Friday, September 21, 2012


When I turned ten, my mother made me the most wonderful cake in the Universe—a pink frosted, rainbow sprinkled number 10 on tinfoil covered cardboard. I kept watch over it as we made preparations to go to the family cabin for the Labor Day weekend. 

When we arrived, I gingerly carried the dessert to the picnic table, then ducked behind the pine trees to wait while the extended family planned whatever “Lisa’s Birthday” surprise they had in mind. Laying in the hammock, I looked skyward and swung back and forth, imagining it all, most especially my startled, modest smile when I heard their cries of birthday cheer. 

About fifteen minutes later, I straightened my green turtle neck, tucked my hair behind my ears, then emerged with a flourish from the quaking aspens.

Not a soul turned their head.

Why you ask? Well, that would be because they were all gathered around the fire pit, BURPING UP RAINBOW SPRINKLES AND LICKING PINK FROSTING OFF THEIR PIGGY LITTLE FINGERS!

That’s right. Stinkin’ fools had eaten every last slice of my number ten cake, leaving me with nothing but an empty belly and shattered dreams.

I never got over it. Told the tale every chance I had and laid it on thick. Fast forward ten years, and I had just finished telling my boyfriend about my blighted childhood. A few days later, I arrived home late from work and was met by my parents telling me something was waiting for me in the kitchen. There, in the soft glow of candlelight, was Sterling, holding balloons and smiling behind a pink frosted, rainbow sprinkled number ten birthday cake. I melted right along with the wax and held my ring finger out for him to size.

A few months after the wedding, we spent our September birthdays together for the first time, and I felt the weight of the challenge, as he had already proven himself to be a superior gift giver. I spent weeks searching, listened for the most subtle hints, and eventually settled on a Batman mug (his favorite movie) and a cat. No, really—that’s what he wanted. (Also a surprise trip to Park City, but I wouldn’t tell him where we were going until we hit Provo and I still hadn’t seen any sort of exit sign, then I admitted my plans, and we backtracked for two hours, but it was okay, because we were in love.)

He gave me a flimsy nightgown.

A few months after that, we spent our first Christmas together. I saved my paychecks and gave him a camcorder because he had expressed interest in becoming a videographer. He gave me a car stereo for his truck. And a flimsy nightgown.

Then came our first Valentines Day together. I gave him love notes, his favorite CD and expensive cologne. He gave me a rice steamer. And a flimsy nightgown.

Easter? I left a trail of bunny paw prints from our bed to his basket, filled with goodies and gifts galore that I had stayed up all night putting together. He broke the Sabbath to pick up a potpourri burner at Shopko. And a flimsy nightgown.

As Mother’s Day rolled around, one thing had become crystal clear—the ten cake was a total fluke. Turns out he thought like a man and he bought like a man. And though his heart was earnest and his soul was sincere, we finally came to the very sensible, if unromantic, understanding called, “Gift Cards or Cash and No. More. Nightgowns.” We shook on it, and have never looked back.

Actually, that’s not true. On rare occasions, I have mentioned a touching gift a friend received, followed by a childish outburst that it seems like HER husband is more vested in their eternal love affair than MINE. This sends him into a guilt induced shopping frenzy, and thanks to Smith and Edwards, I end up unwrapping a machete, beef jerky and a neck warmer for when I go snowmobiling. 

Which I do never. 

Anyway, now we find ourselves half a lifetime past those first birthdays. Officially together longer than we were apart. Four beautiful children, trips to Bear Lake, peach pie from Maddox and holiday traditions...weekly date night, inside jokes, binging on Netflix and his strong, capable hand holding my smaller, wrinkly one every Sunday in church. The same hands that brought me roses in the hospital, put up tents in the backyard, built a business to provide for his family and covered a cardboard platter in strips of tinfoil to hold a rainbow sprinkled, pink frosted number 10 birthday cake for a girl with a blighted childhood memory.

And finally, I realize that the very best gifts aren’t diamonds or gold, or light blue Jaguars with big red bows in the driveway, but rather it seems the very best gifts are made out of...Sterling. 

Turns out he really is a superior gift giver. Bless his precious metal heart.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Is it too late to apologize?...

The first day of school brought with it many wonderful traditions, but one of my favorites was pulling up a pair of brand new, fresh elastic, white nylon knee highs. They were thin and tight and refused to puddle around my ankles those first few weeks of September. Even more exciting was the year that my mother nodded her head at the ZCMI sock sale when I held up a pair of orange and blue tie dyed toe socks.

They went with nothing. 

And I wore them with everything.

I had a peculiar sort of fashion sense back then. Thus, classy to me was black patent leather church shoes worn with a swimming suit and green flood pants. My mother tried to squelch me, but I was too clever for that, wrapping myself in a coat and hiding my shoes out in the milk box away from her prying, judgmental eyes. And sure, people questioned her parenting skills for miles around, once they caught sight of me. But she should have just been happy to know that her daughter had a very strong sense of misguided confidence. 

What others might call stubborn, I like to call determined. This kept my mother humble. One hot July afternoon, I decided I’d like some candy and since we were fresh out, I took matters into my own hands. Digging through the Halloween boxes, I found my witch costume, put it on, and while my mother was busy sewing, snuck out of the house to go trick-or-treating throughout the neighborhood. Everyone seemed absolutely tickled to see me. They were especially curious about whether or not my mother knew where I was? I lied and said yes, she knew. That she had, in fact, sent me out to get her some candy, and that York Peppermint Patties were her favorite.

Needless to say, after the phone stopped ringing, the Halloween box was put clear up out of my reach, and from that day forward things were never quite the same again. But Lisa became a household name and my legacy lived on for years to come, as I’d set a certain precedence of ingenuity and resolve. That’s the way I chose to see it anyway. I saw a lot of things the way I wanted to. 

For instance, in my mind’s eye, I was a beautiful, blond, long haired princess, much like Aurora laying on her canopied bed. The reality was more along the lines of shoulder length dirty dishwater mop with crooked bangs and a softball sized rat’s nest at the base of my neck. I nearly drove my poor mother insane, bawling and screaming when she tried to brush through it, earning me a rap on the head with the handle and a threat to cut it all off, if I didn’t get the snarls out. This brought even louder howls of “I WILL, MOTHER! I PROMISE!” But I didn’t. Because it hurt. Instead I just smoothed the longer strands over the wad of knots and never turned my back to her. 

My mother spent a lot of time talking about her hopes and dreams for me, all of them ending with her anticipation that I should be gifted with a child “JUST LIKE YOU!”  And I smiled at the prospect, because who wouldn’t want a child just like me? Turns out the answer is me. I probably wouldn’t want a child just like me. 

Enter my daughter. When she was about three years old and her nickname was Scream, I told the Lord I was receiving no joy from her, and He would need to fix that. 

He just walked away eating peanuts and chuckling to Himself. Or so I imagined. 

But He threw me a tender mercy and gave her long, blond, Princess Aurora hair, which seemed to appease me as I lived vicariously through her ringlets. Then a couple of years ago, somebody asked me why it was I took such pleasure in swirling and twirling her tresses, and I paused to think, then uttered these ludicrous words;

“Well, it seems like when I was a child, my mother never really wanted to spend any time on my hair. She just didn’t care. So now I do for my daughter what my mother never did for me.”

Yes, that’s right. I ACTUALLY SACRIFICED MY MOTHER on the altar of “I’m pretty sure it went down like that.” AND I’M A GROWN UP, PEOPLE! I should know better! Bless my foggy recollection heart. Which means if I am capable of such self deception, you should be scared to death of what your own children are likely to remember wrong about you! NONE OF US ARE SAFE!

Which brings me to my long over due apology: Mother, forgive me, for I led the world astray regarding your patience and long suffering. You were the wind beneath my wings, and the broom under my trick-or-treating fanny...and I am forever grateful that I was gifted with a mother JUST LIKE YOU!

Oh, and I’m very sorry that I ate your peppermint patty.