Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Short Stay in Hell

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I was at a dinner party at the home of Steve and Sumer Evans (of By Common Consent fame) recently when Steve said, "Hey I've got a book for you to read." And then he handed me a paperback copy of a book called A Short Stay in Hell with the author Steven L. Peck's signature on the first page. And when he did that Sumer let out a soft gasp.

"I wouldn't let my mother read that book. It's unsettling."

But in both of their eyes I saw this anticipatory thrill, like they had just given me a ticket to ride the most brilliant roller coaster.

I have this little space in my day for reading. It's at night, after I have planned for the next day, and right before Christopher and I have our half hour "how are we doing?" pow wow. But once I got my hands on this book I read it in two nights because I couldn't wait to put the kids to bed and tell Christopher "I AM DOING GREAT!" so I could read and read. It's short, and entirely gripping.

The premise of the book is this: a man dies, finds out the true religion is Zoroastrianism and must spent time in Hell to work out his punishment for not choosing the right religion. Hell is a library full of books (which for some people actually sounds like Heaven right?). His mission is to find the book of his life so he can leave and go to Heaven.

It seems simple enough, until you realize how many books there are in Hell's library.

I finished this story two days ago and it's been on my mind constantly. It is unsettling, but also thrilling and absorbing. It stimulates thoughts on theology, science, religion and love.

I wasn't asked to post about this book, I just want to share it because it's fantastic. You can find it here. HAPPY READING. WAH HA HA HAAA.

*Steven L. Peck is an Associate Professor of Biology at BYU and writer for BCC. I had the pleasure of meeting him. He's very nice, actually.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


First draft.

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It started out as a little scab on the tip of her nose after a few nosebleeds in the night that stained her pillow and dried on her cheeks. A few mornings later she woke up in bed next to me and I could see her nose was swollen.

"Erin, look at me," I told her as I cupped her face in my hands.

I touched her nose from the top by her brow all the way to her cleft before her lips started. The skin was puffy around her nose and sinuses and turned white to the touch.

"Does this hurt?" I asked her.

"No" was her nasally reply.

Immediately I diagnosed her with a sinus infection. I checked on her all day but she never felt hot or feverish and her only symptoms were dry bloody discharge at the bottom of her nose below the crescent-shaped scab. She carried on like the vibrant two-year old she is--as thought nothing were wrong at all.

The next day her nose was still swollen and she also started to complain of spiders casting webs all over her body. "SPIDERS!" she'd say desperately swatting her hair and legs as if she were trying to rid herself of sticky webbing. Still no fever. Still eating and drinking just fine.

The third day her mouth broke out in scabs and dry skin. Her lips were inflamed and sores formed at the corners of her mouth. Her eyes turned a light pink and sunk back in her head. Dark puffy skin pooled around the bottom of her sockets. Below her brow, scabs started to form, as well as on her cheeks. Her skin, usually the color of a sun-kissed peach and soft to the touch, turned white and pasty, flaky and dry.

She looked like a walking corpse, I told my friend Janna.

But still she didn't complain much, except the random "SPIDERS!" frustration. She ran around the house in her usual style with a baby or a stuffed animal in one hand and a costume in the other.

We called the doctor immediately. We waited out in the car for a nurse to come and tell us if her condition was too contagious to sit a waiting room with other children. When the nurse came to our car I rolled down the window with Erin on my lap. Watching the nurse's face as she looked at my daughter was hard for me. She gasped a little.

"That does look like some sort of rash..." she said with a flip of the voice at the end so that it sounded more like a question than a statement. Taking her temperature behind her ear, she slowly said, "I'm pretty sure she's not terribly contagious, come on in."

Before we left the car, Erin grabbed a cracker out of my purse. She held on to that cracker while we waited for the doctor in a barn-themed room. She held on to that cracker as he looked at her scabby face and immediately diagnosed her with impetigo. She held on to that cracker as he scribbled out a prescription and ripped it off the ledger and handed it to me.

"Is this your safety cracker?" he asked her in his baby-voice. We love his baby-voice. A pediatrician without a baby voice is a small tragedy.

But Erin didn't respond, she just looked back and him with her infected eyes, the buttery cracker firmly cupped in her palm. My gregarious daughter, full of love and affection was a little scared. And that broke my heart a little.

As we left the office, she ate her safety cracker until there were just little specks of it around the dried corners of her mouth.

The medicine took almost an immediate effect. Her skin started to clear within hours of the antibiotics. And when I could see she was out of the worst of it, I cried and cried and cried.

Seeing my Erin looking so distressed and infected, like she couldn't possibly be alive and look so terrible, was somewhat traumatic for me. Erin is special to me. She brings an emotional balance into my life. When I am feeling depleted, she is often the presence that fills me up. I find myself thinking how I want to be to God what she is to me. She's inherently good and wants to do good things. She's smart and funny and flutters about the house happy and content. Although not perfect, certainly, she is remarkably humble and willing to listen. Her genuine concern for others leads her to often sacrifice what she wants for her siblings or friend's desires. She takes care of herself, hardly ever asking me for things. And she's brave. Heavens, she is so brave.

But I didn't know how much I loved her until this outbreak of scars and dried blood. I put her to bed that night after a dose of antibiotics and I did the dishes and sobbed. My love for my children is profound, but because we spend our days living, working, surviving we don't stop much to feel how deep we love.

And I find it just a little unsettling, but at least I know, there is no bottom to that love. There's no threshold to hold it all in. I closed my eyes and saw my soul as an infinite series of chambers where my love continued to fall deeper and deeper in and out of rooms with doors that opened but never shut. And I wonder if this concept is the only hard proof we have that a conscious eternity does in fact exist? It is the only thing I know for sure that doesn't end. Where does all that love go if there is no eternity to fill it?

I learned this week something I knew before but never really understood: a broken heart is the very instrument we use to understand how deep we love.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Passport to Provo

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Google Fiber is like family to me. They invite me to their parties and meetings, they feed me, the give me gifts. I hug them when I see them. When they ask me for favors I do whatever they ask.

A couple weeks ago they asked me to go to a photoshoot at Justin Hackworth's studio to promote their huge event billed as THE WORLD'S LARGEST SCAVENGER HUNT I said sure, no problem. But when I arrived that day I found myself embraced by some of my favorite "Provo celebrities" and that was even before DONNY OSMOND WALKED INTO THE ROOM AND STARTED SIDE HUGGING ME.

Don't you love it when mayors kiss babies? Oh my gosh I know, me too.
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Anyway, here's the thing: this scavenger hunt is set to happen this Saturday, September 13th. In order to make it THE WORLD'S LARGEST there has to be at least 925 hunters (a judge from Guinness World Records will be there to make things legitimate). The hunt will take you all over Provo from restaurants to museums and service projects and you can sign up to be in teams from 2 people to 8 people. It's for everyone--families and friends and ward groups and roller derby teams and book clubs and senior citizen brigades.

And if I know Google Fiber like I know my own family, I'm sure there will be on tons of prizes (and t-shirts) for participants. Also, there's going to be a massive party that night including the sounds of Ryan Innes and my favorite DJ Skratchmo at the Convention Center downtown.

If you want to know more see

If you want to see more of me and Donny SCROLL DOWN.
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You should see our family reunions. Ha!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Musical Magic Show

I think something magical is going to happen on Friday night at the Rooftop Concerts. I don't know what, but something beautiful. I'm sure of it, because how can you get three of Provo's most artistic, smart and interesting bands together and not make something sexy come out of it?

I hope people come, lots of people. And I hope they have a transformative experience. I hope they come away from the concert viewing Provo (and specifically downtown) as a place where creative people come together and make art. I hope they'll never think of Provo the same way again. I hope on Friday night people will come to the concert and fall in love--maybe with someone, but also with some place. I hope that place is Provo.

Here's what we're going to do. Start with a little Coral Bones.

Next, we'll dance with The Brocks.

Then the night will be set for The Moth & The Flame.

Come and change your life.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Goodbye Seersucker

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Yesterday for Labor Day we labored.

We cleaned out all the closets, replacing cotton shorts with pants and brightly-colored leggings. Sleeveless items went back into containers to hibernate until next spring. Sandals disappeared and boots were called up. The seersucker pin-striped clothes the kids wore to church on Sunday were given a brief farewell.

We moved the baby out of our room and into the girls room where she will sleep in a crib at the foot of Erin's bed. We carried out the ancient mattress of a bed the two older girls slept in together, and each gave them their own twin bed. We won't miss nights where Ever wakes up complaining that Erin is kicking her while deep in sleep.

We dusted, vacuumed and repaired things around the house. We did laundry and cleaned all the sheets. Christopher mowed the back yard while I made dinner.

And when the house was cleaned, the sheets replaced, the beds made, we had dinner in the backyard and counted the trees on the mountain turning color. The girls picked apples off the bow of the neighbors tree that hangs heavy on our side of the back wall. Anson ate at least a half dozen meatballs and Iris kicked on the blanket on the lawn.

"Don't forget this moment," I told Christopher, "I think this is as lovely as life can get."

We put the kids in a hot bath, dressed them, read to them, and put them to bed each to their own clean spaces. When they were all asleep, Christopher and I, relaxed by watching Vh1's Top Twenty Countdown together and I professed my undying love for Kiesza's Hideway.

I fell asleep grateful that my usual end of August/beginning of September blues haven't hinted at a return. My brain capacity seems to be somewhat shallow, but I am happy.

So happy.

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