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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rising Star and Meeting Becky Douglas


Traveling to Utah last week was very special, even transforming.  Although I served a full-time mission in Salt Lake City, I don’t know Salt Lake and Utah very well.  

You see, Temple Square is just 10 acres of land and I was a tour guide.  

Ask me anything about that 10 acres, and we’ll have a nice conversation, but the land of Utah is still quite foreign to me.

On Tuesday, June 21, I drove up Provo Canyon to Heber.  While traveling among the mountains and streams, roaring rivers and waterfalls, I peered at the snow-capped mountain tops and thought “What is this place?”  

Pure perfection, crisp mountain air, lakes, big sky, puffy clouds, meadows of flowers, quaking aspen, I mean, it was out of a picture book. 
Why didn’t I live here?
 
I arrived at the Rising Star Presidential Brunch and immediately met with Amy Humphrey, the director of Rising Star.  We’ve only known each other for a few months, but we’d spent so much time on the phone together, we hugged and visited like life-long friends.  She introduced me to various wonderful people and I was able to meet the volunteers that really make Rising Star so successful.  
Authors Richard and Linda Eyre

Brunch was amazing and after I filled my plate with fresh peaches, spinach salad and strawberries, I sat down and listened to Gentri sing their new song about India, reaching out to others and making a difference in the world.  

They are traveling to India next week to produce a video for Rising Star.  Here is a sample of their beautiful music.


Becky Douglas spoke and the stories she told of such extreme poverty in India really drew a picture in my mind of what these people suffered, but these weren’t just sad stories because Becky does something about it.  It seems every time she faces a hopeless situation, she counters it with something beautiful.  She doesn’t let poverty or leprosy get the last word because she get’s to work and confronts it head on. I’m not sure how she does it, only she’s on God’s errand to help, heal and inspire the people of India.   

I was able to give Becky a painting that represented to me her story as a humanitarian, her love for her daughter Amber and her love for the people of India. I may or may not have been crying my eyes out, but the love that radiates from Becky is undeniable.  In the scriptures it says:

Matthew 25:37–40: “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Becky says she’s not a hero, but she’s certainly one of mine.

I was able to share the poem behind my project My 100 Daughters and had printed off a coloring book with up-to-date pictures I’ve drawn of the girls of India

So far, I’ve drawn over 40 girls and will have all 100 girls drawn by September 2017.  The book and coloring book will be released on October 11, 2017, to celebrate and bring attention to the international Day of the Girl.

To read more about My 100 Daughters, you can click here.  I am also working with a very talented videographer and making a short documentary about the project. 


The next day, I was able to meet with the incredible ladies of Big Ocean and share the story of Becky Douglas, Rising Star and how my experience with intermittent fasting and prayer led me to want to help the poor and hungry.  

Big Ocean did video our evening together, so I will post that as soon as it’s available.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

God Doesn't Forget Anyone - Project:USED

When we were in California, I brought some used dresses that I’d found weeks earlier at the thrift store. I wanted to have a project:USED fashion shot at the beach. 



These dresses range in price from $1.00 to $5.00.  New, some of these would be over $100.


Why a used dress?


Used is an interesting word.  It can mean worn-out, discarded and thrown away. It can mean old, no longer of value or trash. That’s how I felt at the age of 18 after I was sexually abused by my boss.  I lost much of my self-worth and didn’t see value in myself anymore.  Many of the choices I made in my life were influenced by my low self esteem.  I didn’t realize what had happened to me other then I was broken and there was no way out.

But, God doesn’t forget anyone.  He certainly didn’t forget me.

Little by little, drip by drip love came into my life. It took years, but slowly, the blinders came off my eyes and I started to see how sexual abuse had stripped me of so much of my identity.

So what does a vintage dress have to do with sexual abuse?

When I was 14, my mom took me to the Child Crisis Thrift Store in Mesa.  This was my first time at a thrift store and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  Mainly, I would purchase dolls, Barbie’s and toys for my little brothers and sisters.  While in college, I started thrifting for clothes, mainly anything vintage.  I would wear bell-bottoms, turtle necks and A-line skirts. The first time Derek saw me at the ASU ward church service, I was wearing a 1960’s used pencil dress I’d found at Salvation Army.  I felt like a million bucks in that dress and that was the day he asked for my phone number.  With a borrowed pen, I wrote my phone number on the palm of his hand. He says it was love at first sight. I say it was the dress.

When I started selling clothing I found at thrift stores on eBay, I found used dresses sold the best.  I might find an Ann Taylor or Eileen Fisher dress for $1.00 and later it would sell for $50.  
Here are a few dresses I sold.




Aren't they all gorgeous, unique and wanted.



On dollar day at Goodwill, I would first search through the dress section because a used dress sold even better than a used pair of designer jeans.  




I discovered designer dresses I’d never heard of before and because of the beautiful fabric, the feel of quality, the impeccable design, I would know immediately it was valuable.

Then, my friend Jenn showed me how much a vintage dress costs on ETSY - hundreds of dollars and I could see why.  A vintage dress isn’t just a dress; it’s a piece of time, made before companies cut corners, made when fashion was born.  These dresses are etched in movie history and worn by celebrity goddesses.  A vintage dress was a statement!

Used, beautiful, priceless – not just a dress, but that was me too!!

At times, my healing from sexual abuse felt like I was riding a roller coaster.  I would speed into such awareness of how much I’m loved, that I am a daughter of God and because of that, I’m priceless.  This is what happened the day I thought of project:USED. (You can read about that here). 

If you want to support project:USED, get to your thrift store, raid your mom’s closet or look on-line and find yourself a gorgeous used dress.  USED doesn’t need to be less-then, old and garbage, it can mean beautiful, restored and priceless. #projectused 

Eden and I have been wearing used dresses for a while now.  It started with Dressember. Dressember asks women during the month of December to wear a dress everyday (it doesn't have to be a vintage or used dress, that's just my take on it) to raise awareness, to celebrate the female spirit and to raise awareness and funds for those who are being sold into sex-trafficking.





All these dresses are used.  Dresses have really helped me reclaim myself, my femininity and to love my body again.


I remember on time I was in New York at a Writer's Conference and I wanted to bring Eden back something beautiful.  I stopped at a boutique and found a used dress priced $90.  "Forget it," I thought and found a Goodwill. I bought her a used dress for $5.00, even cuter then the dress I'd found at the boutique.  Sometimes, I even find French little girl dresses.  A beautiful dress does not need to be expensive.


$2.99 dresses from Goodwill.




I celebrate these dresses because of what they represent to me.

If you’ve been hurt or abused, if you’ve wondered if you’re valuable, please know you are. You are a one of a kind, made by the greatest designer of all, created to shine, to be beautiful and because of you, the world is a better place.  Let’s raise awareness.  Sexual abuse is a plague and we protect those around us, especially the younger generation.  Did you know 1 out of 3 girls will be sexually abused in her lifetime?  

Click here to watch it full-screen on youtube.  Please share this video.
My memoir Starving Girl shares my story of overcoming sexual abuse, food addiction and emotional eating.
Click here to watch it on full-screen.
Follow project:USED on facebook by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Teaching Creative Writing, Helping the Girls of India and Working With Incredible Non-Profits

Summer is underway and we are busy.  Our trip to California was so relaxing.  

I love writing and all my artistic outlets, but I’m learning it’s important to take a break and just sit and relax.  My mom has actually lectured me on “slowing down” and says the word “recreation” allows mind, body and spirit to "re-create."  As a creative person, this got my attention and I’m now willing to take small breaks from my creative ideas.  The result?  I’m relaxed, highly-motivated, re-focused and ready to start back up again.

I was featured in The Beehive, a local Arizona newspaper.  The article is on my fasting experience and how it helped me to let go of negativity, live more in the present and lose weight. I pray it will help others who know that if they feel trapped or overwhelmed, God can and will put them on their own path to healing, feeling empowered and living their dreams.

I’m headed up to Utah next week for a Rising Star benefit.  I look forward to meeting with founder Becky Douglas and being inspired by all the good she does for the people of India.  I’m working with Rising Star on a special project – My 100 Daughters.  

I’m drawing 100 girls from India in hopes to help sponsor 100 girls and also to get me and my family onto the path of adopting a little girl.  The illustrations from  My 100 Daughters will be published in a coloring book and a children’s book.

While in Utah, I’ll be meeting with Ann Webb of Global Life Vision. She travels to India and Africa, taking mentors and helping those in need.  There mission is to empower those in developing countries by helping them to recognize their vibrant worth and magnify their influence, to explore and clearly identify goals, instill a healthy mindset, learn valuable life skills and live the pulse and passion of the dreams within their heart.  There goal is to create and ignite a change from within each person inviting them to live an abundant life with clarity, vision and confidence and to support and nourish them as they experience success as creators of their own life transcending above and breaking the cycle of poverty, abuse, or limits.  I can’t wait to learn about what I can do to help children in India.

Next, I’ll be meeting with Big Ocean – an organization based on faith, family and motherhood.  Big Ocean Women was founded by Carolina Allen of Provo, Utah. She sees the powerful role that women can have as we influence our families, communities, and the world. As she attended a meeting at the United Nations, she saw a small group of liberal feminists making international decisions to move away from faith and family, and speaking as if for all women. As the majority of women on planet Earth are women of faith, Carolina wanted to create a massive grassroots movement of women who believe in faith, family, and motherhood. Big Ocean believes that every woman is a wave in the ocean of humanity, and together we have astounding impact for good in the world. She shares the term “maternal feminism”, that all women are born with inherent powerful and unique characteristics which greatly contribute to our families and communities, both locally and internationally. Big Ocean seeks to represent these maternal strengths and contributions at all levels of politics, economy, and society.

Big Ocean has asked I share what I’ve learned about girls of India, what Rising Star Outreach and Global Life Vision are doing and how we can make a difference now.  Those of you in the Utah area, all are welcome.  You do not need to be a member of any of these organizations to attend.  I look forward to seeing you there.



Those of you who know me, know I have a horrible fear of flying.  Agh!  But, I’m really doing this.  I’m taking my two littles, Eden and Canyon as parting from them would leave me practically paralyzed.  I’m hoping to overcome this fear and learn to trust in God more.  I’m staying with a friend in American Fork and will be visiting Heber, Layton, Salt Lake City and Provo

Also, I’ve been asked if I’ll be teaching creative writing this summer.  Yes, I’ve set the dates for LEARN TO BE A CREATIVE WRITER. I’ll be teaching at New Horizon June 27, 28, 29 (Tues-Thurs)from 1:00 to 3:00.  This is open to all 3rd grade and up school-aged children and teens.  I’ll be focusing on visualization, poetry, graphic art, short story, journal writing and more.  We will also be learning about today’s best-selling children’s and YA authors.  What does it take to be an author?  Let your children be empowered in their own world of stories, dreams and ideas. Please bring your own notebook, journal or composition book and pen and pencil.  Your child will also receive a free coloring book from My 100 Daughters. Class is free, but seating is limited to 20 seats. If interested, please email me at mydeartrash@gmail.com with your child’s name, age, area of interest and their favorite book, author and illustrator.   

When I started fasting in January 2016, I was told six distinct things would happen.  One of them was I would be adopting a little girl from India.  I'm witnessing in incredible ways how God has put me on that path.  Another, is I would be teaching children how to write. Teaching has opened my heart to our children's incredible imaginations, that they have something to say and most importantly,  we as adults needs to listen.


About the teacher: Laura Lofgreen is a blogger, writer and illustrator.  Her blog My Dear Trash has had over a million hits.  She has published four books including The Memory Catcher, Starving Girl, and What Has Your Sister Done?  The Stolen Bible is her first book in the exciting new young adult series S.H.I.N.E. - retelling historical events in a way it could have happened if those forgotten by time could have shared their story. She has been featured on ABC 15 News, Mesa Tribune, Arizona Republic and The Beehive.  Seeing the Everyday Magazine has published her stories. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in Communication.  While at ASU, she served in the student government. As a full-time missionary on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, she was the mission historian and newsletter editor. Her six beautiful children patiently support her goals to tell stories about others overcoming great obstacles, discovering their worth and living out their dreams.  In her spare time, she loves making chocolate chip cookies and taking long walks, but not at the same time, of course. She’s been married to her husband Derek, a marriage and family counselor, for 18 years.

Friday, May 26, 2017

How Has Intermittent Fasting Helped Me Manage Time and Creative Inspiration – Releasing My First YA Novel – The Stolen Bible

Before I started fasting, I was constantly living in a place of two nagging forces – either procrastination or rush.  There was never enough time and I would feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. Some moments felt like stones tied around me neck dragging me down into murky water.  I had so much to do, not just household tasks, but personal, family and world goals too.  I wanted to serve in the community, volunteer at my kid’s school, keep up with church callings and read all those assigned books on my kid’s grade-level reading chart!  Time wouldn’t let me have any of it.  In the mean time, I felt like everything could be started tomorrow.  Exercises, clean rooms, vacuuming out the car, eating healthy, etc. There was this constant pressure, but no true deadline.  I spent so much of my energy trying to juggle all these things and more, only to feel like a total failure at the end of the day.

I just knew I could do better, I needed to do better or I would lose my mind underneath my own unfulfilled expectations. Something had to change. That change was fasting.  By the second day of my 16-hour fast, I knew something amazing was happening.  So how did fasting effect time?  Well, first of all, it cleared up all that unnecessary guilt, specifically that harassing inner voice reminding me how unorganized I was, how out of control my children were, how I could never change and how irresponsible it was I’d forgotten to add lunch money to my daughter’s school account. Through fasting, patience was a virtue I could grant to myself.

Yes, from the start, fasting stopped my internal negative voice and replaced it with sometimes silence, but most often clarity, awareness and self-love.  I could prioritize my daily tasks, and wouldn’t get muddled in afternoon fog of forgetfulness that in the past had resulted in mouthfuls of chocolate chips and too much time on social media.  I believed in myself like never before and found when I had impressions, especially creative ideas, I would follow them.

After I wrote my memoir Starving Girl, I prioritized my other writing projects.  I’d been writing young adult fiction for almost 10 years and had 3 completed novels and 4 works-in-progress.  I prayed about which one to work on and got busy.  My book I'd been working on for five years, The Stolen Bible best fit my current mental and emotional state.  Why? Because the story demonstrated how with God, all things are possible. 


     Christians were denied access to the Bible for a thousand years, but in 1522 German professor and priest Martin Luther changed all that. Risking his life, Luther bravely translated the Bible from Latin to German and for the first time, made the Bible became available to the average person.  But, what if the story of the reformation had a twist and without a young woman named Luci, Martin would have never found the Bible?  Fighting corrupt politics, covetous religious leaders and power-hungry royalty, Luther can’t do it alone. He needs Luci, whether she wants to help him or not.

Christians agree Martin Luther changed the course of western history for the better by starting the Protestant Reformation.  A Biblical scholar, he questioned the practices of a church teaching hell, fire and brimstone, controlled by the government and practicing indulgences (the paying of a monetary price to have your sins forgiven). Through Luther’s Biblical faith and determination, he found a path not only to God’s love, but to a revolution. 

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.
Martin Luther 1483-1546

So, how did it happened that I’ve spent the last five years of my life writing about this time and researching this spiritual giant?  As an author, I hoped someday I could write a meaningful, even important book.  One day, I felt in my heart, “The most important book in the world has already been written.” I knew right then and there that I needed to be reading more from the Bible.  I could learn much about the writing craft from New York Times Best-Selling authors, but was I reading from the men and women, many who risked their lives to share their faith and write down their words?  Somehow, my desires to learn more about the Bible lead me to 16th century Germany.  

I asked the question: What if the Bible ceased to exist?

In 16th century Germany tyranny reins, reading is outlawed and the church has control over an oppressed people.  16 year-old Luci Pohlman has spent her life in hiding with a paranoid mother who teaches from a book of strange markings filled with words of prophets from long ago.  When her mother is imprisoned for witchcraft, Luci is kidnapped and dragged into the black forest.  Her mother knew too much and now, so does Luci.
 As the German Army, a band of gypsies and a man named Martin Luther seek Luci, she must figure out how the words of the book she was never meant to possess can set her and her country free.

“In my home, there is nothing to spare.  We waste nothing; not time, not meaning, not remorse, but there is one thing we have too much of . . . truth.”
                                                                                    -Luci Pohlman 

I feel there is an untapped market for the Christian audience.  I know I want to read exciting, fast-paced, character driven stories that not only entertain, but teach and inspire. I have started a series called S.H.I.N.E.  

S.H.I.N.E.
Some History Is Never Expected 
is the exciting new series by author Laura Lofgreen – retelling historical events in a way it could have happened if those forgotten by time could have shared their story.

Will you shine?

The first in the S.H.I.N.E. series, is The Stolen Bible.  I love writing about history and historical figures and telling their stories in a new light, from a new angle.  I have two more books almost finished and I’m hoping to release the second book in November.  Currently titled The Swing, it is the story of why there was no room at the inn the night Christ was born. Visit www.vintagebirdpress for more information on upcoming titles.  The Stolen Bible is now available on Amazon.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Next Project - My 100 Daughters from India and Rising Star Outreach

    For years, our family has longed to adopt a little girl from India.  This is where the story of A 100 Daughters starts.
My students at New Horizon. 
In 2013 when my daughter Eden was three years old, she started a bedtime routine that became quite extravagant. I would tuck her into bed and say, “I always wanted a little girl just like you,” and she would hold my face in her tiny delicate hands and start kissing me.  First on my cheeks, then I’d close my eyes and she’d kiss my eye lids – first one, then the other.  Then, she’d kiss my ears, forehead, top of my head, my mouth, chin, neck and hands until she felt her love had been adequately expressed.  So insistent was her affection, she couldn’t fall asleep until she placed her kisses upon me.  One particular night, I was rushed putting her to bed.  I wondered if all her kissing was simply a bedtime delay tactic, but something inside me said her demonstration was an ancient ritual, and I was to take the time to let her show her love.  The way Eden loved me was not of this world. 
A few nights later, while I was putting her to bed and she had finished all her kissing, I was staring into her bright blue eyes. Eden asked if she would ever have a sister. With a family full of brothers, I knew the odds were not in her favor.
“I want 100 sisters,” she said, delightfully. 
“100 sisters,” I laughed, and took her in my arms as we giggled.  “That would mean I’d have 100 daughters,” and my heart burst with love. 
The very thought of 100 daughters felt like magic.  100 daughters would make our lives just about perfect.  While considering such an idea, I asked Eden what it would be like if we had 100 sisters.  Our discussion magically turned into a poem of sorts, alive with color and joy.  Because of my love for the girls of India, each of the 100 daughters I saw in my mind had the beautiful features of a girl from India – the black hair, dark eyes and brown skin.  After Eden fell asleep, I ran to the computer and started writing. I titled the story My 100 Daughters. This story is shared in my memoir Starving Girl.
100 daughters?  How would we do it? Could Eden and I help 100 girls from India? And what about adopting a little girl? After watching a documentary about India called It’s a Girl (click here to read a blog post I wrote years ago about my reaction to the film), I was passionate to do my part to help change the conditions in which the girls lived in. In some parts of India, it was customary that when girls married, their parents would pay a hefty dowry. This dowry could sometimes be up to half of the family’s entire worldly possessions.  Many families could not afford the cost to raise a girl, only to then pay and marry her off.  A daughter might earn no money, have little to no education and might never have the right to own property.  She might become a slave in an arranged marriage and treated like property by her new husband and mother-in-law.  Many baby girls were abandoned or sold into slavery.  What could we do to help?
In January 2016, I started practicing intermittent fasting and after the first 30 days, felt impressed to donate money to those who are hungry.  I conducted some research on nonprofit organizations in India and our family decided to donate $1,000 to Rising Star Outreach.  In April, 2004 this incredible organization started a school that helps children whose parents suffer with leprosy.  With $1000, we could sponsor two girls and the rest of the money would help Rising Star volunteers travel to the leprosy colonies, making sure the children had food, supplies and school lessons.  After a year, our sponsorship would expire, so with prayer and some careful budgeting, our family decided to donate again this year, this time sponsoring three girls.  In my heart, I knew it was a slow path to 100 daughters, but we were one step closer.
I sent the director of Rising Star Outreach the poem My 100 Daughters and after visiting on the phone, told her my goal to publish the story in a children’s book.  I also wanted to draw each daughter, all 100 of them, but there was one problem.  I’m not an artist.  I’ve always been creative, but where would I begin drawing each of these 100 beautiful girls from India?  It didn’t matter. These were my daughters and Eden’s sisters.  We would find a way.  I purchased an art book, coloring pencils and started drawing. (Ironically, the director of Rising Star was amazing I'd been fasting, as fasting is a very prominent practice in India and the children at the school had witnessed many amazing miracles because of fasting. Could this be another reason fasting had become such a central part of my life?)
Rising Star emailed me hundreds of amazing photos of the girls from India.  With those photos and some research, I was able to start.  One day, I colored in one of the illustrations with colored pencils, and Eden proclaimed with tears in her eyes, “I wanted to color it.”  The idea to have an accompanying coloring book was born.  
Everyday, she runs in the door from school, excited to see my latest progress and all her friends are eagerly waiting for their pictures to color.  In the meantime, I have been able to share this project with the students at New Horizon where I work as the creative writing teacher.  


These bright, caring kids are now very interested in helping the girls from India too.  This is a big project, but our goal is to be finished with 100 daughters of India by October 2017.  It will be released on October 11, International Day of the Girl.  The children's book will be called My 100 Daughters and the coloring book will be titled My 100 Sisters. So far, I have about 30 girls drawn.  Here are  a few samples.

I don't know how and I don't know when, but I feel I'm literally drawing my daughter of India to me. 

I know my little girl loves to color and I'd imagine the little girls from India would love to color too.

          Rising Star Outreach has asked me to come to Utah on June 20, 2017 to attend their presidential brunch, where I will be able to meet many of their donors and supporters.  I will also be able to meet the founder of Rising Star, Becky Douglas. Eden and I are thrilled to be attending.  What is my goal?  Well, of course to someday very soon adopt a little girl from India.  I feel she will be Eden's age, probably seven or eight.  I also hope to encourage others to donate to Rising Star and sponsor a girl.  The cost is $1.00 a day, $365 for the year.  If you understood the conditions these little girls live in, you would be compelled to help. Did you know in many parts of India, ultrasounds are not offered because so many little girls are aborted.  They are just not wanted.  Many baby girls are abandoned or suffer death through infanticide, which is the practice of killing a baby after it's born. Rising Star is there as a beacon of hope.  Through this campaign and with the help of others, I hope at least 100 girls will be sponsored.  You can contact them here and mention you wish to support the 100 Daughters Campaign.

          I will be in Utah from June 20 to June 23.  I would love to reach out to others to have a book discussion in your home, school, library  or church on my books Starving Girl – My 30-Day Experience with Intermittent Fasting andPrayer, What Has Your Sister Done –Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy or to discuss my project of the 100 Daughters.  If you are interested, please email me at mydeartrash@gmail.com.  Thank you for your support on this next endeavor.  When the coloring book is complete, I will be selling them to raise funds to send to India and adopt my little girl. I will also be donating the coloring books to the children at Rising Star Outreach.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Brother Sam Gets Married

It’s not every day I’m asked to climb a top a mountain, hide behind a tree and film a surprise engagement, but that’s exactly what my younger brother Sam asked me to do.  A 12-year gap hadn’t changed the fact we’d been best friends since he was born and considering I’d do just about anything for him, I quickly figure out how I can make this happen.  Since having my sixth kid I’m a bit out of shape, but how hard can hiking a mountain be? 

“It’s not a mountain, it’s a hill,” my husband says as I tell him the plans.  Brown Mountain is less then half a mile to the top and ascends only 300 ft..
“Fine, a hill,” I respond before placing a kiss on his lips. 
 Whether it’s a mountain or a hill, I put on my running shoes and workout clothes.  Last minute, my oldest son Chandler asks if he can come to help out.  Looks like Sam will have a film crew of two hiding on top of the mountain for this momentous occasion.
We’re supposed to leave at 5:00pm, but Sam’s waiting to pick up the ring, which had been sized over the weekend.  Like a specialized doctor, I finally get the call.
“Can you come down to Mom and Dad’s to see the ring first?” he asks and the excitement in his voice barrels me over.

I’ve lived on the same street as my parents for seventeen years, so I race out the front door and within two minutes, I’m standing in my mom’s kitchen staring at the beautiful diamond in Sam’s hand. 
“It’s gorgeous. Sasha will love it” I say a bit in awe at what my brother is about to do.  He has met the most wonderful girl and she will soon be his wife. 
“Thanks,” he says nervously.  “The sun’s about to set and the timing is perfect,” and I know he’s implying more then just the setting sun. It was only a few months ago he was contemplating returning out-of-state for college.  Should he stay in Arizona and build up his business of teaching tennis or finish up his teaching degree in Idaho?  Our parents had been living in London, so when he needed someone to talk to, he came to me.  Truth was, we went to each other most of the time when making big-life decisions and sometimes when just wondering what to have for lunch.  That’s just how our relationship was.
    I’d never seen Sam more nervous.  He’s already changed his shirt twice.  Before Sasha his hair had been a jet-black Afro of frizz, but thanks to her influence and styling advice, his newly- manageable hair had the curls and waves of a movie star. Just as I’m about to leave, I spot two metal basket in Sam’s car. Each holds about 100 tennis balls. As a tennis coach, these are his teaching tools and they’ve followed him around for years. That’s when I have an idea and place the metal baskets of tennis balls in my car.
I’d seen Brown Mountain while driving out to my older sister’s house.  It’s about as sparse as most desert mountain tops – nothing but a gnarly bush or spiked cactus in sight.  I imagine Chandler and I wearing detective coats, a baseball cap and shades –  hiding behind the slender branches of the creosote bush.  It just wouldn’t do, but for Sam we would find a way.  There must be some where to hide on top of an Arizona mountain.
Chandler and I arrive at the bottom of Brown Mountain and park our car.  I open my door to a gust of wind and the cool March air washes over me.  I’m so glad Chandler has joined me.  He’s seventeen and I want him to witness such a momentous moment for a man.  I share my feelings with him about marriage, Sam and dating, but time is of the essence.  We needed to get to the top of that mountain.  Now, I was the one who was nervous.   
Chandler offered to carry both metal baskets, each containing about 50 tennis balls. I insisted I could carry one, of course, no big deal, but within minutes I’m winded.  
Several people passed me by.  Their puzzled looks suggested we might be up to trouble.  What type of person they must think me and my son to be – devious vandals who want to terrorize the community by throwing 100 tennis balls off the mountain.  One woman is so perplexed; I simply tell her what I’m doing. 
“My brother is a tennis pro and he’s proposing to his girlfriend tonight.  We’re spelling out her name with tennis balls.”
Instantly gone is the face of disdain and replaced is one of elation and excitement.  “Oh, that’s just wonderful.” 
See, I want to say, we’re not a menace to society after all, but I’m just amused at how silly we must look. 

Chandler’s steady pace is no match for my constant stops to catch my breath, but I take the time to take in all that’s happened over the last few months.  I can’t believe Sam is getting married.  I always knew he wanted to get married.  He’d turned thirty the year before and during his twenties, dated a few girls here and there, but with a heart as open and caring as his, dating hadn’t been easy. He struggled with self-doubt and it took someone like Sasha to point out the obvious – that he was a catch!
     
    

          Chandler and I found a small ledge off the mountain where we hid.  I didn’t want to be the girl on the evening news- being reported she fell 300 feet to her death while filming her brother’s engagement proposal. Chandler and I secured ourselves and thank heavens there was a small shrub and way-wind grass to hide behind, and we waited.  From where we were hiding, we could see when Sam and Sasha parked their car near the bottom of the mountain.  The hike to the top would take about 10 minutes.  Finally, they arrived.  There they were, this amazing couple. Sasha had spent the last several years of her life caring for her tender husband who suffered with bone cancer.  He died last year and Sasha was a widow and a single mom with three young children.  I couldn't imagine the heartache she'd lived through. Now, here she was.  Her and Sam had found each other. 
      I started filming and Chandler took pictures.  SASHA – her name was spelled out with the tennis balls and we’d placed a bouquet of a dozen roses in the metal basket.  We were too far away to hear anything, but recorded as Sam got on one knee, watched as Sasha said "Yes," Sam placed the ring on her finger and they kissed.  At this point, you can hear me on the recording crying.  After a few minutes, Chandler and I climbed out of our strange little hiding spot and surprised Sasha.
          Sam and Sasha were married in Hawaii.  

A week later, had a ring ceremony and reception at my house. 
I can’t quite put into words the joy, gratitude, shock and love I have felt during this experience.  Sam is that little boy I helped raise and now, he is the best husband and father in this blessed beautiful family. 
Sam with his daughter Cecily.
I love you Sam and Sasha.