Christina Lee Peterson Rich
February 24, 15
I was born January 6, 1974 to Robert Hanmer Peterson and Marilyn Lee Peterson in the Cottonwood Hospital, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Verl Talbot was the OB. My mom told me that I had so much hair; I had my first hair cut at birth. I am assuming that meant she had an episiotomy. I was 10 pounds. Mom told me I was born on a snowy “Fast Sunday”, but it didn’t go by very fast for her. In my first photograph, I look like a Cherokee Indian baby with my red face and my chunky hands in a peace sign. I was the preceded by 4 brothers: Robert Lee, Eric Lee, Michael Lee, and Gary Lee Peterson. How cool that we were all Lees (my moms maiden name)! Supposedly they were all pretty excited to have a girl in the family. I came home to 3121 South 1810 East (Salt Lake City Utah 84106). My phone was 801-484-8923.
Mom always told me that my first flower was a daffodil. Rob bribed me to walk with Life Savers candy. Apparently it worked because I am a walker.
I remember sitting on the front row of primary, in the Kenwood 1st ward of the Wilford Stake, putting my dress over my head. My teacher let me know my dress looked much prettier with it down. If I remember correctly I loved primary. Sister Carolyn Curtis Reynolds taught us the song “Let us all press on” with a poster with great pictures on it. Each time I sing the song I think of the head of Lettuce she used as a picture (Lettuce all press on). I loved having Shannette Dudley as my teacher; I would ride my little bike and visit her at her home. I remember going to church twice in a day on Sunday and going to primary on Wednesday (the block schedule) for a short period of my life. I remember going to President Kimball’s viewing. I also remember being with Dad when he found Aunt Sue dead in her home. They lived right behind us and we would often go visit. I remember asking if I could use her bathroom when ours was out of commission. Church was always something we just did as a family. I never remember my parents telling me we had to go, we just went. We always sat on the second bench. Tithing was also something they taught me that we just did. I am so thankful for parents who taught me by word and example.
Only my dad called me Christina, everyone else called me Chris. I was named after my Great Grandmother Christina Miller. Dad’s Aunt Elsie Christina always thought I was named after her so she would give me special gifts. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I wasn’t named after her. Our home teacher called me Crissy Wissy Wiss. I did not like the name Chris so I insisted that people call me Mary. It may have had something to do with my Grandma Mary Lee. Unless you called me Mary, I would ignore you. Mom took me to the ZCMI annual sock sale. Somehow I walked off with the wrong mom and realized that I was lost. I told a store employee that I couldn’t find my mom. He made an announcement over the intercom that Mary Peterson was waiting for her mother. In my childish perspective, it seemed like it took mom a second but she realized she was missing her Mary. I am sure she was frantic. When Matt and I were married, Renee Bench gave us a wedding gift to Matt and Mary.
I was truly born of goodly parents. Both of them did an excellent job of showing and telling me they loved me. I knew they were proud of me. They were never very strict with me but they didn’t have to be, I totally respected them and loved them.
I loved being with my Mom. She was amazing. I loved reading with her. She often read me the Elephants Child and quoted from it often. I loved reading Madeline with her and loved the line, “And to the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said Pooh Pooh.” Rocky loves that part as well, well at least just Pooh Pooh part.
I loved the dresses my mom would make me. I remember a pale pink fabric with rosebuds that she made one of my dresses out of. I still have a little of that fabric and have incorporated it into some of my projects. She also made me a dress with lady bug buttons on it. Lady bugs still remind me of my momma. Mother Karen jackets were very popular and expensive. She made me a Mother Marilyn one instead. I still have it in my hope chest. She sewed a tag in the back that said, “made with love by Mother”. Any time she sewed she would give me my own project to work on along side her. I loved to stand her cutting board up on its end and do fashion shows. She would let me dress her up as well.
My mom was such a great sport. I remember giving her a make over with make up and making her look like Rainbow Bright in the end. I loved to cook with her. I have fond memories of making Celestial Jam with her (apricot pineapple jam). She always made me feel like I was helpful and I don’t remember her acting irritated that I was in her way at all. As a mom now, I am sure there were times that I drove her bonkers. When we would bake she always had me share some of what we had made with a friend or neighbor. I was reading in my Grandmother Lees journal that her mom had done the same thing. Now, as a mom myself, I have my kids do the same thing. I love that this is a tradition that has been in our family for at least 4 generations. I loved to compare our hands: hers were veiny and spotted, mine were smooth and flawless (Cooper loves to do that as well, but now mine are the aged hands).
Mom loved a good snowball or water fight. She set up many booby traps, had her own Super Soaker 2000 water gun, and loved to hose us down if we went past her while she was holding the hose. I always knew that her church callings were important to her and she loved her Heavenly Father very much. I remember many times barging into her room only to find her on her knees in prayer. If I talked to her during the Sacrament, she never got mad at me, she just kept her eyes shut and modeled how to act during the sacrament. Her quiet example taught me volumes. Visiting teaching was important to her. She was a diligent visiting teacher and was very blessed by those that came to our home. One time she was visiting Margaret Steuer and had talked much longer than I wanted to stay there. I begged and pleaded for us to leave and she continued to talk. I got sick of it and went behind the couch and stripped down to my birthday suit. I walked out naked as a jay bird and announced that I was ready to leave. It worked. I dare you to try it.
Dad and his brother, Uncle Lowell, built our house. The back porch was built around a tree. I would lie on the porch and stare up into the tree. One time, a pair of giant eyes stared back at me. I ran in to tell Mom someone was staring at me. She
didn’t believe me at first and it took her a moment to get off the phone. When she came out we realized it was an owl staring at us. Another time I was sitting on our sunny front porch. I was holding a potato bug in my hand. The bug started rising up and tons of baby potato bugs crawled out all over my hand. I remember running into the house covered in bugs calling for my mom. I am sure she loved that.
I have great memories of my dad. I remember jumping through the newspaper he was reading to surprise him. Another time he was reading the paper I put tons of barrettes into his thick curly hair. Dad would let me ride on his shoulders. We would take Max on walks over to Highland Park elementary School. Max could climb up on the playground equipment; I was convinced he was the wonder dog. I remember dad carving his cool initial insignia into a tire at the school. I was certain we would be carted off to jail. I loved laying on the grass with my dad and discussing the shapes in the clouds. At night we would stare up at the heavens and he would share his vast knowledge of the universe. I loved when we would rake leaves together because he would pile the leaves into the wheelbarrow and let me ride on top. I loved hearing my dad laugh really hard when he would watch TV. His entire body would shake with his laugh. I knew my dad could solve any problem. He would come up with a unique solution that often involved green string, a coin or duct tape. He would treat me to lunch but always steal my fries. Dads catch phrase was, “It’s a possibility.”
I don’t have too many memories of Rob and Eric as a young child. They were so much older than me. Rob was 14 years older and Eric 13. By the time I was old enough to retain many memories they were on missions and getting married. They were both always kind to me. I remember Eric giving me some advice on a sewing project I was working on. I told him I didn’t want it perfect, I wanted it Chrissy. I do remember Rob having some terrible migraines. I always loved his waterbed. I also remember Eric being depressed and Calico faithfully staying by his side. Eric would listen to the scriptures on the record player and fall asleep to it. The record would often get stuck and repeat itself. It would always get stuck on “The living God, the living God, the living God…”
Mike loved tennis. As a kid I often went along to his matches, once in a while I would get bored. One of the matches was at Liberty Park. Mom took me to the playground for a break. There was a massive slide that I decided to brave. I climbed all the way to the top of the ladder and chickened out. As I made my descent, I fell. Luckily a man saw me falling and ran over and caught me before I landed! Another time I wanted to have my very own tennis balls. I asked the employee how much the used balls were. He suggested a penny apiece. Using my great brain, I told him I would take one dollars worth. He quickly raised the price to a quarter apiece. I always admired Mike. He was kind to me and he was always doing something fun and creative. I loved when he would ask or answer girls to dances. He had a gift for coming up with amazing costumes. Mom was frustrated and asked for Mikes support. I few minutes later he brought her his athletic support. Another time one of the boys brought home the class gerbils. One of the gerbils ate the other. Mike placed the carcass on a Ritz cracker and said, “Everything tastes better on a Ritz”. Another time he left a note in our gas notebook in the Camaro (the gas gauge was
broken so we had to record the mileage) “I hope you enjoy your ride in the car, but if you don’t get gas you won’t go far”.
Gary and I had a love hate relationship. We were only 4 ½ years apart and naturally you pick on the younger sibling. I also spent more time with him than any of my other brothers. He told me I was adopted, funny I didn’t realize how we looked like twins or I could have argued that we came from the same parents. He once had me go in the bathroom and stick my 2 fingers out of the space between the door and the wall between the two hinges. He was on the other side and placed an egg between my fingers. Because of the set up, the only way I could get out was to drop the egg. He let me know how mad mom would be if I were to do that. Funny, because mom never really got mad that I can remember. He handcuffed me to the table once. I am pretty sure he told me to climb in the dryer as well. I was always the one to light the tennis ball rockets, sometimes my Barbie’s were astronauts in those rockets. I also had a doll amputated by the lawn mower (pretty sure I left it on the grass). After playing my Annie record, yes record, a million times it mysteriously disappeared. Pretty sure it was used as a Frisbee. In his defense I am sure that as a little sister I would drive him nuts and I am sure I could dish it out as well. I am guessing those 3 other kind brothers that I referred to earlier taught him all these skills. When my parents told me one day we would be friends I never believed them, NEVER . Little did I know, they were right.
Christmas was always such a special time of year. Mom and I would read stories under the Christmas tree. I loved going through the Sears catalog and circling all the things that I wanted. It was never over the top, but Mom/Santa always made Christmas magical. I still have my Raggedy Ann doll that she made for me. We always had an orange in our stocking and a new toothbrush. Mike gave me a Pink Panther stuffed animal that I still have. Thanksgiving was a day of parade watching, food preparation and skiing. My brothers redecorated an old bike for me. They repainted and added all sorts of spiffy things to the bike like a beautiful banana seat, stickers and tassels. I was so proud of that bike and my amazing big brothers.
I tried to be a pretty good kid, but I do remember some of my antics. I remember being in my crib after church and wanting to take my dress off. Mom told me to wait for just a minute and she would be there to help me. I couldn’t wait, so I turned into the incredible hulk and tore my dress off. Another time mom had taken me to the Distribution Center and bought me a religious picture for my room. I wanted it hung as soon as we got home; she wanted to rest for a minute. I took matters into my own hands and used Elmer’s glue to stick the picture to my wall. I think I also glued some pictures I had drawn to the back of her door. I remember being jealous of Gary’s black and white TV and kicking it. I also remember being in time out and writing of the doorframe “you are a dumb pooh pooh” directed at Gary. If you look closely, I think it is still there. One spring I went over to the church and picked every single tulip from the garden and gave them to my mom. I also remember giving Gary the bird and not realizing my mom could see from the reflection of the microwave.
My parents tried to teach me the importance of being honest. I remember stealing a caramel from Grand Central. I ate it in the car as we drove home. Dad
turned the car around and took me back to the store to confess. Another time I stole a soda pop off of Arna Ropers back porch when she was out of town. Mom made me go to Hutchies (the corner store) to fess up. I kept telling her that wasn’t where I stole it from. As a grown woman I repaid Arna her soda pop. I think I also stole something from her daughter Cheri. Wow, I am sounding like a hardened criminal. I am happy to report that now I am an honest woman.
We had a great yard with lots of room to play. I loved all the fruit trees we had: apple 3 cherry, plum, 2 apricot, peach, and the rental property next door had a pear tree. There was a giant tree in the back yard that dad fixed a swing to. The only problem with the swing was the blue and yellow rope, it was surprisingly prickly. We made a little tree house in our apple tree. We hung a hammock between the two cherry trees that mom had called Sam and Ann. We had 3 huge maple trees out on the tree belt. I also remember having fun in the small irrigation ditch we had. Our front lawn was sloped and was the perfect place to throw down a piece of visqueen to make a slip and slide. Our drive way was very unique; it was a giant sand pile. I spent a lot of time making sand castles there when the cars (Pontiac Station Wagon, VW Bug (with a wooden bumper), the Jeep, the Charcoal Grey Camaro or the white Corsica). We also had a fire hydrant on our property. I loved when the Fire Department would check the water pressure and make a huge puddle to play in. We had very unusual garbage can storage. My dad had dug out a deep hole in the ground to store our trash cans, he covered it with a large piece of wood. I used the lid to tap dance on, it was my stage. I hated taking the trash out because once in a while you would see a rat.
Uncle Lowell designed our house and my dad built it. There were many unusual features. It was a split level with 2 separate entries. The front door of the house was really on the side. I always had my own bedroom. Dad made my bed. I had a desk that was supported by large metal drums that my mom used for food storage. I remember dismantling my desk so I could get sugar for my mom. My parent’s room, Gary’s and mine were upstairs. The older boys all slept down stairs. Dad made Mike a sweet bed in his closet. The pantry had a trap door at the back that would open, then you could climb down a ladder that went into the furnace room. I loved the exposed beams upstairs and the giant windows throughout the house. We had a swamp cooler that we would run in the summer that came out of the pantry. We also had an air cleaner that would zap particles out of the air. It was really fun to shake water into it because it would crackle like crazy. The living room had shag carpet that was orange, avocado green, and mustard yellow. The couch matched the carpet. We had one phone in the house and it was attached to the wall in the kitchen. The phone was a rotary dial and it was a lovely avocado green. I remember the excitement of getting our first microwave and VCR. We had a record player that had a set of giant headphones. Dad installed a car stereo in the wall of the kitchen. He also had a whole in our stainless steel sink so he soldered a quarter to cover it up.
Rob made a purchase that changed my life. I was over at Cheri Ropers, probably stealing things from her, and I was called to come home. I remember not wanting to come home but being told there was a surprise waiting for me. I walked
in the door and it was love at first sight. Rob had bought a Golden Labrador Retriever puppy. Max A Million Von Duck Seeker had giant paws, cinnamon colored ears, and beautiful brown eyes. We became best friends. I loved taking him on walks around the church. Rick James would whistle at me as we walked by. Max, or Muppy as I called him, would balance on playground equipment, cement parking strips, a low branch of a tree that was parallel with the ground, and even sat on a toilet dad had removed from the house. Max loved to eat food that wasn’t put away. Mom made cinnamon rolls once and Max ate them. Another time we left our gingerbread house on top of the TV and max knocked it off and ate it. That dog had legendary farts that I can still remember. He would escape from our yard any chance he could. We often referred to him as Houdini. He jumped out of the upstairs window of my parent’s room, the neighbor saw a 60-pound dog take flight. He had a dog run with a cable that would run the length of the yard with a chain attached to it. We would hook him up to this so he wouldn’t escape. His doghouse was on one end of it. We came home once to see that he had jumped on his house, jumped over the 6-foot fence, hung from his collar and slipped out. Another time we had him up at Skaggs Alphabeta in the back of the mustard Jeep Comanche truck. We left the sliding window open a crack as we went into the store for a few minutes. While we were shopping he muzzled the window open and jumped out. 3300 South was extremely busy as was the parking lot we were in. Luckily we found him before a car hit him. If ever there were a dog in heat he would find her. I am sure he was the father of many pups.
I can’t tell you how many times we picked that crazy dog up from the pound. It was always worth it. My parents were saints for all the times they would drive me around to find that dog. Max would sleep in my bed taking up the very center 70%. I would curl up in a ball where I could. One time I dreamed about a very wonderful smell only to realize that the smell was his poop! He had pooped on my floor! Max was so mellow. He would put up with me using him as a pillow, dressing him up, and all the other things a small girl would do with and to a dog. Once I was playing hide and seek with my friends with an Oreo. Max was happy to hide it for me, needless to say, my friends never found the Oreo. The only time I remember Rob getting upset with me was when I feed Max a container of Oreos. He also loved eating blueberry muffin wrapper papers. Gary loved to make the muffins, I loved to eat them (especially the batter), and max took care of the wrappers. That dog brought me so much joy and love. He was a huge part of my life.
We also had a cat named Calico or Calo. She was pure white, which really confused me when I learned what calico meant. Calico and I didn’t get a long very well. Understandably, she did not like having her tail pulled and often let me know by scratching me. Even Max was scared of her. Mom had a white furry hat that I had seen on the floor. I stepped in a puddle in the bathroom, so I went to wipe my foot off on moms hat. To my surprise and hers, it was not the hat. Calico did not like being stepped on and got me good for it. I still have scars on my hands from that day ( I was a terrible picker, it is a wonder any of my wounds ever healed). In hindsight I shouldn’t have cleaned my foot on a hat or a cat, or picked my scabs. Calico hated baths. The only way to give her a bath was in the downstairs shower
compartment with sliding glass doors in full denim attire. I didn’t really miss that cat until I found out that she had been put to sleep.
Dad felt like he was a pretty good swim teacher until I came along. I don’t know why, but I was deathly afraid of the water. Any time I was in swimming lessons I would wrap my arms and legs around the metal hand railing and there was no getting me off. I was much more of a skier. We were so blessed to live within 30 minutes from 7 different ski resorts. Most of our Saturdays were spent skiing as a family. I have so many great skiing memories. All of my brothers were expert skiers. Snowbird was our resort of choice, we often had season passes. My first experience skiing was memorable. Dad had helped me on and off of the chair lift all morning. He went to grab our lunch and told me to stay put. It seemed like he was gone forever so I decided to go find him. The lifty helped me on the lift but the girl I rode up with did know I was expecting her to help me. I didn’t get off and rode down the lift. I was mortified: I got a lot of funny looks and comments like, “hey you ski down the hill!” I got off at the bottom and hiked back up Chickadee and found my dad. Dad would talk to everyone we rode the lift with. I not only learned to ski from his example, but also the importance of being friendly. He would sing “High On A Mountain Top” at the top of his lungs as we rode up the lift together. I have always admired his desire and ability to share his testimony, even at 13,000 feet.
We didn’t have a lot of contact with our extended cousins. On dad side, it was Uncle Lowell and Aunt Lavern. Their kids were all much older than me. Lowell would come over because of the rental property that he shared with dad (3111 South 1810 East). On the Lee side Uncle Ben and Aunt Carol had kids that lined up with our ages. I was so happy to have Katherine, she was my age. Uncle Ralph and Aunt Hattie had lots of kids but they were much older than me. Uncle Ralph would tickle me every time I saw him. I hated it. To make him stop I would have to say “Please don’t tickle me Uncle Ralph dear” sometimes he would add to the phrase I had to say. Lets just say I am very opposed to tickling because of that experience. Aunt Maxine lived in Las Vegas so I rarely saw her. Uncle Jack and Aunt Maurine were always supportive with missions, graduations, showers. Their kids were also much older. Aunt Maureen gave me one of my favorite gifts ever. It was a box with my very own school supplies, lots of them.
Mom formed a preschool Co-op with 3 other moms. Natalie Seabury, Kathy Ipsen, and Nicole Jefferies were in my group. I loved when my mom was in charge. She took us on the UTA bus down town on a field trip. She also baked with us. Mom would often take me on one on one dates either down town on the bus or to the Cottonwood Mall. We would always end up at The Tiffen Room, a restaurant in ZCMI. I would always order a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. I loved this time with my mom. She always made me feel important and loved.
I was a very happy and healthy kid. In March of 1979, Mom took me in for my Kindergarten physical with Dr. Ray Thomas. I was looking forward to going to the Hogle Zoo with my primary class and Sister Speakman as soon as the appointment was over. During the exam, a tumor the size of a large grapefruit was found in my abdomen. Dr. Thomas said if I would have moved or laughed he may not have found it. As a parent I can’t begin to imagine what a shock this would have been to my parents. It makes me sick just to think of the pain and anguish they must have felt. Needless to say, I missed out on the zoo experience. We met dad and
moms brother, Uncle Jack, at home and they gave me a Priesthood Blessing. In order to clean out my system for tests, I had to drink Caster Oil. My sweet dad sang silly songs and would offer me orange juice to wash it down. Imagine my dad being devastated and having the ability to make a terrible experience sweeter with his wonderful song. That is my dad for you. Tests were done and it was determined that the tumor needed to be removed as soon as possible. They were certain from looking at the tumor that it was malignant. My poor parents were told that if I lived through the surgery I would most likely be paralyzed because of the proximity of the tumor to my spinal chord. They were also told that I would most likely not live past age 8. The tumor was a Neuroblastoma and that was a death sentence. Mom recorded in her journal that dads skin was green because he was so upset. Rob was in the MTC preparing to serve his mission in Nagoya Japan. In his journal he shared how he plead with his Heavenly Father that if his little sister was spared he would serve the Lord with all he could. He had the MTC fast and pray for me.
Last night I got the worst news I have ever had in my life. When the man at the front desk said to call the Primary Children’s Hospital my heart sunk into panic. When I got Dad on the phone he comforted me that everything was alright. But when he told me the news it was all I could do to keep from bawling. Chris had gone in for a physical for kindergarten, and the doctor found a large lump in her stomach, a tumor the size of a fist. Chris had known what was going on, and to protect me she said she was in the hospital just because she had a cold. She is such a brave little kid. I love her with all my heart. Her operation to remove the tumor is tomorrow. I talked with her for 15 minutes last night, and I talked to everyone else in the family except Eric. My ward and my district and my branch all fasted for her today, and I know that the faith of all these people will not go unanswered. I am scared about tomorrow, and I hope with all my heart that the news I get is good news.
Bishop Steuer had the Kenwood 1st ward fast and pray for me. Sister Hoopiana told me that was the first time she had ever fasted and what a special experience it was for her. I remember being terrified to go to the Old Primary Children’s Hospital. I pictured it being in a cold and dark cave with monsters for nurses. I hid in the back of our brown Pontiac Station Wagon so I wouldn’t have to go. Dr. Matlack was the surgeon who preformed the surgery. I had really long hair that they were ready to cut off. A kind male nurse with several daughters informed the hospital that he would take care of my hair so they wouldn’t have to cut it. Brittany Steuer, my best friend at the time, had given me a yellow Pinocchio nightgown for the hospital.
Big Bird was there with me as they put me under with pineapple-scented gas. I remember coming out of surgery and being very foggy. I thought there was someone sharing the other end of the operating table with me. I remember wetting the bed because they didn’t bring me a bedpan fast enough. I loved watching the helicopters land outside my window and all the gifts people brought me. Someone brought me a pink foam horse that was covered with rings. This may have been when my love of jewelry started. Mom and Dad were paged to come meet with the doctor. Their hearts sank wondering how things could possible get worse. Dr.
Matlack told them that the tumor that they removed was no longer cancerous, it was benign!!! He told my parents this was a miracle a 1 in 10, 000 situation. I remember trying hard not to pick at my incision; luckily it was covered in tape.
I went back for a few follow up appointments and was told I was all clear. We gave Dr. Matlack a Book of Mormon that I carefully wrapped in tin foil. He told us some thing to the effect that he didn’t know what we believed in, but it was powerful and believed in us. So many people were touched by this miracle. At this point in my life I have to remind my self that I am a survivor! There is a reason I was spared and I better give this second chance on life all that I’ve got. I am so thankful to for the Priesthood Power that my dad was worthy to hold and the miracles that are possible with that power. I am thankful for the power of united prayer and fasting. God is good. Today I look at my 3 beautiful healthy kids and feel so blessed that I am here to be their Momma. I can’t imagine what a roller coaster this must have been for my parents. Each time I take my kids to the doctor I am reminded what a blessing it is to have healthy children.
Here are some excerpts from Robs Journal:
Tonight my prayer and the prayers of many others were answered. I am so terribly indebted to the Lord. Dad called me about 8:30 and told me that the operation was a success and the doctors thought that everything would be alright. I know without a doubt that the Lord loves us and answers our prayers.
Monday March 12, 1979
2268 South 3270 West
Salt Lake City, Utah 84119
Our Prayers have been answered. Christina’s tumor was benign, not malignant, not cancerous. She is doing fine and should be home this week. Dr. Michael Matlack who removed the orange sized tumor from Chris had never seen a tumor of the size and location which had been changed by the body’s natural defences and the help of the Lord from malignant to benign. He said that there was a ten thousand to one chance of this happening. Which day, what time and where do you want us to come and give you a father’s blessing?
Yesterday I got the best news I have ever had in my life. Chris’s orange sized tumor by some miracle from God had been “benign”. None of the physicians had ever seen or heard of a tumor that large that had not been cancerous “malignant”. I wish I had time to write more of these past two weeks because my testimony has increased beyond measure.
I also learned how this experience had a great influence on Eric and his testimony.
Funny how trials really shape us if we let them.
As a child I either had terrible teeth or we had a terrible dentist. I am still not quite sure. I had lots of cavities. I remember being at Dr. Woodburry’s office all the time. It may have something to do with the fact that I would hide those nasty pink fluoride tablets or try to feed them to my dog. He didn’t like them either.
We had a great neighborhood. I made friends with everyone, young and old. I would play at the church a lot. I rode my bike in the parking lot, played tennis against the big brick will, learned how to do flips on the hand rails, and played with the neighborhood kids. Natalie Seabury, Chris James, Brandon Dorney and I would play POMP on the grass. Eric taught me how to fly a kite in the parking lot.
I started Kindergarten at Libbie Edward Elementary School (1979-1980). I would go for half of the day. Mrs. Picket was my teacher. I learned the magic of reading and can still remember the giant books from which she taught us. We played a game with flash cards and it was my turn. My word was YES, I was devastated because I could not remember what it said. At recess I was having so much fun playing inside one of the giant tires that me and the boy I was with did not hear the bell. I don’t know how late we were when we realized it but I sure felt bad for coming in late. Mom wanted me to have my beautiful long hair trimmed up to my shoulders. Our neighbor, Flo Neeley, cut hair in her basement. When I got there for my trim, she showed me a picture of her grand daughter with a pixie cut. To be polite, I told her it was a cute style. To my horror, and my dad’s, she cut my hair just like her grand daughters. Dad cried. When I went to line up the next day for afternoon kindergarten, one of the girls told me to get out of the girls line and go stand in the boys line. Pretty sure that broke my heart. I loved school especially the music part of it. Natalie Seabury and I would walk to school together. She forgot her show and tell so we went back to her house to grab it. We were late for school. Her mom grounded her from me. Life seemed really unfair. I loved meeting new friends. Kim Taylor, Shelli Springer, and Sherry Astin were 3 of my very best friends. 36 years later, they still are. God has always blessed me with exceptional friends. For Halloween that year I dressed as Darth Vader. I am sure my parents looked forward to a little princess. With 4 brothers what else would you expect? Eric was called to the Sacramento California mission (1980-81). I had 2 brothers serving mission at the same time. I do remember singing Oh How Lovely Was The Morning at his farewell or homecoming. For Christmas he mailed us some Mormon board game. Rob sent me a beautiful Kimono and other exotic Japanese treasures. I was so proud of my missionary brothers. I remember when Rob left, as we were driving away from the Salt Lake Airport, I asked if he was in heaven yet. It must have felt like a huge sacrifice for me to give up my brothers.
In first grade I had Mrs. Kimball (1980-1981). She had a treasure box we would choose prizes from. That box seemed absolutely magical to me. I had my Dorthy Hammel hair cut that year. I had a thing for hanging onto Tic Tac containers and drinking out of them. Just enough for a little sip.
Mrs. Saunders was my 2
nd grade teacher (1981-1982). I adored her gentle ways and really wanted to please her. One day I really had to use the bathroom and she would not let me leave. I peed in my lavender chords. I was so humiliated. Luckily recess came and there was a lot of snow on the ground so I sat in it so I would have a wet spot from snow. Grandma Lee died November 16 1981. She was the only grandparent I had, the other 2 died before I was born. I never felt like I really knew her because she was always sick. Most of my memories of her were in the nursing home. I do remember she had some yummy chocolate caramels in her drawer that I would sneak. Turns out they were appetite suppressants. I remember cleaning out grandma’s basement on 1111 east and 900 South. It was full of tools; pretty sure he was in heaven inheriting Ralph Lees tools. I remember the day we went there, some creepy guy on his bike told me to come with him as I was riding home from Tiffany Fords house. I got a way as fast as I could. It scared me to death. I was baptized January 8, 1982 by my dad at the Tabernacle on Temple Square. I wish I had some amazing spiritual memory of that day, but I don’t. The best part was that we went to McDonalds after. I also remember being really excited that Rob was there. I was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that same evening at the church by my dad. Merri Coleman started giving me perms. They were so stinky and the solution would burn my skin.
Mrs. Leaver was my third grade teacher (1982-1983). She was fine, but I really wanted Mrs. Edmunds. I remember Mom voicing her opinion of the Christmas program. They had completely left Christ out of the program and she was very disappointed. Good for her for standing up for her beliefs. Mom had a brain tumor removed that year. It was really scary watching my mom have health problems as such a young age. Rob and Nancy were married June 30, 1983. I was pleased as punch to finally have a sister. Nancy was a dream come true, I admired her so much. Knowing her has truly enriched my life. Today I am still trying to be like her. The other great thing that happened that year is that Mom took me to get my ears pierced. Dad was opposed to it buts somehow she pulled it off. I had it done at Castletons in Olympus Hills Mall. I felt like my life was forever changed. Mike graduated from high school.
In fourth grade I had Mrs. Buxton (1983-1984). She was quiet chesty, mom called her Mrs. Buxom. I loved the voices she used as she read aloud to us. Bud Bruhner got me out in dodge ball at recess. As I was walking to come take my turn, he threw the ball at me again and broke my right arm. Mom didn’t have a car that day so she picked me up in a taxi and took me to see Dr. Thomas. Eric and Cathleen were married in December of 1983. I was blessed to have 2 sisters added to my life in six months. Cathleen was so much fun. She would take me shopping and to movies. The best part about it was that our birthdays were a day apart so we would have an annual birthday shopping trip. Benjamin Evan Peterson was born 8/15/84 and made me an aunt at 10. I adored him and loved the responsibilities of being an aunt. I thought it was so weird that I was closer in age to him than Rob. Mike was called to serve in the Paraguay Ascuncion mission. I became a certified babysitter at St. Marks hospital.
Mrs. Turley was my 5
th grade teacher (1984-1985). I was a girl scout for a few years. The most vivid memory of scouting is when my very overweight leader sat on a barstool. Next thing I knew she was on the ground and the bar stool had broken to smithereens. Kim and I played in the band. We both played the flute. Mr. Lewis was our teacher; we thought he looked like a donkey. We were terrible to him. He called mom to report on my behavior. That was the only time a teacher called my parents. I am embarrassed that I was ever disrespectful to a teacher, I learned later in life how hard it was to teach. Sorry Mr. Lewis. I loved being in the band so much that I joined the summer band program. The band played at Lagoon. Dad was there with Kim and me; I remember he had really sweaty armpits. Kim and I would take the UTA bus to downtown Salt Lake and go to the mall. I find it shocking that my parents let me do that, there is no way I would dare let my kids do that. I had a knack for fashion, actually I just wore what ever I felt like. I was a mix of Punky Brewster and Madona. I would walk all the way over to Kim’s house and walk to school with her. Funny how I didn’t realize how far out of the way her house was.
My 6th grade teacher was Mr. Fletcher (1985-1986). He had terrible breath. I was in a 5th/6th split. That year I was on student council. My slogan was “Listen to this, vote for Chris!” I don’t remember being is class much that year. We had so much fun on student council. We played a lot in the auditorium and were infatuated with the ghost of Libbie Edward. We were certain that she was buried in the school. January 28, 1986 I remember watching the TV in our classroom as the space shuttle challenger exploded before our eyes. Mrs. Andrews, the librarian, had a daughter that would ask me about Gary. This helped me for give her for the time she tried to talk me out of my coupon for a free ice cream from McDonalds. I realized she was nice and was pretty excited she liked my brother. My friends were always important to me but it seems like this was the year we really started to spend time together and hang out. Kim and Shelli were the ones I spent the most time with. What great memories. I started Young Womens, the day I graduated from primary was Mikes homecoming. I had to go to the pulpit and say my article of faith in front of all his friends. Some of them were pretty darn handsome. I loved my friends from my ward and adored my leaders. We had so much fun at rough out camp, we did actually have to rough it in tents and out houses. Lisa Gustafson and I were both using the outhouse when we realized a skunk was in there with us. We both ran out screaming as we tried to pull our pants up. Gary started to rebell around this time and it scared me straight. It scared me to see how it hurt my parents. This may have been good for me to keep me out of trouble. I have memories of times that I wasn’t so kind to others. 30 years later they still make me sad. One time I made fun of the janitors crapy old station wagon. It makes me sick to my stomach that those words ever left my mouth. Everyone is going through something hard. Life is hard enough, I don’t need to make it harder on others. It is so important to think before you speak or act. Lift others, don’t pull them down. So thankful for repentance. So, so thankful.
I started 7
th grade at Evergreen Junior High School on 2000 East just off of 3300 south (1986-1987). I was very nervous for the unknown but soon realized it wasn’t so bad. It was fun having 7 different periods, a locker and a bigger school. I continued to play the flute, had sewing, foods, honors English, started learning Spanish. I met many new friends from the other feeder school. Amanda Gurule joined my little posse and we became SACK: Shelli, Amanda, Chris, and Kim. The coolest thing was that Kim and Shelli’s phone numbers were just one number off from each other. I would walk over to Kim’s every morning and we would walk to school together. I felt like they were my family. The Taylors treated me like a Taylor. Keith Taylor was a prankster and loved to scare us. We had so much fun going on bike rides, having sleepovers, walking to the Hogle Zoo, we did everything together. I started becoming friends with more and more boys. We started hanging out with Tyler Hendrickson, John Hinich, and Paul Cardall (who is now a famous pianist). We would walk home to school together. We spent the weekends to toilet papering each others houses. I bet we toilet papered them every weekend. I am sure all of our parents loved that. I shared a locker with Kim. My bag was bigger than my locker. I was first introduced to drugs at a party at Annie Storch’s house. I was horrified and called my dad. Later I found out it was a trick, but I was so thankful I had already made the choice that I would not do drugs. I felt sick that night and woke up with Chicken Pox. Tyler was the first boy that I knew liked me. He brought me a giant Hershey Kiss for Valentines. I couldn’t go to the door because I was covered in Chicken Pox. I went on my first airplane ride to Washington DC with Mom and Dad. Nicholas Patrick Peterson was born 12/23/86. I have a beautiful memory of Mike holding Nick in a Christmas stocking. David Evans Peterson was born 3/18/87. There is a great photo of me holding David with my shiny white lipstick and my bangs ratted up like a bird nest. This was also a time of pegged legs on your pants, SWATCH watches and shoulder pads. We had a tubing activity in YW that dad told me he didn’t feel good about me going on. I couldn’t understand why, forged his name and went anyway. I ended up in the emergency room because I injured my back. Being obedient that day (and many others) could have saved me a lot of pain. Obedience brings blessings. I can’t remember which teachers I had which year but these are the ones I remember: Mrs. Burton-Health, Ms. Clegg-Spanish, Ms. Empey-PE, Mr. Falcone-Band, Ms. Farr-History, Ms. Johnson-Type (yes on a typewriter), Ms. Miller-home economics, Mrs. Orr-Art, Mrs. Spring-Science, Mr. Stelter-History, Mr. Turner-Geography, Mrs. Van Orden-Math, Mrs. Weight-English, Mrs. Padgen-English, Mr. Blomquist-Science, Mr. Burningham-Math, Mrs. McClellan-Science.
th grade (1987-1988) wins the prize for being my hardest year in school. I stayed with my core group of friends. That was the year where peer pressure really started and many of my friends began making choices that they shouldn’t have. I was blessed to have good friends that influenced my choices for the good. Pretty sure this was my last year in band. I was a candy striper at St. Marks Hospital with Annie Storch and Stephanie Wells. That was such a great opportunity to help others. Sometimes I worked in the gift shop, I even ran the cash register at times. November 21, 1987 I was having a wonderful day in my cute red and white stripped uniform with red leggings. I was on my break with my friends, eating a soft serve ice cream cone and was told that there were some guys there to meet me. I couldn’t imagine what cute boys were waiting for me. When the elevator doors open the cute boys were not the ones I had expected. Rob and Gary were there. They came to deliver a terrible blow: Mike was dead. My wonderful, handsome, smart, popular, funny, spiritual brother, whom I adored, was dead. I kept asking Rob if he meant Gary as I stared at Gary. Mom and Dad were home and heard the shower turn on in the early afternoon, then they heard a terrible noise. Dad ran downstairs to see what it was only to find Mike, his baby, had ended his own life. Rob and Nancy lived next door at the time. Dad ran for Robs help, it was obvious there was nothing they could do. I can’t imagine the scene that horrific scene must have left on their minds. Then to have Rob drive down to REI to pick Gary up from work, and then for them both to come pick me up. It breaks my heart to think of what they went through. I remember driving home and Rob trying to comfort us. I remember thinking this is something that is going to affect me for the rest of my life and that I am going to have to get through. We turned on to our street to see it was crowded with police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. Not a scene you want to see. I will never forget Dads face, the grief he must have felt; a parents worst nightmare. I remember going out to get Max and the officer guarding the door telling me I need to stay inside. It was all surreal. I remember going out to dinner at Snelgrove’s with Mom, Dad, and Gary trying to pretend every thing was normal. It wasn’t: we were absolutely in shock and devastated. Waking up the next morning I was sure it was a terrible nightmare only to realize it was real. We were flooded with love by family, friends, ward members. Food, flowers, cards started pouring in but I knew they would not bring my brother back. Shelli Springer brought me some Turkeys made from Tulle, pipe cleaners, and M&Ms. I am amazed how much those turkeys meant to me. In a situation like this it is hard to know what to do, but it is important to do something. We are to comfort those that stand in need of comfort and mourn with those that mourn. Although Mike’s suicide was a tragedy, over time I have learned many important lessons. The atonement of Jesus Christ and time can heal all things. All things. I have learned that life is short and can end instantly. Always let the people you love know how much you love them. Solve issues quickly so you don’t have to live with regrets. I have learned that we can’t judge others, only God should do that. God knows the goodness of our hearts and our intents. He loves us and understands us perfectly. He wants what is best for us. Suicide is wrong, it is murder, but I don’t worry about Mike. He free from pain and I know he is ok. I know that my family is eternal and I will see them again. This was a hard way to learn those lessons but I am so thankful for them. Unfortunately I have met many others who were left behind in the wake of suicide. I am thankful and honored that I could comfort them and empathize with them.
Life did get back to normal with time. I felt weird because at the time I did not know anyone else who had gone through this. At school, I was the girl whose brother killed himself. Six months before or after, Mom was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphatic
Leukemia, another blow to our family. What a scary thing for a teenager to go through. I remember she told me about it on our sidewalk. Another blow to my teenage heart was Rob, Eric and their families moved back east. I felt like I had lost 3 brothers in a year. Not to mention my sisters and my little loves, my nephews. 8th grade was my last year of band.
Ninth grade was better (1988-1989)! Big lesson in life, things always get better. Good chance they will get hard again, but even that will get better. I ran for 9th grade class president. My slogan was “Snap, Crackle, Pop: Vote Chrispy” The name Chrispy stuck for the rest of my days. I was first runner up in the Utah Wool Growers competition. I made a forest green dress out of wool. Mom bought me some darling accessories; hat, scarf and jewelry to go with it. I loved to sew dresses, mom was a great teacher. I took great pride in my creations. Looking back I made a ton of dresses and other articles of clothing. I was a Teacher Assistant for Mrs. Padgen, doing important jobs like running to Wallies to get donuts. It was my first year of seminary. I had no idea how good I had it to have seminary as an elective. I continued to hang out with SACK and made many other friends. I had all sorts of crushes on boys. Huge crush on Dusty Sharp, I pierced his ear with a thumb tack in Spanish class. We had a substitute teacher, I borrowed some ice out of her diet coke and stuck a thumbtack through his ear. Scott Pickerell was my first kiss, Christmas day 1988, way to young. I was offered alcohol by a friend for the first time. Again, I am so thankful I didn’t have to make that decision on the spot, I had already chosen not to drink. Kim was with me and later told me she probably would have given in if it were not for my strength. I had no idea I was influencing others. You never know who is watching. Choose the right even if you stand alone. I spoke at 9th grade promotion in my green, lacy satin dress that I made. I was nervous before I went on stage so I ran to the bathroom. I tucked my dress into my tights. Luckily Ms. Clegg (my quirky Spanish teacher who acted like she had a hangover most days) stopped me before I went on stage. For promotion I went to Marie Callender’s for dinner with mom and dad, the Taylors, and the Springers. Then we stayed overnight at Shelli’s cabin. Spencer Patrick Peterson was born 5/31/89. Michael Evans Peterson was born 6/1/89. I was blessed to go visit them in Pennsylvania and Virginia that summer. I spent a lot of time with my church friends. We had a very small youth group so we all became very close. Lisa Gustafson and Natalie Seabury were my very close friends. We had all sorts of fun ward and stake activities. Pioneer trek, Oakcrest, Rocking R Dude Ranch, Lake Powell trip, Flaming Gorge, Snow Collage Youth Conference. I have great memories of the different Road Shows and plays I was a part of with the ward. Our youth group was so small we all became very close (Chris James, Brandon Dorney, Ryan White, the Diefel Boys, John Oldroyd, Lisa Gustafson, Natalie Seabury, Nina Fluer). I always played ward basketball, volleyball and softball even thought I hated the team sports. I remember making a basket for the other team and Gus Gustafson yelling at me, “wrong basket Peterson!” I was so self conscious and never wanted to play. My parents would pay me to help around the house. I loved mowing the lawn, $10! Mom would let me keep the money I helped her save in coupons.
th grade, my sophomore year, I moved up to Olympus High School on 2300 east and 3900 south (1989-1990). I hung out with Sherry Astin, Cory Bodily, Shala Archer, Jen Anderson, Kim Barrett (Jensen). Amanda joined a new group of friends. So did Kim and Shelli. I also hung out with Jamie Bevan. This was the big year for driving and being able to date. I took drivers ed at school. I learned to drive in the Camaro and the Jeep. I hated driving a stick shift, I still do. I enjoyed being able to date and go the high school dances. I made most of my dresses for dances. My first job was Fabric Warehouse on 3300 South and 700 East. I loved fabric and it was fun to have my own money. It was a sketchy neighborhood; I called 911 for a knife fight in the parking lot and on a car fire. I went on all sorts of fun trips with my friends. Mesquite was one of our favorite places for Spring Break. I remodeled my bedroom just the way I wanted it. I made the curtains and my quilt (forest green and cream stripes, rosy floral print. I loved my young women leaders( Sheryl White, Linda Noyce, Shanette Dudley, Meri Coleman). They taught me to have fun and to work hard. I painted with Jeff Noyce to earn some money. I went with Matt Vandorn to Homecoming Dance, Monster Mash, and Christmas Dance. Scott Engh to Junior Prom, Brent Wall to MORP, Darren Kirkham to Sweetheart Ball, Brandon Dorney to Inaugural Ball.
11th grade, my junior year (1990-1991). In SeptemberI had my wisdom teeth removed and the membrane that holds my gums to my lip snipped. I couldn’t laugh or smile for a week. Ouch! I started hanging out with Jeff Hall and his group of friends. We met in seminary. Some of my friends had gotten into drugs and choices I was not interested in. I was thankful for a strong group of kids that for the most part made good choices. Kim and Shelli were in this group. It was a welcome change. We had to put Max to sleep on May 13, 1991. I felt like a chunk of my heart was missing. That dog was such a big part of most of my life. I did some crazy things with my hair. I had a spiral perm, which made my hair look like top Raman. Then I paid (actually dad paid) to have my hair straightened. I went to most of the dances with lots of different people until Jeff came along. Once we started dating, he was always my date. We had a lot of great times. I regret only dating one person at such a young age. I wish I had listened to dad’s advice on the ABC method of dating. Don’t just date Mr. A, give B and C a chance as well. I really limited my opportunities by being with the same person all the time. I also put my self in situations that I should not have been in exclusively dating the same person. Gary and Lisa got married this year. They lived downstairs. I loved having a sister there with me. They didn’t like my loud cowboy boots clomping on the floor. I also got braces on my bottom teeth. I got my Patriarchal Blessing on January 13, 1991. Mark Alred took me to Homecoming, went to the Hawk Hoedown at Alta with Justin Andrews. Monster Mash with Aaron Jensen, Christmas Dance with Matt Werit, Morp with Matt Graham, Jeff Hall to: Sweethart Ball, Inaugural Ball, MA. I spent Thanksgiving in Arizona with the Halls. I went to all sorts of concerts: Chicago, AC/DC, UB40, Warrant, Guns and Roses, Scorpions, Howard Jones, Sting. Jeff heavily influenced the music I listened to. Be careful what you listen to, it stays in a long time. I had a turtle named Francis for a few days until I had to get rid of him. Most of my growing up I had an aquarium in my room with tiny frogs and fish.
My senior year at Olympus was all sorts of fun (1991-1992). I was enjoying pottery until I broke my finger, on a Nerf football, don’t ask. My crowning project was my porcelain face mask. I had terrible luck with the dentist that year. Pretty sure I had 5 root canals my senior year. I snuck on top of the gym with Sherry Astin and ate bean burritos from Taco Bell. I did some “seasonal employment” as the Easter Bunny at the ZCMI
Center. I have a great picture of my parents sitting on my lap. That bunny suit was so stinking hot. I took AP Calculus and Art History. Art history was so much fun. We went on a class trip to San Francisco. Calculus was another story. Dad gave me so much help, I really struggled in that class. I was one of 2 students who didn’t pass the AP test. The other was my future Sister In Law, Trish. I ran for Senate and did not make it. This was my first time I did not win an election and I was devastated. I decided to redeem my self and ran for Vice President of the Women’s Organization OWA. I made it and had a great time with all the ladies I met. I graduated from Seminary. The ceremony was held at the tabernacle. High school graduation, for the class of 1992, was held at the University of Utah at the Huntsman Center. I wore a white dress that I had made. For Senior trip a group of us drove to New Port Beach California. I am in shock my parents let me go. I continued to spend way too much time with Jeff. Senior dances: Homecoming, Brighton’s WA Dance, OWA Christmas Dance (Gary and Lisa were chaperones), MORP, Sweethearts Ball, Senior Prom, Inaugural Dance, MA all with Jeff Hall. What was I thinking?!? Monster Mash another girl asked him and I was heartbroken.
After graduation I started working at REI on 3300 South and 3300 East. I met a lot of great friends there. Jen VanDorn and Amy Iba became 2 dear friends. I don’t know how I ever made enough money to put myself through school with all the great stuff I purchased there. I started attending the University of Utah in the fall of 1992-1993. I was blessed in that my parents had me pay for my own school. I lived at home and either rode the bus or rode my bike to the U. I was interested in joining a sorority, a Greek one, not the churchy one. Some of my girl friends talked me into going to the LDSSA Rush week. They signed me up for Gamma Xi. What a life saver and changer that was for me. I loved Gamma Xi. Joyce Buehner was our advisor. She was wonderful and made everything she touched magical. I loved my sorority sisters, the fun we had, but most importantly I loved feeling the Spirit. Holly Richardson (VicK), Stacy Jensen (Hansen), Tiffani Knowles (Swensen), Kara Burton (Ohlsen), Angie Heaps (Schroepfer) and many others. These girls were incredible examples to me. I wanted what they had. I wanted my scriptures marked like they had theirs marked, but even more so I wanted to believe what they did. I realized that some of the choices I was making in my life were preventing me from feeling the Spirit. I thought I was happy, but I soon learned I was missing out on a fullness of joy. After going to a fireside on virtue that smacked me upside the head like a ton of bricks. I realized it was time to make some serious changes in my life. Up to this point I never encouraged Jeff to go on a mission, in fact I discouraged it for my own selfish reasons. The night of the fireside I started some serious repentance and told him if things were to continue in our relationship, he needed to go on a mission. I remember flipping open my scriptures to one about not procrastinating the day of my repentance. In January of 1993 Jeff left for his mission in Japan. I knew for sure I would “wait for him”. I sent him a letter every week and sent all sorts of packages. I also stayed in close contact with his family. The Halls were so good to me and treated me like I was already part of the family. I even went on trips with them. I realized that as Jeff was growing spiritually that I needed to do the same. I worked hard in school, played hard with my sorority sisters and nourished my testimony. I had always gone to church because that is what my family did and because I loved how much fun I had with my friends there. I was a seminary graduate and had earned all the awards that I could in Young Women’s, but I never really thought about what I believed. I knew my parents had strong testimonies so I just leaned on theirs. That got me through a lot of years but I realized it
was time for me to figure it out for myself. I had such a great time at the U. We went to San Diego for most of our spring breaks. Gary and I floated down the Salmon River with our friends from REI. I volunteered every summer at the Utah Arts Festival with Kim. September 21, 1992 Jacob was born. I painted with Joyce Buehner and her painting crew.
My second year at the U was wonderful (1993-1994). I bought myself one of those new fangled bread machines and earned the title “Bread Girl”. I was Rush Chairman for Gamma Xi. “Come Fly with Gamma Xi” was our theme. We had so much fun and made cherished memories. Dad bought the Corsica. I continued to have dental problems. I had a file from a root canal break off in my mouth. I can’t begin to express the pain that caused. It is still there to this day, and no the metal detector does not go off at airport security when I go through. I continued working at REI. I was nominated the employee of the month and received my own parking spot with my name on it. The best part about it was I didn’t have a car! Ha! I took all sorts of extra fun classes at the U. Bowling, aerobics, swimming (thought I would try again) and many camping classes. Although I had a great time doing all those fun things, it never occurred to me that I was paying tuition (and lots of it) to go have fun. I applied for any kind of scholarship I could. I received one through LDSSA. Gamma Xi headed back to San Diego for spring break. Upon returning from San Diego I soon realize something terrible had happened to Mom. She was a different person. Over the years she had developed more health problems: Parkinson’s Disease, several small strokes, thyroid tumors, Manic Depression, Osteoporosis, chronic headaches. She always had something going on, but she was always my same little sweet mom. I still don’t know what happened but things became very difficult. Her personality was altered, she became agitated easily, could swear like a sailor, and needed much more assistance. It was devastating and a lot of hard work. I missed my mom even though she was there. We had always been so close. I could talk to her about anything. She was my best friend. It was hard to watch my friends at their bridal showers with their healthy moms and realize that was not my lot. My Gamma Xi sister rallied around me and buoyed me up. They fasted with me and supported me like a group of angels. I hung out with wonderful boys but everyone knew I had a missionary. I regret the opportunities I missed out on because of that. I was always blessed with a beautiful bouquet of friends, family, leaders to get me through some really tough times.
(1994-1995) I was VP in Gamma Xi. I loved the girls I worked with, the fun we had, and the people we served. Sue Stephens was our new advisor. I was sad to see Joyce go, but thrilled to have Sue. She was one of a kind. These two women (Joyce and Sue) were an amazing influence for good in my life. We went on all sorts of leadership retreats in fun places like Vegas, St. George, Heber. I continued to work at REI. I got involved with the Winter Special Olympics and loved it. Mom had health problem after health problem. She was in and out of the hospital. She had her own reality that was very different from everyone elses. She had a pet camel that she insisted needed to be cared for. I would just have to go along with it. I learned that you could either laugh or cry. I did a lot of both. I learned that attitude was my choice, I couldn’t choose what was going on, but I could choose to look at the bright side. There were so many hard times. She was very sick around finals and I was working quite a bit. Life was very stressful. Things got really bad, she was in a coma. The hospital told us to come say goodbye (this wasn’t the first time), Eric flew in to be with her from Virginia. He gave her a blessing that she would live to see me get married. I was shocked because Jeff still had a few months. She pulled trough.
Jeff returned from his mission in February of 1995. The wait was over. I can’t express how excited I was, I was so ready to have him home. Most of my friends were getting married. I was so excited for all my friends to meet Jeff and for him to go on our trips. We went back to San Diego twice and had all sorts of other adventures. I was happy but realized something was missing in my life. Although I was happy with Jeff, I felt like something was missing.
In July I got this crazy idea in my head that I was going to serve a mission. I had never ever, not for ever a second wanted to serve a mission in my life. I am pretty sure my kids prompted me to go on a mission. Missions were for girls who didn’t have other options, or so I thought. This choice came as a surprise to everyone. This was really hard for me because of moms health. I knew there was a good chance that she would not be there when I came back. I randomly flipped open my scriptures to a scripture that told me the hour of my mission had come and that my family would be cared for. My bishops interview was 7/16, Stake Presidents interview 7/23,I received my mission call on August 2, 1995. I was called to serve in the Taiwan Taichung Mandarin speaking mission! Crazy thing, so was my dear friend Tiff! I went through the Salt Lake Temple on August 18, 1995. I will never forget how mom waited for me in the Celestial Room. She told me she would be there when I got home. I had faith that she would be. I wished I would have worn more garment appropriate clothing before I went through the temple. I was flooded in support from family and friends. I had missionary showers from the ward and from Gamma Xi. My farewell was on September 24. I had food poisoning the night before and threw up all night. The farewell was awesome. Eric sent a letter to be read, Rob spoke and so did Gary (this was especially cool because he stopped going to church years before. It meant the world to me.). Gary compared my mission to white water rafting. He told me big waves would come, smile, hold my breath and to paddle my heart out. Great advice. The open house was amazing, so much support from family and friends. People really pitched in because mom was so sick. John Henderson took me and 11 guests of my choice to Five Alls. I was so touched by the outpouring of love I felt. I said lots of goodbyes. I was set apart by President Mayfield, Win Egan, Robert McKay (David O. Mckays son), Jeff and John Hall, Rob and Dad. I entered the MTC in Provo, Utah on October 11, 1995.
Saying goodbye was tough. I had no idea if I would ever see my mom, in this life, again. My companion was Katy Wang. We shared our room with 2 other sisters. One sister went home so we became a threesome, with Sister Thompson. I fell in love with the MTC. My Mandarin-speaking district quickly became my family. I few days in I realized I had a lot of changing and repenting I still needed to take care of. I am so thankful for the atonement. I was blessed with the desire to change my life. I was also blessed with wonderful leaders and teachers who helped me to do so. I felt so inadequate and wondered if I had any sort of testimony. It was hard not to compare my tiny testimony to the testimonies of those I was surrounded by. I did a lot of questioning and soul searching. I did have a particle of hope that got me through. Learning Mandarin was unbelievably difficult. I soon realized that the gift of tongues didn’t just happen; I would have to work my can off to learn Chinese. I also learned that if I wanted Heavenly Fathers help I had to be obedient. I promised to give him my all. I quickly learned from the amazing missionaries that I was surrounded by, that Jeff was not what I was looking for. In hindsight I should have ended things then, I guess I didn’t want to deal with it. Jeff was good about writing and sending packages, but not good about keeping the rules. He and Jon dressed up as missionaries and snuck in to see me. I was furious. I was trying
so hard to be obedient; I was disappointed that he was not obedient himself. That was a big lesson for me. Obedience brings blessings, I needed all I could get to figure out this language thing. I told him he needed to leave and would only SYL (Speak your Language) to him. I never really cared if the Book of Mormon was true, or if other principles of the gospel were true. Unfortunately I was not as prepared as I should have been, fortunately I was in the perfect place to change that. The MTC was a spiritual feast. I loved all the things I was learning and the Spirit I felt. My first prayer in Chinese was so simple, but it full of power. Sister Wang left before we did for Taiwan. Being with a companion 24/7 was challenging to say the least. There were times Sister Thompson drove me absolutely batty. I quickly learned what behaviors of mine would keep the Spirit with me or send it away. I made a lot of friends in the MTC, what a wonderful experience. After a lot of repenting, I promised my Branch President I would be 100% obedient at the airport and give Jeff a handshake instead of a hug. I learned many lessons in the MTC. One of the biggest ones was not to be a cookie cutter missionary. God gave me my specific gifts and talents for a reason. There is no point in trying to be like everyone else. I felt the most success when I was myself. Another lesson is that people feel the Spirit differently. I felt weird when I wouldn’t be crying when everyone else was and thought I was doing something wrong, I wasn’t, I just had different experiences.
My send off (12/14/95) was filled with a variety of emotion. My whole support team showed up. Lots of family, friends, ward members, other missionaries, Jeff and his family. So happy to see my family, so hard to say goodbye to my mom. Aunt Lavern told me she was dying of cancer and would not be around when I returned. My friends all had news and wanted to spend time with me. It was overwhelming but beautiful. The whole handshake thing made Jeff furious. He gave me a promise ring and was ticked I wouldn’t hug him. Rob worked at the airport and was able to walk me onto the plane. I sat down and sobbed.
I arrived at the Taiwan Taichung Mission on 498-11 Wu Chuan Road, Taichung 404, Taiwan ROC. President and Sister Koerner were wonderful. There was a note waiting for me at the mission home from Tiff that said, “If you are not happy you are doing it wrong! “ That advice has meant so much to me.
Sister Victoria Lyou was my trainer. She spoke English luckily. We became very good friends. I loved her as a person but not as a trainer. She had very little desire to work. She broke many of the rules which was very disappointing. I learned a lot about how I wanted to train. I realized the importance of being a good example when you are in a leadership role. My first area was near the mission home in the Taichung 2
nd ward. We shared an apartment with 2 other Chinese sisters. We lived on the 14th floor of an old apartment building. I was praying one night when I felt the building swaying back and forth. Quite an experience when you are living on the ring of fire and residing in an old building. We rode bikes in our skirts, which was no small task. Taichung was a very populated, busy city. I remember one really hard, hot, night I hated being a missionary. Mosquitos were siphoning my blood as I lay there sweating. I questioned what in the world I was doing so very far away from home. I missed my family, friends, and my culture. I questioned every part of my mission, I specifically wondered if God even existed. So I prayed. I was ticked. I told Him I needed some answers. I needed to know if He was there. I needed to know if it was worth doing one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. I told Him I needed an answer or I would be on the next flight back to America. My anger, fear and uncertainty was quickly replaced with a feeling I will never forget: Peace. God let me know He was there, He was listening, He loved me, and that I was doing the right thing. I no longer had to lean on someone else’s testimony. I was getting my own. For the first time in my life I had a sincere desire and real intent. I quickly fell in love with the people and the culture. I loved Chinese New Year, I loved Fire Pots (cooking raw foods in a pot at your table), I loved the newness of the country. I also knew I was making unforgettable memories. Like the time I urgently needed a bathroom at an investigators house and the stall was literally in the main room we were sitting in. Lets just say everyone was very aware that I had explosive diarrhea. Many of the foods I ate were memorable as well: chicken feet, pig gums, pigs feet, chicken testicles, rat, eel, abalone (that caused another memorable bathroom story). Mom often quoted Grandpa Lee, “Every part strengthens a part”. I was hoping it was true. Much of the food was the best food I had ever tasted: papaya milk, leeches, mango, guava, chyong you bing, rou song.
Sister Debbie Gustafson (Sister Gu) was my 2nd comp. She was only a month ahead of me. We felt so inadequate being 2 foreign sisters that hardly spoke Chinese. God blessed us. He taught us that if we had the desire and were willing to do our part, He would cover the rest. He is like that. Gu and I worked hard, learned much and had a great time together. We stayed in Taichung but worked in the 3rd ward. The ward met on the 19th floor of a skyscraper. That was a serious bike ride with lots of hills. I ate many bugs as I rode my little heart out. We experienced so many fun cultural experiences like the Lantern Festival. We had lots of fun P-Day excursions, Syi Tou was one of them. We taught English for service one a week.
Sister Ding was my next companion. She was a native. She worked hard and I loved her. Every so often we would have to take deworming pills. I thought it was silly until I realized that I had need of being dewormed. That was quite an experience going to the doctor and basically telling him that I had small animals in my poop. I am sure the office had a good laugh when I left.
My second are was Jung Syin Syin Tsun. It was out in the country in a beautiful area. Our apartment was beautiful and new. I loved the little lizards or wall tigers as they were called that would walk up the walls and stick to the ceiling. One night while we were sleeping I thought my companion was shaking my bed with great force. She was asleep as well, I realized it was an earthquake. I became a senior companion. Sister Lyou Mei Lin was my new companion. We worked hard to learn to love each other. My Chinese made her very frustrated.
I became a trainer when Sister Janet Chia became my companion. She was from
Canada with Chinese parents. Everyone expected her to be fluent in Chinese, so when I would answer for her that really threw people off. I met the Lyau family who quickly became very near and dear to me. Lyau Tai Tai came up to me in a market and asked my why I was so happy. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. She devoured the Book of Mormon. When she read the part about idol worship she asked if we could help her remove the alter where they worshiped ancestors from their home. She loved the truth. They took wonderful care of us. She fed us omelets that contained snails she caught in the church parking lot. When relating this unforgettable experience I confused the word rhinoceros for snail. That made a good story even better. Mandarin was so stinking hard, confusing and beautiful. I made all sorts of funny mistakes with my language. The Lyau family took us on all sorts of P-Day adventures, fed us, and made us feel very loved. I hope at some point they entered the waters of baptism. The biggest typhoon that the island had seen in 40 years hit when hard when we were there. Unfortunately we missed the call telling us to stay in for the day. The winds were incredible to say the least. Riding home we feared for our lives as many trees crashed down on our path. I learned that a testimony was found in the bearing of it. I also learned that God would put things into my remembrance, as I needed them, just like He promised me. An investigator specifically asked me if her father who was a priest at the neighboring church had priesthood authority. I said a prayer in my heart and asked for help. Heavenly Father gave me an on the spot answer and a lifelong testimony of priesthood authority.
Sister Marnie Manley was my next companion. We had a few opportunities to go to the Taipei temple, I love the temple. We had several fun service projects. We cleaned up after the typhoon, went to an orphanage, did yard work, etc. We also had many conferences where all the missionaries would meet. I loved being able to spend time with Tiff. I rode her on the back of my bike a few times, it was nice having a dear friend I could vent to. There were so many cool sisters, I loved it when we could get together. I loved the many cultural sites we were able to visit. So many beautiful temples and statues, delicious restaurants, gardens. I loved the huge fields of rice, the beautiful banana trees, and pineapple plants. I loved the members and all the wonderful people we were able to share the gospel with. One lonely night I looked up and saw the moon, I realized this was the same moon that my dad was looking at. I remembered how many people were praying for me and supporting me. Seeing that moon made me realize I was so disconnected.
My last area was Chao Joe. I spent the last 4 months of my mission there. Chao Joe was as far south as our mission went. We lived in Ping Dong and commuted by train to our church that was a tiny little apartment. Jeng Ya Pin was my companion. We were in an old apartment with another companionship. Sister Jeng let me know that she had no plan on liking me. That made things a little tricky. One of my favorite trips was to Ken Ting, the very tip of Taiwan. I loved getting together with the other companionships, especially Tiff. I learned how to use a squatter; I developed some amazing quadriceps muscles and learned to always have toilet paper in my bag. I loved my Doc Martin sandals, they were 5 pounds a piece, not sure why I loved them.
Lyang Li Ju was my last companion. I learned so much from her. Sister Lyang had absolutely no support from home. She had been disowned and abused for joining the church. I always knew I was loved and supported, this was an unforgettable lesson of how good I had
things. Dad wrote me a letter every single week of my mission. He did this while working full time and taking care of mom. He even mailed me a fur sample of his new cat Max. He constantly let me know how proud he was of me, how much he loved me, and shared my same beliefs. All my siblings supported me and wrote me. I had the support of friends, neighbors and ward members. Seeing what Sister Lyang gave up for her beliefs not only reminded me how blessed I was, but also that the gospel is true! We saw a lot of cool cultural things together; traditional theater, back beaters (more scary than cool), lots of beautiful temples, the practice of ancestor worship with displays of food, candles and money burned for the dead, Chinese dragon parades, weddings with loud fire crackers, and lots of food. Lyang and I had very different personalities and had to learn to work together so we could have the Spirit with us. I learned so much about relationships; they took a lot of hard work. Sometimes we would drive each other crazy and smile our craziest smiles at each other just to help us change our attitudes. I learned how we needed Gods help to get though hard situations that we couldn’t handle on our own. Even though my Chinese improved considerably I still made some funny mistakes. One time a rat died behind our fridge, I cleaned it up all by myself, which is epic considering how bad I hate rodents and how disgusting the black slimy mess was. When I was retelling the story I unknowingly used the word tiger for rat. It makes a better story anyway describing the nasty tiger stuck behind my fridge. I loved my mission for so many reasons. I loved finding my testimony as I taught others about a Heavenly Father that loved them. I learned about the atonement first hand as I repented and promised not to go back to the mistakes I had made before my mission. I learned that the power of Satan is real. He tried to convince me that when I got home I would return to my mistakes. I was determined to stand my ground. I let Jeff know that he would have to wait until I was released to hug me. I wanted to be faithful until the last second of my mission. I was scared to go home back to real life. I was scared of what things would be like with Moms health, I would be starting back up at the U within days of returning home, and I felt sick about my relationship with Jeff. President Koerner left me with the challenge, not to let my mission be the best 18 months of my life.
I arrived home on March 18, 1997. My homecoming was on April 20. During that time I let Jeff know I was no longer interested in dating him. It was a huge leap of faith, but I knew I didn’t feel right about our relationship. I had lots of fun with my old friends and new mission friends. I ran the Deseret News 10k with no training at all, for the next few days I thought I would die I was in so much pain. I jumped right back into school and started my student teaching at Bountiful Elementary School. I also got a job as a teachers assistant at Beacon Heights Elementary School.
I started dating different people. Most of my friends were married. One memorable date flew me out to California so we could double with his Chinese speaking boss. He took me to Phantom of the Opera. I often hung out with my buddy Chris James and we would take each other to things when we needed a date. Chris took me to a soft ball game in August and I recognized most of his friends from Olympus. Matt Rich looked familiar I knew his sister Pat and his brother James. Over Thanksgiving, Chris and I saw the movie Anastasia, Matt and his cousin Genevieve joined us to see another movie. After Genevieve left, Matt, Chris and myself talked in the car for a while. Matt asked Chris if we were dating. Chris let him know that we were just friends. We doubled with Chris James and Sarah Mackay to a comedy show and
then played pool. He was happy to hear that I was a returned missionary. Matt joined Chris and I at John Henderson’s day after Christmas party. We played Ping-Pong and our eyes met. Lightning bolts went trough my body as I stared into his beautiful blue eyes and he flashed his grin at me. We watched a James Bond movie. A few nights later he asked me out to see Titanic with him. As we were sitting there our pinkie fingers touched and we held hands. My heart went pitter-patter. Mom went into a rehab center on my birthday (a low point), dad took my out to dinner to Olive Garden, and Matt took me to a Jazz game. After the game we talked in his little tan Honda Accord under the streetlight. He told me he wanted to kiss me. I told him that friends don’t kiss and I set some very clear guidelines for how and whom I would kiss. After the mess I had got myself into before my mission and lots of repentance, I was not about to mess up again. After I had explained my desires, I anti climatically told him to “get it over with”. This came out wrong, I meant after all that talk I was ok with him kissing me. Two minutes after my birthday he kissed me for the first time. We skied at Snowbird and then visited mom in St. Marks Hospital. I let him know that I was not interested in exclusive dating and went out with other guys.
In February Chris told me that he and Matt had gone on a trip with some girls. It made me jealous. Me being jealous made me realize that I definitely had feelings for this handsome boy. So I told him. He was really happy about that. In one sentence I told him I was jealous and mad at him and that I liked him. The next sentence he invited me to Moab with his family. I fell in love with them. His younger sisters let me know they were not happy to have me there. I took it as a challenge. We were chatting on the stairs in the hotel room and he discussed the idea of marriage. I was floored, totally didn’t see that coming. He never proposed, just suggested the idea. We talked about all the possibilities and I told him it would take me some time to answer him. Driving home from Moab, I hit and got air off a deer who was already dead. It scared me to death. I was waiting for some huge experience to let me know it was the right thing. I wanted a sign or at least an answer. He shared with me a quote from the Gospel Principles book about how we proceed with what we think is best and God will let us know if we are on the wrong path. I loved how Matt made me feel, he made me laugh, he built me up, he was nutty, he worked hard, he loved sports and was kind to players on the opposite team. I was dating another guy who had a great job, his MBA, a car and a house. Matt had lots of debt, lived with his parents, was still in school, and made me happy. In the beginning of March we went to the Salt Lake Temple. We were the witness couple. At the end of the session I told him yes. We picked June 24 for the big day, less than 4 months away.
We decided not to spend money on an engagement ring. I told mom about it and she told me to wear hers, so I felt like I was engaged. She weighed under a hundred pounds at the time so she hadn’t been able to wear the ring.
Wedding preparations were really fun. Amy Rich, my darling future sister in law took our engagement pictures for us at Red Butte Garden. We ordered invites and addressed them. I remember standing next to the mail box praying that if this was wrong I needed to know before I dropped the invites in the box. Such a huge decision. We registered at ZCMI, Matt really wanted to register for 13 gravy boats. Once again I was reminded of my amazing support system. I was encircled by the arms of some amazing people. Mom was not doing well and I mourned her not being able to help me. She was there in all the ways she could be. I was
showered in bridal showers; Gamma Xi, Mission friends, Peterson shower, Kenwood ward shower, 2 different Olympus friends showers, a Rich family Fiesta, a Lymric shower, Gamma Xi couples BBQ, and the Olympus ward shower. 10 showers! I have always been blessed with an amazing support system. Mom came to what she could and I would do my best to include her in my plans. She had made her wedding dress and I loved it. I told Morrissa about my dream dress. She had me draw it out. I wanted to use fabric that I could from Moms dress and add the extra I needed. Morrissa was amazing and made exactly what I wanted. The bodice and the bottom hem panel were from Moms dress. Mom’s beautiful dress was bordered in scallops. She had used a Kerr canning jar lid to trace scallops on the bottom. My dress had the same hem as Moms. It was beautiful.
In the middle of all this I graduated from the University of Utah on June 12, 1998. I received a BS in Elementary Education. I graduated with a 3.84 GPA. President Hinckley spoke at commencement at the Huntsman Center. The convocation ceremony was at Kingsbury Hall. I was so happy to have my parents both there. It was mom and dads anniversary, they took Matt and I to Market Street Grill for lunch where I ordered my favorite clam chowder with lemon and Tabasco sauce. As soon as lunch was over we hopped in the car for a job interview at Franklin Elementary School. On the way there we were stopped by 2 trains.
June 24, 1998 was the big day. We had our wedding breakfast at the Inn on Temple Square. We did a real breakfast with breakfast foods. The only thing I ate was a strawberry because I was so nervous and excited. We were blessed to have all of our family and friends there with us. The sealing was in the early afternoon. I remember going up the elevator thinking OK Heavenly Father, this is it, you better tell me now if I shouldn’t do this. Years before Eric had given Mom a blessing that she would live to see me get married. She wasn’t feeling well that day. I had fears that she would die in the temple. The sealing room was beautiful. I loved being surrounded by family and friends, especially having my mom there. I wore my temple dress for the ceremony. Matt and I knelt across the alter from each other. I will never forget the feeling of knowing that I was worthy to be there. I had worked hard to repent. I knew that I was forgiven and that I was worthy to be in the temple. I can’t imagine anything better. Don White from my ward was our sealer. He mentioned our future children. He told us we would be raising some amazing people. The ceremony was beautiful. I became Christina Lee Peterson Rich.
Clark and Tiffani Swensen were our photographers. After seeing so many brides it was fun to finally be the bride. The weather was perfect. Groups of young women clapped for us as we walked around Temple Square. Our reception was at the Riches home. They had made the yard look absolutely beautiful. We did family pictures before the reception. I was bummed that Mom and Dad were not there, mom was not feeling well. Joyce Seaburry and Deann Burkhart helped do all the food. We served fruit, slush, and cakes. Suzy Rich made many beautiful cakes. We had a reception line that went on for hours and hours. It was so fun to be greeted by so many friends and family members. Mom and Dad came for the end of the reception. My only regret that day was that I didn’t get many pictures with mom. Our wedding cake was amazing. It was covered with wild flowers that matched my bouquet and floral crown. My nephews cleared tables and took gifts. Once again we were showered in love and
gifts. Morrissa made us a beautiful hand pieced quilt.
Matts friends had decorated our little brown Honda Accord. It was covered in oreos and dish soap. They blocked the carwash and made if very difficult for us to get in. We spent our first night at the Inn on Temple Square. The next day we spent at a funeral for Matts 3 year old cousin, absolutely heart wrenching. We opened our wedding gifts at the Riches. We spent the night at Sheri Rich’s home. The next day we took off to Sun Valley Idaho. We stayed at Craig Cavezials condo. It felt like we were playing house, so much fun. We golfed, rode mountain bikes, ate lots of yummy food, and paddled a canoe on Red Fish Lake.
The first place we lived was Dads basement at 3121 South 1810 East. We bought a king mattress and set up our own little house. Our phone number was 801-484-5904. Dad was so generous to let us stay there. I wanted to be close so I could help with mom. The day we got home I received a call from Franklin Elementary offering me a position teaching 2nd grade in a year round school. It was Thursday, school would be starting on Tuesday. I took the position. Talk about baptism by fire. There was nothing set up for me. I had to go get my own desks, and collect school supplies from the other teachers. I spent the first few weeks on the stage; my portable classroom was not ready yet. This was challenging to say the least. I had to compete with gym and band while I tried to teach over 30 kids. Most of them were ESL students. After several weeks I moved into the portable. Setting up in the blistering heat with no electricity was memorable to say the least. I was not prepared for how difficult teaching would be. I would get there early, work hard all day, and stay late. I remember sitting down on the floor in front of my class and bawling. I gave it all I had. We had a lot of fun projects: hatching chickens, learning about the primary colors with frosting, spelling with pudding and play dough, OOblek. We went on a field trip to Wheeler Farm. Matt came and taught the kids about art. It did become better with time. Matt was working at EGI. He started at the University of Utah in the fall working on a degree in Graphic Design. He spent hours and hours working on projects. It felt like his projects were my projects.
We did a lot with Matt’s friends, which quickly became mine as well. We would go wake boarding, dinner groups, baby showers, wedding parties, and yearly trips to Lake Powell. Matt and I had a wonderful time in the Uintah’s on our first camping trip, St. George, Monte Cristo, and Zion’s. I was selected for an Operation Smile Mission. My job was Youth Sponsor. I was to chaperone two high school students on a medical mission to Nan Chang China! I spent 10 days in China and Hong Kong. It was a very humbling experience being able to help children. Most of the kids we helped had a cleft lip or palate. The best part about it was that I could speak Chinese with these amazing people. Many of the stories were heart wrenching. We were also able to travel for a few days. My Gamma Xi friends started a great tradition of going to dinner the first Monday of the month. That tradition still stands today. Tiffani, Holly, Stacy, Kara, Angie, and myself would meet and share our experiences as newlyweds, babies, trails and triumphs. My first year of teaching I had strep several times and came down with Mono. It was a very eventful year.
I have so many memories in my portable classroom. That is where I received the call that Mom had died. January 5, 1999 she was at St. Josephs Adult Day Care when she had a heart attack, the day before my 25th birthday. Even though we had been told to say goodbye so many times, this took me by surprise. My sweet mom was gone. I gave her wedding ring
back to dad so she could wear it. He let me know that she wanted me to have it. What a treasure. I had the privilege of serving her one last time by dressing her in her temple clothes. I even made sure she had her earrings on. It was such a blessing to dress her, the spirit was very strong. I will never forget watching dad give her a rose and closing the casket. It was so hard to believe that would be the last time I would see my mom in this life. Other memories from the classroom, I received a call that Matt was in the ER at St Marks. I was to go meet him there. I was horrified because I had no clue what was wrong. When I walked in he was vomiting blood from Kidney Stones. One of the blessings of working at Franklin was getting a ride from Dad every Moring. He worked very close. I loved our morning chats, they were golden.
Teaching school was brutiful: brutal and beautiful. I learned to love those kids. Most of them came from very rough homes. Many of them I wanted to take home with me. Instead I took their problems home with me and would sob many days after school. In the time that I worked there I had 11 kids with a parent in prison, 2 dead bodies were found near the playground, more cases of lice than I can remember. I had students dealing with physical, sexual, mental, verbal abuse. Some were living in shelters, homes with no food, or homes with no supervision. I had a student that was giving marijuana by his parents to calm him down. I heard stories that I wish I could forget. I had my favorites that just tugged at my heartstrings. I also had those who scared me to death. I prayed for these kids and gave them my heart. I hope in some small way I let them know they were loved and important.
I learned that marriage is wonderful and really challenging. Seems like anything of that much value seems to be that way. We had great times and really hard times.
I fell in love with the Rich family. Ed and Morrissa immediately accepted me as their daughter. Morrissa told me she was always on my side. I married into lots of sisters! They were all wonderful. Amy and I became very close as we were married to brothers. I loved all the fun traditions the Rich family had. Easter was my favorite. Morrissa called us early on Easter morning to tell us “He Has Risen!”. Then we had a grown up egg hunt. We all had an egg with our name on it and our own basket. I loved all the Sunday dinners, holiday and birthday celebrations. I felt so grateful to have a mom that would take me under her wing now that my mom was gone. I cant begin to express how thankful I am for Morrissa.
The teaching part of teaching got easier, although the kids situations did not. I felt like I was getting a better handle on classroom management. Construction was started on a new school. My school was hit by hit by a tornado on August 11, 1999. That was a horrifying experience in and of itself, but to be responsible for 30 kids and keep them calm, now that was scary. Matt did a bunch of web developing to earn money while going to school. Duff and Amy sold us their Ford Festiva for $1. It was a sad day when the engine seized and we were down to one car. We had a great trip to Craters of the Moon and to Smith and Morehouse to Nancy’s Cabin, and Lake Powell. Pete Rich became the first nephew on the Rich side.
During the 2000-2001 school year we moved into a beautiful new school building. I continued to do all sorts of fun projects with my class: more chickens, hatching butterflies, a field trip to Tracy Wigwam with Mr. Rich’s help. I made great friends with the other teachers. Lori Ellsworth taught next to me, we became very close. We went on a camping trip with she and her husband to Bryce Canyon and Calf Creek Falls. Matt and I had other great trips as well:
camping in Great Basin and a trip to San Francisco. SF was one of our favorite trips ever. Dad started dating. Although I was happy for him, it was really hard on me to see him with someone besides my mom. He started dating Sharon Coons and they became dear friends. Matt started his own company, Creative Professionals. I was called to the Young Women’s presidency as the 1st counselor. I loved working with these Miamaids. My testimony grew as I taught them the truths of the gospel.
2001-02 ended up being my last year of teaching at Franklin. We decided it was time to start our family. We found out we were pregnant on 8/12/01. I had always dreamed of being a mom. I can’t express how happy I was. I was really bummed that I wasn’t able to talk to my mom about her pregnancies and dad didn’t remember a thing. I decided to write my baby a letter and share my pregnancy experience. 9/11/2001 was a day I will never forget. Dad dropped me off at school and I watched the Twin Towers collapse on TV. I was horrified and wondered what else would transpire that day. I called Matt and Dad to tell them what had happened and told them how much I loved them. I was right by the airport; it was so strange not having planes flying overhead. I feared for my unborn baby, what kind of a world was I bringing this child into? Matt wanted to check out companies in New York, we already had tickets for 10/11. The trip was unforgettable. Ground zero was still smoking a month after the attacks. It was a very somber experience. We had lots of other great trips: Lake Powell, Driggs, St. George, Las Vegas, Nancy’s Cabin. The Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City that year. What an incredible experience. I was able to go to 2 of the events with my giant belly. We loved all the fun things in the Olympic Village down town. The torch relay went right past my school, so we were able to witness that. I had so much fun preparing for my baby, who I found out was a girl. I knew for sure I was having a boy. I sewed, gathered items and again was showered if gifts for my baby. I was making a quilt over at the Riches and I had a strong impression that this baby was to be named Ruby. I felt like it was from my mom. So she became Ruby Marilyn Rich. For Halloween that year I went as a pregnant nymph and Matt was a Satyr. I went into preterm labor during my parent teacher confrences the day before we were supposed to go off track for school. They stopped the contractions and I took it easy for a bit. My last day of teaching both Matt and Dad brought me flowers to work. I was torn saying goodbye to my students but thrilled to be done teaching, more importantly thrilled to welcome my baby girl. Ironically after going into preterm labor, I went past my due date. I didn’t want to be induced but felt guided to listen to Dr. Rappleyes suggestion to do so. Long story short I was induced early in the morning on 4/20, started having problems with babies heart, and then things got really exciting in the middle of the night. From my letter to her, “…the entire nursing staff ran into my room and started rubbing my tummy and turning me from side to side. I saw the monitor and your heart was really freaking out. The average rate was 50 when it should be between 120 and 160. I was so terrified. They kept moving me around but nothing was happening. I have never been so scared in my life. I pray I will never have something so scary happen again. I prayed with all my soul that they could save my baby. It was scary watching dad’s face and how helpless he looked. I heard them say call Dr Rappleye 911 and my heart sank. He walked in the room right then. He saw the monitor and said we have got to get that baby out now! Though this whole thing I never stopped pleading with
Heavenly Father. They gave me a shot of Terb to stop the contraction and ran me down to the OR. By this time your heart sounded pretty good. They guess that the cord was around your neck and that each time I would have a contraction it would strangle you. I wanted dad to be there so bad. They got me all ready and in he came. He sat with his hands on my head. I asked if he would give me a blessing. He said that he had been doing it the whole time. I was shaking severely. They had me push 3 times to see where you were but you hadn’t dropped yet. They decided that it was time for a C-section. I was really scared that I would feel a ton of pain. It didn’t hurt but there was a ton of pressure. It felt like they were ripping my guts out. Come to find out, they were! They cut through 7 layers to get to you. Dr. Rappleye flashed a little purple thing above the sheet in front of my face and said hi mom! It was so fast I didn’t even realize what was going on. Then I heard what sounded like a baby bobcat crying. I have never been so filled with joy by a single sound. They came over and told us we had a beautiful baby girl and that you were fine. Dad went over and watched them check you out. It was amazing how many people were in the room to help us. Grandma Peterson was there, I could feel her presence. When they told me you were all right I realized how incredible traumatic the whole experience was. I was shaking uncontrollably and started to hyper venelate. Dad walked over in his space suit they made him wear with you in his arms. I was so relieved. You were fine! You were so beautiful! I cried and cried. Dad took you up to the nursery and they sewed me up. Dr. R. asked me if they should put Velcro in so your siblings would come out easier. It was good to see him joking again. It scared me to see him so serious. My body felt out of control. I puked again and continued to shake. I felt a warm tingling in my chest and asked the doctor what it was. He said he had no clue. I then realized that I was being comforted. Dr. Rappleye told me that my placenta had started to abrupt. That is really serious. If it had gone on any longer we both could have died. The nurse said that grandma was standing in the hall bawling. I wanted to hug her so bad and get her reassurance. The nurse said grandma told her that we couldn’t loose this baby because grandma had just died. I am so glad we didn’t loose you! As I gathered my thoughts I realized what a miracle this had been. If I would have been at home through all this we both could have died. I feel like Dr. Rappleye was inspired to have me induced. They took me back to my room where dad and grandma were. It took me a long time to stop shaking. They both told me how beautiful you were and that you were as happy as can be. You were born April 21,2002 at 3:34am. You were 7lb 9 oz and 19.5 inches long. I was surprised you were so small since I was 10 lbs.” I loved being a mom from the instant I saw my Ruby Girl. We were showered with meals, gifts and lots of love. Matt graduated from the U of U in Graphic Design on May 10. Ruby slept through most of it. We were so proud of Matt for his hard work. We took a family trip up to Sun Valley. I loved being a mom and I loved to watch Matt be a dad. Ruby was a wonderful baby. We loved seeing her grow and progress. She did everthing early and we were convinced that she was a super hero.
Matt started working for Lovesac as the creative director 2003-2005.
For Ruby’s first birthday Morrissa hand quilted a beautiful quilt covered in angels. The inscription said, “ To Ruby From Grandma Peterson made with love by
Grandma Rich” What a treasure, the quilt and the Grandmas. I loved being a stay at home mom. We made many friends with kids of similar ages. I loved providing the richest life as I could. We went everywhere; Hogle zoo, Wheeler Farm, parks, Red Butte Garden,on walks, swimming, story time. We put hundreds of miles on our stroller. We enjoyed a trips to Moab, Lake Powell, Washington Dc. I would exercise with my mom friends at the church. One time you were playing behind me as we excercised and I pictured a red thumbtack in your mouth. I turned around and sure enough you had found one on the floor. The Holy Ghost warned me of danger. It made me sick to think what could have happened if I hadn’t listened. I am so thankful for those promptings and do my very best to recognize them and quickly act upon them. For Halloween I made Rubes the cutest Lobster costume ever. I dressed up as a chef and dad as a fisherman.
We bought a crappy old rental property in January of 2004. We lovingly called 1761 East Edward Ave. SLC, UT 84106, “The Castle”. It was in bad shape when we purchased it and then we gutted it. We planned on things happening much faster then they did. I was pregnant with Cooper, in my mind I thought he would come home to the Castle. I was so excited about another baby coming to our family but wondered if I could love another as much as I loved Ruby. I went to one of my appointments not feeling so great on May 11, 2004. Dr. Rappleye let me know the reason I didn’t feel good was because I was in labor. He moved my scheduled c-section a week early to that evening. From my letter to Coop, “At 6:30 I walked into the OR and they prepped me. I decided that I wanted to watch the whole procedure so they put a mirror above my head. They gave me a spinal block so I was numb but very aware of what was going on. I didn’t get grossed out because it didn’t feel like it was my body because I was watching in a mirror. I couldn’t see the first part very well because my tummy was so big. It was such a positive experience. The doctors were telling jokes the entire time and everything went so smoothly. At 7:02 they pulled you out and I heard the most beautiful cry! Your cord was wrapped around your neck. You weighed 7 lbs. 7 oz. And were 20 ½ inches long. You just had a little hair. Dad brought you over to me and I was so thankful that I started to cry. You made it!! Perfect and Safe! “ It took us a few days to agree on the name Cooper. I was instantly in love again. It is amazing how your heart can grow like that.
It was tricky adjusting to 2 kids but we caught on pretty fast. We continued having all sorts of fun and learning new things. I would carry Ruby on my shoulders and Coop in a front pack. Some of our adventures included: visiting the circus elephants, Hogle Zoo, Wheeler Farm, Red Butte Garden, Moab with the Peterson Family, the Tetons and Yellowstone. Cooper basicically spent his early years on a construction site. I would nurse him on a camping chair at the Castle, Ruby was potty trained in the trees at the Castle (because we had no toilet yet) and both of them would nap at the Castle. Ruby won a one minute shopping spree down the candy isle at Dans. I strategically placed her in front of the expensive bags of candy. What a funny memory. $100 worth of candy and a ham.
We had a big, long, brown couch that looked like a buffalo. It was missing springs so it had a depression in it that the kids liked to play in (“the nest”). One of the great memories is dragging this couch behind the Honda from Dads house to the
Castle to dump it in one of our many dumpsters. The kids had a great time playing in the piles of dirt and gravel that we had delivered for landscaping.
We were blessed to have our amazing support system yet again. Several people from the ward watched the kids while we worked on the house. Retta James and Carol Gustafson where angels. My kids lovingly called them Grandma Retta and Grandma Gus. Family, friends, and ward members were so generous with their time and talents as we worked on the massive, overwhelming project. Our neighbors were awesome and helped us in numerous ways. We will always have tender memories of Johnette, Cathy Redd, and the Bills family.
Matt was with Lovesac until the end of 2005. He started his own company, Booster Pool, again in the beginning of 2006. This was a very stressful time of life with finances, kids, construction and marriage. Because of the loan we had we were required to have our certificate of occupancy by a certain date. It was a miracle that we were able to pull it off. The night before our inspection I think most of the High Priest Quorum was installing all of our door knobs for us.
We put our blood, sweat, and tears into that house and all our money!!! We spent many cold and dark nights in that house. Matt was amazing, he learned to do the majority of the work on the house. I learned lots of new skills myself: tile cutting, painting, laying sod, etc. We learned some hard lessons with zoning, and lost a bunch of money due to poor planning and communication issues. We replaced a brand new window, redid brand new ductwork, and paid for a retaining wall the neighbors agreed to pay for (but didn’t). I have wonderful memories of Matt driving a bobcat with the kids, my kids being filthy from playing in the dirt all day, from my Visiting Teacher (or an angel) dropping off Slurpee’s on a hot day, of kind neighbors who shared their bathroom. I have hard memories of Cooper burning his palms on Grandma Gus’s stove, being exhausted and filthy, and feeling really overwhelmed, eating lots of fast food, and having no money. One day I went to Home Depot 6 times. I cried the last time. We survived with minor injuries: I stepped on a nail and needed a tetanus shot, Matt ripped his head open on the rusting sewer pipe. We dodged disaster when one of the massive pine trees almost fell on the house when we cut it down, when Matt climbed up on a ladder which was balanced on top of the garbage can, and when Matt caught a falling board with just a few fingers.
After working for nearly 3 years on the house we finally moved in on September 2006. Matt put our king mattress on top of the car, laid on top of it, and dad drove him over to our house. The house was darling. I loved my granite counter tops, Stainless Steel appliances, slate floor and green kitchen. The bathroom was a beautiful blue with Travertine tile. The kids room was Fire Engine Red with colorful vinyl circles on the wall. I had a cheerful yellow laundry room that Cooper did a mural on the wall with a sharpie and pounded a hammer into. We picked 7 different colors for all of the rooms. They were so fun and bright. Painting an entire house with miles of trim in a short time was no small task. Our yard was beautiful with perfect green grass and beautiful boulders creating a retaining wall. The location was perfect because people were always going by. It was a very social spot. It was perfect for Lemonade sales and garage sales. The house was absolutely darling. We had 2 very successful gardens at the Castle. The white vinyl fence and
plentiful sunshine were the perfect combination to make plants thrive.
We slowly moved our stuff from Dads basement. We finally had our own place after 8 years of living in dads basement. Living there was good and bad. We should have saved more money but we didn’t. We would have become more self reliant if we would have lived on our own.
Life got kind of tricky once we got moved in. We were out of money and had debt up to our eyeballs from the house. Matt decided he was no longer interested in the church. I was absolutely devastated, that was not what I had planned on. I was called to serve in the Relief Society Presidency. This was such a blessing for me to serve others and strengthen my testimony. Our Honda was stolen from the church parking lot. Lucky we got it back. I was in shock by all that was going on at the time. It is always humbling to look back on a hard time and see how much the Lord blessed us. Santa Clause showed up and gave my kids presents and a card with $500 in it for us. To this day I have no idea who sent him. The Kennington family sold us our second car for $1, a red Dodge Intrepid. There were many many times I went to the door to find food, presents, gift cards etc. The following is an post from my blog:
The Parable of the Strawberries
A few years ago, Matt and I were drowning in the depths of personal and financial struggles. Matt was unemployed. Our marriage was teetering. Money was scarce. We desperately needed to pay our mortgage. We were doing everything we could to earn money. A kind acquaintance took pity and hired Matt and I to paint her kitchen. I was grateful for the money, but I was jealously mad: I was painting for someone with lots of money while we were desperate to make ends meet. I also felt guilty and angry farming my kids out. This was not what I signed up for. As we painted, we shared our frustrations. Tears of frustration streamed down my face. Matt kindly asked what would make me feel better. I wanted security, stability, and a giant tray of strawberries! So silly and sad! Of all things, I wanted strawberries. I dreamed of buying something I wanted not just what would fit into our tight budget.
Fast forward a few days, I was out in my neighborhood visiting a friend from church. Her neighbor, another friend from church, called to me across her fence. She told me she left something on my porch for me. I went about my business. You will never guess what was sitting on my porch. A flat of STRAWBERRIES from Costco. I sobbed.
Those strawberries were a hug from my loving Heavenly Father. It was as if He was telling me: I know it is hard. I am aware of you. I know you are hurting. I just want you to know how much I love you and care about you. I want you to be happy.
I wrote a thank you note telling this woman she had no clue how much this meant to me. Later she told me she was at Costco and had a feeling to buy 2 flats of strawberries., one for her, one for me. She felt stupid about it, thinking why would I take Chris Rich strawberries? She followed the prompting and bought them anyway. My loving Father in Heaven used her to show me HIS love. Both of us could clearly see that.
This experience was a powerful reminder to me of Gods love. I know that he lives, that he loves me, and is aware of my heart aches and desires. I can’t look at a
strawberry without being reminded that I am of worth and important to my Heavenly Father.
When we finished our house we were in crazy debt. It was all we thought about. I totally know why the prophet encourages us to stay out of debt. We followed Dave Ramsey’s plan to get out of debt. We sold everything we possible could on Craigslist and having yard sales. We sold our intrepid. We did any odd job we could to earn extra money. I sold all my baby stuff which broke my heart. The amazing thing was we got out of debt! We had numerous credit cards and paid them all off. It was nice to work as a couple on an accomplishment that big. Becky sold us our little blue Saturn for $1.
After having 2 babies I was quite overweight and out of shape. Up to this point I never really cared about my body. I would hear friends talking about going to the gym and I just resolved to be happy with my mom body. We one 2 memberships to the gym with free babysitting. The baby-sitting sucked me in so I started exercising. Soon I started to loose weight and realize I felt much better about myself. It was a wonderful outlet for my stress. Most aspects of my life at that time felt out of my control. Exercise was something for me that I had complete control over. I ended up loosing about 25 pounds. I was almost a 16 and dropped to an 8. Matt got in on it as well. We started eating healthier, we stopped eating out, we had no money so we went on lots of hikes, we started eating off salad sized plates, we stopped eating after 8pm, and would floss our teeth as soon as we were done eating. We started running races together: the East Millcreek 5k and then the Deseret News 24 of July 10k. This was a great time for us.
I participated in a preschool co-op for Ruby her first year of preschool. Her next year she was at Upland Terrace. She completed half day kindergarten at Rosecrest. Cooper did his first year of preschool at Rosecrest.
About the time we were feeling settled in our home, Matt decided he would like to get his masters degree. After all that work I was shocked at the thought of moving to a different state. I had never considered moving out of Utah, ever. He took the GMAT. He applied all over the country and had several interviews. I didn’t think it would really happen so I didn’t really worry about it. Next thing I know he was accepted to Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana. I didn’t even know where Indiana was. We put our darling new home on the market. It was so stressful trying to keep it clean for showings, packing and mothering 2 busy kids. In the time it was on the market only 2 people looked at it. Luckily #2 was the one who wanted it. I felt the Lords hand in that sale. Ed and Morrisa left for their mission in Germany. We packed up our things and moved into their home (4291 Wander Lane
SLC, UT 84124) while we were waiting to move. Ruby was having chronic migraine headaches after we moved. They did an MRI to check for pressure on her brain. I was terrified. I couldn’t image having something happen to my girl. We were both given a blessing and I felt peace. She was fine, the doctor felt she was having migraines from my stress. The prescription was for me to slow down and enjoy my life with my kids.
We had all sorts of going away parties and lived our last months in Utah to the fullest. We sold our Honda. We spent as much time as we could in the mountains. I
went to Havasu falls with the Petersons, we went to Canyonlands with the Riches. Trish and Eric got married at Snowbird. We floated on the Great Salt Lake and were attacked by brine flies. Matt packed everything we owned into 10 linear feet of an ABF trailer. We said our goodbyes and hopped in the little blue Saturn. We stopped in Martins Cove, Devils Tower, Mt. Rushmore, Nauvoo, Cartage Jail, and took a ride on the mighty Mississippi in a steamboat. We fell in love with Bloomington as soon as we got there. We rented half of a beautiful duplex in Stella Ridge (3831 Lydia Lane, Bloomington IN 47401) After having an 801 number it was fun to become 812 369-4143. I couldn’t get over how green it was. I loved all the wild life especially fireflies. Ruby attended Rogers Elementary for 1st grade. Cooper started preschool at Sherwood oaks church. Matt jumped right into the MBA program at the Kelley School of Business and gave it all he had. I quickly made new friends from the Partners club, Kelley Kids Club and girls in the ward. There were several LDS/MBA families. We all became very close. Early on we decided to have different people over every Sunday for dinner. This really helped with homesickness. We invited people from all over the world into our home. There were all sorts of fun activities for us through the school. We loved all the restaurants on 4th street and made a goal to try them all. Other fun things: Wonderlab, Lake Monroe, IU Sports, the local fairs and festivals, Bloomington Farmers Market, The Exotic Feline Rescue Center, The Indianapolis Zoo, visitors (Retta, Dad, Sharon, Grandma/pa Rich, Eric’s family), a ride in the Wienermobile, the Children’s Museum, Brewster’s, Chocolate Moose). I got involved with everything I could. I played Bunko, joined the YMCA, the kids took all sorts of classes. One of the best parts of school is that our family grew. It was fun being pregnant in Indiana; everyone treated me like a queen. We made to goal to milk this unique experience for all it was worth and that we did. It was hard work making new friends but so worth it. I soon realized we were surround by good people of all different backgrounds. Growing up in Utah I had the misconception that Mormons were the kindest best neighbors. Although I had many wonderful Mormon neighbors, I soon learned how wrong I was. There were good people all over the place. I loved meeting new people and doing new things. It was a lot of work but a huge blessing in my life. We continued with our traditions and shared them with others. Our General Conference cinnamon rolls were a big hit. I love hearing how other friend’s year’s later carry on that tradition. We also started all sorts of new traditions.
Matt did a summer internship in Marysville Ohio for Scotts Miracle grow. That was a memorable summer. Marysville was a tiny place. We found the church, a gym and the library. I love that about the church, wherever you go, you are instantly loved. We were well taken care of. Many people had us over for meals from the ward. The first week we were there, Cooper broke several of his fingers. That made summer tricky for him. We had a great townhome that was totally empty 240 Lakeside circle Marysville, OH 43040). I kind family in the ward offered us some furniture. In the middle of the night I had a panic attack that the couch could have bed bugs so I woke Matt up at 6am to help me heave the couch into the dumpster. For the first few weeks we slept on a deflated air mattress. Try doing that being super pregnant. Because of our state insurance I had to go back to
Indiana for all my doctors appointments. We had some long drives, with 2 small kids and a pregnant momma in a Saturn. We loved all the wild life in Ohio, the ice cream and the many adventures we had there. Scotts had a pool, so we spent most of our summer there. My veins were awful so anytime I could float I was relieved. I had to wear support hose for my legs. There were days the heat was almost unbearable with those things on. They make for a great story. One day I was getting gas at our local gas station. I was holding Ruby and Coopers hands and watching my step so I didn’t trip. My foot caught on something. I turned around to see what it was only to find I had completely walked out of my skirt! I was standing there uber pregnant in my maternity support hose and garments without a skirt on. I couldn’t function because Ruby and I were laughing so hard. I went back, picked up my skirt and got into my car. I am guessing I was not the woman the many lunching construction workers would have liked to see loose their skirt that day. I was bit by a wiener dog on the hand while trying to protect those darn tights. Scotts gave us tickets to all sorts of fun events. We got to see Tiger Woods in a golf tournament. While we were there a dragonfly landed on Ruby’s nose. Tiger woods’ photographer took her picture. I loved being close to the Columbus temple. Even though we were only there for the summer the ward took us in like we had always been there. They had a baby shower for me! One sister made Rocky a beautiful quilt. I was so humbled by how loved we were. The first time I met my visiting teacher was at the Zoo. She came and gave me a huge hug. I learned so much about the gospel of Jesus Christ from these sweet members of the church. They instantly loved and accepted me. Ohio had awesome garage sales. We had so much fun.
We went back to Bloomington for our 2
nd year. It was so fun to reunite with our dear friends. It was also fun to be there for the new families moving in. Cooper started full day kindergarten and Ruby 2nd grade. Rocky was born by scheduled C-section at Bloomington Hospital by Dr. Mellissa Waters. Again I was instantly in love with him. It was a treat to watch general conference in my quiet hospital room with my bundle from heaven. I bounced back quickly from my C-section. I think it was the fact that I exercised the entire time. Rocky fit right in and joined us in all our craziness. Having a newborn did not slow us down at all. We lived life to the fullest and seized each day. We watched all of our friends get job offers. It was hard to be excited for them and not stress out because we didn’t have an offer. Matt worked so hard interviewing, filling out applications, and doing his part. I was amazed at the peace we felt. Here are my thoughts from my blog: “I still don't have any concrete answers to my questions and that is OK. I am so very blessed. I know that I have a Heavenly Father that loves me and He is aware of my little family and our needs. If I stress over the things that stress me out, it doesn't help. What I can do is do my best at being a mom, a wife and a daughter of my Heavenly Father. I just have to keep on keepin on to the best of my ability!!!” I was impressed with Matt’s calm attitude. We were so proud of him for working so hard in school and earning his MBA. We made great memories after graduation. Ruby was baptized; Ed, Morrissa, Dad and Sharon came out to visit. We lived it up that last summer and enjoyed the end of our time in Bloomington. Leaving Bloomington was bitter sweet. It was hard to say goodbye to dear friends that had become like family. Having no job was scary but we had faith that there was a plan for us. We loaded our belongings into a storage shed, stuffed the Saturn with all the clothes we could fit in the trunk and headed back to Salt Lake to live with Ed and Morrissa. I will never forget how full the Saturn was. The ride back was a memorable journey. We met the Petersons in Yellowstone and the Riches in Driggs. It felt good to be with family again.
Ed and Morrissa were so good to us to allow all 5 of us to invade their home (4291 Wander Lane SLC, UT 84124). They were living in the “shed” so we had the house pretty much to our selves. It was wonderful to be among family and friends again. The kids started school at Howard R. Driggs, the same school Matt attended. The ward was wonderful to us and accepted us with open arms. I was called to serve in the Young Womens Presidency. I adored the leaders and the girls. This calling was such a blessing in my life. Matt started working for Overstock.com. This period of time turned into one of the hardest trials of my life. It was hard on all of us, especially our marriage. Somehow this situation turned into the perfect storm. I don’t think I have ever felt so alone in my life. I was thankful once again for my support system of family and friends. I loved the weekly scripture class that I attended. It offered me so much peace. Even though things were harder then they ever had been, I knew my Heavenly Father loved me. I had a feeling to call Rob and ask for a blessing. Rob gave me a blessing not really knowing what my troubles were. He shared how much my Mom loved me and was looking out for me. I was told she would intervene in my behalf. I knew Rob was telling me what my Father in Heaven needed me to know at that time. Days after this blessing Matt was offered a job with Lego Systems in Enfield, Connecticut. We were absolutely elated. Dad told
me that we had Simmons relatives that settled hundreds of year ago in Enfield. I knew that somehow this was a tender Mercy.
Matt found us a home to rent in the middle of winter which was no small task. We got there on the tail end of a harsh winter. 98 Sheffield Avenue Longmeadow Massachusetts 01106 was a great little 2 bedroom home on a giant lot. I found the Springfield ward as soon as we got there and found a gym. The ward was instantly a caring extended family that took us in. We quickly fell in love with our neighbors, school and community. We moved during the middle of the school year which was actually wonderful, both kids were celebrities and treated very kindly. Wolf Swamp Road school was a wonderful place to be. Ruby finished 3rd grade and Cooper finished 1st. Matt loved Lego and so did the kids. Cooper thought his dad had the best job in the world. I was so happy to have a new start, a clean slate. Life continued to have its ups and downs but so much better than they had been. Making new friends again is hard work, but I am good at it. I jumped right into my church calling as a member of the primary presidency, joined 3 book clubs, introduced myself to my neighbors and talked to everyone. I am so thankful Dad taught me to be friendly, it has brought me a lot of joy and made me lots of friends. We fell in love with all the things to do in New England. We lived 1/3 of a mile from Connecticut so we went back and forth all the time. We decided that we lived in Connictichusetts. We lived 2 hours from Boston, 2.5 from Manhattan, 1.5 from the ocean so of course we explored all of these places. Our yard was huge and had never been cared for, this was perfect for digging holes, planting a garden and burning fires. My first New England spring was amazing. There were colors I had never seen before. Color gives me energy! I love the hydrangeas, rhododendrons, dogwood trees, Gingko trees, Peonies, and poppies. We all quickly made friends which I was so thankful for. Gail Ackerman, Jennifer Baird, and Amy Higgins were always up for an adventure so I was more than happy to go along. I love how this area is rich in history and culture. I love the tobacco barns, the rock walls, covered bridges, old buildings, town greens, old churches. We quickly learned that the weather was really exciting. We were miles from a devastating tornado, felt an earthquake in DC, and survived a week long power outage after an early snow storm knocked down trees everywhere. I will never forget the terror I felt as I heard trees falling all over our neighborhood throughout the night. I prayed all night that our little house wouldn’t be smashed with my babies in it. We have had all sorts of hurricanes and winter storms that we have had to prepare for. I am so thankful to have a prophet that has taught us to be prepared. When a storm comes in everyone freaks out and empties the grocery store and gas stations. It is nice to always be prepared so I don’t have to panic several time a year when a storm comes. Fall in New England is spectacular! The colors are unbelievable. I always felt like I lived in a water color painting. We love picking apples, corn mazes, apple cider doughnuts, but not raking leaves. The leaves are beautiful until they fall then they transform to a nightmare! Dad and Sharon have blessed us with a visit every fall. I love it when they come because we find all sort of new hikes and adventures. We have had many other visitors bless our lives as well: Hulses, Ben Peterson Family, David Peterson, an mtc companion.
Ben gave me a beautiful blessing promising me that everything would be ok. I had very specific concerns that my Heavenly Father addressed; I was filled with great hope when I heard this blessing. Heavenly Father always keeps his promises, why would He not for me? I was going through a very tough time. I would sometimes feel like certain aspects of my life were not what I signed up for. I learned that keeping the commandments didn’t mean that my life would go perfectly. During this down time in my life I attended the womens conference and had my life changed by President Uchtdorf’s talk about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He told how while everyone was searching for the golden ticket; they had forgotten to enjoy all the chocolate. I realized that even though my search for my golden ticket was a righteous desire, I was ignoring the chocolate of my life. A switch turned on inside me, I realized I am enrobed in chocolate. I wont stop searching for my golden ticket but I will savor the chocolate along the way. Years later I am so thankful for this attitude adjustment the Holy Ghost made in my life. Pretty sure it saved my marriage. I am so blessed with a wonderful hard working husband. He is an amazing father and so good to our kids. I love how he sets goals and goes after them. I am thankful for my beautiful, healthy, smart, kind children. I am thankful to be doing my dream job, a full time stay at home MOM! I am thankful for my trials, they are helping me become the person my Heavenly Father wants me to be. If my life were easy I might not get to where I want to go.
Another thing Ben mentioned in a blessing he gave me is that my spiritual gift is friendship. I have always wondered what my gifts were. This knowledge made me so happy, I love meeting, making and maintaining friendships. I have learned that when you put a lot into a relationship you get a lot out. I get energy from being with people. I find great joy in knowing I am helping others, in fact nothing brings me more joy.
Exercise was has stayed a big part of my life since I lost all that weight. I have exercised consistently 6 days a week for the last several years. I was invited to participate in a RAGAR relay run and loved it. From my blog, “It was dang hard, but I am so proud of myself. I can do hard things! I even got my very first medal! “ I ran a lot of other races with friends. I started running with 3 friends from town CAAA: Amy Higgins, Alison Schectman, Anne Forcum. I loved my therapy on sneakers. Ragnar was the gateway run. I ran my first half marathon in Hartford. 13.1 miles of hard word and I did it!
I attended my 20 High School Reunion. It was so fun to be back in SLC among friends and family. As a family we enjoyed the beach, made a memorable trip to Maine, and checked out Salem, MA. I took my kids to the Hill Cumorah Pagent and to the Sacred Grove. I loved sharing my testimony of the events that had occurred in the very location we were in. I didn’t need to be there though to know it was true. On my mission I remember realizing that the first vision was not just a story like Goldilocks and the 3 bears, it hit me that Joseph Smith really did see God and Jesus Christ.
Lego was good to us. Their parties were so much for the kids. The kids love to go visit Matt and shop at the employee store. Little did I know how many Legos we would end up owning. We met great friends from Lego. We loved the Bricnic. I
feel like I am always telling my kids we can’t afford certain activities or foods. At the Bricnic it is awesome to tell them they can go do what ever they want and indulge in what ever treats they want.
We are one of 2 LDS families in Longmeadow. Both Ruby and Cooper are the only Mormons at their schools. I have loved the many opportunities to share the gospel with my friends and neighbors. I hope my efforts to share my testimony with will be a light to those around me and impact them in a positive way. I tell people exactly were I stand and what I believe in. If someone offers me a drink I immediately tell them I am a Mormon and I don’t drink. If they invite me for coffee or tea I tell them I don’t drink those things but would love to join them with my ice water. I hope I am teaching my kids they can live in the world but not be of the world. Sundays are tricky because there are so many sports and birthday parties. I am so thankful for the Sabbath day and need that to be our special day of worship and family. I love our ward, it is very diverse. It has shown me that we all need our Savior and the gospel can change any life. I am learning that if I had the perfect life I dreamed I would have I wouldn’t have had to grow and stretch like I have. My relationship with my Heavenly Father is mine, and I know He is there aware of my little family. Trials are not fun but I am thankful for my growing testimony and the things I have learned. I am thankful that I can help others who are going through similar things.
Matt decided to run the Boston Marathon 2013. The kids and I drove down to cheer him on. It felt like everything was against us to meet him were we had arranged. The car overheated, we got lost, couldn’t find parking etc. We walked down to the race route around mile 19 frustrated that we wouldn’t be able to find him. As I stared into the sea of runners, Matt was right there, running toward me!! I got tearing realizing the tender mercy this was. Out to thousands of runners the one I was looking for was right where Heavenly Father put me. Matt stopped for 2 minutes and took pictures with us. We told him that we would meet him at the finish line. I wanted to hurry as I knew it would be hard to get through traffic and park. I was prompted to slow down and let my kids enjoy the beauty of the day so we did. When we made it into Boston, I had no idea where I was or even where I was going. We were stuck in the worst traffic I had ever experienced. After being stuck for a long time I asked the kids if they were ok with aborting our plan to meet dad at the finish line. They agreed to go home. As soon as we had our plan I looked up and saw the only traffic sign I needed, how to get home. We were feet from the on ramp to get out of the city. From my blog, “We passed Fenway Stadium and my phone rang at 2:56. Luckily I heard it, Matt often wonders why I have a phone because I never answer it. It was a New Hampshire number that I didn't recognize. On the other end Matt was frantically pleading, "Please tell me you are not at the finish line!!" over and over. I told him where I was and was very concerned that he was so upset. He told me that there had been 2 explosions and to get out of the city as soon as possible. He told me he was safe and that he would call back when he could. I was picturing car fires at this point. I am so thankful his call came through because I couldn't get a hold of him for hours. As soon as we hung up I asked Ruby to look on CNN to see what was going on. My phone went crazy from all the calls
and texts we started getting from worried family and friends. We watched a flood of police cars head the opposite direction into the city.
When we got home I checked the news and realized that the explosions were not an accident. I had it together until this point. I was horrified. Why would someone do that??? I was finally able to get a hold of Matt. He was just about to turn his last corner onto Boylston Street when he felt and heard the explosions. The crowd was cheering wildly, BOOM, silence, wild cheering, BOOM, silence. He turned the corner and was 2 blocks from the 2nd explosion. He was exhausted, freezing, and just wanted to run the 1/4 of a mile he had to get to the finish line. The race was stopped and the police got all the runners off the course. Matt described the mess and confusion he saw. People were frantic. As he told me where he was at the time, it hit me that the 2 minutes he stopped to talk to us at mile 19 was not a coincidence. I can not begin to tell you how blessed I felt. It was almost like we were pawns in a game being set in the right places at the right times. I know that God lives and that he listened to our family prayer for safety that morning. He loves us and is aware of our individual needs. All of these little tender mercies of the Lord that occurred that day leave me feeling very blessed. I know that He was watching out for us that day and continues to do so.”
When we got home I checked the news and realized that the explosions were not an accident. I had it together until this point. I was horrified. Why would someone do that??? I was finally able to get a hold of Matt. He was just about to turn his last corner onto Boylston Street when he felt and heard the explosions. The crowd was cheering wildly, BOOM, silence, wild cheering, BOOM, silence. He turned the corner and was 2 blocks from the 2nd explosion. He was exhausted, freezing, and just wanted to run the 1/4 of a mile he had to get to the finish line. The race was stopped and the police got all the runners off the course. Matt described the mess and confusion he saw. People were frantic. As he told me where he was at the time, it hit me that the 2 minutes he stopped to talk to us at mile 19 was not a coincidence. I can not begin to tell you how blessed I felt. It was almost like we were pawns in a game being set in the right places at the right times. I know that God lives and that he listened to our family prayer for safety that morning. He loves us and is aware of our individual needs. All of these little tender mercies of the Lord that occurred that day leave me feeling very blessed. I know that He was watching out for us that day and continues to do so.”
I later learned we were very close to the terror attacks ourselves. I can’t imagine what could have happened that day. These lyrics seemed so fitting:
He is always near me, though I do not see Him there, And because He loves me dearly, I am in His watchful care. So I’ll be the kind of person that I know I’d like to be if I could see the Savior standing nigh, watching over me.
For Dad’s 80th birthday I surprised him by showing up in Moab Utah! With the help of all the Peterson’s we put together a life history book for him. He is such a treasure to me and this seemed like a good way to show him how much I loved him. I will never forget the look on his face or the tender tears he shed as he looked at his book.
Running became a huge part of my life. I ran all sorts of races with friends and as a family. I got to the point that I knew I was ready for a marathon. I remember thinking that Matt and my other marathon friends were crazy up to this point. As I trained it was confirmed to me that they were, and I loved being a part of it! Training was unbelievably hard. At the end of each long run I wanted to die. The next run I would go farther and somehow I was able to do it. I was amazed at all the life lessons training for a marathon taught me. I learned that I could do what ever I put my mind to, I can do hard things, whatever you devote your time and energy into will be successful, cheerleaders make things so much better, I need to be there for others and I really need them there for me, the value of support, focus on the good, keep on keeping on, smiling makes things easier, and God is always there. I ran the Hartford Marathon in October 2013. I can’t even tell you how hard it was, but I did it!! I puked at the finish line, but I did it!! Dad, Sharon and the kids were there to cheer me on along with my biggest cheerleader Matt. I have no desire to ever run another one, but I can say I did it and I am dang proud of that
I love traditions and I love to celebrate. I love making my kids the craziest birthday cake they can come up with. For birthdays I want them to know what a special day it is. I hang the birthday banner, put the chair cover on, get out the You are Special Plate and feed them what ever they want on their special day. I love our Christmas traditions of Secret Santa, new ornaments for the kids, gingerbread houses, advent calendars, caroling, etc. On Mothers Day, I have them all write in my mom book. I love reading the messages they write and cherish that I have a book to keep them in. Easter, Matt hides the baskets in crazy places. The best part of Easter is the call or text from Morrissa that “He is Risen!” Halloween is always festive and I love trick or treating. We always graph our candy and I burry the kids in their candy. For Valentines I always do a special dinner and we all make cards for each other and put them in our heart envelopes. I love seeing the kids do kind things for each other. I love April Fools and really enjoy joking around with my peeps. Some of my favorite jokes are sewing the leg wholes to Matts underwear closed, meat loaf cupcakes, mustard in the toothpaste tube, and the famous brown E in the lunches. I stick a note in Ruby’s lunch ever single day. I would do the same for Coop, but he wont let me. We have other traditions like the “No Manners Dinner”, first and last day of school parties. For General Conference I make a bazillion Cinnamon rolls and invite a house full of friends and neighbors over to indulge with us.
I have always dreamed of having a surprise party. I never really thought it would happen because Matt is not really a party person. My dear girlfriends had Matt drop me off at the spa for a surprise party. Most of these friends were from the gym or my running pals. They pampered me like I have never been pampered: pedicure, manicure, massage, food, dinner, a cake with my marathon number on it, and Fiestaware ( I had just started to collect it). Matt and the kids had another surprise party for me 2 days later. It was so sweet. Ruby hand wrote invites and delivered them. Matt put together a survey and publically shared his feeling about me. I was so touched by all the little details they took care of.
I have been so blessed to be home with my kids. Motherhood is the best and hardest thing I have ever done. My children are amazing and I am honored to be their mother. They keep me on my toes and keep me young. I am realizing how quickly the time is flying by. I have to remind my self to find joy in the journey. I need to wag more and bark less. I guess you just do the best with what you know at the time.
We spent 3 years in our Sheffield Avenue home. Although we loved the memories we made there it was getting more and more expensive. It was a 2 bedroom, heated with very expensive oil fuel, the yard was a mess and a lot of work, and no air conditioning. We found another home to rent on 25 Arlington Road in Longmeadow to rent from Bay Path University. This was a huge blessing. It was a 4 bedroom, central air, natural gas, all yard work provided, and it was $200 less a month. We moved across town and fell in love with our new house. We missed the old neighborhood and all our friends. The kids stayed at their old schools. We love our new neighbors. We had a terrible winter with storm after storm. I was so thankful not to have to deal with snow. Matt is still with Lego. He had the chance of
a lifetime to work in Brazil for 3 months. We missed him, but we were so proud of him and supported him whole heartedly. I have always wanted to learn to play the guitar. Matt surprised me with an acoustic guitar and got himself a banjo. We have been teaching ourselves how to play. We are having a good time together and as a family. Ruby plays the piano, cello and the ukulele. Cooper is playing the violin. Rocky sings or bangs on whatever makes the most sound. We call our family band the Meat Slices. I am currently teaching Sunday School to the 12-14 year olds. Ruby is in my class. I am obsessed with my fiestaware. It makes me so happy, the color gives me energy. I love setting the table with the festive colors.
In a typical day I wake at 7 read my scriptures, wake my kids at 7:30 eat a bowl of oatmeal, send Ruby and Cooper off to school with Matt, clean up, go to the gym at 9, hang out with Rocky (eating, reading, playing stuffed animals, cleaning, cooking, snuggling, play dates, laundry, texting, instagramming), pick up Cooper at 3, homework, dinner prep, evening activities (basketball, scouts, young women’s, book club, relief society), get ready for bed at 8, family scriptures at 8:45, lights out at 9, crash on my bed, snuggle with Matt and my phone.
As a family we are trying to serve others. We have participated with Special Olympics a few times. We love having friends and neighbors over for dinner or movies on our shed. Wherever we live we find amazing friends and neighbors. Each time we move we feel like we have found the greatest place.