When I was in high school I used to do just a little bit of dancing. I have never been terribly coordinated, but the one thing I was very good at was the jitterbug. My friend (who later became my boyfriend) Jake and I had the most fantastic times dancing. He would swing me around, throw me in the air, flip me over his head, and make us look fantastic. He was the coordinated one, I merely trusted him not to drop me, and followed his lead.
At school dances, a good swing song would come on and we would start to dance. The crowds would part, and form a circle around us, just like in a movie. It was the closest to my life being a musical that I will probably ever experience, and it was just as awesome as all of my fantasies of living in a musical have ever been.
Jake and I moved on from high school dances to dance together at the opening of a department store and once, we danced in a modeling show, him in a zoot suit, me in a blond wig and the 7 year itch dress trying to pull off Marylin Monroe (I look terrible as blond, just terrible). We weren’t perfect, but we had a lot of fun, and made a lot of memories.
One of those memories happens to be my most embarrassing moment ever.
Our church youth group hosted a talent show. It was a rollicking success, with improv, music, dance, art, and all sorts of amazingly talented kids. Nearly every parent and child attended, so it was a full house, comprising almost my entire church and several additional friends. Jake and I were set to dance.
I was wearing the most perfect vintage dress. It was black with a full pleated skirt, pleated sleeve that crisscrossed over themselves, a gathered bodice and a smocked waist that showed off my formerly gorgeous, pre- children figure. The dress had belonged to my great grandmother, so in addition to looking perfect, it was a fitting tribute to my great grandmother Olga, who had loved to dance. She is shown wearing the dress in the photo above.
We took the stage, and began a routine we had worked up for this event. It was set to Pennsylvania 6500, and it was gliding along smoothly. A few steps in, we had the audience on board, and we went to do one of our favorite throws. In this particular move, the man crosses his arms, grabs the woman’s hands and slides her through his legs where his arms untwist, she is thrown up into the air, and lands deftly on her feet, in his arms and in perfect sync with the next step. It is a rush, but actually quite simple. It looks much more impressive than it is, so it is a real crowd pleaser.
Well, when Jake grabbed me for this move, his hands also grabbed my skirt. Before it even happened, I knew exactly what was coming. As he pulled me through his legs, my dress stayed firmly in his grip, and the rest of me shot through with no skirt! My curves saved me from being totally undressed, as the smocked bodice resisted pulling over my ample bosom. He was mortified. I was beet red! Almost every single person who I knew saw this happen. The audience was in stitches. We pulled it together and went on with the show, but I am sure my face was on fire through the very last notes.
The best part was that it had all been video captured, so I got to relive it over and over.
It is a good thing I have a sense of humor.
costume shopping this year, I began to reflect on some of the more interesting outfits I’ve dressed up as over the years. This reflecting led me to haul out the old photo albums, which had a wealth of creative get-ups. Anything this good should be shared, so here you go:
My first Halloween. I am six days shy of one, and I am a clown.
In this shot I am two years old and dressed up as . . .um. . . let’s see. . .I’m wearing a white trashbag and my hair has been styled in anti-gravity tinfoil. I have on more eye make-up than Cher. I look exactly like everybody else from the 80′s, and I have no idea what or who I am. But I am cute, and probably channeling radio stations.
Here I am at three. I am so adorable. This was the year of the polka dot witch. Not only was every inch of my witch hat and dress covered in multicolored polka dots, but what is really fantatsic is my waist length hair spray painted in coordinating polka dots all down the back. I. was. so. proud.
Now, my mother’s fro-like hair? Not a costume. 1984 was a bad year for hair.
Awww, here I am at five or six dressed as Ginda the Good Witch. Once again, I am styled with tinfoil, but this time with just a touch of taste since it is only on the matching wand. The crown is clearly a Burger King tracing job. I thought that shimmery pink dress was the most fabulous dress ever.
These are some of my favorite costumes. Our family had three, a clown, a bat and a pumpkin- all they comprised was a cape and matching hat. So simple, so cute.
This lovely number turned me into a princess. . .the kind of princess who hot glues rhinestones onto her nightgown. Note the really attractive matching blue turtleneck. I did grow up in North Dakota, folks. We usually trick or treated through snow. Once again, someone got all creative with the tin foil. My crown is awesome. I totally have the urge to go tinfoil something right now. Best thing about the photo? It has to be the totally unimpressed look on my face after I just won second place in the nursing home costume contest. I’ve had that look perfected since before the fourth grade!
Ok, seriously, they don’t get any better than this. I am. . .A SLICE OF BREAD! My dad found a huge piece of foam rubber somewhere and he and my mom cut it into a bread shape, cut out the center and a spot for my face and hands. It was, by far, the warmest costume I ever wore, and also the most cumbersome. I could not sit, or go to the bathroom, or get in and out on my own. And when I got knocked over, I stayed flat on my back until some kind person helped me back up.
This clever costume holds the family record of being the absolute best costume we’ve ever come up with. Everyone has worn it, but- I was the first. Note the hole cut into the cardboard “lid”- even with half the board cut away that lid made the wearer so top heavy you couldn’t keep it on for very long. This is what you get to dress up as when your mom is an artist. I totally get my creativity from her.
Nearly all of the missing photographs from Halloween’s during my lifetime, I am dressed as a witch. My borther and sister are stinkin’ adorable, while I am clearly in the awkward, ugly glasses and bad hair phase.
Note the cape. We got a lot of mileage out of that cape. After almost twenty years of dedicated Halloween service at my parent’s house, it moved to my house where my son wore out the last remaining fibers being super heros and Harry Potter. It literally died just about six months ago.
The angel costume. Oh I had a good Halloween that year! What you can’t see about the costume are the four pairs of nylons I have on underneath. It was FREEZING that year.
The best thing about that year was undoubtedly the church Halloween party.
See the angel throwing the pie with deadly aim? That is so me. I learned that year that I have an uncommon talent for pie throwing, and that my accuracy is unmatched. The unfortunate man in the photo? Our bishop.
Oh the fond memories. I took out the entire bishopric in three throws, and kept going back. It was poetic. . .angel pies bishop. I have the dopiest grin on my face right now just thinking about it.
Ok- moving on.
I am a senior in high school in this shot of me dancing at the Halloween dance. Now, this costume was originally created for me in elementary school when I gave a report on Sacajawea. See?
Come Sr year, it was pushing the good girl limits short and I was one hot Sacajawea. That is the closest I have ever come to an adult costume.
Aside from one wild pipi longstocking costume in college, I haven’t dressed up since. Time for that to change, eh?
Yesterday I broke my toe. It is the pinkie toe on my right foot, and this is at least the third time I’ve broken this one.
The first time I was a fourth grader. I walked into my bedroom door and my baby toe was stuck out from my foot at a ninety degree angle. I gritted my teeth and pulled my toe out from my foot and put it back where it belonged. I then soaked it in a sink full of very cold water for about two hours. My mother claims I didn’t tell her this until yesterday.
I did this because I was in my first play, and the thought of missing my hugely important role as a tree in Snow White was more awful then setting my own broken bone. I was the only limping plant in the forest. The show must go on, and here we have proof that I have always been a little cracked.
Yesterday I bashed my foot against the bathroom doorframe. The awful thing about this was not the pain (there was a lot of that) but the sound. This is the first time I’ve heard the snap of one of my bones breaking and I have to say it was similar to, but much worse than the crack of a crunchy bug being squished and the quibbly, wobbly feeling it produced was much more nauseating as well.
A big purple bruise covered about a third of my toe almost immediately. The rest is a shocking shade of pink. It has made walking tricky.
This evening I lanced that foul bruise and all sorts of nasty came out of it, which was satisfyingly disgusting and also wonderful because it relieved much of the pressure that was causing me pain. I can gingerly bend it again, which is a step in the right direction, I’d say.
You may wonder why I didn’t go to the ER for this. You see, there isn’t much you can do for a broken pinkie toe unless it is gnarled and twisted right out of its socket or the bone has come through the skin. This being a simple fracture, all they would do is tell me to ice it, elevate it, keep off it and for heaven’s sake stop walking into doorframes! Since I can do all this myself, it seemed silly to waste another day at the doctors, when I’ve spent so many there lately. ]]>
I have a little sister named Janice. We grew up ignoring each other or trying very hard to get the other in trouble. Or I should say she tried. Janice was an expert at getting me in trouble for doing absolutely nothing. One time she must have been in a bad mood because when I walked by her on the stairs and smiled and patted her shoulder in a very friendly, sisterly manner, she gave me the look of death and walked calmly and deliberately down the stairs. When she reached the bottom step, she smirked at me and then with every ounce of energy she possessed, she screamed bloody murder that I was beating her.
I was severely punished, and yet in awe of her power.
When she was about two years older she made another attempt to get me in hot water by writing on my bedroom door in teal Crayola marker the words, “Leah’s Room”. My mother saw it and she was not pleased. She stared at me, stared at the handwriting and then very quickly realized that it was far too neat to be my ten year old self’s handwriting. It had to belong to my six year old sister. Ha!
Jan and I grew up and right when she turned into an interesting person, I turned into an adult and ran off to college, and then to marriage and motherhood. We spoke on the phone a bit, but not much. I like my sister. We just never had much in common.
Then she turned into an adult and married a Brit and ran away to jolly old England. All it took was the phone calls turning into $20′s a pop and suddenly we just can’t stop calling each other (yes, we both got very reasonable international plans. $2 a minute is INSANE AT&T. This is not the dark ages, this is the 21st century. Calls should be cheap).
All this calling back and forth and e-mailing quickly took my sister and turned her into my best friend, so how lucky was I to have her come all the way from England to visit me? For ten days we played. We went to every scrapbook store in a 60 mile radius. We went to a crop. We saw movies. We went to the temple. We hung out and totally enjoyed each other’s company, and I was so sad to see her go. Why in the world won’t the Air Force station us in England?
It had been three years since we saw each other. That is way too long, and sadly, the reality when you live on different continents and plane tickets are upwards of a grand. I’m still hoping it won’t be that long again.
Luv ya, Sanisi! ]]>
My dad drove me to an early morning seminary class for about four years straight. Every morning we were in the car before six am, usually freezing in the dark of a North Dakota winter. Although it was worth it to make this journey every morning, it wasn't a time for deep conversation. We were tired and the drive was usually spent in a silence that was occasionally broken with the sound of yawning. On this drive were two stoplights and several stop signs, all of which were obeyed with precison by my father who neither speeds nor runs anything with the color red on it.
One dreary morning we were especially sleepy and rather lost in our own half awake thoughts when we approached a stop sign. It said stop and we did. There is no traffic in Fargo North Dakota at 5:55 am. There wasn't a single car on that road, let alone crossing the intersection and yet there we were idling lazily, obeying the bright red stop sign. The trouble was, that sign never turned to go, and so there we sat in an obedient stupor, for about two full minutes before we both looked at each other in slow realization and confusion and then started cracking up.
This is my Dad.
My dad is the kind of man who is 100% reliable. In a world where almost no one’s word is their bond, his still is. He will always do what is right and will always go the extra mile to help someone in need. He is a person who sees a need and fills it, usually without having to be asked. He just does what he can to make improvements and usually never expects anything in return.
He is a man who has served his country, thankfully returning from a year in Iraq, a tour of duty that ended an over 20 year service to the US Military. He lives with the utmost integrity, never afraid to call something as he sees it, and is always ready to humbly, but powerfully defend the truth. He is quick to share his belief in God, but never pushy. He is even quicker to live his belief in the Gospel, which is probably why so many people allow him to share it with them. My dad is everything the world wishes men still were: hardworking, honest, good, able to fix just about anything, faithful to his family and to his God. If every man on Earth was more like my dad, the world would be an infinitely better place for it. As it is, he is a rare gift, and I was blessed to be raised by him.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
We were meeting another friend of mine at Temple Square that day and the plan was for me to go home with her for the next few days. She picked me up and when she asked me how I was I said, “I think I’m engaged.” The time passed in a haze because that was all I could think about.
When I got back to my dorm on Saturday night Chris picked me up and we drove over to his grandparent’s house to catch a late movie. As soon as we opened the door, Grandpa came running with arms wide open and crowed, “Welcome to the family!”
He gave me a big hug while Chris hissed through clenched teeth, “I haven’t asked her yet!”
“You two can’t pull the wool over my eyes! I know what’s going on here!”
Chris looked totally defeated. I just about fell down the stairs from laughing so hard.
The next day Chris was bringing me over for Sunday dinner. I had an inkling that he would propose (I wonder why). We drove past the main entrance to the Manti temple, the place where we both wanted to get married. I expected him to drive up and stop, but he didn’t. The poor guy was trying very hard to be suave and everyone was spoiling his romantic plans. As he passed the main entrance I figured he would drive up the back way, which is exactly what he did. He took me out of the car, sat me on a boulder and proposed asking if I would honor him and his family name and be his wife. Of course I said yes.
He then told me that he knew he better do it before he brought me home for a family dinner or he’d be forced to do it right there in front of everyone, which was true. As soon as we arrived we were bombarded on every side, and the wedding plans began. ]]>
The following week marked spring break, a season in Utah marked by blooming flowers, no classes and people getting engaged so fast it’ll make your head spin. Being an out of state student in a tiny town who had never set foot in Utah before being dropped off there for college, I had nothing to do and no car to do it with. So Chris proposed that he take me up to Temple Square to see the sites and that we spend a few days there.
Because we are very goodie two shoes, straightlaced Mormons, we arranged to have me stay at a friend’s house in Provo while Chris stayed with his friends. The next morning my friend dropped me off at Tyler and Amber’s place where Chris was. Tyler was in class at the time and Chris was in the shower. Amber practically jumped me. She immediately began to assess the depth and future of our then three week old relationship. She asked me if Chris and I had talked about marriage, and I said that we had but not seriously. The conversation then turned to less threatening topics, which was a relief.
The second my husband to be stepped out of the bathroom Amber pounced and giddily said, “Let’s go ring shopping!” Chris and I were shocked. He was wondering what the heck I had told Amber. You see, his ultimate plan had been to ditch me with Amber and go ring shopping with Tyler, but he hadn’t shared that with anyone. It was supposed to be a surprise. I was in shock, but trying not to look like I cared too much either way because I didn’t want to scare him off, but I didn’t want him to think that I was opposed to the idea. Amber gleefully dragged us out the door.
She took us to what is probably the fanciest, most expensive ring store in all of Utah. There wasn’t a ring there that wasn’t set in platinum and I don’t recall seeing anything less than a carat on display. I watched Chris go white reading the $20,000 price tags and I kept thinking, “Isn’t that like a down payment on a house?” Thankfully, it was time to go pick up Tyler from his class, and so we left the ridiculously posh jewelry store.
When we picked up Tyler and explained, much to his surprise, what we were doing, he suggested that he take us to the jewelry shop that he had purchased Amber’s ring in. He drove us to the Orem mall.
A few months earlier I had been at this mall with a guy I dated casually when I had been stopped dead in my tracks by a beautiful wedding dress in a display window. I had no serious relationship at the time and no intention of wedding any time in the near future, but when I saw that dress my heart skipped a beat. I have never been the kind of girl who read through bride magazines and planned lavish fairy tale weddings; I had never had my head turn over a cake or a ring or a dress, but this dress was perfection. It was modest and simple in design, but with intricate details that resembled vintage trim. I was absolutely breathless, and I said, “I hope that dress is around when I get married.” The ring shop Tyler took us to was directly across the hall from this dress shop.
Chris and I began to look at rings. He gravitated toward thicker bands and massive rocks, while I favored much more delicate settings. However, in both of the ring stores we had visited, I didn’t see a single ring that made me want to wear it for the rest of my life. Chris and Tyler were sitting down to talk to the jeweler and he shooed me down to the other end of the store. I sat down in front of a ring display and there it was, the most lovely, delicate setting for a ring that I had ever seen. The engagement and wedding bands intertwined gracefully and the wedding band held four smaller stones around the center engagement stone. The edges twisted between smooth and brushed gold. I asked the sales girl to show the ring to Chris and tell him that I wanted something along these lines. Apparently she knew the look on my face because when she quietly brought the ring to my almost-fiancé she said, “This is it. This is the ring. If it isn’t this ring, she’s not going to say yes.” I didn’t hear what she said, but needless to say, Chris was taken aback! He leaned over toward me and said, “I thought you wanted white gold,” which I did. The jeweler immediately confirmed that he had the same set in white gold, and it was done.
Chris then handed me a five dollar bill and told me to go look around and get something to drink. He did not want the entire surprise spoiled, and I know after what the salesgirl said he didn’t want me there telling him to get a huge diamond!
Kicked out of the store with Amber I decided that I might as well go over to the dress shop and see if that gorgeous wedding gown was still there. It was, and it fit like it was made for me. It really was perfect. I took down the information on the dress for later. How many women can say they tried on their wedding dress while their boyfriend was buying their engagement ring?
Well, we caught up with the guys about a half an hour later. Chris was in shock. He had just emptied his bank account, and his surprise was pretty much ruined. I was very much on edge.
Part 5 Tomorrow! ]]>
Seeing how short he was also brought back a very sharp memory from grade school (one that remains so vivid probably because it is brought up at every family gathering I attend-and a few I don’t, I dare to guess). I was in second grade and we had height and weight day in gym class. It was a big deal to be the biggest or the smallest, the heaviest or the lightest. There was no stigma attached to any label, just the fact that you got to be the “est” of anything was very cool.
Now, the gym teachers were always very careful to give the old lecture on how these results were private and nobody’s business, which, to a room of seven year olds couldn’t have made the information spread faster. Within minutes of the examinations we all swapped numbers until we had everyone in a row, tallest to shortest, fattest to skinniest. Being little kids, we all really wanted to look bigger, so those labeled tallest were, in our eyes, pretty cool. I was no where near the tallest. In fact, I won the opposite award. I was not disappointed though, because I had trumped the others in another way.
I was very, very proud to announce to my parents at the dinner table that night, “I’m the shortest, but I weigh the most!”]]>
My parents put my childhood dog, Lizzy, to sleep yesterday.
She was almost 13 years old and her health was failing; my parents put her down right before things really got bad- so she didn’t really suffer much.
This was seriously the best dog ever. She was a gorgeous English Springer Spaniel who we rescued when her owner died from cancer. She was so friendly and sweet. She slept with me every night when I was a kid- and when I left for college- she didn’t know where to sleep.
She was super protective and loyal to me. Once when my little brother and I were play fighting he lunged at me and she bit him in the butt!
She would also sit at my feet adoringly and listen to me sing whenever I had to practice for a competition. Sometimes she would sing along.
She always cared more about her people than about herself. One time my brother was rollerblading and Lizzie was running around with him and she got hit by a vehicle that just sped away. My little brother freaked out and crashed on his roller blades and Lizzie ran over and checked on him, on a BROKEN FOOT. Even though she was really hurting- she had to make sure he was alright.
My mom says that in the past few weeks Lizzie had looked like she was in pain, and she’s almost completely incontinent. But, every time she thought that you were looking at her she would sit up and look as happy as she could and wag her tail- but when she thought you looked away she would relax, tired and in pain. Her “job” was to make everyone else happy, and she took it seriously.
Yesterday morning, amid all the chaos of Jonas’ birthday party and people coming over, I had the urge to go look at her picture, even though I had no idea that it was her last day. My mom says maybe that was Lizzie’s gentle way of saying, “Remember me.” I know I always will.
I never made homecoming court and I sure as hell wasn’t a cheerleader. I’ve never had the best fashion sense, and my hair, well, it is what it is. I wasn’t rich, and there were a lot of people who were popular who I looked at with a great deal of exasperation. I was more at home chatting with my teachers than my peers, and much more likely to be working at a part time job than attending a football game. I thought pep rallies were a huge waste of precious time. I was not the quintessential definition of popular, so it never occurred to me that I’d qualify until a few weeks before graduation.
It wasn’t until my senior prom, when I was standing in line waiting to show off my dress ( I wore a muumuu because I think most prom dresses are slutty and overpriced) when people who I had never seen before kept coming up to me and complimenting me on my dress and making small talk- small talk using my name and details about me. Small talk that revealed that these people totally knew who I was. I stood there in shock as it hit me, “I’m popular. How weird is this?”
Now, I had always been very involved. I was in show choir, choir, newspaper, drama, AP classes, church classes, lit club and more. I was well known, and generally liked and respected. I dated a nice guy, and I had good friends. Generally, I was nice to people. I guess I was a more visible member of my graduating class then your average student. It made sense that people could recognize me, but it didn’t fail to weird me out.
In the next few weeks I observed and discovered that people, particularly sophomore girls who I didn’t know were divided into two categories.
A) People who liked me and wanted to be my friend and could recall exactly what I’d written in my last newspaper column or the last solo I had in choir, or
B) people who knew all this stuff and hated me because I was dating Jake, who was, unbeknownst to me, the heartthrob of the sophomore class.
I found this information both creepy and hilarious. I can distinctly recall walking by a group of fifteen year old girls, loaded with angst and hatred glaring at me and muttering about how I was dating Jake, and how they despised me. Their immaturity struck me as incredibly funny because neither the guy I was dating or myself were in the least bit pretentious or preoccupied with the high school who’s who. We were far to busy dancing, rehearsing, studying or panicking about AP exams to even notice most of these younger students. It wasn’t snobbery, we were busy. We had better things to do. And so I laughed, and moved on.
I occasionally wonder what these people are doing now, and what they would think if they knew that this, like, so totally popular person spent her morning cleaning up after two adorable children who cracked eggs on the kitchen floor this morning, and then made mac ‘n cheese for lunch. I am still me. I am still busy, and I still fail to notice much outside my immediate circle of concerns. I know I haven’t lived up to the expectations of many who knew me back then. I didn’t grow up to have many educational accolades and a successful career. I grew up to do exactly what I wanted exactly when I wanted to do it, and I have no regrets. I am still me, popular or not. It boils down to the fact that everyone, at some point or another, has to learn to live with themselves, and other’s expectations have to take a backseat to what you need to be happy. It’s a lot easier to live with yourself if you like who you are, and I do. I have plenty of quirks and issues that prove both problematic and entertaining, but on a whole, I like me. Popularity has nothing to do with it.