10 by 10 — Carson’s First Decade

Carson is the air-borne dancer who was born on October 11, 2003. (Photo taken at Deerfield Elementary)

My middlest of children turned 10 today. He’s two full hands of memories, laughs, tears and sports trivia. Here are my top 10 Carsonisms. Carson’s life started in dramatic fashion — arriving via emergency c-section after a prolapsed cord had doctors and nurses go from bedside manner to frantic bedside mutter. They knocked me out promptly so they could save his life, and later I woke up to an empty womb and an empty room. I questioned the nurse who walked by, “Did I have my baby? Was it a boy? Is he OK?” I didn’t get to see the 7-pound-8-ounce wonder for several hours, but when I did it was love at first cuddle. Carson is almost exactly six years younger than his only brother, and the two of them share a room, a sock collection and a love for ESPN. Carson scores when he’s part of Nathan’s social circle, but to keep his party invitation current, Carson buys the teenage boys snocones and makes them laugh. He came up with his own nickname — pronounced CAWson — and the older boys roar when they say it.

Carson talked us into taking a detour on our DC trip to see BYU play in Madison Square Garden.

Several months ago, Carson set a daily reminder on my phone that simply says “I’m awesome” every night at precisely 10 p.m. Whether this means he is awesome or I am awesome is beside the point. Every night, I have a mini-Carson-lovefest when I hear the bing. I will never delete. Without my knowledge, Carson joined Instagram as jimmer006. Then he also created an account for Deerfield Eagles (his elementary). He described it as “the official Instagram of Deerfield Elementary.” When I found out about his social media frenzy, I gave him a little lesson on asking permission and a vocab lesson on the meaning of “official.” Then I flipped through his posts, which included screen shots of faculty, reminders of class list postings and a photo of an art winner. This boy has a future in the communications world. He’s obviously kinda awesome (at 10 p.m. and around the clock). Carson succeeds at sibling-ry. He makes Nathan’s friends laugh, he finds all of Hailey’s lost items, he makes Lindsey’s lunches so they won’t be late for school (tardiness is not an option for him), and he teaches Lola what the fox says. In short, Carson is our go-to guy. “Carson, will you bring up syrup from the storage room?” “Carson, will you check the mail?” “Carson, will you find my phone?” “Carson, will you remind me to put a reminder on your future phone to remind you that you’re awesome?” Carson loves, breathes, eats and dribbles sports. My husband and teenage son both turn to Carson for sports schedules, quotes, stats and stations. Carson is as true blue as they come. Rise and shout! Carson’s favorite teams are out. When Jimmer and company eliminated themselves from the NCAA tournament, Carson cried. Real tears. I cried watching him — even though Carson’s admiration of Jimmer has cost me a pretty penny. We must purchase every book, DVD, T-shirt and camp admission with Jimmer’s name on it. Which makes Halloween pretty easy. “Which Jimmer jersey are you wearing this year, bud?” When Carson learned about Jimmer’s contract as a youngster declaring that he would play in the NBA, he made his own contract and tacked it on his upstairs bedroom wall. Carson’s goal was to play in the MBA, but whatever.

Carson (left) wears this Jimmer shirt whenever it is clean. He and his siblings met Riley Nelson together.

Our family’s financial strategy includes paying our kids allowance each summer and then they must use it to budget and buy their school clothes. Carson decided his dresser was full, so he elected to spend his money on a Saints toaster — it burns the New Orleans Saints logo on the sides of the bread. When the first day of school came, he simply pulled on an old Jimmer T-shirt and smiled for my camera. But at least he had some impressive toast for breakfast. A few days before Lola was born in March 2012, I was in and out of sleep on the couch trying to manage pre-labor. Carson didn’t want the family to go hungry, so he logged onto Dominoes.com and ordered five pizzas. FIVE pizzas!! Without a coupon!! I “came to” in time to hear the delivery man at the door bring our $82 dinner. Carson loves the Homestead and wanted to spend his 10th birthday in Midway with his Grandpa Bennett who was born on the same day 57 years earlier. Carson smiled all day as we swam in the crater, tossed a frisbee on the leaf-strewn grass and ate ourselves silly. With his mile-long lashes batting, he declared, “This is the best birthday ever!” That’s my CAWson.

Carson (front left) loves to swim in the crater at the Homestead. We love him for it!

When Carson graduated from crib life, he would often toddle out of bed and run to my bedside in the middle of the night. He wanted in, and how could I deny him? This cuddly boy put a smile on my sleepy face each time, and even now he still loves sitting close while we read a book, watch a game or talk about what to post on his now-unofficial Deerfield Instagram.Happy birthday to my awesome, official, Jimmer-loving, mail-retrieving, eyelash-batting third child!

I love going on adventures with my Carson — rain or shine or snow! He’s always up for family time.


13 Things to Know About My 13-Year-Old Daughter

I’ve been describing Hailey as a teenager for a long time, but today the calendar finally agrees with me. Here are a baker’s dozen things to know about my oldest daughter. At 9 pounds, she was my biggest baby. In fact, she broke her collar bone on her rush to get here — which broke my 25-year-old heart. Now that I’ve known Hailey for 13 years, it’s obvious to me she tipped the scales to accommodate the size of her heart. She gives coins to the homeless, thinks every toddler she sees is “the cutest,” and cries at movies that involve animals or Captain America. Hailey wishes her full name was Hailey Belle Bennett. (She asked for a legal name change as a birthday present.) We don’t name our children until we meet them, and then we write a short list on the hospital white board. On March 15, 2000, our list included Hailey, Hallie and Belle. The latter was the one we used most often in utero, even though Grandpa Bennett said it was a “cow name.” (He used to own a dairy farm.) In the end, we leaned away from the risky and simply wrote down Hailey Bennett on the birth certificate. But Belle stuck as an honorary middle name. “Good morning, Hailey Belle!” “Hailey Belle, you can only put on one play per family party!” “Will you finally try your very first hamburger, Hailey Belle?” (The last one happened last week.) Yes, Hailey’s menu is short. She doesn’t put sauce on her noodles. She dines on peanuts and fries at Five Guys Burgers. When we go to Cafe Rio, she ONLY orders a side of steak in a styrofoam dish. (Believe me, I’ve told her hamburger and steak come from the same animal. She doesn’t care.) One of Hailey’s nicknames is “Lashes.” She has incredibly long eyelashes and has a future in mascara modeling but not sunglasses modeling. The lashes get stuck as she blinks. A few days ago, we took a call from her principal at Mountain Ridge Junior High. That’s never good. But never say never because Mr. Whitaker was calling to say Hailey has been selected as THE 7th grade girl from her school to receive the “Great Kid” award from the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce. She’ll receive the honor at a banquet next month, and I’m thinking about switching my business cards to say “Hailey’s mom” — my true claim to fame. Hailey is never afraid to host a party. (This did not come from my genetic code.) On the last day of fifth grade, Hailey told her entire grade she was hosting a party at the park down the street. She told me the news right before friends were to arrive. My non-party self flew into panic mode. What will you serve — are they expecting lunch? Will kids need rides? Have you reserved the pavilion? What’s the itinerary? What supplies are needed? Hailey hadn’t thought of any of these questions and didn’t want to be bothered by the details. Parents began pulling up and asking me questions about the shindig, which left me shaking in my non-party shoes and muttering to Hailey. Luckily she didn’t listen and continues to throw events together at the last minute. A non-stressed host equals non-stressed attendees. (But not a non-stressed parent, I must admit.)7) Hailey is a drama queen, but not the kind they make movies about. Rather, she wants to star on the big screen. When she was nursery age, one of our favorite party tricks was to ask Hailey to: “Show us surprised! Show us sad. Show us angry! Show us shy. Show us excited!” Her eyes and body language told the story, and everyone in the room showed us “entertained.” Hailey has been in the children’s version of “The Christmas Carol” at Hale Center Theater Orem for four years. She also played Captain Hook in her elementary school’s production of “Peter Pan.” When she was 11, she insisted on riding a shuttle home from Yellowstone so she wouldn’t miss a performance. She loves being center stage and center of attention, and she centers her future plans on the word “Broadway.” Hailey takes voice lessons and used to take piano lessons. When she was 4, she also took violin lessons — mostly to fulfill a dream I have of playing the strings. We practiced, cried, begged and struggled for a handful of months before she stood up at her first violin recital and played just two lines of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” We quit the next day.9) What Hailey hasn’t given up is her love of creating. She has a whole line of Duct Tape products, including shoes, hats, belts, wallets and accessories. My older sister hired Hailey to teach Duct Tape crafts to her elementary class, and Rachelle’s students asked her back for an encore. Hailey also owns the only sewing machine in the house and attends craft fairs and paper-making classes with Aunt Diana. Hailey doesn’t ask for my help on creative school projects because she doesn’t want me to mess it up with questions and details.10) We call Hailey a triplet because two other Bennett cousins were born within three weeks. She was the first to arrive and is still the tallest of the bunch. The triplets shared a birth announcement and a baptism. If anyone can coordinate a three-way high school graduation across state lines, it might be Hailey. Check back in five years. What?? Five years??11) For seven years, Hailey left daily notes on my pillow and annually asked Santa for a puppy. I was adamant we were a furless home. She made more promises and tearful requests. She would bathe him, walk him, love him, feed him and clean up after him when she fed him too much bacon. For her 9th birthday, I had a moment of weakness — or some might say love — and we surprised her with a toy poodle. Hailey has kept every promise and gets emotional when I threaten to give him away. (I’m still not groomed to prefer fur.)Hailey has always had strong opinions about what she wears. Right now she loves bright colors and unique designs. When she was younger, she went through a “pink sweat pants” phase and a “dresses or skirts only” phase. I trust her fashion sense and often have her help me pick between “belt or no belt” or “boots or flats.” I picture her working at Dear Lizzie one day and confidently helping women put outfits together. But I might not let her work there because I’ll want her confidently designing ads, writing articles or selling for our magazines. “Show me ‘hard worker,’ Hailey!” Hailey = happy. She loves every store clerk, neighbor, cousin, animal, movie, vacation idea and day on the calendar. So it’s only fitting we celebrate her today — when her age catches up with her outlook. Happy birthday, Hailey (Belle) Bennett! I love you!(Her Beehive class decorated our front door this morning. So fun! I can’t figure out how to turn this photo, so let’s just call it a creative angle on a creative angel.) P.S. The editor in me cringes at the missing letter in the top photo, but Hailey is teaching me to loosen up!

All for ONE

It’s been 365 happy days since I became a momma for the fifth time. I spent today snapping birthday pics (including the one above while waiting for Kneaders cupcakes), cuddling my four-toothed wonder and getting choked up thinking about how a year ago I looked like this.Luckily this was the last time my bump bumped my MacBook Pro.The next morning my sleep ended abruptly when my water broke  — which led to a movie-like script of me waking up my bewildered husband with the good news. Lola Fern made her debut that afternoon (March 11, 2012) after I abandoned my plans for natural childbirth but held onto my vow to soak up every minute.My other four children came racing down the hospital hall to greet their yet-to-be-officially-named sibling. I could hear Hailey dramatically leading the pack, which was appropriate since her dream nine months previously about a baby sister coincided with my experience predicting the same outcome. This was our baby girl, our Lola Fern.Twelve months later, my oldest and youngest daughters — who are 12 years apart — have a year of memories and laughs under their matching belts.Lola’s life is full of siblings, basketball games, naps in the car and time at the office — she headed back to work when she was only 8 days old. The staff gathered to welcome our new mascot, and I got emotional watching my friends fall in love with my headliner.A year later, they still enjoy her even though she’s a wrecking ball when it comes to post-it pads and rechargeable camera batteries.Lola has spent very little time in a quiet house being glided to sleep. She has flown to California and to Phoenix. She has slept nearby during BusinessQ roundtables. She has posed for her magazine debut and previewed every layout from her lapside view. Being a Bennett baby in 2013 is a full-time job in imperfect circumstances. Tonight, her two teenage siblings planned Instagram posts about their baby sister’s birthday. I love that my children — spanning nearly 15 years — are proud to share a last name and a first birthday with a baby whose first words were “thank you.” I’m thankful I gave life to these five. But more importantly they give life to my days and meaning to my minutes. They give me plenty to write about and no time to do it.However, I did manage to write a song for Lola during our first night together when I stared in wonder at my 8 pounds and 14 ounces of miracle. (It was my feeble attempt to create a new Lola tune to edge out the Barry Manilow number and the Broadway hit about whatever Lola wants, Lola gets … )”Who are you? You’re my Lola Fern. Who are you? You’ve got lots to learn. Who are you? You’re from up above. Who are you? You came full of love. Who are you? You’re my baby girl. Who are you? You’ve changed my world. Who are you? Lo ….. la ….. Fern …” (The song’s ending still needs a little work.) Lola has reminded me who I am — a mother with a full heart and full hands. While I’ve been writing this post, she talked me into retrieving her from the crib and snuggling her while typing. It’s a position the two of us have mastered in the past 12 months. After all, we’re all for ONE.

I’m Married to a 40-Year-Old Man

Matt is the big 4-0 today. I remember my dad’s 40th birthday. Weird. We aren’t newlyweds anymore. Thank goodness! I met Matt when he was in ninth grade. I developed a slight crush on him when he was a junior. I was on the same group date with him when he was a senior. I kissed him when he was a recently returned LDS missionary. And I married him when he was a junior at BYU. And now I’m in love with him as a parent, business partner, best friend, artist, comedian, housekeeper and therapist. Every meal, car ride and conversation are more fun when Matt’s around. There’s no stress, no disappointment and no silence when Matt’s in the house. And we all love him for it — especially Lola, who got a sweet ride around Disneyland if she even HINTED at being sick of the stroller. Dad to the rescue. I’m not an easy person to be married to (think messes and mayhem), but Matt takes it all in stride – and takes pictures, too. Here’s the snapshot he took during a recent church meeting and sent it to me (I was sitting on the stand). He’s the most generous person I know, but he also takes time for his own hobbies. Right now he’s got “rolling ball sculpture” on the brain. And until recently, it was on the kitchen table. Which means I’m a patient wife, too. Maybe it’s the synergy that makes 1 plus 1 equal more than two. Latest count? Family of 7. Led by a 40-year-old man. Love you!

Just a Few More Questions, Sir

Jef Holm (co-founder of People Water in Lindon and winner of “The Bachelorette”) was on the phone with Emily when he pulled up to our interview/photo shoot for the Sept/Oct 2012 cover story for Utah Valley Magazine. I would have loved to listen in on the lovebirds’ conversation, but I have to admit the back-and-forth I DID have with Jef was pretty cool on its own. Here are a few Qs and As that didn’t make it into the printed version. UV: Have you Googled your name to see what comes up? Jef: I haven’t done that once. During our first weekend away together, Emily and I talked about how crazy the media was going to get. We both want to ignore it, but Emily warned me that she gets hurt and upset with things that come out in the media about her. I told her I’d do my best to make her laugh about it. UV: What happened after the final rose? Jef: The last show happened on May 11th, and then Emily and I went to an island in the Caribbean to unwind and really get to know each other without cameras, microphones and producers setting things up for us. We just got to hang out, and that was fun. UV: I kept hearing about “Jef sightings” around Utah County. Did you go out more often because of the excitement of the show? Jef: Maybe it seemed like I went out a lot because when I did go out it was usually in situations where hundreds of people were there. I definitely didn’t go out as much as I usually do.UV: Any regrets? Jef: No regrets. It’s something I’ll never do again, but it was a fun experience.UV: Have you always been a fan of reality TV?Jef: I really like Scott from the Kardashians. He’s a funny guy. But I’ve only seen one or two episodes of “The Bachelor” in the past. I saw “After the Final Rose” of Emily and Brad’s season just to see what it was like. UV: Is it cool or annoying that we all know so much about you? Jef: In some ways it’s cool to have my whole life be transparent. It’s fun to have people know certain things. I feel very open and very honest. UV: What did you pack when you left for the show? Jef: I went with two suitcases and came back with four. I’d never been to some of the locations that we visited on the show, and I did some shopping. UV: What type of person were you in high school?Jef: I loved hanging out with my friends, I played soccer all through high school, and I was very active. I went to the lake all the time with friends and family. I snowboarded in the winter. I dated a lot of girls and had fun.And here are a few extra sentences that also got trimmed away … “Emily and I talked about a lot of stuff, but they can’t show every conversation or the show would be two years long.” “We haven’t had any hardships with the media — typically there are things that come up that break up ‘reality’ couples, but we haven’t had that.” (Our interview was BEFORE the media circus in late August.) “I want more tattoos. Maybe an armful of them.”

Summer 2012? Check.

I made it to the finish line of Summer 2012 by knowing I would close out August with waves crashing over me on their way to moisten Laguna Beach.

   You see, June, July and August weren’t lemonade-sipping, novel-reading, watch-the-clouds-go-by kind of months. But there was plenty of heat. My body, mind and spirit were on fire as I juggled family, work and church while trying to give my family a lemonade-sipping summer. Want to know why my blog and my lemonade took a backseat? Here’s a quick look at the hotseat.


The most visible part of my summer was the headline debacle that had me crying, apologizing, explaining, being interviewed and eventually moving on.
I also helped plan and carry out a weeklong LDS Stake Girls Camp for nearly 400 people in July — the same week the debacle above set up camp on websites nationwide. For added fun, American Fork Canyon was evacuated and closed the week before our scheduled adventure. So I did mental gymnastics figuring out a Plan B, which we fortunately didn’t have to touch with a 10-foot hiking pole.

As a pre-camp activity, we put on an overnighter where we fed, entertained and corralled dozens of girls in preparation for a 12-hour adventure up and down Mount Timpanogos. This was my first time at the peak of the valley’s icon. It was a highlight of my summer — even considering the episodes of “pumping” I had to do in the trees while hoping my nursing baby was taking a bottle at home.


   • We put on our annual UV50 gala to recognize the valley’s top 50 businesses (fastest-growing, top revenue and startups to watch). Two hundred “who’s who” dressed up and teetered on over to our BusinessQ party. While the event probably seems simple to attendees, there are a million decisions and details that go into a night of hosting Nu Skin, Domo and Jef from “The Bachelorette.” (His venture, People Water, was named our No. 7 Startup to Watch.)



My older sister (and closest friend) became a mother for the first time when she took in three foster children at the beginning of June — the siblings are age 3, 20 months and 5 months. I was there the moment they arrived in her Lehi home, and my heart and advice (however meager) have been with her ever since. (I also have a few Sharpie scribbles on my home computer to remember my new nieces and nephews by.)


I backed into a parked BMW. One second of distraction brought hours of phone calls, paperwork and head shaking.


New York Magazine had a lapse in judgment and asked to interview and photograph me to represent Salt Lake City in Style Tribes. The impending arrival of Miss Chuck Grant, a New York-based photographer, sent me and my friend Heather Houston into a flurry of embellishing the simple decor in my home. I also took trips to Dear Lizzie and the mall so I could have the required 3-4 outfits ready for my multi-hour shoot. (None of my new outfits actually made it into the magazine … the first pic of me is in the only red top I could find when they had a color scheme in mind. The double-breasted jacket used to fit before the … (ahem) nursing referred to above.)


I took three trips to Idaho within a month’s time. First, we headed north for the annual WFFD — Waite Family Fun Days. The vacation got fun only after I completed my one-hour radio interview with the Sistas In Zion (see the first item on this list.) Second trip, I took my two youngest daughters with me to the Gem State so I could attend my 20th high school reunion. So glad I went! On the last trip, Matt and the same young daughters accompanied me to Rexburg where I delivered my first 60-minute speech. I was a breakout speaker at a 20-stake youth conference held at BYU-Idaho. I really should make this speech its own bullet point because it was heavy to prepare and deliver a (hopefully) meaningful message to some spiritually hungry youth.

On the last day of school in the spring, we added another member to the family. My son’s friend moved in with us for the summer while his family stayed in Germany for his father’s career. While I can’t imagine an easier teenage boy to get along with, he did bring his appetite, his desire for a cell phone, his early morning weight training at Lone Peak and his laundry. A six-kid summer makes for a full minivan and an empty fridge — again and again. Costco, anyone? At the end of the summer when Talmage moved out, the minivan felt empty again. (We’ll take you anytime, Tal!)


And I can’t forget that I nursed a baby around the clock and around the house and around the office. This is truly my full-time job. She has yet to actually swallow formula. I’m five-for-five on children demanding the real deal for a real long time. But I’m secretly happy because it requires me to slow down, to sit down and to breathe.


Speaking of jobs, our business doesn’t take the summer off. We completed the following magazines during the summer months: July/August Utah Valley Magazine, September/October Utah Valley Magazine, Summer BusinessQ, Fall BusinessQ, Utah Valley Parade of Homes, Northern Wasatch Parade of Homes, Park City Area Showcase of Homes, Cedar Hills Family Festival Mag, Orem Summerfest, Spanish Fork Fiesta Days Mag, Prosper Magazine featuring Isagenix, Prosper Magazine featuring FreeLife, Utah Realtor Magazine, Layton Foundation Magazine.


My children had various camps, practices, tryouts, activities and the never-ending question of, “Can I go to the Snow Shack?” I am fully expecting a thank-you card from the Snow Shack owners for putting their kids and grandkids through braces and college.


My grandfather turned 90 this year and is living in an assisted living center in my neighborhood. Although we aim to visit weekly, I feel a daily pull toward this wise steward when I pass the Charleston on my way to the Snow Shack.


I tried my hand at choir conducting for the first time when I volunteered to form a youth choir and teach them “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Hearing these young vocalists perform was truly a highlight for me, even if I didn’t do a perfect job of bringing in the tenors.


Our amazing office manager, Whitney Behling, turned in her pink slip in mid-August so she could take a job closer to her family. Amidst the deadlines and the snow cones, Matt and I scoured resumes and found finalists. I spent my kids’ first day of school interviewing a handful of applicants. Our new office manager started today, and I hope she comes back tomorrow after seeing how crazy we are.


 We hosted a luncheon at Chef’s Table for a couple dozen women in business who were featured in our July issue of Utah Valley Magazine. It’s always a good day when you can share a meal and life experiences with other women attempting to juggle June, July and August.



If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make some lemonade and look through pics of my trip to the ocean. The memories of the crashing waves will get me through the fall.


Burley, Idaho

My family hosts WFFD (Waite Family Fun Days) every year. It’s a 24-hour whirlwind of cousining, thanking each other for assigned meals, sharing updates that we already knew about from Facebook, and watching the brothers-in-law outdo each other with humor and potential broken bones (this year, “danger” came in the form of axes and ziplines). I kicked off my 2012 familial festivities with a little radio show action wherein the SistasInZion tried to get to the bottom of whether I am a racist. (I hope listeners believe the answer is “no.”) If you’d like to listen, go here. Don’t feel any pressure — personally I haven’t had the wherewithal to revisit the interview that also included call-in questions.After this one-hour hotseat where I learned to “holla back,” I was starving. And since we were in Burley, Idaho, my culinary choices on a Sunday night were aplenty — that is, if I wanted to eat at a taco cart perched in a pothole-filled parking lot. Fortunately, I found their beef nachos to be top-nach. Seriously. I have been craving a repeat performance ever since we made our way back down I-15. I need a taco cart in my neighborhood so I can stuff money in my children’s fingers and send them to place our orders during the dinner hour.If there were a taco cart in my neighborhood serving authentic Mexican fare, I would have a perfect source for the diversity package I’m working on for Utah Valley Magazine. Want to help? Do you know of someone who doesn’t fit the Utah Valley “mold” of white AND LDS? Then post a comment or e-mail me at jeanette@uvmag.com. I’m looking forward to reading this batch of comments with both eyes open.

Has it Been 15 Minutes Yet?

Thank you to everyone who has chimed in with meaningful responses to my regrettable headline and my personal post. I’m a different person today than I was a week ago, and I am sincere when I say I’ve been enriched by many of your posts. It has been good for me to reflect on the issues at hand and educate myself in ways I had not realized I was not educated. Although I knew literally what the phrase “women of color” meant, I did not realize the depth of feelings and reverence in regard to that phrase. I appreciate the feedback from those who articulated thoughts on cultural identity. I am evaluating the future focus of our publications in regards to my new perspectives.I will admit that my turn in the hot seat hasn’t been comfortable, but it has burned a few lessons into my soul. I’m eager to take the lessons learned and apply them to the future — because, unfortunately, the past can’t be altered. I can’t change that my first headline was wrong, and I can’t change the highly unfortunate racial history in our country. The past is, well, in the past. (Where’s a flux capacitor when you need one?) Today’s digital environment allowed me to hear from people I’ll never meet in real life. It’s taken me outside the “bubble” that many of you described. Although I plan to stay in my community and in my chosen religion, my interactions with you have shed light on my bubble and beyond.

The good news is that the future is unwritten. I am hoping (oh how I am hoping) that I can make up for this blunder by helping to create a healthy dialogue — especially in my own community. I am obviously not trained in racial relations. It was not my academic focus, nor has it been my life experience. But since my hastily-written headline went viral, I find myself with an audience I neither asked for nor expected.

\r\nIn fact, a few people have told me that because the headline was seen by (perhaps) millions, I’ve set the civil rights movement back one or two decades. I wish I had that level of power — because after this past week, I have a few ideas of what to do with it. It’s going to take some serious effort, desire, learning, talking, forgiving, humility and confidence for all of us to understand each other in our own communities and in the nation at large. And, believe it or not, a lunch table might be a good place to start.P.S. I’ve been invited to share my thoughts on SistasInZion radio this coming Sunday night. I’m looking forward to connecting with these two LDS women of color who’ve invited me on their show.

My Unplanned 15 Minutes of Fame

“I saw you on the news last night.” I never thought I’d get approached with that conversation starter. I’m not a criminal, an embezzler, a politician, a Ponzi schemer or an arsonist. I’m a mother of five, a business owner, a community volunteer and a bit of an introvert. “Trouble” is not my middle name. Ironically, I’ve known for over a year that July 9-13 was going to be a sleepless roller coaster. That’s how long I’ve been planning an LDS Stake Girls Camp for nearly 400 attendees and leaders. I knew it would take all of my reserves to arrange for my family (including a newborn) at home while I wrangled with nature and adolescents. I didn’t realize mid-July is also when I would wrangle with bloggers, e-mails, TV appearance opportunities and personal attacks. The excitement actually started on Friday, July 6. I received a comment about how the headline of my recently published editor’s letter (headline has now been changed) in Utah Valley Magazine was insensitive. I immediately wrote back. We exchanged a few e-mails, which helped us understand each other’s intentions, experiences and points of view. Three days later, I was packing skit props, duct tape and water bottles when a reporter from Gawker.com called and wanted a statement. I was caught off guard but explained that the headline wasn’t intended to offend or to make a racial statement. A few minutes later I got a text from my husband saying KUTV wanted an interview about the headline. I called the reporter but didn’t reach her, so I called the producer. Someone answered but couldn’t see the producer at the moment and promised someone would call me back. Within an hour, I took a deep breath and headed up American Fork Canyon to setup camp — sans cell reception. When I headed back down at dusk to sleep before the early morning camp kickoff, I had missed two calls from the local CBS affiliate. I checked my e-mail and found interview requests from a different TV station and from the most circulated newspaper in Utah. I e-mailed back with a few thoughts and an explanation of my limited schedule for the week due to my girls camp commitments. It may have sounded like an excuse, but I could not be excused from my church responsibilities. However, I was also responsible for a headline that had become headline news. The headline and photo went viral during the week while I was leading hikers through a rainstorm and singing “Princess Pat” in an outdoor amphitheater. Each night I came home for 6-7 hours to feed my baby and to have my husband give me a brief update on the colorful responses our magazine (circulation 22,000) was receiving around the country. Now that camp is over (phew!) and I’m reunited with my laptop, I’ll answer the question asked by thousands (even hundreds of thousands) in various national forums and social platforms: How in the world did “Women of Color” become the headline for a photo (shown above) of white women dressed in color? (By the way, one of the women in our staff photo IS half-Hispanic — her dad grew up in Mexico City. This is not necessarily significant to me nor does it remotely make us traditional “women of color,” but I thought I’d mention it since many of the criticisms call us “as white as can be.”) Here goes … My headline-writing style includes taking idioms and cliches and turning them sideways or using rhyming words to twist the phrase. For example, the cover story last issue was titled “Wife in the Fast Lane” — it depicted the wife of BYU’s head football coach. The cover story of this current issue is titled “Alive and Clicking” — it features a well-known singer-songwriter who uses a clicker to count her positive thoughts and train herself to have more. For our “Best of Utah Valley” story earlier this year, my editor’s letter was labeled “And the best is history.” As you can see, my idiom dictionary and rhyming dictionary are often consulted while brainstorming. The genesis of the infamous headline — “Women of Color” — came when I was searching for idioms using the words “women,” “bright” and “color” to go with the staff photo showing our office females in bright outfits (we’ve worn black and khaki in past pics, so this was a welcome change). When my idiom research reminded me of the phrase “Women of Color,” I immediately selected it because it summarized the photo and article: the women on my staff dress colorfully and add variety and brightness to the magazine and to our office environment. I was fully aware that the phrase “women of color” normally refers to women of ethnic origin. Many have criticized me for being too naive to understand the phrase. Even though I’ve spent most of my life living in Utah and Idaho, I’ve visited 32 states and been around the block enough (via literature, media and education) to know the traditional use of that phrase. And the phrase itself is not derogatory. Perhaps that’s one point all of the commenters agreed on — it’s not that this phrase is off-limits. The hullabaloo erupted because “women of color” was not used in its traditional form. The article and headline were written in the space of about one hour the day before we went to print. I did not spend days and weeks writing what would be the most well-read piece of my journalistic career. This headline was one of 40 in this July/August issue, and Bennett Communications produces about 40 different magazine issues per year (Utah Valley Magazine, BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride, Prosper and more). As a staff, we write more than 1,000 headlines annually, which means things happen quickly in our 12-person office. (Despite the high work load, we still strive for greatness — either our BusinessQ or Utah Valley Magazine has been named “No. 1 Magazine in Utah” for several years running by the Society of Professional Journalists.) We love what we do and strive to improve. Some of the comments have been helpful in that regard. So thank you. Others have brought up good questions, such as why there was no ethnicity in the photo. Should we go there? I absolutely agree that Utah’s demographics (of which our staff reflects) lack traditional “color.” Change won’t occur overnight, but our ethnic population (particularly Hispanic) is growing. I hope our staff can reflect that in the future. I, for one, will do a better job of seeking out more diversity on our staff. Although we have never discouraged diversity, we also haven’t specifically gone to Hispanic or African-American high school students, for example, and encouraged them to pursue our industry and our company in particular. It will take the collective efforts of government, business and citizens to create a more diverse population in Utah. Although I don’t know what it’s like to be black and I’m not a minority in my valley, I am a religious minority in the United States. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are headline news in 2012. The media have published a mix of accurate and inflammatory articles about what we believe. Having Mitt as a member has elevated the interest level and the attacks toward our church. So in a small way, I can understand minority groups feeling misunderstood and misrepresented by the media. I’ve tried to think through an equivalent headline about the minority group of which I’m a part. What if there were a headline reading “Latter-day Saints” with a photo of New Orleans football players? Or that same headline with a photo of another religion wherein the story talked about their “saintly ways” in these current (latter) days?  I might worry that people would be confused by the term “Latter-day Saints.” I might question whether the author knew the traditional meaning of the phrase. But I can honestly say if the article didn’t demean my own beliefs, I wouldn’t demean the author for using the phrase. I’m hoping readers can see that my recent article and photo weren’t intended to demean black women. If anything, we are saying we WANT to be women of color. Can we be part of your group? Can we sit at your lunch table? I’m not trying to make light of the ethnic experience — although I have to admit that when the comments and Google Alerts started coming in, I had flashes of Jay Leno or David Letterman showing the photo and the headline “Women of Color” on their late-night shows. Facial expression. Dramatic pause. Audience laughter. Toss the card. Game over. But the racial discussion that ensued from my headline is no laughing matter. For those who assume I’m throwing my head back cackling with delight, you’d be wrong. I’ve had my head in my hands and a lump in my throat as I’ve realized I’ve endangered the reputation of myself, my magazine and my staff by a headline that has been misconstrued to be a racial slur. I’m also extremely uncomfortable with the idea of making others uncomfortable. But here’s the thing. Although hundreds shared their opinions online or in an e-mail, I don’t believe one person clearly articulated WHY this headline was offensive. I’ve heard it was hurtful. I’ve heard it was insensitive. I’ve heard it was wrong. But I didn’t hear why. Although I used the phrase and photo to depict another definition of “color,” my article didn’t mention ethnicity nor mock the black woman’s experience. Please help me understand how this “set back civil rights two decades” and “personally attacks black women.” Although I regret the headline and by all means wouldn’t print it again, the resulting dialogue has been enlightening — and confusing. Is the goal to celebrate our differences or celebrate our unity? My favorite Martin Luther King quote is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This line leads me to believe that our goal is to celebrate unity and equality. If this is the case, wouldn’t it be appropriate to say that no matter the color of our skin, we should all strive to add “color” (meaning vibrancy and passion) to our shared world? It is complimentary to say about ourselves, “I don’t see color.” Therefore, it stands to reason that phrases or actions that bring races together and point out our similarities instead of our discriminated differences would be seen as acceptable. United we stand, right? In today’s digital environment, we all have our own press and are lucky enough to live in a country with a First Amendment. We are all entitled to our opinion and to the sharing of it. As I’ve read hundreds of opinions and comments (however painful), I recognize your rights and I am grateful we live in a land where opinions are not only permitted — they are encouraged. While I don’t agree with every opinion that has been shared, I would fight for your right to believe and say what you choose. I hope you will allow me the same privilege. Even though three words on page 10 of a small-town publication weren’t intended to start a racial discussion, this experience will brighten and enlighten my thinking for the rest of my career. I’m willing to learn. I am willing to listen. I am willing to move on.

Hello, Hilary

(When I posted this picture on Facebook, my friends submitted 23 guesses as to who I had on the hot seat and on the hot July cover of Utah Valley Magazine. Julie Beck? Nope, but good idea. Robert Redford? No, but someday, someday. Mitt or Ann Romney? Done and done.Not one person guessed Hilary Weeks. Surprise!This month’s cover story features one of Utah County’s best singer-songerwriters who also happens to blog and click (read the story or go to her website billionclicks.org to learn the clickables).One of the tragedies of my life is that I can’t print all of the quotables after my multi-hour interviews. My art director tells me we can’t put stories in 4 point type, so I end up painfully trimming my articles. Cut, cut, cut. I didn’t have enough column inches to tell you why Hilary had a jar of rice to the side of her piano in the living room, but cyberspace has enough real estate for me to share the story. As we were setting up for the photo, Hilary hopped off the piano bench and moved a jar of rice out of the background (you can still see it in the pic below). There were mold spots on the side and bottom of the jar, which seemed odd because the home was spit-spot clean — it looked like the family was expecting Parade of Home attendees to don blue booties and walk through their pristine living quarters at any moment. Luckily this storyteller spilled the beans — er, rice — about her unique decor.“As a family, we’ve been experimenting with two jars of rice,” Hilary told me. “We call this our ‘hate jar,’ and every day we come in here and tell the jar that it is stupid.”Within a few days, mold starting appearing inside the Kerr jar of cooked rice. The “love jar” sits in the other room, and with kind voices the family tells the jar that it is “just the whitest rice ever! You are a good jar of rice!” No mold. Hilary is a big believer in being positive with ourselves and with others. She believes we “grow mold” inside when we point out our flaws and speak unkindly to our souls. But the flip side is also true — if we love ourselves, we are cleaner, happier and healthier inside. I meant to come home and start a rice experiment with my own family. But finishing a magazine got in the way of science, so I haven’t done it yet — but I don’t dare get upset with myself about it. So here’s a challenge for all of us — let’s try talking to jars of cooked rice and see what happens. It just might lead to my next cover story.