Saturday, August 24, 2013


In writing this story, I assumed you were all comfortable with bathroom humor. If so, you may proceed. If not, turn back now.

My mother hated camping. Hated it. With a passion that only equalled any sort of exercise and finding a spider in the bathtub. And because I wanted to be like her, I had no choice but to hate all of those things, too.

This really became an issue when we made the yearly pilgrimage to the Stewart family cabin at Bear Lake. Of course, just saying “cabin at Bear Lake” is a lie. “Vermin house of ill repute” would be more honest—an old A-frame with no running water, no electricity and one bed in the middle of the room with a mattress that drooped so low in the middle, a couple of grandchildren were lost in the folds, never to be seen again.

Now as a kid, I was too stupid to realize how horrible this was, and instead thought it was THE MOST AMAZING PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE! There were sunflowers! And aspen trees! And a hundred acres to explore! Sometimes we’d sneak a can of Pepsi and a cinnamon sucker, and be gone for hours. HOURS, PEOPLE. And not one adult came to find us! Of course, now we know this as “child endangerment”. But back then, we just called it “lucky.”
Most years, we only spent one night at the campsite, even though the children begged and sobbed for more. I have no idea where my parents or siblings slept—could have been in the car. Maybe they drove home for the night? Hard to say. Because I was too happy to be aware of their misery, since I was on top of the world, lookin’ down on creation, sleeping in the loft with the other cousins.

The next day it was time for Bear Lake. We’d pile into the campers and trucks, wearing nothing but a worn out swimsuit and tube socks. Not one of us sought out a seatbelt, but rather found a spot around the outer edge of the truck bed and just held on for dear life.

The hours at the beach were spent in search of little baby shells and squeezing sand through our fists to make piles of fake pooh. I don’t ever recall putting on sunscreen, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t...even though I’m pretty sure we didn’t. Sometimes a scream of pain cut through the sound of the waves, as a child stepped on a pull tab from a pop can, but the sand soaked up the blood pretty good and we kept on making our pooh piles, because yes, it was that intriguing.

Well, the years passed by and our camping excursions came fewer and farther in between. Then I got married and had children of my own, which is when I finally realized what a helluvathing it was for my parents to take us kids camping, even for just one weekend. 

I’ll never forget the year that, as a young family, we nailed our tent to the trailer bed to keep it from getting wet in a torrential downpour...forgetting that nail holes in a tent make for sopping wet EVERYTHING. We angrily mopped it up the best we could and retired for the night. 

Around 3:00 that morning, my two year old son woke me up, needing to go to the bathroom. There was no way I was going out into the muck and mud to take him to the outhouse, so I flung off his underwear, held onto his waist and arched his aimer out the tent door, whispering for Sterling to get me some light.

The seconds ticked past and still no flashlight could be found. This meant I had to try to retrieve his underwear in the pitch black, which proved to be nearly impossible. While groping around and hissing for Ster to hurry up and find some light, I came upon a big ol’ wet, melted candy bar on my lap. What the?!

I didn’t know how it had gotten there without me knowing, but I was getting SO annoyed. I whisper-screamed one last time for Sterling to turn on some light, cursing all the while as I used a dirty sock to grab and pick up the candy bar. And right then, the lantern light flickered on...just in time to ENORMOUS HORSE SIZED PIECE OF YOU-KNOW-WHAT CRADLED IN THE PALM OF MY HAND!

Yes, that’s right. Not a candy bar. It seems when he said he needed to go to the bathroom, he was a little bit vague about which kind. And how something that big came out of a bum that small, is beyond me. 

Well anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of the horrendous clean up. Let’s just return to the notion that it really is a big sacrifice to take your kids camping. In fact, let’s break it down:

Camping gear—$1,000
Swimsuits and tube socks—$30
Pepsi, cinnamon suckers, lanterns and nails—$Gobs of money
Every single word I’ve just written in this article that make me laugh until I cry while I relive and retell, and the people who made them possible, bless their hearts—Absolutely priceless

Friday, August 16, 2013


So glad I'm not covered in puke anymore...

I was scrolling through Instagram today—and yes, I did just name drop a social media term to prove that I’m cutting edge—and saw a girl who grew up with my son. She and Ashton were in nursery together, and her cute little fingers were always covered in warts. Not that that’s important...just kind of hard to forget.

Anyway, now she’s a beautiful, wartless grown woman, about to have her first baby, and she took a picture of her and her husband in the doctor’s office, as they waited to find out their baby’s gender. He was buoyant, but she looked, well, not. Turns out this was because—her words—she was “covered in puke.” 

Seems she was asked to drink a gallon of water before the ultrasound, and then proceeded to throw it all up on the ride over to the clinic. Which made me say a silent thankful prayer, that I belong to a different season.

Not that I didn’t love that season while I was in it...about as much as I now appreciate the sweltering heat of summer—but remember how excited we were about hot August nights when it was February? Yeah, it’s a lot easier to love a season with fore or hind sight.  

Thinking about it I realize that, back then, a lot of people lied to me. One thing they said was that pregnancy only lasts nine months. Freakin' lie. It’s ten. Which, in pregnancy years is, “NEVER, EVER, EVER GOING TO END!”

Another thing they said was that after the first three months, the morning sickness would pass and my world would resemble a Downy commercial. Another freakin' lie. Because just the THOUGHT of laundry softener at that point was enough to start the gagging process, just like the scent of my toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, the sight of my living room couches, my new Avon lipstick, my husband’s entire aroma and my own spit.

I remember one lovely spring afternoon, we drove to pick up our new car at a friend’s house. On the ride there, I had lain back and closed my eyes, hoping the nausea would pass and my head would stop spinning. 
A few minutes later, while squatting in the gravel behind the running car, retching so hard that my nose actually started to bleed—NO REALLY, IT STARTED TO BLEED—I considered that maybe this had been a bad idea. Not just the laying back in the car thing, but also that whole “Let’s have a baby” idea. It was just one big, fat, bad idea.  

But I was not alone in this big, fat, bad idea. I had grabbed my husband and locked him in the seat restraint right alongside me. I remember one night, I started a fight with him. Just out of the blue, I went COMPLETELY ape-pooh crazy.

At first, he valiantly tried to figure out what was wrong, so he could appease me. When that didn’t work, he began to argue his side, believing I’d eventually realize he was innocent. But I would have none of it, and quickly escalated into near hysteria. Finally, in complete anguish, he cried, “LIS! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! I REALLY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO! WHAT CAN I DO? TELL ME! TELL ME SO I CAN FIX THIS!” 

The poor dear. 

I stormed up the stairs, sobbing and renting my garment, shouting that he’d never understand, and blah, blah, blah, a bunch of other trite, emotionally overwrought phrases that made matters worse. 

I locked myself in the bathroom for about an hour. There I went from weeping to whimpering to thinking to realizing to being absolutely humiliated that I had started the fight in the first place, on account of it was pretty clear to me then that I’d made the whole thing up.

So I opened the door, skipped down the stairs and, to his credit, found him still sitting there, unblinking, in the same spot I’d left him. He hadn’t even fled!  

I gave him a sheepish grin and said, “Sorry, hon. I don’t know what that was, but I’m better now. Wanna go eat?”

And eat we did. I ordered three bags of french fries. 

“I MEAN IT! GIVE ME THREE BAGS OF FRENCH FRIES!” snarled the pregnant demon from Hades.

We threw 2 and 2/3 away. But bless his heart for giving in to my unreasonable demand(s)...back then, and now...over and over and over again. And for taking my apology at face value every single time it is offered.

In the end, we ride this ride together, from one season to the next, looking back at our past lives with a soft focus lens. Beyond grateful that what seemed a big, fat, bad idea turned out four times over to be the best things we’ve ever done. 

Which is why I continue to lie to the next generation about what they can expect when they’re expecting. It turns out I was once somebody’s big, fat, bad idea. And look how great this turned out!  :D

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


As a child, my life revolved around a few occasions; Halloween, Christmas, my birthday and LAGOON. The big, white, rickety roller coaster was what dreams were made of, and wild Merry-Go-Round horses couldn’t keep me from its wooden frame. 

My dad would usually be my seat mate, while my mother was found sitting on a bench in front of each attraction, reading a book until we were finished. This was absolutely stunning to me. Why would she intentionally avoid fun? So I made a loud declaration when she refused my invitation to come along.


“Good for you, dear,” she replied, and turned the page of her paperback.

Then came sixteen—a magical age, to be sure. But not just because of the driver’s license and dating. No, what I remember most was rushing toward a big, blue metal garbage can after climbing off the Tilt-o-whirl. And I knew then, Lagoon and I were over.

Years later, when Sterling and I began dating, I told him that I get really motion sick, but he couldn’t hear me because he was busy swerving around on the road. 

So I told him that I get really, really, really, really motion sick. And he said, “Wait, what?” And drove 90 mph up the mountainside, flipped a 180 and skidded to a stop backwards.

This went on for months, well into our first year of marriage. Every once in a while, he’d say, “So, what exactly does it feel like? Do you get dizzy or what?” And I’d try to explain, but it was useless, because he’d never experienced it himself. 

Then one day, we went to Lagoon. And he rode the Tidal Wave. When he stumbled off the pirate ship, all gray-green pasty faced and cold sweating through his shirt, he swallowed past the restriction in his throat and garbled out, “Is THIS what motion sick feels like?”

And I nodded while clearing a path for him to rush the same blue metal garbage can, knowing my work here was done—the bliss that accompanied his ignorance was no more. True empathy had been realized.

Of course we hit rocky roads further ahead. Like the time he sat next to me in the hospital and ordered and ate an entire pizza, while I sucked on ice chips preparing to give birth to our firstborn son. 

Also, that same day, literally right in the middle of a contraction, he grabbed his forehead and said, “Oh my gosh, I have THEE WORST HEADACHE, Lis! You have no idea how bad this hurts! Seriously, this pain is awful! I need to go sit down. Hold on just a minute.”

Yeah. Rocky Roads like that. But this is not to suggest that I wasn’t also a perp. Just a few years ago, I was safe in the midst of one of my extremely rare, nearly nonexistent, healthy lifestyle periods—exercising, snacking on tuna fish and kicking my sugar habit to the curb, (it has since returned with a vengeance, tattoos, and addicted to crack). 

Also, my migraines were giving me a reprieve, and I believed I was to blame for my good fortune, so I felt compelled to let Sterling know that his poor choices were leading him to an early grave. My eyebrows and pointer finger were perpetually lifted when I spoke to him.

  He would come home from a long day at work, complaining about his aching back or wrenched shoulder, and I’d say something like, “I really think something is wrong with you. You drink too much pop. You should eat peas, like me. Then you wouldn’t be getting old before your time.”

He’d argue with me a bit, saying it probably had less to do with Coke, and more to do with 14 hour days and removing a thousand pound engine with his bare hands, but I was unbelieving, insisting he was flawed.

Until one day, the gods of sanctimony stopped smiling upon me and in one 24 hour period—AND EVEN WITH PEAS IN MY HAND AND TUNA FISH ON MY BREATH, PEOPLE—I threw out my back, had heart palpitations and started a four day migraine.

Which is when Sterling lifted a finger, pointed it right at me and said, “Well looks like something is wrong with YOU!” 

Surprisingly, that did not make me love him more. Bless his heart. But I for sure had a surge of empathy as I walked in his shoes, and that helped instigate a pact; Compassion, not condemnation. Sensitivity, not shame. 

This has served us well in our marriage, and will do so even more as we morph into old age. Because heaven knows, the ailments we’re each going to face will be much more bearable if there’s someone by our side with a fistful of medicine and a kiss on the forehead, rather than a hand on the hip and a bag of peas...even though peas are pretty tasty when you wash them down with chocolate. Or so I’ve heard.

Monday, July 15, 2013


There are a few phrases in the English language that are so ominous, so chilling, that they have the power to drain the blood right out of your head. One of them is, “Why is there brown water on the floor?” Another one, “Okay then, let’s just have you step up onto these scales here.” And almost on a par with those is, “Youth Camp.”

For some of you who may be unfamiliar, youth camp is a yearly summer tradition in the LDS church. Here’s the recipe:

*adolescents ages 12-18
*adult leaders
*hatchet wounds
*sleep deprivation
*migraine headaches

Now let me first go on record as saying that I am well aware some of you people out there were born to camp, just like I was born not to. 

You find this recipe to be ambrosia—thrilling and invigorating—and consistently petition the higher ups to let you be a part of it. I am eternally grateful that God built people like you. Especially having found out that my sons only brought along one pair of underwear each year—the pair they were wearing—and “couldn’t find” their toothbrush or deodorant for the six days of camping and hiking. You leaders are saints.

But for the rest of us, meaning mostly me, I find this recipe is akin to a plate full of boiled spinach and eggs. Probably good for me in the long run, but very unappealing at first, second and third glance.

And it’s not that I keep this declaration a secret, you guys. All you have to do is look at me to know. In fact, last year, when they announced in our church that we’d be going on a family pioneer trek, they almost felt compelled to add, “Yes, even Lisa Bingham.” 

The last time I went was three years ago, but to me, it’s just as fresh as a cow-pie on a summer morning. It wasn’t really my finest hour, but here—you be the judge. This is a little journal/blog entry I did back then:

Night before departure: Begin painstaking prep by spending five hours in neurotic, hand wringing anxiety, followed by six minutes REM sleep before jolt of alarm clock adrenaline.

5:00 am—Dead Man Walking shower, make-up and hair assembly. No headache. Arrive two hours later at the mountainside. Bowels seize and headache begins. Stand and peer over edge of bottomless pit of profound and perpetual sleep deprivation. Pot gut squirrels swarm food supply while mob of teenaged girls move from one head to another in braiding assembly line . Eventually unpack and begin mass consumption of nutritionally void, sewer-toot producing cuisine. 


Long suffering leader—”You might want to TAKE. SOME. SUDAFED. LISA. I really think that will *help you. (*shut you up).”

Me—”I can’t. My head hurts too much. I’m just going to whine about it—relentlessly—for the remainder of our time together. And finally, on the last night, I’ll take the Sudafed, which will result in a full recovery that comes four days too late.”

Leader—(inserting ear plugs) “Well, okay then. As long as you have a plan.”

Anyway, I’m sure you get the gist of things. Not necessarily grace under pressure, which is why I swore I’d never do it again. But if we’ve learned anything from Lagoon, child bearing and running for public office, it’s that there is some sort of Men In Black flashing light mind sweep that turns “NEVER, EVER AGAIN” into, “That was pretty fun, wasn’t it?”

Some kind of bright, sparkly, new baby smelling reward that allows the sacrifice and discomfort to take a backseat, to make way for the greater good to come shining through.  

And by the last night, as you sit on an ant infested log with fifty fuzzy braids sticking out of your scalp, the anxiety is a distant memory, even if the migraine headache is not. And the girls and women sitting next to you are no longer just friends. But rather, your unwashed, river tubing, midnight toilet running, testimony bearing, s’more eating, bandana wearing, mosquito bitten, smoky campfire smelling, secret sister hearts are knit together, as only a Jesus sanctioned camping trip can do.

And now that I think about it, it was pretty fun, wasn’t it?...Hey, did anybody else just see a bright flashing light? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I, too, was a June bride. Still am. Which is why I'm going shopping for myself after I post this, on account of people stopped giving me wedding presents after that very first year, compelling me to take over where they left off.


The front of my fridge is wallpapered in a collage of wedding announcements. This can only mean one thing—it must be June.

Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m running a mental list of “to-dos” for the bridal shower I’m hosting in a couple of days for my beautiful cousin.

I was talking to her mom the other night and she told me that the engaged couple is expecting that their own friends will far outnumber their parent’s friends, neighbors and family members at the reception.

We both laughed until we lost our breath.

That’s because we once were those friends, and remembered how we barely gave a rat’s rump about anybody else, as soon there was a Mrs. in front of our name.

I recall being the best Maid of Honor—several times, actually—before  I was engaged. I threw the showers, wore the peach taffeta dresses, stood next to the bride in line and spent hours in the lingerie stores, searching for the perfect honeymoon items.

Then I got married. And the world went away. 

Immediately I became so engrossed in our twosome that, assuming we could even drag ourselves to the reception, I put forth even less effort to dig through the left-over wedding gift stash to come up with something to pretend I bought with the newlyweds in mind. 

I’m a little bit ashamed to admit that some lucky ducks out there ended up with a bubble gum pink vinyl garment bag. But don’t let’s pretend that we didn’t ALL use that stash, for even our very best friend’s weddings, M’ kay, pumpkins? Because you and I both know, that for a good five years, we re-gifted that same set of “goose on country blue” kitchen towels back and forth. The only thoughtful thing about them, was when we remembered to remove the previous To/From card. 

Looking back, I don’t recall everything we received for our own wedding, but I do remember two very important things: First, that we ended up with 11 boxes of drinking glasses. Eleven. Big. Giant. Boxes. Of the exact same glasses. They had to be worth...well, hundreds! 

Of course, we only kept one box, and rubbed our hands together in greedy anticipation of how much cash we could get with the return of the other ten. Turns out, the answer was around $2.79 per box. On account of there were four other weddings in our neighborhood that week, and K-mart had a sale. 


Anyway, the other very important thing I remember was that when we returned from our honeymoon, there in the middle of the gift pile, was a giant, beautifully wrapped box...from my own dear mother. With my hand to my heart and puppy dog eyes, I reverently told Sterling we would save this one for last.

Hours later, legs numb from sitting indian style, surrounded by boxes of glasses and the carnage of a hundred rolls of wrapping paper, it was finally time, and I reached for the gift. It was addressed only to me—even more meaningful. 

I gingerly slid my fingers under the paper, closed my eyes and lifted the cardboard flaps. Holding my breath, I opened my eyes and peered inside to find...... ironing pile, dammit. 

The wrinkled clothes that had been piled deep and high for several years—some so long untouched that I had actually grown out of them—and now, like an heirloom brooch or favorite family recipe, were handed down with love, from mother to daughter.

Well, anyway, I’ve got a shower to plan. And about 14 wedding receptions to buy gifts for. Yes, the “stash” ran dry years ago...about the time I started to have children. Which is also about the time I became aware that there are more people living here on earth than just me and my husband...which is why I’m hosting the shower and attending the wedding receptions, and trying to make up for the miserable failures of my youth. 

And THAT is why the friends, neighbors and family of the parents will always outnumber those of the young couple—so you’d better be nice to them, unless you want eleven boxes of glasses.

PS—I still keep that ironing pile. The clothes may be different, but the pile is just as deep and high as it was so many years ago. It is an homage to my mother, bless her heart. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013


As the sun sets on yet another school year, let us remember when...and then be grateful we never have to personally revisit the drama. If only our children were so lucky—

I remember vividly the day they measured our senior class for graduation caps and gowns. We were sitting in English class as they walked through the room, holding a measuring tape and clipboard, and loudly announcing the circumference of each student’s skull, which all seemed to be in the 16-17 inch range.

“16 1/2...17 1/4...16 3/4...”

Until they got to me.


Or so it seemed. 

It was, in fact, so much larger than the others, that they felt compelled to re-measure and announce my giant head yet again.

“Yup. Four hundred and eighty three inches around. That’s what it really is.”

My head was officially more beefy than the captain of the football team...on account of my vast amount of brains, I’m sure.

But fortunately, the other kids let me live it down quickly, because we were near the end of our high school career, which meant that we all kind of liked each other again.

It’s a funny thing that happens as you wind down your secondary education—a weird sort of phenomenon known as rose colored glasses. Every moment is filmed in Instagram sepia, with a soft focus filter, and you suddenly can’t remember why it was that just last month, you hated their ever-living GUTS. Because now you see them the way Jesus sees them, and weep as you write sweet nothings in their yearbook.

Of course, those sentiments don’t usually last. My younger sister, Kara, woke up the day after her graduation and headed straight to the salon, where she hacked off her waist length hair. This was a symbolic gesture of being freed from the tethers she’d acquired—in friendships and responsibilities—over the course of her high school career.

And I couldn’t blame her, because I don’t think I answered my phone even once for the first half of the summer after commencement. I was so over it. 

I remember driving back to the school the morning after the all night party, to clean out the remnants of my locker. My ’86 tassel swung from the mirror of my bright green Volkswagon Rabbit—a hand-me-down from a dear uncle whom I repaid by “forgetting” to check the oil, thus seizing up the engine in the middle of I-15 a couple of months later. But that was HARDLY my fault, you guys, because shouldn’t there have been some sort of blinking light or siren blast that suggested this was an IMPORTANT additive? I mean, come on! Give a girl a warning! 

Anyway, I remember feeling a sense of euphoria—the cliched notion that I had my whole life in front of me! And I was going to start it off by getting a really, really good base tan. Right after a nap. And a Diet Coke. 

Eventually, that first summer passed away, and with it, the desperation and lack of confidence known to every high school student. It was replaced with giant hoop earrings, highlighted hair and an awesome job at the mall. I spent the months saving money for college, dieting on swedish fish and bologna sandwiches (the 80’s wasn’t really known for being nutritionally sound) and found a boyfriend who referred to me as, “Sweetheart.” 

Could life get any better? 

The answer is yes. It can, and it does. But that right there was pretty awesome sauce, and I have the skin cancer to prove it.

That next fall, we were invited back as alumni for Homecoming. A group of us sat together on the grass and talked about our lives thus far. I’ll never forget listening as one friend expressed profound regret over decisions she’d made in high school that had taken her down a path she never intended to go. 

Decisions that had seemed perfectly suited for Spirit Hall and exaggerated teenaged emotions, but once the cap was thrown into the air, left her reeling with despair.  

And she rocked back and forth, hugging her knees, and cried.

My heart ached for her. 

Bless her heart, she just hadn’t realized that there really IS life after high school. 

And so, in my duty as your official Islander Commencement speaker, I say to all of you dear graduates who have been told that those days were golden—let me assure you that just the opposite is true. Those days were paper. Maybe cardstock, or particle board, but definitely not precious metal. 

So as you drive along, go ahead and let your tassel swing in the rearview mirror, just as long as you continue looking forward, to your incredible future. There is so much more to come, my friends. So much more. 

May you go forth and conquer...and never find yourself hugging your knees over the choices you make—this is my prayer for you.


Saturday, May 25, 2013


Yes, actually, I DO deserve the Mother of the Decade award. It's just that my children keep takin' me down. 

        Years ago, my daughter who was four at the time, came smiling into the bedroom, holding her arms out in front of her, hands clasping together then pulling apart, together then apart, spreading a thousand spidery fibers from palm to palm. 

“Look Mom! I’m Spider-girl! We found some spiderman goo, and now I can climb up walls. But—” (smear across her shirt)—my webs (smear) won’t (smear) come (smear) off (smear, smear). 

“Did you wash your hands?” I asked, barely looking up twice and counting crochet stitches.

“Yeah. But it still won’t (smear).”
I reluctantly set aside my project and took her into the bathroom to wash her hands. After scrubbing with soap and a washcloth, there was absolutely no improvement. For heaven’s sake.

So I grabbed the fingernail polish remover and some cotton balls, then scrubbed and scrubbed until the cotton balls dried out, then began to spread and adhere to every square inch of her hands, front and back.

“What in the?! Now WHAT is this stuff? Spiderman goo what? Where did you get it?”

Just then Seth walked in with a mailbox stuck to his face, and both kids shared the story; Chris had found this goo (sticky insect pad) in the garage, then cast his net throughout the neighborhood, enticing all the kids with, “HEY, WANNA BE SPIDERMANS?”

They came scurrying from every corner, pressing hands and feet into the sticky platter, then taking turns placing them strategically on our garage door frame and attempting to scale the 20 foot walls. Finding little success, they then entertained themselves with the webbing on their hands and feet, until they realized that everything they touched—grass, bugs, patches of hair, the trampoline—EVERYTHING THEY TOUCHED was stuck to them, and they couldn’t get it off. 

About this time, while I tried to decontaminate the children and inadvertently covered my own hands, arms and clothes with this indestructible glue, I heard the kitchen door slam shut, and a child fled silently up the stairs. I knew it was Chris.

“CHRIIIIIIIS!” I bellowed from the bottom of the staircase. And when I say bellowed, I don’t mean yelled. I mean—and I am not proud of this—but I mean I reached into the deepest innards of my guts and pulled a sound out of me that only belongs in the depths of the bog of eternal stench and had no business whatsoever coming out of a mother’s mouth. But it did. And I only share this with you because it’s too late to press charges.

Anyway, “CHRIIIIIIS!” I bellowed. And peeking from around the corner, I saw the panicked face of a child on his knees. Not because he was begging, no, not because of that. But rather, because his feet were three inches thick with debris which had accumulated as he tried to wipe them off on the grass.

To save time, I’ll fast forward this story an hour, past the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, which culminated in the three sobbing, hiccuping children sitting on the kitchen counter while their hysterical mother doused them head to toe with her last ditch effort—some sort of toxic solvent that came with an explicit skull and crossbones warning.

“Are we going to die?” they whispered, hoping for reassurance. And once again, I am NOT proud of this, but I may have answered, “Yes. Yes, we just might die.” But the thing is, I kind of thought we could, because for whatever reason, it seemed logical to me that glue could be fatal.

They were silent from that point on, surrendering themselves to their mother, and trusting that, if she could, she would save them. And save them I did. 

As I finished stripping the final layer of skin from their bones, I heard a noise and turned around just in time to see our neighbor, tiptoeing out of the front door as quiet as a mouse, and only then remembered that he had been downstairs the entire time, doing some carpentry for us. 

And that is when I wished that the glue had taken my life, because it might be less painful than dying of humiliation. 

We haven’t made eye contact since. Almost had to move.

Fortunately, he kept those things in his blessed heart all these years, probably waiting for me to come clean...which I just did. So go ahead, Johnny. The tale is yours to tell...just try to make sure that I sound thin when you do. 

Friday, May 10, 2013


A lesson in perspective:

       When I was young, I was pretty sure that there was no problem so big that a pot of creamy blue eyeshadow could not solve it. Lucky for me, we had an Avon lady who supplied me with monthly samples of lipstick, shadow and rouge and never questioned what I did with them all, or why I kept needing more...probably because the explanation was smeared from my chin to my eyebrows, and beyond, every time we met.
Of course, this particular Avon lady was a kindred spirit, in that she wore most of her products all at the same time. So rather than search through the catalogue trying to find what you wanted to order, one could simply point to a spot on her face and request “some of that”. I guess you could say moderation was a stranger to her, and that’s likely why her memory still lives in my head, like a lipstick stain to my brain.

Now because of these abundant samples, I figured there wasn’t a 4th grade girl in the world who didn’t look better with midnight blue eyelids and dark suntan pantyhose peaking out from underneath her shorts. Thus, this was my go-to ensemble for every event—ward parties, babysitting, a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood. And it wasn’t until my older sister called me out during Family Home Evening, that I imagined there might be something age inappropriate in my choices.

Seems Nicki found it “humiliating” that her little sister was seen walking the streets, looking like she was, well, walking the streets. So against my will I toned things down, going to a lighter shade of sky blue, because everybody knows that if you want blue eyes, you wear blue eyeshadow. Duh.  

A year or so later, the Max Factor warehouse sales came to town, and we were introduced to earth tones. About that time, Nicki tried to give me a makeover, telling me she was sure my eyes would look more blue if my shadow was coppery brown. I sat there snarling, like a feral cat waiting to scratch it’s way out of captivity, while she worked her magic. When she was finished, I darted into the bathroom to see the results, then graciously responded with:


I don’t know why she let me live.

Of course I did, in fact, wear brown eyeshadow again because it turns out she was right—coppery brown made my eyes look blue. Even the color wheel was on her side. But that was a great lesson in perception.

Recently, there’s been a commercial by Dove going around on social media. Sight unseen, a sketch artist has women describe themselves, then an acquaintance describe them, and he draws both accounts. Interestingly, the way they see themselves is far from reality—much less attractive than they truly are—but the way another person sees them is very close to the truth. The women stand there looking at the different renditions, and there is a moment of illumination.  

I’m afraid that, had it been me in that commercial, they’d have been forced to edit out my first reaction, which would have been something like, “WHAT THE?! DID YOU SKETCH ME FROM UNDERNEATH? I HAVE LIKE, 20 EXTRA POUNDS OF CHIN IN THIS PICTURE!”

And that would have undone all the good they were trying to do.

A while back a friend of ours shot some fun pictures of our family at the sand dunes, then tagged the entire clan on Facebook, including the chubby, unaware matriarch. With lightening quick reflexes, I untagged my fat face from each one of those misguided pictures, before the cameraman even logged off of his computer. And it wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the thought, bless his heart. It’s just that I didn’t appreciate the proof. 

Once again, a lesson in perception. Everyone else in my family was beautiful to me, and I’d have proudly displayed them on my mantle. But my own flaws were the elephant in the sand, and I couldn’t see it any other way.

And I’m sure that the older and fatter I get, the more I will wish I had covered my house in wallpaper made out of those images of me at the dunes, because they will eventually be my glory days, as my viewpoint changes day by day, year to year and experience after experience.  

But until then, my finger hovers over the mouse, ready and waiting to untag the unflattering...and photoshopping my eyes until they’re as blue as the sea. ;)


Friday, April 19, 2013


...Except for me.

Did you know that there are such things as tonsil stones? Yup. They’re white and gross and stink to high heavens, and like to live it up in the pits and crevices of your teenaged son’s infected throat. And then he has two choices: either he picks them out of his throat himself, every day of his life, or has a surgeon do it for him permanently. 

We chose the latter. Thus, a tonsillectomy was scheduled.

Of course, everybody we mentioned this to had a horror story. Not one person had a joyful experience, or knew of anyone who hadn’t answered the door to Death, and slammed it closed, just in time.

“I knew a girl that went riding her four wheeler, like a week after her surgery, and nearly bled to death out on the desert terrain.”

“I knew a guy who died a couple of days later. He just told his wife he didn’t feel well and had to lie down, and bam. Dead.”

Even I joined in, whispering ominously, “I remember a girl who had her tonsils out right before she got married. And then the night before her wedding, she started to hemorrhage with the beat of her heart.” Followed by a thumb drag across my neck and cryptic nod.

But in the end, we dismissed all of the warnings with a wave of our hand and a mocking eyeball roll, because we knew we were different. 

Day 1—FANTASTIC! Hardly even noticed he’d had surgery.

Day 2—Even better than day one! Keepin’ up on the pain killers and life is a bowl of ice cream.

Day 3—Whoa. Ouch. Little bit of blood.


As we sat there in the emergency room, watching the surgeon pull chunks of coagulated blood out of our son’s throat, we had to face the reality: Seems we are not different. As much as we’d like to think we’re the exception, about 99% of the time, we’re the rule.

This made me think of some other times I’ve thought I was immune. 

“I’m pretty sure I can eat a five pound bag of Hot Tamales (every day of my life) and look good in a swimming suit.”

“I do my best work under pressure.”

“If I ignore the problem, it will solve itself.”

Turns out the actual real world application of eating Hot Tamales is your gut gets fat. And so does your back and your bum and your chins and your earlobes. Then you become a liability to that lycra, and the swimsuit would rather not be seen with you.

Also, let’s be honest—NOBODY does their best work under pressure...except for mothers giving birth and coal. And coal is not a person.

Then that last one about ignoring the problem, expecting it to go away? Yeah, no. It doesn’t. Like a blemish turns to a boil, it gets bigger and more devastating. Recently, I had an impression that my child, who had just arrived home, had been out doing something he was warned not to do. So I laid in bed and argued with myself. 

“Stupid kid. I’m not going to talk to him. He knows it’s wrong. And he’s grown. And he’s stupid. Stupid kid.” 

“Sorry, but you have to. You’re his mom. Moms have to save stupid kids from themselves until they can find a wife to pawn him off on. Just save us the trouble and get up.”

Back and forth we went, until finally, I dragged my weary head out of bed and confronted the stupid kid. And just like I thought, he WAS doing something wrong, but he was convinced he was the exception, not the rule, so no harm would come to him. Sound familiar? Fortunately, his father and I popped that zit before it got out of hand, and I just know he’ll thank us...later on.

Well, anyway, I guess we’d all rather make the rules than follow them, bless our hearts. And sure, maybe 99% of the time we are the rule, but there’s always that elusive 1% roaming around out there...and I think it has my name on it.