Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Disney Was Right

by Stephanie Black

My daughter and I were standing in line at the Provo Marriott, waiting to enter the ballroom for the Whitney gala, looking all inadvertently coordinated in our matching blue and black (my daughter figures if she’d been in seventh grade, she wouldn’t have gone out in public with me like that. I mean, how embarrassing to, like, totally match your mom. But now that she’s an adult, legally speaking, she realizes that hey, Mom is the ultimate in cool, and what greater honor than to dress like her AND to have her borrow my sparkly rhinestone shoes?) (I completely fabricated part of that preceding parenthetical insertion. You can guess which part, but guess wisely, or you might hurt my feelings). Anyway, as we stood there, a woman approached me and said, “Stephanie McConkie.” I looked at her, and behold, the bells of recognition did ring, which is pretty miraculous for me, because I’m not always good at, you know, memory things, like who I met at a conference or where I parked the car. But I recognized her right away—my dear friend Jennifer James, who lived in our ward in Salt Lake when I was a teenager. My sister and I had lost touch with Jennifer years ago, but she would still come up in our conversations, and we would have loved to get in touch with her again. And here she was, walking up to me at the Whitney gala! It was an awesome it's-a-small-world moment, and the fun of that reunion became brain-fryingly cosmic when I found out that Jennifer is married to my friend Jon Spell. Here’s a picture of us at the Whitney gala:

I became cyber-acquainted with Jon a few years ago, here on the Frog Blog (um, is that how we met, Jon? About those memory issues I mentioned . . . ). I then met him in person at a booksigning in Utah. Since then, he’s test-read a couple of my manuscripts for me, and I’ve appreciated his feedback and insights. I knew his wife was named Jennifer, but naturally, it never occurred to me to wonder, hmm, I wonder if his wife could be my long-lost friend Jennifer, whom we would love to get in contact with? So to find out that “our” Jennifer had been right there all the time, married to Jon—well, I think my brain is still short-circuited with amazement and delight. It was the most epic small-world episode I’ve experienced.

It’s amazing to me how many small-world connections there are in the LDS community. I just found out that Storymakers conference chair Jaime Theler is the daughter-in-law of a couple who were in our ward when I was a child living in Arkansas (it was at the Thelers’ house where a stray bottle rocket blew up in our 4th of July cake). Rob Wells’ wife Erin is the cousin of one of my best friends from high school. Jeff Savage used to work with my aunt.

It seems like wherever we go, there are connections. I moved into our California ward to find that the Gospel Doctrine teacher was my sister's dear friend from her BYU/Houston days. My mother walked into our Boston ward to find an old friend from junior high school.

How about you? Got any fun small world stories?

(I asked my daughter about small-world stories. A few minute later, she walked in, singing, "It's a small world after all." When I started laughing, she said, "It's not funny! I'm going to have that song stuck in my head forever!" Ha ha! My work here is finished.)


At 5/05/2010 2:20 PM, Anonymous T.J. said...

Moving into our current ward was a little funny. There were five people/families that my wife or I had a connection to prior to moving. 1) The bishop of the ward we were leaving had a son in the ward we were moving into. 2) A guy I went to college with was there. 3) A guy I worked with for about 6-months at Utah State was there. 4) One of my wife's grandfather's home care nurses lives in the building next to us. And 5) A girl from my ward in California and her husband were in our ward.
That was the oddest of them all. This girl and I used to hang out a lot before I moved to Utah. Plus, when her husband and her started dating, the three of us went to Disneyland together. (But we didn't ride "It's a Small World.)

At 5/05/2010 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie:

Here's my small world story, which happens to be part of your small world story.

Jennifer James, the mystery woman in your photo, and I grew up in the same Ames, Iowa ward. Her father was my bishop. Forever. I have thousands of fond memories of Jennifer, her family, her mom and her bishop dad. We used to have ward young men and young women firesides in their home. I don't think we called it young mens and young womens back then. I grew up in the days when they changed the youth program name at every general conference. Things are a little more stable now.

Jernnifer lived in the blue and white house on the corner of McKinley Drive and Van Buren Avenue, just down the hill from our Hoover Avenue ward chapel and the big blue water tower. Which is an amazing feat in Iowa where you typically drive for hours (not seconds) to get to church. Those of you who live in the mountain west have likely never lived by a free standing, girded metal, twenty story water tower. They're midwestern icons. If Brigham Young would have tuckered out in central Iowa, and not fought on to the Salt Lake Valley, every city in Iowa would have, as its center point, a hill, on which there would have been placed a water tower and Jennifer's home address in Ames, Iowa would have look something more like this:

100 EWT (East of the Water Tower) 250 SWT (South of the Water Tower).

The beehive would also not be the state nickname. We'd all be Hawkeyes.

The world just got smaller, didn't it Stephanie?

At 5/05/2010 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


...Hi Jennifer. Its me!

At 5/05/2010 3:13 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

At my BYU Bookstore signing, I met a woman who knew my grandmother (who passed away in 1984). Small world!

At 5/05/2010 3:17 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Um, I'm happy to pass your comment along to her, or get her to read the blog, but I don't know if there's enough identifying information in your post for her to know who you are. =) I met a few Iowa people at a reunion a couple years back - all I remember is this fascinating woman who worked for eBay. (but not her name, of course; Jen would probably know.)

Oh, and I ran into my very first home teaching companion from Florida (Frank Ostojic), when I was standing in line for Conference at Temple Square, after I'd been here for a couple of years.

I don't know if this counts, but one of Jen's best friends from Freshman Year (Glen Kreiner) went to the same mission as MY best friend from high school. My friend remembered him as the guy who was always singing show tunes. =)

At 5/05/2010 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Did the interesting woman who worked for ebay go by the name Meg Whitman?

At 5/06/2010 2:48 AM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

my whole life is a small world moment and sometimes that isn't awesome, and sometimes it adds a great deal of hilarity to life.

At 5/06/2010 9:03 AM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I had a visitor in my gospel doctrine class come up to me after class and say how much I reminded him of a previous gospel doctrine teacher he had had. Turns out the gospel doctrine teacher I reminded him of was my mother.

And of course, that would also be your mother. And she taught gospel doctrine in the same ward that we were in when Jennifer James lived there.

At 5/06/2010 9:07 AM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

I've enjoyed several experiences like this through the years. I've always thought it's important to be nice to everyone, since it will more than likely turn out to be someone who is related to you, or someone you know, or someone related to someone you know. ;)

A few years ago a young lady approached me at a booksigning at the bookstore at BYU-Idaho. She turned out to be the granddaughter of the bishop of my student ward back in the day. Truly a small world. And now that song is going through my head. Sigh . . .

At 5/06/2010 12:36 PM, Blogger Jaime Theler said...

It is a small world after all. :) I'll have to remind the Theler family about the bottle rocket. Ha ha!

At 5/06/2010 11:51 PM, Blogger UTMomof4 said...

No story, but I just want to say that that song definitely gets stuck in your head too easily. It's annoying as heck when it does. Happened to me a while back, it didn't quit for 3 days.

At 5/11/2010 2:37 PM, Blogger Don said...

The last two years at Bootcamp, there were people at my table with mutual friends.

Also this year, as I was adding my new Storymakers friends to Facebook, one gal was a mutual friend with someone in our ward here in Texas.


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