Monday, October 22, 2012

The truth about mammograms

October is breast cancer awareness month, and if you are lucky, free-umbrella-with-your-mammogram-month! Here is the deal. I am not 40 yet, the magical age of the first recommended mammogram—but I didn't want to wait any longer. A few weeks ago I called the hospital and made the appointment. Here are a few myths...dispelled:

Myth #1 - It hurts.

This is sooooo false. I have had high fives that have hurt more. Uncomfortable? A tad. Painful. No way.

Myth #2 - You have to have standard size boobs.

Again, false. I asked nurse Bridgette what happens if a gal comes in with plateau chest, or what about big mamma mountain tops?? How about fakies? The quick answer: there are ways to accommodate all sizes, all types.

Myth #3 - The appointment will take forever.

20 minutes tops, baby.

Myth #4 - A call back from the hospital to ask for an additional mammogram means you have cancer.

Nope. A call back for first timers like myself typically means that they want to get more information. The first mammogram is the baseline for all others that follow. So it's essential to have the first mammogram as accurate as possible.

Myth #5 - The results are slow.

So fast. So fast. They will call you within 24 hours if there is a concern, and if your mammogram is normal you will get a friendly postcard within a few days.

Myth #6 - You have to be 40.

Guess what? Most insurance companies pay for mammograms anytime after 35.

Myth #7 - The "ladies" will get squished like a pancake.

Uh. Ya. I'll just say this...under NO circumstances, no matter how bad you want to DON'T LOOK DOWN!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Hottest Things Men Do

I have surveyed married female friends, my sisters, and two co-workers, and have uncovered the mystery of what makes a man really attractive. Sure, we women still love a man who wears woodsy cologne, can run a marathon, and is swimming in money. But, the truth is women get all sorts of happy when men do these 8 things:

1: Mow then edge the lawn: First of all, women love to see their man sweat. More so though, we love nice neat lines of grass. In a woman’s world this is very similar to vacuum lines—which men may or may not find hot. Edging is the crème de la crème of yard work, pulling together the curb appeal in glorious detail. As a bonus the way a man must hold the edger begs for his biceps to pop. We like that too.

2: Pulling the garbage to the curb: Nothing, nothing, nothing is hotter than the sound of a man pulling the garbage can to the curb. Even hotter: if this happens in the wee hours of the morning to catch the truck before it passes by.

3: Patience with children: A man who bends down to eye-level of a child who is crying, upset, or otherwise having a tantrum and shows kindness instead of frustration marks a man with a great amount of control. It’s impossible not to be moved by this act of hotness.

4: Send us grocery shopping—alone: Shopping solo, sans the grocery list, is like date night with ourselves or therapy without the couch. There are few hotter words than when a man says to his woman, “I insist, go shopping, and I will stay here and play board games with the kids. Take your time.”

5: Plan date night: Suddenly you are married and it seems the planning of date night falls square into the lap of the organized wife. You know what’s hot? When the man plans the evening, gets the sitter, washes the car before the date, opens the door for his woman, and wears woodsy cologne.

6: When he loves family reunions: Tolerating family and slugging through the reunion isn’t hot. But, talking to brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, playing with nieces and nephews, and getting to know each member on of both sides of the marriage—flaws and all—comes off as quite hot.

7: Change a tire: When a man changes a tire he isn’t just getting the vehicle back on the road. No. No. No. When he rolls up his sleeves, prepares to get dirty, and rescues his woman from having to wait for AAA—he’s telling her he can take charge of a stressful situation. But, truthfully, when a man has to look up the step-by-step instructions in the manual on how to get the job done—that’s a hotness extinguisher.

8: A kiss like he means it: Lips have thousands of nerve endings (100 times more than your fingertips!) and if there is passion, greatness, and good hygiene behind his kiss, those nerve endings light up like fireworks. There are, of course, honorable mentions to what makes a man really hot: cleaning up kid barf, sewing on a button, helping the kids with math homework, keeping promises, rocking the baby to sleep, growing a garden, singing along with the radio, spontaneously loading the dishwasher, getting a fresh haircut, having nice feet, and knowing how to dance the waltz. But, hands down the hottest thing a man can do is to come home at the end of the day—when his woman’s own hotness has faded behind the daily tasks of survival—take her face in his hands, look her in the eye, and say, “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” Now that’s hot.

Friday, August 24, 2012

nothing is hotter than a cowboy

I am a sucker for cowboys. Always have been. I think the problem started in high school when a group of cool cowboys from "out west" took my friend Katie and I on a four wheeler ride. I asked, "What is that amazing smell??" The guy said, "Cows." I was hooked. Luckily for me, I married a cowboy. Although his family sold all the cattle (love that cowboy word) a handful of years back, I am still surrounded by the greatest cowboy gifts: horses, land, and doggies.

Each year we spend the final week of summer out at the fair. A week with some of the finest cowboys in all of rodeo land. The leather, the dust, the chaps—mmm mmm cowboys—what a great sight. Tonight the cowboys in the rodeo will all wear pink, in a nod to their support for breast cancer research. This act makes me feel gratitude (keep fighting Kates!) for each one of them. If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times—nothing is hotter than a cowboy in the rodeo at the fair. And hotter still is a cowboy wearing pink who recognizes and respects the woman who is every bit as tough as he is.

Long live the cowboy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My own Miss America.

Five days ago, on a Wednesday night, I drove up and over Sardine Canyon to speak to a group of young women. By the time I got to their camp they were just finishing up dinner—their bright faces reminded me all too well of the times I too had been to girls camp. When it was time to speak to them, I started to get nervous, because I could tell this was a group of young women that would really listen to what I had to say. And they did just that—listen. I talked to them all about their authentic spark—how each of us are sent to earth with a different set of unique qualities...but yet, we are given the same embers of heaven to carry us when we feel our burden is too heavy. The next part of the talk was all about following Christ, and letting his light burn within us. The last part was focused on "Shine On"—putting your best foot (or shiny leg) forward no matter the trials we are faced with. I was happy to share with them moments from my own life and trial that are hard to talk about but I know understood by teenagers. As I looked around at the sweet faces of the young women, all were silent, and many were crying. When my talk was over every one of the girls came up to me and gave me a hug—then told me that I should be the next Miss America. Funny. That is the one phrase I wanted to hear when I was their age, that I had Miss America potential. I smiled the whole ride home, so happy to have met this group of young girls who put a fresh coat of shine on my confidence. Shine on girls! Shine on.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Meeting agent Kathryn Beaumont

Luck was on my side the week before Memorial Day as I learned of a writers conference right in my backyard. Well, two hours south of the six acres, but still! I was hoping that I could have a 30-minute consult with the great Kathryn Beaumont from Kneerim & Williams. I have been following her on twitter, have read up on her achievements (nothing small about them), love her personality, and adore her style. I was so glad when the coordinator of the conference emailed me to let me know there was indeed time for me on Kathryn's consult schedule. YEAH! I was so excited! A real live agent! I sent my first 7,000 words to the coordinator to send along to Kathryn for review. I have not been crazy about the first chapter, so I wanted her to give me suggestions that would give me an edge when I start to query agents. First of all, she was just like I expected: warm, funny, nice, and intelligent. My kind of person. Once we sat down she said is, "How can I best help you?" I told her, "I am ready for an agent for my memoir, White Bees." Here is the summary of her advice:
  1. "Memoirs are the hardest kind of book to sell to publishers. To increase your chances of being picked up, write your memoir like a novel."
  2. "Hit me over the head with the issue of your book right up front." (My first chapter danced around the "issue" but nothing substantial.)
  3. Make the memoir universal. Relate it to the masses. "If I am selling this book to Random House, everyone on the editorial board must want to read your book. You need to think about that."
  4. She recommended reading, Wild, to gather ideas for my own book.
  5. "Don't start a book with a flashback." Oops.
  6. She also said when querying agents you don't always have to send the first ten pages (as typically requested)—instead, you can send your BEST ten pages.
  7. The most welcome news was her encouragement to me that I am a "very good writer" and "this story could help so many people."
As luck would have it (again) she asked me to send her the full manuscript in a query (but not for at least two months - don't rush it! Fix the first chapter! Make it universal!). I was blown away by her generous advice, candid feedback, and spark of interest in my book. What a pleasure to meet someone who truly is an advocate for the writer. Can't wait to finish my new beginning (and get it right)!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Three stitches. Four words.

Last Saturday, just as I was ready to settle into the couch for a movie, my baby, and some pizza (a rare Saturday night!), I decided to light a candle. You know. To make the air smell good. My multi-tasking ways got the best of me and I tried to take the lid off the candle at grab the lighter at the same time. The lid, stuck, gave way just as the rest of the candle crushed into the granite -- with only my birdie finger to catch the falling giant shards of glass. Immediately, I knew the cut on my finger was more than just a butterfly bandage fix. Yet, I still dumped out a whole box of Band-Aids looking for the right size, all the while the white dishrag I was holding on the cut started to turn a nice polka-dot red. Maggie, just two-years-old, kept looking at me, "OK Mamma? OK?" After a few minutes I called my back-up helper, my father-in-law. He was at my house faster than Jimmy Johns, ready to watch Maggie, and I was on my way to the ER. While I sat there on the hospital bed waiting to get stitched up I saw -- through the fabric curtain -- a gurney come through the ER doors. All I could see where the feet on the gurney. The shoes were those of a cute, hip teen girl. But, she was in distress -- right deep down into her soul. "Why did you do this?" asked the ER nurse. "I hate my life," said the girl with the cute shoes. And, I believed her. There was no question in her voice that she utterly hated her life, and that she had done something horrible to prove it. I wanted to fling the curtain between us open and shout, "It will get better! Just have hope! It always gets better if you just try. Don't give up!" I have thought about that girl all week, and wished there had been something I could do for her. The pain of what each of us were in the ER for couldn't compare to one another. My three little stitches. Her four haunting words.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Someone once told me that the best gift a daughter can give her mother on Mother’s Day is a heartfelt letter filled with all of the reasons why she loves her. The advice was to put specific memories of her into a letter, and include lessons she had taught you – and not hold back one tiny bit. Somehow though, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, I typically find myself scrambling to put an amazing gift together for her – complete with a pretty bag with tons of colorful tissue paper coming out the top. Just a card? That doesn’t seem nearly enough for all she has done for me. So, I usually buy her something I would like for myself always hopeful she will open it and say, “Oh! Amy! This is just perfect! I have been wanting this very thing!” Truth is, my mom has never been a lover of things. Instead, she is a lover of kind, sincere words – and cards on Mother’s Day. So this Mother’s Day, I will do my best to tell her, in my most sincere effort, how much I loved her then and love her now.

Being her daughter is a joy, and having her as my mother is a gift.

God knew I needed her the day I was born, as I lay in her arms, looked up at her face and heard her familiar voice. He knew I needed her on my first day of school, wearing my deep pink corduroy jump suit, setting off to independence. He knew I needed her on all those days of doctor appointments, surgeries, hospital stays, and solutions. God knew I needed her when I moved away to college and missed my everything -- everyday. He knew I needed her enthusiasm when I called home and told her all about how much I was loving college, just like she did. He knew I needed her when I found love, and shared with her why I wanted to marry. God knew I needed her when Hayden was born and I found motherhood, and then again with Emma. He knew I needed her to be excited for me when I said we wanted another one, and he knew I needed her when Maggie arrived. God knew that I needed my mom. From the very beginning. Just like she needed her mother, and before her, my Grandma needed hers. And so it goes, and so it is. Still. As time began, and as time moves forward, daughters need their mothers -- and mothers need their daughters. Still.

Friday, May 11, 2012

shedding the thin skin

I have been completely sucked into the work of finding an agent for my book, "White Bees." The process is daunting, and part of me wants to put the book I have spent the better part of a year writing, in my nightstand, safe and sound. If I don't share the struggles I have been through that are written in the 80,000 words of my book with agents --  then they can't reject my book, my inner thoughts, one of my greatest accomplishments. Right? No wonder so many people get to this stage of the writing process and decide to give up. But, I made a promise to myself a year ago to complete this goal -- all the way. Not to stop when the writing was done, but to keep going until my goal of getting "White Bees" published became a reality. With the editing process done (thank you Katie Carter!) I will shed my thin skin, and starting June 1st gear up for sending out queries. Wish me lots of luck! I am going to need it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


A week ago, as Saturday met Sunday, I sat alone with just my thoughts and my fingers typing as fast as they could. I had set a goal to have the 1st draft of my book done by my birthday, which just so happened to be March 11th. All the way back in November I wrote the last few paragraphs of the book, the ending coming to me while I was in one of my favorite places, so it was just a matter of filling in the rest. As I hit the last key, just after midnight, the looked at the word count (77K), I felt an instant of immediate pride in accomplishing my goal. I had DONE IT!! I really had written a book, all about me and my white bees. I am so excited to now make it through the 2nd draft (I have a wonderful editor helping me with making it GREAT), and once I feel it is the best it can be...I will prepare to send it out to agents and publishers. Can't wait!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


My daughter Emma came to me complaining of a headache two nights ago. The next day it was still just as strong, with no relief in sight. Then her head started to get hot with a fever. By evening she seemed to be getting worse, not better, despite me doing all I knew how to do. So, I paged the doctor. He called back soon after, and said I should take her to the emergency room right away. Kory and Emma headed to the hospital, Emma in tears and scared beyond belief.  I stayed at home with the other two kids and waited for the report. I think as time goes on being a mother the more I fear the worst when illness strikes. And in my mind she already had meningitis. I was certain. She had a headache, neck pain, and a fever. All classic signs. The house was so quiet without her, and I was surprised how much I missed her crazy personality. My mind started to wander to all the reasons why I love her, even though, she is easily the hardest of my kids for me to understand. She would rather run like a horse than walk, wear dirty scrubby clothes than cute outfits, eat cereal instead of dinner, and bark like a dog instead of talk. But, my goodness I love her, and I would be crushed if anything happened to her. I stayed awake waiting for Kory to call, and he did, but on the other end was a very happy 9 year old. "Hey Mom! I am drinking Sprite! I am OK, they are just checking me out, but they think I am going to be fine and they said I don't have meningitis. They took a swab of my mouth and we are just waiting for the test. Oh and they gave me some yucky Tylenol."
Soon after, she was back at home, and my mind had reset to normal. But the wandering journey of what could have been made me appreciate what already is.

Friday, January 20, 2012

seminary superman.

My dad taught seminary for 33 years, and this month we celebrate 100 years of seminary. Here is my latest article published by the Deseret News,  "Seminary Superman."

Friday, January 13, 2012

50,000 words.

I have reached 50,000 words in the memoir I am writing, "White Bees", and find each day I write, is a day I know myself better. Everyone has a journey to share. Below is the first part of chapter 1 to my story ...

1 My mother has loved me from the very start.

She has only ever seen me the way God does, right into my soul from the window through my eyes, and that has never changed. I must have felt her faith, as she took me in her arms the day I was born and looked upon my tangled face, and into my new blue eyes with courage and complete understanding. Knowing the road ahead would be laced with trials and mixed with grace.

“How old are you,” said the nurse, leaning down to tape the IV to my small arm.

I looked straight ahead and held up five fingers on my opposite hand, spreading them apart as far as I could.

“Five! Wow! You are getting so big!”

I nodded my head, the surgical cap covering my hair scratched against the stiff cotton sheet, but I did not speak a word.

Just minutes before I was safe with Mom and Dad in a room divided by a dark fabric curtain. Mom sat next to me while a man I didn’t know talked to them about the medicine he would be putting in my body.

Now, I was here all alone, and this felt nothing like what Mom had explained to me.

The IV was positioned mid-way up my right forearm, and throbbed where the nurse had placed the strip of white sticky tape. I was scared to move, even the slightest bit.

The ceiling towered high above me, and every wall that fell from it was painted stark white. The cold metal crib that I lay in made me feel like such a baby. I was not a baby! I was big, and I did not belong in this crib. There was an empty one next to me, aligned perpendicular to me and pushed close against the wall. I turned my head all the way to the left and looked out the metal rungs into the room adjacent to me. A room filled with bright white lights.

“I am going to have you wait right here until Dr. Broadbent is ready for you, then we will take you in for surgery,” the nurse said as she wheeled me into the hallway waiting area. Her hair was a soft brown color, and curled around her face like a rainbow.

I nodded my head again, trying my best to comprehend the unfamiliar surroundings. Voices, lots of voices came from the big bright room. I stretched my ears and listened as tightly as I could to the words the voices spoke.

“Dr. Broadbent is going to be doing the palate-lengthening operation on her today,” said a voice coming from the big bright room.

“He has been seeing this patient ever since she was six months old. Her case is one of the worst we have seen at this hospital,” said another voice.

I dissected each sentence, as I tried to determine if I knew anyone in the big bright room.

“Did you know Dr. Broadbent is one of the best plastic surgeons in the world?”

“He was top of his class at Duke University…he is very talented.”

I kept so quiet; listening and trying to understand.

Then a door swung open and I heard the whoosh from the pushed air followed by deliberate motion and the sound of a clip board hitting a hard surface.

“Hello everyone, I am Dr. Broadbent. It is a pleasure to be with you students in this teaching session. Today I will show you a technique for improving the speech of this patient.” His voice was familiar, but I didn’t know why. My mind raced to catch the answer. “The operation will be done by attaching a flap of soft tissue from her throat wall to the back of her soft palate.”

“How will this improve her speech?” asked a younger man.

“Well, if the palate and throat do not touch, air leaks into the nose and produces nasal speech.”

Above me I could hear the ticking of the second hand coming from a large black and white clock.

“Are there any more questions before we begin?”


Then I heard footsteps, lightly did they pad the shiny floor, almost in a quiet whisper.

Were they talking about me?

“OK, looks like Dr. Broadbent is ready for you now,” said the familiar nurse, her rainbow hair tucked up neatly into her own surgical cap, the elastic edges gripping her smooth forehead. She unlocked the wheels, then put both palms on the side of the crib and pushed.

I sunk as deep as I could into the mattress, my face pointed up, feeling scared and so very alone. The wheels creaked when she made the turn from the hallway into the big bright room.

She stopped in the center, locked the crib in place, and in an instant she was gone. I was now certain I was in the wrong place. Not one single person said hello to me; almost as if I did not exist. Yet, I could hear them, buzzing around me in a productive fashion. I kept my eyes glued to the ceiling. Perhaps if I did not move, they would go about their business and forget about me, and then Mom and Dad would come looking for me and take me home. I had a wrist band on my left hand, and my name was typed, along with my birthday in a neat legible font. I stared at it, while I wondered what would happen next. All the while my heart raced, filled with anxious mystery, yet I found no bearing to hold my fear. Seconds passed, folding into minutes. I could still hear the clock on the wall outside the big bright room, ticking so obediently.

“Hello, Amy Jo,” said Dr. Broadbent leaning over the crib from behind my line of sight. His eyes were full of kindness, and goodness. I knew him. I knew his face. And my body relaxed, if only just slightly. “We are going to move you to the operating table where your surgery will take place,” and then before I could re-arrange my thoughts there were four people, two on each side of me, “on the count of three we will need you to become as light as a feather, OK?”

I nodded my head; then closed my eyes. Eight hands lifted me from the crib to the table in a swift display of teamwork. My cotton gown tangled around the tubes, which my nurse quickly set about to move into a position that was comfortable, snapping the cord onto the IV tower and taping it into place. Then, her focus came back to me. She attached a sticky circle just above my heart that had a wire coming out of it, and put some sort of a cover on my pointer finger which instantly throbbed. All the while she was fielding requests for surgery preparation. My heart beat so fast and loud I was sure she would notice. In the background I heard the sound of metal instruments bouncing on metal trays, moving to the beat of soft footsteps. Dr. Broadbent’s voice was calm and low somewhere behind and to the left of me as he talked to others in the room. I couldn’t hear anything, no matter how hard I tried to stitch together his words.

The lights above me were so bright that my eyes burned. I could see the faces now that were linked to the voices. There were so many of them. Each came by and looked down at me, so briefly they did not catch the fear in my eyes.

I lay as still as I could.

“Can you count to 100?” Dr. Broadbent asked, looking down at me with his white surgical mask over his mouth and a surgical cap covering his head

I shook my head.

“How about to 50?”

I shook my head again.

“Well, I want you to start to count as high as you can then, OK?”

I nodded, and wished I knew how to count higher, they all wanted me to count to 100! And I didn’t know how. The vein in my right arm was suddenly filled with a cold sensation; gripping and fierce did it go as it followed the length of my arm all the way up and across my shoulder. I shook with a sudden chill.

“One, two, three…” I started, trying to stay focused on counting as high as I could.

“Good job, Amy Jo, keep counting,” said Dr. Broadbent, his eyes steady on mine.

My mind felt so heavy, so tired. So very, very tired. I wanted to show him how high I could count, but I could hardly remember what came next.


The room became fuzzy, and my focus skewed as I tried with all my might to keep my eyes open, but my lids pressed heavy on my lashes.

“……….e…i…g..h…t…” and then, I could no longer hold on. I looked up at Dr. Broadbent and saw a flash of white, and then I disappeared into a deep, wonderful sleep.

While I slept, he worked. And I felt no pain.

Friday, January 6, 2012

keeping katie.

When I was young my sister Jeannie and I used to spend the night at my Gram and Gramp's house, just a mile from where we grew up. Gram would let us split a can of Pepsi AND stay up and watch Dallas with her before tucking us into the hide-a-bed for the night. She would lay the red blanket on us and make sure we were warm before she walked the ten steps down the hall to the master bedroom. Jeannie and I would stay up as long as we could stand it talking and sneaking more TV.

On one such sleepover Jeannie told me, in secret, that Gram only had "one boob", and she could prove it. She had seen her bra hanging in the bathroom, and it was completely filled in on one side. Of course I did not believe her. I had never heard of anyone being born with just one. The whole thing just baffled me for days.
Little did I know the story of how, or why...or the struggle she took on so silently most days.Cancer had found her and took part of her all those years ago. But Cancer did not take her grace, or her kindness, or her fight to wake up each day and make it to the end. One more time.

Now, I watch my friend Katie take a similar path, at an entirely too young of age. My Katie, who shared a backyard with me, taught me how to drive a van, and lent me all her clothes through high school. My Katie, who never says a bad word about anyone, and who fiercly loves her husband and five children.


Keeping Katie means losing part of her.

But not her sweet personality, or her listening ear, or her warm heart. Cancer can't take any of that. Keeping Katie means months of radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, rehab, and physical therapy. But keeping Katie also means she will find her strength in this trial, and share it with all of us who never want to lose her.