Sunday, December 30, 2012

What Christmas Means to Me

The longer I live and the more mistakes I make, the more I love my savior, Jesus Christ. He has overcome sin and death. I have taken advantage of His forgiveness of sin endlessly. It's profound and humbling. It has brought me closer to Him.

I have taken for granted the other part of Christ's sacrifice...the overcoming of death. Yes, I've always known it, but I suppose it hadn't mattered so much to me before.

This Christmas, my eyes wept with gratitude for the baby born in a manger that made this:

into nothing more than a stepping stone to eternity. 

There is a huge giant sculpture of an old woman walking through a veil and emerging into Christ's arms as a young woman. My mother loved the sculpture. My father planned on getting her a crystal replica for Christmas  Instead, my sister gave it to my dad for his Christmas. 

I believe in Christ. I am grateful for His sacrifice that allows every one to live again. I'll see you again, Mom. Not as soon as I would like, but I will see you again. 

O, death, where is thy sting? O, grave, where is thy victory?
1 Corinthians 15:55

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Dark, Cold Road We All Will Walk

Ever since my mother died, I have been overwhelmed by an outpouring of true love from my friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Really, truly overwhelmed. It's been two weeks. People's attention spans are short. I didn't expect warm hugs and wet eyes at this point, but they are still there for me. Yesterday a friend sent me an amazing gift. Today a neighbor told me, her eyes full of sorrow, "I think about you every day." I know she does. My heart is full. Everyone loses their mom at some sorrow is not novel. It is not unique or noteworthy. I would think because it is just "part of life" it would be so forgettable to others. But people have not forgotten. The kindness continues day after day. And maybe that's because this grief is so very common...a path we all face. So why not lend a shoulder to cry on for one traversing that dark, cold road?

Thank you to everyone who has whispered a prayer, texted, connected with me on Facebook, called me, hugged me, helped me out, cried a tear with's very healing and very comforting. Love to you all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

$25 Amazon Gift Card Give-Away Results

Thanks for your patience with me. My mother was in the ER and then passed away and this got put on the back burner.

Anyway, time for a winner!!!

It was so fun to see all the boards. It's so great to see a world I created in my head come alive in others' imaginations.

Anyway...the winner is...Amber. Check out her board. She really has a lot of details on it and some fun interpretations. She found pictures for a few of my favorite scenes like stargazing on the deck of the The Freedom. 

So thanks to everyone for participating and congrats to Amber.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Radio Silence

*I'd like to preface this post by saying that writing and sharing is something very healing to me. It's something I need...I hope I do not offend any family members with this post. I've also kept many of the private details just that...private. Love you all.*

mom is in e.r. dad couldn't wake her up....

The text message I received Friday, December 7, at 4:03 p.m. from my brother who lives with my parents filled me with dread. I instantly began to cry and pray. Two days before, my mom had a torn rotator cuff surgically repaired. The surgery went well and she was sent home Thursday morning. She enjoyed a quiet evening at home. Her sister brought dinner which she and my dad enjoyed. They watched a little TV and went to bed.

My dad aroused her briefly in the morning to administer her pain pill. My mom swallowed the pill but didn't open her eyes or speak much. My dad had recently had precancerous cells removed from his eye and had to go to an eye appointment. When he returned, my mom was still asleep. He couldn't wake her up. He pinched her and pulled on her toes and put ice on her face. And then he called 911.

The EMTs suspected a reaction to the pain medication and treated her for such.

In the ER she got a CT scan.

bilateral pulmonary emboli. blood clots in lungs.

The texts kept coming but none said that Mom had woken up. None said that Mom was going to be okay.

I live 9 hours away from my mom. I knew I would go to her. I thought about getting in the car right away, but my three nurse siblings told me to get a good night's sleep and come the next day. Nothing was dire. Joci had been invited to her very first birthday party and she was so excited to go. The last phone conversation I had with my mom was to tell her about that. I figured she would want Joci to go. We would go to the party and then drive down afterwards.

nurse and doc concerned she may have been low O2 (oxygen) all night and even normal dose of narcs (her pain pills) contributed to diminished O2 may be brain damage with low O2 all night

I struggled as I cared for my kids. I broke down sobbing on the floor a time or two. With tear-filled vision, I fumbled with a hot cookie sheet and seared my forearms. I didn't even feel it. Three of my four siblings are nurses and many of the texts flying around were so full of medical terms and numbers that I felt like a little child not able to keep up with an adult conversation. My non-nurse sibling and I called each other with this frustration and cried together.

mom moved to icu. icu doc suspecting stroke.

I put the kids to bed and packed. I could not sleep so I decorated our newly purchased Christmas tree, my heart trembling the entire time. I wondered if it was the brightest idea...if things ended up badly (and deep inside I knew life would never, ever be the same though I didn't know how bad things would go...) would I ever be able to decorate a Christmas tree without feeling sick to my stomach again?

My grandmother suffered a stroke and never was the same. She lived for quite a few years beyond that but needed help and guidance.

I don't think it looks good...pretty negative neurological status. If she stroked last night in her sleep then the window for treatment is passed...

Justin put on reruns of The Office. It was a good distraction. I had him bring his laptop to bed and play them so I could fall asleep. It was past 3 a.m. At one point he thought I was asleep so he turned the computer off. I instantly awoke and was full of anxiety for my mom. Justin turned the show back on and left it on for the rest of the night.

No apparent change this a.m.

Like robots, Justin and I got ready for the day. We took Joci to her birthday party. Who knows what the other parents thought of me when I kept ducking away to the bathroom and returning with red eyes.

She is still not responding. I am getting very concerned. 

When the birthday girl got a present from her grandmother I completely lost it. My daughter will never get a birthday present from her grandma again!

My siblings had all booked flights and would be in St. George, Utah, by Mom's bedside that afternoon. With plans to drive with my family, I wouldn't be in until 10 or 11 at night. I was driving home from the birthday party when I received this text:

Lara you need to hurry.

I called my mother right then. I heard her voice on her voicemail. I told her goodbye...just in case. I told her to wait for me. I told her I wanted to touch her while she was still warm...hold on, Mommy.

I booked a flight, ran home and grabbed my suitcase and an hour and a half later I was sitting the terminal waiting to get on a plane. My brother was on the same flight. As soon as he walked into the terminal, we grabbed each other in a big bear hug. My husband had been there for me for the past 20 hours, but there was something about being with a sibling...mingling tears with someone else who was on the verge of losing the same mother. We hugged and wept in the terminal of the airport. We quietly sat side-by-side and waited for the plane. At the last minute, the ticket agent was able to get our seats together.

"Do we really have to do this?" I asked. "Do we really have to grow up in this way?"

My brother shook his head. "We're hurtling through the air at 500 miles per hour to get somewhere we don't really want to be."

This brother is a nurse (or will be next week when he graduates). He was reassuring me that the fight wasn't over. There was still hope. Mom had a fight, but there was no reason to plan a funeral. But five minutes later he started talking about my dad's opinions on organ donation. I couldn't handle it. Why were we talking about this?

Our layover in Salt Lake was brief. I wanted to go buy a box of See's Truffles, because Mom always did that at airports. But I literally only had time to go to the bathroom. I saw my mom's youngest sister walk into the terminal. She was on our flight. More tearful hugs in the airport. My brother, my aunt, and me sat in the last row of an airplane. We sniffled with red eyes the entire flight. I ordered ginger ale - my mom liked to order that on flights.

We arrived in St. George and my uncle picked us up. "I think she is waiting for everyone to arrive before she goes."

Things were dark. Very dark. How did they this happen? How so fast?

As we exited the elevator on the third floor of the hospital, my hand found its way into my brother's. We walked fearfully into an ICU room full of people. I was pulled like magnet to my oldest brother, my second sister, and my father, completely bypassing my nephew and my aunts and uncles who were there. There were no words...but so much was silently shared as our chests heaved together.

And my angel a coma...on oxygen...her hands warm and her skin soft. She felt like she always felt. She smelled like she always smelled. I had a million fantasies of her waking up as soon as all five children were there touching her and calling for her to open her eyes. Or maybe she would wait until we were alone together. Or a kiss from my dad would do it. She would wake up, she had to.

She reacted a bit to pain. That meant something, right? There was hope, right? Right???

We circled around her and sang "Puff the Magic Dragon," her favorite lullaby that we were all raised on. If you're not familiar with that song, look up the lyrics. None of us made it through the final verse.

We spoke with the two ICU doctors who had treated her. Speaking with them together really helped us understand the "whys" behind every treatment (or non-treatment) issue. We learned that Mom had a hole in her heart. Clots happen in everyone, especially after surgery when the body is trying to heal. The heart naturally filters clots to the lungs, but because of her hole, a shower of clots bypassed the body's natural filtration system and went to her brain, causing a massive stroke. Strokes must be treated within three hours for much hope of damage control. Because her stroke happened during the night while she slept, the window had passed. An EKG also revealed that her heart had been weakened by numerous small heart attacks. She had never even known she had been having heart attacks. No one knew. Suddenly our hope of a strong Mom with a strong heart fighting through this began to fade.

Then the doctor showed us Mom's MRI. More than half her brain had been affected by the stroke. And by affected  I would never work again. If she pulled through and woke up, she would never feed herself, dress herself, bathe herself, walk, and maybe talk. She would not be living a life she wanted. She would not be my mom.

The news was like a knife in my heart. But at least it was something definite. At least we knew. My father knew her wishes and it was his legal right to make decisions about her healthcare. Yet it was so good that all the children were in agreement with what needed to happen. Our mother would not come back from this. Our trek to St. George had not been to support and help her had been to say goodbye. And we faced this unwanted trial together.

My husband and children arrived a few hours later. How sweet it was to see my husband weep over my mother. His love for her is undeniable. My heart grew a thousand sizes for him in those moments. That night as I drifted off to a fitful sleep in his arms, I was so grateful he was there. All my siblings (and my father) were alone in their beds with only harrowing thoughts and cold, cold tears. At least I had a warm pair of arms.

I spent as much time as I could with my mom and my family on Sunday. In-laws and grandchildren arrived. How heartbreaking to see the children sobbing for their grandmother. My mom was such a magical grandma. Fun, engaging, nurturing, and just wonderful. I may have cried harder for these children losing their grandma than for me losing my mother. My saddest tears were reserved for my father. Watching his heart break as he said goodbye to his sweetheart and companion of 46 years...there are no words.

My mother's siblings arrived and said their goodbyes. My mother's vitals were slipping. Signs of strength and stability ebbed. We all had time alone with Mom. And then it was time. At about 7:30 p.m., the nurse removed the oxygen mask. An hour later at 8:36 p.m., surrounded by children and family singing her into the next life, my mother breathed her last.

My mother was full and vibrant and lively. We had no indication of what was to come. One moment, everything was right...then she went to sleep never to wake up again. I can't explain how I feel. I am still in shock, still in denial. Shouldn't there have been some kind of sign or notice? Shouldn't she have lived into her 90's like her parents? Shouldn't someone be in their 50s when they lose their mom - not my ripe ol' age of 31?

The next days were a blur of much needed busy-ness. Caskets. Flowers. Photographs. Obituaries. Dresses. Shoes. Cemetery plots. Vaults. Travel. Hugs. Stories. Hollow explanations. Tears. Laughter. More tears. More laughter. Family. Emptiness. Pangs. Denial. Disbelief. Sorrow. Loss.

We held three services in three separate towns. My family was like one entity, rarely making a move without the rest of it. There was safety, healing, and strength in that unity. Saturday after the last service, we all went our separate ways. And today I faced "real" life. Alarm clocks. Work. Deadlines. Shopping lists. Things I want to push away for another week. It's not okay. I'm not okay.

My mother has died. And part of me too.

Normandie Hays in her flight attendant uniform about 1964

Friday, December 7, 2012

$25 Amazon Card Giveaway Entrants

So to enter this giveaway, all you need to do is create a board on Pinterest inspired by my novel Oceanswept and send me the link. This has been so fun for me.

Here are the entrants thus far (I'll except entries until 9 a.m. tomorrow, so it's not too late).

Take a look. They're fun!

Amber's Board

Kirsten's Board

Rachel's Board

Julie's Board

Jessica's Board

Becky's Board

Chy's Board

Let me know if I have missed you! I'll post the winner tomorrow!

If you haven't read the book yet, get your copy at, Barnes &, or Smashwords.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Noelle's Six Month's Stats

So my baby will be seven months old in a couple days, but let's celebrate her six month milestones, okay?

Her stats:
Height: 25.5"
Weight: 16 lbs. 13.5 oz.
Head: 44.5

Noelle is hilarious. She is so easy to please. Just a naturally joyful child. I love it. I love what she brings to our home. Everywhere she goes, she is seriously irresistible. Strangers, neighbors, teachers, everyone is drawn to her. She will be right handed, I am positive.

She is a more physical child than Joci was. She really responds to tickles and kisses and snuggles. When she is concentrating on something (like, she is not looking at me but she is near me), she likes to reach out and touch me every so often to reassure herself.

She also has a heck of a attention span for her age.

She is a chatterbox. She "sings" and gurgles and giggles loudly. When you walk into the room (or her line of vision) she lights up like a Christmas tree and beams with her entire body. It's kind of like a dog wagging his tail. She grins, her eyes glow, her arms and legs start happily's a great way to be greeted!

She has stopped sleeping through the night. Hopefully that will start up again soon. Mommy is tired!

She sits very well and learned to do it fast. One day she was sitting for only a matter of seconds, teetering precariously, and the next day she could sit securely for an indefinite time. She has scooted around a bit and lifts her belly off the ground. I guess that we'll have a crawler by Christmas. She masters the physical fast.

Some recent pics.


Noelle's new exersaucer. She is crazy about this thing. 

She finally moved out of the bassinet and into a crib. 

She started taking baths with her sister and they both love it. 

And she started eating cereal and baby food. 

She loves cereal and has lost most interest in bottles. She has eaten every type of baby food we have offered with gusto. Not a picky eater yet. 

Halloween costume - pink poodle

Best friends. 

Joci took this picture. (And about 300 others that didn't turn out)

We love our little Noelle. She is such a ray of sunshine. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why Do Bad Movies Happen to Good Books?

 Ah, the book/movie conundrum. I am always surprised to see how many movies were based on books. Maybe half. It’s generally not a big deal unless the adaptation comes from a beloved New York Times bestseller with a rabid fanbase. There has been, on occasion, a fantastic film adaption of a fantastic book. Movies like this make you love the book more. But I think that may be the exception to the rule. When it comes to super popular books being made intomovies, expectations are usually crushed on opening night. I’ve recently experienced two novel/film adaptions, one was terrible (Breaking Dawn 2) and one was amazing (The Princess Bride - the book made me love the movie more and the movie is what led me to the book, good stuff all around). So I wanted to make a list of my impressions. I think a good movie adaptation captures the essence of the book, the mood, the vision of it. A great adaptation adds something to the story - with the score, the actors, and beautiful cinematography, movies have that potential. 
Please know that I have read all the books and watched all the movies listed below. I didn't think it would be fair to say, "Hey THE HELP is a really great movie so I'll put that in the good list, even though I've never read the book."

Bad movie adaptations

Twilight Saga
The Count of Monte Cristo (My favorite book - the movie was just insulting)
The Lightning Thief
The Cat in the Hat
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Da Vinci Code
Dear John (the book’s ending is much more poignant)
The Scarlet Letter
Any movie based on a Roald Dahl book (okay, so they aren't the worst but none of them come close to capturing the charm of the original works)

 Good movie adaptations

Harry Potter
Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Notebook (the movie’s ending is much more romantic, but kind of renders the book sequel moot)

The Hunger Games (this one upset me somewhat, but overall was decent so I'll put it in the good list)
Mean Girls
Where the Wild Things Are
The Outsiders

Do you have any to add? Do you disagree with me? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Featured on Reading for Sanity

My novel Oceanswept is being featured on my favorite book review blog, Reading for Sanity. Check it out. (And there's a coupon!)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

National Adoption Day

It's National Adoption Day and I would be remiss if I didn't honor the people who made my family possible.

If you think that true, unconditional love, heart-breaking courage, and ultimate sacrifice is just the stuff of fairy tales, I'll tell you to talk to a birth parent. 

My heart bursts with love for these families. And for mine. Thank you. Thank you. A million times...thank you. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More Birth Mom Excuses

Once upon a time, Joci didn't like when I told her it was too late to start a movie and informed me--hands on hips--that her birth mother said it was okay.

It was precocious and surprising and a little bit funny.

The "my birth mom says I can" hasn't stopped at all. That phrase comes out of Joci's mouth at least two times a night.

Once, she used God as an excuse. "God says I can."

I know she's just finding ways to control her chaotic little world and get whatever it is she wants at the moment. She isn't trying to be cruel. And it doesn't hurt my feelings that she is using the idea of her birth mom in this way. Mostly, I just struggle with how to deal with the sassing. I have protocol for other sassing...but I've been afraid to use it with her "birth mom" sassing because I don't want Joci to associate talking about her birth mom with unpleasant consequences and I don't want to disrespect Joci's birth mom.

I very much want Joci to feel free to talk about her birth parents. I want to encourage questions and discussions and thoughts and feelings, no matter what they are. The last thing I want is for her to feel ashamed about her questions and feelings. I do not want her to hide that from me because she is afraid of hurting me.

So I haven't done much about her "birth mom" comments. But they are getting more frequent--probably because I let her get away with them.

I asked my husband tonight what we should do. He is a counselor and has far better ideas about communication than I do. We decided to have a talk with her about it. She is three and understands more than we often give her credit for. So we did our best to explain how we love her birth parents very much and she can always talk about them but she can no longer use them for sassing me.

I *think* it went well.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

$25 Amazon Card Give-Away

Do you love Amazon?

Do you love Pinterest?

(And really...who doesn't?)

Want to win a $25 gift card to by pinning stuff onto Pinterest?

(yeah...I thought so. And right before Christmas. How convenient!)

Here's what you gotta do.

First - I recommend reading my book Oceanswept. It's pretty awesome. You'll have fun with it, I promise. And it's only $3.99 so investing that much into an awesome book and a chance to win $25 at is a sweet deal. Even a fast food burger costs more than that.

Second - create a pinboard on Pinterest called "Oceanswept" and pin some images that remind you of the book--pictures of the Caribbean, clothing, actors who remind you of the characters, WHATEVER. Click here to see my "Oceanswept" pinboard.

Third - this is important - you MUST pin the book's cover art. If the cover art isn't part of your pinboard, then it doesn't count. I recommend pinning it from my author website here or from here.

Fourth - leave a comment with the link to your pinboard and your email address.

THAT'S ALL. You'll be entered into the give-away.

The contest closes on December 7th at midnight. I will select my favorite pinboard on December 8th. Hopefully that will give everyone enough time to read Oceanswept and still give the winner enough time to use their gift card for holiday shopping if they so desire.

I am really excited for this give-away. It's going to be fun.

Happy pinning!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Biting Off a Bit Much


National Adoption Month.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

The month in which I, a very sedentary person without a single athletic bone in my body, decided to begin a grueling Fitness Boot Camp Class.

And the month in which I finally purchased a video game I have been waiting for since I played its predecessor thirteen years ago (Diablo 3).

I haven't blogged about adoption once. (Remember that year I blogged about it every day? The thought exhausts me now.)

I haven't been able to keep up with the 1667 words a day of NaNoWriMo. I haven't met that goal even once. I have made progress though...but a week in I am so behind that I think it will be a big fast bust. Though I won't write it off yet. When I wrote Oceanswept, I wrote the entire first draft (about 80,000) in three weeks.

I have survived my first week of Boot Camp. I am seriously impressed with myself. This is so not me. And I truly signed up for it in ignorance. I had a friend who talked me into it. Social pressure? Personal professional attention? That's what I need, so sure. I've tried talking my gym rat friends into joining Boot Camp. They all (big, buff guys) get a look of fear on their face and say NO WAY! So obviously, it makes strong men tremble. If I knew that...I probably would have signed up for yoga.

But I have finished everything asked of me. I haven't ever downgraded weights until the instructor told me. I have occasionally modified (after 100+ push ups, I just had to do the girlie kind - so sue me). I have been so sore it is like a physical disability. My motion is so limited, I can't give the kids a bath or go downstairs to do laundry. Yesterday I even struggled to do my hair and dress myself. It has been PAINFUL. And I don't enjoy it. But studies show that in six weeks, most people will become "addicted" to their workout and begin to enjoy it, look forward to it, or find some kind of value in it. So I will press on. I am proud of myself for doing it. I am also proud that I can keep up with the boys. Heck, I have even beat them a couple times. I like to see that look on their face that says, "Hey...I'm impressed."

And D3 is just fun. Enough said. :)

I definitely have a lot on my plate...oh, one more thing to ad. My hubby is having reconstructive surgery after Thanksgiving on an eroded ear drum. We hope he'll be able to hear again.

Lots going on. So if you call and I don't know why! :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Does Fear Influence You?

Fear plays an interesting role in our lives. How dare we let it motivate us? How dare we let it into our decision-making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships? It’s funny isn’t it, we take a day a year to dress up in costume and celebrate fear?—The Office US, 8x5

Halloween. A day of spooky, scary, bump-in-the-night, horror-driven jubilation. What are the origins of this festival? Most research will bring you back to the Celtic celebration of Samhain. But what prompted that?

Celebrating fear as the fearful Medusa

I think that Mr. Robert California probably hit the nail on the head. Halloween (or Samhain or All Hallow’s Eve) allows us to acknowledge, embrace, and even celebrate fear.

Fears become a little less scary when we can confront them in some way.

Fear used to cripple me. Direct my decisions. Limit my potential.

  • I was too afraid of looking stupid to ask questions in math class. I struggled with math and hated it. I picked a major with limited math requirements.
  • Fear factored into a lot of relationships. Sometimes I was too scared to let myself be vulnerable and go after a guy I really liked. Sometimes I wanted out of a relationship but I was too scared to have that confrontation and too scared of being alone and unloved.
  • My spirituality used to be based on fear. I was afraid of hell, damnation, and social judgment, and that’s what incentivized my religiosity.
  • I was afraid of being disliked, so I never rocked the boat. I rarely even stood up for myself.
  • I was afraid of how deep in debt I was, so I avoided looking at my bills and making a budget.
  • I was afraid of what it meant that I hadn’t gotten pregnant in seven years, so I avoided thinking about it or seeing doctors.
  • I was afraid of failing, so I rarely attempted anything that was beyond easy.

Fear was a constant advisor in my life.

I’m not sure how I got passed it. Maybe it came with age and maturity. Maybe it came with just pushing through it. But somehow, I managed to kick fear to the curb.
Over time, I have confronted things that used to terrify me and overcome them in my own ways.

I adopted. That was super scary! But I became a mom.
I wrote a book. I published it. Now people are reading it and liking it.
I tackled my budget and have paid off over $70,000 in debt. I’m so much closer to financial freedom.
I changed my attitude toward religion. I have never been happier or closer to God.
I asked for a promotion. I asked for a raise. I got it.
I stood up for myself when things weren’t right. Things got better.

Things still scare me, but I can face them with a little more poise and a lot less dramatics. Fear is important in life, but it shouldn’t motivate us, define us, or limit us.

So here’s to Halloween. Here’s to fear.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Melaween 2012 Melacropolis

I love Melaween. This year my department chose Ancient Greece as the theme. Now, not every kid identified the theme. Especially younger kids. But the kids who did were super excited and enthusiastic. Greek mythology was one of my favorite things to study in school. Plus the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordian has also brought enthusiastic awareness to Greek mythology. 

 Mt. Olympus

Trojan Horse


A perfect shade of Greek blue
Jeromy, the constellation Orion

Ashely as Eros (cupid) and Tisa

I am Medusa

Dan as "Danonysus, God of Grape Juice"

Tyler, Ben, and Kenny


Sara as the aunt's twin ("bipsy...bibopsy...there was a was my twin") from My Big Fat Greek Wedding


Ben and Steve





I made the headpiece myself out of craft clay and headbands.

The group

Minotaur Kelly

The Goddess Nike

Amber is always serving others


Zac the Greek fisherman

Dan again


Lara, Dave, and Amber

Amber and Whitney

Sara and Amber passing out treats


Cyclops munny

Look! It's a greaser from Grease


Temple details

Past Melaweens: Medieval Wild West, and Space.


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