Monday, March 28, 2011

My True Love Story

Day 125ish

"So… are you going to talk to him about it?” my friend, Tara, asks me as we watch Ryan inconspicuously from across the gym in our church building. Our weekly activity has just ended, and a rumor has been whispered into my ear, where it promptly dispersed a hundred little question marks to go tip-toeing around in my brain.

Ryan’s imminent approach is the only source of my resolute answer to Tara’s question. “Yes. I am going to talk to him about it right now!”

“Hey,” he says.

“Is it true that you have a girlfriend now?” I blurt out, unable to muster any finesse.

“Yeah, it is.”

“Who is she?” I ask.

“Her name is A.”

My words splutter out amidst gasps. “I don’t even know her!”

“You’d like her. She’s awesome… and she’s good lookin’.”

“I can’t believe you have a girlfriend just like that!”

He says his next sentence slowly, like a teacher leading a student to an answer.

“You have a boyfriend too. Remember? B?”

“I know that, but… but… you’re still my fiancĂ©, right?”

The look he gives me is a mixture of his patience for my craziness and his resolve and dedication to playing along with it. “Well, of course I am,” he says.

“Well, okay!” I say, feeling that a disaster has somehow been diverted.

“But in the meantime,” he says, his voice taking on the usual tormenting quality, “I think you should kiss B.”

“WHAT? No, I’m not going to kiss- Shhhhhhh….” I remember the crowded gym and look around frantically while flapping my hands to lower the volume of our conversation.

Then I continue in a passionate whisper, “I’m not going to kiss B! Why would you suggest that? Why? Wait a minute. It’s because you’re going to kiss A, isn’t it?”

“Come here,” he says, chuckling at my response. I follow him across the hall, stomping and huffing all the way.

He leads me to a large classroom, but people are mingling there as well so he motions me through the room to the door of the janitor’s supply closet. He opens the closet door and walks into the dark, clean smelling and well organized little area where two people can just barely stand without breathing each other’s air.

He flicks a light switch and a single, low watt bulb allows us to see well enough that we’re able to leave the door open no more than a crack and avoid the listening ears of our friends and classmates.

“Yeah,” he says, “I think you should kiss B.”

“No! I’m not going to! You’re going to kiss A aren’t you?”

“Maybe, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.”

From practice, I go easily into the dedicated speech that I have given to myself over and over again. “I’m not kissing B or anybody! I’m not giving up my first kiss for a long time, and when I do it’s going to be a kiss I don’t regret later. Everybody I know regrets their first kiss. I’m not blowing mine on a guy who turns out to be a jerk, or on a scenario like… let’s see… what was yours again? Spin the bottle?”

“Yeah, but I don’t regret it. It was fun.”

Fun?” I say, like that is the most menial description that could ever make a kiss worthwhile.

“Yeah, fun. Why does everything with you have to be so dramatic and meaningful? Why can’t anything just be fun?”

I look at him like he’s speaking a foreign language as I lean back on a crate filled with spray bottles and industrial paper towels.

I’m not sure what to make of Ryan telling me to kiss B, because I’m pretty certain he doesn’t really want me to. I know I’m not a fan of him kissing A, and what was this about kissing being fun? Sometimes he simplifies everything so much that it’s like my mind is a hedge maze and he’s in an airplane.

Still, I can’t quite place fun as any of the first ten adjectives in my personal description of kissing. Kissing, I decide, isn’t fun if you are too young and scared and abhorrent to the idea. So… fun, drama, meaning… whatever kissing will be for me- it will be waiting.

My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of the closet door being pushed shut from the outside. Click. It’s followed by boy laughter.

I look at Ryan, raise an eyebrow, and silently ask him to explain the juvenile antics of his gender. He replies with nothing but a lazy smile. I stand up, reach out and put my hand on the doorknob. My twisting wrist produces no results. The doorknob won’t turn.

“Cute,” I say. “It’s locked.” I knock on the door. “Very funny you guys. Now, let us out.”

The doorknob moves from the other side, but it still meets resistance at about a quarter inch. I hear more laughter from outside, growing into a mixture of nervous pride and amused hysteria.

“We can’t open it,” the boy voices say, “It’s locked.”

“I see that it’s locked,” I say. “So unlock it.”

More laughing. “There’s no way for us to unlock it. There’s only a key hole.”

I turn back toward Ryan, my look frantic. His interest in our imprisonment as a possible problem is only now peaking. I start shaking and twisting the doorknob, hoping some desperate combination of the two could lead to our release.

I hear a girl voice chastising the boys from outside. Thank goodness. A voice of reason. As it turns out, though, not someone with the capability of opening the door. The girl voice calls, “I’ll go find someone who has a key.”

This leads me to shake and twist the doorknob more fervently while my voice raises octaves with every word I speak. “They’re going to have to get a grown up with a key to get us out! This is horrifying. Do you know what this looks like? Do you know what they’re going to think of you and I locked in a closet together?”

Ryan is still leaning casually on a crate, looking amused as he says, “It probably looks like something a lot more interesting than it actually is.”

A whine like some wounded animal rises up from my throat as I flatten my back against the closet door and mentally submit to the humiliation I’m going to face when light finally pours into this closet and I face the adult standing, with key in hand, on the other side. I’d almost rather stay in here.

“Don’t worry so much,” Ryan says, “It’s really not that big of a deal.”

“Not that big of a deal, huh? Typical. Our conversations always end up with us debating over how big of a deal things are!”

I hear keys jingling outside. I hear one being inserted into the lock and I back up as the doorknob turns. Light pours in behind the figure of respected neighbor and member of our ward bishopric, Brother Mike Huntsman.

My face burns hot with embarrassment. I walk past him, talking a mile a minute as I flounder to first thank and then explain. “Thank you so much. I’m so sorry and- we were just talking, I swear.”

I’m too caught up to notice Ryan’s reaction to any of this until Brother Huntsman has gone about his way and the crowd has dispersed.

My breathing slows some now that the danger of reprimand has passed.

As I prepare to leave for home, Ryan catches my eye. “Fun, huh?”

I can’t help but give him half a smile and half a begrudging concurrence, “Maybe a little.”

Author’s note: Brother Huntsman became Bishop Huntsman a few years later and to this day, never misses an opportunity to remember with gracious fondness and good natured teasing, the day he rescued Ryan and I from the locked church closet.

This note was written not long after this story happened.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Bronch-stinkin-itis. That's what I've been diagnosed with. I like to imagine that the antibiotics are miniature knights in armor, battling it out with the sickness to make me healthy. My little heroes! I've been looking at these incredible pictures of roads. For some reason, I just can't stop looking at them and thinking about how they apply to life. Where my thoughts meet words, though, the road conditions are these. I'm not a world traveller, I'm not even someone you feel comfortable having behind the wheel, but I've been on these roads. We all have. So until my little knights in armor announce their victory over bronch-stinkin-itis... come on a drive with me. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." -Confucius " It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness." -Seneca “May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.” “We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” -C.S. Lewis
" The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

but I have promises to keep

and miles to go before I sleep,

and miles to go before I sleep." -Robert Frost
“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back." -Chinese Proverb “The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, he's going to keep digging, he's going to keep trying to do right and make up for what's gone before, just because that's who he is.” -Joss Whedon " Earth is crammed with Heaven." -Elizabeth Barrett Browning “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth...not going all the way, and not starting.” -Buddha quotes "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." -Lewis Carroll
"You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it." -French Proverb

"Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him." -Aldous Huxley

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship." Louisa May Alcott I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. -Robert Frost

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My True Love Story

Day 105ish

Ryan and other friends have come knocking on my basement apartment door from time to time. There have been group gatherings in my own personal living room. In fact, we meet almost weekly. We usually watch a teenage drama on TV, and then we cross the street to the elementary school. I love to run to the long line of swings, grab one low enough to the ground for my stubby legs and jump on. I love to sway back and forth, lean back and look up at the night sky, filled with stars, and remember a simpler time. I spent my childhood on these swings, pretending I was an acrobat, pretending I was a space traveler, pretending it meant I was married to the boy swinging next to me if he was going the same height and speed as I was. I feel the chains of the swing in my hands, I feel the rush of the ground beneath my feet, I feel the wind push my hair forward and back and I know that for just a few minutes, I can travel through time.

I laugh. We all laugh, because where Ryan is, there is always humor. I answer to a funny name. We all answer to funny names, because where Ryan is, there are always nicknames. “Hey Lamie,” he says to me, “I hear you’re moving in with me- I mean, by me.” I let my toes drag on the dirt below me and begin to slow so that I can answer without shouting. “It’s true! My parents are buying that house just across the street and a few houses down from you! I’m gonna be the girl next door.” “That’s all very good, but remind me again why you’re not my girlfriend.” He gives me a torturous grin. I allow my swing’s direction to slow to a lazy swivel as he stands in front of me. “It’s very simple really. I like you too much.” “Mmmm. Lucky me,” he says, his eyes communicating his sarcasm. “Not lucky. Valuable. You think I would waste our friendship on a ninth grade romance? So that we could break up and hate each other forever? No, thank you. Instead, I think we’ll get married someday.” I'm trying to keep my answer playful, but the truth is he's too good for all of it. Too good for the drama, too good for the games, too good for the risk. He needs to be the one I can laugh with, talk with, go to. That means more. He means more. He means too much… so he has to be less. “Married huh?” It's hard to tell if this pacifies him or not. “Yep. You’re pretty much my fiancĂ©.” He shrugs. “I guess whatever you say goes.” “See what a good husband you’ll make!” “Oh. Ha. Ha. Ha. So… are you coming to my basketball game tomorrow?” “I don’t know. I love watching you play,” I say, kicking at the dirt with my dangling foot, “But I hate when you lose your temper.” “Well, I hate when I lose so…” “I tend to love when you shoot those last second, winning buzzer beaters and everyone hails you as a hero.” “Okay, why don’t I just go ahead and plan on doing that then.” “Sounds great!” I say, beaming. “I’ll be there.” And I was. Author’s note: I had my Mom proofread this post for me and the only addition she suggested was that at the beginning I should mention that we had those group get-togethers in the basement apartment “under the watchful eye of my Mom”! LOL! It may be true, but it totally spoils the mood. *shaking my head* Moms…

Friday, March 18, 2011

These People Are My Own

I’m visiting my home town this weekend. My Mom has been going through old papers. We looked at some of them together. Some are too tender, some are too sad. Then we found something very interesting and inspiring. It was a book of biographies. The students of my sixth grade year, 1988, had done interviews and written the bios about people from our community. These are my treasures. These are people who comprise a small town, where a village raised a child. These were the people who knew what I was doing when even I didn’t. My Mom’s sister, Susan, told me a story that hasn’t left my mind. She said that before Dad’s funeral, she made a call from her home in the city to one of our local small town florist shops. Aunt Susan said, “I need to order flowers for a funeral.” The woman on the other end of the phone said, “Oh. Monte Gee.” She knew. My Aunt Susan went on to make her order and to tell the woman that she was my Mom’s sister. The woman reassured my Aunt with a sentence that won’t leave my mind and that has absolutely proven itself. “Don’t worry,” she said, “We take care of our own down here.” These people are my own. Interview by Kristy Funk, Biography of Sandra Gee, Librarian Sandra remembers as a young girl she had her jaw broken. The doctor had to wire her mouth shut. She guesses it was supposed to make her listen more and not talk so much. If Sandra was a bird, she would be a peacock. The reason is they have lots of eyes on their tails and she would read a lot of books and take care of her family. Sandra admires her mom the most because her mother is always thinking of others. Interview by Ryan Leonhardt, Biography of Steve Jensen, Mine Chemist and Scoutmaster When Steve was young he loved all kinds of sports. He loved to be outside and to be in the wilderness and he loved animals. If Steve was an animal he would be a cougar, because they are fast and sneaky. If Steve was writing a message to the future generations it would be to love each other. Interview by Bruce Yost, Biography of Lavar Leonhardt, Teacher Lavar grew up on a big farm. So he learned how to work. He had a fun life living on a farm, riding horses and cows. If he was an animal he would be a wolf because nothing messes with a wolf. If he had a message for future generations he would tell them to worry less about success in life and to worry more about people, helping people and loving people. Interview by Tori Truman, Biography of Jackie Skinner, Member of the PTA Board, graduate of Cosmetology school If Jackie were a color she would be red because is makes a statement and it is bold. If she were an animal she would be a dolphin because they are smart, free, and a friend to man. When Jackie was as little girl she had the chicken pox during the Christmas Season. Christmas Eve she could not sleep because they were so bad. They were even in her throat. After everyone else had gone to bed her father let her open her largest gift and it was a tea party set. She and her father sat up all night long and had a tea party with her dolls. Interview by Russell Taylor, Biography of Royce Stilson, Former School Board Member Royce remembers when he was a kid he was always hunting, fishing, and making rope swings in cottonwood trees near the creek. If Royce was a bird, he would be a Periquin Falcon, because they are sleek, fast and a sure hunter. If Royce was writing a message for a time capsule, he would tell them to choose the right and never back down. Interview by Kira Fox, Biography of Lynne Taylor, Aerobics and Dance Instrustor Lynne remembers when she was little that her mother was old, wrinkled, and gray. She was very loving, very feminine, and always tender, gentle, kind, but a very strong person. She raised eight children all by herself because her father died. She remembers how sad it made her when people would make fun of her mother because she was old. Age doesn’t matter, she made up for it by being kind and loving. If Lynne was to write a message for future generations, she would write, you can be whatever you dream to be, don’t be any less than what you can be. Interview by Genette Gist, Biography of Doug Jensen, Buyer for Utah Power and Light Doug says his childhood was a happy one. He said he remember when he was in the second grade and he kicked a kickball through the window. Doug said is he was an animal, he would be a bear for the reason, they’re grouchy. Doug says he admires his daughter Amanda because she’s always happy. Doug says if he wrote a message to the future generation he would say, do your homework! Interview by Natalie Christensen, Biography of Gordon Bennet, Highway Patrol Gordon’s life as a child was very exciting. He liked the time when he and his friends went and jumped off buildings and broke their arms. If he was an animal, he would be an elk because they are so big and massive. Their horns grow very strong, also they are very graceful. Gordon says that he admired the most, his good friend Loyd George because he always helped people who had problems. Advice for future generations: don’t get involved in drugs and have respect for your country. Interview by Bret Hansen, Biography of Ray Wareham, City Council Ray’s life as a child was very exciting and very happy. The people were all poor and had no material things. He grew up on Molen Road, and there were a great number of children. They skated every winter, and swam and herded cows in the summer. His greatest asset in life has been the value of hard work. By working hard he has achieved most of the things he wanted to. If Ray was a color he would be blue, because to Ray, it is clean and it is a color that everyone enjoys. It seems to be a never ending color. When you look in the sky or ocean, it’s there. Interview by Mark McKell, Biography of Jim Behling, Safety Engineer at Cottonwood Mine Jim’s childhood was exciting. He and his family moved a lot of times and went to different places. Just during high school, he moved ten times. If Jim were a bird, he would be a Canadian Goose. The reason is because they fly south to warm climates and see a lot of places. If he was an animal, he would be an elk, because they are neat and distinguished. Interview by Amie Gee, Biography of Leslie Danzer, Seamstress When Leslie was four years old her two sisters were killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. It was a very sad experience for her. Leslie’s life as a child was very happy. When she was six years old, her brother was born and they grew up together in Bountiful, Utah. If Leslie were a color she would be peach, because that’s the color she already is! If she were an animal, she would be an octopus, because she could help more people by sewing with all of those arms. Message for future generations: It is what is in your heart that counts. Interview by Sheldon Kirkham, Biography of Bruce Funk, County Clerk If Bruce was an animal he would be a tiger, because he would be free to roam around. If he was a color, he would be maroon, because he like that color more than any other he paints with. If he was any kind of plant, he would be a tree, because he would like to be tall and strong. He admires God the most, because he is amazed at his creations. Interview by Kristin Danzer, Biography of Drew Sitterud, Business Owner (Grocery Store) Drew’s most significant childhood experiences were being close as a family and having an older brother that had time for him and also made him feel important. Drew thinks the characteristics of a “perfect friend” should be one who will leave you better than they found you. If Drew was writing advice for future generations he would tell them that they are great people and nobody can make them feel little but themselves, and they have a Father in Heaven that loves them. Interview by Peter Bunderson, Biography of Frances Leonhardt, Homemaker and Custom Quilter Frances had a wonderful childhood. She remembers when she was eight years old, she sang on the radio with Dolly Parton. If Frances was a bird, she would like to be a robin, because she likes to be first and robins are the first birds in the Spring. If she was an animal, she would be a poodle, because they’re pampered and well cared for. She wants younger generations to know that they should always have the courage to stand for the right, to have high standards and be obedient to parents. Interview by Kyla Rollins, Biography of Lane Justice, Community Sports When Lane was 7 he went to the State Prison with his dad, who worked there. The convicts cut his hair. One of them would push him on the swings, and then took him out for ice cream. When he was 10 he won a dream horse in BLM. In high school he cut his finger off in a workshop making a table. If he was a bird, then he would be a magpie so he could bug certain people. His hobby is riding horses, because they are enjoyable, but he is allergic to them. He plans on having three kids. When he was a kid, he had a white house with bars on the windows, 6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a front room and an attic, where he slept.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ideas; Thank Goodness They're Acrobatic

There was a time, before four children overwhelmed me and brought home every cold and flu bug known to man so that I could catch it and spend my days fighting it off, when I created something every day. I love beauty. I love making something beautiful with my own two hands. I love it even more when it saves me money. I used to make hair bows for my girls that matched every outfit. I used to make decorations for my home that were uniquely mine. Confession: My last addition to the walls of our home was a hole I kicked in one of them. I didn't think I was ever going to admit that, but there it is. There is a time and a season for everything. There is a time to create. A time to create half of something and leave it sitting in a box until you finally get rid of it years later. A time to think of an idea and know you want to accomplish it, but you don’t even have time to start. A time for SOME of us to feel desperation creep in from all sides because the only thing we accomplish is to re-clean the same stuff we cleaned yesterday. A time to kick walls. A time to assist your husband in patching and painting over holes in walls. There may also be a time to remember the you that used to create things and to make a little time to find her again. That may cause you to want to kick things less... or if your life doesn't co-operate, it may cause you to take up punching holes in walls as well. For me, it remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I have been seeing all of the CEEEUUUTE jeans that people are wearing and paying a lot of money for, mind you, and something surprising happened. An idea made its way through the coughing, it dodged the dirty dishes, it jumped over a towering pile of laundry, it army crawled through the freshly applied dry wall putty and it shimmied into what is left of my mind.

It wants to be shared. Here’s what you should do:

Go to the craft store. Leave the kids at the home. (It also works if you bring them, but it isn’t as fun.) Go to the isle with the embroidery floss. You’ll love it. It has every color imaginable. Even sparkly ones. They’re cheap. You could go on a mini shopping spree. Bring a pair of your simple, inexpensive, well-fitting but un-ceeeeute jeans. Find some colors that go well with them. Also purchase some needles with a large enough eye for you to thread the entire strand of floss through. Go home. Force yourself to read to the kids so that you don’t feel guilty later. Put the kids to bed. Sit down next to your husband and watch American Idol while adding embroidery floss embellishments to your jeans. Follow the stitching that’s already there, or make your own design on the pockets. Be creative. Let the ideas find you through the maze of chaos that is your life. Wear your jeans. Smile when everyone tells you how ceeeeute they are. Teach your daughters, nieces and friends how to do it because it’s very simple and they will LOVE you for it. Take pictures and send them to me and I will love you for it. Your bum is going to be so cute.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My True Love Story

Day 75ish

“Amie, the phone is for you!” I hear my Mom call from the other room. Phone calls are a big deal when you’re the new girl, especially when your Mom hands you the phone and mouths “It’s a boy.” I give Mom the look that begs her to tell me what my immediate fate will be. She gives me the desperate shrug that tells me she’d like to, but she just has no idea. “Hello?” I say into the phone. “Hey, do you want a ride to the church activity?” Oh. My. Gosh. It’s Ryan. “The activity?” I say. “Yeah, we have that Halloween party tonight.” “You’re kidding. That’s tonight? I didn’t realize. I forgot. I…I…” “You’re coming,” he says, anticipating the excuses I’m trying to come up with. “I can’t come! Aren’t you supposed to have a costume?” “Yeah…. and… you’re coming.” “No! I don’t have a costume! I’ll come to the next one I swear, but I just dropped the ball on this one and now there’s no way-“ Unaffected by my blathering, he draws out another, “Youuuuuuu’rrrrre coming.” I gasp the “you’re being unreasonable” gasp. “What time does it start?” “It starts at six-thirty.” “SIX-THIRTY? That’s like, right now! Are you crazy?” “You’re coming. We’ll be leaving to pick you up in just a minute.” Excitement and nervousness are dancing with each other inside my stomach. “No, no. Thanks for calling, really. But I just can’t.” “Okay, we’ll see you in a few minutes then.” “Don’t you dare-” Silence. “Agghhhh! Mom!” I scream. “What?” Mom asks with the voice that says I’m a Mom so I’m not going to let this be a bigger deal than it is, but with the demeanor that says we just moved our daughter again at an impressionable age and I’m worried about her. “It was Ryan! It’s the church- There’s a church- I completely forgot!” “Amie, for heaven’s sake what is it?” Mom asks, attempting to pull my thoughts together. I take half of a deep breath. “That was Ryan, from church. There is an activity like right now and it’s a Halloween party and I’m supposed to have a costume and they’re coming to pick me up any minute!” “Okay,” Mom says, “I once heard of someone taking white shoe polish and putting it on their face and dressing up as a mime.” “Just white shoe polish? Wha- what am I gonna wear?” “You just need to dress all in black.” Within minutes mom and I have smeared white shoe polish all over my face, outlined it in eyeliner and giggles and I’m rushing out the door. Ryan seems impressed by my resourceful wardrobe change. He smiles at me and says, “Does this mean you’re not gonna talk?” It occurs to me that this isn’t a bad idea. “I’ll talk if I’m so inspired,” I say. We drive to a warehouse at the rodeo grounds in town. There are bleachers set up there, a Halloween movie, hay bales and refreshments. Never has a mime been as well received by a crowd as I am on this night. Oddly enough, my “meant to be silent” costume provides for plenty of conversation in the form of good natured teasing. “How do you like the house you’re family is renting?” Ryan asks me. “It’s okay I guess. We had just built a brand new house when we moved. I got to design my own room. My Dad let me choose my own carpet and even where the phone and TV jacks would be wired in.” “Oh. I bet that was hard to leave.” “Yeah. The house I live in now is kind of weird. The downstairs is like a whole separate apartment. I’m the only one who has a bedroom down there, so I kind of have my own kitchen and living room even.” I don’t mention that at night it scares me to walk down that long flight of stairs, through a partially finished area and into my bedroom, so separate from my family. I don’t mention that I’ve been sleeping every night upstairs on an extra mattress on the floor of my twin brothers’ bedroom. I’m already facing a lot of change. A girl can only be expected to be so brave. Of course, the idea of having a little separation from parental supervision is an exciting thought to friends my age. Ryan says, “Really? That’s cool. We’ve got to get a group together and watch a movie down there. It’s perfect!” A new appreciation for my little downstairs apartment starts to warm me. “We should,” I say. “It even has its own entrance. You could come and knock on my own personal door.” He looks into my eyes as though the invitation is a very specific and individual one instead of maybe the general one it started out as. “Okay,” he says. The mime he's looking at hears a lot of promise in that one word and she only needs respond with a subtle smile to communicate how much she’ll look forward to that knock.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In Doing Small Things, We Do The Impossible.

I don’t have memories of my Dad avoiding the eyes of a needy person and walking on down the street. I have several very specific memories of him stopping, talking, giving cash, or going into the nearest fast-food place and getting someone a good meal. I don’t have memories of my Dad driving past a broken down car, muttering that if we only had time or if he were more capable he would stop. I have one particular memory of him turning around and going back in heavy falling snow on our drive to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s house. How I wanted to get there to the warm meal and the company of my cousins! But there was a car broken down on the side of the road, and that family needed help getting to their Thanksgiving. I bet they still remember my Dad. I have memories of people asking for what I thought was too much. I have memories of Dad taking pause, not verbalizing what I could see… that it was not an easy thing for him to lend an expensive four-wheeler or high quality piece of hunting equipment, or give of his free time. But what finally did get verbalized was that things were just things and that people were more important. I don’t have specific memories of Dad helping someone daily. I know he did, but he was not the sort that needed people to know it. I don’t know how often I’ve been that kind of self-less. When have I done a good turn without telling a living soul? It’s the most disciplined kind of service, something my Dad worked at. There’s a thing that’s harder than all of that. Accepting the service of others. My Dad had occasion to learn this lesson in his life as well. Because of he and Mom’s good nature, like people were drawn to them. People whose lives they had touched were eager to give back to them and then some. So much has been given to my family that I could spend every blog post writing about it, but I don’t have the words or the tears to sustain it! It takes an unspeakable humility to both give and receive. People are taking care of my Mom. How can I tell you what that means to me? It would take more than words, even words of my own invention! When the funeral ended, the expected happened. There were no more responsibilities to keep busy with and the sadness started to settle heavy on our chests. My brother, Justin, got out the sympathy cards. They were the cure. There were cards from the Power Plant where Dad worked. They had signatures and cash. Some were ones and some were fifties and the men and women who put that money in didn’t need to specify how much they had each given individually. There were words about Dad, about the kind of man he was, and about how people wanted to be the way he was, that they would do good in memory of him. It’s hard to know what would help someone when they lose someone they love, and I’ve come to find that honoring their loved one’s memory in that way is possibly the very best thing anyone can do. I want to tell you that we felt Dad there in that kitchen with us that night. On a lighter note, another unexpected, charitably beneficial thing people can do is kiss pigs. That’s what they decided to do at the school where my Mom works. They only knew that they wanted to do something for Mom. I believe they felt that they simply HAD to do something for her, and I believe they came up with the best plan that has seen any junior high school, maybe ever. Faculty and students stuffed a piggy bank full of money and when they had not only reached, but doubled their fundraising goal- they held an assembly and the students got to watch teachers and other staff, kiss a live pig for Mom. They got to watch her muster up her courage and thank them through tears. She told them that Dad’s favorite song is “One” by U2 and that it says, “We get to carry each other.” She thanked them for helping to carry her, and she told the kissers of the pig that she would be willing to kiss a pig for them as well, should the occasion ever arise. The world is most often a difficult place. The televised news is painful. This homemaker’s daily life is drudgery. At times I lose my temper. At times I lose myself. Every day I call to check on my Mom, praying that things are getting a little easier for her. We know hardships. But I know that somewhere in the world right now, someone is giving a meal to a homeless man. Someone is stopping in the snow to help a family get back on their path. Someone is writing a kind word, is slipping money into an envelope. Someone is kissing a pig. And we are not alone.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My True Love Story

Every time I hit "publish post" it's a little scary. There's a piece of me out there. Well, today there's going to be a chunk of my heart and a wisp of my soul. I had a stroke of brilliance over the weekend. I'm going to tell the story of Ryan Edward and I. The true story. Better than journal entries. I'm going to tell it like you were reading it from a book. I'm going to put a new chunk of heart and wisp of soul out there every Monday... because Mondays need something like this.
My True Love Story

Day One

I’m so nervous. I can’t believe I’m the new girl again. Two years ago, we moved away from Ferron, Utah. We relocated because of my Dad’s job. Then my Dad got the opportunity to transfer back to his job and just like that, I’m the new girl again. Only not entirely the new girl. There is even more mystery attached to me. I’m the new, old girl. The one they knew before. They’re searching their memories. They’re trying to remember what I was like. They’re wondering, I know. Wondering what I’ve been doing in the last two years. How those two years have changed me. I moved at the end of our sixth grade year. I left during the transition. Everyone was moving up to Jr. High School, getting used to new schedules, new cliques, puberty, heck, we were getting used to actually caring what clothes we put on. I left when a phone call from a boy was the most terrifying thing that had ever happened to me, and now boys and girls my age were kissing each other. I’ve almost gotten used to all of that, but I had also gotten used to a new town, to new people. I was used to walking to Mike’s Food Town and getting tater babies for lunch. I was used to 4-H camp and summer plays. I was used to my group of friends and the way people lovingly referred to us as “The Herd”. I had a boyfriend and a couple of other guys that I liked too. What? I’ve only just finished 8th grade, it’s not like I’m married yet. You know the terrifying phone call I referred to from the sixth grade boy? He was my “boyfriend”. I know. I know. Why do we have boyfriends in elementary school? It was all very innocent. There had been notes exchanged, with well thought out things like “I ♥ you” on them, and the phone call certainly couldn’t be described as a phone conversation because I was much too afraid to contribute to it in any significant way. I was equally brave when we broke up. I stood there, probably biting a fingernail, while my friends told him that I was moving and I nodded to confirm. That was our elementary school break up… and now I’m back. They’re wondering, I know. In the last two years I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve gotten used to talking on the phone to boys. I’ve gotten rather fond of holding a boy’s hand. I’ve even turned down a first kiss opportunity. He was cute too. But I’m not interested in any of that now. I’d just like to redefine normal somehow. I guess I’ll start with church. That’s where I am now. I’m sitting in the first meeting of a three hour block of church, feeling the eyes of the congregation on the new girl. They’re wondering, I know. Four rows in front of me, I see a boy I recognize. Ryan. Strange that I didn’t know him better, two kids the same age in the same small town. We just hadn’t been in any of the same classes. I only knew what I could gather from across a playground. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Tan skin. Athletic. Full of enthusiasm. A people magnet. After the meeting he finds me and he doesn’t miss a beat. “So… Amie Gee is back,” he says to me in the foyer of the church building. “That’s right,” I say, pretending that I’m not feeling shy. You know I was P’s best friend when you lived here before, right?” P. was the boyfriend behind the terrifying 6th grade phone call. “I remember you,” I answer, “I’ve actually had the thought that I wished I had known you better.” “Clearly you don’t remember my heroics during the painful time in 1st grade when S. stole your pink coat.” My smile shows skepticism. “You did wear a pink coat in the first grade. Didn’t you?” He asks as if he is getting to the bottom of an investigation. “Yeah, I guess I did. I seem to remember that it had white fur around the hood.” “Oh yes. Your precious, furry hooded pink coat was once stolen by S. and thrown into the school dumpster and I… well, I hate to brag…” I have a feeling he doesn’t hate to brag. “…I took it upon myself to climb into the treacherous dumpster and get your coat back for you. It was no small feat.” “Wow. I can’t believe that I have forgotten this touching story.” “Well… you know how first grade is. It’s thankless.” I laugh. We can’t stop smiling at each other, with that certain smile that’s different from all of the other smiles. Interest. Chemistry. Could it be that in this town that I moved away from and then moved back to- could it be that there are guys like this here as well? Guys with the confidence of M? Guys that make me laugh like J did? Guys that make me want to be a better person, and guys that make me feel like I am better than I thought I was. This Ryan is a culmination of some of my favorite qualities in some of my favorite people from the town where my heart still lives.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thinking BIG

We are meant to excel. We have potential that we are meant to discover and reach. We are supposed to find out who we are and be the best “us” that we can be. It was easier when I was a kid. It seemed anything I could dream up, almost fell into my lap. “Sometimes all you need to do to win, is try,” my Mom would tell me and I won writing contests, scholarship pageants, I made it through auditions, I was handed opportunities. I was never very confident, I was just a dreamer… and that was enough. (There is something to all that “visualizing” that you hear about.) Sometime around college, I realized how big the world is and how small I am. No matter how well I could write there would always be someone who wrote better. No matter how I wife, someone will wife better. No matter how I mother, someone will mother better. No matter how I serve in my church, someone could do the job better. And it’s been established that I can’t drive, so I already started at a disadvantage! I was getting smaller and smaller… and I’m only 5’1” without shoes on! As a young mother of 2, I was standing at the kitchen sink of my apartment. There was no window over the sink, so I had put up a page from a Thomas Kinkade calendar to lose myself in as I did dishes. I was trying to figure out who I am and what I should be doing with it. I’m a hopeless romantic, but I found my Prince Charming. I’m a grown up now. It’s almost silly how much I still thrill over a good love story…. But I still do. Is that something? I’ve always loved English. I’ve always loved writing. Is that something? That’s when I first realized that maybe I’m meant to pursue writing. Dolly Pardon said, “Figure out who you are and then do it on purpose.” I’m not saying that every time we figure out what we’re “meant to” pursue that we’ll have the ultimate success. After all, I watch America Idol every year and see hundreds who truly feel that they are “meant to” sing. There is only one person who wins. What I KNOW is that you can’t go wrong in getting yourself on a path to self-discovery and then self-improvement. I know good things will come. I believe that I’ll be very happy with where I end up if I find out who I am and then try to be my best self. My best self doesn’t leave room for thoughts of the people who write BETTER than I do. It doesn’t leave thoughts for the romantic who's even MORE hopeless than I am. No thoughts for those who won more contests, who started younger, who are more accomplished, who are braver, who are better connected. NO! I had an idea for a novel. Nobody else has had the same idea. I could tell one hundred other writers about my idea and tell them to write the book. I’d have 100 VERY different books. Nobody else can write my book like I can. It’s the same in any field. Nobody can do what you can do the way that YOU do it. It isn’t possible. That’s my simple description of how this world can be so big and we can each be BIG within it. Let’s try and be BIG. (And I don’t mean by eating peanut butter M&Ms.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ever Tried To Name Yourself?

I grew up with the name Amie Gee. My last name was “G, like the letter”, as my Dad always explained to important people. Or, like my Mom always said when we placed an order at a restaurant and had to give a name, “It’s Gee- like Gee Whiz!” When calling role, my teachers always sounded it out phonetically and pronounced it like in Bobby McGee. “Amie Gee?” “It’s Gee,” I would say, and for reasons I never understood at all, my classmates all thought this was incredibly funny. I married a man with the strong German name of Leonhardt. Pronounce it. I dare you. Don’t worry, if you get it wrong, not even I will know how to correct you. ;) Ryan likes to relate the name to Lion Heart, because he’s a little Knights of the Round Table like that. So, I gotta be true to my Gee and my Leonhardt, but for heaven’s sake I write for Young Adults, not Miriam Webster! Amie G. Hardt. My pen name. What do you think? Does it sound like the name of an author you’d be drawn too? There is NO question, however, on the matter of my husband’s pseudonym (for the purposes of this blog). I need look no further than his birth certificate, on which he is known as Ryan Edward. How vampiristically cool is THAT??? Look, I have proof: And the name really fits him in an “I feel like I’m right there in the meadow” sort of way. Ryan Edward will be mentioned often in this blog because he is "tap". He and I have known each other for a very long time and he has taught me all I ever need to know about love in order to write a swoon-worthy love story: Trepidation, Admiration, Infatuation, Flirtation, Friendship, Curiosity, Fun, Fear, Bravery, Disclosure, Romance, Love, Desire, Restraint, Jealousy, Anger, Revenge, Hope, Heartache, Strength, Time, Mystery, Confusion, Clarity, Redemption, Joy, and Forever.

This is a note I wrote to him when we were 14 years old. Trepidation, Admiration, Infatuation, Flirtation, Friendship…


Boy, oh boy, do I have stories for you.