To purchase a signed, shipped copy of White Bees click below (make sure and tell me who you want it signed to):
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White Bees can also be purchased locally at the following retail outlets:
- Buzzbru (1149 South 450 W, Brigham City UT )
- Hastings (340 E. 525 N. Harrisville)
- Queen Bee (270 Historic 25th Street, Ogden)
White Bees is also available on Amazon.
For the past 2 1/2 years I have been working on a very personal project, my memoir. I am so excited to share my story with others! I have met so many amazing people this past year while speaking to groups of women, men, and youth. My life becomes better each time I meet someone who also has overcome a trial. Below is a brief synopsis and the first chapter of my book, White Bees. Thanks so much for stopping by my site.
My first memory is not of the surgeries for my bilateral cleft palate, instead, I remember clearly sitting on top of the kitchen heat vent, looking out the sliding glass door, watching the snowfall. To me, the fluffy white wonders don’t look like snow at all, but rather, white bees. They were innocent, happy, and content, despite their chaotic journey through the atmosphere. And I could relate.
When my peaceful world is interrupted by school, it’s the bully who plagues me, lifting his lip up until his mouth mimics an upside down v. His words sink in and cover me in pain so thick it feels as if my face is being dragged across the asphalt. Yet, the days on the playground build my character and trust in my beautiful sister, Jeannie, who files her nails to a point for better scratching, wears her Sunday shoes to school for better kicking, and fearlessly eliminates the bully from tormenting me.
The reliance in my older sister during childhood builds into a bond during my teenage years as I lean on Jeannie to protect me and show me the way. White Bees parallels our two lives: I inwardly struggle to endure speech therapy, prank calls, and surgeries; and Jeannie effortlessly dating, modeling, and competing in pageants. I hides my inner conflict deep within layer eleven – where all the dark days are held in quiet reserve waiting for freedom. I bravely continue with hope and faith in God– and the pain is all worth it for the fairy tale ending that comes just before a late winter storm, at the age of seventeen.
Surrounded by my friends, the Rebels, and a family who loves me deeply, I find my own inner beauty and optimism for the life I have yet to live. White Bees is a hopeful and triumphant memoir written for the girl and woman who has always felt more beautiful on the inside than on the outside —and the moment when the rest of her world finally sees her beauty too.
A peek inside!
My mother has loved me from the very start.
I must have felt her faith as she took me in her arms the day I was born and looked upon my tangled face and into my new blue eyes with courage and complete understanding, knowing the road ahead would be laced with trials and mixed with grace.
High school wasn’t supposed to start this way. The same way all of my other school years had started—wearing my same face that brought the painful responses I pretended not to see. Above my basement bedroom, I heard Mom opening and shutting cupboard doors, the weight of her feet flexing the creaky floor in the rhythm of a new morning.
I turned my head and inhaled the honest scent of my pillowcase, the fibers holding traces of salt water from nights I carried my burden alone. Not everyone stared at me with critical eyes. Mom stared right into my heart, my being, my soul. She didn’t ask if I was being teased or if I wished I were perfect. I’m not even sure the idea crossed her mind. Instead, she told me I was confident and beautiful, with way more friends than she’d ever had. She said I amazed her. And I believed her.
I pulled my right leg to my chest and hugged my knee, then dropped my hand to trace the inch-long scar on the inside of my ankle from an IV I’d had as a new baby. Mom couldn’t remember which surgery caused the scar. But she’d said it had started as a small pierce from a needle and, once healed, had stretched as I’d grown. For some reason moving my finger back and forth over the raised scar brought me peace.
My younger sister stirred in her twin bed four feet from mine. She lobbed one arm up and out from under the covers and onto the nightstand where her thick glasses rested. With the other hand, she cleared the tangled hair away from her face. She situated the glasses on her nose and asked, “Is it already time to get up?”
I leaned up on one elbow, looking past her silhouette to our bedroom window. “Yup, it’s morning, Toots, even though it’s still dark outside. Jeannie is already up. I call the shower next.”
“What’s that sound?”
“That squeaky sound?”
“Just Mr. Sorensen. You know, letting his dog, Max, out to pee. His gate squeaks.”
“Oh. How’d you know that?”
“I’ve been paying attention all summer. Listen. In a minute you’ll hear it again when he goes back inside. I’ve memorized the whole process.”
Jeannie, older than me by eighteen months, threw open the door connecting our two rooms. “Hey, I lost the back to one of my pink triangle earrings. Do either of you have a pencil eraser I can use?”
“I do,” Toots said. “But don’t use my favorite pencil. Just use one of the regular orange ones over there on my desk.”
“I only need half. Thanks, Toots. You’re a lifesaver.”
I released my hand from my ankle, stretched both legs down to the end of my bed, then pointed my toes until my feet arched and my calf muscles burned. I’d waited fifteen years to be transformed into beautiful. The “big” surgery, the cranial facial surgery I’d been waiting for, was supposed to have happened before I started high school. Instead, it hung on the horizon teasing me with time until the bone in my face matured. The surgery was partly for me, but mostly for the people who had to look at me. I wanted the surgery for the kid in the grocery store line who tugged on his mom’s shirt, pointing at my face while she shushed him. I wanted it for the bully who unleashed his verbal torment on me in elementary school, strangling my confidence, and I wanted it for those so distracted by my lips that they never heard the words that crossed them.
I swung my legs out of the bed, flipped on the lights, and saw the outfit I had laid out the night before: acid washed jeans, a sweater, and dangly earrings—all with tags still on. A rush of energy inflated my mood. I showered, dressed, scrunched and winged my hair, then worked the pastel pink and aqua eye-shadow around my bright eyes. My face didn’t seem ugly to me, just different. My upper lip looked as if someone had pinched the left side until it ballooned over to the right side. Two prominent scars traveled from the inside of my nose all the way through my lip, leaving white lines cutting through the bright pink coloring. My bottom lip was just like Mom’s, full and perfect. However, I didn’t get her small, tidy nose. Mine had character. Not necessarily the good kind of character, more like blocky, not-enough-cartilage, smooshed character. Yet, when I was all alone getting ready in front of the mirror, I could see traces of normal beneath the deformities. I could see the beautiful shining through, peeking out, as if it didn’t care one bit what I looked like. To me my scars were constant reminders of how far I had come since the day I was born, the day Mom saw my bilateral cleft lip and palate for the first time—with no warning. She didn’t push me away in fear and shock, instead, she tucked me in close—right next to her heart, sure that God had a plan in store for both of us.
I slipped on my new shoes and took the stairs two at a time up to the kitchen, feeling my confidence take hold.
“Well, good morning! Don’t you look cute.”
“Now look here, I made this nice big batch of pancakes, so you get a plate and load up. I’m just making up some hot maple syrup.”
“Aw, wheat pancakes again? Why can’t we ever have white ones?”
“Whole grains are good for your body! I ground up this wheat early this morning.”
My rowdy brothers made it to the kitchen next, piling their own plates mile-high with six pancakes each. Jeannie, who was a senior, grabbed her breakfast on the run when her friends honked for her out front. I finished my breakfast, checked my outfit again in Mom’s full-length mirror, pushed open the front door, swung my backpack over my right shoulder, and climbed into the old, green Ford truck with Dad.
“Well, A-mouse,” Dad said, backing the truck out and calling me by the nickname he had given me years earlier, “your first day of high school is finally here. From this day forward your grades count toward getting into college.”
“We don’t actually do any work on the first day, Dad.”
“Well, actually, I don’t actually think any kid is actually going to do any actual work today,” teased Dad, emphasizing a word he loved to use, but didn’t think had any business being in the English language.
“I just hope I can remember where all my classes are. The high school is so big. I wrote my locker number on my hand. I’m nervous I’ll forget it.”
“The good news is you get to do this all over again tomorrow.”
Dad, a teacher at the high school, said goodbye and parked his truck in his space—the one with his name painted in white letters. The cement walk to the front doors swarmed with students. I held my head high and prepared for the knocking stares. I had a trick though; I pretended I didn’t see them looking at what was wrong with me and assumed they were in awe with my outer fashionista and wanted to copycat my style. When I reached my locker, Katie, my best friend in the whole wide world, wasn’t there yet. I turned my body toward the locker and quickly checked to make sure the stuffing in my bra was secure. I’d used just three cotton balls, but I planned to work up to six by the end of the year. I hung up my backpack, organized my new Bic pens and Trapper folders on the small metal shelf, aired out my damp, palm-sweat covered class schedule, and turned to the growing mass of students. Right away my eyes found him.
The bully stood far enough away that I could watch him and not get caught. I dropped my eyes momentarily to the floor, cringing inside. He had grown at least four inches since I’d last seen him three years ago in elementary school, but he still wore his trademark short haircut, heavy denim jeans, and plaid shirt. I hated his proper clothes that made him appear polite. After elementary he’d gone to a junior high on the other end of town, and I’d prayed he would be gone from my life for good.
I watched him change the weight from his left foot to his right, and my mind instantly replayed the hurtful words from years earlier in elementary school: “Hey, FAT LIP!” he would shout while kicking sand at me. In my heart I wanted to believe he wasn’t talking to me, I’d never heard those words before. I would look away from him, ignore his shouting, and let my eyes follow the meandering wave of the chain link fence. When I didn’t acknowledge his banter, he’d increase the volume, adding salt to his words: “You can’t hide from me! I can still see your smashed-in dog face!” I knew the kind dog he was referring to, the ugly kind that were kept penned up in a dog run. The bully’s brash laugh traveled like a megaphone across the hot blacktop, loud enough that the other students could hear. I missed Mom like crazy when he tormented me, and ached for her to fill me up with her faith. My thoughts returned to the present, and I leaned against my locker, wondering if the bully had any clue how much he’d wounded me by magnifying my pain. A part of me believed I deserved his crushing cruelty, but a bigger part knew his words could never define me.
I shut my locker, careful not to slam it, and then ran my hands over my hair to make sure the shell of hairspray was holding everything together.
“Kates! You made it just in time,” I yelled over the reminder bell. “Holy cow! You look so cute!”
“Right back at ya! See you at lunch, right?” she asked as she scooted past me and merged into the stream of students making their way to class.
“I’ll save you a seat!” I answered, and then glanced toward where the bully had been standing. He was gone. His energy lingered, though, and as I crossed where he had been minutes earlier, I could almost feel his hurtful words trying to whip any ounce of assurance from me that I had gained during the past summer: The summer of staying out late, playing kick the can and capture the flag in Katie’s backyard, laughing till our sides hurt, running as fast as we could, then sitting in the cool grass and talking till midnight. The summer that made me forget all about my messed up face. The best summer of my life!