Wednesday, September 20, 2017

DONATE LIFE TRANSPLANT GAMES





I've been waiting for the right time to make a special, humbling announcement. After today's unexpected events, which still have me reeling (like my neighbor said--it was like watching a reenactment of the day my daughter died), now seems like the right time to tell you.

For those of you who don't follow me on Instagram or missed my story today, I was on my way to the outlet mall to shop for some workout clothes for Vic. As I passed the church and fire station (like I do everyday) I noticed a large group of people lined along the fence that separates the two buildings. There were two ambulances, several fire trucks, but what really threw me was seeing a life flight helicopter in the church parking lot.

My heart started racing and I immediately pulled over.

I could tell it was an open house celebration of some sort to allow the public to tour the facilities. However, to add insult to injury, the place was teeming with children between the ages of 2-5. I was a woman possessed. It took all I had not to sprint to the Life Flight helicopter. It was as if I thought I was going to see Lucy lying on the stretcher.

Heart pounding, I walked right up to the tall, dark, and handsome flight nurse and started asking all sorts of questions. "Have you flown from this location before? Do you remember picking up a little girl? What percentage of your patients are children? Where do they go once they are in the helicopter? Has anyone died while you were flying them? How do you do what you do??"

And then, of course, I told him the whole story. He listened so patiently as he told me he is a father of 3 children himself. I hugged him and thanked him for what he does but I had to walk away. Mothers and children were starting to gather, look, and listen to my story and I was on the verge of ugly tears. I made my way to the opposite side of the helicopter (thank goodness I was wearing sunglasses) and breathed deeply while I let the tears fall as they wished.

After making it back around the Life Flight helicopter, I started asking about organ donation--do you ever transport organs or recipients? Do you ever associate or work with Intermountain Donor Services? Have you heard of the Donate Life Transplant Games of America?

And this is what I'm trying to get at, and what I've been waiting to tell you--I've been asked to be the keynote speaker at a very special event at Abravanel Hall next August. (Yes, it is 10.5 months away). The most exciting part is simply that I have been made aware of what the Transplant Games of America are!

Below is an excerpt from the email I received asking me to participate in this event:

"The Donate Life Transplant Games are coming to Salt Lake in about one year. August 2-7. The Games participants include organ, eye, and tissue recipients from all over America. In honor of donor families each Organ Procurement Organization (58 in the US), invite donor families to attend and watch the games. They also have donor families walk in during the opening ceremonies, which will be held at Rice Eccles Stadium the opening night. It’s a pretty big deal, and the Utah Sports Authority and Visit Salt Lake City is involved with the planning.

The Donor Family Ceremony will be held on Saturday, August 4th at Abravanel Hall. The estimated number of attendees at the ceremony will be around 2500 people (mostly donor families). The majority of the attendees will be from all over the United States and attending in conjunction with the Transplant Games. We are hoping that several hundred local families will be able to attend as well."

Guys. These athletes, who have been given LIFE because of an organ donor, are coming to SLC next summer to compete and celebrate. How amazing is this?! 

I rejoice at the opportunity to share my thoughts and stories at this event and to see these athletes in action. The hearts, eyes, lungs, and tissue of deceased loved ones will be RUNNING around that field. There is no greater manifestation of HOPE, SELFLESSNESS, and LIFE AFTER LOSS. 

I'll update you with more details as the event gets closer if it's something you might be interested in attending. My only concern is not being able to see what's going on due to the snot and tears that will be running down my face. 

Deep Breath. Today was so beautiful and heavy. 







Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Kind World




I've been harassing my Instagram followers to subscribe to the podcast "Kind World". Guyzzz...IT'S WONDERFUL. Full admission: I listened to every single episode in one day. I couldn't stop. Episodes are only 6-8 minutes each and they consist of perfectly crafted, engaging, true summaries of stories of how one act of kindness profoundly effected someone's life. You'll find everything from skydiving to homelessness, illness, a woman's dress completely falling off of her on public transit...and how perfect strangers came to the rescue in profound ways. YOU  MUST YOU  MUST YOU MUST.

I was so moved by this podcast that I submitted my own story and want to be on the show so badly that I feel in my bones it is going to happen...and I can't wait to let you know when my episode will be airing. Because IT WILL HAPPEN.

And a Kind World it is, indeed. While leaving church today, I glanced toward the fire station and noticed the cute firemen hard at work cutting the bright green grass. Upon further inspection, I noticed something completely unexpected. I drove my family next door so we could get a closer look.

6 or 7 years ago, I decided it would be fitting and appropriate to create a small memorial on the lawn of the fire station where Lucy's body struggled to survive. Where nurses, doctors, the head of Summit County Search and Rescue performed intense CPR on her, waiting for the paramedics to arrive. It was the last place where she was the true and whole Lucy.

So we did. Home Depot donated dozens of flowering plants and we gathered together to dig dirt, socialize with the firemen, and plant beautiful living things in honor of our Lucy Sweet. But as the years have passed, that small little plot of land hasn't gotten much attention. The plants have all died and weeds overtook the space. I'd often think, "For her 10 year graduation we will go back and make it beautiful again."

You may have caught my Instagram story last week when I left the house to go on a run without a plan. I decided to run wherever my legs carried me. First, it was to the park where the magnificent and bright Lucy Tree is adorned with ribbons. (Our friend and guardian angel, Jennie Towery, ties ribbons on the branches every May). There were children laughing and running around, making it so perfectly bittersweet.

Next, my legs ran to the fire station and the small plot of land where the long-forgotten flower garden waited to be remembered. I mentioned all of this on Instagram, including my desire to bring it to life again. Which is why I was shocked to see a small tree, surrounded by beautiful flowers and fresh mulch in the spot, where just days ago, were weeds. Who on earth did this? One of my blog readers?

Friends, it was the cute, CUTE firemen. I couldn't believe it. I was in tears. This is when Peter began asking all sorts of questions about exactly what happened that day. He knows his sister choked. He knows she was in the hospital. He knows she died. But I had never told him the play by play of the events that day in the parking lot. Once I finished, he curled up in a ball and said, "I don't want to hear it. It makes me too sad." Me too, Peter, me too.

The kids got a VIP tour of the station, I held back tears the entire time, Vic stood solemnly, stoically, quietly on the sidelines with the fire chief, as is his silent, strong way.

And then we drove away-- Overwhelmed with the kindness of these community servants. To have your child be remembered and honored is pure,  unadulterated kindness. And it brings me to my knees.

Go out and make others believe in the magic and power of a kind world. It's the surest way to create change.








Monday, May 22, 2017

9 Years- A Poem for my Deceased Daughter



Gently wiping that snot off your face. 
Routine. Nothing special. Inconvenient, even

Now, a longed-for privilege 

Stretching for 9 years in my cocoon to break free 
Puncturing the silk threads by accepting
Accidents happen
Loss is part of life
Death is not the end
It's not my fault

Oh, but to see you grow
To be robbed of the magic of your childhood
A blow beyond measure
The hole made deeper against the backdrop of child 2 and 3
They need you here
Our dynamic splintered by your absence. 
Your life silenced far too soon rings mercilessly at a painful pitch in my ears

But my only choice is to emerge from the chrysalis 
With greater empathy
A kinder, softer heart
A freedom not known to those who haven't suffered the ultimate loss
Wings so vivid and bright that others are drawn to me
Comforted in my presence
Safe in the arms of my knowing pain

9 years
9 years
9 years


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We are the Future of Happiness


Today I decided to let all of my expectations go. No pressure on myself to sell Rodan + Fields to anyone. (Have I mentioned I started selling skin care? The #1 Skincare in North America? But we'll talk about that another day). 

I said goodbye to all thoughts of "I should be doing more. I should have more followers. I should make a buttload of money. I should have an amazing looking house. I should have a six pack." As my mother always says, "Don't should on yourself." 

The day started off with a coffee hot tub date at my friend Julie's house. Due to the Spring snowfest we are having it was actually wonderful timing. We sat and talked about our kids, botox, and the upcoming summer. Relaxing yet rejuvenating it was indeed. The chilling wind and snow were the perfect compliment to the broiling water. Ahhhhh....

I took the time to put on makeup, do my hair, and even snuck a 20 minute workout in there somewhere. When Zoë got off the bus I consciously chose to BE WITH HER. We made markers together. (Yes, actually MADE markers. Not the greatest idea with a 4 year old, but we kept the mess under wraps). 

We had a dance party in the kitchen while I ironed Vic's shirts. (Not something I regularly do). I deep cleaned the basement, arranged all the electric cords for the TV, Wii U, DVD player, etc. and decided to stop running away from my house and my kids. Today there was no "other" dream to chase after. There was only improving the dream I was already living. 

AND IT FELT SO GOOD. 

I realize this is a luxury not all mothers get. I also realize this is not a reality some mothers want. (Friends, you know I've struggled with my desire to work and stay home). I also realize that working full-time would greatly aid in our finances. (As would becoming the next Lexus achiever/skin care mogul with R + F). But I digress....

The point is that between eating nachos with my kids after school, taking Zoë girl on a walk with her stuffed animals in the stroller, tickle fights, dance parties, marker making, cleaning, and piano practice, a little big of magic happened. 

And I'm not gonna lie...I'm super tempted to start a Youtube channel with my Z girl called "The Mommy and Me Show". BECAUSE CAN YOU EVEN? On second thought, "The Future of Happiness" isn't a bad title either. 

Behold, a snippet of today's magic: 



Editor's note: I've REALLY been struggling lately. Nearing 40 is no joke on your body and your psyche. Where do I fit in the world? What are my goals anymore? Am I desirable? I can't believe it's been NINE YEARS since Lucy died. Who even am I? 

So today's mood and events were especially sweet to my soul. 

And hey, thanks for reading. I mean it. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Why I cried like a baby during School of Rock



Vic and I recently got to see "School of Rock" (the Broadway musical) in NYC. The timing of our visit to the city was completely wrong as far as attending shows was concerned. We didn't even get to see my friend Megan in her off-Broadway show with George Takei! We were only in the city 2 1/2 days and were not planning on seeing School of Rock at all...but it just worked out that way. (My list of shows was Dear Even Hansen, Come From Away, Waitress, Beautiful, and Great Comet). 

School of Rock is one of the few shows with a Monday night performance. (Broadway actors get Sunday and Monday nights off.) We were lucky enough to snag the last two rush tickets for only $39 a pop (orchestra seating) from the box office earlier in the day then we headed off to explore the city. Namely, China Town for cheap perfume, fidget spinners, hopefully a watch for Vic, and some delicious food. 

After hours of haggling (not a very fruitful labor) we walk/ran to Sweet Green for SO GOOD salad bowls and had to hop in a cab to make it to the theatre on time. 

I LOVE the original movie "School of Rock" so I knew I would at least enjoy the show, but I was not expecting to be bowled over by not only the TALENT, but the HEART and PURE JOY beaming from the children on stage. No, you aren't hearing me. THEIR TALENT. (Yes, they play instruments live every night like total bad asses). 

So here's the deal. Last time I was in the Big Apple, exactly 2 years ago, our marriage was REALLY struggling.  Not only that, but when I actually lived in NYC I was a very lonely, lost, overwhelmed 20 year-old. And while I've gone back to visit several times, I've never gone with Vic. 

Being there with my husband for the first time, in a city where I struggled and grew like never before, at a better season in our marriage, during the month when our daughter passed away--it was a perfect emotional vomit storm. 

So I'm sitting there next to Vic, worried about my kids back home (Zoë came down with a fever), thinking about my dreams to perform on Broadway (this dream has come true for so many of my friends! I feel like it could have--may still--happen for me. But it has yet to be in the cards ). I was thinking about the pain of my past...eating disorders, loneliness, feeling literally and figuratively completely lost in this great big wonderful, crazy city. I was remembering how scary things were 2 years ago in our marriage. The heartache, uncertainty, the TEARS, the struggle. 

There was one particular little actress on stage, assigned to be a back-up singer in the band, who reminded me of Lucy. She was 10 or 11 years old, same age that Lucy would be. She was the smallest one up there, busting out the moves and singing her heart out. As the show came to a climax, the audience practically dancing out of their chairs, the cast beaming with joyful energy that you could TASTE.... It really got me. It really, really got me. 

I sat there (luckily, no one was seated to my right) and the tears flowed unabated. My daughter, my dreams, my marriage, my personal mountains. As soon as the final bows were taken I excused myself to the bathroom where I continued to wipe the tears. (And for some reason felt compelled to snap this photo). 

I continue to be surprised (though I absolutely should not be) at the impact Lucy's death has on me. At the remaining ashes of that most painfully intense fire. I know no other road than the one I'm on. 
I think of what all humans have to face each day. I truly find it amazing that we get out of bed (most of us. On most days) and keep trying. It's astounding and beautiful. 

There is no profound lesson I'm trying to share. No perfect ending tied up in a bow. Our marriage still struggles, like any other. I still miss my Lucy sweet. I still worry about Peter and Zoë. I still feel lonely and lost sometimes, just like I did as a 20 year-old in New York. 

But crying as I watched those kids knock the audience over with a forcefield of love and joy felt so good, so healing, so unexpectedly right. So rock on in the school of life, my friends. You never know what unexpected miracles, insights, or healing experiences will cross your path. And I can promise you this: watching a 10 year old girl slay it on bass guitar is a sure-fire way to bring a smile to your face. (But then maybe tears too). 

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, Humanwire.org, 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.



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DONATE LIFE TRANSPLANT GAMES

I've been waiting for the right time to make a special, humbling announcement. After today's unexpected events, which still ha...