Friday, October 21, 2016

The Mangums Take on the Mermaid

In St. George and Z found (one of) my least favorite Disney Princess Stories: The Little Mermaid. 

Yes, the music’s catchy. Yes, she was seen as a spirited and a "doesn't-play-by-the-rules" type of girl…but where I take serious umbrage is how our heroine gives up her voice (HER VOICE!?!) for the chance to persuade a man she’s never even had conversation with  to kiss her based on  “her looks, her pretty face.” 

While I made Z a promise last year she could watch "The Little Mermaid" movie once she had read (or listened to) “The Feminine Mystique,” I did’t say anything about steering clear of the book adaptation. So there I found myself, curled up with my favorite four year old reading the Golden Book/Disney version of “The Little Mermaid” while Holden listened from afar chiming in with comments like “You should fall in love with someone’s personality” and “She should’ve listed to her father.” 

We all recognized that King Tritan destroying all of Ariel's precious dinglehoppers and human treasures did nothing to curb her enthusiasm for the world above. It just made her more upset and less likely to respect her father. (Lesson noted!) But the real gem of the conversation came at the end of the story where Eric and Ariel are pictured post nuptials just three days after meeting with the text “and they were married that day.” 

Even before I could sub out “And they lived happily ever after” with “And they began their life together of shared responsibility and mutual respect,” Holden noted that “you should date someone for three years instead of three days before you marry them;" and Zoë tried to assure me that Ariel hadn’t made a foolish decision saying “Mom, I bet she’s gone to college.”  

Holden fired back smugly: “I don’t think she’s gone to college Zoë. I don’t think she really knows anything.”

Zoë, indignant at such a harsh critique of the the stubborn and headstrong redhead rebuked her brother firmly: “Yes she has Hoe-den! She went to school. She went to Mermaid College and Mermaid school!” 

So that went well. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

It's Mama Suite's Bday! Here's some random stream of consciousness....

My mother has FLOW in parenting.

I look back and my earliest memories of my childhood include snuggling up and having her read books to me before nap time, making playdough from scratch (it was so salty! Not that I ate it…not that I didn’t try), hand made lunchables, and a lot of solo mothering on her part because my Dad traveled so much – especially when we moved to Chicago when I was seven.

I found out later that when we were living in that apartment in Illinois with patio furniture as our first dining table and the green shag carpet that money was tight – apparently our house in Salt Lake hadn’t sold they were covering a mortgage and rent 1500 miles away. But what I mostly remember includes flashbacks of home-made pizzas (my mom made the dough from scratch) and entertaining the LDS missionaries, making loads of Grape Kool-Aid (apparently it best masked the taste of the awful midwest water), and a summer of time in the sun and the swimming pool.

And my mom did it all. Four daughters, away from her family, a husband whose travel schedule (working for a Fortune 50 company) had him retuning home on Friday evenings to pack up and leave again on Sunday afternoon. But I had no idea our lives were anything but perfect.

Before the #HillYes campaign had the market on rad feminist shirts, my homemaker of a mother had the most adorable baby-blue little-girl tee that read “A woman’s place is in the House…and the Senate.” And she was a proud SAHM.

I don’t remember being shuffled from extracurricular to extra-curricular activity until Junior High. Sure, there was the occasional dance class at the rec center, or a softball or soccer team we participated in on a Saturday once in a while, but my childhood was one of school, and milk and cookies when I got home (usually made from scratch or fresh out of the oven) with homework and practicing (more on that later). 

She included us in the tasks of daily life – so I grew up learning how to cook and clean and mow a lawn. I was making myself omelets on Saturday mornings before I was eight; about the same time I started mowing our lawn. (Before I forget, regarding the cooking thing: my kids proudly tout my mother's brownies as the "Best brownies in the world" -- which I believe to be true. Her hommade brownies are incredible. And she's best at making things fro scratch -- we once broke the tip of a kitchen knife trying to cut brownies she tried to make from a box because she was using the time tested methods of how to 'check' baked goods -- and Betty Crockers "just add oil and water" did not cooperate). 

Music was an important part of my childhood. While I was eternally trying to fill up my “Lenny Listener” Suzuki chart (and I was never really good on the violin at all); her passion for music meant I grew up listening to the classic and orchestral music that became something I wanted to make sure I shared with my children early in their youth as well. She taught violin to make extra money -- even driving to Price Utah early on Saturday mornings to add a little extra money to the family's bottom line. We all played the piano too -- which proved to be super helpful when I took up drums in my twenties (post college) and Cicely and I started a garage band when we were living together in St. George. She also has an incredible singing voice and she and my Dad both sang in Skyline's performing choirs. One of the sweet delights of my youth (and to this day, though it hardly ever happens) is hearing my parents sing together -- if you ever get a chance, they do a sweet rendition of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" (aka Pine-Cones & Holly Berries.)

She had four girls to take care of—and part of that was pink curlers on Saturday nights, for Sunday best the next morning at church.

I think about our house on Gary Road in the cove, when I’d come home from volleyball practice to the rich scents of sugars boiling and sauces simmering. The humidity seeping upstairs, and I’d venture down the stairs to see the basement filled with the matriarchs of our family: peeling slicing and chopping…the whole family room had been turned into a cannery – peaches, tomatoes, grapejuice and the like. There was no purchasing of food storage: this was the preparation for the coming cool season. And their fearless leader: my mother.

I watched her care for her own mother – my grandma, and my Dad’s mom if she was her own. It would take numerous novellas to details the countless acts of service: from meal preparation, to being my grandma’s house-call “beautician” and personal chauffer.

As we got older, and sports became the focal point of our family time: she’d pack dinners to eat on Monday evenings when we had Rec tournaments for junior high. In high school, prep for swim team early mornings meant my mom was often up before 5: packing a lunch for me and Cassandra, plus a snack AND a breakfast to go since practice started before 6am.

Some mornings she’d surprise up with home made cinnamon rolls (was she up at 3 am those mornings or did she just never go to bed the night before?)

She (along with our Dad) would cheer us on in all our sports: track, basketball, volleyball, swim meets and water polo games.

She helped with campaign posters for student body elections and drove across the country with me when I was attending school in Indiana. She’d send me care packages at college – CD’s of the MoTab (which I absolutely loved, being at an evangelical Christian college where I longed to feel more connection to the religion of my youth), helped me relocate to Fresno as a flight attendant.

I spent my 21st birthday with my parents in Indiana: we at dinner at Texas Roadhouse, and all just chuckled when the foodserver assumed I’d be getting’ my drink on later that night.

It’s baffling to think about the money they spent on all four of us: beyond the normal costs associated with raising four daughters in Olympus Cove on the east-side of Salt Lake – there were club volleyball dues, travel to tournaments (which they never missed) and then Celeste and I both played volleyball out of state in college. They’d travel to see us play then too!

I took way to much for granted from my mother—my whole life.

Her aspirations for a career never seemed to come into play. It’s like she always wanted to be a mom and was gifted and brilliant at it. Her expertise actually was cause for some serious anxiety in my own life, because while I admit I work hard at motherhood – it does not come easy or naturally for me.

I remember feeling so relieved when she told me she imagined I’d be like the commercial of the lady on the conference call who hangs up, looks down and begins speaking ‘motherease’ to the baby next to her; and she’s actually killing it as a WAHM.

I’m thankful that she gave me permission to follow my heart and continue to work. Truth be told, I am much better at drafting press releases and statements for Crisis Communications than I am at say, giving birth or breast-feeding a first born. But somehow, with her help and support I have muddled through.

I have always admired her faith and testimony. I wish I had her spiritual gift of belief.

And although she’s way too critical of her own body (which, for the record has always been bangin’), I think she gave us permission to own our bodies and our sexuality. I’m grateful for conversations early on (much different from what I was hearing about at church); that helped me understand that sex was not something to be feared – but to look forward to. How awesome is that!?!?

I could go on and on. Her work in the Relief Society, what an awesome grandma she is and all the service she provides to me.... 

Possibly most important is that I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her, and I don’t want to ever find out. She has always been my best friend, my confidant, my sounding board, my cheerleader, my example and a huge pillar of strength in my life.

Happy Birthday Mom.

Thanks (and curse you) for making it motherhood look so easy.

I love you,


*obviously your favorite daughter,

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Decade with Danny (aka Happy Anniversary to me, us.)

August 1, 2006 Danny Mangum and I married. Here are some thoughts I recorded last night before bed:

Ten years ago this evening I was trying to get myself to settle into bed, when I received a call from my fiancé’s mom.
“Have you heard from Danny?” She asked, in a panic.
“No why? Is everything ok?” I asked, mildly freaking out when she said, “He’s been jumped!”

My body went into a mild panic attack before I realized she meant that his friends had kidnapped him for one last night of guy-fun; but my brain had gone to worst-case-scenario regardless.

Fast forward ten years later. My husband is in the garage of my parent’s second home in Southern Utah, putting tie-downs on a bedframe we’re relocating to our place in Salt Lake (which also happens to be the house he grew up in) as I finish up a press release for work.

We spent three hours of the day at Mormon Church in St. George – which is often different than our Salt Lake experience. This “ward” we attend down here seems to always come with a few surprises… like today when the Relief Society teacher was talking about the current political and social climate declared: “It makes me just think we should all get our guns and our year supply and head up to the cabin in the mountains!” She also admitted to spending five hours on Candy Crush at some point, so I wasn’t sure we had loads in common.

This is the same place (ward) where almost 20 years ago a Sunday School teacher spent a good portion of his class trying to make the case that Cain and Bigfoot were the same person. So, I know I’m always in for a treat when we hit up church down here.

Aprés church, the afternoon was spent napping and watching a Harry Potter Marathon – because it’s his birthday weekend and all. Tomorrow we celebrate our family’s birthday – at a musical (Mary Poppins), in Cedar City. Though next month we head to Cancun, for celebrating just “us.”

In the ten years we’ve been married, we’ve lived downtown, and in (one of) the houses of my youth and the house of his. We’ve given birth to two awesome kids – now four and seven. We’ve traveled to Florida & France, Sun Valley & Switzerland; Mexico and Massachusetts, Hawaii and… plenty of other places.

We’ve lost grandparents, and watched our siblings struggle with really hard life experiences. We’ve struggled in our marriage, but found a way to fall in love deeper and stronger than ever before. We’ve looked for ways to understand one another and figured out how to better fill one another’s cups.

We’ve gone to yoga classes, and Crossfit and run races like Ragnar and half-marathons together. We’ve gotten chubby on plenty of occasions and on less of those occasions we’ve lost some weight too.

We’ve enjoyed amazing meals and friendships and laughed so hard it felt like our bodies had been possessed. (And it felt amazing).

We’ve talked about our dreams and fantasies… and some of those have been created into reality and some we’re still working on. We’ve played out various manners of the hypothetical and started to prepare for the worst, even though we’re really hoping for the best.

We’ve asked questions about the future, and the eternities – philosophy and religion. (Well, maybe one of us has asked more of those questions – but the other person has been super supportive of the whole process.)

Sure it’s cliché, but somehow the decade gone by seems like it was just a few months ago…and there’s another piece to the puzzle -- we that can’t remember life without one another.

Danny, you are the leveling force in my life. When I lose faith or hope, I always feel safe putting it in you until the storm passes. Thanks for your patience with me, loving me unconditionally and for starting the journey with me. Thanks for loving me mind, body and soul. Like Ben Folds reminds us: “I am the luckiest.”

Happy Anniversary Cher Danny. Ten down, eternity to go (and I wouldn’t have it any other way.)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Love : Heal : Declutter : Run - 2016 Intention Update

I know people say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions... but I think they're mostly of the religious orthodoxy set and I'm a MormonYogi so I'm pretty certain I get a pass from the couple upstairs.

Around December I decided that this was the year I was NOT going to set a weightloss goal. Because even if I made it, there was a possibility I would "un-make" it and that just leads to trauma. We could get into more of the back story, but I think it 'sufficeth' to say I wanted to take a different approach to personal growth and well-being in 2016.

2015 was plagued with injury and stuff. I wanted to be done with the stuff--and the injuries so one day it came to: "Just pick a mantra." And then I built on that, and instead of a word or a phrase I picked four words I wanted to infuse my life with: "LOVE, HEAL, DECLUTTER, RUN."

So here we are, about a third of the way into the year, and I think I'm due for an update.

What I wanted was to love my family more. Love God more. Love my body more. And it's been happening. We got a little gold bell in the kitchen that I ring as opposed to yelling for my children to "come." Call it old-school Pavlovian response -- but there's something different about our home when I'm patient in the mornings -- and the act of NOT raising my voice, helps immensely with that. I've also tried to just enjoy the time we're in. My kids are growing up -- they're getting more independent and life seems a lot easier to manage with them, but I don't want to fall prey to wishing they'd stay young. I'm really trying to enjoy "this" phase. Right here, and right now. It doesn't always happen, but I'm definitely trying to be mindful of it.

Danny and I have continued with our quarterly couple trips -- anywhere from a night away to a week. We had a wonderful trip to Ventura California last quarter and will be heading to Indianapolis for a work trip (his work, not mine but I get to tag along) and then to Cancun in September to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.

As far as my body -- that one has been a little more challenging. With my Plantar Fasciitis (PF) reaching an all time low in 2015, working out was not a priority and running was completely off the table. Even yoga and riding a bike was painful. Take that coupled with my love of sugar and chocolate chip cookies and there's going to be a few more layers of me to love.

Loving whatever skin I'm in is not an easy thing for me. But I try to continue to remind myself that my body can do amazing things and to practice gratitude for this skin I'm in. Reading more about intersectional feminism has played a huge role in shifting my framing and recognizing that #AllBodiesAreGoodBodies. And when I look for the beauty in all those around me, it's easier to see it in myself.

I set out at the beginning of the year to heal my heel and foot pain. The physical changes in my PF have come from lots of hot yoga (ideally four classes minimum a week), rolling out with a Yoga TuneUp or racquetball and getting deep tissue release done using the Lokte Method.

But what I've also realized this year is that the foot pain is a symptom, not just the problem. There's a lot of healing that's needed to happen within my religion (I'm talking to you Horrid month of November). I think belief is something that ebbs and flows -- and while I can't deny a personal connection to God, it's easy for me to see that there is Truth all around.

Healing my relationship with Divinity has been a major player in my year. Sometimes I feel like I'm best off treating the LDS Religion like a LeLeche League or AA meeting where they start with the disclaimer: "Take what works and leave the rest." I recognize that to many of my brothers and sisters in the faith will think I soundlike I'm not staying in "The Ole' Ship Zion"... but I'm a PostModern-Feminist member of the Faith... I'm not really fitting into anyone's paradigm with my belief system -- nor do I aspire to.

The good news is, as my philosophical foundation shifts and moves to something more tolerable and less painful (just letting go of all the cognitive dissonance is a real key), I'm feeling more grounded. And with that comes more healing in my body's foundation -- my feet.

I think part of the healing processes has come with decluttering -- physically and emotionally letting go of things that are no longer of benefit (or as the KonMari method would say "Only hold onto things that bring you joy.") The truth is, there is plenty in the LDS Faith that still brings me joy. And plenty to believe in (plenty to let go of as well -- wink, wink) and that has been the key.

As far as the actual physical stuff, I bought the book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" after multiple recommendations from friends and it has been a wonderful blueprint to get rid of stuff. More than 30 bags and boxes of "STUFF" has been sent to the Road Home, a friend, the recycle bin or in some cases the trash. What a wonderful feeling!

This one's a little harder. We had signed up for the Ogden Half Marathon last year and it's just two weeks away. While I started the year with some mornings where I couldn't even walk -- I have managed to get in multiple 2-3 mile runs (ok, jogging really) which sounds like nothing when I remind myself before Z was born I used to run 30-40 miles a week. But I guess everyone starts somewhere. I don't think I'll run the 1/2 marathon -- it's now only a week and a half out, and although it's more than likely I'll finish, I still need a couple of recovery days just for the shorter runs. I'd like to take it slow and start up again when I'm a little more on the up-and-up. But it's progress.

And 2016 is all about the journey -- not the destination.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

This weekend, and what didn’t show up on my iPhone...

 Getting a late start on our road trip to Upstate Utah – but stopping in Ogden for beignets and waffles at Pig in a Jelly Jar on Historic 25th Street, and then heading to Scruds for milkshakes where Holden climbed up to the bar and proclaimed: “We’re not here for beers or alcohols!”

I didn’t snap a photo of the kids arranging flowers for their two “Greats” and Grandma Stevie, or cuddling with Holden in his bottom bunk-bed as we whispered Math Facts into the darkness.

We ate meals around a giant table with four generations present and I watched Holden escort his Great Grandmother to the table and then (with no prompting from adults) watched him pull out her chair kindly and proudly.

She later would tell him about her Mother driving a car pregnant – and he would listen… and then later in a quiet moment to her reflect and remark “It must be hard having your husband gone.”

Zoë would make pictures for the Greats – with pictures of pianos, soccer, and flowers with petals leaves and pollen.

We would jump on the new trampoline – play ‘crack the egg’ and roast smores on the gas fire pit at “The Barn.”  We found pauses in the rain to shoot hoops and walk along the river with Danny’s parents while the kids rode bikes and stopped to look at a tree, a poinecone, smell some flowers or in Holden’s case – discover a snake.

When we stopped at the park he was convinced he found tadpoles – his Grandma and I thought they were a lichen on the river’s rocks, but on closer inspection they were actually some form of worm.

We made it back to The Barn. Holden leading the way and not complaining once about hauling his bike up the hill.

The rain would return but  that wouldn’t stop Zoë from her time on the tramp. At one point, the kids jumped nonstop for almost an hour.

We cuddled. We read stories. Holden started The Jungle Book with his Grandma while I finally got a shower. Danny tried to watch baseball. We all had naps – except Holden. He worked on art projects and spent time drawing comic books and working on art projects.

Stevie and I moved in synchronicity on food prep. Some how bobbing and weaving but not having to say much to one another and she mastered  the grill and we produced massive amounts of food for another meal before catching the Derby race.

The next morning Danny presented me with a flowery card that included purple butterflies. I saw it an immediately knew he had;t picked it out. “Where did you get this card?” I said, chuckling. “Zoë insisted you loved purple butterflies,” he said. He didn’t have to, but I loved we were both in on a secret joke – that was more sweet than silly.

We’d head to Snowbasin for brunch with 15 other family members. And still, I didn’t have my phone for pictures. I was just still taking it all in.

On the ride home, the Great Gradmas would join us, and before the kids settled into games on their electronic devices, Holden suggested we play the “Movie Game” where we’d recite lines from films and the rest of the car members would try to guess where they came from.

After that, the Greats shared a bit about what life was like before television – or even radios in Marion’s case. Holden wanted to know what football was like in Barbara’s (“G.G’s”) day and the most popular sports that Marion (“Nana”) enjoyed.

I thought a lot about my own Mother over the weekend (who is traveling overseas.) I thought about my Grandmas and my sisters. 

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes I also think, it’s better to leave the camera-phone behind.

Monday, February 1, 2016

An Open Letter to Holden on your Seventh Birthday

Holden, at just past 6pm this evening, you’ll officially be seven. Thanks for making me a Mom

I don’t want to tell you to stop growing up, because I am (doing my best) to enjoy the journey as it is happening.  And like a fine wine (apparently), you get better with age.

Things that you have enjoyed doing this past year:
  • Starting sewing class – you gave up on patterns early and now primairly use the time to just come up with your own creations
  • Playing baseball – coach pitch. You love to hit. (Playing defense is coming…)
  • Getting into sports – finally you’re excited about attending a sports event with your Dad, and it’s not JUST about the Dippin’ Dots.
  • Starting first grade – you are LOVING all the studies in zoology, geography, botany, history… I’m especially loving that you hold your teachers in such high regard. They are some seriously SMART women.
  • Learning Spanish and German at school – you prefer German.

Things I am so appreciative about you:
  • Your sense of humor. Holden, you make us laugh. You have been saying hilarious and insightful things since you started talking… which didn’t happen much until you turned three, and then the flood gates were opened!
  • Your questions. Even though there’s been some hard ones (the physiology behind where Jesus came from is always one that comes to mind) and how you just have an indefatigable thirst for knowledge and answers that cannot be quenched.
  • Your patience. You are so patient with Zoë. She looks up to you so much, and wants to be with you and like and is still convinced she is going to marry you. (I know you keep telling her it’s illegal, and eventually she’ll catch on).
  • Your creativity. You still spend hours in your art room, making books and pictures – “video games” that actually require no electricity or internet – just our imagination. Or building cities, planets and entire worlds with Legos. I hope you never stop creating.
  • Your heart. Hugging me, befriending those who need it. Saving the whales. #BlackLivesMatter, using “less petrol,” and on and on.
  • Your Feminism. (Seriously, SO proud!) We saw ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and your biggest concern was how Petruchio was treating Katherina, “No man should treat his wife that way.” You ask questions about equality and bust gender norms (hello, amazing gold sparkle shoes). And you want to vote for Hillary Clinton. I chuckle as I write this because your future partner is a lucky person (also remember, no serious dating until college).

Things I hope for you:

  •  That when the grown-ups ask "what do you want to be?" that you respond in one of to ways: “Happy,” or “I already am."
  • That you’ll reconsider trying to grow a “fro” and embrace the power of the man-bun.

Happy Birthday Buddy.