Thursday, January 25, 2018

Taking Flight

(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.

But 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.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


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. 


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!

Taking Flight

(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 nex...