Author Archives: maisymak

A Short History of a Long Love Story

Today marks a momentous day: the 45th anniversary of my parent’s marriage. The texts, chocolate, and flowers sent don’t do justice to the gift my parents have given our family.

My mother was age 19 when she married. By age 20 she had twins (surprise!). By age 21 she had a third. She was tired.

What did I know of hardship? Life was fun!

I always thought my mother described her decision to marry as rather unromantic. It wasn’t so much of being “madly in love,” but rather, “I felt it was the right thing to do.”

Frowning, I vowed too have both 🙂

She was a nursing major, but had to drop out of the program she was so sick. She lost weight during her pregnancies and had to move back home for awhile so her mother could take care of the twins (me and my brother) while she tried to hold down food and complete homework. And yet, by sheer grit (and family babysitting) she did get that 4-year-degree in Family Science! (which proved to be one of the best decisions she ever made. We were great parenting guinea pigs.)

Me and my two chums (Peter and Andrea; we were more like triplets) lived in a little blue trailer at the base of Mount Timpanogus in Provo, Utah, while both parents finished school, worked, and raised three messy babies who liked to run away (mostly Peter!)

The Three Little Pigs

When Peter and I were age 2, we moved to Omaha, Nebraska – far far away from family to the unknown midwest. Two more babies, Eric and Patrick, were born. I ADORED playing house with them, wrapping them up and hauling them around. It was a very stressful period of time for my parents: no money, starting a business, trying to make payroll, five children under the age of seven, long long work hours for my dad, home all day with kids for my mom. I know my mom contemplated what leaving would look like.

Always one who was keenly interested in people and relationships, I was both blithely unaware of marital challenges and observant of their behavior toward one another.

I would say this: they loved one another. They had a great respect for one another. They didn’t yell. They never demeaned one another (though my mother is widely known for her witty, slightly sarcastic tongue 🙂 )They had a united front. They had great faith that “sticking it out” would have eternal and lasting consequences. They taught us what commitment looks like.

My parents with their five children. I’m the oldest and the shortest – but I can still take my brothers in a push-up contest…maybe.

There’s nothing my parents love more than their family – even the crying babies.

Yesterday, on the eve of their 45th anniversary, my dad sent his five children the love story of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (the brilliant author of Crime and Punishment) and Anna Dostoyevskaya (also brilliant; his editor and researcher.) Read the whole story HERE – it’s so good.

Of their love story, Anna wrote:

Throughout my life it has always seemed a kind of mystery to me that my good husband not only loved and respected me as many husbands love and respect their wives, but almost worshipped me, as though I were some special being created just for him. And this was true not only at the beginning of our marriage but through all the remaining years of it, up to his very death. Whereas in reality I was not distinguished for my good looks, nor did I possess talent nor any special intellectual cultivation, and I had no more than a secondary education. And yet, despite all that, I earned the profound respect, almost the adoration of a man so creative and brilliant.

This enigma was cleared up for me somewhat when I read V.V. Rozanov’s note to a letter of Strakhov dated January 5, 1890, in his book Literary Exiles. Let me quote:

“No one, not even a ‘friend,’ can make us better. But it is a great happiness in life to meet a person of quite different construction, different bent, completely dissimilar views who, while always remaining himself and in no wise echoing us nor currying favor with us (as sometimes happens) and not trying to insinuate his soul (and an insincere soul at that!) into our psyche, into our muddle, into our tangle, would stand as a firm wall, as a check to our follies and our irrationalities, which every human being has. Friendship lies in contradiction and not in agreement! Verily, God granted me Strakhov as a teacher and my friendship with him, my feelings for him were ever a kind of firm wall on which I felt I could always lean, or rather rest. And it won’t let you fall, and it gives warmth.”

In truth, my husband and I were persons of “quite different construction, different bent, completely dissimilar views.” But we always remained ourselves, in no way echoing nor currying favor with one another, neither of us trying to meddle with the other’s soul, neither I with his psyche nor he with mine. And in this way my good husband and I, both of us, felt ourselves free in spirit.

Fyodor Mikhailovich, who reflected so much in so much solitude on the deepest problems of the human heart, doubtless prized my non-interference in his spiritual and intellectual life. And therefore he would sometimes say to me, “You are the only woman who ever understood me!” (That was what he valued above all.) He looked on me as a rock on which he felt he could lean, or rather rest. “And it won’t let you fall, and it gives warmth.”

It is this, I believe, which explains the astonishing trust my husband had in me and in all my acts, although nothing I ever did transcended the limits of the ordinary. It was these mutual attitudes which enabled both of us to live in the fourteen years of our married life in the greatest happiness possible for human beings on earth.

Trouble and struggle certainly found my parents. Their personalities are very different, as they will be the first to tell you, but I believe my father sent his children the above note as a reminder that despite the mystery we are to one another, love is a kind of firm wall on which we feel we can always lean, or rather rest. And it won’t let you fall, and it gives warmth.

This is certainly what they have done for one another, and return, have given their children and our children a place to lean that is immovable. Their love lets us rest when we have struggles of our own. It doesn’t let us fall. It gives warmth.

Day to day, great love stories are often quite mundane and ordinary, but over time, become quite extraordinary.

I love you, Mom and Dad. Thank you. Happy Anniversary.

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My Top 12 Books of 2018

My Top 12 books include memoir, a literary thriller, middle grade, historical fiction, and even a graphic comic book (an unusual choice for me). Interestingly, only two of the twelve books were written by men.

My 2018 reading goal was 50. I made it to 40. Of the 40 books, nine were written by men, thirty-one by females. (What does this mean and does it matter? Do I need to diversify?)  I keep track on Goodreads, which is super fun and a way to stay organized if you like that sort of thing. So here you go, my TOP 12:

 

Always looking for book recommendations so tell me your 2018 favorites! And do you have any 2019 goals? I’m determined to read more!

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Sugared Cranberry, Brie Bites

Looking for a quick and tasty holiday appetizer? Look no further. These simple sugared cranberry brie bites will give every foodie just the right fix.DSC_0008This recipe was originally posted at Annie’s-Eats, one of my favorite food blogs. The sugared cranberries are a Christmas staple around here; they have the most fantastic sugar tart POP!

sugaredcranberries

First, you’re going to make a simple syrup to coat the cranberries and then let them dry on a drying rack like this, for about an hour.

IMG_6582Then you’ll coat them with more sugar. Yes, I’m saying sugar on the blog, oh dear. Justification: cranberries are soooo nutritious, but difficult to eat without a little bit of the white stuff.

photoA little bit of brie cheese on a wheat cracker and there you go!

Easy peasy.

Sugared Cranberry Brie Bites:

1. Procure wheat crackers. Round crackers give a nice aesthetic appeal.

2. Pick out a nice Brie (we’re pleased with PRÉSIDENT® BRIE ROUND)

3. Sugar your cranberries:

Simple Syrup: Over medium heat, combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup white sugar. Sir until combined. Take off heat. Pour in a bag of cranberries, just to coat (not to cook.) Using a slotted spoon, lay cranberries on a drying rack for ONE HOUR, at least. The cranberries should slightly sticky dry, but not wet.

Next, pour some sugar into a bowl. Pour cranberries into bowl to coat. And that’s it. Really.

Now, let’s sing – FA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LAAAAAA…it’s sugared cranberry brie bite time!

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some favorite things (and thoughts) for Christmas!

Here are some beloved items you may consider for the Christmas season:

For the convenient, cool and earth-friendly:

Bamboo Travel Utensils – To-Go Ware Utensil Set with Carrying Case. Yep! This is the gift I’m MOST EXCITED about giving this year! When I saw these bamboo utensils in their cute carrying case hanging off a colleagues backpack (thank you, Lynn!) I knew the perfect person to give them to: my earth-conscious missionary daughter who doesn’t need “stuff.” THESE. I want a set for the whole family (suggestion met with blank looks). What’s the big deal,  you ask? LESS PLASTIC. Everywhere you go, you can whip out your bamboo utensils instead of using plastic disposable utensils that are cluttering up the oceans and forests and killing our cod. Just recently, missionary Cope-headed-toTaiwn asked me to send some chopsticks. This set COMES WITH CHOPSTICKS. I cannot get over the cleverness. (My son demonstrated what this might look like at the lunch table were he to pull out his bamboo fork. Obviously only the mature can handle the cleverness.)

For the one who is always cold:

L.L.Bean Wicked Good Moccasins: On last year’s list. Remains on the list. Have you put your feet in these? You’ll never take them out. I wear them all day, ALL WINTER. Watch for sales!

For the baker:

Silpat Baking Mat: Thank you, Glenn and Kim! I adore these baking mats because: no more pan scrubbing!

For your HEALTH:

Garmin Forerunner Watch: It’s not inexpensive, but on the other hand, a total bargain. One of the best things I own. No matter where you walk or run, this watch tracks total time run, pace, mile splits, and heart rate. It’s a huge bargain if you look at it from a health perspective. Look for sales at Groupon.com, Amazon, and Garmin.com.

I have a lot of favorite “things” (like pens and paper!) but these are just a couple I’ve recently thought of. My kids have been doing a lot of “no-sugar” challenges and so for stockings, Santa and I are collaborating on Lara Bars (3-5 natural ingredients), nuts, seeds, paleo-friendly beef sticks, gum, dark(er) chocolate, and perhaps some Seed and Sky earrings.

And now for BOOKS! You can find past book recommendations HERE, but below are the ones I’m especially fond of for Christmas.

Books For the Kids (and the kid in YOU!):

Manners Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf: this for the children (ALL OF THEM). Hysterically funny and yet so useful…I adore this book!

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: I read this for the first time this year and loved it as much as my kids!

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer: Paige adored this series, pestering our librarian for the next one and the next one and the next…until they were all read and she was sad.

The Unforgettable Guinevere St Claire by…you know I had to include it! See HERE for bookplate and bookmark info 🙂 

The Miscalculations of Lightening Girl by Stacy McAnulty:

For the Older Set:

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: Hysterical and wise.

Educated by Tara Westover: Memoir, profound, brilliant.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: Funny, sad, hopeful – I loved it.

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza: I haven’t read this, but it’s the book I ask for for Christmas. I’ve heard it’s amazing.

Now you tell me. What are you giving for gifts?

My daughter writes home about the great JOY she is finding in serving others. She left most of her world behind. I’ve been contemplating that idea and how freeing and appealing it sounds. I would like to follow that example of JOY and SERVICE this month. I know what our family needs most is not more stuff. So I’m looking for those moments of when we can do a little good and feel a little better (and yes, part of that can most definitely include presents!)

Happy December.

P.S. If you’d like to write Sister Cope Makechnie (Mǎ Jiěmeì) for Christmas, she can get email and mail:

cope.makechnie@myldsmail.net

If you want to send a real letter, she will be at the missionary training center ONLY until the end of December: Sister Cope Makechnie JAN01 TAIW-TCG 2005 N 900 E Unit 88 Provo UT 84602

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Give Guinevere; Get a Bookmark & Bookplate {yippee!}

What could be better than giving the gift of reading for Christmas?

May I suggest The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair? It’s technically in the middle grade category, but as many older reviewers suggest, written for “all ages to enjoy!”

If you’re wondering if it’s any good, you can read reviews here and here 🙂

If you buy Guinevere and would like it signed by yours truly, I’d love to send you a signed bookplate, and a bookmark to go along with your present (For Free!)

Here’s all you need to do:

  • Email me at amy@maisymak.com
  • Include: how you’d like the bookplate(s) personalized (ie – just my signature or a dedication to a specific person or family).
  • Include your mailing address
  • Please contact me by December 17!

Thank you for giving the gift of reading this year – and thank you for giving Guinevere 🙂

xoxo

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my favorite Christmas tradition: Light the World

We watched the new Grinch movie last week, the Jim Carey version after that. In the hopes we’re not too Grinchy this Christmas, let’s also try to light up the world a little.

Here’s my favorite Christmas campaign: #LightTheWorld.

This year, the campaign focuses on one thing a week: Light the World, Light Your Community, Light Your Family, and Light Your Faith (whatever that might be.)

Week #1: Light the World

Week #2: Light your Community

Week #3: Light your Family

Week #4: Light your Faith

May our days be merry and bright.

xoxo

 

 

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My Niner Doesn’t Have a Cell Phone {and it’s awesome}

When it comes to parenting, by far the biggest battle and discord we have had in our home isn’t drugs, sex, or rock ‘n roll.

It’s TECHNOLOGY.

I love it, I hate it. I’m always on it, I’m always vowing to cut back.

Our two oldest children had a phone upon entering high school, or soon after that. It was great for communication – and it still is. I text my son every day. I texted Cope every day until she left for her mission to Taiwan (I’ve got to write about THAT!) And I tell you what, I really miss NOT TEXTING her every single day. Or maybe I just miss talking with emojis.

We’ve got lots of tech rules. We’ve had many many discussions about usage. We’re all sick of talking about it. We have a technology contract. Children hand their phones in at night, cannot have it in their rooms without permission, and know that at any time, we, as their parents can access all of their accounts (Yep, we’re fun.)

And still, by far, arguments over technology use ranks #1 over all other issues. 

This summer I really began to wonder why we continue to do this to ourselves. Actually, no one is doing this to us. We are doing this to ourselves. We are putting the internet in our children’s pockets, with all its pings and dings and apps and saying – but not too much! Get real.

I greatly dislike the worry and pit in my stomach I get when I see children reading less (Brynne: I WOULD STILL READ!) I worry we are training them to be more distracted as they are drawn into snapchat and social media time sucks. I dislike that we look at a screen first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.

This summer, an epiphany: we’re not giving our ninth grader a phone.

How very revolutionary.

Response: “That’s so unfair!”

Yes, it totally is. But you see, darling, we are evolving. Getting better at this parenting gig. We will change our minds, course correct, and generally do things that are very unfair over the course of your 18 years under this roof.

Brynne, you still love me, right?

Interesting to me, she got over it very quickly. Life went on without anyone disowning us.

She has an iPod and a laptop. She has access to the internet. Thus far, she has always been able to reach us, has never been kidnapped, stuck on the side of the road, shoved in a locker, been swallowed by a whale, or any other worst-case scenario that I, as a mother, regularly envision. (Brynne: uh, NOT YET!)

With an iPod, she can text. She can borrow someone else’s phone when she’s on the road with the team. So far, it’s not been a hassle. (Brynne: uh, not for you!)

I almost caved a couple of weeks ago when Cope left her iPhone behind and we suddenly had a spare. Why not give it to our ninth grader? (Brynne: yeah, why not?) Why not? It’s paid for. For $20/month we could just pass it on down. But you know what? I don’t want my Niner to have a phone. When she asks why, I say, Because I Love You. (Brynne: insert eye roll.)

You’ve likely Googled “phone” and “addiction” (or is that just me?) (Brynne: just you, Mom.) We know they’re addictive, especially for our children’s growing, impulsive frontal lobe brains. This impulsivity has advantages, making our teens bold, creative, risk takers, out of the box thinkers. What do we do to that brain when we put the internet in their pockets? What I see? Eyes glued to screens. Fights with mom. Ugh. So over it.

Caveat: the internet is not bad. It’s great! What a genius invention. I just want to hold off a little longer, knowing full well our teens are already accessing the internet for hours, daily. But do they have to have it in their pocket?

Maybe in a few months we’ll change our minds and my 14-year-old will have a phone in her hands. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a week. Maybe the time will be right.

And parents: take heart. My Niner is not the only one without. I’m seeing the tide turn a bit, in that respect. Other parents are saying no, too. When I see this, I think – YES! And it makes me feel not quite so witchy.

SOLIDARITY is a POWERFUL thing! It has further emboldened me to say – Not Yet. And perhaps you will read this and be emboldened, too.

Bottom line: if you DO want to give your child a phone, it’s OKAY. I won’t throw rocks at your window. It’s a personal, family decision. Great! Good for you!

But also this – if you DON’T want your kid to have a phone – it’s OKAY. It’s a personal and family decision. Great! Good for you!

My girl thinks this post is lame. She would still like to have a phone. (Brynne: it’s not too late!) But I think she also understands. (meh.) And she’s still nice to me.

Even if it’s unfair.

That just means I get to talk to her more.

And she has to talk to me.

My Niner doesn’t have a phone.

It’s so unfair.

And it’s so awesome!

PLEASE WATCH THIS NOW (parents, this one’s for you)

MUST READ HERE. “When I treat teens struggling with depression, anxiety, and ADHD, I tell them to get off their screens. In the hands of a depressed adolescent, phones can be dangerous. In my view, they are weapons. I wonder how we have gotten to the point in America where young children carry these weapons in their hands to school, soccer, parties, and even bed — and no one sees the danger?”

Another powerful read HERE. Ugh.

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Inspiration For the Week

Winter

Spring

Summer

Fall

These trees stand still

And very tall.

We don’t tend to like adversity and problems. Yesterday, these trees gave me a different perspective. The day after a wicked cold rain storm that raged through the night, I happened upon these trees sitting in cold flood water. They stood still and strong, with nary a root upturned. Missing leaves and small branches, but completely unmoved. And I thought: Strong winds and strong storms make strong trees.

Happy Monday.

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Thinking, Playing, Reading {and Watching!}

Thinking:

I’m taking a 7-day social media hiatus which is really nothing, but in one day I could feel the difference: greater peace and time. I found myself putting the phone down instead of feeling bored and scrolling. It’s been a tumultuous and upsetting news cycle (what else is new?) and I need to find the good – which is not out “there.” It’s right here at home, making eye contact with my children, having a daily conversation with my husband, and pondering deeper scriptural texts. This Saturday and Sunday we are immersing in two full days of General Conference. This event ALWAYS makes me so HAPPY.

Playing:

I have a few fun things to share today-

Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara by Thrive Cosmetics ($24). Never in my life have I spent so much for a mascara but I’m telling you – WOWOWOWOW.

Brilliant Eye Brightener by Thrive Cosmetics ($24). Again, pricey by my standards but I use just a teensy bit in the corners of my eyes and again – WOWOWOWOW. LOVE.

Himalayan Salt Deodorant. Okay, this sounds strange – it’s JUST SALT! But I have this thing about putting chemicals straight into my pores after showering and shaving, and salt just feels so…natural. It works quite well! I picked it for cheap (just a few dollars) at a boutique, but I’ve seen them all over the web.

Alert Caffeine Gum as a running aid. Let me clarify: ONLY AS A RUNNING AID. I’m a little neurotic about not getting addicted to substances, and so I don’t allow myself to chew this piece of 40mg of caffeinated gum (a small cup of coffee has about 60mg of caffeine) except for early morning runs. Way easier and better than gels and GUs and Shot Blocks that have all that other sugary junk in it. It makes me feel motivated, helping me run faster and farther. You can buy 100mg/caffeine gum, but that’s “military grade,” and again, we don’t need any more addictions! Tired in the afternoon? May I suggest a 10-minute nap?

When Cope found it in my drawer she gasped and said, “Mom! WHAT IS THIS? I feel like I’ve discovered steroids in the house.”

RX and Lara Bars.  3-5 ingredients in them and that’s it! (The carrot cake bar above has 9 ingredients but all are “natural” and words I can pronounce.)

It’s not all beauty products and gum around here. Here’s what else I did this week – autopsies?

Reading:

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Cope raced through the whole trilogy. I’m all set after Book #1. It was entertaining, and I adore reading of other cultures and languages, but I thought the book too long and lacking in substance (which might be just the thing you’re looking for!)

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. I just started so stay tuned!

Watching:

Poldark. Need I say more? Season 4 out this past Sunday.

Okay, tell me all your things!

P.S. If you haven’t signed up for my AUTHOR NEWSLETTER yet, what are you waiting for? SIGN UP HERE!

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Thinking, Playing, Reading {the latest book recommendations!}

Thinking:

My friend Kate brought us the most beautiful bouquet of flowers “just because.” Patty sent my daughter a bouquet of flowers when she got her mission call Taiwan. Such a small – but big – gesture that makes me happy every time I enter the house. Happiness tip: Send the Flowers!

Playing:

Two of my girls are using matching planners from BAM, because, like their mother, they cannot survive life for one day without a physical, hand-written calendar (Google calendar is great for sharing schedules, but I also gotta write!) It makes me a bit giddy to see them planning and organizing their lives. Check.

Also: these pens with the planner. Goodness, I love them.

Reading:

Wasn’t I going to post books more often? Well, here you go – 8 books I read this summer and into fall as I try to hit 50 reads for the Goodreads Reading Challenge (I’ve always loved reading challenges 🙂 )

Love and Ruin by Paula McClain: Historical fiction. McClain (The Paris Wife) writes the story of Martha Gellhorn and her infamous relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Gellhorn was one of the first and most well-known female war correspondents. RESPECT.

Where There’s Hope by Elizabeth Smart: Nonfiction, adult. I took notes upon notes reading this book. We know Smart’s kidnapping story, but here she offers more: hope moving forward. I’ve become a huge fan of this woman, watching her take control of her life and empowering women of every age. One of the most powerful stories is her father bringing Elizabeth and her little sister into his study to practice, “screaming” after a woman cornered Elizabeth in the bathroom at church (after she was returned from the kidnapping she still didn’t know how to fight back!) Elizabeth froze, not knowing what to do or react. It’s wonderful to be polite and have manners when the occasion calls for it – but do our children (esp our girls!?) know how and when to scream and bite and kick when needed? Really great book.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: Middle grade, fiction. Take it from Paige: the movie does not do this book justice! Read the book! My girls read it over and over and over, especially when they need to curl up with an old favorite. I loved it, too.

Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin: Middle grade, fiction. Baldwin makes a lovely debut with her middle grade read about Della, the ups and downs of family and farm life, and a mother’s mental illness. Really well done! Just thinking about this book makes my mouth water and my body break out into the damp sweat of summer (that’s a compliment – Cindy brings great voice and language to this story.)

Calypso by David Sedaris: Memoir, adult. I’ve never read memoirist Sedaris before. He’s really funny, even when writing about family tragedy. He’s also extremely irreverent. Geez. You read a sentence and think did he really just write THAT? But no doubt, I get what all the fuss is about. He’s a great writer and I want to learn from him.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone Young Adult, fiction. This was my freshman daughter’s summer reading. She read it fast and said, “you should read this.” I casually picked it up and couldn’t put it back down. Real, sad, important. Justyce, a young black scholar is trying to balance two worlds – his old neighborhood and an elite prep school. It’s present-day, but he writes letters to the great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, trying to figure out his place in a racist America. Head’s up: language.

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What are you reading? Do tell!

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