13 Tips for a Successful Marriage

I was descending the cliff of the Angel’s Landing hike in Zion National Park when the woman hiking behind me struck up a conversation. She discovered that my husband and I were there to celebrate 13 years of marriage and she immediately asked for tips. The question caught me off guard and I mumbled, “Just be forgiving, I guess.” My answer felt inadequate because there is so much more that goes into marriage. After thinking about it for several days, I’ve come up with 13 tips. These are by no means all-encompassing, and I think the things that work for me and my husband may be different for other couples, but I felt compelled to explore the question a little more. So, to the woman on a roadtrip from Oregon to Texas to start school, these are for you.

1. Be forgiving and apologize – My husband often apologizes before I am ready to forgive. I still feel mad and want to stay angry longer, but I have found it is better to let the issue go immediately and move on. Sometimes it’s brutally hard, but it’s also worth it. My husband is usually quicker to apologize than me. It’s one of his strengths, so I make an effort to apologize first sometimes, even if I wasn’t in the wrong or didn’t start the fight. Don’t hold a grudge and be prepared to forgive even if your spouse never apologizes.

2. Have fun – This one is critical for us. We continue to go on regular dates. We do fun things together that we both enjoy like dancing, escape rooms, hiking, and eating out. We flirt with and tease each other. While at a restaurant recently, my husband tugged down the collar of his t-shirt, giving me a brief glimpse of his collarbone and a bit of pectoral just to make me blush. It worked and I busted up laughing as he grinned at me. This kind of behavior makes me adore him.

3. Let your spouse make choices – My husband decided to reorganize the utensils drawer in our kitchen. It irritated me and my first instinct was to put it back the way I’d had it. But I stopped myself. The message that would have sent was that the kitchen was MY realm and he wasn’t welcome there. That is most definitely not what I wanted him to feel. He loads the dishwasher and cleans the bathroom differently than I do and I REFUSE to “fix” it or do it over. Different does not mean he’s wrong or I’m wrong. It’s just different.

4. Encourage each other’s goals/dreams – My husband is a champion at this. I have long wanted to be an author. When we got married, I had published a couple articles and a couple poems. I really wanted to publish a novel. I was frequently writing, but I never really discussed my work with my husband. I guess I was a little embarrassed and worried about what he would think of me. He never read anything I wrote, but he ALWAYS supported me! It was never “if” I got published with him. It was “when”, even though he didn’t know if I was any good! He never resented the time I spent writing. He would even take on my responsibilities so I could continue working if I was on a roll. Do this for your spouse!

5. Share the work – Our work is split by traditional gender roles. He works as a high school math teacher and wrestling coach. I stay home to care for the kids and run the household. However, there are no jobs that we refuse to do because he is male and I am female! When he is home, he doesn’t hesitate to do the dishes or change a poopy diaper. And I have often spent long hours helping him grade homework or enter test scores. Work is just work, and when it needs to be done, we both do it.

6. Cycles of sexuality – I will try to address this delicately without revealing TMI. Our most difficult year of marriage was one where we had polar opposite physical needs. He needed a lot of intimacy. I…did not. I could not convince him that I still loved him and found him attractive despite my lack of passion. He just couldn’t comprehend my viewpoint. Yet at the beginning of our marriage our roles had been reversed because of side effects from medication he had been taking. Recognize that desires fluctuate and often have more to do with biology than with emotion. Be patient with these type of phases, but also be willing to compromise if you are in such a phase.

7. Kids – Children get a bad rap in society, but I have found that besides my husband, they are the greatest source of light and joy in my marriage. We have more than either of us planned on, basically because I won’t touch birth control with a ten foot pole (don’t get me started), but I don’t regret a single one of them. I hope to be done now after five, but if another one comes, it will be loved and welcomed. Don’t be afraid to let the babies come. They are wonderful.

8. Religion – My husband and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Religion plays a huge role in our marriage. We believe that marriages can last for eternity instead of “till death do us part”. Going into a marriage with this type of belief creates a strong sense of commitment. Knowing that my husband isn’t going to divorce me if things get hard gives me a tremendous sense of security and safety. I am free to be me and to make mistakes. We also pray for each other and for help in creating a strong marriage. Calling upon divine powers makes me feel more capable of success.

9. Don’t spend money you don’t have – There is not much more burdensome to a marriage than debt. Stress from inadequate funds will trickle into every other aspect of your marriage and sour it. If you don’t have money, don’t spend it. Period. Being debt-free creates a tremendous amount of peace.

10. Communicate appreciation – Say thank you. Say it over and over and over. Notice your spouse’s efforts and acknowledge them. If your spouse feels appreciated, your spouse will keep making the effort. Always focus on your spouse’s strengths instead of his or her weaknesses.

11. Don’t talk badly about your spouse – In order to demonstrate rapport with a struggling couple, I would tell them about the fights that my husband and I got into. My intent was not to put down my husband, but he always came out looking like the bad guy. After a few of these conversations, my husband asked me to stop because I was making him feel like an idiot. So I stopped. Now I only praise and honor him in public. We have disagreements, but those are strictly our business.

12. Service – My husband came home late from work and started eating dinner while I took the kids downstairs to clean the basement bathroom. The kids did not like this and threw a few tantrums. By the time we finished, I was feeling cranky and irritated that my husband had never appeared to help. But while herding the kids upstairs to get ready for bed, I smelled cleaner and realized that as soon as he had finished his dinner, he had cleaned the upstairs bathroom for me. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I just about started crying. This type of service goes a long, long way. Do it often for each other.

13. Sacrifice – This is really important, so pay attention. We are taught by today’s society that the only way to find true happiness is by being what we want to be and doing what we want to do, no matter the cost. The career, the income, the house, the car, and the international travel must all be achieved before even considering a spouse or children. This is false. Sometimes, the purest form of happiness is found by sacrificing what we want so that someone else can fulfill what they want. And sometimes, as in my case, those very sacrifices lead to the fulfillment of everything you were dreaming of before those sacrifices were made. Happiness comes in many forms. It is not less valuable because it comes by a different method than you thought it should.

I feel like a hack sharing these. Thirteen years isn’t all that long and most of the time, I’m as bewildered as everyone else as to how to make a marriage work. I’ve never had to deal with issues like abuse or infidelity, so I don’t know how I would handle those. But hopefully you have some ideas of things to try in your own marriage. I wish you abundant love and happiness in your endeavors. If you have tips of your own, please share them in the comments.

My Cry for New Zealand

I want you to go outside today and look up. Look at the mountains and the trees. Listen to the birds. Feel the air currents moving on your skin. The atmosphere that touches you is the same that touches me. We draw breath of the same gasses. Under the thin crust of rock on which we stand flows the same magma over the same core. The same light shines on us from the sun, moon, and stars.

This planet is our home.

Something terrible happened in New Zealand and my heart is breaking for those people. I feel compelled to write my jumbled thoughts about it.

All the details aren’t clear yet, but a man shot people worshipping in two mosques. A lot of people were hurt and a lot of people died. It may have been because they were Muslim and it may have been because they were immigrants and refugees. The cruelty and selfishness and evil encompassed in that man makes me feel physically ill. Thankfully, he has been caught and will face justice for his actions. Yet this incident is a symptom of a more widespread problem.

We are living in a culture of outrage and offense. If someone looks, acts, or believes differently, we ridicule and criticize them. Sometimes we gather entire mobs of people on social media to attack them until they withdraw their point of view or admit error when no error was made. This type of behavior is despicable and when it manifests in smaller issues, then the hatred and malice compounds into bigger issues until some psychopathic idiot murders a bunch of innocent people.

As members of humanity, we ought to welcome diversity. The variety of foods, colors, clothing, dances, books, religions, even physical human features brings so much beauty to our world. This diversity should be treasured and welcomed into our homes, cities, and countries.

It doesn’t make sense for us to hate each other because we are standing in different rooms of the house. It’s absurd to dislike others because their clothes are the exact same style, but a different color. Building walls between countries, refusing to provide safety for the innocent, or rejecting kindness to someone different are acts that ought to be condemned.

If a child has a nightmare and comes to you for comfort, you don’t spank it and lock it in a dark room. You hold it, kiss it, chase the shadows from the room, and check under the bed for monsters. If your neighbors house is on fire, you don’t nail shut the doors and windows. You help them escape, put out the fire, and then assist in cleanup and rebuilding. If a country is at war, the same principles apply. We should welcome the refugees. We should help the immigrants. We should end their nightmare, not perpetuate it. People who lock a child in a closet and deprive them of basic care are known as abusers. So why is it acceptable to do it on a planetary scale?

As a member of the human family, we are capable of empathizing with people whose situations and choices are different. We can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and our contemporaries. Let’s reject the exclusivism of race and country. Instead, open your arms and your borders. Offer kindness and acceptance. Allow New Zealand’s pain to pierce your heart and motivate you to make a difference, somehow, today.

Interview with Holli Anderson

I had the opportunity to interview Holli for the release of her newest novel, Myrikal. She proved to be an intriguing character with many eclectic talents. Check it out!

Holli Anderson has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing—which has nothing to do with writing, except maybe by adding some pretty descriptive injury and vomit scenes to her books. She discovered her joy of writing during a very trying period in her life when escaping into make-believe saved her.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a nurse, author, wife, mom, grandma, and editor. I love the color blue and long walks on the beach… and steak, medium rare.

I’m an introvert and not good at small talk – like really not good, terrible, awful. So if you want to engage me in more than a twenty second conversation, I’ll give you some hints on how to start: Harry Potter, Avengers, Supernatural, books (especially Brandon Sanderson and Jim Butcher … and Holli Anderson), writing, or my grandkids.

How not to engage me in conversation: politics, or basically anything that isn’t from the above list.

Tell me about your book.

Myrikal is born into a dystopian world where more than half the population died either from world-wide earthquakes bigger than any the world has seen before or by an epidemic caused by a new virus that seeped out of the deep cracks in the earth made from the ‘quakes.

Her parents are horrible people who don’t want her but when her dad realizes she has “powers” he decides to train her to become an assassin like him.

Myrikal struggles with her father’s teachings, not quite sure whether to believe his credo that all humans are awful and deserve to die – so killing people for payment is neither good nor bad.

She becomes friends with a boy her age named Branch, and starts to see that her father is wrong.

What sets Myrikal apart from other superhero/post-apocalyptic stories?

Her origin story is different than any other superhero out there and we get to see her as a young girl, discovering her powers and the power of friendship. She is the only person in the world with powers as far as she knows, and she doesn’t know how she developed them.

She doesn’t see herself as a Superhero – Branch really has to convince her that she is or she could be. She’s having a hard time shaking off the brainwashing of her father.

What or who inspired your main character?

I saw a video of a young woman testifying before Congress. She’d been an abortion survivor. Yes, you heard that correctly. She lived through a saline abortion attempt, was born 2 months early – her skin burned by the saline –, she was put into foster care, and grew up to be this amazing woman. I believe her name is Gianna Jesson.

After reading the first few chapters of Myrikal, you’ll see the connection.

What was your favorite part to write in this book?

The fight scenes are usually my favorite to write, but this time it was the sweet interactions between Myrikal and Branch and their blossoming friendship.

What were you like when you were Myrikal’s age?

Very studious. And boy crazy—a little bit.

Your day job is in nursing, so what made you choose to begin writing?

I didn’t start writing until about eleven years ago when I was going through a really rough spot with one of my kids. I’d always used reading as an escape from reality and the problems and stresses of daily life – but that wasn’t enough this time. I decided to start writing my own fantasy novel that incorporated some of the bad choices we were dealing with with my son and my feelings as his mother who loved (loves) him more than anything. It ended up being a 110,000-word pile of dung because I didn’t know what I was doing, but I still love the story and hope to go back and fix it someday and continue on with the trilogy I had planned for it.

What makes you choose to write YA fantasy over other genres?

I actually write in a couple of other genres, too, but YA is my favorite. I love to read YA novels. I love writing the characters for this age-group because everything is new and they are discovering the world through the eyes of a pre-adult and starting to make decisions and suffer the consequences of their choices without a parent figure always there to help them.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on another Romantic Thriller under my “pen name” H.L. Anderson (so as not to confuse my YA readers). When I finish writing that, I’ll get to work on the sequel to Myrikal.

How many unpublished or partially finished books do you have in your filing cabinet?

If by “filing cabinet” you mean saved on my computer…. I have two finished, unpublished books, the one I talked about above and a Middle Grade that just needs a little tweaking before publishing. I have two partially finished books and a few partially finished short stories taking up space in my files. And a whole lot of ideas written in various notebooks you can find throughout my house.

Have any of your sons shown an interest in writing and what advice would you give them (or other writers) as they pursue this interest?

None of them have shown interest in writing novels. At least one of them has a great talent for writing poetry, though.

As far as advice – I write because I love to write and I have dozens of untold stories rolling around in my head (usually at 2:00 in the morning when I should be sleeping). I’ve seen too many of my friends get discouraged and even quit writing because they had this unrealistic dream that they would find instant success. It’s okay to dream that, but don’t let it become the reason you write. Don’t let it kill your passion.

And also, whether you get published by one of the Big Five, by a small press, or decide to self-publish, plan on doing the majority of your own marketing. No one cares as much as you do if you succeed or not.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve researched as an author?

Ahh…. Demons and Incubi. I don’t recommend it.

Go to your bookshelf, third shelf down, sixth book from the left. What book is it and why do you have it?

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. My daughter-in-law got me interested in Cassandra Clare’s books after she read my first book, Five Out of the Dark, which has similar themes. I love the whole series.

You can reach Holli on social media!

Facebook page:

Twitter handle: @HaAuthor


Purchase her new release here:

Finally, here is an excerpt from Myrikal!

She’d asked Russ—she wasn’t allowed to call him “dad”—once why he’d named her Myrikal and why he’d spelled it so weird. She’d been around five or six and she’d known how to read since she was three. It just hadn’t occurred to her before then that her name was actually a play on the word “miracle.” His answer took her breath away. Not in a good, life is beautiful way, but in a just got kicked in the gut by an elephant way.

Thanks, Holli, for letting me take your time!

Why Writing?

I can’t remember what sparked my interest in writing stories. It began at a very early age, pretty much as soon as I learned how to write. My parents taught me to love books, so perhaps the love of writing stemmed from the love of reading great stories.

I wrote stories and poetry through elementary and into high school. As a young teen, I began drawing maps with my younger brother and then since he was writing a book about one, I decided to write a book too. Stories just poured out of me. In college, I took a notebook to class and spent my lectures filling them up with words that had nothing to do with what the teacher was saying. I’d glance up occasionally to make it look like I was paying attention, but my thoughts were in a different dimension.

I dabbled in other interests through the years: drawing and painting, photography, dance, acting, music, beading. But writing is the one that stuck through all the obligations and commitments of adulthood. I love being able to make people feel emotion with words.

As most artists do, I’ve had times of doubt about whether I should continue pursuing my craft. The majority of the world doesn’t even know I exist and of the people that do, only a fraction are interested in reading my stories. But I can’t stop.

New Job!

This summer I was given the opportunity to apply for a job as an acquisitions editor for Immortal Works Press. Initially, I hesitated to submit an application for various reasons. I’m fully consumed with raising five kids. Writing anything is a struggle and I wasn’t sure I could commit the time to a job, even if I could work from home.

After some internal debate, I realized I would be a fool if I didn’t apply. Here was an opportunity to support an industry I love! I could gain invaluable experience and make connections with professionals that would never exist otherwise. So I applied and was given the job (shocking)!

Now I get to read submissions and pass the good ones on to my superiors as publication candidates. It’s the dream job that I never knew I was dreaming of! I love it!

Being on the front lines of the publishing industry has educated me in countless ways. Most importantly, I have discovered the unending fountain of talent that exists out there in the world. I thought I would send a lot more rejections than I do. Instead, I request more full manuscripts than I expected. Finding a gem of a raw manuscript is exhilarating and I get so excited with the prospect of putting a wonderful book on the shelves.

So if you write or know someone who does, send your manuscript my way. I would love to read it!

First Published Book

You may think that Defender of Dragons will be my very first published book. Believe it or not, I actually published at the ripe old age


of six. In January of 1986, I released a book called Katie the Caterpillar and in June of that same year, I published The First Wizard. Yep, I had a soft spot for fantasy, even back then.

Today there is only one remaining copy of each book, kept in a highly secret, guarded location. Experts say that the books are worth millions, possibly even billions of dollars because of their scarcity and sentimental value.

My publisher and editor put a lot of work into making these books by hand, which increases their value even more. This was back in the day of typewriters, so you can imagine what a job it was. Because I was so young, they did it all for free. I’ll never find a more dedicated publisher or editor in today’s cutthroat book industry.

If anyone is interested, leave a comment and I’ll post a tutorial on how to make these cute books with your kids!