Things to Know Before Moving to Utah

So you’ve been suckered in by the astounding beauty, the majestic mountains and the plethora of frozen yogurt shops. You’ve decided to relocate to The Beehive State (which is an apt motto since everyone here is basically a drone trying to get buzzed). But before you take the leap and immerse yourself in Utah culture, here are some things you need to know:

You will absolutely be approached by representatives from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. First, it will be a formal visit by two spiffy looking young men in cheap suits. Then your neighbors will invite you to various potlucks and family home evening events (which is an entirely different blog). Then two or three older men will turn up on your porch, inviting you to church. These people are either bishops, stake presidents or security alarm salesmen.

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You can purchase alcohol–if you know the secret password and handshake.  Utah’s alcohol rules are created by people who 1) don’t drink, 2) believe drinking alcohol will send you to hell, 3) are unmoved by persuasive arguments and 4) like to wield their self-imposed power in a Donald Trump-like way. (A sober Donald Trump.)

There is no separation of church and state. Any legislative issue in Utah must be (unofficially) approved through The Church (see above). Only when The Church slowly nods its head do legislators take action. It’s also why a bunch of teetotalers run the Dept. of Alcohol Beverage Control.

Statewide, diversity hovers at -2 percent. Strangely enough, the state is becoming well-known for its variety of ethnic foods. Even stranger, these diverse foods are usually created by white men who served missions for The Church in various parts of the world. There is a large population of Mexican and Latin Americans in Utah, who add life and color to the state, but most people don’t acknowledge that bit of info.

The average age for a girl to marry in Utah is 19. Officially, they say it’s 23, but most girls are on their second marriage by then, with two or three kids, and she’s just starting to sell multilevel products to her family.

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(Just a typical Utah wedding.)

There are no professional sports teams in the state. People might argue that the Jazz basketball team is “professional,” but we all know the Utah Jazz is basically a farm team for the rest of the NBA.

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Thankful to Have Been ‘Just a Mom’

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(The creatures who made me a mom.)

For years I was just a mom. When people asked what I did for a living, I’d respond, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom.” Ironically, I was never home. I was shuttling kids to and from softball, swimming, dance, school and the mall. I spent approximately 20 years living in my van – and I wasn’t even homeless.

Being a full-time mom is exhausting. People who’ve never spent 24 hours with small children have no idea how listening to the opening notes of “Sesame Street” for the billionth time can make your ear drums bleed.  

I’d wake up early to enjoy some alone time and hear the shuffling of pajama-footed feet as a toddler waddled into the kitchen and onto my lap where she rested against my chest, smelling like baby shampoo, warm blankets and dreams. I’d put my nose in her hair, inhale that scent and think: remember this.

I’d snuggle with my daughters on the couch with piles of library books. We’d read about hungry caterpillars, wicked witches, Sneetches, wild things and little blue engines. I’d share stories about being kind, wise and brave, and I’d pray those messages would stick.

A favorite activity was making cinnamon rolls, letting the girls bake their own sugar-covered creations. They would be coated with flour, butter and cinnamon, and the same ingredients blanketed the floor, but it was OK. It was cleanable. Memories lasted longer than spilled milk.    

Depending on the day, my girls were princesses, gypsies, cheerleaders or demons. They’d walk down the sidewalk with pink, plastic high-heeled shoes slapping the soles of their feet, or wear queen costumes while racing on Big Wheels, catching the fabric under the wheels until all their dresses had shredded hems.

There were thousands of homework assignments, reading logs and math quizzes. Hundreds of times hearing “My teacher hates me” or “I don’t get it. Explain it again.”

At night, there were bedtime stories, bedtime songs and bedtime prayers; all the rituals kids need to keep their moms around a few more moments; delaying sleep just a little bit longer.

But sleep was never a reprieve. I’d often go from coma-level slumber to caffeine-addict wide awake in five seconds or less, wakened by a cry, and sometimes the undeniably disgusting sound of vomit hitting the sheets or carpet.   

And the next day I’d do it all again.

I was so jealous of my neighbor. She’d go to work each morning dressed in a classy skirt and blazer, looking important and doing important things. She was able to talk to grown-ups all day, and probably didn’t have to tell any co-worker to stop wiping their boogers on the couch.

She didn’t go to bed scraping Play-Doh out of her hair. She didn’t watch Cinderella all day or have to be the Ken doll all the time. I schlepped around the house 24/7 in stained yoga paints and T-shirts, listening to poop jokes and kids telling on each other. 

Because the grass is always greener, maybe she wished she could be a slacker like me, eating cold fish sticks and playing Chutes and Ladders for hours at a time. 

We were far from rich, but we were also far from poor. It was a time when Band-Aids and kisses healed skinned knees, and chocolate chip cookies and hugs mended broken hearts. And even though it was an emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting time, I’m so grateful for my daughters’ childhoods. 

I’m so thankful I was able to play and laugh and love. Even though I was just a mom. 

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Top 5 Ways Star Wars Changed My Life

I was 9 years old when I met Princess Leia. I was instantly smitten. It was 1977 and Star Wars had just hit the big screen, bringing with it top-notch special effects, a kick-butt soundtrack and the Force. I left the theater with a lump in my throat because I wanted it to be real SO MUCH.

Three years later came The Empire Strikes Back, and three years after that, Return of the Jedi. These movies changed my life, not in a geeky way, but in an “I Need To Train As A Jedi and Fight The Dark Side” kind of way. So, yeah. In a geeky way.

Here’s why:

1. Princess Leia–I’d been raised on Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Beautiful princesses who slept while princes fought their battles. But Leia! She was brave and tough and feisty and funny and beautiful and smart–and could shoot a blaster! She flirted with Han Solo and Luke, she spit in Darth Vader’s face–and that hair! For several birthdays, I wished I would wake up as Princess Leia.

leia(Don’t mess with her. She will blast you.)

2. Darth Vader–This dark villain stormed through the Star Wars movies with his own cool theme song. He was so easy to hate. But then he saved Luke! Then Luke tries to save Vader! It was all so complicated. But it taught me that there is no black and white. Behind every horrible person is a layer of anger that comes from fear.

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(He just wanted some quality father/son time.)

3. Plot Twists. Say wha??? Vader is Luke’s father? Leia is Luke’s sister? Lando betrayed his friends? Han Solo is encased in carbonite?? Star Wars was my introduction to unpredictable stories–and I’ve been hooked ever since. Give me a plot with a neck-wrenching twist and I’m a happy camper.

4. There is a Force in the universe. Yeah, I can’t blow up a Death Star with my mind, but I can absolutely impact the world around me–for good or evil. Star Wars taught me that I’m already strong enough, powerful enough and wise enough. I just need a lightsaber.

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(Covering all the bases.)

5. Yoda Wisdom. Yoda is my co-pilot. I wanted to fly to Dagobah and train with him to become a Jedi master. I hear his voice when I’m angry. I see his eyes shut with sadness when I choose the dark side.  Today, I use his lessons in my yoga classes. Now, if I could just learn to levitate . . . .

yodaluminous

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May Movie Previews

The country is experiencing a drought. Not the “Oh, we have no water,” kind of drought; the “Oh, there have been no good movies for months and my brain needs something stimulating, provocative and intelligent to watch before it liquefies and leaks out of my nostrils.” That kind of drought.

The last movie I saw was Furious 7, which was the funnest comedy I’d seen in weeks. If the “dialogue” doesn’t have you rolling in the aisles, the flying car stunts will leave you breathless.

Actual conversation:

Letty: Why didn’t you tell me we were married?

Dominic: You can’t tell someone they love you.

Bwahahahahaha!

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(They do look pretty furious.)

Anyway. With the summer movie season just around the corner, I’ve made some bold predictions for what to expect on the silver screen coming up in May.

May 1–The Avengers: Age of Ultron: Expect lots of latex-wearing, smart-ass superheros battling for truth, justice and billions of dollars at the box office. Hint: there are rumors that the Black Widow and the Hulk become an item. Eww?

May 6–I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story: You mean to tell me Big Bird was a costume?!?!?! My childhood is now officially ruined. Next you’ll tell me that Bert and Ernie aren’t a couple.

May 15–Mad Max: Fury Road: (I’m sensing a lot of anger in movie titles.) Characters in this film race, kill and rage across an apocalyptic landscape. I’m expecting chaos, mayhem, lots of gore–and a bald Charlize Theron!!??

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(Even with no hair, Charlize is drop dead gorgeous. Bitch.)

May 15–Pitch Perfect 2: The movie my husband has waited more than two years for. Perky little Anna Kendrick leads a ragtag assortment of preppy white girls as they battle to the death in a worldwide singing competition.

May 22–Poltergeist: The movie that scared the s*** out of me when I was a kid is back with a reboot to frighten the next generation of children. The movie will include that freakin’ creepy clown, the child-attacking tree, a static-buzzing TV set (brought to you by Time Warner) and a whole new reason for your kids to sleep in your bed for two years.

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(Dammit, mom! I told you there was something in my closet!!)

May 22–Tomorrowland: Because Disney was running low on funds, they decided to make this movie with George Clooney starring as a reclusive inventor who shakes his fist at co-star Britt Robertson, telling her “Come back tomorrow!”

So buy a trough of popcorn and settle in for an interesting May as blockbusters hit the screen.

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Donate Now and Help a Stranger

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What do you do with all the gallons of leftover breast milk your child just won’t drink? You donate it. Yep, joining the ranks of blood banks, hair donation, sperm firms, organ transplants and plasma, you can now donate breast milk. (Well, not me. And probably not most men.)

I guess you just walk into a milk bank (not to be confused with First Security Bank) and they hook you up to the Udderly Eazy Cow Milker 2000. The milk is then stored for preemies or other babies facing a mother’s milk shortage.

This made me wonder. Since I don’t donate blood (eww, needles) and I can’t donate sperm or breast milk, what other things can my body produce that other people might want?

I decided on the following:

  • Sweat: I can strap empty baby food jars under my armpits to catch my sweat because I don’t “glisten,” I sweat like an African elephant. Then I can hand little jars of sweat to those poor women in the gym who wear full make-up, push-up bras and never even glisten while sauntering on the treadmill and talking on their cell phones.
  • Hair oil: One day my hair is just fine. The next day it’s so oily I could barrel it and sell it to third world countries.
  • Leg hair: Each spring I harvest my leg hair. I could possibly bale it and sell it as horse feed. Or learn how to weave it into yarn and make a nice, scratchy blanket.

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(Yep, time to shave.)

  • Fingernails: My nails break so often I should save them and form them into a turtle-esque shell for winter that I can hide in when it gets too cold. And I can paint it bubble gum pink. I could donate a new nail shelter to a homeless person each year.
  • Urine: I could donate my drug-free urine to people caught by surprise in those “random” drug tests at work. But I’m sure this idea is already implemented somewhere.
  • Tears: For drama queens/kings who need more people to cry.
  • Saliva: Suffering from dry mouth? Just take a swig of my donated spit and you’re good to go!
  • Sarcasm: Well, I already donate that enough. In fact, I’m banned from visiting the sarcasm bank anytime during the next year.

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Things Driving Me Crazy Today

Tuesday. The red-headed stepchild of the work week. (No offense to redheads, stepchildren or work days.) If anything can make me insane, it’s Tuesday. Here are the things driving me crazy today:

  • When my hard drive crashes and I have to share a computer with my husband for 2 weeks! Not cool.
  • When cable shows only produce 10 episodes. That’s not a “season” that’s a mini-series, you lazy writers, actors, producers, etc.

Better-Call-Saul1(This is already over?!?!?)

  • Having my hair dryer blow up when I’m getting ready for work.
  • Going to work with wet hair.
  • No one noticing my hair is wet. They just think I styled it with a whisk.
  • Eating a rancid walnut.
  • Getting to work and realizing I left my wallet at home.
  • Not having change at work to purchase a Coke, a handful of Hot Tamales or a bag of Skittles.
  • The way my pee smells after I eat asparagus.
  • Having to untangle my headphones every. single. time.

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  • Wrinkly sheets.
  • Unknowingly trying to use a coupon that expired two days ago.
  • Having the Walmart cashier think you’re a criminal for trying to use an expired coupon.
  • Talking to “service” agents in the customer call center when I need to order recovery disks for my stupid broken computer. I’d rather eat earthworms.
  • Eating earthworms
  • The hypocritical dilemma of loving a delicious steak–but loving animals, too. And hating killing.
  • When I have to re-pierce my right ear lobe every time I wear earrings.
  • That one bird, every day at 6 a.m., singing the same four notes over and over and over and over.

angry

(Yes. Yes, I am.)

You are now free to carry on with your wonderful Tuesday. And by wonderful, I mean not wonderful.

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Ways to Stay Humble During a Book Signing

As all of you have heard (too many times), I recently published a compilation of humor columns surprisingly titled, “Life and Laughter.” Because I now have several cases of books in my garage, I decided to hold a book signing at a local book store* to get rid of several copies of my non-best-selling collection.

But I didn’t want the fame and fortune to go to my head, so I devised several ways to not get carried away with all the fans and adulation. Here are some tips for others in the same literary boat:

  • Burn your forehead with a curling iron the day before the event. This adds an element of humor to your signing as you watch people try not to stare at the 2-inch wide scab above your eyebrow.
  • Remind yourself how fame totally destroyed Susan Boyle. The lady had a freakin’ nervous breakdown! Congratulate yourself on selling only a few books, mostly to family members you paid to be there.

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(This is your brain on fame.)

  • Have your husband keep reminding you that there are still several dozen unsold books sitting in the garage.
  • Be sure to wear white pants, and then spill salsa on them immediately.
  • Arrange for a large zit to appear on your chin the evening before the book signing. Watch people try not to quote Austin Powers as they speak to you whilst buying your book. (Replace “mole” with “zit.”)

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(“…Yes, nice to mole you… MEET you! Nice to meet your mole! Don’t say mole… I said mole.”)

  • Notice how many people walk into the store, glance at your table, shrug their shoulders and go off to purchase “real” books.
  • Make sure people take photos at the event, reminding yourself that you HATE being photographed and that truly successful authors must endure not just cameras but VIDEO cameras. (Uuuuuuurrrrrr. I just had a horrible chill.)
  • Don’t be insulted when people pick up your book, say something like “So, this is your book. Huh.” then put it back down and wander off to look for Ellery Queen** novels.

Thanks to these helpful tips, I survived the book signing with ego in check.

*For readers not familiar with “book stores,” these shops are places people go to buy books. Google “books” for more information.

**Ellery Queen was a fictional detective and mystery writer. Google “Ellery Queen” if you are under the age of 45.

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