Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reinventing Myself . . .

Note: I wrote this over 8 years ago. It was a draft that I just published because I want to remember the idea of fictionalizing my life. I don't know if I'll ever actually do what I talk about in this post, but it still intrigues me.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I’m not sure if I woke up because my stomach hurt or because I had a business idea in my dream and needed to think about it in the non-sleep world.

Either way, I was awake at 1:40 A.M. and finally got out of bed at 2:30 A.M. My head didn’t hit the pillow again until 6:30 A.M., but don’t cry for me Ike and Tina. After all, I’m not a sleep-deprived mother of a new baby. (Although sometimes I think a baby sounds nice. Physically impossible, but nice.)

So back to this business idea I had during my dream . . . (anyone is welcome to it)

In my dream I was visiting a girlfriend out-of-state who owned an interior d├ęcor store. It was filled with everything I love – antiques, country paraphernalia, old, used and distressed utilitarian items, handiwork from by-gone eras -- beautiful stuff! She had a friend, Anna Jones, who was also visiting from out of town. We were talking about our love of the beautiful items we were surrounded by.

Anna mentioned that she was from Indiana, and that’s when my brain went into overdrive.

“You live in Indiana, and your last name is Jones?” I asked. “You should open a shop and call it ‘Indiana Jones’ with the advertising hook , ‘Always a shopping adventure.’”

In my dream last night it sounded like a great idea. Now it’s the light of day, I realize it’s not stellar. Even in the wee hours of the morning I knew that pursuing that idea wasn’t for me. Instead, I became fascinated with the name of Anna Jones. That’s what really kept me up.

In the end, I created a new writing persona – Anna Jones. Fictionally speaking, she’s me.

If my dreams were to come true, I’d write as Anna Jones for on-line magazines like and readers would click over to my blog and become loyal followers. Soon I’d have a reading base that would make it possible for me to approach a publisher/newspaper syndicate/agent and start a real writing career.

I’m thinking this new little writing persona might be a good thing on many levels. For starters, it may prevent me from having dreams that I’m pregnant. (Where do those come from when you’re youngest is nine?) I can live as Anna Jones who will be discovering she’s pregnant with Naomi in April.

I will be writing fiction -- finally! And with fiction the rule is, "Write what you know." Check.

I can relive those funny/exasperating/touching moments from my children’s childhood. Jeremiah (Bug) is four, Abigail (Lou) turns two in April, and Naomi (Beans) will be born in early December. As I write about the Jones children, my own kids might enjoy looking back on their younger years too.

Plus, I’ll have an outlet for all those “From the Trenches” columns I wrote when my kids were younger. In fact, I’ll pretty much be altering them to reflect Anna’s life. And I’ll make them better. Hipper. More fun. Real must-read stuff! Who knows, maybe the Chicken Soup publishers will run a few of my new-and-improved pieces in upcoming books.

One thing is for sure – I’ll be staying busy!

My Journey with Depression: Part I

Wednesday is a good day to write about depression. Fifteen years ago I never would have imagined that I’d have anything personal to write about depression. I had formed my views on it from television, movies, and novels, and I guess that’s why it took me over three years to even figure out what it was that I was suffering from.

In my early 20s I associated depression with crying, staying in bed all day, suicidal thoughts, grief and having a negative outlook. I’d been taught that anyone could overcome mental illnesses by pulling themselves up by the boot straps and by making up their mind to conquer it. All my life I’d been told that effort yields results.

Then I had children. And while having children didn’t cause my depression, the onset of the illness coincided so closely with childbearing that sometimes I wondered if being a mother made me miserable. I no longer felt like the woman my husband had married. She became buried in a sea of fatigue, irritability and frustration.

I went to doctors with my complaints and symptoms. They seemed to think that once my children were sleeping better, I would too. They suggested exercise. I upped what I’d already been doing. I kept a gratitude journal which was a wonderful experience, but still didn’t solve my depression. One doctor finally diagnosed an under-active thyroid. And while taking synthroid helped, something still wasn’t right.

I felt stressed out all the time. Little things became monumental. I read articles and books and tried everything they suggested as a means to reduce my stress. Relief came in an unexpected way.

I had gone in for a follow-up appointment with my family practice doctor regarding some dizziness I’d been experiencing. Towards the end of the exam, he asked, "So how do you think you’re doing?"

"Fine," I said.

"And how are you doing up here?" he asked and pointed to his head.

I thought a moment and began to tear up. "Probably not fine."

"Look," he said, "I know you haven’t been feeling great, and everything we’ve tested for comes out normal. I’d like to have you try some anti-depressants and see if they help at all." Noticing my hesitancy, he continued, "They have few side effects. Try them for a month and see if you notice a difference. If not, we’ll take you off them."

I left his office with a month’s worth of samples and began taking them that very day. When I told my husband that I was taking anti-depressants, he was a little puzzled. Like me, he didn’t think that my problems were related to depression. We were both wrong.

The doctor said that I would probably notice a difference in as soon as two weeks, and I did. I no longer felt overwhelmed. I was sleeping all through the night. I didn’t wake up with puffy feet, hardly able to hobble to the bathroom. And I felt happy.

I asked my husband if he’d noticed a difference. "Yeah," he said, "you’re just a lot nicer."

Only hindsight made it possible for me to see that I had been suffering from depression for almost four years. Once I was feeling better I wanted to know more about my illness. That was over six years ago, and my life has been a constant learning experience ever since.

Depression Journey #2 -- Medication Soapbox

In today’s log of my journey with depression, I’d like to say a little something from my soapbox about medication for depression. I have two words for those with on-going depression symptoms wondering whether or not to take prescription medication. Take it!

Most health professionals recommend staying on anti-depressants for at least one year. For 75% of treated patients, going off the medication after a year seems to keep depression at bay. But 25% of those who tried medication for a year and then went off it will need to take medication again. And statistics show that if you’re in that group of 25% like I am, you’ll probably need to stay on anti-depressants for the rest of your life.

I’m constantly surprised by the comments I hear from people with depression. One woman explained that she took medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes but that she just didn’t want to take another medication. Instead, she tried to manage her symptoms with exercise and St. John’s Wort. Her efforts weren’t always effective.

Another friend I have hit the year mark for taking his anti-depressants and then went off of them. He acknowledges that while he was on them he was more patient with his family, and now has trouble controlling his frustration and irritability. He’s looking to other health issues as the root cause of his symptoms and is not open to trying anti-depressants again.

And finally, another woman I know seems to feel that she can conquer depression on her own. A therapist said things about her family members that offended her, so she quit going. Didn’t look for a new therapist, just quit going. And she took herself off anti-depressants too. I’ve watched her withdraw from social interactions and activities that she used to enjoy.

It took me four years of suffering with depression before I tried medication. My hesitancy was partly due to not recognizing my symptoms as depression, and partly because of my upbringing. I was taught to only take medication when absolutely necessary. For instance, if we had a headache we were advised to lay down and rest, even nap. If the headache still persisted, then we’d take medicine. Also, my family was raised to be up and doing. I never had PMS before I was married -- I wasn’t allowed to. Bad moods and off days were something to get over. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps and move on. No wallowing, no how!

Once I began taking anti-depressants, I could see that I hadn’t been the only one suffering from depression. My family had suffered too. Because two of my main symptoms were irritability and frustration, my six-year-old son’s self-esteem was in the gutter. I remember him saying, "I’m stupid. I can’t do anything right. I wish I were dirt."

Because my depression left me wiped out, I’m afraid my interactions with him were often tense and nit-picky. Thank goodness I got help. I’m happy to report that grace applies to parenting. When we’re doing all we can do, the Lord makes up the rest. My son is now a happy and healthy 13-year-old. He occasionally has age-related angst, but usually has plenty of self-confidence and some to spare.

I stayed on my first round of anti-depressants for a year and a half. (My doctor felt that given our long, dark winters it would be best to go off the medication in the spring.) After four months unmedicated, it became obvious that depression had returned. I had enjoyed eliminating one prescription from my list and would have been delighted to keep it that way, but my particular brand of depression requires more than therapy, exercise and a good tug on the bootstraps.

I’ve found it helpful to compare depression with diabetes. For diabetics, lifestyle modifications can help regulate blood sugar, but even with lifestyle modifications some patients require medication and often insulin. We would never dream of advising a diabetic under the care of a physician to ditch their insulin. "Just gut it out and think yourself well," is advice that won’t miraculously make the pancreas function properly. Same goes for depression. While lifestyle modifications and counseling are helpful for depression, for some it comes down to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Because of this, taking anti-depressants should not be viewed any differently than taking insulin.

There will always be a few people who will believe that someone suffering from depression brought it upon themselves. But the fewer who believe that, the better!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Start Keeping a Compliment Container

Let's be honest. Everyone can use a pick-me-up now and then. One of the best ways I've found to get a mental boost when I'm feeling low is to re-read the cards in my compliment container.

What is a compliment container? Simply a place where you write down the nice things people say about you to read again when you need them most. I've chosen to keep mine in a button-covered old mint container, but almost any receptacle will do.

Remember, compliments are elusive. Be sure to jot yours down before they slip from your memory bank. The Notes app on most smart phones is a great place to quickly catch a compliment in print. In fact, if you're uber techie, you may want to just create a Notes category called "compliments" and keep them on your phone.

Me, I'm a tactile person. Making the custom-cut papers was part of the fun of keeping a compliment container for me!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Student Recommended BOOKS FOR GIRLS

2014 / 2015
Favorite Books of Mrs. Hansen’s students

GIRLS’ TOP 10 (in order of popularity)
  1. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
  2. Divergent (series), by Veronica Roth
  3. Fablehaven (series), by Brandon Mull
  4. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Greene
  5. The Heroes of Olympus series, by Rick Riordan
  6. Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
  7. House of the Scorpion/Lord of Opium, by Nancy Farmer
  8. Matched Trilogy, by Ally Condie
  9. Wonder, by R. J. Palacio
  10. Uglies (series), by Scott Westerfield

All Others (in alphabetical order)
39 Clues (series), by various authors
The 5thWave (series), by Rick Yancey
The Ascendance Trilogy (False Prince), by Jennifer A. Neilsen
Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
Beyonders (series), by Brandon Mull
Big Nate (series), by Lincoln Pierce
The Candy Shop War, by Brandon Mull
Charlie Bone(series), by Jenny Nimmo
Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett
Close to Famous, by Joan Bauer
Crazy, by Han Nolan
The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
Diary of a Wimpy Kid(series), by Jeff Kinney
The Dork Diaries(series), by Rachel Renee Russell
Double Fudge, by Judy Blume
Ever After High(series), by Shannon Hale
Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson
Fifteenth Summer, by Michelle Dalton
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Goddess Girls series, by Joan Holub
The Goose Girl(series), by Shannon Hale
± The Guardian, by  Nicholas Sparks
Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer
If I Stay(series), by Gayle Forman
The Infernal Devices series, by Cassandra Clare
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
Jabberwocky, by Daniel Coleman
Janitors (series), by Tyler Whitesides
The Wishing Spell(series), by Chris Colfer
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Edwards Andrews
Leven Thumps(series), by Obert Skye
Mare in the Meadow, by Ben M. Baglio
The Maze Runner(series), by James Dashner
Michael Vey(series), by Richard Paul Evans
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo
The Missing series (Found), by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Mortal Instruments(series), by Cassandra Clare
My Fair Godmother(series), by Janette Rallison
Reawakened (Once Upon a Time series), by Odette Beane
Out of My Mind, by Sharon M Draper
Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse
Pay it Forward(young readers edition), by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Peter and the Starcatchers (series), by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Poison Study(series), by Maria V. Snyder
The Princess Academy(series), by Shannon Hale
Rangers Apprentice series, by John Flanagan
The Remaining(series), by D. J. Molles
Savvy, by Ingrid Law
Seeing Cinderella, by Jenny Lundquist
The Selection (series), by Kiera Cass
Shadow of the Dragon series, by Tielle St. Clare
Silence (series), by Natasha Preston
Stay (series), by Emily Goodwin
Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites (series), by Chris
To Kill a Mockingbird,by Harper Lee
True … Sort of, by Katherine Hannigan
Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer
± Unbroken, by Laura Hilenbrand
Warriors series, by Erin Hunter
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
The Wide Awake Princess (series), by E. D. Baker
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein

Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick

Student Recommended BOOKS FOR BOYS

2014 / 2015
Favorite Books of Mrs. Hansen’s students

BOYS’ TOP 10  (in order of popularity)
  1. Michael Vey (series), by Richard Paul Evans
  2. Fablehaven (series), by Brandon Mull
  3. House of the Scorpion/Lord of Opium, by Nancy Farmer
  4. Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
  5. The Heroes of Olympus series, by Rick Riordan
  6. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
  7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series), by Jeff Kinney
  8. Divergent (series), by Veronica Roth
  9. The Maze Runner (series), by James Dashner
  10. Alex Rider series, by Anthony Horowitz

All Others (in alphabetical order)
39 Clues (series), by various authors
Adventurers Wanted series, by M. L. Forman
Artemis Fowl(series), by Eoin Colfer
The Ascendance Trilogy (False Prince), by Jennifer A. Neilsen
Beyonders(series), by Brandon Mull
Big Nate (series), by Lincoln Pierce
The Book of Mormon
Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Candy Shop War, by Brandon Mull
Charlie Bone(series), by Jenny Nimmo
Cirque Du Freak series, by Darren Shan
Conspiracy 365 series, by Gabrielle Lord
The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos
Ender’s Game(series), by Orson Scott Card
Eragon (series), by Christopher Paolini
Gregor the Overlander(series), by Suzanne Collins
Hatchett (series), by Gary Paulsen
The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Holes, by Louis Sachar
I Funny (series), by James Patterson
I Survived series, by Lauren Tarshis
I Am Number Four(series), by James Dashner
Janitors (series), by Tyler Whitesides
± Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
The Kane Chronicles series, by Rick Riordan
Legend (series), by Marie Lu
Leven Thumps(series), by Obert Skye
The Lord of the Rings(series), by J. R. R. Tolkien
Loser, by Jerry Spinelli
The Lost Hero(series), by Rick Riordan
Maximum Ride(series), by James Patterson
Middle School – Get Me Out of Here! by James Patterson
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, by Ranson Riggs
Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson
The Ephraim Chronicles , by Lee Nelson
Pendragon series, by D. J. MacHale
Rangers Apprentice series, by John Flanagan
Rascal, by Sterling North
Redwall (series), by Brian Jacques
The Secret Zoo(series), by Bryan Chick
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, by Michael Scott
Septimus Heap series, by Angie Sage
Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snickett
The Spiderwick Chronicles series, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
The Spook’s Apprentice(series), by Joseph Delaney
Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson
The Storm Testament(series), by Lee Nelson
Summer Ball (and others), by Mike Lucia
Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites (series), by Chris
Theodor Boone series, by John Grisham
The Three Investigators series, by Willlam Arden
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stephenson
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne
± Unbroken, by Laura Hilenbrand
Ungifted, by Gordon Korman
Unwanteds(series), by Lisa McMann
Vietnam series by Chris Lynch
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio
Wool (series), by Hugh Howey
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt

± Represents a book written for adults

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I am a Polar Bear

I am a Polar Bear. This epiphany came to me shortly after a Relief Society workshop I attended in Layton, Utah almost 20 years ago. A woman who was a registered dietitian and worked with professional sports players was talking to our stake about nutrition and body image.
She began her presentation in a novel way. On the projector she displayed beautiful photos of animals – they were National Geographic quality pictures. She encouraged us to think about them as creations of our Heavenly Father and to note the variety and individuality of each different species. As a lover of the outdoors and a watcher of PBS nature specials, she had me hooked.
Perhaps you’ve already guessed where she was going with her presentation. I, however, was simply caught up in the beauty of all those amazing animals. She concluded her slide show with a giraffe and asked the women in attendance to switch gears. She said something along the lines of, “This is a giraffe. We’ve been enjoying looking at various animals created by our Heavenly Father. We would never expect any one of those creatures to try to look like a giraffe, but that’s exactly what we do as people. Instead of enjoying the variety and individuality of the human race, we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that somehow we should all look alike. That somehow, as women, we can all fit the physique of the giraffe.”
In that moment I saw the absurdness of the ruse I’d fallen under. There was no way I was ever going to be a giraffe! After only a moment of thought, I knew exactly what animal was a fit for me metaphorically – the polar bear.
First of all, I’m pale. Really pale. Back when I was engaged to be married I was adjusting my pant leg and my soon-to-be sister-in-law noticed how white my leg was. “Is that your leg?” she asked. “Or are you wearing white nylons?” A little embarrassed, I assured her that it was definitely my leg. The polar bears and I have paleness in common.
Next on my list of similarities to the polar bear is my size. Of course I’m not really the size of an adult polar bear (300 to 500 lbs. for a female), but polar bears are the largest species of bear. And I am a rather large person.
I also learned that polar bears have very large paws. Which fits my M.O. as well. They use theirs for swimming. I use mine for anything but swimming. (Alas, designers have not come up with a swimming suit that is flattering for this polar bear.)
Finally, I definitely have an over-developed mother bear instinct. You do not want to see me react if I feel that one of my bears (children, students, friends, family members) is being threatened. It is ferocious!
So there you have it. I am a polar bear, metaphorically speaking. And to tell you the truth, I’m just fine with being a polar bear.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Accident Girl and Safety Man do the Ice Bucket Challenge

Jeanine David issued the challenge, and I responded. . . as Accident Girl, my alter-ego. Fortunately, my husband's boss had also challenged him so that we were able to do it together. I do think that wearing his helmet as Safety Man protected him from a lot of the water. I was not so lucky, and boy was it cold!

The ice bucket challenge was a great excuse to blacken my eye and create a cut on my forehead. Sorry to say, but we are fully stocked on crutches, ace bandages, wrist braces and steri-strips.

It's no mystery why Eric is called Safety Man. It's his job at the USU Research Foundation and his personality as well. He wears his seat belt, drives the speed limit, and always wears his bike helmet.

What you may not know is why I'm called Accident Girl. It probably started in 9th grade when I tore my ACL in a skiing wreck. It doesn't help that I've also rolled our 4-wheeler over myself at the sand dunes a few years ago. I've tripped on a lifted sidewalk and managed to complete a perfect barrel roll on newly installed mulch. And last November I crashed my bike while on a ride with my dog. Let's not even talk about fender benders in reverse!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Patience and Perspective on I-15

Today on my drive to a 3-day conference, I had just passed Willard when traffic came to a halt. Both lanes of vehicles that were just going 75-mile-per-hour stopped.

I looked at the clock, and looked ahead. I couldn't see anything. I hoped that we'd get moving soon, or I'd be late for my conference. I put the car in park, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel impatiently.

Five minutes passed. No one moved an inch.

Ten minutes passed. I've turned my car off now. No change.

And then a Life Flight helicopter landed. And my impatience vanished.

Oh, I thought, someone is really hurt. I sure hope they'll be okay.

And as I continued to sit at a standstill in traffic, I began thinking about these cocoons of steel that we hurtle down the road in at mind-boggling speeds. At any moment any of us are just moments away from disaster. Obviously someone ahead had experienced just such a moment.

It sobered me.

Was it going to be so bad to be a little late for my conference? No.

Would being impatient effect any change? No.

Would sending up silent prayers hurt? No. And, if nothing else, it would help me realize my own blessings and remain calm.

After 25 minutes, traffic began to move. As I inched by the accident scene, there was Life Flight, an ambulance, an extra-large incident vehicle, and numerous police cars. And off to the far right, through the barrow pit and through the chain-link fence and into a parked tanker truck was a mooshed red sports car. No one was near the decimated car. Instead, they were gathered some 20 feet away attending to someone unseen lying in the grass.

As I passed I said one more prayer for the driver and resolved to slow down and be more aware.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Finding (and enjoying) Your Niche in Life

Long ago in high school and college biology, I learned about niches -- where a species fits in the ecological scheme of things. Here I am, some 20 years later, making metaphorical connections and figuring out where my niche is in life.

I have been able to rule out a few niches that aren't a fit for me. They include:
  • syndicated parenting columnist
  • skinny person
  • reading aide
  • downhill skiing enthusiast
  • runner
  • golfer
  • Mary Kay beauty consultant
  • tan-skinned person
  • hot dot eater
  • celebrity blogger
Whenever I find myself trying to occupy a niche that isn't really a fit, I end up feeling frustrated, uncomfortable, overwhelmed,  and generally miserable. I've also noticed that in every circumstance there is always someone else filling that niche with skills far exceeding my own.

Is it a mistake to try on a new niche? No. A little trial and error is a great tool for self-discovery. But what I've noticed is that much of my niche failures are often prompted by discontent -- either being dissatisfied with myself or my current place in life. I'm learning that seeking a new niche due to insecurity is almost always a recipe for an unhappy ending.

What's the solution? Finding and reveling in a niche that is uniquely suited to you. Here are a few niches that are a fit for me:
  • 7th grade reading and language arts teacher
  • walker and talker
  • gluten-free eater
  • wife to Eric
  • mother to Jared, Amanda and Natalie
  • interval cycler
  • journal keeper
  • occasional blogger
I know that a niche is a fit when it meets at least one of these criteria: only I can do it, it's highly enjoyable, it brings positive results, and makes me happy.

Good luck finding the niches that fit in your own life!