Monday, March 28, 2016

The Holiest War

Odd thoughts enter my head when I hear that people have died because someone chose to strap explosives to their body, situate themselves in a populated area, and press the button.  I wonder about the bomber’s immunization record.  Did their parents stand in line to get them vaccinated?  Was their body as it blew to bits immune from Polio?  I would think so.  And that their mother shouted when they ran out into the street without looking or got too close to the stove.  Their mother probably kissed their head when she held them in her arms, cheered when they did well in games.  Took pictures as they grew.  But at some point an idea took seed that it was acceptable to destroy their body—this beautiful, immunized gift they’d been given—in the name of God. 

With suicide bombers striking our metropolitan centers, now is not the perfect time to be a mother.  But, then again, there has never been a perfect time to be a mother.  During times of war, depression, plagues, inquisitions, mothers have mothered on—protecting, feeding, and rearing children as best they could.  Some were better, more dialed in, than others.  I think we can all give a round of applause to Abe Lincoln’s mom.  Adolph Hitler’s?  Not so much.  As mothers, we worry, and terrorism is just one of the many things on a long list.  We want to tell them that there is no reason to fear, but that’s not possible, not after San Bernadino, Charlie Hedbo, the Brussels airport.  Not after 9/11.  But we don’t want them to lose sleep, because that’s our job, and, besides, we really need them to go to sleep!  So what do we do?

The answer is simple, we mother.  We teach, we laugh, we fix meals, we correct bad behavior, we immunize, and we show them through our actions (and sometimes our words), that the holiest war of all is the one against evil.  When we as parents value life, we help our children to value life, including that life that is their own.  We can help them see that the world is a safer place, because of people like them, who help others, who clean up their room (we might as well throw that in), and who stand against bullying in all its forms.  The time for them picking up their principles from Pokemon is over.  As mothers, we need to dial in.  We need to step up. We need to help them save their world.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Saying Yes to the Dress

If I were smart I would have blogged about Julia and Caroline’s weddings while we were in the midst of them, but I was a bit panicked and overwhelmed at the time, so my reflections will have to do.  And one of the subjects I wanted to delve into was the dress hunt. First, I should say that I love a well-made dress for a great price.  Not that I wear dresses often.  I seldom exit my mom uniform—jean shorts, sandals, and a top.  But when I wear a dress, I like it to be lovely, and so you can imagine that I was game for shopping for wedding dresses. As it turned out, I never did go shopping with Caroline. 

She found her dress in an unconventional way.  A friend had purchased a wedding dress online, a lovely Claire Pettibone number that retailed well beyond most wedding dress budgets.  However, the dress had previously been worn, and so the dress cost considerably less than it had originally.  The friend who had purchased the dress online realized, once she tried it on, that the dress even if altered wouldn’t fit her correctly, and so she made the decision to sell it.  Caroline tried it on, fell in love, and her father opened his wallet.  End of story. 

Actually, I shouldn’t say, end of story.  The Claire Pettibone had to be altered to comply with modesty standards that we wanted to keep, and so we turned to the same friend’s seamstress for help.  Usually, when I think of a seamstress, I think of a shop sandwiched in a strip mall between a nail salon and a Subway, but not this seamstress.  Paula Nelson Hart is more than a seamstress, she’s an artist who happens to also work with fabric, so it’s only fitting that her work space was up the canyon, which added another fun layer to the several fittings that we scheduled with her. 

Paula is, in my opinion, a hidden gem in Utah County. She was able to match lace and fabrics to Caroline’s dress in such a manner that it was impossible tell where the original dress ended and where the alterations began.  And in the wedding dress world that is a rare feat.  I’ve seen so many dresses that look altered.  Caroline’s dress looked complete.  And she was, without question, a beautiful bride.
One of my favorite features on her dress was the lace on the skirt.  It was so intricate, so pretty.  I loved watching her in her wedding dress surrounded by all that beautiful lace.  And as if transforming Caroline’s dress weren’t enough, Paula also made a veil for her to match her dress, scratch that she made two veils and we got to choose one.  It was such a pretty addition.  And really, why as a bride would you pass on the opportunity to wear a veil?  My advice is don’t skip out on this fun fashion feature.  Soon enough all you’ll be wearing most days is a baseball cap as you race out the door to do errands, so enjoy your veil time! 

We felt lucky that Caroline ending up being a Paula Nelson Hart bride, but it didn’t occur to me that Julia should be one too, until after we tried on close to one hundred dresses.  The one hundredth dress mark is about the time when trying on dresses is no longer fun.  Or, I should say, no longer as fun.  I know some moms couldn’t take that much wedding dress shopping, but I didn’t start to fatigue until way late in the game.  What can I say?  I love dresses.  Whereas Caroline’s dress hunt took us one place, we looked everywhere for Julia’s dress.  We looked online, in wedding shops in several states, and, of course, online, but we couldn’t find just what she was looking for.  We came close a few times, but nothing was the dress. 

The closest we came was a rental dress in the Salt Lake area.  The shop specialized in wedding dress rentals and one of their Allure dresses in her size was perfect, but the problem that we ran into was that she wouldn’t be in Salt Lake a few weeks before her wedding to get the dress altered and to pick it up.  We were out of options for Julia.  Heading back up the canyon for one of Caroline’s fittings, it occurred to me to ask Paula if she could make Julia’s dress.  We showed her a picture of Allure rental, and she said that she could make it in her sleep.  Well, she didn’t say that, but she did sound like the dress wouldn’t be a stretch for her.  We told her she was hired, and went one step further and said, Look, we know you hunt for lace online all the time.  You know the vendors, you know what is quality and what isn’t.  You pick the lace, and all the materials.  We leave it in your able hands. Here’s some money.  Thank you for being talented.  

And so Paula made the dress for Julia.  She looked stunning in it.  One of the things that Julia wanted was a lace over lace look on the skirt.  Paula was able to find a cheaper lace to go under and a beautiful lace for on top that she also used on Julia’s veil, which, by the way, was beyond beautiful.  What I also loved was the care that Paula took in shipping it to us.  No dress, veil, and underskirt, were ever wrapped with such care.  It was so fun to get that package and see Julia in her dress.   

I know this is going to sound crazy, but I’m a little sad the wedding hoopla is over.  Yes, it was exhausting and stressful and expensive.  But to see your daughter in her wedding dress is truly an exquisite moment, one that I will cherish always.  And what follows is my practical advice for any mom and daughter team on the hunt for the dress. 

1.        Don’t bring an entourage of children with you to the boutique.  We did that once, and while the staff was incredibly obliging, we felt stupid.  And besides, they treated the dresses like a psychiatrist’s ink blots.  That one reminds me of a poodle.  That one reminds me of porcupine.  That one reminds me of a chandelier.  Thanks. 

2.      Compare the dress you’re interested in to a car.  If you could buy a fantastic vehicle for what you’re spending on that dress, you’ve gone too far.  Everyone’s budget is different, but keep in mind you’ll only wear it for a few days at the most, and then you’ll be tucking it away forever.  
3.       Don’t get a short dress or a beachy, breezy number.  This is your day!  Own it!  You can wear beach attire or a short dress any time at all.  Enhance the spectacle of your ceremony with a beautiful dress.  Am I encouraging you to look like Marie Antoinette?  Possibly.  Hey, it worked for Celine Deon.  But in truth, I think that a lovely wedding dress doesn’t look every day.  It looks special day. 

4.       Skip David’s Bridal.  I didn’t like the fabrics.  The staff was nice, but there was lots of chiffon, lots of silhouette sleeves and neckline, and not a lot else.  They weren’t varied enough.  However, I like their price point. 

5.       Skip the blingy belt.  It’s a budge buster and most dresses are beautiful enough without them. 

6.       Try on one dress of every style—A line, mermaid, ball gown, fit and flare, etc.  You may be surprised by what you fall in love with. 

7.       Don’t argue.  Remember, you are making memories.  If you don’t see eye to eye, be sweet about it. 

8.       Stop looking when you’re tired or hungry. The dresses just become a blur. 

9.       Don’t bring your fiancé.  Stay true to tradition and let him see the whole enchilada when it’s fully cooked—dress, make up, veil, etc. 

10.   Don’t have a dress made for you in China. It will end badly. 

11.   Do use Paula Nelson Hart to make your dress.  You will not be disappointed! 

12.   Wedding dress sizes are wonky.  If you’re a size six, you’ll most likely wear a size twelve or fourteen wedding dress.  Don’t let that freak you out. 

13.   Don’t expect tears of joy.  Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not the way I react to fabric.  Do, however, expect happiness at finding the dress. 

14.   Don’t dry clean your dress.  Paula says the acids they use destroy the material.  She is a fan of spot cleaning with clear Windex, washing a gown in the tub with something like Woolite, and letting it hang dry.  She’s the pro, so we trusted her with this method, and it worked! 

15.   And don’t worry about your dress getting dirty on your wedding day.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Saving Yourself

In the world of Hollywood storytelling, you have sex and find out their last name later. And from a storytelling standpoint I can see the advantages of such a timeline—the rapid advance, followed by retreat, followed by the slow dawning that, Hey, I actually do love you! It makes for a sweet story. I’m guessing that few people pattern their lives after the choices of fictional characters, but still, we live in a world where sex isn’t something you wait to do until after you’re married. Of course, you can, because in this world we have been given strict instructions to tolerate everything, but it’s viewed as an oddball choice, a super religious choice, the choice of people who split wood all day (they’ve got to have an outlet for all that energy!)

  Recently I’ve had two daughters get married, both of which, despite not owning an ax and pile of logs, were virgins on their wedding day. Readying a daughter for marriage is a joyful experience. There are the showers, the dress hunting, the colors to choose, the venue to find. It is a dizzying, slightly expensive, whirlwind, one that any mother would cherish. But as the mother of two chaste brides I’d like to speak to the added layers of joy that particular experience brings. 

For a chaste bride, the decision to marry involves preparing herself to have sex for the first time. This means a visit to the gynecologist is in order, and as I’ve learned, nurses aren’t accustomed to hearing that an engaged girl is a virgin. Their eyes get as wide as a bird enthusiast’s upon spotting a nearly extinct species. It is quite humorous.

  In the Mormon world choosing to marry in the temple sends the message to friends and family that this couple has a large pile of wood for sale. I’m joking, but since an unmarried couple needs to be chaste to be married in the temple, those who are aware of this policy, know that the wedding night will be a night of discoveries, a night that is, as Queen Victoria put it, both “gratifying and bewildering.”

This reality brings forth a few snickers from the young, and from the older, whispered counsel, particularly to the bride’s mother. You’re sure she’s ready? Are you sure you’ve mentioned… It’s as if our fast-paced modern world gets distilled into a village, and that village on wedding day is on high alert! Look at their smiles! They’re so in love! We know what they’ll be doing later! Snicker, snicker.

Soon enough, this newly minted couple will be just another couple, but on their wedding night their love is celebrated, and when they leave their reception surrounded by the flickering fire of sparklers, they’ve got a green light.

The green light. Knowing this was coming, my girls asked me LOTS of questions, and I loved this part of readying them for marriage. These conversations took place while we jogged or walked or after shoving the little kids out of the room (Victoria and Rich fled of their own accord.) They needed to talk and they turned to me. I loved that. It was one of my favorite added layers of joy.

I love weddings. Though we try and spin funerals into a celebration, it doesn’t really work. Funerals are sad, plain and simple. They suck. We’re grieving, so if they are celebrations, they’re the worst kind. But weddings are the best. I love the hoopla, the clothing, the dancing, the photos. I love the love. And in my heart I have a special place for Stephen and Caroline’s wedding, and for Julia and Paul’s, not just because of their love, but because of the added layers of joy their choices allowed me to experience. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Love Is In The Air

There really is no reason all of my children shouldn’t be getting married now.  Sure, when it comes to event planning I haven’t tackled anything harder than a laser tag birthday party, but weddings are fun, and besides, Scarlett would make a lovely child bride.  But for now I suppose I’ll have to resign myself to having JUST two daughters engaged at the same time. Heavy sigh.  So boring.  Sort of like watching March of The Penguins.  That’s right, ONLY Julia got engaged last Friday, but it was really sweet, so I think I’ll tell you about it.

Julia McKendrick's photo.

Falling in love with someone from Oregon when you’re from Florida is advisable only for those with gigantic personal bubbles.  For anyone else, an entire country separating you from the one you love is a bit irksome.  And it’s fair to say that Julia was irked.  She wanted to see Paul, wanted to show him around her hometown, and so she suggested as much.  But Paul said he was swamped, and so instead of belly aching (very much,) she got busy enjoying the time she had at home until her summer job in Park City started, not realizing all the while that scheming was afoot.
Around a month ago Paul called me wondering if he could enlist our help.  He wanted to surprise Julia by popping up here and popping the question.  We knew they loved each other, knew an engagement was imminent, that it was just a question of when, and so we told him we we’d be happy to help.  And right from the start two things became clear—we were bumblers when it came to espionage, but it was okay, because Julia was oblivious.During Family Home Evening when Rich announced that the oldest son of his favorite mission companion, Manuel Lopez, was coming from Chile to visit, Julia didn’t smell a rat, even when he said his name was Pablo.  Pablo!  My body went cold.  I thought for sure the gig was up, that Rich had blown our cover, but Julia did not raise an eyebrow in suspicion.  She remained blissfully oblivious, despite Rich snatching her phone out of her hand when she suggested we search for him on Facebook, and me announcing his name was NOT Pablo, but Javier.Julia was happy to help me ready the house for Javier’s visit, not that the house was messy.  My house is never messy.  She just spruced a little, did some minor dusting.  And getting a new dress on Tuesday, new shoes and a Bruster’s ice cream cone (I usually say no) on Thursday, a mani-pedi, hair appointment, and breakfast with her Dad on Friday meant nothing more than she was having a fantastic week.  Little remembrances of Paul showing up throughout the day on Friday--a Buzz Lightyear toy on the kitchen counter, her dad and her little brother wearing loud socks, black licorice dropped off by my visiting teachers—added up to nothing more than coincidence.  And so when I suggested that she put on her new outfit and we go to Hollis Gardens to take pictures she was willing to oblige.  It was, after all, Prom weekend.  Her mother was just in the picture taking mood.Julia walked into the garden with nothing in particular on her mind, just a happy girl indulging her mother's sudden photography kick.  I suggested we start taking pictures in the grotto, a rock garden with hanging vines and koi pond.  She stepped down, I stepped away, and then Paul stepped forward.If you’ve seen the video you’ll agree that she looks pretty casual, like she was expecting Paul to emerge from behind a rock arch, but what you’re really seeing is a girl so stunned she appears calm.  Julia didn’t keep Paul in suspense long.  She said, “Yes,” and it was such a pleasure to  be there and witness their happiness.Over the past year that they’ve dated, I’ve thought more than once how lucky Paul is to have caught Julia’s eye.  Maybe I’m biased, but I think she’s awesome.  But what seeing them together for a few days here made me realize is she’s lucky too.  Paul is a great guy, and his love for her is what any parent would want for their daughter.  Congrats, Paul and Julia.  Let the wedding planning begin!

Here you can see it happen in real life people

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sweet Caroline

Just in time for menopause, Bruce Jenner is becoming a woman.  As vice-president of the Hot Flashes Society, I’ve got to say that may not go down as the best decision he’s ever made.  But hey, we all make choices we regret.  Like, for instance, me, neglecting my blog for months on end.  Yeah, shouldn’t have done that.  But life sometimes can be like caravanning behind a friend who has a lead foot—you’re trying to keep up, but they’re going so fast!  Enough excuses.  It’s time for me to channel my inner Jeff Gordon, because whether I write about it or not, life is going to keep speeding past, especially now that we have a daughter who’s engaged.

Had Rich and I been more analytical (and a tad less passionate) Caroline wouldn’t be here.  Life for us at the time was a sketchy affair—two kids already to our credit, one still an infant, and Rich a new law student making zero dollars an hour, we weren’t exactly ready to welcome anyone else into our family.  But that’s what I wanted.  It wasn’t a decision based on logic, and so when I miscarried, I didn’t’ view it as us dodging a very expensive bullet.  This was a decision based on love.  Whether it made sense or not, I wanted another baby. 

And so, Caroline came into our world, arriving toward the end of Rich’s second year of law school, and right before I started graduate school.  She was beautiful, and blessed with a sweet disposition.  We called her our snuggle buggle, and pled with her to stay four forever, because she was such an adorable preschooler.  Time with her in our home slipped away fast.  Like sucking a milkshake through a straw, it was gone before we knew it.  Now Caroline is engaged, a temple date has been set, and part of me is wanting to point out that, logically speaking, they’re too young, too poor, and have too much schooling still ahead of them.  But this is a decision based on love, and if Caroline’s life has taught me anything, it’s that from those decisions spring forth life’s greatest blessings.

Whatever hardships we endured from deciding to have Caroline I’ve forgotten.  I’m sure there were missed trips to the mall, and lovely cuts of roast beef I couldn’t justify buying.  Certainly there was stuff we missed out on because of that baby girl.  But now we have stuff.  We have plenty of stuff, and we also have Caroline.  We have her kindness, her humor, her music, her beauty, and sometimes her sass.  We have pure joy, and even Neiman Marcus doesn’t carry that.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Love Stories

Sometimes I feel like I take care of my blog the way I do my chia pet—only occasionally giving it what it needs.  But it’s time to turn over a new leaf, time to post like never before!  Not only is Valentine’s Day just around the corner, so is the release of my new book, a romantic comedy for the LDS market called, Letters To My Future Husband (available at Deseret Book, Seagull Book, Amazon and 

Maybe I should have written a thriller replete with double agents and military acronyms (there’s always next time) but I wanted to take on a project that would be fun.  So I set aside my manuscript, Yarn Balls, A Brief History, and got to work telling the story of Sophia Stark, an advertising executive who thinks she’s met her future husband.  Griffin, her boyfriend, is everything she’s been looking for as long as she doesn’t look too closely.  Once she does that, her certainty about him starts to waver.

Sophia’s road to finding true love is not without potholes.  For some, love runs a smooth course.  They meet their future spouse in the lunch line in grade school and never question they’re destined to be together.  That’s not the way it worked for me.  In the lunch line all I got was shoved against a booger-covered vent called the cootie corner.  Romance did not blossom there. 

It was during my freshman year at BYU that I met my future husband (Talk about original.)  We were introduced by a mutual friend on the steps of the Cannon Center, and my first impression of Rich was that he had a nice smile.  His first impression of me was, Hmm, she’s wearing a boy scout jacket (I was trying to find myself at the thrift store.)  That moment led to others, taking pictures together in a photo booth at the mall when we hardly knew each other, going on walks together, and writing letters, lots and lots of letters while one or the other of us was on a mission. 

Was Rich everything I was looking for in a husband?  No.  I was looking for an Abercrombie model with an Australian accent and a vault filled with gold krugerrands.  Rich was a sousaphone player from L.A. with an old Volvo.  But the closer I looked, the more I realized, Hey, this guy might be the one for me.  Twenty-five years and seven kids later, the jury is still out, but I’m pretty sure I made the right decision. 

Okay, so I know I made the right decision, and not just because of the time we’ve spent together and the number of our progeny.  I know it because even in stressful situations he treats me with kindness, he’s a great dad, and he thinks I’m gorgeous without makeup without Botox without even brushing my hair.  True, his eyeglass prescription probably needs adjusting, but still, throughout our marriage he has called me beautiful, and as we advance toward being card carrying members of the AARP, I don’t see that (or his glasses) changing.  Nice guys do not finish last, they finish the dishes when you’re tired, finish putting the kids to bed when you need a break, finish an argument with I love you.  They finish by you, with you, and for you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Brave New World

There is an assumption I live with, a cozy little thing I feed a steady diet of hardly glanced-at headlines and confidence-boosting thoughts, like the  fact that the last time an enemy invaded America dentures could give you splinters.  I live with this assumption because it makes it easier to hop on planes, enter public places, and occasionally draw controversial cartoons.  Okay, so I’ve never done that last one.  But I live with it because we’re number one!  Or, at least, that’s what we were the last time I checked.  Like I said, I only glance at the headlines.

But, lately, my assumption isn’t doing so well—that rosy expectation I’ve cultivated over the years that terrorism, though a problem, will never reach my family has started to crumble.  The pictures of grief and fear in Paris bring other pictures to my mind—pictures of towers burning, smoke billowing, and people fleeing as firemen rushed toward danger.  When the Charlie Hedbo staff left for work the other day, they, like the people who worked on the upper floors of the World Trade Center, were expecting it to be just another day.  But it wasn’t.  It was their last day.

This grim reality has forced me to set aside my sunny assumption, and realize that if this could happen to them, it could happen to me or someone I love.  So what is a mother to do?  My first impulse is to retreat.  If other people’s children are going to be terrorists, mine are going to be bored—just a trip to the general store each morning for a few essentials and then back inside the bomb shelter.  The world is just too dangerous.  But, ah, the world—despite its perils it’s a beautiful place, and that beauty is something I want my children to not only see, but be.  I want them to claim this planet, to experience its wonders and make it a better place.  I want them to stand against it becoming the playground of thugs--a thing they cannot accomplish if I’m keeping them safe behind reinforced concrete.  Sure, there are certain places it would be foolish for them to visit (we’re not booking a family trip to Afghanistan,) but a kosher deli in Paris—they should be able to go there.  And so they must advance into the world, not retreat from it, because if other people’s children are going to take an oath to protect and defend our way of life, then the least I can do is teach mine to be brave.