Grateful... really, I am.

Ah, November! The one month where all those people who did nothing but complain on Facebook all year are suddenly very thankful! Every day! No, really, I enjoy finding out that you, too, are thankful for your family. What an awe-inspiring post that was.
Ok, I might as well jump right into it. Guys, I am a monster.
Actually, I should be more careful with that. I was at my cousins a few weeks ago and I told her I'm a monster lately and her two year old looked at me wide-eyed and said, "You're a MONSTER?"
But seriously. Ask Dega. Even he doesn't want anything to do with me.
I am usually a pretty calm, peace-loving person. I get my frustrations out by blogging about them. I am generally not confrontational at all.
But as it turns out, there has been this evil version of myself hiding inside me all along, just waiting for a fresh batch of hormones to bring it roaring to life. As Caleb so delicately put it the other day in the grocery store when he saw that I was about to ram my cart into the ankles of the next person to enter my bubble, I am a little "aggressive lately."
Let's rewind a little. At this time last year, I was having a really rough time because of my recent miscarriage. I vowed that when I got pregnant again, I would be happy to have morning sickness. I would be praying for it. From what I had read, morning sickness meant a more viable pregnancy. To a mourning, albeit naiive girl like myself, it didn't seem like a drastic thing to say. But don't make a bargain with the devil if you aren't willing to pay.
(Sidenote: is it bad to refer to my pregnancy, my little gift from God, as making a deal with the devil? Just trying to decide how early on I'm going to start giving this kid issues he'll need therapy for.)
This time around, the morning sickness came, set up camp, and refused to leave. Granted, I didn't have it as bad as a lot of women do, but we also need to take into account that I am a major baby, so my pain is felt more strongly than most. Right?
I found out I was pregnant just a few weeks before we left for DisneyWorld. We had been looking forward to this trip for as long as I can remember, so I decided to make the best of it even though there was a sign outside of every ride saying "expectant mothers should not ride." Oh yeah? Well I live on the edge. I do all sorts of crazy things that expectant mothers should not do, like stand in the kitchen while the microwave is going, or sometimes even eat lunch meat! So I'll be darned if a mouse is going to tell me what to do!
Oh, I have a point: you know when you eat your favorite meal in the afternoon, totally unsuspecting, and then that night you are hit with a flu bug and suddenly you can't even think about that food without feeling nauseous? Well, DisneyWorld is my new favorite meal. It happened to me with McDonalds fries once, but this was much worse.
So I guess I can feel slightly justified in my newfound rage, because after all, if I couldn't be happy in the happiest place on earth, then where can I find refuge??
I'll tell you where it's not. It's NOT in the second trimester, where I've been waiting patiently for weeks now, because all you previous moms out there told me I'd be feeling better by now!
Do you see what I mean? What happened to the sweet Anndee, the one we all knew and loved? What happened to the girl who thought she would love being pregnant, would happily make the toilet bowl her Home every morning just for the simple fact that it meant her baby was healthy?
Well, she's still here. Sometimes she comes out, like when I see a cute commercial that makes me cry. Or when I felt the baby move for the first time, Or when, at the last ultrasound, we got to see the baby dancing around and kicking it's legs.

It's incredible. And by that I mean, it's difficult. It's scary and new and different, but if things are so hard now, I can just tell there is going to be a great payoff in the end.
So this year, that is what I'm thankful for! Even if I do have a Grinchy side this year.

It Doesn't Affect Me

I typically don't try to write blog posts on anything "controversial." I keep my posts about things that I know everyone reading them will agree with. I don't like to cause problems or be in the middle of any contention.
But lately, I've been feeling like my opinions don't matter. Not only do they not matter, but they are completely invalid. I am "behind the times", and I'd better jump on board with the rest of the world or they'll drag me along behind them.
It's a frustrating feeling when someone puts duct tape over your mouth and then yells with a megaphone in your ear.
Or at least that's how it feels every time some quiet, timid voice from the shadows tries to step up and state an opinion different than the one we're allowed to have right now. They are immediately attacked for their beliefs. Just a few weeks ago I saw a girl I went to High School with express her disappointment that gay marriage was now legal in Utah. People came from out of nowhere to attack her, tell her she was hateful and wrong. Other people who weren't even friends with her started writing their own posts about what she had said, and encouraged others to join in "the fight" against her "hate." I, of course, took away from this experience that I better never, ever let it be known that I, too, was disappointed.
Not everyone is an extremist that wishes death upon anyone who disagrees with them, but for me, the worst comment someone can say (and it's always said) is, "What do you care? It doesn't affect you."
Because that's the thing. I'm not supposed to have an opinion because it's not supposed to affect me. I'm not allowed to say anything remotely conservative because the world is becoming increasingly more liberal. But the problem is that it does affect me. If it didn't, I wouldn't have an opinion at all. I wouldn't hear about it day in and day out. I wouldn't be worried about how these changes, especially the control we're handing over to the government, are going to affect my life ten or twenty years from now. And just because my opinions are different doesn't mean they are hateful, and certainly doesn't mean they shouldn't be heard.
It's hard to see, because the liberal voices today are so loud. They shout from the rooftops, they take over the media, they come at us from every corner and slowly, the conservative voices are getting softer and softer. It's working. If we all feel like we're alone, we'll stop fighting completely.
It came time to either speak up, or lock myself in my house and never use the internet or watch TV again. The other day my Facebook news feed was full of articles that made me feel sick. There was one about a new billboard in Times Square advertising porn, their objective being to "normalize" porn, so it's addicted users won't have to feel so different. There was a girl asking how late in her pregnancy she could get an abortion, because it just wouldn't fit into her crazy schedule for a few weeks. There was one, reposted several times, about a girl who waited until her wedding night to have sex, and then "regretted it." (This one was full of words of encouragement for any girl considering not waiting... don't worry! You're not missing out on anything! Do whatever you want!)
After two minutes scrolling through Facebook, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. All I could think was, man, I thought the world was bad when I was in school. What kind of world are my children going to grow up in?
It isn't gay marriage or any one problem in society that has made our world what it is, but it is our reaction to it that makes all the difference. We are all pitted against each other, and we get our opinions on important topics like gay marriage and abortion from posts our friends shared on Facebook. We give up our own morals and values for what we are told to think. The same ideas are drilled into us over and over until, exhausted, we start to give in.
My point is, yes, I am one of those "behind-the-times" people who doesn't think gay marriage should be legalized, no matter what everyone else is telling me. I believe it is an extremely difficult trial, but one they should fight. I believe that because I've seen the other side, I know what they're missing out on. I know that a man and a woman are made to be together, are given specific traits to help each other, and that marriage is the greatest blessing we will ever have. I disagree with gay marriage not because I hate anyone, but because I want them to have a chance at what I've found. I want everyone in the world to have this.
I think it's important for me to say, not because I want to yell from the rooftops too, but because I'm tired of not feeling heard. I'm tired of being told what to think and believe. I was raised to go find out what I believe for myself. I hope that, as my children grow up in a world that is likely going to be exponentially more wicked than the one we're living in now, they will learn to research what they believe and why, they will question anything that is told to them, and they will stand up for what they believe in. I joined the LDS church because I believed it so strongly, and I don't take a stand on anything until I believe in it strongly too. I also believe we should respect each other because of our differences, and realize that we are all human.
I don't expect this post to change anyone's opinions. But I hope it will give a voice, albeit a small one, to those of us who have been told to sit down and keep quiet.


Recently, Caleb and I got new callings in the Young Men and Young Womens, respectively.
A few weeks after we got our callings, our ward took a trip to the Ogden temple open house. We drove 3 of the Beehives to Ogden and back. The entire way, all 3 girls laughed and giggled (and told a surprising number of stories about vomiting). But this story isn't really about them, it's about me, and what I realized about myself that night.
As we dropped off the first girl, she made some joke as she got out of the car. As soon as the car door shut, without even realizing it, I braced myself. Here it comes. I thought. These other two girls are going to say something negative about her. To my pleasant surprise, all those cute girls said was, "She is just SO funny!"
I relaxed, but I also felt sick inside. What had made me think that these sweet girls were going to turn on their friend the moment she was out of earshot?
Oh, yeah. Firsthand experience.
I've written before about girl on girl bullying and how we treat each other, but with this post I wanted to say something different. I wanted to say that I'm afraid the way we treat each other is so deeply ingrained in us by now that it's not something that is going to change easily. I wanted to say that clearly we didn't treat each other this way when we were 12, so when did it start? Mostly, I wanted to say that it's our choice of friends that makes all the difference.

On a very different note, when I was going to school at Utah State, we had a lesson in church about pornography. The teacher told us that we shouldn't ask a boy if he's ever had any experience with porn, but to what extent. Implying that any and every boy has or has had a problem with porn at some point. I was devastated. What a shame! It certainly wasn't something I wanted to deal with for the rest of my life, always worrying about my husband.
I mentioned it to Caleb at some point when we were engaged, and he got very offended. It hit me how unfair it is for us to generalize about anything. That being said, I think I've insinuated way too often that girls are just going to be mean because they're girls. This isn't true. There are girls out there who will be great friends to you. The key is, you have to be a good friend, too.
I love this skit from Family Guy, because it's how I've always felt, and I think most women can relate.

(here is the link in case the video won't play Family Guy Video)

Still, it was a rude awakening to realize that I actually expect a group of girls of any age to say something negative about each other the minute one leaves. But in my experience, that's how it often was. There were certain friends that if I was the first to leave the group for the night, I would be sick with anxiety about what they were saying about me. Why didn't I think there was something wrong with that? Why, when a boyfriend treats us badly, do we say we deserve better, but not when our friends do the same? It wasn't just paranoia that made me feel this way, it was solid truth: I knew, because if I was the last to leave, I would take turns saying something about the other people who left. Anything was fair game. "Interesting shoe choice she had tonight." "That was stupid what she said about her dad." "I know I said I agreed with her, but I can't believe she did that."
Occasionally, I'd hear things that were said about me, and they were rarely anything with any substance to get upset over. But the problem was that we had no trust between us, and we all knew it. I felt like I spent half my time defending myself or trying to make myself look better and get people on my team, and the other half of my time knocking someone else down.
It was exhausting, it wasn't fair, and it wasn't friendship.
Growing up, I was always fairly shy, at least at first. But the last couple years, it's like shy, quiet Anndee has turned into this evil monster who demands respect.
And you know what? I kinda like it.
At first, I was upset about the number of friends who wrote me off after I got married. But, slowly, the real friends started to show themselves more. I feel I can safely say which friends I can go to with problems, and which friends I trust. Five years ago, no way.
I don't like change, and it took me a long time to be able to move on, to accept that some people just simply aren't meant to stay in our lives. There were a lot of hurt feelings, a lot of unreturned texts, and a lot of angry rants to my husband, but then it finally dawned on me how lucky I am.
Five and a half years later, and I think High School is finally over!

The other night, I was the first to leave a party with a bunch of my closest friends. It didn't occur to me until later that night that I never had that familiar, crippling anxiety when I left. These friends I have now are friends I trust, friends I can count on. I no longer need an endless list of empty friendships to keep in my phone in case I'm having a lonely Saturday night. I am finally secure enough, finally old enough, to be content with the friendships I have, and to let go of the ones that were poisonous.
It takes time, but not all girls will make you feel this way. You have to search, sometimes, but it's worth it the first time you realize you are finally completely comfortable with the people you choose to, want to, surround yourself with.

The Trouble with Beauty

I'd be lying if I said I didn't obsess about my looks sometimes. I think even the most seemingly confident girls do, probably even more so than the rest of us. We hear all the time that "beauty is only skin deep" and that people who really care about us won't care what we look like. But it's not that easy, is it? We hear it, but we don't live it. We may not all apply fake lashes every day and spend two hours in front of the mirror before we let a single soul see us for the day, but I bet it hasn't been long since you've looked in the mirror and been disappointed in something about yourself. Or since you've seen someone you consider beautiful and wished you had some of her features.
But there's something missing from beauty, something that we refuse to acknowledge, and it is this simple truth: Beauty is hollow. It truly is only skin deep. We can recite that mantra every day of our lives without ever truly believing it. We can tell ourselves that sure, beauty may not be the most important thing, but it would sure be great if I could lose 10 pounds, or if my nose wasn't so big, or if...(fill in the blank.)
The other day I was working on my novel and I found a great printout that was supposed to help flesh out my characters. I sat down with several pages of questions to answer about my main character. Some were simple, others really made me think. One question said to list what was beautiful about my character. That was easy! She was fiction, and seeing as she is my main character, I of course put a little of myself into her. In a way, it is like creating a more perfect version of myself. This Anndee, going of course by another name, was radiant. She stopped people dead in their tracks. I think I actually wrote the words, "her beauty got a lot of second glances" or some other nonsense.
Then I got to the hard question, which read, "What is ugly about your character?" The writer of the worksheet had listed a few examples to give you ideas... are her ears too big? Is she freakishly tall? Does she have buck teeth?
Although I had sped through the worksheet up until this point, I was suddenly stumped. It wasn't that I couldn't come up with unattractive characteristics, it was just that I didn't want my beautiful, radiant, head-turning character to have any unattractive qualities. To give her an imperfection made her just that: imperfect. Every time I would finally concede, "Ok, she can have big ears." I would immediately erase it. She can't have big ears! She has to be beautiful. After I moved on from Denial I started Bargaining... maybe she can just have an ugly flaw, the kind of shortcoming we brag about at job interviews. She's just too organized, it really gets in the way of her work sometimes. (No stealing, that one is mine.)
After at least ten minutes of wrestling with this, it finally hit me: I was doing this character a great disservice by making her beautiful. I had so easily come up with beautiful traits for her that column was filled to the brim. But as far as I could see this character, beauty is all that she was. She was the kind of character that directors love in their movies because you'll be so distracted by their beauty that you hopefully won't notice the horrible script. ("You can't hide in the band room anymore. I see you." Actual quote from a really stupid movie that Caleb and I wasted an entire evening on just this week. I won't ruin the surprise, let's see if you can find it yourself.)
For those of us who have had the unfortunate experience of reading Twilight (it sucked me in! It was so bad that I had to read every one! That is time I am never getting back, and I personally blame Stephenie Meyer.) I think we can all agree: Beautiful characters are boring. ESPECIALLY in a book, because we don't get to gaze upon them and enjoy their beauty... rather, we are left with a bunch of empty characters sitting around admiring each others beauty. 
Lest you think this is only a problem in literature, let me assure you that I've thought about this a lot lately, and it is a real life problem as well. I started thinking about the people that I'd most like to look like. The girls who always seemed to get all the attention, the ones who quickly learned to manipulate boys affections, how to bat their eyelashes to get their way. I thought about all the times I was jealous when a boy asked for my friends number and ignored me like I wasn't even there. I thought about the girls who seemed to have everything in life handed to them on a silver platter simply because they were born with particularly good genes.
And then, my eyes opened. The five years of detoxing from High School finally paid off and I realized... most of those girls were really, really boring. Most of those girls had little to no hobbies or interests outside of anything regarding their hair, makeup, or clothes. Most of those girls went on dates with those boys who had ignored me, and then after realizing they didn't have much to talk about, those same boys never called again.
What's more, is most of those girls are still the same today as they were in High School. They still date around, never wanting to settle down for the affections of one man for the rest of their life because they are so used to getting attention from a wide selection of boys. It finally, finally, hit me that I have nothing to be jealous of. I found a husband who fell in love with me for my sense of humor, our shared interests, and even the fact that I'm a writer. I found a husband who looks bored when I show him new clothes I bought, but who lights up when we talk about how far I've come on my book, or our future together.

After years of looking in the mirror and being disappointed in myself, I was finally justified in my disappointment... not because of my looks, but because of my attitude. Because as much as I'd like to walk out the door every day and turn heads, I finally realized that doesn't really matter. All my life it's been thrown at me from every angle that my beauty is my only important quality. For every time I felt inferior to someone else because of my looks, I am now so grateful that I never let it define me. I am grateful that I used those times to focus on my strengths, my interests, the things that really do matter. The things that make a person attractive, not just pretty.

Just the WORST

I like to think that I have really grown.
I've matured. I'm smarter. I'm stronger than I used to be.
But I'm still learning things about myself every day. Today I learned that I still scream bloody murder whenever I see a spider.
Ok, let's just get one thing clear. I'm not talking about those tiny little guys. I'm talking about the spider overlords. The spiders that haunt your nightmares. The mythical spiders from Harry Potter that, apparently, live in my basement.
I know that it's my own fault. When I was little, I used to put my dresser corner-wise so I could throw everything behind there. When it filled up, I'd just rearrange my room and start the junk corner in a new spot. Now that I have my own house, and especially since I'm married to a fellow hoarder, we have an entire junk basement. Today I decided I was tired of tripping over that mess of a basement, so I bought some storage totes and went work.
Now, two hours later, the totes are still sitting here empty. The basement looks even worse than before, because I found so many spiders.
The silver lining? Turns out early August must be a good time to do something like this, because most of the spiders are dead. But don't misunderstand. When I say most, I mean most of the spiders in the world are dead, in my basement, right this moment.
More specifically, in my vacuum. Along with a couple of live ones. (Side note: Does vacuuming up a spider kill it? Or does it live through the tornado and crawl out and come find you to plot it's revenge? These are the things I worry about.)
I don't want to give anyone else nightmares, but since that's all I'm going to be having tonight: I am not exaggerating when I say I bet I saw over 500 spiders in my tiny little basement tonight.
And I didn't take it like man. I screamed so loud and so much that I was starting to worry the neighbors would call the cops. (And actually, I'm a little offended that they didn't. Are they really not concerned that I sounded like I was being murdered?) I screamed so much that my throat really hurts.
And there are more.
One of them got away from me, and he knows where I sleep.
I like to think I've grown up. That I'm a tough girl who can hold her own.
But I don't know. I am sitting on my feet right now, just in case any followed me upstairs. This feels an awful lot like I'm five again.

One for the Kids

Twas the night before tomorrow,
when in our front yard
came a shout from my husband,
"Come see this mallard!"
But I in my longjohns,
post-shower, all clean,
had just settled for the night
in front of the computer screen.
"But you must see this!"
said he in a fury,
"They are cute and adorable!
Quick! You must hurry!"
I threw on some clothes,
put my hair in a bow,
And lo! There they were!
All the ducks in a row.
My heart did melt
 at the sight of these creatures,
their tiny beaks,
and their feathered features.
The mother bird warned,
"It looks like rain!"
(It was just the sprinkler,
but they DO have tiny brains.)
The freshly cut grass 
they thoroughly enjoyed,
strewn about with bugs
they didn't avoid.
Suddenly I was struck 
with a brilliant idea.
"Get some bread!" I yelled,
"Or maybe a tortilla?"
They didn't enjoy it
much to my chagrin.
Perhaps it's the carbs,
and they're trying to stay thin?
Through all of the ruckus
we failed to regard
the poor dog in the window,
watching over the yard.
His tail said playful,
but his eyes whispered sin.
Experience has taught us
his belly they'd be in.
As darkness settled,
away they did go.
Happily ever after they lived.
Or...we assume so.


We kinda love our dog.... too much.

If you're like me, you wait all year for those Summer blockbusters to come out. This year though, I've been a little disappointed with the slim pickins in the theater.
I can't complain unless I'm willing to help solve the problem, right?
So without further ado, I'm pleased to announce...
This video I made about my dog.

(Poster may be misleading and does not accurately depict what is shown in the video. Rated G. For all audiences.)
It's done, so far, great at the box office.


A View from the Outside

Two weeks ago marked 5 years since my baptism. It's made me reflect a lot on my life before and since my baptism. Because growing up in a small town in Utah as the minority isn't easy. And it isn't the church that makes it that way, it's the members.
I've always been grateful to have been raised the way I was. I was given a unique opportunity to choose exactly what I believed, if anything. I think, even after becoming a member, it's given me a different perspective. Maybe I'm a little too sensitive, still, about some of the things that are said.
For example, a well-meaning Primary teacher asking all the kids to promise they will get married in the temple. Telling them if someone comes along who can't take them to the temple, you should "kick them to the curb!" The kids, of course, got very excited about this. Every one of them promised they would do no such evil. Because everyone in that room was picturing a spiky haired boy with bad tattoos and worse intentions... except for me. I was picturing my brothers.
We all had generally the same experiences growing up. There were the few kind Mormon friends who graciously invited us to activities, but were never pushy. But more often than not, it was the friends who were suddenly not allowed to hang out with us because we weren't LDS.
Sometimes, especially in the case of my brothers, it came from the parents. They weren't allowed to date them because they weren't LDS. When I was sixteen, I dated a boy who, on the way inside to meet his parents told me, "By the way, I had to tell them you were LDS so they wouldn't kick you out of the house."
Despite the fact that people were always very surprised to learn I wasn't LDS, to many I still became a leper once that knowledge came to light. Many of the people I grew up with were nice when we were little, then slowly stopped talking to me when they realized I wasn't attending Mutual with them every week.
I had multiple friends tell me my marriage would never be "real", because I was the only friend they had who would never get married in the temple.
I had people tell me they couldn't hang out with someone who wasn't LDS, because I was a bad example.
Since my conversion, I've noticed even stranger things. There are the people (usually newly returned missionaries) who excitedly ask to hear my entire conversion story. Then there are the people who look at me fearfully and try not to talk about doctrine in front of me, because being a convert means I used to have a serious drug problem, and I was a dancer in Vegas.

The girl who literally slept on a bunk bed and had multiple stuffed animals until, like, three years ago. The only alcohol I've ever had was in a CHURCH, because I didn't realize some churches actually serve wine as their sacrament, and I distinctly remember thinking, "Yay, grape juice! How fun!...EEW WHAT DID I JUST DRINK?"
Even once I started coming to church, I had a hard time with Young Women's. Most of the girls wouldn't even talk to me, and I felt very alone. It's scary doing something you've never done before, and even scarier if you have to do it by yourself.
Is this really the impression we want to give of our church?
I will say that I get it. I will be the first to tell you that my temple marriage is the greatest blessing in my life. But just because I have this doctrine in my life, just because I know the truth and want to live it, doesn't make me better than anyone else. It means I should desire it for my neighbor as well. I'm not saying you should marry someone to convert them, I'm saying don't be like my friends who came over to borrow a board game they knew I had, then didn't invite me to play it with them. Be like my friend who realized how many questions I had, and was always there to answer them. Be like my friend who took notes in seminary and handed them to me after class so I could learn more. Be like my friend who consistently invited me to activities, then didn't blame me when I wasn't allowed to go.
Be like my friends who brought me to the church. You have a great blessing in your life, but that doesn't make you special. It means you have a lot of work to do. It means you should desire it for those few around you who don't have it, and do everything you can to make them want to have it too.

The Baby Battles

Let me go ahead and preface this post by saying:
NO, I am not pregnant.
You'll know when I am.
And how much do I have to pay you all to stop asking?

I've known this was coming my whole life. I always dreamed about becoming a mother. But I only dreamed about the things that, as it turns out, don't matter much at all. My main concerns being 1) I hope I'm cute when I'm pregnant and 2) No one I know better steal any of the baby names I like.
I thought being pregnant was all about being stuck in this happy, glowy bubble. I had no idea about the things that can really, really stink.
For one, buying a pregnancy test. I've worked in retail, so I know that pregnancy tests are one of those most stolen items in a store. But seriously, out here in Tremonton, I could get a hold of a Russian mail-order bride faster than I can get a hold of a pregnancy test. They lock those things up behind bars, and you have to get past 3 dragons, a ghost, and a lake of fiery lava just to get to them, then you have to present the cashier with a golden talisman while you recite the secret chant of the pregnant society.
I get that theft was a problem. But 90% of the people buying pregnancy tests want to get out of the store as quickly as possible, and are even willing to hide that loud pink box under some unnecessary groceries, and still the girl from Family Dollar doesn't have the courtesy to put my stuff in a bag? Sure, I don't mind smuggling this out of the store like a thief and praying I don't run into anyone I know in the parking lot.
I am a grown woman. I just got used to buying my own tampons. Can't we just make this one thing not so difficult?
Even that isn't the worst thing. Since my miscarriage last fall, I've realized a lot about having babies that I never noticed before. Like how stinkin hard it is sometimes. I can honestly say that after having a miscarriage, it's hard not to feel like it will be impossible to ever get a child here safely. It's hard not to be jealous of the girls who get pregnant instantly, and then stay pregnant.
It's only been recently that I've realized there is a battle going on between the women in my life, especially those trying to, or in the midst of, building their families.
Or maybe it started out as a battle. But now, it's a full on war.
Because it's not easy. It seems like every stage is full of it's own battles, and everywhere I look there are girls fighting their own battles with motherhood.
But I finally realized something. I could spend a long time being mad at those girls who had babies despite the fact that I didn't... or I could be happy for them. I could realize that they more than likely had their struggles too. I could accept the fact that as women, we have to stick together through this. When I go through hard times, I want someone to be understanding and kind about it. And when I finally do get pregnant, I want someone cheering me on and genuinely excited for me.
And for that to happen, I think I have to be happy for others, too.
It's one of those things we can't base on anyone else. It's comparing our weaknesses to other's strengths. We each have our own timeline, so even though some girls my age already have their 3rd child, others won't have any for 10 more years, or will never have any at all.
So let's just agree to be happy for each other. No more secret loathing when someone makes that big announcement. No more stalking them and wishing it was you.
Because for the most part, I think if we're honest about what we want out of life, we will eventually find it. But not through envying someone else.

Let's do away with weddings once and for all

I stumbled across yet another commercial the other day, showing a bride in her expensive white gown walking down the aisle. There is no one else to be seen, not even her father at her side. The narrator said, simply, "Because this is your day."
I was so irritated, I don't even know what that commercial was advertising.
It's not like this is an uncommon thing. It's not even something we think twice about. A bride on her wedding day... that's a special thing. Anything for the bride. The bride is beautiful and radiant and... wait, can the groom step out of the picture, please? You're blocking part of her extravagant white dress.
How did this happen? When did a wedding become only about the bride?
For that matter, when did a wedding become about more than a marriage?
I can't tell you how many times I've heard the excuse: We're not getting married right now, we can't afford it. We're going to move in together for now and save up for our dream wedding.
It makes me sick inside. So let me say this as clearly as I can: YOUR WEDDING. IS NOT. THE IMPORTANT THING.
The important thing is each other.
If you're engaged or dating or single and looking, take it from someone who's been there: your wedding goes by way too fast. It's true when they say you won't even get a slice of your own cake. And despite all your hard planning, the receiving line of people you've never met and will probably never see again will not disperse in enough time to let you have an hour of dancing with your friends. They don't want to dance, anyway.
I never really thought of myself as that kind of girl, but there was a slight disappointment after the wedding was over. It was like, Huh. My wedding, this day I've been looking forward to my entire life, is over. For the next few weeks after our wedding, I kept having nightmares that we had to set it all back up and do it again because it had gone by so fast.
My wedding was fun. I loved my dress, I loved how Caleb surprised me by singing me our song, I loved our easy luncheon and how we had leftover cookies for like a month. But man, I really hope that wasn't the best day of my life.

On that note, today also marks 5 years since my baptism. Because the majority of my family isn't LDS, I had a lot of people ask me, "Don't you feel bad for your family that they can't go to the sealing?" Call me cruel if you want, but my answer, plain and simple, is no. Not because I'm unkind or don't love my family, but because Caleb was the only person I needed in that room. That moment was about he and I, not anybody else. Afterwards, we did a ring ceremony for my family, and I was the lucky girl that got to have a Temple Sealing and have her father walk her down the aisle. I'm pretty sure that's cheating somehow.
If you're not going into your marriage thinking about the person you're marrying, then you shouldn't be getting married. If your spouse is just a consolation prize after the glitz and glamour of the wedding day is over, then I can almost guarantee yours will be one of those marriages that fails. And if you're moving in together so you can save up for that day, then you're wasting it. The day will go by fast, and you'll go back home to each other as if nothing has changed.
Let it be an adventure. I will be the first to say that being engaged is the WORST. You never want to leave each other, so you end up hanging out every night until 4 am and driving home half-asleep in the freezing cold. But what an awesome gift it is to suddenly be married and realize... we don't have to leave each other again. No matter where the day takes us, we'll both end up back in this house, together. 
Don't get married until you would be thrilled to see him on bended knee with a cubic zirconia Wal Mart special in his hand. Don't get married until you are absolutely willing to marry him in a ceremony where not a single person attends. Don't get married until you want to marry him in your sweats, with no makeup on, on a dirt road in the rain.
I'm not saying you have to do those things. Have your big ring, have your fancy wedding. But not if that's all you want.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Marriage is the best thing you will ever do. Read that carefully. I said marriage, not your wedding. Your wedding is a necessary evil to get to your marriage. If it feels the other way around, then it isn't right.
Now how to get them to stop making these commercials...

(Man am I glad I never had one of these. Super creepy. No batteries needed? That's because this doll is clearly possessed.)

One for all my single friends

Right now, I'm in this weird stage where half my friends are married, and the other half are single, and there is  this silent war between them. I was really surprised after I got married at the number of my single friends who completely wrote me off, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had done it to my married friends too. In the mean time, I was welcomed with open arms into the "Married Club", where the couples were desperate for other couples to hang out with and couldn't be more thrilled to have us.
But this one is for all the single friends I left behind. Because I got married less than a month after turning 22, and I can't tell you how old I thought I was. I was mere months away from dying alone! I realize I've only been married a year and a half, but looking back, I can't image what I was thinking. I wasn't old. I'm still not old. So for all my un-married friends, I have some great news: It's ok if you're not married yet!
I wish now I could go back and grab college-Anndee by the shoulders and shake her and scream, "Just relax!! He's on his way!" Despite everything else going on in my life, I was always looking for my future husband. Wait, was that him on aisle 3 in the grocery store? What should I wear tonight, in case I run into my future husband somewhere? Is it someone I already know? If I go to a different school next semester, will I miss meeting him and die alone?
I know I'm not the only one. And the thing is, once it happens, it happens fast. I don't care if you date for 3 years first and have a long engagement: it still happens fast. One moment you're single and wondering where he could be, and the next you're in a white dress and your life has completely changed.
But let me be clear: your life changes drastically the day you get married. But your life doesn't start the day you get married.
Marrying Caleb is by far the best decision I ever made, and I truly believe it's the most important thing anyone can do. He's the person I'll spend eternity with, and that's why it's a decision you shouldn't take lightly. And that's why I get frustrated for my single friends, who are constantly showered with and endless torrent of, "Are you dating anyone? Is he THE ONE? Will you get married? When?"
It isn't fair, because although I believe it's the most important thing you'll ever do, that doesn't mean it's the only thing worth doing. You have to have your own dreams. You have to live your life, and be a full, complete person before you can meet someone and become that half of a whole. 
That being said, I don't believe any of the old cliches about how "It only happens when you're not expecting it." and "You have to stop looking in order to find him." because I know too many girls who try to cheat the system by shouting to the universe, "Ok, I'm not looking! Feel free to send a handsome, preferrably rich, boy my way!"
It happens when you're ready, and you don't always know when that is. But in the mean time, your life is happening all around you. Once you do get married, you won't get these times back again. So live them while you are living them, not through memories after you've finally found "the one."
You don't need a marriage to validate who you are. What you are doing right now, with these years, matters. And I promise you, we're not as old as you think.

Books, Books, Books

As an avid reader and aspiring writer, I am getting really tired of hearing someone say they're about to read Twilight for the thousandth time.
Just stop it.
I'm tired of ranting about those books.
But I didn't feel like I had any room to complain without giving some suggestions of my own! So, here is my list of books I'd read before ever touching Twilight again.
The Giver- Lois Lowry  I have loved this book ever since Elementary school- such a cool concept and leaves you wanting more!

The Wednesday Letters- Jason F. Wright  This used to be my favorite book until I re-read it and realized how incredibly cheesy it is. Jason F. Wright, bless his heart, is just a very cheesy dude. But if you can get past that, it's got good morals and some awesome plot twists. 
A Complicated Kindness- Miriam Toews  My new favorite author- I cannot get enough of her books, but I'll save some time and just recommend this one. Ok ok, and this one:
The Flying Troutmans- Miriam Toews  She is just awesome. They are all written with deadpan humor, which I clearly enjoy. And they are so unique, I love when I can't predict an ending.
To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee  I know, I know, we all had to read it in 8th grade. But try reading it when someone isn't forcing you to. It's one of my favorite classics.
Tuck Everlasting- Natalie Babbitt  I think I re-wrote knock offs of this book when I was little for like a year after reading it. Good book, that's all!

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance- Elna Baker  I hesitate to recommend this one for fear of who will read it and blame me for some of the content. But it is one of those books I can read over and over- she is so funny and a great story teller.
The Harry Potter Series- J.K. Rowling  I know, this goes without saying. But it amazes me how many people have still never read Harry Potter. Sit down right now and read the whole series. You will be waiting for your Hogwarts acceptance letter within days.
Flowers for Algernon- Daniel Keyes  Another one of those classics that everyone was whining about having to read in Middle School and I finished eagerly in 2 days. Yeah, I've always been this way.

Someone Like You- Sarah Dessen  She has a lot of good books, but this is my favorite of hers. If you've seen "How To Deal", that was based off of this book. She partly inspired my first book, A Place Like Heaven!
Which, ok, I might as well add to this list, along with my soon-to-be-published book, Parallel!

What You've Got

It's the worst when something bad happens and you look around for an adult to help and realize... you are the adult. 
I'm not sure when that happened. The last thing I remember is being little for what felt like an eternity, and all the while wishing I could be a grown-up. Grown-ups had it all. They could eat as many cookies as they wanted. They didn't have to go to school. They were allowed to watch The Simpsons, a show I was certain must have been the most glorious show on the earth simply because I wasn't allowed to watch it.
I remember when I was 9, for some reason I wanted to be 11 really bad. I thought 11 year olds were the coolest. When I was 11, my life would be made.
But then, when I really did turn 11, I wanted to be a teenager. And once I was a teenager, I couldn't wait for High School. But once I was in High School, all I wanted to do was graduate.
I'm not sure what it is in us that always makes us want what we don't have. Because now, I look back and I wish I could be a kid again, at least for awhile. I didn't have to work. I had someone monitoring my cookie intake (turned out to be necessary for me). My biggest concern was whose house I was going to play at that day. And when I was going to finally grow up, of course.
It's not any better now that I'm older. Once I finally get the thing I've always wanted, I enjoy it for about two seconds before I start dreaming about the next thing. It's not even material things: when I was in college, although I pretended not to be, I was always really concerned about finding a husband. I was worried that if I didn't find him soon enough, all the good ones would be taken and I'd inevitably die alone, or worse, scouting out dates from the Brigham Singles Ward. Once I found Caleb, it was like this huge sigh of relief: Oh good, there he is. If I could have just relaxed and trusted that it would happen when it was supposed to happen, I could have enjoyed those years a lot more. I would have been a lot less concerned about the future, and more thoroughly enjoyed the present.

Of course, I say that, but I can't take my own advice. I finally married the man of my dreams, but then I needed a house. And then I needed a puppy. And then I needed that house to be fixed up nicer. And then I needed a baby. And until I have that, I won't be happy. I can't. But I'm patiently waiting until that day when I can be happy.
What skewed thinking. I finally sat back and really thought about it. I thought as far into the future as I could imagine, and asked myself if I would allow myself to be happy then. After we have all our kids, after our debts are paid off and I've made millions writing books, will I be satisfied? Will I at least be able to sit back and enjoy it?
As it turns out, this dude was a few thousand years ahead of me with this quote:

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” -Epicurus

And it's true. There was once a time in your life where what you have right now is exactly what you'd always wanted. -Anndee Fonnesbeck

ALSO Thank you to everyone who clicks on the ads at the end of these posts. I really appreciate it! Click away! :)

Finances: Just my 2 cents

I remember when I was younger I would always say that when I first got married, I wanted to be "poor" with my husband for awhile. We would live in some tiny, dumpy apartment, but I would make it cute with my amazing decorating skills. We would eat Top Ramen every night and be forced to walk to work. I don't know what was wrong with me, but I thought that sounded appealing.

 The problem is, that is what a lot of people actually are living. Just a little disclaimer: I realize that as a 23 year old who has been blessed to have a job and a husband who has one too, this can come off sounding a little pretentious. But after a year of working at a bank and years of managing my own finances, this is simply what I have learned.
The year after High School, I had a great nanny job. I made more than enough money, so I lived very comfortably. I bought a nice car, I bought clothes all the time, and I went out and played nearly every night. I had it made in the shade. 

Then, I lost my job and decided to go to college.
I don't want to be a stereotype here, but the two years I spent up at college were the poor-est of my life. I was so poor I never turned down dates because I couldn't afford to miss out on a free meal. I was so poor I would drive home to Brigham, then have to beg my parents to borrow gas money so I could get back home. I was so poor that I took out school loans to pay for my rent and school, and I will regret that decision forever. The problem, really, was that I was inexplicably poor, because I was working two jobs and really not spending a lot of money. I can honestly tell you I don't know where my money went.

Finally, I couldn't afford to stay in Logan anymore, and I couldn't afford another semester of school without some serious grants. So I moved back home, and then it just so happened that I ended up getting married. I didn't realize it, but this was a major turning point for me. My husband is very good with money and I am so grateful for that! (And as a side note, weddings are great because people pay you for it. You will never again receive so much money from strangers for doing something you were going to do anyway. It's great.)
I won't say we haven't struggled, but I am always amazed at how a few small choices we made have made all the difference for us financially.
First and foremost, BUY A HOUSE.

I know plenty of people will disagree with me on this one, but hear me out: Homeowners get rich, Renters get poor. We pay a heck of a lot less for our mortgage payment than we do for rent, and we're essentially paying it to ourselves. It's the sad, sorry truth. Here's my response to the excuses I've heard: 
"We're planning on living out of the state someday." Great. Move out of the state someday. Until then, own a home. When the time comes, you can sell your house, or rent it out. Caleb and I have lived in our house for 1 year, and I'm confident that if we decided to pack up and leave tomorrow, we could sell it, most likely for more than what we paid. Which means we not only lived here rent-free for a year, but we also got paid to live here.
"We need to save the 20% down." Not right now! The loan we got allows you to move in for 0% down. That's like renting... with no security deposit. That's like getting paid to save the 20% down on your next house.
"I will have to pay for my own repairs if there is no landlord!" This is true, as we realized soon after we moved in. We had a flood in our basement, and getting the pipes snaked was not cheap. However, if I paid $500 a month to a landlord, I would expect a lot more to be getting fixed. Whichever way to turn it, you're still throwing money out the window.
"We don't qualify." That's what we thought too. We were actually kind of embarrassed to go in and give our information to the mortgage lender. I thought she'd laugh us right out of there. But we were both working part-time at Maddox, and we qualified for quite a bit more than what we actually spent. Which brings me to an important thing: buy what you need, not what you want. We would have loved to spend an extra 50,000 on a house and be somewhere really nice, but our house will fit our needs for the next 10 years, and that's also enough time for us to pay it off.
I realize I sound like a bad realtor's brochure, but buying a house was honestly one of the best decisions we've made, and we've never regretted it!
Finally, working at the bank taught me one very important lesson: It's not how much you make, it's what you do with what you make. I was always amazed to see that most people who were old enough to be my parents, who each had great jobs and made significantly more than I do, had a lot less money in the bank. They made a lot more withdrawals than they did deposits, so despite their high incomes, they had less and less money each month. So, my biggest advice: learn to save, and be diligent about it. We decided to save a certain amount each week to pay off our debts (back to those horrible school loans again) and we've been able to do so pretty well. 
I don't mean to offend anyone or act like I have any clue at all what I'm talking about, but I've learned a lot these last few years. I've learned that you don't have to live the way I was living before. I went from having my credit line maxed out at all times, to actually being comfortable, and if I can help someone avoid feeling how I felt in college, then it's a success!