I Have Hope for America

The patriotism in Utah County this time of year makes it feel like Washington, D.C., around here. We’re letting freedom ring from school hallways to community centers. Today I attended Hope of America at Deerfield Elementary in Cedar Hills and learned that “America Rocks!”The main Hope of America performance took place earlier this month in BYU’s Marriott Center as part of the Freedom Festival. With 5,000 fifth-grade performers, it’s the largest elementary school performance in the nation. Other schools (like Deerfield) put a lump in parents’ throats with their own version of this patriotic frenzy.These America-loving preteens livened things up with “We Can Be A Light.”Teachers including Mr. Dawson awarded 16 students who completed the Great American Challenge (extra assignments to promote civic involvement and political knowledge).My daughter Hailey (right) and her friends Mattea Denney and Hannah Howard completed the challenge. Hailey wrote letters to her principal and President Obama as part of her project. I’m sure major changes are now under way thanks to her ideas!All of this anthem singing has me looking forward to the summer festivals. We just completed the magazine for Orem Summerfest, which kicks off the summer with parades and fireworks in early June. We also produced a magazine for the Cedar Hills Family Festival. The talk among our editors and designers lately has been about 5K routes and carnival schedules. To plan your family’s summer calendar, see our listings in Utah Valley Magazine. Hint! You might want to pick up a little flag to wave.

The Old College Try

This week we’re putting the finishing touches on COMMS Magazine, which is the official alumni publication for BYU’s Communications Department. We were hired to produce the magazine over a tasty Thai lunch 20 paces down the sidewalk from our office. Department Chair Brad Rawlins may have hired us simply for our juxtaposition to one of his favorite restaurants. Or maybe he chose us because our staff is staffed with BYU alum. Either way, we’ve enjoyed the throwback to college life. Back in “the day” I was editor-in-chief of The Daily Universe at BYU and before that I was head honcho of The Scroll at Ricks College. For four years I saw sunsets out the newsroom windows. I was often tired and always hungry. But I still treasure the relationships and experiences of my backpack days as Jeanette Waite. One person I’ll never forget from my “old college try” is Anya Stolnikova, my Ricks College roommate. Her story of defecting from Russia fascinated this budding reporter. She probably got tired of my line of questioning, but she always had a giggle and a half English/half Russian response. Anya decided one day to make bread using our other roommate’s glass pan. When Anya (striped shirt) set the pan down on a hot burner, shards jumped all over our carpeted kitchen (we lived in a remodeled old folks home). Anya cried. Later I cried when I drove through the night to say goodbye to her at the Salt Lake airport as she left on a 6 a.m. flight to serve a mission for the LDS Church. And now I want to cry when I see this picture — mostly because of my hair. But also because of Anya’s influence. She lit up our apartment with more than hot glass. Her stories of Russia, Cuba and Canada broadened my non-passport life. (If you want to hear her delicious accent, listen to her story here. It’s long but good.) Anya and I have both been through a lot since our bathroom-sharing days. College is the perfect place to figure out how to be an adult. And a bread baker. And a journalist. When BYU communication graduates receive this issue of COMMS Magazine, I hope they’ll think back to their own Ramen days when they knew everything and nothing all at the same time. In other words, their old college try.

Real People

This past weekend I attended True Beauty Weekend at Thanksgiving Point with my daughter Hailey. We listed it as one of 10 Mother’s Day gift ideas in our May/June issue of Utah Valley Magazine, so naturally I wanted to check it out and come away with some true beauty tips. And tears. And chuckles.Hailey is still laughing at an unlocked bathroom story Lehi’s Kris Belcher told. Hailey had me snap a picture of them together so she could keep giggling at this comedian’s humor about being blind.Another memorable speaker was Dr. Nicole Hawkins, who is the director of clinical services at the Center for Change. She shared startling stats about the millions of images girls see in the media that portray unrealistic and unhealthy body images. As she was talking, I noticed scattered copies of Utah Valley Magazine and Utah Valley Bride that people had picked up from our complimentary rack outside the door. Even though I had painstakingly edited every page before it went to print in previous months, I wanted to flip through our magazines again with my new perspective on media’s inaccurate portrayal of body image. You see, I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to showcase real people with real shapes, heights and cheek bones. As I refreshed my memory of our recent issues, I can honestly say we are different from other magazines. We don’t swap heads for leaner bodies. We don’t alter waist measurements that leave women running for their corsets and their Gold’s Gym passes. None of our 2011 cover brides for Utah Valley Bride Magazine is 5’11” and weighs 110 pounds (which means none of them has a future in modeling). The wives in our Happy Couples story don’t workout eight hours a day like Jennifer Aniston did as a “Friends” star. And our January issue showcased a burn victim on the cover and a mom who went back to school. Super? Yes. Supermodels? No. Sure, we want men and women in our photos to look attractive. Nobody wants an unflattering picture of themselves sent out to 80,000 readers in Utah Valley. But we don’t use Photoshop to remove hips or add inches. What you see in our magazines is what you’ll see when you run into these people at the University Mall. Because true beauty is just that. TRUE beauty. And there are plenty of true beauties in Utah County that we’re discovering page by page and interview by interview. I’m not saying our magazines are perfect — believe me, I’m aware of our “areas of opportunity.”  But that is precisely the point. Obsession with perfection is damaging. But we can and do strive to celebrate the real and the realistic. And the truly beautiful.

The Father of All Covers

When I started planning the cover feature for our May/June issue of Utah Valley Magazine, I envisioned several father/son combos and even a mother/daughter duo. I had Mother’s Day and Father’s Day on the journalistic brain. But the story changed when the first interview I landed for the section was with Vance Law, head baseball coach at BYU. We chatted inside a windowless conference room behind the baseball field. Next I sat in the living room of Vern Law, who pitched in the 1960 World Series and won the Cy Young Award while raising Vance and his five siblings (who all have “V” names). I now had pages of notes — and a special place in my journalistic heart — for these two stellar fathers and baseball players. And with that, my cover feature became about ONE fantastic father/son combo. The harder part of this cover feature was scheduling an outdoor photo shoot in March (and then April) that we could use for a May issue. We rescheduled and rescheduled until BYU’s baseball field looked sunny and green. And we shot toward the stadium rather than toward the mountains because of the mother of all nature. I was wearing high-heeled sandals to this shoot, and I apologized to Vance for poking a few holes in his manicured field. He put me at ease by offering to pay me for aeration, but I’d already been compensated with a cover-worthy interview and photo shoot.To read our photographer’s take on this successful mid-day shoot, click here.

The Mother of All Days

I seriously love Mother’s Day. Craft projects from elementary school. Homemade french toast in my pajamas. Notes that say, “I love you for making me fell good.” Carvings from my artistic husband. I can’t believe my good fortune to be a mother to these four kiddos.

I Did and I

(Warning: This post contains a couple of sub-par self portraits.)I waved good-bye to April from the sunny shores of San Diego. Being editor of Utah Valley Magazine doesn’t usually involve carry-ons and sandy beaches, but we got asked with just a few days notice to come to Hotel Del Coronado to interview and photograph for an upcoming issue of Prosper Magazine. So I kissed my husband and kids goodbye and headed south with Kate (another writer) and MaryLyn (photographer). Girls trip! We took hundreds of pics and typed thousands of words before we returned on Sunday. Since leaving baggage claim, I’ve been chasing my to-do list around like that important piece of paper that blows out of your car and you run, jump, dive and grab after it like there’s no tomorrow! And most of my to-dos can’t wait for tomorrow, so the chase is on. Just to let you in on the fun, here are five things I DID do within the past week. I went sailing in San Diego Bay with a group of successful Isagenix associates. The only problem was I didn’t realize I was part of the three-hour tour. I walked down to the harbor so we could take pictures as they embarked. But then two spots on the catamaran magically opened up, and MaryLyn and I hopped on board. I was the only sailor wearing high heels and holding a laptop.I did buy an expensive but beautiful box of taffy to bring home to my four kids. I couldn’t wait to open it and taste “taffy from the sea” with my sugar lovers. To my disappointment, the box contained the same old taffy we buy in the bins at Maceys. This week I also shared my wisdom with the Lehi Chamber of Commerce. Obviously, it was a short meeting. (I’m not kidding. This lunch meeting ended before 1. I did applaud teachers, principals and librarians at Alpine Foundation’s Accent on Excellence. I lucked out to sit with and award Paul Ruesch from Alpine Elementary!(Side story: This week is Teacher Appreciation Week at our elementary school, and I was telling Matt it feels like I’m always figuring out presents for teachers: Christmas, their birthdays, Teacher Appreciation Week, the last day of school, etc. Nathan said, “So you’re saying teachers are overappreciated?” Uh, good point, son. As the daughter of a school teacher, I know “overappreciated” isn’t possible. The cards and gifts will continue!) And today I did roof a house for Habitat for Humanity (and I’m using the term “roofing” very loosely — although I hope the shingles are air-tight. I tried!).Sometimes people say things to me such as, “How do you fit everything in?” (Which is code for: “You’re crazy!”)But the truth is, I DON’T do a lot of things. Here’s just a sampling  … I didn’t find my son’s Muckdogs baseball T-shirt.) I don’t floss, despite the pleadings of Dr. Pitts’ staff at my appointment this week. For me, it falls in the category of squeezing from the bottom: too time-consuming. I didn’t run in the half marathon at Thanksgiving Point. And that makes four races I’ve paid for, trained for and sat out for. (Last summer a stress fracture gave my running career the boot. And this last-minute San Diego trip took me away from the race. I was sad until Matt sent me this pic the morning of …)I didn’t make it to my Thanksgiving Point meeting concerning the Museum of Natural Curiosity. I agreed to help them raise money for their AWESOME children’s museum, but as it turns out I’m not very good at raising money. Or attending meetings when they are the same time as my dentist appointment. Or attending anything to do with Thanksgiving Point this week, although I’m a big fan and card-carrying member of this community icon. In fact, our very first cover of Utah Valley Magazine featured Karen Ashton, founder of Thanksgiving Point. We’re big fans. Tulips and all. Here’s another thing I didn’t do. I didn’t remember a counter top guy was coming to measure my bathroom this week. And based on #2 on this list of “didn’t do,” you can imagine what my counter looks like (hint: everything is right at my fingertips to save time.)So I did some stuff, and I didn’t do some stuff. And that’s pretty much how it goes around here.