Monday, June 7, 2021

Writing On

 What do you do when you feel discouraged? 

This whole writing thing gets me discouraged a lot. Between the fact that it's been four years since The Unicorn Hunter was released and I still don't have a sequel out, and the inadequacy I feel as a writer every time I read what real writers write, discouragement is often just part of the game. 

I usually deal with it in one of these ways:

1. Go to bed. Tired Brown-Eyed Girl + anything negative = debilitating discouragement. Usually a good night's sleep sets me straight and freshens my perspective. 

2. Curl into a ball and cry. While this does sound like the sissy's response to discouragement, a good cry every now and then is cleansing for the soul. It gets the gunk out, helps me reset, and again, freshens my perspective. 

3. Vent to Mr. Brown Eyes. Usually this one happens unintentionally. I just sit next to him to talk about our day or even to just say good night, and feelings come pouring out. Every husband's dream, right? But he is amazing in that he stops what he's doing and listens, sympathizes, and offers actual helpful solutions. He helps me look at the situation with a fresh perspective.

I'm sensing a pattern here. 

Being discouraged is a matter of perspective. That's right. It's choosing to take a negative outlook on what's going on in our lives. I can look ahead at my future as a writer and see a bleak and dreary desert, I can choose to see my writing as inferior and take my rejections personally. Or I can remember that I write because I LOVE it, not because I have to be published, and thus see the future as a road that is winding and steep, but full of spectacular views. 

If I've learned anything from being published, it's that discouragement will stalk my every step if I let it. Every bad review, every rejection, can drag me down and make me feel like writing is a waste of my time. 

I used to think discouragement meant failure. It meant things weren't going right and I should just give up. When I read the first bad review of my book, I thought my writing life was over. But it wasn't. In that case, I got a good night's sleep and the next day I knew I wanted to keep writing no matter how many people hated what I wrote.

Now I know that if I choose to give up at the first discouragement, I will never succeed. I guess that is the difference between those who succeed and those who don't. 

Of course I would be remiss in all this talk of overcoming discouragement if I left out God. In every scenario, He is a huge part in lifting me when I am down. I think some discouragement is so deep and all-encompassing that it is impossible for us to rise above it without His help. I truly believe in the power of prayer. 

However you lift your view above the clouds of discouragement, whether it's sleep, crying, venting, prayer, or something else, know that the clouds will part. 

And the view will be awesome. 

Writing on,

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Home

 What makes a house a home?

I lived in the same house until I was 18, and then I moved back when I finished college. A sturdy brick house built by my dad, big enough for eleven kids as long as we shared rooms, nestled on a spacious acre where we could roam and play. 

Home was messy and full of broken things that needed repair, but it was home. It was the place where I felt safe, the refuge I could return to when girls at school were mean to me, where I could be completely myself in a world where everyone only saw me as the quiet, shy one. It was where I laughed with my sisters and nestled next to my mom. Where I returned from my first date and cried over my first heartbreak.  I know the spot where my brother punched a hole in the wall, the perfect patch of sunlight in the living room, the second-story door that used to lead to nothing, the archway that everyone bashes their head on. 

I have a new home now, that I've built with Mr. Brown Eyes. It's where we have brought home all four of our babies, where we have laughed and cried and dreamed together. 

But somehow my childhood home remained "home," too. I would drop in to visit my parents several times a week, sometimes spending the night with my kids, always greeted by my mom's home-cooking. I always felt like it was still my house.

So when my dad mentioned selling it after Mom died, I almost felt like I was losing someone else I loved. 

The house is staying in the family, but soon it will hardly resemble the place I grew up. With Mom gone, it's slowly been emptied of the boxes (and I mean boxes) of things she kept--our grade school report cards, pictures, notes we wrote her--her closet full of yarn, and the smiley faces that brightened every corner. As my brother prepares to move in, the furniture is moving out, and last week my sister and I took the pictures off the walls. 

The change hurts, but I've known it was coming, and as I've prepared myself for it I have realized that the things we are getting rid of are just things. They aren't what made the house home. Even the house itself is a thing. Its four walls and leaky roof sheltered us, but what made it home were the people inside of it and who they helped me become. 

I hope my children remember their childhood home with fondness, but I also hope they remember that home is in your heart, and you can keep it with you always. 


Home Sweet Home,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, May 24, 2021

Sibling Love

Sibling love can feel so fleeting.

One minute my children are best friends, laughing with pure joy at whatever game they're playing. But in the next instant that can turn upside down, and suddenly their fun is riddled with "you're playing it wrong," "you're not the boss of me," and "I am NEVER playing with you ever again."

Little Blue-Eyed Baby is often at the heart of the kids' disagreements and ruined games. He's the baby of the family and, let's face it, the baby of the family gets away with murder. He steals toys, kicks down block towers, and generally instigates the older kids to retaliate. Which they usually do. And then he cries.

I try not to, but I often instinctively blame the older kids every time Blue-Eyed Baby cries, even when the baby is not entirely innocent. Of course this creates hard feelings, and there have been times when the older kids grumble that they wish they had never had a baby brother. 

When this happens I remember a typical morning at a park over a year ago, right before the world shut down over Covid 19. The bigger kids had a great time swinging, running in the grass, and shooting each other up into the air on the teeter-totter, while Blue-Eyed Baby, who wasn't even a year and half, toddled around after them. 


I noticed that there was a hole in the middle of the teeter-totter where a bolt was missing, but didn't think much of it. I stayed with Baby Blue Eyes while the other kids played, until my Brown-Eyed Girl, Kora, started crying that she had hurt herself. While I consoled her, the two older kids jumped onto the teeter-totter and immediately rocked it into the air.

Baby Blue Eyes started fussing. I looked over to see that his finger was stuck in the missing bolt-hole. I reached over to help him pull it out. 

And shrieked. 

The inner mechanisms of the teeter-totter had crushed my little boy's finger to the point where the tip was just barely hanging on. 

For the next several minutes I didn't pay attention to anything else as I clutched my whimpering baby to me, blood dripping on the sidewalk, and dialed 911. While the operator took what felt like an eternity to patch me through to the fire station, I staunched Baby Blue Eyes' blood with a diaper and tried not to lose it. As soon as the ambulance was on its way, I called Mr. Brown Eyes and told him to come RIGHT NOW.

Mr. Brown Eyes raced to the park from the store a couple of blocks away. He gathered Blue-Eyed Baby into his arms and rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital. 

That's when I turned to my other three children, all crying quietly on top of the jungle gym. 

At that moment, it didn't matter how many toys their baby brother had stolen from them or how unfair it was that I took his side every time he cried. Their little tear-stained faces told me how much they loved him and how worried about him they were. 

I held them close and we cried together. They said prayer after prayer that Baby Blue Eyes would be ok, and they spent the afternoon at their aunt's house making get-well cards for him. 

They were as relieved as I was when Baby Blue Eyes came home that night, freshly stitched-up and already back to his silly, spunky self. For the next two months he wore a sock on his hand to keep him from pulling his bandage off. 

I wish I could say that since that day they have treated each other with greater kindness and patience, but they're still kids. They have many years to find new things to fight about before they realize they can be each others' best friends. 

But I know, when it really comes down to it, that they care about each other. 


And as long as I remember that, their spats and arguments and "I'm never playing with you again" threats don't bother me as much.  

Sibling love outlasts all that. 

Especially when your little brother has super-powers in his finger. 

It could happen,

The Brown-Eyed Girl



Monday, May 17, 2021

Getting Uncomfortable

There is a concept that has long been a theme in my life.  

It's this:

When I find myself getting comfortable with where I am in life, it usually means it's time to make a change. The choice is always mine. I can stay comfortable and be just fine, or I can step out of my comfort zone and discover just how much the Lord wants to bless me. 

This theme reoccurred four years ago when Mr. Brown Eyes and I were consulting as to whether I should quit my job. It was something we had talked about long before we got married. I didn't mind working and helping to pay the bills, but when it came down to working or being home with our children, I wanted to be with our children. 

Our oldest Brown-Eyed Boy was seven years old and I was still working part-time, able to be with him and his sisters more than some working moms, but I didn't feel like I could give them all my focus. I couldn't shake the nagging thought that I needed to be home with them more.

Mr. Brown Eyes agreed, but neither of us felt totally confident about how we could survive on his income alone. The firefighting job he was blessed with in this post provided for us, but it didn't pay well and the benefits weren't great. That's where my job filled in the gaps. But the more we talked about it, the more we prayed about it, the stronger we felt that quitting my job was something that needed to happen. 

It was time to get uncomfortable. 

Living on one income was immediately a struggle financially, but Mr. Brown Eyes and I learned to budget, and we always paid our tithing first, and our one income stretched much farther than we ever thought it could. Being home with our children was difficult but fulfilling. 

We actually weren't too uncomfortable at all. 

Then came another blessing--Mr. Brown Eyes decided to test for another bigger, better-paying fire department, and, after all our past disappointments, he got hired. 

Our prayers were answered. Immediate blessings for choosing to follow that prompting for me to quit. That was easy might have even crossed my mind. 

Until we realized that during his fire academy Mr. Brown Eyes would be making even less money than he had at his previous department.

We had already dipped deep into our savings to make up for my lost paycheck. We just couldn't see how we could survive another year like that. 

This is when we got uncomfortable. 

I remember that night so clearly. The panic and worry that we had made a wrong choice. Thinking, oh, if I had just worked another year. Then the late-night talks, the earnest prayers, the very clear answer--stay close to the Lord, and trust in Him--and the ensuing peace. 

My inspiration to stay close to the Lord was to keep a list posted on our kitchen wall of all our blessings. During a time when I didn't feel very blessed at all, those pages filled up quickly. I was able to recognize the Lord's hand in our lives, a Hand that was there every day, even if not in the ways I would have expected it. I grew closer to my Savior during that uncomfortable year of pinching and saving than I ever would have sitting comfortably at my desk at work. 

And now Mr. Brown Eyes is working at his dream job. 



Get uncomfortable. Throughout my life those words have terrified me and simultaneously brought the most wondrous blessings--friendships, a college education, job opportunities, learning, growth, strengthened faith. What is true for working out applies to life too--no pain, no gain. I am so grateful for a God who not only encourages us to stretch and grow, but helps and sustains us every step of the way. 

Still growing,
The Brown-Eyed Girl



Monday, May 10, 2021

The Worst Year of Our Lives

 I keep hearing people call 2020 the worst year of our lives. 

It has taken me a while to figure out why that statement bothers me so much. 

Yes, I know many people suffered during 2020. It was a year of fear and loss and struggle, magnified so many times because so many people were affected. And I don't mean to downplay that at all. 

But 2020 was not the worst year of my life.

2019 was. 

2019 was the year I lost my mom. It was the year I watched her fade from her warm, smiling self to a barely-moving figure in a hospital bed, tubes connecting her to machines that whirred and beeped. It was the year I sat by her hospice bed in the living room of my childhood home, holding her hand while she slept in a drug-induced haze. It was the year I spent nights pacing my bedroom, crying to Heavenly Father to please give me more time with her.  It was the year I saw my solid, steady, unbreakable dad break down with grief.

For my family, 2019 was the beginning of a long, lonely road of realizing what life without Mom meant. 

My heart goes out to the people who suffered in 2020, especially those who lost loved ones. But 2020 was not the only year that brought heartache and suffering to the world. It's just the year that so much of the world shared the same heartache and the same suffering. Heartache and suffering have existed since the Fall of Adam, and will continue until our Savior comes again. Just because the whole world isn't suffering, doesn't mean that someone, somewhere, isn't.

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make with this post. Maybe just trying to let my voice be heard because for some reason I feel like if I didn't suffer in 2020 for some Covid 19-related reason, my suffering was unimportant. Because my mom died in 2019, of cancer, instead of in 2020 of Covid 19, my suffering doesn't receive presidential condolences or a monument built in its honor. But that doesn't make my suffering any less real. 

All I wanted, when I first lost my mom, was for people to talk to me about her. Loss is such an uncomfortable subject for so many people--including me, before 2019--that we often try to avoid it. But that was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to remember my mom, to live in the memories I love so much about her. I even wanted to talk about what happened to her, those last days with her. It hurt when well-meaning friends skirted around the subject altogether, as if my loss was something that could just be brushed under the rug and forgotten beneath more cheerful subjects. 

I just hope, as humans, we take a moment to see the daily suffering around us, and reach out a hand of gentleness and compassion. We never know what hurt might be hiding behind a smiling face we pass in the street. I hope it doesn't take a worldwide pandemic for us to realize that suffering is everywhere, and the littlest kindness can ease that hurt tremendously. 

The joyful part of this post is that even in our deepest suffering, our Savior can bring us incomprehensible peace. When it seems that our grief is never-ending, He can bring comfort that I don't have words to describe. That is my hope for every suffering soul, in this year and every other. 

Love,

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, May 3, 2021

Volcano Adventures

Since posting this almost seven years ago, where I described my first visit as an adult to Mt. St. Helens, my nerdy fascination with volcanoes remains as strong as ever. 


During a recent visit to Sunset Crater in Northern Arizona, I pondered the many volcanoes I've visited since that post. 


This was our second visit to Sunset Crater and the surrounding extinct volcanoes that make up the San Francisco Peaks. 


(Look how little they were! The kids, not the mountains.)

We also froze at Crater Lake, Oregon, in the middle of June.
     

Mr. Brown Eyes and I hiked through a rain forest to the top of Mt. Liamuiga in St. Kitts during our ten-year anniversary cruise. 

That was definitely at my insistence. And it was amazing.

                             

And last summer we explored the super volcano that is Yellowstone National Park. We camped in the nearby Tetons (in July) and got snowed on, but it was so worth it.

                              
                              
                              
                              

All right, so this doesn't even scratch the surface of the 1,500 potentially active volcanoes in the world, but it makes me happy. I love that every trip has been an adventure. 

But I definitely have a lot more volcanoes to see. 

                              

Here's to more adventuring,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Bad Days

 I love this picture. 


And not just because it's of my chubby, smiley youngest child. 

I love the day this picture reminds me of. 

It was a terrible day. Mr. Brown Eyes was at work and I was cranky with the kids, getting after them over every little thing, getting so mad at my little Brown-Eyed Girl, Kora, for wetting her pants over and over again. That evening we had been invited to watch my niece play volleyball at a nearby school, and of course the kids made us late and I was crankier than ever. 

After the game the kids talked me into letting them play on the playground, but then Kora wet her pants again and I was DONE. I stormed into the bathroom with her, part of me raging that this was it, I was going to cut their playground fun short and blame it on Kora. "It's the only way she'll learn," I told myself. 

But, thankfully, another, quieter voice whispered, "Let her play. You guys need this."

This picture reminds me how grateful I am that I listened to that quieter, kinder voice. 

We played at the playground for another hour, the kids running and laughing, the baby crawling everywhere and discovering sand for the first time. My bitter, cranky heart softened and I remembered how joyful I am to be the mother of these sweet children. 

This picture reminds me that every bad (week, month, year) day comes to an end, and then we appreciate the joy and peace of our good days so much more. 

I am trying to listen to that kinder, quieter voice, also known as the Holy Ghost, more often. 

It makes for way more good days. 

Love,
The Brown-Eyed Girl