I have said this about ten thousand million times since my book first came out... I am going to start my next novel now! Or some variation along the lines of I just got a great idea for my next novel, I'm really going to start it this time. Well, I'm not a complete liar. I have STARTED at least ten different novels since A Place Like Heaven first came out four years ago. (Hey! It was 4 years last week. Go me.) Some have gotten fifty pages in. Some have about thirty different beginnings.
Something had to change.
Finally, the other day, something did. I was looking into self-publishing through Amazon.
Now you have to understand, even though I can't bring myself to read A Place Like Heaven, publishing my book was a lifelong dream and I still consider it one of my biggest accomplishments. However, I HATED the publishing process. I spent so much money on self-publishing, but I told myself it was much better than the alternative of sending it in to a million different people only to get rejected over and over again. And, ok, it was better than that.
But it cost too much. They saw a very vulnerable young writer with a very big dream and they took advantage of that. AuthorHouse was not honest on any count, and even after my book came out they were still hounding me for more money.
So that part, I could do without.
And as it turns out, Amazon has a great self-publishing service that is, get this, completely free. I even called them to confirm, because that just blew me away! I got so excited I wanted to write some one-page silly story and send it in right then, just to see it get published for free!
I didn't do that. But it did finally get me started on what will REALLY BE my NEXT NOVEL. Caleb and I are both really excited (he's really counting on me getting rich and famous off this so he can quit working at Maddox.) I have the idea, and thanks to my super supportive husband, the whole outline done.
Now, I just have to get off my blog and get to writing.
For anyone who cares, my goal is to have it done by summer, if not sooner. And it may or may not be a trilogy.
Now comes the hard part.

Why I Believe What I Believe

Last Spring, one of my oldest best friends left on a mission. Caleb & I drove to Idaho Falls for her farewell, and in her talk she said something I've never forgotten. She said, "A lot of people were really confused at why I'd want to go on a mission, why I would spend a year and a half of my life doing this. I think that's because I never made it clear to them how important this gospel is to me, and I should have." It really made me think. I've spent the almost five years since my baptism fighting off a lot of well-intentioned people who are determined to tell me exactly what I believe. Every time, they approach me with looks of pity, asking, "Why did you choose to get baptized?" in voices that clearly say they aren't going to listen to the answer. They've made up their minds. Many of them have spent the majority of their lives in Utah, and they have their opinions. The second I got baptized, I turned into a bumbling idiot in their eyes.
I used to get upset and frustrated in these situations, but now I know it wasn't their fault, it was mine. I have never made it clear to them why this gospel is so important to me. And while I know a blog post is far from hanging a banner out my car window or shouting it from the rooftops, I also think I'm guilty of, for the most part, keeping my faith off the internet. To some extent, that's because it's so important to me and I don't want to put it out there for others to bash. But I also think I tuck it away, pretending it's not so important to me so I won't offend anyone.
Well, this is my blog. If you're going to get offended, now is your chance to stop reading.
I didn't grow up in the church, but I was born and raised in Brigham City, so I think I definitely grew up in the church culture. I know what it's like from the outside. I know how it feels to be the only kid in your class who doesn't go to mutual, who isn't planning her temple marriage, and whose parents don't care if she wears a halter-top dress to a dance. I know what it's like to date someone who, on the way in to meet his parents, whispers, "Don't tell them you're not a Mormon, or they'll kick you out." I know how it feels to be the minority in this culture. Don't get me wrong, it bothered me. It was difficult. But I think it was divinely planned that way.
Because, somehow, I always knew I'd join the church someday. When I was a Junior, my best friend Chris and I decided we wanted to go to every church we could find. I knew I was going to end up joining the LDS church, but I fought it kicking and screaming the whole way, because that was the hardest possible thing I could have chosen. I'm not just talking about the fact that our church services are three times the length of most, or that I'd have to be "reverent" the whole time (something us Callaway's do not easily do), but I knew the effect that decision would have on everyone around me. So, I decided to go on a hunt for something, anything else that would feel right.
Chris and I went to a lot of different churches, and I learned a lot. I learned that Episcopalians all take their Sacrament out of the same giant cup. I learned that some Lutherans give you the option between apple juice or grape juice. Then I learned that the grape juice was really wine, and that I really don't like the flavor of wine. I learned that nearly every church in Brigham city felt the need to get in a few jabs at the Mormons during their sermons, and that always really bothered me.
But then it happened: we found the perfect church. It was only an hour long, there were like 3 pastors who would switch off and give awesome lessons, and then the rest of the hour was spent singing. Loudly. It was awesome.
We went to that church for several months, and after awhile one of our other friends who went there said she was going to get baptized, and asked if I wanted to get baptized the same day. I had this immediate sinking feeling. No. So I started taking the missionary lessons.
Right away, it was like all those missing pieces from the other churches fell into place. All the questions I'd had my whole life suddenly had definite, obvious answers. It was exactly what I had been afraid was going to happen all along. THIS was the hard part. How could I just rip my family apart like that?
Somehow, it all worked out better than I ever could have hoped. Now, nearly five years later, I look at all I have and I know that I wouldn't have half of it if I hadn't made that decision years ago.
I spent a lot of time feeling picked on because of my situation, but now I couldn't be more grateful for it. I was able to search out what I wanted. I now know with a certainty exactly what I believe, and why. While so many of my friends have fallen away from the faiths they were raised in, I was lucky to grow closer to it the older I was. I was able to choose for myself, and I think that is a big part of the reason it's so important to me.
So despite all the misconceptions, all the people I know are reading this and rolling their eyes about how "silly Anndee is", I know that what I believe is true. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, despite what anyone else may tell me about my own beliefs, that this is true. I know because I didn't read about it in some article on the internet, or hear it from my parents. I know because I learned, I prayed, and I gained a testimony of it. To anyone who I've never made it clear to before, I am not delusional. I did not lose my mind. I know.
That, among all the other blessings in my life, is why this gospel is so important to me, and why no one can ever convince me otherwise.


I don't know if I could tell you exactly how, but I knew from a very young age that skinny people were valued far above heavy people. Even as a little kid, it was shoved down my throat constantly. I remember women I barely knew or had just met always calling me a "skinny mini" or poking me in the ribs and asking if I ever ate anything. As a seven year old, I found this a little bit absurd. I wasn't skinny because I frequently read Cosmo's top 10 dieting secrets and ran 4 miles every morning before Kindergarten. I was skinny because I was a ridiculously picky eater who would rather be playing than eating. Still, I learned that being skinny was important, it gave me value, and I was important because I was unintentionally not a heavy kid.
Flash forward a few years to when I got my tonsils out. I had spent most of my life from first grade on getting strep throat at least once a month. It finally all blew up my Senior year when I got mono, and I FINALLY got them out. Although I have been a completely different, actually healthy, person since that surgery, and even though I know this makes me sound like a huge baby, it was a really difficult surgery. I couldn't go back to work for two weeks, taking a shower used up all my energy for the day, and I lost twenty pounds in two weeks just from not eating.
I was miserable. I was withering away. I was drooling over the "Fancy Feast" commercials, and yes, I was fully aware that it's cat food. So I was surprised when the reaction from my friends the first time they saw me was sheer delight.
"Look how skinny you are!" "I can really see it in your face! It just makes you look prettier!" "That's awesome that you lost the weight so fast!" Were they kidding? Could they really not see how starving I was, or what a miserable way that was to lose weight? I remember one friend even telling me, "Just keep not eating, even after you feel better. Otherwise you're going to gain it back."
I found it insane at the time, but now, looking back, I just feel sad. I feel sad that as soon as I inevitably gained the weight back, everyone stopped complimenting me. When my jeans actually fit me, they didn't think they were so cute anymore. I feel sad that these little teenage girls were all under the complete delusion that because I lost weight, I became more of a person. I had worth. And they envied me for it.
I don't think it's any one specific person who does this to us. It's society as a whole. Whether we intend to or not, we grill it into everyone's minds that your weight determines your worth. And it's golf scores here: the lower you are, the better.
A girl I grew up with recently lost a lot of weight. She has always been a cute girl, but lately I've noticed the compliments really flying in. I'm happy for her that she's healthy and worked hard to get where she is. But I'm sad for her, because she has become her weight loss. She can talk of nothing else but how much time she spent at the gym, how much weight she can lift, what she ate that day and what she avoided, even when she really wanted that candy bar. She has been fed the lie that her weight determines her worth, and now that she's skinny, it's all she can think about. She has lost everything else that makes her her- her sense of humor, her hobbies outside of the gym, even close friendships, because this has become the most important, all-consuming thing in her life. And it's just sad.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all abdicating obesity for the sake of personality or humor. I just think someone's weight is only one small detail about them, like their eye color or shoe size. What a shame it would be to give up so many of the things that are wonderful about you to just wear shoes two sizes smaller.
The problem isn't the weight loss itself. Ideally, we should all be at a healthy weight. The problem is that it will never be enough. You will never lose enough weight to truly be happy. Even if you do, you will find something else about yourself to obsess and stress over.
I was a nanny for this little girl once right after I graduated High School. She was only five, and such a little diva. I remember one day I made her a bowl of Easy Mac with hot dogs cut up in it. Every kids favorite lunch. She took one look at it, wrinkled her nose, and said, "I can't eat this. This will make me fat." She was five.
I know I'm not the first one to notice. I know we've all heard a thousand times how being skinny isn't important, how the size 00 models aren't the ones to look up to, how we shouldn't care so much about our weight and worry more about our health. But I think that we need a change. We can't keep telling little girls how skinny they are, and how great that is. We can't keep undervaluing people because they weigh more than we do. Most importantly, we can't keep undervaluing ourselves. I heard a quote one time that has really stuck with me. It says, "Do all you can when you wake up in the morning to make yourself presentable. But the second you walk out the door, start thinking of others." We can obsess all we want about our weight and our looks, but we'll probably never live up to our own high expectations. So how about, instead, we tell ourselves how great we are, then forget it the rest of the day and focus on someone else. Be jealous of someone else's personality, not the way their jeans fit. Maybe if we love ourselves first, we'll stop drilling it into our children that they need to grow up, stop eating cookies for every meal (guilty!) and fit societies expectations of beauty.

The Problem with Us Girls

I've been wanting to write about this topic a lot lately, but I wasn't sure exactly how to go about it without sounding like a huge hypocrite. So I'll just preface by admitting that I am guilty of every single thing I mention in here. And I am writing in the hopes that by admitting that, I will somehow be a better person, which will maybe help somebody else, which will eventually change the whole world. You know, no big deal, just changing the course of history on a Thursday.
I don't even know how to start this other than with my sad sob story. See, I was the girl in High School who hung out with a lot of boys, and eventually only hung out with boys, because I learned early on that girls are just mean. I grew up with three older brothers, so I told myself I just relate better to boys. And honestly, we had more fun. I had better friendships, and a sense of security with those friends that I never had in a group of girls. And if you are a girl, you understand why: Because have you ever spent a night with a group of your best friends, and then been the first one to leave? Have you ever had that sickening feeling that they were talking about you the minute you left? I did. I used to get full blown anxiety if I left a room full of my best friends because I knew they would all start saying negative things about me.
And how did I know this? Because if someone else left first, I did it too.
Why do we do this? There is something weird that happens when we get together with girls. It's no secret that we like to talk. (Caleb is always amazed when I come home from a night with my friends and say all we did was talk. He can't fathom how we just talked for four hours.) That alone isn't a bad thing. The problem comes from our inherent need to bring negativity into the equation. And try as I might, I can't figure out why that is.
I eventually started hanging out with girls again, and found a lot of fun things in those friendships that just don't happen with boys. For instance, when I hang out with girls, there is never anyone complaining that "we need to hang out with more girls, our weekends are always such a dude fest." (Which was followed by everyone's heads turning slowly, awkwardly towards me and the speaker muttering, "Oh yeah. And Anndee." True story.) And there is obviously a bond between girls when you make those close friendships. But even as I spend time with these girls, the girls who I consider some of my closest friends in the world, somehow the conversation almost always seems to come down to something negative. And it's never about something personal in our own lives, it's always about someone else.
Now I'm afraid by saying this all my friends are going to start watching everything they say around me, and I don't want anyone to think I'm just a victim here. Although I know terrible things have been said about me many times, I do it too. And I don't know why I feel the need to do it.
The more I thought about it, the more I started to notice it in all my relationships with women. Whether it's with my family, friends, or even at work, there is some aspect of gossiping about someone else that I think (and this is just my opinion) we've given ourselves the illusion that it creates a bond to the person we're gossiping with. Maybe we think if I talk to person A about person B, then person A won't ever talk bad about me to person B!
But our thinking is completely backwards, because in reality, the opposite happens. Person A tells person B everything you said, conveniently leaving out the things they said, and now person B thinks you're mean and has plenty to say about you to person C. And no matter how many times we go through this viscious cycle, we never seem to learn.
I know there have been countless movies, books, and articles about girl-on-girl bullying that show how mean girls can really be to eachother. I even saw one that really hit home about how girls will use Facebook, Instagram, and even Snapchat to try to make their lives look amazing and perfect. Although it may be unintentional, other girls see the pictures we/they post and start feeling inferior about things in their own life. So why do we do this to eachother? Shouldn't we be supporting our sisters? Wouldn't our time be better spent lifting each other up, rather than knocking everyone else down?
I've seen it happen in women of all ages. I've seen little girls in Elementary school be mean to other girls and leave them out on purpose, just to make them feel bad. I've seen 50 year old women say astonishing and unkind things about a person behind their back. And worst of all, if it means I feel included, I participate.
I know that one blog post doesn't change all that, so I'll stick with the ever-Facebook-present quote, Be the change you want to see in the world. If I stop, maybe someone will see my actions and try to stop too. If I say something kind about someone, maybe those kind words will get back to them instead of harsh words I may have said before. Maybe, ultimately, I need to change how I look at the women around me, try to see them the way God sees them, and treat them accordingly.
I hate to call myself out on my own blog (this is where I'm supposed to be bragging about how awesome I am, but we'll get back to that...) but if I don't change, I can't ever expect anyone else to.

Anniversary Gone Astray

I can't believe it was a year ago that all THIS was happening:
And it's crazy because I can't decide if I feel like we've been married way, way longer than a year and the people in this picture are babies who have no idea what's coming for them, or if it feels like our wedding was only yesterday and I am just WAY too young to have already been married for a year.
Originally, I was going to dedicate this post to pointing out all the crazy changes that happened in our first year of marriage. I was going to say how we had been through so much, and grown so close, and how we were looking forward to what the next year would bring. Aww.
But this was before we took our Anniversary trip, up to the same place we went on our Honeymoon. Now, you have to understand, we are not stupid: we are both well-aware that it is a law of the universe that when you go on vacation, not just one thing but many things will go wrong. We just thought we were exempt. We were above that rule. Because our honeymoon went so smoothly. The weather was great, even though it was early January. The car worked fine. We traveled safely. And voila we were back home.
So this year, we were oh so naiive. I truly thought it would go just like it did last year.
Now, I don't want to complain, because we have been truly blessed. We set aside a certain amount of money every week and put it into savings and then didn't touch it, and it was truly a miracle because if you add up how much we make and subtract our bills, we should be impoverished and starving, and I know it's only because we pay our tithing that it all works out the way it does. The problem is, we got a little too comfortable. We started making plans about where that savings was going to go, where we'd be in six months, a year, ten years. We were on top of the world!
And then, the storm hit. Hospital bills for me, doctor bills for Caleb AND Dega, both of our car registrations due, then of course Caleb's car broke down. Then it fixed itself. Then it broke down again. Now it's temporarily working and we're pretending everything is fine-just-fine. Then, the trip.
We were lucky my aunt & uncle just built a cabin not a mile away from the one we stayed in last year, which they let us stay in for free. So how could we pass that up? We made it three hours into the trip, and then in the last five minutes, my tires did a lovely pirouette across the ice, and we hit a snowbank.
(At this point, Caleb would like me to point out that the road we slid on was called Rainbow Road. If you've ever played Mariokart, you know it was inevitable, and we're lucky we only slid off the road once.)

Logically, I knew everything was fine. We were both unhurt. The car was running. Yes, we were a little bit stuck, but we were also as close as you can be to another person, so we were fine. The lodge nearby pulled us out, and we were on our way. But the Callaway in me was very upset. We do not like our cars getting hurt. This had never happened before.
Scratch that, this had happened A LOT before. My car has been hit a total of 8 times, and my old car had a tree branch massive tree fall on it in the middle of a calm, sunny afternoon. The difference was, I had never been IN the car when it had happened, and it had always been someone elses fault. (Except for the speculation that my car has a giant magnet in it, which is why everyone hits it when it's parked.)
I was trying not to be upset, because that's just stupid. Everything truly important was fine. But I couldn't help but feel bad for my poor car. I think Disney has made me humanize way too many objects, my car being the main one. (The second one, of course, my old toys. After I saw Toy Story I went in my room, shut the door, and announced, "You guys can come to life around me now. I just learned the truth.")
Everything was fine the rest of the trip. Actually everything went really great, until we got back on the road. It looked a little something a-like a-this.

Luckily, we got out of the snow before the bumper decided to just start to fall off and rub against the tire. It's kind of a terrifying noise when you're doing 75 mph on the freeway. So we pulled over, popped it back into place, and made it about another 5 miles down the road before the banshee screeching started again. So we stopped again, and my sweet husband laid on the side of the road in the mud in howling, freezing wind, and tried and tried to fix it. We made it about 20 feet with our twist tie contraption before finally finding an old rope in my trunk. That got us the rest of the way home, where we've been safe and warm ever since.
I originally intended to write this blog about how much I loved my dear, sweet husband and how happy I was that we'd reached this year milestone. But as I watched him fix our car, as he spent over an hour in the cold and never once complained, then got back in the car and treated me like a Queen, like he always does, I was just overwhelmed with how blessed I am. If I had been alone, I have no idea what I would have done. I hate to play the damsel in distress card, but throw me in a complicated situation involving car troubles, and I am no good to you. (Although I DID stand on the side of the road and glare at the semis who didn't get in the other lane. I felt like that was pretty useful.) I just realized how great it is that I have a husband to take care of me. Someone to go through these hard times with. Someone who will treat me good even when he's upset or frustrated or at serious risk of losing his fingers to frostbite.
I don't think I realized what getting married meant when I was going through it a year ago. I think I saw the fun, the playing-house side of it, the not having to leave each other every night and being able to grow old together. But I couldn't have seen these little moments, these trials we'd face, and realize how much I'd grow to appreciate what I have, let alone who I have it with. 
So yes, we have been through a lot this past year. It almost scares me to think what this next year could bring. But, ultimately, I never imagined I could feel this close to someone, or get to spend every day with my best friend. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.