Letters to My 15 Year Old Self: Lyndsey

What was your biggest fear when you were fifteen?
I was a hot, hot mess when I was fifteen. It was the year that my family left Georgia to move to Utah and, of course, there were the natural pitfalls that come with being too old to take direction and not old enough to make your own decisions. But if anyone asked me what my biggest fear was, it was absolutely a fear of abandonment. Not even intentional abandonment but just having everyone that I loved and cared for withdrawing their love and support from me.
What is your biggest fear now?
I thought I was a hot mess at fifteen but that is nothing compared to how I feel now. Having kids and being married –not to mention being an adult –is so much harder than I imagined it would be. And while I still fear abandonment, nothing sends me into a complete panic attack like thinking about something happening to my children. I don’t want to think about it –and it has completely prevented me from being able to read news article or watch shows where something happens to a child.
What did you love the most?
I loved my books. Books were my sanctuary and my saving grace. When I felt like I couldn’t face the world, I knew I could escape to a fictional world. Sometimes the books helped provide clarity for my own life and sometimes it was just nice to escape to a world with dragons and other mythical, nonexistent creatures.
What do love the most now?
I still love my books but nothing could possibly compete with my two little munchkins. Whenever my six year old says or does something that mirrors my own behavior –which is basically all the time –I am flabbergasted by how much this little person is like me! I am overwhelmed when she goes out of her way to be compassionate and generous because it baffles my mind that I made that. Most of the time, I look at my seven month old and my heart feels like it’s going to just pop because she is so cute! And again, I made that! I would sacrifice everything that I have to give for those girls without even having to think about it. I would take their pain and endure it to spare them. I couldn’t even imagine this kind of love as a teenager.
What was your biggest hurt you were most afraid people would find out?
I did not feel comfortable in my own skin. I was in a constant state of self-deprecation and criticizing myself because I always felt like a failure and a misfit. I was weird and lacked self-confidence. I was sure that people were always judging me and talking about me behind my back to the point of paranoia. As a result, I was unnecessarily loud and opinionated. It made it hard for me to make friends –especially the right kind of friends –and to keep friends because I would take it too far and I could be so mean. Mistreating people always led back to me hating on myself and thus the cycle started again.
How did you overcome that hurt?
Time. Time, growth and experience were the only things that could convince me to be who I am and to not care what people think as long as I can go to bed at night feeling like I was a good person. I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and a lack of self-confidence but I have to come accept that at twenty-five, I’m not done growing. Ask me if I’m comfortable with who I am when I’m seventy. I should be done cooking when I’m seventy.
What is your current superpower?
I feel like if I’m not doing something crazy like flying around and moving things with my mind that it’s not a superpower. We can thank the outrageous number of books for that one. But the thing that makes me feel invincible and superhuman would probably be writing. I write fanfiction (I would never have admitted that when I was fifteen for fear of censure) and while I’m not one of the most popular fanfiction writers, I have a loyal following of readers. The reason they are loyal isn’t because I make their favorite characters do crazy things –though that does happen –but because when I write the characters, they grow and endure. I read once that writing is bleeding words onto a page and my ‘superpower’ is being able to write big, hard, engulfing emotions in words that people can relate to. I feel powerful when someone tells me that they didn’t know anyone else felt the same way until they read what I wrote. That sounds braggy. I’m not saying the words are amazing but they’re relatable.
What is your current superpower according to a loved one?
My husband says that it is my ability to function on a disgustingly small amount of sleep (lamest superpower ever!). My six year old says that she thinks it’s my ability to make her feel safe and loved just by holding her and that she feels like she can do anything because she knows that I love her no matter what.
What is an obstacle you’ve faced to be who you are today?
Being the all-knowing, super mature teenager that I was, it’s not really a surprise that I made huge mistakes and life choices. Shortly after turning eighteen, I met a guy who was almost twice my age with a child only six years younger than I was and I convinced myself that I was mature enough to be his wife. He was looking for someone to take advantage of and I was such an easy target. My family hated the whole idea and maybe if I hadn’t been so determined to be all-knowing and prove to everyone that I was mature, I would have seen the warning signs. Instead we got married two months after meeting, ended up with a honeymoon baby –who I don’t regret for even a second –and I found myself in a failing marriage full of physical and mental abuse. It was like a boomerang: every time I found the strength to leave, I ended up coming right back. And then one day, after a little over a year of this, I looked in the mirror and literally didn’t recognize the person I had become. I didn’t want this as the example of how marriage and relationships work for my innocent daughter. And I found the strength to go and stay gone. It took years to get his voice out of my head, to stop reacting like he was still there making decisions for me. I found myself taken down to cells and I had the rare but grueling task of building myself up from nothing into whoever I was meant to be. I questioned everything I knew about myself and all my beliefs which resulted in having watertight convictions and knowledge of who I was.
At fifteen, what part of you, physical or otherwise, were you insecure about but have now come to appreciate and wish you would have celebrated?
My nerdiness. Without a doubt, I was a nerdy teenager. I made Star Wars references and had seen every episode of Star Trek. I wrote fanfiction! Is there anything nerdier than taking characters and writing them into my own situations?! I could quote a movie after one viewing. I was weird. And I was so ashamed of being that weird. Probably because people didn’t know how to handle my oddities but by thinking I was weird too.

And while I might not be making money quoting movies from memories or knowing an actor’s filmography off the top of my head, I love it when I can have a conversation with a complete stranger about comic books versus cinematic universes. I love that my husband and I can lie in bed at night and debate silly things like which
Star Trekfranchise was the best. Not everyone is comfortable with what a geek I am and to some people it seems trivial or juvenile, but it makes me happy. I imagine that I wouldn’t have made some of the decisions or mistakes I made if I had just been happy with who I was instead of trying so hard to be what other people wanted me to be.
What is the one thing you would tell your fifteen-year old self right now, after experiencing what you’ve experienced as an adult?
Stop rushing to be an adult. Don’t look so hard for your future husband or plan what kind of house you’re going to live in. Stop focusing so hard on everything that you want to come and spend more time evaluating who you are because how can you be happy with the choices you’re making if you aren’t happy with who you are? You’ll grow up. You will find an absolutely wonderful man to commit to you and love you forever; someone who will make you laugh so hard you snort and then tease you for snorting. You will have beautiful children who will amaze you every single day. You’re going to grow up and have this wonderful life and experience so many different things so don’t cheat yourself out of being young by trying so hard to be an adult.
What is a misconception people have of you?
A lot of people think that because I have a lot of enthusiasm for juvenile things and because I retain completely useless knowledge that I don’t take things seriously. I’m pretty sure that my husband could attest to the fact that sometimes I take it all too seriously. I throw myself into silly things like Mel Brooks movies and pop culture because I would be committed if I let myself spend all my time thinking about all the depressing thoughts that wait in the recesses of my mind to be focused on. Because who doesn’t want to laugh at guys pounding hollowed out coconuts together and riding imaginary horses, especially when the alternative is to focus on mistakes you can’t fix?
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Letters to My 15 Year Old Self: Erin



What I Wish I’d Figured Out At Fifteen, Instead of Much, Much Later


Dear Fifteen-Year-Old Me,

Don’t look now, but there’s a conspiracy against you. That’s right. This world is plotting against you, and it is ruthless in its tactics. I could list them all here: airbrushed photos, cyber-bullying, the degradation of women – I could go on and on. But you know these things already, and many more. No, what I’m here to do is tell you the secrets that you need to arm yourself with to fight back against the conspiracy.

First, I want you to think of a female you truly admire. Think of your mother who works tirelessly for your family, or your aunt who has gone through terrible things and come out stronger. Think of your best friend who always has your back, or a teacher who’s changed your life, or any woman that you love. I’m sure she has a ton of amazing qualities, right? She might be super smart, or fiercely protective, inspiring or funny or caring or strong or any of the other wonderful things she is.

Okay, now I’m going to tell you the first secret: as amazing as this woman is, she still has terrible breath in the morning. She still gets pimples on her top cheeks and dimples on her bottom cheeks. Maybe she looks awkward when she dances. Maybe she swears like a sailor. Maybe her housekeeping skills aren’t great, and her house ALWAYS needs to be dusted. Maybe she has two different size feet, and always has to buy two pair of identical shoes, just to get one for each foot. Maybe she hates Maroon 5 (a flaw in its own right), maybe she trips every time she walks, maybe her hair is falling out, maybe she goes totally road-ragey every time she drives. She might have struggled with addiction, she might have dropped out of school. But guess what? She’s still awesome. That’s right! Turns out, the secret is that we’re all human, and we all have flaws. And it doesn’t take away from our awesomeness. Just like with this woman you admire so much, the people who love you don’t care that you have flaws. They see the awesome inside you, and it has never even occurred to them that your flaws might outweigh your great qualities. That isn’t even possible. The great things about you can never be cancelled.

Now, stay with me, because I’m going to blow the lid off another secret. You know that feeling you get when you’re surrounded by your peers and you’re just sure that your behind is too big, or your hair looks stupid, or that anything you say might be laughed at? It’s that feeling that, although you know that no one around you is perfect, surely they must all be watching you, talking about you, better than you. Here’s the secret about that feeling: everyone around you has that same feeling right now. Everyone. They may be hiding it really well, but I promise, all of your peers have the exact same feelings. In fact, everyone else is so worried about how they look, how they sound, how they fit in, that they hardly have time to even notice your insecurities! I’m not going to tell you that no one will ever notice you feeling awkward, or that no one will ever try to make you feel badly about yourself. Usually when they do, it’s because they’re trying to get the attention off of how insecure they feel. I’m not sure that any of us can change the fact that being fifteen is hard. It might even be one of the hardest times in your life. But here’s another secret, and this one’s a promise, too: It will get better. It will get so much better! In fact, you’re heading for the upswing now. Soon you’ll start to notice a turn toward improvement.

Ready for another secret? Here it is: Unless we know someone very, very well, then all we get of them in this life are quick little snapshots. Their filter-softened pictures on Instagram, their posts about only the best things in their lives, their dressed-up selves that they want to project when they’re in public. So we take these polished images and blithely sunny words – “Lost three pounds and got an A+ in chemistry this week! #blessed” – and compare them to ourselves. Unfortunately, we invariably compare them to our weaknesses, our faults, our pimples and dimples and morning breath. And we forget that this is only a snapshot.

You know when you see a truly glorious sunset and you just have to snap a pic? The pinks and oranges and purples outline tall mountain peaks, and individual rays of sunlight streak through the fleecy clouds, and you just have to capture this moment of God’s gorgeous creation. So you pull out your phone to record all the awesome, and then you look at the image you just took. Every time, you expect the glorious, but what you end up getting on the screen is lackluster and boring. It doesn’t show the real sunset.

And so it goes with people. Just like those little freezeframes you see of everyone else’s life that look so perfect but aren’t really showing their true flaws and problems, so it is with that little bit of yourself you’re comparing to others. The shortcomings that you possess and obsess about, the weaknesses that you try to compare to others’ strengths, those little snapshots of you could never show even half of the awesomeness that you truly are. So stop comparing! You’ll never regret just being yourself, and just as you adore that woman you thought of, in spite of her less than flattering haircut or her giant piles of unfinished work because she’s such a procrastinator, the people that matter will always love you, no matter what human flaws you might have.

I know that none of these secrets will stop the conspiracy against you. There will always be someone prettier than you, and there will always be a world who tries to convince you that it matters. There will always be people who say mean things, and people who don’t want you to succeed. The conspiracy will always try to tell you that you’re not okay. Your job now, and for the rest of your life, will be to forget about those people, and focus on the ones who really matter, the ones who see all the awesomeness pouring out of you. I told you that it will eventually get better, and although no human will ever be completely free of insecurities, I can tell you that the hard things now will fade to a distant memory. When I think back to being fifteen, I do not think first of who was more popular than I was, or who teased me and made me feel bad. The first people I think of are those who were my friends, those who meant something to me. I think first of those who were kind to me, and those who I wish I had been kind to.

The real secret is, you’re amazing, and no one can take that away from you.


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Letters To My 15 Year Old Self: Amy

Tonight, I’m honored to share the thoughts of one of my dear, life-longiest friends, Amy…

What was your biggest fear when you were fifteen? Having to Leave Dugway in about a year and go to College

What is your biggest fear now? Something happening to my family.

What did you love the most? My family

What do love the most now? My family

What was your biggest hurt you were most afraid people would find out? Not having any close friends and how much it hurt.

How did you overcome that hurt? Focusing on Band, Choir, and my faith

What is your current superpower? Being a Teacher and Mom

What is your current superpower according to a loved one? My caring heart

What is an obstacle you’ve faced to be who you are today? I suffered with depression several times during my life, but I learned it’s not my fault, it happens, and it will get better.

At fifteen, what part of you, physical or otherwise, were you insecure about but have now come to appreciate and wish you would have celebrated? When I was in the 7th or 8th grade I had a note put in my locker that said ‘Fat Pig’ with a picture of a pig on it.  Even after the principal was told he blamed me for the note because the only way it could have gotten there was if I shared my locker combo with someone.  So by 15 the depression I had been in was at it strongest, but around 15 was when I started my first diet and started losing weight and began to be happy with myself.  But that note never really went away and my weight has always been something I’ve never been comfortable with.  But now as the mom of two beautiful children, I don’t mind the extra weight that came with these two precious gifts!!

What is the one thing you would tell your fifteen-year old self right now, after experiencing what you’ve experienced as an adult? Make it a point in to always remember Let Go and Let God!

What is a misconception people have of you? That because I am quiet I don’t need friends or that I don’t like to hang out with friends

Share a picture/s that makes you feel strong and beautiful…

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Letters To My Fifteen Year Old Self: Syndee…

Tonight, I share the thoughts of one of the women I admire most.  She is the strongest, bravest woman I know.

What was your biggest fear when you were fifteen?  My biggest fear when I was 15 was that I wasn’t pretty and that people thought I looked “poor”.

What is your biggest fear now?  My biggest fear now is the trafficking of historically marginalized women and children as a direct result of a pernicious and invasive worldwide pornography habit.

What did you love the most?  When I was 15 I loved spending time with my friends, talking and eating with them. It made me feel part of something and helped me begin to make sense of high school. I didn’t have an older sibling to give me inside tips so I had a lot to figure out. For the record, this is still something I enjoy as my full bodied backside can attest.

What do you love the most now?  Now, what I love the most is my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Seriously. It was hard won and a long time coming. I cherish it.

What was your biggest hurt you were most afraid people would find out?  At 15 I was most afraid people would find out about the way my father treated us and the resulting chaos, financial insecurity and “non-normal” was we lived at home. I worked really hard to draw a veil over it and pretend it didn’t exist. I convinced high school me that we were the only family with problems, everyone else was normal (whatever that is). I was so wrong.

How did you overcome that hurt?  I’m still working through it. Some things that happen in our youth take a long time to work through. I do know that as a result of what happened, I have this awesome steel spine, a voice that speaks up even when it shakes from fear, and this rather amusing ability to find humor and a sense of the ridiculous even in hard times. Seriously, who wouldn’t want that?

What is your current superpower?  Sarcasm. This is my deep and abiding superpower. I wonder if Loki will notice? I think we’d be great friends. The Ward Talent Show people say its not something you can really share on stage. Rude.

What is your current superpower according to a loved one?   Current superpower according to my husband? Well, he’s the nice one in our relationship so I’d take whatever he says with about 3800 lbs of salt but he says…..Knowing what he needs when he needs it without him saying anything. He says I pay attention. I’m pretty sure I’m just blindly stabbing in the dark and getting lucky. 🙂

What is an obstacle you’ve faced to be who you are today?  I feel like me entire life has been on an obstacle course and some joker keeps placing “new and improved” obstacles on the track. For a long time I thought I was the only one who ran that obstacle course, until I grew up a bit and looked around. I realized we all suffer, we all have obstacles, we all have deep pains we try to carefully hide from each other.

Honestly though, my biggest obstacle has been my raging self doubt. I’ve let Satan live in my head for a long time and tell me that I’m stupid, fat, ugly, annoying and not worth anything. Satan is a rat bastard. I am slowly tearing down the tenement housing I’ve let him erect all over my brain and in my soul and am clearing space for the lovely light filled cottage stuffed to the gills with Lord’s love and faith in me.

I wish the adults who surrounded me at church, at school, and at home would have taken a closer look at a middle of the road girl who was neither a huge achiever nor a huge slacker; and realized how much she could have benefited from some attention, love and support. I was faking it like most teenagers and quite frankly, adults do.

At fifteen, what part of you, physical or otherwise, were you insecure about but have now come to appreciate and wish you would have celebrated?  I thought I had huge thighs and calves because I’d had a paper route I’d delivered on my bike for years, which means muscles with some nice muscle definition. They weren’t stick straight so I thought I was fat. Psh. They were great looking strong legs. I shouldn’t have hid them as much as I did.

What is the one thing you would tell your fifteen-year old self right now, after experiencing what you’ve experienced as an adult?  After I finished screaming because a time traveler showed up in my bedroom you mean? I’d tell 15 year old me that high school is not the center of the world and that I was actually quite intelligent and if I applied myself I could go to an Ivy League school and become the lawyer/writer/fighter pilot/fashion designer I wanted to be. Most importantly, don’t let others tell you who you are. The loud, angry or rude voices are never right. Search for quiet places and moments to allow the peaceful voice inside you tell you who you really area. I’d also tell myself that high school boys aren’t worth making yourself sick over. Their brains are leaking out and they’re scared too. They’re much better after 25.

What is a misconception people have of you?  Where do I start? Just by being me I encourage a vast array of misconceptions, some of them flattering, most of them not. Misconceptions, I have learned, are a direct result of someone elses insecurities, not because of who or how you are. One of the misconceptions I hear most often is that “nothing seems to bother you”. I think this exercise has proved is that is totally false. Que “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. and I’ll exist stage left (with a flourish).

Share a picture/s that makes you feel strong and beautiful…


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Dear Sunshine,Your Three-Legged Stool…

My dear oldest daughter,

Your struggles have weighed heavily on my mind for the past several weeks.  I couldn’t put into words how much your swimsuit insecurities gutted me during the last days of summer.  You’re too young, too amazing, too full of potential to be weighed down by such worry.

You are so, so very good.  Those voices in your head telling you you’re not, they are WRONG…completely and utterly wrong.  You can bet the more they try to tell you that, the more they are lying.  For some reason, those nasty voices know just how to obliterate the self confidence in the very best of girls destined for better.  They’ve been homing in on this particular skill for eons.

How I wish I had the courage when I was younger to put myself out there like you do.  How I wish you could know the insecurities you are dealing with are so similar to girls who’ve become women you admire most.  How I hope you come to understand this very well kept secret:  Those crushing insecurities have the ability to make us more powerful if we refuse to let them destroy us.

Right now you are going through so much.  You’re dealing with relocating to an unknown destination.  While it feels like most of your friends have already emotionally said goodbye, I assure you they love you.  Saying goodbye is just really hard and closing off is sometimes what makes those goodbyes bearable.

Given that you expect only the best of yourself, you are dealing with the pressure of fulfilling those expectations.  Although it’s hard to be kind to ourselves sometimes because we get a front row view of our own greatest weaknesses, we must be gentle.  You would never expect perfection from anyone else, why not cut yourself some slack?

It is because of these thoughts and feelings that I have created a new project dedicated to you and all the other teenage girls out there who just need to know they’re enough.  Because you are very much more than just ‘enough’.

In the beginning of gathering material for this project, I spoke with several men and women who expressed willingness to help.  Our favorite foodie-law enforcement officer-deep thinking father shared some very good advice.  Knowing you and your ability to see through flimsy effort, he suggested I create this project like I would a stool.  Every stool needs three legs.  Each leg needs to be sturdy enough to hold up the project otherwise its integrity is questionable.

This makes sense.

And so, I present to you, my dear girl, ‘Letters to My 15 Year Old Self’.  These letters were created by women who love you.  They understand so much of what you are going through.  They’ve been where you are and as an ultimate benefit of reaching out and relating to someone going through the trenches, they’ve discovered the therapeutic benefit of lifting another above the weariness that comes with the territory.

In celebration of the month of October, the month we celebrate the strength of so many women, I bring you this gift.  It’s a celebration of the woman you are about to become.IMG_7120.JPG

Tonight, I present the first leg of the stool:  I challenged myself to be brave in the way I challenged you to be for your swimming party.

I haven’t worn a swimsuit in public in years…at least without it being covered up by a sundress of some sort.  When you think about it, this is ridiculous.  Swimming becomes very difficult when you’re wearing a dress so I decided to ditch the dress at a recent party and actually swim rather than watching from the sidelines.

It made me realize that I can’t expect you to go out and be brave if I won’t do it.  It reminded me of a weird thing about life.  If you don’t squelch those dissenting voices in your head, they come back and yell louder.  Sometimes, they make you forget to be brave.  I should have learned to ignore them a long time ago.  On this night, I finally did and YOU gave me the courage to do it.

So here’s my offering to you my girl.  You’re not alone.  You never will be.  I’m so so lucky to be one of the ones who gets to remind you of that.

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Hello Again, Welcome and Here’s a Three-Legged Stool…

I’ve taken the month of September off to focus on our family’s relocation.  Right now we are living in a temporary home as we make some decisions about our current and potential trajectories.

Leaving Orem has been a little rough.  We love it there.  The people, the community, all of it.  In the meantime, we live closer to the mountains with a direct view of some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets we’ve seen in a long time.  It all reminds me why we love this place.

This morning, I rested with our baby after one of those dreadfully long nights…compliments of a three year old who hid every single one bottle in the house.

I awoke from one of those bleary it’s-awfully-early-to-be-napping naps with messages that this blog’s stats were skyrocketing.  I was a little confused since I haven’t posted in a month.  That is when I received notification that Orem City posted my most recent piece.  Wow!  What an honor!

Thank you for stopping by and reading.  I’m touched by your comments and encouragement.  There is so much good in the world and as we help each other see it, it’s easier to spread.

There’s more where that came from.

Inspired by recent events in our family, several dear friends are helping me with a special project dear to my heart.  For the first bit of October, I will be sharing a surprise we’ve been working on for my daughter.

One of the participants gave me some great advice about how to approach a rather sensitive subject in order for it to be a gift to all involved.  “Think of this project like it’s a stool.  You need at least three legs otherwise it’s flimsy.  Find three strong, sturdy legs and you’ve got yourself something worth writing’.

Great advice.

And I think I’ve finally gotten it together.

So if you like what you see here, stick around for a bit.  We’ve put a few brilliant heads together and we’re eager to share…



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Our Own Little ‘Ode to Orem’…

Years ago, spray painted onto the Berlin Wall were the words, ‘Many small people in many small places, who do many small steps, can change the face of the world’.  This was no more obvious than the day that very wall was torn down.  That statement has always touched me.  Each one of us, doing what we do every day, has the power to change the world for the better.  Living in Orem, Utah has reaffirmed this to me.

Two years ago, I read an article listing the Top Ten Happiest Cities in the United States.  The best part?  There I was, sitting at my kitchen table, inside my home, nestled smack-dab in the middle of the city that got first place:  Orem, Utah.  It made me wonder.  What is so unique about this community that earned us this title?  It didn’t take me long to answer this question.  Our community is full of people who don’t just do their own thing.  They pay attention to each other.  They care for one another and actively strive to help others.  They are kind and good and generous.  What is so special is that this little city of ours is full of people who do what we do, in ever small corner and take care of each other while we do it.  I see it every day.  I’ll bet you do too.

Our family recently realized we will be moving from Orem in the coming days.  We are tremendously sad to leave.  How do we say ‘Thank You’ to this community which has so richly blessed our family?  We came up with a challenge.  We decided to take a phone photo journal of people who’ve impacted our lives for the better throughout the time we’ve lived here.

Suddenly, the efforts people make here on a daily basis became even more obvious.  So I guess, this is our ‘Thank You!’ to the community that has helped us raise our family.  We moved here as two nearly 18 years ago.  We leave here as eight, better people because of you.  Here’s our little ‘Ode to Orem’ celebrating some of the people who’ve come to mean so much to us.  These wonderful individuals have given me permission to post their pictures and a story here on this blog.  If you happen to run into these people, smile and say ‘hello’ but knowing the people in this community, I don’t really have to tell you to do that…

Gena B.

This is Gena B.  She’s wonderful.  She works with senior citizens at the Friendship Center.  If you’ve ever walked into that place, you’ve probably met her.  She’s also incredibly kind and generous to everyone.  She does a lot of behind-the-scenes work for people in our community.  You may not know it, but probably she’s helped your family somehow.  She has ours.




CassideeLet’s face it.  The everyday juggle is real.  Sometimes two year-olds are irrational, toilet floods and you cannot, for the life of you, figure out where that smell is coming from.  Sometimes you pull a 10 hour day and burn dinner and everyone else forgets to take the dog out or empty the garbage or change the hamster cage which probably has something to do with that smell.  Sometimes all you can do is cry ‘RETREAT’ on the war-torn day.  I’ve done this more times than I can count.  Running is my retreat.  The sweet girls at the Orem Fitness Center have cared for my little rascals during my sweat-off-the-therapy-chocolate workouts.  Several of them have become personal friends of mine.  This is Cassidee.  She’s wonderful.  She and the rest of the crew take such good care of us.  I’m so grateful and I’m going to miss them.  And since chocolate is my favorite sort of therapy, I also suspect I’m 20 lbs. lighter because of them.


Dixie, Tammy, Roger, Ben, Mark, Sue and Melanie.

These sweet faces are precious to me.  This is Dixie, Tammy, Roger, Ben, Sue and Melanie.  This team of workers cleans public buildings in our city almost every weekday.  Some have been doing it for 20 years.  They are a family.  They are part of our Orem family.  They painstakingly wash windows, clean workout equipment, scrub bathrooms and vacuum floors.  They high-five patrons at the OFC, fist-bump and offer hugs.  We owe them so much appreciation for the efforts they make to keep us our public buildings pleasant and welcoming.




This is Sterling.  He’s a farmer.  This summer he has taken time off his career and family farm to prepare, cultivate and harvest several plots in a community garden by our home. He hasn’t done this for himself or anyone he personally knows.  He’s done it for underprivileged families who are interested in learning how to grow food for themselves.  All the food he grows he offers to those willing to work the land.  We have a garden plot near his and have seen, first hand, his commitment to the families he quietly serves in this community.



Dave owns Dave Hur Jeweler’s right across the street from University Place.  We’ve driven past his shop a thousand times.  We met him nearly 18 years ago when my husband and I were engaged.  He made my wedding ring.  It’s beautiful.  It’s a champagne pink stone set in two little gold bands.  I love it.  It’s small but a perfect representation of how our family started out.  Over the years I’ve taken my ring in to be cleaned and he’s always done it happily.  He’s so kind to our family but our most recent interaction was the most meaningful.  I had gone in to have a favorite piece of jewelry repaired.  To be honest, I don’t have enough jewelry to actually get to claim a jeweler but if I did, he’d be it.  He didn’t scoff at the fact that my favorite earrings weren’t actually made of precious metal and he didn’t make some snide comment about fixing the broken one, he carefully noted the piece that it needed and tried to fix it.  As he worked I gave him an update on our family and my husband’s recent purchase of a small business.  It was at that moment he gave me tender, meaningful advice.  They were just a few words but they meant a great deal to me.  His encouragement made me walk two inches taller that day and someday, when we have the money to spend on sparkly jewelry made with precious metal, he will be our jeweler.


LindaI have a favorite cashier.  Her name is Linda.  She works at Smith’s Food and Drug on State and Center Street.  For as long as I remember shopping there, she’s been there.  She has always been kind, warm and cheerful to the patrons.  I’ve watched her as she has taken an interest in the people she serves.  Recently, I was having a bad day.  A really bad day.  I was able to put myself together just enough to get out of my car and grab the things I needed.  My nose and eyes were red and I’m sure I was a mess.  Once I reached the checkout line, I was barely choking down the tears.  I really tried to hide it but I’m fairly certain Linda knew.  There was something different about her efforts that day.  She spoke a little softer, was little kinder and I felt her compassion.  Nothing needed to be said.  I just knew she cared and that made all the difference that day.


Ken and KristyThis is Ken and Kristy.  Not only are they friends and neighbors, he happens to be the leader of our church congregation.  One of my favorite memories of them is from one Sunday evening.  My husband had been away on an assignment.  I was alone and was asked to give an address during our church services.  While at the pulpit, I noticed our four year old got up and left the room, followed quickly by our six year old.  They were gone for quite a while.  It wasn’t until after church that I was informed they were having a glorious time making a gigantic mess of soap bubbles in the girl’s bathroom.  I was mortified.  I wasn’t sure what to do since a few good friends helped them clean it up already.  After discussing with my husband Chris, we decided the best thing to do would be to send them over to Ken and Kristy’s to apologize.  Their little faces were met by our loving friends as he encouraged them to be honest and forthcoming.  He listened intently, a gentle look on his face.  (What they didn’t see was their parents’ and Kristy’s faces trying not to crack smiles during this oh-so-serious discussion).  After giving them the perfect amount of redirection, he accepted their apology and sent them on their merry way.  The girls were off like rockets toward home as we said our goodbyes.  What the girls didn’t hear as the door closed that night were hearty laughs coming from Ken and Kristy’s hallway just inside the door.  After listening to the girls apologize for the terrible things they did with wet toilet paper wads, it was great to know they were having just as much difficulty keeping it together as we were because Ken and Kristy find them just as delightful.


IMG_7416Yvonne has become a dear friend of mine and one of my heroes.  She and her husband are from Rwanda.  They’ve overcome so much, finding themselves in precarious situations more times than you could believe.  I first listened to Yvonne’s address one evening as she told of escaping her war-torn country after experiencing incredible loss and then being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.  After all of this, she still finds goodness and hope in the world around her.  She is an amazing mother of three children, has just finished school and is now teaching in the classroom.  Yvonne is one of those people who changes you for the better.  I’m so glad we know her and will miss seeing her at the community garden where we have neighboring plots.


IMG_7244The emergency response team for this community is extraordinary.  Whether it’s high-fiving little ones completely enamored by their emergency vehicles or assisting in a potentially life-threatening response of a wasp sting, they have been there to help.  They’re friendly, helpful and do much within the city to cultivate a relationship with families to ensure they feel safe in their care.  Our three year old is particularly delighted by them.  Whenever he hears their sirens, he stops what he’s doing, listens and then proclaim with fist pumping the air, ‘Go Heroes’…and he’s not the only one in the family who does that.


14112065_751445398328138_939635581_nWe were destined to be linked to Maudy and Besser.  I first met their daughter when I was her aide at Orem Elementary School.  An aggressive brain tumor had robbed her of her sight.  I was tasked with helping her during lunch and guiding her around the icy playground during the winter months.  We ended up having a marvelous time every day we were together.  One of the first things I knew about her was how much she loved her family.  It wasn’t until about two years later when they moved into our neighborhood that we were able to meet them all.  It was easy to see why Iholany loved them so much.  They are the very best kind of people.  After a valiant years-long fight, Iholany passed away in the Spring of 2011.  What’s so amazing is what her family did after her death.  Maudy and Besser have spent countless hours organizing and preparing quilts for sick children in her home country of El Salvador.  She’s given free haircuts for children who would like to donate their hair for non-profit organizations.  They work hard together to provide for their family while continuing to serve the community in the years since Iholany died.  I can think of no better way to tribute their amazing little girl.


IMG_7415Have you ever met someone and the instant you meet them you know they are incredibly special?  That is how we feel about Greg and Lorraine and our 12 year-old daughter insisted we include them in our list.  These two have a beautiful orchard.  Every summer they sell their peaches at their local fruit stand.  They always give you a little more than you pay for and what they charge is much less than they could, maybe even should.  Even more amazing, year after year, their peaches are the best we’ve ever tasted…and we even lived near the border of the Peach State!  Their walkway smells like perfectly ripe concord grapes and there are often children working and playing along with them.  It pretty much seems like heaven.  On their faces you can see a lifetime of happiness together and hard work giving others the gift of fresh fruit right off the tree…which is one of the best things on earth in my humble opinion.


IMG_7303Lastly, we couldn’t leave the community without giving a hearty shout-out to our physician and his excellent staff.  Dr. Randall Pace, Whitney and Meagan have been part of our healthcare team for several years.  We’ve appreciated their compassionate, knowledgeable care.  They are gifted medical professionals who’ve taken the time to care for our entire family.  Dr. Pace and Whitney were part of the birthing crew when our sixth baby was born.  Dr. Pace even took the time to pose with my husband and I in a goofy post-partum picture for my sister-in-law’s web blog ‘The Well Worn Bride’:  wellwornbride.com…and no, I didn’t wear my wedding dress while delivering my baby.


To all of you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  You’ve made these years joyful and you’ve set the bar high.  We’re going to do everything we can to take some of Orem’s Happy with us to adventures unknown…Here’s to YOU!

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