He loves me so.

Planning Girls’ camp for my church has been overwhelming. So many details. Last night, one of the other leaders sat on my couch to discuss the many things I have to do in the next couple days…

My 3-year-old came to me crying, begging me to open the door to go outside. He needed to go outside and the door was stuck. I tried to comfort him, but I kept talking to Suzanne, trying not to get impatient. Summer days are long, you guys.

Again. Jude pled. “Mommy, open the door! I need a flower.”

Again, I told him to wait, that Mommy was talking to someone.

This scenario played out a few more times, and my little boy was in tears. Eventually though, he disappeared. A few minutes later and I heard a tapping at the back door.

There stood my boy, who had somehow found his way outside by himself. I opened the door, and he held up a single flower for me.

He had wanted to go outside to pick Mommy a flower, and that was more important to him than anything else. His determined spirit to do something kind for me brought a burning in my chest.

That kind of love is what stories are made of. My little Jude melts me. A mother’s love is nothing short of heavenly. At times.

Remind me that in a week….

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What the Wind Knows

Purchase here

From Amazon:

Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted by her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time.

The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken. But there Anne finds herself, hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.

As tensions rise, Thomas joins the struggle for Ireland’s independence and Anne is drawn into the conflict beside him. Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find. But in the end, is the choice actually hers to make?

My take:

Ireland is my greatest love, as far as places go. If you’re wondering, you can read my sappy post here. So, when I heard about What the Wind Knowsand that it’s set in Ireland…I was hooked. Then, I opened the first few pages. I grew teary. The words were more like music, and I have found myself crying more than a few times at the sheer beauty of Harmon’s words. So, so lovely. I cannot explain why her words affect me, but they do. 

I do not want to spoil the story, but it is filled with love, history of my favorite place (my love, Ireland), stories that make me wonder and imagine, and words that make me think about freedom and the history of mankind. 

From the beginning: 

“The wind you hear is the same wind that has always blown. The rain that falls is the same rain. Over and over, round and round, like a giant circle. The wind and the waves have been present since time began. The rocks and stars too. But the rocks don’t speak, and the stars are too far away to tell us what they know.”

Goodness. Those words, those ideas—all things I have considered many times. I’ve even mentioned similar things in my books. Nature is such a part of me. I believe it should be a part of all of us because nature knows. This earth has witnessed everything, and it has stories to tell. Also, I really do believe that weare part of nature…or at least, we once were. Technology and busy lifestyles have separated us, and people live separate from nature, separate from the earth in a pretend and false world, a world created by iphones and tvs. 

Next. This love story. I cried a few times. Harmon writes so beautifully! I had to read more than a few passages to my husband. Hahaha. I even said, “I hope you love me like Thomas loves Anne,” because…Well, just read a few excerpts from Thomas’s letters:

 “I love her with an intensity I didn’t think myself capable of. Yeats writes about being chaged utterly. I am changed utterly. Irrevocably. And though love is indeed a terrible beauty, especially given the circumstances, I can only revel in all its gory gloriousness.”

“I can’t imagine all men love their women the way I love Anne. If they did, the streets would be empty, and the fields would grow fallow. Industry would rumble to a halt and markets would tumble as men bowed at the feet of their wives, unable to need or notice anything but her. If all men loved their wives the way I love Anne, we would be a useless lot. Or maybe the world would know peace. Maybe the wars would end, and the strife would cease as we centred our lives on loving and being loved. Our marriage is only hours old, and our courtship is not much older than that…But it is not the newness of her, the newness of us, that has captured me. It is the opposite. It is as if we always were and always will be, as though our love and our lives sprang from the same source and will return to that source in the end, intertwined and indistinguishable. We are ancient, Prehistoric and predestined.”

Okay, the final quote, about those before us: 

“I’d often wondered, absorbed in piles of research, if the magic of history would be lost if we could go back and live it…Like the old man looking back on his youth, remembering only the things he’d seen, did the angel of our gaze sometimes cause us to miss the bigger picture? I didn’t think time offered clarity so much as time stripped away the emotion that colored memories. The Irish Civil War had happened eighty years before I’d traveled to Ireland. Not so far that the people had forgotten it, but enough time had passed that more—or maybe less—cynical eyes could pull the details apart and look at them for what they were. 

“But sitting in the crowded session, seeing men and women who had lived only in pictures and in print, hearing their voices raised in argument, in protest, in passion, I was the furthest thing from objective and detached; I was overcome…

“I’d been wrong about one thing. These were not average men and women. Time had not given them a gloss they had not earned. Even those I wanted to loathe, based on my own research and conclusions, conducted themselves with fervor and honest conviction. There weren’t posing politicians. They were patriots whose blood and sacrifice deserved history’s pardon and Ireland’s compassion.”

I cried at her words. Harmon has an uncanny ability to dictate things to the reader’s heart. I could not help but think of American History and the many founding fathers. I do believe Time gave us the best. I believe Time (Or, if I’m being honest, God) plants people in the exact places they are needed for the best of all mankind. 

So, final thoughts: definitely worth the read. I binged it in a few days, as made evident by the piles and piles of to-dos around the house…I do, however, feel like I have to acknowledge that some scenes were PG-13…so there’s that, if you are a sensitive reader (which I mostly am).

I doubt I’ll get any more reading in for a few weeks. Family for the fourth and Girls’ camp for my church are about to ruin my sanity (preparations, that is…). 

<3H

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Delayed Summer Reading

Life has been a continuous craze lately, but I’ve determined I have to read more. I’m aiming for a book a week, but I know that is far-fetched considering my kids are home all day. However, I am going to try. And when I read a book that I think needs sharing, I’m going to post about it.

Up first: Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover

From Amazon:

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

My take (SPOILERS):

Wow. 

Educated is not a light memoir. Tara Westover talks about the brutal reality of her childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood. Raised by radical parents (which do not represent mainstream members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by any means)—survivalists and doom’s day preppers—Tara was taught that anything associated with the Federal Government was corrupt and infiltrated by the devil. She did not have a birth certificate until she was nine years old, she never received immunizations (until well into her graduate programs), she never stepped foot inside a classroom until college, and her parents believed the medical establishment was evil—so no school (public nor home schooled really) and no doctors or hospitals. 

The story that follows is heartbreaking. The Westover family ran a junkyard. Their practices fell short of every safety precaution known to man. The injuries were insane—impalements, serious burns, disastrous falls, concussions and traumatic brain injuries, lots and lots of wounds that should have been treated in the hospital. Instead, Tara’s mom treated everything with oils and herbs (and subsequently founded the Butterfly Express Essential Oil Co.). And, to make matters worse, besides the hazards of working with her father, Tara suffered severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of one of her brothers. 

Against all odds, Tara miraculously got into BYU.

And an education changed her life.

I am so impressed with Tara’s tenacity and drive to learn and defy the odds that were thrust upon her. However, I cringed reading about how judgmental she was… She believed 99% of those she met at BYU were “gentiles” or fallen or of the world. I get it—she was a product of her childhood, her parents’ strange ideas. If anything, Tara’s story inspired me to be less judgmental of those I deem “judgmental”. Honestly, we have no idea of another person’s background nor the lens that they see the world through. 

My favorite parts of the book came near the end. 

In a particularly discouraging time, one of her professors (Dr. Kerry at BYU) urged her to continue her schooling. He said, “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold. And returning to BYU, or even to that mountain you came from, will not change who you are. It may change how others see you, it may even change how you see yourself—even gold appears dull in some lighting—but thatis the illusion. And it always was.”

Another idea she presented was from Isaiah Berlin’s two concepts about freedom:

  1. Negative liberty: freedom from external obstacles or constraints
  2. Positive liberty: freedom from internal constraints

I loved this! I need to read more about these two concepts. She quoted Bob Marley, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” 

Lastly, she spoke about a question sprawled against one of her class boards (Dr. Kerry again): Who writes history?  Throughout her education, she had learned that historians were no different than her—SHE wrote part of history. And so can we. 

Tara Westover writes a compelling tale of growing up, family loyalty, learning and growing, and how—or if—all of those things can be reconciled. Definitely worth a read 🙂

<3 H

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For Andrew, I mean, Amanda.

A Provision for Love is LIVE!!! I am so thrilled about this book, how it finally came together in a fun way.

However, let’s talk dedication. I’ve already gotten a few questions about it. In order to understand this, let’s travel back in time to London, circa Sept. 2018. My friend Amanda and I were lost. The tube dropped us off at a different station than we were accustomed to, and our phones (due to a storm) were not working in the slightest! 

So, along came Andrew. He offered to help us find out way to our hotel, and we accepted his help gratefully! However, along the way, we found out that Andrew was perhaps the grumpiest, most bitter man we had ever met. He seemed like a character from one of Jane Austen’s novel–perhaps even a grumpier Mr. Darcy. That’s stretching it; Andrew was not nearly as dreamy or rich or kind. 

He was just grumpy. 

Anyway, the next day Amanda and I missed our train to Paris. After a sequence of misfortunes, Amanda turned grumpy. 

Trying to lighten the mood, I said, “HEY, ANDREW.” 

She did not think I was funny. 

And so, our first friend fight ensued, which is HILARIOUS now. So, being the obnoxious friend that I am, I decided to dedicate this book to her but only after calling her Andrew first. 

There, our first friend fight immortalized. 

Love you, MANDY!

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12 Years.

Today is my 12-year anniversary of marriage to this great guy! As I’ve thought a lot (and I mean, a lot) about marriage and love and everything in between, some words came to me. (Did you expect anything different, coming from a romance writer?!)

I sat down to write him a love letter, as I do every year on our anniversary, but this time…it was less like a letter and more like thoughts. So, for vulnerability’s sake, I’m sharing with you, my dear readers (Brene Brown is to blame for this. You should watch her ted talk on vulnerability).

Thoughts from an imperfect wife:

***

Marriage is not a sunrise nor sunset; neither is it a flower nor a snow-capped peak. 

Love does not roll in like an ocean surf nor blow with the breeze. Marriage is words whispered on a pillow in the silent darkness, a hand to hold when life gets rocky. Marriage is a smile at the end of a long day, laughter when everything seems to go wrong. Marriage is a knotted rope, the security and strength that catches one another each time one falls. The joining of two lives is forged by the sweat of one’s brow, found in heartache’s silence and triumph’s joy.

Marriage is built in the bending and breaking and building again. Then breaking and bending and building once more. 

Marriage is the masterpiece of what we can become, like sunshine shining through the cracks of imperfection and into the cathedral of a devoted heart. 

***

And…in case you thought my life was a fairytale…this is the anniversary text I got from my husband today while he sat in the hall at church with our grumpy three-year-old.

“Happy 12 Year!”