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.


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. 
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