwhile, I moved over to the passenger seat of my car, turned off the engine, and continued to cry.

I heard a noise and saw the female officer pull her truck out into traffic and drive away. I kind of stared at the back of her truck, but I couldn’t see any indication whatsoever that her vehicle had been damaged. Heck, I couldn’t even see a paint scratch.

The mustachioed officer left as well, and I was left with the kind-faced officer, who came back with my information and some papers. I opened the door to take my stuff.

He handed me a paper. “So, you were at fault.”

Me (quietly, taking the paper): “Yeah, I thought so.”

Cop: “We’re letting you off with a warning, and we’re not going to ticket you.”

Me (with renewed tears and sobbing): “Really? Thank you, thank you so much.”

Cop: “It’s failure to control your vehicle. You’re going to have to be sure you can do that in the future.”

Me (incoherently babbling): “Okay, I’ll do that, absolutely, thank you so much, thank you.”

Cop: (kind of half-laughing): “You’re welcome. The tow truck is on its way. I’ll stay here in my car until it arrives, and you said you were going with the tow truck, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m going with the tow truck.”

Cop: “All right. You just hang in there.”

Me: “Thank you so much.”

He left and I kept my door open because it was starting to get kind of warm outside. I sat there crying and praying and thinking, “Okay, maybe Dad isn’t going to be quite as angry.”

The tow truck driver arrived, and he was this short little dark-haired guy with a beard and glasses and he smiled at me and I felt instantly safe. I didn’t know why, because he was a complete stranger and I tend to err on the side of not trusting people. I gave him Gerald’s key, he gave me a business card, and I called my mom while watching him drive my tissue-paper car up his little ramp and fasten belts around the tires. I read the address of the garage off the business card and my mom plugged it into her GPS. Then I climbed up into the extremely tall cab of the tow truck and put my seatbelt on.

Tow Truck Driver: “Did you call your ride?”

Me: “Yeah, I just got off the phone with my mom. She’s coming to pick me up at the garage.”

TTD: “That’s good, you’ve got somebody to come and get you.”

Me (tearing up again, dang it): “Yeah.”

TTD (probably seeing me start to cry again and feeling kind of bad): “You know, I have to come tow people from under this bridge about once a week. You’re not the first person I’ve towed in a situation exactly like this. In fact, my wife did the same thing just the other week.”

I think it was then I really realized that this tow truck driver was an extraordinarily kind man, because he went out of his way to say something kind to me. And also I learned that he was married and that made me feel instantly more comfortable about getting in a truck with a male stranger.

I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but the driver continued to chat with me for about half of the trip to the garage and then stayed quiet for the latter half. I was grateful, because he had his air-conditioning up on full. It was quiet and cool and sunny and I could finally feel my body start to calm down a little bit, could at last feel my lungs getting the right amount of air.

We got to the garage, and I went inside and called my mom to tell her we’d gotten to the garage. I had to wait for a little while for her to arrive, but I was also able to go out to the impound yard to get some of the important things out of the car. I have no experience knowing how damaged a car is by looking at it, and it looked kind of bad, but the people in the garage were saying that they didn’t know if it was a total loss because the airbags hadn’t gone off.

I slipped out of the impound yard and saw my mom walking away from her van. I called out to her and walked over and you know, I really thought I was done crying. But I wasn’t.

There’s something about finding a person you love after you’ve been through something awful or lonely or both. No matter how long it’s been, no matter where in the world you are, it feels like coming home.

I’ll spare you the boring details about insurance and adjustors and evaluations and phone calls, but on Tuesday we got word back from our insurance that Gerald was definitely a total loss and we needed to empty him out of everything so that he could be taken to salvage. My dad took off work yesterday to go and empty Gerald out, and he came back with the most amazing news.

Here’s the thing: Gerald was a piece of crap. I called him a “little old man car” because he was a 2000 Honda Civic that needed full gas to go twenty-five up a hill. My sister actually named him Gerald because he smelled funny (like an old man, so she gave him an old man name). My parents bought Gerald because my brother needed a car when he was living at home, and they assumed that I could also learn to drive on Gerald and we could both use him for work. My brother moved out to Utah nearly a year ago now, and I became Gerald’s primary driver because I learned to drive on him. I got my license exactly three months ago today, and in the last three months I have done a lot of errand-running and a lot of chauffeuring my youngest brother around because he has Extra-Curricular Activities Of Vital Importance To Eighth Grade.

My parents paid about four thousand dollars for Gerald. The insurance took five hundred bucks for a deductible, but they gave us thirty-eight hundred as his worth before the accident— which means we got thirty-three hundred bucks.

I’m religious, if you haven’t noticed. I’m a Christian— a Latter-Day Saint, to be exact. (A Mormon, colloquially.) I was baptized around the age of eight, like most Mormon children— we consider that the age of accountability. I mostly did that because I was expected to, and also because I had a childlike faith in my parents. I don’t know if I really believed as a teenager, or if I was just going through the motions because it was expected of me. I do know that I tended to value my high school experiences much more than my church experiences, as a teenager.

I don’t think I really believed until I had nowhere else to turn. In late 2012 and early 2013 I was going through some of the most awful experiences of my life and struggling to realize that I needed help— specifically, medication and therapy.

Once I began to get the help I need, I was able to look at my experiences with the perspective of a survivor. I hadn’t actually made an attempt to kill myself, but I’d thought about it quite seriously (as a person does, when they have suicidal thoughts) and come to the conclusion that it would be more inconvenient for people to clean up after and mourn the mess of a life I would be leaving behind. So I kept struggling to live.

It hurt. I’m not going to lie. It hurt and it was like Swimming Through Molasses. It was slow and dark and uncomfortable and I couldn’t see ahead of me or behind me and I couldn’t breathe. But somehow, I found the strength to keep going. I know now that it was not my own strength. If I’d just tried to rely on myself, I would never have made it this far. It was only through God that I could keep going.

I have to come to see late 2012 through the end of 2014 as a miracle. I was at college, on the other side of the country as my family, and I wanted to die and my medications sometimes didn’t stop me from wanting to die and I was doing sixteen credits per semester and holding down a part-time job, twenty hours a week and I was walking up to the health center once a month to renew my medication prescription and I was trying to schedule therapy at BYU’s very, very overbooked Therapy and Counseling Center (or whatever it’s called, I can’t remember anymore) and somehow, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it, and I came home to begin the long, arduous, and oddly boring process of mental and emotional healing.

Late 2012 through 2014 was a big miracle, and 2015 through now was another big miracle, and in this incident, in this car crash, I count several small miracles that add up to a very large miracle:

1. I wasn’t injured in the car accident.
2. The female police officer wasn’t injured in the car accident.
3. My airbags didn’t go off.
4. The other car was probably barely even scratched.
5. The female police officer didn’t yell at me or get angry.
6. The mustachioed police officer also did not yell at me or get angry.
7. The kind-faced police officer did not give me a ticket.
8. The kind-faced police officer let me off with a warning.
9. All of the police officers were nice.
10. The tow truck driver was even nicer.
11. The other people at the garage were also very nice.
12. I was able to adult by myself until my mom arrived, and I did a pretty darn good job at it even though I was extremely traumatized and mid-panic attack.
13. The insurance people were also very nice.
14. Gerald cost $4000 and was a total, but we got $3300 from insurance.
15. My dad has not once been angry with me about any of this situation.
16. My dad kept the collision insurance on Gerald in anticipation of an event like this.
17. We are in a better place financially than we were when we originally got Gerald, so when we are able to look into getting another car, it may end up being a much better car. (Sorry in advance to my brother, who will undoubtedly resent me for this as Gerald was originally purchased for his use.)
18. Everybody I know has been extremely kind to me about it, and some wonderful people have even given me rides to and from places.
19. Driving my mother’s minivan has not been as completely terrible as I thought it would be, and I am slowly getting used to it.

Nineteen little miracles, all of which add up to another big miracle. As my dad put it: “This was the best possible outcome for a car accident.” It kind of sucks that it had to happen at all— but since it did happen, I could not have asked for a better outcome. It’s one of many things that proves to me that God is real, and that He loves me and wants to take care of me when I can’t do it myself.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


Creations of Fandom

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

Here’s the thing: I’m a fangirl. I don’t go out of my way to advertise this about myself, but I don’t try to hide it, either.

I read a book, watch a movie or a movie series, play a video game, and I fall in love with the characters and the story and the lessons. I fall so hard that I, and people like me, take to the Internet on places like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt, etc. to talk about these things, to point out the cool little things we notice that maybe a more casual consumer doesn’t, to appreciate this thing that we all love and have in common.

That’s the definition, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

However, many people think that fandoms are weird. Objectively, this is true. We get obsessive about universes that don’t exist and people who are not real. That’s kind of quirky. I don’t deny it.

I find it ironic, however, that the people who think your love for a book/series/movie/video game/ TV show/comic book/tabletop game/blog/webcomic/webseries/YouTube channel/podcast is weird— well, they are often the people who are Very Adamant about the Life-Changing Importance of their Chosen Sportsball Team.

Now, I’m not denigrating sportsball of any variety. I was in the marching band for three years of high school and I did enjoy attending football games. I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy here: sportsball fans go to or watch games and cheer for their favorites and buy merch and emotionally connect with the success or failure of their Chosen Sportsball Team and talk to other people about it. People who are part of media fandoms go to events or view their media and cheer for their favorites and buy merch and emotionally connect with the success or failure of their Chosen Media Fandom and talk to other people about it.

That being said, I’m here today to talk about some of the amazing things that media fandoms accomplish.

We have to start with the classic: fanfiction. Fanfiction is OLD AS HECK. If you think it’s some weird new phenomenon where teenage girls write stories about their favorite characters in their favorite YA paranormal romance, you would be dead wrong. One of the most famous examples I can think of is The Divine Comedy, written by Italian poet Dante Alighieri and published after his death in 1472. The Divine Comedy is a trilogy of narrative poetry about a tour of hell, purgatory, and heaven— or, as you might know them, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

What makes this fanfiction is that the main character is, in fact, Dante Alighieri himself. This is what is known as self-insert fic, where you write yourself into your fanfiction story because you want to be the sexy alien of the week who actually joins the Starship Enterprise and marries Captain Kirk instead of being just one of his many flings. Dante wrote himself into the story so that he got to interact with many notable historical figures, saints, politicians, and European nobility. (All of whom are dead, but that’s beside the point.)

In Inferno, Dante’s tour guide through hell is the Roman poet Virgil, the author of the Aeneid. Virgil and Dante are nowhere close to being contemporaries— Virgil lived from 70 BC to 19 AD and Dante was born in the year 1265 AD— but they become friends on their trip through the nine circles of hell. As Dante travels through the earth (because apparently the nine circles of hell are located inside the mantel of the earth), emerges on the other side at the base of Mount Purgatory (which is apparently in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, directly across the globe at the furthest point from Jerusalem), and climbs Mount Purgatory where he ascends to space and sees Paradise (which is apparently located in the Milky Way and has different sections categorized by the planets of our solar system), he and Virgil get to know one another and become friends. Virgil has to leave him about halfway through Purgatorio because Virgil was a heathen Roman and technically belonged in Limbo (but was permitted to show Dante around by virtue of being Dante’s favorite author). Dante’s guide at this point is Beatrice, who finishes up Purgatorio and takes him to see Paradiso. Beatrice was a woman who like Dante was from Florence, Italy. Dante met her in childhood and admired her from far away— and then immortalized her in verse. (This is after the fashion of “courtly love,” the ideal of pining over your crush, which is noble and godly, instead of telling them you like them, which is sordid and vulgar. Basically, me.)

Dante was also involved with some political intrigues of his day— Italy at the time was split between the Ghelphs and the Ghibellines. Quick history lesson: the Ghelphs supported the Papacy and the Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman Emperor; there was fighting, there was silliness; the Guelphs split into the Black Guelphs and the White Guelphs; then Dante, a White Guelph, was exiled from Florence at the order of Pope Boniface VIII, who supported the Black Guelphs. Dante was really angry about this, and it shows in The Divine Comedy because all of the people he liked and supported were shown to be in purgatory or heaven, while all of his political opponents and people he disliked were shown to be in hell. In fanfiction, you can change the reality to suit you. The Divine Comedy is absolutely, one hundred percent self-insert fanfiction.

As we look at the history of literature, you can see that fanfiction is prominent. The famous poem Paradise Lost, by John Milton, is literally fanfiction of the Bible, specifically the events of the Garden of Eden. This form of fanfiction is what is known as a retelling— when you say, “No, wait, it actually happened like this.” Without Milton, we might never have gained the cultural image of Satan being an oddly charming fellow, which makes sense because how else would he be so successful? (Seriously though. Read Paradise Lost; Lucifer is one of the best characters in it.)

Star Trek launched a fanfiction movement in the sixties. It was mostly done in letter-writing communities, but you had excited fans writing stories to each other about things that could have happened on the starship Enterprise. As the Internet became a thing, people created websites and forums to share their work and their excitement, and now you could probably search fanfiction for literally any book, movie, or TV show and find results.

However… you may not like what you find.

Look, fanfiction already has stigmas. It’s not “original” and sometimes networks and producers aren’t sure if you’re trying to make a quick buck off of it or not. So the community stays in this sort of quiet, hidden place, and what happens in that place is that you get a lot of people writing pornographic material. I’m not going to get into detail, but Rule 34 of the Internet states that: “If it exists, there is porn of it.” In my forays into fic I have done my best to avoid porn, but it is there. Studies which I’m not citing because I don’t remember where to find them have shown that men prefer visual or “hard” pornography, but women prefer written or “soft” pornography; if you don’t believe me, consider Fifty Shades of Gray and the demographic of its audience. (It’s pretty much women.) And because fanfiction is a quiet place, you also get things that are made for communities who do not find media targeted to them. The LGBTQ+ community, in particular, takes advantage of this. Because you don’t often find anything except heterosexual characters in mainstream fiction media, fanfiction becomes a place to explore: “What if this character was gay?” This isn’t because the gays are out to get you or anything stupid like that. They just don’t see themselves in the media. The question is not “What if this character was gay?”, but “What if this character was like me?” As a person who has often felt alone and isolated, I have great sympathy for people who ask this question.

In summation: if you find my explanation of fanfiction fascinating, and you can think of a few books or movies you love and would like to see fanfic for— expect to find porn. Expect to find gay porn. You can find PG, heterosexual material if you look for it but proceed with caution, because you will almost certainly come across things you didn’t intend to see. You have been warned.

However, fanfiction is not the only thing that fans create to show their love, obsession, appreciation, and support. Fan conventions are a big thing— events made by fans, for fans. Ever heard of Comic-Con? The best one is in San Diego, but you can find them in pretty much every major city in the USA. At conventions you see all kinds of fan creations. You get cosplayers— people who devote unbelievable amounts of time to making costumes, obtaining wigs, and learning makeup skills so that they can dress up as a character they love. It’s Halloween on steroids and I love it.

Fan art goes along with fanfiction. The PG stuff is very easily found, and you can often find it on Facebook where someone has shared it from their Pinterest account or something like that. There is also rated-R fan art. It’s the Internet— Rule 34 will always apply. If it exists, there is porn of it and if you go looking for it, it’s there. I advise you not to go looking for it, because some things can be forgotten but not unseen.

My favorite form of fan-created work is devoted to video games. Video games are an interesting type of media because they are entirely interactive. You have choices about what you do in a video game. Some games have more choices than others, but they all have choices. Sometimes the choices even affect the outcome of the game. When you have a fan that is devoted to this form of media and decides to create something related to it, the something can come in a few different forms.

Mods are fun. If you’ve ever played Garry’s Mod, you might know that it’s a physics engine developed from the coding of the video game Half-Life 2. Garry’s Mod is very elaborate and has had a lot of successful derivatives— Murder, Prop Hunt, etc. I would venture to guess that Garry’s Mod is the most famous video game mod. The PC version of Minecraft has TONS of available mods made by fans. If my computer were not a complete potato, it would run Minecraft and I would try to get some of the mods I’ve seen used: Biomes O’ Plenty, OreSpawn, Chisel and Bit, DecoCraft, BiblioCraft, Mr. Crayfish’s Furniture Mod, Ars Magica, Botania, Witchery, Tinker’s Construct, Immersive Engineering, Mekanism, Forestry, Applied Energistics, Ender IO, Galacticraft— to name but a few that look really, really cool. Seriously, there are hundreds.

And then sometimes you have fanmade games. Pokemon, a favorite franchise of mine, has quite a few of these. The idea of Pokemon is that you have a lot of little (or not so little) animals that have elemental or magical powers, and you train them to become powerful and form a close bond and beat other people. Yes? Okay. Now, the fun part is when you get people who love Pokemon so much that they do some coding with RPG Maker or some other video game design programs, and they put together a Pokemon game with original characters, a new story, and sometimes completely new and made-from-scratch fake Pokemon (Fakemon, as they’re known). I love fanmade games because they are such creative endeavors. I’m an author and a musician and sometimes an artist and I love to see what other people make. Fanmade Pokemon games are absolutely fantastic. I’m currently playing Pokemon Uranium, one of the few completed games, and it’s brilliant— story, characters, music, Fakemon, everything. Pokemon Zeta and Omicron are also complete. They don’t have Fakemon, but they do have a ton of the existing Pokemon. I don’t love them the way I love Uranium, but they are very good. The maker of Zeta/Omicron is currently working on Pokemon Insurgence, which at this point is a demo version with six available gyms. Insurgence is not for the faint of heart— it’s dark and gritty, there’s death and cults and blood sacrifices and it’s rated PG-13 at the very least. It’s also very difficult, but I’m enjoying it. Again, there’s no original Pokemon— but they do have some twists on the ones in existence. And Pokemon Ethereal Gates is a demo version with only two gyms, but it has all-original Pokemon and music and I love that little bit I’ve played far, far more than even Uranium. I am so excited for the full version to come out.

I like fan creations because they are a labor of love. Legally, you cannot profit from fanfiction, fan art, or a fanmade video game without breaking copyright law. So the people who make these things? They do it for free, and they do it for fun. I am a person who writes and plays music and creates things for fun, and I know for a fact that creatives are my favorite types of people. Both of my parents are creative. My older brother is creative. My sister is creative. My two younger brothers are creative. Many of my extended family are creative. I have a ton of creative friends. And the celebrity role models I have (which is different than just liking a celebrity, but I won’t get into that today) are creative people.

If I met these people who write fanfiction, draw fan art, and make mods and video games— if I met the fans, the cosplayers, the writers and the artists and the crafters— I would be at home. They are my people. They love the things they do, and they love hard. As someone who has always loved too hard for her own good, I admire that.

Have a lovely day, and may you take just as much satisfaction from the things you love as I do.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


The Game of the Name: Honoria

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

My apologies for missing this last Sunday. It was a fairly busy weekend for me and I quite simply forgot to post. I know it’s not a good excuse, but it’s the one I’ve got.

So, in case you didn’t read the title: we’re doing The Game of the Name again, and since I’ve Kept Calm and Blogged About Relatively Normal Names, I figure that it’s time to get a little bit funky fresh. We’re jumping from Sarah’s understandable, classic name faves to, well, quite a ways down the rabbit hole, if not near the bottom.

This week’s name is Honoria. (Pronunciation: ah-NOR-ee-uh. More or less phonetical.)

Now, I randomly came across this name through *cough cough* fanfiction and I immediately fell in love with it. I’m not going to disclose the name of the work I was reading or the fandom I was in, because I prefer to keep my fanfiction tastes relatively private— but I liked it because it suited the story it was used for. I also like it because it’s old-fashioned. I could see it on a little girl because I have a very gifted imagination, but I’m not going to lie: it’s kind of an old-lady name.

Honoria is that weird maiden aunt that has a huge house and one very spoiled-rotten cat. She’s not like, a cat lady kind of cat lady; she’s like a James Bond villainess cat lady. The cat is pure white and very fluffy and it sits on her lap all day. Honoria uses one room in her giant house; it’s the drawing room or the library and she sits in a tall armchair by the fire, petting her cat and brooding about the guy she didn’t get to marry when she was twenty years old, because he was in Europe for World War II and he really liked Honoria, but he got some French girl pregnant and they had to get married because that was what you did back then. Honoria isn’t mean— but she is very clever, and blunt, and she will tell you exactly what she thinks is wrong with you, and will not apologize if it hurts your feelings. However, she likes children, and she wishes she could have gotten married and been a mother.

I have a very, very clear mental image for this name. I don’t know why.

Anyway, here is some basic information about the name Honoria:

Honoria, obviously means “honor.” It’s a feminization of the late Latin name Honorius, which was the name of an emperor of the Western Roman empire, and later also several saints and popes. Honorius was the emperor during 417 AD, during which time his half-niece Justa Grata Honoria was born.

Now, Justa Grata Honoria is a character. She’s like, the first result you get if you Google the name Honoria. Justa Grata Honoria was born in 417 AD and named for her two maternal aunts and her half-uncle. JGH’s primary claim to fame, however, is a letter. You see, JGH was kind of, um, promiscuous. She slept around for power and personal gain, in short. Her brother, Valentinian III, caught wind of JGH’s sexual activity and decided that she had to be married off, to prevent her from sleeping with someone who could challenge his claim to the Western Roman Empire. He had a marriage all lined up for her, but JGH was super gutsy because she sent a letter, and one of her rings, to Attila the Hun. Yes, you read that correctly— Attila the Hun, conqueror and barbarian. JGH begged Attila the Hun for his help to get out of an unwanted marriage. That, my friends, takes some serious cojones.

Attilla the Hun had been looking for an excuse to gain power in Rome. He decided to interpret JGH’s letter as a proposal of marriage, and he sent notice to Valentinian III that yes, he accepted JGH’s proposal and he would like half of the Western Roman Empire as the dowry payment, thank you very much. Valentinian had no idea this was going on, but when he got Attila’s return letter he was furious and had JGH exiled. Attilla the Hun claimed that the proposal was made in good faith and innocence and invaded Rome because he decided that Valentinian was being a jerk about the whole thing and he just wanted to marry JGH, and get half of the Western Roman Empire, okay?

I’m not kidding. This actually happened. I was laughing when I was reading the story. It’s not really clear what happened to JGH after that, but we all kind of know what happened to Attila the Hun.

Other famous bearers of the name Honoria include: Honoria Somerville Keer, a British physician during World War I; and Honoria Acosta-Sison, the first Filipina doctor.

Fictional bearers of the name Honoria include: Honoria, Lady Dedlock (of Bleak House by Charles Dickens); Honoria Brady (of Barry Lyndon by W.M. Thackeray); and Honoria Glossop (of the Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse). Also notable (if not exactly Honoria) is the military science-fiction series called the Honorverse, written by David Weber and starring main character Honor Harrington. The Honorverse series is more or less Horatio Hornblower in space, and it is very, very high on my list of things to read in the future.

Some alternate forms of the name Honoria include English forms: Honora, Honor, Annora, Nonie, Nora, Norah, Noreen, Norene, and Norine; and Irish forms Nóirín and Onóra.

I actually find this very interesting on a personal level because my maternal grandmother’s name is Norine. I had no idea where the name came from, or the linguistic roots. I have a grandmother named Norine and a grandmother named Zeda and since I am named after one of my great-grandmothers, it would be sort of cool to name my daughters after one of their great-grandmothers. But I’m not… overly fond… of either name. My paternal grandmother’s middle name is Pearl (and I was born in June) so I was probably definitely going to use that, but my maternal grandmother Norine doesn’t have a middle name; she’s just Norine Butler, who married and became Norine Allen. So I was sort of not really sure how to incorporate her name into that of a potential future spawn. However, this is literally perfect because I adore the name Honoria so I can use that for a child and it makes sense. I’m literally squirming with happiness right now.

And with that, I’m going to close out today’s post. I know it’s a short one, but I was very occupied with a) the story of Justa Grata Honoria, which is a cool story about some pretty terrible people and b) the connection of Norine and Honoria, which makes me really, incredibly happy.

I also had some good news today. The other day, Gerald wasn’t working properly. (Gerald is my car. Well, he belongs to my parents, but he is more or less my car because I’m the primary driver.) Gerald was having problems getting uphill, he was vibrating wildly whenever I used the brake pedal, and there was a funky smell, and the check engine light was blinking when I went to pick up my little brother. Fun fact: if your check engine light is blinking, you should not attempt to drive the car because it means something major is wrong. So I pulled over and talked to my dad on the phone about it, and James and I were sitting in a no-parking zone on Charles Street in the middle of Red Lion and I was thinking oh no Gerald is borked and I won’t have a car anymore. My dad came and we took Gerald to our mechanic, who was luckily very literally around the corner of where I’d pulled over. We left Gerald and his key there, and since Gerald is kind of an old car, I was worried that my dad wouldn’t consider him worth the cost of repairs.

Fortunately, I just got a call from my dad. It was a loose sparkplug wire and there’s nothing else wrong with Gerald. I am very relieved and very happy that I don’t have to give up my car. I really like having a car.

It’s the little things, you know? I have a working car, I got to learn about Justa Grata Honoria and Attila the Hun, and I can name a daughter Honoria someday because it’s sort of a family name. It’s the little things. There’s a great big thunderstorm outside and I can hear the rain. Today is a really, really good day. I hope I get a lot more days like today.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.

Writing Progress: March

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

It’s time for another Writing Progress post! I have to admit, I have not gotten a lot of writing done this month. I’ve been sick, and I’ve been working on applying for jobs and things. I’m not going to lie— it’s been a bit rough.

But I do want to write a proper blog post, and I do sort of have a topic in mind. Today I want to talk about how my mental health affects my writing, because it’s very clear to me that it does.

They say that all the great artists and writers and musicians had some kind of mental illness, or something that caused them to suffer. And I won’t lie— I think there’s truth in the idea, that suffering often produces art. Some of my best work has come from my most painful experiences, and I think that holds true for many other creators. I think that suffering allows us to experience empathy, and I think it empathy that enables us to create art and literature and music that people really connect with. I think when we feel something, as we create, we will cause other people to feel something, as they view our creations.

With that in mind: I can’t write when I’m really depressed or really anxious.

If I’m just a little sad, or just a little worried, then I’m fine. In fact, that usually helps, because I can channel that. I can focus that, in the way I’ve already described.

But if I’m having one of those days where it feels like every limb is weighed down by an ocean and my brain is swept over with fog and crumbs— then, no. I can’t write when I’m like that. All I do on those days is lie in bed and watch videos on my phone. Sometimes I read, or play video games. Sometimes I do those things when I’m healthy— but when I’m feeling better, I’d rather be writing.

I’m kind of working on this story about a girl, Caroline, who’s dealing with PTSD after a war. For once, I’d like the romance to take a backseat to Caro’s experience as a soldier, and as a person with both physical and mental illness. She was shot and got an honorable discharge; her best friend and sort-of boyfriend was killed. Caro’s dealing with survivor’s guilt, she’s using a cane and she’s got a sling on, and she’s also dealing with the Regency-style expectations for a woman of the upper-middle class, the expectations of Matrimony and Motherhood. These expectations are not inherently bad— in fact, she would quite like to get married and have kids; but the pressures that they sometimes produce are less than desirable. In order to experience Matrimony, Caro has to Attract Suitors, and in order to do that she has to Wear Skirts and Be Charming and Elegant and Ladylike. Again, these things are not necessarily bad. But Caro is a soldier, has been for a few years, and she prefers to Wear Pants and Be Blunt and Honest and Comfortable, and these are traits associated with masculinity. She has to deal with the expectations of her family, the expectations of her friends, and the expectations of society in general; these things go against what she actually wants.

It’s always more fun to write a female character who defies society’s expectations. And most women actually don’t conform to those expectations— when you get to know any given woman, on an individual level, you will probably learn that there is something she resents about society’s expectations. For some women, it’s this idea that they’re expected to become wives and mothers. That’s fine— they don’t have to. Some women want to be wives and mothers, but resent being told that they have to be. And some women resent the expectation of fitting a certain physical standard for beauty, and some women resent the expectation of modern sexual practices, and some women resent objectification, and so on and so forth, you get my point. Society tells women that they have to be mothers and wives, but also career women and beauties, educated but not too smart, alluring but modest, and most importantly, quiet. Different women will resent different parts of this hypothetical and impossibly perfect woman, to whom we are all expected to conform. I resent different things than my mother does, and she resents different things than her friends, and my friends resent different things than me. We’re all different.

But it’s even more fun to write a female character who uses society’s expectations to surprise people. A perfect example of this character is found in Marvel Comics, and more recently the MCU. I’m talking about the Black Widow, or Agent Natasha Romanoff of S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s a beautiful woman (and so is Scarlett Johanssen), she’s intelligent and talented and a deadly assassin and an expert spy. She uses her beauty and her body to do her job: by putting on a soft, squishy feminine front facade, she’s able to learn things and to manipulate people. She uses society’s expectations to get what she wants— and then usually she stabs them and leaves, because it’s comic books and movies and she’s an assassin.

I’m not writing my character, Caro, as an assassin. She knows how to kill people; she’s a soldier and a fire mage and she’s done what one must do in a time of war. She doesn’t use femininity to surprise people. In fact, I would go so far as to say she uses masculinity. Caro is, at her core, what society defines as feminine. She likes the color pink (which is traditionally associated with femininity okay), she’s kind of shy, she’s clever and mischievous but soft-spoken, she smiles a lot, she makes people feel comfortable. Not all of this is immediately apparent, because that’s Caro when she’s healthy— and Caro, with a cane and a sling and PTSD, is arguably unhealthy at the moment. But she’s a soldier, and she’s also tall and thin— army training gave her a more muscular form and she’s grown to prefer her army uniform to a dress. She presents a more masculine appearance to the world, which is the opposite of what a Regency-style society would expect— and that causes people to avoid her, which is what she wants. With the space and privacy she prefers, she has room to be feminine and feel safe about it. Presenting a feminine appearance invites suitors and suggests to the average man that Caro is “just a woman;” but Caro, like all women, is not “just a woman” and by manipulating the way people perceive her, she can gain some control over them.

This isn’t unique to Caro. A lot of women do this, in real life. Some of us like pink, but we pretend that we prefer blue, that we’re “just one of the guys.” Some of us like blue, but we pretend that we prefer pink so that other women will accept us. Some of us like purple and yellow and orange and we feel out of place.

And then you get guys who say things like “You’re not like other girls,” and I hate that because there is no ‘other girls’ to be like. We’re all different. I’m sensitive and intellectual and fat and I’m just as much of a woman as Scarlett Johanssen. And she is just as much of a woman as me. And every woman you know is different, but their way of being a woman is just as valid as mine or Scarlett Johanssen’s.

This went from mental health to gender roles and stereotypes, and I don’t mind that because gender plays a role in mental health. If we could just stop expecting certain things from each other, we would all be so much healthier. I try to live by the rule of “Never make assumptions.”

I try to do that when I write, especially. I mean, I’m writing heterosexual romance and there are of course going to be some things that are Traditionally Masculine and things that are Traditionally Feminine, but I try to— well, not blur the lines exactly, but to suggest that they are an imaginary construct of a patriarchal society. Because I’m a feminist it doesn’t matter if a boy likes pink or a girl likes blue, and it doesn’t matter if a woman wears a skirt or trousers. She’s still a woman.

I have plans and hopes and dreams for Caro. I want her to live and to love and to hope, which is something I want for every woman and every man, too. If I could write you all, it would be so much easier to let you have the good things you deserve. Since I can’t write, I shall instead offer you my best wishes, for life and love and hope.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


Birthday Interviews: Sewage

Hello, and welcome back to the blog!

I didn’t post on Thursday because I have been suffering from a Random Spring Illness since about Tuesday. It began with a sore throat and headaches, which took backseats to an accumulation of phlegmatic material in my upper story; but at this point it’s mostly coughing and headaches. I have moved my posting schedule back a day, with an exception for the “regularly scheduled” pieces like the name thingy and the writing progress thingy.

Yes, I am very elaborate when I’m sick.

So, this interview is with my mom, and I will just be very honest with you: my mom is literally my favorite person on this entire planet. She is very, very very closely followed by the rest of my family, but my mom is my favorite person and probably my best friend. As you read through this article, you will see where I get a lot of my writing style. The way I write is similar to the way I talk; the only difference is that I don’t generally include conversational fillers unless I’m recording an exact conversation. I’ve included my mom’s conversational fillers because we have very similar speaking styles and by reading what she’s saying, you can sort of picture the way I speak. That is, when I bother speaking.

The title of this post comes from my mom’s habit of putting the suffix “-age” onto words it doesn’t belong to. Like you have cabbage and triage and pilgrimage, and other words of that sort that actually have that suffix; but my mom adds it to like, everything. Foodage. Sleepage. Drinkage. And my favorite is the article/adverb “so,” which she uses as a constant conversational filler; and then it becomes “so-age” which then becomes “sewage,” and not in the original meaning of that word. I like to helpfully remind her of the original meaning of the word by adding “raw sewage” whenever she says that. I’m such a charming, mature woman, I know.

Anyway, here is her birthday interview. Because she tends to be a bit more verbose than my brother, I have included less in the way of author’s notes. Please enjoy.
S: Are you here because you have willingly consented to this journalistic piece, or because you are being bribed?

T: I want to be here. (Author’s note: she actually did seem kind of excited to do this. I don’t know if it was because she likes helping me or because she actually likes the idea.)

S: What day is your birthday?

T: March 23rd.

S: How old are you turning?

T: Fifty-three. Prime number. Dad says this will be one of my best years. (Author’s note: my father is a mathematician and he likes prime numbers. )

S: What did you get/want for your birthday?

T: So, that’s really hard to say, because… I mean, I don’t really, you know, get things. But any time I want something, I can have it. Know what I mean? And I’m a spoiled rotten child, in that way. My husband gave me the sweet potato and flowers, and that was really nice. So I got three new audiobooks. I got the latest Sarah Eden book, which was interesting because it’s in continuation of a series that I’ve already started, so that’s cool. I also got another Melanie Dickerson book, and I’ve enjoyed all her books. They’re very much alike, but somehow I still like every single story that she writes, so. I also got some new shoes, because my exercise shoes— once they get worn, I just need good shoes for my wretched feet. So I got new exercise shoes, except I forgot to use them. And I got more stuff than that, but anyway. Those are some of the things I got. I had some fun, I shared treats with most of my piano students that day and that was kind of fun. I would have liked to have six pans of cinnamon rolls ready, but I… didn’t do that. But I had pies in the fridge and I thought you know what, I’ll get those out. It was fun. And my husband is a great gift every day of the year. (Author’s very fond note: Ewwwwwww.)


(Pictured above: the aforementioned sweet potato, a birthday gift from my father to my mother.)

S: What are your hobbies?

T: Define hobby.

S: I would say that a hobby is something you enjoy doing, whether or not you have time for it.

T: There’s a lot of answers to this question. I hope you don’t get to two thousand words in this thing and say “no more!” I like books. I like reading, and I like a lot of different kinds of reading. I do, um, do the escape reading, which is to think about something else. But I do enjoy my daily spiritual reading, which I do partly out of obligation and partly voluntary as well. I know it just helps me stay a lot healthier than I would otherwise, in every sense of the word “health.” Of course, the music is always something I’m going to do probably every day, whether I have time or not. Again, it’s scheduled into my day, because it’s work. Sometimes that’s all I get to do, but I still love it, every time I do it. It just so happens that I get to get paid for some of that, which is quite a bonus. It’s really fun. It’s one of the best things my mom ever did for me, is give me that. I like any sort of creative activity. That comes in several different ways. I like sewing, creating; I like certain other crafts, creating; I’ve done some composition and arrangement (music); even food I consider to be creative, cooking. I like doing those things. I need to focus on making my work in the kitchen one hundred percent healthy but still, there’s a lot of ways to use creativity and I like it, regardless of what form it’s in. I wouldn’t call church or family a hobby, but I’m grateful for all the time I can spend serving the Lord and being with family.

S: Would you say you’re more of a dreamer or a doer?

T: *laughs* Oh, man. That’s a really hard question, for me. I think it would be really interesting to know how other people might answer the question about me. I can work, really hard and diligently, another gift my parents gave me. Especially when I feel like I know what it is I either need or want to do. I can get a job done. Part of me is still what I was at about the age of six, which was this totally innocent, naive child who believes in everything that’s ideal. So I’ve had my heart broken over my life when things weren’t that way. Because I have this part of me that just likes to think that everything can be a certain way. It can be perfect. Not that I’ve ever achieved that, or anything close… but, you know, it’s what draws me to romance in stories. I like thinking about the concept of true love, and I like reading about it. Most books, of course, don’t get into true love. Which is what you see in your parents after fifty-plus years of marriage. So I think I’m almost equal parts, because I can work really hard, but I also, you know, my mind goes off on all these idealistic dreams.

S: What’s your favorite period of history?

T: Okay, well. I’m horrible at history, okay? Just saying. My knowledge of history is just pitiful. *laughs* I hope it will happen someday that I really get a family history bug, like Dad has. And my mother, of course, spent a major part of her life doing this. So that I have a drive to discover and help those people. Sometimes I think family history is the most interesting history there can be. I certainly like all the history I read about in the scriptures, because I think that’s very valuable and relevant to my life. So I like that, as far as history goes. Other aspects of history, like I said, my knowledge is just so abysmal that it’s not worth even thinking about. That’s my confession.

S: What’s your favorite place?

T: … Okay, so… I don’t think I can pinpoint one physical location that I can regard as my favorite place. I live in Pennsylvania. I love Pennsylvania. You know, I think it took me a lot of years to become accustomed to living in the East, but now I regard it as much my home as the West. And I love Utah, I grew up in Utah. I love the dryness of Utah and the humidity of PA. I love the desert of Utah and the deciduous forest of PA. They’re both really amazing, great places and I love them both. I spent some time in Europe, in Austria, as a missionary, and I love it there too. It’s been a long time, thirty years since I’ve been in Austria, but I love that place. I think if I had to identify a place I love most, it wouldn’t be physical, it would be… it would be a mental, emotional place. Where I’m at peace with myself. When I feel like I’m doing well spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, that’s where I want to be, regardless of physical location. A lot of times I am falling far short of that place. And I don’t like that, when I’m falling short. I don’t like when I’m stressed out because I know I’m not taking care of myself physically or emotionally. Or I’m spending too much time on one thing and neglecting another. So, that is the place I like the most, when I’m at peace with what I am currently doing in terms of taking care of myself.

S: What’s your favorite season?

T: I think I’ve got to go with winter. I like winter because— well, I don’t mind all the snow. I like shoveling, I even like the exercise of it. In the last couple of years I’ve done enough exercise that it didn’t feel hard for me, that it didn’t hurt my back. I didn’t suffer side effects. I think I could handle a lot more snowfall than, for instance, we got this last winter. Spring stresses me because I feel like it’s just going to be this influx of insects in my life. If they respect the boundaries of my life, I have no problem with them. But if I have ants in my house, I am annoyed, continually. Summer is just hot. Like I said, I love PA and I love Utah; but I am less likely to be happy anywhere in the heat of summer. Though I love that time of year, because my kids are out of school and I like being with them and helping them do things. My kids are probably groaning, “Oh, the Daily Summer Schedule.” I LIKE that. I like doing that. Fall would probably take a close second to winter, because my eyes are just in a feast. Especially in Pennsylvania. There’s nothing greater than this area than when you have all of these amazing colors. I’m not a visual person, particularly; I don’t have that gift. But the Lord sure has this down, so I really appreciate it.

S: What’s your favorite smell?

T: Good night. Probably something that’s forbidden to me now, like pumpkin bread, because I can’t have it anymore. *laughs* That’s really hard to say. I like a lot of the spices that I associate with pumpkin— cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, that kind of thing. I love all those smells. Cinnamon is definitely a favorite. I like chocolate, I like that smell. I like the smell of almost anything that’s being baked. Fresh bread, how can you beat that? Cinnamon rolls, good night. How can you beat that? I love that cinnamon roll recipe that came with the bread mixer. But it’s like the most direct invitation to diabetes that I have, probably, but I love that smell. You become a mother and you become so much more sensitive to smell than before. Too much of something I don’t like. A little garlic, a little onion, is okay— but enough is enough. I don’t like super, super spicy kinds of things. I guess I don’t really think about smells from day to day. (Author’s note: In an unfortunate incident the Thanksgiving season before last, my mother became allergic to pumpkin at the age of fifty-one. RIP all of the recipes she had that involved pumpkin-flavored anything, because she always bought the pumpkins and did the smushy-boily-freezy thing instead of buying canned pumpkin.)

S: What’s your favorite memory?

T: Boy, so many. It’s hard to choose just one. I’ll have to tell you some… Well, meeting Dad. Meeting Mike, and getting to know him… and knowing that he can love me, which is something I wasn’t sure would ever happen. So I love that memory. The whole courtship and really, not just courtship, but the last twenty-six years have been really good, and I have so much to be thankful for. And we’ve both changed a lot, but we sort of change together, too. And I feel like we’re both learning still, and we’re not going to give up on each other. So that’s always pleasant… There’s nothing like your own babies. So I know that my babies are really precious memories. They’re a gift from God, the sweetest things possible. And your baby grows into a person who’s sitting over here interviewing me. And you don’t think of that when you’re holding that innocent and pure creature in your hands; but there’s just a lot of joy between birth and, you know, the accomplished, amazing, profound girl sitting here next to me. It’s kind of an overwhelming thing to think about. And I can say the same about all of my kids, in different ways. So my babies are just— there’s difficult memories associated with them, too; but it’s really touching to think about… And then I would just have to say, my parents. My dad because he’s gone, I think about all the times I spent sitting in his office, just having normal girl problems. Teenage girl depression, feeling horrible about yourself, your body, your nonexistent social life, whether you can accomplish anything, be anything, do anything with your life— and how patient, kind, and constantly supporting my dad was. Is. He would sit there and tell me I was beautiful, and I thought he was lying through his teeth, but there was such a look of sincerity in his eyes that you could tell he believed what he was saying. So just thinking about my dad… that’s a really good memory. And my mom, too, is just a constant. She’s still here, but I think of such an inspiring example of hard work and faith and determination. And courage. She’s such a strong woman. I’ve never seen my mom be weak in any way. She’s especially not one to sit and talk about stuff. So much of my mother is what she does. She’s the ultimate “doer.” She definitely doesn’t spout anything that she doesn’t do. The furthest thing from a hypocrite that’s possible. And then there’s just, my own siblings. I can think of good times with each of them. I can think of bad times with each of them too. *laughs* But your siblings are your best friends, growing up; I’ve had a lot of best friends in my life. I’m really grateful.

S: Who is your best friend or friends?

T: My siblings. Well, first there’s Dad. First there’s Mike, he’ll always be my best friend. But then there’s my siblings. Enough said. And you would think that I would stay in touch with them better. I’m not as communicative, I don’t talk with them as much as I should; but when I’m around them even for a few minutes, the bond is there. It’s always going to stay. It’s going to be there.

S: Who is the funniest person you know?

T: I think there’s a five-way tie. Because my kids are hilarious. Literally. They all, I mean, you’re all so different from each other, but you’re all so funny. Yeah. Definitely a five-way tie on that. (Author’s note: Despite the fact that this is an opinion question, I would argue that it is objectively true. I am obviously hilarious and my siblings are also some of the funniest people I know.)

S: Who is the kindest person you know?

T: Ooh, that’s tricky… Well, I’ll answer this locally, because from the past, I could probably give you a lot of people. But I’ve had a really good friend for a few years. She’s so kind, so thoughtful. Yoon-Joung Hill. She’s just kind, she’s amazing, she’s thoughtful. A truly kind, right to the bottom of her heart kind of person. It’s amazing to get to meet and know somebody like that. I mean, there are other people I think of. Quite a few years back, there was Aimee Allen, she was such a celestial person. I’ll never forget her. But I was always drawn to her. There are a lot of women around here I admire, too. I wouldn’t say kind is the first description I have for a lot of them. They are my mentors, in many ways. Because this has been my home for a long time. Billie Rae Morgenegg— she’s kind, but she’s more like a mentor. She teaches me, when she talks to me. I love that about her. Tina Wagner is always— she’s a mentor too, because she’s so helpful and knowledgeable about everything, and she will support you in the best way she can— which is sometimes to correct you. I’m okay with that sort of corrective type thing, because she’s helped me grow. So I regard her as a good friend, because she helps me, and is not afraid to say what needs to be said, and that’s a true friend. There’s others. Carmen Estes is certainly somebody that comes to mind, because she is so supportive and helpful, and willing to help you. She’ll drop what she’s doing and she’ll come to your aid. And I have a lot, I mean, there’s so many good women around here. I hate to even mention names, because you almost feel like you can’t stop. There are so many good women in my life. They’re my examples, they’re mentors, they’re friends, they’re supportive, they’re helpful. It’s something really amazing about the Church. I don’t quite put them in the same category as my siblings, but they’re still my sisters. We’re really blessed to have that kind of association with people.

S: Do you believe in magic, or do you believe in miracles?

T: Miracles. (Author’s note: There was no elaboration required. Miracles are a given in this household.)

S: If you had the opportunity to write books about the most important people in your life, what would they be called?

T: With Dad, I would probably say The Greatest Miracle of All Time. It should be Christ, but Dad comes right after that. Joe, what came to mind was— and I’ve said this repeatedly— Nothing Should Ever Surprise Me Again. That’s what I would call a book, if I were thinking of just Joe. That has a positive side, and it has, mmm, another side. But both sides. He’s kind of an enigma, but he can do anything he wants to do. Let’s see, Sarah… ugh. I’ve been thinking of how to title it. I know the crux of it, but you might have to help me with the words. That part of you that’s so sneaky, Getting Away With Murder Quietly. That kind of says a lot. And it’s not just murder; but when you were younger, it seemed like there was a lot of murder there. But nowadays, it’s more that what you see, with you, isn’t always what you get. Judy, I’ll just say in a nutshell: Take Everything You Thought You Knew and Throw It Out the Window. And you should laugh, while you say that title. Because that’s what it is these days. Everything I say is somehow hilarious; I don’t know why. Now I’m rethinking the title for Dad, because I came to Paul… so I’ll say it this way: The Sweetest, Greatest, Most Miraculous Gift God Ever Gave to Dad and Me. That would be Paul. And it’s like “The Greatest Miracle” which is Christ, because Christ came to save us and I think God sent Paul to save us, too. He’s got his work cut out for him. James… *laughs* Oh, that’s a tough one, too. It’s almost like, you can’t name this book because The Minute You Think You’ve Got It… It’s like Judy and Joe. And you! You can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s always changing, it’s always different, always something new. And always very funny, too. *laughs*

S: What was your favorite part of this last year of your life?

T: Oh, that’s easy. Because I had the most amazing opportunities given to me in association with the dedication of the Philadelphia Temple. So many blessings. I’m completely overwhelmed by the blessings and the gratitude that I feel. I was given a job that was way too difficult for me to do, which was of course to conduct the Cornerstone Choir for the dedication of the Philadelphia Temple. It was certainly beyond my ability, but it was like 1 Nephi 3:7— he gives you a job, and he provides a way for you to do it. He gave me people to help. I would say every single person in that choir, and the pianists, and my contacts with the committee— everybody went the extra mile just to help, to be supportive, and help me learn and teach me. So I feel like, with everybody’s help, we got the job done. I certainly couldn’t have done it without everybody’s help. It was amazing. The day of, I felt the presence of the Lord right there. I haven’t talked about it much, because it was a sacred memory and I don’t want to talk about it lightly; but it was an amazing day and I’ll never forget it.

S: What are you looking forward to in this next year?

T: *laughs* Well, I hope to improve myself. A lot. That’s something I’m always hoping that I can do, that I can improve. I’m looking forward to spending time with my mom, with her 90th birthday this year. Our family’s been talking about some things we can do for her birthday, but I just look forward to more time I get to spend with her before she goes. And not just being with her, but being with all of my kids, Joe too. So just having my family all together, but also all of my other family. Seeing my family as much as possible. I mean, all my nieces and nephews are grown up and I don’t know them anymore, they have families and kids, but I want to know them. It’s always great to spend time with family. I’m curious to see what this year’s going to bring, actually. I feel like change is coming. I have no idea what, but it just feels like there’s going to be changes. I don’t know what they are, but I hope I can get ready for them.

Author’s note: Me too, Mom. Me, too.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.