Thursday, November 22, 2012


I'd like to join the Thanksgiving cacophony and wish you all a HAPPY HOLIDAY with this here article—don't say I never give you anything.

Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE! It didn’t used to be so—I mean sure, as a child I loved to sing about the great, big turkey down on Grandpa’s farm, but mostly it was just a blip on the radar screen between Happy Halloween and Merry Christmas.

Growing up we’d make the trek to Grandma and Grandpa’s in Cache Valley, which felt like an eternal pilgrimage. I’d try to fall asleep as soon as I could to dream away the miles. One year I nodded off in the hatchback of our crappy blue Toyota and woke up a couple of hours later, surprised to find we were still on the road. 

“We’re not there yet?” I rubbed my eyes and looked from window to window.

“Not quite. Can you figure out where we are?” My dad grinned from the front seat. Still groggy, I searched the landscape until slow illumination dawned. 

“Is that...hey...that’s this...WE’RE BACK HOME?” I accused. 

And sure enough, we were. We’d been snowed out of the canyon and forced to turn back.

Of course, we’d planned to gorge ourselves in Logan, thus we’d kept our cupboards sparingly stocked with cream of celery soup and Spam. So we parked in front of the only store open on Thanksgiving Day—Circle K—and each of us was allowed to create our very own festive meal. I chose yogurt and red licorice laces. 

Best. Day. Ever. 

That wasn’t the only time we were snowed out of the canyon. One year, we drove in a blizzard through Sardine in our spray-painted brown van, with tires so bald the back end whipped from side to side like a girl in a grass skirt. 

This sort of thing tended to make my dad a little bit anxious. And by “a little bit anxious,” I mean crazy eyes, pulling at his shirt collar, running his fingers through his hair and constantly rearranging himself in his seat. Then he rolled down his window to shout and gesture at each passing car, “TURN BACK! TURN BACK BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!  IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK—IT’S A DEATH TRAP! TURN BACK OR YOU’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”

We didn’t all die, but probably other people did. I don’t know. I didn’t read the obituaries.

On the occasions we did arrive, there was a magnificent feast to behold! Homemade rolls and pies covered every surface, the finest china and polished silver graced white lace tablecloths, and the breezeway pantry was filled with chocolate turkeys, homemade penuche, and dollops of merengue and divinity. The day was spent in prayer, chatter and hours and hours of filling our bellies, letting it settle for a bit, then topping it off again with a swig of Pepsi and “just one more piece of caramel”. We drove home happy, grateful...and with the windows opened a smidge because we were all a little bit gassy.

The years passed, and before I knew it, over the river and through the woods morphed into half a block down the street, as my own parents became host and hostess. Then, they passed the torch to us. And suddenly, I became Queen of List Making. Which started me wondering—Is it all worth it? This exhaustive attention to detail for just one simple day?

Right about that time I read an article about a family celebrating Thanksgiving. And though I can’t remember the words that were written, the pictures painted more than a thousand words—people milling about in pajama pants and stained t-shirts, holding paper plates and plastic utensils, standing at the bar around aluminum pans filled with beans and wienies, then gathering around the television to watch football, before figuring out their game plan for hitting the stores at midnight.

The dumbing down of America.

Then I remembered what my Grandma Sybil used to say, “Poor people have poor ways.” Even as a child I knew this meant we become poor when our customs become has nothing to do with money.

And suddenly, there was clarity. The fresh flowers and pressed linens...the napkin rings and silver pitchers...the washed windows and scrubbed baseboards and nine eggs and six cubes of butter in every batch of rolls...those weren’t just exhausting “details”. They were gifts.

Gifts from pilgrims who found themselves alive and well in a new home and declared a celebration was in order. Gifts from pioneer ancestors who swept their dirt floors one last time before they were driven from their homes. Gifts from grandmothers who brought out the red velvet covered sterling and taught a child how to polish and shine each piece and from parents who demonstrated through word and action never to treat sacred things lightly. 

An abundance from God, Family and Country, wrapped up in culture and tied with tradition, which must never be replaced with pajama pants and paper plates.

Bless every one of their hearts, for they have filled my cup to overflowing. And as I lay me down to sleep, I give thanks that no matter how small my bank account, I will never, ever be poor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


(Here's to hoping the guy this is about doesn't read this—and just in case you think this is about you, it's not) 

       So my skirt fell off in church a little while ago. And when I say “fell off,” I’m not speaking of I tripped over the hem or it dipped a little bit below the waistline or anything benign like that. No, I’m talking about material in a puddle around my ankles, cool breezes blowing past my upper thighs and full on mooning of the primary children. 
When I was telling my husband about the incident, he asked the inevitable: “Were you wearing a slip?” And of course, the answer was no. 

Which means my mother would have been so ashamed.

See, all my years growing up, she wanted me to wear a slip—told me it was about decorum and modesty and that this is just what elegant women do. But being the equivalent of an adolescent hop-toad, those words of wisdom were lost on me. All I knew was that slips were only necessary if you were wearing a see-through skirt and your bum might show—which I never did. And in order to exercise my brainless autonomy, it was necessary to stage an open rebellion against “The Man”. Or “The Slip”. Either way, both establishment and both the enemy.

Fast forward to age forty-four—WHAT? YOU’RE FORTY FOUR? OH. MY. HECK. THERE IS NO WAY YOU’RE THAT OLD! YOU LOOK FANTASTIC!—stop it! You’re embarrassing me! Anyway, at forty four, I finally figured out why slips matter. Not willingly and with some innocence lost—I’m so sorry primary children—but now I’m a believer.

They say it is a “slothful and unwise servant” who must be compelled in all things. I think that’s Bible speak for “teenagers.” This is why parents have to get comfortable with the loving push and shove that comes with this line of work. I myself am eternally indebted to my mom and dad for emotionally manhandling me into coercion when it mattered.

Years ago I was dating a boy my parents weren’t particularly fond of. There was talk of “settling” and “ugly babies” and being “likely to dwell in your in-laws basement for eternity.” Talk like that. And when they nudged me in a different direction than him, I told them I had NO NEED FOR THAT SLIP, and knew exactly what I was doing. 

One night, I returned home, having spent the evening with him, and my dad was waiting up for me. This is never a good thing. He asked what my intentions were, and I flippantly told him I wasn’t sure, but “Geez, Dad, it’s not like I’m going to MARRY him!” 

In a very calm voice, my father said something along these lines: “My dear daughter, your mother and I are stewards over you. We believe that if you continue dating this young man, you will, in fact, marry him. And your life will be very unhappy and almost certainly end in divorce. What would you say if I told you, we want you to break off this relationship?”

Once again, an intelligent, mature response, “Well, I’d say you can’t tell me what to do. I’m 20 years old, Dad. (smug eye roll) I can make my own decisions.” 

He looked at me for a moment, then with quiet resolve said, “Then you will need to pack your bags tonight and move out of our home by tomorrow, because if you don’t respect your mother’s and my ability to receive inspiration and revelation in your behalf—to see something you are unable to see because you are too close to it—then we can’t have you living under our roof, and you’ll need to leave.”

Well, you have never in your life seen a girl backpedal as fast and furious as I did that night. I tripped and fell all over myself, trying to undo the damage I’d caused. Truth is, I had no intention of giving up ANYTHING for this dumb boy, but was too foggy to understand that I would eventually give up EVERYTHING for this dumb boy. 

And my father had never spoken to me like this—had never threatened me with something so serious, which is why I listened. I guess he’d been saving it for when it really mattered, knowing that one day, I’d be tip-toe dancing along a precipice and would need to be jolted out of complacency before it was too late.

Well, anyway, it worked. I chose a different path. Chose—Compelled. Whatever. Either way, the result was the same—A happy life, a happy marriage, and not an ugly child in the bunch. VICTORY! 

So in the end, a few things; first, save your weighty threats for when they count, else you run the risk of becoming white noise to your children. Second, parents are a lot like a slip, ready and willing to protect us from foolish choices, if we’ll only just put them to use. And third, as you’ve probably already noticed, I really do look FANTASTIC for forty-four...bless my photoshopped heart. ;)