Family

True Soul Sista Love

When my sister Sallie was born, I thought she was mine.

At least I wanted her to be mine.

After two brothers, a nearly all-boy neighborhood,

and a town full of boy cousins,

I was overjoyed to have a sister.

I’m not sure what I expected.

With eight years between us,

the age gap seemed too wide

for us to be friends.

It seemed especially wide when I was in high school

and she was still in elementary school.

 

But as we became adults,

the chasm narrowed

And the years didn’t matter.

Now we are like contemporaries

except she is younger, wiser and a lot funnier and cooler.

We have sister rituals that drive everybody but us crazy.

The one we enjoy most is the one that makes our mom say,

“I can’t stand this anymore. You’re both about to drive me to the State Mental.”

Every time we get together, we over plan.

Always.

We used to do it without realizing it.

We can’t help it.

We’re idea people.

We spin out wonderfully creative ideas

until our families’ brains want to fall out

and roll on the ground in search of relief.

But we keep going.

We rattle off ideas so fast that before we know it,

we’ve developed a fun-filled two-week itinerary to squeeze into a weekend.

Then we come to our senses, realize how much time we’ve wasted, and settle for going to lunch.

After years of this kind of over planning,

now we schedule a small amount of time

to brainstorm all the things we’re not going to do.

We make a fantastic, completely ridiculous list of what we could do.

Then we go to lunch.

The other thing we do is laugh, a lot.

Just being in Sallie’s presence gives me the giggles.

Last week, after we got up and were still in our pajamas

and sporting our morning hair, we called Mom and invited ourselves to breakfast.

Then we got in Sallie’s car and showed up for boiled eggs, toast, and juice at Mom’s house.

Just like when we were kids living with Mom.

On the way home, I said, “Doug has a friend who can find out where Sara is going on her mission

before she actually gets the letter in the mail…”

Before I could finish my story, Sallie said, “Oh my gosh! Where is she going?”

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to cash in on the moment and her gullibility.

“Are you sure you want to know?” I asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“Yes! Hurry tell me! Is she going to London or Paris?” she asked,

knowing those were Sara’s top two dream missions.

I nodded my head in complete dishonesty.

“Oh my gosh I have cold chills. It’s London isn’t it?”

Again I nodded my lying head.

“This is so exciting!” she said, putting her hand over her mouth.

I worried happy tears would spring from her eyes any minute so I blurted out,

“I lied! It’s all a lie!”

She immediately stopped her car on Main Street of our hometown,

unlocked my door and said,

“I hate you. Get out. Why did you do that? What made you even think of that big lie?”

I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to tell her Doug really did have a friend who could find out, but he didn’t.!

“Seriously, get out,” she insisted.

“You have to walk home down Main Street with your morning hair.”

Thankfully she didn’t shove me out the door.

We laughed about it the rest of the day.

(And by the way, Sara got called to serve her mission in Paris, France the next day and that is a true story!)

Honest Proof

And about that morning hair…

We have the best morning hair ever.

If there was a contest for the craziest morning hair dos we would win.

Actually, Sallie would win.

When we wake up with an especially pretty do, we take a picture and send it to each other on our phones,

She sent me one a few weeks ago that was a hands-down winner.

So I just wrote back and said, “You win!”

One of the other things we love to do is sing — loud, especially on road trips, usually to country western music.

Our favorite tune last year was “Stuck Like Glue” by Sugarland.

This year it was “Knee Deep” by Zac Brown Band.

I have an excellent, fool-proof system for keeping track of Sallie.

It’s through our “Words with Friends” games.

We’ve playing each other steadily since the game came out two years ago.

If she doesn’t play a word or two first thing in the morning, I call to see if she’s okay.

And if I don’t play a few words before I go to bed, she calls me.

No words means trouble.

Words mean all is well.

I’d like to say I always win the words games

but she has evolved into an excellent word maker upper

and tosses out a few random letters on the board,

and comes up with words I never knew existed and then she wins.

We’ve played so many games now that sometimes I don’t even notice who wins or loses.

I love my soul sista and have so many memories of her that crack me up,

like the one of her riding a scooter at the beach, making a wide turn, and almost landing in a ditch.

Or us at Walmart in a rainstorm, putting plastic Walmart bags over our heads and braving the storm together.

Or her almost killing us when she suddenly veered off the road at full speed and stopped abruptly for a photo-op.

I can’t wait until we see each other again so that we can brainstorm a crazy list of things we’ll never do,

sing together in the car, and laugh until we cry over something no one else gets.

That is true soul sista love.

Friends, Religion

Hometown Friends

I’m sitting in a log cabin in Park City, Utah watching a bird hop from branch to branch on the snow-covered pine tree outside my window. For the first time since I arrived 16 hours ago, the house is quiet.

My group of eleven high school friends finally stopped laughing and visiting and fell asleep at 4 a.m.

I’m the first one awake because my body clock runs on Eastern Standard Time.

Most of us became friends in middle school or earlier, drawn together by our love of laughter and having fun.

After high school our lives went in many different directions.

We fanned out to different colleges, jobs, states, and countries.

We developed new friendships, met husbands, had families, and pursued careers.

But we never forgot about each other.

Years passed when we didn’t see each other.

Then, reunions came along or we planned weekends together.

And each time we got together, the years and the differences melted away.

So here we are in Park City, luxuriating on a snowy night in the warm glow of a fire and surrounded by lifelong friends.

No topic is off-limits.

All conversations stay private.

No one judges anybody else.

All advice is rooted in solid love and planted in the richest, most soul nourishing soil.

As I think about the trajectory of our lives, we have one thing in common.

Each of us has experienced at least one life altering moment that shattered our innocence and reshaped our lives.

Kay and me

Whether it’s the end of a marriage, the death of a spouse, a diagnosis of cancer or the heartbreak of an anorexic child, not one of us has escaped life’s tests.

Marvelously and even miraculously, we’ve all survived, and even become better women because of those tests.

Throughout the evening I wanted to hit the pause button and take a deep breath to absorb the warmth, beauty and tender love that enveloped us. I wanted to bottle it up and take it home with me.

Only part of the group.A few people had to leave early...darn it!

While sitting around the kitchen table eating junk food just like we did in high school, we couldn’t stop laughing at a private joke we’ve enjoyed and embellished for decades.

Then a friend shared a few tasteful but still intimate details about her love life and I said, “Do any of you ever talk or laugh like this with any other friends?”

In unison, everyone said, “NO!”

Partly because our jokes don’t translate well to people who weren’t part of our juvenile world and partly because so much of it is so personal.

It’s like we time travel and become raucous teenagers again and then seamlessly transition back to adults who share a rare kind of trust with each other.

We only see each other every couple years for 24-hour stretches but when we get together wherever we are feels like sacred space.

We feel safe, loved, appreciated, and free to be ourselves in all our immature glory.

Actually, you can’t be anything but your genuine self with people who have known you your entire life.

I love the continuity these friends give to my life. Being with them gives me a “high mountain” perspective that lets me see myself from my starting place to now.

And the real beauty of these friendships that span my lifetime is that they communicate to me in more than words that I am loved, really truly loved and valued for nothing more than who I am.

It doesn’t matter to them what I have achieved or what weaknesses still plague me. They see the core of who I am and who I’ve always been. They don’t expect anything of me or judge me for falling short of my goals. They simply see and appreciate the down-to-earth small-town girl I’ve always been.

So as I look out my window at the snow that blanketed the ground through the night, I enjoy a few minutes of solitude and savor the memory of how I snuggled down into my flannel sheets and warm quilt the night before and fell asleep listening to the giggles of my hometown friends and relished one of the sweetest lullabies I’ve ever heard.

Religion

The Mormon Moment

The most commonly asked question in Washington, D.C. is, “Where are you from?”

photo from city-data.com

When I say I’m from Utah, the natural follow-up question is, “Are you Mormon?”

When I say yes, I feel a yellow sticky note coming directly toward my forehead – bam, you’re one of those!

I’m never sure what’s written on that sticky note but based on the questions I’ve been asked and the news articles I’ve read, I can make some pretty good guesses.

A saleslady recently asked me about one of my purchases, wondering if it was for a special occasion.  I told her it was for my upcoming trip to Utah.

Utah photo from life123.com

Then the question, “Are you Mormon?”

“Yes, I’m Mormon,” I said.

“Oh, I love Mormons,” she said.  “My best friend in the world is a Mormon.  We used to live in Arizona and met so many Mormons.  They’re such happy, positive people.

Then the saleslady next to her said, “Mormons are polygamists right?”

No.

That would be a big, fat no.

“But aren’t all those polygamists on TV Mormon?” she asked.

“No, they absolutely are not Mormon,” I said

So if you watch “Big Love” or “Sister Wives” or associate any polygamist groups with my church, stop it. Right now.

Polygamy is illegal.

And, we are law-abiding people.

I get this misunderstanding because the church allowed polygamy in the early days of the church and the media love to dredge it up.

In Newsweek’s article on “The Mormon Moment,” they ran pictures of polygamists with their story leading readers to believe they are associated with the LDS church.

They are not.

Polygamy is not approved or practiced by members of the church today and hasn’t been for over 100 years.

There are groups that claim to be associated with the church or at least claim to have the same origins, and some of them practice polygamy.  We do not recognize, protect, or affiliate with any of them in any way.

I like what Gary Lawrence, a pollster in California, wrote in his book, “How Americans View Mormonism.”  He said, “We do not hold Roman Catholics responsible for those who broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, and we are not responsible for those who broke away from ours.”

There is talk about polygamy being okay in Mormon heaven.

First, it’s important to note we don’t go to a different heaven.  God doesn’t stand at the pearly gates and sort us out by religious affiliations.

Johan Henry photo called "The Pearly Gates"

Second, if I get to heaven and find out I have to be a second or third wife to Doug or anybody else I’ll blog about it straight from my MacBook Pro. (It wouldn’t be heaven if I didn’t have one.)

I’ll bob and weave my way up through the line of people waiting to talk to God, and the first question I’ll ask will be about polygamy.

Believe me, I will ask about polygamy.

In one of my writing classes I shared chapters of a memoir I’ve been writing about growing up in a mostly Mormon town in an unconventional Mormon family.

There was drinking in my family, you know, as in forbidden alcohol.

Shocking, I know, but true.

One of the rules was that while the class discussed our writing, we had to remain silent, just taking notes on the feedback from other students.

“These things don’t happen in Utah,” one woman said.  “Maybe her family didn’t know the rule against drinking,” another one said.  “How could they not know?  Everyone in Utah knows that you can’t drink!”

Finally, someone broke the rules and said, “Let’s ask the only Mormon in the room.”

“I thought if you lived in Utah you couldn’t drink, so how could your family drink?” someone asked.

There are more than two-and-a-half million people in Utah.  Just over half of them are Mormons.  And of that group, not all of them are walk-the-line, churchgoing, and church-loving members.  And like all people, Mormons have choices.   Not all of those choices line up with church doctrine.

“I have a question,” one classmate said.  “Why do Mormons carry dirty Bibles? I mean can’t they afford new ones?”

Now there’s one I haven’t been asked before.  “What do you mean dirty Bibles?” I asked.

“Well, it’s like they’re all worn out.  They have writing in them and sometimes the pages are falling out, and they are never crisp and clean like most Bibles.”

Dirty Bibles?

“I guess that’s because we use them,” I said. “We read and study them.  When we learn something new or want to cross reference one scripture with another, we write notes in the margins.  We don’t leave them on our coffee tables like family heirlooms.  I guess that’s why they look dirty.”

Over the years, I’ve read countless articles analyzing everything from the church’s wealth to the existence of a Mormon Mafia. I’ve been questioned about polygamy, and repeatedly asked about my Sabbath Day observance. But I never imagined I would watch a fresh-faced LDS missionary sing about my religion on the Tony Awards while everyone in the audience laughed.

Are we that funny or that peculiar?  My life seems pretty close to the kind of lives my non-Mormon friends live.  There are exceptions, of course, like my three-hours of church meetings on Sunday, my dog-eared scriptures, my teetotaler ways, the 10 percent of our income we give to the church to help build new churches and temples, and to help provide humanitarian relief to about 170 countries around the world.

But overall, I feel pretty normal.

The Mormon faith can’t be that weird if people keep joining the church, right?  In 181 years since the church began, our numbers have never decreased. We started out with six members, and today there are about 14 million.

Maybe all 14 million of us are brainwashed but I’m a reasonably intelligent woman and I honestly don’t think that’s the case.

And, I can’t deny that being a Mormon makes me a better person.

I’m sure every religion seems weird to somebody.

Am I going too far to say that it seems a little weird to smear ashes on your forehead and leave them there all day?

Yes, on the surface that seems a little weird, but I respect my Catholic friends that do it because it’s meaningful to them.

Every religion has something that appears different or weird.  I’m sure people thought Noah was pretty weird when he went around warning people about a flood that would cover the entire earth.

In Lawrence’s book he asked, “Why don’t people know beans about us? Because we members have not told them in words they understand.”

He recommends we cut the jargon when sharing what we believe.

Whether it’s semantics or substance, we obviously need to do a better job of showing who we are and what we believe.

So maybe we will always have to deal with the yellow sticky notes that get stuck on our foreheads, and just stay amused by the flurry of media that can never stop trying to figure us out.

But in the meantime, maybe we need to come up with a new Mormon vocabulary to help us clearly explain ourselves to a curious world. Or maybe there’s another Broadway musical that needs to be written.

Family

Happy Anniversary

On Saturday, Doug and I will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary.

Indulge me while I reminisce… and perhaps get a little schmaltzy.

Our three years of on and off dating (mostly off and mostly my fault.. okay, all my fault)

nearly drove him away from me

but he hung in there

and finally surprised me

by proposing to me while we were on a White House tour.

I had relatives in town and asked a friend, Teresa, who worked for Vice President Bush

to take us on a tour, and I invited Doug to join us.

Just as we headed toward the press briefing room, my aunt said, “Oh I’m out of film!”

Teresa said, “Laurie, you and Doug go ahead and I’ll take your family back to get some film. You can tell Doug about the pressroom and we’ll catch up with you in a few minutes.”

We walked ahead and entered the briefing room.

No security.

No staff.

Just Doug and me.

This is odd, I thought, but I dutifully stepped up to my tour guide role.

“This is where Helen Thomas sits. This is where Sam Donaldson sits…” I said pointing to their different seats.

Doug interrupted me and said, “I don’t really care about all that.” Then he took my hand, and led me to President Reagan’s podium in the front of the briefing room.

Then he pulled out a beautiful diamond ring and said,

“My favorite line from Les Miserables is ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’

I see the face of God in you.”

Ahhh.

How could I resist?

He slipped the ring on my finger and I was so overjoyed I couldn’t stop my hand from shaking.

I don’t know if I was shaking because of the stunning ring, the surprise, the historic setting

or just Doug wanting me to be his wife.

It was probably a combination of all of them.

The White House guards returned to the room

and I showed them the sparkling ring on my shaky hand

and they hugged and congratulated me.

Teresa and my family then came in and confessed

the camera and film ruse was just a ploy to give us a few minutes alone.

It was the perfect place for him to propose

because next to the U.S. Capitol, it’s my favorite building in Washington, D.C.

In honor of our 23rd anniversary, here are 23 reasons why I can’t help but love my sweet husband…

1. He gets me. A simple statement but a huge blessing.

2. When I delivered Sara, the hospital nurses at GW Hospital treated Doug like a King. They brought him a delicious breakfast. Then, they induced labor. Doug quietly pushed the tray aside and never said a word about how he lost his appetite after seeing what labor does to a woman. That is true love.

3. After Sara was born, Doug bundled her up in what he called his “torpedo” wrap, and took her to her first pediatrician appointment. I knew then he would always be my equal partner in the parenting department.

4. I’ve never wondered whether he loves me. Never.

5. He cracks me up.

6. He’s the best therapist/counselor in the world because he knows how to listen and helps me stay real.

7. When Annie was little, she woke up almost every night and came into our room. I thought we needed to train her to stay in her own bed. Doug said, “Pretty soon she won’t want to come in here so let’s enjoy it while she does.” He was right. And having her snuggle with us is one of our favorite memories.

8. He’s a great gift giver. When I started consulting after quitting my full-time job, he hired a friend to design business cards and stationery to get me inspired and to let me know he believed in me. That gift helped me believe in me!

9. He puts up with my crazy ideas like when I sold all our dining room furniture on Craigslist and transformed the dining room into my office.

10. He gives me the Washington Post Magazine every Sunday and lets me immerse myself in the crossword puzzle even though he says I get so hyper-focused on it that I shut him out.

11. He appreciates the fact that I need girl time, a lot of it.

12. He plans memories.

13. He told me he wishes he could write like Victor Hugo and me. He put me in the same class as Victor Hugo, his favorite author. Now, there’s a love-smitten man.

14. He is my biggest fan. I had five speaking engagements on the same topic (the food drive I blogged about last week). He attended every one of them and acted as interested in the last one as he did the first.

15. When I went through chemotherapy, he showed up at every treatment and nearly every doctor appointment even when I had someone else there with me. He had to make sure I was okay.

16. He gave me 32 Neupogen injections and never even winced.

17. Even when I was bald, bloated and had lost all sense of myself, he loved me. In fact, I think he might have even loved me more.

17. He is the most optimistic, cheerful person I know.

18. We are a great team.

19. He always has a plan, and it always include me.

20. He lives to make me happy. Really, he does.

21. He sends me flowers for my birthday, anniversary, and Valentines every year. He even sends flowers to Sara and Annie on their birthdays and on Valentines Day, even if they’re in London for study abroad.

22. He is a genuinely good man in every way.

23. He is the most loveable human being I know. I still can’t believe he chose me to be his wife and that 23 years after our wedding day he still loves me. I mean, he really, really loves me. Is there anything in the world more wonderful for a woman than to know than that she is truly, deeply loved?

As Jean Valjean said in our favorite play, “Remember to love each other always. There’s scarcely anything else in life but that.”

Happy Anniversary Doug.

Community, Relationships, Uncategorized

We Done Good

 Last April, the leaders of our church asked the 14 million LDS members around the world to devote a day of service to the community to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the church’s welfare program.

Our stake (like a geographic division of members) sponsored a food drive along with a 5k race, a one-mile stroll, and a kid’s 100-yard dash to help LINK Against Hunger, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization in our community.

All the usual worries popped up.

Will anybody come?

Will we get enough food to make a respectable donation?

Will the 5k trails we’ve charted work?

Will the good weather cooperate?

Since this is the first time we’ve had an event like this, we didn’t know what to expect,

especially weather wise since we had a snowstorm last weekend.

I learned a few statistics along the way.

Even though we live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation,

there are more than 1,500 homeless men, women, and children on any given night in Fairfax County.

Close to 60 percent of those facing homelessness are in families.

More than 75 percent of children in these families are under the age of 11.

We learned there is an overwhelming ongoing effort

to feed the suburban hungry around us.

Seventy percent of the households served by the Capital Area Food Bank

are called “food insecure,”

meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from.

Our dream was to overwhelm the LINK Against Hunger program with our generous support.

I think we did it.

When we arrived early this morning, volunteers from LINK were already filling trucks with food donations.

Car after car drove up with trunks full of food.

Church members came carrying arms full of bags and boxes of food.

People waited patiently in line at the cash donation table writing checks and putting cash in the donation box.

From 8 until about 11 am, the cars and the people kept coming.

We easily had 500 people attend carrying bags, boxes, cartons of food.

As I cheered runners and walkers coming across the finish line,

I looked over a the shimmering lake with all the golden autumn trees around it

and felt thankful for the weather,

and for every person that climbed out of their warm bed

and came out in the cold to do something good for other people.

I saw Moms bundled up in winter gear

with babies wrapped in layers of blankets

in jogging strollers as they ran across the finish line.

Kids challenged their parents to beat them

as they dashed ahead of them edging them out right at the finish line.

Amazing what can happen when a group of like-minded people get together

and combine their resources, energy and enthusiasm to help others.

The giving spirit is palpable.

My favorite part of the morning

was holding the tape for the finishing line for the four kids’ 100-yard dashes.

When the kids took off, they moved their little legs as fast as they could

and kept their eyes laser-focused on the finish line.

They lit up with pride and excitement

as they were each awarded a medal for their participation

and parents and friends cheered them all on.

And while all of this was going on, the food kept coming.

By 11 a.m., we collected 2.5 tons of food.

$1500 in cash donations,

and a $1,000 worth of food yet to come from the church’s welfare facility.

We did good today.

We filled seven trucks, the back of an SUV and then had to recruit one more van to transport all the food.

The director of the food pantry said, “What a machine we had going.

We had trucks parked along the curb,

people would pull up and unload their food into the trucks

and head off to register for the walk/run.

We had Elders from the LDS church helping put the food into the boxes

and we kept filling up truck after truck.”

Our goal was to take advantage of our “opportunities to do good.”

Today we did it. 

We did good and we felt good.

And I think we’re ready to do it again.

Personal, Uncategorized

We’ve Got News

The secret is out!

About a month ago, our daughter Sara sent us a text and asked if it was too late to Skype.

Always happy to Skype with our kids, we hurried to call her.

When her video came on, she looked lit up like she was bursting with good news.

I wonder if she went on a fun date or met a cute boy, the mom in me wondered.

Maybe she decided where she wants to go for graduate school.

So what’s up? We asked, trying to set the iPad just right to get both my head and Doug’s in the camera lens.

“So, I think I’m going on a mission!” she said.

Our mouths dropped open, we instinctively moved in a little closer to the screen.</

Did she just say she’s going on a mission?

That would mean leaving school in her senior year and being gone for 18 months to who-knows-where teaching people about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She’s never been interested in that. Didn’t she just tell us last summer that going on a mission was the last thing she wanted to do? She said she’s not the missionary type. She’s an introvert, even shy about meeting new people sometimes. And she wants to go on a mission?

We continued to stare with our mouths gaping open as she told us her story.

True, she never wanted to go on a mission.

Never even considered it actually.

She had plans to complete an internship, earn a certificate in her field, graduate

and then decide whether to go to graduate school or work for a year before going.

Then one night while studying, a new thought popped into her head.

You should go on a mission.

What?

Go on a mission?

No.

I’m not the missionary type.

You should go on a mission.

She couldn’t get it out of her head.

You should go on a mission.

She did what she knows to do when she has a big decision to make.

Make a decision. Pray if it’s right. If it is, you’ll feel at peace. If it’s not, you’ll feel confused and unsettled.

The thought persisted.

You should go on a mission.

She felt calm, peaceful, excited, ready.

After she was 100 percent sure, she called us and told us her decision.

“I wanted to tell you sooner but I needed this to be my decision.

I knew you would be supportive, but I had to know for myself. I didn’t want to be swayed one way or another.”

Doug and I still stared at her in disbelief.

All I could say was “Wow!”

That’s still all I can say.

Wow that she felt that impression, took it seriously, acted on it, and made a tough decision.

Wow that she is so excited, confident and sure about the direction in her life.

Wow that she is mine.

An even bigger wow that she is God’s, and that she is willing to do something this big for Him.

So now we wait.

She has finished the paperwork.

She has one more ecclesiastic interview.

The paperwork will go into LDS Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Someone there will prayerfully select where she should serve.

She will receive a letter from President Thomas Monson, asking her to serve in the area where she is needed.

We will wait, not so patiently, for that letter to arrive in the mail.

We will freak out with excitement when it arrives and be happy to know where she’s going and when.

Will she be able to use her French language skills? Will she stay in the U.S.? Will she go to California where she’ll blend in with her blonde hair? Or will she be a tour guide at Temple Square in Salt Lake City?

Wherever she goes, she will accept the call to serve.

And she will start an unforgettable new chapter of her life.

She will be one of over 52,000 full-time missionaries in the church.

She will teach the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever she is sent.

She will wear the honorable missionary tag indicating she is a representative of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes the word “proud” is so inadequate.

This is one of those times.

Here is Sara’s blog announcing her decision: http://saraturner64.blogspot.com/