Before and After

(I ran a 5K this past weekend (sponsored in part by Utah Valley Magazine).In Facebook world, running a 5K is as common as saying “glad it”s Friday or “happy birthday.” But for me, it was headline-worthy. It was the first time I”d run three miles since the birth of my Lola Fern. I hadn”t trained to compete,  but I didn”t want to miss the best race in the valley because of my worst-shape body. So I drove myself to the start line at American Fork High School about five minutes before the gunshot start, and I (mostly) ran the smartly designed course. In addition to being well run, this race is also exceptional because of the signage along the route and the emotional T-shirts that make cancer personal. (“We”re Ann”s army” … “We love you, Grandpa” …) A mix of tears and sweat dot the course.A year ago, I was in the best shape of my life and I ran the half marathon portion of this same race.Saturday, June 25, 2011, was calm, warm and picturesque. I finished the downhill half-marathon course in 1 hour and 51 minutes. Nobody was at the finish line to see me (my family thought I would be much slower), so I brought my hands together and quietly mumbled, “I did it.” Not only did I run every step of the 13.1 miles, but I also ran the race for my grandmother, Lola Dawn Reeve, who died from cancer when I was 10. I have always felt close to her even though I was still in elementary school the last time I hugged her. Approximately nine months after I set my personal best (one-hit-wonder) in the half marathon, Lola Fern joined our family in spectacular fashion. So last Saturday”s race was coming full circle for me. My “before” picture shows a thinner runner who ran every single step. My “after the baby” picture shows a woman who strategically placed the race bib over a “problem area” and had to walk a few times in order to not hate the shorter race. (I kept giving myself pep talks and thinking of anecdotal material — you never stop running with the finish line in site, etc.) But between these two photos was a glorious year of pregnancy, birth, nursing and juggling a busy life. Between “before” and “after” is the present. I like it here.

Postpartum magazineum

For the first time in the history of Utah Valley Magazine, we sent an issue to the printer without a finished cover story. And I”ve got nobody to blame but my postpartum self. I interviewed Holly Mendenhall 16 days after delivering Lola. Although March 27 was the first time my newborn and I would be apart, I felt comfortable knowing Lola would be taking her long morning snooze with her father. She didn”t even show her blue eyeballs during my two-and-a-half-hour interview with the wife of BYU”s head football coach. I put off writing the article because the photo shoot wasn”t until April 14, and I planned to ask Holly more questions while I also interviewed Bronco and their three sons. After the Saturday evening photo session, the days disappeared along with my newborn”s sleepiness. Promises of tomorrow came and went, and our printer deadline loomed while my heart palpitated. I still hadn”t thought of my headline, but I did think of a way to gain 48 hours. We could turn in the magazine without my Holly story and insert those pages (for a price) when we looked at color proofs two days after turning in the project. Still, I struggled to focus. My writer”s block had taken up residence like an eighth member of the family — and yet I only wanted to think about the seventh. With 24 hours left to go, Lola and I headed up American Fork Canyon with laptop in tow. I needed to be without cell service and without the Internet — status update? offline! While Lola slept, I organized my thoughts and my notes. The story began to emerge as the sun bounced around Timpanogos Cave perched above me. We came back down the canyon with a first draft and restored confidence. I finished trimming the article just as the color proofs arrived from Hudson Printing — way too close for comfort. If I could, I would fire myself for missing my deadline and costing the company extra money to insert the late pages. But if I got fired, I”d have to replace myself. And where would I find the time to track down a people-loving, drop-dead-deadline making, baby-snuggling, comma-correcting writer with a passion for Utah Valley, family, journalism and American Fork Canyon? I can”t imagine there”s another one of me out there. And if there is, I feel sorry for her and hope she”s getting more sleep than I am.\r\n\r\nSo my “status update” is that I”m back on the job with my sidekick and with the flexible schedule I had in mind when I became an entrepreneur during my first bout with postpartum in 1997.

Lola is Tops

I watched my husband, Matt, pull up the Jeanette Gazette yesterday and then remark, “So Pops is still Tops?” (Referencing the title of my previous blog post, now nearly 8 weeks old.) As much as I love Pops, who is my endearing pops-in-law, he actually isn”t tops-of-mind anymore. For me, it”s Lola Fern Bennett. And that”s exactly why this blog has remained stagnant for nearly two months. Having a newborn in my arms has plummeted my productivity. My one-handed abilities are not tops. What I HAVE done lately is keep another human alive. I took her from Day One (see top photo) to 7.5 weeks old in this photo. She”s alive and kicking. And so am I. More blogposts to come soon.

Pops is Tops

Last week, I made a last-minute decision to jump in the car with my family and head to Rexburg, Idaho. My father-in-law (also known as Pops) was the BYU-Idaho devotional speaker, and I didn”t want to miss it — despite being 38 weeks along with his 22nd grandchild. You see, Ron Bennett is not just my children”s grandfather and my husband”s father. He”s also the man largely responsible for my love affair with journalism. He was my newspaper adviser and mentor through my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school. He taught me AP Style. He had me read “All the President”s Men.” He took me to Boise to testify in favor of student press rights. And he let me walk to the front of the room at Columbia University in New York City to claim our national award for high school newspapers. You might say he”s the “Mr. Holland” of journalism in southeastern Idaho. And I love him for it. We can talk for hours — and we do — when he comes to visit five of his six children who live in Utah. He was nervous and a bit under the weather the day of his big speech in the new BYU-Idaho Center, but Pops gave a fabulous talk about not looking back. We need to forgive others as well as ourselves and look forward with optimism, he said. Of course, he had already taught me these lessons by example. But it was a personal highlight for me to sit on the stage and hear him verbalize this peaceful topic.\r\n\r\nFortunately, my water didn”t break and my baby didn”t make an appearance during this 12-hour road trip. However, there is evidence of her existence in this photo taken just before our pre-devotional lunch with President Kim Clark and other dignitaries. Motherhood is humbling. (Exhibit A: Compare the photos in this post, which were taken over the past couple of years.) But it”s an honor to be raising my own brand of Bennetts — and to look back just long enough to appreciate the lessons and legacy given to us by Pops as well as our other parents and grandparents. My nearly-born baby has a lot to live up to.

Meeting Mitt

Mitt Romney and I go way back. In 2004 I sat knee-to-knee with the well-dressed book author at the Grand America for an interview about his writings, his Olympic memories and his Utah County opinions. I must admit we haven”t spoken since, but I won”t forget that day – nor the hours I spent with his wife, Ann Romney, for her Utah Valley Magazine cover story in 2008. Mitt couldn”t believe the speed of my typing, and he commented on my skills throughout our interview. He was easy to talk to and open with his thoughts — two traits not always common with the famous and the fortunate. Unlike many journalists, I”m not a political junkie. But I do know a good person when I see him, and Mitt Romney is good to great. I wish him luck today on “Super Tuesday.” I”m sure if the voters could sit knee-to-knee with him, the choice would be pretty clear. Here”s a glimpse at my Q&A with the front-runner to the Republican nomination.

The Last Supper

For five years, I sat on the board of the Timpanogos Regional Hospital. I scoured hospital reports, I said “aye” when voting to approve the medical credentialing, and I had a lovely dinner once a year with the entire board and spouses. This past Christmas shindig was also the end of my hospital journey. With a baby coming and a busy business to raise, I have to be more realistic about my plate — my figurative plate, that is. My actual plate at this La Jolla Groves party was as full as could be. Just the way this hungry momma likes it. Keith Tintle, the CEO of Timpanogos Hospital, gave me a lovely thank-you speech and beautiful award. For a brief moment, I almost considered staying on the board so I could maintain my relationships with this great group of people.At the festive party, I sat next to Jeff Alexander (of Alexander”sPrint Advantage) and his lovely wife. Throughout our multi-hour meal, our conversation spanned the gamut — including why we blog. I told this Provo couple I wanted to share the realities of being a hands-on mother while also being an entrepreneur. I told them I get asked to speak in university settings a few times per year, and the females always seem intrigued because they haven”t seen many women try to wear both hats. I wanted to give insight into the challenges, rewards, sacrifices and blessings of being a somewhat-stay-at-home mom while also donning high heels and handing out business cards. But as the words spilled out of my mouth, I felt like a hypocrite. My blog hasn”t come close to accomplishing the grandiose purpose I was explaining to the Alexanders. The truth is, I spend more time answering e-mails than answering to my blog goals. I spend more time snuggled up with my first-grader while she confuses “then” and “when” than I do sorting through photos for my next post. Maybe there”s a reason there aren”t many visible role models for women trying to “do it all.” The truth is, we”re too busy to do it all. And we”re definitely too busy to document how, why and where we try to do it. Which is precisely why I”m no longer with the Timpanogos Hospital. But I leave the board having compiled years of memories and measurable progress toward overcoming my fears of the medical industry (click here for what happened during my routine flu shot). And with that, I”m off to fix dinner, after which I”ll edit the roundtable for our next issue of BusinessQ. There will be no empty plates around here tonight.

Jimmer Jammer

We love Hudson Printing. They take our ideas from digital to glossy. They turn projects around in a couple of days when we”re desperate. They forgive us when we forget to include the bleed or when we leave an RGB image. And they bring us nuts for Christmas. But most of all, we love Hudson for sharing their front-row Jazz tickets once or twice a year. And this year, our beloved Hudson gave us courtside seats to the Jimmer show. We heard the crowd cheer — and boo, strangely enough — for our cover boy from March/April 2011. The Salt Lake Tribune even snapped a photo of Matt (blue shirt taking photo) and Nathan (maroon Lone Peak sweatshirt) watching Jimmer with their unobstructed view.During warmups, Jimmer looked over at my 8-year-old son who was holding this sign.Jimmer gave Carson a smile and a head bob. Then Channel 4 came over and filmed my boy in his Jimmer jersey, which you can watch here. It was the kind of night worth ending my blogging drought.

Behind the scenes of the cover story

Although Walmart and radio stations start jingling holiday bells in early fall, we have a strict policy of not sending out our Nov/Dec issue until after Halloween. Which is why our holiday issue is just coming out now (that and I had a spooky and over-scheduled October.) I tend to feature musicians and artists on our holiday covers, and this year we kept the tradition alive. Folk artist Eric Dowdle has been on my “short list” for several years. Last December, my family visited with him in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building where local artists were displaying their beauties. His name spiked its way up the list after I saw firsthand that his personality matched his colorful depictions of cities worldwide. It wasn”t hard to get this funny man to smile at our cover shoot, but a sure way to light up his expression was to mention his baby peacocks. He loves animals and even had a pet goat named “Art.” More about that in the cover story.  He and his wife, Deb, were terrific sports and gave us an entire afternoon for the photos — despite their hectic holiday painting schedule. When Eric asked Deb to join him in the photo, he called out, “Hey, Sunshine.” That made us all smile.Several of the photos (including the one with me up above) were taken outside his warehouse along I-15. When the 18-wheelers rolled by, we had to increase our volume and include hand gestures to communicate. But even if I couldn”t always hear Eric, he was always making me laugh. Thanks, Eric, for a great interview and fabulous photo shoot. Learn more about this paintbrush genius at dowdlefolkart.com. P.S. The Christmas garland came from my very own storage room and is displayed on my very own banister every Christmas. My only regret in life is that I didn”t deduct it as a business expense — it was also used as a prop for the Kurt Bestor photo shoot two years ago.

The Office Christmas Party

Christmas and co-workers go together like tortilla soup and Sundance. Which is precisely where we went and what we ate. We locked up the office, headed up the canyon, and swapped our gifts. The festivities started with Kendall giving Kate a pecan roll, which may need some explanation. I have none to give.Then Roxanne gifted Stacy a cream-colored scarf, which happened to match her very outfit on this very day. Hugs!Whitney made Alison personalized coasters, and Whitney was like a kid on Christmas morning as she watched Alison open the mod-podge beauties.Kendall”s gift from Sheri wins the prize for the most intriguing shape. Turns out, it was a coach”s bucket labeled with “Coach Bennett” and a padded seat on top. Chocolate licorice — a favorite of this sweet-toothed expo manager — was tucked inside. Perfect.Last but not least, I opened a rectangular gift from Briana — a gorgeous silver platter, which I promptly recognized as a perfect photo-shoot prop. (It will be lovely to get Utah Valley Bride Magazine off to the printer and off of the mind tomorrow.)Unlike past Christmas gigs, this meal was bittersweet. The lunch was tasty and filled with laughter, but it also marked the end of an era. After this calendar year, we will no longer be working day-to-day with Kendall and Roxanne (Matt”s brother and sister-in-law). We”ve been together for nearly 12 years, which is exactly how old Utah Valley Magazine is. New adventures await both of us, and we couldn”t be more optimistic — or more sad. Today? Mostly sad. But luckily we share the Bennett name and the Cougar game tickets, so there will be plenty of meals and gifts in our future.Thank goodness. Someday I just might need a pecan roll.

Explosions

I can look at my situation in one of two ways — either things are looking up, up, up … OR … things are exploding beyond my control. Shall we go with “up”? Here is my son Nathan”s recent science fair project. He (and by “he” I mean all six of us in the family) tested the Diet Coke/Mentos explosion using different temperatures of soda. Turns out hot soda explodes the highest. Turns out our dog likes to lap up foamy soda. Turns out that makes him sick. Turns out I have an idea for my next kid”s science project … We also had an explosion of ballots come in for our Readers Choice awards in Utah Valley Magazine. Next year, we”re going to have technology do a little more of the legwork. But this year, the legwork was done by the legs of our very own, very tired staff. You can see the stash of goodies in the middle of the table, including the brown box of candy Legos from Blickenstaff”s. Not sure why we opened them “rat style,” but we all found ourselves sticking our hands in the ragged opening to grab colorful, edible cubes. Sugar headaches all around.  This was how Kate celebrated when the last ballot was counted. And now there”s an explosion of work being done around here. We”re finishing up a few custom magazines, our best-ever issue of Utah Valley Bride, and our “Best Of” issue of Utah Valley Magazine (including the results of the exhausting ballots). Yep, things are definitely looking up around here (including our sugar and soda consumption).