Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Noah

Every year my mom puts a luminary on her baby Katie's (my sister's) grave site. Since Noah now shares the site, she also puts a light on his stone too. This is the first time I've been able to see it because we've lived to far away. My Aunt Barbara decorated the grave with the little tree and wreath the year he died. We've put it up every year since. This year we did pink and blue for Katie and Noah. I'm so grateful. 

Katie Shelton and Noah Max Hunsaker

I'm mad that the Mayans teased me.

Even though I'm in no way ready to meet my maker, I'm more ready than ever to meet my son. 

He would have been 6 years old today. 

I find it fascinating that as the years pass, it doesn't get easier. I thought they said it would. But as the visual picture of him in my mind ages, so does my longing to be with him...

to teach him stuff.... he'd be reading by now, I'm sure....

to buy him Christmas presents...the ark stuff would surely be too "baby" for him now...

to explain how cool it is to share a birthday with Joseph Smith...

to start piano lessons this year...

to see if he chooses football, basketball, set, sound or lighting design.... ;-) Maybe he's got that acting thing going on... oh dear.

to see his eyes. I never got to see his eyes open...I saw them moving, under his eyelids, but he wasn't able to open them...

to explain how much we love him....and how hard we tried to keep him on we knew we shouldn't, and couldn't go against what he was clearly trying to tell us.

Dr. Chamberlain said he cried out...I wish I could have heard that. 


I'm grateful today for the birth of Jesus Christ, without whom I could not see you again. I know for certain you are mine forever. I am a better person for having had you because there will be a day when I have the opportunity to hold your hand and look you in the eye...I look forward to that moment every day!!!! But apparently I have a lot more living and learning to do.

I hope to remain focused on that goal as I adjust my grip every day in anticipation of our reunion. Your dad and I love you so much.

Happy Birthday, Noah. 


Nightmare Before Christmas Part 1

Nightmare Before Christmas Part 2

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Toffee Confidence

Andy has terrible pneumonia. Like coughing all night, sweating like the Trevi Fountain kind of pneumonia. And it's not going away. I feel like I can't leave him alone, even though I can't do much for him except get him food and water. I'm trying so hard to be a doting wife...but I suck at it. I think he got the pneumonia from holding 200 kids on his lap last week when I volunteered him to play Santa...four times. So it's all my fault.

"I want a red remote control car and a
screwdriver to fix it when it breaks." True story. 
Tonight is a new episode of "Storage Wars."  I can't complain about it because he's so sick and it's his favorite show. I should go out and do some shopping for our parents but...I'll wait until he can go with me I guess. Tonight on the show someone bought a storage unit for $2000 and it happened to have $300,000 worth of Chicano art in it. "Shut the front door," he says with a croak. Whatever lifts his spirits, I say. That's the first time I've heard him speak for a few days.

Christmas 2012 is one week away.

Feel the p.a.n.i.c.

I love English toffee. I'm a toffee freak. It's the stuff in my purse when we go to the movies at Christmas. I make it to eat it. Then we put some out on the counter one year in St. George and as people visited, it started to disappear and I would make more for myself. There are a LOT of great movies at Christmas!

I used to make a couple of batches every year. Sometimes it would work out and other times it would make my house smell like a Wonka fire or turn into candy sand. It has a vicious turning point and you just have to know when to take it off the heat. If you go to the bathroom and it amount of Febreze or fabulous Christmas candle will make that smell go away until Christmas 2017.

As my toffee confidence grows, so does the list of people that we give it to. So the Storage Wars marathon has worked out perfectly!

People don't make it very often, or make very much of it because its very finicky and they say "it just doesn't turn out." So this is a quick blog to give everyone some toffee confidence.

I just finished the last batch of the year - making the total this year 48 POUNDS of candy. The same amount of candy as my nephew Tyler weighs. ;-) I didn't burn a single batch. I did 12 double batches. Thanks Storage Wars marathon!

So this is how it's done in case you weren't on the list. Email me and I'll add you next year.

Start buying butter (the real stuff) in September, one or two pounds a pay check and freeze it. You'll need 50 pounds of sugar eventually too. Hahahahaha.... just kidding.

Not really kidding.

The following recipe will make about 4 pounds of toffee. ($60 worth of candy! Think of the savings!)

This is a double recipe that covers one full-sized cookie sheet with a thick layer of toffee.

0.    Use a restaurant quality candy thermometer - and not a cheap glass tube-like one. Those are      dangerous and could explode. No candy for you. Such a shame.

1.    You need your biggest heaviest saucepan. Not like those ones you had in college.

2.     Melt four squares of butter on medium heat. If you use margarine, you're still in college? Don't use margarine... for the love.

3.     Take the butter off the heat and add three cups of sugar, six tablespoons of water and six tablespoons of light corn syrup (I use whatever's on sale) to the melted butter. Measure it. That's every ingredient.

4.     Stir it all together.

5.    Add it back to the medium heat.

6.    Add your thermometer and walk away. But not too far away. It will start to boil - make sure it doesn't boil over - if it does, your heat is too hot.

7.    Lets talk about stirring. Stir it a few times every five minutes or so. I don't stand there and watch it. BY ALL MEANS - don't scrape the sides of the pan. The sugar molecules that aren't down in the butter get confused and then everybody defaults to something that looks like cheap brown sugar. Nasty. Just turn around and chop nuts and get your pans ready.Multi-task! From the time it starts boiling to the time it's done is only about 12 minutes so focus people! Focus!
8.     Use non-stick spray, or butter, on a good heavy aluminum cookie sheet that won't buckle under heat. (I buy those full sheet aluminium cookie pans at a restaurant supply because they go on sale for $5.99 at Gygis in June...always. I have about 10 of them. No couple without kids should own ten cookie sheets.)


9.     Let's talk about nuts. ;-) I buy the bags from Costco. I use pecans, almonds and cashews. I roast the almonds in a single layer on a heavy cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes (or until you can really smell them). They will dry out a little, darken up, taste better and be easier to chop up. I do pecans and cashew for about 5 minutes. Just enough to crunch them up a little. I don't mix my nuts. I heard you thinking that. Mixed nuts are for cheap weddings and bridge parties.

10.      Chop up about two cups of nuts (or three) and spread them over the cookie sheet. COVER the sheet. Don't be stingy with your nuts. ;-) You're only going to make this stuff once a year.

11. If you have a nephew that's allergic to nuts, make sure you do that batch first! Once nuts touch a pan, don't use that pan for a virgin-nut batch. You've already contaminated it. That's for you Sloan.

12.      You will be tempted to second-guess your candy thermometer. That's why I always get a new one every year. HOWEVER, be patient and wait for the candy to turn a dark caramel color - like a paper grocery bag, remember them? It will just start to smell like its burning. BUT ITS NOT! The bubbles will slow down and get lazy. it will look really foamy and glossy. Stir it more often to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pan once the heat reaches 275+. (but don't touch the sides of the pan!) When your candy gets to 300 degrees - get it off the heat and pour it carefully over the nuts. It's good to clear everyone away from this moment. That stuff will melt your children. P.S. I don't mix the nuts in because it brings the temperature down too quickly and then it doesn't spread as easily. Let gravity do the spreading for you. (True in so many ways) Gravity is the great equalizer. I wish I had known that in high school.

13.      Immediately cover the top of the candy with good chocolate chips or chunked up bars. Love chocolate? Use a lot! I'm not a big chocolate fan so I make an entire pan with no chocolate and usually nobody eats it but me. Nice plan. The chips will sink in and bury themselves in the candy. You want that - if you wait, the butter will form a layer between the surfaces and the chocolate will just come right off after its cool. Weird. Candy poured - add the chips.

14.      When the chocolate chips have melted, just take the back of a spoon and spread them out. It doesn't have to look pretty. When you've sufficiently played around in the gooey chocolate, give the spoon to someone you love.

15.     I take the sheets of toffee outside to the patio and set them on the table to cool. If there's snow on the table, all the better. Just don't let it sink and get water in your candy. Oh! And make sure you move the chairs so the dogs can't get up there. Learned that at Thanksgiving this year. Sorry JoEllen. Turns out Lily LOVES lemon meringue pie. Who knew?!

I digress.

16.    When it gets completely hard (15 min) - turn it over, crack it up with the back of a heavy table knife, bag it up (I have a little table scale and I weigh out about 1/2 lb. per bag - not enough to give anyone full on diabetes...but...) and put tags on it. Make separate bags for your in-laws because if you don't they'll fight over it and lie about how much they've eaten and accuse each other of hogging it all. You know who I'm talking about.

I make two double batches at a time about five minutes apart so they don't get to full temp at the same time. The whole process takes me about 30 minutes. One whole episode of Storage Wars. Eight pounds of candy. It's so dang easy. In fact, while I was making toffee tonight, I also made 150 suckers to sell for a fundraiser this week. That's maybe another blog. Don't want to stress anyone out.

Make toffee often or you'll never get good at it! You might waste some in the beginning and smell like a Wonka fire once or twice - but in the end, there are V.E.R.Y F.E.W. people that will say "I really hate English toffee, you jerk, that was a royal waste of time!"

In fact, no one has ever said that to me.

Most of the time they hide their small gift in their desk and eat it slowly one piece at a time...with their eyes they savor the Christmas miracle... all by themselves...and they don't tell anyone else they have it.

But now I've told you that I have 2 pounds of plain cashew toffee in my purse from now until Christmas break is over. Buy me a movie ticket and I'll gladly share. Les Mis anyone?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Humanity's Sassy Sister

Some of it's shadow - but most of it's BANGS. 
My parents built their current house in 1976. Interest rates were somewhere around 9% and climbing. Still...they were living in a little house one block away from the building site and it was getting to be like the old woman in the shoe. So 9% required faith. Maybe it's the other way around...having a lot of kids requires faith...?

I was 12 years old, maybe pushing 13. I had a lot of money back then in relation to the bills I had to pay. I was a babysitting m.a.c.h.i.n.e. You can imagine how often a pre-teen babysits in a neighborhood full of Mormon families. I always had money.

I remember my very first full-time babysitting job (in the summer). It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized the woman I was sitting for was a hoarder. I don't think society had named that condition yet. I just remember thinking that it was going to be a long, stinky summer. She sat me down on one of the very few available surfaces and very gravely pointed out that I would be making 50 cents an hour and for an extra $3 a week, she would pay me to "clean." G.U.L.P.

Those stories are for another blog.

I hear that babysitters make bank these days. My nieces get paid $5 an hour for one child and more for more. F.I.V.E. buckaroos. No wonder they all have phones and ipods.

I bought a ukulele with my babysitting money in 1976.

And I still have it! Sometimes I use it instead of the piano to accompany the primary kids. They like that. I've had that uke 34 years and every time I pick it up I remember cleaning that ladies house. I also bought two sheet music books, campfire songs like "Blue Skies," and traditional Hawaiian songs like "Hukilau." My mom lived in Hawaii after she graduated from high school and as far as I was concerned, she was Hawaiian. Therefore...I was also Hawaiian.

Hence the ukulele.

I digress. And so early too. Let me bring this mess around....back to the house on 300 North.

My dads brother-in-law, my dearest, most incredible Uncle Ken was a building contractor by trade and education. Poor sucker. Everyone needed a house back then and no one had any money. So Ken, being the person he is, worked out a way for my family to have a home. We would need to put in some "sweat equity" and by "we" I mean, my parents, and by "sweat-equity" I mean, "see ya next year, mom and dad."

After all, they had a built-in babysitter....with a ukulele.


So every second that they could both be working on the house, night and day, rain or shine, they were working their fingerprints off. Literally. Seems like they picked up the habit then and never stopped. I mean, never. I'm sure I complained to the extent of the law. But they kept telling me, "babysitting is your contribution to the house."

My sister JoEllen was just a baby when our house was being built.

1977? One of the first Christmases in the new house. 
I would put her in the stroller and roll her down to the building site to see my mom and dad every once in a while. Because she was so little, and because it takes a much longer time to build a house on your own, JoEllen started calling me "mama." That's when you know you've spent too much time with your siblings... My mother was horrified. That was the end of her contribution to the building site. By then, anyway, it was time to sew curtains, bedspreads, pack boxes and that could be done at home.

JoEllen was born 11 years after me, nearly to the day. She, my sister Paula and I have birthdays in the same week: November 20, 21, 23.

20 years later. Still sharing a birthday cake. Can't recall if I've ever had my own cake, but now, who cares...three candles is far safer than starting a house fire...
My sister Penny, as I've already written, shares her actual birthday with my mom. We like themes? We can't do anything on our own? I LOVE my sisters and I'm very lucky because I know all sisters don't get along as well as we do. I can't imagine getting through life's big hiccups without sisters.

I think this was taken at JoEllen's
pre-wedding events. I was on
Phen-Phen then. No double chin.
Decorating Noah's Tree at the Jubilee of Trees in St. George, 2007. I'm so
grateful they were all able to be there. I love this picture. Service never
makes people sad. 

We've added three more sisters-in law to the gang, and they are all amazing additions to the group as are the three brothers-in-law I have too! They are like missing pieces of a very... very ...large puzzle.

No one has ever accused a Shelton girl of being wimpy. These are women with goals, confidence and power. Look out! If they find you sitting around they will put you to work. They are PTA and Relief Society presidents, drama mamas, full-time employees, students, Bishop's wives...Don't wait for them to do something about a problem, they are already on it. They were raised by example.

We are sort of like the Herdman's in Barbara Robinson's book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The oldest Herdmans taught the youngest ones everything they knew so by the time you got to the youngest one, Gladys, she was the meanest of them all. I'd say that about JoEllen, only replace mean with "sassy." (My entire family is nodding their head right now as they read this.) I can't count the number of times we've said "how does she get away with that?!" I envy her ability to say what it is, deal with it, get it out, get it over with. Every family has one, don't they? You need at least one of those kinds of people to make a group work.

New York. Probably not legal what she's doing.
Not the pinch, the picture of it.
JoEllen probably knows because she got a degree in the family sciences while the rest of us were studying liberal arts...lame... If I could diagnose what makes our family GROUP work, I'd say that you have to have a sense of humor above all else. I'm not talking about the ability to make people laugh, though she's got that down, but the ability to react to just about anything with humor and a sense of doing what needs to be done without worrying about what people think. She also truly believes that "No man is an island...we are all children of the same heavenly Father... etc..." JoEllen is not just my sister, she is humanities sister.

1. JoEllen loved animals and always wanted to be a vet. I guess Family Science is kind of zoo-i.s.h.  Anyway, she once brought a snake home and my mom said "you can have a snake or you can have a choose." So she didn't get another snake until she was married and they kept a reticulated albino boa constrictor in an aquarium until it outgrew the box and JoEllen had a dream that it ate their baby George. Snake fetish...over.

She brought my mom a stray cat one day and we kept it 15 years. No one knew how old the cat was so we told people it was in its thirties. So it doesn't surprise me in the least when this happens:

Matty. With stray cat.
JoEllen has been known to bring home all kinds of stray people too.

2. JoEllen could teach us all thing or two about dedication to a task. When she was at the University of Utah finishing her degree, she lived with my parents in Lehi and took the bus to the U every single morning for two years. She made friends with a group of people she called her "bus buddies." They were all invited to her wedding. I, on the other hand, get nervous when people on the bus make eye contact with me.

She did everything she could to pay for college including normal jobs like working in a copy shop, cool jobs like pizza maker at "The Purple Pig." But she did things that stretch a persons confidence too, like asking people to taste samples at Costco and being the "Kool-Aid Guy" in parades. When you have a strong sense of humor it doesn't matter what you do to make or save an honest dollar.

If it grows, it can also be preserved.

3. JoEllen and I once got engaged at the same time. Our weddings were scheduled to happen in the same spring. She actually ended up marrying that guy (Kyle) and producing four incredible children with him. I ended up burning the invitations in a bonfire out back. I envied her at the time, but apparently, I was supposed to wait for Andy to get through junior high. She never mentioned it again. Never threw it back in my face...she didn't ask me to make her wedding dress (there was already an unfinished one in my own closet) and in the end, I demanded that I make the cake. I hope she didn't let my personal disaster bring a cloud to her amazing day. If it did, I certainly didn't know of it. I love her for that.

The Wells Family. George, Evan, Kyle, JoEllen, Matty, Emily
4. I wasn't expecting to go into labor with Noah at 27 weeks. I was living in St. George just miles from JoEllen and Penny. I've written about this. But one of the things that got me through it, was her keen sense of humor. She brought playing cards to the hospital, she ran errands, made phone calls, she made us laugh and kept the air light despite our anxiety about what was happening. She and Penny helped me learn how to use a breast pump and we laughed so hard. A few minutes later a doctor was telling me that Noah wasn't going to live and I remember both of my sisters trying so hard not to cry and let's face it, we're ugly, ugly cry-ers. But they were biting their lips and immobile at the news, their eyes as big as plates. I will forever be grateful that they were there with me, listening, grabbing paper, writing down everything he was saying...because I had stopped listening much earlier.

So you know I like to write these tribute blogs about my family members...but I'm also a teacher and I'm constantly searching for the lesson...the big "POW!" at the shouldn't be so indulgent...there should also be something we all can learn from this ordinary citizen of our family and community, even though they are my family member. WE ALL HAVE SOMETHING THAT INSPIRES SOMEONE ELSE.


5. We went everywhere we could go on a teacher's salary growing up. My dad was a leader in the teacher's union so wherever there was a convention, sometimes we got to go along. We camped. We went to Disneyland. We drove through Utah's glorious canyons... But it really started when her high school science teacher, the infamous Reva Beth Russell, took her to Catalina to see the underwater world on a field trip. A life-changing field trip. And JoEllen just fell in love with what could be learned "on the outside.".

So she does. She loves to see what the world has to offer. She's not afraid to go anywhere, do anything while she's there, taste the food, learn and act on the culture. She also takes her children everywhere, and lets them take classes, be in Aunt Jan's plays...she sacrifices time and energy to expose her children to the earth's good stuff. always turns into a lesson to be learned, an experience, a memory, a bonding time.

So there was the time that we decided to go to Hawaii together. We were both single, we had time and money so we said "lets go to Hawaii," I guess.

We got a great deal by going with two other friends and they were a lot older than JoEllen, but she didn't care. She just wanted to got to Hawaii. Maybe she thought she was Hawaiian like I did. I got really sick on the flight over and I stayed in bed most of the week. I never do that! I read two John Grisham novels while I was in my native homeland!  LAME.

We knew one of the girls really well, and the other girl we affectionately recall as "Mustard Girl." Mustard girl could not eat a meal without ordering a side of mustard. In fact, it was so bad that one morning we pulled away from a McDonalds prior to spending the day at the Polynesian Cultural Center and she screamed out "they forgot my mustard packets!" We had to find a way to get back on the freeway going the other direction (and in Hawaii...) so that we could return to McDonalds for mustard.

We didn't laugh about it at the time, because finding mustard became a national emergency the entire trip, but we sure do laugh about it now.

I digress...

There is one big thing that sets JoEllen apart from the rest of us and that is her need to see the world and how she now perceives it as an extension of her children's (and her own) classroom. The pay-off is that she has added experiences to their lives and not "stuff." It's also about the investment of time and focusing on each other while you are away from home that makes you really see and listen to each other. They LOVE spending time together. I think this is something my dad gave us - he always said if your classroom was fun, the kids would choose to learn...they would run to your class. Can this be true about our homes too? If it's fun, the kids will run to get there? Can we possibly do a better job at keeping our children focused by making our (classrooms) homes a fun place to be while we are training them secretly to love God, country and each other and look out for each other all their worked for us, that's all I'm sayin'. A spoonful of sugar....

Vienna, Austria - work trip!
We spent a lot of time together as a family. A L.O.T. of time. It wasn't optional. And (most of the time) it was a blast! It's probably part of the reason it kills us that we're split into three factions from Northern Utah to Southern California right now. Someday, when I'm a millionaire, I'm going to build everyone a house on the same block...okay...I hear you...that's a little weird now.

 We do share a common love for all things Disney. I'm so glad they invite us!!!
All I'm saying is, we could learn this from JoEllen. "Add experiences to your life, not stuff." JoEllen lives this idea. She even write a blog about where they've been and what they do at:

Wandering Wells

So happy birthday my dearest JoEllen. I miss knowing you are only four miles away. But you are a bright light and a beacon for everyone that comes in contact with you...everywhere!

From her Facebook page:

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. 
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. 
Your playing small does not serve the world. 
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do. 
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 
It is not just in some of us! It is in everyone. 
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holladay for the Holidays

I miss my blog so much. I have six posts that are half finished and all I need is a little...some...a bunch of free time. I wish this was the kind of blog that was more like an expanded Facebook post. I've seen and admired the people that can pop out a profound 1000 word blog/journal post in minutes.

But I can't.

Plus, in order to properly purge, my blogs run around 5000 words (as you well know.)

Sorry about that.

Blogs, a good blog post for Other-Peoples-Kids takes me forever. So I've intimidated myself into thinking that without three to...twelve hours...uh hem...I just shouldn't write.

So I haven't.

But that is partly because Andy and I just moved into a condo in Holladay, Utah! Hurray! Exotic basement living wasn't bad at all, (hehehe....there are about five unfinished blogs there...) the internet connection was if-fy, the dogs were making us all nuts, getting up at 4:30 to get to work was, really WAS, turning me into a walking zombie since I had to be at school until midnight rehearsing and producing a musical with 80 lovely kids that all had fifteen questions each and I seemed to be the only person with the matching answers, and up again at 4:30....

I digress...

I hear Zombies have gotten cool though.

So the musical was great (there's a couple of blogs there). I was the kind of tired that makes you want to hurt people...all the time...makes you want to cry at the sight of a Diet Coke, and makes you want to eat everything in sight, which I did. I just blamed it on my yearly "stomach expansion plans" for Thanksgiving. My birthday was my "1 Year Sober Diet Coke" anniversary. I still dream about it (being young and drinking Diet Coke).

Oh yeah...and for my 48th birthday we moved out of my mom's house. Hahaha...not too many people can say that!

Nor should they.

Thanksgiving immediately followed the musical closing and since the entire family was in town for the turkey, we forced them into a labor camp duty called "moving Jandy." Of course, with that many people it only took about four minutes. JUST KIDDING. My family is incredible for spending their vacation loading and emptying a 26-foot Uhaul. Yep. And every vehicle was also full. Even the teenagers were on hand! Teenagers are awesome.

There are about 10 boxes still to deal with, but as my brother said, "for the most part Cinderella, we only had to cut off your last two toes to get your foot into the slipper."

We've worked...and after work, we've done nothing but empty boxes. The most amazing thing however, is that Friday morning the Comcast guy came and reconnected me to the world!

Wait! Lest we take a breath to we signed the closing papers on our house in St. George. We no longer own anything in that town except our deep and abiding love for the 13 people that still call us "family" (even though we made them work through Thanksgiving...we love you so much!) I didn't expect to get so emotional about it. But I did. We spent 6 newlywed years in that house. We have SO many beloved friends there too...

But here we are in Holladay for the holidays! How bad could a town be that's named after vacation time? I'm going to catch up on the blogging...and do some laundry...and breath...and make toffee and...put up the tree...and sew a few gifts...and shop (I hate shopping)....and if anyone needs a Santa (Mrs. Santa optional) this season, we can be ready to go in a matter of minutes and we'll work for gift cards, tips or chocolate.


Maybe someone should teach me how to relax.

But when?

P.S. Thanks to our new internet connection this only took me an hour! Woot! It's not even 1:00 yet!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Octo Mom: Filling the Void

Personally, I would not give a fig for any man's religion whose horse, cat, and dog do not feel its benefits. Life in any form is our perpetual responsibility. - S. Parkes Cadman

Gus and Lily Hunsaker
I've never heard a dog fart so loud as I did tonight. I thought it was Andy. But Andy is 30 miles from here, on stage playing Edna in Hairspray right now. (That's another story). There was a human-sized burst of blustery wind followed by noxious gasses that could only belong to a dog on steroids. Which is true right now.

Gus stopped walking about two weeks ago. It freaked me out just like it did ten years ago when Piper stopped in her tracks and a year ago when Lily was exhibiting the same signs. WHY do I continue to buy dachshunds?!?!?


A year ago, we took Lily to the vet - seemed to be a virus in her spine and $750 later she was bouncing around again. Gus usually bounds out of the kennel every morning and straight out to the grass. But, it was starting to get really cold in the morning and he was getting slower and slower at the bounding.

I attributed it to the fact that choosing a "potty place" for Gus is serious business. He might as well be choosing shoes or cologne. Now that it's late October in Utah County, walking through cold, dewy grass for Gus is like going through a doggie car wash and paying to have your undercarriage done with imported water from Antarctica.

So the morning he stopped wiggling to get out of the kennel and I had to get on my hands and knees to dig him out, I cocked my head to the side and furrowed my eyebrows a little. Knowing Gus, I said "I know it's cold buddy, but you know the rules." I lifted him out, opened the outside door, sat him down on the cold cement and gently pushed his butt toward the stairs. But he didn't move. "Gus! It's freezing out here! Get to it!" I picked him up in frustration, walked up the three steps and set him down in the grass. He didn't even pull his legs under him. About 5 second later I saw steam rising from under him and I realize that he is relieving himself without standing up. He was laying in his own liquid.

I a.m.a.b.a.d.m.o.m.

I walked about three steps from him and called his name. He didn't come. I offered him a treat. Still he laid there. My worst fears had come true. If Gus won't come for a treat, he is surely dying. Start the steady stream of prayer. I did not have the time nor the constitution to lose a dog that day. This was opening night of the Fall Feaste, a Shakespeare recital also on steroids.

Luckily, Andy was on Fall break from one of his jobs. Poor Andy, he can't even have a break. He had to perform for the school that night and I had a thousand things to do including make a costume for him, the Lord of the Feaste, the plot pusher, the dinner driver. He would set the tone for all Feastes to come. He would show our constituency what we can do with a few Shakespeare scenes and a caterer. I needed him to be ON that night.

I've been accused of favoring Andy at our new job. They've never had a married couple working at their school, so I get it, but if they only knew! Consequently, I FIGHT that biased stereotype and Andy is always getting the short end of the stick. "You'll have to do this...You'll have to do that...OH and by the aren't getting paid for any of it because people will think I'm favoring you."

I digress.

So Andy didn't get to sleep in on his vacation day. He went with Gus to the vet and I went to the dollar store to get everything I still needed for the sold-out show that night. You do what you gotta do when a show is opening the same night as your dog is dying, you just do it with a lot more stomach acid, a lot more impatience for store clerks and a NO regard for the law.

I bought 100 beer steins, salt, two wooden bowls (which we never found later), 12 forks, 10 tiny fishbowls for tips (thank you dollar store) and stopped by the fat lady store to get Andy some tights for the show. I was breaking every traffic law...all the while praying "please Heavenly Father I can't lose Gus today, I can't lose Gus today." I was sure that if I got stopped, no cop would believe why I was hurrying if they looked in my car. "You're carrying 100 beer mugs, you're husband wears tights and your rushing toward a paralyzed weenie dog? Here's your ticket ma'am."

Gus had five compressed vertebrae and was nearly paralyzed from the waist down. He was given three prescriptions, a page full of instructions including, "you might want to think about acupuncture."


But not today, I thought. Today we will put him in a drug-induced coma so he can't move while we open a damned show. Tomorrow we will look around for an animal acupuncturist... if there is such a thing in this state...if he lives until then. "Please Heavenly Father, can you help me [keep Gus alive] until this show is open? I just need time to properly deal with the two colliding storms." How many times have I said this prayer, inserting a different subject between the brackets...[not have a migraine]...[keep this car running]...[keep my eyesight]....[keep this baby]....

Between sewing a costume for Andy, setting up the room, decorating the room and getting 50 kids in their new costumes, I called my good mom throughout the day to see if Gus was moving at all and he was not. Just laying there. He was, however, still wagging his tail, which I knew was a good sign. A year ago, Lily wasn't even moving her tail. THAT is a freaky thing if you ever see it on a dog. A dog's tail is the window to their soul.

I felt at peace knowing that Gus was with my parents instead of alone at home. That was a blessing. Maybe that's why we're having such a hard time finding our own place. My parents were able to watch him while we worked. I wish I didn't have to work away from home.

And the Feaste came off with about a dozen hitches, five hot flashes and over $1000 in TIPS alone. WOOT! Good thing I bought those jars. It turned out great...the laundry's done and it's packed up for next year. Ah!

Two days after Gus started his treatment and the Feaste was over it was obvious that he was not bouncing back like Lily did. I could not face the possibilities. One of the scariest things to see is your dog trying to cross the room to get to you by using his front feet to claw at the ground as he drags his back feet behind him. But Gus wasn't incontinent and that was a great sign, and Heavenly Father had indeed helped us find time to focus on him apart from school. We decided no amount of money was too much to keep a dog alive and enjoying his life as long as he wasn't in pain. WHY CAN'T THEY JUST TALK?!?!  It's so frustrating.

When you don't have children of your own, your dogs become your children. Would you put your child "down" before you had exhausted every single therapy known to man to keep them alive? (Depends on the day...never mind, don't answer that.)

So we found a vet in West Valley City that was about the nicest woman I have ever met. Dr. Kim at West Valley Vet is a certified animal acupuncturist and also a certified awesome dog lady. It's true. And there are apparently...a dozen solid reasons that acupuncture exists and one of to fix dachshunds, because she sees a couple of them a week. She said Gus wasn't in (much) pain and he was "fixable." She said it wasn't 100% effective for a million reasons...but she had seen dogs bounce back in three days.

Dad and Gus...both freaking out a little...
Gus had three visits to Dr. Kim over 8 days between rehearsals for Hairspray, Legally Blonde, sleeping and teaching and will have another visit this week...because he's back on his feet! He isn't jumping up on anything, or taking the stairs at all, but he is running again and I thought that would never happen. He's going to be fine. I'm so grateful.

Despite the trouble, the money, and the worry, they are 100% worth it. They eat two cups of food a day, they are completely entertained by nasty, hairy tennis balls, they have no interest in the latest immodest fashions, they will never be addicted to drugs or break their curfew. They never tire of my lap or licking my face.

So tonight when he farted...after I buried my face in the nearest blanket to avoid death myself, I said a little prayer of thanks for those medications that are causing his flatulation, and those doctors that love dogs as much as I do.

Gus, the perpetrator, didn't even move from the couch after letting that fart into the atmosphere. He just opened his eyes really wide and then looked over at me like "Whaaaat was that?" Then he yawned and buried his head in the blanket again like he had just played a joke on me.

All those years my dad blamed our dogs for breaking wind and we knew it was really him, maybe it was the dogs after all.

So that's why I haven't been blogging lately. I've started three blogs in the past about my niece Shayne who submitted her mission paperwork about three minutes after the church announced the new age requirements (waiting for the call to add the smash ending!), one about Andy's new alter ego Edna, and one about doing things you feel are beyond your capacities...but all of those things have been eclipsed by the need to showcase other people's kids and the journey of keeping a little dog alive. Because everything stops when your children are sick. That does not change even if your children are not human.

When you're a mom, the primal, innate and God-like passion for creating things and keeping things alive, does not go away even if the plumbing is broken. Dogs are indeed man's best friend, but I also think they fill an infertile woman's empty nest. I didn't give birth to these two but I'm awfully grateful to the bitch that did. (I meant that in a purely scientific way...;-)

He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds... He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for living by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to take care of me...He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace...his head on my knees can heal my human hurt. He has promised to wait for case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. 
                                                                           Gene Hill

Friday, October 5, 2012

Shakespeare and the Unicycle

You know those days when you stop toward the end of it and say, "what the heck just happened?" At 6:18 PM I stopped...thought about the past 13 hours and just started laughing.


My new job basically requires that I use my skills to increase the value of a Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts diploma. Branding, basically. I go in, diagnose and exploit the resources available to me to upgrade what already exists, to spit and shine, to invent more money, to put the school on the map...the map of really great schools. No biggie. Really. It's no big thing.

But it's a terribly huge amount of little things.

It's the details. For example...this week...cutting coupons to take to JoAnn's Fabric to get one piece of Shakespearean trim that will turn an ordinary black dress into an extraordinary Shakespearean costume.  I do not have time to make a trip to JoAnn's for 3 yards of $7.99 trim at 40% off. So those little details, whole piles of them, jump around in my brain so that when I happen to pass a JoAnn's in my travels, I am prepared to turn on a dime, park and run. With the coupon. It's seriously that obnoxious sometimes. By the end of the year I will have turned in literally hundreds of receipts...$3.42, $12.08, $2.87...I sewed costumes for our Shakespeare team until 4 up at 6 and drove back to the school.

My bosses asked me to mount a Renaissance style feaste/faire that would showcase the kids, celebrate their success, bring people into the school and make some money. In the past they have done a "recital" of their competition pieces just for the parents. Now let's be real, Shakespeare is my buddy, but sitting through one piece of 500 year-old poetry after another? I'd rather eat dirt and so would most people. So yes, they commanded, use your skills to elevate the recital into a popular fundraiser. A long term, repetitive FUNdraiser. (sigh) I know how to do that.

Schedule dinner for 100...three nights in a the set...write the program...find a caterer that can come to a venue without a kitchen... and will do it for under $10 a plate... find and order paper plates that will hold chicken, veg and potato...go plastic...bowls...napkins...thousands of napkins (no need to order utensils for this meal)...baskets for the napkins...two per table...find the tables...order tablecloths...iron the tablecloths...find a kid to iron the tablecloths...find the iron...fluff the matching centerpieces...convince Andy to donate his time (again) as the Lord of the him a costume (left the old one at Tuacahn)...the Master of the Salt...the salt...the little bowl to put salt should be wooden because of the time period (where did I get that one I left at Tuacahn?)...and the kid that brings the salt around, he has to be comfortable having old ladies kiss him on the cheek as payment for the salt...find the cast member...have the talk...add a piece of elastic to his hat because he will be constantly bending over (learned that lesson back in 1998) I have any elastic that isn't an inch elastic...find a way to print the set design since you have the only color printer in the school and it's out of yellow ink...caterer leaves a message...chicken breast or thigh and leg please call her all the teachers with performing groups involved and make sure they pass out the information packet to the their kids...make the information packet...distribute the information packet....hope they read the poster...order the poster...get the poster the poster for the paper...write a press release...take a picture for the press release...will they be costumed for the picture...will all 65 performers be costumed... No!...only the wenches and key named characters...make 42 Renaissance style costumes...pull what the school already has...where is that stuff...being used by another class...trip to all my sisters and gather their JoAnn's coupons...why do I feel like I want to throw up all the time...because...because creating this monster project will prevent me from coaching....

Coaching is my real skill. The time I spend working out the vowels, consonants and pauses...the meaning of the text, breaking vocal habits, breaking down walls...that time I spend with kids is my joy, my work, "my all the world." And we did reach out and help other coaches at other schools when we could, but because of all the little wasn't nearly enough.

It's selfish really. ( FAKE MOM )

This morning, and every first Thursday of October, for the past two decades, I have gotten a team of kids on a bus, driven to Cedar City, Utah, and gathered a few awards at the Utah Shakespeare Festival High School Competition hosted by Southern Utah University. I have had the honor of watching hundreds of kids grab hold of Shakespeare and spend the rest of their lives seeking him out. Some of my dearest friends are tournament officials that I have loved 30 years since I was a student there. Some of the people I respect most in the world are teachers from other schools who follow their kids around with a bag of safety pins in their pocket. It's required. I know their spouses, I've seen their children grow up. We've commiserated and communed as coaches behind the Adams Theatre now for more than 20 years.

Until this year.

This year, the team at SPA was already in place when we got there. There was no need for us to coach. I didn't really think about it. I thought  "I'll contribute my costuming skills. I'll travel down with the team, I'll cheer for them and be their school administrator. But I will not coach unless I am asked. Even then, everything their coach says must trump what I say." And that was my plan. I would still have one butt cheek on the bus, so to speak.

So I kept the filing cabinet marked "Shakespeare," locked. The one in my mind. And for the first time in decades, literally, I never even opened the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I planned a giant dinner for 300 instead. I know its important, but it could not seem LESS significant to me today.

Because there is so much to do on the Renaissance Feaste, and because I did not want to steal focus (and it would have been so awkward seeing the Tuacahn kids while my SPA kids still wonder who I am.) I opted to stay back and finish the Feaste. It was easy to say "I. N.E.E.D. M.O.R.E. T.I.M.E." And true. But when the bus pulled away from the school this morning, full of kids, coaches and costumes, I waved, turned and briskly walked toward the school. The SPA coach came running after me, damn her intuition, and she hugged me. All I could say was "twenty-two years." And she knew.

I have not cried in front of this group of people nor did I want to start. So I hurried back into the costume shop, sat at my new awesome sewing machine with the full intent to put that damn trim on another vest and I could not turn it on. I did not have the energy to reach up and turn the machine on. I just hung my head and cried for a good twenty minutes. I had my little pity party and then I left the room. I went back to my office and had a fabulous conversation about Commedia del Arte with the vocal teacher. He stayed home because his wife is expecting their baby a.n.y. s.e.c.o.n.d. This just added to my grief! The one excuse I would respectfully give myself for missing the Shakespeare competition is one I will NEVER be able to use! Instead I used "I need more time." Lame.

What would happen if just once, some kid had a big piece of fabric tied around their waist instead of a lined, trimmed and grommeted vest? I will never find out.

I never returned to the costume shop today. I found other things to piddle with. I gathered the school announcements, worked on accreditation, answered email, re-designed a ticket for Legally Blonde, took an order for tickets over the phone, talked to the caterer, sent an email out to the parents...and then I found myself opening a word doc and typing out the words "Rehearsal is cancelled." 

I CANCELLED AFTER SCHOOL REHEARSAL FOR ME. But mostly so that I could cry without embarrassing other people that still don't know me very well. But I cancelled rehearsal.


SO...last week my sister called to explain that she had ordered a unicycle for my nephews birthday and forgot to change the shipping address. Subsequently, it was delivered to their old house in Salt Lake instead of St. George. She wanted me to go and get it. It was on 10th East over by the U of U. I went there after school that day and no one was home. Then I got caught up on all the little things and forgot about the unicycle until today - after school - when I had a car and a peaceful brain. I refused to allow myself to do anything related to work after I left the school...(this is also why I'm blogging...even though I did bring the sewing machine home just in case guilt reigned as it usually does.)

I got all the way to 3300 South and turned around to get the unicycle. That would still be productive, but not theatre related. Well - it was a in some theaters... Anyway, I got to 8th South and 8th East and realized that the University of Utah's football team was playing The traffic piled up around me instantly. My dream of going home early...not gonna happen. By the time I got three blocks over, the road was blocked off for the game and I had to circle around the cemetery to be able to get to the house with the unicycle. That is a HUGE cemetery. My anger was rising. I tried two separate routes to find a way to turn right without going up to the "U" on the mountain and turning around, but suddenly, I found myself stopped in the middle of about 200 tailgate parties. MAN! Those Utes know how to party!

It took me nearly 30 minutes to get out of the middle of all that. My anger, my blood pressure...rising...over a UNICYCLE.

I finally got to the house but there was nowhere to park. They already had four cars parked on their lawn. It was spitting distance from the stadium. So I pulled into the Little Caesars two doors down. I was determined to knock on these people's door and say "DO YOU LIKE RIDING MY NEPHEWS UNICYCLE? DO YOU KNOW I SPENT AN HOUR TRYING TO GET HERE?! DO YOU KNOW WHAT KIND OF TIME AN HOUR IS TO ME? DO YOU EVEN CARE YOU SLOTHFUL U OF U PARTIERS!"

But then as I was getting out of my car, a hired Little Caesar's security guard said "Ma'am you can't park there unless you buy a pizza."

?!*#^!inner monologue!*$#!!bad words@$!#%more bad words*#$!%

Then I walked over the LINE of FOOTBALL PATRONS waiting to buy Hot n' Ready. I just needed to talk to the lady with the unicycle sitting in her living room twenty feet from the line. But a pizza and bag of breadsticks later... (they were only a buck with the pizza.) I threw them in my car and raced over to the unicycle-nappers and prepared for a fight.


A very nice older woman opened the door. A younger girl, obviously her daughter, was sitting on a nearby sofa holding a baby that could not have been more than two days old. "Hello," she said calmly...saint-like...still glowing in the my-baby-is-now-outside-my-body-and-I-feel-like-Mary-the-Mother-of-Jesus glow.  "Hello. My name is Jan Shelton Hunsaker and I am JoEllen's sister," I stuttered.
(My sister's in-laws are related to the owners of the house. They didn't know JoEllen. DUH. Why would they?)

     New mom: (blank stare)

     Jan: "Did you get a unicycle delivered to your house last week?"

     New mom:  Why, yes we did. At least I think we did. It was from a bike shop but we didn't open      the box. We called UPS and they came and picked it up right after they delivered it."

     Jan: (of course you didn't open the box.) OH, I'm so sorry...I...I...I'm probably a step or two behind the news about that. Sorry to bother you. I'll let them know you sent it back. Sorry to sorry...

I got back in my old blue Honda, the one that I've been driving for 16 years and burst into flames. JUST KIDDING. I nodded at the security guy like "I told you I was only going to be two minutes!" And I turned RIGHT without thinking, instantly buried in masses of people wearing red and BBQ-ing ribs under endless tents.

I was spouting green smoke out my ears at this point.

I took a breath. I opened the box of pizza. I knew it was going to be awhile. And the pizza was exactly what I imagine eating pizza in the celestial kingdom will be like,  It WAS hot n' ready! The breadsticks were like cloudy pillows of garlic and butter encrusted goodness! WOW! I hadn't eaten all day! In my pity party I had forgotten to eat! That pizza was so good I almost cried.

One entire bag of breadsticks and four brake pads later...I was finally within breathing distance of freedom from the tailgaters. It was six o'clock  and I had left the school at four...WHEN...a man walked out in front of me and held his hand out for me to stop. It was a crosswalk after all...but in my mood I may have killed a stray rib eater on his way into the stadium if the guy hadn't jumped out in front of me. But it wasn't a rib eater.


I'm not kidding! They rolled (and you band geeks know what I mean) through the crosswalk in a double line...two by two...must of been 150 of them. They were wearing big Trojan helmets with glorious red and gold feather plumes shooting out of them. Their uniforms were perfect. Instruments golden and shining. They were all "holding their nickles." (When I was in band our teacher told us to walk as if we had a nickle stuck between our butt cheeks and don't let the nickle drop. There you go. Don't say you didn't learn anything today. That's how they do it.) 

I love marching bands. !

I sat in reverent awe as they passed right in front of me. I felt my spirit stand up. I felt the disastrous day flee my temperament. I said "Thank you Heavenly Father, for the band."


I know He knew I needed that band today. And the pizza. That was good pizza. And I can go to bed now because I left the little things behind, just for the afternoon, and I chose to take time to write a blog today and that always heals me.

Still . . .

Chad, Josh S., Josh L., Heidi, Mindy, Neal, Stewart, Jim, Agnes, Rock, Andra, Glen, Big Al, Richard, Melanie, Brad, Alyn, Phaidra, Julie, Katie, Christine, Fred, Scott, Michael, Doug, Brad, Peter, Brian, Melinda, Sabrina, Anni, Cam and especially ... Jen and J.P...    I missed you today. 

But there is no pity party that a unicycle, some hot pizza and a marching band can't crash.

Break many legs in Cedar tomorrow, everybody! I'll be making a trip to JoAnn's instead and its O.K.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mormons: Not So Weird After All

Preamble: We the Mormons, in order to form a more perfect people, establish families, ensure domestic tranquility. Provide for the common congregation,  promote the general welfare, and insure the blessings of eternity for ourselves and our posterity, do restore and establish this peculiar church of Jesus Christ..of Latter-day Saints.

I guess you could call this "Part II - The Little Gray Fish." I probably should keep my mouth shut...but it's just impossible. 

I'm almost certain that when I experienced the tradition of the windsocks in Japan ( The Little Gray Fish ) God was saying "you are going to have to talk about the Gospel in a time when people think it's weird. As soon as I invent blogging, you will be required to write about being a Mormon. People trust you. They think you have good sense (mostly). You won't be famous. You won't ever be covered in the latest fashion. But you have a big mouth so get out there and use it.

This past month, a couple of things happened that compelled me to write boldly about my faith. The television show, Rock Center, did a entire broadcast centrally focused on my religion, and a friend of mine, a strong woman that I thought I knew better than I did, declared the church to be oppressive and gave it a very public way. I felt the things she said were an attempt to make me (Mormons) feel stupid that I am adjusting my grip every day and hanging on to my silly religion...or rather, letting it hang on to me with "it's hands around my throat." Another friend of mine, commenting on our mutual friend's dissension said "That was dumb. Doesn't she know Mormon is the new black."

Am I being paid by the Mitt Romney campaign to write this blog? WAH! I WISH! (Brother Romney, if you're reading, we need smaller class sizes. We need to be able to pay good teachers what they're worth. You want to create more jobs? You've got to create passion for creativity and innovation and that disappears somewhere after the First Grade...we need to talk. Call me.) 

I have been a Mormon for the past 39 years. I was baptized in 1972! 

I remember SO MUCH about 1972. My sister and I had an elaborate playhouse that my dad built in our back shed back then and we role played that we were married to Donny and Jimmy Osmond. Our pseudonyms were Wendy and Kathy.The Tradition of the Unexpected We had a neighbor I adored named Cliff Austin that treated me like his own granddaughter. The other neighbors ducks laid their eggs in our yard. My brother released the emergency brake that year while we were playing in the open station wagon. The car rolled backwards taking off a passenger door before my mom could stop it from rolling through the neighbors living room.

The first time I swore was in 1972 and I remember exactly where I was and what I said. My favorite pair of pants were some lavender corduroys. I still love corduroys but Andy calls them "firestarters" because of the heat they create when rubbed together...between a pair of chunky's true, fatties like me shouldn't wear corduroy in the forest on a red burn day. You should be able to see light between your legs all the way to your promised valley if you're going to wears cords. Or carry a fire extinguisher around. Just sayin'.

I digress. Wow.

I was given the option of not getting baptized, but do you turn down all those cards and gifts? No way! There was no brainwashing involved. I've since tried to leave the church several times! But I have a real distaste for the feeling that I am lost. There's no control in "lost" ;-) and I like control. I also felt, that with my knowledge base, even if it was only a hunch sometimes, turning my back on religion was in fact, spitting in the face of Jesus Christ. My faith is a gift. I could never bear the thought of giving it back for very long.

Because we were always doing fun things with our congregation when I was young, I equated Mormonism with happiness. I think that's partially true. It was easy to see back then. I fight for happiness now. Not because I'm Mormon, but because I'm an adult. 

The flip side is that life comes at you and cracks its ugly knuckles over your head sometimes and there is no crying in Mormon-dom! Sometimes you make mistakes, we deal with it optimistically. When someone dies, we'll see them again, they're better off. When we have a tragedy, it's for our own good. When we make a dumb choice, that's okay. We humbly learn from that. I think those traits are true for nearly every religion! Some of the best people on the earth, in my life, leading the world, are not Mormon! God doesn't just work through the Mormons. Though we do our fair share I think.

I really liked the Rock Center special and I love that it described the church as one of "self-reliance." You need chicken? Got it. Wheat? Got it. Cotton, dairy, corn, toilet paper for 15 million? GOT IT. When the storms blow in, call the Mormons. In fact, you won't even have to. The Mormons probably already have a plane full of relief headed straight toward the storm.

The Mormons grow gardens just to put it in food storage or give it away. The women in my neighborhood sew birthing kits for Ghana, school kits for Nicaragua, children's clothing for the homeless in America and the list goes on and on. I have always associated the "Mormons" with action, self-reliance and optimism. Put the wheel back on the cart and keep moving. Do, share, give, then do some more. Lose yourself in the work. Sharing, loving and doing have never made me unhappy. Those things have almost always healed me too. 

Thank you Rock Center's Harry Smith for also reminding me that my parents sacrificed to pay for me to serve a mission and see the world. It shaped me as nothing else could have. It gave me a sense of humor, courage, self-reliance, but MOST of all He gave me a sense of my divine nature which connects me to something so much bigger than this little world and my little problems. My world became very big because of my mission. It was a set of lessons that just can NOT be taught in any university. Don't say we Mormons have our heads stuck in the sand. There are five languages spoken at my house. My mother sews re-usable sanitary pads for the women in Uganda. I worked in a refugee camp! I was given the opportunity to love a lot of people in a time when they were at their very lowest. GOD lifted them, through us, by putting us in their path. And we were lifted right back. We can and should be responsible for the welfare of God's children...everywhere. That's not weird! 

I also liked being reminded that people around the world think the missionary experience is ridiculous. I'm not kidding. (Thanks Book of Mormon - the musical)  IT IS. Who in their right mind would trust the strength of their religion to 50,000+ 19 and 21 year-old young punks out to proselyte God in every nook and cranny of the earth?  God would. In every divers language? God! I learned THAI for crying out loud. You think John Huntsman came up with that Chinese because he plugged in the Rosetta Stone every night for two weeks?

Think about it - if Mormons are so secretive, why would we send our punk young kids into the world to knock on every door, give you a free book, explain the book to you and invite you to come into the church and know E.V.E.R.Y. S.I.N.G.L.E. thing that we all know? 

How do I know God watches over those white shirts and ties? Because I was hit by a truck one day, a monkey jumped on me, a cobra lifted it's head out of our front weeds while we were praying one day, I wrecked three bicycles to smithereens, I was in the hospital three times with dysentery and once with kidney stones, I worked in polio wards, de-wormed Khmer children, had a rifle pointed at me, got propositioned by hookers that were earning money for their gender transition surgeries and got lost in Laos...just to name a few good memories. I was a stupid KID. Unless He's left the country since, God protects those young Mormon punks even the ones that are struggling with their faith, their obedience, or maybe even their sexuality. Hey cast of The Book of Mormon, keep telling everybody how weird that is, raise those questions.

(I have only listened to the sound track of the musical. I could never afford to actually see it. In response to the media requests before the musical's preview, the LDS church released the following: "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."  - About the Book of Mormon: The book, I know that to be true.)

All that I have is because of God. My parents? God. My work ethic? God. My awesome new job? God. Andy? God. Noah? God. My 16 year-old car that should not work...but it does for some reason because I need it too? God. 

I'm half kidding about the last one... but I can't explain it any other way so I'm going with God.

There was one other thing I really liked about the Rock Center special. And you might not like my opinion. The following Sunday at church, the hot topic was the fact that they posted a picture of the Mormon underwear. Dum..dum...dummmmmm. That was all the talk. I actually liked the fact that they showed my underwear on T.V. You know people have wondered. And one man's weird is another woman's door to corduroy because when I started wearing garments I was able to buy corduroy pants again. It cut the heat element right out. My bra doesn't dig into me anymore. My clothes last longer, it puts a layer between the heat and my skin which actually keeps me cooler...think about it. ;-)

Now you've seen the big crazy mystery! If you want another look you can google it at any time. No big surprise there. So let's debunk the mystery a little. I'm tired of the questions. 

When can they be taken off? Do you think I would actually swim in them? Shower in them? Oh brother, use your good sense people! Do you think I would actually work out in them? No, Ms. Huntsman, we don't. Maybe if you were a practicing Mormon you would know that. Or maybe your Mormon friends are just that nuts. Could be. Do we have sex in them? Impossible. Like literally, impossible. But they are a constant reminder, like a prayer shawl, a wedding ring, or even a tattoo, that I have made sacred commitments to something I take very seriously. Everyone should learn to commit to something at that level. That's why we call the temple "God's University." Contrary to public belief, it's not BYU. Love ya Coug's!

P.S. The saggy excuse for the Mormon underwear seen in the picture on Rock Center is not so much what they look like now. Modern sensibilities exist in the Mormon church too. Lycra? Yes. Got it. Thermals for the members in Outer Mongolia? Yep. Camo for the military members? Yes. I'm just glad they didn't show the woolen garments from 1890. Yeeks.

One last question from the peanut Donny and Marie wear them when they know, I can't answer that, but for me, I don't usually wear them on stage because I sweat so much under all that light. D and M are workin' it in that show, W.O.R.K.I.N.' I.T. and by the end of the night they are drenched in sweat and that's not really, in my mind, respecting the garment. So even though, they don't wear costumes that would prevent them from wearing the prescribed undies...OH BROTHER!!! WHO KNOWS. WHO CARES?! It's none of my business. To each his own. I think Donny and Marie (and the entire Osmond family) have been nothing but outstanding ambassadors for the church all over the world. NINE little gray fish, that's who they are. 

Have you seen 50+ year-old Donny sing Crazy Horses in concert? It''s 1972 all over again. The man has still G.O.T.  I.T.

I digress again. 

Aside from Ms. Hunstman's professed knowledge about the church, there was one other thing I didn't like about the Rock Center was that they ignored the central belief of the church: that it's Jesus Christ that sits at the head of the Mormon church. What's so hard to believe about that? So many people think the Mormons have their own Jesus. Nope. Same guy. We just believe that we have another testament of His mission, His divinity..."other sheep I have that are not of this fold"...why is this such a hard concept to believe? It's such a no-brainer for me. Religious folks are so territorial sometimes! (Waaaahhh!)

I guess it's also easy for me to believe that a young kid, a teenager (of course, because teenagers still have an open mind) wanted to know what religion to follow and God and Jesus Christ appeared to Him. Two people. And they gave him a record of peace and the tools and means to translate it in modern times. 

You can fight me, you can tell me I belong to a cult, but do you really care? Or do you just think it's weird? Weird sells, ya know. And that's why I think they left Jesus Christ out of Rock Center. Jesus isn't that weird. He's been around for centuries.

Consider this, even if He was just a great human man, think of all the good the Christian people of the earth (of which I am one) have done in His name, because they strive to act like Him, to be His hands on earth. I can't imagine a single bad thing about that unless you pick up weapons instead of bread. 

The little gray fish is the true symbol of the Mormon church for me. Opening our big mouths, doing more with less, optimism at it's true potential. Do other churches do the same thing? YES YES YES!!!! Are their good people that don't believe in God?! Are you nuts? Most people are GREAT. We are all His children. 

Do the Mormons think they're perfect? Yes...yes we do. Just kidding, geez. Though I do think some of them (I won't mention the Eagle Forum here today) are hardcore fundamentalists that never fully committed to the concept of FREE WILL. They need a pair of the new Lycra underwear. That will relax them! In fact, fundamentalists don't last long in the Mormon church, or as I've noticed, in any church. I've seen them get offended too easily by the rest of us sinners and go off and start their own rule books. I believe that church is a place for sinners. I'll always be found there. No one's perfect. No one will ever be perfect.

We are waiting for further light and knowledge like everybody else. We believe that we have a living prophet that will open those windows when it's right. Hmmmm...maybe I should be more specific...I believe, that we all, ALL, have a living prophet that is God's mouthpiece on the earth. What a nice addition to life! Woot!  A direct line to God...imagine that. 

I've never been unstable where this is concerned, just so you know. I'm not on any kind of pill, punch or spell. I've come to know this gradually over the last 39 years as a pretty sensible kind of person. But..I know it to be true and even though I joke a lot and sometimes I'm irreverent, please take my word for it, if you can use it. It's not easy to say that so publicly to all my friends that struggle with my decision to keep both feet in the Mormon church. But I've not been known to keep my big mouth shut either.


Until we get more understanding, let's choose to find the smallest wind and go with it. Everybody lighten up! It's going to be okay.

While we wait, let's choose love. Let's choose tolerance toward everyone. Even the Sister Wives. ;-) Let's choose dinner and a movie, I'll order the cheese sticks, you have a glass of wine, we'll share the popcorn. I won't judge you, you won't judge me and we'll all look after each other. Let's take care of the children, especially. Let's work along side each other and give our excess and our knowledge to each other.  

Because that's what Jesus would do.