Saturday, March 4, 2017

Park City Getaway Winner!

I've been hosting a giveaway on my Instagram account (@smallyspice) and am finally announcing the winner. (Give a girl a break. I said I'd CHOOSE the winner on Friday, not announce it).

Have you ever heard of CHILDREN? They suck the life and energy out of me and shiz literally happens. I'm a day late, so sue me.

Thank you for all of the interest in the giveaway. Thank you for the shares and the likes and the comments and the excitement about my wonderful, wonderful little town that I have called home for the last 12 years. I'm happy to share snippets of my life here with all of you!

And now, for the moment you've all been waiting for.

 Drumroll please....EMILIE AHERN!

Contact me via Instagram, Facebook, or email and we'll iron out the details.

For the rest of you who didn't win (I'M SORRY!) I will be publishing a Park City Visitors Guide on my blog next week that will give you all the ins and outs of places to eat, places to stay, activities with your kids, secret local spots, etc. So stay tuned!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Brotherly Love

A few people have requested a copy of the talk I gave in church this morning so I thought I'd post it here. I really enjoy public speaking and truly needed the time of self-reflection that putting this talk together granted me. I hope you enjoy it. With the element of real-life delivery missing, hopefully it still stands on its own.

Thanks for reading. I love you!

Saturday, February 11, 1:50 p.m.

As I sit here, trying to organize my thoughts about love, Zoe is locked in her room screaming her HEAD OFF. I’m sitting at the kitchen table, earplugs in and my Hamilton Pandora station on full volume to drown out the sound of her maddening yells and kicks against the door. She’s exhausted. She stayed up 3 hours past her bedtime last night because Vic and I were out late celebrating my birthday. She’s too tired to even know what she is screaming about or why. She’s in complete meltdown mode and all I could do was lock the door and walk away. I am at my wits end and am praying she screams herself into a much needed nap.

Vic is in the basement resting because he has been dealing with a man-cold for over a week and I am running low on patience and empathy. Ladies, I know you know what I’m talking about.

And after a morning of too much time on the iPad and enough whining from Peter to solve the energy crisis, I finally threatened him just right that he got himself dressed, emptied the dishwasher, half-heartedly made his bed, then stormed off to his friend’s house.

I’m obviously an excellent mother who might be overly qualified to speak to you about love…but because I love you I’ll impart my wisdom upon you this morning. I expect to see arduous notes being taken.

I don’t know if my husband knows this or not, but I made a decision quite a few years ago that I would bear my testimony once a year during my birthday month. Well, as mentioned, my birthday was two days ago, which means last Sunday would have been my chance. I was getting ready to come to the pulpit but it just didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. So I suppose it is serendipitous that I have the chance to speak today.

Love is such a broad topic. Fatherly love, motherly love, unconditional love, Christ-like love, romantic love. I struggled bringing the topic into focus so that I could speak from the heart in a way that was meaningful to me. After looking through the running list of quotes that I keep on my phone, reviewing the latest podcasts and books that I’ve read, pondering what has inspired me lately, and pleading in prayer, it was undeniable that I should speak about BROTHERLY/SISTERLY LOVE.

My father, who was aptly born on Valentine’s Day, often repeated the following, which he still lives by, “There are two types of people in the world. Those I love, and those I haven’t met yet.”

As some of you know, my parents are on their third back-to-back (essentially) mission in Moscow, Russia. (yes, all three missions have been in Moscow, Russia). They are based in Moscow but are in charge of the addiction recovery program for Eastern Europe so they travel all over Russia, to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Georgia, and occasionally to Turkey and various other countries. My mom is a therapist and my dad is an addict in recovery so they are a perfect fit for the work.

I have LOVED hearing about their adventures, the people they counsel with and teach, their regional presentations about marriage and family, the food, the weather, and so on. They are there to love, not to convert.

UPDATE: 2:38 p.m. Zoe fell asleep. She’s napping for the first time in 8 months! And the husband has left the house!

But out of their 5+ years of living in Eastern Europe, the story that has stayed with me the most and profoundly affected me took place in a crowded Subway station in Moscow. My mother often describes the state of the homeless population in Russia—there are huge problems with the homeless due to lack of government involvement. There are really no such things as soup kitchens or homeless shelters and at one point in Russia’s history there were over 7 million homeless children. (In the U.S. there are around 2.5 million). When you take into account the harsh weather conditions in Russia, the economy and exorbitant cost of living, the dense population in Moscow, it can be very devastating to see the way our brothers and sisters there struggle to survive. My parents have seen homeless people literally frozen to death on the streets.

As my mom exited the Subway train one day and stepped onto the platform, she saw a homeless man with no legs and deformed upper limbs. He was sitting on the floor of the station, a hat with a few rubles in it in front of him. She noticed that a handful of people threw change in the hat as they walked by, which is wonderful…but my mom retrieved a significant amount of money from her purse, approached the man, knelt down to his level, put her hand on his shoulder, looked him in they eye, and placed the money into the palm of his only hand.
“I just wanted him to feel human”, she told me. “I wanted him to know that I really see him.”

Do we really see our brothers and sisters? I know Jenny Towery sees them. I know because I watch her relentlessly serve everyone in her path, including my non-LDS neighbor with cancer.

I know Brenda Chamberlain sees them because of how she loves all the women in this ward. How she jumped at the opportunity to organize a list of women to bring food to my friend Lindsey, who is a single mom (and here today) when Lindsey’s elderly mother fell and broke her shoulder.

I know Kimberly Hatch sees her brothers and sisters in the faces of the Primary children because of how she prepares and organizes and speaks with softness to the children.

Ray and Jane Greer SEE their brothers and sisters when they march for refugees at the capitol and teach their Sunday School marriage class to a group of couples who, on somedays, are simply just trying to not kill each other. They see us. They know the struggle. But they know that love is up to the challenge.

I know my husband sees his brothers and sisters when he makes his homemade granola out of love for friends who are struggling, for the families he home teaches, for his children.

I know that my friend and visiting teacher, Andrea Sato sees me when she listens to my struggles and regularly calls and texts to check in on me.

When Peter stops on the basketball court to help a player from the other team recover from a fall, I know that he is seeing his brothers and sisters.

I know that most of you really SEE your brothers and sisters.

Horace Mann, one of America’s great educators said, “To pity distress is human. To relieve it….is God-like.”
I will never, can never, forget the relieving of our distress when our 2-year-old daughter died. Most of you know that she choked on a small apple piece right outside in this parking lot almost 9 years ago. Some of the acts of love and service performed for us are beyond description. They are a part of my soul and my cellular structure. I will never, ever tire of sharing these sacred experiences and sharing the life and light of our Lucy. To this day, the brotherly love and kindness shown to us at our tremendous loss leaves me speechless. Thank you for seeing us.

I think God breaks our hearts again and again and again until they stay open. That is when we begin to truly see and love our fellow man. This is what I hope will be the outcome with all the broken hearts in the world right now.

I believe that the measure of our love is the measure of the greatness of our souls. I am so honored to be among so many great souls. I want to love people so that they return to themselves. And in turn, I will return to myself.

I try so hard not to change my brothers and sisters (Vic and my children especially), but to simply see the humanity in them and extend compassion. As Mother Teresa has famously said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” This is much easier said than done, but it is what I aim for.

Some of the most unburdened spaces of my life are when I am simply loving my brothers and sisters. We are sponsoring a refugee family who currently lives in a tent on the border of Syria and Lebanon. I was made aware of an incredible organization,, and we knelt as a family, the week before Christmas, to decide which refugee family we would sponsor. We get to Skype with the family, use our network of friends and associates to help raise money for them, and watch as their lives change. Peter and Zoe are the ones who made the decision about which family we should choose. I just couldn’t pick one. When they saw the baby boy in Sanaa’s arms, they knew that was our family. They are all in need. We are all in need.

In October General Conference of 2010 President Monson taught, “In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing their best to deal with the challenges which come their way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.”

In closing, I want to share an excerpt from one of my favorite podcast episodes. This is from a short essay written for NPR’s “This I believe” by a school teacher in St. Louis titled, “God is in the Hands.”

“I believe in acts of love. I believe that God asks me to fill the empty hand of the beggar. I believe that God poses the question every time I see the hand my student raises. I believe that I find God as I type the poem, the one I begin without knowing where it will end.
I can tell you what I believe. But I’ve reached an age where I don’t care what I believe. Because I believe that love is not found in the mind or the heart. Love is found in the hands. Love is in the nightly back scratch I give my wife. My wife kneading the dough, that’s love. Love is in the hand that crafts, sculpts, sews, caresses, soothes.
That’s where God is. That’s where God is the most obvious. In the hands. In my religion, Roman Catholicism, the hands of the priest are especially dedicated during his ordination. If I could, I would sanctify the hands of everyone. I would bless the hands of the nun who teaches the child to write. I would bless the hands of my wife as she e-mails to me a joke. I would sanctify the hands of the clarinetist as she plays the Mozart concerto.  I would consecrate the hands of the carpenter who shaped our simple dinner table. I would bless the hands of our dinner guests.
I do believe in a love that sails the Caribbean in a honeymoon yacht. But just now, just this day at age fifty-five, this morning, I have come to believe in a love that begins when my wife gently awakens me. Because God is in her hand. In the hand that caresses my shoulder in the morning. The hand that encourages me, simply, to open my eyes.” –John Samuel Tieman (full essay can be read and listened to here). 
I’m grateful that I have been bent and broken because I have learned about love. I try to see past the end of my nose and ease the suffering of my brothers and sisters with my hands. There are still days that my happiness catches me by surprise because I never thought after Lucy’s death that I could feel this way. I owe that to my Father in Heaven and his angels here on earth. Thank you for seeing me and loving me with fierce and abiding brotherly love. For bending down to me, touching my shoulder, looking me in the eye, and placing your love in my hands.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Greetings, Earthlings.

Hello, Friends!

I'm still here. Do people still read this? Here's what we've been up to:

-Sponsoring a refugee family in Syria.


And here's a link to the news story about it:

-Peter is really loving basketball. It thrills me to see him commit and succeed.

-Vic started a new job at Robert J. Debry law firm. It is a MUCH NEEDED change and he's really enjoying it.

-I'm doing the KonMarie method on my house and getting rid of so much junk. It feels amazeballs and a half.

-I finished performing in "Sister Act" at the Hale Centre Theatre. I'm happy to have my life back.

-The holidays were pretty quiet and low-key. Honestly, I'm glad Christmas is over, as much as I love it.

-I still haven't (and don't ever want to) accept that Trump is our President. Never, ever.

-Zoë is still the cutest little peanut on the planet.

That's all I've got! I've got some real writing in me somewhere. I'll have to find it again someday.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I ran for you

"My heart is tender and my arms are wide open this morning. A lot of life's stresses came crashing down on me last night... So I turned to a favorite form of therapy and went on a run this morning. I ran for you, my dear friends. I ran and thought and prayed for all of you. For my dear friend, Justin Kinnaird, whose birthday is this week and who passed away two years ago. Oh, how I miss and love him. I ran for all of the refugee children in Syria. I ran for my friends and loved ones dealing with depression, divorce, a faith crisis, loneliness. I ran as my heart beat fast in my chest thinking of my parents far away in Russia. I ran with the love of Lucy bursting out of my heart, each step a pounding of gratitude for the grace and miracles surrounding her death. I ran for Peter and Zoë and their futures. I ran for my marriage. I ran for all the pain and suffering in every heart in this beautiful world. Every stride was a prayer for peace, healing, forgiveness, and love. I passed by a woman sitting on a bench smoking and crying softly to herself. I wondered if she was related to either of the young boys in our community who died recently from drugs. They were best friends. Every drop of sweat was the cleansing of my mind, an extraction of sorrows. No photo or written words could ever do justice to the beauty I beheld with my eyes and felt in my soul this morning. Carry on, humans. We can do this--I love you."

As I sat in the theatre late last night watching the other cast dancing on stage, feeling weary and sad, I was struck again with the truth that "this is why we do theatre. This is why we have art, writing, ease the minds and burdens of those partaking of our creations, if even just for an evening."  

*FYI- I'm in the Monday, Wednesday, Friday cast (which also does the 12:30 matinee on Saturdays)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Long Lost Writing

So much is going on, not even sure where to begin.

Our master bathroom still isn't finished. Can't talk about it.

I did a triathlon and exceeded my expectations (which is very rare and was more than pleasantly surprising). 4th place!! WHAT?!

Vic and I attended a marriage workshop recently that has been a huge help (name one married couple you know who doesn't have to WORK/focus/sacrifice/struggle through their relationship).

I got cast in Sister Act and am currently in rehearsals. I'm tired.

I interviewed to be the drama teacher at Park City High School and wasn't hired. Opposite experience of the triathlon. Wah wah. But it's fine. Really, it is. It was a great learning experience.

Peter started 2nd grade. Lucy would have started 5th grade. I can't really think about it.

Zoë is doing MUCH better in the poop department. Praise be unto Jesus. You have no idea. She still has occasional pee accidents (not poo!) and wears a diaper at night to sleep, but we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were. SO GRATEFUL.

It's been a hot summer. Our air conditioner is broken. Most homes here don't even have A/C but I've wanted to use ours on several occasions. Another day, another project.

I attended (and helped plan) my 20th high school reunion. It was a beautiful experience for me. If I had the time and energy this could be its own beautiful post.

I miss writing. Remember when I used to write and blog often and I had somewhat insightful, interesting things to say? I miss taking the time to stop and express myself that way.

Maybe when Zoë starts preschool next week I'll give it another go. Heaven knows I need some therapy-- and writing (and running) are my cheapest and sometimes most effective options.

Monday, July 25, 2016

My new favorite dress and a Lula Roe Discount!

People! You've probably heard of Lula Roe. Maybe you haven't. You may already be in love with their INCREDIBLY soft leggings or darling dresses. Maybe you've never heard of them. Maybe you don't care for some of their crazy patterns. Maybe you love some of their crazy patterns. Maybe you love some of their not so crazy patterns. 

I wore this dress last Sunday and I could not keep up with the compliments. Every single young girl in Primary (the children's class at church) complimented me on my dress. The pockets!! The cut! The bright blue that goes with my eyes! The fact that I don't have to fuss and adjust anything! The soft fabric! It's seriously a dream. 

And did I mention I wore black Lula Roe leggings nearly every day on our trip to London? You think all leggings are created equal? They aren't. 

I cannot emphasize enough how happy I am with all of their clothing I've tried. But you have to purchase through a consultant. So here's your chance to get 10% off and fall in love with your clothing again. There is something for everyone. Seriously. 

Go to THIS LINK and JOIN the shopping page. You will receive 10% off your first purchase by joining the online shopping group. Kimberly will answer any questions, ship promptly, and be the kindest, least annoying helper with your purchases. 

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Listen To Your Mother--Lucia, Our Light

It's my mom's birthday this week. (July 22nd to be exact). What perfect timing that the video footage from the "Listen to Your Mother" show I participated in was just released.

With everything going on in the world right now, my heart is yearning to share this with all of you. Whether it's your mother, father, friend, sister, brother, coworker, or spouse who is helping you through your struggles, I deeply hope you have SOMEONE cheering you on. If not, please know that I am.

Please also note this is a READING. Not a speech, performance, or presentation.

But lastly, Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hot Sauce turns 4

Zoë Sass Pot June, 

Do you see this itty bitty container of Tabasco sauce? It's nearly as tiny as you. Do you know where I got it? I'm going to tell you. 

After two sleepless nights in the hospital after you were born (mommy had a major breakdown and panic attack), my final hospital meal was sent up to our room and this precious little bottle of hot sauce stood perfectly balanced on the edge of my food tray. 

The nurse who first cleaned you off and bathed you was a redhead and she was delighted to see a fellow ginger welcomed into the world. I wasn't sure if you were REALLY a red head or not. I couldn't get used to the idea. (Not to mention I was so out of it and when I finally did start drifting off to sleep one night the woman in the room next to mine was screaming in labor pains and woke me up). 

But the point is, when I saw this adorable little jar of hot sauce on my tray something told me not to open it. I asked Vic to put it in my purse because I wanted to keep it. If you really were a red head, I knew I would need this little bottle as a token of your sass.  Call me a prophetess, because you live up to everything about this...the cutest, toughest little package of spice and fire. I'm going to keep this little bottle for always. 

I will never forget how my heart changed the SECOND you were placed in my arms. Having your brother come into our empty lives 11 months after Lucy died was wonderful...AND SO HARD. As you know, Peter is not the most easy going, even tempered child. Mommy was exhausted in every way possible. There was something about you, Zoë...I don't know if it was the timing, your gender, your birthday being so close to Lucy's--I think it was just you, your amazing spirit that INSTANTLY changed the shape of my broken heart. You changed the entire dynamic of our family and the second you were placed in my arms was when my real healing began. 

I associate the start of my true healing so strongly with the day of your birth that I actually audibly gasped this morning while brushing your hair when I realized it's been 4 whole years since I have felt functional and "normal". 

You taught me that grief is just love squaring up to its enemy. But love is up to the challenge. 

I love you more than tongue can tell. Daddy turned to me the other day and said, "I realized that Lucy broke me, but Zoë yoked me." He is firmly tied to you and we are both madly in love with you. It is my greatest honor to watch you and your brother grow in the light of love. Thank you for always remembering your big sister. Thank you for your smile that explodes rays of blinding light. I didn't think I could know such beauty again in my life. 

Happy, Happy birthday Zoë June. 

Love you for ever and ever more, spice and all...


Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Poetic Life

After meeting a darling blog reader the other night (at Peter's thoroughly enjoyable First Grade musical performance), it dawned on me that many of you who aren't connected with me on social media might not be aware of the incredible experience we had last week. 

I've mentioned before that our dear friends are writing a musical based on this blog,  Lucy's death, and the power of social media called "Luz Y Amor". What you may not know is that one of the songs from the show was submitted into a very prestigious competition in London as part of the Stephen Sondheim Society and chosen out of more than 100 songs to be performed on a West End stage. (The West End is England's equivalent to America's's a huge deal). 

Spencer and Shenelle (our friends and composers) were unable to attend so they strongly encouraged us to go represent them and the show and experience the first live performance of this beautiful song about our daughter. (Specifically, this song was inspired by the blog post when we had to clean out Lucy's room and put away all of her bedding, books, clothing, etc.) 

Due to the last minute nature of the trip, we scrambled to figure out how to get everything in order, including finances, and Spencer started a Go Fund Me account to get us there. We have a generous and lovely friend who works for Delta that got us discounted buddy passes (which helped greatly!) and so many friends and even strangers donated to get us to London.

It was an incredible experience. We couldn't have done it without Vic's parents. (They watched the kids). We couldn't have done it without Tokako's buddy passes. We couldn't have done it without our dear, dear friends, the Hill/Bigwood/Wheeler family in London who hosted us (SUCH A TREAT). We couldn't have done it without Spencer and Shenelle. We couldn't have done it without Lucy. 

I thought for a long time that I couldn't do life itself without Lucy. But life (and Lucy) have proven me wrong. Our life is full of so much love and light. Our life is full of so much meaning. 

There is no way to thank each of you who made this possible. Not just this trip to London, but this life we are living now. We're trying our best, like each of you. Sometimes it all feels awfully poetic.

8 years ago today is when it all ended, and it all began.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Parenting in the Digital Age

If you follow me on Facebook you might remember the brilliance I was struck with a few weeks ago. I was upstairs cleaning the kitchen and listening to my beloved podcasts --but the fact that I'd asked my children to clean the basement a good 3 or 4 times and it still hadn't happened was really chapping my hide. (hyde?--I've never said that phrase out loud before but I'm just going to roll with it right now).

P and Z were downstairs watching Netflix via our Chromecast, (the little Google device that will stream anything from the internet onto your television) sitting amidst piles of blocks, Legos, Hot Wheels, and who knows what else. And that's when the idea came to me. The mommy heavens opened and showered me with pure inspiration.

I pulled out my phone, made a quick video, uploaded it to YouTube, and cast it from my phone down to the basement television.

Guys, it totally worked. I paused what they were watching, flashed my snazzy face up on the screen instead, and poked my head around the corner to see how they would react. Zoë stood up immediately and began putting her blocks back in their bag and looking at the TV in total amazement (and fear). Also, I blink a lot.

I headed back up to the kitchen and made sure to replay the video a few more times. Eventually, Zoë joined me in the kitchen, laughing and talking about her silly mom on the TV and Peter stayed down in the basement cleaning and farting around.

But the point of this post, surprisingly, isn't just to brag about my Youtube/crazy mom/lazy mom skills, it's to tell you what happened next. I decided to continue playing family videos from my Youtube channel onto the television for Peter. Specifically, I played all the Lucy videos I have uploaded. He was down there for a good 10-15 minutes while Zoë colored on the floor and I swept.

Before long, I heard Peter coming up the stairs. He entered the kitchen, heading straight for me with tears STREAMING down his face.

"What is it?? What's wrong?", I said.

"It's like she was right there! I felt like I could reach into the TV and get her. She was so real. I miss her."

Then he buried his head in my lap and continued to cry.

I'm not kidding. It was the sweetest thing. These were genuine tears of sadness. Like he was mourning for the first time the death of the sister he never met.

I started to cry as I held him, stroking his head and telling him that yes, she was very real. And she will always be his big sister.

Almost all of the other angel moms I've met since Lucy died had other children to care for and grieve with and worry over after their child died. I always wondered what it would be like to still have to get up in the morning and care for your living children when you yourself felt like dying. I especially wondered what it would be like to see your living children suffer at the loss and separation from one of their siblings. Grief on top of grief.

I got a small taste of it that day with Peter and it did 2 things at once to me. It broke new splintering and painful pathways in my heart, but it filled and healed older broken passages. To see the longing on Peter's face and hear of his love for his sister--it was jaw-dropping and astounding.

I just realized that the insanely awesome idea I had to create that silly mom video may have had two purposes. I'm thankful I got my clean basement out of those little shitlins, but I'm far more grateful that it led to such an incredible bonding experience with me and my son...and my little Lucy.