Have we met before?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to marry a good Mormon boy from a large Mormon family, and in the summers, we would flit from one large family reunion to another. Instead I got Dick, who, after surviving my dad’s family’s reunion, wanted to know whether family reunions were a common thing in Utah.

You know the Christmas letters that sound as if you’re trying to pimp out your kids? Family reunions can be even worse — a full-color, animated Christmas letter you can’t tape to the refrigerator door and ignore.

If you’re in the market for a career, or have children who need a swift kick in the rear career advice, you might want to keep in mind that the bar for bragging has been raised in recent years. Where once it was enough to graduate from a respectable college and enter a respectable profession (engineer, doctor, engineer, lawyer, dentist, engineer), now you need a little something extra to get respect around the family reunion campfire.

My sweet cousin Peter, who’s number 30 of 57 first cousins or something (I lost the cousin chart they handed out the second night) is not someone I’ve talked to much before (I hang with numbers 10-20). He’s returning to college this fall, and it’s a safe guess that his major is chemical/mechanical/civil non-disobedience engineering.

Peter, who knows that I am a stay-at-home mom like all the other female cousins my age, said to me, “You studied at BYU for awhile, right?”

That night around the campfire, we had family sharing time, where each of my dad’s three sisters and six brothers (except that one brother who’s always “busy”) introduced their kids, beaming proudly if they’d managed to produce their kids in the flesh, hoping to produce adequate excuses if their kids couldn’t make it. Being out of the country on a mission for our church earns a pass, barely.

Occupations and recent accomplishments were mentioned, as were their children’s children. My oldest cousin is turning 40 next year, and he and his wife have adopted several — my three girls are a small, if glittering, contribution to the family tree.

So what’s the most coveted bragging point for mostly-Republican, highly-religious, mostly-high-achiever families? (And an automatic get-out-of-family-reunions card?)

Highest honors around the campfire go to those who have at least one child working in a top secret job for somebody like Lockheed or the NSA.* Then you get to say that you’d like to explain what Johnny does, only he can’t tell you because then he’d have to kill you. Or as my dad’s next oldest brother’s wife says her son says: “I can’t tell you or I’d have to do a lot of paperwork.”

Several of my dad’s nine siblings have sons who have every reason to view more paperwork as the kiss of death.

After my grandparent’s youngest kid told us about his youngest kid’s bluegrass band, my dad said he needed to amend his progeny spiel.

Turns out he has daughters, as do all his brothers and sisters, and, though they are not secret undercover operatives, or even doctors or lawyers or engineers, or MAYOR OF WASILLA, they are doing something wonderful: raising children to become secret undercover operatives or doctor or lawyers or engineers.

Or, as in my case: raising mothers. Mothers who will become governor of Alaska, if I and my studying for awhile at BYU had any confidence in the current fairy tale.

Dad even said that his oldest daughter does the blog, and boy! does she post often.

Then, since I am a supportive wife, I pointed out that Dick also has a top-secret, classified, vital job, and since he works for our church, he answers to a higher power. So there. Your sons might be keeping the free world safe, but my husband? He’s protecting God’s secrets.

And I am raising kids and doing the blog.

*My cousins don’t actually work for these people. I’d tell you who they work for, or where in the world they’re deployed, but then I probably wouldn’t be invited back next year . . .

Things That Must Go and an L.L.Bean Tote Bag Giveaway

Welcome to Things That Must Go. This week’s giveaway is a custom L.L.Bean Tote Bag, but first, here are a couple of my favorite entries and the winner of the iTunes giveaway from last weekend.


Robyn of Robyn’s Online World: Long drawn out pauses on reality shows announcing winners of the challenge, event, show, etc. Thank goodness for TiVo so I can skip that, but geez folks come on! (At first glance this might seem a tad superficial, but, really. Do they need that seven minute cliffhanger before revealing that Kherington and Gev are going home? Not that I watch So You Think You Can Dance or anything. No. I can wait ’til American Idol is on again for my reality show fix).

Celena Metzger: hmmm definitely those cloth hand Towels in public restrooms where everyone and their mother has used with goodness knows what kind of germs! (I think we’ve touched on public restrooms before, but the fabric hand towels. Yes. Those must go!)

And the winner is:

EMama: Fish pill burps. Like being pregnant isn’t nasty enough on its own. (I’ve been thinking about pregnancy lately, and no, I’m not pregnant, nor am I WonderWoman. But also? If anyone ever tells you that castor oil induces pregnancy? A) It does not, and 2) It tastes awwwwwful, and 2.5) It is a laxative. Lax-a-tive). Congrats to EMama. I shall be emailing you shortly.

And now, (pause) (pause). My

Things That Must Go

False Confessions. Recently I read a post* inviting people to anonymously confess their darkest secrets. Several commenters made absolutely painful, heartbreaking confessions, and I hope that doing so allowed them to envision making more meaningful confessions and figuring out how to fix whatever needs to be fixed in their lives.

One of the confessions was just a bit off, though. Here it is, in my words:

All right. I’m going to be brave and not go the anonymous route. Of course, anonymity is fine for you cowards with such bizarre problems, but here’s my terrible, hideous secret: Once I worked for a very mean man. He said I couldn’t read [insert literary classic] at work, even when all my work was done to perfection. But I can’t go even a day without reading, and so I read, and . . . sniff . . . I LIED to him when he asked me. This was terrible, because I am NOT a liar, and even if my boss was as bad as Hitler burning books in Berlin, I should have told the truth. This weighed on my sensitive conscience for years, until I broke down and wrote him a letter confessing all and apologizing profusely. Even though he was a very, very mean man. Who didn’t like to read.

This is like saying in a job interview, when they ask you what your biggest flaw is: “Sometimes I work too hard.” Or, to a fellow-PTA Mom: “I just love my family too much, I guess.”

False confessions, while understandable in a job interview (Make your weaknesses sound like strengths!) or in any highly-volatile situation like a PTA meeting, are just one of the many Things That Must Go!

I hope you’re ready to share your Things That Must Go. This week’s giveaway is a custom LLBean Tote Bag (small or medium, shipping to the U.S. only). You can design it any way you want (including monagramming, though that does seem a bit . . . hmm). My mother-in-law gave me an LLB tote several years ago, and I can definitely recommend it — with the long straps, outside pocket and zip-top. Mmm-mmm.

Simply leave a comment with your Things That Must Go before midnight Monday July 21st.


 *I’d link to the post, but if my mom knew I was reading posts (and comments!) like those, she probably wouldn’t let me use her laptop ever again.