Thursday, May 26, 2016


I like dirt.

Let me be more specific. I like to eat dirt.

When I was little, I used to fill a small bucket with dirt, hide it under my bed, and every few days, eat a spoonful or two.'s okay. Don't gag. There was only a little bit of potato bugs and cat poop in it, and I was too young to realize.

Fast forward a few years and I'm laying in bed, miserable with morning sickness and sobbing to my husband, "The only thing that I can even stand the smell of is dirt. Like I want to eat some. And that makes me sad!"

I was able to withstand the craving then, but only because grown women are frowned upon when they burp and sputter mud.

Fast forward even more years, and we've come full circle, as I just ordered a bag of dirt for my second son. To eat. For his own good. And probably there is a little bit of potato bugs and cat poop in it, but it's called, "homeopathic" and "food grade", so it's fine.

So why am I feeding Chris dirt? That's on account of he served a mission for our church in Uganda and Ethiopia. As you can imagine, he ate his fair share of impoverished third world parasites, and apparently, some are clinging with white knuckles to his innards, hoping to make it big here in the U.S., which is causing all sorts of intestinal distress.

Going on four years now. That's not exactly a recipe for peace. Bless him.

But he's not the only missionary in our family with issues. A few months ago,  Seth started experiencing some scary symptoms. The most alarming; his vision would suddenly flip upside down. What the?! Of course my conservative diagnosis was BRAIN TUMOR/CERTAIN DEATH, and I spent the next couple of weeks wringing my hands and contacting doctors about MRI results. 

While in the midst of this, I was talking to Chris, and he said, "Mom, it's okay. All of us have some sort of souvenir from our missions. Ash got fat and bald, I have eternal diarrhea and Seth has a brain tumor. But it's all good. Nobody gets out of these things unscathed."

Just the perspective I needed. (*Turns out my diagnosis was wrong. Not a tumor. Anemia, polyps and cysts. Needless to say, we've met our deductible.)

Then I remembered watching a documentary about missionaries where they interviewed a man who had served in a really difficult part of the world. Bullets had whizzed past him, causing him to lose his religion later in life. He said, "I just realized, they had no right to ask me to do that. There is nothing worth dying for in this life."

He clearly didn't understand that, intentionally or not, he would, in fact, die for something. Whether you give up your body for babies or your years in service to your country, or your beauty to hardship and labor...or just waste away on a couch in a dark room playing video cash in a wallet, you will eventually spend your life on something, until you are left with no more.

None of us get out of this life unscathed. We weren't meant to. We were meant to spend it...all of it...on something of worth. Then return to our maker fat, bald, crippled and medicated, with incredible tales of what we did with the greatest gift we've ever been given. About how we used our hands to be His hands and brought great things to pass.

And so, I give a profound THANK YOU this Memorial weekend, to the courageous men and women who spent their lives in a noble cause—protecting our love of God, Family and Country—and passed to the other side not unscathed, but with the conviction that THERE REALLY ARE THINGS IN LIFE WORTH DYING FOR

The boys, before they were fat, bald, incontinent, and full of tumors

Grandpa Jack Wood and Grandpa Boyd Stewart 
Two incredible men who lived and died for what they believed

Thursday, May 19, 2016


'Tis a season of change upon us, can you feel it? The winds have shifted and we're about to watch boys and girls becoming men and women as they move their tassels and close the books on the last 18 years of their lives and suddenly realize...that there are even more books required—about $500 worth each semester—and no, you can't find them cheaper on the internet.

Add to that the kids who will also embark on LDS missions just weeks after high school graduation and you realize it's more of a hurricane than a light breeze.

And although I don't have a graduating child, change is heading our way, too. Six weeks from today, my son will step off an airplane and onto an escalator, where he'll take the fastest and slowest descent of his life, searching for a familiar face in a sea of Mormon families. Of course, ours will be the best looking (she said modestly).

Two years is a really long time, you guys.

So long, in fact, that when a sweet woman from his mission in New York asked me for "10 fun facts about Seth," I reverted to things like, "Um...he likes red meat. Like steak. And roast...does that count as three?"

Yeah. Way fun facts.

You'd think we were strangers. And in a way, we kind of are, on account of I carved him out of my heart and mind when he left us that sunshiny day in June. It was the only way to survive the missing of him. Surprisingly, several days could pass by where I was totally fine. And then, I would walk past his cardboard cutout on my way through the library and suddenly could hardly breathe, remembering how the walls shook when he thundered down the stairs and his genuine I AM ABSOLUTELY THRILLED TO SEE YOU EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE YOU greeting and his guileless personality and his Captain America physique.

A few people might have seen me weeping down the cereal aisle, as I realized the days of buying Honeycombs in bulk and gallons of milk had come to an end. I had done this before so I understood that even when they come home, they never really come home. The dynamics are forever changed, and they will never again think of you, or themselves, as they once were.

Which is exactly as it should be.

Recently, Seth told me that he had been plagued by the concern that the way he had spent these last two years would be a precursor for the rest of his life. He admitted he had some regrets and guilt and hadn't always done what he should have, and he was worried that this was a sample of the man he would always be.

So let me see if I understand. In two years, you've made some mistakes and have guilt and regrets and wish you'd done a few things differently?

I should probably sit down while I put in my surprise eyes, because I never feel that way. And by never I mean constantly.

Of course, I know that what I did today can be repented of tomorrow, and it doesn't need to color the rest of my life. Two years as a missionary matters just as much as two years as a wife and two years as a father and two years as a daughter and two years as a student and two years as a friend and two years as a brother and two years as...well, a people.

If Heavenly Father had intended only one of these two years to matter the most, then He would have made two years the entire span of our lives. Which two years do you think matter the most? Exactly.

All of them matter, all of them can bring us closer to our eternal destination and all of them leave us forever changed, because we will never think of ourselves, or the people around us, as we once were.

Which is exactly as it should be.

So welcome to the next two years, dear friends! They matter more than any other two years of your life...except for the two years after that...from now until eternity.

Two years as my little boy

Two years as a student

Two years on his mission

Friday, April 29, 2016


First of all, Prince is dead. I just thought we should mention that so nobody is embarrassed if I start to wail out the lyrics to I Would Die 4 U (complete with hand/face actions) during this blog. And just for the record, that exotic baby man driving his Little Red Corvette will always have a place in my heart...and my garage. Amen.

Second, my youngest son has two months left on his LDS mission, and will be returning to pass unrighteous judgment on me, so I have to make it look like I've been doing something besides eating cinnamon bears for the last two years. Which is why I have to get busy redecorating a room or two. Not his room, mind you. His room is a shiz hole. Always has been, since all three of the boys lived there together and we found a booger kingdom hidden on the backside of a headboard. There's really no coming back from that. Best to just light a match and walk away.

Anyway, I'm thinking about throwing some paint around in the sitting room, which is my favorite room. But it's going on twelve years, people. It's kind of a decorating version of the leisure suit—it had its day. Of course the leisure suit was a sin against God, so maybe that's not the best example, but you get the idea.

Plus, we all know people who held on a liiiiiiitle too long to their favorite things. Ie; acid washed joggers, Farrah Fawcett hair, frosted blue eyeshadow and perms. All of which, oddly enough, have made a comeback, so never mind.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. My sitting room.

I have big plans for that room. Big, BIG PLANS. And as soon as I steal those plans from Pinterest, you'll be the first to know.

Speaking of sisters having babies (just go with me here) my youngest sister has just announced she is HAVING A BABY!!! That makes six. SIX BABIES, YOU GUYS! Pretty much she's a baby hoarder. When she's pregnant, she vomits in her sleep. And can't even drink water. But she's a size 0 and has stunningly beautiful children, so I think that evens things out.

So to sum up, missionary son, cinnamon bears, leisure suits, Farrah Fawcett, babies and vomit.  It's pretty clear I have laser focus when it comes to writing this blog. My brain is a horse that keeps getting spooked.

Thanks for holding onto the reigns and coming along for the ride.

Farewell, beautiful sitting room, and thank you for the last 12 years. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I'M BACK FROM KAUAI! And I yell this because I left my keys on all caps lock. But also because I want everyone to know that I am a world traveler and that's why I ignored your texts and all responsibilities for 8 days and 7 nights. Two of which were spent in an airport with 350 other passengers and a flight attendant who consistently announced bad news that ended with an insincere, "Mahalo."

Mahalo my fanny.

Anyway, I waded through piles of sand and dead skin to give you this blog post so that you, too, can feel like you were right there with us.

So let's begin my travelog with a picture. This is Julia, otherwise known as Goddess of the Pacific Isles. 

It is important to note that this is completely un-retouched. 

Now,  a picture of the apple tree from which she fell—

Also completely un-retouched.

So what do we learn from this? Well, obviously, Lisa Bingham = Island Girl. But that's hardly worth mentioning. What IS worth mentioning is how tan I am.

Of course, 47 year old tan is way different than 15 year old tan. Julia is a wind in her hair bronze skinned beauty in Hawaii. I am a chocolate covered macadamia nut eating, stringy haired, "I can see most of your scalp and it's burned" melted make-up, age spot sporting, "Is that Lisa? Oh, wait, no, it's a sun-bathing seal,"  kind of exotic. And just for the record, it is not mascara smeared on my cheek. It is sun damage. So quit trying to wipe it off.

Even with all that going on, we managed to visit about ten GLORIOUS beaches, ATV through the jungle, float on tubes through abandoned sugar cane mines, jump in waterfalls, swim with the turtles, almost STEP ON AN OCTOPUS, YOU GUYS—THEY REALLY EXIST! We also luau-ed, ate some pig and were woken up by roosters at 4:00 a.m. Also at's a really good thing that they're a protected species.

We fruitlessly searched for cold drinks and sea shells and ignored the fact that we spent more on sub-par food than our airline tickets. I grew a few chin hairs and one fingernail on my left hand, and we snorkity-snorked away our afternoons under the deep blue sea, where Julia was stung by a jelly fish. To which I promptly replied, "You're fine. You imagined the searing pain." Because that's what good mothers do.

Then, on our very last night in Princeville, Layne said, "Hey, there's a really cool path that you can go down to the shore and watch the sun set behind the ocean. There might be a few areas you'll need to hold onto a rope, but if you feel like you're up for it..."

Well, I'm nothing if not up for a rope strewn path down to the shore. So we swallowed our last bite, threw on our tennis shoes, and zipped down to the trail.

A trail made by Beelzebub himself.

In fact, so cursed was this trail that the only way to get down it was to constantly yell—cover the eyes of the children and easily offended—"HOLY HEL*! HOLY HEL*! HOLY HEL*!!!"

At least that's how I went down. Not sure what other people did.

About 30 seconds into the completely vertical decline, the three strands of fat wrapped sinew that currently form my thighs screamed and snapped in rebellion. "WHAT IN THEE...?! YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN, LADY!" And it was all downhill from there. Figuratively and literally.

Until we had to go back up, which is when the prayers began in earnest. All I asked was not to need a rescue op. But I promised way more, so He would feel like it was a bargain if He obliged. I am happy to report that a deal was struck, and I made it back to the top on my own, where Julia sing-songed,

"That was so fun!"

Me: (cough, hack, spitting out blood)

And now, I bid you Aloha, as I must go practice the beautiful Island Girl ritual of combing dead scalp skin out of my hair. Kauai just keeps giving and giving. To which I say, "Mahalo".

GLORIOUS scenery!

"Sunscreen is for fools"

The view at the bottom of satan's path

The other view at the bottom of satan's path

We were looking for "De plane! De plane!" (Fantasy Island was filmed here)
Unfortunately, it was delayed five hours

Monday, March 7, 2016


So remember how we felt the frenetic urgency to buy Julia a dress (eight months early) for next year's Homecoming dance? And we were so excited when we found it because it was modest and cheap and blah, blah, blah perfect? Yeah, well, fail. Or more specifically, "Asian cut" fail. Basically, it was made for a girl without shoulders and missing some of her ribs and Jules still has all her bones, so things didn't work out.

Jules was kind of upset when I zipped up the dress and she realized she was immobile. Within seconds—and I am not even kidding, you guys—I had a claustrophobia attack just looking at her. I actually started to hyperventilate, thinking about not being able to get that dress off. It looked completely capable of squeezing the life out of her...and me, vicariously.

She was almost as relieved as I was when we yanked it off of her amidst trying to suck air back into our lungs. I packaged it up that very minute, returning it to the factory, so that some other poor fool could have the same beautiful experience. And then Julia lamented, "IT'S NOT FAIR! I WANTED THAT DRESS SO BAD! WHY COULDN'T IT LOOK LIKE THE PICTURE?"

Which brings me to a disease so many of us suffer from called, "Wishful Thinking." The wishing, wanting, imagining and coveting of everyone else's best case scenario.

Just last night, Jules sent me a DM on Twitter. Of course, I never saw it because I'm Twilliterate. So she hacked into my account to pull it up for me.  It was an advertisement for some sort of naturally curly hair product and diffuser. In the fast motion ad, the girl swiped on the mousse, diffused her hair dry, and within 15 seconds, looked like a goddess. Jules' accompanying comment, "I want my hair like this soooooo bad. Let's get some 'moose' and that dryer attachment and see if this works."

Me: "MOOSE? HAHAHAHAHA! Hon, you don't have naturally curly hair."
Jules: "Yes, I do. It's totally got a curl when it air dries."
Me: "No, ummm...I'm sorry to be the messenger here, but that's not a curl. It's like, a slight curve. On about three sections of hair."
Ster: "Yeah, sorry Jules. You have fuzzy hair. You let it air dry last night, and look at it right now—it's fuzzy."
Jules: "I KNOW it's fuzzy right now. But I CAN MAKE IT BE NATURALLY CURLY!"

This went on for a while, Jules insisting she had naturally curly hair, and her parents telling her the truth. But I knew exactly how she felt, because I remembered the days when I saw girls with long, flowing, glorious blond hair set with spiral perms. And I wanted that hair more than life itself. So I'd go to the salon with my dirty-dishwater-above-the-shoulders hair and say, "I want a spiral perm." Of course, what I really meant was, "I want long, flowing, glorious, sexy hair." Which they promptly misinterpreted, and I came out of the appointment with crazy ass worms shooting out of my skull.

I also remember wishing I had Amy's teeny, tiny waist and cute bum. This dream was shot to Hades with a diet that consisted of fries, bologna sandwiches and Swedish Fish. The bum fail happened when all of my family greeted me after I sang in a choir concert and said, "Did you know you don't have a bum? We especially noticed in that dress that you have no bum at all. In fact, it's kind of like a frog bum, where your back goes straight into your legs." My friends were happy to concur.

I wished for full lips, but they're as thin and tight as an O-ring. I wished for Janine's flawless skin, but my nose outshines the north star and I have one pore as big as a nostril on my cheek. I wished for my obituary to say, "She never knew an idle moment" but as I type this while still in my pajamas, I can see this hope dimming like a flashlight with a dead battery.

As my thoughts and time are devoured by this disease, I notice that I am no more inclined to appreciate what I do have, as I am consumed by what will never be. And just like the dress Julia tried on, it has the capacity to squeeze the life right out of me.

But there is a remedy. Wishful thinking can be cured by a glass half full. Doesn't matter what it's full of,  just as long as you see what's in there.

Sure, my lips are thin, but now you notice my eyes because my mouth doesn't distract you. Yes, I am still in my pajamas at almost noon, but HOW AWESOME IS IT THAT I AM STILL IN MY PAJAMAS AT ALMOST NOON?! And okay, my bum is flat, but I never, ever have to ask my husband if "these jeans make my bum look big?" The answer is always no, no matter how hard I try.

So let us waste no more time trying to squeeze into a restricting ideal that diminishes our potential and lung capacity. Yank that thing off your head, and climb into something that lets you breathe the way Heavenly Father intended you to breathe! Brush out that wormy hair, put on some skinny jeans and apply some powder to your shiny nose.

Truth is, it is highly likely that someone is looking at your best case scenario and suddenly finds themselves infected with Wishful Thinking.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


We had a shiz-load of demon piggy wind last night and today. Followed by rain. Followed by snow. Followed by thunder. Followed by hail. Followed by me giving the middle finger to the stupid schizophrenic skies.

I've spoken of this before, but if satan had a bride, it would be February. She comes in under the guise of red hearts and love, but ends up destroying your mental and physical health with her fugly weather and boxes of nuts and chews.

But even in the midst of all this mind numbing wretchedness, my brilliant (she said objectively) filmmaker son, Ashton, was able to create a masterpiece. He called me up the other night and said, "Hey, remember a while back when I filmed Aunt Kara's family? I was going to make something really inspirational. It kind of took an unexpected turn. Anyway, I just sent you the link, and want you to watch it while I'm on the phone with you."

So I clicked the link and IMMEDIATELY sucked as a mother. There on the screen—in all its light filtered soft focus glory—was everything I should have been when my children were young. But wasn't.

I tried to feign happiness for Boo, as I saw her children be beautiful and well dressed and obviously straight A students (even the 18 month old), while they made cookies in a clean, sunshiny kitchen, all smiles and benevolence. Plus Kara, so patient and gentle with only one chin and one digit on her jeans. I was pretty sure that when I made cookies with my children, I was wearing an apron over a stained nightgown while I shoved yesterday's breakfast dishes out of the way and intermittently wiped left over mascara out of the corners of my eyes. If I even made cookies? Hard to say.

Then it faded to black...and a few seconds later, opened on a new perspective.

It's what happens when the music ends that made my heart sing. Turns out the song had drowned out the reality. So the next time you suck as a mother, crank up the chosen soundtrack of your life and know that, one day, you'll remember this through a soft focus lens.


Thursday, February 11, 2016


Forty years ago, my parents built the most magnificent house you've ever seen. It had two stories, you guys. And by two stories, I mean a bi-level entry that led you upstairs or down. Listen, I don't know where you come from, but around here, that's two stories.

It also had glorious brown and gold sculptured carpet, two and a half bathrooms and a wobbly, non-functioning banister that was for "looks only". What can I say? We were a decadent bunch back then.

Since ours was one of the first homes in the new subdivision, we felt the responsibility to fill in the vacant air with lush landscaping. And being poorer than church mice, on account of blowing our wad on glittery popcorn ceilings, we could only afford Cotton-less Cottonwoods. Otherwise known as "trash trees".

These trees were the prostitutes of the neighborhood. With their come-hither leaves and bare trunks, they lured us in with a cheap price and promise of summer shade. All the while refusing to put down roots and actually commit to a long term relationship. They grew a few inches every minute, so by the time they were two, they were big enough to hold a tree-house. At the five year mark, they were twice the size of our home. Teenaged boys would scale the branches and look into my window and my neighbor, Tish Graham, would call and warn me not to get undressed with the lights on. But I'm not gonna lie—I was kind of flattered they thought there would be something to look at.

Fast forward about 20 years. The tree in the backyard succumbed to a bug infestation and cracked in half during a summer storm. We knew it was just a matter of time before the same thing happened to the front tree, and were worried because the branches hung so close to the house. My parents checked with their insurance to see if they'd pay for removal. No, they said. We won't pay for prevention. We want to make sure the cancer has spread before we get you in to see the doctor.

Enter stage right—the new son-in-law, Sterling. Eager to please his wife's parents and feeling manly—bless him—he spoke up with confidence and declared, "THIS IS EASY. I KNOW JUST WHAT TO DO."

And we believed him.

He picked up his chain saw and went to work, cutting down a few of the smaller branches in preparation. This soon became tedious, so he figured he'd just get right to it. He tied one end of a rope around half of the tree, and the other end to the back of his Pathfinder.

"As soon as we cut through that big branch," he explained, "I'm going to pull it away from the house with my SUV really fast." This sounded reasonable to us. Course, nobody did any sort of math...mostly because that seemed like a lot of work. Permit, you ask? Well, that's just silly. We didn't need no stinkin' math or permits because we had faith. Plus a couple of grown men in the neighborhood joined in to help, which was as good as a blessing.

By then, the entire community had gathered around, setting up lawn chairs and placing bets. The excitement was contagious. I was told to keep all of the small children away while Larry Waite shimmied up the tree with his chain saw, and Sterling and James Barnhill climbed into their vehicles, ready to pull, "really fast".

With the snap of the branch, the men punched their accelerators and were both promptly yanked right off the road and into the air backwards, as the tree took a split second to decide, then chose to do whateverthehell it wanted to do. And it wanted to fall onto the house.

Every. Single. Woman. watching this scene threw their hands to their faces, gasping a HUGE lungful of air, then exhaled and exclaimed in unison the exact same sentiment: "HOLEEEYYYY SHHH..."

You know the rest.

That was the last sound we heard. Nothing more to say. There was a great exodus as everybody gathered their winnings and their chairs, then walked home in absolute silence.

Well, you would think this would dampen our spirits. Terrible things like a tree crashing through a house should surely merit weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. But the following pictures tell the tale of how my parents responded:

May I always remember the lesson I learned that day—as Marjorie Pay Hinckley so brilliantly understood: "The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”