A Review of Anna LeBaron’s The Polygamist’s Daughter

 

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All my life I’ve been fascinated by polygamy. I’ve read a dozen books  on the subject (including Ruth Wariner’s The Sound of Gravel–also excellent) and watched too many television shows and specials, always not quite understanding.

I didn’t know I knew a woman who survived it.

I “met” Anna about a year ago when I participated in Brandon Hatmaker’s book launch group promoting his newest blockbuster A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith. Basically, everyone in this launch group had at some point in time tried to be in Jen Hatmaker’s launch group for her  latest book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. Apparently, there were so many takers, the powers that be had to draw the line somewhere. EVERYONE IN THE WORLD cannot be on Jen’s launch group! Believe me, the 4500 (that’s what we call ourselves) were plenty pleased to be a part of Brandon’s fan club. He even mentions us in the acknowledgements!

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Me, after ripping open the envelope holding Anna’s book.

Anyway, when Anna mentioned she was writing her memoir, a story about surviving a polygamous cult, I asked her if she was related to the LeBarons, because I’ve read about them before. This particular cult was infamous for doctrines supporting blood atonement, and the stories are frightening enough to make your blood run cold. She was indeed.

Anna LeBaron was born into the cult–a dangerous FDLS offshoot that drove its members into Mexico to avoid the authorities.  Ervil LeBaron, Anna’s father, controlled the cult with an iron fist and violence–even murder.

Since she was a little girl, Anna remembers a confusing patchwork childhood, where moving in the middle of the night and at a moment’s notice were just daily truths she accepted. Extreme poverty, borderline starvation, long days of forced labor, and constant anxiety haunted her everyday reality. One daughter of many, she was taught her place was to obey and to learn how to be a good wife. At a tender age, she was already promised to two men.

Endless housework and babysitting of siblings and other countless relatives dominated her life, and going to school was a risky endeavor. Police raids in the middle of the night were not uncommon as the authorities narrowed down the whereabouts of Anna’s father and his followers. Anna didn’t understand most of this; she only wanted to be with her mother and to know her father.

Anna’s memoir presents a topsy-turvy reality where nothing makes sense. Each time she makes a friend, or a teacher or acquaintance reaches out to help, you’ll hold your  breath for little Anna, hoping this is the time she’ll be led to safety and redemption.

Click here to Pre-order The Polygamist’s Daughter. You won’t be sorry.

Easy Lasagna

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Are you intimidated by lasagna? You don’t have to be. It’s not as hard as it may seem.

Buy these ingredients:

1 pound of ground Italian sausage

1 small container ricotta cheese

1 2-cup bag of mozzarella cheese

1 cup real parmesan cheese

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

1 12-oz can of tomato sauce

1 box lasagna noodles

1 onion, chopped

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1/3 c. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. parsley

1 egg

Preheat oven to 375.

Fill a large pot with water. Set it to boil. In another pan, brown the sausage, onion and garlic together. When done, add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and simmer while the noodles are cooking.

When the noodles are barely soft (they can be firmer than you think), rinse them with cold water.

Reserve 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, egg, parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper. The mixture will be thick.

Spray a rectangular pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with noodles. Next, put a layer of sauce. Top with a layer of ricotta cheese mixture. Continue this process until ingredients are used.

Top with reserved mozzarella cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly.

 

 

10 Must Haves For Family Outings: A Guest Post by Annabelle Short

10 Must Haves for Family Outings

When you have a family, it can feel like you have to cart your entire house into the car for a trip to the local park. There are some things you can do without while others are vital for the family for short trips to the local park, long road trips or even car rides to Grandma’s house.

  1. Entertainment

While you should have travel toys and games for certain situations, you should have an entertainment system in the car for them too. For example, have a supply of movies or video games as well as devices for them to use on long car rides.

  1. Restaurant Essentials

When it comes to well-behaved children in a restaurant or wild maniacs who can’t sit still, it often comes down to the type of entertainment you bring for them. Have crayons, travel games or toys ready to be brought into the restaurant at a moment’s notice. The dollar store has plenty of items that can keep your child occupied.

  1. Emergency Snack Pack

It can be quite expensive to visit a store or restaurant while on the road, so make sure to pack emergency snacks like nuts, dried fruits or drinks that can hold the child until you’ve made it to your destination. These items should be able to survive in the car for more than one day.

  1. Clean Up Fundamentals

There are times when there’s a huge mess that needs to be cleaned with more than the small cloths that might be in some of the other kits you’ve included. Have a large, absorbent towel or two in the car for large drying situations like kids who spill drinks on themselves after you’ve pulled away from the drive-through.

  1. First Aid Kit

This can be a purchased kit or one you build yourself. Bandages, cold compress, adhesive tape, scissors and gauze pads should be the basics that you include in the kit. You can add your own items if you find that the family needs them regularly like roller bandages for sprains or antiseptic wipes for scrapes. Bug spray is a great addition to the kit too.

  1. Extra Clothing

Extra sweaters, sandals, sneakers or pants can be an essential if a little one has an accident or tosses their shoes while you’re getting other children packed into the car. It can’t hurt to have items that can change with the weather too. It might be summer, but there are times when a hoodie is necessary.

  1. Nap Elements

Blankets, fluffy pillows, stuffed animals or their favorite customized stuff can make nap-time less stressful when you’re on the road with your little ones. Don’t forget to grab their favorite sleep soother like a snuggly teddy bear or favorite blanket.

  1. Play Surface

For long car rides or quick trips with bored children, a plastic play surface for board games or coloring can keep them occupied as you drive. You can purchase one or build it yourself by purchasing a tray from the dollar store. Metal trays can work great if you want to add magnets to the back of some of their items. It lessens the problem with dropped pieces.

You can also make the tray more appealing to your kids by adding some colorful custom stickers on it.

  1. Car or Plane Sickness Basics

Whether you have a little one who is prone to car sickness or an adult who doesn’t like plane rides, it’s good to have a sickness kit. It should have antibacterial hand sanitizer, latex gloves, vomit absorbers, scrapers and plastic bags for trash removal. The bag can include motion sickness pills as well as small hand towels for dampening.

  1. Bottles of Water

It’s not recommended that you leave water in your car that you plan on drinking, but you should have water for cleaning messes like sticky hands. Keep 3 or 4 bottles in the car for that purpose, and don’t forget to bring drinking water for the kids and yourself.

You’ll have to decide what your essentials should be depending on your family’s needs and the places you plan on going together. These should be items you don’t leave home without packing into your car.

***

A note from Tina:

Good luck, Mama. We hope your trip leaves you with fond memories for a lifetime.

Slap Your Mama Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas

Tina Bausinger

enchilada

That’s right.

These enchiladas ARE delicious enough to incite mama slapping throughout the world. I can’t help it. It’s really your choice, you understand. Please understand that if you make these enchiladas, it’s not MY fault you slapped your mama and I take no legal or personal responsibility as you have been warned.

I’ve taught my daughters how to make these and it’s just sad that even living in Texas–the Tex-Mex capital of the whole stinkin’ world–we can’t find them this good at our restaurants. They have slapped me on occasion after trying them and I have nobody to blame but myself.

Ingredients:

10-12 corn tortillas

1 large can green chilis (whole or chopped, it really doesn’t matter)

1 onion, chopped

1 jalapeno (if you don’t like heat, then skip it and add another small can of green chilis)

3-4 cloves garlic

4 chicken breasts (or 8 chicken thighs–you pick…

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On Grief and Writing

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So take a pen to your grief.
Every word you write pours salve and healing on your wounds, whether fresh or distant.
There’s little you can do regarding the trials we endure.
So write.
Dissect them word by word, letter by letter. Be honest with yourself.
List your mistakes; chronicle your regrets.
Rage and scream and cry.
Bleed your pain on paper.
Use your pen to strip away all artifice. Be transparent with your anger, and brutal with your faults.
Let the bitterness explode onto paper, even if it is for your eyes only.
Then, you might just see the tiniest flicker of healing.
Not a fire, you understand, but a modest flame.
When the fire catches in earnest, it will burn away the anger and sadness one twig at a time, until the weight of grief transforms to mere ashes.
The ashes will always be a part of you, leaving an indelible tattoo of grief seared across your heart.
Most will not notice, but those who love you will see.
Ashes are so much easier to bear than the wildfire you survived.
But you–
You extinguished it with your very fingertips.

6 Must-Have School Supplies if You Want to Stay out of Jail and Not Commit Felonies

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I’m with you–it’s a bit of a bummer to take an innocent trip to the grocery store in search of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream only to have my eyes assaulted by school supplies in July. Assaulted: like a super violent Quentin Tarantino movie assaulted. Like a green polyester pantsuit assaulted. Like seeing your elderly neighbor’s thong when she’s gardening BY NO FAULT OF YOUR OWN assaulted. A part of me loves the smell of new pencils and choosing pastel-colored markers, but it has to be on my own time, and that’s not in EARLY MAY, MR. WALMART.

I know the C.E.O. of Walmart is not really named Mr. Walmart. I just put that in to be funny. Sorry if you are personally affiliated with the Waltons in any way. Please tell them I said hello.

Of course, most schools put out lists of what your kid needs, but as a teacher and a mom of three, I’m going to add a few things to your list to make your life a bit easier.

  1. A good set of quality, comfortable ear buds–for you and your kid. One of my kids has a touch of ADD, and it helps immensely to have ear buds plugged into the computer to silence the everyday sounds of the dog barking, the dryer spinning, computer games in the background, you get it. If you can afford sound-canceling ear buds, take my recommendation and BUY THEM FOR YOU. You won’t be sorry. Also, there are many “concentration” apps available, proven to heighten your attention span. Sleep Sounds can slide between concentration to relaxation depending on the binaural beats you choose. It helps me as a doctoral student to  block out conversations around me so I can finish my thrilling statistics assignment. It works, people
  2. Extra freezer packs for lunches. You can’t get too many of these. Nate was at marching practice and a kid became a bit overheated, so Nate took an extra from his lunch and put it on the kid’s forehead and back of his neck. I’m not sure if it smelled like ham or n0t, but it did the trick.
  3. Extra poster board and craft stuff. Maybe this has never happened to you. Maybe you live in a perfect, Everybody Loves Raymond kind of world where your kid never tells you at 8:00 that he has a project depicting the history of the German people due the next day that’s worth 2/3 of his grade. Lucky you. I perform the sign of the cross and bid you a good day. If it does happen, though, you are ready. You have two or three different poster boards, markers, scissors, glue, pictures of the German people (ok, you’re on your own for that one) and lots of coffee. If nothing else, buy lots of coffee.
  4. A stack of cheap magazines. Maybe this has never happened to you. Maybe in your perfect, Modern Family life, you’ve never had a kid announce that she needs to create a collage that represents “Joy” for her art class and all you have sitting around are Walking Dead graphic novels. Just in case, have a stack of women’s magazines (you can collect these for almost nothing at the Salvation Army or MeeMaw Jan’s coffee table. Come on, if Burt Reynolds is on the cover, she’s probably not gonna miss it.
  5. An extra printer cartridge and paper. If you don’t have a printer, get one. It’s a lifesaver. Unless you just love going out in the rain to your office to print off your kid’s Of Mice and Men essay at 1:00 in the morning, then that’s up to you. For the rest of us, I’d rather just print it off in the kitchen like a regular person. Sorry if you’re a weirdo.
  6. Try to buy all your kid’s English novels at the beginning of the semester. I’m sure this would never happen to you, in your perfect Breaking Bad life (wait, bad example). I’m sure your kid would always remember two weeks in advance that his teacher was assigning All Quiet on the Western Front, and the two of you could happily make a trip to Barnes and Noble, where there are three versions of the book to choose from, and you could buy your copy, all the time laughing and joking and drinking coffee and hot cocoa at the Starbucks inside the store and feeling proud of your kid’s planning and even admire his adorable grin.

If this has really happened to anyone reading this blog I want you to come down to Tyler so I can punch you in your veneered teeth.

Just in case it happens the other way: It’s 10:00 at night, you’re in your pj’s watching Gilmore Girls reruns, finishing a tiny glass of wine while coloring in your “De-Stress and Color Fuzzy Animals” coloring book and your kid casually strolls into the living room, coming up behind you on the couch when you didn’t notice and says “MOM” in your hair and you almost pee your pants and then he tells you he needs a copy of the Gutenberg Bible for class tomorrow or else he’s going to fail, well then you’re both screwed. Because Barnes and Noble does NOT have a copy, and apparently the only copy is in a traveling exhibit in Turkey guarded by six 300 pound men with no sense of humor and so you’re going to end up printing all 3,000 pages off on your printer (you bought that, right? No?)  violating international copyright laws and hoping and praying you’re not arrested because you’re not built for prison life.You don’t even stomach Quinton Tarantino movies very well.

Do us all a favor. Buy the books.

Have a great school year!pic1

 

The Hard Stuff: When Students Need Help

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I’ve been teaching for four years now. It’s really just a drop in the bucket compared to some of my friends who have been teaching 20, even 30 years.

Of course, I’m here to help students with writing and literature. That’s what I’ve been trained for. That’s why I spent almost seven years of my life reading and writing, studying and learning, sweating and praying for. I’ve paid dearly for my education, in dollars and time and sacrifice.

Here’s my secret:no program or lecture could have possibly prepared me for some of the conversations I’ve had with students. As their teacher, whether or not I deserve it, I am placed in a position of trust that I didn’t earn.

Sometimes, questions are a no-brainer. For example, in cases of abuse, I’m required to legally report it. I’ve never had to, thank goodness.

Many times, though, the questions are not so black and white.

Sometimes, the students who I perceive to be the most difficult (or checked out, or angry) are the ones who come to me with questions or situations I don’t know the answer to, like:

How should I tell my dad I’m pregnant?

Nobody knows I’m homeless.

Since I got out of the Army, I’m really trying to do my best in school, but I can’t sleep from the nightmares.

I haven’t been in class for the past two weeks because I was beaten so badly by my ex’s new girl I was hospitalized.

My husband doesn’t really think I should get my degree.

I’m gay and need to come out to my parents. What should I say?

I need to tell my mama I’m transgender. How can I do that?

I’m falling asleep in class because I work three jobs. No I can’t quit, or we’ll be out of our apartment.

I can’t come back to school next semester because I’m pregnant again.

These are hard questions, and sometimes there are really no right answers. As an educator, I’m expected to know the answers. Sometimes, I just don’t.

Sometimes, I just give the student a tissue and let them talk it out. I ask questions to try to guide them. I don’t judge them, ever, because nobody is perfect and there’s no way to tell what someone’s been through by one experience or one talk. I pray with them. I cry with them. I ask them what I can do to help. The ones I can’t help keep me up late sometimes, worrying. Sometimes I feel like I’m their mama and it’s up to me to make everything okay. But I’m not.

Sometimes, they don’t need a teacher, they need a sounding board, a counselor, a mom. I do my best.

Sometimes, I can help. It’s the ones I can’t that haunt me.

 

 

 

On Blackberry Dump Cake, Stats, and Goodbyes

Last Friday, I went to Lindale, Texas to meet my bestie Rachel to work on Statistics homework. I’m not gonna lie: it’s soul-crushing and brain-melting, enough to cause some students over 40 (me) to question their sanity for doing this in the first place. I mean, for most people, a master’s degree would be plenty. Not me! Nope.

Finding a place to do our homework together has been…challenging to say the least. If we work at my house, then we risk being constantly annoyed by my dog who thinks my only reason for existence is to play “fetch the cheeseburger toy” for hours. She’s very…persistent. If we go to Rachel’s, where she has small children, then she feels like she should have a babysitter so we’re less distracted. Not that stats are not fascinating. But there’s definitely a risk. Cute kids? Definitely distracting, because cuteness, and it doesn’t take much to make a person choose to play with kids over doing spirit-squishing homework.

Last week, we met at Collins Bakery, which I must say is quite a little jewel. Coffee, wi-fi, and pie…what’s not to love?

In front of the bakery, some nice folks were selling juicy peaches, red, ripe tomatoes, and blackberries bursting with purple-black color. I went a little nuts. I love produce stands, and they are one of my favorite things about summer–perfect for 4th of July celebrations.

My girls, who are grownups and have their own apartments (and dogs) come over every week to see me, and to encourage this I cook for them. So that if they’re ever sitting at home in their A/C watching The Walking Dead and feel the least bit reluctant to cash it all in for the Texas Summer Inferno to come over, they will decide it’s worth it because Mom cooks the most delicious concoctions, and let’s face it, there’s a lot of Ramen noodle dinners over there.

Last night, they stayed over, which meant a lot to me, because they are both moving in just a few weeks. Not down the street, or to a town nearby, but several hours away. Like a day trip, spend the night, kind of distance.

Mama’s having a hard time with this, y’all.

I’m so very proud of both of them for graduating from college and finding jobs in their fields and everything. That’s what I wanted for them from the beginning–that they would be able to do what they love and not have to spend their adulthood working at crap jobs like I did just to make ends meet. Now, they won’t have to.

Since I had those gorgeous berries waiting, I wanted to make something special. Since it was the 4th weekend, and one of the last weekends we will spend together like this ever, I may have cooked up the entire house. For a moment, I could make them a treat, pack it up with some coffee and send it with them to their jobs. For a moment, it felt as if they were still in school and I was making their lunches before band practice.

Just for the briefest of moments.

I made Blackberry Dump Cake with these juicy blackberry babies, and let me tell you–there’s nothing easier than this recipe.

Blackberry Dump Cake

2 cartons fresh blackberries (you can use frozen)

1 box yellow cake mix

1 stick of butter

This is really all there is to it. I couldn’t lie to you. I know you’ll be tempted to add sugar to the blackberries, and you certainly can, because AMERICA, but resist, because this cake mix has about nine bags of sugar in it already. Like a whole sugar cane field worth. But I’m not judging if you want to sprinkle a tiny bit on them.

Melt the butter. Make sure the blackberries are rinsed and there aren’t any leaves or anything in them. Pour the blackberries right into the bottom of the pan.

Next, pour the cake mix, right from the box, on top of the berries.

Lastly, pour the melted butter on top of the cake mix. Try to spread it evenly so the whole top gets wet.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes until the top is brown and bubbly.

Serve to your daughters for breakfast after their last sleepover. Try not to cry thinking about it. Try not to be a blubbering mess.

For Paul, and Other Stepdads who Rock It


My  cousin Paul is one of the best dads I know. 

His fridge is covered with drawings and report cards. Every Facebook post boasts pictures of the latest report card win, the latest father-daughter dance at school or kid’s ballgame (he’s the Coach, of course). 

He’s never afraid to get dirty, be silly, or wear a tutu to baseball practice to encourage his team.  Paul has only even known these children he calls his son and daughter for the past few years. But you’d never know by seeing him with them that he wasn’t there the entire time. These children, along with their mother, are his entire life. 


Beyond this relationship, others outside his immediate family have noticed his fatherly qualities and been grateful for them. Paul is a “father to the fatherless” to many it seems, and I’m just proud to know a man of such caliber.

Paul, I’ve known you since you were a tiny thing, and I’m so proud of the man you’ve become. 

Proverbs 20:7

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.”

Living in the South: Creekside

Tina Bausinger

It's pictures like this that inspired our own creek visit. It’s pictures like this that inspired our own creek visit.

A couple of weeks ago I innocently asked my cousin Rachel if we could visit the creek she’s always talking about when we visited.

Let me tell you something: the Bartons and Hignites take such a request SERIOUSLY. Before I knew it, we had three cars, two trunkfuls of BBQ supplies, rafts, and other sundry creek essentials piled to a precarious capacity. The girls, Mancub and I showed up with nothing but the 110 SPF sunscreen I found especially for my skin tone: pale Irish vampire. This is a necessity if we don’t want to end up the shade of red usually reserved for fire hydrants or Target insignia.

It’s not that we MEANT to be a pack of freeloading panhandlers. We just didn’t know what we were in for. We thought we’d show up, swim around for a couple of hours…

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