The Soil of Change

Thursday, September 20, 2018


{I snapped this photo in the Bloedell Reserve on Bainbridge Island--across the water from Seattle}

I often get overwhelmed with the state of affairs in our world today. Everything that’s broken seems impossibly beyond our ability to fix. The poverty, corruption, racism, refugee crisis, gun violence, political climate. It is more than I can process or understand. Am I the only one who sometimes feels utterly helpless in my ability to create a better world for my children? I can’t read the news or look too closely at what is really going on in some areas because I feel the pain too deeply and I lose my ability to function.

Yes, I vote. I try to make good choices. I pay my taxes, occasionally say my prayers. I donate to good causes, I try to stay educated and informed on current issues. But I’m a mom with young kids. My life is chaotic, busy, messy, and at times, very unfocused. What can I really do to help heal the world?

I think the answer to this huge question is Small. I can start small. We all need to think smaller. When we think smaller, magic happens. We will only see the change above ground if the soil beneath is rich and deep.

The soil is our families and our communities.

I’ve recently started a part-time job as a librarian at the Park City Library on Park Ave in Old Town. Of all the things in life I dreamed of becoming, being a librarian was not one of them. In fact, it’s the furthest thing I can think of from what I thought I always wanted to be: a Broadway star. However, I’ve discovered that the soil is extremely fertile on the library grounds and its kept me planted and nourished.

Take, for example, the young man with slurred speech and a limp in his walk who entered the library a few days ago asking for help to print a document. I knew nothing about him, but from the outside, we were different as night and day: literally. Dark skin, tall, dressed in athleisure attire, struggling to walk (Meanwhile, I dance full out to George Michael in the back room when I’m checking in books).

As we stood at the printer and I assisted him with the process, his cell phone rang and I happened to glance over and see that the screen said, “MOM”. Now, I had no ill feelings whatsoever toward this patron, but when I saw the word “MOM” on his phone screen, I softened inside on a deeper level. This beautiful man is someone’s son! He has a mom who loves him and is calling to check up on him…I better do my best to take care of him while he’s here at the library. I started a conversation with him and we enjoyed chatting for a minute or two. We exchanged smile after smile and several ‘Thank you’s” and You’re Welcome’s.

Exchanges like these happen everyday at the library, but for some reason this experience really hit me.

Or what about yesterday when I got to participate in our book club for adults with disabilities? We went around the circle giving updates on our lives, including how Maddi’s favorite stuffed animal , Rudolph is doing. We slowly took turns reading Chapter 1 of “Treasure Island” , letting each person pronounce the words however they wanted, then discussed the history and impact of this literary adventure we were undertaking.

We have the East Coaster who recently moved to a nice neighborhood in Park City, daughter is attending Private School, and they’d like a library card. Sure thing! While they fill out the paper work we find out all sorts of things we have in common and I suggest a restaurant for dinner and welcome them to town.  

The highschool students who use our study rooms, who are cramming for their chemistry exam. Chemistry! Wow, I never took chemistry. Oh, it’s because you want to go to med school? How wonderful. You’ll do great! Here, I have an extra granola bar if you need it.

A nanny in town watching a crying toddler while the family skis? Why yes, I can help you figure out which bus to take to get back to your hotel so this little guy can take a nap. You’re from Los Angeles? That’s so great. I used to live there. That’s where I met my husband. You’re from Jamaica? One of my best friend’s I performed with in college is from Jamaica. It was so great to meet you, too. Looks like your bus is pulling up.

Bob with the long white beard, turns in a book and tells me with a wink in his eye, “If you’re a liberal, you won’t like this book, but I loved it.” That’s ok, Bob. You and your wife are so sweet. I like you regardless of your political beliefs.

This is the magic. This is the fertile soil of change I’m talking about.  It’s the magic of staying within sight and sound of each other as a community.

I’ll never write or pass a bill, be a lobbyist or politician. Heck, even if I were, my hands would be tied in so many different knots I’d hardly be able to create the changes I want.

Here’s the thing: We argue those with opposing view points on social media. We avoid topics with our families over the holidays because there are certain touchy subjects. (Gun control- ahem) We get so upset, angry even, when we focus on our differing beliefs. But I have truly found that it is difficult to hate someone up close.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But my heart tells me that this is the answer. At least for me.  New York City or Park City. Nowhere Tennessee, Tulsa, Oklahoma or Tallahassee, Florida—we must nourish the community soil in our churches, libraries, CLUBS, sports teams, schools, and families.

No challenge before us is more important — and more potentially life-giving — than that we come to see and know our fellow citizens, our neighbors, who have become strangers. The more we care for one another, the greater and more vibrant our blossom and our harvest.

I may be small. My acts may be small, but they can affect great change. So next time you get overwhelmed with the gigantic problems facing our nation and our world, remember to keep it small. Think of me, all 5’1” of me. Think of these words, the grown man with his mom still checking in on him, and decide to go out into the community and till a little dirt.

Dear Bulimia

Thursday, September 6, 2018


(swollen face, chin acne)

Dear Bulimia,

I learned yesterday, while attending Toastmaster’s and hearing my friend practice her upcoming Ted Talk, that in the late 1960’s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat---which began the great “low fat” craze that peaked in the 1980’s and 90’s—right when I was a floundering, susceptible teenager. And not just any teenager. I was a singing, dancing, cheerleading teenager which put me at even a higher risk of becoming intimately acquainted with you.

I’m still working through my anger with you. I want to blame the “Sugar Research Foundation” for our ongoing relationship. Though I rarely see you anymore, you are still a heavy presence in my life. You stole SO MANY moments from me. You took away roles I could have been cast in, relationships I could have had, experiences I could have participated in. You demanded I give you all my time and attention and I’ll never have those years back.

I’m still trying to forgive you for what you stole from me. Even though I’ve come a long way and set healthy boundaries with you, I realized yesterday that I haven’t fully let go of our past relationship. I still harbor such ill feelings toward you. I have visions of me attending NYU, being on Broadway, dating more guys, enjoying my high school and college years without your looming ugliness.

But I must forgive you. Not for your sake, but for mine. I can’t blame those greedy Harvard scientists or the sugar industry. They are accountable for much of the obesity and health issues in our society today, yes. All I can do is take responsibility for my own behavior, educate myself and others, and learn from my destructive relationship with you.

And if I can save one soul out there from entering into a toxic relationship with you, my suffering will have been worth it.

Despite what you’d have me think, I am so much more than my body. My body is an instrument, not an ornament. Fat is good and essential. All calories are good calories. It's tough to recover from an eating disorder in a culture that celebrates eating disorders. So EFF OFF!

The reopening of my wounds yesterday leaves me with two choices: I can sulk in the pain of the past or celebrate the progress of the present.

I’ve come so far. You held me as a slave once and I won’t give you that power again.



Taking Flight

Thursday, January 25, 2018
(Please note that my blog design and content in the menu bar is still being tweaked and updated. I will have that Park City guide ready next month!)

If you follow me on social media, you know I recently joined Park City Toastmaster's. What on earth is Toastmaster's you ask? Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Think: Rotary Club, but for public speaking and leadership.

I can't say enough good things about this organization. I've been able to rub shoulders with some of my community leaders, learn the life stories of an incredibly diverse group of people, work on my writing and public speaking skills, and find a new motivation to get up long before the sun.

Our first speech assignment is called "the icebreaker" and is an opportunity for the club to get to know you a bit. Though it's been a few months since I gave this speech (which is timed and evaluated in the meeting), I thought it would be the perfect way to break my blogging hiatus and re-introduce myself and my story, what my life and my blog is about.

I greatly value the community that organically created itself in my life in the wake of my loss. I appreciate you being here, sharing your thoughts, your struggles, your encouragement, and your beautiful energy with me and my family. It's an incredibly humbling, fulfilling, and unexpected gift in the wake of our tragedy.

Below is my Icebreaker speech that ended in a standing ovation (based primarily on a reference to standing ovations in my speech, not necessarily because it merited such a response) and left me in tears.

Never, ever give up. And never apologize for your progress.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” –Peter Pan

There I was, strapped in an awkwardly tight harness beneath my costume (that was pinching my lady parts), I’d wrapped medical bandaging around my chest to flatten "the ladies" out, my hair, cut in a messy pixie, was especially disheveled, and my face was haphazardly rubbed with makeup to look like dirt. I was ready. It was time to take my maiden voyage to Neverland in front of an audience on the Egyptian Theatre stage for the first time.

I trusted in the techs on the fly system backstage, I trusted in my months of rehearsing...the lyrics, the notes, the choreography, the costume changes. Everything went off without a hitch. The pixie dust worked its magic, we made it safely to Neverland, lived our grand adventures with Captain Hook, I delivered the children back to their beds in London, and the audience erupted onto their feet in unabashed applause.

But I want to take you backstage where I strip off the costume, wipe off the makeup and look at myself in the mirror. Who is the real girl on stage behind the makeup and costume and sexually assaulting harness?

Little 13 year old boys who never grow up don’t struggle with bulimia, do they? This Peter Pan did. And still does. It started in 7th grade- The unrelenting tick-tock of food, body image, comparing myself to others…The crocodile swims near threatening, “She’s so much better than you. Look how tall and beautiful she is! She’s got more legs than a bucket of chicken! You’re a shrimp. You’re not good enough.”

For the most part, I’ve learned to fly away to a safe place and ignore Mr. Crocodile. But his presence is always lurking in the shadows of my mind. As they say, “You may not always act like a bulimic, but you’ll always think like one.”

Something else the audience doesn’t know about Peter Pan is her struggle in a (for back of a better term) mixed-faith marriage. She’s clever and quick on stage, but behind the scenes I’m constantly learning how a coffee-drinking, progressive, unorthodox Mormon shares a bed and a life with her true believing husband. It takes a lot of backstage work, but I’ve managed to pull myself up by the bootstraps and find common ground. We have found a way to make it work. I’m still flying, folks. WE’RE still flying.

But the true test of flight came just a few months after taking my final bow as Peter Pan.

At the time, I was a new mom. My 18 month-old daughter, Lucy, who LOVED to dress as Tinkerbell and watch her mommy fly across the stage, filled my days with diapers, the Johnny Jumper, story-time, nap-time, play-time…she filled all my time. And all my heart.

Tragically, my Lucy Sweet choked on an apple in our church parking lot, just 2 weeks shy of her second birthday. Yes, my good Mormon husband was there with me, we did the Heimlich, we raced to the fire station next door and I saw Lucy go limp in his arms. She was life-flighted to Primary Children’s Hospital, where 4 days later she became an organ donor.

Would I ever fly again?

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

I didn’t just DOUBT whether I’d ever fly again, I absolutely believed I never would. Not after something like that. But I was wrong.

Yes, I’d risen above my eating disorder. I’d sailed above the differences and difficulties of my marriage, but I didn’t believe I’d fly after the death of my daughter.

ut this community believed I could. My friends, theatre family, church members and relatives believed in me. One day, sometimes one breath, at a time, I slowly gained my power of flight again. Magical pixie dust in the form of my children’s laughter, my husband’s gentle touch, the warm sun on my face while hiking the trails in Pinebrook, enables me to stand tall, put my hands on my hips, puff my chest to the sky and take flight.

I’ve since given birth to two more children—Peter, age 8, and Zoe, age 5. I am a public speaker on loss and grief, and often speak to medical professionals about organ donation. I'm an amateur athlete, sometimes performer, part-time librarian, skincare saleswoman, and a perfectly imperfect human. These days my daily flights of courage don’t end with a standing ovation, but I consider them to be incredible feats.
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