Let’s start off with some basic historical information. Where were you born and all that?
I was born October 9, 1951. Harry Truman was president. I was in the baby boomer generation. My parents were Lee and Donna Smith. They were married when they were just 18 and 19 years old.
Did your mom train you to become a homemaker?
Mom would always have us clean the house first thing in the morning. Once the house was clean, she saw no reason for us to be inside. So she kind of banned us from being inside for the rest of the day. So in part, that’s the way life was, chores and then the reward of being outside. My mom was a very traditional homemaker. The economy allowed my dad to be the only income provider. So she stayed at home and raised us. That’s how it was. She didn’t teach us how to cook a lot, but she taught us how to nurture. She had a great garden, and we were always required to help out with it.
Did your dad help with raising you?
Dad was always the fun one. He would come home from work and play 500 with us by the lake. He was very active in the parenting process; he taught how to do yard work too. He was also the punisher; we were terrified of his lickings, a big spank on the butt. We were to absolutely silent when he and his guy friends were playing Canasta. Everybody smoked, there were always pipes going. It was the most beautiful thing to see it swirling in the air. My grandfather would blow smoke rings, and all the kids thought it was the coolest things in the world. But we didn’t dare cough or sneeze when the adults were playing their game. We were to be silent, but we loved watching them play and learning the game.
Were you a girly girl or a tom boy?
I was definitely a tom boy. I didn’t want to be a woman; I wanted to be a man. We watched the woman wait on the men, they did the laundry. The men seemed to be the privileged ones. I spent a lot of time with my young uncles who influenced me.
What were your hobbies growing up?
There used to be a pony ring when we used to go grocery shopping, and I remember my mom letting me get on the ponies every single time they were there. My dream (of becoming a horse trainer) was a little out there, a little different (for the time period). People always told me it wasn’t realistic, they downplayed my dream. Maybe that’s where my rebellion and drive came from, when people told me I couldn’t do it, I just wanted to more. My best friend Sonya had horses, and she had an Arabian horse farm. I spent a lot of time with her riding horses. I got to train two little horses that her dad gave me, and I learned how just from books. Being on a horse is like being on top of the world. You are controlling 1,200 pounds of flesh beneath you. It was a sense of accomplishment. I took a palomino named Gypsy tamed her. That feeling of being able to tame her was amazing. The horse loved and trusted me; she learned people weren’t going to hurt her. When we returned her to her owners, she wouldn’t come. But when I called her, she came running. It gave me a great deal of self-esteem and confidence.
What was your experience with puberty?
Starting my period was more of an annoyance than anything. I was mad I wasn’t a man so I didn’t have to deal it. You didn’t have a tampon, so you had to wear a belt around your waist that you would clip to the pad and hold it in place. Riding a horse while you were on your period was the worst. Mom had given me the talk in preparation to becoming a woman and a mother. She told me how to take care of myself and how to stay hygienic. My little sister didn’t get the talk in time and I had to calm her down when she started hers and bring her to mom for the talk. I hated having my period. I figured it was the worst thing I could ever imagine God could curse women with. I was fully developed in 6th grade. I was huge, I had a perfect figure. I was way taller than anyone in my class. That’s probably why my crush liked me back. I was kind of everyone’s idol because I had the boobs. Nobody has boobs in 6th grade. I always thought what’s wrong with me? I’m a freak! But everyone used to pester me with questions since all the girls were inexperienced with periods and all that.
What experiences made you feel more responsible or independent while growing up?
One of the things I did from a very young age was managing households. I babysat from the time I was 9 or 10, I was there from 7 in the morning until 5 at night. I was really quite independent. That prepared me for adulthood.
Tell me about some of the highlights from your school experiences.
I graduated in 1970, so most of my schooling happened in the 60’s. Once a semester they had slack day. It was a highlight; we were so excited when that happened. It had to be polyester or some nice material, not denim.
I didn’t date at all in high school. Kids were pairing off but not anything like they do now. It wasn’t half as popular as it is now. I never even went to high school dances or anything like that. There were a few of my friends who lost their virginity in high school but drugs weren’t a thing yet really. There was a group of kids who were rebels but I didn’t know them very well. Birth control still wasn’t readily available to kids who wanted it.
There were no girl sports at all, only cheerleading. The only thing I could have participated in was co-ed sports. My swimming P.E teacher wanted me on the swim team, but I couldn’t because my family only had one car and there were no activity buses or anything like that. Plus, I was so involved with my horses I didn’t really care about anything else.
There was a college-based path or a career-based path. The career center was right next to the Jr. High School and kids would graduate ready to work in their chosen field. Like being a carpenter or metalworker. I chose to be on a secretarial/accounting path. I took classes in shorthand, bookkeeping, accounting, and typing. But in my heart I wanted to be a horse trainer, so school was just a path to get me to my true goal. I wrote a paper that horse training was a real career pursuit. My high school counselor was hell bent from me becoming one. He tried to convince me that it wasn’t a real goal. I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever just want to have a family and do nothing else. I was definitely going to be a career person and a horse trainer. Most of my heroes were male figures especially the ones that helped me with horses. There were a lot of girls who were really independent in my day. We were all kind of trying to make our way in life. We all wanted to go help save the world. At one time I really wanted to be in peace core… it was really popular to do at that time. I was too practical though and that didn’t last long. I wanted to pursue my own selfish pursuits.
What happened after you graduated?
When I was 18 I didn’t want to go to college, so I got a job at the Minnesota Learning Center. I worked as a psychologist’s assistant. I did some statistician work, and I would help evaluate kids who had been kicked out of school for behavior problems. We would try to modify their behavior by putting them on programs to decrease bad behaviors.
How did you feel having your first job?
I felt very empowered having my own job. I moved out of the house right away and moved into an 80 acre little ranch house. I paid 55$ a month for rent. My younger sister moved in with me soon after, and we trained horses on the side for extra money. I had my own car and I was free to do whatever I wanted.
How did your parents feel about your quick transition to adulthood?
Not a lot of people prolonged their entry into adulthood back in those days. I mean my mom and dad got married when they were 18 and 19. So, it was pretty typical to be mature by then.
What was your first romantic experience?
I had my first kiss from a kid at work. I am even ashamed to admit it. He was 17, so he was just a year younger than me. It was a really stupid thing to do, I probably could have gotten fired. He wasn’t a real behavior problem case, he just came from a bad home and was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t even remember his name. It just happened a couple times. He would sneak in my office and come on to me really hard. It was the first time I had heart palpitations for somebody.
Tell me more about the dating scene during the 70’s.
I was very attractive and I wouldn’t say I was provocative but I was flirty. When two married guys I worked with found out my sister and I lived on a ranch all alone, they got plastered drunk and rode snowmobiles out to our house in the middle of the night and expected to get some free loving. After they got the idea we weren’t going to open the doors for them, they left. But I still had to work with them every day. I stopped flirting so much, needless to say.
Playboy was pretty popular by that time. Women were getting promiscuous because birth control was becoming more popular with the invention of the pill. No one was worried about getting pregnant anymore. Everyone was sleeping around, even married people, because of that. The whole generation was about free love. I remember one of the married guys who had come to my house and propositioned me brought me a play girl and put it on my desk and winked. It was kind of a big joke, but now I realize it was kind of horrible.
Catcalling and whistle calling was really common in those days. Men were always trying to shack up with somebody. Because I dressed in style with form fitting clothes it apparently invited people to treat me that way. I loved the attention though, except from the ones I didn’t think were cute. Then, I didn’t like it. One huge thing was to go braless… bras were considered a restraint. I wore one to work but other than I didn’t. I actually had a guy stop me one time and ask to take a picture with me, but then he took a picture of my boobs.
How did you meet your husband?
Rich was a man who I met through horses. We did a lot of trail riding together. We used to take big trips with 20-30 other people. He was kinda shy and a sweet, gentle man. We got set up by my horse mentor. We dated for about a year, and we danced a lot. I was not super serious about Rich, and then he asked me to meet his parents. He used to throw around permanent plans and that’s when I backed off. I started to avoid making plans with Rich to give him the idea I wasn’t interested in marrying him. We were exclusive and then I started weaning him off me. During that time I met a cowboy at a laundry matt named Mark. He came and talked to me in the laundry matt, and he asked for my number. He called me as soon as I got home the same day and he called me and we talked for 40 minutes. He asked me for a date but I had to work the next day. But he came and took me out on my lunch break and he bought me a pair of leather gloves. They were so nice and so unexpected. and I invited him over to my horse stable. We went out a few times and Mark knew about Rich but Rich didn’t know about Mark. One day Mark went up to Rich when he met him, shook his hand and said “all is fair in love and war.” That’s when Rich realized he had all but lost me.
I started to really like Mark. One time he snuck me onto his National Guard base, he like hid me in the back of his car, I should not have trusted him but I did for some reason. One day I realized he had a ring on his finger, and I about died. He never told me he was married. His divorce was in the process; his wife had cheated on him multiple times and it was over. But I couldn’t listen to his excuses at first and I just bawled the whole way home. I told him to go back to Illinois and call me when he figured his crap out. I cried for a whole weekend when I realized I fell in love with that stupid man. When he got home he called me every night and we got to know each other over the phone. He came up a few weekends later to touch base and I went down a month later to meet his family in Illinois. And that’s when we started talking about our lives together. We were actually together in person less than a week before we were engaged. We got to know each other completely over the phone.
We were outside under the night sky when he proposed. It was simple but the words he said were very romantic. I didn’t pick out my ring but it was significant for him in some way. I think his mom had rubies or something. The ring had six rubies and he told me it was for our six kids. I laughed and told him not in a million years. He was an insatiable romantic. I told him I didn’t want kids but he was convinced he could change my mind. He had always wanted a family. I didn’t. I really believed the scientists saying that the world was getting overpopulated and the world would implode if everyone kept breeding like rabbits. It was selfish, I guess.
We wanted to get married right away but I wanted to get married by a preacher. No one would marry him though because he was divorced. Divorce was a big stigma in those days. So we were going to have to get married in a courthouse. At that same time my hero, my horse trainer mentor left his wife for a younger woman. I postponed my own wedding because it shattered my world. If my perfect couple couldn’t stay together, I didn’t believe in marriage anymore. Everyone was just living together those days but Mark pressured me to do it right and actually get married because he knew I was a good girl and I deserved it.
That’s when you went on your horse trip across the United States right?
The idea originated when I was 15 or 16. It was kind of common in the 60’s; people would just pick up and go on trips for months along the pacific trails, exploring. They would bike it, or walk it, or ride horses. Every once in a while you would see an article in a newspaper or magazine. There were people who rode horses all the way from New York to California. The 60’s was the era of doing your own thing. They wanted to break out of the mold of just getting married and having a bunch of kids. The economy was prosperous, so people didn’t have to worry about money just to feed themselves. My parents’ generation quit school just to be able to put food on the table. The world was becoming more aware because of TV and we knew what was going in the world. You don’t even know how crazy it is to me that I can go on the internet and find any information I want anytime now. It’s a totally different world.
The seed for the trip was planted from a magazine article in the Western Horseman. My sister and I decided we need to do this before we got married because it will never happen after. My younger sister and I got engaged within a month of each in the winter of 1974. We decided to go on the trip the summer of 1974. It was our last fling
I guess you could call it one long bachelorette party.
We each had savings accounts – it ended up costing like less than 600$. It was ridiculously cheap. Because we wrote ahead to a lot of horse associations, city parks, and fair grounds telling them we were coming. We had a tent, but individual people found out that we were coming and put us up free. So, a lot of the times we didn’t have to pay for board for us or our horses or even food. People were waiting for us. People were very good to us.
My parents were pretty traumatized. They asked us if we are sure we wanted to do this. They were worried our safety and all that.
Our fiancés were not very happy about it, but they understood. They wanted to get married. They were kind cool with it, I mean they were marrying celebrities. I think they were sort of proud of it. They gave us our rings and made us promise to come back.
We would wake up before sunrise and get the majority of our riding done before 1 or 2 in the afternoon. It was summer and we wanted to avoid riding in the hot parts of the day.
One of the things that was kind of interesting was, we would have our fiancé’s write letters to us. We had reserved post office boxes at certain hundred mile checkpoints and they would send letters the whole week it would take us to get to that checkpoint. It was kind of like a running journal. We rode along highway 2.
We kind of had a dangerous situation when we were on a Blackfoot reservation and we were staying in someone’s barn and a bunch of drunk Indians came around the barn and tried to get at us. It was really scary but nothing happened.
We probably ran into 50-100 bikers who were on their way to the World’s fair in Spokane Washington. They would always complain to us about their butts having blisters from sitting on the bikes all day and they asked us how we could bear it on horseback. We would just laugh and say we have been doing this since was are 10. We were fine. We went to the world’s fair too. It was the first time they had panoramic screens and 3D. They had a movie of a plane and it was in the Grand Canyon and it was like we were in the plane. It was so different from the photography of our time. It was very new age.
The whole trip took us 3 months and a couple days and we followed along Highway 2.
One time we got so lost. It’s a miracle we survived. It took us 3 days to get out of there when it should have been a 1 day trip. We found an abandoned cabin up there but there were pack rats who kept stealing our stuff while we were trying to sleep. We decided to sleep in the rain with the horses and we put up our tent outside. It was kind of rough but it was the only really bad weather experience we ran into.
We followed the Lewis and Clark trail so we would occasionally go out of the way to see a historical landmark, but when you are on horseback for 25 miles straight you tend to want to take the shortest route. Since we usually got to our next family’s place to stay the night pretty early they would take us to the local sites sometimes in the afternoon.
Our end of our trip was the Puget Sound. We ended at Kayak Point Park in Marysville Washington. We rode our horses into the Pacific Ocean. It was too expensive to ship our horses home after the trip so we tried to sell our horses. People had been following our trip so we had buyers in as soon as 2 or 3 days. Then we used that money to buy a plane ticket home.
I felt really empowered because I was actually doing something that most people only dreamed about doing. I definitely felt independent, even though we were probably naïve. Both my sister and I weren’t huge cultural and social people; we wanted to be alone and on our own. We wanted to make our own mark. We realized how many people in the world are just basically good. Everyone we met wanted to help and encourage us. I learned that people are basically good. It changed my perspective on human beings. I liked them a lot more afterwards.
When you got home from the trip, you got married. Tell me the story of your wedding day.
I went straight from my horseback trip to Illinois where we got married. Sharon Baker and Jack Teeters were our witnesses; they were my bosses at the Fountain Bleu Nursing Center. Mark had gotten me a job while I was gone; he was in business for himself and was doing all the plumbing at the nursing center. He had written me a letter and asked if I wanted a secretary job at this new center his was working on. I did all the billing, receiving, and I got to call people when their parents passed away. I sometimes got to hire people. My boss was having affairs. He was literally sleeping with eight other women. It was horrible. I had to figure out whose voice was on the phone when they answered and said “Tell Jack it’s me.” I hardly knew the couple at all who stood up for us. I was literally getting off work at 4:30, and Jack said he knew a judge, let me ask him if he can get you married tonight. He called and Judge Brown said yes, but we had to be there before 6. So we had to run home, get cleaned up and then run back to town. Jack and Sharon met us there and we got married. I wore a hot little mini dress to my wedding. I didn’t dare bend over or my bottom would’ve shown. We went to Jack’s house afterward and had margaritas. He called the sheriff to bring us dinner because we didn’t want to drive since we were tipsy. So the sheriff brought us burger king and brought it to us with his lights and siren on in celebration of our wedding. It was pretty funny. Afterwards I had a few more margaritas and then passed out. So I don’t remember anything from my wedding night at all.
Did you go see your parents after you got married?
We went to visit my family because my sister got married a few days after I did. My parents insisted that we sleep in their bed. Mark got really choked up because it was a big gesture to do that. We had only been married 4 or 5 days. I thought it was so weird. I was so uncomfortable. But we did it anyway.
How were the early years of your marriage?
One of the things that happened right away when we got married was Mark’s brother Brad lived with us for 7 months. Brad fell in love with me a little bit, like he really wanted what Mark had. He wanted the 5 acres, the wife, and the barn we were building. He started sleeping with one of my best friends. He had so many girls over and we would often wake up with a stranger in our house in his bed. Free love made everybody miserable. The sign of the times was that and it was sad. Brad started telling people that it was his house and his property. This drove Mark crazy and he kicked his brother out of his house. We weren’t into that rough hippy scene like Brad was.
What else happened in those early years?
We worked 80 hour works trying to build up our business Kankakee Piping Systems. Mark had gone into business when he was still an apprentice. He was only like 24 when he started the business. We made big money the first few years. Mark really wanted to have a family so he convinced me to go off the pill. I was pretty excited when I found out I was pregnant the first time. We weren’t expecting it to happen so fast. It happened within a month of two.
How was your first labor?
I was at work, training the new secretary and panicked because she wasn’t trained to take my place while I was on maternity leave. So even though my water had broken, I was giving her last minute training. Finally we called the doctor and told him I was in labor and he yelled at me that I would get an infection, so we finally went to the hospital and I had my baby. Right to the last minute I was a working woman. Labor was worse than I thought it would be. You realize as soon as it’s done that it’s amazing because you made a baby. I couldn’t walk for about 10 days afterward I was so sore. You have natural instincts that kick in to become a mother. But my 1st baby didn’t sleep really well so I just took her everywhere I went because I was still really active at work.It was pretty common to be a working mom. People were at the point where everyone wanted to do everything. It was kind of looked down upon to be a stay at home mom.
I didn’t want my first born to be alone so we had a second baby so I got pregnant 4 months after I had my first baby. Once she was born I decided I was done and I was for sure not having any more kids. I didn’t want to overpopulate the world.
I’ll tell you one thing though. When you have a baby you for sure appreciate your own mother more. My mom had 4 babies all a year apart. I don’t know how she did it without indoor plumbing or anything like that.
I started to fall back into a more traditional mom and family life, but Mark was still working a ton in his business. So I started to feel like we began to grow apart, I remember praying that we could become more family-orientated. I was satisfied with the life we had but Mark wanted a leer jet and all the money he could make.
Tell me about your conversion to the LDS church.
The missionaries walked up our driveway in November of 1981. They walked up a 600 foot-long driveway to talk to us. They had left their car a mile away in order to save miles and were tracting to look for a family. One of the elders, Elder Speth had been fasting and praying for a golden family because he hadn’t baptized a single person on his mission. Their approach was, “We are missionaries from Christ’s true church and we are here to share a message about how families can be together forever.” When I found out that they were Mormon, all I knew about them was they had multiple wives. Mark’s grandpa had had multiple wives so that’s why we were curious to get them in the door. They came back a few days later and shared their message. The first discussion included a story of the Lion laying down with the Lamb. It happened to be a story that Mark’s mother had told him when she put him to bed. She had died and it was like a conduit to heaven for him to her. I don’t know if that’s when he was sold, but we invited them back because of that reason.
They came back a week later and the second lesson is when I became way more interested because of the story of the Restoration. I knew the young boys believed it and I was blown away by the Spirit that was in our house. If it was true I wanted to know because I was in the wrong church. We were okay with the church we were attending, but we were just okay. It wasn’t meeting our spiritual needs. They assigned us to pray and read 3 Nephi 11 and we both just really felt that it was true. Mark and I were really into American Indian lore and it just made sense. They talked about the white god coming and so when we found the book of Mormon it all really just made sense.
When the elders were in our home there was a really special spirit, and I realized that’s what our family needs. This is what I want. They had invited us to be baptized into this new church on the second visit and Mark said yes right away if we received a witness it was true. But I was concerned about all the friends I would leave at our current church. But after I knew it was true it wasn’t even a problem.
When they taught us the word of wisdom, we really didn’t have any problems. I had given up drinking a year ago when I had my head in the toilet after drinking too much wine at dinner. I remembered a pledge I made in high school and vowed to never drink again.
When they taught us the law of tithing they actually had the bishop come all the way to the house. He promised us to be blessed both temporally and spiritually, and that we would never go without. And we agreed.
Then came the issue of trying to get us to church. One of my girls got sick and then we had so many snowstorms we couldn’t go for the next 4 weeks. When we finally got there for the first time it was a fast and testimony meeting. Someone bore their testimony about seeing a vision of her grandfather after doing his temple work, I thought it was very different, but there was a good feeling in the room.
They baptized us after church the 2nd Sunday we came to church.
My testimony of priesthood power and of a prophet on the earth came later. I was kind of confused why my young daughters couldn’t be baptized but I took it on faith. The only thing I was really sure of was the first vision so I based my whole decision around that.
Three months later I was mowing the lawn in a little yellow polka dot bikini, and an older missionary couple came to visit the new converts. I was really comfortable with my body and didn’t even think about modesty because it hadn’t been taught to us yet. So the elder man gave me a little talk about modesty that day. I thought Oh dang, I really like being in a swimsuit. I felt kinda restricted. It was really difficult to think about giving that up.
When did you decide you wanted to have more than two kids?
The church definitely helped learning about the divinity of motherhood. But I was convinced that I wasn’t having any more kids. On the way to our sealing a year or so after we were baptized, I was so pissed off at Mark because I was annoyed by every little thing he did. I also kept thinking these Mormons have a lot of kids. I hope they don’t expect that of me. We were sealed in the Washington DC temple a little over a year after being baptized. The spirit was so strong in the sealing room, and when they told us to multiply and replenish the earth, I felt the spirits of my kids around me and I knew I needed to have more kids. Mark was all about having more kids. So we had 4 more.
The first year after our sealing, I was so happy because I kept thinking this is so good for Mark. He really embraced the gospel and became a better father and better husband. Money stopped being the center of his life. Mark had a violent temper sometimes. But after he joined the church he was 95% better. I can’t imagine if he hadn’t joined the church. He would have been very hard to deal with.
The church totally rearranged my priorities. Before I wanted to be a woman of the world and receive its affirmation. I wanted my own paycheck and be the owner of the company. The church helped me see there was way more to this life than the praise of the world. The sealing words still pierce my soul. Looking back it’s the only thing that matters now, the people and friendships and family.
Was it satisfying to raise your kids in the church?
Yeah, very much so. The biggest thing is you have a whole network of people helping you raise your kids. There is an African Proverb; it takes a whole village to raise a child. I mean having these people at church that loved my kids as much as I did was an indispensable blessing. It was empowering to have people who had the same beliefs and the same situations at my back no matter what.
It helps to know that my kids have gotten married and raised their kids in the church and gone on missions of their own. It makes it gratifying to see the church make changes in their lives too.
What was the hardest part about being a mom?
When you have as many little ones as I did, it’s very physically exhausting. You are constantly awake changing them, or feeding them. When they are teenagers or even young adults, its an emotional exhaustion. They are going through hard things, but you have to let them learn for themselves. But it doesn’t even compare the joy and energy you get from being a parent that counterbalances the physical and emotional challenges it gives you. It helps you become an unselfish person. All you want is what is best for you children. Having my youngest my youngest baby when I was at 41, keeps me in a much younger mentality than other people my age. What they say if you aren’t liberal when you’re younger you are heartless, if you’re not conservative when you’re older you are brainless.
How do you feel about abortion now that you are a mom?
My experience with abortion happened when I was in my 30’s or 40’s. I do know someone who had multiple abortions and when she wanted to have kids she couldn’t because she was so scarred from the procedures. Then she pretty much became an alcoholic the rest of her life because of that in part.
I wasn’t exposed to abortions much other than that before I joined the church, I didn’t have any issues or any talks about. People kept it on the hush hush if anyone had one. But now I think people see abortion as birth control because it became less expensive than the pill. And people use it as such. I know there are groups that have recovery meetings because they are so full of regret and grief from the experience.
How did you educate your children about sex?
When the kids were of age like 9 or 10, I took them on a date and told the girls about periods. Probably not with the younger ones because they learned it from their older siblings. I think I made it such a big deal it traumatized the older ones. So if I could change something, I would refer to it as a more natural, normal thing. I referred to it more in terms of hygiene not in religious or cultural significance. My mom had a little pamphlet she gave us and then she would explain things. We had a movie at school in 5th grade and they separated boys from girls and they took care of educating us. Then we would come back and go to our parents with any questions we had.
I actually went in front of the school board and presented an abstinence-based program when my kids were in school. It showed pictures of STDs and explained that abstinence is the best way to avoid getting them. And we actually won against a Planned Parenthood program.
What was it like to see your daughters get married?
I remember getting married was part of the happiest times of my life, when you fall in love and are exploring each other’s bodies. So I was excited for my daughters but it was scary because there are really bad people in this world who are abusive. I was protective and almost to the point where I am sometime wanted to be involved in choosing their future spouses. You look at how his husband treats his mother, that’s what I always said.
What was it like to have you daughters have kids?
Oh my gosh it was awesome. It was amazing. You know what a struggle it is for you kids and you worry about them. But you know the hardships and the joys they are going to go through. One thing I’ve been really blessed to do is being able to help my girls raise their kids. My mom didn’t have the chance to do that since she was still raising kids of her own since I was the oldest. I feel like I’ve really gotten to bond with my grandkids.
Your husband died unexpectedly when you were only in your 50’s. What was the hardest part?
It was really, really hard. Not having someone to sleep with was the hardest part. Not having someone to lay there and share stories about the kids, not having someone who you are really close to, it’s just not the same. The social aspect of it was really hard; people in the church do things as couples these days, so all of a sudden without intending to, I wasn’t invited to couple things anymore. That part of it was a huge shock.
You took care of dad a lot because of his diabetes and he was sick. What did you do becoming an independent woman with free time again?
The Lord knows I like to be busy, so he gave me a lot of grandkids. So I really didn’t have a lot of down time. We got ready for a few weddings. We really just filled up our time; we had a full year immediately following dad’s death.
You decided to go on a mission. What influenced that decision?
It was really bittersweet to serve a mission by myself. Mark and I had always planned on serving a couple’s mission, but I decided to go on one by myself at the same time my youngest daughter went on hers, about a year after he died. They had lowered the mission age for sister missionaries so could go when she was 19, so I was also presented with this opportunity to go when she went. I felt very empowered when I was called to be in a pilot program to build up women in the area that I served. Plus, I got to be a proselyting missionary, an opportunity that is pretty rare for senior sister missionaries. It was really hard to learn to get along with a companion with these other single women. I had learned how to be a wife, but getting a new companion was like being a newlywed all over again.
We worked with a lot of single adult women. There are so many single adult women in this church, a huge population of them whose social needs are looked over. We don’t have as many relief society activities anymore and they are very lonely, widows and divorced women. I am very happy and upbeat and I like to talk about my family, but some women are struggling with those issues. It was so painful to these women’s splintered relationships, and it made me want to spend the rest of my life helping those people and making them feel like they were worthwhile.
There is a metaphoric story about taking a coal from the furnace. When the coal is taken away from the others, it goes cold really fast. It’s the same with people and their feelings of acceptance and social support. When we are together we strengthen each other, while when we isolate ourselves we become cold and lonely. I really do enjoy my down time to watch television. I could go to the library every day and read books, or I could pitter around the house making it pretty. I could easily become a hermit. I can see my mom doing that a little bit since she lost her husband. But I really force myself to be social because I notice I am much more happy when I am a social creature. We need to have gregarious people around us.
What do you want to do with the rest of your life?
I really want to go on another mission. I think it’s the most helpful way to make the world a better place.
I have no desire to be married again. I want to be independent. I like not worrying about not making decisions with another person at this point. I can pick up and leave and travel whenever I want to. I honestly barely think about it. A lot of people told me the first year after that Mark died that I was young and I’d get married again. But I honestly never really felt lonely. I didn’t like going to movies by myself but everything else was fine.
I kind of want to write. I think telling my family’s stories is my main goal, but I wouldn’t mind writing some children’s books. I don’t want to go back and get a degree, but I wouldn’t mind refining my writing schools.
Do you have any final thoughts about any feminist issues?
I do actually, about women in the workplace. I grew up in a time that women stayed at home and men went to work. When women were able to be in the workplace it totally changed things. One of the wonderful advantages is it made women independent and gave them the opportunity to make as much money as men. And this was great for the women who wanted all those things. They could choose whatever lifestyle they wanted. But one of the perils, or the collateral damages, is I saw a lot of women falling in love with men at the workplace and took down families by screwing around with other people’s husbands that they shouldn’t have been. It made me really sad, and I had some personal experiences with it.
What are you concerned about for this next generation?
It’s hard to say because the people I associate with are good church going people. So I have a lot of confidence in the girls of the future. I have seen more empowerment and respect for women now than in any other time of my life. I’m sad for women these days who think motherhood isn’t a great goal; it is where I found the most joy in my life. Girls take motherhood too lightly or start families too late.
Most marriages break up because of financial issues. So I fully support women who work and help supplement the family’s income.