To Boomers and Millennials from a former Latch-Key Kid

To Boomers and Millennials from a former Latch-Key Kid


Submitted by admin on Thu, 05/29/2014 – 19:49

An open Email

To: Baby Boomers
From: Rhonda Lauritzen, occasional blogger and former latch-key-kid
Subject: Generational misunderstandings and co-dependency
Date: 2014

The purpose of this email is to provide information that you might find helpful, and to make a few recommendations so Boomers, Gen-X, and Millennials can work together in a spirit of mutual collaboration.

As background, the sender of this email is a member of the small and sometimes-maligned Generation X, sandwiched between the two enormous cohorts that are the primary subject here. Given that we are all now side-by-side at work, it seemed timely to offer a third-party perspective.
First, it has come to my attention that several stereotypes about the Millennial generation have been put forth. The following stereotypes require some clarification:
· Trophy generation
· Dependent on technology
· Still living at home

In conversations with this generation, they wish to clear up a few misunderstandings about the above stereotypes and to ask your cooperation in refraining from perpetuating them. First, they are fully aware that there are winners and losers in the world. These young people are quite bright, ambitious, and capable of seeing the world for what it is—competitive as well as collaborative. This is sometimes in spite of, and sometimes resulting from their upbringing. Further, they wish for the record to reflect that they did not create the rules of the games in which everyone received a trophy. You did. They were just the kids that went from one activity to the next.

Second, consider withholding criticism regarding Millennial use of technology lest they become unwilling to fix your computer. While they are, indeed, well-versed in the use of technology, they do not see themselves dependent. Your two generations may simply agree to disagree on this point; nevertheless, respect in your approach will go a long way to maintaining a mutually-beneficial relationship. Remember this when you call upon their skills.

Third, if you have a millennial over the age of twenty-five living in your basement, the next paragraphs may be of interest. Before expressing frustration about this situation, please understand a few realities. This generation came of age during the biggest downturn since the Great Depression. Jobs that were readily available to you at their age evaporated before their eyes. Further, while you may have been working at their age, you urged them to postpone this in favor of a college degree—any degree—and at any cost. Now laden with thousands in debt, they find that piece of paper, simply that. Paper. What they need now is good old-fashioned work experience. This probably means going to work in entry-level positions. Neither you nor they are very happy about this, but before you complain, go have a chat with your parents or grandparents. Ask them—the children of the Great Depression and WWII—about work, sacrifice, and unfairness.

Next, please realize that this college degree situation is not their fault. They were simply meeting your expectations to get an education. Now many of them feel they were sold a very expensive bill of goods. This may not be far from the truth. What to do now? As you make hiring decisions, please take a chance on these young people and help them gain the real-world experience they so desperately need. Mentor them. Encourage them to go get some actual skills, perhaps a certificate in a hands-on occupation. Have a frank conversation about taking job at the bottom so they can work their way up. Finally, please do not be disappointed if your son or daughter takes a position that is less than you had hoped. They need to start somewhere.

With that said, the recession is over and it really is time for them to launch. Before you approach them with ultimatums, however, please take a moment to reflect on your role in the current situation. Has anything in your own behavior enabled this outcome? Is there a possibility that you and your children are engaged in a co-dependency that older generations might have viewed as, perhaps, unhealthy? The upside is that you have fostered a genuinely close relationship with your children. On the other hand, you may need to explain that it is okay for them to leave now. You will somehow manage without them. Baby steps.

There is another topic they want to bring up but are not sure if it is okay yet. Namely, they genuinely do not understand your obsession with diversity. To them, the Civil Rights Movement is a distant event in history books. While you continue to debate issues of race, Gay marriage, and gender equality, they are quietly living it. What is all the fuss, they say? They view your hostility and rhetoric as perpetuating old divisions. Time to move on, they say. They may have a point.

Finally, it has come to my attention that several behaviors have occurred in the past. This memorandum hereby informs you that the following are unacceptable and will not be tolerated:
· Hanging around your son or daughter’s college campus.
· Calling your son or daughter’s employer with questions or concerns about their performance.
· Blaming their generation for circumstances over which they had no control and that you probably created.

Thank you for your consideration of these items. If you have any questions, concerns or feedback about this, please do not call another meeting. Please. Email would be much more efficient.

P.S. As one aside, please take note of the complete sentences and coherent organization of this message. If you engage in criticism of younger colleagues and their lack of grammatical acuity, kindly refrain from including members of Generation X. While we are well-versed in texting and social media, we have worked hard to educate ourselves—both in school and the workplace. We understand the finer points of both written and verbal communication. Thank you.
To further the spirit of useful but unsolicited advice, I also offer this text to my younger friends:

Sup millenials

Good news: Recession over. Yay!

(Not 2 B Debbie Downer, but it prob. wont B the last. FYI, this is downturn #3 for GenX)

What now? Time 2 get a job.

Serious, sorry 2 hear UR degree is only paper.

The debt sux. But what ya gonna do?

Prob need 2 learn a skill.

And by skill I mean…U got 5 fingers & super smart brain. Not just thumbs.

These R gr8 assets so use em.

About that job. U gotta start @ bottom. CEO by 30? Maybe.

Oh, and bro. Stop texting UR parents all day. #creepy.

About that…UR mom called. #AwkwardMoment

She said totally OK if U move out now. She B OK.

TBH, U so smart. Can do anything. Serious. U will B amazing!

Go get ‘em.

Rhonda Lauritzen is an occasional blogger, author of the book Every Essential Element and works in post-secondary technical education.

This blog post was inspired by a presentation by Diane Thielfoldt, Co-founder The Learning Café

Diane specializes in resolving issues related to the four-generation workforce. For fourteen years, she has learned from the age-diverse workforce by engaging in primary research, analyzing secondary research, capturing trends, teaching in organizations and observing workplace behavior – to build a strong knowledge base of the four generations’ commonalities and differences. She has helped organizations in many industries create strategies to manage their four-generation workforces and bridge the generation gap at work. Her presentations, training materials and workshops have provoked thought, changed behavior and educated thousands of managers and employees on the importance of flexing to meet the needs of a changing workforce – and practical ways to do so.

This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass



Submitted by admin on Sun, 10/07/2012 – 07:34

Three weeks ago we got the keys to a Queen Anne Victorian built the same year my Grandpa Anderson was born, 1890. I could say it is ours because we are paying the mortgage and will plow time, sweat and money into it as long as we hold the deed. But somehow I can’t quite say we own it. This is not just because until we make the last payment the bank really owns it or that an undertaking on this scale sometimes owns you. It is not just because we still can hardly believe we get to live in this home of our childhood dreams, to watch TV in a grand old room or cheekily drop lines like, “Dear, I will be writing in the library.”

Rather, I don’t like saying “we own it” because in living here I feel a sense of what my parents meant by “This too shall pass.”  With so many generations come and gone under this roof, I realize that this solid house will be around long after we are.

Early in my parents’ marriage they read something by Og Mandino that shaped their view: “For all worldly things shall indeed pass. When I am heavy with heartache I shall console myself that this too shall pass; when I am puffed with success I shall warn myself that this too shall pass. When I am strangled in poverty I shall tell myself that this too shall pass; when I am burdened with wealth I shall tell myself that this too shall pass.”

They kept perspective through struggles because they knew it was temporary. When times were good, they savored the moment because yes, even this shall pass. The years added up, the kids left home and ultimately he went to his final home. Now she retraces their memories, makes a few new ones and waits, knowing that this difficult phase will also pass. It seems like an eternity while she waits to join him, but the clock keeps ticking and she eventually will.

Then what will be left of their time here? I wonder if I will be so lucky to create a legacy a tiny fraction of theirs. Some people build homes. My parents built a business. Even more than that, they built people and while the strongest structures will someday crumble, I believe people are infinite.

Case in point, I can’t count the number of people who, upon learning which house we bought have said, “So-and-so used to live there and did a lot of work to the place.” It gives me pause that if all these people did so much work, why does it still need so much freaking work? The yard is a blight, the railings have rotted beyond salvage and so many little tasks need attention. It highlights how entropy and elements keep undoing our  efforts on this earth. Weeding, painting and repairing are never done. And don’t even get me started on shifting tastes. What seemed timeless in one decade is hopelessly dated and gets ripped out in the next.

Structures will crumble,  even excellent craftsmanship will need repair and styles certainly change.

But people. Souls are ageless and I can’t help but think our relationships matter in ways we cannot begin to imagine or measure.

As we pour our hearts into this home, hopefully preserving it for others to enjoy later, I remind myself that we will be gone someday too. I hope new occupants will see details we left and be inspired to care for this special place in their own way and time. I also hope I can stay grounded in knowing that good times like these come and go. So do tough ones. And most of all, I hope I remember to not get so busy with sanding and paint that I neglect relationships that are perhaps the one thing that will survive all this.

The gift of happiness? The present.

The gift of happiness? The present.


Submitted by admin on Tue, 04/09/2013 – 22:07

The only secret to happiness I know

Up to this point, my parenthood essays have been more theoretical than I’d really like to admit, lessons from my parents that I’ve tried to learn from the perspective of a grateful daughter. So yes, I do see how rich it is for me to impart wisdom that I’ve never tested on children of my own.

But as my friends and family now know, at 38 I am pregnant for the first time. This parenthood stuff is going to get real, real fast.

One note that I find encouraging is that my own parents had me later in life and Milan’s folks had him around the same age as mine. If I ever worry about being an old mom, I think of my mom having me at 41. When she became pregnant, her dear friend Edna told her, “Gaye, don’t you dare get old on that girl.” And so she didn’t. Chasing a toddler at her age might seem exhausting, and perhaps it was, but what I remember was how my mom and dad went out of their way to be playful and do do fun things with my brother and me, activities they might have skipped if they didn’t have kids at home. What I have observed in them and others is that children live the secrets of happiness every day without effort. It can rub off on anyone who will let it.

As my pregnancy progresses I find myself mesmerized by young children, and here is what I see: they are happy because they are in the present. It doesn’t much matter where they happen to be, they’re content playing under the table, in the park, or anywhere really. This place is just as good as that. Sure they get cranky and want to be let down from the high chair, but the difference between them and the rest of us is that they do not waste their moments worrying about the future. They’re not trying to be someone different than who they are. They are not re-hashing the past. None of these notions have even occurred to them yet. They are right here, in this moment, and they’re happy because of it.

Recently someone told me of a framed picture on the wall, “Grow up to be a child.” We are spending this week on the beach and as I take in everyone’s  exuberance here, I am reminded how nature invites our inner children to come out and play. Adults, teenagers and grandpas are body surfing together and they’re all giggling and tumbling. We all find ourselves transfixed by the creatures above and below. Okay, maybe some of us can fall into self-consciousness during the walk from beach mat to water, but once in we splash about and forget we ever had thoughts of being anyone or anywhere else. Observing from a beach chair, joy is written on everyone’s face. Bills, mistakes, tough decisions are nowhere evidenced on this little stretch of sand and sea. We are behaving just like children. Isn’t that grand?

So this is the one secret of happiness I know. Being in the present. We all have a light inside of us and that light is enough. It is enough to get us through this moment, but it will never be enough to change what happened yesterday or to solve problems that are not yet here to be acted upon. If–and it’s always if–those problems do arrive, that light inside will be enough. I believe that light is all we will ever need if we let it inspire and give us courage when the time comes.

What I also find, is that the present moment is nearly always easier than we had imagined. More often than not, the present moment is better than manageable, it overflowing with sensory deliciousness if we’d just stop worrying and scurrying long enough to notice. There are five senses plus love and hope right here right now.  This moment has what we need to be happy, and it is also all we’ll ever have. Only this moment is real. The right now. And right now. And right now.

Years ago I read a wonderful book called “If I Knew Then What I Know Now,” a collection of essays from people answering the question of what advice they would give to a younger version of themselves. The essay below was written by an 80-something woman named Nadine Stair and was printed in her local newspaper. I have read it so many times I could probably repeat it by heart in a pinch. I hope you will enjoy it too.

“If I had my life to live over I’d make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, but if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds, I would pick more daisies.”

The Purpose Paradox

The Purpose Paradox


Submitted by admin on Sun, 03/03/2013 – 18:36

The Purpose Paradox – Never Giving Up While Letting Go

“You have a purpose,” my folks would say, “you just have to let it find you.” My mom often remarked that everyone has unique talents and that “We all matter, every single day, but not everyone realizes it.” Once their life’s purpose found them, optimism glowed like soft light around Hartley and Gaye. Even after the darkest Decembers—traditionally the slowest, most discouraging month in their business—they kissed on New Year’s Eve and said, “This year for sure.” They stayed on course knowing that they were made for this.

That kind of certainty resulted in a lovely—and I believe powerful—paradox. On one hand, a fiery commitment to their cause drove them when odds didn’t look good. In this way, they seemed like the quintessential American entrepreneurs who latched onto an idea and wouldn’t let go for the world. But they weren’t pit bulls about it. They weren’t like little monkeys with their fists caught in a trap because they would not release the banana. Rather, they had a quiet, albeit passionate, belief that destiny was on their side. This knowing got them through setbacks and made them free to enjoy the process. They didn’t put off time with their kids and they kept the mood light under deadline.

In visualizing their parking spaces, so to speak, they were motivated to go looking for a spot when others give up before trying. It was a two-part proposition: belief and action working in tandem. They harnessed power in what might seem like opposite forces: conscientious effort and simultaneous surrender.

It almost seems like a marriage of Eastern and Western philosophies, of balance between yin and yang forces. In some Eastern thought the highest stage of enlightenment results in a person wielding the least effort for the greatest result. In harnessing powers of meditation and intention, a person acts as a magnet toward purpose. Helpers come out of the woodwork, summoned by a common urgency. Doors open without effort. When we are in this zone, we flow with the current toward our purpose rather than struggling upstream away from it.

The notion that “if it isn’t hard it will not be worth it” evaporates when we realize that suffering does not equate to reward. Sure the work might BE hard, but when we are aligned with our purpose, it doesn’t FEEL hard. Furthermore, there are many who say it takes no more effort to become great than mediocre. This was a point made in my favorite business book “Good to Great.” Rather, building a great company starts with finding the right purpose and spending energy on the right disciplines rather than ineffective habits. Some even say the effort expended is actually less and that the rewards of excellence are self-sustaining. This has been my experience, that when something is right, pieces come together and a team is synergistic rather than bickering.

Yet, while hard work is admirable it can be counter productive if taken to the extremes of control and exhaustion. Needing love too badly can repel it. Making peace with being single has sometimes opened the door to new relationships. It is strange how sometimes couples have become pregnant after finally adopting. If we want success, clawing our way to the top can thwart our efforts while helping others succeed can pay unexpected dividends.

One of my FaceBook friends posted a while back, “You can have anything you want when you no longer want it.” Funny. And more true than I’d sometimes like to acknowledge. I want what I want and I want it now! I find, though, that when I just crave what’s best without needing to control the timetable and the “how” I often get what I want, sometimes through the most roundabout circumstances.

Here is a summary of principles in the paradox:
· Believing in a harvest by planting a garden. (Faith and works).
· Unfailing expectation of victory in the end while confronting the brutal facts of today.
· Being independent from the opinion of others while harnessing the power of working together.
· Needing nothing. Attracting everything.
· Believing that I can make a difference and still reigning in my ego–it’s not all about me
· Recognizing individual purpose and limitless potential. Acknowledging that I’m only a speck in an infinite universe.
· Expending the effort while enjoying the process.
· Never giving up the dream but surrendering control of the details.

Sometimes things just work out

Sometimes things just work out


Submitted by admin on Tue, 05/15/2012 – 07:56

Sometimes stuff shows up in your life in uncanny ways. Tomorrow will be the culmination of just such a time. I’ll explain, but first we have to back up two months. I had completed work on Every Essential Element and the copy editor was finishing her final housekeeping, the last of a process that had taken more than four years. What’s the rush, right? That’s what I thought, but all at once it felt urgent, somehow like in spite of it having taken so long to this point, time was now of the essence. So she finished up I prepared to send it to the printer we had selected a while ago. Printing would take a couple of months and that was fine, but once again I had a sense that time mattered and that I should shop around for another option. The price had been right with this particular printer, but in spite of having been told that no one would beat this deal I followed my gut to at least see what a competitor could do. I was delighted to find an outfit out of Utah County, who quoted a better price and promised to have books in hand within ten days after approval of the proof. That would shave up to two months off the process. Wow. Sold.

The books were delivered on the first day of the tech college’s spring break, a nice bonus to give me time to start working on publicity. My first phone call was to the Utah Natural Products Alliance (UNPA) because I thought they might be interested in doing some joint publicity since our story mirrors that of many of Utah companies and chronicles the beginnings of the natural health movement. Utah has been dubbed the Silicon Valley of Supplements and is the State’s second-largest industry.
It was a cold call but the staffer was encouraging, telling me that the timing was uncanny because they were planning an event and my book might be of interest. To make a long story short they said, “We are holding a celebration at Deer Valley next month to commemorate the beginnings of the natural health movement in Utah. All the big companies will be there, and we are inviting media from around the country. This Friday we are filming a video and would you possibly be free to come down and be interviewed for it?” My response. “Yes. Why yes I am.”

Now, as a first-time author, do you know how hard it is to get magazines and other media to give you the time of day? Why should they pay attention to you and your unknown little project when they have much bigger fish to fry? It is a long haul indeed. And here, dropped in my lap was the opportunity to be included in a video and to attend an event that would bring all the people together that I wanted to meet. Poof. Just like that.

What serendipity. The executive director of UNPA even used that word to describe the timing of my phone call. Indeed, if I had gone with the original printer—had I not followed the nudge to look into other options immediately when I had the thought—I would have missed this opportunity and would never have been the wiser.
We went down to their office and did the video, met some great people and got to schmooze with Senator Hatch who sponsored the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA, as it is now known). Lucky indeed.

And here’s where I’m going to get a little out there on you. I wonder, could it possibly be more than just coincidence? I do believe in faith. That was probably the biggest thing I learned from my parents—namely that when you are doing something you believe in with all your heart, that has a purpose—things have a way of working out. And if you combine that with prayer or manifesting, or putting it out into the universe (people have different ways of describing this but I look at it as the same principle) forces sometimes come together in unexpected ways. I will add that I also believe in luck, defined as “when preparation meets opportunity.”

So for the past year I have been quietly doing my part—which, to me, is the very essence of faith—and have also been praying for help. It has gone something like this, “God, I’ve been working on this because it feels like something I am supposed to do, like there is a reason for it. And if so, will you just help that purpose be fulfilled? Please, kindly, if you will, bring people into my life who can help when the time comes.”

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to celebrating with people in the natural products industry who were such an important part of my childhood. I love them. My head and heart are full of so many dear memories. Tomorrow be a celebration of our shared past and also a private gratitude that sometimes things have a way of working out.

FaceBook, Heaven and Hell

FaceBook, Heaven and Hell


Submitted by admin on Fri, 11/28/2014 – 07:42

“What? No FaceBook in Heaven?” I ask all incredulous-like. “Say it ain’t so.” Then in a Huck Finn moment I am resolved, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

On other days I flirt with the idea of walking away from this on-again, off again relationship I’ve had with FB. “I’m done, I say. I will just walk out that portal door and never read another rant, cliché meme, or the worst: “vaguebooking” posts. Or are duckface selfies the worst? I can’t decide. Yep, this time I am leaving for good. Really I am.

So why am I still here?

Why, indeed. I’ve been thinking about this and have decided that it’s real simple. My friends are here.

Which brings me back to the subject of heaven (and I’ll do my best to not like a girl’s camp testimony meeting here). I stay with FaceBook because finding my friends is what I hope for most in the afterlife. Social media is an approximation—a clunky, sometimes ugly—approximation of something I want to believe after we die and all regrets can be made right.

For me, regret often centers on not giving more to the people I love. My excuses might be valid, namely that there simply isn’t time or capacity to have deep and continuous relationships with everyone I care about. Having so many dear ones in my life is a happy problem, I know, but it still gives me pause. I have a huge family, and so many friends, all the way back from childhood. I meet new people all the time that I want to add to my circle. I want to know what’s going on with everyone and to have true connections. I simply can’t.

Even during these baby years where I consciously don’t have many commitments outside work, there’s not time for much beyond my little family. Rather, there isn’t time if I want to really savor this phase without being distracted by running all over the place. So being present with my baby girl comes at a price of other relationships.

A few years ago I got thinking about people who had come and gone from my life and those new acquaintances I want to know better. I knew it wasn’t possible to give both the quantity and quality of time with everyone I’d like. It got me fanaticizing that maybe this will all be sorted out in the afterlife. Namely, if I get to choose my version of heaven, people won’t be constrained by time or form. We will each have limitless capacity to connect. I’ll finally be able to catch up and keep up with the people to whom I said, “We should get together more,” and meant it. Imagine how it will feel to pick up every friendship that fell by the wayside during life and every acquaintance that never became fully realized.

My point is that this Internet construct with a blue and white header is a clunky step toward this ideal. It’s got flaws, but it’s a better tool than we had before. FaceBook shows me snapshots of my friends’ lives wherever they live in the world. It shows how many children they have and glimpses of their best moments. It allows us to age imperceptibly together rather than an all-at-once shock at the reunion. When did we get so old?

FaceBook has kept me in touch or reunited me with so many friends from youth. Like Steven King said, “You’ll never have friends like the ones when you were 12.” We had so much time then—time to talk about our fears and dreams and crushes. Time to be silly, time to just be. Remember how the telephone cord would be stretched into our rooms for hours? That kind of time bonded us and shaped me.

Now at 40, I am beginning to understand whoever said, “The older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.”

NORAD Santa Tracker – Why I Need to Believe

NORAD Santa Tracker – Why I Need to Believe


Submitted by admin on Sat, 12/20/2014 – 07:56

I couldn’t quite admit on FaceBook last night that an article moved me to tears. It was the NPR Story Corps bit entitled “NORAD’s Santa Tracker began with a typo and a good sport.”….

It’s kind of embarrassing that I am now the lady who cries at everything, like so many testimony meetings. But at least I’m not all dead inside, right?

Part of it was timing too. Maybe I needed to cry for a poignant story after a workweek that left me a little worse for the wear. So on a Friday night, I needed this story. I needed to believe in Santa, to believe in people, to believe that people believe in Santa. I needed to see how the Cold War keeper of the Red Phone Line believed. This was the line we all prayed would never ring. But when it did ring, a child was asking for Santa.

I needed to see how at ninety years old, the Keeper of the Red Line didn’t talk about his important job but he did carry the Santa letters with him. I needed to read how serendipity could marry a military annex to our most cherished of childhood beliefs.

As a country, maybe people still believe in God, maybe they don’t. Fewer believe in capital R Religion. Maybe they still believe in freedom and unity or maybe they’re jaded by politics and war.

Maybe these are the reasons we go so mama bear to protect Santa. Something’s got to be sacred for cryin’ out loud.

I used to know a guy who didn’t believe in Santa and said he’d never lie to his son. He had this rigid plan that he would never, ever teach his kid to believe in the red-suit-naughty-nice-list guy. Too much like the religion hoax, he said. In retrospect, I think this wasn’t really about the moral high ground but something a lot more personal. He really just wanted his son to believe in him.

I have always wondered what happened when the day came—and it always comes—that the dad failed the son in some way. What of that? What to believe in now? These years later I’m left with less judgment toward the guy but more sadness that the world had beat him up so bad.

Also this. I can tell you the father I’d choose—give me the guy who carried around the Santa letters. Actually, that’s kind of the parents I did have. Maybe that is why after a woe-is-me kind of week, I’m less pissed off and more inclined toward hope after a few minutes reading a NORAD Santa story.

Finally, in thinking about a pragmatic father who I’m not gonna judge (really I’m not), it occurs to me that that someday my daughter will outgrow me. Maybe, though, if I do my job, she will never outgrow Santa. Her understanding will mature and when it does, she won’t have to abandon childhood belief altogether. Rather, she will simply graduate to the rank of Keeper. Someday she may even have an important job. Maybe someday that job will get interrupted by a child. If I do my job now, she will know what to do then.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Parenthood part 10: Sometimes even great moms dread Mother’s Day

Parenthood part 10: Sometimes even great moms dread Mother’s Day


Submitted by admin on Sat, 05/12/2012 – 21:38

Parenthood part 10: Sometimes even great moms dread Mother’s Day

My mom is an extraordinary woman. So imagine how I squinted when she admitted that she shifted in the church pew every Mother’s Day. As we worked on Every Essential Element together she revealed herself in a generous and intimate way. I was taken aback by this admission. “Why? “I asked. “Because I felt completely inadequate listening to stories about the perfect women around me. I couldn’t sew or craft. My house was a wreck with an army of your brothers clomping about. I lost my cool. I worked when that was a no-no. Your dad loved me, but I felt fat. I would never be that ideal woman.”

This surprised me because she accomplished so much, rearing seven children while helping to pioneer the natural health movement in America. She was a full partner with my dad and his co-entrepreneur when there was great pressure from Mormon leaders to stay home with the children. Together, they co-founded a company that sparked an entire industry of health products from the Great Salt Lake while onlookers snickered. She baked whole wheat bread, made her own yogurt, grew sprouts, tended a massive garden, and put up the harvest in tidy jars. Even with the demands of seven children, they also took people in to our home to live at various times. They lived a life of adventure and had a fifty-five year love affair.

Sure I had moments of thirteen-year-old embarrassment over my parents, but she had seemed just right to me. I never knew she felt this way, and we decided to include that vulnerability in the book. As others have read about her inner struggle they have told me they too secretly feel the same on this, of all days. Worse, yet, they feel guilty for not basking in the honor that the day was meant to bring, like it is another sign of falling short. One of my friends confessed, “I thought I was the only one!” Another said, “On Mother’s Day I stress about how the kids look and act because it feels like on that day you are being scrutinized. If Mother’s Day were not on Sunday you could sleep in and wouldn’t have to do so many heads of hair, iron many dresses/shirts, find shoes, and pack the bottomless church bag. I feel like I am competing with perfection.”

As the book neared completion, my mom opened up about something else. “It has been so fun working on this together but now that it is close, I find myself feeling shy.” I reassured her, and she elaborated, “I just don’t want anyone to think we were perfect or that we thought we were. I know how insecurity feels. We did the best we could but we still made a lot of mistakes.” What I want her to know now is this: Mom, the best you could was enough.

It makes me think. Far too often we spend precious energy comparing our weaknesses to other people’s strengths. We diminish our own talents because they are different from what we admire in others. We regret the past and worry about the future while forgetting to savor today. Recently two separate women told me that the most magical time of their lives was when their children were little but they did not realize it.

We fret over what we never were or never will be rather than celebrating who we are. The wisdom of seventy-seven years has freed my mom from much of what weighed her down before. She has embraced the words of Corrie Ten Boom who wrote The Hiding Place about surviving a concentration camp and said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It robs today of its strength.”

This Mother’s Day, I wish I could remind women everywhere that we all feel insecure at time. We would be happier taking a cue from the women who remind us to “Enjoy the moments we have today. We are not perfect, but we are enough. Every woman is the heroine in her own story.” I love you Mom.

Mom as Heroine in Her Story

Mom as Heroine in Her Story


Submitted by admin on Sat, 08/11/2012 – 09:58

The first year I was old enough to go to camp my mom was the church camp director. Just my luck. Sure I liked her company, but had been hoping to go somewhere without mommy. That was the breaks for a tween—desperately trying to grow up but not quite there.

My fears were unfounded because up there, she wasn’t the mother I knew. She was this fresh person with a playful, silly side. It may have been my first glimpse of her when she didn’t have to be the mom. A practical joke atmosphere developed and when she used the Port-o-John, two older girls locked her in. Ick! She laughed it off…and waited. When the girls went swimming she rifled through their duffle bags, retrieved their bras and strung them from the camp flagpole for a hundred girls to salute. I had never been prouder of my mother. As a conservative World War II-era lady she had a different sensibility than my Gen X friends and we found this mischievousness delightful.

It occurred to me that if she were not my mom—if we had been the same age—we would have been fast friends.

Mothers—at least good ones like mine—have a certain role. They provide, nurture, and yes, correct. They believe in our best potential and crinkle our noses when we are less. Perhaps we are conditioned to see them as apron-wearing, disapproving disciplinarians. They lecture. We roll our eyes and cross our arms with one hip jutting out like so.

When my dad passed away our roles shifted. I nurtured and she allowed herself to need me. We began writing their story and she opened her life completely, let herself be vulnerable.

Then, aside from the pleasure of spending time together, I received a surprise gift.

It was this: I got to see my mom through brand-new eyes. For their life to shine on the page, I first had to discover who they really were and it required peeling away layers. My dad was easier. For starters, death tends to cast a halo on people’s lives, shining on their best qualities. There was also the fact that he had always been the passionate one out front, a charismatic personality we all enjoyed watching. The less obvious fact was that she gave him that sparkle. She was the rock upon which his grand ideas became possible.

In this way I discovered her not as “the mom” but as the heroine in her own story, a courageous and even progressive leading lady. I now saw her as the glamorous young woman of black and white photos from before I was born.

I also saw her character arc unfold on the page. Sure I knew how Every Essential Element ended but until I began writing, I never knew all that she overcame in herself and the ways her strengths would triumph. Gaye Anderson began the story as a traditional 1950s girl-turned-housewife who later transcended stereotypies. She showed feminine strength and a pioneering spirit that will forever inspire me.

Perhaps in the next life we will enjoy an agelessness that transcends earthly generations and the boundaries of who we define as family or friends. Each will be both. But I don’t have to wait for that. Through this process, I get to enjoy it now.

What I would have missed to not know her this way? Since writing her story, I cannot count how many people have said, “I wish I had asked my parents/grandparents more questions while they were still here. I wish I had recorded their stories.” I will not have those regrets. I discovered her uniqueness while she still lived and breathed it. Because of this process she is now more than just my mother. She is more than my co-collaborator. She is my book’s heroine. She is my heroine.

Modesty, Mormonism and Feminism

Modesty, Mormonism and Feminism


Submitted by admin on Tue, 03/11/2014 – 16:07

Controversy warning…If you lean toward very conservative views toward modesty and sexuality you may find this essay a bit unsettling. However, a friend of mine (Andrea Beringer-Lyon) posted a link to a Salt Lake Trib article about modesty and I have pretty passionate views on this subject. I’ve been chewing on this and decided to write my own essay on this subject. I’m entitling it:
“Modesty? Self respect.”

A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune asked whether the LDS focus on modesty actually has the reverse effect. Does it sexualize women more? Now that I have a daughter of my own, I have some thoughts.

As my friends know, I grew up in the church and spent time away before ultimately going back. I call myself a Mormon, but an unorthodox one. This background gives me a unique perspective–I love my church but also often question it.

I will begin by saying that I find the whole notion that little girls should not wear sun dresses or bare their shoulders to be ridiculous if not insulting for everyone. With that out of the way, where is the line with teenage girls? What would I want to teach my own daughter?

First, I recognize that social mores are real and that we should be mindful of them. People will judge the way you dress before they get to know you. For this reason, we’d all do well to play by the broad rules and to adapt when the line shifts. Go too far outside what any given culture considers appropriate and you’re going to create needless difficulties for yourself. I dress more formally at work than perhaps is necessary because I’m in a professional environment and I want to be taken seriously. In an educational institution, faculty and administration ought to model a high workplace standard. Not only that but I feel better about myself when I look sharp, and how I feel matters to me.

That is the main point I want to make here.

So what would I tell my daughter? Dress appropriately, and to do it out of self respect. By appropriately, I mean in a way that is attractive for her unique attributes. Do it to feel confident. Dressing slutty sends a message that, “I’ll do anything for attention, even the wrong kind.” There will be no shortage of people willing to give that kind of attention to a girl. So respect yourself more.

The Trib article quoted someone as saying basically, “You will marry the kind of man you dress for.” While that rubs me the wrong way, there is some truth in it. Dressing without regard for your potential does no girl or guy any favors. While the article also quoted a parody of someone giving the same advice for young men (and it was funny) it holds for them too.

Recently the LDS church added a new value, “virtue,” to the young women theme. I wonder if it was perhaps unnecessary because the value of “individual worth” was already there. If a girl or boy truly understands their worth, the rest basically takes care of itself.

The nuance of what “virtue” really means, though, is sexual purity. That subject, like many for me in the church, is complicated. My own history with this virtue is that I grew up hating this part of myself. I felt ashamed of my own–perfectly normal, well contained and healthy–sexuality. I had doubts about whether I could control it and church made me feel that my burgeoning sexuality was more of an addiction, dark and demonic. I hated my beautiful body, felt fat, and covered it up. What a sad waste of energy and I was resentful over pointless guilt for a long time.

In later years, I learned how to dress to flatter my hourglass shape and people thought I had lost a ton of weight. I had lost a little thanks to newfound joy in exercise, but most of it was that I simply stopped dressing fat. I stopped hiding behind clothes.

One of my most life changing experiences was getting married and growing to love my body. I was giddy to discover all that it could do. I learned to run, to enjoy sex and to see myself as beautiful for the first time. I realized what a marvelous, miraculous gift my body was. Since then, I thank God for it in my prayers all the time. This body is mine, and its imperfections are what make it different than anyone else’s. The differences make it beautiful. I used to dislike the gap in my teeth and wished I could have braces. I’ve come full circle and a few years ago an online dating profile asked the question, “What is your best feature?” I didn’t hesitate to put down “my smile.” I suspect most of my friends would agree.

So what do I plan to teach my daughter about her own body? That it is a gift. It is hers, and she should value it and discover happiness in what it can do. The human form is beautiful and should be celebrated in art and dance. (As an aside, when BYU couldn’t handle certain Rodin sculptures for their nudity a few years ago, it seemed to me they were acting like a 13-year old boy snickering for awkward lack of maturity.)

When my girl gets old enough, we will talk about how sexuality is part of what makes us alive. It is human and we should embrace, rather than shun it. The thing with sexuality, though, is its power. It can create life, provide exhilaration, and bond couples together. Anything powerful can also be dangerous. She should learn a healthy respect for it. Don’t trivialize sexuality. It means something and she has every right to draw boundaries to protect it. She should wield that kind of power on her own terms, with care, and in a way that will make her happy. With respect.

Someday if my daughter wants to wear a tasteful, age-appropriate, strapless dress to prom, I won’t bat an eyelash. The only thing that might give me pause is if cultural forces would cause others to judge her unfairly. Seriously, my mom and her conservative Mormon friends wore strapless dresses in the early 1950s and no one thought they were little strumpets. They were girls with radiant skin and beautiful shoulders and they looked gorgeous going to prom.