70 x 7

Today my father-in-law turned 70. He was in gloomy, gross Vegas for a work convention so his wife and seven kids all flew out and surprised the heck out of him in the hotel lobby. All together with extra spouses and a grandbaby we were 14 people. We classed Vegas right up and ordered 14 lemonades at the nearest buffet.

I love so many things about my father-in-law, even if he did scare me a little when I first played cards with him. My father-in-law treats me like one of his own, which is a real gift since he has plenty of authentic Lawson kids to love. He has a big, disruptive laugh that breaks tension and puts others at ease. He's a super good driver and can back a 15-passenger van into a compact parking spot at dusk at a MNF Broncos game.

He's a self-made man who came from nothing but will give away anything. He has a special gift for befriending those who have been down on their luck. He used to volunteer at the prison, treats blue collar workers like royalty, and always has cash in his pocket to help those less fortunate. His truck is always spotless but he'll let you eat in it. If you like, he'll blast REO Speedwagon and sing it loud and proud with you, too.

He gives all the grandkids "The Claw" and gets down on his hands and knees to wrestle with them. In fact, I'm certain he has more energy to play with my kids than I do. He used to own a café and would play fusbol with customers. Good luck trying to beat him at any game where a score is kept.

He loves meat, supplements, Tai-chi, and fishing. In fact, one of the only times I've ever seen him cry was at our cabin when we had the roundtable discussion about selling it. He said that several of his grandbabies got to catch their first fish at the cabin, so it was good for something. I never realized how special that was to him until I learned that his first memory is catching a fish. Don't we all want to give our kids the same things that made us happy?

When he helped Greg unload an upright grand piano from the back of our truck I was impressed with his brute strength; Greg inherited his Popeye forearms from his dad. He reminds me of Dog the Bounty Hunter (minus the sleeveless shirts and hair feathers) because they both hail from Colorado Springs, are tougher than nails, and say phrases like "meaner than a junkyard dog" and "as fast as all get out". 

A lot of people say their greatest treasures are their kids and grandkids but my father-in-law really means it. It doesn't matter where we go; all he wants to do is play cards or visit late into the night with his posterity. How many guys have a commercial-grade deep fryer plugged in a custom 220 outlet in their garage to fry their grandkids a corndog or some fresh chips for salsa? He does, that's who.

The best thing he's ever taught me by example is to quickly forgive. He's not invincible. He can be crossed, but he'll move on in about five minutes and never speak of it again. He chooses to not be poisoned.

I will never forget the night a few years ago when I was really struggling to forgive someone. I was desperate for sound advice and my inability to forgive was wrecking me from the inside out. I called him pretty late in the evening; he answered.

Me: Are you busy?

Him: I'm never too busy for my favorite daughter-in-law.

Me: I have a serious question for you and I need a serious answer. I'm not joking so don't joke back to me. If you're watching wrestling I need you to pause it and really help me.

Him: Okay, I'm here. Shoot.

Me: I need to know how you're so good at forgiving people. I'm ruining myself over something I can't let go of. It's eating me alive. I can't get away from it. 

Him: (slight pause) What is the purpose of being here?

Me: To be tested, to choose good over evil, to become like God.

Him: Right. So who is winning right now?

Me: Satan.

Him: That's right. So just let it go. Be merciful. Trust me, I've lived the hard way and the easy way and this way is so much better. It's not even a question. Just forgive and be the winner here. 

I can't say how many times I've heard his voice in my head. Who is the winner here?

My father-in-law a simple guy who keeps it simple. It's a winning combination. And so how fitting is it that the man who excels at forgiving others "even seventy times seven" (Bible lingo for "infinity") got to turn 70 with all 7 of kids today?

This is my favorite picture of Herb. Ari was six weeks old and she was camouflaged on him. I also love this pic because Herb always wears supportive shoes. Ain't nobody got time for absent arch support!



I carried a student-sized leather Franklin day planner as a high school sophomore (the full size would have generated more mocking). It had everything: lined daily sheets, U.S. and world maps, time zone chart, anniversary gift and birthstone-of-the-month legends, and a built-in ruler with magnifer on the clear bookmark. You name it, it had it. Hidden between two lesser-used tabs was a unique sheet of paper that became the depository for MY SECRET LIFE LIST. In the worst-case scenario of my planner being lost and found by the biggest loudmouth in school that secret list was the hardest page to find. It felt safe. (Still, a Franklin that locked like the diaries at Hallmark would have been *ding* golden.)

I kept MY SECRET LIFE LIST long after I got rid of the planner. I reread it when we moved, when I single-handedly decided the life or death of every piece of paper under my roof. It made me chuckle to remember what young Melissa Durkovich was dreaming about on a bench in "The Commons" at Rock Bridge High. It is a long list, but here are some of the bullets an older, more secure me can reveal:


  •  GO TO BYU
  •  GET A SIX-PACK (abs, not cans)

As luck would have it, a boy named Mike Jones left his sweatshirt at my BYU apartment the night I helped wrote an essay for him. He used a lot of grooming products and his sweatshirt smelled divine. I wadded it into a ball and snuggled it like a teddy bear for over a week before he came knocking for its whereabouts. When I gave it back to him I played it cool; I even took my time hunting for it since I clearly had no idea it was in my apartment.

Also lucky was marrying Greg, my one true love who won us a Caribbean cruise months after we were hitched. Before we'd even celebrated a first anniversary we were watching waterfalls in Dominica. Any list maker loves a triple check. โœ”โœ”โœ”

Sadly, hair growth cycle is a real thing and my scalp is preprogrammed to only grow hair to my collarbone. That's it. I will never have long hair. And lots of other things on my list. The stinger is I can't locate Cindy Long, my favorite church leader of all time, who made me grilled cheese sandwiches at 2 a.m. when I had sleepovers at her house. She also introduced me to the teddy bear hamster, of which I later owned two. She got remarried, I tossed her announcement, I can't recall her new last name, I have nothing to Google. I last saw her in 1999. So sad.

I'm glad I had secret dreams and I'm even happier some of them came true, but the greatest thing I ever did wasn't even on my list. The most important thing I've done in my life has been staying close to the Lord.

My daughter is just like me in the list-making department. She has her own secret life list but it's a color-coded note in an app written in all lowercase with no punctuation. She's about to graduate and spread her wings. For years now I've been telling her if she only remembers two things from me to remember these:

1. Don't underestimate the power of the turkey carcass! Eat bone broth! It heals you!

2. I don't care what you do or where you go in life as long as you stay close to the Lord.

I mean it. I don't care about her ACT score, choice of college, or declared major. I don't care what hobbies she pursues, who she marries, or where she ends up on the globe. From my own experience I know no matter how well-equipped you are, how smart, how loved and supported, or how carefully you plan YOU WILL GET THINGS YOU DIDN'T PLAN ON.

Those unplannables, which never belonged on your dream list, will have the nerve to show up front and center in your life. Knowing what to do with them will require a closeness to God and understanding of His plan, plus gobs of patience and trust. If God's love feels familiar to you then all things really are possible...or at least endurable, survivable, forgettable, understandable. Those are a lot of made-up words for something I'm serious about but the nutshell, the essence of it all, is that I don't care what RE does, I only care about who RE becomes while she does it.

Which is exactly what Heavenly Father must be thinking as he watches me write my list every morning.



Photo of my gilded to-do list notepad. What, you don't have a gilded to-do list? You must not love lists as much as I do.

Photo quote from "Divine Discontent" by Michelle Craig:

Sisters, you and I can plead for the Holy Ghost to show us “all things what [we] should do,” even when our to-do list already looks full. When prompted, we can leave dishes in the sink or an in-box full of challenges demanding attention in order to read to a child, visit with a friend, babysit a neighbor’s children, or serve in the temple. Don’t get me wrong—I am a list maker; I love checking things off. But peace comes in knowing that being more does not necessarily equate to doing more. Responding to discontent by resolving to follow promptings changes the way I think about “my time,” and I see people not as interruptions but as the purpose of my life.

The other thing I associate with to-do lists is something Meckenzie Dietz said in Sunday School at least three years ago. She taught on the three degrees of glory, a lesson she was dreading due to her father's suicide when she was a child. There was a truly beautiful discussion of hope (and really great quotes and insights from Matt McBride) and at the end she said something to this effect:

As Church members we often look at the degrees of glory like checklists. If I don't want to be Telestial I shouldn't murder (check), lie (check), commit adultery (check), etc. If I want to be Celestial I need to fill in all the perfect-and-holy checkmarks. We read the descriptions and make our checks and estimate where we think we belong. But the thing she said that still has me thinking is, "God doesn't need checklists to know who we are." I've thought about that so much and I'm still thinking about it. Obviously it's not doctrinal or anything, but I do think it's true and tied to perfect love negating loads of peripheral gray matter.



My dream life (other than my current one) would have been running a medieval apothecary inside a hollowed-out tree trunk deep in a forest. Yes, like a Berenstain Bear pharmacist during the Black Death. Bundled herbs hanging from the rafters, a mortar and pestle for grinding potions, little bottles to label, and bins and knot holes to organize my supplies in. Combine that with my love of anything miniature and you can guess why I love samples of beauty products.

In truth, I'm the sucker that is funding the beauty industry's empty promises. I continue to invest in lotions, primers, and plumpers that probably aren't doing anything as effective as staying hydrated and sleeping eight solid hours at night. I'm most gullible toward serums. If you are a glass vial with a dropper I will buy you. I can't say no. My apothecary needs you, too.

I was lamenting my aging face to my aunt; a few days later Hope in a Box arrived.

Yes, I'm the odd duck that takes photos of free samples instead of selfies with her husband.

I'm happy to say I have used up every last drop of these. I'm sorry to report that I don't look any younger. But—it was fun while it lasted, and if you can't gamble on the power of a secret African flower's root or the juice from a rare melon's rind what is the point of being 40-something?

I think I have loved the term "balm of Gilead" since I was a kid. What WAS that miracle cream?

The balm of Gilead was an aromatic spice used to heal and soothe, a popularly traded commodity, and always in high demand. It was made from the resin of a bush that grew plentifully in Gilead in Old Testament times and therefore came to be known as “balm of Gilead”.

President Thomas S. Monson said,

There will be times when it appears there is no light at the end of our tunnel or no dawn to a night of darkness. We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams, and the despair of vanished hopes. We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone.

Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out, ‘Is there no balm in Gilead?’ (Jeremiah 8:22). We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.

There are many of us who don't have it quite as bad as that but the balm doesn't discriminate. It can heal a gaping war wound as well as an accidental paper cut. My needs change daily but it's safe to say I'm in high demand for healing 24/7.

Elaine Jack said, "Wherever we are, we can carry with us a reserve of our balm of Gilead and we can spread it around." She added that receiving the balm of Gilead from someone "inspires us and takes the edge off our problems". As someone with plenty of edges I love that last bit. A little tenderness can make a big stroke.

Add up my love of serums + office supplies + dark chocolate + sleeping in + imported wool yarn + setting a table with china + Oscar Wilde cheese + American Ninja Warrior and you have how much I believe in the balm of Gilead.

The balm of Gilead is the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the master physician. It is also the healing power of good people who do good things for one another just like Christ would do if he were still here. I get a little dose every day from one angel or another and it makes me prettier than anything I actually apply to my face. I have a healing sphere that trades balm regularly and that is priceless. Some people are bird watchers; I'm a balm watcher. I have hope when I look around. I see a world full of little kindnesses and healers.


Photo quote from the hymn "Lord, I Would Follow Thee" by Susan Evans McCloud (3rd verse)


BEAUTY BONUS! GIFT WITH PURCHASE! I couldn't have made this up if I wanted to. This is how it went at Nordstrom on my birthday last year: 

Me: Hi, where is the Cle de Peau booth? ("Clay duh Poe" is how I pronounced it, like I'm a Texan in France)

Salesman Mica: We don't have one. You need to talk to Daisy.

Me: So you don't sell it? Where is Daisy?

Mica: Over there. In the fur vest. She's busy. You'll have to wait. Everyone waits for Daisy.

---waiting 10 minutes or so----

I meet Daisy, a middle-aged fiery Asian woman with the skin of a baby who mans the Shiseido booth 

Daisy: Hello. How can I help you?

Me: Do you sell Cle de Peau?

Daisy: No, but I get it for you. I get it for lots of people here. Come with me. (Moves to the computer, pulls out a binder with all the CDP item numbers) What you need?

Me: Concealer

Daisy, looking me square in the face and squinting: Caucasian woman only use beige or ivory. Ivory give you raccoon eyes. Beige your color.

Me: Great, I'll take it.

Daisy: You have serum?

Me: What serum?

Daisy: Cle de Peau serum for eyes. If you no have, your concealer no work. No work, no chance. Not on that face. 

Me: Is something wrong with my face? I have eye creams. Even an intense night one. This is the best my skin has ever looked. I just got new makeup.

Daisy: What brand?

Me: Oh, a little of everything. Good stuff.

Daisy: No good. Nothing you doing is right. I take one look at you and could tell you not drinking enough water or using any right products. Utah is ruining your face. You need my products.

Me: Which products? Cle de Peau? Or Shiseido?

Daisy, making a pfffhhhttt sound with her mouth: Shiseido for women who take shortcuts. Cle de Peau for luxurious woman who loves her face. You need Cle de Peau. Their foundation, you need it. You see my face? You see I'm 59? You see anything wrong?

Me: No, you look amazing. But you're also Asian and have different—

Daisy: Don't blame Asian on me! Chinese women can't even believe I'm 59. Not Asian! Cle de Peau does this.

Me: Well how much is the foundation?

Daisy: $250 

Me: No, thank you, I just don't have that kind of money. Even the concealer is a gift from my aunt in California. She mailed me a check for it.

Daisy: California? Oooooh, I work seven years in San Francisco for Cle de Peau before moving here. I know your California aunt. She your father's sister and married a rich man in California? She get everything she want?

Me, blinking in amazement: Kind of. She's very generous. I'll just take the concealer.

Daisy: You work? 

Me: I'm a stay at home mom.

Daisy, snapping her fingers: Ah, darn. If you work I say you deserve it! You pay this off in no time. Hmm. But you no work. Your husband give you anything you want? Tomorrow is Mother's Day. He take care of it?

Me: No, he's already taking care of me. Just the concealer, please.

Daisy: Ok, I order for you but when it comes you drive up here and I show you how to massage face so you not so droopy. You need serum. You sure you don't want serum?

Me: How about I think about it?

Daisy: Fine. Happy birthday. I put sample in your bag. Text my iPhone when you come. Have a nice day.

(Daisy, who felt like a human paintball gun, did know her stuff. Beige is my color. And one tube allegedly lasts a lifetime. So I'm set. Even without the serum.)


Title of Liberty

Sunday was my favorite day of the week until last year. And now because of Sundays half of my Mondays are still kind of yuck. I'm almost Garfield. I almost hate Mondays.

It's because Sunday is the day I relive every minute of Young Womens trying to ascertain what I did wrong, what I could be doing better, who needs extra help, why no girls give me hugs, why almost no girls give me eye contact, and why I come away from that last hour feeling so empty when I'm giving it my all.

That kind of reflection is a gateway to reminding myself that I've only exercised once since January 1, still stink at sewing zippers, give bad haircuts, am addicted to sugar, can't wake up early, am afraid to drive in the snow and why did we move to the top of a mountain, feel tight even in stretchy jeans, hate making lunch for my kids which means I must hate my kids, and haven't cracked the spine of the Avoiding Awkward Conversations strategy book I bought at Education Week (which means awkward apologies shall perpetually remain on my forecast till the end of time). Plus Ari doesn't know how to handle any type of raw meat and is ill-prepared for college and will likely become a vegetarian due to my lack of mothering.

Sometimes I just feel like a failure even though I hide it with general happiness.

Luckily for me January has been wide open now that the stocking and Book of Mormon are finished, so I had time to view all the lists and memos on my phone. And guess what I found? A timely old note I made from a class taught by one of Lone Peak High School's therapists:


This therapist, Tawnie Sloat, said nowhere in the scriptures can you find God referring to man as a failure. In fact, fail is only used in faileth, as in charity never faileth. So if God doesn't see us as failures we shouldn't see ourselves (or anyone else) as failures.

This gave me hope. I promptly removed the zipper foot from my sewing machine, snapped on the presser foot, and with $4 of felt (and Everett on my lap removing pins as we went) knocked off the banner from Magnolia I've had my eye on. Because I needed the reminder big time.


I am not a failure! This is what growth looks like! Heavenly Father sent me to Earth to figure out how to be happy while I work out the kinks! I think my biggest kink is listening to Satan's nonstop whisperings of doom. My lesser kinks will smooth themselves out if I refocus with hope. I can do this. All of it. Even my kryptonite zippers.

Finished banner with Everett's foot.

Alternative way to say what I'm saying with a cool page from Magnolia Magazine, Issue No. 8


Holy Tide

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I believe in angels, both heavenly and earthly. We believe angels are messengers for Heavenly Father. The scriptures are replete with accounts of angels; some are anonymous and some have names. I've noticed that angels who had a previous mortal ministry are often assigned a mission tied to their earthly efforts. For instance, the angel Moroni tutored and directed Joseph Smith in regard to the golden plates. Mortal Moroni spent a lot of his existence hauling around, protecting, adding to, and burying the plates 1400 years prior. Moroni was clearly invested in the Book of Mormon. 

In this frame of mind I have pondered much, especially in the recent weeks celebrating Christmas, as to why Gabriel was the angel sent to deliver the life-altering news to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God. We know from modern-day revelation that angel Gabriel is the prophet Noah.*

Noah, who with his ark survived the earth's baptism by flood, was the father of all living in his day. God made special promises to him after the puddles dried and signed his word with a rainbow arcing across the sky. Noah means "rest".

How beautiful that the prophet who witnessed storm and flood, dove of peace, and prism of promise got to announce the babe who would flood the earth and erase our storms with His promise of peace. I can't help but think Christ is both the flood and the rainbow, the power and the love, the cause and the effect of true joy. He is the Master of ocean and earth and sky; the scepter of rest for all who shall ever have life.

Lucky, lucky Gabriel.




Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.

O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy

(7th verse of the authorless, dateless, allegedly-the-oldest-carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen")

*Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 157 

Photo image purchased from iStock photo.