NYC 2016 from Michelle Lehnardt on Vimeo.

When you know every word to a musical, when you’ve read every tidbit of background information (including the 738 pg. biography that inspired it all), when you buy tickets eleven months ahead of time (because that’s the first date we could find at non-scalper prices) and give those tickets to your kids for Christmas (also thanks to Aunt Ruthie who contributed), when you’ve visited every fan page, know the name of every person in the cast, analyzed even the shortest clips on YouTube to catch a glimpse of the choreography and stage set and watched every interview with Lin Manuel Miranda, it’s hard for a musical to live up to those expectations.

Hamilton was better than we could have imagined–

the choreography, the acting, the costumes and stage set, those incredible voices, the way it kindled every emotion from outrage to delight to grief.

Perhaps Xander’s observation summed it up best, “When you’re listening to something like ‘The Reynold’s Pamphlet’ (admittedly our most edited song) on the soundtrack, it’s sad, but also a little bit funny. But in the musical, it’s heartbreaking, you just want to shake Hamilton and yell, ‘STOP!'” And since it’s a song about adultery, that’s a powerful lesson.

I’d cried enough tears the first few times I listened to the soundtrack that I thought I’d stay dry-eyed during the musical. But by the end all the women around me were sharing Kleenex and hugging each other after the curtain dropped.

If you haven’t watched ‘Hamilton’s America’ documentary on you should tune in immediately. And if you haven’t signed up for PBS Passport, you should do that too. For $60 a year you receive access to pretty much everything PBS– it’s our version of Netflix. But you can watch‘Hamilton’s America’ for free, so don’t worry.

Even buying almost a year ahead, the best we could do was a Wednesday matinee with our seats separated by several other patrons and a few aisles.

Mary with Hope Easterbrook, a member of the ensemble.

After the play we met our lovely friend, Veronica, for dinner and were too tired to get a single photo with her.

So here’s where we went wrong– ‘Hamilton’ was awesome, but I chose a really cheap Airbnb which was on a crazy loud street near NYU with 8 tattoo parlors on a tiny block, twice as many bars and sirens 22 hours a day and, I kid you not, drunks yelling outside our window until 4 or 5 a.m. every morning. We started off the trip jet lagged from a red-eye flight and just got progressively more tired each day from listening to the drunks scream all night. So if my family looks less than delighted in the photos and the video….you’ll know why.

Visiting Alexander and Eliza’s graves– right by the 9-11 memorial and absolutely worth the time.

Strolling across Brooklyn Bridge with our friend David. A student at Columbia University (perhaps the most lovely oasis in NYC), David’s one of those ultra-cool people we feel proud to call our friend.

We learned we definitely aren’t New Yorkers. We loved ‘Hamilton,’ visiting our friends, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the history, but the noise and dirt, the inefficient subway and the crazy expensive food got to us. You can visit Paris for 1/10 the hassle and about 2/3 of the cost, 100x the history, and, you’re in Paris. So I don’t think we’ll visit NYC again unless we need to.

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting our friends the Kramers on our last day in their beautiful home in lovely, quiet New Jersey. Karen and I have emailed for years and she invited our family for Shabbos lunch.

I only took a photo after we cleared the table (I didn’t take many photos on this trip) but imagine a family who’s felt half starved for days sitting down to a meal of chicken cutlets and meatballs and stuffed cabbage and roasted vegetables, fresh challah with honey, a dessert of chocolate cake and chocolate chip challah (so, so good, you need some right now). We’d never met in person before but everyone found plenty to talk about and felt so welcomed and loved by this extraordinary family (their son Noah wasn’t feeling well and eluded our photos).

Visiting with the Kramers was the perfect bookend to our trip— they embody so much of what is good about NYC. And they even gave us a ride to the airport.

But next time we meet, I think it should be in Utah. Home sweet home.


  • October 25, 2016 - 1:25 pm

    Jeanelle - I so love that you got to see it. I’m going to a sing along next month – can’t wait!ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2016 - 6:18 pm

    Heidi - I love this post! So fun! If you ever come to DC, stay with us!ReplyCancel


I think I’ll always remember the day I had to stop running.

It was six days after Stefan left on his mission, on an early morning run with my friends, when from one step to the next, my leg buckled underneath me. Dragging myself to a lawn on the side of the road, I lay on my back staring at the stars. My friends had to keep running down the road– they had kids to wake up, lunches to prepare, carpools to drive… Somehow I got home. I don’t remember if the pain subsided enough for me to limp or if Erik picked me up, but I didn’t run again for two years.

Maybe it’s hard to explain the joy of running to those who don’t love it? For me, running was the first physical activity where I excelled. I’m hopeless with any kind of dance or games involving balls and/or eye-hand coordination. I’m a good skier (snow and water) and gutsy (cliff jumping and such) but those aren’t everyday activities.

I fell in love with running at 18 when my sister ran the mile and a half in her eighth grade gym class. She had such a fast time, the P.E. teachers looked at her non-athletic build and accused her of cheating. So, she ran it again and broke the school record. Soon, they had her working out with the high school team and she recruited me to run with her over the summer. I’d just graduated from high school and had no interest in an activity I associated with P.E. class. I told her, “I’ll go on a walk with you.”

My darling 14 year old sister responded, “Walking is for elephants. We’re gazelles.” And so we ran and ran and ran. And I fell in love with my sister. The running was secondary.

We almost missed each other. I almost went off to college without ever getting to know Ruth. And that scares me. I owe running many debts.

ei3c9036-copyShelah and her fifth baby– Rose

Even then, we didn’t look like gazelles– but we were fast. My sister and I have genetic code that really, really wants us to reach 300 lbs. And we’ve always been running from that. Fear gets me out of bed in the morning: walking when I can’t run, rowing when I can’t walk, weight training and Whole30 eating and I still get lectures from my doctor about my BMI.

Enough about that.

I missed running. I missed my friends. My neighborhood hosts several different walking groups which I joined and still love, but walking just doesn’t produce the legs-burning-lungs-heaving-soaking-wet-ponytail-runners-high. There’s also a raw honesty among runners. When you’re sweaty and running in the dark, dealing with runny noses and angry digestive systems you leave all pretensions behind. When people talk about exercise as therapy, it’s no joke. I’ve met a few walking friends who equal that honesty, but only a very few.

One day, Shelah, one of my long-time running partners texted me saying, “I miss you. Let’s find a time to walk.”

That sounds pretty simple. But I think I may have shed tears when she sent that text. Shelah’s one of the busiest person I know: a top-notch runner, mother of six, teacher, writer, editor, Primary President, etc. I couldn’t believe she’d slow down for me.

So we walked. We set a time, met twice a week and Shelah slowed herself to my pace. Sometimes with her two youngest in the jogging stroller, often with her dog. Shelah never made me feel lame or slow or embarrassed. Before Shelah met me to walk, she’d already run 6-14 miles each day. Not kidding. More on that in a bit.

Although I’d been told my back was so bad I should never run again, another doctor (the one who worries about my BMI) told me I’d healed enough to get back out there, “Just a couple miles at first, only every other day…”

So we started running part of our route. A mile the first time, two the next week, then back to zero. Shelah never complained, always saying, “I’m just happy to be out here with you.”

And I don’t know why. Poor Shelah hears all my complaints, my whining, she knows every detail of every family drama and still she puts up with me.

After a few months we were running the entire 6 mile route with only occasional walking breaks on the hills. One day, the walking breaks just disappeared. Shelah single-handedly rehabilitated me back into a runner.

OK, it’s time to stop and just talk about Shelah for a minute. She’s probably the most high-functioning person I’ve ever met. It’s like hanging out with Jefferson (or, I prefer Hamilton). I’ve mentioned she’s a mother of six, she teaches at both BYU Salt Lake Center and LDS Business College, she reads six books a week, she makes the most amazing (and delicious) birthday cakes you can imagine, keeps a spotless house, serves as Co-Editor at Segullah, edits books, writes novels, gets her Christmas shopping done a month early, plans really cool trips with her family and cares for her husband and children with beauty, grace and a healthy serving of fun. And have I mentioned she’s a blazing fast runner who enters several marathons a year?

You might think a friend like Shelah would be intimidating, but she’s so genuine and kind I can’t help but feel complete admiration for her. She just functions on a much higher level than most of us.

In July, Shelah accepted a job teaching French at our junior high. As we discussed her schedule (and honestly, I don’t know anyone else who could handle her pace) we searched for a time to meet for running.

5:20 a.m. Fridays.

That’s an ugly time. Really. I purposely set my alarm to 5:01 just so I don’t have to wake up in the 4 a.m. hour.

But Shelah. She runs a mile and a half to my house to meet at 5:20. And runs home after we’ve clocked our six miles together. Superhuman. I tell you.

Then she goes off to the junior high and teaches French to both Gabe and Mary. As you can imagine, they LOVE her and she’s already become a favorite teacher at Wasatch Jr.

Also in July, our beloved friend Suzanne was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because her double-mastectomy needed to take place before the marathon she and Shelah had planned to do in late September, they entered a different race two days before Suzanne’s surgery. Suzanne’s also a blazing fast runner, but the stress of her diagnosis slowed her down the day of the race. I talked to Suzanne later that day and she was almost in tears when she explained, “I told Shelah to just go ahead- she needs a Boston qualifying time– but she wouldn’t. She stuck with me on the hills and bathroom stops and when I had to walk for a bit. She just kept saying, ‘I’m not going to leave you. This race isn’t about the time.'”

I could cite a hundred examples of Shelah slowing down to lift someone up, but I wonder who lifts her? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way women sometimes judge each other, especially in the context of working moms. I think sometimes we see people like Shelah and feel so inferior we want to think they are neglecting their children or their religion or not baking birthday cakes or some silly thing. Let’s just acknowledge we all have different capabilities. After a crazy week I crave an entire day in my pajamas, but I can’t judge what anyone else needs.

This Monday I was running with a group of friends (struggling on the hills) when I felt my foot go “pop.” Again, I had to collapse onto the grass but was able to limp along until Catherine came back with her car and drove me home. I sobbed all the way home (and half the day); I just couldn’t face another two-year running hiatus. But it’s just a plantar fasciitis tear; I got a nice steroid injection in my foot, some stretches and I’ll be fine in 4-6 weeks.

With Shelah’s work schedule, I didn’t think she’d want to meet at 5:20 a.m. to walk. She has places to be, children to feed, she can’t slow down for me on a weekday morning (well, she always slows down for me, but you know, even more). But of course, Shelah said “I’ll walk with you.” and of course, she showed up at my house at 5:17 with several miles already under her feet.

Did I say waking up at 5:01 is difficult? I lied. Every week I look forward to setting my clock to that ridiculous time, tying on my running shoes and walking down to the corner to find Shelah. I can usually spot her just coming around the curve, blond pony-tail swinging, those amazing legs, her swift steady pace, head phones in her ears, and when she comes within a few yards, slowing to meet me at my own pace.



  • October 15, 2016 - 6:42 pm

    Danielle - Women like Shelah astound me with their energy. I feel so tired all the time it’s hard for me to relate! I’m happy your foot will be back to normal in 4-6 weeks.ReplyCancel

  • October 16, 2016 - 7:18 am

    Lisa - So beautifully said…I knew Shelah was fabulous but I just didn’t realize she was super woman fabulous!ReplyCancel

  • October 16, 2016 - 11:58 am

    Shelah Miner - If you ever wondered why I wanted to walk with you, look no further than this post! I would crawl on my knees to be able to spend time with such a generous friend– the running is just a bonus! Love you so much, Michelle! I always look forward to our mornings together– I learn from you every single time!ReplyCancel

  • October 17, 2016 - 6:01 am

    Maggie - Wonderful writing and such a tribute to true womanly friendship.ReplyCancel

  • October 20, 2016 - 1:49 pm

    ellen patton - I want to be your neighbor. And Cathy’s neighbor. And Shelah’s neighbor. You are all so inspiring.ReplyCancel


Conference highlights: potato cannons, Pres. Uchtdorf’s struggle to use computers, knitting, Pres. Nelson’s talk on joy, crepes, Elder Nattress revealing he was his mother’s hardest child (to which Xander responded “Same.”)

the lowlight: poor Gabe was sick the whole weekend. He slept and slept and slept…


I started this hat for Xander about five years ago and FINALLY finished it (it’s lined with fleece).


g28a2976-copyI spy two five-year-olds.


g28a2973-copyI spy three five-year-olds.

Farewell to another gorgeous conference weekend. It came just when we needed it and ended far too early.

  • October 11, 2016 - 12:39 pm

    Heidi - I feel like Mary look extra grown-up in these photos. Actually in several of your recent posts. She really is blossoming in incredible ways (even though that’s not the subject of your post). But your conference posts make me look forward to conference even more. :)ReplyCancel


Last week, Xander was asked to speak in seminary on 2 Corinthians 12:9. It’s a tradition at our school where the Student Body President and Vice President speak at a lunchtime gathering (BYLTS bring your lunch to seminary). To advertise this particular BYLTS, they’d created posters and fliers including Xander’s 9th grade seminary photo. Now, this is a tiny little file, but to fully understand his talk, you really need to see it:


Enough intro, I’ll let you read his talk.


I’m Xander. I’m really excited to be here speaking today.

First things first, I’ll read the theme scripture which I’ll be talking about.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

It’s an amazing scripture.

Christ wants us to know that our weaknesses are important, they make us special, and with Christ, they actually make us strong.

The poster advertising this BYLTS has a very nice picture of me from 9th grade. I don’t look very happy. The truth is, I really wasn’t. I don’t think anyone really likes junior high. I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like going to school, I didn’t feel like I had any friends. It was not a happy time for me.

Being around people all the time was really hard for me. I wanted more time alone.

But it was also good.

In that time I was able to spend much more time with my family, I was with my family all the time. They’ve always taught me to have faith, and read the scriptures and pray.

I eventually became happier as I realized how much Christ loved me, and I saw Christ’s love through my family.

This experience made me more humble and I really felt Christ’s love.

There are still times when it’s hard for me to be around people all the time. I think this is something that will always be hard for me. But because of that, I’m forced to take time away from people and listen to the Holy Ghost. This weakness makes me stronger.

And another blessing from the dark days of junior high is that I know what it’s like to feel lonely and not know who to talk to. And this helps me to be better able to serve others.

I think each time we go through a trial one of the effects is that we understand that pain and can serve others who experience it.

And Christ suffered every pain, any pain that any person ever felt he also felt. This allows him to perfectly understand us and perfectly help us through everything.

We all have weaknesses. We should always try to improve ourselves but we also have to realize that some of our weaknesses are just part of who we are. Those are the weaknesses that we should especially look to Christ for help with. Even our greatest weakness can be a strength if we look to Christ and have faith in him and trust him.

I’m going to try to answer like Paul and glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me!

You’re all amazing people and I see you everyday being kind and living the gospel and showing Christ-like love.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen

  • October 4, 2016 - 10:10 pm

    Mimi - Thank you Xander. I needed to hear those words tonight. I’m almost 60 and weaknesses just keep playing out. I’m grateful for a Savior.ReplyCancel


Dear Hansie,

I’m sorry about last Sunday’s I’m-so-tired-and-sad-I-can’t-think letter. A week later, the world seems brighter and well, I don’t think I can complain to missionaries about feeling tired.

I’m tempted to just skip ahead, or to just post the photos with no words. But it feels like a betrayal to just share shiny happy photos and not mention the girl in the homecoming photos whose father died that night, the boy who lost his beloved uncle, two women going through divorces who stayed up till 4 a.m. cooking hundreds of crepes for a Sunday morning breakfast.

I didn’t take photos of my friend in tears when her brother died, my son who was angry with me, the inconsiderate people who hosted a spontaneous family reunion in our backyard and basement* or Mary sobbing over a disappointment. But I’ll always remember Xander and his friends sitting in my kitchen writing letters of comfort, Mary bravely moving forward, Erik hauling up garbage and vacuuming the mess in the basement, ninety kids gathering on a Sunday morning for Scripture Day. I wish I had a photo of Ben and Sammie finishing their first marathon and of the amazing decorations Xander and friends created for the homecoming dance.

I’ve always struggled with the great intersections in life between joy and pain– how can we host birthday parties when children are starving in the world? And I believe the answer is, how can we not? We celebrate everything good, we work together to create meaningful events, moments of beauty and quiet and triumph. And when I look at these photos now, I see an army of people behind the scenes– all with their own troubles and heartaches– working to make the world a little brighter for others.

They’ll never be royalty, but they can fake it.


just a little less-than-a-minute video of homecoming. Notice I captured a little of everything but the football game.
Homecoming 2016 from Michelle Lehnardt on Vimeo.



Savy’s darling Aunt Lisa just happened to show up during photos.



g28a0401-copyThe morning after the dance, we held the annual 12th Ward Scripture Day. You remember our decades old tradition in our ward where we take an entire Sunday (9-4:30) with the youth ages 12-18 to talk about the scriptures and hopefully inspire kids to use them more in their lives. Dad and I were in charge this year and have been working on it for several months. We invited the Parley’s Creek Swahili Branch to join us.

I think the best decision we made was asking young adults to speak. Traditionally, we have an older crowd sharing their wisdom, but we didn’t invite anyone over the age of 24. We told them, “Don’t give them a ‘to-do’ list or ‘you shoulds’– just tell them your best experiences with the scriptures, inspire them with the stories of their lives.”

You could just see the kids make an immediate connection with these young adults. And of course I recruited Ben and Sammie, Stefan and Heather.

We also had FABULOUS food. The hundreds of crepes, Cafe Rio style lunch, mint brownies and ice cream bars… there were NO leftovers.

We took on the rather ambitious task of making quilts for refugees. We also made these at the Ruby Girl retreat.

Let me tell you a little about these quilts because they are a great parable for service: there’s almost nothing easier in the world to make than a tied quilt. Even someone with no prior experience can put one together in under an hour if they listen to the instructions and can take correction. But there are dozens of ways to get it wrong. All kinds of ways you might never think of.

I told the kids, “You’re going to mess up. Watch each other, help each other. Don’t try to hide mistakes; just fix them! I’ve given each group a leader who can answer your questions. Don’t be offended when someone corrects you and be sure to be kind when you are correcting others!”

By the end of our 45 minute activity, almost every group figured it out and I think there was a great deal of satisfaction when they saw the completed stack of quilts.

Mary was on thread cutting duty.

Today, things are a little more peaceful, we just had a birthday dinner for Sammie and celebrated everything she means to us. And! It just happens to be Ben and Sam’s first anniversary too. 

It’s a good life, a joyous life.

We love you and miss you every day.

Hugs and kisses, mom

*In order to save for our really fabulous vacation next summer, we’ve been renting out our basement to Airbnb guests. In general, we’ve loved it. We’ve met people from all over the world, made friends and we’re building up a nice little nest egg for our trip. But on the the Saturday of Homecoming (the craziest day you can imagine) we came home to find that our guests request to “invite over a couple people” was actually a 22 person family reunion in our backyard with pizza, watermelon in the pool, garbage all over the basement. I know I should write them a terrible review, but I don’t have the guts.

  • September 30, 2016 - 1:11 pm

    heidi - What a crazy time! You do so well at focusing on the good. I also LOVE your idea for the scripture day–as a youth, I actually always dreaded it! But it sounds wonderful this year!ReplyCancel

  • September 30, 2016 - 2:06 pm

    Jeanelle - There are so many wonderful people out there (thinking of all who helped with your scripture day, all of your kids’ friends, etc.) that they so far outshine the dishonest people who took advantage of your home and kindness. I can’t wait to hear where you’re going on vacation! Also, ward scripture day…do you start with a sacrament meeting? This was a ward activity plus you invited the branch? We recently used Priests/Laurels to help run our stake Deacon/Beehive activity and it was just brilliant. The younger kids got so much more out of the activity because the people talking to them/leading/teaching were practically their peers and the bigger kids were amazing – kind, patient and so helpful. Love the youth!!!xoReplyCancel