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Notes from a Wedding Day



Before Trent and I got married, somebody told us to take time on our wedding night to write in our journals about the day, so we could remember the little details we might forget if we waited. We did, but just scattered notes. We jotted down key words to jog our memories. We’d write it all out later, we thought, but we never got around to it.

I found those scribbles a couple of months ago, bullets on a notepad with the Hotel Monaco letterhead at the top. We were nervous, awkward, overwhelmed kids when we wrote those words and with five years between us and them, so much of their meaning has wandered away. But I could make sense of some of it.

I wanted to remember my sister driving me down Provo Canyon in the morning, practicing the song she sang at the reception that night. She belted “At Last” in the driver’s seat and somewhere along the way, I had a moment when it all felt real. I cried. I wanted to remember the moment and the crying.

I wanted to remember getting my hair done at the mall and doing my makeup alone in the food court bathroom. I wanted to remember “Dad’s peeing loud story” which he must have told me when my parents picked me up and drove me to the temple, but honestly, I don’t remember it at all.

I wanted to remember feeling relief in the celestial room before our sealing—relief from what, I’m not quite sure. I wanted to remember looking around the sealing room to see who was there—so many people, it seemed—and I wanted so badly to memorize the way I felt when all of those people lined up to hug and congratulate us when the ceremony was over. I felt loved like I’d never felt before. I felt like we had an army of people rooting for us. I felt like we could make it. I remember that well.

I wanted to remember the wind, the cold, and the dark, ominous sky. It was so different from the wedding weather I’d pictured. It was strange for late April, strange and beautiful.

The rest was a blur, even in my notes. I wrote that my Dad was like a game show host at the wedding dinner, walking around in a tux with a microphone. I wrote words like “madness” and “Fire in the Disco”—the song I danced to with my dearest, craziest, maddest friends. I wrote “Wild Thing”—the song I sang to Trent before we were rushed out the door through a line of smoky sparklers waving in the rain. We got into a filthy old Camry and drove away. And though it wasn’t in my notes, I remember looking back at the glow in the windows of the reception hall, the silhouettes of the people who loved us and rooted for us, and wishing I could go back.

But as we all know, we can never go back. No, not really.

So onward, Trent Murphey, onward we drive into surprising beauty of the big dark sky.

Listening to: Sam Palladio & Clare Bowen, “When You Open Your Eyes”

Happy Birthday, Scout


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Dear Scout Murphey,

Today is your second birthday. Your first birthday, your actual birth day, was a whole year ago today. I know I’m stating the obvious, but the obvious is blowing my mind. This year, I have learned that the collective wisdom of parents past is true, at least when it yaks on about how the days are long but the years are short, and when it won’t shut up about how transformative parenthood will be, and when it becomes a broken record saying things like, “You’ll love like you never knew you could.”

I never knew I could love like I love you, Scout Murphey. Not even when they said it a million billion kajillion times.

I wish I could give you something meaningful for your big day, something more than board books and a plastic airplane to knock of the shelf, as you do with all things. For weeks I’ve been thinking about what I could say to you on this day of all days. What do I want you to know, Funny Buns? What do I want you to remember? And in trying not to yak on like all those worn out parents past, I’ll just give you one thing.

I will try not to need you too much, Little Duck.

That is my gift. There you are. Happy birthday. I will try not to need you too much.

I’ve noticed it growing inside me this year, this dependency on you to make me feel important. You look to me for life, sustenance, comfort, and learning and you look at me like I’m the coolest, funniest, most interesting being that ever walked on the face on Earth. I’ve been collecting those looks, gobbling them up, filling my tank with those hits of validation.

Validation—it’s a word us grown-ups throw around a lot, but almost never do we talk about it coming from our children. Maybe that’s because children stop validating their parents at some point. That sounds right, now that I think of it. I’m sure this is just a phase. I’m sure you will learn that there are cooler people out there, and better jokes, and more interesting things. But I will try to be ready for you to learn that. I will try not to mourn the change so very much when it comes. I will try not to be so addicted to your love and your looks that I need you more than I help you. I will try to find my own internal sources of validation so you can learn how to do that too. I will try to show you that my love for you can fill a planet, but it cannot fill your soul. Your soul is not mine to fill, Busy Bee. I will try not to pretend that it is.

So go enjoy your birthday, Baby Girl. Paint the town red. Eat cake. Open presents. Walk.

Or don’t walk just yet.


Or crawl a little longer.

Slow down. Stay little.

Grow big. Learn more.


Ignore me.

I’m torn.

I’m zen.

I’m your mother. For better or for worse, I’m your mother.

There you are. Happy birthday.



Listening to: The Weepies, “Nobody Knows Me At All”

Going Back


Before my roommate reunion a few weeks ago, I pulled up a bunch of old files on an external hard drive, copies of letters I’d written to a missionary back in my college days. We roommates planned to share funny excerpts from journal entries we’d written while we lived together. Those letters were the only journal I had.

It’s weird to go back.

I was writing to a missionary, I remind myself, which had to have colored my thoughts. I wrote a lot about wanting to go on a mission myself. That was before the mission age change. I wasn’t yet 21. I hadn’t remembered feeling such longing to go and serve God like that, to share the gospel like that. But I wrote a lot about that longing.

I was writing to a boy whose approval I desperately wanted, I remind myself, which had to have altered my tone. My tone was insecure. I couldn’t stop reassuring him that I wasn’t the “closed-minded liberal” he thought I was. I did it jokingly most of the time, but the frequency made it real.

I want to be kind to myself, I think as I read, but my instincts go elsewhere. I reach into the letter and out again and shake my 20-year-old shoulders a good one. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO PROVE ANYTHING TO HIM. And what’s so wrong with being a little liberal? And who are you trying to convince here? Yourself?” But 20-year-old Sam shrugs me off and diverts her eyes. “Why would I listen to you?” she says. “You never went on that mission like you said you would.” And I shrink, because she’s right. And I shrink smaller, because I feel relieved by it.

Be kind to yourself, I think again.

My authenticity waned and waxed throughout. There were passages that felt honest, even reading them years later. I wrote about the rush I got making an eloquent argument in my current events class and a spiritual insight I discovered in my world lit class. I planned, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, a study abroad to London and an internship at the Cincinnati Enquirer, neither of which came to pass. I gushed over the luggage I got for my birthday and fretted over getting my wisdom teeth out.

Of course I also wrote a lot about my roommates, those quirky, wonderful, kindred crazies. And although some of my stories didn’t check out when compared to my roommates’ versions at the reunion (I’m known to embellish here and there), the feelings were true. Mischievousness, cautiousness, loneliness, belonging, vulnerability, invincibility—that was us in those days, a beautiful mess of growing-ups all sharing a single bathroom.

Listening to: Kings of Convenience, “I’d Rather Dance With You”



Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 9.49.20 PMThis is our summer travel route.

It’s an experiment in many things, things like spontaneity. We booked flights to Vienna on a whim two days ago, home through Copenhagen with Budapest, Prague, Krakow, and Warsaw in between. The tickets were crazy cheap, so we pounced and expedited a passport for Scout. We have the time now. We won’t always.

We watched “Dead Poets Society” last week—”Carpe Diem. Seize the day.” And we got an offer, which we left on the table, to trade our many-miled Corolla for a few-miled minivan. And a sister from our church congregation passed away of colon cancer far to young. And these factors all combined in a rush of panicked energy to live, live, live as much as we possibly can.

There was a phase of my life when I felt, quite acutely, that I needed to say no to most everything. I needed to conserve my strength and my space, to ration my emotions, to go in, to look in, to live in, to hunker down, to pause. To pause.

But my life is in play again. And it’s yes, yes, yes in every direction—North, South, East, West. Look up. Live out.

Listening to: The Civil Wars, “Billie Jean”

High on Dallas


We’re moving to Dallas for the summer and, quite possibly, much longer thereafter.

It was hard for both of us to say no to Denver. And I’m pretty confident that I’m not a fan of Dallas, to be honest. But we feel so good about Bain and it’s community and Trent’s place in it all that we feel peace about the rest. Abiding peace. If there be things worth liking about Dallas, I will find them. And if there be things worth hating about Dallas, I will bitch about them. But I will bitch about them in abiding peace.

Speaking of which, can we talk briefly about how I honestly believe I get endorphins from hating things? It’s fun for me. Truly. Is it science? Is it magic? I know not. But I do know that while other people go running, I sit at home and hate on running and yet, we all get a natural high. Bitching can be euphoric.

OK. Now back to Dallas.

On second thought, that’s all I have to say about Dallas at the moment. Instead, I’ll get back to watching the season finale of “Downton Abbey” and cleaning up my disastrous bedroom and letting the dust of the past three weeks settle all around me—travel, host visitors, work, play, wake, sleep. And bitch. This is the circle of life.

Listening to: Gwen Stefani, “Hollaback Girl”

C-ville Cabin Fever Busters



Trent had a snow day today. It was glorious.

The world got fluffier in every way. Trent woke up with Scout while I slept in and then worked on some freelance assignments uninterrupted. He made breakfast (and lunch!) and we all ventured out to chat with some Darden friends down the road whose classes were also cancelled. We napped and read and never got dressed and had a little family dance party to “Baby Beluga”—Raffi fan girls in the house! Most of the day Scout was either kissing her stuffed prairie dog (with alarming passion, I might add) or scooting around the apartment with a pink pinwheel in one hand, waving it around like a magic wand, casting a happy little spell on all of us. This fluff is the stuff of greatness. You can quote me on that.

I figured that since we had such a nice day staying in, now would be the perfect time to do a little post about how to stay sane during a Charlottesville winter. It’s a cute town—the cutest, I’d say—but in the winter it starts to feel small. (To be fair, everything does.) Here’s my own little cocktail for curing cabin fever.

  • C-ville Coffee—It’s a kid-friendly coffee house and it’s genius. I’m new to the world of parenting. Maybe this is old hat to most people, but to me, it’s a revelation. It has all the coziness of a normal coffee shop plus a big play area with toys, books, puzzles and high chairs. They also sell delicious, hearty, oaty, honey-soaked muffins. You can tell a lot about a coffee shop by the oatiness of its muffins.
  • Play Area at the Mall—It’s a mall. It’s named “Fashion Square,” which kind of makes me chuckle, because I’m a jerk. (Really? Fashion Square? That’s the best you could come up with?) But that is neither here nor there where the indoor play area is concerned. It’s safe. It’s warm. It’ll do just fine.
  • Bend Yoga—It’s a family yoga studio on the downtown mall. They have classes for parents where babies are welcome to tag along and participate. We’ve gone to a few of their drop-in events and I’ve been impressed. It allows me to get some cabin-fever-combating endorphins from my preferred form of exercise—stretching. For me, exercise can’t really be low-impact enough.
  • McGuffey Art Center—It’s a collection of studios of local artists, all housed in a beautiful old school building downtown. You can stroll through during the day and drop in on whoever is working to observe or chat. (Scout isn’t much for art yet, but she’s crazy for the ceiling fans.) They also offer classes and workshops all through the winter. I’m hoping to do a print-making workshop in March.
  • Window Shopping—A few times this winter, Scout and I have bundled up and gone out window shopping just to get some air. There are lots of unique local shops to explore. Rock Paper Scissors and Shenanigans Toys are two of my favorites.

Refinement is My Middle Name


My mom, sister and I have decided to memorize a scripture and poem in every month of 2015. Nobody has overtly attributed this goal to the influence of “Anne of Green Gables,” but Anne (with an e!) is most certainly at the root of our desire to be able to recite poetry fluidly in casual conversation. There’s really no other explanation.

In January I memorized “Life is Fine” by Langston Hughes and 1 Corinthians 13:12 . In February it was “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley and John 9: 2-3.

What are your favorite poems and forgotten scriptures? What should I add to my list?

My mom’s February poem was “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran. And it’s beautiful. Too beautiful not to share.

On Children
 by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

The one where we fight on Valentine’s Day


I often think about a line from an episode of “The Office.” It’s not Shakespeare or anything, but it hit home nonetheless. It’s one of the final episodes of the series when Jim and Pam are on the rocks. They’ve spent the entire season closing themselves off to each other, not speaking their minds, growing apart, and you’re watching this TV love story crumble with real pain in your chest. They start to argue about something and then Jim says he’s going to leave, because otherwise they’ll just go home and fight. And just when you think that apathy is going to consume them, Pam says, “No, I think we should go home and fight.” And they smile at each other and leave together, knowing that they’ll spend the evening arguing. But they’re relieved in knowing that. And so are you. Better that they fight and care than that they walk away.

Trent made dinner reservations for Valentine’s Day weeks in advance, exceeding my wildest expectations. We got a babysitter and he took me to Red Pump, a gorgeous little restaurant on the downtown mall in Charlottesville. We sat in a corner booth in the warm glow of candlelight and ate sea bass and duck confit as the brittle wind whipped snow flurries up and down the storefront window. I wore heels and red lipstick. Is the scene sufficiently set?

We argued all night. Truly. All night long we argued. And while there was a time of my life when something like that would have tainted the whole evening, now is not that time. I’ve learned that arguing, when done the right way, is an important part of healthy relationships and that romance doesn’t always play footsie under the table. I have learned that my wildest dreams are often boring in the flesh.

We argued on the drive home and kept on going as we crawled into bed. And we laughed because it’s just so “us” to spend Valentine’s Day challenging each others’ ideas about the world. We both kind of love “us”—at least we’ve grown to—and that feels like something to celebrate.

Listening to: Ray LaMontagne, “Be Here Now”

Come to Jesus in the Kitchen


Today, I ate an entire bag of orange Milanos for lunch.

Yesterday, I ate a 1 lb. block of mozzarella. Like an apple. Because it honestly felt like too much work to slice it.

The day before that, I polished off the box of Valentine chocolates my mom sent me. But then the ball was rolling, so I turned to the remaining fun-size Halloween candy bars on top of the fridge. And so I could feel good about myself, I ate three bowls of Cinnamon Life cereal. At the time, it felt healthy.

At one point this week, Trent made me a grilled cheese sandwich while I interviewed a source for a story over the phone. To return the favor, I threw a cereal bar at him tonight as we walked out the door. “Dinner,” I said with both shame and sarcasm.

But for real. That was dinner.

I went to the grocery store last Monday. I promise, I did. I got all of the ingredients to make lettuce wraps. Fancy lettuce wraps. But the lettuce, I hate to tell you, is wilting as we speak.

Why is feeding myself such a struggle? It’s a constant source of annoyance and guilt. I’m nursing still. If for no other reason, I should be eating healthier for my kid. There are plenty of reasons though, aren’t there? Let’s talk about hurdles. Time. Skills. Inflated expectations. Let’s blame Pinterest. And Food Network. And the robust local restaurant scene. It’s turned into this thing, hasn’t it? I have such aspirations for beautiful, plentiful, healthful, whole meals. But it’s the first thing to crumble when a work deadline is looming and Scout isn’t sleeping and before you know it, she’s eating wood chips out of the house plants and I’m gnawing at a block of processed cheese like a rat. Let’s talk about that. On second thought, let’s not talk about that.

Let’s talk about solutions. Do I just need to develop some cooking skills? Is that what’s holding me back? I bought this book a while ago to rectify that problem, but I’ve only cracked it open once. I burned three omelets in one week and haven’t touched it since. Or maybe I need to educate myself about nutrition. Maybe if I had a clearer understanding of what healthy food actually accomplishes for my body, it would be easier to commit to it. Coursera offers a free course on Child Nutrition from Stanford University. Possibly a start? Maybe I need to get inspired. Maybe I need to lower the bar. Maybe I need some sort of come-to-Jesus moment in the kitchen. Maybe you can help.

Advice? Resources? Speak to me. And speak up, will you? My stomach is growling.



My milk supply plummeted last week, at least that’s when I noticed that it had plummeted.

And yes, this is a post about lactation.

I’m not sure what caused it. Dehydration, maybe? Or stress, although I haven’t felt particularly stressed as of late. Perhaps it was just the fact that Scout has been teething. (I blame everything I don’t understand on teething.) Perhaps it messed with her appetite and I just didn’t notice.

Women who struggle with infertility often describe feeling broken, inferior somehow, not woman enough. When they see their bodies as being incapable of doing what should be natural, I’ve heard women say they sometimes feel adversarial toward their bodies, separate from them.

I love nursing. I’m one of those. I love that it forces me to stop and breathe throughout the day, to look into my daughter’s face, to hold her. I love it, even when I’m begging for sleep, even when I’m in the middle of work, even when she squirms and sits up and talks to herself distractedly. It came as a surprise, my emotional attachment to this bodily function. But it’s there. Not everyone feels it. But I do. I want to nurse Scout Murphey through that 12-month mark and straight on ’til morning. I’ll nurse as long as it feels right for her and for me.

But my milk supply plummeted last week. And in the smallest little slippery sliver of a way, I began to comprehend what I’ve heard those women talk about. Last week when I pumped for the first time in months to prepare for a few upcoming trips, I watched an all-but-empty bottle stay all-but-empty. For days I felt broken, just like they say, and powerless, which made me realize how much nursing, at least most days, makes me feel calm and sure and strong.

My milk supply is increasing again and the crisis wasn’t much of a crisis in the end. And I’m not really sure where this post is going, except to say that I’m more grateful for my body than I was before, more connected to it. And also this—women, be kind to yourselves. OK?

Listening to: Nick Drake, “Place to Be”

So, this is the new year.


There’s something about flying on a plane alone with a 9-month-old that makes you see, with perfect clarity, how little control you have in the world. You are just a schmuck in all this. You think you have things figured out, but you don’t. And when you fly on a plane alone with a 9-month-old, you know that you don’t. You feel vulnerable, like a whole new kind of vulnerable. And even the teeniest acts of stranger-to-stranger kindness are tattooed into your soul. And to the man in the Which Which hat in 23B, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Scarlett and I made it home from a month-long hiatus from normal life. We spent it in Washington and Utah with our families. Trent was there in part and home in part. And as the cosmos would have it, Scarlett decided to rapidly acquire new life skills while he was away. She learned to pull herself up on things, wave, clap and bark like a dog. (Also, she growls like a dog. Also, she growls like a lion, tiger, cougar and bear. What is that? Five animal sounds? Six? Her “quack like a duck” is pretty impressive. It sounds like a very throaty, chain-smokery growl-quack. She has quite the repertoire.) Scout also popped out her first three teeth when Trent was gone. She’s like a whole new woman.

Now that I’m back home in Charlottesville, the New Year is officially starting. And with that, I make a list. Always a list. It’s a sickness. Blah, blah. Just go with it.

2015 Game Plan

  1.  I want to start my days off better this year. I am a natural born night owl and therefore a natural born slow-starter, but I want to change that a bit. When I read things about how breakfast-eaters have healthier diets throughout the day and early-risers are more productive, I feel … what’s the word? Guilt? Hope? Is there a word that means both? I’m going to develop better morning habits this year. I’ll keep you posted.
  2. I want to do my best work this year. And when I say that, I don’t necessarily mean I want to write my Pulitzer Prize winner, although that would be nice. I mostly mean that the trade magazines and other publications that have generously invested in me deserve the best that I can give them. I have a freelance work load that’s such a wonderful fit for what I want out of life. I’m going to honor that with my effort.
  3. I want to get back in touch with my inner artist. I want to memorize poetry, to blare music, to make bold fashion choices. That part of myself has faded. I want to find it again, reinvent it and wear it without apology.

Third Wave


“If more mothers were pastors or preachers, perhaps the beautiful creche scenes of Christmas wouldn’t be quite so immaculate. We wouldn’t sing songs of babies who don’t cry. And maybe we wouldn’t mistake quiet for peace.”

I’ve been thinking about those words for days. Sarah Bessey wrote them in her book “Jesus Feminist,” which I just finished and now want to read again and again on an endless loop, spiraling upward toward the heavens. Bessey is an Evangelical Christian, a woman of faith. She writes about how learning about Jesus made her a feminist and trying to be like Jesus keeps feminism in her heart.

“The gospel is more than enough. Of course it is!” she says. “But as long as I know how important maternal health is to Haiti’s future, and as long as I know that women are being abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion, abandonment, and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.”

It’s December, the anniversary month of my own little Mormon feminist coming-out, the month of “Wear Pants to Church Day” and Christmas. And something about the combination of those two events always makes me a little reflective. I’ve been thinking about the ways I long to hear women’s voices more integrated into inspiration-seeking and decision-making in the church I love so dearly. I don’t know what the all the solutions are, but the problems? I can feel the problems. And I am seeking, seeking, seeking. I’ve been reflecting about that.

This year, feminism has been different for me. Or I’ve been different for it. In the past, feminism had been a glowing ball of magic fire in my hands, beautiful, wild and shape-shifting. But when I found out I was pregnant with Scout, I felt a need to conserve my energy, to hoard my hopes, to hibernate and marinate and quiet my soul. So I did. And feminism became a book on my shelf, an old, well-worn favorite that I browsed and quoted here and there.

And then I moved to a new place. The community I left in Atlanta was open and loving, but I don’t think that’s what made me comfortable as a Mormon Feminist there. I think I was comfortable as a Mormon Feminist there, because it was too hard to be anything else. I’d reached a point where being broken and lonely was unbearable, a point where anything was better than hiding, even the terrifying act of being myself.

But here in Charlottesville, in this phase of my life, I don’t feel broken, not like I was. So I don’t have that desperation pushing me into the open. I haven’t exhausted the hiding places yet. I’ve felt insular here, chugging along in this habit of hibernation, wondering if this is who I am now or if this is just a phase, and as time has gone on, the question, the prayer, was answered for me. “Don’t mistake quiet for peace,” said a still, small voice in the middle of my gut. “Don’t mistake quiet for peace.”

Feminism is a messy thing, because it chooses to get messy. So did Christ. He came to Earth, born the human way—a messy, painful, mortal birth. He surrounded himself with the filthy ones, the sick, the contagious, the maimed. He extended his hand to the broken and lonely, the sinners, the outcasts, the forgotten ones. He loved so fiercely and saw so clearly that he begged forgiveness for those that spat on him, hung him and watched him die. He was not afraid of the mess of humanity. He was perfect, yes. But he did not live an immaculate life.

In Bessey’s book, she talks about how she used to practice anger and cynicism like a pianist practices scales. “I practiced being defensive about my choices and my mothering, my theology and my politics. And then I went on the offense. … I called it critical thinking to hide my bitter and critical heart.” She quoted George Carlin—”Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.”

And I am exactly that. I am an idealist with such hopes for the world, such hopes for my church community, such hopes for my life, and I’m heartbroken over the distance between those hopes and reality. I am either a sad little child with a cynic’s tongue or, as I have been of late, a silent church mouse. But it doesn’t have to be so. Like Bessey, I can start practicing different scales, notes of kindness and truth, clumsy and awkward but faithful nonetheless.

“I am still practicing gentleness and beauty, over and over,” she says. “Someday perhaps my fingers will find those keys without thought.”

So this starts my own little “Third Wave” of feminism. I’m ready to start talking again, unafraid of getting messy. I’m awake now and moving, gulping in air, telling my story and asking about yours, with a ball of glowing fire in my hands and a book on my shelf and a baby on my hip and kindness on my tongue and love in my heart and the Savior in my sights.

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