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Monday, December 14, 2009

Come Light the Menorah

Here I am in the midst of the holiday season and I am remarkably feeling free of the usual holiday stress and guilt. This year I have decided that I don’t really give a hoot about all the decorations and ridiculous shopping that goes along with the season. I usually feel so much pressure about my home and gift shopping that I get a little of the bah humbug thing going.

My house looks good, not great, but I am not doing any more. The Christmas tree is up (yes, this Jewish girl puts up a tree) and a few years ago I created a “Hanukkah Bush”. I am quite proud of the way our family has always celebrated the holiday season. I love the Christmas tree and in our home it has no religious significance – kind of like our jack-o-lanterns on Halloween. Of course, I also believe in Santa Claus and can prove he exists.

One year my adorable three year old son told everyone he knew and many he didn’t that

“Santa is bringing me a Volcano Blaster!”

Everywhere we went he repeated this statement. Now, “Santa” was in quite a panic as it seemed this particular toy was completely unavailable. Hysterical trips to toy stores near and far and loads of phone calls produced nothing. “Santa” was distraught and was certain there was going to be one very disappointed three year old on Christmas morning. About 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, a phone call was received saying that someone had just returned a brand new, unopened “Volcano Blaster. So, of course, “Santa” got right in his sleigh and drove many miles just to make this darling little boy’s wish come true. Ever since that year, I am certain that Santa exists.

Despite my love of Santa and the Christmas tree, I do sometimes get a bit cranky about the abundance of Christmas and the lack of acknowledgement that not everyone celebrates the same way. Last year, I was ordering food at a takeout restaurant in December and they had green rice crispie treats. I asked the takeout server why they were green as I thought they looked pretty disgusting. She looks at me in shock and rolled her eyes at me.

"It's Christmas!!"

“Oh, OK, do you have any blue ones?”

She had no idea what I was talking about and I called her on it. My long suffering husband apologized to her and explained that it was also Hanukkah and blue was a Hanukkah color. The poor girl still had no idea what he was talking about, but accepted his apology on my behalf.

This year, I plan to enjoy all of holidays - candles and tree lights, menorahs and wreaths, latkes and cookies, dreidels and jingle bells. My family will share its traditions with others and we hope you will share yours with us. May everyone have a joy filled season and take advantage of all the festivities that surround you. Senator Orrin Hatch wrote a new Hanukkah song this year and he is quite proud of it. If this man can appreciate other people’s holidays, than I believe anything is possible!!!!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Fighting Words"

I don’t normally read the Sports section of the paper, but this morning the above headline caught my attention. This Saturday was the big rivalry football game here in Utah between the University of Utah and BYU. As with any other local rivalry, fans on both sides feel strongly about their team and often will demonize their opponents. Sports fans can be crazy sometimes. The difference with this rivalry is that like everything else here in Utah, there are religious undertones. BYU is associated with the predominant Mormon culture and Utah fans are considered to be the “others”. This is not necessarily true as there are many avid Utah fans who are LDS and the University of Utah has a large LDS population.

So, why does religion have to play such a big part in this rivalry? Why so much bigotry and ugly rhetoric from both sides? Even in sports, Utah cannot seem to get away from the strong religious divide that exists.

At last years game which took place at Rice Eccles Stadium at the U, BYU quarterback Max Hall’s family was treated horribly. They were verbally attacked and had beer dumped on them. Hall asserts that there were “vile comments personally attacking my wife, my mother, other family members, and our religion.” I find this conduct despicable. I do not blame this young man for being angry. I have been at many football games where wild fans have gotten out of hand and have seen numerous people escorted from stadiums. This bad behavior is not unique to University of Utah – it takes place all over the world at sporting events. I don’t understand it, and solving this odd human activity is a topic for another day.

This year, BYU was victorious and Max Hall obviously felt vindicated. Here is what he said to reporters after the game,

“I don’t like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything….I think the whole university, their fans and their organization, is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don’t respect them, and they deserve to lose.”

As I said, I really do understand his anger, but a bunch of idiotic fans do not represent an entire university. We have had LDS people do and say some extremely cruel things to my family, and believe me I am very angry about it. However, I know they are just disturbed individuals who do not do a very good job representing their faith. I do not and will not hold an entire group responsible for the actions of a few misguided people.

Max Hall’s hate filled words also do not represent his school or his faith well. To Hall’s credit, he has apologized for some of his remarks. The problem is the damage is done. The blogosphere is going crazy with negativity from both sides. The mistrust and anger grows and frankly I am unbelievably tired of it. I wish I could just say - this is just football people, but I know the problem is so much deeper. We will forget about the “Y” vs. the “U” until next year, but the rift in Utah society is a daily struggle. Today, I vow to do my part to value everyone as an individual, regardless of race, religion, gender, and sexual preference. Can you vow to do the same??

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"I'm Talking About Trouble - Right Here in River City"

I am not sure if I have any blog readers left as it has been far too long since I have written. Not to worry, everything is fabulous in my household. My children are great and they both love their new schools. Happy children mean happy parents!!

According to last week’s Salt Lake Tribune there is “trouble” brewing that I think you should know about. The Bold Headline reads “Co-ed dorms spur drinking?” Frankly, I am quite certain almost all college dorms spur drinking so this headline doesn’t surprise me. As I read further all is revealed

BYU researchers suggest mixed dorms are a troubling social experiment.”


A social experiment???

I lived in co-ed dorms in college over thirty years ago. That is one long experiment!!!

A BYU social science professor looked at 500 students at five universities, none of them in Utah, and found that students who lived in co-ed dorms were 2.5 times more likely to binge drink on a weekly basis. Apparently, these BYU researchers also found “greater use of pornography and more permissive attitudes about sex”.

This is a call for further investigation.”

Wow! What are they really worried about?

BYU students are already required to live in single-sex housing. They should be safe from all this “trouble”. Are they suggesting that every university should follow their lead? As a four year resident of Utah, I can tell you the answer is YOU BET THEY ARE.

You see here in Utah everyone is supposed to fall in line with whatever the Mormon Church dictates. For example, just last week the Salt Lake City council passed an ordinance making it illegal to discriminate against gays in employment and housing. They only did so after the Mormon Church gave a nod of approval. For those of you who live elsewhere, this must seem unbelievable and it is!!!

Here is what I know for sure. The real “trouble” here in “river city” is that there are more and more People Like Us in Utah and we have no intention of going along with archaic restrictions on personal rights. I respect BYU and the Mormon Church and hope they continue their traditions at their school and their places of worship. Utah, however, is part of the United States of America where we are guaranteed freedom of and from religion. So please, keep your single sex dorms and your rules. Just don’t believe for a minute that the rest of us will fall in line.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"Whoa...Dream Big!'

I had a lovely lunch last week with my fabulous daughter and a few of her friends. Her life is good and she is very happy. She is thriving at school and enjoys the independence of living on her own. She is challenged in her classes and loves learning in the college environment. Most of all, she loves the freedom to be herself and to express her opinions. Her fellow students come from all over the world. They are democrats, republicans and independents. They are Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Atheists. They are straight and gay. They are a rainbow of colors and backgrounds.

Debate and discussion are encouraged at her university. When students have differing opinions, they are talked about in a civil manner. Ridicule and name calling are not necessary in a place where respect for diversity is the rule of behavior.

I am so proud that she feels comfortable in that type of environment. It confirms that we raised her to be a loving, accepting and open minded human being. In hindsight, our move to Utah helped to strengthen the core values we taught her. It actually showed her exactly what kind of person she did not want to be.

Many of my closet friends are of different faiths and do not share my political beliefs. So what? We care about each other and we know that good people come in all shapes and sizes. My children grew up living that basic truth. Thank goodness they won’t ever settle for all the same! For the many young people who are afraid to branch out and accept others who are different, I say “Whoa…Dream Big!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"There's No Place Like Home"

Last weekend was the LDS General Conference. For those of you living outside of the Beehive State who are not LDS, you have probably never heard of this event. Twice a year, members of LDS church meet in Salt Lake and discuss various topics relevant to the church. These two Sundays, are the only two Sundays all year that members are not required to attend church. Instead, many families gather together and watch the conference on TV.

During General Conference a few years ago, my family went out for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. This restaurant usually gets pretty crowded on a Saturday night. We were enjoying our pasta, when I looked around the dining room and realized the only two men in the restaurant were my husband and son. This seemed a bit strange and we all noted that this must be some sort of “girl’s night out”. Actually, we learned later, that on Saturday evening during Conference weekend there is a “priesthood meeting”. All LDS men and boys over 13 attend.

This, of course, is no big deal. It was just another evening where we realized we were different from most of our neighbors. That happens a lot in a place where the vast majority of people worship the same way. It is probably similar to Baptist communities in the South or Jewish communities in New York. There might be great comfort in living amongst people who are just like you. I wouldn’t know as until I moved to Utah, I have always lived in very diverse communities. Although Utah’s quality of life and beauty make it a nice place to live, I long to return to a place where I dine with all types of people. Everyone gets to decide for themselves which kind of place they want to inhabit. What should be true for all of us is that...
“There is No Place Like Home!”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Lighten Up Francis!"

I love people with a sense of humor. Frankly, being able to laugh at all the things life is bound to throw at you is a great skill. We laugh in our house A LOT!!! We laugh at ourselves and those around us. Dave’s family has a tradition of really teasing those they love. It is considered a sign of affection. Dave loves me loads – hence I am the butt of many jokes. Over the years I have had to develop a thick skin.

That thick skin serves me well. Now, I am not going to lie. I am a sensitive soul who can get her feelings hurt, but within our family I know most of the banter is all in good fun. I guess I have even picked up on this habit, as I do poke fun at things that amuse me, irritate me, or just confuse me. I wish I could do it more often, as when I do, I am a happier person and clearly more fun to be around. Nothing feels better than making someone laugh.

I hope my readers will continue to laugh along with me and put up with my occasional serious side. Next time we feel angry or unpleasant, let’s all just take a moment, breathe, and “Lighten Up Francis!”

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Hello Gorgeous"

I have had a request from a reader to write about the positive aspects of living in Utah. I am happy to do just that. Utah is an unbelievably gorgeous place. The mountains are breathtaking and I never tire of looking at them. They are visible from just about anywhere and we can enjoy them even while sitting outside at our favorite pizza place. The view from my back yard is spectacular and I am thankful every day that I am lucky enough to live surrounded by such beauty.

Our family also prefers the slower pace of life here. It seemed in Northern California, we never had any down time. Sports were seven days a week. The kids had loads more homework and Dave worked and commuted more hours a day. Family has great value here and as a result, we have more time to spend with each other. I know that the Mormon Church has instilled that value in its followers. I love that and am grateful for it.

I have two teenagers and Utah has without a doubt been a safe place to raise them. The issues that face so many teens in our nation are just not as prevalent here in Utah. While I am certain there are teens here that are drinking and doing drugs – my impression is that it is A LOT less. The same goes for teens and sex. I am not so na├»ve to think that some kids aren’t having sex, but not the majority for sure. Peer pressure is to NOT do these things and that has made it easier for my kids. They don’t struggle with “Just Say No” since they are not asked to participate. Their friends are good kids from nice families!!! What kind of parent wouldn’t like that????

So there you have it - despite my frustrations with living in this homogenous state, we have a good quality of life and the natural splendor brings me joy and keeps me sane. From the moment I open my eyes each morning, I see those magnificent mountains and every day I feel like Streisand - “Hello Gorgeous!”

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall..."

Have you ever played the game telephone? Remember, how the first person tells the second person something and the information gets passed around in a circle and usually by the time it gets back to the original person, the information has been totally distorted. My theory is that everyone hears what they want to hear and interprets the exact same thing in a completely different manner. Then, they take their interpretation and actually change the original message.

So it doesn’t surprise me that this has been the case with my blog. Occasionally, I read a comment and think – “Did this person read what I wrote?” Apparently, a couple of readers are determined to make me the “bad guy”. I am OK with this as I know my heart and my actions. I look in the mirror every day and am comfortable with the woman looking back at me. I am not perfect, by any means, but I know that I am kind to everyone and do my best to judge each person as an individual. I have taught these values to my children and as a result they are at ease with themselves and with others who are different.

I have lived in Utah for four years and have found the people here are in general, polite, helpful, and pleasant. However, I have also found many of them to be tremendously judgmental of those outside of their circles. I do believe that this is mostly a result of lack of exposure to people of different faiths, cultures and lifestyles. Like it or not, this has been rough on my family. I don’t get why that offends some people, but it does. Truth is - I don’t care. I tell my story, and you can’t change it to fit what makes you comfortable. You get your own story and I get mine.

So - read at your own risk – if this blog upsets you, it is my guess that is because you may see some of yourself in these recollections. Try this – “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…..”

Looking in the mirror can be frightening if you aren’t comfortable with your own reflection.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Forget About It" Donnie Brasco

A wise friend once told me that a person who is mean and stupid is not worth a single moment of your time. If a person is just mean, you might have a rational discussion by appealing to his or her intellect. If a person is not the sharpest tool in the shed, but kind – you may appeal to his or her heart. Mean and Stupid – “Forget about it!!!!”

So, I haven’t blogged for about a month now. I have been so content with my life that I didn’t feel the need to vent. Amy started college and David started a new high school. They are both blissfully happy and seem to be (at least for now) out from under the pressure cooker they felt last year. Amy loves that she is no longer in the minority and is surrounded with intelligent, open- minded, and diverse people. David is also in a more accepting and diverse school environment. Who knew that a simple change in location could bring about such a shift in our family’s comfort and happiness? That says a lot about living in Draper, Utah. I knew it was oppressive, but the unbelievable lightness in my children’s attitude and demeanor really reveals how miserable they were before.

I am moved to write today because that two by four (Utah Mormon culture) smacked by daughter upside the head. For the umpteenth time, one of her high school friends (if you can really call it a friend) called her a non-practicing Jew. It must make them feel better about their friendship with her to make such an absurd remark. They have the audacity to think because we do not practice our religion in the same manner in which they practice theirs, they can rattle off such a mean and stupid comment. Amy is mortified that she is accused of “just saying she is Jewish because she thinks it is cool.” Seriously, what is wrong with these people?????? Amy and I chatted a long time about this strange place and she feels tremendous relief that she is finally “out of there!” Narrow minds and ignorance no longer hurt her as she now inhabits a place where people can disagree without being disagreeable.

So after our conversation, I was reminded of the words of my dear friend about those people who are mean and stupid. Call us crazy – but this family will stick to people who are kind hearted and intelligent. Thank goodness we know what that looks like - it is part of our culture. So for those of you who fit into the other category – “FORGET ABOUT IT!!!”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"You Can't Handle the Truth!"

Many people have been curious about why I started blogging. The truth is I was going little crazy (evidenced in my last blog), and needed an outlet. I was determined to find a positive way to express my frustrations and since people often laughed when I told them my zany tales, I thought that just maybe I could write the stories down and try and find humor in all my daily encounters with Utah culture.

So, for those of you care, blogging has helped me tremendously. I now see a story almost everywhere and it has been fun and challenging to share those stories with you. I have been pleasantly surprised at how many LDS readers have appreciated how I approach things and have thanked me for giving them an insight into what it feels like to be an outsider. I have also gotten comments from many “PLU’S” who can totally relate to my experiences. I am happy they have found me and look forward to hearing more from them. However, a few readers have not been so enthusiastic. Unfortunately, it seems a few people were offended by my anecdotes. That was certainly never my intention. I just try to be honest about my life and feelings and add a touch of humor to both. I poke fun at myself as much as I do at Utah. I do appreciate all the commentary I am getting – and am pleased it is mostly positive. To those who fail to find any humor or empathy I ask what do you want from me?

“You want answers?”

“I want the truth!”

“You Can’t Handle the Truth!”

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

About six months ago I met my husband, Dave, for lunch at the Gateway. Afterwards, I decided to do a little shopping. Now, I don’t think I have mentioned how much I love shopping. I was raised on the basic principle that:

There isn’t a problem that can’t be solved, if the answer means there is shopping involved!!

So, I am blissfully strolling through the streets… in my element …. thinking there is nothing that could spoil this lovely day. I wander into Brighton and head straight for the jewelry. You cannot imagine the sheer pleasure I get from this display of trinkets. I am trying on an absolutely adorable charm bracelet when this woman in the store decides to LOUDLY share a story about her son leaving on his mission. She literally starts to give a speech about the event. She continues her saga and the two sales people are so entranced they are nearly moved to tears. Since I am the only other person in this very small store, they glance over in my direction waiting for me to join in on the love fest. They clearly can not figure out why I am not captivated by this story and they stare at me as if I were some kind of freak. Really!!! Don’t they notice that I am shopping here? Does religion have to follow me everywhere? Well, this little episode sends me right over the edge. I drop the bracelet, and run out of the store in tears.

Silly? You bet!

Immature? Yep!

Real? Absolutely!!!

I sat on a bench outside of Brighton for about fifteen minutes and sobbed. I felt so sad, alone, and very stupid. Why had I let this loud mouth woman intrude on my delightful shopping excursion? I have nothing against her pride in her son and his mission, but staring at me like I was from Mars was rude and mean. Well…guess what missy? In the words of the handsome and smooth Rhett Butler, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"They're Here"

Today I went to Costco. I would consider this biweekly experience to be fairly mundane. The thing is – and I may have mentioned this before – even mundane things can make me feel like an outsider. Costco in Sandy, Utah looks just like any other Costco ON THE OUTSIDE! Inside is a whole different matter. I shop amidst dozens of large blonde families loading their carts with Dinosaur nuggets, and more milk than my family consumes in a couple of months. I stroll by “modest dresses”, yearly food storage paraphernalia and a special display of LDS artwork. Occasionally I am taken aback by a group of polygamists dressed in stereotypical fashion. So, for those of you living elsewhere this probably doesn’t sound mundane. Your head might just be spinning around not knowing which direction to gawk at first. I am fairly used to it by now. However, today I was specifically struck by the book section. I thought I might share a small sampling of what I saw there. For some reason, I found it particularly attention grabbing.

I actually think a Jewish family handbook might come in handy occasionally, although I am positive my family would not concur.

Not my cup of tea, but OK.

From what I understand it should be made easier, so this should please a lot of people.

Remember in the glossary that Beyond the Veil is the after life. I have some friends that would love this one!

My thoughts exactly!!!

Kind of like the Junior League Cookbook for Mormons.

I admit, I am just teasing about the other books, but seriously this one really ticked me off!!!!!!!!

I'm not sure why I noticed this today. I guess it just seems that no matter where I go or what I do as long as I live in Utah there will always be subtle reminders that “They’re Here!” The truth is, however, the real Poltergeist seems to be me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"A Kiss is Just A Kiss"

Not in Salt Lake City it isn’t!!!!!! For about ten days there has been a serious buzz here in the Beehive State about an innocent kiss on Main Street Plaza. Apparently, two men were walking home from a downtown concert and one put his arm around the other and kissed him on the cheek. An LDS Temple security guard apparently felt that this kiss was “inappropriate behavior” and he asked the men to leave the area. The men got angry and it seems weren’t very nice to the security guard. In the end they were handcuffed and cited for trespassing.

Two weekends in a row there have been “kiss ins” on the plaza in protest of church actions. Can you imagine… dozens of couples – gay and straight – just kissing right out in public? Being from San Francisco I can actually imagine it, but here in Utah the church is outraged – the community is outraged, and the Salt Lake Tribune devotes several articles every day to the incident. Really?????

Where do I begin??? I have so much to say about this event that my head feels like it may EXPLODE! In my humble opinion the LDS church does have the right take this action on their property. I, in turn, have the right to think the church is bigoted and unfair. This kiss was deemed inappropriate only because it was a gay couple doing the kissing. I have seen photos (ad nauseum) of couples just married in the temple kissing in the very same spot these men chose to display a bit of harmless affection. Honestly…. the church doesn’t get why people outside of this state think they are nuts?

Here is a situation to ponder. Two young men show up on MY property and behave in ways I think are extremely inappropriate(telling me their religion is superior to mine) and I ask them nicely to leave. They are upset and they think I am discriminating against them and who they are and they get a bit perturbed. Should I have them handcuffed and arrested for trespassing on my property? Would any of my Mormon friends ever speak to me again? Well, let’s just say I know the answers and so do you. The thing is – it would be within my rights to have them arrested and it would be within the rights of my friends to be angry with me. Missionaries are sacred to them and they don’t deserve to be discriminated against just because I don’t approve of proselytizing. If you are a rational human being, you will realize the same should go for those two men exchanging a kiss on Main Street Plaza. If you don’t approve of this gay couple– fine – but…. having them arrested is gross discrimination. So listen up – church members – if you want respect you just might want to try giving some!! I hold out hope that we can find mutual respect and understanding so that truly “A Kiss is just a Kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, the fundamental things apply….As Time Goes By.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Definitely Not Wearing Any Underwear" Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man

Much controversy exists over secrecy in the Mormon religion. Mormon under garments are particularly mysterious to those of us outside the church. I have often heard these garments referred to as “secret underwear”. Now personally, I think all underwear should be secret. I don’t really want to know what anyone is wearing under their clothing! OK… some of you do – especially if those in question are Megan Fox or Brad Pitt. But really when thinking about your average Joe walking down the street, I hope not. So, why does anyone care that these unattractive bits of clothing are private? I think the answer lies in the fact that outsiders don’t know anything about how, why, or when a person receives these lovely gems. I have actually done some research and am thrilled to share these little bits of garment knowledge with all of you.

There is actually a website called: mormon-underwear .com and here is what it says:

“To millions of Mormons around the world, garments are a special piece of clothing worn as a symbolic gesture of the promises that they have made to God. The garment is always worn under other clothing, next to the skin. For most people who wear it, the garment takes the place of regular underwear. (For this reason, some people refer to the garment as Mormon undergarments or as Mormon underwear. Most LDS prefer simply using the term "garment" instead.)
The garment is directly related to
Mormon temples. It is there that faithful members first receive the garment after individual instruction on what it stands for and how it should be cared for. The garment is worn as part of a special ceremony called the temple endowment. The garment is worn at all times (day and night) by members as a constant reminder of the promises they have made to God in the Temple to be honest and faithful to the commandments of the Lord.”

Wow! Now you know as much as I do. If “temple worthy” Mormons wear these garments at all times then that certainly leaves all kinds of questions that I with limited knowledge cannot answer. You will just have to use your imaginations. As for me and my underwear….I choose to keep them a secret but I can tell you this with regards to the eye-catching numbers pictured above – This California girl is definitely not wearing any underwear!!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

“Go Ahead, Make My Day”

Remember that I wanted this blog to be interactive? I was hoping that all the "PLU'S" would share their stories about life in Utah. I know you are out there and I know you are reading. I run into people every day and hear their stories, so I'm just wondering – why no sharing ? What can I do to encourage you to write? I am not very good at begging, but half the fun is in knowing "People Like Us" are out there and we are not alone in this crazy life. Maybe Dirty Harry had it right. Let's see how his tactics work for encouragement. So….I dare you – "Go Ahead….Make My Day!!!!"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wacky Wednesday

I picked up my friend at Salt Lake airport this Wednesday and it was certainly a uniquely Utah experience. My son and I stood at the bottom of the escalator surrounded by large families waiting for returned missionaries. There were the usual welcome home signs and hordes of people. The unusual part was just how many young men in black suits, conservative ties and Elder badges came down that escalator. Was there a returned missionary convention going on or something? We watched the same scene play out in front of us over and over again. Observing these homecomings made me hug my son too long and too tightly. “Mom…what are you doing???” he complained while trying to pull away from my embrace. I didn’t quite know – I just knew that I don’t even like it when he spends one night away for a sleepover. I told him this and got the typical teenage boy eyeroll. Later, I found out that missionaries usually come home on Wednesdays so there was no convention – it was just a regular Wednesday afternoon for the locals.
By the way, after at least 20 minutes of heartwarming reunions, I finally started to wonder what happened to my friends. I realized then that I was in the wrong terminal. I had gotten so caught up in the joyful homecomings that I didn’t realize I was in the wrong place. You thought I meant the returned missionaries were wacky didn’t you? Nope…. It’s me who wears that label!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oh My What???????

Have I mentioned I’m a Californian? Just kidding I know you know, but I feel the need to say it again and again since I am still shell shocked by my move to Utah. I was raised in the San Fernando Valley, the home of the “Valley girl”. You know, the mall loving teenage girls who spout the phrase “OH MY GOD!!!” , hundreds of times a day. Here in Utah, that phrase is swearing – the equivalent to the “F” word really. Whenever my children and I used this expression we seemed to offend someone. Being very considerate people we tried hard to remove the phrase from our daily language. But the first time I heard someone exclaim, “Oh my heck!” I must admit I laughed my head off. I know that sounds rude, but REALLY, come on now it is funny. I am totally used to it now, but it is a rule in my house never to utter that phrase. If we do, I fear we have transformed into true Utahns and .....WE ARE CALIFORNIANS!!! Did I Mention that?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wasting Away in Mockaritaville

We’ve established that Utah has archaic liquor laws. These are a result of the incredible influence the church has on every aspect of life in Utah. Mormons do not drink – which is just fabulous for them – but I enjoy an occasional cocktail. Once I ordered a margarita at a Mexican restaurant and the waitress asked “Would you like alcohol in it?” WHAT???? Was she deaf, I ordered a margarita – yes I want alcohol – that is kind of the point! Apparently I was wrong, as I just read an article in the Tribune about a new “urbane and trendy” restaurant in Provo that is “heavy on hip and free of booze.” The menu features “mocktails”. Are they crazy????....... Nope, not in Provo they aren’t! Suffice it to say Dave and I will not be frequenting this establishment – no pina-not-a -colada ‘s for us. I am not saying that drinking is hip or chic, but come on – order a cocktail or don’t – either option is fine. But… drinking something that looks like a cocktail and pretending to be hip, trendy or urbane it is just plain Silly!!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Be careful what you ask for!

Amy graduated yesterday and she looked beautiful! Everything went perfectly and we were all so proud. We did have a few laughs beforehand over the possibilities of what to wear under the cap and gown. The humor was provided by the school’s written instructions sent home for guidance on the issue of dress. Here’s the exact wordage:
Dress Code: Sunday Best
Males: conservative slacks, white shirt, tie, dress shoes and socks
Females: modest, conservative dress w/ dress shoes

Sunday Best?... Really???? I do know what they mean, but if we took that literally here is what would happen. Last Sunday Amy sunbathed most of the day in our backyard in her “best” bikini. I thought it was modest, but I have an inkling that’s not what the school had in mind.

In the winter, it is PJ’s all day at our house. We consider them “modest” too, but again probably not what the school envisioned. What would happen if Amy showed up in her “best” bikini or pajamas? That’s a rhetorical question – we all know what would happen.

Public schools shouldn’t assume that everyone does the same thing on Sunday. You know what they say about people who assume. They should be careful what they ask for – sometime they just might get it!!!

Amy was dressed appropriately at her graduation, but it definitely wasn’t in anything she has ever worn on a Sunday!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"I',m mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Network

My son had to miss one of his last soccer games this season. He had a conflict with a band concert at school. In our home, school always comes before sports. So… no problem – right? WRONG!!!! The trouble is the school changed the date because students complained about a conflict with a “temple event”. That’s correct – you heard me. This public school changed an event for an LDS religious function.
There is more and this part really burns me. A few months earlier, my son was elected president of the National Junior Honors Society. We were, of course, very proud. Unfortunately, David was unable to attend the induction ceremonies because the event was scheduled for the first night of Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the Jewish year. When I called the school, they would not even consider changing it and so I let my 14 year old decide what to do that evening. For the record, we are not particularly religious and don’t attend services often. However, my fabulous boy who literally hates going to the synagogue said to me
“Mom… I am not going to the induction ceremony because it is just wrong that they don’t care about anyone other than the Mormons.”
Quite a decision for him to make don’t you think? Anyway, this week when they did change the band concert and he had to miss his soccer game, something important to him, my son’s feelings were confirmed. He doesn’t matter at his school. The principal was very nice when I called him and even admitted the school was wrong, but what is done is done and I seriously doubt any changes will be made in the future. It is pathetic that all students are not valued - no matter where they worship. That is just life in Utah and somedays I feel mad as hell and I don’t think I can take it anymore!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More For Less


When Dave and I went out to dinner in Salt Lake City for the first time, I ordered a cosmopolitan. Our adorable young waiter put a “Polly-Pockets” sized glass in front of me and I just stared at it. Then, I thought, OK, this must be a Utah thing. They let you sample the drink first to make sure you like it. You know, like when you order a bottle of wine. I tasted it, and told the waiter it was fine and he could bring my drink now. He looked straight at me, laughed, and said, “You’re not from Utah are you?” He proceeded to give us a lesson on all of the byzantine Utah liquor laws. I am occasionally cranky about the high cost of my favorite vinos at the state owned liquor store. So my annoyingly wise husband, points out that it is better to live in a state where you pay a little more for your wine and a lot less for your house. Hmm……..the jury is still out on that one!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Return To Sender

My son received this postcard in the mail today. If you need reading glasses like I do, it says

"Present your mission call with this postcard, and get a free tie and $50 off your first order."

Just wondering, did any of you outside of the beehive state get this in your mailbox? Really, I'm not complaining - simply pointing out that there is never a day that I am not reminded where I live and whom I live with. For those of you who didn't get this in your mailbox, I feel the need to fill you in on everything I learned about the "missionary mall"(I will add that term to my glossary).
Here goes:

"Did you know we helped over 16,000 missionaries last year?
That is over half of all missionaries that went out!"
(Nope didn't know that)
"Missionaries have discovered that it's not just the hundreds of dollars we save them when they shop with us before their missions -- it's also the hundreds of dollars they never have to spend replacing their gear in the mission field thanks to our exclusive two year wearproof guarantee."
"If anything wears out on your mission, just send us a picture and we replace the item free of charge."
"Get mission tested gear from our super friendly staff of recently returned missionaries."
(Of course they are super friendly!)
"Future sister missionaries are welcome to use this discount at our sister's store next to the Elder's store."
(Definitely don't want sisters and Elders shopping in the same place - who knows what could happen? Also why is Elder capitalized and not sister?)
To clarify, David does not need a new tie so he will not be going on a mission for the mormon church!
"no such such zone"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Who's That Knocking At My Door?

Two missionaries knocked on my door today. This event, which occurs all too often, has become difficult for me. When I first moved here, and I saw the young men in white shirts and ties standing on my doorstep, I didn’t think twice about shooing them off my porch as quickly as possible. I mean, how dare they, I know where to find their church if I feel the need - for god’s sake they are on every frigging corner. My feeling about the reasons behind their visit is still there, but my feeling towards these young men has changed. You see, my daughter Amy is a senior in high school and so many of her good friends are about to embark on their missionary journey. I cannot separate their faces from the faces of the strangers who continue to knock on my door. These poor kids have been sent to a state where they are either preaching to the choir or extremely resented. And so, I kindly explain to them why I am not interested. I engage them in conversation about where they are from and share my feelings about living in Utah. They always thank me for being nice to them and go on their way to more doors slamming in their faces. I feel a bit sad as they leave and I again see the faces of all the young men I know and have come to care about over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I despise proselytizing and I tell them so. So should you if you feel the same. But… please be kind they are just young men, far from home, and maybe one of Amy’s friends.

Friday, May 15, 2009

" What we've got here is a failure to communicate." Cool Hand Luke

So, we have established that I had difficulty communicating with people in my new home. I also found myself getting lost A LOT! This problem seems silly now that I understand the grid system in Salt Lake City, but I was completely baffled at first. You see, all things in Salt Lake lead to the LDS temple downtown. I guess you could say the temple is "ground zero". Every address is representative of the coordinates north/south and east/west of the temple. An address at 900 East and 10600 South would be 9 blocks east and 106 blocks south of the temple. Here is the problem – the last two zeros are irrelevant, and everyone rattled off these numbers as if I understood. “Turn left at 13th east.” Well, I was at 1300 east and panic set in. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to find streets that didn’t exist. Once I had finally bridged the communication gap, I found the grid system easy to navigate. The fact that every address relates to that building at “ground zero” is a rant I will leave for another day!

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Utah Speak" Part 4 –Will Learn If You Live Here Long Enough

Baptism for Dead – a Mormon practice of baptism for deceased performed in the temple (apparently Barack Obama's mother was baptised last year in a temple in Provo - for the record, I object!)

Beyond the Veil – expression for the spirit world or life after death (this explains a lot about that controversial scene in Big Love)

Celestial Kingdom – Mormons believe this is the highest of three degrees of heaven

Doctrine and Covenants - A volume of Latter-day Saint scripture containing selected revelations given to Joseph Smith and his successors

Endowments – instruction and covenants performed in the Mormon Temple

Fast Sunday – On this Sunday, Church members fast and donate the equivalent cost of meals to the Church to assist the poor and needy

Home Teaching - A Church program in which priesthood holders regularly visit assigned homes of members

Outer Darkness - Mormons believe this is a region totally removed from glory of God, to which Satan and his followers will be consigned (Hell)

Quorum of Twelve - The body of twelve men who, under the direction of the First Presidency, constitute the second-highest presiding quorum of the Church

Scriptures – Mormon scriptures consist of the Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and the King James Bible

Sealing – a temple ordinance joining husband and wife or children and parents for eternity

Testimony – members regularly bear witness that the Mormon Church is the “one and only true Church”

Visiting Teaching - A Church program in which members of the Relief Society are assigned to visit regularly other sisters to give brief instruction and support

Word of Wisdom – Mormon Church’s teachings requiring abstinence from tobacco, alcohol and hot drinks (why is hot cocoa OK?)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Utah Speak" Part 3 - Should Know If You Have Children

Today’s terms are important for those raising children in Utah. My kid’s friends are very busy with church activities. Although Amy and David are never purposely excluded from any of these events, most of their friends attend them so they often feel like outsiders even amongst their peers.

CTR – Choose the Right (often seen on rings and other jewelry)

Family Home Evening - families gather, usually on Monday evening, for family-centered spiritual training and social activities. (My family watches “24” together, does that count?)

Mutual – The Church's auxiliary organization for youth ages twelve through eighteen

Primary - The auxiliary organization in the Church for children from ages eighteen months through eleven years.

Seminary – Weekday religious instruction for secondary school students (In Utah public schools build time for this into the regular school schedule - a pet peeve of mine)

Stake Dance – church sponsored dances for middle school kids

Sunbeam - three year old primary level (thanks Rachel)

Young Men’s/ Young Women’s - The instruction and activity program in the Church for young men or women ages twelve to eighteen

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Utah Speak" Part 2 - Will Learn Quickly

So now that you know the basics, here is a list of words you come to know quickly when you live here in Utah. My definitions come from friends and websites and of course I added my own commentary.

Angel Moroni – Book of Mormon prophet who gave Joseph Smith the gold plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon. His statue tops many Mormon temples (no comment)

Brother – used to address male church members (makes me think of Desmond from Lost)

Calling – invitation to accept an office or assignment

Deseret –Book of Mormon word meaning “honey bee” often used by LDS institutions and businesses

FLDS – Fundamental LDS (Polygamists like the ones in Texas)

General Conference – General assemblies of Church members in Salt Lake City, regularly convened every April and October.

Gentile – non-Mormon (Huh, since when is a nice Jewish girl a gentile?)

Heavenly Father – term for God

Inactive – member of Church who no longer attends services(my “inactive friend hates this word – she claims to exercise regularly)

Jack Mormon – member of Church who attends services, but doesn’t follow all the rules (Has a beer on the weekend)

Molly – really devout Mormon

Pioneer Day - a July 24, celebration of the anniversary of the arrival of the Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake Valley in 1847. (Even most banks are closed in Utah!)

Polygamy - The practice of having more than one wife (like in Big Love, one of my favorite TV shows)

Priesthood – power of God given only to men; boys can receive priesthood at 12 years of age

Relief Society – Adult women’s auxiliary organization

Sacrament – water and bread distributed at ward meeting that symbolize the body and blood of Christ (no wine? Wasn’t one of Jesus’ first miracles changing water to wine?)

Sister – female church members use this to address one another; also a female missionary

Temple Recommend – certificate of worthiness to enter the temple

Tithe – 10% of all gross income donated to the church required to be considered in good standing(no tithe, no temple recommend!)

Years Supply – church leaders encourage members to store a supply of food to sustain life for one year in preparation for an emergency. (Homes in Utah have loads of storage space to accommodate for this practice)

Zion – Utah (What????? I thought Israel was Zion, crazy me!)

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Utah Speak" Part One - The Must Knows

Life in Utah is easier if one can avoid that “village idiot” feeling of which I am so familiar. So, I created a “Utah Speak” Glossary. I am blown away by how many terms I now know that I had NEVER heard before our move. There is a lot to take in, so I offer it to you in parts. Today’s Bit … The Must Knows – if you don’t know these you are lost!

LDS – Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

Ward – Members of a local church in a geographical area (you don’t get to pick where you go to church)

Stake – Group of Wards

Bishop – the religious leader of a ward (your neighbor)

Missionary – single young men and women in their late teens and early twenties assigned to a church mission usually far away from home (not a sexual position)

Elder – title for male missionaries (not an old man)

Temple – sacred LDS buildings where ceremonies are performed for the living and the dead. The temple is off limits to non-Mormons and Mormons without a temple recommend

Temple Square – 10 acre city block in Salt Lake City where the Salt Lake Temple and Tabernacle are located

Book of Mormon – part of the Mormon scriptures

Joseph Smith – founder of the LDS faith and first prophet

Brigham Young – the LDS leader who led the movement to Salt Lake City (Mormon Moses)

Prophet - refers to Joseph Smith or the President of the Mormon Church (Thomas Monson is current prophet)

Deseret –Book of Mormon word meaning “honey bee” (many LDS owned business’ use this term)

DI – Deseret Industries which is like the Goodwill (Funny story – see post on 4/30/09)

Garments – sacred ceremonial undergarments associated with temple covenants (often referred to as secret underwear)

The U – University of Utah

The Y – BYU (Brigham Young University)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dressing Under the Influence

My son, David, signed up for band class in seventh grade. When it came time for the first concert, his band teacher told the students the appropriate attire for this concert was “church clothes”. My son, who has never been shy, lets her know in no uncertain terms that his family does not attend church and that he is not in possession of any “church clothes”. The teacher’s response to this dilemma was to suggest that he go to the “DI” to purchase the proper outfit. My little Californian wondered ALOUD to his teacher, “What does drunk driving have to do with clothes for a band concert?” When I picked him up from school that day he told me he had a crazy band teacher and repeated the story. I didn't know what the “DI” was either, but I was fairly certain that his teacher wasn’t referring to anything alcohol related. I asked around and found out the “DI” was like goodwill. There I was feeling stupid again. I don’t think David’s teacher has ever recovered from the incident, and three years later although he remains in band, I am certain he isn’t one of her favorites.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"And That's All I Have To Say About That." Forrest Gump

So when I take my ninth grade daughter to get registered for school we meet with the school counselor. He was a lovely man who was happy to help us get acquainted with her new school. While figuring out her schedule, he lists a class called “seminary”. “What is that?” we ask. He looked at us a bit confused, but kindly explained that this is religious instruction. WHAT…? AREN’T WE IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL?I didn’t say that aloud, but I was totally baffled. We weren't interested in this course and asked what else was available. Unfortunately, the answer was not much. It seemed almost everyone was taking this seminary course. Well, I have to admit, this REALLY bugs me. I mean, anyone who pulls up my child’s schedule (counselors, teachers, administrators etc.) will know immediately she is not LDS. Our religious affiliation is none of the school’s business! I have nothing against religious instruction, but I just can’t believe that it is factored into the public school day. This small incident made my daughter feel like an outsider from the very first day she set foot in her new school and that made me sad and mad!

And that’s all I have to say about that….

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm starting to feel like the village idiot

If the last post confused you, it may be because you are as unaware as I was that the term “elder” means a returned male missionary usually around 21 years old. Speaking of missionary, I didn’t know that word either. Three weeks after our move, I was shopping in TJMaxx for a gift. I was checking out the men’s cashmere sweaters, when a woman I had never met asked me if I thought the sweater would be an appropriate gift for a missionary. I got a little nervous; I mean... how would I know? Don’t missionaries go to Africa and isn’t cashmere a bit warm for a tropical climate? Turns out she meant a Mormon missionary who can be sent anywhere in the world on a mission. When my husband got home that evening I recollected the incident and emphasized how stupid and uncomfortable it made me feel. He said I shouldn’t feel embarrassed at all, I just should have told her when she asked about a missionary that I didn’t care to comment on other people’s sex lives. My husband is very funny!!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Toto, we are not in Kansas Anymore

My family arrived at SLC airport feeling excited, scared and worn out from emotional goodbyes. As we took in our new surroundings, my eleven year old son turned to me with a confused stare and simply stated, “MOM – There are only white people here.” He has always been an observant little fellow. We noted his comment and moved on. Heading down the escalator towards baggage claim we were bombarded by a large (I mean LARGE) blonde haired family waiting to welcome home their grandpa. They were holding an extremely long banner that read “Welcome Home Elder Jones”. Of course we were drawn to this homecoming as the whole family was brimming over with excitement. Down the escalator strides a handsome YOUNG man and the whole family starts screaming and crying and embracing him. It was heartwarming, but we wondered… where was grandpa? Oh well- weird- we spotted our luggage and started our new life in Utah.